Fauci on Covid in US – “It could get very bad”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert at the US National Institutes of Health, has told the US Congress he is “quite concerned” about the surge in Covid cases in a number of states and new case numbers may more than double if it isn’t contained.

USA Today: Dr. Anthony Fauci tells Congress new coronavirus cases could reach 100,000 a day without changes

New coronavirus infections could increase to 100,000 a day if the nation doesn’t get its surge of cases under control, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress Tuesday.

“We’ve really got to do something about that and we need to deal with it quickly,” he testified. “It could get very bad.”

 said the surge has been caused both by some areas reopening too quickly and by people not following guidelines.

“We’ve got to get that message out that we are all in this together,” Fauci told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “And if we are going to contain this, we’ve got to contain it together.”

Fauci, said he’s “quite concerned” about what’s happening in many states.

Asked what’s going wrong, he said several states may have moved “too quickly” and skipped over some of the checkpoints laid out for a safe reopening.

But even in areas where state and local officials followed the federal guidelines, people acted as if all restrictions had been lifted, he said.

“What we saw were a lot of people who maybe felt that because they think they are invulnerable, and we know many young people are not because they’re getting serious disease, that therefore they’re getting infected has nothing at all to do with anyone else, when in fact it does,” Fauci said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., opened the hearing on the state of the coronavirus pandemic by reupping his past recommendation that President Donald Trump wear a mask to reduce the political divide on that health recommendation.

But Trump thinks that people wear masks to”signal disapproval” of him, and Trump ‘eager’ for more rallies despite Fauci ‘plea’ that people avoid crowds

President Trump’s campaign said he wanted to hold more rallies, even as states wrestle with a surge in the number of new coronavirus cases.

“President Trump is eager to keep hitting the campaign trail and holding more rallies to speak directly to the American people,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

“Even though many people, for a variety of reasons, do not listen to the, not suggestion, but plea to not congregate in crowds, some people are going to do that anyway,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a committee hearing last week.

“If you do, please wear a mask,” he said.

Trump has been seen wearing a mask publicly only once and said last week he believed some people wore masks to “signal disapproval” of him.

More from yesterday’s hearing:

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., opened the hearing on the state of the coronavirus pandemic by reupping his past recommendation that President Donald Trump wear a mask to reduce the political divide on that health recommendation.

“The president has plenty of admirers,” Alexander said. “They would follow his lead.”

Except Trump isn’t leading, he’s flailing and floundering, and polls suggest the number of admirers is rapidly shrinking see RCP average 55.4% unfavourable (-14.6%), and FiveThirtyEight 56.4% Disapprove (-16%).

Washington Sen. Patty Murray, top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, tore into Trump in her opening comments.

“We’ve seen a leadership crisis raging in the White House as the president proves time after time he cares less about how this pandemic is impacting families and communities and more about how it makes him look,” she said.

His latest tweets don’t make him look very good:

Who is ‘they’? Those trying to protect Americans from Covid?

The White House has often presented a rosier picture of the pandemic than what health officials describe.

Asked Monday about Azar’s warning, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president is encouraged that there has been a decline in fatality rates and an increase in effective treatments.

“These things make us uniquely equipped to handle the increase in cases that we’ve seen,” McEnany said.

“I’m not satisfied with what’s going on,” Fauci said, “because we’re going in the wrong direction.”

Case numbers are certainly surging in the wrong direction in the US. It’s too soon to tell whether the death rate follows suit, but it is bad enough as it is despite dropping from peaking in April-May.

US Attorney General: Divide Between African Americans, Police ‘Must Change’

A shift to attempting to address the unrest in the US precipitated by the killing of George Floyd, and acknowledging problems with the US police forces and black Americans in particular.

RCP – Barr: Divide Between African Americans, Police ‘Must Change’

Attorney General William Barr sought on Thursday to quell tensions over the death of George Floyd in police custody, acknowledging a divide between many black Americans and the police and promising to spare no resource as the Justice Department investigates whether a federal civil rights crime was committed.

“While the vast majority of police officers do their job bravely and righteously, it is undeniable that many African Americans lack confidence in our American criminal justice system,” Barr said at a news conference. “This must change. Our constitution mandates equal protection of the laws and nothing less is acceptable.”

Barr’s comments appeared to contrast with prior statements he’s made condemning protests against the police and what he’s described as a “disturbing pattern of cynicism and disrespect shown toward law enforcement.” But he insisted Thursday that his views have been consistent and that the overwhelming majority of police officers “try conscientiously to use appropriate and reasonable force.”

“I believe that police chiefs and law enforcement officials and leaders around the country are committed to ensuring that racism plays no part in law enforcement, and that everyone receives equal protection of the laws,” Barr said.

I don’t think it is anywhere near a universal commitment.

Most of the protesters have been peaceful and tried to discourage violence.

The most attention is given to the worst examples and excesses, that’s just how media coverage works and there’s no easy solution to that – they would be condemned for not showing the worst. Media have also shown examples of cooperation and empathy between police and protesters.

Trump, Barr and others lay some of the blame for the unrest on left-wing extremist groups, including antifa, and other “anarchists.” Short for anti-fascists, antifa is an umbrella term for far-left-leaning militant groups that resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations. He also said “foreign actors” appeared to be trying to “play all sides” to further incite violence in the U.S.

“We have seen evidence that antifa and other similar extremist groups as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions have been involving in instigating and participating in violent activity,” Barr said.

A senior Justice Department official said there have been “multiple instances” where people who have been arrested at demonstrations around the U.S. have identified themselves to law enforcement as members of antifa, the official said.

Federal prosecutors announced Wednesday that three Nevada men with ties to a loose movement of right-wing extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government had been arrested on terrorism-related charges in what authorities described as a conspiracy to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas.

Anarchists and extremists and those who like to incite and cause trouble will inevitably try to take advantage of protests and unrest.

Trump has claimed he has done more for black America since Abraham Lincoln, but that is just typical self-inflating nonsense.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany earlier had sidestepped questions about whether Trump believes there’s a systemic bias in American law enforcement against African Americans.

But pressed about whether Trump believes there is a larger problem of racial bias in law enforcement, McEnany only acknowledged that Trump “believes there are some examples of injustices.”

Trump has performed poorly over the Floyd death and Black Lives matters protests. RCP polling averages show he has not just reversed gains in approval he got over Covid but has quickly lost support over the last two weeks.

.More trying to divert blame to others. I don’t know how he thinks he will “bring in a different group” in a democracy.

 

Business Insider: Trump suggests George Floyd is ‘looking down’ from heaven and appreciating the ‘great day in terms of equality’ after an unexpectedly strong jobs report was announced

In a freewheeling Friday-morning press conference in the Rose Garden, President Donald Trump touted a strong May jobs report and said he hoped George Floyd, who was killed by the Minneapolis police 10 days ago, was “looking down” from heaven and saying this “is a great thing that’s happening for our country.”

The economy added 2.5 million jobs in May, bringing the unemployment rate down to 13.3% from 14.7% in April.

That’s a surprising turnaround, but the economy has a lot to weather yet.

“Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country. It’s a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. It is a great, great day in terms of equality,” Trump said.

It is premature to be claiming economic victory after Covid – 25,000 new cases in the US so far today and another thousand deaths.

I don’t think that if George Floyd could see what has happened since his death he would see anything great happening.

A major problem in the US (apart from Trump) is that there are many different police forces managed and employed by various cities and states, with top police officials elected. It will be very difficult to improve police behaviour across the country.

Trump pushes for more force, military, as protests continue in US

Protests against the killing of George Floyd by a police officer continue across the not very united States. It quickly widened to being protests against police brutality, against white vigilantes, and against a culture of racism that has plagued the US for centuries.

Meanwhile President Donald Trump is encouraging authorities to deal with the protests with more force. He is trying to sound tough from an apparent position of impotence.

Stuff: Donald Trump berates US state governors, urges them to use force to ‘dominate’ protesters

After pockets of the United States descended into chaos – after another day of protests over the death of yet another black man in police custody led to another night of fire and fury – President Donald Trump urged the nation’s governors to use force and take back the streets.

During a conference call Monday (Tuesday NZ time), Trump berated the state leaders, calling them “weak,” and urged them to “dominate” protesters, according to officials familiar with the president’s remarks. The conference call followed another turbulent night across the nation, as protests that began peacefully exploded into mayhem.

Some conservative commentators are urging the president to address the nation, but the White House press secretary said Trump is focused on the far-left “antifa” movement that he believes is behind the violence. “A national Oval Office address is not going to stop antifa,” Kayleigh McEnany said.

Trump typically likes to focus on a culprit, but the situation is far more widespread and complex than being the fault of Antifa.

Trump berated the nation’s governors on a conference call, telling them to take back the streets and use force to confront protesters and said if they did not, they would look like “fools,” alarming several governors on the call as they communicated privately, according to the officials.

“If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time,” Trump said, according to a person on the call. A second person on the call said Trump praised Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, D, and thanked Defense Secretary Mark Esper for his assistance.

The president told the governors that “you have to use the military” and “we have a wonderful military,” said the person on the call.

The president said that people arrested at the protests should serve a 10-year prison sentence, according to another person familiar with the call.

More force and using the military is likely to further inflame a volatile situation. Trump has been criticised for inflaming things with his language.

Difficult times for the US, and they seem to be far from over.

Even Fox News has mixed coverage that isn’t particularly pro-Trump:

This won’t help calm things: Family releases independent autopsy results indicating cause of death

Attorneys for George Floyd‘s family released the results of an independent autopsy report Monday showing that Floyd’s death was caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain.

Fox News contributor and forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden was one of two doctors hired by the Floyd family to conduct an independent review after prosecutors said a preliminary finding from the official autopsy concluded the combined effects of being restrained, potential intoxicants in Floyd’s system and his underlying health issues, including heart disease, likely contributed to his death.

A video showing a white officer was kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes before his death has sparked national riots in major cities from San Francisco to Boston.

Baden has conducted other independent reviews in similar cases of police brutality including that of Eric Garner, a black man who was placed in a chokehold by New York police who were attempting to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes and would not relent even as he pleaded that he could not breathe.

Floyd fell to the ground as police were attempting to put him in the squad car, saying he was claustrophobic, according to the complaint.

Floyd can be heard on video saying “I can’t breathe,” numerous times.

Video taken of Floyd’s arrest over a suspected counterfeit $20 bill shows former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, including nearly three minutes after Floyd stopped moving and talking.

It sounds and like a casual callous killing.

Chauvin was arrested on Friday and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers who stood by and watched the incident unfold without intervening have not been arrested or charged in the case despite cries from the community for swift legal action.

It’s going the very difficult for the US to repair the damage caused by this.

 

USA – burning from the bottom, flaming from the top

As the smouldering from the bottom of US society erupts into riots and burning, again, about all they get from the top is blaming and flaming on Twitter from a flaming idiot.

Evidence that there’s a fine line between a civil society and anarchy is apparent in the United States of America who show society there is far from united. Another police killing of a black man has precipitated days of riots across the country, again. Nothing much seems to have changed since the last time, and the time before.

One of the most divisive presidents ever has talked tough but is largely impotent. People with long standing grievances and opportunist anarchists and if some claims are correct countries trying to incite mayhem couldn’t care less what a twit on Twitter says.

Order from anarchy?

The circle-A is almost certainly the best-known present-day symbol for anarchy. It is a monogram that consists of the capital letter “A” surrounded by the capital letter “O”.

The letter “A” is derived from the first letter of “anarchy” or “anarchism” in most European languages and is the same in both Latin and Cyrillic scripts. The “O” stands for order and together they stand for “society seeks order in anarchy” (French: la société cherche l’ordre dans l’anarchie), a phrase written by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in his 1840 book What Is Property?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_symbolism

I haven’t seen any sort of order emerge from riots and anarchical outbursts, and Donald trump certainly doesn’t seem capable of doing anything to repair the damage he has done in three and a half years let alone centuries of racism and oppression.

Of course there’s no justification in opportunist looting and destruction of property, but it’s what happens when authority is challenged and put under severe pressure.

As usual blame has been spread across the political spectrum. It’s a complex situation with many emotions and motivations involved, but it’s normal for humans to blame people or groups they don’t like for problems and ignore or make excuses for those they are sympathetic to.

The greatest blamer and divider ever is as bad as ever.

Blaming everything on ‘the media’ is getting lamer, and calling oneself GREAT on Twitter doesn’t make oneself so, especially when his country is in chaos.

Perhaps trump thinks that media shouldn’t have reported on another killing by cop. the media didn’t kneel on a handcuffed defenceless man’s neck for up to eight minutes, until he died.

“The World is watching and laughing at you…” is typical flaming and blaming, but at this time I don’t think the world is laughing even at Trump, more like shaking their collective head in despair at how poorly a supposedly strong nation deals with this crap.

In the short term force of law will prevail, but it is unlikely that anything much will be resolved, especially with the moral vacuum at the top.

WHO promise review of handling of Covid-19 pandemic

The World Health Organisation says they will begin and independent review of the global coronavirus response “as soon as possible”.

This is being backed by China and most countries are suporting WHO, but the US are still sticking their boot in, continuing to blame WHO and China for the severity of the pandemic.

RNZ:  World Health Organisation promises Covid-19 response review

The World Health Organisation says an independent review of the global coronavirus response will begin as soon as possible, and it received backing and a hefty pledge of funds from China.

But the US administration of President Donald Trump decried an “apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak by at least one member state”.

Trump has already suspended US funding for the WHO after accusing it of being too China-centric.

Without mentioning China by name, US Health Secretary Alex Azar made clear Washington considered the WHO jointly responsible for the pandemic.

“We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control,” he said on Monday.

“There was a failure by this organisation to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping said China had acted with “openness and transparency and responsibility”.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus defended the organisation’s response.

“WHO sounded the alarm early, and we sounded it often,” he said.

Tedros, who has always promised a coronavirus review, told the forum it would come “at the earliest appropriate moment” and make recommendations for the future.

He received robust backing from the WHO’s independent oversight panel.

“Every country and every organisation must examine its response and learn from its experience,” Tedros said, adding that the review must cover “all actors in good faith”.

In its first report on the handling of the pandemic, the seven-member oversight committee said the WHO had “demonstrated leadership and made important progress in its Covid-19 response”.

It also said “an imperfect and evolving understanding” was not unusual when a new disease emerged.

In an apparent rejoinder to Trump, the panel said a “rising politicisation of pandemic response” was hindering the effort to defeat the virus.

Meanwhile  disagreement in the US over handling of the pandemic and related scapegoating has flared up in public, with Azar defending US efforts.

Fox News – HHS Secretary Azar hits back at Navarro’s criticism of CDC: ‘Inaccurate and inappropriate’

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar hit back Monday at White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for his coronavirus-related criticism of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a striking public spat between two wings of the Trump administration.

“The comments regarding the CDC are inaccurate and inappropriate,” Azar said on Fox News’  “America’s Newsroom” Monday.

Azar’s comments come after Navarro slammed the CDC over the weekend, saying the agency “let the country down” in its early stages of testing for COVID-19.

“Early on in this crisis, the CDC, which really had the most trusted brand around the world in this space — really let the country down with the testing,” Navarro said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test and that set us back.”

But Azar defended the agency Monday, saying they “had one error, which was in scaling up the manufacturing of the tests they had developed.”

Azar also defended the administration’s coronavirus testing methods, saying that President Trump “is delivering 300,000 tests per day” and that the U.S. has conducted over 10 million tests.

Trump claims US testing is the best in the world (it has now identified over one and a half million cases, but that’s the 39th best testing rate according to Worldometer).

No organisation or country could have handled the rapidly unfolding Covid crisis perfectly. It was impossible to know the best way to respond (that’s still debatable), and most countries were under prepared for any sort of pandemic.

Blaming others is just a way of trying to divert from one’s own inadequacies. The focus should be on learning from mistakes and doing better now and in future health emergencies.

Full economic recovery may require vaccine

The US Federal Reserve Chairman  says that a full economic recovery may take well over a year, and it may be dependent on a Covid019 virus becoming available.

That isn’t a surprising prediction, as a return to unrestricted international travel is likely to also depend on a vaccine. Travel affects business, especially tourism. Airlines that survive may it difficult to get back previous levels of business if social distancing remains required.

Reuters: Fed’s Powell says full economic recovery may require coronavirus vaccine

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said a U.S. economic recovery may stretch deep into next year and a full comeback may depend on a coronavirus vaccine.

“This economy will recover. It may take a while … It could stretch through the end of next year. We really don’t know,” Powell said in remarks aired on CBS’s “Face the Nation”.

“Assuming there is not a second wave of the coronavirus, I think you will see the economy recover steadily through the second half of this year. For the economy to fully recover people will have to be fully confident and that may have to await the arrival of a vaccine.”

Like governments a lot of businesses will need to rely on borrowing to survive, and that could be a burden for years.

The world economy is in part reliant on the US economy, as is New Zealand’s economy. We have done a lot of travel to and through the US, and a lot of business with them.

Covid deaths have now passed 90,000 in the US, with trends indicating that wil reach well over 100k by the end of May and still climbing into June – see Where The Latest COVID-19 Models Think We’re Headed 

Reuters: So far, no spike in coronavirus in places reopening, U.S. health secretary says.

U.S. authorities are not yet seeing spikes in coronavirus cases in places that are reopening but it was still too early to determine such trends, health secretary Alex Azar said on Sunday.

“We are seeing that in places that are opening, we’re not seeing this spike in cases,” Azar said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “We still see spikes in some areas that are, in fact, closed.”

However, Azar said identifying and reporting new cases takes time. A critical part of reopening will be surveillance of flu-like symptoms in the population and other hospital admissions data, as well as testing of asymptomatic individuals, he said.

“It’s still early days,” Azar cautioned in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He said data will take some time to come in from states that reopened early such as Georgia and Florida.

There are now 315,000 deaths currently recorded world wide. It is difficult to predict what the trends are going to be over the next few months as US states as well as countries start to cautiously reopen.

Some countries have increasing problems, like Brazil and Mexico, and Russia is now second to the US in number of cases, but with an extraordinarily low number of deaths recorded.

Two of the worst hit countries are at lowering rates – Spain and Italy record lower death tolls

Spain has recorded its lowest death toll in two months with 87 deaths in 24 hours, while Italy recorded its lowest daily toll, 145, since lockdown was declared.

It was the first time that Spain announced under 100 deaths in a day since mid-March, which could be due to a delay in reporting over the weekend, the health emergency coordinator said.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday that the government would request to extend the state of emergency for another month as the country continues to phase out restrictions on movement amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The state of emergency was set to end on May 24.

Declaring the lowest number of daily deaths since 9 March, Italy is now looking to bring forward the reopening of some commercial activity in the country, with retailers, hairdressers, salons, restaurants and cake shops authorised to open from tomorrow.

Spain has been relaxing stringent restrictions over the lats week. But weekend numbers are lower then weekday numbers.

DW: Brazil overtakes Spain, Italy in COVID-19 cases

Brazil overtook Spain and Italy in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, making it the fourth-largest outbreak in the world.

The country’s total number of cases rose to 233,142 after authorities logged 14,919 new cases, according to data form Brazil’s Health Ministry.

A total of 15,633 people have died due to the coronavirus in the country so far, with the country registering 816 new fatalities over the past 24 hours.

Experts have warned that due to under-testing, the actual figures could be as much as 15 times higher, cautioning that the worst could be yet to come.

Despite the rising case numbers and fatalities, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak, dismissing the virus as a “little flu.”

He has also continued to attack lockdown measures implemented by some governors to contain the spread of the virus, and calling for businesses to reopen

“Unemployment, hunger and misery will be the future of those who support the tyranny of total isolation,” the far-right president tweeted.

RNZ: Brazil’s Bolsonaro sees second health minister quit

Brazil’s health minister has resigned after less than a month in the job following disagreements over of the government’s handling of the country’s escalating coronavirus crisis.

At his news conference, Teich did not reveal why he had stepped down. He just thanked President Bolsonaro for giving him the chance to serve as a minister and praised healthcare workers.

But he has clashed with the president over several aspects of how the government has dealt with the spiralling epidemic.

He disagreed with the president’s desire to widely use chloroquine as a treatment. The drug has gained widespread attention although the World Health Organisation (WHO) says there’s no definitive evidence it works.

Teich also butted heads with the president over plans to open up the economy, saying last week that he was not consulted ahead of an order that paved the way for gyms, beauty salons and hairdressers to reopen.

Case and death rates are increasing in Brazil.

A study comparing Denmark and Sweden claims that most of the drop in consumer spending is due to the virus itself and not the lockdowns. Newsroom: New paper calls into question benefits of Swedish strategy

Economists at the University of Copenhagen have found lockdowns have had little impact on consumer spending habits and that the true dampener of purchasing activity is the coronavirus itself.

The findings of the preprint paper, which may not have been peer-reviewed, call into question the premise of the much-touted Swedish strategy, in which the Nordic country has shied away from entering lockdown, suffering thousands of deaths as a result, in order to preserve the economy.

Transaction data for 830,000 Danes and Swedes from the second-largest Scandinavian bank found aggregate spending dropped by 25 percent in Sweden and 29 percent in neighbouring Denmark, which instituted a lockdown. Denmark has had 10,713 cases of Covid-19 and 537 deaths, while Sweden has seen 28,582 cases and 3529 deaths.

“In Denmark, spending drops sharply around the shutdown on 11 March 2020 and remains below the level in the reference period,” the researchers write.

“In Sweden, spending drops sharply at almost the exact same time although no significant restrictions were imposed. Presumably, this is no coincidence but reflects that the Danish shutdown responded to an escalating pandemic, similar in the two countries, with its own strong effect on spending. This highlights the empirical difficulty of separating the effects of social distancing laws and the pandemic they are designed to contain.”

In their conclusion, the economists argue that the lockdown resulted in just a 4 percent decrease in spending and that the virus itself was to blame for the vast bulk of the economic slump.

With no sign of a vaccine keeping the virus in check and getting economies back in action may be a long slow process.

Covid-19 deaths pass 300,000 and gloomy outlooks

The total recorded Covid-19 deaths has now passed 300,000 and is could be significantly higher than this. There are doubts that the Chinese toll of 4,600 is accurate, and while Russia has quarter of a million cases they officially have just 2,300 deaths, which seems quite out of kilter with rations in most countries.

Moscow defends reporting of low coronavirus death statistics

Russia’s high number of confirmed coronavirus cases but low number of deaths has raised questions about the veracity of the Kremlin’s reporting of the pandemic’s statistics.

But Moscow hit back on Wednesday, saying its way of counting and attributing deaths was the most accurate.

More than 60 percent of people who died in April after contracting coronavirus had their deaths ascribed to other causes, said city officials.

Of Russia’s 2,212 coronavirus deaths, Moscow, the epicentre of the country’s outbreak, accounts for 1,232.

Moscow’s department of health said Russia, unlike other countries, conducted post-mortem examinations for every death in which coronavirus was suspected as the main cause.

“Therefore, post-mortem diagnoses and causes of death recorded in Moscow are ultimately extremely accurate, and mortality data is completely transparent,” it said.

“It’s impossible in other COVID-19 cases to name the cause of death. So, for example, in over 60 percent of deaths the cause was clearly for different reasons – such as vascular failures (such as heart attacks), stage four malignant diseases, leukaemia, systemic diseases which involve organ failure, and other incurable fatal diseases.”

But:

Data released by Moscow’s city government on Friday shows that the number of overall registered deaths in the Russian capital in April exceeded the five-year average for the same period by more than 1,700. That total is far higher than the official Covid-19 death count of 642 — an indication of significant underreporting by the authorities.

A similar picture has been observed in many other countries. In neighboring Belarus, for example — where the authoritarian leader Aleksandr G. Lukashenko has rejected calls for a lockdown as “frenzy and psychosis” — the reported death rate is about 10 per million. In Mexico, officials have recorded more than three times as many deaths in the capital as the government has acknowledged.

With over 86,000 recorded deaths it looks far from over in the US.

U.S. faces ‘darkest winter’ if pandemic planning falters: whistleblower

A whistleblower who says he was removed from his government post for raising concerns about coronavirus preparedness told a congressional hearing on Thursday that the United States could face “the darkest winter” of recent times if it does not improve its response to the pandemic.

Hours after President Donald Trump railed against him on Twitter, whistleblower Rick Bright testified to a U.S. House of Representatives panel about readiness for the outbreak.

“What we do must be done carefully with guidance from the best scientific minds. Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to improve our response now, based on science, I fear the pandemic will get worse and be prolonged,” Bright said during his testimony.

Later on Thursday, Trump told reporters at the White House that he had watched some of Bright’s hearing.

“To me he’s nothing more than a really disgruntled, unhappy person,” Trump said, adding that he did not know Bright.

A gloomy economic outlook too.

Seven weeks into coronavirus lockdowns, Fed has a new, darker message

One Thursday morning seven weeks ago, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell made a rare appearance on NBC’s “Today Show” to offer a reassuring message to Americans dealing with economic fallout from measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

At the time, Powell said he expected economic activity would resume in the second half of the year, and maybe even enjoy a “good rebound.”

But on Wednesday, he offered a much more sober outlook.

In an interview webcast by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Powell warned here of an “extended period” of weak economic growth, tied to uncertainty about how well the virus could be controlled in the United States. “There is a sense, growing sense I think, that the recovery may come more slowly than we would like,” he said.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was similarly somber when he told lawmakers earlier this week that the country was by no means in “total control” of the outbreak.

“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control and, in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery,” Fauci said.

In New Zealand yesterday’s budget allowed for an increase of debt from 20% of GDP to 50%. Snowballing ebt is a problem worldwide.

Coronavirus to leave a legacy of unprecedented global debt

Enormous doses of stimulus spending are offering relief from coronavirus damage but their lifelong legacy of debt could seed future crises by hobbling economic growth and worsening poverty, especially in developing countries.

Central banks and governments worldwide have unleashed at least $15 trillion of stimulus via bond-buying and budget spending to cushion the blow of a global recession tipped to be the worst since the 1930s.

But the steps will pile even more debt on countries already struggling with the aftermath of the 2008-9 financial crisis — total global debt has risen $87 trillion since 2007, and governments, with $70 trillion, accounted for the lion’s share of that increase, the Institute of International Finance estimates (IIF).

This year alone may see the global debt-GDP ratio rise by 20 percentage points to 342%, the group said, based on 3% economic contraction and a doubling in government borrowing from 2019.

Money seems to replicate as easily as the coronavirus, but with no attempt to find an economic vaccine.

And more problems in the US.

Sen. Burr steps aside as Intelligence Committee chairman amid stock sale investigation

Republican Sen. Richard Burr has stepped aside as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee amid an investigation into his stock sales during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the development in a brief statement Thursday, saying:

“Senator Burr contacted me this morning to inform me of his decision to step aside as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee during the pendency of the investigation. We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow.”

Later, Burr confirmed that he would be stepping aside.

Suspicions arose last month after it was revealed that several senators dumped stocks prior to the coronavirus pandemic upending the global economy. The FBI reportedly reached out to Burr to discuss the sale of as much as $1.7 million in stocks.

Senate records indicate that Burr and his wife sold between roughly $600,000 and $1.7 million in more than 30 transactions in late January and mid-February, just before the market began to nosedive and government health officials began to sound alarms about the virus. Several of the stocks were in companies that own hotels.

This all makes our Covid-19 and economic problems look puny in comparison – 21 deaths and no new cases over the last three days as our lockdown is relaxed.

 

4 million Covid-19 cases and still climbing

World wide confirmed cases of Covid-19 are now over four million, and while the rate of increase has leveled off the number of new cases each day remains mostly at at 80-90-,000 a day, although yesterday it was higher at 97,128.

About a third of cases are in the United States, currently at 1.3 million.

There are now over 275 thousand deaths attributed to Covid-19, with more than a fifth in the US, currently 78,615 – the rate of increase in the US has leveled or perhaps slowed a little but are still averaging nearly 2,000 a day (about 13,000 in the last week).

Some of the worst affected countries, Italy, Spain and Belgium, seem to be over the worst with declining rates of cases and deaths, but that’s from high totals.

The UK has the highest number of deaths in Europe and is  the second behind the US but trends appear to be declining a bit there.

Covid-19 seems to have been slower to spread in Brazil but their death rates are increasing. Yesterday they had the second highest increase at 804 and are now the sixth country to have more than 10,000 deaths.

But the problems are far from over.

Reuters: Coronavirus inflicts huge U.S. job losses as pandemic breaches White House walls

The U.S. government reported more catastrophic economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis on Friday as the pandemic pierced the very walls of the White House and California gave the green light for its factories to restart after a seven-week lockdown.

A day after the White House confirmed that President Donald Trump’s personal valet had tested positive for the virus, Trump told reporters that Katie Miller, press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence, had also been infected. She is married to senior Trump aide and immigration policy hard-liner Stephen Miller and travels frequently with Pence.

The back-to-back diagnoses of individuals close to Trump, Pence and the White House inner circle raised questions about whether the highest levels of government are adequately safeguarded from infection.

Earlier in the day, the Labor Department reported the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 14.7% last month, up from 3.5% in February, demonstrating the speed with which the workforce collapsed after stay-at-home orders meant to curb the outbreak were imposed across most of the country.

Worse economic news may be yet to come. White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said the unemployment rate was likely to climb to around 20% this month. The jobless rate for April already shattered the post-World War Two record of 10.8% set in November 1982.

But Trump seems increasingly turning his attention to the election campaign in the US, endorsing Republicans and criticising and blaming Democrats.

For Trump it’s mostly about ‘me’, When calling other people crazy it appears to be projection.

Another leader seemingly at odds with reality is President Bolsonaro.

The Lancet – COVID-19 in Brazil: “So what?”

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic reached Latin America later than other continents. The first case recorded in Brazil was on Feb 25, 2020. But now, Brazil has the most cases and deaths in Latin America (105 222 cases and 7288 deaths as of May 4), and these are probably substantial underestimates.

Even more worryingly, the doubling of the rate of deaths is estimated at only 5 days and a recent study by Imperial College (London, UK), which analysed the active transmission rate of COVID-19 in 48 countries, showed that Brazil is the country with the highest rate of transmission (R0 of 2·81).

Yet, perhaps the biggest threat to Brazil’s COVID-19 response is its president, Jair Bolsonaro.

When asked by journalists last week about the rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, he responded: “So what? What do you want me to do?” He not only continues to sow confusion by openly flouting and discouraging the sensible measures of physical distancing and lockdown brought in by state governors and city mayors but has also lost two important and influential ministers in the past 3 weeks.

Time will tell how bad things get in Brazil but current trends look bad, and their testing rate is very low at 1,597 per million (the US is 25k per million, New Zealand is 37k, Spain is 52k).

Covid-19 is dominating news all around the world.

https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-52597437

UK now second to US with Covid-19 deaths

The UK has passed Italy and is now second to the US for recorded Covid deaths. It was predicted weeks ago that the UK would end up with the highest toll in Europe.

Meanwhile New York has revealed 1,700 previously undisclosed Nursing Home deaths.

There are now more than quarter of a million deaths world-wide, with recent signs of just a slight slowing down of deaths (but cases keeps climbing at 80-90,000 a day).

Countries with more than a thousand deaths recorded (with new totals to date for 5 May GMT):

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

BBC: UK reports highest death toll in Europe

  • The latest daily reported death total for the UK (29,427) is now higher than the total for Italy (29,315)
  • The UK has reached this figure faster in its epidemic than Italy, but there are caveats to the comparison
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says there will be no “real verdict” until the pandemic is over
  • Europe’s first-known case may have emerged almost a month earlier than thought, French doctor suggests after re-testing patient

The death count in New York has been bumped up:

National review: New York Reports 1,700 More Coronavirus Deaths at Nursing Homes

New York on Tuesday announced 1,700 previously undisclosed suspected coronavirus deaths that occurred at nursing homes and adult care facilities.

The new data from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, which includes people who passed away before a lab test could confirm they had coronavirus, brings the state’s death toll from the virus to at least 4,813 since the beginning of March. That number does not include nursing home residents who were transferred to hospital before they died, causing the actual toll of the virus on nursing homes to remain fuzzy.

There are now over seventy thousand deaths recorded in the US,

BBC: A hunt for the ‘missing link’ host species

It was a matter of “when not if” an animal passed the coronavirus from wild bats to humans, scientists say. But it remains unclear whether that animal was sold in the now infamous Wuhan wildlife market in China.

The World Health Organization says that all evidence points to the virus’s natural origin, but some scientists now say it might never be known how the first person was infected.

Global health researchers have, for many years, understood how the trade in wild animals provides a source of species-to-species disease transmission. As life-changing as this particular outbreak has been for so much of the global population, it is actually one of many that the trade has been linked to.

Infectious disease experts agree that, like most emerging human disease, this virus initially jumped undetected across the species barrier.

Donald Trump keeps trying to blame a Chinese laboratory and has promised to release evidence. Others are also promoting this claim – Mike Pompeo: ‘enormous evidence’ coronavirus came from Chinese lab

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, claimed on Sunday there is “enormous evidence” the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese laboratory – but did not provide any of the alleged evidence.

Pompeo said: “There is enormous evidence that that’s where this began,” later adding: “I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”

But when he was reminded that US intelligence had issued a formal statement noting the opposite – that the scientific consensus was that the virus was not manmade or genetically modified – Pompeo replied: “That’s right. I agree with that.”

BBC: US allies tread lightly around Trump lab claims

UK officials believe it is not possible to be absolutely sure about the origins but point to scientific opinion suggesting the most likely scenario is that it was from a live animal market. However, they add that it is impossible to rule out the theory of an accidental release from a lab without a full investigation.

Their view echoes comments on Tuesday by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said: “We can’t rule out any of these arrangements… but the most likely has been in a wildlife wet market.”

US intelligence, like other countries, has devoted extensive resources to try and understand what has been happening within China, and some of the information could be highly sensitive.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told National Geographic on Monday that he did not entertain the lab theory. The World Health Organization (WHO) also says it has not received any evidence from the US to back up the lab theory.

Intelligence may well point to China having tried to play down or hide details of the initial outbreak, although this is different from hiding the exact origin of the virus.

Trump is still trumping up claims and has reassigned his ‘miracle’ claims.

But that ignores the more important comparison of tests per population.

  • USA: 7.6 million tests (22,988 per million)
  • Germany: 2.5 million testst (30,400 per million)
  • Italy: 2.2 million tests (37,158 per million)
  • Canada: 919,000 tests (24,359 per million)
  • France: 1.1 million tests (16,856 per million)
  • Spain: 1.9 million tests (37,158 per million)
  • Belgium: 3309,552 tests (39,3632 per million)
  • UK: 1.3 million tests (19,026 per million)
  • Australia: 664,756 tests (26,069 per million)
  • New Zealand: 155,928 tests (32,335 per million)

There are 39 countries with a higher testing rate than the US.

It would be a miracle if Trump started to be honest (unless he doesn’t understand the numbers).

Fox News: Coronavirus death toll in US projected to double as restrictions ease, key model predicts

A revised mortality model predicts coronavirus deaths in the U.S. will nearly double to 135,000 through August as states continue to ease social distancing restrictions.

The grim new projection, released by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) Monday, which has helped influence the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, has jumped up considerably from its April 29 forecast of 72,433 deaths.

the new projection coincides with an internal Trump administration forecast obtained by The New York Times that predicts the daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June 1. It also projects there will be 200,000 new coronavirus cases every day. This is a significant jump from current numbers of roughly 25,000 new cases and 1,750 deaths each day.

Sources told Fox News that while a significant portion of the data comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the projections of new cases and deaths come from modeling done at Johns Hopkins University.

When asked about the document, White House spokesman Judd Deere said: “This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting.

“This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed.”

 

 

More on Covid models

The early Covid-19 models that tried to predict possible death toll from Covid-19 in various countries received a lot of attention because numbers were large and alarming, but the worst case scenarios were based on limited data and nothing being done to stop the virus from spreading.

But a lot has been done to try to limit the death toll, and models have been continually refined, but there are still have quite wide variations due to not being sure how quickly or drastically restrictions will be lifted, and other unknowns.

Modelling is not very important in New Zealand now because we have very few new cases per day and deaths per day have been 0 for a few days and were never more than 4 a day. We still have quite tight restrictions with only gradual easing indicated, so we should be able to keep Covid deaths to not much more than they are now, at least for the next month or two.

Modelling is a bigger deal elsewhere as while the death toll in many countries may have flattened it is still quite high. For a couple of weeks now deaths have averaged around a couple of thousand a day in the US. The situation there is quite complex with different infection rates and different restrictions across various states, and some states are starting to lift restrictions.

FiveThirtyEight takes an interesting look at models, showing wide ranges in single models and differences between models looking ahead only for the next month (May).

Where The Latest COVID-19 Models Think We’re Headed — And Why They Disagree

Models predicting the potential spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have become a fixture of American life. Yet each model tells a different story about the devastation to come, making it hard to know which one is “right.” But COVID-19 models aren’t made to be unquestioned oracles. They’re not trying to tell us one precise future, but rather the range of possibilities given the facts on the ground.

FiveThirtyEight — with the help of the Reich Lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst — has assembled six models published by infectious disease researchers to illustrate possible trajectories of the pandemic’s death toll.

Forecasts like these are useful because they help us understand the most likely outcomes as well as best- and worst-case possibilities — and they can help policymakers make decisions that can lead us closer to those best-case outcomes.

And looking at multiple models is better than looking at just one because it’s difficult to know which model will match reality the closest. Even when models disagree, understanding why they are different can give us valuable insight.

The article goes on to explain each of the six models and also looks at state by state breakdowns.

What this shows us is how imprecise models are.

But the US models suggest that models from a month or so ago predicting 100-200k or so deaths may have been reasonably on track, From now a lot still depends on the success or otherwise of containing the spreading of the virus, the success in particular in keeping it out of aged care and rest homes, and the time taken to find effective treatments and ultimately a vaccine.

The current official death toll in the US is about 65,000 and if the death rate continues as at present that will reach 130-140k by the end of May. Even if on average the death rate halves it will still be over 100k by then.