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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Friday Open Thread

Where did Thursday go?


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Masks do help, even (maybe) stopping 75% of influenza, and you can make them

In the West the public have been discouraged from wearing face masks, and told they aren’t much help. This is mostly because they are “much help” and the front line docs and nurses really need them but no one in charge ordered enough in advance, and none of them had the honesty to say so. The daft push-me-pull-you messaging of how the useless masks are needed on the front line will go down as a case study in how not to communicate (or build trust). The truth is we do want people to wear masks in the street, because it almost certainly does slow transmission. (These Lancet authors think so too).

In high density East Asian nations, face masks are common. (And viral growth curves are generally slower, though for lots of reasons.)  Possibly after Coronavirus has gone, masks in winter might be more common here too.

Things can change fast:

Kamil Chudačík, twitter:

In Czech Republic we went from: “Look at the idiot wearing a mask!” to “Look at the idiot not wearing a mask!” in 2 days. I can say the czechs are very conservative in terms of changes so I’m surprised by this behavior.

The DIY mask industry

Medical staff need face masks because they do filter out small enough particles. They reduce the rate of infection. There are scores of papers. And if no medical masks are available, then even home made ones are better than nothing. Right now, teams of home sewers are getting organized, making as many masks as possible. Patterns are being shared online, and since medical masks are running out, some hospitals are even keen to get the home made sort.

In Czechia, a Facebook group called “Czechia Sews Masks” has 33 000 members.

The most useful mask is the one you wear

Another line we are told is that only the N95 (or P2) masks are good enough, but just about any old mask helps.

We’re told plain old surgical masks are just to “stop patients getting doctor germs”. But even these are surprisingly effective compared to the higher quality masks. In 2009 during the swine flu researchers asked parents looking after sick kids at home to take part in a study. The 286 parents were randomly assigned to wear one or none of these masks, mostly they ran out of enthusiasm, with only 25% managing to comply with wearing the mask for five days in a row.  But of those who did wear either type of mask, the rate of getting the flu was about 25% compared to parents who didn’t wear a mask. And surprisingly the N95 mask wasn’t statistically different from the surgical mask, even though the N95 is thicker, and considered to be much better. Of course, it could be that the sort of diligent parents who kept the mask on also had more self-control and were better hand-washers too. But in hospitals where staff do wear masks,  larger studies with 2,000 healthcare workers showed similar results (suggesting that surgical masks were just as good as the N95 masks.) Though in many other studies the N95 masks were more effective. Perhaps it depends on how well they fit. Perhaps most of the benefit is in stopping people touching their face and biting their nails?

 SmartAir Filters has a a really impressive easy-to-read description of different masks, studies, and all kinds of tests — including particle size, and comparison tests of different materials – like tea towels and pillow cases.

Coronaviruses are only 60 – 140 nm in size, insanely small, but masks are still able to filter them out. Though obviously the fit matters and air will easily leak around a poorly fitted mask. But SmartAir also use a fancy “fit-test” machine which can compare the air inside and outside the mask, and that’s while someone was wearing it. It’s a good analysis.

Do-it-yourself mask materials:

Tea-towels were surprisingly good. Double layering them made them theoretically just as good as a surgical mask (apparently). The researchers felt that they were not so easy to breathe through so, so they recommend t-shirt and pillowcase material instead. While they aren’t as effective at filtering, they are more comfortable and more likely to be worn.

Masks, materials, effectiveness.


Even a scarf caught nearly half of all the particles.

Taiwan is making 10 million masks per day.

 Masks are reusable (with care!)  Smartair recommend hanging the mask in the sun for a few hours. So drying it out and leaving it for three days. But do be careful taking the mask off. There are bound to be youtubes to watch on how to do that correctly to minimize the risk of contamination. I”ve heard that is the most risky time.


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This is going to be shorter and faster than people think

Option three gathers wings

Finally the world is tossing out the pointless old Influenza Pandemic plan that called for six months of slow bleeding. Leaders are waking up to the high speed, hard and fast option. Tonight 20% of the worlds’ population are crushing that curve with a full lockdown because it’s the only option. 1.3 billion people in India are now in a three week home quarantine, joining France, Italy, China, Poland, Spain, Belgium, the United Kingdom, New York, California, South Africa, Colombia, Bolivia, Jordan and Tunisia and New Zealand. Sadly half a million people (at least) have caught Covid-19 and there will be another few doublings before the new lockdowns even start to show on the graphs.

Maybe stop feeding it fresh meat?

The Lucky Country Downunder, meanwhile, is copying the Italian-plan-that-failed with a bunch of wishy arbitrary rules that change by the day and are not remotely enough. We know the infection is spreading, but we’re still able to share our germs in Centerlink queues, at Kmart and while getting a haircut. We can’t have 6 people at a wedding, but we can have 600 at a school. Borders are closed but people are still going through them for essential jobs, and “every job is essential” says Scott Morrison.

Obviously after more people die, we’ll do the hard sharp lockdown too. I predict exponential numbers will rise exponentially in Australia, and the PM and Brendan-two-weeks-too-late-Murphy will say “it looks worrying but this is what we expected.” Then they’ll make some excuse for how people are not social distancing enough on their way to work and school and back and how, now, “medically” the time is right for a lockdown.

Simpletons will wonder why, if they knew numbers would rise, they didn’t do it earlier.

But even smart people won’t be able to answer that.

The worst of this will hopefully be over in four to six weeks. Not six months. The sooner we start the better. It’s not the end of the world to mind the kids at home (parents do it every school holidays).

The difference between Covid-19 and Influenza is that this disease is so awful we can afford (we have to afford) to eradicate it — or at the very least — deal with it, find a treatment, a cure, a vaccine. Everyone thinks we can’t possibly stop Influenza, but the truth is, if it hurt this much, we could. We’d find a way. We don’t because the price is just too high.

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Trump might yet pull off a gamechanger thanks to chloroquine

A High Stakes Game

If the trials of the anti-malarial chloroquine (or variants) work, Trump will get away with all the understatements he said in February.

On twitter the combination of Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin are known as #TrumpPills. The trials started Tuesday. We don’t know the results but doctors are buying up pharmacy stocks across the US — presumably to protect themselves (hopefully).

As the death tolls mounts, the Democrats are surely planning to put all the Trump quotes like “it’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle” on high rotation leading up to the election. But if the trials of anti-viral agents bring good news, he can reframe the past as if he was betting on that in February. (Perhaps he was?)

Though not many people spend two trillion dollars on a problem that’s disappearing.

Combo of existing drugs shows promise against COVID-19

Most patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone cleared the virus in three to six days, compared to an average of 20 in China — …

The authors advise: “Use this treatment cocktail early, and don’t wait until a patient is on a ventilator in the intensive-care unit.” They also note that in some places hydroxychloroquine is being used as a prophylactic treatment for health workers in high exposure situations.

Key takeaway: “Our experience suggests that hydroxychloroquine, with or without a Z-Pak, should be a first-line treatment. Unfortunately, there is already a shortage of hydroxychloroquine.

Just as we think we’ve got used to the rate-of-change of the rate-of-change, things might change the other way.

Bloomberg reports that a new study shows Chloroquine Is No Better Than Regular Coronavirus Care. But under the headline they reveal that that new study wasn’t statistically significant, involved only 30 people, and that regular Chinese care includes other anti-virals like lopinavir and ritonavir. In other words, it was not much of a trial.

The whole world will be watching these results. Spare a thought for Indonesia which has ordered 3 million chloroquine tablets in a population of 260 million people and where people are falling in the streets today.

But if it’s not Chloroquine, there are plenty of other possibles: like blood plasma from survivors.

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Young and fit brought down, means hard sharp quarantine coming everywhere

 Message to the young and immortal

A fully fit 28 year old who ran marathons tells what it was like for him to get Coronavirus. He ended up spending 13 days in ICU. His ongoing liver problems and weakness will take a month or two to get better.

His message to young people out at parties or on the beach: ” You might survive, but the old person that didn’t get that ventilator might not…”

But the spread of stories like this rule out some future paths.

Forget all the pussy-foot weak quarantines

This shows that the “Let it RIP” approach and the “Herd Immunity” approach were never even worth discussing. The community would not tolerate the risk or inhumanity of either. But this also shows that the Slow Bleed approach of weak Social Distancing for six months will be dumped like a hot rock asap (it’ll be rebadged and quietly wrapped in stronger stuff). As Italy found (and now Spain) weak quarantine doesn’t work very well. Only serious quarantine can solve this.

Speaking of solving this: Good to hear that cases are possibly slowing in Italy. Looks promising. What did Italy do 12 days ago — On March 12th, as the death toll hit 827, and infections topped 12,000, they locked down all shops bar the essential ones. They clamped down on public gatherings. Non-essential travel was stopped. Sadly in the last twelve days the totals have climbed to 64,000 Italians infected, and 6,000 dead and more presumably will die, though it already appears to be leveling (could be an illusion). How many lives would have been saved if Italy had acted a day sooner? (Or a week?). Some countries have the gift of time to act faster.

Italy cases start to level off. Graph. Coronavirus

Have new daily cases in Italy finally peaked?   Source: Worldometer, Italy

As stories like these spread (below of the 28 year old) a quite reasonable fear will grow and people will choose to quarantine, indeed some will refuse to go to work. There is no way the economy can keep running along with business as usual while the threat of this ticks in the background. This is not something we can live with for six months — the fear will take over a healthy economy and make it unhealthy without any government intervention anyway. The only option is some variation of short sharp and hard quarantine, or crushing the curve as I’ve been saying.  It’s where we are all headed.

If we do the quarantine properly the infection will peak and fall much sooner. If we get enough testing kits, we can pursue this virus and search and destroy every last copy.  Then as I said — we reopen the clean zones one by one, keep borders and barriers tight and gradually reduce the infected zone. As each clean zone reopens (sooner than people think) small parts of the economy will spring back to life.




Right now, the path out of this is clear:

1. Start “stay at home” quarantine asap. Close schools (apart from essential services families).Lock all borders. The more the better. Even regions.

2. Order mass supplies of Chloroquine (or all other potentially useful anti-virals.)

3. Build factories to make test kits and ventilators en masse.

4. Use the test kits to identify who has immunity and who does and doesn’t need protective gear or isolation.

5. After two weeks of quarantine we can identify regions with no  infections. Build from there.

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Tuesday Open Thread


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Doc talks about his “Holy S***” moment — horrible lung failure even in young patients

For most people Coronavirus is like the flu or even a cold, but for 20% it’s something awful. Even in younger patients — a few seemingly fit and healthy 40 and 50 year olds are gasping for air as their lungs fill with blood and fluid and it’s “like a near death drowning” or “inhaling caustic gas”. Forgive the language in the headline — those were this docs exact words. He’s working at a New Orleans hospital and his whole attitude to the virus has changed dramatically.

h/t Analitik

A Medical Worker Describes Terrifying Lung Failure From COVID-19 — Even in His Young Patients

by Lixzzie Presser, ProPublica

“It first struck me how different it was when I saw my first coronavirus patient go bad. I was like, Holy shit, this is not the flu. Watching this relatively young guy, gasping for air, pink frothy secretions coming out of his tube and out of his mouth. The ventilator should have been doing the work of breathing but he was still gasping for air, moving his mouth, moving his body, struggling. We had to restrain him. With all the coronavirus patients, we’ve had to restrain them. They really hyperventilate, really struggle to breathe. When you’re in that mindstate of struggling to breathe and delirious with fever, you don’t know when someone is trying to help you, so you’ll try to rip the breathing tube out because you feel it is choking you, but you are drowning.

If you don’t feel motivated to stay home and order online, then go read all of this story at ProPublica from end to end. Most likely, if you catch Coronavirus, this won’t happen to you. But the whole pain of quarantine might look like a small price to pay. How many people in each cohort does this dire situation occur too? Perhaps it’s only 1 in a 1000. Or perhaps it’s more. Can someone find the latest stats from Italy on how many need ICU in different cohorts. Presumably, if the mortality rate is 40% with ARDS, then this happens to 2.5 times whatever the mortality rate is.

UPDATE: In comments Lee Valentine points out the doc’s in New Orleans should not have restrained the patient. They should have been paralyzed and unconscious (as the other ICU specialist described in this video).

I was disappointed to read this report of the corona virus ARDS cases. Disappointed because the cases were mismanaged. ARDS victims should NOT be restrained, EVER. They MUST be paralyzed with drugs.

So far, I have had only one corona ARDS patient. He arrived four days ago. There are two now in my hospital. It’s a serious worry that if Los Angeles gets many more we’ll not have enough specialists who know how to manage them. If our current rate of new cases continues, we’ll have all ventilators available in use for corona ARDS in a few weeks.” — Lee Valentine

This is knocking out what should be perfectly fit, healthy people.









…then all of a sudden, they go into complete respiratory arrest, shut down and can’t breathe at all.”

“It’s called acute respiratory distress syndrome, ARDS. That means the lungs are filled with fluid. And it’s notable for the way the X-ray looks: The entire lung is basically whited out from fluid. Patients with ARDS are extremely difficult to oxygenate. It has a really high mortality rate, about 40%.

Keep reading  →

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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 advantage.)

Covid-19, Coronavirus, Graph, New York outcomes.

New York outcomes.

There are four levels of action modeled here (from March 19th). The final death tolls are very different.

Covid-19, Coronavirus, Graph, New York outcomes.

New York outcomes.

The advantage of “Crushing the Curve” now means we can wait to find out which treatments work. It’s always possible to ease up on the level of quarantine and pick the higher death toll options, but it isn’t possible to choose the low death futures if we do too little too late. If we are headed for the Wuhan Style lockdown anyhow, sooner is better, and we can release it later when extra hospital beds or drugs or treatments are available. Figure that even if we choose “Social distancing” now, once people see the lists of obituaries and queues of coffins, and desperation in hospital wards as awful choices are made, many people will voluntarily stay housebound. The CCP was ordering workers to go back to work, but they didn’t want to.

Eg. California needs to act this week


Covid-19, Coronavirus, Graph, California outcomes.

California outcomes.

Covid-19, Coronavirus, Graph, New York outcomes.

California outcomes.

*All models are still wrong. But discuss the assumptions, don’t shoot the messenger.


Coronavirus Background: ☀ The Demographics: the severity increases with age, and slightly more for men than women. ☀ The Ro is 2 – 3 and exponential curves are steep. How Coronavirus kills: why the number of ICU units matters so much. ☀ Illness progression: Dry coughs and Fevers, Aches. In 15% of people, by day 5 breathing trouble starts. In 3% (?) by day 8 they may need an ICU (intensive care unit). ☀ The good case of Singapore but the ominous calculations of how fast the ICU beds may run out. ☀  Proof that viruses don’t have wings and we should have stopped all flights so much earlier. ☀ The story of how American Samoa avoided Flu Deaths with quarantine in 1918. ☀ The story of Vo, the Italian town that stopped the virus. ☀ Delay = Death, statistics show mortality rates rise tenfold if hospitals are overwhelmed.  ☀ Projections of all US States death tolls depending on quarantine levels and the date that hospitals could be overwhelmed  ☀ One doctor describes his “Holy S***” moment  ☀ ☀ ☀

We must Crush the Curve to save lives and the economy.

Economics: ☀ The huge impact on the Chinese economy ☀ the awful case of Iran.☀

Beware UN advice:Ethiopian WHO chief was part of China’s debt trap diplomacy ☀

Stats and Data: John Hopkins Live Map Worldometer Coronavirus data in Australia 


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Weekend Unthreaded

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

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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 Perth.) Amazing how fast the world changes once other leaders act.

Doctors want schools closed immediately and social distancing halved “at a minimum”. They warn “Social isolation measures are manifestly inadequate”.

 ”People will forgive the imposed hardships they may suffer but they will not forgive us if we, knowingly, do not act now to stop the demise of thousands of Western Australians.”

Hospital beds required, Western Australia, graph, Coronvirus, Covid-19

Hospital beds required, Western Australia, (Click to enlarge)


These dreadful numbers will not pan out, but only because the unfolding disaster will spark all the draconian lock-downs (shelter in place) and quarantine conditions I’ve been saying would come. People will do it voluntarily out of fear anyway once more stories start to hit the news.

We will slow this, and keep deaths far below these tallies. After which I expect the naysayers will pop up and mock the big numbers and tell us they were right all along. “It was nothing”. “See I told you it would peter out. ”

The Docs are not mincing words:

Coronavirus crisis: WA’s top specialist doctors pen chilling open letter to Premier Mark McGowan warning of ‘thousands’ of WA COVID-19 deaths

Almost 50 of WA’s top specialists have penned a chilling open letter to Premier Mark McGowan, warning of thousands of WA coronavirus deaths “without strong and decisive leadership”.
“Without strong action and decisive leadership, first tens, then hundreds and then thousands of vulnerable West Australians will die as a result of COVID-19 infection.

“Most of these deaths will be in the course of just a few weeks. There will be many who will become critically ill and die with hospital staff unable to do anything to prevent their demise.

“We will have colleagues who die.

“We will have nurses, business leaders, school teachers, mothers, fathers, and our grandparents who will die with us unable to do anything but watch it happen.

“We will run out of ventilators and those who need them will then die.

This modeling* estimates that if people cut their social contacts in half the total peak ventilators and hospital admissions will decrease by about six fold. Notice that the dates of the peaks stretch out by another three months with “social distancing”.

Table, model estimate of peak cases coronavirus, WA

Table, model estimate of peak cases coronavirus, WA (Click to enlarge)

I still say Crush The Curve, the slow bleed is still awful. Declare War and get rid of this.

With serious social distancing the state might “only” need an extra 50 ventilators a day:

Nathan Hondros, WA Today

This would mean there would be an extra 400 Intensive Care Unit ventilators required a day to meet the demand. But if every West Australian reduced their normal social contact by half, infections would peak in mid-to-late August and only 52 new ICU ventilators a day would be needed. If tough measures are not put in place, the doctors estimate the number of hospital beds required would be three times those currently available.

The list of surgeons and specialists includes many respiratory experts, but what would they know?

Prepared as well as anywhere in the world (which means “hopeless”)

The state has almost run out of testing kits. Like the US and Italy,  community transmission will be expertly identified right after people turn up needing intensive care for pneumonia.

A “grand round” meeting of doctors at Fiona Stanley Hospital on Wednesday heard questions about whether transmission was already happening given the strict testing criteria.

A shortage of reagents needed for testing means only people with a fever or respiratory illness and have either returned from overseas or had close contact with a known case are eligible. Health or aged workers are also tested.

In the United States and northern Italy, the first indicator of widespread transmission was when patients started to arrive at hospital that required intensive care. That has yet to happen in WA hospitals, but if it does, by that point the disease is “out of the bag”, the FSH meeting heard.

Not so. At that point, the disease will have been “out of the bag” for one or two weeks already.

Dumb bit of code is still weeks ahead of bureaucrats. If we don’t have community spread in WA, and we did lock down, we would get rid of it. Now is exactly the time to close everything.

Whereever you live, if they are not quarantining everything, write to your politicians and media.

We must Crush the Curve.

*All models are still wrong.

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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 dropped to six, who remained in isolation. In this way, we managed to eradicate coronavirus from Vò, achieving a 100% recovery rate for those previously infected while recording no further cases of transmission.

The headline is a bit silly — mass testing doesn’t eradicate anything, but it does make strict isolation and containment easier to achieve. Now we probably need mass blind shutdowns to achieve the same effect when earlier action and mass testing then could have crushed the curve with much less effort.

70% asymptomatic or mild — good but ominous data

Italy’s death rate of known cases is shockingly high (which is why I gave up calculating it weeks ago). These numbers are similarish to the Chinese rates where roughly 80% were described as asymptomatic or mild. It probably just depends on the definition of “mild”:

… asymptomatic or quasi-symptomatic subjects represent a good 70% of all virus-infected people and, still worse, an unknown, yet impossible to ignore portion of them can transmit the virus to others…

It shows it’s possible to Crush the Curve and get rid of this virus, but it takes mass testing which we now can’t do because we didn’t act soon enough. But we may be able to do if we ramp up production of tests kits like our lives (and our economy) depended upon it.

On the plus side, this reduces the mortality rate but even so, if we lose control of hospitals we know 3 to 5 times as many people will die if we can’t offer everyone who needs it an ICU unit.

If the fact that only those presenting with the virus were being tested was accounted for, the mortality percentage would fall to more “normal” levels. This is shown by the mortality in the Veneto region, which is steadily around 2.5-3%, still high but threefold less than the ones in Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna.

In Veneto about 8% of the total population was tested. So we still don’t know what the death rate really is.

From the beginning I’ve said that hidden asymptomatic cases will reduce the fatality rate.  We aren’t going to get good numbers on that til we do mass blood testing looking for antibodies that show people have fought off an infection. These have to be done before antibody titres fall (and we don’t know how fast that happens, and whether people carry some protection for a long period or not. SARS responses appear to stay for longer, but the common cold Coronavirus infections last in the order of one year.

Estimating mortality rates is still a guessing game

The best estimates we have are from The Diamond Princess where everyone was tested and South Korea which has done more testing per capita than anywhere. Respectively, the mortality rates were 1% and 0.9%. Given that the Diamond Princess passengers were older the mortality rate in a normal demographic group might be as low as 0.5%.

On the Diamond Princess half the people who tested positive were asymptomatic (49%). But the idea that 80% of the ship didn’t catch the virus is nothing to cheer about. On board the Diamond Princess one infection became 712 in just four weeks -- two of which were supposedly under quarantine conditions.

The cruise ship Diamond Princess set off from Yokohama on January 20, with about 3,700 passengers and crew. On Jan 23 a man got sick and left the boat in Hong Kong on Jan 25th. It took four weeks to infect 20% of the ship and half that time was spent under quarantine conditions.  Of the infected, fully 178 people have still not recovered and 14 remain classed as “severe/critical”. This is a bugger of a virus.

Stay out of the way of this virus, stay home if you can, get your kids out of school. Just stop mixing for the next few weeks and see what unfolds.



Coronavirus Background: ☀ The Demographics: the young are spared, but the severity increases with age, and slightly more for men than women. ☀ The Ro is 2 – 3 and exponential curves are steep. How Coronavirus kills: why the number of ICU units matters so much. ☀ Illness progression: Dry coughs and Fevers, Aches. In 15% of people, by day 5 breathing trouble starts. In 3% (?) by day 8 they may need an ICU (intensive care unit). ☀ The good case of Singapore but the ominous calculations of how fast the ICU beds may run out.  ☀  Proof that viruses don’t have wings and we should have stopped all flights so much earlier. ☀ The story of how American Samoa avoided Flu Deaths with quarantine in 1918. ☀ The story of Vo, the Italian town that stopped the virus. ☀ Delay = Death, statistics show mortality rates rise tenfold if hospitals are overwhelmed.  ☀

Economics: ☀ The huge impact on the Chinese economy, the awful case of Iran.☀

Beware UN advice:Ethiopian WHO chief was part of China’s debt trap diplomacy ☀

Stats and Data: John Hopkins Live Map Worldometer Coronavirus data in Australia 



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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 get, but kept on downplaying it, at a time when being straightforward would have given people time and impetus to prepare. Trump’s most loyal backers then were calling it a hoax, and dunking on people like me for hyping panic, and so forth. This top Senate Republican (and no doubt other Senate Republicans) knew that the president was misleading the public, and said nothing. If he felt comfortable telling wealthy donors about this, why didn’t he tell the general public? Because it would contradict the president’s messaging? Why?

Having senior Republican lawmakers contradicting the president at that relatively early stage, based on information they knew, would have been in the country’s best interest. Sen. Burr told rich, well-connected supporters what was coming, but not the people who elected him. He owes them an explanation. And I would like to know why the Senate Republicans, all of whom surely had the same information, did not challenge the president, and warn the public while we still had time.

…To be honest, it’s not [Burr's] stock-selling that bothers me — it’s that he had reason to believe the coronavirus crisis was going to be a lot worse than he was letting on in public. He ought to have been warning us all.

Has Trump thrown away the 2020 election?

Which day did he realize the trainwreck was coming?

Weeks Before Virus Panic, Intelligence Chairman Privately Raised Alarm, Sold Stocks

by Tim Mak, NPR

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned a small group of well-connected constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects of the coronavirus, according to a secret recording obtained by NPR.

The remarks from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr were more stark than any he had delivered in more public forums.

On Feb. 27, when the United States had 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19, President Trump was tamping down fears and suggesting that the virus could be seasonal.

“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle. It will disappear,” the president said then, before adding, “it could get worse before it gets better. It could maybe go away. We’ll see what happens.”

On that same day, Burr attended a luncheon held at a social club called the Capitol Hill Club. And he delivered a much more alarming message.

Burr sold personal stocks worth between $628,000 and $1.72 million in 33 separate transactions on a single day, February 13th, according to public disclosures.

See also this

Is anyone even researching this sort of thing in Australia?

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Friday Open Thread

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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 shopping now.  And now the media still wont ask the borders question — those who sold the country into this mess which could have been so easily avoided. The media doesn’t want to go there because it would be to admit they failed too. They kept  it off the table  — presumably to stay fashionably aligned with their academic buddies who were shedding tears about 65,000 student cash cows being stuck at home in China.

Watch the advert at 3:00 minutes –China Global Television Network promoted the spread of coronavirus with a advert.

It’s almost like the media were bought by China….

In Australia yesterday the ABC or SBS chopped Trumps answer so Australians mostly won’t know that Trump calls it the Chinese Virus because China is calling it a virus from American Soldier.

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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 them home.”Dr Miller said the WA Government knew before today’s announcement that community spread was happening.

“They’re in a state of disbelief, confusion and chaos,” he said.

The AMA has called for the State’s borders to be closed.

Dr Miller said: “They said, ‘that’s ridiculous, we’re not closing them. And it’s impossible and unnecessary because no one gets infected on a plane’.

“And the next day, the Premier comes out and says, “it should be non-essential travel only, interstate (but) we can’t close the borders, that would require a national agreement that contravenes the constitution.’

“The next day Tasmania closes its borders. They’re full of s**t. You can quote me on that.”

He has since apologized for being disrespectful.* No one should waste words on anything except the main problem at hand which is not manners and ettiquette when lives are at stake.

“The AMA (WA) has always recommended that we should be taking ALL measures to flatten the curve of the spread outlined by the World Health Organisation. This includes closing borders, slowing community spread and most importantly — being prepared.

Keep reading  →

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