14 June 2020 – Sunday – #91

Once I boarded the correct train, the ride up the coast to El Masnou was beautiful yesterday. Turns out it’s better to wait to make sure it’s the right train than to make a dash for a departing train headed the right direction.

Renfe R1 train near Badalona, 13 June 2020.

The passengers on the ride to El Masnou were comfortably spread out and everyone wore masks. The ride back was standing room only, though, filled with sunbathers returning before sunset. Everyone wore masks except a couple with an infant.

It was my first trip outside Barcelona since I arrived on the first of January. I didn’t get too far outside city limits. Still, after nearly six months, it was nice to have the perspective of looking at Barcelona from a distance rather than being in Barcelona.

Barcelona from El Masnou, 13 June 2020.

The New Abnormal is good so far in Spain. Spain had the worst per-capita Covid-19 mortality of any country, but also had the best turnaround, down now to an average of four Covid-19 deaths per day. There was a Covid-19 breakout in a Bilbao hospital, but authorities seem to be on the case. The central government announced Spain will open its borders on 21 June, a compromise between Spain’s desire to open its borders 1 July and the EU’s desire for Spain to open 15 June.

The New Abnormal isn’t normal. There’s the fear of another outbreak. After all, China appears to have a new Covid-19 outbreak after two months of smooth sailing. It is closing down the south part of Beijing after 57 new cases were reported in a day.

Mask compliance is good in Barcelona. Depending on the study, compliance needs to be above something like 80% to stave off Covid-19. This Covid-19 mask graph is flying through my social feeds right now.

Comparison of Covid-19 confirmed cases with and without mask rules.

The mask study of Wuhan, Italy, and New York is the first empirical study I’ve seen. Previous mask studies are in the lab or on a computer. Clearly, it would help to have more data from more locations, but so far this study by researchers from Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin, California Institute of Technology, and the University of California San Diego backs up the theoretical claim that masks attenuate Covid-19 transmission with real life data.

It looks like all we might need to do until a vaccine comes along is wear masks.

Speaking of a vaccine coming along, Europe is securing Covid-19 vaccine delivery from AstraZeneca.

The deal is the latest by AstraZeneca to promise to supply its vaccine to governments who have scrambled to agree advance purchases of promising coronavirus immunisation treatments.

Reuters, “AstraZeneca agrees to supply Europe with 400 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine,” 13 June 2020.

Right now, AstraZeneca plans to provide the Oxford vaccine, assuming it passes all the trials. It seems a little early to me to place bets on a particular vaccine, but probably good news that governments are negotiating terms sooner than later regardless of what vaccine comes to market. Giving pharmaceuticals a guaranteed purchase de-risks their development, not only for financing, but also for testing, manufacturing, and distribution.

The only thing that really matters in Spain until a Covid-19 vaccine shows up is soccer, of course. Turns out technology from game maker EA is helping ease the pain.

In the US, soccer isn’t important, but politics sure is.

Republicans are hell-bent on keeping the economy open. They should take a cue from Europe. With Covid-19 in the rear view mirror, the Spanish economy seems to be recovering quickly. Instead, Republicans are arguing against all the evidence that people will act normally during a Covid-19 outbreak.

Trump, in his delusional post-Coronavirus bubble, has sidelined the CDC. Luckily, Dr. Frieden has been kind enough to provide weekly updates on behalf of the CDC.

Dr. Frieden provides the CDC weekly update since the CDC can’t.

To my American friends who insist on staying in the US, I’ll just point out that the cost of Covid-19 is high not only in terms of US economy, but also your pocketbook. Take the case of Michael Flor.

The total tab for his bout with the coronavirus: $1.1 million. $1,122,501.04, to be exact. All in one bill that’s more like a book because it runs to 181 pages.

The Seattle Times, “Coronavirus survival comes with a $1.1 million, 181-page price tag,” 12 June 2020.

Net of government Covid-19 programs, Flor probably wont have to pay more than US$6,000, but that’s still more than double my annual health insurance premium in Spain.

If you want to leave the US, if you’re willing to wear a mask until there’s a Covid-19 vaccine, and if you want to fly to Barcelona, you’ll want to think through the odds of dying on the way. Brad is thinking about this right now and he found this handy Twitter thread to help him.

Here’s a back-of-the-envelope estimate of dying from Covid-19 on a long flight from San Francisco.

Estimated odds of dying from Covid-19 on a long flight departing from San Francisco.

It looks like it’s still safer to fly than to drive a car. If your fellow travelers are willing to wear a mask, then it’s almost as safe as my train ride to El Masnou. Hope to see you in Barcelona soon!

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