1,094 thoughts on “Covid-19 Updates”

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  1. Here is an update on the situation in Switzerland.  This is the daily update as of 2020-10-16 (updates are no longer issued on week-ends).

    Switzerland: COVID-19 status 2020-10-16

    Something curious is going on.  The number of “cases” (positive PCR results)  is exploding, well above the peak of the first wave in in March and April.  This appears to be a real effect, as the number of tests has not increased by anything comparable to this factor.  The proportion of positive tests in the last 14 days is more than double the average over the outbreak so far.  The number of hospitalisations and deaths are distinctively turning up, although both are far below the levels of the first peak.

    The animated map of cases has not yet been updated for ISO week 41.

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  2. drlorentz:  “Much as I have contempt for government bureaucracy, it would not have been practical to fire 90% of the TSA screeners. Granted, they would have been laid off for a few months in the private sector. That’s not the way civil service works. Actually, it’s not the way any large organization works, public or private.

    It is not clear that large private (shareholder-owned) companies operate that way — rather, many large stockholder-owned companies seem to stagger from RIF to RIF.  (Reduction In Force, for any who have led sheltered lives).

    That is in distinct contrast to Depression Era public organizations, where jobs were indeed jobs for life;  but the price of that job security was distinctly lower pay than available in the private sector.  Now we see a world where the government employee generally has higher pay than similar work in the private sector along with much better benefits, but still has almost total job security — regardless of individual incompetence or the vicissitudes of the economy.

    Someone described the current situation for government employees as Never-Never Land — it has Never happened before, and it will Never happen again.

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  3. Gavin Longmuir:
    It is not clear that large private (shareholder-owned) companies operate that way — rather, many large stockholder-owned companies seem to stagger from RIF to RIF.  (Reduction In Force, for any who have led sheltered lives).

    The US federal government does RIFs. Indeed, the term RIF originally was a term of art in the federal government; private entities used layoff. When I was living in the Imperial Capital, many years ago, only federal employees spoke of RIFs.

    Many large companies have plenty of hangers-on who do little or zero actual work and should be laid off yet manage to remain for years. All bureaucracies are sluggish to discharge workers, especially in the current labor law environment. As a small business, we have, of necessity, been ruthless in laying off employees when they could no longer be supported. If you think large companies lay people off fast, try coming to work for me.

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  4. drlorentz:  “When I was living in the Imperial Capital, many years ago, only federal employees spoke of RIFs.”

    In the many years that have passed since then, the term has spread to other organizations.  You are quite correct that the news media will use the term “layoff”.  The trendier companies use the term “right-sizing”.

    Certainly, there are challenges across the scale.  An organization which prides itself on hiring & firing can find it difficult to attract good people or to get the best out of its current staff.  On the other hand, an organization which has great difficult firing people also finds it difficult to attract & retain good people, because who wants to deal with the frustrations of being surrounded with under-performers?

    Best observation I ever heard on this topic was that most human organizations are made up of islands of competence in a sea of mediocrity;  sandbanks really, rather than islands, because they are constantly changing.  The individual’s aim should be to identify those sandbanks of competence, because that is where a person can learn, develop, and make contributions — and be prepared to jump to another sandbank of competence before the current one gets washed away into that ocean of mediocrity.

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  5. Gavin Longmuir:
    Best observation I ever heard on this topic was that most human organizations are made up of islands of competence in a sea of mediocrity

    This is true, except in small organizations. A small business simply cannot afford to carry a bunch of slackers and losers. Furthermore, the laggards stick out like a sore thumb. The tolerance for mediocrity approaches zero.

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  6. Due to the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations, and deaths I discussed in comment #1077, the Swiss Federal Council (7-member executive branch of the confederation government), in an extraordinary meeting on 2020-10-18, adopted the following measures: “Confederation imposes tougher measures to combat coronavirus”, effective 2020-10-19.

    • Spontaneous gatherings of more than 15 people are not permitted in public.
    • Face masks must be worn in publicly accessible indoor areas, including in all railway stations and airports, and at bus and tram stops.
    • In private events of more than 15 persons, and in restaurants, bars, and clubs food and drink may only be consumed sitting down.
    • Working from home is is recommended, where possible.

    Details are in the document linked above.  No restrictions were imposed upon the opening of businesses, meetings, or public events.  Quarantine rules for travellers arriving in country and for those tested positive are unchanged.  The new order states:

    The rapid rise in coronavirus cases in the last few days is a cause for great concern. The number of cases is on the increase in all age groups and across all cantons. The number of persons admitted to hospital is also rising. The new national measures agreed by the federal government and the cantons aim to better protect the public’s health and to prevent the health system from becoming overwhelmed in the coming weeks and months. The intention is also to considerably curb the number of new cases so that the cantons can continue to contract trace effectively. Despite the restrictions, it is hoped that the economy can continue to function and people can live their lives with as little disruption as possible.

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  7. The animated map of cases in Switzerland has been updated to include ISO weeks 41 and 42.  They are dismaying.

    Switzerland: COVID-19 cases, 2020 W09 through W42

    In terms of “cases” (PCR positive tests), the last two weeks reported are far worse than anything seen during the first peak.  The curves of hospitalisations and deaths also appear to be definitively turning upward, although both remain well below the levels of last March and April.  I will post the weekly summary on Saturday, as usual.

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  8. Surely the dismaying trend in Switzerland is Trump’s fault, along with every other morsel of bad news, everywhere. If only he might cause some global warming on Mars in anticipation of Musk’s arrival.

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  9. In all seriousness, as I have said before many times, I most  always expect of Switzerland the best performance of any metric which requires civic virtue or voluntary social cooperation for the general benefit. I can thus only ascribe this resurgence to some evolving quality of the virus itself rather than some failure of the public to do what is recommended to limit spread. I don’t even think the weather can yet be invoked as a cause, assuming this coronavirus acts  at all similarly to those which cause the common cold.

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  10. civil westman:
    I can thus only ascribe this resurgence to some evolving quality of the virus itself rather than some failure of the public to do what is recommended to limit spread.

    Whatever is going on, it is happening in most of Western Europe.  See the Financial Times comparison page which covers both “cases” and deaths.  The interface is clunky, but the data are comprehensive.  The trajectory since August is remarkably similar for many countries which otherwise differ dramatically.  The excess deaths charts have been updated through 2020-09-25, and show no substantial second wave of deaths for most countries.

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  11. Does Switzerland have data for hospitalizations?

    I finding it difficult to obtain hospitalization trends.  I keep seeing articles that say hospitalizations are not peaking up along with the current upsurge in cases, similar to deaths, though it is hard to tell about deaths because they involve lag time.

    It seems that opening schools did a lot to cause the Virus to spread, and that more widespread testing is catching all the activity.  If that is the case, then the large number of new cases is skewed towards schoolkids.  Does the data have age bracket breakdowns?

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  12. John,

    Thanks very much for keeping us up with Swiss data.  Of all the countries in the west, I think I trust Swiss reporting and recordkeeping to be relatively free of political influence.

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  13. Our host:  “In terms of “cases” (PCR positive tests), the last two weeks reported are far worse than anything seen during the first peak.

    Should we say “worse” … or “better”?

    PCR positive tests are not necessarily true medical cases, ie people who are actually sick.  Setting aside the issues of False Positives which are unavoidable with these rather subtle PCR tests, what they are intended to show is the presence of fragments of viruses — possibly long-dead viruses, killed by the individual’s natural immune system.  As a virus spreads through a population, eventually everyone gets exposed and (in the case of Covid-19), 99.9% of people survive.

    Seen in this light, increasing numbers of PCR positive tests are to be expected, and welcomed!   Increasing numbers of PCR positive tests in people who are not sick mostly demonstrate the spread of earned immunity — a Good Thing!

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  14. MJBubba:
    Does Switzerland have data for hospitalizations?

    Here are data on hospitalisations and deaths in Switzerland posted today, 2020-10-23 at 06:00 UTC.

    Switzerland: COVID-19 hospitalisations and deaths 2020-10-23

    Daily data upon which these charts are based, updated at the same time, are available in Excel spreadsheet format at “Données du rapport de situation pour le coronavirus” [XLSX].  Data for the last several days are incomplete and will be updated as reports arrive in subsequent days.

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  15. In comment #1086, I referred to the Financial Times coverage of COVID-19.  Here are current charts showing cases and deaths for some of the many countries for which data are available.  On the Financial Times pages, you can select countries and make your own custom comparison charts.

    Financial TImes COVID-19 cases

    Financial TImes: COVID-19 deaths

    One of the most interesting charts, although updated very infrequently (most recently on 2020-09-25), is of excess deaths: deaths for all causes per week of 2020 versus weeks of recent years.  This metric is less ambiguous than “cases”, where the definition varies from territory to territory, and “COVID-19 deaths” where the criterion for attributing a death to the disease similarly varies.  Excess death statistics rely only upon reported deaths, regardless of cause, which are based upon reported mortality figures, which are generally reliable for most developed countries.

    Financial Times: excess deaths, updated through 2020-09-25

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  16. Gavin Longmuir:
    Seen in this light, increasing numbers of PCR positive tests are to be expected, and welcomed!   Increasing numbers of PCR positive tests in people who are not sick mostly demonstrate the spread of earned immunity — a Good Thing!

    But, when they are accompanied by rising rates of hospitalisations and deaths (see comment #1090 for Switzerland, and comment #1091 for some other European countries compared with the U.S.), I fear they may a bad thing.

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  17. Certainly, the key metrics are hospitalizations and deaths.  In a world in which every one of us will someday die from something, we need to keep a sense of the context — especially in the face of relentless media scare-mongering.  (Cui Bono? from the media’s unbalanced reporting?).

    Interesting observations from the UK’s Office of National Statistics:

    https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/monthlymortalityanalysisenglandandwales/september2020

    Of the 39,827 deaths registered in September 2020 in England, 1.7% (690 deaths) involved the coronavirus (COVID-19). In Wales, 1.3% of the 2,610 deaths registered in September involved COVID-19 (35 deaths).”

    The coronavirus (COVID-19) did not feature in the top ten leading causes of death for deaths registered in September 2020, in England or Wales; in England, COVID-19 was the 19th most common cause of death and in Wales COVID-19 was the 24th most common cause of death.

    Reasonable people might wonder if the undeniable long-term damage being done to society by Lock Downs is still worth it, now that Covid-19 has declined to a rather unimportant cause of actual morbidity.  It is fascinating that life in China seems to have returned to something rather similar to life-as-normal, even as Western politicians tighten the screws further.

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  18. Here is an update on the situation in Switzerland.  This is the daily update as of 2020-10-23 (updates are no longer issued on week-ends).

    Switzerland: COVID-19 status, 2020-10-23

    The number of cases (positive PCR tests) has exploded since the start of October, with a new record of 5601 on 2020-10-20, 3.8 times greater than the peak of 1464 in the first wave on 2020-03-23.  We have now had 13 days in October with new cases exceeding those of the maximum of the first wave, with three days in excess of 5000 cases in the last week.  You can download the Excel spreadsheet [XLSX] with the daily data I used for this analysis.

    The number of hospitalisations and deaths are also rising, but remain substantially below those of the first wave.  It has been speculated that the first wave may have killed off sufficient numbers of the 80+ population which are especially vulnerable to reduce the fraction of cases that require acute care or result in death this time.  One thing to note in this report is that the fraction of PCR tests positive for the virus in the last 14 days was 18%, while in the previous week’s report this retrospective number was 11.6%, indicating a rapid rise over the last week.

    See comment #1083 for the animated geographical map of cases, updated through ISO week 42.  In comment #1082 I discussed new measures which went into effect on 2020-10-19 to respond to the growing number of cases, including a nationwide mask mandate for public places.

    I have not seen any substantial changes in behaviour so far.  I did, however, receive a notice last night from LeShop, the on-line vendor from which I’ve been buying my groceries and household supplies that (my translation) “Due to the current situation, our available delivery slots are rapidly reserved”.  During the peak of the first wave, deliveries stretched out three weeks or more and the service effectively collapsed.  This cleared up in May and since then it has been running smoothly.  I don’t need to place my next order for two more weeks, so I’ll see then how things are evolving.

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