COVID-19 day 344: 📈Faster-spreading UK variant identified in 15 countries : 28 December 2020

Americans flew in record numbers over the December holidays, defying official calls to stay at home; December is the most deadly month since this began; UK sets new record for daily case reports

Sunday was day 343 since the first case of coronavirus disease was announced in the United States. This weekend, we passed the 19 million mark for cases, despite a dip in reported cases due to the Christmas holiday. And the global case count topped 80 million.

The US, with about 3% of the world’s population, continues to account for about one-quarter of the COVID-19 cases reported globally.

Reports will not return to a mostly accurate picture until the middle of next week (about 06 January 2021) due to the holidays. I am working on a longer and non-standard end of the year wrap-up for Thursday, which will include a reader survey.

Globally, at least 15 countries have reported the more-transmissible UK variant (B.1.1.7), according to CIDRAP: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

The UK reported a new record single-day high of 41,385 cases on Monday.

The COVID-19 variant from South Africa (B1.351) has been detected in the UK as well as Finland. As medical professional remind us: viruses mutate. That’s why we need a new flu shot each year. It’s too soon to know the impact of these two mutations.

Although the US has yet to identify a patient with either variant, we should assume it is here. According to the CDC, the UK has sequenced at least 125,000 samples out of about 2,290,000 cases. In contrast, the US has sequenced only 51,000 samples. Today we have 19,000,000 cases. To match the sample rate of the UK, we would need to have sequenced more than a million samples. We’re flying blind.

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Sections (no jump links, sorry!)
1, One big thing; 2, Recommendations; 3, Politics, economics & COVID; 4, Key metrics;
5, Resources

⓵ One big thing - a dismal year

December has proved to be the worst month for COVID-19 survival since the pandemic began. As of 28 December, Johns Hopkins reports about 64,000 deaths from COVID-19 for the month. The previous record was in April, when more than 55,000 Americans died.

US media as a generalization have not contextualized the US response. An exception from the Wall Street Journal on 20 October:

While China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, combined, have been recording fewer than 1,000 cases a day since September, the U.S. alone was reporting more than 56,000 cases a day on average as of Monday, the highest number since early August.

For the month of December, the US has been reporting an average of 206,000 cases a day. That’s 3.75 times the October figure. Our average deaths? 2,400 per day.

Yesterday, China and Singapore had a combined total of 96 new cases. Japan and South Korea are having winter spikes, at 2,945 and 808 cases, respectively.

Cases per 100,000?

  • China: 7

  • Japan: 175

  • Singapore: 1,000

  • South Korea: 113

  • US: 5,780

A reminder that South Korea and the United States recorded their first cases on the same date: 20 January 2020.

The U.S. is on track to record 3.2 million deaths in 2020, a 15% increase compared to 2019 data (2.85 million deaths). Our population did not increase by 15%.

According to AP:

That would mark the largest single-year percentage leap since 1918, when tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers died in World War I and hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a flu pandemic. Deaths rose 46% that year, compared with 1917.

Although the increase is largely linked with the coronavirus pandemic, the US has also experienced an increase in deaths due to drug overdoses, diabetes and dementia.

In 2019 life expectancy rose by six weeks to 78.8 years, according to CDC data. Dr. Robert Anderson, chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch at the CDC, said that life expectancy for 2020 could decline by three years.

⓶ Recommendations

🤓 Recommended reading

▪️ We all need both a 😂 and a refresher. The year 2020, as only Dave Barry can spin it. Warning - it’s really long and you are likely to LOL. You may LOL enough to need a 🤧. A few excerpts to tease:

In the past, writing these annual reviews, we have said harsh things about previous years. We owe those years an apology. Compared to 2020, all previous years, even the Disco Era, were the golden age of human existence…

Elsewhere abroad, Chinese news media report that a man in a city named “Wuhan” died of a mysterious virus. This is not considered a big deal in the United States, since it has nothing to do with either impeachment or the Iowa caucuses…

Despite all these exciting political developments, the No. 1 concern of the American public, based on the amount of passionate debate it generates on the Internet, is the burning issue of whether it is, or is not, okay to recline your airplane seat

We disagree about everything — when to reopen the economy, whether to wear masks, whether to go to the beach, whether it’s okay to say “China” — everything. Each side believes that it is motivated purely by reason, facts and compassion, and that the other side is evil and stupid and sincerely wants people to die. Every issue is binary: My side good, other side bad. There is no nuance, no open-mindedness, no discussion…

On July 4, despite all the bad news and the gloomy outlook, Americans pause to celebrate the independence of their nation by reducing entire neighborhoods to smoking rubble with illegal fireworks…

In other political news, the New York Times, in a politically devastating career-ending bombshell report, reveals that an analysis of Trump’s tax records shows that pretty much his only major success, as a businessman, has been playing the part of a successful businessman on a TV show. Coming on the heels of two politically devastating bombshell reports earlier in the month — one alleging that Trump mocked the military, and one that he lied about the seriousness of the coronavirus — this brings to an even 500 the total number of times Trump has been devastated by bombshell media reports…

In other foreign-policy action, the president orders an airstrike on TikTok

In other political action, vice-presidential candidates Mike Pence and Kamala Harris square off in a debate, and the only thing anybody remembers about it 10 minutes later is that a fly landed on Pence’s head

Dave Barry’s Year in Review 2020. Anchorage Daily News, 27 December 2020. Deseret News, 27 December 2020. Miami Herald, 24 December 2020. Washington Post magazine, 27 December 2020. (Please do not share publicly: PDF-no images; PDF-images).

▪️ This retrospective by Lawrence Wright focuses on three pivot points where alternative decisions might have prevented 330,000 deaths.

There are three moments in the yearlong catastrophe of the covid-19 pandemic when events might have turned out differently. The first occurred on January 3, 2020, when Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spoke with George Fu Gao, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which was modelled on the American institution. Redfield had just received a report about an unexplained respiratory virus emerging in the city of Wuhan.

The Plague Year. The New Yorker, 28 December 2020.

🔬 Research and medical news

▪️ A reminder about how poorly humans assess risk.

Heart attacks occur most commonly in the morning, yet we don’t blame breakfast for causing them…

Helen Keipp Talbot, who is on the expert panel that devised the vaccine distribution priority lists for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, actually voted against putting nursing home residents at the front of the line, in part because vaccinating people who are in frail health first could inadvertently undermine confidence in the vaccine, given how common heart attacks, strokes and even deaths are in this population.

The curse of the incidental illness: Seen as side effects to Covid vaccinations, ailments may have little to do with them. STAT News, 28 December 2020.

▪️ A lost year isn’t the same for everyone. This essay describes how COVID-19 affected one of our friends, although it’s not about our friend.

‘There’s no back to normal’: For people with terminal illnesses, time lost to Covid-19 can’t be made up. STAT News, 23 December 2020.

🎦 Recommended viewing

What to expect when you’re injected: Vaccine side effects explained. STAT News, 22 December 2020.

⓷ Politics, economics and COVID-19

❌ President Trump is spending the December holiday golfing in Florida. Vice President Pence, skiing in Colorado. Congress, trying to get legislation passed to fund the government and provide COVID-19 relief. Whereas the House has voted to overturn Trump’s veto of the defense bill, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wants the Senate to provide a $2,000 COVID-19 payment (not the $600 in the prior bill).

📣 In late summer, about 120 black-footed ferrets were part of a vaccine trial for animals. The goal: to protect the endangered species from catching COVID-19 from humans, like their cousins, the mink, did. After becoming infected with the COVID virus from humans, US farmers had watch thousands of farmed minks die. Recently, we identified the virus in a wild mink in Utah. In Denmark, the government decided to cull all of its farmed mink - 17 million animals.

✈️ Data from the Transportation Security Administration show that 1.28 million people traveled through US airport security checks on Sunday. That’s about half the number of travelers as one year ago, but it's the most people moving through airports since the beginning of the pandemic.

It was the sixth day of December holiday travel with more than 1 million passengers screened in US airports. In November, there were four days with more than 1 million people flying. There was one day in October. Prior to that, 16 March 2020 was the last day with more than 1 million travelers in US airports.

⓸ Key metrics

🦠 Thursday, Johns Hopkins reported 18,650,454 (192,081 new) cases and 329,023 (2,899 new) deaths, an increase of 1.04% and 0.89%, respectively, since Thursday. A week ago, the daily numbers increased by 1.47% and 0.93%, respectively.

  • Thursday, 24 December
    - 🔻192,081 cases and 🔺2,899 deaths (seven-day average)
    - 🔻1,483,240 cases last seven days (CDC)
    - 🔻63.8 cases/100K (CDC, today)
    🔺120,151 hospitalizations (CTP, today)
    - 1.76% cases leading to death (today)
    - total cases and deaths per 100K: 5,635 and 99

  • Friday
    🔺230,930 cases and 🔺2,591 deaths (seven-day average)
    🔺1,513,120 cases last seven days (CDC)
    🔺66.1 cases/100K (CDC, today)
    🔺114,751 hospitalizations (CTP, today)
    - 1.80% cases leading to death (today)
    - total cases and deaths per 100K: 5,275 and 95

Note: the seven-day average is important because dailies vary due to factors other than actual case numbers, particularly over a weekend.

🇺🇸 24 December 

  • CDC: 18,391,571 (221,509 new) cases & 325,096 (3,362 new) deaths
    One week ago: 14,041,436 (219,187 new) cases & 275,386 (2,861 new) deaths

  • State data*:  18,446,263 (202,369 new) cases & 320,505 (2,910 new) deaths
    One week ago: 14,151,570 (224,262 new) cases & 269,86 (2,529 new) deaths
    KS reports only M-W-F; CT and RI report only M-F

  • WHO: 18,090,260 (195,151 new) cases & 320,180 (3,148 new) deaths
    One week ago: 13,563,731 (177,976 new) cases & 268,482 (2,439 new) deaths

🌎 24 December 

Johns Hopkins interactive dashboard (11.00 pm Pacific)

  • Global: 79,368,139 (663,466 new) cases & 1,741,551 (11,598 new) deaths
    One week ago: 65,899,436 (678,884 new) cases & 1,518,670 (12,419 new) deaths

* Johns Hopkins data, ~11.00 pm Pacific.
State data include DC, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands

The virus was not created in a lab and the weight of evidence is that it was not released intentionallyAlthough early reports tied the outbreak to a market in Wuhan, China, analyses of genomic data have suggested that the virusdeveloped elsewhere.

⓹ Resources

👓 See COVID-19 resource collection at WiredPen.
📝 Subscribe to Kathy’s COVID-19 Memo :: COVID-19 Memo archives
🦠 COVID-19 @
📊 Visualizations: USWorld
🌐 Global news(at WiredPen)

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