Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 30 May, 2021

 

I hope you’re enjoying the Memorial Day weekend – indeed, apart from a cold snap in the northeast (there’s that pesky global “warming” at work again, I guess) it seems very many of us are outdoors and even traveling this weekend, with air travel numbers soaring up and almost exceeding 2 million for the first time since 8 March 2020.

There’s another number too that is enormously encouraging, but provisional rather than firm.  I’m slightly worried that the usual people who count and report daily Covid cases might not be at work over the long weekend, so perhaps actual case numbers are being underreported and will be corrected by the middle of next week, but we apparently had two exciting achievements on Saturday and Sunday.

As you can maybe see on the above chart, on Saturday the daily number of new cases dropped so precipitously that the variance number (the orange line) dropped right off the scale.  It was the greatest daily drop since 25 December, and you can probably guess why the number of new cases was so low on 25 December.

The other great achievement on Sunday came in three parts.  The new cases reported for the day also showed an enormous “off the scale” drop.  Not only that, they came in below 10,000 for the first time since 22 March last year, with a wonderfully low count of 7,750, and that also caused the seven-day rolling average to drop below 20,000 new cases/day, for the first time since 31 March 2020.

These are all stunning achievements, and shows how far we’ve come since the start of our vaccination program in December last year.  So, pat yourself on the back, because, just like democracy in general, this is the result of us all doing our individual small parts.

That’s not to say the virus has “lost the war” and all that remains is to impatiently watch the numbers continue to drop back down to zero.  It gets harder and harder to keep reducing case numbers – the opposite of a quickly growing geometric rise is a progressively slower falling drop.

There’s another reason why the drop will likely slow down.  The most clear evidence of a new form of potential ongoing peril is provided to us by Britain – they’ve a similar vaccination rate to our own, but have been suffering increased case numbers over the last 3 1/2 weeks.  Why?  Because of a new more infectious strain – referred to as the Indian variant.

That of course brings up a question – as you can see in this article, for example, there are at least 14 “named” variants, and they’re all given regional names based on where they were first found or became prominent.  Why is it okay to give regional names for virus variants, but politically incorrect to refer to the base initial virus as the Chinese or Wuhan virus?

The events in Britain point more to larger numbers of as-yet unvaccinated people becoming infected with the Indian variant, but there is now a new concern for those of us who have vaccinated – will our vaccine choice withstand the continued mutations of the virus as it tries to break through our vaccine protection?

Here’s an excellent article attempting to answer that question, can people vaccinated against the virus still spread it?  The short answer is “probably not”, the slightly longer answer is “we really don’t know for sure”, and then the politically incorrect answer is “maybe unvaccinated people are at risk, but if two vaccinated people get together, there’s almost no measurable risk at all of one of them passing the virus to the other, and even if that happens, the vaccine will probably stop the transmitted infection from becoming serious”.

Here’s a very interesting article.  Are the major vaccines 95% effective?  Or 1% effective?  Actually, they are both – it depends which measurement you choose to focus on.  Normally, the FDA requires “information providers” (such as the pharmaceutical companies) to cite both numbers, but curiously, there’s been little mention of the 1% number with the vaccines we’re now being urged to take.

The article is a bit technical, and ultimately it is another example of the adage “there are lies, damn lies, and statistics”, but it is certainly worth thinking about (and also wondering why in this particular case, the FDA didn’t insist on sharing the 1% numbers, only the 95% numbers….).  The graphic above gives a great summary explanation – yes, a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words.

Current Numbers

There were no changes in the US state rankings.

In the minor country list, some changes, and most notable is the extraordinary growth in cases in the Maldives – 14,000 new cases per million people in a week.

The top half of the major country list remained unchanged, the bottom half had some shifts.  The death list saw Brazil push past Belgium to second place, and Colombia join at 9th place.

The volatile list of last week’s most affected countries saw the top three places remain unchanged, and then the usual range of shifts below.  India, now essentially forgotten by the media, is at 37th place with a rate of 930 new cases per million, a 28% drop on the previous week.  The US shows 406 cases, a 26% drop from last week.  The world as a whole saw a 17% drop in new cases for the week.

 

US Best and Worst States

Rank Cases/Million Deaths/Million
A week ago Now A week ago Now
1 Best HI (25,332) HI (25,600) HI (350) HI (353)
2 VT VT VT VT
3 OR OR AK AK
4 ME ME ME ME
5 WA (56,462) WA (57,521) OR (622) OR (633)
47 UT (126,164) UT (126,648) MS (2,446) MS (2,456)
48 IA IA RI RI
49 SD SD MA MA
50 RI RI NY NY
51 Worst ND (143,824) ND (144,260) NJ (2,937) NJ (2,951)

 

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

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (175,367) Andorra (176,962)
2 Montenegro Montenegro
3 San Marino San Marino
4 Gibraltar (127,308) Bahrain (135,706)
5 Bahrain Gibraltar  (127,457)
6 Slovenia Slovenia
7 Luxembourg Maldives  (115,965)
8 Aruba Seychelles
9 Maldives (101,865) Luxembourg
10 St Barth (101,474) Aruba (102,427)

 

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

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (154,557) Czech Republic (154,856)
2 Sweden (104,215) Sweden (105,200)
3 USA (101,873) USA (102,302)
4 Netherlands Netherlands
5 Belgium Belgium
6 France France
7 Portugal Portugal
8 Spain Argentina
9 Argentina Spain
10 Poland Brazil
11 Brazil Poland
12 Jordan (70,973) Chile (71,501)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (2,799) Czech Republic (2,806)
2 Belgium (2,134) Brazil (2,160)
3 Brazil Belgium  (2,142)
4 Italy Italy
5 Peru Peru
6 Poland Poland
7 UK (1,873) UK (1,873)
8 USA (1,816) USA (1,832)
9 Mexico (1,703) Colombia (1,718)
10 Spain (1,702) Mexico (1,717)

 

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 Bahrain  9,733 Bahrain  11,459
2 Uruguay  7,056 Uruguay  7,573
3 Argentina Argentina
4 Paraguay Colombia
5 Trinidad & Tobago Paraguay
6 Costa Rica Trinidad & Tobago
7 Chile Chile
8 Colombia Costa Rica
9 Brazil  2,132 Brazil  2,017
10 Lithuania Kuwait
11 Nepal  1,967 Malaysia  1,632
12 Georgia  1,807 Bolivia  1,568

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

Here’s an outrageously shameful statistic for “the most advanced nation in the world” – nearly half of COVID-19 patients leave US hospitals in ‘worse condition’ than they arrived.

Good news.  We’re told the Administration is taking a “very close look” at vaccine passports for international travel.  Except that, in the very same article that reports this, we’re also told, in a “clarification”, that no, there are no moves to consider vaccine passports at all – which is of course kind of a shame, being as how an increasing number of countries are demanding them as a way to avoid 14 day quarantines.

It is great to see the growing number of stories that are reporting, albeit as if it is new news, that the virus almost certainly originated in China.  If you’re not already 110% convinced, this is a very strong article that will surely push you the rest of the way.  And here’s an article that looks some more about when the first cases might have happened – there have been, and remain, some mysterious early cases of “probably Covid” that have been hard to explain until now.

As you surely know, I have a deep suspicion of self-assured experts who don’t feel the need to explain their conclusions with readily understood reasoning and logic.  “Trust me, I’m an expert” seems to be their attitude.  As so often is the case, such experts often end up being spectacularly wrong.  But here’s a case of an expert who started off by saying “I’m not an expert”, and who all the way through his paper, said “I don’t know for sure about this” and “I might be wrong” and even “Other people will know more about this than me”.

That’s the sort of expert I automatically respect – one who doesn’t pretend to be omniscient and infallible.  And, even better, he writes in a clear easily understood style.  Although the matter he was raising – the error of choosing a herd-immunity approach to “managing” the pandemic – is now fairly old and no longer being debated (his reasoning won the day and changed the UK government’s approach almost overnight), you might enjoy reading his wonderfully clear article.  The background is explained in this article, and there’s a link within the article to his paper.

The great and good Dr Fauci was once a keen supporter of risky viral experiments, even if they were to lead to a pandemic.  We sincerely hope this is yet another of his many policies he has reversed his opinion on.

Vaccine News

This article has a helpful update on the overall status of the various approved and pending-approval vaccines.  Amazingly, in total, there are 16 vaccines with approvals in at least some countries (and 33 in the final stages of trials), and nice to see the J&J vaccine now approved in UK too.

Timings And Numbers

The US continues with a clear lead over all other major countries and world regions, in terms of completely vaccinated people.

Logic?  What Logic?

Here’s a rather strange concept – a cafe in California is charging a $5 fee to anyone dining there who wears a mask or brags about being vaccinated.  Certainly, with the vaccine so freely available to everyone now, there’s nothing to brag about.

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

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