Covid-19 Update: Poop Gets Real

All right, y’all, the time for this to be contained — always a longshot — is officially over. Wherever it is you live, sooner or later, you may be impacted by this, and it’s time to get ready.

What does “get ready” mean?

Here’s a great post that will calmly and rationally guide you through some preparedness ideas by Virology Down Under.

Additional Thoughts:

Food and Supplies — Italy went from “no problem” to “OMG LOCKDOWN!!!” in a matter of days. There was a run on the shops. So, over the next few days and weeks, start stockpiling so you have enough food, etc. to survive a few weeks stuck in your home. Basically, prepare as if a hurricane / blizzard were coming, plus a few more days at least.

Medications — A lot of meds are manufactured in China. Supply chains are already starting to be impacted. So if you take regular medications — and especially if you have a severe medical condition — try to get an extra 2-3 month supply now. Today.

Financial — Have some extra cash on hand in your home if possible. On 9/11 I withdrew my rent money just in case. When the crisis passed I re-deposited it in time for my October rent.

Mental / Emotional — Poop’s gonna get real. The problem with this disease is that there’s up to a 30 day incubation period. So one way this is playing out in countries is that everything’s fine…fine…fine…HOLY SHIT! So, just, be aware. It’s going to be disorienting. I read recently that there is an “OMG” stage for these kinds of things, and you have to go through the OMG stage. One thing that can help make it easier is doing your preparedness shopping / organizing.

Mental, Part II — You’re about to find out just how shittily our government is functioning right now. Remember Katrina? Remember Maria? Well, we’re all about to face that level of gross neglect and incompetence. Trump has already stated — with his outside voice — that he doesn’t want folks to know about Covid19 cases because it might tank the stock market / his re-election plans. He already fired most of the people in pandemic prevention positions, like 2 years ago. This means you can expect the following:

  • Lack of transparency about new cases / locations of cases
  • “Everything is Just Fine” levels of denial to save his One True Love — the Stock Market
  • Underprepared, underfunded, understaffed and undersupplied disaster response
  • We will have to save ourselves. Look to your family, your community, your town. The feds are not equipped to deal with this. If they ever were, they sure as hell aren’t now.

Look, it’s not all doom and gloom. We have Netflix these days, and there have been no reports of water / power outages in China, so that’s hopeful for a long period of self isolation.

But, like, Get some extra toilet paper this week and stock up on supplies and get your meds refilled.

Love to all.



Covid-19: China’s Cooking the Books; Smoking May Contribute to Mortality; All Eyes on Singapore

Today’s installment of Sofi’s Armchair Epidemiology is all about ignorance. Specifically, our ignorance about China’s real numbers.

A few days ago, China made an announcement that they were changing how they counted COVID-19 cases. Previously, they were counting only the cases that were confirmed with a positive test. Since the tests they use have a lot of false negatives, and since hospitals were clearly too overwhelmed to test everybody, it was already clear that cases were being undercounted.

The new criteria they announced was that they would start counting both positive tests and positive symptoms — “ground glass” pneumonia showing up on scans, etc. And so, suddenly the number of positive cases jumped.

They made another announcement at the same time, though not as well-publicized. They have started dropping some patients from the count, specifically, patients who test positive but are asymptomatic. This is, of course, bullshit. We now know that asymptomatic carriers can still infect lots of people around them, so thinking that they “don’t count” is completely bonkers (that’s the scientific term for it). No doubt by dropping asymptomatic carriers from the rolls, the new total case number will look less alarming. There is no other reason to drop potentially infectious patients from the rolls.

Similarly confusing, the number of deaths doubled from what was expected in one day — theoretically due to these new inclusion criteria — but then the next day, 100 people vanished from the tally (“we realized we had double counted 100 people”). Considering how chaotic things are in Wuhan, the likelihood that they have an overcount is almost zero. Also, are deaths now being counted according to the old criteria (positive test) or the new criteria (positive test OR positive symptoms)? And what about people who die at home before they can be tested? Are they being counted towards the official tally?

Clearly China is massaging the numbers to to avoid a panic and financial meltdown. That is…not great. It also means that, without accurate numbers, the rest of the world can’t make informed decisions.

This leaves Singapore, because unfortunately, there is now an outbreak in Singapore as well.

Unlike China, Singapore has been doing an excellent job at transparently releasing information about their COVID-19 patients:

spore virus

Moreover, experts say Singapore’s been doing a good job at proper public health measures. So my take on things is that the next 2-4 weeks will give us real, actionable data, and also our best shot at seeing a country nip this in the bud. Singapore is highly regarded as one of the most technologically sophisticated countries in the world, which gives us the sense that if anybody can get this under control, it’s Singapore.

Here’s what the next 2-4 weeks should let us know in terms of data:

  • What is the actual Case Fatality Rate in a best-case scenario, i.e. a country with excellent health care that is not totally overwhelmed?
  • What is the reproducibility rate of the disease with proper containment protocols in place? (Note: the reproducibility rate is called the R0, pronounced “R-nought.”)
  • What’s the breakdown between mild/moderate/critical cases that test positive? (There will probably also be mild cases that don’t ever get tested, but it will be a start)
  • Will COVID-19 be less dangerous / will the male death rate be less skewed in a country with a lower smoking rate?

Which brings us to Item #3: Smoking. In China, the number of serious cases skews slightly male, but the male death rate is much higher than the female death rate. Some folks have theorized that this could be due to innate immune differences between men and women, but others are saying it’s due to smoking:

  • COVID-19 targets the ACE2 receptor
  • Tobacco use appears to affect ACE2 gene expression. From a new study: “We observed significantly higher ACE2 gene expression in smoker samples compared to non-smoker samples. This indicates the smokers may be more susceptible to 2019-nCov and thus smoking history should be considered in identifying susceptible population and standardizing treatment regimen.”
  • The male population of China has about a 49% smoking rate; the female population in China has about a 2% smoking rate.
  • By contrast, in Singapore the rate is about 18% men / 6.3% women.

Hopefully, Singapore’s advanced health system and lower rate of smoking will keep infections, critical cases, and deaths to a minimum. That is the best case scenario.

If Singapore can’t stop it, though, then…that’s not a good sign for the rest of the world. So let’s hope for the best case scenario and keep our fingers crossed.

My Prediction: Bloomberg will the Dem Nominee

“Why,” you might ask, “are you, Sofia, calling Bloomberg this early in the race?”

I have my reasons.

1. I was living in NYC when he ran for mayor. At first, people viewed his candidacy as a joke. Then he won.

2. He is ruthless about obtaining, using, and keeping power and money. He’s done some shady stuff like “golden handcuffs” charitable giving to consolidate power in NYC. He gave money to left-leaning organizations directly, and then they would endorse him when the time came. That’s how he got rid of term limits.

3. The political establishment do not want Sanders/Warren redistribution of wealth. They want a status quo candidate that protects their millions. But they’re also *slightly* uncomfortable with Nazis. So they’ll throw their support behind the strongest status quo candidate, which is Bloomberg.

4. Bloomberg has so f’ing much money that he’ll be able to win a lot of delegates just because other people will drop out due to lack of funds.

Now, do I think this is a good thing? It’s not….great, but it’s not the worst thing ever.

Pros of a Bloomberg Dem. Candidacy:

1. He has shit-tons of money, and he owns a tech company. The federal government is doing nothing to secure elections from hacking, because by now “doing nothing” = “ensuring another Trump win.” If anybody can fund and build a one-man election security committee, it’s Mr. 60 billion dollars.

2. Similarly, you know some super shady shit is going to go down on election day, from voter intimidation campaigns to broken voting machines to voters who are suddenly told they’re not registered. If anyone can afford to have boots-on-the-ground teams of rabid lawyers in all 50 states, it’s Bloomberg.

3. As Anand G. says, “Plutes gonna plute.” Rich people like Trump Because Money, but they don’t like him Because Fiery Nuclear Inferno. If all the Money people have a “safe” plutocratic thief to choose, they’ll definitely back Bloomberg.

4. Because of 1-3, we Might Just Beat Trump/Putin Maybe.

5. Bloomberg seems to genuinely give a shit about bad things that might affect him or his descendants, such as gun violence and climate change, and will probably be willing to put some big programs into effect to work on them.

Cons of a Bloomberg Candidacy:

1. He seems to be a shitty human being. He once found out an employee was pregnant and he said “Kill it.” (!?!?!?!?) His policies such as stop and frisk are widely regarded to be Super Racist.

2. He has been a Republican, an Independent, and now a Democrat. He has no ideology other than himself.

3. We’re not going to get a fairer tax system or affordable health care or real structural change under him.

Long story short: Bloomberg is a natural born killer whose greed and cunning might just make him the “he’s an asshole, but he’s Our Asshole” candidate we need right now. But after he wins, those of us who are poor or sick or whatever will be just as likely to die in a ditch as before. However, he is 1000% less likely to start World War III because his tummy is upset that day, and in this miserable time, I’ll take “avoiding the end of humanity” and be grateful I can die in a ditch in peace, un-irradiated.

Now, who would be his running mate? He’s going to want to appeal to more liberal voters and show that’s he’s not just a collection of stock portfolios in a suit. But there’s no way he’d actually pair w/ Bernie or, even scarier, somebody who really understands complex financial instruments and how they should be reformed — Elizabeth Warren.

So, he’ll signal he’s Not a Bad Guy by pairing with someone who is a not-white-man and not from the East Coast. I don’t think Bloomberg will pick a female veep because he’s too sexist. Cory Booker would be a great but New Jersey is too close to New York. So what about Joaquin Castro, a man who’s already worked in one centrist administration and knows how to play ball, plus he’s a LOT more visually appealing than keebler elf Bloomberg.

So that is my prediction: Bloomberg/Castro.

But what ticket would I love? Warren/Castro. Raise a glass, because the most qualified person BY FAR is a woman (again) and she’s not going to win (again).