Coronavirus Special Coverage

A collection of news posted throughout the week for those that want signal, not noise.

  • Previous coverage - all of our posts in this ongoing series.
  • Coronavirus status page - learn how to prepare for possible spread to your area. Scenarios, shopping lists, background info and everything else you need, all in one place.

COVID-19: key developments for Monday, February 24, 2020

A collection of key developments in the fight against COVID-19 (the actual virus is SARS-COV-2), posted throughout the week for those who just want the signal and not the noise. If there’s something you think we should include, sound off in the comments thread attached to the post.

Visit our Wuhan coronavirus status page and learn how to prepare for possible spread to your area. Scenarios, shopping lists, background info, and everything else you need, all in one place.

Previously: The previous day’s key developments post is here.

[9:36 pm] A fourth passenger from the Diamond Princess has died of coronavirus. As of today, there are two that have recovered, 35 in serious condition, and a total of 691 confirmed cases. We still have a ways to go before that cohort passes through all the stages of this illness and we get a good picture of who has what outcome.

[9:35 pm] On Sunday, the CDC updated its guidance for what to expect next from COVID-19.

More cases are likely to be identified in the coming days, including more cases in the United States. It’s also likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur, including in the United States. Widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time. Schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism. Public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded, with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths. Other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected. Health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed. At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it. Nonpharmaceutical interventions would be the most important response strategy.

[9:34 pm] Your daily reminder that the CDC still doesn’t have its act together, and has only tested 426 samples to find a grand total of 14 cases, here. As was said by a former FDA commissioner in a previous update, we are not finding more COVID-19 cases in the US because we are not looking for them.

[9:33 pm] From me in WIRED, where I argue that in order to stop COVID-19 from interfering with the 2020 elections, we must immediately move to vote-by-mail in all states. Coronavirus May Disrupt the 2020 Election. We Need a Plan.

This means it’s time for Americans to begin to think through how to pull off a national election against the backdrop of a pandemic that would surely see voter turnout significantly suppressed, especially in dense urban areas and among vulnerable populations.

The alternative could very well be a vicious fight over whether to postpone the 2020 elections. Politicians representing the most rural voters would likely push to go ahead. Representatives of larger, denser, harder hit population centers would call for a delay over concerns that a mix of fear of further spread, illness, and quarantines—either officially recommended or self-imposed—will decimate turnout in their districts. Whether the election goes ahead despite the outbreak or it’s postponed until the crisis is over, the losing side could have a reasonable case that the results are illegitimate, and we could end up in uncharted constitutional territory if one party refuses to accept the results.

[9:31 pm] The Atlantic gives away the punchline: You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus. In the article are some insights from Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, who thinks this is not containable:

Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)

[9:30 pm] Japan has ten new cases, and Japanese health experts think the numbers could begin to climb in a big way in the next week or two.

[9:29 pm] More on the theme of drug shortages here because of the China shutdown. If we get a big wave of coronavirus here and cannot get basic drugs and antibiotics, things will get bad. Scoop: Coronavirus threatens shortages of about 150 drugs. “About 150 prescription drugs — including antibiotics, generics and some branded drugs without alternatives — are at risk of shortage if the coronavirus outbreak in China worsens, according to two sources familiar with a list of at-risk drugs compiled by the Food and Drug Administration.”

I think that list should be made public.

[9:27 pm] Indonesia now says it has 9 confirmed cases, but they’re all from the cruise ship and in a hospital in Japan. The country still claims to be COVID-19 free, a claim that is just not really credible at all.

[9:22 pm] This piece sums up what most of us following this already know about the severity of the virus — that men may be more at risk than women, and that the elderly and already ill are the most at risk of severe illness.

The second paragraph reiterates numbers from studies we’ve already see before, but they’re worth revisiting because it’s a reminder that if the number of cases is so high in an area that many simply cannot get a hospital bed, then many of those “severe” and “critical” cases turn into fatalities:

Fourteen percent of confirmed cases have been “severe,” involving serious pneumonia and shortness of breath. Another 5 percent of patients confirmed to have the disease developed respiratory failure, septic shock, and/or multi-organ failure—what the agency calls “critical cases” potentially resulting in death. Roughly 2.3 percent of confirmed cases did result in death.

This is why the name of the game is now delay, so that we can even out the number of infections over time and avoid overwhelming hospitals with a surge of patients. This will keep the fatality rate down, since more people can get treatment.

[9:19 pm] I said in my Friday update that Iran was deeply worrying, and today the situation looks very bad. Qom appears to be in dire straits, with widespread transmission, and they’re calling for help from the central government. A local official there claimed there had been 50 deaths due to the virus, but the central government — keen to downplay the severity — disputed that number and suggested just 18 deaths.

Then there’s the standard-issue authoritarian “fake it ’till you make it” aspect:

Where have we seen that, before?

[9:14 pm] This is partly a reiteration of the WHO’s September 2019 report saying that the US (and world) is not ready for a pandemic respiratory virus, but there’s a little more color now on the ways in which we’re in trouble: As Fears of a Pandemic Mount, W.H.O. Says World Is Not Ready

After two weeks on the ground in China, a team sent by the W.H.O. concluded that the draconian measures China imposed a month ago may have saved hundreds of thousands of people from infection. Such measures — sealing off cities, shutting down businesses and schools, ordering people to remain indoors — have provoked anger in China and could be difficult to replicate in democratic countries with a greater emphasis on protecting civil liberties.

So the consensus seems to be that these extreme measures worked, but that they’ll be very difficult to implement in most other countries.

I’d actually like to suggest that this may not turn out to be the case, depending on what the fatality rate ends up being. If it’s deadly enough, we’ll probably try some pretty extreme measures, here, and most people will probably go along with them.

[9:49 pm] This is simply outstanding — the best “real talk” I’ve read in many days, from two risk communication professionals. Read the whole thing. Past Time to Tell the Public: “It Will Probably Go Pandemic, and We Should All Prepare Now”.

[9:12 pm] The numbers in South Korea are on an exponential growth curve, with confirmed cases hitting 893 today and now 9 deaths. There now appears to be widespread community transmission in the country.

The US CDC has issued a Level 3 advisory against any non-essential travel to South Korea.

[9:00 pm] The situation in Italy looks dire, with over 200 confirmed cases and four deaths as of Monday.

The NYT reports on the big slowdown in Milan, which is not exactly locked down but has come to a standstill.

“This week everything seems to have completely stopped,” Leonardo Miri, 48, an IBM employee said after being turned away from company headquarters because the receptionist told him no one was there. “If the north of Italy stops, Italy stops.”

…The effects of the virus are widening. Ten smaller Lombard towns to Milan’s south have been locked down. An 11th town, to the east, was added to the list on Monday. The number of cases in Italy continued to multiply, reaching 229, with at least six deaths, all of older people already in declining health.

No mention of the empty grocery store shelves in Milan that are showing up on social media.

[8:57 pm] A grim story from Caixin about a cluster of 19 dead found in a nursing home near the Wuhan seafood market where the outbreak is thought to have started. Only one was confirmed as COVID-19, while the rest were just chalked up to “pneumonia”

[8:55 pm] This morning we got 18 more confirmed cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, bringing the total number of US cases to 53 (mostly from the ship). These are being placed in quarantine around the country, and in some cases communities are pushing back and even suing to stop them from coming.

[8:54 pm] Updated case counts:


    • Bad Karma

      Re: China’s draconian measures and the possibility of similar being attempted in the U.S. – Once the majority of people here actually start paying attention and realize just how serious this is, I think they would go along with most suggestions, but many are self-absorbed and selfish, so there would be numerous cases of people breaking self-quarantine for trivial reasons. Plus, there won’t be any welding people into their apartment complexes, or public beatings here – far too many guns in private citizens warm, live hands.

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    • TraceContributor

      The article ‘Past Time to Tell the Public: “It Will Probably Go Pandemic, and We Should All Prepare Now”’ was outstanding. Really good insight and advice!

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