Saturday, April 25, 2020

How is the US doing with it's COVID-19 Response?

I've seen a lot of ways to compare the US to other countries when seeing how bad it is here compared to other countries.

Many of the comparisons just take the raw number of infections, or deaths which may be useful early on, but as the pandemic continues that becomes less useful.

There is limited availability of testing in many countries, so there are many people who have Covid-19 that haven't been tested.  At some point in the future there will be enough testing, but right now,  the number of infections a poor metric because it significantly under counts infections and due to different levels of testing in different countries, makes comparisons not very useful.  A better metric seems to be death rate.  That too is under reported since some people die without being tested and without going to the hospital, but I think it is more accurate than infections.

The population of the countries is important.  Is it useful to compare the the United States with a population of around 330 million to Sweden with a population of 10.2 million?  Sweden has roughly the population of North Carolina.  I think you have to take that into account and a good way is to do the comparison per million of population.

The pandemic started at different times in different countries, and initially is an exponential curve, so a country with was first infected in February will have a very different number of infections or deaths than one that was first infected in March.  This makes comparisons strictly by date less useful.  Many comparisons I see start at when a country has some number of infections (or deaths).  Very early on the rates of change jump around a lot (if you go from one death to two deaths you double the number of deaths, but you can't have partial deaths).  I've seen a lot of charts start at 100 examples and I think that makes a reasonable place to begin.

Given this, I think a good metric for comparison is the deaths per million by country since 100 deaths were reported.  I couldn't find this chart anywhere, but fortunately, Johns Hopkins University is releasing the raw data they use.  This lets me make my own charts and update them whenever I want.

Here is the chart I made on April 24th.  I didn't include every country, mostly ones that have been in the news.  You can see that South Korea has done very well, just like the news reports say.  They currently have 4.72 deaths per million. Hubei, China, where this started, has really leveled out.

The next group is the US (dark blue on the graph) and Germany (black),  For a while they were neck and neck, but in the past week Germany has done a good job at slowing the death rate while the US has been going up at the same rate for the past few weeks.

The rest of Europe seems to be all following a similar path, and all have a much higher death rate than the United States.  Spain (yellow) is the worst, but France (green) and Italy (orange) aren't far behind.

In the past few weeks Sweden has been held up as an example of a country that has not done stay-at-home orders but still has it under control.  This chart tells a different story.  Sweden (in light blue) is right there with the rest of Europe and deaths are growing faster than the US.  This isn't something I'd want us to emulate.  One oddity of the data you can see is every weekend the death rate flattens out, this has been happening for 3 weeks straight, so it seems like they don't report on weekends.  I'd expect a big jump on Mondays as they catch up then a slower rise for the rest of the week, but I'm not seeing that.

It looks like the US is doing pretty well compared to other countries.  Certainly there are a few other countries doing better, such as Germany and South Korea,
 but there are many more countries doing worse.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Another trip to the grocery store

Recently it seems like my biggest adventure has been going to the grocery store.  I never know what I'll find.  This week was no exception.  After reading a bunch of news articles and based on past weeks, I wasn't expecting much meat, however, they were fully stocked.  They had plenty of chicken, pork, and beef.

Other things that were plentiful were fresh vegetables, milk, yogurt and bread.

A bunch of things had limited variety but were readily available, such as frozen pizza, ice cream, pasta/sauce, baking mixes, and frozen fruit.  There was also sufficient rice, but I didn't see brown rice.

The stock of frozen vegetables has been slowly dwindling and remains available but maybe not the brands and varieties you want.

As time stretches on, new things are being added to the limited supply list.  Canned soup and boxed meals such as mac & cheese and pasta mixes are more limited than they were in past weeks.

This week I saw toilet paper for the first time in about a month.  There wasn't a whole lot of it, and it was at the front of the store, not in the normal aisle, but it was there.

There is some things that are totally unavailable.  I didn't see any antibacterial cleaners or paper towels.  There also wasn't any flour for baking (but there was sugar).  One out of stock item that surprised me was tofu, there wasn't any of that.

Also of note: More people are following the directional arrows on the aisle.  They are hard to get used to and once I went down an aisle the wrong way.  I got about 15 feet down when an employee stopped me and asked me to go around the other direction.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

This weeks view of the grocery stores

The big change this week is that Giant has made all its aisles one way.  They have put big red arrows on the floor pointing the direction you should go in.  Compliance with the arrows was mixed.  Most but not all people obeyed them but it is a bit of an adjustment, I accidentally went the wrong way once and a couple of times had to go down an aisle I didn't need anything from to get to one that I did need something from.  I do think it makes it a little easier to maintain social distance so I think it is worth it. They also have stickers on the floor in some places indicating a six foot distance.

There is also now a maximum number of customers allowed in the store.  When I was there there wasn't anyone enforcing this, but there were also fewer than the limit so it didn't matter.  During busier times this may be an issue.

Stocking continues to get better with fewer things in limited supply.  There were only two pineapples when I got there, but the rest of the fruits and vegetables are in sufficient quantity.  One thing I did notice is that they have started to run out of less popular items.  I don't know if it is an actual shortage or if they are just prioritizing stocking the basics.  Pastas and sauces had lots of variety available with only a few items out of stock.

A bit change in the rice and beans aisle, especially in the rice.  You can see there is one spot on the shelf that is empty, but plenty of rice.  That doesn't even tell the whole story though, I saw several stacks of cases of rice in other areas of the store and one of the aisle end caps was devoted to rice.  Dried beans are back in stock (except split peas, which this store has had trouble with all winter) and canned beans were also well stocked.  There were two stacks of cases of chick peas on the other side of the aisle, so no shortage there.  In the distance you see some empty shelves where the canned vegetables are, but that is only some brands and varieties, overall there were plenty.

Cake mixes are slowly coming back in stock.  Much better than the past two weeks but nowhere near normal.  There was also a limited supply and selection of flour and sugar. I also couldn't find baking soda which I was shopping for.

Some things are noticeably missing or limited.  First off toilet paper.  I didn't see any of it.  I understand why there was a run on it early on, but I'm surprised that it is still unavailable.  (I also went to Costco a week ago and they were out too).  I did find paper towels at the front of the store with a limit of one, so be sure to check there.  Lysol and Clorox cleaner shelves were empty but a sign said to ask at the register and there was a limit of 1.  I didn't need any so didn't check to see if they were actually available.  Paper plates and cutlery were well stocked, which is an improvement from last week.

Frozen vegetables were pretty picked over, still some but might not be what you want.  Frozen ice cream treats were better than the last couple of weeks but the freezers were out of at least three quarters of the varieties.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Some flowers to brighten your day

 Over the weekend I went for a walk on the C&O Canal. Spring is in full bloom and I saw many beautiful flowers growing along the tow path.  here are a few of them.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Outdoors and excercising with distance

For the past three weeks I've been working from home and exercising by walking around the neighborhood.  This past weekend I really wanted to go for a long walk and have a change of scenery.  Mid March I went to Great Falls (which was great, btw) but the towpath between Great Falls Tavern and the Billy Goat Trail was pretty crowded and I wanted to go somewhere it was easier to maintain my social distance.

I went further north up the canal to get away from the crowds.  I skipped Swain's Lock because it is close enough to Great Falls it gets some of that traffic and it has a small parking area.  There are several other spots that are just a short distance further, the one I chose was Rileys Lock which is conveniently on Rileys Lock Road.  This is where Seneca Creek joins the Potomac River.

There were other people there, walking, running, and hiking but they were easy enough to keep a distance from.  You can see from these first two pictures that much of the time there was no one in sight.

If you choose to bike there, be warned, the tow path isn't as smooth after Riley's lock as it is before and there are muddy areas.  Since it hasn't rained hard in a while they were generally easy to avoid, but in past years when I've gone it has occasionally been treacherous.

Here's a father that will let nothing get in a way.  He was riding on a bicycle built for two with his pre-teen child helping pedal.  Behind that were two more kids in a double trailer (one behind the other) and behind that was another trailer with 3 bikes in it.  I can only imagine the amount of energy pedaling that took.