Corona 2020 - Part 5

Lars Poulsen - 2020-06-27

It has been two weeks since I last posted one of these pages. That has been the time of reopening and an attendant increase in infections, in my home county (Santa Barbara) as well as a number of other places. To the extent that there is testing available, and that numbers are published, this opens up the topic to a variety of interpretations and thus a variety of opinions on what needs to be done as we move forward.

As I mentioned before, I have looked at comparable statistics from Europe, where the normalized number used for assessment and comparisons is the number of test-confirmed cases per week per 100,000 population. Countries with under 10 are painted green, countries with 10-20 are yellow, and countries with more cases than that are orange. Only 2 countries were not green in mid-June when they announced that borders would be open between green and yellow countries a week later:

This has led to the bizarre situation that Danes can travel freely through South Sweden between Copenhagen and the island of Bornholm, while Swedes can not enter Denmark without proof of a negative COVID test.

At first glance, this looks like Sweden has grossly mismanaged the COVID infection, but that is not really clear: Back in February/March, we all agreed that the immediate goal was to slow down the spread of infections so that we would not overload the hospitals. In those places that failed to do that - Italy, New York City, England - many people died in terrible circumstances. It was acknowledged, that it was inevitable that sooner or later most people would inevitably get infected and unless and until a vaccine becomes available, that is the only way we will get widespread immunity. Social isolation would prevent deaths from overloaded hospitals, but at the cost of prolonging the economic pain. As it happened, Sweden was able to execute exactly to achieve this stated goal, while every other place either did not slow down enough or slowed down so much that very few people were infected and recovered to hopefully become immune.

The jury is still out on whether Sweden did the right thing or not. Sweden had less economic damage, but may have become a pariah country in the meantime, its citizens excluded from visiting the rest of the EU just like Americans are.

Here in Santa Barbara, my home county, we have been on a pattern that has been read differently by different people. Initially, we were slow to see any infections, and when we did, it was a big outbreak at the federal prison in Lompoc. The rest of the county had only a smattering of cases. By the end of May, it looked like the low numbers were declining even further; and then we saw large numbers in Santa Maria, in the North end of the county. This table shows it in detail (PDF). But this article from our local weekly paper explains that despite these numbers, we are actually in pretty good shape. Our daily confirmed case count is going up, and so are hospitalizations, but we have plenty of room to treat these new cases.

Covid hospital cases through June 2020.

In fact, "COVID-19 treatment beds are occupied at only 8.7 percent of available capacity and surge beds are only 6.9 percent full. ICU beds are operating at 16.8 percent capacity", according to county supervisor Gregg Hart.

This is in stark contrast to what is happening in Texas, where hospitals are being overrun, New York style.

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