🦠COVID-19 | A critical week ahead

I am a scientist by education, banker at JPMorgan for a few years, then mature PhD student in Chemical Biology at Oxford under the supervision of Christofer Schofield (FRS) and Peter Ratcliffe (Nobel laureate in medicine in 2019). Founder and tech investor focusing on media and education. I care about science, learning and Democracy which are good bedfellows.

📊 Daily Data Brief: 

Cumulative case: 4,779,034 (+112,298cumulative cases 

Active cases:  2,617,125 (+39,875) (this is the number of currently infected patients)

Total Deaths:  315,643  (+5,778)

Serious/Critical Cases: 44,868 (-116)

Recovered:  1,846,266 (+66,645)

Source: Worldometers

1) Seven-day rolling average of new deaths (updated daily as ECDC releases). Major update with per country graphs now available (Link) (Update❗️) (USUKFranceGermanySweden,  Nordic Comparison) (👈NEW❗️)

2) U.S. states reopening risk map (Link) (No Change)

‘Elevated’ to ‘Moderate’: Kansas, Colorado
❗️‘Moderate’ to ‘Elevated’: Mississipi

On the Andrew Marr show this morning, a politician from the opposition discussing the complex issue of school re-openings advocated that the government “publish the science”. I hope that it was a short-cut for ‘scientific advice’, because otherwise it is by no-means better than “follow the science” and if not it is worse. For a start, it appears to endorse that Boris Johnson’s government is following a proprietary ‘science’ which it can then decide to make available or not to the public. In a way it would be the government’s ‘science’ (but maybe it should borrow a physics term and call it ‘spin’ instead) and the government would also be its sole publisher. It should be clear that scientists around the world cooperate and publish extensively on COVID-19 outside of political decision-making. They have been particularly prolific on COVID-19.

It is in my view urgent that SAGE and scientists globally (and not only in the U.K.), address politicians mis-using the word Science and not casually confound it with advice.

Yesterday’s edition of the Corona Daily was “Great science and dismal politics” for a reason. Science is at risk of being mistrusted when the speed and quality at which it has advanced in this pandemic is nothing but spectacular. By letting politicians absolve themselves of their accountability and shifting instead the responsibility onto ‘science’, Science risks being unfairly marred in the same distrust that politicians have rightfully gained. The public should not be fooled as Science will be key for this pandemic, the next one, as well as complex ad urgent issues like climate change.

The government needs to be transparent about the advice it receives and importantly share the data and academic papers underpinning it. The advice will probably not be limited to Science and included other fields as noted previously in the Corona Daily. Policy makers should also be transparent about the uncertainty and knowledge gaps in the current Science and medicine of COVID-19, and that its recommendation on policy (including regarding school re-opening) will ultimately derive from a risk-assessment. This should also be transparent. The government can then decide to be as reckless or prudent as it wants to be and be accountable for it.

In today’s edition we look at the situation in the U.S. (one thread and one article), in South Korea (two articles highlighting the strength of its test-trace-isolate that should be a model when re-opening, with one article focusing on gym transmission of COVID-19) and take another in-depth look at Sweden following the publication of an excellent pre-print.

We also look at patriarchy in science and the urgent need to tackle it. A great paper in Science on the ethics of digital disease surveillance.

Finally two videos: one from Adam Kucharski on contagion dynamics and one showing the not so social distanced New Yorkers today.

As it takes eight days from infection to hospitalisation, and a number of places re-opened this past week, hospitalisation and case numbers will need to be watched closely this week.

NEW❗️I have open-sourced the curated feeds I use for my newsletter and made them freely available below.

Free COVID-19 curated feeds

💉 Video of the day: Scott Gottlieb (former Food and Drug Administration director) commenting on Trump administration’s goal of having 300 million doses of vaccines by end of the year. (Link)

🧪Image of the day: Eric Topol (Founder and Director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute) shares an infographic about the three different types of COVID-19 test. The latest type to receive approval from the FDA is an antigen test (the manufacturer Quidel is a San Diego-based company)

Twitter threads:

🇸🇪 “Is the Swedish Experiment working?” (1st Tweet and Twitter thread)

This is a thread by Nicholas A Christakis (Sterling Professor of Social & Natural Science at Yale) evaluating the infamous “Swedish approach” on the back of a pre-print (“Excess mortality from COVID-19. Weekly excess death rates by age and sex for Sweden”). Christakis gives his verdict:

Christakis also cites an excellent article in his last tweet from Adele Lebano “Sweden’s Relaxed Approach to COVID-19 Isn’t Working”. It is an equally damning judgment of Swedish society:

“The Swedish organicist model of democracy encourages citizens to suspend their capacity to choose. And if practice makes perfect, individual agency and moral literacy—as well as untold numbers of lives—are at risk.”

It remains to be seen how the pandemic will continue to unfold there, and if Christakis, the pre-print and Lebano are right in their assessment, wether it will spark a profound change in Sweden’s social model.

🇺🇸 “How well is the U.S. doing in controlling COVID-19?” (Link)

This is a thread by Scott Gottlieb on the situation in the U.S.:

Overall the situation is improving but Gottlieb also highlight some of the worrisome upticks in Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas. As states have started to re-open and the average time from infection to hospitalisation is 8 days, this week will be a critical one.

🇰🇷 Sangmi Cha writes “South Korea reports single digit domestic coronavirus cases; plans to reopen schools” for Reuters. Cha reports on the situation in South Korea. There was a spike in infections linked to Seoul’s Itaewon night clubs (168 cases) and a potential rethink about the upcoming school reopening. The level of testing-tracing that South Korea did in the wake of the outbreak speaks volume:

“South Korean authorities confirmed that 6,800 out of about 9,000 bars and nightclubs nationwide were shut down on Saturday and 61,000 tests have been carried out linked to the Itaewon outbreak, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a briefing.”

It is because of this ability (and the size of the outbreak uncovered) that the government has confidently maintained its school re-opening for Wednesday starting with high school seniors. (Link)

🇺🇸 Julie Bosman, Amy Harmon and Mitch Smith write Coronavirus Cases Slow in U.S., but the Big Picture Remains Tenuousin the New York Times. (Link)

The authors give an update in line with Scott Gottlieb’s thread above with some great visualisations. The stand-out paragraph is the report on a study showing the effectiveness of the lockdown in saving lives:

“Without government orders to stay at home, 10 million more people in the United States would have been infected with the virus by the end of April, suggested a paper published this past week in the journal Health Affairs.”

As some get more vocal about hasty re-openings, it is worth remembering that we can only contemplate such a scenario because of the effectiveness of the policy they now so openly decry.

🧘‍♀️🇰🇷 Sukbin Jang, Si Hyun Han, and Ji-Young Rhee publish “Cluster of Coronavirus Disease Associated with Fitness Dance Classes, South Korea” in Emerging Infectious Diseases. This article again shows the quality of the testing-tracing capability of South Korea. It is also a follow-up to the article in yesterday’s edition of the Corona Daily on gym re-openings. An interesting finding is that transmission occurred even in small group doing vigorous exercise. It is also reported in the paper that no infections was detected in attendees of yoga and pilates classes at the same venues. (Link)

👩‍⚕️ 35 female scientist co-authored “Women in science are battling both Covid-19 and the patriarchy” in Times Higher Education.

The signatories clearly lay-out early on the problem they want urgent addressing in their open-letter, having already crossed several sexist hurdles to get to the position of sign it:

“And yet, even these lifelong battles for a place in science have left us unprepared for the gendered and racial inequalities we have experienced in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.” 

A study showed “imbalance of 2.7 men for every woman on radio and TV programmes in March” on COVID-19 coverage:

“Neither epidemiology nor medicine are male-dominated fields, but women are quoted less often – sometimes not at all – in articles. What’s more, the lack of inclusion of leaders of colour is striking and disenfranchising for minority women scientists of colour, particularly as communities of colour are being hit hardest by this epidemic.”

They fear that the continuation of such unequal treatment will discourage women from entering the field going forward. An urgent read and call to action. (Link)

🚔 Michelle M. Mello and C. Jason Wang publish “Ethics and governance for digital disease surveillance” in Science. This is a well-balanced article on how to think about the issue of privacy during a pandemic. The authors outline the issue at hand well:

“For example, some have voiced concern that trust and participation in such approaches may be unevenly distributed across society; others have raised privacy concerns. Yet counterbalancing such concerns is the argument that “sometimes it is unethical not to use available data”; some trade-offs may be not only ethically justifiable but ethically obligatory.”

Having followed digital epidemiology quite closely since the beginning of the outbreak, no government to date seems to have the thoughtful approach and early public participation advocated in the paper. As the authors advocate, and if the pandemic does not last long enough to change course at some point, careful preparedness is needed ahead of the next pandemic. (Link)

🎬 Videos

🦠 “Why diseases spread and why they stop” by Adam Kucharski (associate professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and author of “Rules of Contagion”) at 5x15 event on February 27, 2020

🇺🇸 A short video published by Now This showing people in New York City ignoring social distancing. (Link)

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

  1. 🇺🇸 NEW❗️ “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)

  2. 🌎 The Financial Times (visualisation) has a data tracking page which is in front of the paywall, looking at cases and fatality curves for selective countries and metropolitan areas/region. It is not as extensive as the Madlag link below, where you can see static as well as animated images for a greater number of individual countries. (Link)

  3. 🇺🇸  The Johns Hopkins University resource center was the first one I used back in January they have now made available in their latest iteration a county by county dashboard in the US including information about health capacity, insurance coverage, ethnicity and age breakdown of the populatio (Link)

  4. 💊 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)

  5. 🌍 MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis started to publish weekly death estimates for countries (Link)

  6. 🇺🇸 The US Center for Disease Control and Surveillance (CDC) publishes “A Weekly Surveillance Summary of U.S. COVID-19 Activity” (Link)

  7. Google has published a new website to “See how your community is moving around differently due to COVID-19”. They have a lot of data to do so… (Link)

  8. 🌎 Country by Country Curves: This is a GitHub made by my friend Francois Lagunas. He has written a script to scrape deaths and number of cases in order to visualise the rate of growth on a logarithmic scale.  Great resource (Link)

  9. 🌎A great resource put together by Ben Kuhn and Yuri Vishnevsky.  At a time when we need solidarity and cooperation, I prefer their subtitle “We need stronger measures, much faster” than their title. It’s a simulator on what case growth looks like depending on your community’s measures. Fantastic resource to stir communities and governments to action (Link)