Sunday, August 02, 2020

Is The Second Wave Starting-- Can We Learn From Europe What NOT To Do?


Opposition Research by Nancy Ohanian

On the last day of July, California became the first state in the U.S. to top 500,000 cases. There is no country in Europe with that many cases (unless you count Russia, which spans two continents, as part of Europe). The worst hit European countries are Spain (335,602 cases-- 7,178 cases per million residents), the U.K. (303,952 cases-- 4,475 cases per million residents), Italy (247,537 cases-- 4,095 cases per million residents) and Germany (210,697 cases-- 2,514 cases per million residents). On Saturday, California reported xxxx new cases, bringing the state's total to xxxxxx (12,888 cases per million Californians). This week Florida and Texas the week after will also top half a million cases. On Saturday, Florida reported 9,642 new cases, bringing the statewide total to 480,028 (22,350 cases per million Floridians) and Texas reported xxx new cases, bringing their total to xxxxx (15,482 cases per million Texans).

I watch those numbers daily, but I also closely watch trends around the world and what I've been seeing in Europe has been disconcerting for the last few weeks. I noted almost a month ago that Israel had started spiking dangerously-- after an irresponsible, politically-motivated early school reopening. With barely over 9 million people, Israel now has over 71,000 cases-- worse measured by cases per million residents than any European country other than Sweden, whose neoliberal government had virtually taken the decision to use the pandemic as an opportunity to kill off a sizable chunk of its elderly and chronically ill population.

But the country that worried me most of the last few weeks has been Spain. First their daily new case rate had risen to about a thousand a day after having gone way down. Then it was 2,000 a day. On Thursday, Spain reported 2,789 new cases; on Friday it was 3,092 new cases and yesterday it must have been horrible; Spain didn't report any numbers at all. As of Friday Spain had 335,602 confirmed cases, worse than all but 4 U.S. states-- California, Florida, New York and Texas. Is it a second spike-- or start of the universally-feared second wave?

Europe-based Washington Post reporters Loveday Morris, Michael Birnbaum, Fiona Weber-Steinhaus wrote that "Several European countries that had their coronavirus outbreaks under control have begun to see a rise in cases that is feeding fears of a second wave. Governments are urging their citizens to be more vigilant amid the lure of summer gatherings and vacations, while health officials warn that lax public attitudes are putting the continent on a dangerous trajectory."
A spike in infections has led Belgium to ramp up restrictions on social contact, while Spain has closed gyms and nightclubs in Barcelona.

Meanwhile, German health officials have called a rise in infections in the past two weeks deeply concerning.

“People are being infected everywhere,” said Ute Rexroth, head of surveillance at Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, which sounded the alarm on rising numbers on Tuesday. “Weddings, meetings with friends, sadly, also nursing homes or health institutes. We are worried that this could be a change of trend.”

The rise in cases across several countries follows weeks of stability that had ushered in a growing sense of normalcy. A wave of reopening measures had come and gone without significant ill effect. People went to movies, dined at restaurants and started working from offices again.

But some virologists had warned that openings would inevitably be followed by new infections. Others stressed that successful reopening was dependent on citizens wearing masks and maintaining social distance. And there are signs adherence has been slipping.

On the tree-lined streets of Brussels, masks have been a rare sight. In Berlin, famed for its 24-hour pre-pandemic party scene, police have struggled to break up crowds of weekend revelers who gather in parks and open spaces for illicit dance parties. Spanish nightclubs and beaches brimmed with vacationers after European travel restrictions eased.

“More and more people are getting relaxed,” said Dirk Brockmann, a professor at Berlin’s Humboldt University who works on pandemic modeling with the Robert Koch Institute. “People are wearing a face mask going shopping or on the subway, but other than that they are going back to normal.”

He said that if the rise in infections was linked to reopenings rather than subsequent relaxed behavior, there would have been a stronger indication earlier.

What happens now may similarly depend on human behavior, he added.

“Potentially people will change their behavior again and we will mitigate,” he said.

The number of new cases is still far below what European countries saw during the peak of their outbreaks-- or what is happening in the United States.

Germany, for instance, recorded 633 new cases on Tuesday, compared with more than 6,000 daily cases at its peak. But German health authorities said the nature of the new infections is concerning, with outbreaks no longer largely confined to slaughterhouses or nursing homes.

“Corona is coming back with all its might,” warned Bavarian state premier Markus Söder, according to German news site Merkur.

In France, new cases hit an average of 850 over the past three days-- nowhere near the average of 2,582 in April. But the Health Ministry noted that recent progress has been erased, and Health Minister Olivier Véran warned of as many as 500 active clusters.

In Belgium, cases suddenly started rising this month after declining consistently since April. There were 707 cases diagnosed nationwide the week of July 6. Just two weeks later, the figure had tripled to a level not seen since early May.

Belgian policymakers are tightening restrictions. Customers are required to wear masks in stores. Starting Wednesday, Belgian households will be asked to limit consistent close social contact to no more than five people, down from 15. The maximum size of social gatherings, such as weddings, has been slashed to 10 people, down from 50. A country that had insouciantly planned to reopen schools without significant restrictions in September is now questioning whether that will happen.

“What is happening is a situation that is worrying, not terrifying,” Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès told Le Soir newspaper. However, she has warned that a second lockdown may be necessary.

There’s debate about whether Europe might be at the beginning of a second wave. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested as much on Tuesday.

“Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s happening in Europe, amongst some of our European friends. I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic,” he said.

Johnson was defending an advisory against nonessential travel to Spain, where the region of Catalonia has reemerged as a hot spot, with thousands of new cases reported in the past two weeks. Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa has largely linked new cases to seasonal farmworkers, people attending family get-togethers and nightclubs.

“We aren’t at the beginning of a second wave,” said Pamela Vallely, a medical virologist from Manchester University. “This is just the continuation of the virus being in our communities.”

Resurgences are “just what’s going to happen,” she said. “We are going to have to continue to try to contain things to levels we can cope with.”

But as governments now have experience with how to cope with the virus, including tools such as localized lockdowns, testing and contact tracing, she said she doesn’t envisage a large surge.

“I’m relatively optimistic,” she said.
Sounds like famous last words. These are the numbers of new cases reported in the half dozen worst-spiking western European countries Friday and ---> Saturday (along with total COVID-deaths).
Spain +3,092 ---> no report (28,445 deaths)
France +1,346 ---> no report (30,265 deaths)
Germany +1,012 ---> +412 (9,226)
U.K. +880 ---> +771 (46,193 deaths)
Belgium +671 ---> +745 (9,841 deaths)
Italy +379 ---> +295 (35,146 deaths)
If those deaths can't get people to drastically change their behavior, one can only imagine what it's going to take in places like Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama... and southern California! Maybe humor-- like this best new parody-ad of the week from Trump 2020?

Before their congressional testimony on the pandemic Friday, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC and Adm. Brett Giroir, Trump's testing czar, issued a joint statement conceding that there is no end in sight. "While it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time. It is also unclear what impact the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will have on health care and public health systems during the upcoming influenza season. If there is COVID-19 and flu activity at the same time, this could place a tremendous burden on the health care system related to bed occupancy, laboratory testing needs, personal protective equipment and health care worker safety," they added. "In the context of likely ongoing COVID-19 activity, getting a flu vaccine is more important now that ever."

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At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt it. We've been studiously avoiding learning what NOT to do since 1933.

At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

quite the opposite. we learn what NOT to do... and then we *DO* it.

coincidentally, we are told what should be done, and steadfastly refuse to do that.

the definition of the dumbest population in the history of earth and... due to these potted plants being the only ones who vote, a shithole.


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