🦠 Learning nothing, politicising everything

📊 Daily Data Brief: June 27, 2020, 21:30 GMT (❗️Previous data: June 25, 2020, 01:37 GMT )

Cumulative case: 10,052,539 (+526,538cumulative cases 

Active cases:  4,126,314 (+259,984) (this is the number of currently infected patients)

Total Deaths:  500,162 (+15,236)

Serious/Critical Cases: 57,639 (-778)

Recovered:  5,426,063 (+251,318)

Source: Worldometers

1) Seven-day rolling average of new deaths(ECDC data)

Showing a chart from the FT today highlighting the worrying situation in Brazil, Mexico, India and Russia and Iran (NEW❗️). Also the FT comparative charts now allow up to 6 countries.

2) Rt estimate per State (US)  (NEW❗️changed to RT.live which offers better visualisation of States above whose Rt>1 )

3) Rt estimate per Country

The situation in the US is worrying and it is no surprise, that the two Twitter threads of day, the video of the day and a whole section in today’s Corona Daily focus on the spread of COVID-19 there.

While the death numbers have yet to rise again in the US, hospitalisations have already trended upwards again. As Florian Krammer shows looking at the Iran’s new cases/deaths numbers, it could be that COVID-19 spread amongst the younger population delays growth in deaths numbers beyond the anticipated 3 week lag. We will start finding out next week.

The politicisation of science is a major problem in the US preventing a unified public messaging and widespread adoption of advocated measures within the population. Nowhere has this been more visible than on the recommendation of masking. This is an area which CT Bergstrom discusses in one of the two podcasts of the day. The other podcast is an interview by Bob Wachter of John Barry, an expert on the 1918 Spanish Flu.

Derek Lowe is preparing a piece on COVID-19 vaccine pipeline but has written an article on the anti-vaxxer movement featured today.

An important pre-print is also featured modelling how best to design mitigation testing. This is an important area, as finding an optimal and workable strategy for mitigation testing might prove key to reopening universities and the economy more safely.

It is sad to see that rather than learning from the myriad of successful policies implemented worldwide to contain COVID-19 and adapting or iterating on these, the US response is bogged down in politicisation. It is hard to see how the country can rapidly fight this pandemic for as long as this will be the case. The country cannot afford to wait till the November election for this to be resolved.

🇺🇸 Threads of the day: “Non-independence-from-Covid week”

1. Thread 1: Dr Tom Frieden (former US Center for Diseases Control and Prevention director) thread, a “Review of the weekly data released from the CDC” on Friday.

Frieden does this every week and provides a valuable analysis and highlight of the CDC data, the agency he once directed. It has been a bad week as he concludes in the last tweet off the thread:

A great read. (Twitter thread)

2. Thread 2: Bob Wachter (Chair of Medicine at UCSF) “Covid (@UCSF) Chronicles, Day 101”.

In this thread, Wachter laments that the US did not use the lockdown as efficiently as it could have done and be back to closer to normal life by now. In his opinion, a number of states were complacent.

He also shares the great visualisation from the New York Times, “How the virus won” in one of the tweets:

Wachter also talks about the shift of the infection within the young, and warns against not taking this as a positive (given that infection fatalities are smaller for younger people) echoing Dr. Fauci:

Bob Wachter @Bob_Wachter
15/ But young folks with Covid are still a problem. First, a fair # will get very sick. More importantly, as Fauci said today
bit.ly/2Vko2co, “you will infect someone else… and ultimately infect someone who is vulnerable… on chemotherapy, or a child who has leukemia…”

He believes that shelter-in-place orders making a comeback is a real possibility. He is not kind about his ability of his country to handle a pandemic:

A great thread giving a rich and personal perspective on what has been a bad week in the US. (Twitter thread)

🇺🇸 Video of the day: How the epicentre of the outbreak has shifted from New York to the South and West of the US (new cases per million).

U.S. in focus:

🇺🇸 Ricardo Nuila (associate professor of Medicine, Medical Ethics, and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine) writes “The Coronavirus Surge That Texas Could Have Seen Coming” for the New Yorker. Nuila sees patients at Ben Taub Hospital. He tells about one prison patient coming late April which ended up becoming a hotspot for the pandemic in his state:

“A few weeks after my patient went back, seven hundred and eighteen inmates and more than two hundred staff members had tested positive, and three people had died.”

Nuila also talks about another community which is likely to have spread silently COVID-19 in Houston:

“Houston is home to more than half a million undocumented immigrants, and some doctors speculated that our numbers were rising because the undocumented were afraid to go to other hospitals; it was easy to imagine that, without outreach and testing, many had been weighing the risk of deportation against the need to seek treatment for shortness of breath.”

And now his hospital’s ICU is back at full capacity. The city is on “the precipice of disaster” according to his Democrat Mayor, whilst the he Texas G.O.P. convention is still scheduled to go forward downtown, in July...

More politics again for an apolitical virus. Houston’s epidemic like many others in the US highlights what Nuila labels “necessary tolerance of the uninsured” towards COVID-19: they come to hospital late after having spread the virus... (Link)

🇺🇸 Matthew Herper writes “As Covid-19 cases peak, a virus once again takes advantage of human instinct” for STAT news.

Herper tries to articulate how human instincts is playing in the hand of the virus:

“But they have also learned that the virus takes advantage of human instinct. Its long course means that it is possible to believe that things aren’t going to get that bad — long after they are actually becoming catastrophic. And many experts fear — though they may not be able to say for certain — that the U.S. is nearing the point of catastrophe again.”

Susan Desmond-Helmann, who used to run the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, also faults humans’ ‘love of denial’ for the current predicament in which the US finds itself in. As much as Europe (excluding the UK and Sweden( has appeared more responsible in its initial response, the reopening of borders for British tourist where daily new cases remain above 1,000 is a sign of concern.

Both her and Caitlin Rivers (Assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) also lament the politicisation of everything in the US and in particular on masking. Desmond-Helmann says:

“I would love for everyone from President Trump to the governor of every state, to the mayors to people in leadership roles to make it a cultural norm, to make it popular, fun, fashionable to wear a face mask. Because it’s all we’ve got right now.”

Politicisation of science is by far the greatest in the US. Citizens and public messaging is going to have to rise above it to avoid unnecessary loss of life. Good to hear Fauci on the airwaves again. (Link)

🇺🇸 Whet Moser writes “Why Changing COVID-19 Demographics in the US Make Death Trends Harder to Understand” for the COVID-19 tracking project. A great article from Moser attempting to explain why deaths have not risen in the US, whilst cases have. Like Natalie Dean in the previous edition of the Corona Daily, he concludes that more data will be needed to explain with more confidence why death numbers have not creeped up in the US.

There is also a very good Twitter thread from Florian Krammer (Professor of Microbiology Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai) looking at what happened in Iran:

Krammer echoes what Fauci said yesterday about the delayed threat that spread amongst the young poses to the more vulnerable within the community. (Link)

Testing and vaccines:

🧪 Daniel B. Larremore et al. publish “Test sensitivity is secondary to frequency and turnaround time for COVID-19 surveillance” in MedRxiv. (Link and Twitter thread)

Larremore and his team investigate how best to conduct testing to mitigate the spread of the virus. It refers to using testing for mitigation as CT Bergstrom highlighted in another great Twitter thread:

This would be valuable to help more safely reopen the economy. Larremore et al. conclude:

“These results demonstrate that effective surveillance, including time to first detection and outbreak control, depends largely on frequency of testing and the speed of reporting, and is only marginally improved by high test sensitivity.”

Also CT Bergstrom Twitter thread on the paper here.

💉 Derek Lowe writes “Vaccine Derangement” in his blog “In the pipeline” in Science Translational Medicine.

A great and sobering read analysing the different factions and their claim within growing anti-vaxxers community. (Link)

🎙 Podcast section:

1. “Covid Daily News: Coronavirus Developments With Nate Duncan and Ben Taylor”: a discussion with Dr. Carl Bergstrom (professor of Biology at University of Washington) (39 min 20 sec):

“Where we are and are headed as a country and a world right now.

Are there any positive trends in the midst of all this?

How to assess news reports of potential treatment breakthroughs.

What are the three main ways testing can be used and how can we improve that?

How can we improve scientific communication so people really understand the risks of this virus and how it’s transmitted?”


2. Bob Wachter (Chair of Medicine at UCSF) Special COVID-19 Grand Rounds (65 min 20 sec):

“Interview with John Barry, Bestselling Author of The Great Influenza

As we confront the clinical, economic, and political complexities of Covid-19, the most relevant historical precedent is the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed more than 20 million people around the world.”

📊 A picture is worth a thousand words:  Global (🌎) and local (with relevant flag) visualisation and forecasting tool

  1. 💉 (❗️NEW) “Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker” by Jonathan Corum and Carl Zimmerfrom the New York Times.

    “The status of all the vaccines that have reached trials in humans, along with a selection of promising vaccines still being tested in cells or animals.”


  2. 🇺🇸 (NEW❗️) “The COVID Racial Data Tracker

    “The COVID Racial Data Tracker is a collaboration between the COVID Tracking Project and the Antiracist Research & Policy Center. Together, we're gathering the most complete race and ethnicity data on COVID-19 in the United States.”


  3. 🇺🇸🌎 This model has led accuracy for several weeks in the US. It also does projection for Europe and Rest of the World. (Link)

  4. 🇺🇸  “Is your community ready to reopen?”: A map of the US (50 states and 2,100+ counties) looking at reopening risks with metrics around 3 criteria: 1. Is COVID in retreat? 2. Are we testing enough? 3. Are our hospitals ready? (Link)

  5. 💊 The "Map of Hope" provides a geographical overview of planned, ongoing and completed clinical trials. It is put together with data from WHO Clinical Trials Search Portal by the Heidelberg Institute for Geoinformation technology. (Link)