29 April 2020 – Wednesday – #45

I’m not sure which is better news, that Spain announced a step-by-step relaxation of its Covid-19 lockdown or that apricot season arrived. Spain’s lockdown relaxation is a series of two week “phases” beginning 11 May. If there is no upswing in Covid-19 infections in a given region at the end of a phase, then that region continues to the next phase of lockdown relaxation. That is, each region of Spain will advance through phases independently. Full mobility between regions won’t start until regions achieve the “new normal.”

The announcement comes as the Covid-19 reproduction rate R drops under 1 for nearly all of Spain.

R for regions in Spain, 28 April 2020. Centro Nacional de Microbiología.

Phase One of relaxation includes mobility within a region and reopening of some small businesses. Restaurants, theaters, and religious services will be allowed to operate at 30% of capacity. Prime Minister Sánchez advises that this relaxation is highly adaptable depending on the Covid-19 infection rates.

“The adaptability is because we don’t know what we are facing. Science still doesn’t know a lot of things about this virus. As such, we are facing something that we don’t know, and that is why we have to be cautious.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, 28 April 2020

In Barcelona, the Catalan government issued regional relaxation orders. To me, the most important part of its order is mention of Project Orfeu. Three weeks ago, the Spanish government announced Orfeu, its program to ramp up Covid-19 testing. From the Catalan announcement, it looks like testing is running roughly 1 test per 1,000 residents per day based on the total of 240,000 tests to date. The announcement says Orfeu will deliver 309,000 tests in six weeks, but it’s unclear how that translates into tests per day. For comparison, South Korea was able to manage down its Covid-19 case load with 5 tests per 1,000 residents per day.

In the US, the Covid-19 train wreck continues. In the wake of Tyson’s warning yesterday about the US food supply chain, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to force US meat processing plant to stay open. The order gives US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue authority to ensure meat and poultry processors continue to deliver food to Americans and addresses “liability problems” Tyson voiced.

Bill Kristol on Republican position on US workers and Covid-19.

The question is why low-wage workers would show up when their colleagues are getting sick and dying. While pressing the country to re-open for business, Trump has failed to address worker safety in terms of either testing or protective gear. Some advocates of relaxing Covid-19 lockdowns assert that Covid-19 IFR is low enough that workers should continue working to protect the economy, but the workers’ unions have a different take.

Mohamed Goni, an organizer with Greater Minnesota Worker Center, said workers have complained the company is not sharing information about sick colleagues, has not implemented social distancing on the line, and that workers who were sick returned after just two or three days, and some workers who developed symptoms were not allowed to leave when they asked to go home.

KATU-2, “Trump order keeping meat packing plants open worries unions,” 29 April 2020

As Mohamed Goni, a union organizer points out, many of the Somali workers at the meat processing plants go home to their families and don’t want to put elder parents at risk of Covid-19 infection.

Trump also is pressing schools to re-open. With schools closed, parents lacking childcare alternatives have to stay home rather than go back to work.

“I think you’ll see a lot of schools open up even if it’s for a very short period of time. In terms of what this vicious virus goes after, young people seem to do very well. Young people seem to do very well so I know that there are some governors that aren’t necessarily ready to open up states, but they may be ready to open up the school systems.”


It seems reasonable to allow children into social settings because Covid-19 mortality is low in youngsters. Earlier this month, a US study showed only 1.7% of confirmed Covid-19 cases were in children under 18 while that group makes up 22% of the US population. Last month, when much less was known about Covid-19, Israel sent teenagers to sanitize its metro systems to keep older residents safe.

Hold the train.

UK Health Minister Matt Hancock warned yesterday about a rare autoimmune response the NHS is detecting in children. The illness presents similarly to Toxic Shock Syndrome and with severe inflammation.

Guidance was sent to doctors in north London describing “an apparent rise in the number of children of all ages presenting with a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care across London and also in other regions of the UK”.

IBC, “Matt Hancock ‘very worried’ about new coronavirus condition that affects children,” Nick Ferrari, 28 April 2020

While the new pediatric syndrome is not directly associated with Covid-19 at this point, the appearance of this autoimmune response during the Covid-19 pandemic suggests a connection. Just when we think we know what’s going on with Covid-19, it finds a way to surprise us.

Except maybe in New Zealand. Congratulations to New Zealand for crushing Covid-19. The country expects full eradication in the coming weeks and is relaxing its lockdown. After providing a model for how to execute a lockdown, I’m hoping New Zealand provides a model for reintegrating with the world economy after eradication.

That brings me back to apricots. Apricots are the harbinger of the best part of the fruit season for me. Next come peaches and nectarines.

Spanish apricots.

For the past five years, I’ve lived in New York City and missed apricot season. To be fair, around this time of year good New York markets do offer small yellow globes that suggest what an apricot might taste like. How nice, then, to find fresh, flavorful apricots at Barcelona markets after my five year hiatus.

The thing is that Spanish apricots taste different. There are some apricots that, although redder, have a similar texture and taste to California apricots. The apricots in the photo have a slightly different texture and a citrus taste. It’s part of the fun of moving to Spain, to learn these differences.

I wrote at the top that I wasn’t sure whether the end of the lockdown was better than apricot season. I’m looking forward to going outside, of course, but I’m also looking forward to the predictable return of fresh peaches that come after fresh apricots.

Predictability. What a comforting word.

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