COVID-19 DIARY – CAREFUL ICARUS

Princess Alexandra Hospital | Our Digital Health Service

March 12

There tend to be moments during this pandemic when hope overtakes us.

Particularly here in Australia because case numbers have been very low.

There are these moments where the disease just does appear to be out there in the community.

At these moments governments make restrictions that seem to inspire a feeling of monumental change and hope.

In June 2020 case numbes were low as we came out of the first wave and restrictions were lowering across the board.

Sure on some level people know there have to be subsequent waves but when the threat is not present…

Calls to nominate departing CMO Brendan Murphy for Australian of ...

Then there was an outbreak in Victoria following a case coming out of hotel quarantine and the number of dead from aged care residents skyrocketed.

Almost 600 COVID-19 cases at Victoria aged care homes - HealthTimes

In early December all the state borders were open.

This had not happened in seven months and Christmas was days away and case numbers were low.

RACGP - Vaccine policy identifies priority groups – but order proves  'contentious'

Were we going to have Christmas like normal in Australia?

Sadly no.

The Avalon cluster took off in Sydney causing border restrictions to return in time for Christmas.

Image result for sydney christmas covid 19

With the vaccine rolling out in UK and US and others to come people looked to 2021 to be radically different from 2020.

Covid-19: First vaccine patient has her second jab - BBC News

But within the first week of the new year there was the attack on the U.S. Capitol, my home town went into lockdown and the death toll in the UK, US and places like Brazil and others was truly horrifying.

Viewpoint: What the Capitol riot means for US foreign policy - BBC News

Grim start to 2021 for Brazil with 200,000 Covid deaths

So standing in a full crowd without masks to go see Triple X as if everything was back to normal sent alarm bells ringing.

We’re never out of this.

Not until everybody has been vacinnated and then how are we are going to get booster jabs to the necessary people in time.

There are many challenges ahead of us but also hope to be taken from the possible – POSSIBLE! – slowing down of the virus’s evolution and what appears to be less hospitalisations and deaths than can be obtained from even our first batch vaccines against new strains even if if eradicating the disease remains a long shot.

Until then.

This thing comes in cycles and when people are ready to let their hair that kind of is when the cycle comes back around.

So it should come as no surprise that comes Friday the 12th of March this was a small scare to come out of the Princess Alexandra hospital.

A doctor working at the PA caught COVID wednesday and was out and about Thursday before testing positive Friday morning. 

This ended Queensland’s run of 59 days of no community transmission.

The PA went into a form of lockdown, only essential visitors were allowed, all staff, patients and those coming to the hospital must wear masks.

While the Emergency Department remained open, the public were encouraged to seek help elsewhere.

Non urgent outpatient booking and elective surgery was to be postponed.

I think this may serve as a timely reminder that the virus hasn’t gone away despite our excellent control in this state and this country, and that’s why we need to really get on with that vaccination program to further reduce the risks of events like this happening,” Director of Infectious Diseases at the Mater Hospital, Paul Griffin, said.

There were 40 active cases in Queensland.

Biden announces national vaccine finder website, May 1 eligibility for all  adults | Healthcare IT News

In the United States of America it was one year on from when the World Health Organisation announced a global pandemic, the NBA suspended its season and the US stockmarket plunged.

“We’ve lost family and friends, we’ve lost businesses and dreams. We’ve lost time.” President Joe Biden solemly noted.

All adult Americans would be elligible to get a vaccine no later than May 1 he promised.

The American President set a goal to have the country be in a different place by the 4th of July.

“Where we not only mark our independence as a nation but we begin to mark our independence from this virus,” he said.

I hope it comes to be so but the new variants will need to dealt with too.

Reassuringly here was a President who would not set dates for a re-opening with no scientific basis but would make goals based on real ground made.

March 13

It was reported that the PA doctor had seen two COVID patients on Wednesday with the UK strain of COVID.

That the doctor had not yet received a vaccine jab as part of the 1A rollout.

The doctor had limited interaction with the community on Thursday but five sites were named.

The Morning After Cafe at West End, Corporate Box gym at Greenslopes, Stones Corner Hotel at Stones Corner and the two low risk venues of McDonalds at Coorparoo and the after 7pm on the Thursay at the Corporate Box gym after the Doctor had left that site.

Throughout the Greater Brisbane area all aged care and disability homes and hospitals were closed to visitors

All inside those places had to wear masks – there was no mask mandate for the greater community.

In January one case of COVID-19 in the community had sparked a three day lockdown.

That case had been out in the community for more than one day and had caught public transport.

This was maybe why there was a different reaction for the moment from the state government.

Maybe there were larger considerations.

THe political capital that is expended from lockdowns, there were parts of the community that believe such actions are showboating and devastate small business. Since January, Jobkeeper was due to end March 28th and Jobseeker payments would be significantly reduced.

I do not know but as time wore on the PA case would remain relevant.

In the United States of America the COVID Relief Bill was signed into law and 100 million vaccine doses had been delivered after 52 days in office.

The Director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci was interviewed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert who spoke of the increasing vaccine rollout and more collaboration between state governments and the federal one.

As Colbert noted there was a sense of hope in the air and Dr Anthony Fauci told him that hope was not misplaced – the main point was when.

Dr Fauci noted cases were plateuing in their decrease and he warned that the plateau was at too high a point. Public health measures he said were still required.

He also spoke about the likelihood of eradicating the virus but he hoped to strike a balance between controlling it and eliminating it.

It was an interesting interview to have with Dr Fauci a year on from the outbreak in the U.S.

He spoke of how the virus spreads in maybe half of cases from people asymptomatic or presyptomatic and that he wished had they known that a year earlier as they would have moved more agressively in shutting things down.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – ROLL OUT ROLL UP – PART III

Timeline: How the US reached 500,000 COVID-19 deaths | Coronavirus pandemic  News | Al Jazeera

February 23

Tuesday.

Jobkeeper was set to end shortly and Jobseeker that had seen a double of payments for those on benefits at the beginning of the pandemic was going back to the original amount but would see an increase of $25 per week. Recipient obligations were due to increase too. The number of people getting support has decreased and this was seen as a way to hopefully manage this latest transition with minimal harm to the economy. Also with less people on the dole it would be easier to play hard ball with them now.

Same old song.

The increase came at a cost of $9billion dollars to the government. That gave someone on the dole $4 extra a day.

On the second day of the Pfizer vaccine roll-out in Australia with 1,200 jabs adminitered the hope was to have 30,000 completed by end of the week.

When interviewed on Channel 9 Australia, Infection Disease physician Professor Sanjaya Senanayake noted, ” The reality is if we want to get 75% of the population vaccinated by end of October we’ll need to do a lot more than that. Probably about a 150,000 people per day but I think it is very reasonable to start slowly and ramp up and iron out any wrinkles.

He also suspected around mid year the Novavax vaccine may become available too. The interview highlighted that the vaccine rollout was highly ambitious in comparison to what had been achieved so far overseas.

In the United States of America over half a million American lives had been lost to COVID.

The loss of life figure equivalent to the loss of life experienced during September 11, 2001 being repeated every day over a six month period.

The U.S. had reached more than 400,000 lives lost barely more than a month earlier.

President Joe Biden remembered the fallen.

February 24

In New South Wales there were further easing of restrictions including having 30 people on the dance floor come Friday rather than just the bridal party.

Fifrty visitors can vistir your home, larger numebrs in churches, cinemas and gyms.

Standing up and have a beer in the pub come March 17 too which was St Patrick’s Day.

More than 3,000 people had been vaccinated in the past 48 hours in the state.

Closer to home in the first week of administering vaccinations to the elderly two aged care residents in Carseldine, Brisbane recieved four times the prescribed dose by a doctor who had not yet completed his online COVID vaccination training.

The Doctor working for Healthcare Australia took too many doses out of the six dose Pfizer vial.

Fortunately the Healthcare Australia nurse working with him identified his mistake.

Despite this he administered a second dose before she raised the alarm again and this time he ceased.

The doctor was stood down by Healthcare Australia and referred to the industry regulator.

Those who received the dose were an 88 year old woman and a 94 year old woman who were rushed to hospital for close observation.

Such a bungle so early on in the vaccine roll out in the country was not the best for growing confidence in the general public to get vaccinated.

Media was already reporting that the vaccine was not being delivered to aged care homes as scheduled which already suggested targets would not be reached.

Having contracted the job out to Healthcare Australia and Aspen Medical the Federal Government was looking to structure their re-election campaign on successfully delivering the vaccine throughout the country but media attention was shifting to a horrifying alleged rape scandal in Parliament House and further allegations were to follow.

The future of the Morrison government rests of getting the vaccine rollout right,” said Channel 9 political editor Chris Uhlmann.

February 25

Jobkeeper was due to end, at the height of the pandemic it kept 3.6 million Australian employed now that number was down to 960,000.

As we neared the 12 month mark of COVID taking off in Australia the roll back of the increased JobSeeker payments (with a $4 a day increase from pre-Covid rates) and the cessation of Jobkeeper was to slow government spending and reflect ongoing economic activity.

There was no doubt anxiety being felt by those affected particarly businesses and employees that had been kept going by these initiatives.

There were different ideas being put forward for specialised industry support.

Following the bungle in Carseldine, the CEO Of Healthcare Australia stood down. Scheduled vaccinations across Sydney were cancelled. The aged care residents who received the overdose of the vaccine were continuing to cover in the Prince Charles Hospital. Thank goodness for the quick and brave actions of the Healthcare Australia nurse who stopped further overdoses being administered.

When interviewed, Prime Minister Scott Morrison offerred, “This is an enormous vaccination that we are doing across the country as we said. It is unprecedented in scale and scope and the people working on this are the best in the world.

In other news as Qantas looked to return to international travel in October they posted a 1.1 billion dollar loss in the first half of the current financial year.

In Ghana the first delivery of COVID vaccines from the UN backed COVAX initiative arrived in the African nation. 600,000 free doses of the AztraZeneca jab arrived free of charge for use.

On the 25th of February, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been in Ghana 81,245 confirmed cases. There had been 584 deaths reported in the West African nation of 30 million.

In the United States the Johnson and Johnson vaccine got closer to being approved for emergency use by the Food and Drugs Administration.

As a side note I was at the Prince Charles Hospital for a medical appointment. I had been to the hospital during COVID we went past a sign about signing in.

My wife started signing in like we often did when going to venues, she seemed faster. I wasn’t even sure if we were in the right building.

I came to a desk and was asked by a nurse if I had signed in and advised that my wife was doing it but I was told I had to do it.

In the confusion another nurse came by and started asking me questions.

I asked the first nurse if I could sign in and was told no so advised I would go back to the sign and use the app.

When I came back the second nurse was asking why Karen was wearing a mask. Because we were in a hospital we explained as a precaution for the safety of our health care workers.

The nurse explained it wasn’t a requirement of health guidelines at the moment as if it had raised her suspicions.

I explained we were just trying to be helpful. Later we walked past very elderly volunteers offering assistance in the hospital corridors.

The kind of people I was thinking about when I wore a mask when health guidelines said I did not have to.

In a few days no hospital staff would think twice of a visitor wearing a mask. Besides staff were wearing masks.

February 27

While the federal government had its setbacks with the aged care roll out of the vaccine, the New South Wales government planned to go bush starting March 15 with major hubs set up in Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Newcastle, Wagga Wagga and Woollongong to administer the vaccine across 99 satelittle sites to health and border workers before GPS would administer to the local populace.

The state government had administered 10,000 jabs during the week.

As New South Wales reached another milestone, having administered 5 million tests for COVID since the pandemic hit the state.

In the United States of America there was good news after a long deadly winter that had claimed too many lives while a President formented anarchy rather than spared one thought on how to save lives.

Having reached half a million deaths earlier in the week,  there was now hope to be found in lower case numbers, hospitalisations and daily deaths reported.

A third vaccine loomed on the horizon for use from Johnson and Johnson who promised they could deliver 17 million doses by the end of March and 100 million by the end of March.

The drug was one shot and did not require refrigeration and carried a 72% efficiacy rate.

Pfizer and Moderna between the two of them were promising 220 million doses by the end of March. Enough to have 110 million American vaccinated.

The two companies were also working on vaccines to prove effective against variants.

It was noted on Planet America that countries with 14% of the world’s population accounted for 53% of of orders from the Top 8 vaccines including all of Moderna’s production for 2021 and 96% of Pfizers.

Programs like COVAX and the advice of Boris Johnson at the G7 summit only rang more true in light of this.

We’re only going to get through this if we do it together.

Despite the lower efficiacy rate, the J&J vaccine also had milder side effects, is cheaper and has a billion dollar doses to come in 2021. Johnson and Johnson was shaping up to be the vaccine that would be delivered throught the third world.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – IT’S HARD TO REMEMBER

In tearful farewell address, Biden thanks Delaware, remembers late son

January 19

Tuesday it was announced that Defense Production Act would be utilised to increase the roll out of vaccinations. Mass vaccination centres were going to be set up including a massive workforce trained up to administer the vaccinations. The goal 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days of the new administration.

“I gave you my word, we will manage the hell out of this operation,” said President-Elect Joe Biden.

January 20

On the 20th of January,2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 3,466,853 with a daily increase of 33,355. There had been 91,470 deaths with a daily increase of 1,610. The most deaths reported in one day in the island nation since the pandemic began.

The winter that came well over 6 months after the initial outbreak of COVID-19 across the world had proven far more deadly in Europe and the Americas then the initial outbreak.

Figures from March and April were now pygmies next to those of October through to January.

The vaccine had arrived but production and distribution was a massive logistical undertaking.

Cathedrals, GP centres and convention centres were all employed.

The UK Government had made the decision on the 30th of December to vaccinate all with the first jab and then proceed with the second jab 12 weeks later hoping to grant more protection across a larger part of the populace faster.

The following is from the British Medical Journal:

“On 30 December 2020, the UK announced a deviation from the recommended protocol for the Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine, prolonging the interval between doses from 3 to 12 weeks. Similar decisions were made for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, for which a longer gap between doses had been shown to improve efficacy in some age groups.

The stated intention was to maximise benefit with limited supplies and to minimise hospital admissions and deaths. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the decision to delay the second dose was based on extrapolations from phase III trial data showing an efficacy of 89% 15-21 days after the first dose. At the time, Pfizer did not support the decision, stating that high efficacy could not be guaranteed.

Efficacy in elderly people seems excellent after two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. A longer gap between doses may improve the long term immune response, as seen with AstraZeneca’s vaccine. However, as many people in priority subgroups have not yet received a second dose, any substantial waning of protection during the 12 week interval will create problems as the UK starts to reopen.”

The health care system even buoyed by volunteers was stretched to breaking point.

It was reported that in England on average a new COVID patient was admitted to hospital every 30 seconds.

Like veterans from a war, health care workers who lived through this time would never be the same.

What they went through would only really be understood by those who went through it too.

Some were not going to be able to continue in the profession.

Some had paid the ultimate price already.

The next day the World Health Organisation reported 38,905 new cases and 1,820 new deaths in the United Kindgom. A new record.

In the United States of America a piece of political theatre never the less touched me deeply inside.

During a tragedy the debate goes do you focus on what is being lost or do you try to inspire, to revel in a brighter future.

At Christmas time when researching about the history of Christmas trees I read that President Carter had only lit the top star of the National Christmas Tree in 1979 saying the rest of the lights would be turned on when the hostages in Iran had returned. The following year the tree was only lit for 417 seconds, one second for each day the hostages had been held in captivity.

The gesture was very much in keeping with Carter.

But the gesture did not bring the hostages back and in similar years of national pain the National Christmas Tree has not been used to reflect those times but more likely to be seen as constant regardless of the outside world.

It should be noted though that in 2001 the colour scheme was changed to red, white and blue and helping to light the National Christmas Tree were Leon Patterson, 5 and Faith Elseth, 6 who had been victims of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

In 2005 the tree was lit with the help of Jackie, Melissa and Jenna Kantor who started Project Backpack to help children displaced by Hurricane Katrina get new backpacks filled with books, toys and school supplies.

Yet the question remained for me, when and how should a symbolic gesture being made about COVID-19.

On the 20th of January, 2021 I got my answer.

After a year of “It will magically go away,” “We’re doing very well,” “Everything is COVID, COVID. After the election you’ll never heart about it again” suddenly on the eve of taking over leading the nation President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris went to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and remembered the dead.

More than 400,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 - The Boston Globe

All 400,000 of them.

405,399 American military personnel died in World War II. 297 deaths per day.

It was needed.

I know a lot of thought and crafted intent went into this moment utilising national iconography known around the world but ultimately the power of it came from the simple truth at the heart of it.

The Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, spoke at the event saying, “At this twilight hour, our beloved nation reverently pauses in supplication to remember and to pray for the many thousands of people who have died from the coronavirus during this past year.

We pray for those who have died and the families and loves ones that they left behind. And may it be a resounding gesture of gratitude for all those who have cared for the victims of this virus and their loved ones. Our sorrow unites us to one another, as a single people with compassionate hearts,” he said.

Not to wallow in remorse, not to incite anger and blame, just to allow a nation for a moment to acknowledge a great loss has been suffered. From it could grow a new resolve to strive to save lives and to be grateful for the lives already saved.

As President-Elect Biden said on the day, “To heal we must remember, and its hard sometimes to remember but that’s how we heal.

January 21

Marine One took off from the White House lawn and for the last time with Ballbag on board.

The helicopter circled the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. in farewell.

Within hours America had a new President who had taken sacred oath to faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States of America and preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Referring back to President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclaimation, Biden set forth his own goals for a legacy.

With a deadly pandemic still raging across the country, a population deeply divided politically and with high unemployment President Joe Biden made a promise.

My whole soul is in it. Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this — bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.,” he said.

I noted to myself not long after, a simple acknowledgement that so many people had died and a commitment to do everything they could rather than downplay the threat was sadly refreshing. It’s not a high bar but an important one to clear.

January 21, 2021 the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration marked one year since the first reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States of America – five of them.

One year later the World Health Organisation reported there had been in the United States of America 24,037,236 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 152,937. There had been 398,435 deaths with a daily increase of 2,280.

-Lloyd Marken

Bells and candlelight honor 400,000 dead from COVID-19 | NewsNation Now