COVID-19: Part 13

March 30, 2020 3:59 pm
  • Temporary Hospital constructed in Central Park, NYC.
  • Navy hospital ship arrives in NYC.
  • National social-distancing guidelines extended through April 30 (no enforcement).
  • Alameda County shelter-at-home order extended through April 30 (has force of law). California's statewide order is indefinite.
  • Regular reports of various events centers around the country being converted to temporary medical space.
  • Dr. Fauci (public face of national medical response) estimates 100,000-200,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19 (which would be a huge win over initial estimates).
  • Alameda County cases: 264; deaths: 7
  • U.S. cases: 140,000+; deaths: 2,400+

A note on those top-line numbers I've been giving on Alameda County and U.S. overall. The Alameda County numbers I'm getting from the website for the Alameda County Public Health Department. The national numbers are coming from the CDC website. There's a fair bit of variance depending on which tracker you use, so for those top-line updates I've been using, and will continue to use, those sources consistently.

Apparently the new propaganda plan to cover for the Trump administration's failure to respond to this crisis is to blame hospitals. In a press conference on Sunday Trump suggested hospitals are reselling their supplies instead of using them to treat patients. What a tool.

The University of Washington has a website up providing modeling on a national and state level. Based on that modeling, California's going to do pretty well, likely as a result of the early action. New England, however, is going to have a very hard time.

This data suggests California still has 3.5 weeks to go before hitting peak infection. At peak it suggests ~100 deaths/day in California. Critically, from a statewide viewpoint, we won't run out of hospital beds. That, of course, may not be true of any particular locale within the state.

Here's New York's modeling:

They're looking at hitting peak in just over a week with shortages of hospital beds in the tens of thousands. Almost 800 deaths per day at peak.

Here's the nationwide modeling. It's going to be even fuzzier simply because having lots of hospital space in Wyoming doesn't help if the patients are in Florida. So it's only useful for the really broad strokes.

Notably none of these models are showing a second-wave effect. It appears that the modeling is specifically looking at resource-utilization under an all-other-things-being-equal scenario. It's not considering what happens as states begin loosening shelter-at-home directives or any other dynamic variables.

With that in mind, it represents a probable view of the near-term future but shouldn't be relied on for anything past the first wave.

As a nation, months to go still before anything approaching "normal" will be seen again. Even then, if the medical catastrophe is wrapped up, is the drastic economic effects to be dealt with. Almost $3 trillion in relief/stimulus passed into law already, but whether that will be enough is entirely unknown.

On Sunday I gave myself a haircut, with some help from Jess for the troublesome spots on the back of my head that I can't see. Shorter than I usually do, but it was the longest trimmer guard I had. Not too bad.

When I went to the store on the 21st there was a limit of 2 bread products. I bought a loaf of bread and a bag of bagels. We have some frozen hamburger patties, but no buns. So on Sunday I made hamburger buns.

I've never had a problem with over-baking the recipes in the book I've been using, so I put these in for the recommended time and figured I'd go from there. They ended up being a bit darker than I would have liked. The second batch I baked for 2-minutes less, but they were also a little too dark. Pretty good though.

Homemade bun, BBQ sauce and Miracle Whip, French-fried onions, cheddar cheese, beef patty, lettuce, pickles, jalapenos. Yum.

We spent some time outside during the afternoon on Sunday and the girls rode around on their bikes. Corinne is getting quite good at balance (no pedals yet). She continues to show her much more risk-accepting behavior compared to Heather--she shows little concern for wobbling or losing control. The neighbors were also out riding bikes and it was a stressful time watching low-skilled kids twisting around and past each other. There was one collision, but no injuries. After a little off-bike time Heather did some more riding by herself and manage to turn too sharply and wipe out. Took a bunch of skin off her knee. We had expected to be hearing about her inability to move on her own for days, but she seems to be recovering psychologically pretty quickly this time compared to the past.

Amazingly, Heather is outside back on her bike right now. That's a huge step for her in developing resiliency. When she rode into a the back of a parked car however long ago that was I think it was weeks before she would try her bike again. So this is actually pretty big for her to be getting over it this quickly. I think she's been making notable progress on handling her anxieties. Her emotional development may finally be catching up to her intellectual development.

Mom & Dad are on day 12 of their post-airplane-travel quarantine and so far doing just fine.

Heather and Corinne both had video calls with their teachers today. I believe they were both purely to let the kids see their teachers and the kids in their classes. A chance to break up the monotony of being at home all day every day. I don't think they were attempting to accomplish any meaningful teaching during the calls. Corinne got bored with hers pretty quickly. She was more interested in making faces at herself in the camera.

COVID-19: Part 12

March 28, 2020 10:34 pm
  • Ireland nationalizes hospitals and implements two-week nationwide lockdown.
  • Alameda County cases: 240; deaths: 6
  • U.S. cases: 103,000+; deaths: 1,600+

Another chilly, rainy day in Livermore. Jess and the girls watched Frozen. I baked baguettes that we'll have with dinner. Paid the bills, filled out the census, did the dishes. Just another day in quarantine.

While my bread was rising I gave the girls some cups of water and food-coloring to play around with color mixing. Which then turned into Saturday Morning Chromatography Hour!

This postcard arrived in the mail last week. I find it notable because it seems to focus first on branding for Trump and secondarily on providing medical advice. Of course, no one should be taking medical advice from the guy who spent the first two months of this repeatedly saying it was nothing and no one should be concerned about it. I'd prefer to see this information branded as "From the Surgeon General, CDC, NIH, and WHO. You can help save millions of lives with these simple guidelines."

Looking at positive-tests-per-capita by county suggests California's early (by comparison) action may be paying off. Many states have counties with significantly higher per-capita rates than any in California. However, that is almost certainly heavily impacted by limited testing availability. Run 100 tests and get 20 positives in a county with 200 residents looks a lot worse than running 100 tests and getting 20 positives in a county with 200,000 residents. So, once again, our ability to respond intelligently is hampered by the massive failure in getting testing up and running.

COVID-19: Part 11

March 27, 2020 3:44 pm
  • Last week's number of first-time unemployment applications released: ~3.3 million (previous max was ~700,000).
  • The Senate passed (Wed. night) a third massive stimulus/relief bill, $2.2 trillion; the House passed the bill Friday afternoon and Trump signed it.
  • More states (finally) enact shelter-at-home orders over the last few days: Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Washington, West Virginia (and more, I think). The restrictions and enforcement vary, but the gist is still "stay home."
  • South Africa announces 3-week nation-wide lockdown.
  • China is re-closing all movie theaters.
  • Trump orders GM to immediately begin producing ventilators under Defense Production Act authority.
  • Rhode Island and Florida have begun using border checkpoints to instruct travelers from out of the area that they must quarantine for 2 weeks.
  • Alameda county cases: 204; 4 deaths
  • U.S. cases 90,000+; 1,300+ deaths

I guess stunning headlines is the new normal because they hardly feel stunning. Within 2 days multiple major events that have never before happened in our country's history, crazy. And these kinds of headlines will continue since the worst is still to come.

In an interview, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said he expected this $2.2 trillion package to stabilize the country for 3 months. But who knows, White House officials in the current administration have laid a long history of lying about anything and everything. So that number comes with a huge salt crystal attached. The problem with lying all the time--when your credibility suddenly really matters, you have none.

I've mentioned how the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) has been doing a few times in this series, but I don't think I've mentioned the bond market. On 3/25, the 1-, 2-, and 3-month Treasury Bonds all closed at 0.00%. 2-year bonds have been bouncing around 0.3% this week; with 10-year bonds around 0.8%. On 3/9 all Treasury bonds, from 1-month to 30-year closed below 1.0%. The 30-year bond has since "recovered" to ~1.4%. It's absolutely bonkers. The thinnest of silver-linings here is that I expect we'll be able to refinance our mortgage at around 2.5% at some point. We already have a 3.625% rate, so it wouldn't be a monumental change, but would still save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

Yesterday (3/26) Ohio's governor gave a press conference with Ohio Department of Health's director Dr. Amy Acton which contained this exchange between Dr. Acton and a reporter (at about 38:40 in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iQX-pagq9E):

Reporter: One quick clarification. You referred to this 6,000-8,000 cases--
Dr. Acton: --at peak--
Reporter: In what context? When? Is that what you perceive as the maximum?
Dr. Acton: Yah, our modelers, based on the best data we have available in Ohio--umm, and, again, that data will get better and better and refined. And that's why you'll see, when you go and look online at our graph, it's sort of shadowy because it's from like our least amount to most; umm, that will be at the peak surge that we could be seeing that many cases a day.
Reporter: You're referring to 6,000-8,000 cases at the same time?
Dr. Acton: A day.
Reporter: A Day?!
Dr. Acton: A day.
[5-seconds silence]
Reporter: New cases a day.
Dr. Acton: Yes. Remember this is doubling--in New York right now it's doubling every three days.
Reporter: Do you agree around the May 1st time frame?
Dr. Acton: That's our best projection. And it's really holding true; that's some of the national modeling that had been done in the U.K. modeling and it's looking from our preliminary look--our first look into Ohio's data that we had at least enough to do that general forecasting--it's looking like that. But everything we do--I know this sounds terrible, but the more we can push that surge off the better our hospitals are getting ready--they're getting ready and building out their systems, so every day matters.

Here is the modeling graph she referred to:

As you can see, at least in Ohio, this is just beginning (since they have been mitigating spread). And that's true of most, if not all, of the rest of the country too. I haven't been able to find any modeling specifically for California.

From China, over the next couple of weeks we'll begin to find out what happens after suppression measures are lifted. Their numbers had been looking under control (assuming the data can be trusted), but a re-closing of movie theaters may suggest they're already seeing upticks in infection rates.

Jess ordered "Frozen II" as a quarantine monotony breaker which arrived today. So the girls have that to look forward to sometime in the next few days.

Erin had some fancy cookies delivered to us yesterday.

Heather and Corinne were able to spend some time outside on their bikes today. Corinne is working on figuring out the balance bike (no pedals). She's picking it up pretty quickly.

I've modified my schedule this week. Due to consistently low-quality sleep for the last many days I'm no longer setting my alarm. I figure if I'm actually asleep in the morning it will be better to get that sleep than to force myself out of bed. With the girls needing attention it's not like I can sleep in late anyway, but why add an extra intrusion to possible sleep? With that schedule change I've also been taking my daily walks at the end of my work day.

Earlier this week Jess braved the healthcare system to have some blood work done and to pick up her new migraine medication. She said there was a person doing screening outside the facility who would then mark a paper indicating your destination and that you'd been screened. It was question-based screening, not temperature-taking or anything.

Our wisteria looks like it's going to have a ton of flowers this year. It seems to be regrowing pretty strongly after cutting it down to replace the pergola and clear the rotted sections.

COVID-19: Part 10

March 25, 2020 4:38 pm
  • India locks down entire country for 21 days.
  • Several manufacturers announce plans to convert assembly lines to produce medical personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators.
  • Data from two of the contaminated cruise ships suggests the virus can survive on some surfaces for at least 17 days.
  • SF Bay Area counties extend school closure until May 4.
  • Atlanta mayor reports their ICUs are at capacity.
  • Alameda County cases: 124 (though that number is from yesterday).

The girls' usual schedule each day is breakfast then exercise, math & language arts worksheets (Heather) / alphabet practice (Corinne), and chores. Free time until lunch. After lunch, drawing practice with Mo Willems (YouTube videos), "States of Matter" workbook (Heather). Free time until snack at 3. After snack, if the weather is nice, play time outside or a walk.

They've been watching a fair bit of "Science Max" videos. This appears to be the 2020 incarnation of the "Bill Nye the Science Guy" concept. One might think the host's name is "Max", but it's "Phil". Apparently he "takes every experiment to the max".

Congress is still trying to pass a third stimulus/relief bill. On the news of a third bill (of almost $2 trillion) being almost complete the DJIA jumped 2,100+ points (11+%) yesterday and another 500 points today.

In an interview yesterday Trump seemed to be suggesting that everything will be back to normal by Easter (18 days), which doesn't seem to match reality. And "having the churches packed with people for Easter" would be a terrible, terrible idea.

Last night Jess and I started watching the HBO miniseries "Chernobyl" (2019). Haven't decided whether it's a bad idea to watch another catastrophe unfold right now or not. Sadly there seem to be some parallels with the people in charge denying that any problem exists until it's completely out of hand.

The current dessert is chocolate-chip cookies I made on Monday and Oreos. I've run out of chocolate milk. Dinner last night was hotdogs cut up in baked beans. Historically one of Heather's favorites, but, apparently, she's over it now.

Today's picture is from our own backyard:

COVID-19: Part 9

March 23, 2020 4:33 pm
  • Virginia ends their school year.
  • New York is requesting the Army Corps of Engineers begin immediate construction on 4 temporary hospitals.
  • New York orders hospitals to figure out how to increase their capacity by a minimum of 50% as soon as possible.
  • New Zealand and the United Kingdom enact nation-wide isolation measures.
  • More states are issuing shelter-at-home or only-essential-business orders. They vary in strictness and enforcement so it's hard to track what each state is doing, but new restrictions were announced by Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia.
  • The Federal Reserve announced they will undertake an unlimited quantitative easing program to try to stabilize the financial markets.
  • The Fed also announced plans to extend credit directly to businesses and cities; something way beyond their scope historically.
  • DJIA closed down another 3.0% (18,592, down 11,000 points since January).
  • Congress failed to move forward the third stimulus/relief bill. The goal was to pass it today, which isn't likely to happen.
  • 2020 Summer Olympics have been postponed, likely to 2021.
  • Alameda County cases: 112.

Last night Trump tweeted out that we need to loosen restrictions and get people back to work to improve the economy. This morning the Surgeon General gave a press conference emphasizing that the situation throughout the country is only going to get worse this week. So messaging is mixed-at-best coming from the Federal Government.

The Lab has officially transitioned to "Minimum Safe Operations" as of today in response to Alameda County's shelter-at-home directive that went into effect last week. Only those necessary for the safety and security of the facility are allowed on site without approval. I am now starting my third week working from home.

Restaurants, closed to dining-in, have been providing delivery or take-out orders of prepared food and many have started providing retail access to their supplies. It's interesting, the restaurant space represents an entirely separate supply chain from the retail grocery space. With the strict restrictions on restaurants their supply chains are presumably glutted with excess product. Meanwhile, retail grocery supplies are being stripped bare.

It seems likely there are people trying to work out the fastest way to divert restaurant supplies to store shelves, but that's going to take time. UPCs need to be entered into computer systems, contracts need to be written up and signed, trucks and warehouses need to be retasked. Though, if retail supply chains have plenty of product and it's just a matter of delivering it, then it may not make sense to bring in another logistical system. Meanwhile, I can go to the quickly-thrown-together online-ordering website for a restaurant in town and order butter, strawberries, chicken nuggets, ground beef, flour, oats, hamburger buns, potatoes, pasta, bread, etc. and pick it up the next day.

I baked some bread yesterday and for dinner we had fresh bread, apples, and Vermont cheddar cheese. Heather declared it one of the best meals she's ever had. Heather and I had more of the same for lunch today.

From today's walk, another fairy house: