7 June 2020 – Sunday – #84

I had a BBQ on the terrace last night! It was awkward figuring out the etiquette (we bumped elbows at the door) and weird to remember how to host a dinner party. For the record, I didn’t get the coals quite hot enough. Still, the meal was delish if a little late to the table.

While Francesc and I waited for the others to procure gin and tonic for a postprandial blaze of glory, I asked Francesc about what going on at his Barcelona law practice. Lawyers, who, by the way, are essential workers, see the nitty-gritty of how business works. If I understood Francesc correctly, he sees local economic activity picking up rapidly. A big financial roadblock for small businesses here is simply writing the financial plan required by lenders. The Spanish situation seems similar to the US where the small businesses that have limited avenues for financing also seem to have the most trouble with the process of accessing stimulus funding.

Friday’s US unemployment numbers were a sign that Covid-19 unemployment appears to be peaking.

US continuing jobless claims during the Covid-19 crisis.

The question now is what shape the economic recovery will take. Anecdotally, Francesc thinks Spain will have a V-shaped recovery. My concerns about the US economy are that it relaxed Covid-19 restrictions too quickly and that the George Floyd protests may increase infections. If a second wave of Covid-19 hits the US this summer, new lockdowns reduce the chance of a V-shaped recovery.

In the UK, Prime Minister Johnson is pushing to end lockdowns sooner to save jobs. I think many PhDs will be written about the politics of economy versus health in the age of Covid-19. It’s a little too soon to know for sure whether the US relaxed Covid-19 restrictions so soon that a second wave of Covid-19 will occur this summer, but it looks like the better trade off is to err on the side of public health so that when jobs come back, they come back stronger. In other words, better to wait a little longer to de-risk a V-shaped economic recovery than to start working sooner only to have Covid-19 reappear and drag out the economic recovery. Johnson probably would do the UK and himself a favor by waiting to push for jobs. For the record, I don’t want a PhD.

Meanwhile in Brazil, President Bolsonaro, the Trump of South America, is hiding Covid-19 numbers. He stealing from the Florida playbook on Covid-19 public relations.

Neither Bolsonaro nor the ministry gave a reason for erasing most of the data on the covid.saude.gov.br website, which had been a key public resource for tracking the pandemic. The page was taken down on Friday and reloaded Saturday with a new layout and just a fraction of the data, reflecting only deaths, cases and recoveries within the last 24 hours.

Reuters, “Brazil takes down COVID-19 data, hiding soaring death toll,” 6 June 2020.

Bolsonaro has avoided Covid-19 lockdowns, but finds his economy in a tailspin anyway. My hunch is that he thinks that covering up Brazil’s Covid-19 numbers will calm Brazilians so they will return to work. Good luck with that. Excess deaths are easy to measure and tell the story of Covid-19 devastation at least as well as actual Covid-19 statistics.

Watching the continuing US protests, it’s frustrating that US law enforcement isn’t on the same Covid-19 page as public health agencies. Simple public health resources aren’t being applied to protect George Floyd protesters. It’s not that difficult. Here, for instance, is a program to protect Atlanta protesters.

CORE Covid-19 services for George Floyd protesters.

It’s also frustrating that the US government keeps prison and immigration detention center Covid-19 hot spots operating. ICE has tested 13% of immigrant detainees, but hasn’t said whether the testing is randomized or for symptomatic detainees.

According to statistics provided by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, there are currently 781 positive cases of COVID-19 in detention facilities across the United States.

KVOA.com, “Nearly 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported at Arizona ICE detention centers,” 5 June 2020.

In Arizona, a state where Covid-19 cases are rising, ICE houses 100 detainees with confirmed Covid-19 infections. Releasing these detainees would have reduced Covid-19 infections. Detaining them puts not only more detainees at risk, but also detention center staff and the communities around the detention centers.

The entire US law enforcement apparatus ignores public health at the peril of the country’s health and economy. Law enforcement costs and benefits aren’t lining up during the pandemic.

Good news from China on the Covid-19 vaccine front. A vaccine based on an inactivated virus provided protection to monkeys.

Still a long way to get through human trials, but this candidate Covid-19 vaccine appears more effective than the much touted Oxford vaccine and several other early candidates. Since Trump is pulling out of WHO, it’s not clear how the US gets access to the vaccine if it passes through human trials.

It’s hard to track all the Covid-19 treatment and vaccine trials. The BioCentury clinical trial dashboard is your new best friend for that. I’ve posted it on the Resources page.

BioCentury Covid-19 trial readouts, 7 May 2020.

I want to end today with a sad video of the White House, sad because Trump finally built the wall he really seems to want.

I’m rooting for the US to do the right thing. The protesters give me hope. The public opinion polls give me hope. The ridiculous new barricade around the White House is a great symbol of how Trump deals with things he personally doesn’t like. It’s not a productive way forward. It’s a gated-community way forward.

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