The pandemic update from Britain: research, testing, and spitting your coffee

Britain hit its arbitrary goal of testing 100,000 people a day by the end of April, the government announced triumphantly. How’d they do it? By including 52,000 tests that hadn’t been analyzed yet. Or taken, for that matter. They’d been put in the mail. Presumably to real people, although I can’t vouch for that. I have a picture of some hapless intern sent to the corner mailbox and stuffing them in by the handful. After being told to address them to his or her entire third-grade class, thousands of times over. At the addresses they had then. 

Third grade? Sorry. It’s an Americanism. In Britain, it’d be year three, more or less. 

Without the intern’s work, the number was 73,191.


Irrelevant photo: rhododendron

The New Scientist article where I found the real test numbers (although for some reason it didn’t mention the intern) also tells me that the U.S. director of national intelligence announced that Covid-19 was not engineered in a Chinese lab, or in any other lab. It’s a natural occurrence. 

Sorry, Don. 

It also mentions that the English and Welsh coronavirus death rate for people from black African backgrounds is 3.5 times higher than for it is white people in England and Wales. Other ethnic minorities are also getting hit harder than whites. 

I don’t have statistics for the U.S., but I do know it’s hitting black people much harder than whites. Which makes the scenes of armed white guys demanding to end state lockdowns particularly chilling.


Since we’re messing around on the New Scientist website, let me quote another article: Just four coronaviruses (virii?) are responsible for 20% to 30% of our colds, and they may once have been deadly, toning down as time went on until now they’re no more than a damned nuisance. 

Researchers now believe that all four of these viruses began to infect humans in the past few centuries and, when they did, they probably sparked pandemics.”

A careless person could almost get hopeful, reading that. Waiting this one out, though, is not a workable strategy. All those people who want to wait for herd immunity? They think they’re not part of the herd. They are.

The New Scientist is a good website and very much worth a trip. Especially since a lot of us can’t go anyplace real these days. 


Just to prove that it’s useful, and to lead us all quietly away from that dangerous spark of  hope, I’ll draw on one more article from it: It’ll be a long time before we have a vaccine, it says. If, in fact, it turns out to be possible to develop one for this bug. 

The average experimental vaccine has a 6% chance of being safe and effective enough to make it to the market. Of the vaccines that get as far as trials, about 33% make it to the market.

So let’s assume one of the vaccines being frantically worked on in labs around the world works. It’ll take twelve to eighteen months to manufacture enough doses for it to be widely available, and that would be a remarkable speed. The fastest vaccine ever made to date was for Ebola, and that took five years.

To make a vaccine available faster–. Well, basically, you have to start step two before step one is complete, and maybe step three as well. So if the drug fails somewhere along the way, a lot of money gets lost–and time with it. 

Speed also raises worries about safety. There’ll be less time to study the vaccine’s long-term effects, so problems can be missed. And, let’s face it, when an awful lot of money has been committed, people will be under pressure not to quibble about minor problems that might turn out to be major.

Because we all know how all existing political systems welcome whistle blowers. 


Some scientists (and in the U.S. at least, some lawmakers, in a rare moment of bipartisanship) and pushing to test vaccines by deliberately exposing a test group to the virus instead of letting nature take its course and seeing how many people get sick. It could shave months off the trial. It could also kill people or leave them with long-term complications.

If you’re spitting your coffee across the room right about now, I have the impression that the idea made immunologist Matthew Memoli from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases do the same thing, although what he actually said is fairly mild: “Where you’re going to give somebody a virus on purpose, you really want to understand the disease so that you know that what you’re doing is a reasonable risk.”


The crews from cruise ships–some 100,000 of them–have been left stranded on the ships after their passengers were repatriated. The crew are shut out of ports and banned from air travel home, leaving them stranded. Covid-19 is rife on some of the ships. 

A couple of class action suits have been filed. On some ships, crews report being treated well while on others food it running out and many people aren’t being paid. 


An article in the Guardian’s worth your time if you’re trying to wrap your brain around how this virus works. I’ll pick some pieces out of it, but there’s a lot more. It’s accessible and it’s informative.

One subset of patients are showing brain inflammation, agitation, and personality or behavioral changes. Another–including some young ones–are getting strokes. Some patients have low oxygen levels in their blood but aren’t showing much lung damage. If they were suffering from altitude sickness, it would make sense, but they’re not. One doctor’s hunch is that it must have to do with the blood vessels, but the research hasn’t been done yet. 

Another doctor’s hunch is that the virus affects men more than women because it’s activated by androgens. But again, that’s a hunch. 


While we’re talking about subsets, a subset of scientists are trying to figure out how this beast spreads. Ending lockdown without understand that is–

Um. It’s hard to find the right word. Dumb? Dangerous? Dicing with disaster?

No, that last one’s three words. 

Anyway, let’s settle for “a problem” and move on.

So various groups of sciencey minds are coming at this from different angles. One is figuring out how virus-laden aerosols (those are–at the risk of, ahem, oversimplifying and distorting just the slightest bit–the tiniest of spit particles, being ridden like race horses by virus jockeys) behave in air. Another gropu is trying to work out if the aerosols carry enough of the virus to be infectious or if infection can only happen with larger droplets–the kind that go flying on the winds of a cough or a sneeze. They can carry larger doses of the virus (someone’s already told you that more isn’t always better, right?) but don’t travel as far as the aerosols. This involves a high-containment lab where they can spray the things around, varying the temperature, humidity, ozone, and sunlight levels. 

Some people get to have all the fun.

Other groups are studying the pathways the virus follows to pass from patients to health and care workers and then to new patients. Half of all new cases in Britain a couple of weeks ago (sorry–I’m always limping behind events here) were among healthcare workers. 

A lot of modeling has been done on the disease’s spread, but so far it’s all based on assumptions about how it spreads. This is research that could fill in that gap.

In the meantime, I am really tired of washing my hands. I just thought you might want to know that. 


In the meantime, 77% of Britons want the lockdown to continue and 15% want to see it end.

What happened about the others? They’re watching Coronation Street and won’t notice the lockdown until they run out of new episodes in June.

86 thoughts on “The pandemic update from Britain: research, testing, and spitting your coffee

  1. I have a friend stuck on a Celebrity cruise ship in the Caribbean. She reports they are being treated well but she would sure like to be at home. Spain is not letting any tourists in this summer. That is nice for those of us who live here but terrible for the tourism industry. Things they are a changing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • They sure are. Tourism’s a huge part of the local economy where I live–and I suspect of Britain’s as a whole, although retaining statistics isn’t something I’ve ever been good at. It’s a terrible industry–ecologically destructive, with low wages and seasonal work. And then it creates high rent and house prices in low-wage areas. So the rational part of my brain says it probably would be no bad thing if it withered away. But a lot of people will be hurt in the process, including many I know.

      Being stuck on a cruise? That sounds like hell. Is the ship at least free of the virus?

      Liked by 3 people

      • Yes, it is a healthy ship and they have free range. She is part of the crew with no passengers. So it is her second home but still. Another friend was stuck on a Holland America ship and was confined to her cabin as there were cases on board. She is thankfully back in the UK now.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The second scenario sounds like a nightmare–so little space, so much water, totally dependent on the good will of a corporation to keep you supplied while losing money. I’m glad your friends are okay.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. The only way I can feel even the slightest positivity about how the British are handling anything is by looking at the reporting from the US. But ‘at least our people aren’t quite as bad as theirs” is still not that positive really. Physically staying away from any of it, if I can, is the best defence strategy I have. Mentally, it’s probably best to do the same I think…

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Friends of mine who can see them from the window of their front room tell me that cruise ships arrive here, stay a bit and go away. I assume that they’re taking on food and fuel, and dropping off sick crew members, but I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Don has Merriam Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary working furiously to redefine several words over again. Starting with reasonable and greatest. Word is they are debating their options. Including total removal because the words no longer make any sense what so ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not with Michael Gove and his dismissal of experts, but there does seem to come a point where you read so much about a situation, you end up brain-fried, and want to run from any more articles or reports. I just want to revert to being a little boy, and having big government look out for me, like mom and dad! But that doesn’t quite work either! What to do? #SeniSal

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know the feeling. Sadly, this isn’t the government to trust with that. I recommend half an hour of hiding under the covers, then it’s back to adulthood.

      Oddly enough, writing these updates has me following the pandemic news with a closer eye than I’d use otherwise, and it’s–nope, not reassuring. It’s disturbing. But it does give me the sense that I’m doing something, even if only filtering, compiling, and passing on. For the first time in some while, the news about possible tests leaves me feeling the faintest twitches of hope.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I cannot comprehend the immorality of a proposal to deliberately expose people to a deadly virus (whether through medical trials or to open the economy back up) when we don’t even understand everything that we need to about this virus, the range of symptoms, the long term health impacts for those who recover, or whether long term immunity is even possible. I absolutely understand the frustration and the anxiety that comes from having to live in such a peculiar way and with so much uncertainty but rushing either the reopening of society or trials of a vaccine strikes me as a profound mistake. This is not the time to dabble and experiment. Aside from the ethics of being willing to sacrifice people as guinea pigs, I actually think it is a socio-economic mistake to rush either process as we could just create many more waves and ultimately prolong the agony.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely not! Just like none of the CEOs who are demanding that we all go back to fully participating in the economy are willing to go and work in their own factory floors or retails spaces. As per usual, the wealthy white people are willing to cull the poor and particularly people of colour because they think that is collateral they can live with.

        Liked by 2 people

        • The interesting thing about this disease is that as long as there’s a reservoir of it, it’s still out there. We’re all part of the herd, as our idiot prime minister learned. Some people are a whole lot more exposed, and if we’re all in it together some people are in it up to their eyebrows while other barely have their feet wet, but nobody has a get-out-of-jail-free card and anybody who thinks they’re safe is a fool.

          Liked by 1 person

          • There will definitely come a point where the fallout from the economic pain will surpass the public health risk and we will have to make an attempt at some sort of herd immunity model. However, even then I see all sorts of mitigation measures having to be in place and enforced so as to protect the most vulnerable. And I don’t think such a model can be attempted any time soon. We are SO far off from the point where that can be countenanced. We have barely scratched the surface of comprehending how this virus works so there is no way we can even begin to plan managing it.

            Liked by 1 person

              • The structure changes from state to state, but I do remember, from way back when, that in at least one state you had to list some minimum number of jobs you’d applied for and I’ve been wondering if you still have to go through that farce at a time when you can’t apply and there are none.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Here in PA, it was a pretty intensive application. It took me ages to compile. And then I was rejected from UC because my payroll is handled by a church and that made me ineligible. I then applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance but that was a month ago and I have not even had so much as a confirmation email let alone been given the ability to actually file a claim. I am lucky in that my husband is still working and his income covers all of the major expenses but it is still frustrating and it must be extremely desperate for households who have zero income right now.

                Liked by 1 person

  7. I hear a lot of talk about models and science – but let’s be clear about something.

    Models are not science. Not even close.

    All models are wrong, though some are useful, but one should never, ever confuse a model with reality and when the model does not track the data, you throw it out and follow the data.

    From the second death in Minnesota, the state should have understood that Covid was most fatal to those in institutional settings: primarily nursing homes and group homes. The people who lived in these settings were those most likely to threaten our hospital capacity.

    They should have been our #1 priority.

    By late March, my son’t distillery was making hand-sanitizer and my wife and I were sewing masks – both of which we donated to nursing homes in surrounding towns. It was late April before any of these places had a reliable supply.

    Last week it was revealed by the Minnesota Department of Health that of the 343 people who had died to date (now over 400), 99.24% were either in long-term care facilities or had serious underlying health issues.

    It is fairly clear that the state’s actions were blinded by models, instead of driven by data.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good points. Here too, care homes have become hotspots for the virus. They’re right up there with cruise ships as perfect incubators–maybe even better. And even now, neither care homes or hospitals can get reliable amounts of protective equipment. It’s just insane. Underneath whatever joking I can manage, I really do want to wreak havoc on the idiots leading this country.

      Although it can be said that they’re doing a better job than the U.S. Blusterer-in-Chief.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have a policy of never criticizing Donald Trump based on a very simple observation. I have been following his popularity ratings for several years and have noticed that every time he opens his mouth, his popularity drops. Every time his critics open theirs, his popularity soars.

        One of my critiques of my progressive friend (to make them more popular) is that they cast their gaze too far up the political hierarchy for solutions.

        Case in point, our governor Tim Walz constantly talks like the Great Oz from behind the curtain, as he “twists dials” and “turns knobs” (his words). For weeks, my son and other distillers were trying to work with county health departments to distribute sanitizer to those most in need and few counties knew who to talk to and most shuffled the conversation from official to official. No one in the State Department of Health (or governor’s office) was guiding the counties on what to do.

        Excuse me – but that was their job.

        I worked for the state. I witnessed the $100 million dollar failure of MNLARS take place. It was like watching the launch of the Titanic with a thousand people screaming from the dock, “Watch Out For Icebergs.” And they hit it anyway. Same with the MNSURE debacle.

        It doesn’t help to say, “if we could only get rid of Trump” when you can’t execute simple sh*t on the local level.

        This is my critique of both the DFL and the GOP, if you can’t stack your bench with competent leaders at the bottom, how the hell do you think you can find them for the top?

        Liked by 1 person

        • From this distance, predictably enough, I haven’t been able to follow what’s happening in Minnesota. A friend tells me Walz is wonderful, but with less detail than what you’re saying. Getting anyone to listen, when you’re not high up the food chain, is one of the constant complaints I see over here as well: Companies are desperate to produce the gear that’s needed, but they can’t get anyone to listen to them. Maybe because they’re not big enough, maybe because they didn’t donate to the right party, or maybe–well, you can never rule out simple incompetence. Anyway, point taken.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Walz is very popular in the Twin Cities – but dropping in popularity in Greater Minnesota. Many say he left Congress and ran for Governor because he felt he would lose to Hagedorn in 2018. Hagedorn did win to another opponent as the district went red.

            Governor Walz has implemented a one size fits all approach to the entire state which is not going over well outstate. Both Iowa and South Dakota implemented a county by county approach based on numbers.

            For instance Minnesota’s Lake of the Woods County has yet to report its first Covid case as have 10 other counties, yet Baudette is shut down. People outstate are angry that the local lawnmower repair shop is closed but Target, Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowes, especially in the Cities are not.

            The saying is: Would Minneapolis shut down if a single case of Covid appeared in Baudette?

            Not on your life.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Adding one more point.

        If I were governor, I would order the immediate opening of all bars, restaurants, raves and rock concerts – based on data. If I am not mistaken, out of all the people who have contacted Covid in the U.S. only five people under the age of 30 have died. Tragic, but that says something. The number under 40 is also astonishingly low.

        Based on that, I would ask bars, restaurants, raves and rock concerts to discourage anyone under 40 from attending.

        We know, from data, that herd immunity is building and though there is some anecdotal evidence that in some instance, a person can contract Covid again after having survived it, it appear that is extremely rare.

        Sure, we should isolate and stay at home – but that should apply only to seniors and those with health issues. The only challenge is keeping the under 40 away from the over 40.

        This IS what the data insists, instead we listen to models.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That I’d argue with. Even assuming that you’re right about the under-40s, they don’t lead lives separated from the over-40s. (A quick search for data in Britain says 1% of deaths were in that age group.) And you don’t have to be symptomatic to spread the disease. So to the extent that it spreads freely in that group, it will overflow the group. The most recent numbers I saw estimated the European immunity as being in the single digits. In the US, it may be higher but not I doubt if you’re moving toward the 60% (if memory serves, and I suspect I’m vastly underestimating it) that’s a minimum for herd immunity. And that’s assuming that immunity’s a reliable goal. It’s still not certain–either that having had the disease confers immunity or, if so, how long it lasts.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The conversation revolves around “flattening the curve” as in reducing the number of infections – but that approach has consequences because it merely elongates the curve. So you will have the same number of infections over a longer period of time. In other words, pay me now or pay me later.

            That has dire economic and health consequences.

            The exposure problem isn’t really the under 40 exposing the over 40. It is the overall exposure of each additional age group from 40 onward. So a 45 year old mother has a risk of suffering sever reaction from contracting Covid from her 15 year old son – but the numbers are still low for her age group. The problem comes when grandma and great-grandma are exposed.

            It is easier to control that when we focus on it than if we are keeping kids out of school – with just about zero risk to the kids.

            The upside in exposing the under 40 set to Covid is that THEY build up herd immunity and right there about half the population has been eliminated as potential vectors.

            Herd immunity kicks in at 30% and ends the epidemic at 70%

            Keep in mind that 22% of the population is >65 – which is the most vulnerable group.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I think you’re wrong about flattening the curve simply elongating it. Let’s change the language here: If you break the chain of transmission–the R number is what we’re talking about here–then each person who doesn’t get it doesn’t pass it on. And if the R number is lower than one, the disease fizzles out. Basically, if one person passes it on to three people, they pass it on to three, and you’re quickly into very high numbers. What a lockdown is trying to do is reduce those numbers.

              Kids in school aren’t in touch only with relatively young parents. They’re also in touch with their teachers, of varying ages, and in some communities may well be living with extended families, either for cultural or economic reasons. The population doesn’t divide so neatly.


              • Let’s hope you are right about the R number. It would be a shame to have devastated our economy for the wrong approach.

                The elongated curve notion might still hold. Some are talking about keeping restrictions in place until a vaccine is in place (next year?). This would be the very definition of an elongated curve.

                I am looking at Sweden for the alternative. From what I have read they have not shut down their restaurants, bars, parks, beaches or schools and do not seem to be experiencing the predicted explosion of infections.

                I would hope that if Minnesota switches over to the Swedish model as some Minnesotan seem to like to do in other regards, :), that we do so with a little common sense.

                We know that age and geography are big factors. I would not encourage teachers >50 years old to return to work, or those who live with >50 years olds. That would be silly and people still need to practice hygiene and reasonable social distancing. It may also be a good idea to be very careful opening inner-city schools – but rural schools, not a problem.

                I find it interesting that we could cross the border into Iowa and dine in a restaurant in Osage yesterday but still cannot dine locally. Iowa is putting restrictions in place on a county by county, city by city basis and that seems to be working.

                In Iowa, they realize geography is factor and acted accordingly.

                I am not sure why Gov. Walz does not do the same – but I have a guess. Before I retired, during a presentation with the same people who gave us the MNLARS disaster, a buddy leaned over to me and commented on the presenter, “He’s thinking in jargon.”

                I couldn’t think of a better description of our governor.

                Sometimes jargon works. It is shorthand for complicated concepts – but then other times, it is just meaningless gobblty-gook and an inhibitor to intelligent thought.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Thinking in jargon strikes me as a useful concept. When I was still working, the minute someone talked about thinking outside the box, I figured they were inside it and stopped listening. I had a boss who was fond of the phrase.

                We just loved each other.

                It’s a damned shame that the U.S. hasn’t managed some coordination–between states, within regions, nationally. and also that it can’t contemplate some of the things that are being done here (chaotically, incompletely, but still better than not being done at all) and address–genuinely–the issue of sustaining people who are cut off from work and broke in the middle of this mess.

                Liked by 1 person

              • I am critical of Gov. Walz, which if remember my statement about Trump, means that I am only trying to help the good governor.

                But he does think in jargon. His news conferences are full “partnering” and “twisting knobs” and “turning dials”. Jargon is a hazard of his profession.

                Bureaucracies and corporations are steeped in bureau and corporate-speak and it takes time and effort to figure out if an individual is speaking in meaningful shorthand or just spouting syllables.

                The danger is when language become thought. This is especially true in religion and politics. Thinking is jargon is closely related to thinking in verses and slogans. :)

                Liked by 1 person

              • The phrase the government over here likes is “we’re following the science.” Then it turns out that the committee of scientific advisors they put together is long on (I’m doing this from memory, so add a pinch of salt if you would) statisticians and short on epidemiologists. That’s how they fell in love with herd immunity and let the virus spread until it had gone too far to control easily. They also, we found out recently, installed one or two of their political arm-twisters on the committee, against all precedent and to general horror in the scientific community, which has had the effect of closing off lines of discussion that the government didn’t want to hear about.

                And then they follow the science that they want to hear.

                I guess what I’d say to you about following the data is that it’s not all data. Get an epidemiologist of three on the committee. And if you’re dealing with an epidemic, listen to them.


              • One of the last things I did before I retired was to sit on a panel that was interviewing candidates for a job building data models. Most of our applicants were from the U of M, primarily the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and Sociology Department.

                One of our stock questions was: What is your approach? Or to the lay-person, how do you go about building models to solve complex problems.

                I sh*t you not. Candidate after candidate said in so many jargon filled data-speak terms, “I find out what management wants, then give them that.”

                About half the panel was floored when they said that, the other half nodded in approval.

                We finally hired a physics grad student who had never built anything close to what we wanted – but the guy was so damned intelligent, so honest and so, I will gladly use the word – humble, that he got the job on the spot – and is doing great work.

                Liked by 1 person

        • Many people are unaware they have underlying health issues, I’m fortunate in knowing. Some refuse to see a doctor during good times, they’re the ones that suddenly drop dead. Opening up pre-maturely may compromise their lives. Some states are easier to self Quarantine than others my home state of Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming to name a few. I don’t think anyone knows if they will survive or not. As with many towns and Counties in Minn. Lake of the Woods County is sparsely populated there are many in the Northern Tier States that are the same. If we take a look at what’s happening in Southern California’s Huntington Beach C-19 may explode. I’m sorry to rant a bit, (as I continue) although it’s a worldwide disease re-opening must be regional, as is the situation in the sparsely populated North, it’s hard telling how it will shake out here in California.

          Liked by 2 people

          • One of the things that strikes me is that no one really knows who’s likely to get very sick from this and who’s going to die. Numerically, young people are safer, but that’s not the same as saying they’re safe.

            Almost Iowa makes the point, in his comments, that a statewide lockdown doesn’t make sense in the sparsely populated north, but I don’t know that any state is handling this region by region. The Twin Cities is very different that Lake of the Woods. And a friend in Duluth is terrified.


          • Excellent point about not knowing one has underlying health issues and yes, Covid has killed and hospitalized middle aged people in good health or those who thought they were in good health.

            But the numbers are strong. If I am not mistaken, the number of children who have died in the entire nation can be counted on one hand. That is rather extraordinary.

            The number of hospitalizations for those under 40 are close to 1 in a 1,000.

            That tells us where we ought to be focusing our resources and restrictions.

            Geography is also a huge factor. Why are we shutting down sparsely populated areas with no reported Covid cases?

            South Dakota and Iowa have placed restrictions on a county by county basis – and yes, they have had outbreaks in some counties with urban populations or where meat processing plants are located – but other counties are not affected and life goes on as normal.

            I was reading an interesting article which compared the outbreaks of Covid in Orange County with that in L.A. County and the numbers were not even close. It appears that the salient factor is ventilation. All over the world, the disease spreads more quickly in high density housing and close working quarters with poor ventilation like meat processing plants – not in the open air and sunshine.

            It will be interesting to watch what the result of opening the beaches for a short time is. Apparently, law enforcement in Orange County says that the media reports of crowding and poor social distancing were over-blown, which is about what one would expect from the media. An everything-is-fine news story does not sell advertising.


            • Studies on how the virus behaves in various conditions (humidity, temperature, ventilation) are underway. Stay tuned.

              I can’t find a numerical breakdown on child deaths, but I do know that they’ve found an inflammatory syndrome that affects children and appears to be linked to Covid-19. The statistics are still catching up with the reality.

              Next question: Does anyone in a position of power have any interest in addressing poverty and its problems?

              Liked by 1 person

      • I think it will. Though deliverance came unexpectedly to the people of London in 1665. Defoe attributed it to God ‘Nor was this by any new medicine found out, or new method of cure discovered, or by any experience in the operation which the physicians or surgeons attained to; but it was evidently from the secret invisible hand of Him’ :) Might have been herd immunity?

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        • I don’t think so. I’ve been trying to remember whether it was still spreading when the Great Fire hit. I think so, but I don’t trust my memory. Anyway, the plagues did have a way of burning themselves out. It may have been herd immunity, it may have been a slower rate of transmission after so many deaths. Letting a third of your population die isn’t the recommended approach these days–not when there’s an alternative.

          Liked by 1 person

            • I’d like to think we’ve learned something, but when this first hit and people starting leaving Wuhan / China / London /Wherever to hole up in safe places–without any quarantine on the other end–I was reminded of the way people fled the plague-ridden cities, taking their fleas and germs with them.

              Liked by 1 person

    • 11th Century Venice (1050?) a ship pulled up infected with the disease, the townsfolk killed everyone on board, lit the thing on fire then set it adrift. They had unique ways of dealing with problems. They all reported to the Church directly after performing God’s work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fear does some horrible things once it sets up shop. I can’t help wondering, given how close you had to get at the time to kill someone, whether they didn’t get the disease while performing god’s work.


  8. The news today reported young people are having heart damage as well. Like hearts stop beatinv. This is a bad virus.

    The US is already having protests and riots. There were two different incidents in Metro Atlanta last night. Police broke ip incidents the crowds and attested a few people. Crowds were in the streets blocking traffic and shooting off fireworks. Happening in other parts if the country as well. US unemployment over fifteen per cent. People can’t pay rent or buy food. So they protest and protests turn violent. Collapsed economies can bring down governments and civilizations.

    We can only develop herd immunity if seventy per cent or so of the population have had the virus.

    We don’t have any good choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Better choices could include paying people who can’t work so that they pay rent and buy food. Then deal later with how to pay for that. My suggestion would be by taxing those who can best afford it–who at the moment are taxed the least.

      And yes, it’s a bad and a very strange virus. They’re seeing strokes among young people, caused by blood clots. Brain inflammation. Low oxygenation of the blood. All sorts of things that, at this point, look like scattered but once the full picture emerges probably won’t be.


  9. Here in Latin America, the military are already playing a large role in population control and I think the level of control will only grow as the weeks and months pass and the virus becomes more widely established here. In parts of the world where informal workers make their survival wages on a daily basis, the quarantines have been devastating. These people will gladly risk acquiring and/or transmitting the virus if starvation is their only other option. I fear people’s reactions and the chaos that’s likely to ensue just as much as the virus itself. Take good care Ellen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve wondered what was happening there. It pops up in the news here only very sporadically. Starvation isn’t a great way to deal with these things. Just off the top of my head, I’d say that if you can’t keep people fed, you haven’t improved the situation. Our ingrained ways of thinking/working/running our societies are so not up to this.


  10. Herd immunity is when 23 kids in a second grade class of 25 all get chicken pox. Not quite the same concept.
    This adds to your perception of the effect on minorities


    This is an amazing piece of science.

    This is like watching news footage of 9/11. Over and over, the same planes crash into the same buildings.

    Thanks for sticking to it to remind us of the idiocies. Stay safe & well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Smoking may lower your risk??? What?

      I didn’t get into the article–it wanted my data and I’m in a fuck-you mood this morning–so maybe there’s more there than I could tell from the headline, but WHAT??

      The other article, though, was good. And yes, anywhere you have a physical concentration of people, and a concentration of poverty, you get a reservoir for the disease–something more comfortable folks might want to remember. Singapore ran into the same issue with migrant workers, who live in crowded barracks, basically. Among the native-born population, Singapore was controlling the disease fairly well. Then they woke up and discovered this whole population where it was spreading.


  11. What’s disturbing about the demonstrations is, among other things, the polls that show a majority of people want to be in lock down and feel that it makes sense. The demonstration gatherings are paid for by a conservative group putting up notices on facebook (another reason never to get on that) and as of today, at least one of their participants has come down with Covid-19. And is complaining about the quarantine. So a major thing about the demonstrations is that the people at them appear to be really stupid. I doubt they’ve read about all the strokes in people in their 30’s to 50’s or that the virus changes clotting factors in some cases. It’s not a respiratory illness. It’s a lot more complicated, shutting down organs, and giving people the kind of massive strokes not ordinarily seen in someone under 75. I feel pretty good about Virginia and how it has handled things. There are cases in all but 2 or three counties in the state and we’re on lockdown until June 10. It’s fine. I’m having some weird dreams, and I don’t like going out for groceries, but I now have a lovely selection of home sewn masks and bandana masks. I only hope my employer doesn’t call us back from telework prematurely. We’ll see.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some early 20th-century Supreme Court judge once said, “My rights end where the other fellow’s nose begins.” (Or I think that’s the source of the quote. Don’t trust me too far on that.) It seems relevant in these times when people think they have the right to share a dangerous virus indiscriminately. It is a terrifying, complicated virus. The more I read (and I bring no medical background to it) about how it works in the body, the more horrifying it is.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree. My high school speech teacher was a terrifying woman who could control even the worst miscreants. Once, in response to someone talking about their rights being violated, she said “Your rights end where someone else’s rights begin.” I have no doubt she was quoting someone like a supreme court judge.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Fabulous piece, entertaining yet informative – humor mixed with tragedies in a tasteful format.
    And written to an audience beyond the third grade. How refreshing.
    Such relief from the agony of ignorance in the American president and his cronies in his administration and in the Senate where he evidently knows where all the bodies are buried.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I will check out New Scientist. You are right that a vaccine may never come (the virus mutates every Wednesday as far as I can see) and we need to understand how it spread and how it affects humans better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apparently WHO is now trying to find the early infections in each country to look at how it spread. Not patient zero, at least as I understand it, but they do want to trace back to the beginnings.

      Maybe we could eliminate Wednesdays. Nothing happens on them that couldn’t happen on some other day, and we’d all be much safer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was very interested to read that the French had discovered a hospital patient had had it in December. I caught some terrible vrirus just after Christmas, which I seemed to recover from and then get a lot worse with a really bad chest infection. It was the illest I have been. Of course, I am hoping it was CV19 (so I have been and done that) but it always seemed too early in the timeline of the illness.

        Liked by 1 person

        • And the grapevine tells me that there seems to have been (emphasis on “seems”) a small outbreak in a neighboring town here, Camelford, very early on. But again, who knows for certain? So many unknowns are involved with this.


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