29 March 2020 : COVID-19 news

Turkey is reporting cases at the fastest rate in the world; Spain and Switzerland are tied with a rate of 171/100,000; New York continues to drive the US case numbers; Europe gets bad masks from China

It’s day 69 since the first case of coronavirus disease was announced in the United States. The new case rate in the US has flattened a bit, as you can see above. But as all of us know, there are more people who need tests than who are getting tests.

Turkey is currently reporting cases at the fastest rate in the world. On Sunday, the Johns Hopkins dashboard reported 9,217 cases and 131 deaths in Turkey. One week ago, on the 23rd, it had 1,529 cases and 37 deaths. However, there are currently only 11 cases per 100,000.

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Sunday, Johns Hopkins reported 124,464 (104,829) cases and 2,191 (1,707) deaths, an increase of 18.7 and 28.7 percent, respectively, since Saturday. Our reported case rate is 43.21 per 100,000; our death rate is 6.62 per million.

I’ve tried to put the growth of cases into context with these next charts. The first shows the growth in cases for the top five countries on a per capita basis; I then added the US and China for context. As I have reported earlier, there are flaws with the Chinese data, but it’s what we have. Media attention has been on Italy, and rightly so due to the fatality rate, but look at what has happened to cases in Spain and Belgium in a week.

This is the same comparison for the United States. New York population density is a probable explanation for the terrific increase in case rate there. That’s reflected in the rapid increase in New Jersey as well, but it does not explain Louisiana. What might explain the rapid growth there is poverty (19.8% poverty rate) and income (it ranks 48th in per capita income).

Finally, fatality rates compared with case rate, both on a per million basis. These are the states with the largest per capita case rate. If you have to explain an infographic, it could probably be improved, but here goes. For me, the two anomalies are Louisiana and Washington. For the other states, the death rate tracks the rate.

Washington’s explanation, early on, was the nursing home in Kirkland. But now?

Could Louisiana’s be related to Mardi Gras? Carnival season is the month of February; Mardi Gras was 25 February. “Thirteen days later, the state reported its first case of COVID-19 in New Orleans.”

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Around the country

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have identified COVID-19 cases. Today’s 2,465 known deaths are from 48 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. The only two states with no reported deaths are Hawaii and Wyoming.

In Virginia, Jerry Falwell Jr. has backtracked on a promise to Lynchburg, VA officials that he would “comply with Virginia’s public health directives and close [Liberty University] to virtually all students.”

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, Lynchburg city officials and a growing number of Liberty students, parents and employees have urged Mr. Falwell to reverse course, but such pleas have only prompted a stream of often conflicting statements.

But the rub is he brought students back from spring break, some have become sick, and some (many?) are asking to go home and not be penalized for tuition.

In Washington, data on cases and deaths suggest that physical distancing is working.

While each infected person was spreading the virus to an average of 2.7 other people earlier in March, that number appears to have dropped, with one projection suggesting that it was now down to 1.4…

Officials in Washington State first began to plead with people to keep their distance from one another at the end of February… Within a week, the county was asking organizations to consider postponing large events and for people to work from home if possible.

Our experience with a nursing facility served as an early warning for similar institutions around the country.

In Albany, Georgia, anyone entering Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital will be issued a reusable cloth mask. “Thanks to the amazing work of our teams producing reusable fabric masks, we now have a sufficient supply to institute this new policy.” said Scott Steiner, Phoebe Putney Health System Chief Executive Officer. There are now 482 positive cases (and 772 negatives), for a case rate of 28.35 per 100,000.

Politics, economics and COVID-19

Europe is reporting problems with N95 masks and COVID-19 test kits from China. On Saturday, officials in the Netherlands said that 1.3 million masks “did not meet quality standards” because “the masks did not fit well and the filters did not function properly.” Earlier, Spain had reported that hundreds of thousands of rapid test kits made in China were “unreliable.” The Spanish Society of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Microbiology reported that the test kits were incorrect 70 percent of the time.

Why did I place that new blurb under “politics”?

Because this weekend, the federal government flew a planeload of medical supplies from China, including N95 masks. According to Axios, the feds paid for the flight; the distributor paid for the product, which it will sell.

Because 40% of the load on that flight “is going to the private market in the tri-state area, where the distributor had already lined up buyers.” (Did it sell the other 60% to the feds or was that the price of the flight?) The federal government’s share is going to New York (305.9 cases/100,000), New Jersey (150.7 cases/100,000 ), and Connecticut (55.9 cases/100,000).

The airlift is a product of a team led by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, which formed “Project Airbridge,” a partnership between large U.S. healthcare distributors such as McKesson Corp, Cardinal, Owens & Minor, Medline and Henry Schein Inc, and the federal government.

From The Guardian, five of President Trump’s “most misleading” claims about COVID-19.

  • ‘Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion’

  • ‘It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle – it will disappear’

  • ‘Anybody that needs a test gets a test. We – they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful’

  • I’ve always known this is a real – this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic. I’ve always viewed it as very serious’

  • Americans will have access ‘to vaccines, I think, relatively soon’

Global news

The number of affected countries/territories/areas jumped from 29 at the end of February to 198 today. Although early reports tied the outbreak to a seafood (“wet”) market in Wuhan, China, analyses of genomic data suggest that the virus may have developed elsewhere.

In Germany, public gatherings of more than two are people banned. Researchers are hoping to start a large-scale testing for coronavirus antibodies as soon as next month.

Tests currently available can show false positives for coronavirus antibodies, as 90 percent of adults already have immunity against common, harmless viruses from the same family.

"Researchers hope a more precise testing process will be available in two to three months," Spiegel reported.

The UK deputy chief medical officer said Sunday that “it could be six months before life in the UK returns to ‘normal’,” although she clarified that this does not mean a “complete lockdown for six months.”

Wimbledon has been canceled.

Case count

Tests are becoming much more widely available. There is a lag between being contagious and showing symptoms. The virus was not created in a lab.

29 March, global

  • Globally: 634,835 confirmed (63,159 new) 29,957 with deaths (3,464 new)

  • Regions of the Americas: 120,798 confirmed (20,484 new) with 1,973 deaths (488 new)

WHO Situation report, 69

  • Global confirmed: 723,700

  • Total deaths: 34,018

  • Total recovered: 152,032

Johns Hopkins interactive dashboard (11.30 pm Pacific)

29 March, domestic

Nationally* there are a total of 85,356 cases and 1,246 deaths according to the CDC (last updated Friday), and 143,025 (124,464) cases and 2,514 (2,191) deaths according to Johns Hopkins (11.30 pm, Pacific) All 50 states plus DC are reporting 141,232 identified cases and 2,447 deaths. 

View infographic and data online: total cases and cases/100,000.

*Data include DC, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands

What you can do

  1. Stay home when sick. 

  2. Stay home as much as possible, period. 

  3. Avoid crowded places.

What do to when you or a loved one feels sick

Digestive problems may be a symptom.


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