🦠 COVID19 | Is Big Government the answer or the problem in a "patchwork pandemic"?

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: (❗️48 hours period +/-)

Cumulative case: 5,214,039  (+231,277cumulative cases 

Active cases:  2,784,899 (+83,001) (this is the number of currently infected patients)

Total Deaths:  334,997 (+10,474)

Serious/Critical Cases: 45,598 (+158)

Recovered:  2,094,143 (+147,802)

Source: Worldometers

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

Showing a chart from the FT today highlighting the worrying situation in Brazil and India

2) U.S. states reopening risk map: this analysis includes current estimated R (reproduction number) for each state (Link)

3)Rt estimate per country (NEW❗️). This is a new resource link in the data section from a team which has led accuracy in modelling fatalities in the US for the past few weeks. (Link)

The Corona Daily has selected a number of articles which outline the heterogeneity of this pandemic: how it affects different populations and what responses is put against it nationally or locally. Ed Yong’s article of the day in The Atlantic perfectly lays out the scene.

The tweets of the day look at where different countries got to in term of COVID-19 spread with Sweden falling way short of its ambition despite going for “herd immunity as strategy”. The death toll there (particularly amongst the elderly) is now the highest per capita…

Scott Gottlieb through a video interview and as co-author of a study advocates for needed regulatory reforms to ultimately accelerate therapeutic approval against COVID-19.

Sharon Begley reports on promising research opening up interferons as preventive drugs whilst an article in Scientific American explains why we can be hopeful on a COVID-19 vaccine.

Jennifer Couzin-Frankel provides an update on the condition affecting children which a number of parents will be keen to read.

Jeremy Konyndyk provides a powerful tool to optimise re-opening strategies locally while a Project Syndicate Op-Ed seems to argue against small government.

A great podcast with economics Nobel Laureate Paul Romer.

Have a good Memorial Day or Bank Holiday weekend.

NEW❗️I have open-sourced the articles feeds I curate the Corona Daily from and made them freely available below. The feeds included are listed here.

Free COVID-19 curated feeds

🇺🇸 Article of the day: Ed Yong writes “America’s Patchwork Pandemic Is Fraying Even Further” for the The Atlantic (Link)

This is Yong’s third long read on the pandemic. All the previous ones have also been featured in the Corona Daily. Yong describes a patchwork of experiences towards COVID-19, a patchwork of responses and finally what are effectively racial and wealth inequalities rather than ‘patchwork’ in the third and final part of the article. The pandemic has provided a serious dent to the melting pot metaphor historically used to describe the phenomenal cultural integration of immigrant in America and Yong lays it bare.

One of the greatest excerpt from the article, is one quoting Seth Redbird (a sociologist at Northwestern University) and outlining the danger of pre-mature reopening:

Economic indicators support this view. Even in conservative states, activity plummeted before leaders closed businesses, and hasn’t rebounded since restrictions were lifted. As such, Redbird doesn’t share the widely held fear that Americans have become inured to social distancing and will refuse to suffer through it again. The bigger risk, she says, is that demoralizing bouts of shutdowns and reopenings will nix any prospect of economic recovery. “You only get to say Go out, trust me once,” she says. “They won’t believe you the second time.”

🎬 Video of the day: Scott Gottlieb (former Director of the Food and Drug Administration) talking about trust in vaccines in the midst of a growing anti-vaccine movemen. He also shares his strong belief that we will need large clinical trials in the fall of vaccines which will only need to prove good immunogenicity (ability to induce a humoral and/or cell-mediated immune responses).

🧪Tweets of the day: On seroprevalence levels.

Sweden to support its experimental policy (How do we assess the "Swedish Experiment"?) was hoping to have 26% of Stockholm infected by May 1 as suggested by a previous study. It appears to be falling way short and has instead the highest death per capita to show for for now. Scott Gottlieb also tweets the seropravelence levels as estimated for a list of countries and cities.

🇸🇪 Adam Kucharski (Associate professor London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine). Stockholm’s numbers are below expectation whilst Sweden has the highest number of death per capita

Twitter avatar for @AdamJKucharskiAdam Kucharski @AdamJKucharski
Update: new serological data suggests around 7% of Stockholm had been infected by early/mid April:

Adam Kucharski @AdamJKucharski

This modelling study from Sweden suggests 26% of Stockholm county will have been infected by May 1st (https://t.co/oBjRgk60j0). However, our estimates of under-reporting suggest only 5-10% have been infected so far (https://t.co/A3y5HJZlGF). So what's going on? 1/

🌍 Scott Gottlieb (former Food and Drug Administration director)

Thread of the day:

🇺🇸 Jeremy Konyndyk: "How do we begin reopening SAFELY?" (Twitter Thread)

Konyndyk responds to this important question in this great thread and provides a very useful resource for authorities and individuals.

COVID Local is a joint project of Global Biological Policy Program at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), the Center for Global Development, and the Georgetown University Center for Global Health Science and Security, in collaboration with Talus Analytics. While it criticises the shortcomings of the federal guidelines and offers a more granular risk management approach to phased re-opening, it also implicitly recognises the benefits of decentralisation. A very helpful set of resources, which individuals can also use to adjust their behaviour depending on their local situation.

💉 Charles Schmidt writes“Genetic Engineering Could Make a COVID-19 Vaccine in Months Rather Than Years” in Scientific American. The article centers around Dan Barouch and his group work on DNA vaccines and how new methods could accelerate the development of a successful vaccine, whilst presenting new challenges in building up the required manufacturing capacity for these novel approaches. Dan Barouch et al. just published “DNA vaccine protection against SARS-CoV-2 in rhesus macaques” in Science demonstrating great immunogenicity of vaccine candidates in monkeys. It is also the publication of this paper which prompted Carl Zimmer and colleagues at New York Times to write A New Entry in the Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine: Hope”. The Scientific American article also provides a great infographic on “How to develop a virus vaccine”. Three hopeful reads. (Link)

💊 The Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy publish“Building the critical path for COVID-19 therapeutics”. This is a comprehensive report advocating regulatory reform and innovation to accelerate approval process of therapeutics without sacrificing the safety required for long-term public trust particularly at a time of a surging anti-vaccine movement.

(Link and full report)

🚸 Jennifer Couzin-Frankel writes “Doctors race to understand rare inflammatory condition associated with coronavirus in young people”. This article provides up to date knowledge on what we know of the onset of a rare condition in children infected with COVID-19.

The reports amongst children first in the UK and then in New York of a new medical condition raised concerns amongst parents particularly as it was previously thought that children were spared. The concern was only exacerbated by the fact that it coincided with the plan in most countries to re-open schools, and henceforth presented parents and teachers with the difficult assessment of how safe such reopenings would be. The science remains work-in-progress:

Doctors disagree on whether the variant linked to COVID-19 is Kawasaki disease or something new, with some experts calling it multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. But as with Kawasaki disease, most recover with treatment, including steroids and immunoglobulins, which calm the immune system.

Cousin-Frankel provides a reassuring read given the rarity of the occurrence of both Kawasaki and the new like-condition observed in young children with COVID-19. She also outlines the ongoing genetic work being done to potentially identify children most at risk. An urgent read for many parents. (Link)

🦠 Sharon Begley writes “‘It’s something I have never seen’: How the Covid-19 virus hijacks cells” for STAT news. Begley reports on two research articles (Cell paper here and pre-print here) which look at the specificity of cell response to SARS-CoV-2. These potentially open up a preventive prescription of interferons to the most vulnerable in the population.

Virus typically interferes with cells’ innate immune response in order to facilitate their replication. There are two cell pathways which viruses normally block: “call to arms” genes and “call for reinforcement” genes as labelled by virologist Benjamin tenOever of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and one of the lead author in the Cell paper.

The “call to arms” genes are basically alarm bells triggered by infected cells to notify neighbouring cells of the presence of an intruder and to prepare and precent its replication. The “call to reinforcement” genes basically call for B-Cells and killer T-Cells to come and kill the virus.

Whilst influenza and SARS-CoV-1 shuts down both sets of genes, SARS-CoV-2 shuts down the first set and amplify the second one leading to hyper inflammation.

As Begley writes explaining why some groups are more likely to succumb to COVID-19:

“In elderly people, as well as those with diabetes, heart disease, and other underlying conditions, the call-to-arms part of the immune system is weaker”

Equally, it opens up the preventive use of interferons for these at-risk populations. It will however require careful trials as their administration of interferons is often accompanied with strong side effects. Furthermore administration of a drug as a prophylactic as opposed to as a treatment is less straightforward. Hopeful area of research and potentially a route to continuing to strengthen the toolbox against COVID-19. (Link)

🏛 Mariana Mazzucato et al. writes “The Big Failure of Small Government” for Project Syndicate. The title is somewhat over-simplistic and provocative, as one could read from it that the article is a straight call for Big Government going forward. The authors advocate instead what they call “mission driven public administration” attempting by doing so of appeasing the risk of centralisation of power amongst an incompetent administration:

“Such a mission-driven approach to public administration should not be confused with top-down decision-making. Rather, it should be viewed as the best way to ensure dynamism, by nurturing fruitful relationships between innovators and tapping into the value of distributed intelligence”

The article still falls into the traditional left-right divide. I believe we can and need to be more imaginative with regards to the role of government and its interface with the private sector and the public in tackling the complex problems we face. (Link)

🎙 “Conversation with Tyler” podcast: “Paul Romer on a Culture of Science and Working Hard?

“Paul Romer makes his second appearance to discuss the failings of economics, how his mass testing plan for COVID-19 would work, what aspects of epidemiology concern him, how the FDA is slowing a better response, his ideas for reopening schools and Major League Baseball, where he agrees with Weyl’s test plan, why charter cities need a new name, what went wrong with Honduras, the development trajectory for sub-Saharan Africa, how he’d reform the World Bank, the underrated benefits of a culture of science, his heartening takeaway about human nature from his experience at Burning Man, and more.”

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

  1. 🦠  “Science Forum: SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) by the numbers” (Link)

    “The COVID-19 pandemic is a harsh reminder of the fact that, whether in a single human host or a wave of infection across continents, viral dynamics is often a story about the numbers. In this article we provide a one-stop, curated graphical source for the key numbers (based mostly on the peer-reviewed literature) about the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is responsible for the pandemic. The discussion is framed around two broad themes: i) the biology of the virus itself; ii) the characteristics of the infection of a single human host.”

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

  3. 🇺🇸  “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)

  4. 🌎 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)

  5. 🇺🇸  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)

  6. 💊 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)

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

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

  9. 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)

  10. 🌎 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)