Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 3 June, 2021

It has been another extraordinarily great week for the US – and most of the rest of the world – in terms of reducing numbers of daily new Covid cases.  As of this evening, the seven day rolling average of new Covid cases is 15,375 per day, down from 23,175 per day a week ago.  That’s almost exactly a one third drop in numbers in a single week, and has us now with daily average new case numbers lower than they’ve been any time since the first few weeks of the crisis, last March.

That’s not to say we’re within a few weeks of zeroing out our Covid cases.  The closer to zero we get, the harder it is to keep dropping.  But the combination of ever lower new case rates and ever higher vaccination numbers surely does bring a great wave of optimism to us all; with the only major worry remaining the potential for some new virus variant to appear and circumvent the protection given to us variously by the vaccine and/or by having been infected and recovered, previously.

 

These two charts clearly show the steady reduction in daily new cases, both in the US (top) and worldwide (bottom).

But although the future seems bright for everyone, everywhere, the media is slow to adopt this rosy view of the future.  For example, this article is headed “The pandemic is getting worse, even when it seems like it’s getting better“.  It cherry picks three or four countries with growing numbers, such as “Taiwan has seen an explosion of new cases over the past month”, while conveniently ignoring both that Taiwan’s new case count is now dropping again, as steeply and suddenly as it rose, and that the “explosion” saw a maximum of 537 new cases on one day.  In a world with 450,000 or more new cases a day, that’s too small to even be called a rounding error, it is nonsensically trivial.

Not to be outdone, this article “Scientists reveal the global ‘hot spots’ where new coronaviruses are likely to emerge – with China at the top of the list” is unadulterated nonsense from start to finish, because the “experts” base their gloomy predictions on the assumption the virus magically appeared from nowhere, rather than from a lab as overwhelmingly seems certain.

A third article also finds some negativity in a sea of positivity, “For Many Workers, Change in Mask Policy Is a Nightmare“.  It is as unsupported by the real world as the other two articles, because it overlooks the fact that any worker worried about mask policies can simply go to any of dozens of nearby vaccination centers and immediately get vaccinated.

Why is the media so desperate to create doom and gloom when we should all be celebrating the great news and great progress we’ve been making at conquering this scourge?

That isn’t to say, of course, that our public health officials and political leaders have suddenly become sensible.  They’re still as disgracefully incompetent as ever.  For example, the US allowed anyone from most countries in the world to fly into the US without any testing at all until January this year.  Why they did that when most of the rest of the world had long since required passengers to be tested prior to traveling is a huge mystery, and the eventual change in policy in January might be one of the factors that saw new case numbers plunge so dramatically from mid January.

But, now, the government refuses to waive any of these testing requirements for people who have been vaccinated.  This article very appropriately asks the question “Why do vaccinated travelers still need a COVID-19 test to fly back to the US from abroad?“.  There seems no answer and no justification.  What a virtuoso display of incompetence by our officials – way too late to introduce testing, and now, way too slow to recognize the implications of vaccinated passengers.

I had to laugh – I didn’t realize WHO reads my newsletters.  On Sunday, I wondered why all the new virus variants were being given regional names relating to the regions where they were first discovered, but it still remained very politically incorrect to refer to the original virus as the China/Wuhan virus.  Within a day, WHO announced that the various virus variants would no longer have regional names to avoid stigma attaching to any regions, and they’d now be given Greek letters – alpha, beta, etc.  The media has rushed to conform to WHO’s new naming.

I wonder if WHO asked Greece how it felt about the use of Greek letters.  Isn’t that now unfairly stigmatizing Greece and the Greek language!  Shouldn’t they be giving the variants Chinese ideograms?

Current Numbers

There were no changed in ranking for the US states.  There was only one small change (a swap of places for Maldives and Seychelles) in the minor country list.  Argentina and Portugal swapped places in the major country list, and Chile displaced Jordan off the bottom of the list.

The death rate list was surprisingly volatile.  Chile completely reworked its numbers, causing it to soar up the list and now is almost twice the number of second place Czech Rep.  Other less dramatic changes also occurred, with Spain dropping off the list entirely and being replaced by Colombia.

The last table of weekly trends was not as volatile as sometimes, with just two new entrants at the bottom, Mongolia and Malaysia.  India’s case rate dropped another 32% and is now at 736 cases per million people in the last week.  There no longer seems any point in monitoring India, and the mainstream media seem to have lost interest in India as quickly as they found it.  The UK grew by 39% to 395 cases/million, and the US dropped 33% to 327.  The world as a whole saw a 15% drop in new cases.

 

US Best and Worst States

Rank Cases/Million Deaths/Million
A week ago Now A week ago Now
1 Best HI (25,449) HI (25,710) HI (352) HI (354)
2 VT VT VT VT
3 OR OR AK AK
4 ME ME ME ME
5 WA (57,273) WA (57,909) OR (631) OR (636)
47 UT (126,448) UT (126,897) MS (2,454) MS (2,461)
48 IA IA RI RI
49 SD SD MA MA
50 RI RI NY NY
51 Worst ND (144,109) ND (144,474) NJ (2,947) NJ (2,956)

 

Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (176,823) Andorra (177,723)
2 Montenegro Montenegro
3 San Marino San Marino
4 Bahrain (130,792) Bahrain (140,499)
5 Gibraltar  (127,427) Gibraltar  (127,635)
6 Slovenia Slovenia
7 Seychelles Maldives
8 Maldives Seychelles
9 Luxembourg Luxembourg
10 Aruba (102,235) Aruba (102,795)

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (154,749) Czech Republic (154,988)
2 Sweden (105,205) Sweden (106,031)
3 USA (102,177) USA (102,691)
4 Netherlands Netherlands
5 Belgium Belgium
6 France France
7 Portugal Argentina (85,227)
8 Argentina (80,387) Portugal
9 Spain Spain
10 Brazil  (76,392) Brazil  (78,539)
11 Poland Poland
12 Jordan (71,304) Chile (72,823)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Rep (2,802) Peru  (5,538)
2 Belgium Czech Rep  (2,809)
3 Brazil Brazil
4 Italy Belgium
5 Peru Italy
6 Poland Poland
7 UK (1,873) UK (1,873)
8 USA  (1,826) USA  (1,836)
9 Spain (1,708) Mexico (1,750)
10 Mexico (1,707) Colombia (1,748)

 

Top Rates in New Cases Reported in the Last Week (new cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Bahrain  11,499 Bahrain  9,792
2 Uruguay  7,585 Uruguay  6,898
3 Argentina Argentina
4 Costa Rica Colombia
5 Paraguay Costa Rica
6 Colombia Paraguay
7 Trinidad & Tobago Chile
8 Chile Trinidad & Tobago
9 Brazil  2,074 Brazil  2,156
10 Kuwait Kuwait
11 Nepal  1,811 Mongolia
12 Bolivia  1,553 Malaysia  1,654

 

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

This article seems to believe that allowing anyone and everyone, including visitors/tourists, to be vaccinated in the US is a bad thing.  Perhaps it might have been inappropriate, back in January and February when it was being rationed, but now we’ve vaccine sitting on the shelves in just about every outlet that offers vaccinations, and now that we’re paying people to be vaccinated, there seems no harm whatsoever – after all, the entire world needs to be vaccinated, and if that is in the form, at least partially, of vaccine tourists coming to the US, that’s a great boost to our massively harmed tourism industry and our economy as a whole.

Rather than complain, we should mount an international awareness campaign, encouraging tourists in their millions to come and be vaccinated here – especially the two shot vaccines requiring three or more weeks between shots!  There’s not an airline operator, a hotelier, or a restaurant owner, who’d disagree with that.  And so on, with all the flow-through benefits tourism gives to our economy and our balance of payments.

There’s been a release of emails to/from Dr Fauci, requested via a FOI request.  Some of them make for interesting reading, including one in early February from the Director of the Scripps Research Institute’s Infectious Diseases department, telling him the virus looked like it might have been artificially engineered.

Something magically happened.  Six weeks later, the same person was a lead signatory of a letter in the Nature journal claiming “the evidence shows it is not a purposefully manipulated virus”.

Of course, now, the same person seems to have returned back to his original position, and claims that changing his mind twice is “a clear example of the scientific process”.  That could be a credible claim, but only if the stentorian proclamation in Nature magazine was at all ambivalent or conditional or advised “we might change our mind on this”, but of course, none of that was the case.

Indeed the “bat source” concept was so powerfully advocated that Facebook censored posts and deleted accounts of people daring to suggest otherwise.  Is censoring dissent also part of the scientific process?

Details here.

This is an interesting article, pointing out two at-home tests that are easily done and which indicate if you’re getting a severe Covid case or not.

Am I the one feeling a frisson of anxious déjà vu when reading this? China confirms the first human case of H10N3 bird flu.

Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine

Here’s a lengthy look at what drug companies are doing to develop expensive proprietary and profitable competitors to ivermectin.  Covid treatments are generally acknowledged to be a multi-billion dollar a year profit opportunity, so it is no wonder drug companies want to come up with their own and expensive products, rather than do a public service and concede that ivermectin is about as good as it gets.  (As an aside, this makes me wonder what other “old” drugs are out there, for other treatments, which have now been passed over in favor of new more expensive drugs that are in truth no better…..)

There had been plans to launch yet another new study into ivermectin effectiveness, in a US trial funded by the National Institutes of Health, so its findings would, at least in theory, be more credible than some of the other small trials by unknown organizations in out-of-the-way countries.  But now the trial seems to be foundering, before it has even started, over some obtuse and largely irrelevant issue.  Are shadowy forces at work to try and prevent the trial from proceeding?

Not ivermectin, but another off-the-shelf drug that is showing signs of benefit is colchicine.  This reports on the latest study findings, and this has a good general assessment of colchicine.  It seems to be weaker in effect than ivermectin, but anything and everything is better than nothing.

Vaccine News

One of the strange aspects of the vaccines is that not only have they been rushed to market in record time, and with low levels of testing prior to their emergency use approvals, but the vaccine manufacturers have also been given a 100% waiver of any liability for any problems that arise with their vaccines.  You’d think that rushed and not-exhaustively tested vaccines, using totally new technology that has never worked correctly before, would be exactly the type of pharmaceutical product that would need to have the developers/manufacturers “putting their money where their mouth is” and offering warranties about the safety and effectiveness of their vaccines.  But the exact opposite is the case.

But, we are told, we can trust the vaccines, because these are reliable multi-billion dollar companies that wouldn’t make mistakes, right?  That has a ring of sense and logic to it, except if this is so, how can we understand and reconcile that with Johnson & Johnson’s $2 billion verdict about problems with its baby powder.  If a company makes a $2 billion bungle with something as simple-seeming as baby powder, can it really be trusted to get things perfect with a much more complex product?

Timings And Numbers

The UK and US continue to lead most of the rest of the world in vaccination rates.  I’m surprised the various European countries aren’t doing a better job of catching up, and they continue to be close on two months behind the vaccination rate in the UK.  Also obvious in the chart is the slowing down of vaccinations in the US, which is unfortunate.

Is it a wave, a ripple, perhaps a tidal surge, the wake of a passing ship, or nothing at all?  Choose the oceanographic analogy that seems most appropriate….  Continuing the theme of “seeking the negative within the positive” this article quotes a UK scientist as claiming the UK is in the early stages of a third wave of new virus cases.

The first wave peaked at about 25,000 cases a day, and the second wave at about 60,000 a day.  Currently, the UK is at about 3,610 new cases a day.  With its steadily growing rate of vaccinated people, plus of course, its growing rate of past-infection immunity too, it seems unthinkable to posit a third wave is under way.

Closings and Openings

This article boasts about Europe finally getting its act together and starting to use a “digital coronavirus travel certificate” – aka, a vaccine passport by another name.  Sounds good, doesn’t it.  But this second article, written two days later, gives more detail and suggests, obscured in the final paragraph, that trials of the new “digital ID wallet” – yet another attempt to rename the concept of a vaccine passport – won’t start until some vague time in the Fall.

All we want to know is simply this :  When can we go to Europe without needing to be tested or quarantined (assuming we are vaccinated)?  We’ve been promised this “some time soon” since late April.  We’re now moving further into June and summer, and the reality of the vague and variously named projects continues to be elusive.

Perhaps even worse is what is happening in Britain, now doing their own thing outside the EU (actually, better to say, doing nothing).  They say they want a coordinated arrangement with the entire G7 community.  Yes, that would be a great thing, but trying to get something adopted and implemented by the G7 is a bit like herding cats.  It is invariably slow and messy.

There’s also a lack of any type of direction by the US too, of course.  Instead we’ve some factions demanding that any reference to a person’s vaccination status be illegal, and politicians either adopting ridiculous positions or ducking for cover and trying to avoid the issue entirely.

Let’s get something working, anywhere, now.  Then fine tune it subsequently.

Logic?  What Logic?

Vietnam has been experiencing a mild lift in its virus cases (while still remaining the country with the tenth lowest virus rate in the world) and as part of the country’s counter-measures, has suspended incoming international flights to Hanoi.

On the face of it, that might make sense, although we’re not sure if the suspension also applies to other cities in the country.  But the reason we’re mentioning it under this section is because they’ve also suspended freight-only flights, and of course, if planes can’t fly in to Vietnam, they can’t fly out either, so they’re not only missing out on imports, but on export revenues too.

Note to Vietnam :  The virus does not spread via imported products.  There have been occasional suggestions that it might, including, infamously, China’s spurious suggestion that maybe the virus originated somewhere else in the world and made its way to China via imported frozen food.  But none of the careful analysis has ever shown any spread at all via imported items.

A trick beloved of all institutions is, when confronted by criticism, to respond by accepting the criticism and “reorganising” to prevent the problems ever reoccurring.  Senior people trot out carefully written speeches talking about “learning their lessons”, blah, blah, blah.

That invariably silences the criticism, because the organisation has accepted it, and is ostensibly responding to the criticism.  But what actually happens?  Rather like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, there are new positions created, job titles changed, but other than that, the organisation proceeds unchanged, with most (or all) the same people in charge.

Which is why we suspect the “potential shake-up” at WHO is almost pre-destined to change nothing.  Call us cynical, if you must, but we feel that almost all UN organisations are tainted by being beholden either to the African/Asian voting bloc who sees every part of the UN as nothing other than a way to legitimize wealth transfers from successful nations to failed corrupt nations, or alternatively and increasingly, beholden to China, not only because of the group of client-states it brings with it on any issue, but also because of China’s growing primacy.

To be fair, there was a time when US policy had an outsize voice at the UN, but two wrongs don’t make a right.  One thing we’ve clearly learned during this pandemic is that every attempt at global coordination has spectacularly failed, and the nations who are in the best positions at present are the ones who took charge of their own destiny and outcomes, rather than relying on WHO.

Reorganize WHO?  Why not simply abandon it.

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

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