Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 18 July, 2021

Tomorrow (Monday July 19) sees England triumphantly celebrate “Freedom Day” – as in freedom from the virus and all the restrictions associated with it.

We’re unable to congratulate them, however.  Their “freedom” is a rather bizarre concept, and some people are more sensibly called it “freedumb”.  England’s current rate of infection is higher than every other country in Europe, and is almost seven times higher than here in the US, where states and counties are slowly starting to reluctantly return to “recommended” or mandatory indoor masking rules.  We’re returning to controls at an infection rate nearly seven times lower than England, while England is pretending everything is fine.

This is becoming harder to do now that their Minister of Health has come down with the virus (even though fully vaccinated), requiring, among others, the Prime Minister to now self-isolate in case he caught the virus too (unlikely, because he nearly died from it, about a year ago, and probably has also been vaccinated too).  Details here.

Talking about catching the virus even though fully vaccinated, a friend in London, who completed his double vaccination some months back, so is presumably currently at the point of maximum vaccine protection, caught the virus earlier in the week.  The thing he doesn’t understand is how he caught it.  He almost never leaves his house, and whenever he does, he wears a mask and keeps as far away from other people as possible.  The very few people he has been in contact with have been tested and aren’t also infected.

The point about his experience is to show how extremely transmittable the Delta variant is – precautions or not, vaccine or not.  It is no wonder that new virus cases are rising in most countries around the world at present.

I mentioned above how US states and counties are starting to haltingly move back to imposing some controls and restrictions.  But it is one thing to impose such controls, and another entirely to enforce them.

In Los Angeles County, the Sheriff has said he won’t enforce the county’s new mask mandate, because he says the mandate is not backed by science.

Must sheriffs enforce laws and legally created regulations that apply in their jurisdictions?  Or do they have discretion, and can they choose to enforce only the laws they like and support, and ignore the ones they (or the people who elected them) don’t like?  That’s a surprisingly complicated question with a very unclear answer.

The sheriffs themselves tend to claim their first responsibility is to their state (and/or national) constitution, and then secondarily to the laws and regulations enacted by the various government bodies that apply in their jurisdiction, and if they feel a law/regulation contravenes the state or national constitution, they must/will not enforce it.

That’s a rather specious argument because it assumes a great degree of constitutional law expertise on the part of each individual sheriff.  It has been several times discussed – for example, here and here.

But it is another thing entirely to say “this regulation is scientifically invalid”.  Some constitutional arguments are simplistic – gun control measures that transgress the Second Amendment, for example.  But what level of expertise must a sheriff have to be able to second guess a public-health official who probably has spent the better part of a decade studying to become a doctor, and studying further in the field of public health?

I’m surely not saying that the public health authorities have consistently got things right; but I am wondering whether the appropriate response to bad measures they enact is via the formal legal system and courts to get a regulation overturned, or through the political system to get a regulation withdrawn or changed, or if local sheriffs should be allowed to make their own determinations?

The LA Co Sheriff may or may not be correct about the scientific underpinnings of the mask mandate, but that’s not the point.  He’s not a public health expert, and his remit as Sheriff is not to selectively enforce laws and regulations based on his interpretation of the science underpinning them.

Indeed, I could replay back to him a conversation he’s doubtless had on patrol.  An apprehended miscreant says “that law is stupid” or some variation of that.  The law enforcement officer says “I don’t care, I don’t make the law, I don’t interpret the law, I just enforce it.  Complain to your elected officials or complain to the judge, but don’t complain to me, I’m just doing my job”.

Current Numbers

There were no changes in the minor country list.  In the major country list, the Netherlands and Colombia both rose one place, while Argentina and France matched with a fall of one place.

There were no changes in the death rate list.

In the active cases last week list, the UK is now at second place, and all placed countries are showing generally higher activity levels than last week.

The UK had a 44% rise in cases.  Europe as a whole had a 35% rise, with the highest rises being in Austria (143%), France (108%) and Italy (103%).  Norway was the only major west European country to show a drop in cases, and that was of only 8%.

Here in the US, we had an estimated rise of about 65%.  I have to say “estimated” because by Sunday mid-day, less than half the states had reported Saturday numbers (something that was formerly almost always done by the end of Saturday), and on Sunday evening, only 14 states had bothered to send in any Sunday data, and several of the states that did send in data did not do so for all counties.  It seems that even the public health officials charged with reporting this data have given up and lost interest.

The world as a whole reported a 15% rise in cases for the week compared to the previous week.

Monday will see the US pass through 35 million reported cases.

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

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (181,866) Andorra (184,420)
2 Seychelles (168,524) Seychelles (174,111)
3 Montenegro Montenegro
4 Bahrain Bahrain
5 San Marino San Marino
6 Maldives Maldives
7 Gibraltar  (131,528) Gibraltar  (136,431)
8 Slovenia Slovenia
9 Luxembourg Luxembourg
10 Uruguay (108,024) Uruguay (108,675)

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

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (155,587) Czech Republic (155,738)
2 Sweden Sweden
3 USA (104,305) USA (104,987)
4 Argentina (101,883) Netherlands (104,723)
5 Netherlands  (100,644) Argentina  (104,241)
6 Belgium Belgium
7 Portugal Portugal
8 Brazil Brazil
9 France Colombia (90,177)
10 Colombia (87,716) France
11 Spain Spain
12 Chile (82,320) Chile (82,949)

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Peru  (5,809) Peru  (5,834)
2 Czech Republic (2,827) Czech Republic (2,827)
3 Brazil Brazil
4 Colombia (2,193) Colombia (2,261)
5 Argentina Argentina
6 Belgium Belgium
7 Italy Italy
8 Poland (1,988) Poland (1,990)
9 UK (1,882) UK (1,886)
10 USA (1,870) USA (1,876)

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 Cyprus  5,138 Cyprus  5,692
2 Tunisia  4,519 UK  4,595
3 Namibia Botswana
4 Mongolia Netherlands
5 UK  3,201 Tunisia  4,069
6 Colombia Cuba
7 Cuba Spain
8 Kuwait Mongolia
9 Argentina Georgia  2,594
10 Netherlands Namibia
11 South Africa Libya
12 Georgia  2,036 Colombia  2,478

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

It is interesting the way that some medical ailments are glamorous and attract major research grants and “the best and brightest” brains, while others are neglected and overlooked.  AIDS quickly became a “glamorous” medical challenge that became an enormous “black hole” that sucked in funding and resources that had formerly been going to other less glamorous sexually transmitted diseases.  Another unglamorous disease was (and possibly still is) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – because it is so hard to diagnose, because it has no clearly understood origin, and because it is so hard to treat, and – the unspoken truth – because for a longest time, its sufferers were thought to be merely lazy or possibly slightly depressed – it has not received the attention that perhaps it deserves.

No-one can deny that Covid has become very “glamorous”.  But even within its glamor, there are some aspects that have been neglected, and for the first six or so months of Covid’s prominence, few in the medical establishment were interested in or even willing to acknowledge what is now termed “long haul” Covid – an affliction affecting up to one in every three people who get Covid, such that, while their original infection may be resolved in an ordinary amount of time (2 – 3 weeks) they continue to suffer assorted symptoms (over 200 have been documented so far) for an extended amount of time – many months, and possibly even indefinitely into the future.  We don’t yet know how long, because the disease itself is still reasonably new.

Slowly, “long haul” sufferers are starting to be acknowledged as having something “real”, even if no-one yet knows exactly the what, how, or why of their ongoing problems.  Here’s some interesting research that helps you predict if you’re likely to become so afflicted, yourself.

Needless to say, the risk of a “long haul” ongoing affliction is all the more reason to consider being vaccinated, and to have a full medicine-chest of remedies, treatments, and hopefully cures to abate and speedily resolve any infection you might come down with.

Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine

President Biden says that social media that allow covid misinformation to be spread are effectively killing people.

That wasn’t a very popular statement for him to make, and of course, the reason he said that is because he is keen to see social media “voluntarily” censor the discussions and debates they host.

But I’m glad to see that at last there is acknowledgement that lies and bad information can kill people, and eagerly await the filing of murder charges.  I’d like to suggest Biden’s own senior public health officials all now be charged with murder for spreading misinformation in the form of their biased and unfair rejection of ivermectin as a Covid cure (and also banned from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube).

Unfortunately, of course, that isn’t what Biden is saying, and therein lies the terrible danger of his call for censorship.  “Misinformation”, as the government defines it, is anything that conflicts with their opinions.  And the government doesn’t have a great record of telling the truth/being correct.  It has needed to be called to account at every step of the virus pandemic so far.

So when Dr Fauci laughed and said there was no need for people to wear masks, anyone who suggested wearing masks would have been spreading misinformation and should be silenced.  Except that when Dr Fauci subsequently said that wearing masks was essential, then anyone who hadn’t yet got the new memo from Fauci would be spreading misinformation by saying there was no need to wear a mask.

When Dr Fauci said there was no way the virus came from a Wuhan virus research lab (via research he said he didn’t fund), arguing against that was therefore misinformation, right up to the point that it emerged the virus probably did escape from a Wuhan lab and it probably was research indirectly funded from his office in the first place.

When Dr Fauci (and just about every other doctor) said the gravest danger in terms of getting infected was via germs on exposed surfaces, and when these same people said there was no danger of the virus spreading via aerosolized particles, people who disagreed should have been censored and silenced – at least until the medical profession conceded that perhaps no-one had ever caught the virus by contact transmission, and yes, aerosolized transmission was possible/important/the gravest danger (the truth slowly changed to spare the feelings of the incompetent experts who were having to gently do a 180° change in opinion).

And now, when some people point to the actual numbers and reality of vaccine performance and vaccine side effects and wonder, factually, if we’re making the right decisions in our rush to be vaccinated, they too are spreading misinformation and should be silenced, according to President Biden.

Surely it is an indication of a very weak argument in favor of something if the people supporting the point are unable to debate it openly and persuade people of the robustness of their viewpoint?  If vaccines truly clearly are beneficial and do more good than harm, why would anyone be unwilling to discuss, debate, and prove that?

Biden talks about people being scared of and hesitant to take the vaccine.  That is demonstrably so.  But why are they wary and cautious?  Perhaps it is because rather than defend and explain the benefits of the vaccine, the public health authorities instead try to censor people who raise sometimes perfectly valid concerns.

Sure, sometimes these naysayers are misunderstanding things, but in such cases, if they are allowed to air their misunderstanding in public, it can be rebutted and explained, also in public, and thereby, neutralized and resolved.  By trying to censor them, it creates truth to the claim “The government doesn’t want you to know this, but ……”.

Vaccine News

Perhaps because it is a small and controversial country, few people are interested in what is happening in Israel.  But it is interesting to watch Israel, because for a long time it has been leading the world in terms of the number of people fully vaccinated, and also because everyone who has been vaccinated in Israel has been vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, making it a very large test case for that vaccine.

But Israel is also experiencing its own rise in new Covid cases, with current rates more than 50 times higher than what they dropped to in mid/late May, and a 63% rise in cases in the last week alone.

They are currently saying, and with good reason, that the Pfizer vaccine is proving to be “significantly less” effective against the Delta variant.

Timings And Numbers

Here’s a new chart – a look at the percentage of new Covid cases in each country that are the Delta variant.

What does it mean?  In very approximate terms, the lower down the list a country appears, the more up-side risk and latent growth in cases it can expect as a result of a growing proportion of Delta variant cases in the future.  Those near the top are already getting fairly close to experiencing the full force of the Delta variant – sure, their daily case numbers might well continue to increase as a result of the Delta variant’s impact, but case numbers won’t have a “double increase” due to the climbing percentage of Delta cases.

The UK is at the very top with now 99.4% of all new cases being Delta variant cases.  The three European countries with the most rapidly growing rises in case numbers – Austria, France, and Italy – are about midway down the list, the US is about three quarters of the way up.  Canada is way down near the bottom, so there’s a lot of upside risk for Canada.

The Olympics are about to start in Tokyo, and Covid is already within the Olympic Village and among the competitors.  Who only knows how far it will spread before, during, and afterwards.

Closings and Openings

Good news – the Canadian border could open to fully vaccinated Americans some time in August, according to their Prime Minister.

But, a simple question to M. Trudeau.  What does “could” mean?  Will it or won’t it?  On what date in August?  And will Canada also allow its citizens to travel to the US?

Mind you, our leaders on this side of the border are at least as bumbling and incompetent as the Canadians.  They are still struggling to decide if and when they’ll start allowing visitors from Europe and many other countries to start arriving again.  It is entirely inappropriate that we should still be refusing entry to Europeans, whether tested or not, and whether vaccinated or not.  If it is safe for us to travel to Europe, why is it not safe for us to also allow Europeans to come here?

But that’s not to suggest the Europeans are paragons of virtue.  Oh no, add them to the list of bumbling incompetents, too.  An ex-pat reader in France points out that the country is creating a new health pass to record the status of every person in France, and it will be necessary to show these passes to gain admission to many events, including eating at restaurants, drinking in bars, visiting theaters, train travel, and so on.

There’s just one problem.  Foreigners can’t get these passes, and so will not be able to go to restaurants or bars in France.  Or anywhere else that requires the presentation of the pass.

So, if you’re planning on going to France in the next few months, how exactly do you expect to eat and drink while you’re visiting?

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

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