Lockdowns, European Edition – EOH 8/18

Despite several EU countries with higher levels of cases and fatalities, experts claimed that European strict lockdown measures were able to prevent a new wave or spike in COVID cases. However in New Zealand, who lockdown experts also obsessed over as their primary example of success, a second spike in cases shows the unsustainability of strict lockdowns. In Europe, a 2nd wave in COVID cases is growing at a rate that will soon rival the size of Europe’s first wave in new cases per day. 

It’s telling that Sweden is not suffering from a second wave. While Sweden may have been derided at the start of the pandemic, their approach and strategy  is having the last laugh now. As Sweden continues to chug along and the rest of Europe panics in a second wave of new cases, the Swedes have managed to resolve this pandemic far more effectively then everyone else.

A second wave in cases shouldn’t be surprising to pro-lockdown countries or advocates. A primary assumption with the lockdown theory is not reducing infections but extending the epidemic, aka “flattening the curve.” In several ways, these countries are fulfilling their policy destiny.

COVID News

What if ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Closer Than Scientists Thought?

“We’ve known from the beginning how the end will arrive. Eventually, the coronavirus will be unable to find enough susceptible hosts to survive, fading out wherever it briefly emerges. To achieve so-called herd immunity — the point at which the virus can no longer spread widely because there are not enough vulnerable humans — scientists have suggested that perhaps 70 percent of a given population must be immune, through vaccination or because they survived the infection. Now some researchers are wrestling with a hopeful possibility. In interviews with The New York Times, more than a dozen scientists said that the threshold is likely to be much lower: just 50 percent, perhaps even less. If that’s true, then it may be possible to turn back the coronavirus more quickly than once thought. The new estimates result from complicated statistical modeling of the pandemic, and the models have all taken divergent approaches, yielding inconsistent estimates. It is not certain that any community in the world has enough residents now immune to the virus to resist a second wave. But in parts of New York, London and Mumbai, for example, it is not inconceivable that there is already substantial immunity to the coronavirus, scientists said.”

UNC-Chapel Hill pivots to remote teaching after coronavirus spreads among students during first week of class

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/unc-chapel-hill-coronavirus-cluster/2020/08/17/8ebce060-e0ab-11ea-8181-606e603bb1c4_story.html

“The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of the largest schools in the country to bring students to campus for in-person teaching, said Monday that it will pivot to all-remote instruction for undergraduates after testing showed a pattern of rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. The shift signaled enormous challenges ahead for those in higher education who are pushing for professors and students to be able to meet on campus. Officials announced the abrupt change just a week after classes began at the 30,000-student state flagship university. They said 177 cases of the dangerous pathogen had been confirmed among students, out of hundreds tested. Another 349 students were in quarantine, on and off campus, because of possible exposure to the virus, they said. The remote-teaching order for undergraduate classes will take effect Wednesday, and the university will take steps to allow students to leave campus housing without financial penalty. The actions are likely to reverberate in North Carolina and beyond, including other major public universities that have hopes of playing college football in the fall. UNC-Chapel Hill’s Tar Heels teams play in the Atlantic Coast Conference.”

Covid Spread Can’t Only Be Explained by Who’s Being ‘Bad’

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-08-13/covid-spread-is-forcing-scientists-to-rethink-herd-immunity

“There are some weird things going on in the coronavirus data. It’s curious that cases dropped so fast, and have stayed pretty low, in the spring hot zones — New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. And why did cases remain so low in Idaho and Hawaii until recently? The mainstream narrative is that it’s all about good behavior when cases go down — mask wearing and giving up our social lives for the greater good. And conversely, bad behavior must be what makes them go up. We talk about certain regions having the virus “under control,” as if falling cases are purely a matter of will-power. A sort of moral reasoning is filling in for evidence. But why, then, have cases plummeted in Sweden, where mask wearing is a rarity? This is the time to use scientific methods to understand what’s happening. The pandemic has gone on long enough to reveal patterns in the way it spreads. If it’s all about behavior, that’s a testable hypothesis. If, as a few speculate, dramatic drops in some places have something to do with growing immunity in the population, we can also turn that into a testable hypothesis.”

What experts say about how to interpret COVID-19 data like positive cases, deaths and hospitalizations — and what to avoid

https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/2020/08/17/what-wisconsin-covid-19-data-deaths-cases-hospitalizations-means/3301480001/

“One day, Wisconsin sets a record for the most new cases since the pandemic began. Days later, there are fewer cases than there have been in over a month. As COVID-19 data in Wisconsin continues to go up and down, some use the numbers to reinforce popular but mistaken narratives about the virus. Others wonder what to make of it at all. If you’re confused, public health experts say you’re not alone. The onslaught of coronavirus information — some helpful, some confusing, some outright false — has become a crisis within a crisis, one that public health experts are now calling an “infodemic.””

Seroprevalence Studies May Underestimate Immunity To The Coronavirus

https://www.forbes.com/sites/joshuacohen/2020/08/03/seroprevalence-studies-may-underestimate-immunity-to-the-coronavirus/?linkId=95911899#25b8be5a14f9

“Globally, there are more than 18 million confirmed novel coronavirus infections. A question many have is whether having had a coronavirus infection confers immunity. By performing antibody tests, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) has been attempting to learn more about the percentage of people in the U.S. who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. Because infected people can have mild or no illness or may not have gotten tested, CDC wants to use this information to estimate the number of people who have been previously infected with SARS-CoV-2 and were not included in official case counts. But, seroprevalence surveys may underestimate immunity to the novel coronavirus. For several months, scientists have been questioning whether the presence of antibodies to the novel coronavirus can reliably determine immunity.”

The 2020 San Francisco exodus is real, and historic, report shows

https://www.sfgate.com/living-in-sf/article/2020-San-Francisco-exodus-is-real-and-historic-15484785.php

“A new report confirms what many have been talking about for weeks: There is an exodus out of San Francisco, and the numbers are staggering. Online real estate company Zillow released new statistics shining a stark light on the issue this week. Their “2020 Urban-Suburban Market Report” reveals that inventory has risen a whopping 96% year-on-year, as empty homes in the city flood the market like nowhere else in America. The reason for this change is likely a combination of a few unprecedented factors that have collided this summer, resulting in a historic shift in the city. The astronomical cost of owning a home in the San Francisco city limits — which has been sky high for over a decade now, since the second tech boom — had to break at some point, and the coronavirus seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. The pandemic soon led to tech giants like Google, Facebook and Twitter rethinking what work looks like, as many have allowed employees to work remotely for the foreseeable future, and maybe forever.”

Research

Masking lack of evidence with politics

“The increasing polarised and politicised views  on whether to wear masks in public during the current COVID-19 crisis hides a bitter truth on the state of contemporary research and the value we pose on clinical evidence to guide our decisions. In 2010, at the end of the last influenza pandemic, there were six published randomised controlled trials with 4,147 participants focusing on the benefits of different types of masks. Two were done in healthcare workers and four in family or student clusters.  The face mask trials for influenza-like illness (ILI) reported poor compliance, rarely reported harms and revealed the pressing need for future trials. Despite the clear requirement to carry out further large, pragmatic trials a decade later, only six had been published: five in healthcare workers and one in pilgrims. This recent crop of trials added 9,112 participants to the total randomised denominator of 13,259 and showed that masks alone have no significant effect in interrupting the spread of ILI or influenza in the general population, nor in healthcare workers. The design of these twelve trials differed: viral circulation was usually variable; none had been conducted during a pandemic. Outcomes were defined and reported in seven different ways, making comparison difficult. It is debatable whether any of these results could be applied to the transmission of SARs-CoV-2.“

Moral panic and pandemics (2010)

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(10)60862-8/fulltext

“Chan’s comments are revealing as they echo the effect that public health pronouncements have on the global public. It is easier to generate panic than to disseminate real information. And we have been there before. Richard Neustadt and Ernest May spelled out the dangers of epidemics when they looked at the 1976 swine flu debacle. Swine flu was then seen as an imminent danger to people. The science of the time seemed to bear this out as the virus’s antigenic characteristics linked it to the 1918 influenza epidemic, at least in terms of the science of the day. In 1976, the 1918 Spanish flu seemed, as today, to be a matter of “folk memory”. Its evocation made moral panic about swine flu possible. Yet it was clear that it was the immediate memory of the influenza epidemic of 1968, hardly on the same scale as 1918, that actually motivated the civil servants to act. The public health officials were revealed to have been woefully unprepared for that epidemic, which was seen as a political disaster given their claims of being in charge of the nation’s public health. “Beat ’68” was the mantra in 1976; the 1918 influenza epidemic was the rationale.”

Charts and Graphics

Daily New Cases in France

Much like the rest of Western Europe, France is also enduring a second  wave of COVID cases. Interestingly, the second  wave of COVID cases has a lower CFR  than the first, much like the southern United States,

Daily New Confirmed COVID-19 Cases (Western Europe)

Despite long and hard lockdowns, several  European countries are facing a second wave of cases that is reaching the height of the first  wave of cases.

Benelux is Reporting an Increase in COVID-19 Infections

The Benelux region (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg), has been reporting a second wave over the past several weeks. The Netherlands out of the three countries tracked is faring the worst.

Sweden: COVID-19 Deaths by Date of Occurrence

Sweden is still continuing it’s trend of a decline in deaths and cases. While Sweden’s COVID-19 strategy was mocked at the start of the pandemic, additional spikes and waves in lockdown countries will vindicate Sweden’s approach.  

New Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 in United States, India, Brazil Colombia, European Union and South Africa

Despite the initial lockdown that India enacted and later retracted,cases in India has risen over the past few weeks Compared to South Asian countries like Vietnam or Thailand, India’s case incidence remains very high

Deaths per Million, New York State vs Sweden.

Despite New York implementing  a strict lockdown and one of the highest  deaths per million in the world, the prevalence of COVID antibodies is roughly the same as Sweden’s. In general, 13%-15% prevalence is  globally most common despite a wide range of policy prescriptions. 

Inventory Change From February 2020, in MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) and City Proper

Zillow recently published a report on the state of the housing and rental market in the United States. Due to pandemic and the lockdown  San Francisco has seen the largest change in inventory in the past few months.  To top it off, PG&E is enacting rolling powerouts! California continues one of the longest lockdowns in the US and now you can’t even work from home due to rolling blackouts.

International News

Western European countries are facing a new wave in COVID cases.

No fiesta in Spain as public drinking banned, clubs closed due to coronavirus surge

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-spain-clubs/no-fiesta-in-spain-as-public-drinking-banned-clubs-closed-due-to-coronavirus-surge-idUSKCN25A1J4

“Spain on Friday ordered nightlife establishments to close and banned drinking on the street in an effort to stem a coronavirus resurgence – measures that caused anger and dismay in the hard-hit hospitality sector. Smoking in public places where keeping a safe distance from people is impossible was also banned, Health Minister Salvador Illa told a news conference. Bars and restaurants will have to down their shutters by 1 a.m. as part of the new restrictions, Illa said. The minister also advised against gatherings of more than 10 people and specifically warned young people not to gather outside to drink alcohol, a popular practice called “botellones”.””

France records more than 3,000 new Covid-19 cases for second day in a row

No new lockdown in France despite rising cases. 

https://www.france24.com/en/20200816-france-records-more-than-3-000-new-covid-19-cases-for-second-day-in-a-row

“France’s health ministry on Sunday reported 3,015 new coronavirus infections over the last 24 hours, the second day in a row in which new cases have surpassed the 3,000 mark. However, the daily count was below the 3,310 cases reported on Saturday that marked a post-lockdown high, the ministry’s data showed. A sharp rise in cases in France has led the authorities in the country’s two biggest cities, Paris and Marseille, to expand zones where wearing a mask is mandatory outdoors, while the government is set to propose masks be worn in shared indoor workspaces. But France still plans to reopen schools nationwide in two weeks, and the country’s labour minister said Sunday the government is determined to avoid a new nationwide lockdown that would further hobble the economy and threaten jobs. Elisabeth Borne, the labour minister, told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper that the government wants to expand mask use in workplaces.”

Germany mistakenly neglects to tell 949 travelers they have coronavirus

Well, whoops.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/germany-mistakenly-neglects-tell-949-travelers-they-have-coronavirus-n1236892

“The German state of Bavaria said Sunday that it has tracked down most of the people returning from abroad who tested positive for the coronavirus but were not told about it in a debacle that embarrassed a possible successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel. Bavaria said in a statement that it had found 903 of the 949 people who tested positive out of 44,000 travelers returning to the country, while it could not locate personal data for 46 of the positive tests. The tests had been carried out up to two weeks ago at special centers that were opened with great fanfare in the southern state, but problems with data entry meant that the travelers had been waiting for their test results for days. Bavaria’s state premier, Markus Soeder, apologized for the problems Thursday, promising to fix the mistakes by adding extra staff. He also said he supported his health minister, who had offered to resign. Some conservatives see Soeder as the best candidate to run for chancellor in next year’s election, succeeding Merkel, who has said she will not run for a fifth term. Soeder has so far said he will stay in Bavaria.”

UK Adds France, Netherlands To Travel Quarantine List Over Covid-19: French Retaliate

https://www.forbes.com/sites/tamarathiessen/2020/08/13/uk-quarantine-france-netherlands-covid-19-travel/#4695ea603348

“In a spectacular Covid political tit-for-tat–France plans to impose a quarantine on U.K. arrivals–as Britain reinstates a 14-day quarantine for all travelers coming from France and the Netherlands. The U.K. measures come into effect at 4 a.m. on Saturday. They also apply to Monaco, Malta, the Dutch territory of Aruba, and the British Turks and Caicos Islands says British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. The decision on the list of coronavirus “Travel Corridors” was made to “keep infection rates down” Shapps said on Thursday evening. “If you arrive in the UK after 0400 Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days,” he tweeted.”

Belgian hospitals stock up on drugs, kits for possible second COVID wave

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-belgium-hospital/belgian-hospitals-stock-up-on-drugs-kits-for-possible-second-covid-wave-idUSKCN25A0WB

“Belgian hospitals are stockpiling drugs and protective kits and putting in place contingency plans amid a continuing spike in new COVID-19 infections that has forced the capital Brussels to make face masks compulsory in public spaces. With nearly 10,000 deaths linked to the coronavirus so far, Belgium with a population of 11 million has one of the world’s highest death rates from COVID-19 per head. New infections have risen steadily in recent weeks, with Belgium now reporting one of the highest number of cases per inhabitants of any European country and prompting fears of a second wave. In March and April when the pandemic accelerated, Belgian hospitals struggled with a shortage of equipment and with administrative hurdles.”

Netherlands and Belgium split over tackling virus hotspots

https://www.ft.com/content/d5fb0b2a-6d1d-4ccb-a349-30fccc2602d5

“The Netherlands and Belgium are battling some of Europe’s sharpest increases in new Covid-19 cases despite taking sharply different strategies that highlight the difficulties governments still face in quelling the virus. The latest figures show a near doubling of new Covid-19 cases in the Netherlands at the start of August while Belgium has reported its fifth consecutive week of rising infections. Experts warn summer weather has led to governments and residents dropping their guard just as the travels of richer European holidaymakers around the continent increase the risk of outbreaks spreading. Recent rises in cases in Spain and France, two of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations, have spread alarm across the continent. Belgium has responded to its surge in infections by reintroducing tight restrictions on social gatherings but the Netherlands has taken a less stringent approach, fuelling debate about the effectiveness of lighter-touch policies such as those of Sweden.

UK Fails, Sweden Not So Much

https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/uk-fails-sweden-not-so-much/

“So now we know: Sweden got it largely right, and the British establishment catastrophically wrong. Anders Tegnell, Stockholm’s epidemiologist-king, has pulled off a remarkable triple whammy: far fewer deaths per capita than Britain, a maintenance of basic freedoms and opportunities, including schooling, and, most strikingly, a recession less than half as severe as our own.

To be fair, it is worth adding that Sweden’s performance (when it comes to deaths per capita) does not appear so impressive when it’s compared with its Nordic neighbors, where the response to COVID-19 was more coercive, but those comparisons are half-complete. We will not be able to come to anything like a final judgment until we see how much of a ‘second wave’ there is in Sweden when compared with elsewhere (on that topic, it’s worth keeping an eye on Denmark).”

Astronomische Fehlrechnungen (Astronomical miscalculations)

https://taz.de/Streit-um-Corona-Politik/!5701892/

“It is not just a matter of assessing the danger of the pandemic, but also of assessing the actual benefit of the measures for containing the pandemic… it is also a matter of assessing the collateral damage that the measures may cause.”

The Website

Our new website is launched. We are expanding our coverage with longer form articles. We just posted an article on the COVID situation in Texas. You can read it here