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, November 17, 2020

Tension is rising between the US and Iran. The US Government pulled out of a nuclear deal with Iran that limited Iran’s production of enriched uranium in 2018. Trump reportedly queried senior advisors last week about targeting Iran’s main nuclear site. There is some speculation that the lame duck Administration will plan a strike against Iran’s nuclear enrichment capabilities with Israel as a partner. Whether it’s idle speculation or not, Iran is not too happy to hear it.

The US military could be purchasing your location data from mobile apps. Application developers may not even be aware that their users’ data can be obtained by agencies like the military, and user agreements certainly don’t reflect this degree of invasive data sharing.

Synthetic fentanyl pills are flooding the streets from coast to coast. They’re extremely deadly. Opioids like fentanyl depress respirations and can lead to respiratory failure and death even with small doses. Drug overdoses are spiking, and fentanyl is one of the leading culprits. Narcan, an effective opioid antidote that can be given as a nasal spray by bystanders who happen to have some, can be purchased legally over the counter at CVS in 12 states: Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin. Educate your family and consider purchasing and carrying Narcan if you’re able—it could save a life. And if you think this is a “not in my backyard” crisis—it could be in your backyard.

There’s an Ebola-like disease in Bolivia. “Communicable” plus “hemorrhagic” is my least favorite word combination–but it looks like this disease is relatively rare. Like Ebola, it’s got a low R0, a long serial interval, it’s very deadly (which means it kills its host before the host can infect many people), and it’s most contagious late in the disease course.  These factors tend to result in slow moving outbreaks that are intense in places but don’t spread over wide areas.

There are over 55.9 million global COVID cases.  The world has gained 4.2 million cases since last week, and case growth continues to increase. There have been over 1.3 million deaths. There are over 11.6 million cases in the US, and the US gained over 1.1 million cases in a single week. There have been over 254,000 deaths in the US. Over 1,400 have died in the US since yesterday. The US gained over 141,000 new cases in the last 24 hours. India is second in the world in number of cases to the US, with over 8.9 million cases. Brazil is still second in the world in number of deaths, with over 166,000.

Chicago says it’s time to stay home again:

Oregon is restricting businesses after COVID numbers rise.

Clinical labs anticipate a struggle to keep up with the testing pace:

Large weddings are the perfect arena to become superspreader events. In Washington state, 40 cases arose from 300 guests. The weddings don’t have to be terribly big–in another in Maine, 7 have already died from COVID after 177 were exposed. Only 55 attended the original event:

Parents in Missouri got creative and planned a homecoming dance for their kids—masks optional. It was a superspreader event. Many responsible are now withholding information from contact tracers. As many as 200 students attended. At least 10 students and one school staff member have subsequently been infected.

Fauci says the mink variant of the pandemic virus is not likely to defeat current vaccine efforts. He adds that it’s also something to keep an eye on.

North Dakota reverses course:

Things are not looking great, and we haven’t even gotten to the holiday travel season yet. Pro tip: Don’t travel to see family for the holidays this year. Keep them around so you can see them for many years to come:

El Paso is using inmates to move bodies:

We’re going to need freezer farms for some of the vaccines, and they’re not cheap:

There’s evidence that the pandemic coronavirus was circulating in Northern Italy as early as September of 2019. It may indicate that patterns of circulation may show peaks and troughs. It looks like it still originated in China, though. Its predecessor may date back to 2012:

Moderna’s got an efficacious vaccine, too! This mRNA vaccine, much like Pfizer’s, touts 94.5% efficacy. Emergency Use Authorization is in the works. Final analysis is pending.

Sweden is locking down. So much for its previous approach:

1.5 million new cases in the last two weeks means already-full ICUs are about to get slammed even harder:

Clinicians are really suffering after seeing so many deaths from COVID. Many are seeing more codes and more death than they’ve seen in their entire career.

Johnson and Johnson has two vaccines in the pipeline.



    • Hardened

      Oh my.

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    • Karl Winterling

      Trump (reportedly, from NPR) opposes regime change in Iran but thinks taking some action might stop Iran from continuing to enrich or at least slow it down. Bush and the Israelis already tried slowing down the nuclear program with cyber-warfare (remember Stuxnet?) and that apparently bought some time. The more hawkish military experts seem very worried about Iran and think the US’s only option is to install a pro-US regime, but so far conservative politicians haven’t gone down that route. Iran isn’t that close to being able to deliver a bomb, but stuff might get messy if the US acts against them after they’ve been slammed by COVID.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Karl Winterling

        I remember Stuxnet–impressive. I don’t think a lame duck session is a great time for the initiation of an international crisis requiring intricate management–and perhaps it’s all speculation in the first place… 

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