Friday/ the ‘other’ Mt Rushmore

Mt Rushmore, reimagined by Twitter.

Trump is holding another (stupid, insane) political rally today, this time at Mt Rushmore in South Dakota. In the middle of an epidemic spiraling out of control in many states, there is no social distancing and no mandatory mask wearing at his event.

Besides, noted a political commentator: Trump’s politics of hate and division must fly in those faces of Presidents Roosevelt, Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington, carved out of the granite.

I learned today that there is another giant granite carve-out that has already been many decades in the making, just 17 miles from Mt Rushmore: the unfinished memorial dedicated to the Sioux leader Crazy Horse.
Here is a 2019 write-up about it from Business Insider.

The unfinished memorial in South Dakota dedicated to the Sioux leader Crazy Horse. (Crazy Horse is famous for being one of the leaders in a victory against the US army in the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876).  Polish American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski designed the sculpture, thinking it would take 30 years to build. Work began in 1948, and it’s now been 73 years, and it is not nearly finished. The complete sculpture will have the Sioux leader sitting on his horse. [Photo Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images]

Thursday/ masks: now mandatory

From Friday, Washington State residents have to wear masks in any public setting where social distancing is difficult or impossible. The governor says he trusts the public will do the right thing, and that extensive enforcement or issuing fines will hopefully not be needed.

Seattle and King county is doing O.K., but not great. There has been a steady increase in cases in Yakima county.

Infographic from the Seattle Times.
Cases by age are pretty evenly spread in the 20-40, 40-60 and 60+ age brackets.
Deaths by age is dramatically different, with 90% of deaths in the 60+ bracket.

Thursday/ what epidemiologists say

Below is a survey of the activities that epidemiologists expect to be OK to do –
⋆  Soon/ this summer;
⋆  3 to 12 months out;
⋆  Only after a year (oh no!), and
⋆  Never again (oh no! say it ain’t so).

Meanwhile, there is a deafening silence from the CDC about the pandemic.
No more coronavirus task force briefings.
Trump plans a mass rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the end of next week. (Attendees have to sign waivers that they will not sue his campaign if they get sick or die).
The death toll stands at 114,000. Are we just accepting that almost 1,000 Americans still die every day? It looks like we are.

Source: The New York Times, Monday June 8, 2020.
Check out this photo tweeted by Vice President Mike Pence yesterday (quickly deleted when he realized how bad it was). It’s the Trump-Pence 2020 campaign staff, in the Virginia office. Pence is Trump’s coronavirus task force leader. (Was, I guess. They claim it’s ‘over’). No masks, no social distancing. In Virgina, gatherings of 10+ people are not allowed.  #KAG stands for Keep America Great. (Great? With 114,000 dead and 13% unemployment?).

Wednesday/ still protesting

Long past midnight last night, I could still hear the police helicopter hover over the protesters here in Seattle’s Capitol Hill. It is less than a mile from my house, as the crow flies.

The protesters are out there again tonight. A curfew that had been in place, was lifted, though. I really hope the ugly scenes of Saturday night are behind us.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has upgraded the charge against former police officer Chauvin to second-degree murder. The other three officers that had been with him, have now been charged as well — of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

The protesters in the crowd that are protesting police brutality against George Floyd for a 6th night, seen from the 3rd floor of a nearby building. The umbrellas are there to help deflect tear gas canisters, a Hong Kong tactic. Probably too few umbrellas, though! .. but hopefully things will stay peaceful. Also: not a good thing that so many people are gathered in one place with the corona virus still very much in circulation. What are people to do, though, that are protesting generations of marginalization and economic inequality? A 2011 National Institutes of Health study found that some 2.3% of deaths – 50,000 people – in the United States yearly, are due to poverty/ lack of access to affordable healthcare.  

Monday/ stay home (some more) & eat ice cream

Washington State’s Stay Home order officially expired on Sunday night.
Some counties have moved to Phase 2, but not so for King County and Seattle. (Phase 1 is strictest, then Phase 2, 3 and 4. Phase 4 is the one which allows big sporting events and concerts, but still urges at-risk populations to practice social distancing and good hand hygiene).

It seems it will be really hard for King County to get its new Covid cases under 25 per 100,000 population soon (required for Phase 2). Even so, the County will immediately apply for a modified Phase 1 transition, to get some stores, businesses and restaurants to open a limited fashion.

These pictures are from the Molly Moon ice cream store on Pine St, today.

Wednesday/ more than 100,000 lives lost

So here it is, four months in: the United States reached the 100,000 mark for Covid-19 fatalities. We have a long way to go – but at this point the US has a far, far worse outcome compared to most other countries in the world.

Moreover, the actual number for the pandemic may already be as high as 125,000, if one adds in what is called ‘excess death*’ statistics.
*The observed number of deaths, minus the expected number of deaths under normal conditions, for a certain population.

There was not a word out of Trump about all this, who was at the SpaceX launch event in Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Fla. (scrubbed at the last minute due to bad weather).

Joe Biden, Democratic candidate for the 2020 Presidential Election, on Twitter today.

Friday/ Memorial Day weekend starts

Oh boy. I see there are pointers for a ‘pandemic’ Memorial Day barbecue with extended family or friends, in the New York Times. All good advice: keep it small, keep your distance, plan the seating, avoid finger foods, make it a potluck, or serve food straight from the grill, and so on. 

Hmm. As one reader commented, doing all that may just not be worth it. Another reader offered : ‘Stressing over social distancing, and keeping people out of your house, kind of defeats the purpose of having them over .. have people over who you trust to have hunkered down just like you, assume some minimal risk, and have a great time and enjoy each other’s company’.

Thursday/ people, mostly – not surfaces

Here in the USA, the CDC now advises that the virus ‘does not spread easily’ from contaminated surfaces or animals. Avoiding humans is the most important thing, and especially sharing enclosed spaces with them.

The pressure is mounting on everyone to wear masks ⁠— even outdoors⁠— it seems to me.

With all the States here now starting to reopen (tentatively, and with restrictions), I think it’s a legitimate concern that people will let their guard down, and that there will be a second wave in some States and cities later in the year.

Who knows, though: the miracle of an effective and widely available vaccine may appear by the end of the year.

Thursday/ WA State: doing OK, not great, yet

Well, here are what the ‘curves’ for Washington State look like now, courtesy of the New York Times. Yes, we have flattened the curve, but new cases per day is still above 100, and average deaths per day above 10. (Today, Thursday, for the first time since early March, no death was reported).

Governor Jay Inslee says he cannot yet commit to go to Phase 2 on June 1 – limited restaurants, in-store retail, barbers, tattoo parlors.
Should I then run out to get a tattoo? Definitely not.
Need to cut my hair? Maybe later on. I finally found hair clippers to buy and I’m learning to cut my own hair with it.
I ordered groceries online & picked it up today, and it went very well. They substituted some items, asked if that’s OK. Yes, yes, I said, no problem, just throw it all in the trunk. And here’s a tip. But no, they’re not allowed to take any. I hope the grocery store pay them decently.

From the New York Times, data through May 13. That’s a 101 new cases at the far end of the red graph, for a total of 18.6k cases. There were 5 new deaths on May 13, bringing the total to 977 souls lost in Washington State so far.

Wednesday/ take the elevator?

I had to go to the doctor’s office yesterday (booster shot for an old vaccine). Should I ask if there are stairs up to the 3rd floor? I wondered for a moment, but then stepped into the empty elevator.

he New York Times about a hypothetical situation where infected Person A rides up to Floor 10 for 30 seconds. No mask, coughs and talks on a cellphone, exhaling tiny droplets that contain the virus. Some droplets fall to the ground, some hit the sides of the elevator, and some float in the air.

A lot depends on the elevator size & design, and if it has air-conditioning, but let’s say the door opens for 10 seconds, and goes back down to pick up Person B. Person A might have drawn out enough air when upon exiting, to dilute his germs and viruses in the air by 50%. The same might happen again when Person B steps in, so let’s say 25% remains, that Person B is exposed to.

Experts don’t know for sure, but generally do not believe that these airborne particles in empty elevators pose a significant real-life risk when it comes to coronavirus. They note that even when a person with Covid-19 is living in close quarters with other members of the household, the infection rate has been estimated at only about 10 to 20 percent. (For reference: measles is a true airborne disease, highly, highly contagious, with an infection rate of 75 to 90 percent).

Tuesday/ the voice of reason

Dr Fauci testified before Congress today, via videolink. He urged caution (as always), and said there would be no vaccine by the start of the school year in September.

Just today California State University, the nation’s largest four-year public university system, announced the cancellation of in-person classes for the fall semester. That system comprises 23 campuses, with more than 480,000 students!

Dr Anthony S. Fauci (79) is a physician and immunologist who has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. He has lived through the start of the terrible HIV/ AIDS pandemic (first cases in 1981, and not over by a long shot: 770,000 deaths world-wide in 2018), the 2003 SARS outbreak, the 2009 Swine Flu, the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and now Covid-19. It was refreshing to see him testify without Trump (literally) breathing down his neck at Coronavirus Task Force briefings.

Thursday/ the ‘magic’ in South Korea

‘So no, the Koreans are not ‘magic’, and are not dealing with a loaded deck. They saw the problem, and confronted it rationally and deliberately, and the U.S. can certainly do the same, once rational people rise up and start removing their irrational leaders‘, concludes Kelly Mac in an article on Medium.

The writer dispels some of the myths around the amazing success that South Korea has had at mitigating the impact of the corona virus. (They worked hard at it, and it should also be noted that they operate at ‘half-normal’, says the writer).

Screen shots below are from the Medium article.
Korean tracing app: It has GPS permissions, phone number verification, and Passport number (verified in person by immigration)- the traveler can delete after 2 weeks. If you fail to self-report during the 2 weeks, a health official may call you to find out why; the QR code can be used for fast entry to hospitals. (Dyspnea means difficult or labored breathing).

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday/ ‘a doleful future’ .. but also optimism

An article in the New York Times by Donald G. McNeil Jr. paints a bleak picture, ‘a doleful future’, for the year or two ahead, for life in the times of the SARS-CoV-2 (corona) virus.

Yes, we have reached the peak of this first outbreak in New York City, and several other States, but right now we should test at least three times more people daily, to assess if a community is safe enough for people to come out of their homes. There are still not enough test kits available. (Trump and Pence seem to lie about this every day at the press briefings).

The experts agree that 12 to 18 months for a vaccine is optimistic. The ‘world record’ time for developing a vaccine, was for the one for mumps (4 years, start to finish in 1967). Check out the struggle for the polio vaccine before the success of Dr. Jonas Salk in 1955.

Once we have a vaccine, we will need 300 million doses — and 600 million if two shots are needed. We will probably have to rely on China to help manufacture those!

In the interim, it will be impossible to keep paying the economic cost of keeping people at home. There will be fits and starts, as the lockdowns get lifted, and reinstituted if too many people fall ill in certain communities. People that have become immune, may get special privileges (to work, to travel), and people that are not immune, may be discriminated against.

The article does end with an optimistic note:
‘In the periods after both wars, Dr. Mulder* noted, society and incomes became more equal. Funds created for veterans’ and widows’ pensions led to social safety nets, measures like the G.I. Bill and V.A. home loans were adopted, unions grew stronger, and tax benefits for the wealthy withered.

If a vaccine saves lives, many Americans may become less suspicious of conventional medicine and more accepting of science in general — including climate change, experts said.

The blue skies that have shone above American cities during this lockdown era could even become permanent’.

*Nicholas Mulder, an economic historian at Cornell University.

This looks like a scene from a dystopian future, a movie, but no, it’s real: a handful of commuters on the Staten Island Ferry. Passenger counts on the New York City subway is down by 93%. [Picture: Misha Friedman for The New York Times]

Sunday/ this party is OVER

This is somewhere in Amsterdam on Sunday — a picture posted on Twitter by Maria@kalltvatten.
She points out in her tweet that she was the not the one that reported the rooftop party. She also noted that the police are at the right door (the rooftop is accessed from the building on the left).

Monday/ death toll approaches 11,000

‘But we did something that’s been pretty amazing. We have 15 people [sick] in this massive country, and because of the fact that we went early. We went early; we could have had a lot more than that. We’re doing great. Our country is doing so great. We are so unified. We are so unified. The Republican Party has never ever been unified like it is now. There has never been a movement in the history of our country like we have now. Never been a movement’.
– trump, at a rally in South Carolina, Feb 28


By late Monday night the number of deaths in the United States from the coronavirus approached 11,000. This number of reported deaths has doubled every 3 or 4 days since mid-March. At this rate, the 100,000 mark will be reached by the end of April.

There are signs in New York City that the peak of the epidemic there has been reached, though. Some models now predict a lower number than the estimated range of 100k- 240k total deaths in the USA by August range (80k or so).

From today’s New York Times: ‘The United States on Monday crossed the threshold of 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus. The first 5,000 deaths came in just over a month’s time, and in fewer than five days, the second 5,000 followed’.

Friday/ cover your face (in enclosed public spaces)

The CDC and the White House Coronavirus Task Force today said to cover one’s face with a cloth mask when going into a store or an enclosed public space.

As someone on Twitter noted: how come masks are required for healthcare workers, but wearing nothing at all was recommended for the public, when they can come into close contact with other people .. even as they try to avoid them, and given that persons might be asymptomatic but still contagious? It never made sense.

A doctor on TV pointed out that wearing any kind of mask sends an important signal to others: something is seriously amiss (aka: a P-A-N-D-E-M-I-C). So everyone in public should avoid close contact, and not spread germs (and viruses). It also reminds the wearer not to touch his or her face.

Monday/ the ‘wabbits’ are under quarantine

I ran out to the grocery store again on Saturday.
Hopefully, the time will come again in the foreseeable future, when I would not have to dodge the other shoppers, nor be in a rush, so as to minimize my time in the ‘dangerous’ public space of the store.

My two Easter bunnies from Lindt still have a day or so to go before they are done with their 72 hour quarantine .. but I will probably wash the foil wrappers with soap anyway, before I tear it open.

Thursday/ tracking the pandemic’s toll

The Financial Times publish these graphs of Covid-19 fatalities every day, here.

This graph shows that deaths in Italy, Spain and the United States are still increasing at a more rapid pace than they had in China, at a similar time (number of days after the 10th death in the country).

 

This graph shows that the New York State, the Catalonia region and the Madrid metro, could eventually pass Lombardia, Italy, as the worst affected subregion. Washington State and California seems to be doing relatively better than New York State. The higher rate in New York State could be related to the very dense population in NYC, and the heavy use of crowded public transportation there.

Wednesday/ what’s in, and what’s out?

You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.
So you’ve got to respond in what you see happen.
And if you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn’t matter what you say.
1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks – you’ve got to go with what the situation on the ground is.
– Dr. Anthony Fauci, member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force


Below is a handy infographic from the Seattle Times, that shows what is allowed, and what is not, under the governor’s Stay-At-Home directive.

For the extra-careful (paranoid*?), there are YouTube videos that advise to wash or sterilize the outsides of packaged groceries, or to carefully dump out food from take-out containers onto clean dinner plates.  Packages from Amazon or elsewhere, should be quarantined for 24 or 48 hours. Wear gloves when going into a store, to minimize direct touch with shopping carts & screens, and so on.

*The late Andy Grove from PC processor manufacturer Intel Corp., wrote a business book titled ‘Only The Paranoid Survive’.

Friday/ sheltering in place

It has been beautiful outside this week, so I went for a few walks around the block a few times — but definitely avoiding people on the sidewalk. Yes, I’m steering clear of you. Don’t care if you are offended .. it’s good for both of us.

I find going to the grocery store harrowing*, and maybe I will get supplies for a whole month with my next trip.
Of course: I can always order from Amazon or even online, from the grocery store, as well.

*The last time I went, there was a woman with a persistent, bad cough in the store. So you absolutely had to come into the store? I thought.

It’s early days, but the number of positive tests on this dashboard from the University of Washington, looks promising. (The number of positive cases is stable and not increasing rapidly).