All posts filed under: COVID-19

COVID-19 Science Update for March 31st: Wear a Mask, Georgia’s SSE, Kinsa’s Fever Map

This article constitutes the March 31st, 2020 entry in the daily Quillette series COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. Today’s data According to statistics compiled by Our World in Data (OWD), the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths increased yesterday. The data, as reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), indicated 3,698 new confirmed COVID-19 fatalities globally, up from Monday’s newly reported deaths, of which there were 3,125. This included 418 new cases in France, 128 in Germany, 28 in Canada, and 661 in the United States—all of which represent new highs for these countries. Italy and Spain recorded 810 and 812 new deaths respectively, roughly equivalent to their average daily values over the last week. As usual, the four countries that consistently registered the most new deaths over the last three weeks—France, Italy, Spain, and the United States—accounted for almost three-quarters of all new deaths worldwide (73 percent). One other statistical pattern worth noting: Yesterday’s drop in worldwide newly reported deaths—from 3,461 to 3,125—represented the second …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 30th: The Planet’s Deadly Viral Baseline

This article constitutes the March 30th, 2020 entry in the daily Quillette series COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. According to statistics compiled by Our World in Data (OWD), the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths decreased yesterday. The data, as reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), indicated 3,128 new confirmed COVID-19 fatalities globally, down 10 percent from Sunday’s newly reported deaths, of which there were 3,461. This is only the second time in the last two weeks that the daily death rate has decreased. The rate of new deaths fell in France, the UK, Italy, Iran, and the United States. In Spain and Germany, the rate remained virtually unchanged. These seven countries have collectively accounted for over 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths in late March. So this is good news. While previous updates in this series have focused closely on short-term developments in the fight against COVID-19, today’s entry will examine some of the important background issues that are commonly referenced in public discussion about …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 29th: Keep Your Voice Down

This article constitutes the March 29th, 2020 entry in the daily Quillette series COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. According to statistics compiled by Our World in Data (OWD), the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths increased yesterday. The data, as originally assembled by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), indicated 3,461 new confirmed COVID-19 fatalities globally, up slightly from Saturday’s newly reported deaths (3,318). As has been the case throughout mid- and late March, the new deaths were concentrated largely in Italy (887), Spain (832), the United States (411), and France (299). Taken together, these four countries accounted for about 70 percent of all newly reported global deaths—about average for the past three weeks. In the United States, about half of all cases are located in and around New York. As the New York Times reports, the city’s emergency-response services are becoming overwhelmed, and health care workers are beginning to be faced with the sort of live-or-die decisions that Italian doctors have been required to make. As discussed …

Denmark’s Weapons Against COVID-19: Early Action, High Trust—and a No-Nonsense Queen

It’s early spring in Denmark, a welcome relief after months of murky, rainy darkness. Even Copenhagen’s less-affluent districts are covered with carpets of blue wildflowers. It’s also the third week of the country’s coronavirus quarantine, in which Denmark became one of the first countries in Europe to shut its schools and send most public employees home. On March 14th, it was among the first to close its borders entirely. Other than going to work, shopping for non-essentials and dining out, the Danes are doing much of what they would otherwise be doing during spring’s chilly opening act. They are bicycling, sailing, taking nature walks, and gardening. Parents of three- and four-year-olds are teaching them how to ride a bicycle by sticking a broom through the seat support and guiding them along the sidewalks. And there is always plenty of spring housework—for everyone. (Danish men do more housework than any of their OECD counterparts.) This includes airing out the feather quilts after the long winter, filling up the window boxes with spring flowers, and embarking on …

The Case for Economic Hibernation during the COVID-19 Lockdowns

The extreme social distancing measures required to arrest the spread of COVID-19, especially the lockdown and isolation, are presenting economic policymakers with an unfamiliar challenge. The economic slowdown, caused by the need to employ extreme social distancing and isolation measures, has nothing to do with underlying issues in the local or global economy. Businesses are closing and people are losing their jobs, not because of a natural decline in demand for their services, nor due to a new technology that has made their job obsolete, nor a bubble whose time has come to burst. People still want to travel abroad, purchase clothes, go to the hairdresser, and sit with friends for coffee. The underlying demand in the global economy remains unchanged. This means that the extreme social distancing and isolation measures are sending distorted signals into the economy of a supposedly precipitous fall in demand for numerous products and services. In reality, demand for these products and services remains the same, but simply cannot be realised as a result of the enforced isolation. These distorted …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 28th: Bergamo’s Decimation, More SSEs, and the Case for Masks

This article constitutes the March 28th, 2020 entry in the daily Quillette series COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. According to statistics compiled by Our World in Data (OWD), the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths increased yesterday. As reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) on Saturday morning, the data indicated 3,418 new confirmed COVID-19 fatalities globally. However, this figure embeds what I confirmed was an erroneous report for Argentina, artificially inflating deaths by 100. Correcting this would put the actual number of deaths at 3,318, which is still a substantial increase over Friday’s reported deaths, which were 2,684. As has been the case over the last three weeks, the highest number of dead were in France (299), Italy (971), Spain (769), and the United States (411), and these countries accounted for over 70 percent of total global deaths reported yesterday. This figure has remained above 65 percent for 18 of the last 19 days. The case of Italy is particularly alarming. Italy recorded its 1,000th …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 27th: Super-Spreaders and the Need for New Prediction Models

This article constitutes the March 27th, 2020 entry in the daily Quillette series COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com.   According to statistics compiled by Our World in Data (OWD), the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths increased yesterday. There were 2,681 new confirmed COVID-19 fatalities globally, compared to 2,423 reported on yesterday. This was largely due to increased death tallies in France (365 new deaths, up from 231 the day before), Italy (660, down from 685 reported on Thursday and 743 reported on Wednesday), Spain (655, down from 738), and the United States (246, virtually unchanged from Thursday’s report of 249, with the New York City area remaining the pandemic’s American epicenter). On Wednesday, I mentioned that just four countries—France, Italy, Spain, and the United States—represented 78 percent of that day’s newly reported global COVID-19 deaths. In yesterday’s reports, it was 79 percent. In today’s reports, it is 72 percent. This figure has remained above 65 percent for 17 of the last 18 days. In these four countries, the annualized …

Social Distancing and Stay-Home Orders Are Likely To Save Millions

A new study by influential researchers at Imperial College, London finds that COVID-19 is more infectious and deadly than scientists had thought.  The new Imperial study finds that had nations done nothing, COVID-19 would have killed 40 million and infected seven billion.  An earlier, March 16th study by Imperial College, predicting millions of deaths, helped inspire UK, US, and other governments around the world to take much stronger actions including stay-at-home orders, last week. Some conservative pandemic skeptics misrepresented the new study as saying something closer to the opposite of what it actually said. “Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who created the highly-cited Imperial College London coronavirus model,” wrote the Daily Wire, “offered a massive revision to his model on Wednesday.” What the reporter failed to note was that the revision to the model was based on the nationwide lockdown the UK government imposed, not because researchers had over-estimated the risk. “Our analysis, therefore, suggests that healthcare demand can only be kept within manageable levels,” the Imperial researchers conclude, “through the rapid adoption of public health measures… …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 26th: Five Trends Shaping Medium-Term Policy

This article constitutes the March 26th, 2020 entry in the daily Quillette series COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections to jon@quillette.com. Until today, these updates have begun with a rundown of the latest global data for COVID-19 published at Our World in Data (OWD). As of this writing on Thursday morning, however, the March 26th numbers have not yet been published at OWD. (However, for those interested, there do seem to be recent updates at the website of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, whose reports have formed the statistical basis for OWD daily tallies since March 18th.) So I will skip the daily rundown of new numbers and proceed directly to the thematic focus of today’s update: a broad-stroke, point-form summary of some of the policies that, even at this early stage, seem likely to inform our global response to COVID-19. Until now, the focus was almost exclusively on the short-term response to the pandemic. But now that social and economic lockdowns in affected countries have somewhat dampened the exponential spread of …