📊 Daily Data Brief:
315,267 cumulative cases (+24,330)
Active cases: 205,785 (+20,417) (this is the number of currently infected patients)
Total Death: 13,590 (+1,639)
Serious/Critical Cases: 10,128 (+1,767)
Death curves (updated daily as ECDC releases). Major update with per country graphs now available❗️(Link)
On September 12, 2001, Jean Marie Colombani wrote an Op-ed for the French Paper Le Monde titled “We are all Americans” (French version here). 9/11 and Colombani’s words have resonated so profoundly, that when a catastrophe hits us, someone in the public sphere rushes with the #weareall[INSERT CATASTROPHE]. It is a convenient shortcut to relate-at-scale in our social-media-fuelled instantaneous world. Or would calling it “rally-at-scale” be more appropriate.
Last September I went to listen to Robert Putnam at a Tortoise Media ThinkIn talking about “Who are ‘we’?”. Robert Putnam had written “Bowling Alone: the collapse and revival of American community”. During his talk he reiterated that communal enterprise was at an all-time low in America and around the world. Putnam had since writing his book thought of and found a way to monitor community strength with an indicator. The indicator is obtained by dividing the n-gram analysis (the frequency at which a term appears in books) of ‘we’ by the n-gram analysis of ‘i’. That ratio is currently at an all-time low mainly driven by an increase in the denominator. The ratio last peaked around 1964.
So at a time where we need strong communities, when we need to focus on the ‘we’ rather than the ‘i’ to successfully, quickly and durably suppress this virus we are at an all-time low in this indicator. “I” is more important than “we”, and we so desperately need it to be the opposite. We worry about the millennials being spreaders and some suspect that they are responsible of the rise in the ‘I’ more so than the elder (most at risk of COVID19). But maybe the picture is more complex and maybe society bears a responsibility as a whole.
And to exhort us to act, the ‘leadership’ and social media influencers again resort to hashtags like #StayAtHomeSavesLives, #DontBeASpreader. And it seems not to be working. . . Some governments have resorted to being authoritarian and ordering explicitly what ‘i’ and ‘we’ are authorised to do while the U.K. still hopes that it is not needed. Maybe it still wants to believe in its public or is more attached to civil liberties than other democracies.
That authoritarianism is sometimes assisted by surveillance technology as I reported yesterday. For example, travellers to Hong Kong might now have to wear an electronic bracelet as criminals on bail do to allow authorities to trace their movements. A number of citizens understand and support it. They feel the government has no choice when faced by the irresponsibility of the others’ behaviour (mainly the ‘Is’). As if whatever we do short term to control the ‘Is’ will never affect the ‘we’ longer term.
And no one asks whether the miscommunication or outright lies about the real threat of COVID19, the oversight in preparing for the inevitability of a zoonotic pandemic over the last ten years have any responsibility in the ‘irresponsible’ behaviour of the ‘Is’. No one asks if that irresponsibility is pervasive throughout society and how we got there. Maybe some governments are surprised that people reacted better to #GetBrexitDone than #StayAtHomeSaveLives. If communication and lack of preparation have nothing to do with the public lax behaviour, we have an even deeper civic and societal problem than the one identified by Putnam.
It seems more and more likely that draconian measures will be imposed and that free will and responsibility of people will not be given a chance for much longer given the urgency. The public has not been well prepared by their respective governments and this is compounded by the long decline in the value of both community and civic engagement since 1964 or thereabout. COVID19 is nonetheless an opportunity to rethink and strengthen our communities during the months ahead.
The Amazon description page of “Bowling alone” reads towards the end:
“A century ago, American citizens' means of connecting were at a low point after decades of urbanisation, industrialisation and immigration uprooted them from families and friends. That generation demonstrated a capacity for renewal by creating the organisations that pulled Americans together. Putnam shows how we can learn from them and reinvent common enterprises that will make us secure, productive, happy and hopeful.”
This COVID19 generation has the duty and opportunity, like the post-industrialisation one did, to start the reinvention of common enterprises. This community work has already started and will hopefully continue to strengthen as we fight COVID19. It is one of the revival that is needed to sustainably change our politics and priorities in order to successfully address the other complex challenges we face.
Let us take care of our community and answer with our action (not hashtags) a resounding ‘No’ to the question: “Are 'we' all murderers?”
🇬🇧 Picture of the day: This Natalie Silvey’s powerful photo at the end of a 9 hour shift in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) taking care of critically ill COVID19 patient in the community.
🦠 Travel map of COVID19: Nextstrain does important, collaborative and amazing genetics work. They have analysed 723 publicly shared COVID19 genes and mapped their inferred travel map. This is regularly updated, with the explanatory narrative of their genetic epidemiology work. (Link)
🇺🇸 Shane Harris et al. write “U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic” in the Washington Post. It had not been written but believing otherwise would have been slightly delusional. The article is slightly partisan, and does not look at why governments dismissed the threat, why media failed the public and why experts on the rising zoonotic threat had been so inaudible for so many years. (Link)
🇬🇧 Alex Wickham, political editor for BuzzFeed writes “10 Days That Changed Britain: "Heated" Debate Between Scientists Forced Boris Johnson To Act On Coronavirus”. While we should welcome the UK government’s engagement with science and the online release of materials from SAGE, its scientific advisory group, the interaction of “experts” with policy is a more complex interface that the title of the article implies. The reality is that we are faced with radical uncertainty when dealing with this pandemic, and the more the government in the UK and elsewhere waited to act and miscommunicated the more that radical uncertainty made the policy decision a political rather than a scientific one. (Link)
🇺🇸 Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer write “How the Coronavirus Became an American Catastrophe”. There is a strong emphasis on testing as the countries which have been most successful at containing COVID19 have been using testing at scale for surveillance and isolation. Some of them have not had to use some of the more draconian suppression strategies being rolled out everywhere.
Madrigal and Meyer also rightly compare the asymptomatic transmission property of COVID19 to an “invisible fuse” setting off the explosion of cases and deaths that we have or are about to witness around the world. They ominously write:
“An invisible fuse sets off this burst of disease. If someone is infected with the coronavirus on Monday, she may start being contagious and infecting other people by Wednesday. But she may not start showing symptoms until Friday—meaning that she was spreading the virus before she even knew she had it. And in some cases, infected people take 14 days to start showing symptoms.”
This paragraph also shows that testing at scale cannot be a panacea and why COVID19 is so hard to contain regardless of past policy mistakes. Fortunately testing is ramping up everywhere, therapeutic advances are being made and a vaccine could be here within 12-18 months. In the mean time: physical distance. (Link).
💰 Womply is a marketing and CRM (customer relationship management) software company that helps small businesses attract and keep more customers. It put out an article and a presentation (2020 Economic Apocalypse: The effect on America’s Small Businesses”) looking at the cost of the pandemic on small businesses. The presentation gives great background data on the size and importance of small business, their cashflow fragility and the inadquacy of what has been put forth by the Trump administration thus far. A great read and well put together presentation. (Link)
⁉️ Michael Coston writes “The Most Predicted Global Crisis of the 21st Century” in his well kept Avian Flu Diary blog. Coston list a number of expert warnings and articles written in the aftermath of the H1N1 epidemic in the US in 2009. He focuses in particular on our lack of preparedness including in providing adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers in this pandemic. In an ominous part of the article Coston writes:
“We have less than 1% of what we would require during a severe pandemic. And since we buy most of our PPEs from other countries, our ability to replenish supplies in the middle of a pandemic is in serious doubt.”
The same applies to ventilators and ICU beds. Coston does not hide his anger at the lack of preparedness given that it was not a ‘if’ but a ‘when’ a pandemic would strike.
Great and well referenced article. The question it raises is why did the voters, the media, and the government did not pay attention. How did we come to share that responsibility in our respective democracies? It must have been the ‘Is’ fault. (Link)
🚴🏼 Jeremy White looks at the gig economy for Politico in “Both sides of California gig labor feud say coronavirus proves their point”. A predictable set of arguments for or against the gig economy, with the opposing side putting forward the lack of worked protection while proponents talk about its flexibility in deploying labor where there’s is unexpected shortage and rising unemployment post COVID19. (Link)
🦠 Erika Edwards writes for NBC News about the timeline of symptoms for patients in “'A slow burn': Coronavirus symptoms often linger before worsening”. At a time of lack of testing this is a useful but also distressing article for people who are uncertain about whether or not they have contracted the virus. (Link)
🦹♂️ Profiteering is rampant preying on the deepest fear of people and the shortcoming of our preparedness. Jacquie Lee writes “Beware of At-Home Covid-19 Test Kits, FDA Warns Consumers” for Bloomberg Law. Self explanatory and needed. (Link)
Privacy department: this is fast becoming an area of concern
🚔 Following up on yesterday’s article on Privacy and COVID19, Jonathan Naughton in the Guardian asks the important question: “Smartphones could help us track the coronavirus – but at what cost?”. Naughton knows and describes how technology could be used to help us fight the pandemic and then frames the too familiar and flawed “security versus privacy” scarecrow figure
“You can now see the quandary heading our way. We have a terrifying emergency on our hands. There’s a technology that could be really useful in providing a real-time measure of the effectiveness (or otherwise) of public policy. But it’s so intrusive that in “normal” times we would be very hesitant to adopt it. Present times are not normal, though, so we will probably adopt it – perhaps sensibly – “just for the duration of the crisis”. And then?”
Fortunately technology has evolved and its cost has reduced to be able to architect solution which will make the implementation of such technological capabilities more considerate of privacy. (Link)
The history department: history can be of great help for us as we look to tackle one of the greatest crisis since the World Wars by providing (a) learnings from humanity’s past catastrophic events but also (b) needed hope by demonstrating our ability to survive them.
📜 Jonathan Boff completes his trilogy of articles with “Crisis Management for Beginners III: How to Use Experts”. Boff asserts about World War I that “Britain evolved a way of integrating expert advice without ceding democratic control: and won the war”. That experience and expertise was successfully used in World War II. Boff then contends that since World War II, and in particular Irak and Afghanistan the breakdown of the “civilian-military” interface led to bad decisions. A fascinating read on managing the complex interface between experts/advisor and the accountable government leaders. (Link)
📊 A picture is worth a thousand words: Global (🌎) andlocal (with relevant flag) visualisation and forecasting tool
❗️Great❗️ “Going Critical” by Kevin Simler is a detailed interacting essay talking about complex systems, the importance of understanding networks, modelling and how this applies to: memes, infectious diseases, herd immunity, wildfire, neutrons and culture. Must read (Link)
❗️Country update❗️🌎 This is a GitHub made by my friend Francois Lagunas (co-founder and CTO extraordinaire of Stupeflix, a company we backed). He has written a script to scrape deaths and number of cases in order to visualise the rate of growth on a logarithmic scale. He has taken a time offset for countries assuming that South Korea and Italy are 36 days behind China’s outbreak, and France and the USA a further 9 days behind. Added a number of countries as well. Great resource (Link)
CityMapper has started to produce City Mobility Index to show how much a City is moving. This is a very good indicator of how well lockdowns are respected around the world: Madrid (4% of city moving) at one end and Singapore at the other end (72% of city moving) for yesterday (Link)
🌎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)
NEW❗️🇩🇪 The COVID19 dashboard for Germany is one of the best around. (Link)
🌎A helpful guide by VOX of the “9 coronavirus pandemic charts everyone should see” (Link)
🌎Data and chart regularly updated by the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. It maps the effective reproduction number (also known as R0) of COVID19. You want to get it below 1 as fast as possible to contain an epidemic. (Link to see charts and more data about your country)
🌎This is a great COVID19 Dashboard prepared by Andrzej Leszkiewicz. Andrzej has also written an introductory and explanatory blog for it (“Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fatality rate: WHO and media vs logic and mathematics”). It is a very extensive dashboard with 28 pages. I particularly like the country comparison tab, which allows you to track and benchmark the curve of the epidemic (number of cases and deaths) in your country with that of another. Very well done and informative. (Link)
🇸🇬/🌎 Singapore remains the gold standard of dashboard. Here is an article with the Best and Worst of all dashboard in the world, with Pros and Cons prepared by Neel V. Patel for MIT Technology (Article)
🇺🇸 This is the New York Times data and graph page on COVID19 with an update map of the US alone (Link)
🎬 Podcast interview and video
David Quammen (author of “Spillover: animal infections and the next human pandemic” written in 2012) explains how wet markets can start a zoonotic pandemic in conversation with Luke Those on SirusXM (2 min)(Link)
Tortoise Media hosted Robert Putnam (Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and authors of “Our Kids” just out) for a Think-In Lunch in September 2019 to answer the question “Who are ‘we’?”. Professor Putnam was previously the author of “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community”. At a time where we urgently need communities to fight this pandemic it is a worthwhile watch. (Link)
🏛 Notable collaborative projects
Mike Butcher (Editor at Large Techcrunch and founder of TechforUK), had refocused TechforUK on the fight against COVID19. It is a very effective hands-on team of volunteer. Do reach out to them. He has also teamed up with We are now working closely with the volunteers behind the “Coronavirus Tech Handbook”. (They are ‘cousins’ of ours who originally created the Electiontechhandbook). Volunteer collaboration at its best! (Link)
Tariq Krim has started a COVID19 website tracking data about each government policy response to the pandemic (Link)
📈 Exponential growth and epidemics (permanent video)
This is an excellent video explaining “exponential growth” and epidemics. Although we are all familiar with the phrase, its authors rightly says that “yet human intuition has a hard time recognising what it means”. This is a ❗️MUST WATCH❗️to understand fully what is upon us but also how early behavioural changes at scale can have a massive impact on the level of exponential growth of COVID19 (Link)