Tale of Two Cities Redux: HK to Ease its COVID-19 Restrictions, While NYC Situation Remains Dire

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

Hong Kong hasn’t recorded a new local case of COVID -19, since April 19 – although today, it recorded one new infection, a person residing in the United States who returned to the city Monday, and is no longer showing symptoms, according to the South China Morning Post,Coronavirus: Hong Kong records one new case, imported from the US, as city eyes easing of social-distancing rules.

The city is now mulling easing its social distancing rules, after logging 1040 cases, and 4 deaths.

Hong Kong is one of the world’s most densely populated cities, with a population of roughly 7.5 million people, and is adjacent to mainland China, the place where COVID-19 originated.

Compare Hong Kong’s record with that of another densely populated city of roughly the same size, with 8.5 million residents: New York. There, the city is nowhere near being able to lift its lockdown, and has logged 168,845 cases and 18,706 deaths in the city itself – and those numbers are still climbing. (To sharpen the comparison between the two places, I’m only including cases in the five boroughs, and not including any cases in the greater NYC metropolitan area, including NJ, nor in NY state.)

What Hong Kong Did

I wrote about the different preparations the two cities making taking to the COVID-19 pandemic in March in A Tale of Two Cities: How Hong Kong Has Controlled its Coronavirus Outbreak, While New York City Scrambles. I spoke then to my old Oxford friend, Dr. Sarah Borwein, a Canadian-trained doctor who has practiced medicine in Hong kong for more than fifteeen years. Before that,  she successfully ran the Infection Control program for the only expatriate hospital in Beijing during the SARS period.  (For a fuller account of her career and her thoughts in March,  see this interview in AD MediLink, Exclusive Interview on COVID-19 with SARS Veteran Dr. Sarah Borwein.)

I checked back in with Sarah recently, to get her latest thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis, especially in Hong Kong but also in the rest of the world. In April, she  updated her AD Medilink interview, Exclusive Interview on COVID-19 with SARS Veteran Dr. Sarah Borwein (Updated), which ]I will draw upon that extensively in this post. I’ll only be able to touch on some of the points she made there, so I encourage interested readers to read the full interview: not long, clearly expressed, and certainly worth your time.

Hong Kong initially took aggressive measures in response to the initial outbreak of COVID-19, and seemed to have managed to shut it down. But then, it was faced with a second wave of COVID-19 cases, as Sarah discussed in her April AD MediLink update:

In response, Hong Kong took aggressive measures, basically shutting down international arrivals and enforcing mandatory testing and quarantine for all those who do enter, as well as more stringent social distancing measures, a ban on public gatherings of more than 4 people and closing many venues such as bars and sports clubs. The new case numbers have started to decline again. Fingers crossed, but perhaps we are gaining some control over this second wave. It is too early, however, to relax our guard, as it will take a few weeks to be sure there isn’t disease percolating quietly in the community.

Our second wave was largely unleashed by returning Hong Kongers and expatriates coming home. In part, this was because they felt safer here, due to Hong Kong’s initial success in managing the epidemic. This has caused some problems, but is also a testament to the fact that there is benefit to being in a place that not only has know-how and resolve, but also has been tested before.

Between that first and second wave, the epicenter of the disease shifted from China, to Europe the UK, and the United States.

Lessons Asia Learned

From its aggressive management of the outbreak of the disease, Hong Kong and Asia learned several important lessons:

Several lessons are emerging from the experience of Hong Kong and other Asian countries. The first lesson is “Go hard, and go early”.  How different might things might be globally if some other places had done what we did and instituted vigorous measures in January, when there were only a very few cases or none?  Hong Kong response started before we had any cases at all, and kicked into high gear when we had only five. Singapore, Taiwan, Macao, Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea did the same.

When you start early, you can contact trace every case and try to contain or eliminate the disease completely by isolating sick people quickly, and quarantining their contacts before they can spread the infection.  Hong Kong’s impressive contact-tracing work has helped define where the local cases are coming from, so that measures can be taken to curb community spread. As a result, even though life is not normal, we are not in complete lockdown. Countries that didn’t start taking COVID-19 seriously until they had a great many cases cannot do this.  Extreme social distancing is the only tool then available; this will help reduce the impact of the disease, preventing a worst-case scenario, but a lot more people will still get sick and die than here, and the economic consequences may be more dire.

We’ve also found that quarantine and isolation must be strictly enforced in order to be effective, and unfortunately, this requires intrusive measures including tracking bracelets, fines and even jail terms. Without these, it’s far too easy for people to find reasons why they personally are different or exempt.

Community engagement is vitally important. Hong Kong people lived through SARS and understand at a visceral level how important it is to practice social distancing, wear masks, wash their hands and listen to public health advice. This epidemic happened on the back of months of civil unrest that left us with a weakened and unpopular local government. That could have been disastrous. But we do have highly respected public health authorities and infectious disease specialists, many of whom are seen as SARS heroes. Both the government and even more importantly the local population, do listen to their advice. SARS taught us that our own health is dependent on the health of the whole community, and that lesson has not been forgotten.

It all seems eerily familiar, but also oddly comforting in a “we got this” kind of way. We know how to do this. Hong Kongers seem to have just dusted off their old SARS habits and gotten on it,  a bit like riding a long unused bicycle.

So, in Hong Kong, community engagement and the recent history with the 2003 SARS epidemic – when nearly 300 hundred people died –  was vitally important.

Importance of Masks: Evolving Thinking

Now, one thing that made a huge difference in Hong Kong was the early and widespread use of masks. That measure of course cannot be separated from testing, isolation, quarantine, hygiene, and social distancing.

Yet on the wearing of masks, Sarah admitted her thinking has evolved:

The mask issue has created a lot of confusion. My own view on this has changed as the epidemic has progressed. In the early days, I too, was tempted to listen to the advice from some authorities that masks are not helpful for the general population. I don’t like wearing a mask all the time any more than any of you and it seemed to be the prevailing expert opinion that they weren’t that helpful. However, it has become increasingly obvious that masks ARE an important part of the prevention package, something the Hong Kong authorities have always advocated.

COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets that are coughed, sneezed or talked out by infected people (droplet spread). It can also be spread when these infected droplets fall onto surfaces that are then touched by susceptible people who then touch their nose, eyes or mouth (contact spread). Plain surgical masks provide some protection against droplet spread infections. It’s hard to quantify how much, but even if the protection is only 10-20% that’s worth having, when combined with good hand hygiene and social distancing. Even more than that, this is an infection that can be spread when asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, and we know that masks do significantly help to prevent infected people from transmitting to others or contaminating nearby objects. Everyone should consider themselves potentially infectious and wear a mask to protect others.

Wearing a mask when around others is a civic responsibility and an act of solidarity: I wear a mask to protect you, you wear a mask to protect me. Everyone is protected if we all do it.

But when the epidemic ends, please stop wearing masks. They stop us from smiling at each other.

Here, Hong Kong has a bit of an advantage. First, the recent history of SARS has meant that people were  already conscious of infection control – and that includes wearing of masks. I’ve been struck in previous visits to the city that some people – a minority, to be sure – wear masks as a matter of course. Also, I understand that due to recent political unrest, some people donned masks as a way of obscuring their identities. The COVID-19 outbreak just made that behavior one of civic responsibility.

Contrast  that to VP Mike Pence, who recently visited the Mayo Clinicc – and disdained to wear a mask. Not only does this send the wrong  message. But it is also a deeply anti-social thing too do. Because as regular readers know, one wears ordinary masks, not to protect oneself from infection, but to prevent passing along infection to others. From spewing virus, if infected, at all and sundry. Now, to be fair, although I’m no fan of Pence, I should say, he seems to have gotten the message; And to his credit, has apologized for not wearing a mask.

So let me highlight his apology – which does seem a bit grudging. But it  is nonetheless, an apology. As Newsweek reports, MIKE PENCE REGRETS NOT WEARING FACE MASK TO MAYO CLINIC: ‘I SHOULD HAVE’:

“I didn’t think it was necessary, but I should have worn a mask at the Mayo Clinic,” Pence said during a Fox news town hall on Sunday evening, before explaining to host Bret Baier that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines provides for the use of masks to limit asymptomatic spread of the novel virus.

While the vice president admitted regret, he also defended his decision to not wear a mask, saying that because he knew he didn’t have the virus during his visit because he and President Donald Trump are now tested regularly. However, Pence noted that he did wear a mask to a visit to General Motors in Indiana two days after his appearance at the Mayo Clinic.

Wearing masks is one thing we all can do to protect each other. And I think unmasking oneself is more important than the compulsive hand washing protocol. Don’t get me wrong: attention to fomites is not wholly misplaced. But I think to some extent practicing better hygiene is the pandemic equivalent of security theater. While it certainly doesn’t hurt, it does distract attention away from the failure  of many public health authorities – not including Hong Kong, of course –  to prepare effectively for pandemic. It seems to shift responsibility onto individuals, and away from effective collective action on the part of public health authorities.

The New Normal

We’re moving to a new normal – but we’re far from there yet. There’s been discussion that countries that have so far controlled the disease – Hong Kong, Macao, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand- may be the first to be able to open up some limited st=travel. I think that in the absence of a vaccine and efficacious treated, countries will be very cautious about doing so. They only have to look at the situation in Singapore, which enjoyed great success in initially managing the outbreak of COVID-19, only to see cases spike from densely-habited dormitories housing migrant labour.

Over to Sarah:

To a large extent, we are trying to predict the unknowable. This is a new virus with many uncertainties around it. It is possible that it will disappear like SARS did or dissipate when the seasons change. But it would be very foolish to count on that.

We have seen many countries be overwhelmed by a tidal wave of COVID illness and in these places some of the worst-case scenarios have played out. But elsewhere, including here,  good preparedness and rapid action have been effective and shown us a way forward.

During the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1919, the places that fared the best were the ones that took the disease seriously from the start, isolated sick people early, instituted comprehensive social distancing measures and continued public health measures until the epidemic was unquestionably under control. St Louis, which did this, had half the death rate of Philadelphia, which did not. Economies also recovered more quickly in places that had taken decisive early action.  In a series of natural experiments in which different places did these things to various degrees, the effectiveness of simple public health measures was proven over and over again.

Here in Hong Kong, we are fortunate to have one of the best public health systems in the world, strong epidemic planning and deep experience. Hong Kong took early and vigorous action and has a population that is disciplined in mitigation measures. Several authorities have singled out Hong Kong and Singapore as examples of places where COVID-19 has been well managed to date, stating that we provide hope and many lessons to other countries. We must not relax at this point; however. It’s important that we continue our stringent public health measures and cooperate with social distancing and other measures until the epidemic is truly over globally.

Now, I should point out, that Hong Kong is not staying complacent. Just yesterday, the city’s Information and Technical Bureau announced plans to provide all residents with reusable, washable face masks, according to the South China Morning Post, Coronavirus: every Hong Kong resident to get a reusable mask as city turns corner in pandemic fight to start gradual easing of Covid-19 curbs. The city will begin to ease restrictions. But Hong Kong authorities agree with my assessment of the likelihood of near-term opening of travel and concede: border controls will be lifted last.

New York State of Mind

I’ll close with a short mention of the NYC situation. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo looks to be positioning himself for a possible dark horse Democratic presidential run based on his handling of this crisis, as Bernie has been kneecapped and Biden isolates in his own special world.,

Are you kidding me? Compare NY’s record with that of Hong Kong. Not perfect, but that’s what effective pandemic management looks like.

Cuomo only appears to be competent when compared to Trump. Which is really no comparison.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

45 comments

  1. vlade

    “Cuomo only appears to be competent when compared to Trump. Which is really no comparison.”

    That is true. But Americans wont’ be comparing their presidential candidates to foreing leaders. If they did, you’d have never voted in Trump. So it’s pretty much irrelevant, for better or worse.

    If Biden is hit by the scandal too hard, which can’t be ruled out, Cuomo could be a viable Dem candidate. I’m not saying a good candidate, I’m saying viable. Biden is running on “I’m not Trump”, but Trump, in a non-covid world, would take him apart. Cuomo in a covid world would have IMO better chances (if nothing else, Trump’s campaing has been gearing up against either Sanders or Biden, so throwing in Cuomo who can enrage Trump on a drop of a hat, would be a pretty good spoiler).

    Reply
    1. samhill

      I can’t see Cuomo running, if he loses he’s the cursed soul that lost to Trump and his career is over. If he wins he has the virus waiting and the likely 2nd maybe bigger wave in winter, and all the economic fallout which may still resolve as Great Depression 2. So, Trump or the Great Terrible Unknown? Not a great choice. Maybe he’s such a statesman that he’ll rise to occasion to confront the latter. How much do you want to bet he waits to 2024 till the crap clears a bit?

      Reply
      1. False Solace

        Not to mention Cuomo is just another neoliberal who believes in comforting the rich and afflicting the poor. He insists on huge cuts to social services and education that affect everyday NYers while refusing to tax the rich whatsoever. He’s garbage on economics and would be a disaster in a depression.

        Not that Trump is much better — his total lack of leadership provided almost no guidance or coordination of state efforts at the federal level and owns a bailout failure possibly worse than Obama. Trump has proven himself to be inadequate so Cuomo at least has the benefit of a partial question mark. Personally I’m morally not capable of voting for Trump, a worse drone bombing mass murderer than Obama, just can’t do it. Biden is an absolute no-go. I’ll be voting third party as I typically do.

        Reply
      2. Dr. John Carpenter

        You’ve hit the nail on the head as to why I think Biden may ride out any scandals and be on the ballot in November. Who wants to risk their future career on the possibility of losing to Trump and, even if you win, you’ve got an almost impossible mess to clean up? And, if somehow he did win, expectations would be pretty low and it’s doubtful he’d seek a second term. I’m starting to feel like he is the perfect sacrificial lamb for the Dems.

        Reply
    2. bob

      unless you consider mandating positive patients to be admitted to nursing homes. That was his disaster and he will not answer questions. He has always been condescending and arrogant. Who else would disband a corruption task force when it came too close.

      Reply
      1. Dirk77

        And I read that he micromanaged the NYC subway renewal, causing the head of that to quit in disgust. At least Trump knows how to delegate.

        Reply
        1. timotheus

          Correct although I suspect the guy who quit is laughing right now that Cuomo insisted on taking over and micromanaging the subways just when it is a complete disaster and out of $$ with ridership down 90%.

          Reply
    3. ProNewerDeal

      IF the DNC wants to swap out a Corp D for Senile Biden, imho it should be WA Gov Inslee not Cuomo. The Inslee/WA has the top record for the US on COVID-19 response, which may in turn be poor or mediocre compared to the global leaders like Hong Kong/South Korea/etc, but is clearly far superior to Cuomo or Trump’s record.

      Furthermore Inslee with the COVID-19 record + climate policy emphasis in the campaign might actually attract some disaffected Sanders voters in swing states (assuming the DNC actually wants to win the election/is trying to attract more voters).

      Reply
    4. Pat

      I just spent a good ten minutes laughing this weekend because Cuomo finally accepted that deBlasio was right and NYC schools would not be reopening this school year.

      Cuomo has made so many mistakes. And used this to do things he would have been blocked from doing at any other time. He is not the answer to Trump, though the party might not know it.

      Reply
  2. Polar Donkey

    Today a courier for a large shipping company told me he picks up all the covid19 test administered at one of the main hospitals in Desoto County Mississippi. This county has 175,000 people. Grand total for last week. Two, just two. I couldn’t believe it. So I searched covid19 testing locations in Mississippi. Aside from 6 locations in Jackson, there were 12 for the rest of the state. It is dumbfounding. Covid19 will never get under control.

    Reply
    1. Synoia

      When you, the consumer, can be charged $50 to $100 for a test, there will be mandatory tests.

      Reply
    2. Bill Smith

      The state public heath website claims to do over 2,000 tests a day in recent time. It looks like a 15% positivity rate. Desoto has 304 confirmed cases showing on the website.

      Reply
  3. njbr

    Pence is just doing the “yes/no” dance of this administration. Social distancing, opening up, masks, demonstrations, etc. Taking both positions allow plausible deniability and ultimate responsibility.

    They’re trying to tread the treacherous ground between armed demonstrations and someone shooting a dollar store guard in the face for trying to enforce a mask rule.

    OOPs, someone shot, let’s dial it back for a day or so…

    Reply
  4. Monty

    “a civic responsibility and an act of solidarity”

    A very Anti-Objectivist idea indeed. No wonder the idea is so unpopular in the US.

    Reply
  5. Carla

    “SARS epidemic – when nearly 300 hundred people died” Since relative numbers are very important to this post, perhaps the typo should be fixed.

    Great post, Jerri-Lynn!

    Reply
    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      I was talking about the 2003 SARS epidemic — with 286 deaths, IIRC. I edited the sentence to make the point clearer. Thanks for your kind comment.

      Reply
  6. K teh

    Americans will not give up their civil rights to a collective under arbitrary control short of civil war and Cuomo is trying to maximize the payday for NY under the old rules.

    You’ll notice that virus spending has merely reinforced and accelerated fintech objectives, and recapitalized the market makers who are all in on faamg.

    Productivity, which is essential and no one wants to talk about (essential workers?) has been falling since the tech companies took over, and there’s a reason. Most are focussed on the symptoms, a win-win for tech.

    Computer science wasnt always a welfare program for the well-connected to learn how to maintain apps. In the beginning, it was a Nazi science bootcamp with a survival rate of 2%. Once the military ruled out AC machines, it became all about the operating systems – the statistical control nonsense ensuring the outcomes we see today.

    The trade then devolved into liberal professors teaching what they were taught, by psychology professors. That’s why everything feels like a psyop. The idea is to separate Individuals and insert technology, to replace discernment and control every transaction, tribal warfare in virtual space.

    Make no mistake California and Seattle are military operations and we’re designed to be so, based on the Atlantic Fleet theory that the future was going to be psychological warfare, a self-fulfilling prophesy. It’s not just spaghetti code; it’s spaghetti wiring and is becoming spaghetti airwaves. They are so deep in busy work, they will never escape.

    To think some best practice can simply be applied is quite naive, and more importantly another waste of resources. The problem is that the tech companies are modern, global robber barons working for the military. Who is using who is irrelevant.

    Technology is not evil. Step out of the narrative and build something better. Remember, Hitler’s synthesis of history was that the individual must succumb to the collective, run by an expert.

    Reply
    1. rd

      This is a country that tolerates the TSA security theater and approved of the Patriot Act and FISA courts (until a white guy got caught up in it). So some civil rights can be violated, just not some other particular ones on occasion.

      Reply
  7. Tinky

    The sentence that begins with “Contrast that to VP Mike Pence…” should probably read “declined”, rather than “disdained to wear a mask”.

    Reply
    1. Savedbyirony

      The clinic has a policy that ALL visitors wear masks. He was not given a choice to wear one, which he “declined” to do. He power tripped his way out of following a policy applicable to all (except some animals are more equal). He certainly “disdained” to wear a mask. (He also let the common folk know that in a time of testing rationing, etc. he can and does get tested all the time.) As an add on reflection; my local newspaper, serving a fairly conservative small city in NE Ohio, recently polled readers what they thought of Pence’s behavior as regarding this visit. At a response of 83% to 17%, readers as well found his rank pulling refusal as disdainful/arrogant/poor leadership/thoughtless, etc.

      Reply
      1. Tinky

        Yes, his behavior was “disdainful”, and that is obvious. I had not previously come across the “disdained to” usage of the word, and found it odd, which is why I made my previous comment.

        Reply
      2. The Rev Kev

        I wonder what would have happened if one of the patients Pence visited said, ‘Hey, if Pence doesn’t need one, then neither do I. I’m taking mine off. I’m honoured to (cough, cough) meet you sir and (cough) keep up the good work. May I have the honour of shaking your hand?’

        Reply
  8. KM in California

    Perhaps an additional problem with New York City’s healthcare system is substandard care in some hospitals such as those that serve poorer people. Today there’s a whistleblower nurse named Nicole Sirotek from Nevada who has stated in a tearful 23-minute video that Covid minority patients are being maltreated in the two NYC hospitals she’s been in. For example, one patient with a pulse was defibrillated which killed him. Another was given too much fast-acting insulin which killed the patient. She’s spoken out to administrators, nursing staff, management, and advocacy groups, but no one seems to care. After she has spoken out she has been removed from the units. She states that it’s not the Covid that’s killing the patients, but the maltreatment.

    Language warning: She uses the “f” word alot.

    The video seems legitimate to me. If the video disappears, just search for her name and you may find it.

    Reply
    1. Savedbyirony

      Terrible, terrible, terrible….My heart goes out to that nurse and everyone working in any medical institution who actually cares about the well being of all patients, not just white and/or wealthy ones. (Or anyone working in a neoliberal institution who cares for anything other than themselves and MONEY.) And her plight and experiences remind me very much of my family’s experiences with assisted living/nursing homes in Ohio, except we did not see the abuses and “killer” management aimed at racial minorities but at the elderly people living in them. Try to get internal help. Management in them is behaving as Corp. wants! State oversight is a complete charade, set up to cover for the institutions. Call the cops; they will tell you that that institutional abuse is not their jurisdiction. Hire a lawyer? That’s doable but you are embarking on an obstacle course for years of emotional pain and economic constraint against deep pockets and system set up to protect them and make them only deeper.

      Reply
      1. Carla

        Nursing home lobby owns the Ohio legislature. Former state senator and current Cuyahoga County executive Armond Budish was the instrumental go-between in that deal when he was in the Ohio General Assembly. Budish made his fortune as a prominent elder care attorney before going into “public service.” In his book, that means serve yourself and your rich cronies at the expense of the public. He’s a Democrat, natch!

        Reply
    2. Felix_47

      I did not see the whole video but the first example of the tube being too deep in only one bronchus is obviously a big mistake. She said an anesthesiologist put the tube in and they were waiting for six hours for an X-Ray. I find that hard to understand. Having done thousands of intubations in my life I have certainly misplaced the tube but after placing it you listen on both sides, be sure the chest rises on both sides and that the blood oxygen levels are fine and double and triple check placement and tape it like you mean it. You don’t leave the beside or immediate area until you are sure it is right. Usually it is in an OR. We normally don’t Xray. If you need an X-ray to figure it out the patient has a problem you have a problem. We get X-Rays to protect us from lawyers in case there is a bad outcome for another reason like at surgery. If there is a bad outcome we expect that a plaintiff attorney will be going over the chart looking for anything that could be incriminating or even suspicious or even innocent because they are able to use anything to get in front of a jury. Interesting that in all this talk of health reform nobody wants to talk about tort reform. So the nurse seemed quite sympathetic but it is hard to understand. We should have loser pays like in England or Germany. But the real malpractice is in Washington.

      Reply
  9. Mark Rabine

    “and we know that masks do significantly help to prevent infected people from transmitting to others or contaminating nearby objects”. I don’t want to seem unpatriotic, much less refusing to take my responsibility as a citizen seriously or my general concern for the health of others, but may I ask how it is “we know” that “masks do significantly help”. Do you have a study that shows that? Everything, every single study, has shown the ineffectiveness of surgical masks to control either the exhaling or inhaling of the virus, large droplets, small droplets, aerosol, doesn’t matter. Do we also know this about cloth masks, bandanas and scarves, which the CDC et. al. (though not WHO) says may be used? Every single study I’ve seen shows that not only don’ t cloth masks etc. protect anyone, they actually may make matters worse. Please show us the studies that confirm what “we know”. If you don’t have such a study, please do not tell us what “we know” and please, please don’t say you are “following the science.” Universal masking is a placebo needed to reopen the economy. That’s all.

    Reply
    1. Bill Smith

      Studies I’ve seen say they do help. For example:

      “Wearing surgical masks in public could help slow COVID-19 pandemic’s advance” Date:
      April 3, 2020 Source: University of Maryland Summary: Surgical masks may help prevent infected people from making others sick with seasonal viruses, including coronaviruses, according to new research. In laboratory experiments, the masks significantly reduced the amounts of various airborne viruses coming from infected patients, measured using the breath-capturing ‘Gesundheit II machine.’

      Reply
    2. redleg

      Then see Taleb’s work on convexity, where he shows how a 30% effective mask can reduce risk by 75% or more, where risk isn’t linear and mask effectiveness is.

      Reply
    3. Janie

      Yes, Mark Rabine, we should not wear masks until tests, studied etc are completed and published. If we did use them and they did not help, we would have wasted a quarter a day be and been annoyed by an itchy nose. Unbearable loss of freedom! On the other hand, if they help, we have saved lives. Of course, they may be deplorables, so who cares? See Blaise Pascal. Oh wait, he was talking about his own soul, not the lives of others.

      Reply
    4. Felix_47

      Mark Rabine,
      Feel free to look this article up from NPR. I only added half of it. There is no question masks help. They are not bulletproof but they help. I found VP Pence’s and Trumps behavior regarding mask wear to represent the worst in leadership. Done properly mask wear would do much to alleviate the damage to the economy. Given the massive amount of taxes we pay as Americans we should expect better from our leadership. Our government has completely failed us on so many levels and it is both repub and dems. But no fear Congress is pushing for 22 more F35s than even Trump wanted.

      E CORONAVIRUS CRISIS
      Adding A Nylon Stocking Layer Could Boost Protection From Cloth Masks, Study Finds
      April 22, 20201:34 PM ET
      Maria Godoy at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2018. (photo by Allison Shelley) (Square)
      MARIA GODOY

      Facebook
      Twitter

      Researcher Loretta Fernandez of Northeastern University wears a homemade face mask without and with an extra outer layer made from nylon stockings (right). The added nylon outer layer significantly boosted masks’ ability to filter out small particles, her research found.
      Loretta Fernandez
      During World War II, nylon stockings disappeared from store shelves as the valuable synthetic material was diverted to make critical wartime supplies such as parachutes, flak jackets and aircraft fuel tanks. Now, new research suggests that nylon stockings could once again play a critical role in a national battle — this time by making homemade cloth masks significantly more protective.

      Researchers at Northeastern University have found that adding an outer layer made from nylon stockings to a homemade face covering can boost its ability to filter out small particles in the air by creating a tighter seal between the mask and the wearer’s face. In some cases, that extra nylon layer helped homemade cloth masks match or exceed the filtering capability of medical-grade surgical masks.

      Reply
    5. rd

      They filter out quite a bit, especially the larger droplets that can carry a large viral load. They also put a lot of resistance into the exhalation breath so velocities coming out of the mask will be much lower which means they will travel only a fraction of a distance and settle out faster and closer to the person. This stuff is just straight physics that can be seen quite clearly when they do testing of the masks in tunnel tests and slow motion video footage. So the diameter and magnitude of the halo of contamination around a person drops substantially. This reduces the likelihood of people coming into contact with it and reduces the viral load if they do come in contact with it.

      The studies are pretty clear that they are poor at protecting the wearer of the mask unless the wearer really knows what they are doing and uses a clean one frequently. Cross-contamination is very easy to occur which is why people who wear PPE, including masks and gloves, are trained in how to take it off to avoid contaminating themselves and everything around them. The average wearer has not been trained on this. You usually have to have a clinical medical background or HazMat background to get that training. This is why N95 masks are not particularly effective for most wearers for protection against viruses and bacteria, unlike particulates like silica dust or asbestos which do not have major cross-contamination issues. It is also why it is important that N95 masks be reserved for medical workers adn workers in other industries that need respiratory protection for their jobsite safety. For the medical workers, they need to have a ready supply with frequent changes so that their mask does not get so contaiminated that it then contaminates the worker when they are puttign it on and off multipel times.

      The same is true for gloves as people are spreading the virus to everythign around them when it gets on their gloves. Gloves are mainly for preventing contaminants from penetrating through the skin on your hands (not an issues with coronavirus) and/or making it easy to have clean hands afterwards.However, gloves do nothing to prevent you from transferring contaminants, includign viruses, from one object to another. If anything, they give a false sense of confidence and more gets transferred. This is why medical and hazmat settings have “exclusion zones” which are assumed to be contaminated, and then you take your PPE, including gloves when you leave the exclusion zone, That is so all the contaminants are left in that area. Everything else that leaves that zone is also removed and/or decontaminated.It is choreographed like a ballet, unlike the typical grocery shopping trip.

      Reply
  10. Dirk77

    …countries that have so far controlled the disease – Hong Kong, Macao, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand – may be the first to be able to open up some limited travel. Can I infer that they have all closed their borders? If so, can one regard this as evidence that border closures are essential? I have been thinking “yes” for awhile, but wonder. Western US states in the past have on an off had controls for food such as fruit. But I’ve been told that the Interstate Commerce clause in the Constitution allows free flow of people. Yet, a state still has the option to test everyone at their borders, and then quarantine or reject if the test fails. I haven’t read anything though about California, say, doing that in spite of the lockdown inside. It seems very counterproductive. Thoughts anyone?

    Reply
    1. ChrisR

      The NZ border is definitely closed. Compulsory 14 day quarantine for any arrivals. No exemptions on compassionate grounds. It seems to be working too, as we had no new cases yesterday.

      Reply
        1. The Rev Kev

          More so than you think. NZ is going for total eradication whole Scotty from Marketing is going on about using a new app to deal with inevitable outbreaks. Saywhat? Can’t have NZ opening up their borders with Australia if Scotty is going for slack measures or else NZ would have to go for total lockdown all over again.

          Reply
    2. Joy

      Yes HK closed their borders during the second wave. Only citizens and residents are allowed in. All are tested at a converted expo center close to the airport. Those who exhibit symptoms are directly sent to the hospital while those without are given electronic tags and told to quarantine either at hotels/homes/designated quarantine centers.

      Reply
  11. Joe Well

    The US has one of the highest rates of automobile fatalities among the OECD countries, ditto for infant mortality, mortality during pregnancy, alcohol consumption per capita, and a lot of other preventable causes of death.

    And then there is the whole culture of trying to get away with as much dangerous behavior as possible from speeding to workplace safety (among the workers themselves), as if you were a little child under the constant watch of a benevolent but overprotective nanny state.

    Covid is part of a bigger pattern.

    Reply
  12. RBHoughton

    Very glad to read your lines on facemasks. Its Kipling’s “East is East and West is West and ne’er the twain shall meet.” A UK Govt spokesmen told the British people there is no use wearing face masks as they do not prevent you catching the virus. Contrarily in HK people wear facemasks in performance of their social duty not to cause disease in others.

    It is rare to find such a pristine example of the difference in social attitudes.

    Reply
    1. Janie

      Give me a minute. Where have i heard some phrase about “do unto others”? Well, whatever. Guess we’ve moved on.

      Reply
  13. Cuibono

    This IS truly AMAZING what HK seems to have pulled off so far.
    Remarkable. almost unfathomable, My hats off to them all.

    Reply
  14. K teh

    Take a look at masking effect on co2, atp, etc., Collection of air particles.

    Yikes…it is two worlds.

    Reply
  15. Joy

    No one from HK has commented so far, so I’ll give my 2cents. I enjoyed the last post and found this one also highly true to what is happening on the ground. It’s interesting to note that the American mistrust of their government has led to them protesting with guns in state capitals, while the HK mistrust of their government (and their public briefings) only pushed the community to be even more aggressive in self isolation, mask procurement etc – better safe than sorry as many don’t feel the HK gov to have their backs in this after witnessing how they treated protesters. The quarantine measures are not as well executed as they are laid out in this piece, i.e. there were escapees who were issued warrants and landed on newspapers photographed in public with their electronic tags on them. When my own sister underwent quarantine after she flew back to HK from UK, she was told she would only be telephone IF she tested positive and there will be no call to clear her if she tested negative – leading to a relatively stressful 2 weeks of quarantine, again dumb.

    While everyone is still talking about the ‘new normal’ under COVID-19, most HKers have already adjusted to the new realities of living in a pandemic since Jan. Buttons in public spaces such as lobbies and office towers were already regularly sanitised but have increased in frequency (in fact they sell ‘plastic fingers’ solely for the purpose of touching public items in stores everywhere LOL). Thermal scans are common in most entry ways of public buildings, office towers, shops (though not completely sure how vigilant the security guards who monitor them are, though I have seen a couple of people flagged now and then). Restaurants regularly scan people’s temps before they enter, provide hand sanitisers as well as little sachets for people to put their masks in. Tables are shifted wider apart and spaced out. Bars and premises that sell mostly alcohol will remain closed (hilariously, the conservative chief executive said in an old public briefing that alcohol promotes contact with weirdly sexual innuendo). Contactless delivery is available for all food delivery apps. The conversation on the ground here are shifting away from COVID-19 even, towards protests that are inevitable to come in the summer.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *