A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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Every day matters. See which day each US state loses the chance to protect thousands

Look at State by State outcomes: visit Covid Act Now

Its an excellent display of modeled outcomes across the US*. Click on each state in the US to find out predicted death tolls and the day hospitals will be overwhelmed with too little action.

Dear readers, get out of the way of this virus. My advice is to stay home. Order online. Wear masks if you have to venture out. Keep kids home from school. Don’t visit anyone or allow visitors in to your home who have not strictly quarantined for the last two weeks. We started this last week.

h/t Bill in Oz.

Eg It’s too late now for  New York State to avoid losing control of hospitals

But they could still Crush the Curve and save a lot of people, but even that action now will have far higher death tolls that it would if it had been started last week.

New York State has a population of 20 million. So the figures in the table below are directly comparable to Australian outcomes with a population of 25m (with the hope that lower population density, warmer weather, and two weeks warning could be an [...]

Weekend Unthreaded

I believe there are other things happening in the world still.

50 Specialist Doctors send dire warning hospitals will be swamped 3 x capacity

The wave coming is not just a “bit bigger” than hospitals can handle

Western Australian specialists estimate that at present rate, in 45 days Coronavirus cases will fill up their entire state hospital system. Two weeks later Covid patients will also fill all the beds in the extra two copies of their entire state hospital network that haven’t been built yet.

Hospitals will need 20 times as many ventilators as they have.

“Peak need for ventilators will be over four thousands in a system where we have less than two hundred. Again, most of those needing a ventilator will die. “

Perhaps we are overreacting?

Western Australia is an example of what the rest of the West faces. There are 2.5m people here, but only 120 confirmed cases. In a state which took six years to build one hospital all we need to do is triple our hospital capacity in 6 weeks. Laughing…

The Doctors call for the immediate closure of borders. Which was impossible a few days ago, in a state that only has two sealed roads out, but is now happening on Tuesday “at 1:30pm”. (Presumably the new border guards have to drive out from [...]

Crush the Curve: Italian town with first death in Italy stopped the virus

The first epicentre in Italy was Vò, a little town of 3,000. It was shut down, fully tested and twice and nine days apart. By testing, isolating, and tracking, they reduced the spread to almost nothing, and this is despite the extraordinary discovery that when the first death happened, already 3% of the town had the disease.

At that point surely the Italian government should have immediately closed everything?

Italian village reports no new infections for days after blanket testing

Zoe Tidman, Independent

Mr Zaia, Veneto’s governor, said the trial was “criticised by most sides” but that isolating numbers of undetected positive cases has resulted in Vo Euganeo being today “the safest place in Italy”.

h/t Bill H

In one Italian town, we showed mass testing could eradicate the coronavirus

Andrea Crisanti and Antonio Cassone, The Guardian, March 20.

Our experiment came to be by chance. The Italian authorities had a strong emotional reaction to news of the country’s first death – which was in Vò. The whole town was put into quarantine and every inhabitant was tested.

In the first round of testing, 89 people tested positive. In the second round, the number had [...]

Feb 27th: Some US Republicans knew what was coming, and didn’t warn the people

Traitors to the people?

Some in the Republican Party knew what was coming. At least four Senators in the US are being accused of insider trading, selling stocks before the crash, but not warning the public or making sure the US was prepared. Senator Richard Burr sold something like a million dollars in their own stocks on Feb 13th. At private briefings his message was that this virus was aggressive, more like the Spanish Flu, “the military might be mobilized”. Burr was probably more aware than most because he “helped to write the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA).”

On the other hand Senator Loeffer says she was not involved in choosing the stocks that were sold on her portfolio. But others say  some of these blind trusts sold shares the same day the Senators were briefed in some cases as early as Jan 24th. The Senators claim they were only acting on public news services. Possibly, even if they knew, they may have been bound by some Party ruling not to contradict the President.

Rod Dreher, The American Conservative “They Knew, And Didn’t Tell Us”

Think about it: Trump certainly knew how bad it was going to [...]

Friday Open Thread

Where was the media when we needed them?

Remember back in February when the mainstream media was telling us this was “just like the flu”?

They weren’t asking the Health Minister “how many Australians might die”  or “why don’t we close the borders”. They didn’t want to know whether the PM had calculated the cost of leaving the borders open? They weren’t estimating how many weeks it would be before we ran out of ICU beds.

Nor were they demanding to know whether Australians could make more medical masks, had enough ventilators, or should be stocking up with weeks to go, so we could avoid last minute shopper panic. Australians were still booking holidays on cruise ships and flights to Bali instead of putting spare toilet paper in the shed.

While the tidal wave was weeks away the media was more concerned about protecting the image of China, not calling this the Wuhan-Flu, and making sure we know how wrong it was to make jokes about not shaking hands of Chinese-Australian doctors. Which is poor taste but hardly a national prime time event. The irony being that now we’re not supposed to shake anyone’s hands anyway.

Australians were blindsided by the incompetent media. That’s why they are panic [...]

Doctors on front line see disaster coming and feel abandoned

Australian Medical Association WA President Andrew Miller said Western Australia was headed for a situation like Italy and are 8 – 10 days behind Sydney. Read his scathing comments below.

The tally in Australia is now about 900, the same as Italy had on Feb 28th, just three weeks ago. Now Italy has 41,000 cases and 3,405 people have died. Their population is three times larger than Australia and slightly older, it’s colder and packed in closer.  At a guess, with the present SlowMo/SlowState response, maybe only 10-20,000 Australians will catch this in the next three weeks? “Great”.

UPDATE: Hospitals in Italy are no longer intubating anyone over 60 years old.  h/t nezy

Italian politicians could have been better prepared, but there’s no excuse for the rest of the world now.

Coronavirus crisis: Australian Medical Association WA President Andrew Miller slams WA Government response to COVID-19 pandemic

John Flint The West Australian

[Miller said:] …“And we’re not doing any of the things that the countries that are being successful are doing like Hong Kong.

“They are using fever monitoring in public, they lock people down away from their families if they’re positive, whereas here we send [...]

Stop with the fatalism: Don’t flatten it, Crush The Curve on Coronavirus

There is a third way — Why are we so fatalistic?

It’s not a choice between Let It Rip and the slow bleed of “Flatten the Curve”. It’s not a choice of health versus money. The third option no one is mentioning is to Crush The Curve: we go hard, fast, and do a major short sharp quarantine. It’s not radical, it’s just textbook epidemiology, it saves more lives and it saves the economy too.

SlowMo, Boris and Trump are still two weeks behind the virus. It’s time to get the Third Option on the table.

Flattening the Curve is a fatalistic slow bleed that must last months. It rescues us from the demolition derby that the Let It Rip disaster is cursing on Italian hospitals, but it’s deadly for the economy. All leaders who are keeping schools open while turning student dorms into triage units are locked into this limited thinking. It’s the Influenza-plan rejigged.

There is another way  — (as I’ve been saying) — we stop dithering and acting two-weeks-late, and jump ahead of this inanimate code. We aim for extinction — hunt every infection down, keep most people at home, reduce the spread, then finish by following [...]

Antiviral drugs – antimalarials and anti HIV may be useful

I’ve said from the start that anti-virals were always going to be more useful to us this year than vaccines, which take so long to test and be ready for use. What we really need are anti-virals which also happen to be preapproved and tested and hopefully in mass production. Chloroquine is cheap too, though I doubt Australian stocks of the drug are very high, or that our genius rulers have arranged more. This may be a godsend in Africa where chloroquine use is already high and may reduce the spread of Covid-19 somewhat.

The UK banned export of chloroquine a few weeks ago. Clearly someone there thought it might be useful.

Wang et al reported on Feb 4th that Chloroquine (anti-Malarial) and Remdesivir (anti HIV) may be useful against Coronavirus. They used lab experiments on cells in glass, which had promise. But “in vitro” doesn’t always mean “in vivo”. So I’ve been waiting for some results on people. Early reports were ambiguous. Recently this was hyped as an “Australian cure” which really just meant the start of a proper trial.

There are links to papers and discussion below but I can’t beat this great description explaining how inside the [...]

Midweek Unthreaded

Oops. Forgot Tuesday. Sorry.

Australia waited to boost mask production til now ?! — Greg Hunt and Brendan Murphy’s deadly incompetence

Australia has only one mask factory, and the Army was only sent in yesterday to start helping to ramp up production?

Six weeks after this disaster was obvious to bloggers-watching-twitter-feeds, the entirely predictable shortage of masks is only just starting to be addressed? Why weren’t they doing this a month ago?

Australian Defence Force soldiers have been deployed to help Australia’s only mask manufacturer, Med-Con, near Shepparton.

The Federal Government confirmed on Tuesday about a dozen ADF personnel would be called out under the Defence Assistance to the Civil Community rules to help Med-Con ramp up production of personal protective equipment.

Three army trucks were seen heading north on Old Dookie Rd about 7.20 am Wednesday morning.

Australians are panic buying because the sheer incompetence of our medical advice and management is obvious to everyone. It didn’t occur to me to suggest the government get local mask production running because any sensible ten year old would have seen that coming.

The Greg Hunt mantra on Jan 31: WHO declares emergency. “We are prepared.”

March 5th: Dental practices face closure because of shortage of surgical masks.

March 18th: doctors are warning a promised influx of [...]

Delay = death. Countries that act slowly increase the fatality rate by 10x

Dithering politicians push the fatality from 0.5% toward 5%

A gritty analysis by Tomas Pueyo shows how leaders inertia is killing people every day. Some of the victims of tomorrows Virus Get-Togethers won’t die for a few weeks, but the next batch starts tomorrow (and every day until the nation self-isolates, stops the pox-parties, the cough-shopping, and pneumonia-planes. ). And each day there are more than the day before. Sounds macabre, but at this point in an exponential epidemic, it’s just how it is. Since we didn’t stop the Airbussed virus, we’re going to have to shut everything down anyhow, the later we do it, the larger the cost, and the longer it takes. We have to get ahead of this virus.

Meanwhile in Australia, the average punter seems to realize this and the mood is hitting feverish notes with tramplings in supermarkets — The government is calling for calm, but doctors are calling for borders to close, and schools to go online, they’re standing outside schools with signs telling parents not to send their children to school. Doctors are warning that we are the next “Italy” if we don’t get our act together. But the government says it’s too [...]

Doctors in West Australia call for closure of state borders

I seem to have the uncanny ability to predict what frontline experts will recommend days in advance. It’s not genius. Just medical training and that the solution to this is so Bleeding Obvious, and politicians are still 2 to 3 weeks behind an exploding epidemic of an inanimate nucleic acid code.

WA hospitals call for state border closures to deal with coronavirus fears (COVID-19)

Top doctors across WA’s biggest hospitals are sensationally calling for the state to effectively close its borders to protect West Australians from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a remarkable letter obtained by The West Live to be discussed exclusively on this morning’s show, it can be revealed the Combined Medical Leads Advisory Group has raised concerns about the “extremely limited” availability of testing infrastructure and supplies in WA.

The group, which includes senior medicos from FSH, RPH and SCGH, also warns there is “limited evidence of effective anti-viral treatment”, “no effective vaccine” and that rationing is already in place at hospitals.

It recommends that to “flatten the curve” that attention should be paid to “extending isolation restrictions to all personal interstate travel”.

Just to spell this out, all states [...]

Good: Rumors whole US set to go into two week quarantine lockdown. Bad: UK recycles old flu policy to come up with Very Stupid Plan

 Scuttlebutt that crossed my desk today says “”US to have nationwide quarantine for 14 days’”. h/t Scott.

I hope this is correct. My reply:”Brilliant”. Finally, a hint of an attitude determined to beat this. It’s so refreshing after all the defeatist fatalism telling us this is a disease we have to have. I predict if the US does this, other countries will follow. This is the fastest way to get borders open, and people back to work, and reduce the death toll. Flights will be able to reopen among countries that have done this and done this well.

UPDATE: Officially denied already? The Whitehouse has been forced to deny national shutdown rumours.(A search for “Rumor US two week lockdown” turns up almost no news items?) Don’t believe anything til it is officially denied… but don’t believe the rumours. The fact is there are no facts.

Forgive me if I repeat: A virus is just an inanimate chemical code. It can’t reproduce and it can’t repair itself. To beat it, all we have to do is out-wait it. Without machinery to copy the code it will degrade into foodsafe ingredients. Air, oxygen, time and light will crack the code. [...]