Here We Were Again ..

I decided to turn my brain off for Saturday .. and then I looked at my pandemic notes from Friday.


Two very interesting charts leaped out at me from the news Friday (updated today to include the 26th). The first shows that while we had made progress, we are trending higher at a frightening rate:

CV US New 20200626

.. note that US cases rose another 45,000 on Saturday .. I don’t have that graph yet, but you get my point.

The second is the EU Wave versus US Tide .. this snap from Sunday morning:

CV US v EU 20200626

Europe has managed to flatten its curve and reduce the spread. The US has not.

Despite the ‘second wave’ references you hear, I’ve maintained that we’re in a tide and not a wave, as I commented in “I’m Confused ..” from June 14th. Note that Europe (white line) has created a wave .. but our (green line) high-water mark has not yet appeared.

Some notes on the US tide:

  • I’ve been WFH since March 13th.
  • Georgia (my residence state) issued “Ordered and Commanded” on April 1st .. Note that Georgia closed later than most.
  • On April 9th we had 34,746 new cases in the country, while we were in full shutdown mode.
  • We peaked at 36,291 new cases in the third week of April.
  • States (including Georgia) started opening about the same time, while we were still seeing spikes. Note that Federal guidance was to reopen after seeing 14 days of three-day-average of consecutive decline.
  • We hit a ‘trough’ right around Memorial Day (end of May) .. and then we had the Memorial Day holiday

Most States have reopened too quickly and many too carelessly. The wrong business, the wrong rules, lack of messaging, lack of enforcement. We’ve surpassed the highest number of cases (back in April) with the rise of this tide, hitting a record-setting 40,173 new cases on Friday.

Let me reiterate: we had more new positive cases last Friday than we had at the peak during the shutdown (recall a two-week lag). Hospitalization admission counts will follow this number and are a great cause for concern. Please note that as of today (Sunday) we have:

As to public information, we don’t have:

  • Clear Federal guidelines .. about much of anything: masks, distancing, testing, counts.
  • Clear CDC guidelines, although there’s lots of information on the CDC site if you choose to dig for best practices.
  • Clear state-level guidelines.

On the plus side, the counties and city mayors are taking up some of the slack, even going as far to levy fines for non-mask wearers in public spaces. Without their engagement, we’d all be back t home.

For the record: I do think we can open safely, but requires work on all our parts .. Government, business and People.

Last note: increased testing is not why the numbers are going up. Yes, more tests mean adding more cases to the positive count. However, the positivity rate (the percent of positive tests in the testing count .. regardless of the number of tests administered) is the real number to watch. Last week it has been as low as .5% (New York) and as high as 27% (one county in Florida) last week. Desired is less than 5% positive, alarming is greater than 10% .. both should be followed by isolation.

Those who say the numbers are going up only because of increased test counts are misleading you. While the initial statement is accurate, they are not taking into consideration the positivity rate, which manifests itself in hospitalization rates .. which are increasing dramatically .. there is a two-week lag, meaning reality will strike within 30 days.

Be smart. Be an adult. Do the right thing. Stay home when you can. Wear a mask when you cannot.

“Get Past It”

Thank you, Dr Fauci, for this quote.

He’s right (of course). Wearing a mask:

  • Is not be a political issue.
  • Is not a demonstration of weakness.
  • Is not an intentional personal affront when you choose to wear one.

Wearing a mask is just smart. My mask protects you, yours protects me. I thank you for wearing yours.

Dr Fauci said it best (and with admirable brevity in the quote above), compared to my lengthy diatribes in “Wear / Where’s Your Mask?, “Respect the Mask“, “Thank you Trump Supporters” .. for those who showed up and wore masks in Tulsa and “Good Personal Responsibility ..“. In each of these, I hope we will all act like adults.

Listen to him and not to me: “I’m not a Doctor ..“. Dr Fauci is. He’s the brains of the outfit.

Skipping the mask, for whatever reason, is akin to smoking around those who don’t, of driving drunk, of having unprotected sex without advising your partner, or .. pick your analogy here.

Skipping the mask puts others in danger. If not those in your immediate orbit, those to whom go home, will meet later on or will encounter in public spaces.

Be smart. Be an adult. Do the right thing. Stay home when you can. Wear a mask when you cannot.

Thank you Trump Supporters

I avoid politics in this forum. I am doing so today.

Thank you Trump Supporters .. I mean it. He’s your guy, and in America, we all enjoy the freedom to have ‘our guy’.

Thank you:

  • For those who didn’t travel to Tulsa for the rally this past Saturday. Not because you didn’t get to enjoy his speech .. I’m hoping you watched on TV. I appreciate your demonstrating common sense and caution about avoiding large indoor crowds.
  • To those who did travel to Tulsa, attended the rally, and chose to wear masks.
  • To those who live in Tulsa, attended the rally and chose to wear masks.
  • To those who were in the rally, and chose to stay outside.

To the supporters who traveled, arrived, entered the building and didn’t wear masks: thank you in advance for getting tested and taking appropriate actions should you test positive. Protect those you love.

We are still in the middle of this .. We need to demonstrate “Good Personal Responsibility ..” .. you’ll hear me ask “Wear / Where’s Your Mask ..” time and time again in this forum.

Again, I thank you. We all make America great.

Be smart. Be an adult. Do the right thing. Stay home when you can. Wear a mask when you cannot.

Good Personal Responsibility ..

.. please.

Cases are on an uptick in too many states .. Yes, these states are doing more testing, but the positivity rates (the percentage of positive results in the overall test group) are also going up at a frightening pace.

The data changes too quickly for me to list it all here, but a quick snapshot:

Look: many places in this country opened without solid plans and without adult supervision.

Be an adult: “Wear / Where’s Your Mask?“. Your mask protects me, my mask protects you. The combination of both reduces the transmission rate by nearly 17% .. the virus does transmit asymptomatically .. and through the air. Regardless of anything someone else tells you, this is a dangerous time to be breathing in close proximity to others.

Be smart. Be an adult. Do the right thing. Stay home when you can. Wear a mask when you cannot.

I’m Confused ..

.. are you?

Candidly, between my real job and the compression (and confusion) of the news cycle .. It’s been a bit since I’ve written, and this one will be lengthy. Apologies.

Let’s catch up .. first, a quick quiz:

  • Masks: good or bad?
  • Soap and water: really?
  • Social Distancing: yes or no?
  • Distance: six feet? Twelve feet?
  • Is it safer outside?
  • Surfaces: which, and for how long, and does it matter?
  • The Asymptomatic: contagious .. more, less or at all?
  • The Resolved: are they immune? Forever? For how long?
  • Testing: are we doing enough? Is that why there are more positive cases?
  • Hospitalization counts: how important is that number?
  • Death counts: a global tragedy. What do they tell us?
  • Are we opening too quickly?
  • Will there be a second wave?

Umm .. Lessee: Good, really, yes, twelve, less, no, yes, ahh .. not so quick after all. Let’s discuss:

  • Masks: at the public / social level, your mask protects me from you and my mask protects you from me (please see “Wear / Where’s Your Mask?“):
    • Our masks protect each other from everyone else that we may have encountered.
    • This is common sense, and is backed up by substantial data from NYC: the lowest number of cases occur with medical workers who are always wearing masks. Granted: they wear the really good masks .. but even the use of a paper mask protects people from each other as can capture moisture droplets that may contain the virus discharged by breathing and speaking.
    • Please wear your mask when out or when you cannot be socially distant from others.
  • Soap and Water: YES, as you’ll read in “I’m not a Doctor ..” (I’m not). The corona of the coronavirus is a lipid shell that dissolves when it interacts with soap, breaking apart the bad stuff within. Any soap will do, and taking 20 seconds of your life is worth your life.
  • Social Distancing: a solid yes: Distance is still important right now, but granted, unexposed groups (i.e., couples or families with no other outside contact) can certainly can stay close together, but separate from others. We see this in tables at restaurants, groups on beaches and so on. Until we know much, much more, respect the space of others.
  • On Distance: more is better .. but impossible in all situations:
  • Outside: Definitely better .. to the above, many churches are meeting outside, which makes better sense to me. Note that Coronavirus spreads through the air outside with shocking ease during walks and exercise, largely because of the rapid dispersal of aerosol and droplets.
  • Surfaces: A few bits on surfaces:
  • Asymptomatic: another solid yes. The rate of transmission is still the big question, triggering a very confusing report from the World Health Organization about the rate of spread. With all that: it does spread from people who don’t know they have it, period. “Behave like you have it ..” is my suggestion .. because you might, they might, or you both may spread it or catch it without knowing it.
  • The Resolved: The good news: there is an Antibody test (blood) that is quite reliable that lets you know if you’ve had it. However, other news is disturbing on a few fronts:
  • Testing and Positive Cases:
    • We are finally showing signs of test availability. “Testing, Testing, Testing ..” is good, good and good.
    • While some questions regarding the accuracy of some tests is a valid concern, the swab test supported by a variety of labs seems to be valid. Note that the diagnostic test is a point-in-time test: testing negative means you don’t have it only at that moment.
    • When we test, we detect more cases. That is the idea, and goes without saying. However, the count of tests themselves is being used as the positive talking point by politicians pushing for reopening. More below.
    • Don’t get me wrong: Testing is good. What matters the most: the percentage of COVID-positive results (determines the count entering the funnel), the subsequent actions of the individual (did they isolate?) AND what do the health authorities do with these positive cases? Please see “Testing .. Tracing .. Isolating” for some thoughts.
  • Hospitalization Counts are the most important and reliable number in my mind:
    • Patients who are hospitalized will have symptoms, receive a reliable laboratory test, are isolated and will be treated with a higher level of care to ensure they are on the best path to getting well.
    • This number ensures we are monitoring the hospital capacity as cases are still occurring to ensure we can treat the infected.
  • Counting those who have passed:
    • A global tragedy and many could have been avoided in many countries if governments and individuals acted sooner or more appropriately. We need to face forward and act to ensure the death toll stops as soon as possible.
    • Even worse, the deaths may even be higher than the published number, given that in the early days many were counted as ‘respiratory illness’, while others who passed at home may not have been tested at all.
    • We may get an accurate count one day, and must recognize those who passed before their time.
  • Reopening too quickly?: I have been fortunate to be working throughout the SAH orders .. I tease that the only thing shorter about my workday is the commute .. and I’m not kidding. With that said:
    • I do not feel we are reopening too quickly, but from what I see, watch and hear we may be re-opening too carelessly. Too many snaps of pool parties and churches, the protests and marches, and far too few masks for my taste when I venture out.
    • A kudos to the businesses that require masks and for my Fellow Americans who wear them
  • The Second Wave“: We’ve all heard talk about ‘will there be a second wave in the fall’? To me, the data is suggesting (YMMV):
    • It’s not a wave .. It’s a tide: the tide rose rapidly, SAH stabilized and reduced it, and careless practices are keeping us at standing / rising level.
    • The tide will rise if careful behaviors aren’t maintained. I don’t mean SAH, but I do mean caution, masks, avoiding gatherings and closed spaces .. you know: common sense stuff.
    • Fall will bring Influenza (it always does). The Flu is also a respiratory illness and may make us more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 along with it.

Careless activities and no vaccine are a sure recipe for COVID-19 to continue spreading.

Be smart. Stay connected. Stay safe. Stay home when you can. Be careful when you’re not.

Every Human has a Role to Play ..

.. in keeping COVID-19 at bay.

How we behave now that we’re opening businesses and stores matters. If we don’t treat the environment as hazardous .. noting that we are part of the environment, we run the risk of spreading the virus to those we love.

Masks help:

  • Masks are not a sign of weakness .. they’re a sign of love.
  • Masks are not a political statement .. the virus does not play politics.
  • Masks do not demonstrate disloyalty .. the virus is only loyal to the spread of itself.

Skipping the mask:

  • Is not a sign of strength .. tough guys (and gals) have contracted and spread the virus.
  • Is not a sign of intelligence .. smart guys (and gals), regardless of their rationale have contracted and spread the virus.
  • It is not a sign of beauty or pride .. you look fabulous! Decorate your mask!

Skipping the mask should not be rationalized by ‘inevitability of death statements’ .. you know the ones: “I might get hit by a bus tomorrow .. “.

Right. You might .. but you won’t take others you love with you.

As of 1754, May 27th 2020, the US death toll surpassed 100,000 from COVID-19 .. in under four months.

How many of those deaths might you have caused, directly or indirectly? Granted, inadvertently and without malice ..

.. you can change that today.

Respect the Mask” and respect each other. Wear a mask.

On Reopening ..

.. Let’s just not reopen, let’s move ahead:

  • We have learned much about Telecommuting, Remote Education and Telemedicine .. let’s learn more. I’m sure there are a few symposiums in the future for these groups.
  • We’ve also learned about traffic patterns .. do all these streets need to be reopened? Especially those around parks? Let’s have a look.
  • Our digital infrastructure performed well enough for my company’s ~2,200 global staff .. but did it for everyone else? Where does this need to be upgraded? The responsibility for this will likely fall into the hands of forward-thinking corporate sponsors.

Right now, let’s learn from this. We must “Apply the Lessons of History” and make the new present the roadmap to move forward.

What’s possible? Well, if we think through it:

  • Companies can spend less on office space.
  • Workers will spend less on gas.
  • Everyone gets their commute time back.

Sounds good .. But:

  • Offices can re-think workspaces, manage meeting rooms and traffic patterns. Might be easier if part of their workforce remains in WFH mode.
  • Commercial buildings must consider public spaces, elevators, traffic patterns from the car park to the buildings. Easy to put tape on the floor, but how to ensure compliance?
  • Restaurants need to manage profitability at 25-50% of capacity .. easier with outdoor seating, but what changes can they consider for inside? More open-air? Better ventilation / filtration?
  • Schools can separate desks and manage traffic patterns, but reducing schools to 40-50% of capacity potentially means split shifts, more teachers, automated curriculum, a combination of in-person and remote education, and many more considerations.

Just some thoughts, fueled by the push to re-open, regardless of the risks that still exist in some areas.

Again, the variable in the equation is us. I call this out in “Follow the Data .. Not the Date ..“. If we find ourselves returning to these shared spaces we must ensure we take all the precautions available to us and modify our behavior accordingly .. not only to protect us, but to protect everyone else.

Respect the Mask .. it’s important.

Be smart. Stay connected. Stay safe. Stay home when you can. Be careful when you’re not.

We Need to Learn to Live With It ..

.. not pretend it will go away .. it’s still here.

.. not believe it has gone away .. it’s still here.

.. avoid discounting it .. it’s’ still here.

.. respond, rather than react .. it’s still here.

.. to behave. Forget Herd Immunity for now .. think Herd Protection:

  • My actions protect you and those whom I love.
  • Your actions protect me and those whom you love .. and by proxy, those whom I love.
  • Our actions protect us all.

Herd Immunity occurs roughly with ~60-70% of the population being infected. Given the transmission and the mortality rate of this virus, we would see an even more-horrifying human toll if we just let ‘nature take its course’.

Let’s not.

We must adapt, to recognize:

  • Susceptible  / at-risk populations must be protected.
  • There is no shame in wearing a mask.
  • There are some trips we don’t need to take right now.
  • Cooking at home is fun and saves money.
  • Trusting in each other will get us through this.

We must also recognize that the results of any changes we make today will not show up for 10-14 days after we make them.

I posted “Georgia on my Mind” on April 21st, three days before Governor Kemp reopened certain businesses that included Tattoo and massage parlors, salons and barbers, and bowling alleys. These are not exactly businesses where social distancing could be followed (or enforced).

In two weeks, 10,024 new cases and 500 deaths (5% of new cases). Rough math (please check me and advise) suggests a 69% increase in cases and a 64% increase in deaths. In two weeks.

Today is May 13th. COVID-19 cases in Georgia stand at 35,427 with 1,517 deaths in the state.

All figures from 11Alive WXIA, our local all-news channel (from the About page on their site).

This does not appear to be moving in the proper direction .. so, why these businesses? Why this time frame?

Back to basics. “Follow the Data .. Not the Date“. “Behave Like you have it ..” and “Let’s Not Undo ..“.

By now, you know the drill.

Be smart. Stay connected. Stay safe. Stay home when you can. Be careful when you’re not.

Testing .. Tracing .. Isolating

That’s the kit. “If the White House Isn’t COVID-Free ..” we simply cannot expect that any place else will be.

We have to “Follow the Data .. Not the Date“, where I state: “COVID-19 is the only constant in the equation” and send you off to “The Virus is Unpredictable ..” (with which I disagree .. It’s quite predictable, especially when compared to other, more human factors).

Okay. Now you’re caught up .. or I am. I can never tell these daze.

Testing, tracing and isolating (those who test positive, rather than the entire population) are three components necessary to stop the spread and move toward normality. Period. End of statement. Full stop:

  • We need to know who has it.
  • We need to know with whom they’ve interacted.
  • We need to isolate those who test positive so they can recover without infecting others.

Until we have the infrastructure to test, trace and isolate in place, we must all “Behave Like You Have It ..“.

Apologies. NOW we’re all caught up.

So, without testing, tracing and isolating, we are, by default, depending on the painful and dangerous method of Herd Immunity. Herd Immunity is an indirect method of protection, dependent on reaching a stage in an infection where the majority of the population is immune so the virus cannot find a place to take hold. If it cannot take hold, it stops spreading.

Painful, because a lot of people will get sick. Dangerous, because a lot of the susceptible will die. I don’t want to dive back into the lore of “The Resolved” (written quite a while back), as many people who have resolved have developed other, fatal symptoms .. the most recent group being US Children Severely Sickened by Coronavirus. An earlier group from South Korea: “South Korea reports recovered coronavirus patients testing positive again“.

To this, we’re not sure if the Resolved are permanently (or even temporarily) immune to 1) contracting the virus again, or 2) being able to spread it, even though they’d resolved.

So, Herd Immunity is out .. or so you would think. Note that some 47 states are “Betting on the Come ..” in that they’re betting that something will get better. Lower numbers, a therapeutic or that a vaccine will suddenly materialize and save us all (‘Abracadabra’ instead of ‘Avada Kedavra’). While the Governors have some good re-opening plans, I have concerns they cannot depend on the vagaries of human behavior and the need for us all to behave.

Okay. Closing this one down. Testing .. tracing .. isolating are the three components necessary to stop the spread and move toward normality. Let’s get there.

Be smart. Stay connected. Stay safe. Stay home when you can. Be careful when you’re not.

If the White House Isn’t COVID-Free ..

.. how can the Governors, Mayors and Business Owners reliably assure us that it’s safe to go out?

Please don’t misinterpret my statements:

  • I’m all for getting out .. safely.
  • I’m all for the impacted workers to get back to their workplaces and their lives.
  • I’m all for keeping family members safe should we go out and be exposed before it’s safe to do so.

If the White House cannot do it, how do we ensure that the spaces we occupy are also COVID-Free?

Taking lessons from major operational changes we’ve enacted for keeping essential workers safe goes a long way. Think about your last trip to the grocery:

  • All workers wear masks and gloves.
  • Workers are disinfecting the carts and regulating customer density in the store.
  • Carts help to manage the distance between customers.
  • Marks on the floor guide you where to stand when queuing to pay.
  • Cashiers are safely behind plexiglass.
  • When you leave, someone else is allowed in.
  • Shorter hours and nightly disinfection operations.

Consider some options for Restaurants and Retail:

  • 25% of capacity.
  • Mandatory reservations and appointments for dining and shopping.
  • Ordering in advance. Online menus make this easy for restaurants, retailers might have to be creative.
  • “Camping” (restaurant) and “Browsing” (retail) are discouraged .. perhaps even extending to mandated departure times.
  • Everyone wears masks and gloves .. workers and customers.
  • Shorter hours and nightly disinfection operations.

Now, grocery stores are essential businesses and can likely offset the additional labor costs for customer management and cleaning operations through shortened hours and mostly-guaranteed traffic. Restaurants aren’t so lucky, and may be challenged to make a profit with only 25% of capacity. Those with an outside seating option may fare better as we’re into Spring and Summer.

But, what of retailers? Curbside pick-up? Adapt the online ordering model and set up shopping ‘zones’ where selected items could be relocated for a shopper? Mandatory purchase of a gift certificate to be spent this visit or the next?

Economists will do studies on this transition for years .. aided by lots of BI, I’m sure.

Now, as to the offices. How can we trust the person in the next chair? In the next cubicle? On the bus? In the Uber?

We cannot. Americans want to be protected when they get back to work. Assuming we make it into the office (transit aside), our employers must consider:

  • Temperature screening.
  • Testing protocols.
  • A multitude of CDC-defined best practices.
  • New cleaning protocols.
  • Liability insurance.

These challenges are of no fault of our employers .. but as with grocers, restaurants and retailers, there are significant challenges to ensure the workplace is safe. Recall that in “Updated Symptoms for COVID-19” I reference an outbreak that took place in January in a Chicago Contact Center (thanks to the New York Times for this article).

The White House is now testing and contact tracing on a daily basis, so they should be safe (ish). However, on a nationwide level, we are not seeing the same kind of testing and contact tracing.

Note to self: write an article that covers the LOE of contact tracing. The short bit:

  • You test positive.
  • A Contact Tracer (a person) sits down with you, likely referring to your mobile device to see where you’ve been over the past; days that represent your acquisition and incubation period.
  • This person grills you for all the folks with whom you interacted and makes a list.
  • Other Contract Tracers start dialing these people to ascertain their status .. and with whom they interacted.
  • If positive, lather, rinse, repeat. If negative, caution to stay safe and “Behave Like You Have It ..” until they know.

.. it goes on and on. It will take an Army, however, given the current employment environment, we do have folks we could hire and train to do this work.

The States say they’re ‘going slow’ .. but have they acquired the tests and the means to process them? Have they recruited the army of contact tracers? I guess it depends on the state.

Enough on this one .. too many circular references that all end in one conclusion: we don’t have the tests we need. I posted “Testing, Testing, Testing” two months ago, asking exactly the same question.

For now, Follow the Data .. Not the Date.

Stay connected. Stay safe. Stay home when you can.

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