Sundry news about COVID 19.
World-wide, the 7-day average of new daily cases is now above 140,000 and rising, with a spike above 150,000. See WHO warns pandemic is ‘accelerating’ with record spike in new infections.
That article also reports that sampling of wastewater in the northern cities of Milan and Turin shows the virus was in Italy last December, at least two months before the country’s devastating outbreak. There is no concrete evidence that the outbreak came from those early infections, although one would hardly think it faded away. Perhaps the infected people were not identified as having a ‘novel’ virus.
In the US and the 7-day moving average of new cases has been going up from about 10 June. How much is attributable to all the rallies and how much to states loosening up before they are ready is not clear. I suspect the latter as the more important factor, because rallies are in open air and many wear masks.
- New coronavirus infections have hit record highs in six US states, marking a rising tide of cases for a second consecutive week as most states moved forward with reopening their economies.
Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas all reported record increases in new cases on Tuesday after recording all-time highs last week.
Seems that Arizona, with a population of 7.2 million and about 3,200 new cases per day is in danger of having its medical facilities overrun.
This link identifies 23 states with rising daily cases:
- California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, Missouri, Utah, Kentucky, Arkansas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Oregon, Idaho, Vermont, Wyoming, Alaska, Hawaii and Montana.
Trump is about to hold his first election rally in Tulsa Oklahoma.
If previous rallies are anything to go by it will take about 7 hours from when the doors open to the end of Trump’s speech.
Apparently there were 95 new cases in Tulsa alone the other day, a city of 400,000.
In Brazil the 7-day new cases average is approaching 30,000 with a one-day spike of 55,209, surely a record for any country. The BBC reports:
- President Bolsonaro has frequently clashed with state governors and his own health officials over coronavirus, describing their reaction to the “little flu” as “hysteria”. He also argues that their restrictions on movements and business are creating an unnecessary drag on the economy.
The president’s actions have incurred political costs in recent weeks, with his popularity falling in opinion polls. Nightly protests have also been held in Brazil’s biggest cities, with residents banging pots and pans and shouting “Get out, Bolsonaro!”
The Brazilian Report (can’t copy any of their text) says the the ministries of agriculture, economy and health have issued a joint proclamation to establish WHO-conforming protocols to control the spread of COVID 19 in slaughterhouses.
Of course, Brazil is a huge producer of beef.
The United States also produces a lot of beef, chicken and pork, and the above story shows how large-scale industrial food production systems can be threatened by the virus (please note, the article was published on 11 June, when the national new case-load was subsiding):
- The Covid-19 crisis is subsiding in America’s major cities and the nation is beginning to open up, but the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic has left behind at least one time bomb: a looming food supply crunch. The meat and poultry industry has already been badly disrupted by Covid-19 outbreaks at processing facilities around the country; now, as the summer fruit and vegetable harvest season approaches, the virus is spreading among seasonal farm workers. Food is reportedly being dumped even as queues for food banks are lengthening.
The situation is likely to worsen.
Food companies are not obliged to release data on their operations, but by 8 May the CDC had identified 115 plants with COVID cases. Many of these shut down.
- Not surprisingly, meat and chicken supplies quickly ran short on supermarket shelves. The consequent panic buying was aggravated on 26 April when Tyson Foods, one of the country’s largest meat producers, placed a full-page advertisement in major Sunday newspapers warning that “the food supply chain is breaking” and “millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain.”
Trump issued an executive order:
- declaring meat and poultry processing an essential industry and forcing plants to remain open “to ensure a continued supply of protein for Americans.” The companies were happy to comply — the executive order shields them from any health or safety liability — and most workers were unable to resist demands to return to what is often the only work available, despite a continuing lack of protective equipment and health safeguards.
On food insecurity:
- A Brookings Institution study drawing on two national surveys in late April found that more than one in five households, and two in five of those with children under twelve years of age, were experiencing food insecurity. The incidence of hardship — as measured by respondents who reported children not eating enough because the household lacked the means to buy food — has increased more than fourfold since 2018.
As with meat processing most fruit and veg are harvested by casual workers with no sick leave. In addition, around half the harvest workers lack legal status.
At the same time some companies are able to profiteer through grants made to compensate farmers affected by Trump’s trade war with China.
So it goes in the land of the free.
That New Scientist article says that the UK government failed or underperformed in every possible way at combating the coronavirus.
The Worldometers site for the UK shows that the UK peaked in new cases around mid-April, whereas other major European economies peaked two weeks earlier. At time of writing (published 3 June) the UK had:
- the highest absolute excess deaths in Europe, 59,537 more than usual since the week ending 20 March, and the second highest per million people, behind only Spain for countries with comparable data
The UK has 2.64 times our population, but has had 40 times the cases.
Whereas other major European economies peaked by about early April, the UK peaked around two weeks later, then practically flat-lined for three weeks, whereas in comparable counties the new cases fell away fairly quickly. The UK now probably has the situation under control, but
Early in the outbreak the UK had only 300 contact tracers, the same as Queensland, with 13 times the population.
For a long while only coughing and fever were recognised as symptoms indicating the need to test. A lack of taste and smell were added to the list a month later than in France.They messed up on nursing homes. Many medical workers did not have PEE, because the UK was too late into the market, so many health workers got sick and died.
Third party testing labs offered to help, but got no reply.
Worst of all, no-one in the government has admitted anything or said sorry, so there is a question as to whether there has been any learning.
One win was to increase the number of ventilators, but not sure that is particularly helpful (see below)
Ventilators – not just a breathing mask
It’s a tube that goes down your throat to your trachea, and then you breathe involuntarily according to the rhythm of the machine, with pain killers so you are practically in a coma. A Canadian nurse (from a email, and unverified, but I think with the ring of truth) said this:
- After 20 days from this treatment, a young patient loses 40% muscle mass, and gets mouth or vocal cords trauma, as well as possible pulmonary or heart complications.
It is for this reason that old or already weak people can’t withstand the treatment and die. Many of us are in this boat … so stay safe unless you want to take the chance of ending up here. This is NOT the flu.
Add a tube into your stomach, either through your nose or skin for liquid food, a sticky bag around your butt to collect the diarrhoea, a foley to collect urine, an IV for fluids and meds, an A-line to monitor your BP that is completely dependent upon finely calculated med doses, teams of nurses, CRNA’s and MA’s to reposition your limbs every two hours and lying on a mat that circulates ice cold fluid to help bring down your 104 degree temp.
When the articles were written, more than half the patients put on ventilators in the UK died.
For those who survive, the sedation can be slowly lessened – this is a very frightening and bewildering experience, says Brian Cuthbertson at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, Canada. As the opioid medication is reduced, they may suffer hallucinations and agitation, like someone coming off heroin. “A classic terrifying delusion is that the nurse is trying to kill you,” he says.
People become extremely weak:
- At first, people may be too weak even to breathe for themselves, so the time they spend off the ventilator has to be slowly increased. For this, the patient needs to have a tracheostomy, when a breathing tube is put into a hole in their neck instead of going down their mouth, so they can easily switch back and forth between breathing independently and on the machine.
Apart from long-term physical disabilities:
- For reasons that aren’t clear, people who have been in intensive care may also have memory or concentration problems and higher rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions. Studies suggest about one in 10 experience post-traumatic stress disorder, involving flashbacks and nightmares.
I think for oldies like me it’s about one in eight chance of survival, against a terrible way to die. Makes one think whether to include specific instructions in an advance health directive.
If you have time, BilB sent me this link to a YouTube of the surviving partner of a yachtsman who died through intubation. The video is very moving. As the disease progressed the surviving partner was starting to think of the practicalities of life with her partner in a wheel chair. The video allows us to vicariously live through the experience, also raising questions of medical access and medical insurance, in this case in South Africa.
Finding a vaccine
Another New Scientist article asks the question 124 coronavirus vaccines are in development – but will any work?
- The only way to find out for sure how well these vaccines work is to give them to thousands of people of all ages. A University of Oxford team trialling a vaccine that uses the gene for the spike protein inside a viral shell is now expanding its initial trial of 1000 people to 10,000 people, including children and people over the age of 56. It is at this second, larger stage of human trials that vaccines usually fail, says Hibberd.
There is a big problem in chasing the virus around the world, because the trial can’t be done experimentally by infecting people.
Bioethicist Nir Eyal at Rutgers University in New Jersey has pointed out that a healthy person in their 20s has a less than 1 in 3000 chance of dying from COVID 19. Some 26,000 people have volunteered, but you would need a company and a country willing to play ball.
It would help if we found a cure first, which is all we’ve got with HIV-AIDS.
Then apart from the technical difficulties, if you want immunity for at least a year, then you have to test for a year.
I we are going to have to learn to live with the beast.
Meanwhile in Victoria…
- Victoria recorded 25 new coronavirus cases overnight, including 14 linked to existing outbreaks and one returned traveller in hotel quarantine
- Plans to increase the number of patrons in restaurants, libraries and places of worship are being delayed, meaning the 20-person limit will remain until at least July 12
- Gyms and cinemas can still reopen again on Monday but they will be limited to 20 patrons
Mr Andrews said:
- there had been instances of people gathering in large numbers at the homes of family and friends, even though they had been told to self-isolate.
“We have even had people who had tested positive and have been told to go home and isolate and instead they have gone to work, instead they have gone and visited loved ones in large numbers,” he said.
“It is pretty clear that behind closed doors when one family comes together in large numbers … they are not practicing social distancing.”
See also Victorian restrictions explained.
Apparently the British public were on the whole co-operative and compliant. Some here will have to learn the hard way.