COVID-19 DIARY – THE DAYS AHEAD

Stillwater Memorial Day Ceremony: 2019 Details | Stillwater, MN Patch

November 11

On the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program The 7:30 Report Leigh Sales interviewed Dr Anthony Fauci. A point of interest for me during the interview was when Dr Fauci advised lockdowns should be used as a last result and that due to COVID-19 fatigue such measures would not be well received by the public.

He later went on to add, “Australia is an example of a very successful result of a lockdown. They locked down for a period of time. They got down to zero and now they are at a very, very good baseline, which means, getting back to your prior question, that it is much easier to identify, isolate and contact trace when you start off with virtually no infection in your population.

Essentially he was pointing out a great deal of luck that Australia had by acting fact and being isolated to begin with. That maybe now trying to change the situation in America in a similar manner may not be possible and even if it was selling it to the public was as much a necessity as simply having the political will or wisdom to take such action. Not for the first time did I feel very fortunate for what has occurred in Australia and sad at what other countries were going through.

 

In 9/11 Chaos, Giuliani Forged a Lasting Image - The New York Times

November 12

Planet America covered Ballbag’s rhetoric about illegal votes and lawsuits and Rudy Guiliani who led New York through the harrowing days of September 11 and stood outside landscaping businesses and mocked networks calling elections and shat all over his legacy as a politician, a lawyer and a leader during one of the worst days in American history.

We’re not even at the farting and My Cousin Vinny references or the absurd fucking witnesses he let sit beside him in a court of law. 

I don’t give two shits if hair dye was running past the poor man’s face, I do care why the hell he was hopelessly trying to undermine the democratic process when so clearly they didn’t have a leg to stand on!

I don’t know if I really have it in my heart to go over this again but I have never been so heartbroken to see how fragile democracy is in America. This country celebrates and exports the idea of it across the world.

I remember once watching TV with a group of people, I think it was the Olympics.

The Americans stood up, placed their hands on their chests and bowed their heads. Us Aussies thought my God they really do love their country. They believe in it. They believe it is the greatest. So its kind of heartbreaking to see so many Americans complacent or downright in conflict with the things that were once celebrated about it by all. 

Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund launches - Lenfest  Institute

Co-host and journalist John Barron spoke of Joe Biden’s who when he joined the Senate was the second youngest ever elected to the U.S. Senate became the oldest man ever elected President of the United States of America. It’s powerful stuff.

I know that Joe Biden may not be all of these things. He certainly is not the man he once was.

But the storyteller in me likes the story, a young hotshot who a lifetime later rallied the last of his gifts to take one last turn at destiny and not out of personal ambition but to serve his country. To take back the people’s house from a self-serving lying bullying fool who had blood on his hands due to his own interests and incompetence and belligerence.

President-Elect Joe Biden faces a pandemic, a recession, a house divided and a populace much the same. There will be no magic wand waved here.

Maybe the story of Biden doesn’t ring true for you.

It probably isn’t true.

But maybe just maybe we’re about to have a President in the White House who cares when Americans die every day and will do everything he can to prevent as much death as he can.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

As Ballbag refused to concede he’d lost the election Americans continued to die.

Planet America reported hospitalisations were as high as they had been across the country and that once the hospitals were overrun beyond capacity, the death rate would rise. 

 

November 13

On Friday Western Australia took down its hard border with the rest of Australia. Travellers from Victoria and New South Wales could enter if they were prepared to self quarantine for 14 days.

All would have to undergo a health screening, a temperature check and prove they have not been in New South Wales or Victoria upon arrival, and register their travel arrangements on the “G2G PASS” app.

Since April for 222 days Premier Mark McGowan had kept the border closed with even WA residents kept out except in extreme cases and polling showed the Premier and his policy was hugely popular.

Months earlier the Premier had promised, “It won’t be forever,” and now he made good on his promise.

Western Australia had been a hold out from the National Cabinet’s decision to open state borders before Christmas. This gave many families hope they would see loved ones during the holidays. 

There were concerns and quite a ramp up to make sure that Western Australians were ready for the new arrivals and to not be complacent about COVID-19. 

Perth Airport | Aurecon

On Friday night Planet America also covered the continuing fall-out from the U.S. election and all the legal efforts to contest the outcome as Biden’s national popular vote continued to grow. Also discussion about how polling went in the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.

It was at around about this time as well that I donated to not only the Salvation Army again here in Australia but also to Meals On Wheels in America. Food security for many Americans is an issue particularly following the pandemic and mass unemployment and I wanted to help some of the most vulnerable in society. Meals on Wheels America doesn’t just feed older Americans it shows them that people still give a shit about them. 

Since Philadelphia citizens in 1954 started delivering to senior neighbours the organisation has grown to help nearly 2.4 million Americans annually. 

As per their website, “Every visit comes with a nutritious meal created to address the specific health conditions of the senior, a safety check around the house and an assessment of any changes that might impact future medical needs. This can mean the difference between independent living at home and an unwelcome transfer to a costly long-term care facility.

Thanks to so many donors, Meals on Wheels America were able to deliver over 19 million more meals in 2020 serving more than one million additional seniors.

In Australia my grandfather lived down the road from us, he babysat us growing up. He kept his drivers licence and independence until very near the end. Often my parents cooking would be enjoyed by him following a quick walk up the hill. Yet even under those circumstances he benefitted from some Meals on Wheels delivered to his house in his last few years. 

 

November 14

On Saturday the 14th of November the World Health Organisation reported globally there had been 53,219,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with a daily increase of 668,057.

There had been 1,303,062 deaths globally with a daily increase of 10,005.

Over fifty million cases worldwide had been reached the previous Monday with 50,348,362 and a daily increase of 532,475.

In Australia there had been 27,703 confirmed cases with a daily increase of five. There had been 907 deaths.

In Canada there had been 282,577 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,516. There had been 10,768 deaths with a daily increase of 83.

In India there had been 8,773,479 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 44,684. There had been 129,188 deaths with a daily increase of 520.

In the United Kingdom on the 24th of September there had been a new record of daily new cases reported – 6,178.

The next day a new record – 6,634.

The two days later a new record – 6,873.

Six days later, 30th of September a new daily record again – 7,143.

Ten days later on the 4th of October a new record – 12,871.

Eleven days later on the 5th of October there were 22,961 confirmed new cases reported.

Twenty eight days later on the 22nd of October a new record of daily cases again – 26,687.

That record was broken again on the 13th of November – 33,470.

In fifty days the record of daily new cases in the country has gone from 6,178 to 33,470.

UK honors war dead in scaled-back Remembrance Sunday service | KRNV

One million cases had been reported in the United Kingdom at the beginning of November – 1,011,664 to be exact.

The day after Remembrance Day Great Britain surpassed 50,000 deaths from COVID-19. 50,365.

On the 14th of November in the United Kingdom there had been 1,317,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a daily increase of 27,301. There had been 51,304 deaths with a daily increase of 376.

The World Health Organisation had reported on the 8th of November a record number of new daily cases in America of 131,821.

On the 12th of November they reported a new daily record of 133,935. America also reached more than 10 million cases with 10,124,555.

On the 13th of November a new daily record of 142,076.

On the 14th of November in the United States of America there had been 10,460,365 confirmed cases with a new record of daily new cases reported of 193,734. There had been 241,186 deaths with a daily increase of 1,142.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – WAS ANY OF IT NECESSARILY AVOIDABLE?

Police at the head of a long line of traffic on a highway

August 13

There continued to be mounting pressure for state border closures to end.

In Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk tweeted there were no new cases of COVID-19 in the state. In New South Wales there were 12 new cases and in Victoria there were 278 new cases and eight deaths.

“The danger is still on our doorstep,” Ms Palaszczuk posted. “As of this morning, New South Wales had 297 active cases after an additional 96 cases in the past week.

“Queensland isn’t taking any chances … our borders will remain closed for as long as the risk remains.”

Earlier in the week South Australia had made the decision to not have residents from border towns be able to enter the state.

South Australia’s Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade defended the decision on ABC Breakfast.

“We have 500 cases in Victoria … We have 14 cases literally on the border,” he said.

“I see this as a bushfire that is producing spot fires in regional Victoria. We have a fire break in terms of border controls. We have no cases west of the border. Now is the time to act.”

“We are sympathetic to the disruption to people across Victoria and SA, in terms of these cross border restrictions. That is why we have left them as light as we could for as long as we could. Now that we have active cases right across the western border, we need to increase the restrictions. I find that (politically driven suggestion) offensive. These measures are fundamentally driven by our public health officers.”

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan were not ruling out border closures in place well into 2021 if active cases could not be brought down in other states.

Despite having entry through their own national borders from overseas restricted, Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham advised, “State border restrictions need to be proportionate to the health risk and shouldn’t remain in place for one more day than they need to. If a state or territory border were to remain closed to a jurisdiction that had successfully suppressed the spread of COVID-19, then that state or territory government will need to be accountable to their tourism industry and will ultimately need to provide additional support.

As he put it, “With our international borders expected to remain closed for the foreseeable future, our priority right now is getting Australians travelling to parts where we have successfully suppressed the spread of COVID-19.

Border closures didn’t ensure that the disease wouldn’t be brought in by residents returning who didn’t play by the rules. There are no guarantees but this thing spreads and fast. We learnt that the hard way in March and closed down our national and state borders as a result. When there is an outbreak we shut down localities with travel.

Lately the media has been feeding us stories of people who couldn’t get to hospitals or funerals. All tragic and maybe unnecessary but to be frank I smell a rat and I’m not buying. There’s too many lives at stake to worry about the almighty dollar and I suspect that is what this is really all about.

If the Chief Health Officer of Queensland Jeanette Young wanted to keep the borders shut she had my full support as she seemed to have our best interests at heart and if the state Premier was not wilting under intense political pressure to open the borders well then she could count on my vote in the upcoming state election too.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison posted a video message on Facebook acknowledging the high number of COVID deaths in aged care, about 68% of national COVID deaths.

I want to assure you that where there are shortcomings in these areas they will be acknowledged, and the lessons will be learnt, and we will seek to be as upfront, particularly with the families of those who are affected in these circumstances as much as possible,” Morrison said.

The Prime Minister also acknowledged that there would be further death.

We know that in the days and the weeks ahead there will be more difficult news as the impact of the COVID-19 spread, particularly in Victoria, will have further impacts. We need to continue to brace ourselves for that.

The fact that he had lost his own father earlier in 2020 seemed pertinent when he said, “Losing a loved one is never easy. We’re also terribly sorry these are the conditions you have to go through in terrible grief.

There had been leaks showing the offer of defence personnel to the Victorian government for hotel quarantine manpower made the subsequent fiasco more embarassing for the Victoria Premier but Daniel Andrews stood firm saying, “I don’t know the federal Defence Minister. I don’t deal with her. I deal with the Prime Minister. I’m glad that there’s other people who think that the best contribution they could make is to be playing politics. I haven’t got time for that and I’m not interested in it.

It was reported that for the month of July, a million Australians had been out of work. The unemployment rate was 7.5 per cent but was effectively as high as 9.9 per cent accounting for the Jobkeeper retention.

The good news was that figure was done by 1.3 per cent from June where was 11.2 per cent. CommSec chief economist economist Craig James said, “Jobs rose more than expected. But we know that there is a long way to go, especially incorporation of the effects of both stage four and stage three lockdown restrictions in Victoria. The quicker that the jobless rate peaks and starts falling, the less damage and scarring will be done to the longer-term health of the economy.” 

In New Zealand there were 13 active new COVID-19 cases bringing the number of total active cases to 36. Having been 100 days COVID free the government was considering how long and how far they would go with lockdown and if it had come through freight which it was indicated was a very low likelihood. When asked if the government was going hard enough with quarantining people the Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield advised “I don’t think we have been soft on this at all. We don’t round up people in New Zealand. We round up sheep; we don’t round up people.

August 14

Friday.

In Victoria there were 372 new cases and 14 deaths up from 287 cases and eight deaths the day before. The Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton advised these large numbers may well be the peak of what was occurring in the state. The death of a young man in his 20s from that days’ account became the youngest death in Australia during the pandemic so far. 

In Queensland thousands of people were still travelling to the state. 2,600 people on 65 flights on Thursday. Five were refused entry and 142 were quarantined. 

4,575 cars were stopped at the border, 253 were turned around and 54 were ordered to self-isolate. 

As the Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll put it, “There’s an extraordinary amount of people still coming into Queensland.

In Victoria there were 372 new cases and 14 deaths up from 287 cases and eight deaths the day before. The Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton advised these large numbers may well be the peak of what was occurring in the state. The death of a young man in his 20s from that days’ account became the youngest death in Australia during the pandemic so far. 

In Victoria there were 1,743 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed, more than any other state and territory combined. Their lack of previous utilisation in such large numbers had been a political football throughout the week.

During a parliamentary inquiry into the hotel quarantine outbreaks in Melbourne, Premier Daniel Andrews had made it a point that ADF troops were not on offer but this kicked off a back and forth all week. 

An outbreak at Rydges was part of the beginning of Victoria’s second wave. It was being investigated how the outbreak had occurred and whether the procurment and choice of particular private security firms had been poor and led to the outbreak happening. Private firms which can range in training and experience had been used in other states but ADF members had been used quite a bit a in NSW along with private security and no similar outbreak had occurred there. w

The mandatory hotel quarantine began Saturday, March 28. 100 personnel were put on standby for large states and 50 ADF personnel for small states. None were deployed to Victoria, such decisions were left to the individual states. Commissioner Crisp made this determination.

In April further communication with the ADF did not bring up using them for hotel quarantine as far as the state authorities were concerned as they already had a program in place. Albeit one that would prove disastrous. 

Defence Minister Senator Reynolds had a different story advising on the 12th of April that Victorian authorities were asked if they needed any assistance and reaffirmed they did not. A small distinction but perhaps an important one.

While Victoria did not use the ADF in this role it should be noted it was small numbers in other states. In March in New South Wales 30 ADF went to Sydney airport and another 40 to six hotels to support quarantine with police and security.

In Queensland it was a dozen ADF to Brisbane and Cairns airports and another dozen to a hotel in Cairns. 

Fifty went to Western Australia but in late July whistleblowers brought attention to quarantine breaches and the next day more ADF troops deployed to the West to assist contracted security guards. 

Rumours have swirled of Melbourne security guards and quarantine guests making the beast with the two backs but so far nothing has been substantiated. Confirmed and scary in itself is the subcontracting out to casual employees with Whatsapp and the providing of very little training at all. There has also been talk of errors that could have been avoided, carpooling, the sharing of a lighter, eating on breaks at the same place. 

On the 24th of June, Victoria a month after the case at Rydges, the ADF was requested by Victoria and the numbers were subsequently scaled back. 

On the 30th of June Victoria was out of the hotel quarantine business with flights diverted to other cities until at least October. With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in Victoria more and more ADF troops have been brought to patrol streets with police and conduct doorknocks. 

The failure of the hotel quarantine has seen some circles regularly calling for Premier Andrews resignation but I’m not so sure. The whole second wave and resulting deaths in aged care could be linked back to a failure to better plan the hotel quarantine and the vendors. On the other hand was some of this the poor decision making through the fog of war. Andrews failed here but he has worked hard as the state went into higher lockdown under immense pressure from all many sides. 

Either way, in his own words, “Clearly there has been a failure in the operation of this program,” he said at the time.

On November 6, the Coate Inquiry is expected to be handed down with their findings on the matter.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART II

Queensland border restrictions in Darling Downs - Darling Downs

There was another great Four Corners episode this week from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that covered what had happened on the last cruises of the Diamond Princess in February in the North Pacific and the Ruby Princess in March in the Trans-Tasman Sea.

What was pretty concerning wasn’t just the disembarkation of passengers in Sydney on the 19th of March.

What was more concerning that the cruise had ever been allowed to leave Sydney given how COVID-19 had spread through her sister ship in Asia in February. Or the lack of precautions that were made during the cruise when an outbreak was clearly occurring.

For many of us the initial news reports coming out of that part of the world were perceived as something happening over there like previous diseases SARS and MERS.

As the situation escalated at some point the actions of Carnival Corporation become troubling. And people died.

It’s quite a heartbreaking tale.

 

May 27

In Blackwater a town of less than 5,000 in Central Queensland the late miner aged 30 returned a positive postmortem test for COVID-19. In the days ahead with the set-up of fever clinics and contract tracing in the town a second test came back negative.

Nathan Turner had underlying medical conditions that had meant he had been unable to work in recent months due to illness. At age 30 he came the youngest fatality in Australia of COVID-19. The second test was good news for the town in terms of COVID fears but his death remained a tragic loss of one so young.

 

 

There were 484 active cases in Australia on the 25th of May.

On the 17th of March there had been 410 cases which was on the eve of the Ruby Princess docking and ceasing international air travel.

Allowing that changes were in place that weren’t then and awareness from the general populace was different there was a growing push to re-open the economy.

However Epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws from the University of NSW advised the same day “Given that there is that, we should be waiting for 14 days … to get to zero and then add those two incubation periods before we start hopping on aeroplanes or coaches or cars to states and territories that have been exemplary in getting their numbers to zero“.

Two days later Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on the Channel Nine Today show, “The National Cabinet has never agreed that there should be borders closed in Australia,” Mr Morrison said. That was never the medical expert advice that came at any time. Premiers and their governments in states, whether it is South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, have all made their own decisions and so they have got to justify those decisions.

The Federal and State governments have worked hard through their differences at all times during the crisis at unprecedented levels. NSW and Victoria pushed hard to shut down schools and now there were disagreements about the borders.

In the early days of the crisis as the state borders shut it was considered that it may be until September before they were opened again. Now the momentum was shifting.

There is no doubt that those sort of borders do harm the economy, they do harm jobs and it is important that we get those removed as soon as possible. I want to stress, the national medical advice that came from the expert panel that has driven all the other decisions never recommended closing borders.” said the PM.

Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk noted “These are really hard decisions everyone, I have sleepless nights, I understand people are hurting, I understand people have lost their jobs. I want to get people back into work as quickly as possible. But if I don’t do it safely it could cripple our industry for years to come.

Other states were holding firm too. The Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein advised “I won’t comment on the way the Queensland premier deals with her borders nor how the NSW premier deals with hers. It’s quite obvious the federal government has a view but my job is to protect the best interests of Tasmanians.

The Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said “The interstate border will stay. It’s a small inconvenience … it won’t be forever. Our hard borders with the east and our isolation have worked to our advantage and we must keep it that way for now.

This was on the 28th of May, history was about to push the trajectory of these plans in another direction.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS

As corona casualties mount, Putin keeps a low profile – POLITICO

 

21 May

Thursday.

Australia reached 100 deaths due to COVID-19.

During this week the numbers only got worse for America and the United Kingdom.  which moved ahead of Spain and Italy. Russia and Peru also became hotspots and the number in India continued to skyrocket.

On the 21st of May the World Health Organisation reported globally 4,904,313 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 103,210. The number of dead 323,413 with a daily increase of 4,478.

In Australia there were 7,079 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 11. There were 100 dead with a daily increase of one.

In Canada there were 79,502 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,003. The number of dead 5,955 with a daily increase of 98.

Peru to build hospital in the Amazon amid rise in Indigenous ...

In Peru there were 99,483 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,550. The number of dead were 2,914 with a daily increase of 125. Peru was now of the hardest hit countries in the world listed individually on the WHO’s website overview of numbers.

In Peru many have been dying from a lack of oxygen equipment in regional hospitals. Loreto which borders Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador and is the largest and least populated region in the country has been the worst hit by the virus.

In India there were 112,359 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,609. The number of dead 3435 with a daily increase of 132. Their national lockdown which began on the 24th of March, had been extended on the 4th of May and was extended on the 17th of May for a further two weeks until the 31st of May.

In Iran there were 129,341 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,392. The number of dead were 7,249 with a daily increase of 66. Iran had been one of the earliest countries to be hit outside of Asia with significant numbers.

In France there were 141,312 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 353. The number of dead were 28,081 with a daily increase of 109.

In Turkey there were 152,587 with a daily increase of 972. The number of dead were 4,222 with a daily increase of 23.

In Germany there were 176,752 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 745. The number of dead were 8,147 with a daily increase of 57.

In Italy there were 227,364 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 665. The number of dead 32,330 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 161.

In Spain there were 232,555 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 518. The number of dead were 27,888 with a daily increase of 110.

What had happened in Italy and Spain was horrible but there was a slither of hope to be found in the daily increases going down.

In the United Kingdom where I have family the numbers were all too scary as the United Kingdom came to be listed as the country with the fourth most number of cases in the world. There were 248,297 confirmed cases with a daily decrease of 525. The number of dead 35,704 with a daily increase of 363.

In Brazil there were 271,628 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 17,408! The number of dead were 17,971 with a daily increase of 1,179.

Photos: Sobering images show Brazil's mounting coronavirus death toll

In Russia there were 317,554 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 8,849. The number of dead were 3,099 with a daily increase of 127.

In the United States of America there were 1,501,876 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 24,417. The number of dead were 90,203 with a daily increase of 932.

 

22 May

Friday there was a push for state borders to be re-opened by the likes of New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the federal government.

New South Wales and Victoria had more cases. As the states that had shown leadership to urge more restrictions like school closures they were now angling for the borders to become open.

With less cases in their own states the leaders of WA, NT, ACT, SA, TAS and QLD understandably took a different view.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk facing an election in October has a tight rope to walk.

Why Annastacia Palaszczuk could win political points in the ...

She can’t carry out actions that may lead to a second wave but as numbers remain low part of the population will urge caution and the other half will push for the borders to open up.

Plenty of border resident/workers would certainly like to see an end to the inconvenience.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall explained that with less COVID cases the faster local businesses can open more freely aiding in the economic recovery.

I promise you we can create thousands more jobs in South Australia by keeping our borders closed at the moment.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan whose popularity is riding high following COVID-19 wondered aloud “It’s odd, New South Wales is saying don’t catch public transport in Sydney … yet they’re saying ‘why can’t New South Wales people fly to Western Australia.

When push came to shove McGowan didn’t mince his words, “New South Wales had the Ruby Princess — I mean, seriously? And they are trying to give us advice on our borders, seriously?

 

 

I personally feel there is too much of a rush to lower restrictions as quickly as possible and we always seem to be moving ahead of projected schedules.

I am in no rush for the borders to open before July or even later but it seems that may end up happening.

-Lloyd Marken