India’s Covid Catastrophe

This horrifying second wave is a catastrophe not only for India but for the world. Allowing the virus to circulate unchecked increases the risk that dangerous new strains will emerge. One worrying variant first detected in India, called “the double mutant”, has already been found in several other countries, including America and Britain. Even as scientists labour to understand how big a threat it poses, more variants are appearing.

The Economist, Leaders, 24 April 2021

Back Reading: The New Yorker, 18 May 2020

  • When an Ebola epidemic erupted in West Africa, in 2014, the United States and China, the world’s two largest economic powers, responded in starkly different fashions. The Obama Administration dispatched the 101st Airborne and other troops to build treatment hospitals, and donated more than half of the $3.9 billion in relief funds collected from governments worldwide. Within six months, the outbreak was under control, and the U.S.-led effort was hailed as a template for handling future epidemics.

Ron Klain, Biden’s Chief of Staff, spearheaded the American effort against Ebola, which means he is more than ready to handle COVID-19.

Is Emily Murphy at GSA ready for Rep. Katie Porter to go nuclear on her today?

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Quote of the Day: Beast Inside, The Daily Beast Friday Digest

Hello,

At some point in the next few days, the U.S. will pass that horrific milestone: 200,000 dead from COVID-19. Michael Tomasky has a terrific column on this terrible moment in which he recalls how he gasped last weekend when he saw that Taiwan had just reported its seventh death—that’s seven total since the start of the pandemic. He got out his calculator and figured out how many Americans would have died if the U.S. death rate was as low as Taiwan’s, or as low as a bunch of other countries that President Trump would probably describe as shitholes. The numbers, Tomasky notes, give lie to what may be Trump’s biggest whopper: “Nothing more could have been done.” He writes: “In a democracy worthy of the name, Trump would be impeached simply for speaking those words.”

— Tracy Connor, Executive Editor, The Daily Beast

The Pandemic Protocol (The New Yorker, 4 May 2020)

Ground Zero was Evergreen Health, a hospital in Kirkland, WA, just east of Seattle: Here was where the first diagnosis of corona virus in the United States was confirmed. That was back in January. Dr. Francis Riedo was the “medical director for infectious disease at Evergreen Health.”

  • “A national shortage of diagnostic kits for the new coronavirus meant that only people who had recently visited China were eligible for testing. Even as Evergreen Health’s beds began filling with cases of flu-like symptoms — including a patient from Life Care, a nursing home two miles away — the hospital’s doctors were unable to test them for the new disease, because none of these sufferers had been to China or been in contact with anyone who had.”

Testing finally began at the end of February, when “there had been only six detections of the corona virus in the U.S., and only one in Washington State.”

During the previous few weeks, “researchers, in quiet violation of CDC guidelines, had jury-rigged a corona virus test in their lab and had started using it on their samples. They had just found a positive hit: a high school student in a suburb twenty-eight miles from Seattle, with no recent history of foreign travel and no known interactions with anyone from China.”

Dr. Riedo sent two patient samples to the local department of health. “I was sure they’d be negative. “Riedo got a call from his friend at the public health lab. Both of the samples he had sent were positive. Riedo sent over swabs from nine other Evergreen Health patients. Eight were positive.” Riedo kept sending more samples, and “most of the patients tested positive.”

And so it began.

The article was written by Charles Duhigg.

The Economist, 25 July 2020

Modest Changes in Behavior leads to “huge rises in coronavirus infections”: The Geometry of the Pandemic, p. 19

This article focuses on a model by Rajiv Rimal of Johns Hopkins University. And it’s a big, fat chunk of the article (maybe a third), longer than she usually manages to quote. But she wanted to share it. Knowledge is power!

When “American states began easing lockdowns . . . their caseloads were three or more times higher than in Europe, in part, argues Jarbas Barbosa of the Pan-American Health Organization, because most states never had full lockdowns. Texas had 1,270 new cases on the day its governor said restaurants could reopen: 44 per million. In Georgia, the rate was 95 per million. Disney World reopened the day before Florida announced a record 15,000 new cases in a day. Just as incredibly, in two-thirds of states, infections were rising when governors started to ease lockdowns. By contrast, France, Spain and Italy had 13-17 new cases per million when they began to re-open their economies and numbers were falling fast.

“On April 12th … 95% of the population was staying at home (leaving the house only for essential visits), with 5% ignoring lockdown rules. Based on those assumptions, his model predicts that Americans would have had 559,400 cases on that day — an accurate assessment (it actually had 554,849). On July 14th, Mr. Rimal assumed that 80% of the population was staying at home, i.e., only a gradual change. On this basis, his model predicts the country would have 1.6m cases, again not far off the actual number and confirming the impact of modest rises in activity. If people really altered their behaviour, the number would rise even further to 5.6m cases if the stay-at-home share drops to 60% and to 9.5m if it falls to 20%. In that worst case, America’s death toll could top 400,000. Such is the dark logic of geometric growth.”

The Economist concludes that “to drive the level of infection down to perhaps a tenth of what it is now (closer to European or Asian levels) … seems to require full lockdowns.”

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Reads of Julys Past

Self is still reading Cibola Burn. What can she say? It’s been a busy week. Havelock and Naomi are together (She’s his prisoner; they should hook up). But Holden is still Naomi’s titular boyfriend (though he doesn’t think of her much, not for almost 300 pages)

Self does like Havelock. Which is why, if Naomi were to start developing feelings, self would not mind a bit. Besides which, she loves their conversation while she is Havelock’s prisoner.

Did self say caged? Indeed she did! Naomi is in a cage, and she has to do all her business in that cage, including pee-ing.

Perhaps her affection for Havelock developed from the actor who plays him in the series. (He survives a pole sticking out of his chest! He visits a Belter brothel to learn how to speak Belter! He knew Miller!)

Someone on goodreads has written a thesis in the guise of a review on Cibola Burn, and hundreds of people apparently read it and liked it. So Americans do read! Probably as much as, or more than, POTUS!

This post is about all her favorite reads of Julys past. Herewith:

July 2016:  Girl Waits With Gun, by Amy Stewart (Is this ever going to be a movie?)

July 2017:  Barbarian Days, by William Finnegan

July 2018:   Manderley Forever, by Tatiana de Rosnay

July 2019:   Open Heart: A Cardiac Surgeon’s Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table, by Stephen Westaby

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The Youngest Son

As her sons start to come apart (inexorably, with no let-up), the father, who internalizes everything, and never talks about the disintegration of the family, suffers a stroke and is hospitalized for six months. At this time, the mother has her youngest son, Peter, committed. He was in hockey camp and started to act out. He was sent to Brady Hospital, “a private psychiatric hospital in Colorado Springs.” (How long, self wonders, did it take for Robert Kolker to collect these masses of material? Because the research is incredible, the kind of thing that she can easily see someone spending 20 years compiling.)

  • In early September, Mimi finally visited and saw Peter wearing only underpants, strapped to a bed with no sheets on it. The whole room reeked of urine …

The mother pulled him out immediately (During all this travail, her husband was still in the hospital: he was “paralyzed on the right side of his body”). She puts Peter in the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver. Doctor’s note: when patient became “more provocative” (whatever that means), his “family thought that was his normal level of functioning.”

p. 134: When boy # 6, Joe, visits boy # 10, Peter, he was “able to tell the patient’s therapist that at times in the past he has had symptomatology similar to Peter’s.”

At this point, five boys have shown signs of personality disturbance. Self knows from the reviews that there’s one more boy who gets diagnosed schizophrenic. Which one? This shell game is agonizing for self, imagine the feelings of the parents (well, the feelings of the mother, because the father was pretty much out of it after his stroke).

So, drugs. There were a lot of drugs around. Four boys “into LSD” and one “into black beauties and other uppers.” The youngest child “smoked pot at age five.” The mother was deeply, observantly Catholic. She cared. Nevertheless, this is what happened to her. And on p. 135, a panel of doctors sat down and told Mimi that in their findings, she was the cause of her son’s disintegration. (Maybe she was, who knows. The jury’s still  out. But she was cut off from her own parents, and her grandparents, though concerned, felt helpless)

Stay safe, dear blog readers.

Your Emergency Response Team of the Day: Mercedes-AMG

from The Economist, 4 April 2020:

The seven Formula-1 teams in Britain have high-tech engineering centres stuffed with the latest production equipment. And they employ hundreds of staff with the talent to use this gear to design, test and manufacture parts rapidly, in the days between races. With the season suspended, they have been collaborating on ways to help produce ventilators, which are needed urgently to treat patients suffering from covid-19. This week, one team, Mercedes-AMG, obtained approval for a device which it can quickly manufacture by the thousands.

The first 100 devices have now been delivered to University College Hospital and other London hospitals for clinical trials.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Donald McNeil, New York Times Health Reporter

“If it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all Americans freeze in place for 14 days while sitting six feet apart, epidemiologists say, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt.”

The Wall Street Journal, Friday, 13 March 2020

p. A4: CRISIS TESTS PRESIDENT’S AD-LIB STYLE

Does self care? She means, about the testing of the President’s “ad-lib style”? No, not really.

President Trump’s rare prime-time speech Wednesday was designed to reassure the nation about his administration’s response to a quickly spreading coronavirus.

Instead, Mr. Trump’s scripted speech included errors about health-insurance payments and European travel restrictions, people involved in the speechwriting said Thursday. He also inserted his own mistakes as he spoke, the people said.

During the 10-minute speech — with its one stray word suggesting that the U.S. would ban cargo from Europe — stock futures fell sharply, and the global market rout that followed led to U.S. stocks’ worst drop since 1987 on Thursday.

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