COVID19 update, US Memorial Day edition: meat-packing plants as hotspots around the world; Japan lifts state of emergency; Philippines in longest lockdown anywhere; Robert A. Heinlein for Memorial Day

(1) A reader drew my attention to a COVID19 outbreak in Nobles County, Minnesota — again linked to a meatpacking plant (JBS, in this case). According to a May 12 report from MPR (Minnesota Public Radio), https://www.mprnews.org/story/2020/05/12/latest-on-covid19-in-mn

In southwestern Minnesota’s Nobles County, where an outbreak hit Worthington’s massive JBS pork plant, about 1 in 17 people have tested positive for COVID-19. In mid-April, there were just a handful of cases. On Tuesday, there were 1,291 confirmed cases. The numbers were still increasing, although at a slower rate than in previous weeks. [Ed.: My source adds: now 1,414 positive cases out of a county population of 21,378, about 6.6% or one in fifteen. So far, there have only been 2 deaths.]

The JBS plant shut on April 20 but has partially reopened with expanded hygiene and health monitoring measures.

Similar problems have been reported in Stearns County, where COVID-19 cases tied to two packing plants — Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Cold Spring and Jennie-O Turkey in Melrose — have skyrocketed. An undisclosed number of workers at both plants have tested positive for the virus.

There were about 55 confirmed cases in Stearns County two weeks ago. By Tuesday, confirmed cases had jumped to 1,512.

The Grauniad has more on US meat-packing plants. 

But this is not just a US thing. We noted several outbreaks at meat packing plants in Germany — earlier we offered a translation of an interview with an anonymous Polish worker in one such plant. In brief: work in very close quarters (2ft/60 cm. between stations) in enclosed, air-conditioned spaces; the line laborers are mostly guest workers (there from Poland, Romania,…) who sleep two to a room or even four to a room in “accommodation” arranged via the subcontractor; … 

And Australia had an outbreak near Melbourne (hat tip: Wannita F.)

 

(2) Japan is apparently lifting its state of emergency even in Tokyo, 

In contrast, the Philippines has been under possibly the longest lockdown anywhere, longer even than Wuhan reports DIE WELT. which also quotes President/strongman Duterte as saying quarantine violators should be shot.Here is a drier report in English in US News and World Report has some detail in English. : it is clear that, in a country where many people already eke out a precarious existence at the best of times, their loss of their meager income quickly brings on actual hunger. 

(3) I thought of a suitable quote for US Memorial Day. Then I figured I could add nothing to the words of Robert A. Heinlein in The Pragmatics Of Patriotism — his 1973 Forrestal Lecture at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis (of which he himself was an alumnus — he started writing after being invalided out of the US Navy). The full text is available online here. I cannot help being moved everytime I read it, especially the peroration:

The time has come for me to stop. I said that ‘Patriotism’ is a way of saying ‘Women and children first.’ And that no one can force a man to feel this way. Instead he must embrace it freely. I want to tell about one such man. He wore no uniform and no one knows his name, or where he came from; all we know is what he did.

In my home town sixty years ago when I was a child, my mother and father used to take me and my brothers and sisters out to Swope Park on Sunday afternoons. It was a wonderful place for kids, with picnic grounds and lakes and a zoo. But a railroad line cut straight through it.

One Sunday afternoon a young married couple were crossing these tracks. She apparently did not watch her step, for she managed to catch her foot in the frog of a switch to a siding and could not pull it free. Her husband stopped to help her. But try as they might they could not get her foot loose. While they were working at it, a tramp showed up, walking the ties. He joined the husband in trying to pull the young woman’s foot loose. No luck.

Out of sight around the curve a train whistled. Perhaps there would have been time to run and flag it down, perhaps not. In any case both men went right ahead trying to pull her free… and the train hit them. The wife was killed, the husband was mortally injured and died later, the tramp was killed – and testimony showed that neither man made the slightest effort to save himself. The husband’s behavior was heroic… but what we expect of a husband toward his wife: his right, and his proud privilege, to die for his woman. But what of this nameless stranger? Up to the very last second he could have jumped clear. He did not. He was still trying to save this woman he had never seen before in his life, right up to the very instant the train killed him. And that’s all we’ll ever know about him.

THIS is how a man dies. This is how a man lives!

‘They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old;
age shall not wither them nor the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them”

– Tomb of the Scottish Unknown Soldier, Edinburgh

COVID19 update, April 7, 2020: hemoglobin, COVID19, and hydroxychloroquine; miscellaneous updates

A potentially HUGE finding in a preprint suggests a radically different mechanism for hydroxychloroquine’s action in COVID19. TL;DR in layman language: that a lot of the hypoxyia (oxygen starvation) of severe COVID-19 patients is due to hemoglobin in red blood cells being disrupted by the virus (as it is by the malaria pathogen), and that hydroxychloroquine protects hemoglobin in both diseases. A layman’s discussion can be found here.

“Masgramondou” has an origin hypothesis for the outbreak that sounds disturbingly plausible to anyone who subscribes to the “incompetence before malice” or “c*ck-up before conspiracy” principle.

How helpful is soap against COVID-19? If yes, why? The American Chemical Society has a helpful YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2pMVimI2bw

The leader article of German center-right daily Die Welt is entitled: “the end of globalization as we know it” https://www.welt.de/wirtschaft/article207072567/Corona-Krise-Unternehmen-aendern-ihre-Lieferketten.html

Ventilator outcomes discussed by Roger Seheult MD https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaIzj3s3p4A&t=7s . In another video, he weighs in on the beneficial effect of sauna baths for immunity in general and in COVID-19 in particular  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFRwnhfWXxo (hat tip: Mrs. Arbel) Finnish statistics so far look enviable.

My friend Tom Knighton lives in  Dougherty County in rural GA, which found itself coping with a fierce COVID-19 outbreak following a “super-spreader” event at a funeral. But it seems they are now seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. https://www.walb.com/2020/04/05/phoebe-releases-sundays-covid-numbers/

Israel, which saw super-spreader events during Purim parties a month ago, is now taking the drastic step of imposing a curfew from a few hours before the Passover seder until the next morning. Seders are to be done strictly in the home, nuclear family only, no guests. 

Japanhttps://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/japan, which was very reluctant to do so, finally declares pandemic emergency

And Instapundit minces no words in USA Today .

UPDATE: via David Bernstein, interactive COVID-19 map of the New York City metropolitan area. Counterintuitively, Manhattan is not the worst hit pro capita: that extremely dubious honor falls to the nearer commuter counties.
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, hovewer, points to an apparent “flattening of the curve” in hard-hit NYC.

Hawaii, tipping, and cultural misunderstandings

Fox News had a segment on about how restaurants in Hawaii are now proposing to add a 15% surcharge to the bill for Japanese tourist.
You say: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?” The rationale is: since Japanese tourists don’t tip (tipping is not customary in Japanese restaurants), the customary 15% tip should be added to the bill so the waiters are not cheated out of their money.
While Japanese are of course the most numerous/visible such group, let’s remove the racial component by pointing out the numerous times I’ve had to remind Belgian and Dutch visitors to the USA about tipping. Now the alleged “excessive parsimony” of the Dutch is a common theme of Belgian jokes about them (the Dutch have similar jokes about the Scottish — neither Belgium nor the Netherlands are big on “political correctness”), but neither the Belgians nor the Japanese have a reputation for stinginess. It’s simply a cultural misunderstanding: waiters in Belgium, the Netherlands (and presumably Japan) are salaried employees and restaurant bills in Belgium, for example, typically state “VAT and service included”. If you were to add a 15% “service charge” to a restaurant bill the Belgian would pay it without a second thought. When I explained to Belgian visitors to the USA or Israel that their tips are the income of the waiters, they understood immediately.
It remains to be seen how mainland American tourists would react if Hawaiian restaurants were to add on a blanket 15% “service charge” to all bills. Yet this would, to a naive outside observer, seem to be the obvious solution…