COVID19 quick updates, October 26, 2020: weak flu season; Israel’s State Comptroller slams COVID19 mismanagement; masks and cough clouds

A few quick updates, as I’m drowning in urgent work and trying to write Episode 4 of my WW II alternate history series (working title “Hungarian Rhapsody”) in my limited spare time:

  • The NYT (!) has discovered there’s such a thing as false positives in COVID19 testing (hat tip: Jeff Duntemann)
  • Israel’s State Comptroller’s Office released a withering interim report on the handling of the COVID19 crisis. (JPost coverage; Times of Israel coverage). The most standout item: the antiquated, dysfunctional mess that is the track-and-trace system, with data being recorded on paper (!) then typed free-form into a computer. In two out of three cases audited by the SCO, epidemiological investigation began four days or more after diagnosis. For this incompetence, we “thank” the efforts of Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to keep the track & trace effort within the ministerial turf. He may be an improvement over his execrable predecessor Litzman, but that is damning with extremely faint praise.
  • Israel’s cabinet just decided that on Sunday, November 1, the 2nd stage of reopening will take place. Hairdressers, beauty salons, and other non-essential businesses that receive customers will be able to open, one customer at a time. (Presumably this last aspect will be fine-tuned later, although hairdressing salons in Israel tend to be small operations.)
  • (Hat tip: masgramondou) An interesting paper titled “Reducing chances of COVID-19 infection by a cough cloud in a closed space featured”, Physics of Fluids 32, 101704 (2020); https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0029186
    From the abstract: “Recent experiments [P. P. Simha and P. S. M. Rao, “Universal trends in human cough airflows at large distances,” Phys. Fluids 32, 081905 (2020)] have shown that the velocity in a cough-cloud decays exponentially with distance. We analyze the data further to estimate the volume of the cough-cloud in the presence and absence of a face mask. […] The volume of the cough-cloud without a mask is about 7 and 23 times larger than in the presence of a surgical mask and an N95 mask, respectively. We also find that the cough-cloud is present for 5 s–8 s, after which the cloud starts dissipating, irrespective of the presence or absence of a mask.” Masgramondou comments that it would have been nice of they had also looked at ordinary cloth masks, which would probably score somewhere between surgical masks and nothing at all.
  • The Spectator summarizes reports on the effect of social distancing on seasonal flu worldwide. Consistent with what I’ve reported here early in the epidemic (quoting on-the-ground reports from Europe and Japan), the flu season was abnormally mild. Now the flu season is over in the Southern Hemisphere and the data are in — a harbinger of what’s to come in the Northern hemisphere. In fact the reduced mortality from the flu compensates for COVID19 deaths in some countries. (For example: Australia had just 36 deaths from flu compared to 812 last year — the difference nearly cancels out the 905 COVID-19 deaths.) Go read the whole thing

One thought on “COVID19 quick updates, October 26, 2020: weak flu season; Israel’s State Comptroller slams COVID19 mismanagement; masks and cough clouds

  1. The flaw in ALL the mask research is the failure to consider REPEATED coughs or sneezes into a mask and the saturation and subsequent increased dispersion (this is to be fair, briefly mentioned, and a paper on For the first cough, obviously, the mask will stop and absorb droplets. I suspect, from there it’s a downward trend, to an inversion, where the mask becomes an effective aerosol generator.

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