25 May 2020 – Memorial Day – #71

In Barcelona, it is not Memorial Day, but it is the first full day of Phase 1. In Barcelona’s version of Phase 1, we are free to go outside, but not beyond the city border. No one can enter or leave the city.

As Covid-19 deaths in Spain dropped to 48 yesterday, the lowest since March, Prime Minister Sánchez invited tourists to book travel for July. That’s a good sign that Brad can return from San Francisco soon. Well, maybe. Spain has to work out travel agreements with other countries before tourism starts again. I imagine European negotiations will take priority over the US.

For those of you enjoying a holiday weekend in the US, NPR has tips on the Covid-19 risks of 14 common summer vacation activities. No big surprises. Outdoor activities are generally better than indoor activities, although bathrooms aren’t as risky as I’d thought. I was a little disappointed to read on one of my feeds that the Fire Island boys are dancing in close quarters. They’re not alone in their proximity.

I was pleased, on the other hand, to see the way San Francisco implement outdoor social distancing circles in Dolores Park. Amazing how a hint as simple as a line encourages healthy behavior.

Social distancing circles in Dolores Park, San Francisco.

Yesterday I wrote about how current Covid-19 models aren’t good at predicting things like attaining herd immunity. Models, however, are reasonably good at predicting near term Covid-19 death rates. A consensus of these models works even better. FiveThirtyEight looks at US mortality forecasts from several models. The models’ consensus predicts 110,000 – 140,000 US Covid-19 deaths through mid-June.

FiveThirtyEight, “Where The Latest COVID-19 Models Think We’re Headed — And Why They Disagree,” 24 May 2020

This is what caught my eye. The article breaks down each model as well as each US state. It seems to me like anonymized mobile data should be a good proxy for social distancing and that social distancing, in turn, should be a good proxy for infection rates. I’ll note, however, that the two models using anonymized mobile data, the University of Texas and IHME models, give the best and worst Covid-19 mortality forecasts, respectively, of the entire group. Feel free to speculate in the comments about why the two models using mobile data might give such divergent forecasts.

Of note as Covid-19 ravages underdeveloped countries is that it’s not ravaging all underdeveloped countries. I’ve mentioned the success of Covid-19 responses in Ghana and Senegal due to sensible leadership, practical public health policies, and innovation.

Here’s another example of Covid-19 innovation by a team of teenage girls in Afghanistan. Ravaged by war and poverty, Afghanistan is in desperate need of ventilators and can’t pay anything near the $50,000 a new ventilator costs. A team of girls in Herat came up with an idea to use spare car parts to build a ventilator based on the MIT open source design.

And because Herat is largely shut down due to COVID, Farooqi says the team had to be ingenious about sourcing parts. “Most of the material we are using is actually from Toyota Corolla car parts” from nearby secondhand markets, such as the windshield wipers, a gear box and motor, along with some motorbike parts.

NPR, “All-Girl Robotics Team In Afghanistan Works On Low-Cost Ventilator … With Car Parts,” 22 May 2020.

After six weeks of work, the team needs two more parts, a transducer and a microprocessor, to finish their prototype. Those two parts are nearly impossible to source in Herat, but that’s not stopping these girls. Even if they aren’t successful, the important thing is to empower as many people as possible to innovate during the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s unexpected successes from unexpected places like Herat that can turn the tide of this pandemic.

One underdeveloped country that’s is being ravaged is Brazil. Its leader has followed the unfortunate leadership footsteps of Trump, poo-pooing lockdowns and promoting hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment. We don’t need a model to predict the results of poor leadership.

Covid-19 per-capita morality, 24 May 2020. Brazil in red.

Brazil’s per-capita Covid-19 curve (in red above) appears to be following the US trend of rising without a clear inflection point to level off. I’ll go out on a limb and speculate that Brazil is under-counting its Covid-19 deaths, but probably not as much as Russia (in orange above). Arguably, European countries have fared much worse than the US and Brazil, but US and Brazil had the advantage of knowing what worked against Covid-19 in Europe and Asia for several weeks and yet failed to implement it by the time Covid-19 reached them.

One of my concerns about the US is that Trump is normalizing the magnitude of (the mostly unnecessary) Covid-19 deaths in the US. He’s out golfing this weekend as though it’s normal for more than a thousand Americans to die every day from a pandemic. That’s why I want to end on an up-close and personal note.

One of my social media sources is Dr. Craig Spencer, a New York City ER doc. He and other healthcare providers have seen the popularity of their social feeds rise as they fill in the Covid-19 information void left by the US federal government. I’ll end today with his day-in-the-life video.

Dr. Craig Spencer, Emergency Room Diary.

Happy Memorial Day from Barcelona. Please keep your distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands.

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