‘A Definite and Sustained Increase’: Europe Leads Record Single-Day Worldwide Covid-19 Infection Surge

Yves here. While it is difficult to keep on top of the state and nation-level Covid trends, the uptick in Covid-19 cases in Europe looks to be more than just a blip. It may also be a “Winter is coming” level warning.

While infection levels didn’t fall off in the US in the summer, due mainly to ending many lockdowns too early and mask refusnik-dom in the South, in Europe, summer weather likely did play a part in the fall in infection levels.

If you expect to be spending a fair bit of time in your house this winter and you have a bit of free cash, consider getting humidifiers. Dry winter air increases vulnerability to respiratory infections. And in a bit of synchronicity, my very own NYC MD confirms that point in the first article I found on Google.

By Brett Wilkins, a staff writer for Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams

The World Health Organization reported a record one-day increase in global coronavirus infections on Thursday, with 338,779 new cases registered in the past 24 hours.

According to Reuters, the record single-day surge is largely driven by 96,996 new cases in Europe, which is now reporting more new cases than the United States, India, and Brazil—the world’s three most infected countries. India reported 78,524 new Covid-19 cases, followed by Brazil with 41,906 new infections, and the United States, with 38,904 new cases.

Covid-19 cases rose in 54 countries, with surges occurring in Argentina, Canada, and several European nations including France and Britain, which recorded record numbers of coronavirus infections.


“We are seeing a definite and sustained increase in cases and admissions to hospital,” Dr. Yvonne Doyle, medical director for Public Health England, told Reuters. “The trend is clear, and it is very concerning.”

The WHO reported Thursday that the worldwide Covid-19 death toll rose by 5,514 to 1.05 million, with a global total of just over 36 million cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

The United States still leads the world in total Covid-19 cases—over 7.8 million people, or 2.38% of the population, have been infected, including President Donald Trump—and deaths, with over 217,000 fatalities. Across the U.S., 39 states reportedincreases in infections on Wednesday, with six states—Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming—registering record Covid-19 hospitalizations.

“We’re in a crisis right now and need to immediately change our behavior to save lives,” said Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, who on Tuesday ordered bars and restaurants in the state to limit occupancy to 25% of capacity. “There’s no other way to put it, we are overwhelmed.”

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66 comments

  1. PlutoniumKun

    Its accelerated at a frightening rate the past few weeks – here in Ireland we are on the verge of another lockdown (the politicians are fighting it off as long as they can), and they seem to have passed the point of no return in the UK. Even Germany, which had a very successful strategy, seems to be losing the fight.

    I think there are a lot of factors at work – certainly the decision to relax movements in the summer to allow foreign holidays was a major factor in its spread (there are lots and lots of anecdotes around about people coming back from holidays with the infection), but it does seem that the general move back to school and work in September as expected has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

    No doubt there is some fatigue too – I overheard a conversation a few days ago with two people saying that this time they were not bothering to obey lockdown, they had weekend away trips planned and they were going to do them whatever they are told.

    Reply
    1. Terry Flynn

      Yep the holiday factor was a major factor IMHO, but as you say, the restart of the academic term in September/October has perhaps been the key factor. Whilst I probably bore my family and local friends with observations about “bad” mask usage round here, I have to say that most people have actually been pretty good at trying to follow the new rules and conventions, even if they aren’t brill at doing it.

      I live on outskirts of a city that had no reason to become a hotspot (not being commuter city or major centre for anything in particular), but it saw slippage during “holiday season” then collapse when the students came (back) and totally ignored all rules/conventions, thinking they’re invincible. I wish I had some “official” researcher with me on my walks into the city – anecdotally, I see worse mask usage and other behaviours needed to prevent/slow covid transmission the closer I get to the city (going through a younger studenty area).

      Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        I was talking last night to some friends from Leicester and Birmingham and they have similar stories, although they’ve said a lot of students are avoiding their fellow students for exactly this reason. Its a subset of students who just can’t resist it I think – enabled of course by Universities who have a financial reason to encourage them back to their lectures (here in Ireland at least that doesn’t apply, although there are reports of students going to their dorms for the social life despite all classes being online).

        The surge seems a lot worse in the UK – the hotspots in Ireland are noticeably clustered along the border, indicating that the UK is either a week or so ahead of the curve, or its just much more prevelant – Northern Ireland up to recently was relatively unscathed, although there has long (in Dublin) been suspicion about the real figures.

        Reply
        1. Terry Flynn

          Yeah I find it ironic that we in Nottingham hit the headlines when Derby’s main hospital had the first “surge” in A&E admissions of people with breathing difficulties who tested positive for covid-19. Derby’s university is newer and definitely “needs” money…….both Nottm’s unis are more established and may not have “encouraged” students back to lectures quite as forcefully (though the local press would have us believe the students believe they are inmates).

          I do seriously worry that people here, having tried their best so far, will see the new stats and just go “familyblog it” and give up. Medical doctor friend here already has said that’s our endgame but if you’re like me with a heart of dubious strength it does make you rather annoyed if supposedly educated group initiated/exacerbated a public health disaster!

          Reply
          1. rtah100

            We lucky denizens of Exeter have enjoyed, along with the rest of Devon, a coronavirus case rate too low to report (the 0-3 cases band) for several months. Life has not been normal but we have been able to live with prudence rather than fear.

            Cue the University students coming back and bang! We have gone from one of the lowest areas of incidence to one of the highest in the country (second highest after Nottingham). The University ward now has over 300 cases and two other wards have close a hundred each – and worse, the infection is spreading out radially, into the commuter villages (brought there by staff – or their teenager children socialising with students). Nearly every ward is now reporting 10+ cases. It is spreading in the rest of Devon too – only the remote farming areas look like avoiding it.

            I cannot begin to tell you how angry this makes me. During lockdown, the University had the temerity to “close” its campus (it cannot, it is a large hillside park that is unfenced and connects several suburbs and on which private residents with rights of access live: it is probably subjected to acquired public rights of way). It employed security guards to move on anybody who stopped to catch their breath or let their children play, despite the fact that is one of the few parks in Exeter and the density of people using it was so low that nobody was in danger. It also furloughed all its grounds staff and let the weeds grow but I will bet it paid the vice-chancellor, who is one of the highest paid in the country (his predecessor started the whole administrative-featherbedding racket).

            And now it has opened up in the name of Mammon. It has lured its students in and is farming them for their rents and tuition fees, while denying them a proper education or social freedom – and destroying the public good of low infection risk into the bargain.

            Selfish, selfish rent-seeking credentialists. I cannot wait until nobody shows up next term – they would be fools to come back after the Christmas vac – and then next year and the Chinese students stay away and the tumbleweed blows in the groves of academe.

            Aside:
            Interestingly, the Imperial College covid hotspot forecasting map calculates Exeter’s current R(t) as up to 4 (!) but also that it will plummet in the next fortnight to below 1. I emailed to ask and apparently it assumes homogeneous mixing so this is ceteris paribus herd immunity, in the absence of behavioural change.

            Reply
            1. oliverks

              In Scotland the search started with Unis reopening. It has been a disaster from a case count point of view. I honestly think Unis need to go to a new model for the time being.

              Reply
  2. cnchal

    Thousands of doctors and scientist from the elite institutions of venalty believe 10% of the world population has been infected, which would put the total at roughly 800 million yet in this article the WHO puts it at 36 million cases since the pandemic started or a difference by a factor of 22.

    What is anyone to believe now?

    Reply
    1. AnonyMouse

      With all due respect, I think most informed commentators have distinguished between confirmed cases and likely infections throughout the pandemic.

      Take Britain’s epidemic – in March/April there were only a few thousand “cases” per day, but infections are estimated many times higher than that due to a lack of testing.

      Even now, estimates for the actual number infected rely on testing a random sample of the population, via the ONS, and extrapolating this out to the whole.

      Retrospective studies of pandemics, like H1N1 swine flu 2009, do similar things. One estimate I’ve seen there was that 11-21% of the world was eventually infected with swine flu, although cases confirmed by laboratory tests were far lower.

      There is no inconsistency here; it’s just well-understood that “cases” are only a fraction of infections depending on how much testing is being done.

      Looking worldwide, we can see that there are a million deaths attributed to COVID-19. Deaths are probably being underestimated in most countries, although nowhere near as much as cases, as someone who is severely ill with COVID is more noticeable and more likely to be tested. The infection fatality rate is estimated to be between 0.5%-1% by independent studies. So you can see that a lower bound based on deaths would be between 100 million and 200 million infections, which obviously exceeds the 36 million cases confirmed.

      Reply
    2. Count Zero

      It is not a matter of believing anything. Different agencies and scientists are approaching this pandemic from different angles in different contexts and developing different assessments for very different purposes. And they are doing their best in a rapidly changing situation.

      Anonymous gives a very careful reply to your complaint. But there is a chorus of people getting upset because the world is complicated and full of uncertainties and like frightened children they don’t know who to “believe.” Nobody knows. A lot of people are working very hard and doing their best to contribute something useful to understanding all the different dimensions of this pandemic. Critical thinking has to live with informed uncertainty. Belief is for children and conspiracy victims.

      Reply
      1. Ian Ollmann

        Believe in the solidity of your front door, I say.

        Really, before becoming bored with the virus and ignoring common sense advice, I suggest looking up the history of the Spanish flu. It came in many waves. The first one was much less severe than the second or third, when people had grown tired of following health protocols. Those waves killed a lot of people.

        The virus hasn’t gotten any less virulent or decided to let us off for good behavior. It is there waiting mindlessly for you to let your guard down.

        Reply
      1. Yves Smith Post author

        No, not true given long Covid, heart, respiratory system, and/or kidney damage, and other lasting effects. Since when does the flu permanently harm your ticker? And scientists have found damage in people with mild or no symptoms…

        Reply
        1. Larry

          This is the hobby horse of people who wish to deny that COVID is a problem and you’re correct to point this out Yves. I live in Massachusetts and there is deep fatigue with the safety policies we have put into place. I try to remind people that if we spike hard, school is going away again. And when they say COVID is no more dangerous than the flu, I remind them that our hospital system was at full capacity in Boston with emergency clinics being put together in our conventions centers. People do remember that, but they really wish to suppress that reality.

          Reply
        2. Jamie Griffiths

          “Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from flu, while pneumonia is a serious flu complication that can result from either influenza virus infection alone or from co-infection of flu virus and bacteria. Other possible serious complications triggered by flu can include inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle (myositis, rhabdomyolysis) tissues, and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure). Flu virus infection of the respiratory tract can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Flu also can make chronic medical problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have flu, and people with chronic heart disease may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu.”

          https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm

          Reply
          1. Clive

            Yes, cardiovascular complications have long been associated with influenza in studies going back a decade or more e.g. https://www.escardio.org/Journals/E-Journal-of-Cardiology-Practice/Volume-4/vol4n8-Title-Influenza-Vaccination-in-Cardiovascular-Disease with a result that, in more recent years, getting a ‘flu vaccination is now indicated https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.cir.0000102380.47012.92 — if only on a prophylactic basis as the casual link isn’t robust (likely to be an inflammatory response either causing or worsening pre-existing atherosclerosis).

            Reply
          2. Philip Cross

            When people talk about about flu death statistics, they are usually talking about total number of deaths from flu and pneumonia combined. When reported separately, hardly anyone dies of flu, it’s mostly pneumonia. Pneumonia is a very common cause of death in the bedridden elderly, which results in high mortality every year, especially during winter.

            In this story from 2018 in the UK they estimate there were 2.6m infections and 215 deaths from flu alone. IFR ~0.0001% vs ~0.5% for Covid-19. More than 3 orders of magnitude, 5000x more deadly than flu in that instance, it is also much more contagious, with a higher attack rate too.

            https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5531363/flu-deaths-200-uk-nhs-second-worst-record/

            Reply
        3. Synoia

          I wonder, is this Nature striking back against the plague of humans?

          Raising the question of which is the real plague on the planet, Humans or Covid?

          Reply
        4. vlade

          You can have a serious long term damage from flu, I’m pretty sure cardiac and pulmonary at least.

          But it’s fairly rare.

          Reply
          1. Nick Alcock

            The architecture of the circulatory system is such that any infection getting into your lungs (viral, bacterial, it doesn’t matter) is as a matter of course going to bathe your heart in high-intensity infectious material until the infection passes — and unlike flu, this thing binds directly to receptors present in great quantities in heart muscle (and blood vessel walls in general), and as usual infected cells are routinely forced to commit apoptosis by the immune system, even if they’re, say, heart muscle cells.

            Reply
    3. Bill

      Reported cases is precisely that, the number that has been reported. Of course it does not count the unreported infections, because obviously those infections have not been reported. The reported cases figure measures only the reported cases.

      Same thing that people get the case fatality rate mixed up with the infection fatality rate. Only when an infection is reported , does it become a case.

      There are no unreported cases, because all cases are reported. Those infections which are not reported are not cases

      Reply
    1. Adam1

      I love the slide on ice analogy. Granted I’ve lived my life mostly where we average 100 inches or more of snow a year, but it is apt. Often when driving you can feel the wheels loose grip and an experienced winter/snow driver can recover quite quickly without putting the car in the snow bank. However, sometimes we don’t realize exactly what our conditions is… we might over compensate which means we stop the swing of the car in one direction only to find were now loosing control but just in a different direction. From there few can recover from over correcting and still end up in the snow bank. Other times when we have misjudged our condition (and sometimes our experience) we don’t react sufficiently and that skid just continues and we end up in the snow bank.

      With respect to the virus in the spring nobody in the west (meaning NYC, N. Italy , London, etc..) reacted fast enough. We thought we had it under control but the reality was we were so far behind the curve it exploded before our eyes. For other places we locked down too soon and/or politicized actions which lead some people to ignore the seriousness of the situation and when the virus swung around and “spiked” it was too late before it was a major surge.

      Now it seems as if we are all sliding around on the ice and we don’t have any TRAINED winter drivers at the wheel – all the “experienced” drivers have already crapped their pants from earlier this year.

      Reply
  3. Polar Donkey

    Around here, high school athletic teams have been a main source of spreading covid in high schools, primarily football teams. Just like how the NFL can’t keep it together, even more so high school teams. Unfortunately, high schoolers sit in classrooms with other students. It causes numerous other students to be quarantined because of possible exposure to athletes. But football must go on. For what reason, I’m not sure. Financially, a well attended game at pretty good size school brings in $50,000 in ticket sales. There aren’t any well attended games this season, especially this past Friday. There was a big game between two schools in Mississippi. Schools are about an hour and half away from each other. Normally, both fan bases travel. Weather was nice. No one in the stands. Maybe Trump getting covid finally scared folks. Why are they still doing this aside from high school coaches thinking they are all General Pattons fighting the Battle of the Bulge.

    Reply
    1. curlydan

      it’s the parents and student athletes, too. Chants of “Let them play” ring out at school board meetings in my area. Parents living vicariously through their kids’ sports endeavors, the always elusive college scholarship being sold to the parents as justification for egregious “club” fees, and the athlete’s knowledge that this might be their last chance to play (especially if they’re seniors) all contribute to the problem. They all think it can’t happen to them.

      I’m not innocent either. I coach a 6th grade soccer team, and we do socially distant practices and play weekly outdoor games. I always wear a mask and I think I’m being kind of safe, but there is a risk there too.

      Reply
    2. Adam1

      “Maybe Trump getting covid finally scared folks.”

      Sadly, since early on I’ve repeatedly said, “not enough dead people yet”. If you look at every local / region wave it takes a lot of reality to kick in before people all of a sudden the surge peaks and falls. That’s not because of “herd immunity” it’s because people have gotten the taste of reality. Where I live in Upstate NY we have been blessed with limited infection but also living close enough so that many people have second hand stories of the people who died in NYC. My neighbor’s daughter, who babysat my kids’, lives in the NYC area and her preschool son has 2 close friend without dads; a third dad is a long hauler – last I knew he was going on a month of running a fever and insufferable fatigue. I just keep praying my communities vigilance stays strong because fatiguing in containing the spread right now would be seasonally bad!

      Reply
      1. Arizona Slim

        Local high school football team must quarantine. Link:

        https://kvoa.com/coronavirus-coverage/2020/10/05/salpointe-hs-football-placed-on-quarantine-after-student-tests-positive-for-covid-19/

        Someone I know well sent her daughter to this school. Daughter graduated last year and went out of state for college. And, guess what. Daughter’s school is considered to be one of THE hotspots in that state.

        I don’t dare bring this topic up with Mom. It’s simply too upsetting.

        Reply
  4. Terry Flynn

    We in Nottinghamshire are about to get clobbered due to (primarily) the students (look up the UK ward-level stats – our “Nottingham spike” is all in the student wards). Though many have been reluctant to publicise the data loudly, the Guardian has now done so but it has completely lost whatever scientific credibility it was beginning to earn when it cross posted from Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science column after the MMR debacle. There seems to be a re-emergence of the “50% coverage to each side” approach. This appals me, given what I know from locals here…though “millennial bashers” would have a field day with what this article quotes from students who clearly don’t read NC and thus don’t know that 15% of healthy people (athletes) were found to have heart damage from covid-19. As someone who had heart surgery and taught these types, I despair. From the article:

    Emma Graves, 20, a second-year textiles student at Nottingham Trent out for coffee with three of her housemates, said her circle were being sensible, but added she was “lucky enough to live with eight people I like”……A 20-year-old student at the University of Nottingham, out for lunch in the trendy pocket of the city known as Hockley, went so far as to say he and his friends wanted to catch the virus. “It’s a bit of a thing in our house. We kind of just want to get it so that we can stay inside for two weeks and just get it over with,” he said, while the friend he was with added: “It’s just a cold.”

    I am family-blogged off, seeing less educated people around here doing a better job of trying to reduce transmission.

    Reply
    1. Clive

      The Guardian may well be adopting its editorial approach because even it knows it is commercially unviable to try to live off a market comprised solely of “Level 5 lockdowns for however long it takes” proponents.

      That, and the stoking up generational warfare.

      There was no link to the “15% of healthy people…” heart damage claim, but athletes are a sub group at particular risk of myocarditis https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2018/01/18/15/00/myocarditis-in-the-athlete if they continue to train — especially if they over train — with a viral infection. They should be excluded (or their data normalised for their risk factor by a comprehensive analysis of their training schedules at the time) in any respectable study.

      Reply
  5. Eelok

    Here in Ontario, it’s been obvious for two weeks that this was the direction things were headed. In addition to modelling projections showing 1k cases/day by mid-October (today was 939), it just seemed clear to me that we were seeing a similar uptick in daily cases but without the same sense of urgency that allowed us to eventually get it under control back in the spring.

    Action has been slow and totally insufficient. After we broke the 1 day record from the first wave, our government’s “new restrictions” amounted to having restaurants and bars close a few hours earlier and reducing maximum capacity from 100 patrons to 75. We didn’t need broad, top-down mandates because people would instinctively adjust their behaviour.

    They didn’t, and now we’re going to pay the price. Hospitalizations are jumping. At this point, the lag here should be very predictable, but I still saw people referring to lower hospitalizations as a sign that things wouldn’t be as bad! Stronger measures might finally be coming today, but not knowing what they’ll be this time, and knowing how long they take to work, we don’t really know when this thing will flatten out.

    Reply
    1. jcmcdonal

      Yep, hoping for something… But from everyone I’ve talked to and heard about, a lot of people are just acting like normal, and think they’re invincible with a mask… And because restaurants are still open it’s ok to meet up with friends there despite the cancelling of bubbles.

      Reply
  6. CuriosityConcern

    I wonder if installing a little UV light fixture in your home would help in any way?
    I suppose exposure to UV is dangerous, so maybe arrange it so the light emitted and reflected doesn’t constantly bath your(and fellow denizens) skin and eyes.
    Rationale is those papers earlier this year describing how high altitude people seemed to not get COVID as much or as bad. Also the discussion of vitamin D on this site.

    Reply
      1. CuriosityConcern

        I mostly agree with your statement but I’d like to share my personal counterexample: a household of 4 where one person only spends 50% of their time there. If that one person becomes exposed, my thinking is their aerosols could be reduced via UV. I suppose air filters and humidifiers would be good alternates/supplements.
        Zamfir below also mentions reasonable countermeasures.

        Reply
    1. Zamfir

      My understanding (but check for yourself): if the UV is strong enough to kill the virus, it’s strong enough to be bad for you.

      There are safe and simple alternatives – soap kills the virus, fairly standard air filters capture the virus. Ventilation removes the virus. These are method that you can turn up to eleven without risk .You need a rather special situation where UV would be better than those.

      Reply
        1. Count Zero

          That’s very good news, rusti. I saw reports back in April or May about “far uv” (?) that was effective in clearing a room of virus in minutes. It seemed the perfect solution and if relatively cheap it would become the norm in all kinds of public spaces, especially perhaps classrooms and hospital wards. It seemed far more promising than vaccines. But then I heard nothing more.

          Reply
          1. Tom Bradford

            Seems to me that if this virus is airborne and transmitted by coughs and sneezes you’e talking a matter of seconds between it being ejected by the infected and inhaled by the recipient. Just reflect on the time it takes for your nose to detect a puff of tobacco smoke exhaled by someone close by. UV light to kill it that quickly would have to be at dangerous levels while ventilation even if it cleared the room in minutes would be too slow to have much effect.

            I would offer this is why the virus does seem to be less contagious out of doors – even a zephyr of a breeze disperses the virus load of a cough or sneeze to a far greater extent than almost all indoor situations.

            Reply
            1. CuriosityConcern

              I’m of a mind that indoor UV would not prevent exposure from the initial sneeze you mention(correctly imho), but I do think it would mitigate post sneeze exposure by reducing viral load in air faster than otherwise, maybe enough to make a difference?

              Reply
    2. Hayek's Heelbiter

      UV-C itself is dangerous but the only wavelength that kill 100% of coronavirus.

      Ordinary ventilation such as air conditioners or regular air sanitizers DO NOT REMOVE viruses. They are worse than nothing, as they convert large viral aggregates into (which linger in the air for several hours ) into aerosols or microdroplets which can linger in the air for up to three days. Which is why cruise ships turned into floating Petri dishes and so many people caught CV19 on airplanes. Japanese scientists have discovered that the best way to disperse CV19 viral particles is to open windows and doors.

      Best solution for rooms with limited air flow is air sanitizers with sealed UV-C units.

      https://heavy.com/home/2020/03/uv-air-purifier/

      Indeed, why aren’t these air purifiers being manufactured in the millions? Let’s see. $250 to install a UV-C air purifier. Or $250 for a few hours in a hospital (often multiplied by by weeks or months). Hmmm.

      Reply
  7. Zamfir

    Does anyone have a good explanation for the steadiness of the epidemic in the US? Simple theory says that the epidemic should either be growing or shrinking. And in many places, that’s what you see. Waves of growth, a fairly short peak, then shrinking down towards low numbers, sometimes new growth.

    Many Europeans got fooled by American numbers, I think. The daily numbers in the US were higher than in Europe for months, but that hid that the growth rate was already positive in Europe, and not (yet?) In the US

    Reply
    1. Darthbobber

      Europeans are “fooled” by our numbers because they are accustomed to thinking of a national response as, well, national. Our national response is the sum of an assortment of state and local responses by no means all pulling in the same direction, plus the occasional state court ruling that overturns even such measures as are being attempted in one jurisdiction or another.

      Reply
      1. Zamfir

        That makes sense, thanks! We might see the same effect now in Europe – people getting spooked into stricter observance. Or not. And autumn might make it all more difficult anyway.

        It’s a deep frustration of mine. We have and slow but exponential growth for months now. But people and authorities are still surprised that it eventually becomes a macroscopic problem.

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    2. Adam1

      I’d agree with Darthbobber’s explanation. If you look close it’s not steady in the US. It ebbs and flows which averages out at the nationals level as steadiness. It’s almost as if it requires a certain amount of a local surge to get some people to really adhere to guidelines and then the infection rate locally falls but that’s masked by some other community seeing a surge.

      Reply
      1. Adam1

        Additionally if you look at the state level, states with current or ongoing problems have insufficient trace and contact staffing. What drives me nuts is we destroyed the economy with a lock down which was meant to reduce infection rates so that effective trace and contact could contain the virus. But we never actually put that in place!!! On top of that, we probably are using the wrong method of trace and contact. What’s deployed is forward tracing. Find all the people who’ve been exposed and have them isolate. However, most people don’t spread the illness. 5-10% account for 80’sh percent of the spread (super spreaders). We should be deploying backward tracing to find those that are spreading and get them to isolate. And then forward trace from the super spreader.

        Reply
        1. Bill Smith

          My opinion is that contract tracing is useless at this scale. -> Even if you did it for yourself. That is keep track of everywhere you go and everyone you have meet.

          I was at the grocery store, wearing a mask, mostly stayed 6 feet away from everyone else but got unlucky as all that only lowers the odds. Who gave it to me?

          At the other end of the range, I went to a party last night. I don’t know most of the people who were there. But someone gave it to me.

          Reply
          1. Zamfir

            If the supermarket example were the leftover cases, we would have won, I think. The virus can’t prosper on such events alone.

            The party, on the other hand, seems doable? The party organizer should keep a guest list , that’s not a crazy burden. I’ve got to fill in my name lately on lots of such lists. That might not work for illegal raves. But again, the virus is not going to prosper on illegal raves alone.

            In Germany, they encourage people to keep ‘cluster diaries’. Every time you were at a location with many people, write it down. Then if you test positive, the contact tracers can focus on your diary entries

            Reply
            1. Adam1

              Agreed. Going to the supermarket is unlikely (but not impossible) to expose anyone person to enough virus to get sick unless you stop and talk a while to that person, but then you are likely to remember that contact.

              Go to a party as a guest… Sure YOU might not know the people there, but odds are the host or others would be able to piece that together. That’s the job of contact tracers.

              With that said, in many places I agree with Bill, the rate of contagion is so rampant trace and contact can’t work fast enough to get or stay ahead of the virus. Hence the wasted spring lock down in so many areas. If say Florida had realized the situation at the beginning of the lock down in March and been fully at scale for contract & trace it could have averted it’s massive summer surge. Add in covid trained dogs and places like Disney could easily be open and running with few concerns. But today we rely on sheer fear of communities to truly keep the virus from running like wild fire – look at Wisconsin… it’s gotten ugly and the only reason the infection rate is falling is enough people have gotten scared sh*tless.

              Reply
  8. Mark

    Does anyone have a good explanation for the steadiness of the epidemic in the US? Simple theory says that the epidemic should either be growing or shrinking. And in many places, that’s what you see. Waves of growth, a fairly short peak, then shrinking down towards low numbers, sometimes new growth.

    Warm weather combined with a degree of individual choice of infection control have likely kept a lid on things. Individual choice infection control varies with the perceived state of risk so it has an effect of capping growth to a degree. I fear that winter is still coming for the US and things could get alot worse. Look at spikes in some of the colder, drier states like Montana (selectively picked).

    Ironically if no vaccine arrives the slow burn that the USA has allowed (by accident or design) might actually have better outcomes than the European reaction. But if a effective vaccine is around the corner the certainly millions have suffered from the virus for naught.

    I’m commenting from Victoria, Australia. We have been suffering under the some of the strictest and longest lockdowns of OECD countries thanks to an outbreak in our winter. The state premier is being accused by many of being a dictator and turning us into a police state… While he has had slight majority approval of the actions taken, when you have months of very tight restrictions it does wear thin even on the most civic minded of us. For some perspective we are now averaging 10 cases a day in a city of 5million and we are trying to get that lower. CNN has more favourable coverage of our situation than our own media!
    https://edition.cnn.com/2020/09/21/australia/australia-coronavirus-lockdown-intl-hnk/index.html
    (For over 3 months we’ve been locked up with night time curfews, 5km movement limits and unable to visit family and friends. It hasn’t been easy.)

    The outcomes of the northern hemisphere winter will be an image of what we have avoided. If things get worse in Europe and the US it could get quite ugly, but a few people down here will be feeling vindicated.

    Reply
    1. Adam1

      My fear is the slow burn turns into way too many embers for when it does get cold. You are right about rising rates now that it’s started to get colder here up north, BUT I’m still wearing a T-shirt today even though I’m not in shorts – 66 degrees F around 3pm local, but highs earlier this week were in the 50’s.

      Real, day in day out, indoor weather is still a month or so away. Those rising rates are scary given that it’s only early October. We’ve only just started fall let alone winter. The local medical consciencious/estimate here is that we’ve had about a 2-3% post-infection / immunity. We’re about 5 hours from NYC where they estimate about 22% immunity. We’re wide open to an uncontrolled surge because the lockdown worked very well for us. Locally I feel people are being mostly vigilant, but there are hot embers not too far off.

      It’s an exponential thing most people don’t understand/get. Everyone feels they have it under control or understand… “some people” might have it, but we’re safe. YUP (for now)! And then there are people in the community with it… and they start to worry. However, it goes from SOME to many extremely fast and that’s the part people don’t seem to comprehend. Just look at every spike curve… grows slowly… then the pace increases (when people are starting to get worried, but not sure about doing anything)… then it explodes… and then it falls because locally everyone finally gets it and hunkers down.

      The sad part is that it can be managed, but we are not socially prepared or mentally equipped to do it.

      Reply
    2. Basil Pesto

      The outcomes of the northern hemisphere winter will be an image of what we have avoided. If things get worse in Europe and the US it could get quite ugly, but a few people down here will be feeling vindicated.

      An excellent point that people here would do well to keep in mind when the News Corp driven outrage subsides a bit.

      I was critical of Andrews because it was the government’s bungling of the hotel quarantine with private security contractors that got us in this second mess in the first place (and I’ve copped shit for being critical in a group chat of soi-disant progressives. it’s a hard pass on Obamist personality cults for politicians from me), but I support strong lockdowns (after Taleb/Bar Yam’s risk analysis, and with the proviso that ideally the state and especially federal government’s should do everything they can to support the population during such a lockdown as opposed to hanging them out to dry). I’m lucky in that I can tolerate them pretty well though. I can’t deny it’s been tough for many.

      Melbourne’s parks the last couple of weeks since the outdoor restrictions were lightened have been a sight to see.

      Reply
  9. Ignacio

    Rising the alarms does for itself a very good job helping stop accelerating spread, and regarding restrictions, it is better to menace with restrictions (credibly) than actually implementing those. The alarms should include info of airborne spreading to prevent gatherings indoors without masks.

    There are places likes rests and bars where people remove it to eat and drink and if good retrospective contact tracing it is almost certain these are among the sites where more superspreading events occur. Insisting also on the social distance avoiding direct contact with people you meet.

    Strategies to prevent superspreading events should be devised, starting with the implementation of proper contact tracing strategies aimed to detect those events.

    There is a divide between people that see themselves as high Covid risk while many others don’t really see Covid as a danger. Mortality rates have fallen quite a lot since early outbreaks probably very much in part because people with higher risk protect themselves and are less frequently infected. Summer also influences to reduce, for a given viral load, the multiplicity of infection resulting in milder outcomes. As Yves Smith notes, winter is coming and this second effect will play in the other direction in following months. In winter, the share of home contagions will increase again and because people in general will be very reluctant to wear masks at home + the winter effect this might result in a significant increase in Covid severity.

    Reply
    1. Adam1

      Just to add…
      1) Part of the reason for falling fatalities is falling viral loads. Back in the spring no one was socially distancing, no one was masking and everyone went to work or school even if they were ill (at least in the US). That has changed which has helped lower viral loads at the point of infection, which is important relative to infection outcomes.
      2) Winter became spring and then summer. Normal vitamin D levels swung up and studies show if you’re low or deficient of vitamin D your infection rate is higher (as wells as odds of poor outcome).
      3) It was still late winter (in the northern latitudes)… everyone was indoors and everything was shut up and the heat was on. Absent humidity (dry/heated air makes fat droplets smaller in second via evaporation and smaller droplets can linger for hours) and excellent air ventilations being indoors is not good if someone around you is infected.

      Of the above, some of them are just normally going to reverse. It will test us. Hopefully we have learned enough so that it’s not April 2020 again come January or February 2021 where we need mass graves and refrigerated trucks.

      Reply
      1. Larry

        This point of initial viral load is a difficult concept for people to grasp, and one I try to communicate to people with a simple example. If you have a shot of bourbon, you’ll be completely fine. If you drink a bottle of bourbon in one go, well then you might have a problem.

        The conservative hive mind is hitching onto college numbers report to say that COVID is no big deal: https://www.outkick.com/latest-college-campus-covid-statistics-show-no-death-nearly-zero-hospitalizations/

        But of course there are several factors at play here. This is a young and largely healthy cohort of young adults. Parties and social events are still able to happen outdoors or with windows open and some circulation, likely reducing potential exposure to the virus. And if the tests are PCR based, they are incredibly sensitive. My wife works at Brown University, which is testing on campus individuals twice a week. They have had 10 people test false positive who are conducting COVID research. So the positive cases in these college cohorts could well be people who have incredibly mild cases and aren’t even spreaders. And coming back to your statement of viral load, that’s a huge deal. The body of a healthy adult can likely fight off a weak exposure with ease.

        Reply
  10. Clive

    To really tackle a low humidity problem — and if funds allow — the best fix is to resolve what is at base an air infiltration cause. Humidifiers are band-aids by comparison https://www.energyvanguard.com/blog/57151/A-Humidifier-Is-a-Bandaid-The-Problem-Is-Infiltration

    Plus a leaky house is an energy hog house.

    That said, lax US building practices and forced-air systems mean many homes aren’t particularly easy to manage outdoor air infiltration issues in (you tend to need to encapsulate the crawl space and/or attic and close up leaking ducts to avoid cresting the negative building pressure which is sucking in air from outside).

    But not a cheap problem to resolve that way.

    Reply
    1. Ignacio

      About ventilation: home ventilation is usually done by just opening windows, for a short time in winter logically, but the energy-savvy alternative would be the installation of double-tube vent systems with heat recovery with very much reduced heat losses. Yet, regarding virus spread, as this system generates air circulation through all the house the bathroom(s) could possibly become a high infection risk site if all the air is vented through it. If someone at home is infected her/his room should be disconnected from the system. Window opening would be better for… ‘infectious rooms’.

      I don’t know Clive if there are commercially available humidifiers to be coupled to such double-tube vent systems or if one has to set humidifiers independently.

      Reply
      1. Clive

        Generally, I’m very sceptical of any amateur or rule-of-thumb attempts at controlling the conditions or airflow within a space in a residential setting. It’s likely to result in, at best, some tinkering round the edges of the parameters with nothing which you could consider reliable control. The main reason being that it’s hard enough to create an air-tight building envelope for the building as a whole, let alone a particular room in it.

        This fairly non-jargon’ey explanation gives some ideas of the complexities https://www.trane.com/content/dam/Trane/Commercial/global/products-systems/education-training/engineers-newsletters/airside-design/admapn003en_0502.pdf — the main problem is controlling air distribution. Turn on a bath exhaust fan or a kitchen hood ventilator and air will get sucked out of a room due to building balance change — even if a door is closed, it’s not an airlock and you could be pulling hundreds of litres of air an hour out of that room just through this simple flicking of a switch somewhere else in the conditioned space. Similarly, the stack effect will pull air out of a first floor room towards the top of the house in a multi-level dwelling. An open window can over-pressurise the room you’re trying to isolate and have the opposite effect to the fan running elsewhere — it will push air out of the room towards anywhere where infiltration is possible (through floorboard gaps, drywall that’s not been filled with foam or other insulation, back along the ductwork…).

        But to answer a specific, yes, you can get HRV (heat reclamation ventilation) https://www.daikin.co.uk/content/dam/document-library/catalogues/vent/heat-reclaim-ventilation/vam-fa/HRV%20(VAM-FA-%20VKM-GM-%20VKM-G)_%20EPCE05-44A_Catalogues_English.pdf systems which humidify (and dehumidify if that is needed) — the Japanese manufactures are well ahead in this field where individual control of particular rooms is needed in an overall conditioned space (see the specific use-case of an isolation room on pg. 9). As you rightly say, central systems present a big problem by comparison with this Japanese-origin mini-split approach as it is, unlike the small dedicated unit based systems direction which the Japanese manufactures have gone in, impossible or almost so to cut off individual rooms within the space served by the central system.

        Reply
        1. Ignacio

          Rather than control what is done is a calculation on the basis of room volumes, but this works usually correctly as long as the calculations and pipe sizes are well done.

          Reply
    2. vlade

      The house I live in is pretty air-tight (well, or would be, if I could persuade my wife that ventilation should be rapid and substantial, not an inch-wide opening all day no matter the external temperature), but there’s just not enough sources of water evaporation (right now, wife’s looking at getting more plants in) and enough of water sinks (wooden floors) that the air is very dry in winter – low 30% unless we run a few humidifiers.

      But, instead of humidifier, I’d suggest people get a few pot plants, as they are good not only for incresing humidity but also act as air filters too. But I can see that not everyone (renting, for example), can do that.

      Reply
  11. Dave-in-Austin

    I live in Austin, TX. Because I’m old and love research I routinely read non-US, English language newspapers. So in early February, courtesy of the South China Post, the Asahi Shimbun, the wonderful Taiwan and South Korean press and one little North Italian newsletter, I said “Uh oh, this is no longer containable and may (or may not) be the big one”. So I sold all my stocks and went to cash in late Feb, purchased a 6 month’s supply of the necessities (food, vodka, marijuana, toilet paper, bleach, printer cartridges and spices) and on the theory that I may have to duck-tape the doors and windows and live in “Space capsule Dave” for ½ year I investigated air filters.

    I found ONE thaat works. The Covid virus is 1.7 nano-meters (nm) wide. HEPA filters work down to 5 nm; the sort of electrostatic filters used in clean rooms are not available for apartments at any price. But there was one usable filter, designed 30 years ago by a Portuguese engineer for his mold-intolerant kid. The AirFree 3,000 is wonderfully simple- a bundle of thin (1/4 inch) ceramic tubes heated to 450 degrees F point up- air enters the bottom and the air moves by convention up and out- and every carbon-based life form is turned into carbon dust. No motor; just set it up in a 400-600 ft room and in two days all the air will have passed through it. And it is cute- a little 18″ tall R2D2. So I ordered one through Amazon for $200 as a test. After two days running in my bedroom my lifetime, morning hacking cough was gone- finished. I got two more units for myself and one for my brother and spread the word among the people I knew in Austin- by March 1 they were out of stock. They are again available. I know this sounds like an add- it isn’t. The 3,000 is a remarkable and inexpensive solution for a closed space.

    On the Covid case increase in WI, ND, SD and Montana; I looked at the county and local date. It looks like immigrant male agricultural laborer living in crowded conditions and American Indian tribes have been badly hit. Winter comes; people who had been sitting around outside in the evening move indoors because of the cold and shorter days. Crowded poorly ventilated housing seems to be the main problem.

    And me? 6 am swims at the local YMCA two-to-a-lane; four mile walks around town lake at sunrise. A cosy home and enough money.

    And I look at the homeless tent encampments under the interstate… some of those people are just lazy; the bottom 1/10th of our society. Some are drunks or off their meds. But many are just the lost souls; products of broken homes and accidental victims of our open borders (the well-off like me get cheap labor; the disorganized and imperfect find the bottom rung of the labor world filled with competition). The moral problem is real- do we help poor, desperate people from high birth rate, overpopulated third world countries who come here illegally or do we help the imperfect folks who were born here, the bottom of our own labor pool, people who are not very dependable or competent. What helps one group hurts the other.. I have no answer. I feel fortunate and sad as the days grow shorter.

    Reply

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