9 August 2020 – Sunday – #107

Brad arrived from San Francisco shortly after I posted last week’s entry. It’s great to have him back now that I remember to put on my clothes around Casa Solar.

Brad’s Barcelona sojourn was uneventful except at SFO where the gate agents didn’t recognize his Spanish visa no lucrativa. It took them about 20 minutes to determine he could board the Paris-bound flight with that unusual visa. According to Brad, who flew business class for safety, there were more flight attendants than passengers. He cleared immigration control at CDG and customs at BCN without problems.

The most dangerous point of the trip Covid-19-wise was the layover in the domestic terminal at CDG which was crowded, enclosed, and semi-masked. Most travelers I’ve spoken with are concerned about shared time in a metal tube. Safety in flight seems to be about the same as safety on the ground, namely masks and distance make a difference. Note that while airlines are enforcing their mask regulations, not all airlines are providing good distancing or cleaning practices.

After hearing Brad’s story about crowds at CDG’s domestic terminal that weren’t wearing masks wholeheartedly, I’m less inclined to fly to Algeria soon. I want to travel to Algeria to research Dear Mustafa before I finish the fifth draft, but the only way to fly there from BCN these days is via Paris. More hops means more terminal time means more Covid-19 infection opportunities, regardless of how well the airlines are managing their cabins.

Unfortunately for Brad, the summer heat is on. Not just the temperature, which is around 30C during the day. Covid-19 is heating up, too.

Here’s what Spanish Covid-19 cases and deaths look like. It’s got bad enough here that, in addition to the US, UK, and Germany, Switzerland now requires travelers from Spain to quarantine for 10 days.

Covid-19 cases and deaths in Spain side-by-side through 8 August 2020 (source: Our World in Data)

While conservatives in the US are claiming incorrectly that US Covid-19 deaths are not increasing as US Covid-19 cases rise again, it turns out that Covid-19 deaths in Spain actually are not increasing as cases rise.

The reason? My friend who works at a testing lab says the average age of Spaniards who tested positive for Covid-19 in his lab last week was 35. In other words, it appears that young Spaniards are partying, getting infected, but not dying. Spain’s low Covid-19 death rate is a demographic artifact of age. If Covid-19 outbreaks aren’t contained, they will spread to older Spaniards and death rates will increase again.

Since Spanish public health is managed by region, Catalonia’s statistics tell me how my local public health administrators are doing. Luckily, Covid-19 cases look a bit better here than in the country as a whole.

Catalonia Covid-19 cases before and after lockdown.

Obviously, I’d prefer if the new case numbers in Catalonia were closer to zero. However, Covid-19 outbreaks will happen and the real question is whether my local public health officials are taking the right action to contain new outbreaks. For now, it looks like Catalan officials are doing the right things and Covid-19 cases are leveling off.

My social life is booming with Brad here and I’m relaxing my standards as Covid-19 cases level off. Brad and I dined inside this week at Can Xurrades on Carrer de Casanova. On Friday evening, I had drinks inside with Ana at 14 de la Rosa in Gracia. I can recommend both places for distancing, although it still feels weird to spend time inside even when the venues aren’t crowded. I also can recommend Can Xurrades if you like beef (they grow their own) and 14 de la Rosa if you like drinks (their cocktail menu goes from sweet to sophisticated).

The US Covid-19 train wreck continues. A look at US Covid-19 cases and deaths shows that, indeed, Covid-19 deaths have surpassed 1,000 per day for the second time.

US Covid-19 cases and deaths side-by-side as of 8 August 2020.

At this rate, the US will have the most Covid-19 per capita deaths in the world by the November election.

How has the US failed so mightily compared to nearly every other country? There are two good post-mortems on the (lack of) US response to Covid-19, one in The Atlantic, the other in Rolling Stone. I commend both for a thorough examination. However, in a nutshell, Andy Slavin gets it right when he says it’s all about profit.

If you’re wondering what Trump is doing these days to line his pockets to stop Covid-19, here’s a possible replacement for hydroxychloroquine in his Covid-19 arsenal. Oleandrin is an oleander plant derivative that causes coronary death.

Trump reviews oleandrin for Covid-19.

Trump is practically declaring there will be a Covid-19 vaccination before the election, but scientists are concerned that his efforts to rush an ineffective vaccine to market are taking away resources needed to bring an effective vaccine to market. To win the election, Trump is willing to gamble a few more tens of thousands of lives.

In spite of the lack of Covid-19 leadership from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, it’s heartening to know there is good science going on. Here is the most interesting scientific development I ran across last week, a man-made peptide that looks like it can beat Covid-19. Check out the embedded thread for a differentiation between this peptide antidote and vaccines from Oxford, Moderna, and others.

Peptide antidote to Covid-19.

I don’t even care if it works. It shows that scientists can put their heads together and come up with a new idea. What’s more, they disclose their economic incentives.

As I mentioned last week, though, New Zealand eradicated Covid-19 without new treatments or vaccines. The US doesn’t need great technology to solve its Covid-19 problems. It needs leadership.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 misinformation in the US is more likely to increase than decrease in front to the election. For instance, masks. Advocating against masks is like advocating against seat belts while driving at the speed you determine to be safe. Kansas announced that counties that mandated masks had lower Covid-19 infection rates than counties that did not. It took a day for conservatives to politicize the announcement.

The same is true for the back-to-school issue. Vox provided this week a useful distillation of what we know about Covid-19 and kids. The bottom line is we need more studies and, in the meantime, if community spread of Covid-19 is high, opening schools likely exacerbates the spread.

Laura Ingraham has been leading the charge at Fox News to claim that teachers and their unions are getting a special deal when schools are closed. In effect, she asserts that if doctors and nurses can work during Covid-19, why can’t teachers? She omits that doctors and nurses are dying from Covid-19. Meantime, Fox News ordered its staff to work from home.

An off-topic shout out to my Lebanese friends who are dealing with not only Covid-19, but also economic collapse and one of the worst non-nuclear explosions in history.

Beirut chemical explosion compared to other large explosions. Source: Statista.

Last of all, this is the best summary I’ve found of Trump’s position on Covid-19.

Typical Trump Covid-19 briefing.

Keep your distance, wear a mask, wash your hands, and check your sources.

I write this for my sanity. Please pass on to friends and follow me for my daily Covid-19 updates on Twitter.

2 thoughts on “9 August 2020 – Sunday – #107

  1. As always, I feel very informed after reading your blog. Thank you for doing this. Glad Brad has finally made it back to BCN. Stay safe!!!


  2. Time for you and Brad and Ruben (after quarantine) to come up to Canet de Mar, so we can all ketchup…


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