17 June 2020 – Wednesday – #94

Last night Ana came over for dinner. It’s her birthday tomorrow (Happy Birthday, Ana!) and she’s waiting to hear whether she can travel down the coast to celebrate at a friend’s house. I offered her Casa Solar, of course, if Spain doesn’t allow travel down the coast. These kinds of social planning improvisations are standard as Barcelona prepares for Fase Tres of the New Abnormal. Everyone has to dance around where they can go and what they’re allowed to do.

The social improvisation comes with the feeling that life has taken on attributes of a horror movie. Everything seems normal, but it never feels quite right. Do you hug? Or go for an elbow bump? You have a sense in your life’s “based on a true story” drama that Something even more hideous than Trump’s hair is lurking just out of sight. You go for the elbow bump.

Still, we just might get out of this one alive.

An important advantage coming out of a lockdown is that the Covid-19 testing capacity developed as cases showed up at clinics and hospitals during the lockdown is freed up for test and trace programs required to keep the virus at bay after the lockdown. In fact, Spain is scrambling to apply its PCR testing resources to testing and tracing. The stakes couldn’t be any higher. “The efficiency of the monitoring measures will determine whether this spike in cases takes the form of small, contained outbreaks or a second big wave.”

In the US, the lockdowns are over. Hey, just kidding! Covid-19 testing resources aren’t available for post-lockdown testing and tracing programs because they’re still largely for confirming new cases showing up at clinics and hospitals.

In Florida, for instance, even though there isn’t a lockdown (hey, just kidding!), businesses are closing down anyway. As the state recorded two consecutive days of more than 2,000 new Covid-19 cases, “At least six bars in northern and central Florida have now announced their closures amid new Covid-19 cases, which peaked on Sunday.”

Which just goes to show that people don’t go out to bars and order a Grim Reaper with a twist. In Florida and many other US states, that Something more hideous than Trump’s hair isn’t lurking just out of sight. It’s right there on the bar stool next to you.

Which states are heating up besides Florida? Almost 20 according to rt.live.

Covid-19 R values by state, 16 June 2020.

That’s about twice as many states in R > 1 territory as there were in my first entry of June. Red lights should be flashing.

Trump, however, insists the lockdowns are over and everything is fine (hey, just kidding!). He is trying to pawn off higher Covid-19 confirmed cases on increased testing because if cases are really going up (hint: they are), then it looks like he pushed too hard to end the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Not so fast, buster.

Unfortunately, as Max Roser points out above, comparing the US to nearly any European country is all you really need to know about Trump and the US response.

Or compare the US to China. Trump loves to compare the US to China.

If Trump were brilliant he could make himself look brilliant by comparing his Covid-19 response to other countries in the Americas. Mexico, Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador have had poor Covid-19 responses, too. It makes me wonder what it is about the Americas that makes Covid-19 so happy. Maybe something the conquistadors left behind.

Covid-19 per capita mortality in countries in the Americas, 16 June 2020.

The US isn’t doing so bad compared to Brazil.

Brazil is on a trajectory to register more than 4,000 deaths per day and overtake the United States in both cases and deaths by the end of July, according to researchers at the University of Washington. But just as the pandemic is magnifying the similarities between the United States and Brazil – two continent-sized countries with extreme inequality and populist presidents – it is also revealing the chasm between them. Brazil has neither the world’s biggest economy, nor one of its strongest health-care systems, nor the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Washington Post, “Brazil on the brink of virus catastrophe,” 16 June 2020.

This US isn’t doing so bad compared to Brazil, except how did the US respond so poorly to Covid-19 when it had such a clear resource advantage.

I’m going to end with good news in the Covid-19 treatment front. The steroid Dexamethasone reduces Covid-19 mortality in severely ill patients.

The drug was given either orally or through an IV for 10 days. After four weeks, it had reduced deaths by 35% in patients who needed treatment with breathing machines and by 20% in those only needing supplemental oxygen. It did not appear to help less ill patients

Yahoo! News, “Cheap drug is first shown to improve COVID-19 survival,” 16 June 2020.

Reducing mortality by 1/4 – 1/3 with a cheap, widely available drug is great news. I don’t think it’s quite a game changer. We can’t let our hair down yet. Reducing the death rate by 80% – 90% makes Covid-19 a bit more like the seasonal flu.

Here’s a good ‘splainer on how Dexamethasone helps severely ill Covid-19 patients from Politico.

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