Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 2 May, 2021

 

A quiet few days on the virus front, although the spread of consequential challenges continues to unfold – for example, we are now told not only to expect shortages of petrol this summer (as previously written about) but also chicken and even pool chlorine.  A friend who is in the food catering business reports he is paying twice what he’d previously been paying for pork meatballs.  Although his supplier is in Chicago, the actual pork comes from China.  Apparently, the US both exports pork to China (probably entire sides of pork) and imports it too (in added-value form such as meatballs).

Amazing that it is cheaper to ship an American side of pork to China, to process it, then ship it back to the US (in expensive refrigerated containers both ways) than it is to do all of that in Chicago.  But that’s straying off our core topic, isn’t it.

Taking those points and extending them to their logical extreme, this rather depressing article is headlined “The Price of the Stuff That Makes Everything is Surging“.

One thing that is most definitely not in short supply in the US, and which is also “free” to us all (of course we pay for it indirectly through our taxes) is the Covid vaccine.  Vaccine supplies are surging, while vaccination rates are plummeting.  And, even though we definitely don’t need it, we may be about to get a fourth officially “emergency authorized” vaccine, this one by Novavax.

It seems like a good vaccine to me, because, unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it uses existing technologies to create antibodies in our bodies, so has fewer unknowns and uncertainties.  It will also be a two-shot vaccine, with perhaps three or maybe even four weeks between the two shots.

 

 

A reminder – my 460 page book “The Covid Survival Guide” is currently on sale on Amazon.com – the Kindle version is normally $8.99, but to celebrate my now 201 articles on the Covid topic, it is down to $1.99, but only until next Saturday.

Current Numbers

There were no changes of rankings among the US states.

It is nice to see highly-vaccinated Gibraltar recorded no new cases in an entire week.

The top rates in the last week table shows generally lower rates of new cases in all the top listed countries.  India, while still getting all the headlines, remains way below the list, with a rate of 1,878 cases per million population over the last week, which makes it the 27th most affected country.

US Best and Worst States

Rank Cases/Million Deaths/Million
A week ago Now A week ago Now
1 Best HI (22,547) HI (23,011) HI (338) HI (341)
2 VT VT VT VT
3 OR OR AK AK
4 ME ME ME ME
5 WA (52,178) WA (53,455) OR (589) OR (593)
47 UT (123,343) UT (124,148) MS (2,411) MS (2,419)
48 IA IA RI RI
49 SD SD MA MA
50 RI RI NY NY
51 Worst ND (139,999) ND (141,338) NJ (2,857) NJ (2,882)

 

Top Case Rates Minor (population under 10 million) Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (168,808) Andorra (171,673)
2 Montenegro (153,885) Montenegro
3 San Marino San Marino
4 Gibraltar (127,156) Gibraltar (127,156)
5 Slovenia Slovenia
6 Luxembourg Luxembourg
7 Aruba Bahrain
8 Bahrain Aruba
9 St Barth St Barth
10 Israel (91,113) Lithuania (92,803)

 

Top Case Rates Major (population over 10 million) Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (150,989) Czech Republic (152,357)
2 USA (98,695) USA (99,754)
3 Sweden (92,442) Sweden (95,905)
4 Netherlands Netherlands
5 France France
6 Belgium Belgium
7 Portugal Portugal
8 Spain Spain
9 Poland Poland
10 Jordan Jordan
11 Brazil Brazil
12 Italy (65,619) Italy (66,980)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (2,650) Czech Republic (2,736)
2 Belgium (2,039) Belgium (2,086)
3 Italy (1,936) Italy
4 UK (1,867) Brazil
5 Brazil (1,747) UK (1,871)
6 Peru (1,747) Peru (1,863)
7 USA (1,717) Poland (1,800)
8 Poland (1,666) USA (1,777)
9 Portugal (1,646) Spain (1,672)
10 Spain (1,640) Mexico (1,670)

 

Top Rates in New Cases Reported in the Last Week (new cases per million) for Countries over one million population

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Uruguay  5,776 Uruguay  5,060
2 Cyprus  5,014 Bahrain  4,529
3 Turkey Cyprus
4 Bahrain Argentina
5 Argentina Lithuania
6 Croatia Croatia
7 Netherlands Turkey
8 France Netherlands
9 Lithuania Mongolia
10 Mongolia Latvia
11 Sweden  2,389 France  2,358
12 Colombia  2,368 Colombia  2,322

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

With the growing number of fully vaccinated people in the US (see the chart below) the validity of blanket mandates for mask wearing is becoming less clear-cut, and we suspect there’s every chance the authorities are being as economical with the truth about this issue now as they were a year ago when famously telling us that no-one needed to wear masks at all.

Back then, they lied to us because they wanted to protect the supply of masks for healthcare workers.  Are they lying to us now simply because it is “too hard” to enforce a policy that allows vaccinated people not to wear masks?

So, I’m not sure if I should be happy or unhappy that the TSA has extended the mask mandate for people on public transport in the US.  As an aside, can someone tell me how it is the TSA is in charge of deciding if we wear masks or not on public transport?

One of the bothersome aspects of mask wearing is that many masks “leak” over the top of the nose, directing warm moist air that you’ve just breathed out up and onto your glasses.  If you wear glasses, you know what that means – the lenses fog up.

That’s a challenge if you need reading glasses, and also need to wear a mask, either for indoor work or for watching a video or reading a book while on a long flight.

We’ve known for some time there’s a link between obesity and one’s risk of getting a severe Covid case, but this article has a better chart showing the correlation between body mass and Covid risk than I’ve seen before.

Vaccine News

There’s an almost amusing explanation now being offered to explain some of the side effects and problems people are experiencing after being vaccinated.  The side effects could be psychosomatic – ie, not real, but your mind playing tricks on your body.

That doesn’t mean the side effects aren’t “real”, but it does mean it isn’t directly the vaccine’s fault.

Timings And Numbers

Today saw the lowest number of new Covid cases in the US (30,701) since 8 September.  There’s a definite possibility this number is undercounted as a result of the long holiday weekend, and it may be revised in the future, but for now let’s rejoice in the wonderful news.

The seven day average of new cases reported (50,250) is the lowest since 10 October.

It is interesting to see how the US and UK remain as outliers compared to most of the rest of the world when it comes to vaccination rates.

To drill down some more for information, state by state, within the US, here is a great interactive map to show how well each US state is doing with vaccinations.

This is an excellent article, even if it doesn’t actually directly answer the question it poses -“What is the True Death Rate of COVID-19?“.

Closings and Openings

It is interesting to see the way trends are moving in opposite directions.  Disneyland has reopened, although it is currently limited to 25% of its normal park capacity.

We do hope Disney isn’t also only employing 25% of the normal staff – if people end up crushed together in long waits for rides, that rather defeats the purpose of limiting the number of people allowed in.

But while California is enjoying the lowest new Covid case rates of any state, other states are not doing so well, indeed, some of the largest counties in my state of Washington are now looking like they’ll have to tighten up on restrictions again for a while.  We seem to be right at the point where our vaccination benefits are balanced by our reopening moves.  We should be slightly more impatient – an extra few days of restrictions now will give us faster reductions in numbers all the way through the remainder of this pandemic.

It isn’t just counties that are closing down.  All of Costa Rica is closing for a hard week, this coming week, to try and stop the rise of cases it is currently experiencing.

Sudden strong closes are a great way of reducing numbers quickly, but if all restrictions are then removed, of course case numbers will start to climb again.  I hope Costa Rica keeps that in mind.

Who Should Pay

This article tries to suggest the wealthier countries are “betraying” poorer countries in the world by not generously giving billions of free or reduced cost vaccines to them.

It is hard to disagree that when a drug company has had their development costs of developing a new vaccine fully covered by the US government, then the resulting vaccine would seem to belong as much to the US as it does to the drug company.  If I pay a programmer to write a computer program for me, the first thing I do is insist the computer program will become my property, and that is a standard expectation in such situations.

It is far from clear why the US gave drug companies a “heads you win, tails you can’t lose, and if the coin lands on its side, we’ve got you covered that way too” deal – ie, it paid for the development costs, it allows the drug companies to make commercial returns on selling the vaccines, and also has given the drug companies astonishing waivers of liability so if anything goes spectacularly wrong with the vaccines, they can’t be sued.

But, with all respect to the article writer, his definition of “poorer country” extends to pretty much every country in the world other than the three or four countries in which the drug manufacturers are located.  Why has no government, whether it be in a first world country, a second world country, or even in a third world country, not directly funded the development of its own vaccine for its own people?  Surely, those are the culprits to vent ire at?  The US government can’t be faulted for looking after its citizens, but the US government is not responsible for the entire world (ummm, where is WHO in this article – surely they would have some role in developing a global vaccine?).

We agree it would be nice for richer countries to help poorer countries, but the air of entitlement that exudes from the article, and the refusal to acknowledge any obligation or failing on the part of the governments of all 200+ other nations, strikes us as simplistic and unfair.

Logic?  What Logic?

Florida has passed a bill making it illegal for schools to require Covid vaccines for its students.  Okay, if that’s what they think best, so be it.

But – might one ask – why is there, at the same time, already a long list of vaccines that are lawfully mandatory for children to have before attending school in Florida?

Our maskwearer-in-chief tells us it is “a patriotic responsibility for God’s sake” for two vaccinated people to wear masks while talking indoors together.

A shame that an apparently good Catholic hasn’t learned not to say “for God’s sake”.  Also a shame that he deems it a patriotic duty to wear a mask in such a situation.

The authorities are starting to lose their moral authority when they make such ridiculous statements.

Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Thursday.

 

 

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