Coronavirus Special Coverage

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

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Key developments for Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Welcome to the newly revamped Key Developments, now twice weekly and with non-COVID news. Right now, it’s still mostly COVID-related news, but we’re slowly morphing these posts into something broader as we go.

There are over 22.2 million global cases of COVID-19. Cases have grown globally by over 1.8 million since last week, which is up from the week before. Global case growth continues to accelerate. There have been over 782,000 deaths around the world. There are over 5.6 million cases in the United States. There have been over 174,000 deaths in the United States, with about 1,000 deaths per day. The US, Brazil, and India continue to lead global case growth. Mexico remains third in the world in number of deaths, with over 57,000. The global death rate is also increasing again:

Rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation are elevated from baseline, and some of this can be attributed to the pandemic and its associated stressors. Self-reported rates of anxiety and depression are 2-3 times higher than normal, though it’s hard to know just how elevated they are in each population. Over one-quarter of young Americans thought about suicide in the 30 days prior to this CDC survey:

The Senate probably won’t push through a pandemic relief bill until September. And there’s still no federal contact-tracing program.

The CDC says immunity probably lasts at least three months. We don’t know for sure how much or how long immunity may last beyond that (but that doesn’t mean it only lasts three months):

Saliva tests might be coming, and they’re way more convenient than nasal swabs:

Amazon is offering relocation to some of the company’s Seattle employees. This is another example of the way the pandemic is reshaping cities and housing demand.

It’s taking so long for COVID-19 tests to be processed that the information is not particularly helpful in terms of reducing spread. If it takes more than 2-3 days, folks will mingle and spread the disease broadly (generally). One report said 40% of tests are being processed too slowly. Quest Diagnostics is trying to keep results reporting to 1-2 days.

There’s a pepperoni shortage because of pandemic-impacted supply chains. I am not okay with this:

In more pepperoni-related news, Pizza Hut is closing 300 locations.

It’s crazy hot in California, and millions are experiencing rolling power outages because of excess demand on the system (including this writer, dear readers). This spells inconvenience for millions, but power outages can also be deadly for those on oxygen or those in need of 24/7 medical care at home. For pandemic survivors using oxygen at home, the outages are particularly troubling. Portable oxygen units may be needed, and impacted patients and families should request them ASAP if they don’t already have them.

Iowa is still struggling after a very strong derecho, and help is slow in coming. The pandemic has a part to play in stalling relief.

The coronavirus strain with the D614G mutation has reached Malaysia. We’ve known about this strain for a while. It’s more transmissible, but not more deadly.

Tocilizumab shows some promise. It’s being studied in some ongoing RCTs.  Its effect is smaller than dexamethasone, though.

We’ve reached the “Forsythia phase” of the current pandemic (watch Contagion to get the reference). Exercise caution whenever you see someone promote an unproven or unregulated supplement as a COVID cure.

UNC ain’t the only one! Many universities are reverting to online-only mode after clusters of hundreds of cases popped up after the first week of face-to-face instruction:

This is fun (read: sarcasm)–

And, to close, Washington state seems to be stockpiling food.


    • lemur

      Thanks for the news!

      The big deal with the saliva test is not so much that it is less invasive. That’s welcome, for sure. The big deal though is that it is less succeptible to materials shortage than the old tests. Less materials are needed to perform a test. And the shortage of nasal swabs does not impact this test. Maybe when the saliva test is being used at scale, we’re going to see a shortage of oral swabs? I cannot tell, and none of the articles I’ve read addressed the possibility. It is also a faster test. Overall, it should help us scale up testing and get faster test results. That it is less invasive is also nice.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor lemur

        I’m wondering why it took so long for approval for these tests…

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    • Karl Winterling

      The Wendover Productions YouTube video on testing logistics is good. He explains why a centrally planned system with the federal government as the single payer for COVID-19 tests would be less efficient overall vs. free market but could be more effective at mitigating supply shortages and ensuring tests go where they’re needed the most. There are also physical limitations to the amount of testing a company like Quest Diagnostics can do.

      Programs like SNAP (AKA food stamps) are highly effective at helping people get food if a disaster causes high unemployment, but they don’t address supply disruptions or shortages. There could probably be a larger subsidy to help food banks and states buy agricultural surplus.

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    • Hardened

      Finally we’re talking about forsythia!  It is the cure!

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      • Rich DCContributor Hardened

        I was about to post: +1 for the “Forsythia phase” reference.

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    • Ryan S


      I will bravely (and foolishly) speak for more than myself in saying that we all appreciate your weekly reports.

      Thank You,

      Ryan S

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Ryan S

        Thanks so much, Ryan! Doing what I can to help folks cut through the noise and get to the points that matter. Trying, anyway. 

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