25 March 2020 – Wednesday – #10

I left the apartment yesterday for the first time in a week to shop for food. It was quiet out. Here’s one of Barcelona’s main drags, Avinguda Diagonal, at rush hour.

Store hours were much shorter and earlier than my previous shopping adventure a week ago. I started a photo album to keep track of new hours. Proprietors are much better organized, too. The Condis market downstairs offered blue plastic gloves to customers and had nearly everything in good supply. Staff in most stores wore masks and gloves. Cashiers insisted on providing sales receipts which, I realized, were to show police who might otherwise fine me. I felt less anxious on this week’s shopping excursion than last week’s, better informed about do’s and don’ts of Covid-19 contamination. The jug wine store was closed, so not only do I have to go shopping again today or tomorrow, but I also had to open a bottle last night.

Sorry for my whining, but going outside seems fraught right now. The Spanish government expects the increase in Covid-19 infections to peak this week or next because of the lockdown effort. Unfortunately, there also are reports that the government may not be reporting accurately. Reporters are asking for better transparency to calm public fears. The darkest hour is just before the dawn.

Yesterday I also found a Catalan Covid-19 app. I haven’t downloaded it yet because it seems mostly for self-diagnosis and next steps if you have Covid-19 symptoms. Should there be a cookie-cutter app development kit available to local governments that want to provide similar app services? It would help Covid patients access currently available healthcare resources.

Yesterday the US surpassed Spain in Covid-19 cases. Sadly, it seems more and more like staying in Barcelona was a better choice than returning to New York City.

The Financial Times tweeted other slices of pandemic data, including graphs showing how most countries are following the same path that Italy is on. Unfortunately, Italy had a spike in new cases yesterday, but the trends matter more now than individual data points. Still, public sentiment seems to swing based on each day’s results.

Yesterday’s other big US news was agreement on a $2 trillion stimulus package. What’s notable is that congress was compelled to exclude explicitly aid to “businesses controlled by the President, Vice President, Members of Congress, and heads of Executive Departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programs.”

Trump is eager to get the economy going, even at the expense of lives. The power of the US presidency is strong in spite of its current occupant. Trump’s desire to move the US economy is influencing leaders in Mexico and Brazil to advocate for work over lockdowns. There are, however, no models that suggest there is any Covid-19 epidemic response better than a 5-7 week lockdown for both public health and the health of the economy (see yesterday’s entry).

Trump seems more irrelevant as the damage from his misinformation spreads and he fails at making data-based decisions. By the way, as long as he is recommending hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 on the basis of a flawed French study, I’m going to recommend against hydroxychloroquine on the basis of a statistically insignificant Chinese study.

After Governor Cuomo’s press conferences (see end of 22 March entry), some Democrats now are suggesting that Cuomo be drafted as the 2020 party candidate. Along with Cuomo, other governors also are stepping in to fill the void left by the federal government’s incompetent Covid-19 response. This incompetence has led to outcomes like higher prices for vital supplies as states and hospitals bid against one another as well as against the federal government for scarce resources.

I’ve noticed Covid-19 maps are starting to replace Covid-19 graphs for visual effects in the press. Here’s a per capita map of cases in Spain (numbers are per million inhabitants):

I haven’t seen a per capita map of the US, perhaps because the state and county data don’t support such a map yet. The Spanish map is instructive for understanding how federal governments have to coordinate between regions in the midst of catastrophe and regions that are either about to get hit, have been hit, or have somehow missed the Covid-19 virus through early lockdown.

On a personal note, there is enough modeling and data that Brad and I now are estimating his return to Casa Solar in the June or July timeframe. There is plenty of uncertainty in that estimate including when air travel will resume and how much the states in the US that are advocating Trump’s work-over-lockdown approach will slow the overall US Covid-19 response (which, in turn, may keep foreign countries from accepting flights from the US). To keep himself sane and happy while we see how our estimate plays out, Brad has started a photo album called Plague Cuisine — Recipes for a Disaster.

Finally, in case you forgot, I was worrying in last Saturday’s entry about where I would get a haircut during the lockdown. Just to prove the Internet has everything, I found a lovely sonnet called But Who, For Chrissakes, Will Come Cut My Hair?

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