How elimination versus suppression became Covid’s cold war

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/03/covid-19-elimination-versus-suppression?mc_cid=919aa668d9&mc_eid=983bcf5922

Excerpt:

The rest of the world is pursuing a mitigation and suppression strategy, according to which we will have to live with Covid-19 and therefore we must learn to manage it – aiming for herd immunity by the most painless route possible. The poster child for this approach is Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, who told me last week that elimination was a pipe dream for most of the world because even if a country were able to achieve it once, it would be impossible to prevent reintroductions without maintaining a costly and potentially restrictive surveillance apparatus. If the strategy failed, the country would have to revert to suppression anyway, but the population would have paid a much higher price. He too is in it for the long haul, he says; “sustainability” is his watchword. This is how he justifies the gradual tightening of restrictions in his country, from a very relaxed start.

And so the world is cleaved in two, with each bloc operating according to a different set of assumptions, in a kind of public health rerun of the cold war. One bloc assumes that Covid-19 can be eliminated, the other that it can’t. The latter thinks the former is chasing an impossible utopia. The former thinks the utopia could be achieved if only everyone pulled together.

Author(s): Laura Spinney

Publication Date: 3 March 2021

Publication Site: The Guardian

Flu activity is ‘unusually low’ in the US: Can we keep it going in future years?

Link: https://www.today.com/health/flu-season-2020-2021-flu-activity-historic-lows-mask-wearing-t207131

Excerpt:

Some 136 people were hospitalized for the flu between Oct. 1, 2020, and Jan. 16, 2021, and there were 292 deaths involving influenza during that period, the CDC reported. One child has died.

The flu season is far from over — it usually begins in the fall, and peaks between December and February.

But in comparison, 400,000 people were hospitalized for the flu and 22,000 died, including 434 children, during the entire 2019–2020 season, which the CDC described as “severe” for kids 4 years old and younger, and for adults 18-49 years old.

Author(s): A. Pawlowski

Publication Date: 27 January 2021

Publication Site: Today

5 Pandemic Mistakes We Keep Repeating

Link: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/02/how-public-health-messaging-backfired/618147/?mc_cid=0edceb332a&mc_eid=983bcf5922

Excerpt:

Five key fallacies and pitfalls have affected public-health messaging, as well as media coverage, and have played an outsize role in derailing an effective pandemic response. These problems were deepened by the ways that we—the public—developed to cope with a dreadful situation under great uncertainty. And now, even as vaccines offer brilliant hope, and even though, at least in the United States, we no longer have to deal with the problem of a misinformer in chief, some officials and media outlets are repeating many of the same mistakes in handling the vaccine rollout.

….

Amidst all the mistrust and the scolding, a crucial public-health concept fell by the wayside. Harm reduction is the recognition that if there is an unmet and yet crucial human need, we cannot simply wish it away; we need to advise people on how to do what they seek to do more safely. Risk can never be completely eliminated; life requires more than futile attempts to bring risk down to zero. Pretending we can will away complexities and trade-offs with absolutism is counterproductive. Consider abstinence-only education: Not letting teenagers know about ways to have safer sex results in more of them having sex with no protections.

Author(s): Zeynep Tufekci

Publication Date: 26 February 2021

Publication Site: The Atlantic

American Indicators: The Faces And Stories Behind The Economic Statistics

Link: https://www.npr.org/2021/02/20/969122775/american-indicators-the-faces-and-stories-behind-the-economic-statistics

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Excerpt:

When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, big parts of the U.S. economy just turned off. Voluntary social distancing and lockdowns, like those during the first wave in March, were necessary to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19’s spread throughout the country, but these lockdowns had ripple effects on the economy.

Millions suddenly lost their jobs, pushing unemployment to historic highs. When travel ground to a halt, hotel occupancy plummeted — and so did profits, which dropped 84.6% in 2020 from a year earlier. In New Jersey, that meant hotel owner Bhavesh Patel had to furlough employees to make ends meet.

….

That factory is one of the parts of the economy that are slowly coming back. Some sectors are thriving, while others continue to struggle, putting different people in vastly different situations. NPR will spend the year following four people who will help illustrate the arc of the expected economic recovery.

Author(s): Mallory Yu, Ari Shapiro

Publication Date: 20 February 2021

Publication Site: NPR

Retirement Insecurity 2021 | Americans’ Views of Retirement

Press Release: https://www.nirsonline.org/2021/02/amid-political-division-americans-united-in-retirement-worry/

Webinar recording:

Webinar slides: https://www.nirsonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/FINAL-Public-Opinion-Webinar-Slides-Feb-25-2021.pdf

Graphic:

Excerpt:

This new national survey of working-age Americans also reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated worries about achieving financial security in retirement.

More than half of Americans (51 percent) say that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased concerns about achieving financial security in retirement. And the COVID-19 concern is high across party lines: 57 percent among Democrats; 50 percent for Independents; and at 44 percent for Republicans.

Author(s): Dan Doonan, Kelly Kenneally, Tyler Bond

Publication Date: 17 February 2021

Publication Site: National Institute on Retirement Security

Excess mortality associated with the COVID-19 pandemic among Californians 18–65 years of age, by occupational sector and occupation: March through October 2020

Link: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.21.21250266v1.full.pdf

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Excerpt:

Certain occupational sectors have been associated with high excess mortality during the pandemic, particularly among racial and ethnic groups also disproportionately affected by COVID-19. In-person essential work is a likely venue of transmission of coronavirus infection and must be addressed through strict enforcement of health orders in workplace settings and protection of in-person workers. Vaccine distribution prioritizing in-person essential workers will be important for reducing excess COVID mortality.

Author(s): Yea-Hung Chen, Maria Glymour, Alicia Riley, John Balmes, Kate Duchowny, Robert Harrison, Ellicott Matthay, Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo

Publication Date: 22 January 2021

Publication Site: MedrXiv

Third Wave of COVID-19 Continues to Ease

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2021/02/17/third-wave-of-covid-19-continues-to-ease/

Excerpt:

The seven-day moving average number of daily cases is about 100,000.

The seven-day moving average number of daily deaths has been over 2,000 for 10 weeks.

As of Feb. 11, about 35 million U.S. residents had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 17 February 2021

Publication Site: Think Advisor

The Economist’s tracker for covid-19 excess deaths

Link: https://github.com/TheEconomist/covid-19-excess-deaths-tracker

Excerpt:

This repository contains the data behind The Economist’s tracker for covid-19 excess deaths and the code that we have used to clean, analyse and present the numbers.

….

Our tracker uses data from a number of statistical bureaus, government departments and academic projects. For many of the countries, we have imported total_deaths from the Human Mortality Database, which collates detailed weekly breakdowns from official sources around the world. For other countries, you can find a full list of sources and links in a file called list_of_sources.csv, as well as spreadsheets in the /source-data/ folder.

For most countries, we have imported national figures on official covid deaths from a time series maintained by Johns Hopkins University and Our World In Data. For some countries, we have provided a regional breakdown of mortality. In these cases, we have imported regional covid_deaths from a variety of sources, including a Latin American time series maintained by Data Science Research Peru.

Date accessed: 25 February 2021

Publication Site: github

The march of the coronavirus across America

Link: https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/tracking-coronavirus-across-america

Graphic:

Excerpt:

However, herd immunity will take months to achieve, and the sheer scale of infections in America dictates that covid-19 will not be under control for some time. In order to see where the pandemic is currently most severe across the nation, we have created an interactive map of covid-19 cases and deaths. It divides America into 500 areas. For each of these it shows cases and deaths per 100,000 people, so that infection and death rates in, say, New York City and its surrounds (population 40m) can be compared with those in Ironwood, Michigan (population 27,000).

Publication Date: 23 February 2021

Publication Site: The Economist

Tracking covid-19 excess deaths across countries

Link: https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/coronavirus-excess-deaths-tracker

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Excerpt:

As covid-19 has spread around the world, people have become grimly familiar with the death tolls that their governments publish each day. Unfortunately, the total number of fatalities caused by the pandemic may be even higher, for several reasons. First, the official statistics in many countries exclude victims who did not test positive for coronavirus before dying—which can be a substantial majority in places with little capacity for testing. Second, hospitals and civil registries may not process death certificates for several days, or even weeks, which creates lags in the data. And third, the pandemic has made it harder for doctors to treat other conditions and discouraged people from going to hospital, which may have indirectly caused an increase in fatalities from diseases other than covid-19.

One way to account for these methodological problems is to use a simpler measure, known as “excess deaths”: take the number of people who die from any cause in a given region and period, and then compare it with a historical baseline from recent years. We have used statistical models to create our baselines, by predicting the number of deaths each region would normally have recorded in 2020.

Date Accessed: 25 February 2021

Date last updated: 23 February 2021

Publication Site: The Economist

Evidence from Britain shows covid-19 vaccines are very effective

Link: https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/02/22/evidence-from-britain-shows-covid-19-vaccines-are-very-effective

Graphic:

Excerpt:

THE SECOND wave of the pandemic has been devastating in much of the world. Since September 1st covid-19 has claimed the lives of 1.6m people, compared with 850,000 in the preceding nine months. In America alone, the death toll passed 500,000 on February 22nd. What is more, new variants that may be more transmissible, more deadly or better at evading the body’s immune response are spreading.

At last, some optimism is budding. More than 200m doses of covid-19 vaccine have been administered across 92 countries. After a slow start, America’s programme is gathering speed: 16% of adults have received a first shot, and President Joe Biden is on target to meet his goal of 150m doses by his 100th day in office. The number of infections in the country is falling by half every 14 days.

Publication Date: 21 February 2021

Publication Site: The Economist

Fed Chairman Vows to Keep Supporting Economic Recovery

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2021/02/23/fed-chairman-vows-to-keep-supporting-economic-recovery/

Excerpt:

The Fed will continue $120 billion in monthly bond purchases and communicate any change.

Powell doesn’t expect any large and persistent increases in inflation; some pickup will be temporary.

Powell says getting the pandemic under control is needed for the economy to reopen.

Author(s): Bernice Napach

Publication Date: 23 February 2021

Publication Site: Think Advisor