Coronavirus – old/new update

I wrote this at the same time as the previous post, over a year ago, with intentions of coming back and fleshing it out. Things have moved on and so I’m just going to leave this here as it has some “historical perspective” and then write another one with my up to date observations. Just to put the below in perspective and see just how far things have “moved on” as of today August 24, 2021, worldwide cases total 213 million and worldwide deaths is >4.44 million. This puts this pandemic currently at #8 on the list of most deadly global epidemics.

Just updating the specific countries mentioned a year ago:

  1. USA: 38 million cases, 630,000 dead
  2. France: 6.62 million cases, 114,000 dead
  3. UK: 6.52 million cases, 132,000 dead
  4. Spain: 4.79 million cases, 83,337 dead
  5. Italy: 4.49 million cases, 129,000 dead
  6. Poland: 2.89 million cases, 75,316 dead

Coincidentally similar to their original response times?

Not included in my list below (because not considered a big deal at the time) are the current #2 and #3 worst countries for cases after the USA which is still #1

  • India: 32.5 million cases, 435,000 dead
  • Brazil: 20.6 million cases, 575,000 dead

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Written April 2020

February is where it all went wrong Looking through the timelines again to write the previous post, it’s pretty obvious that February was a wasted month, I guess everywhere except China. January was the month people started to take notice that maybe something was going on. February they hoped it would die out like SARS or MERS did. March they realised it wasn’t going away and they’d better take this seriously and by April they knew they were in deep shit and were wishing they could go back to February and do things differently. Nobody has admitted this, but history will prove me right.

Response – timing and severity Compare, if you will, the time between identifying the first case and entering a lockdown:

  1. USA 61 days – Jan 20 and March 20
  2. UK 52 days – Jan 31 and March 23
  3. France 46 days – Jan 25 and March 17
  4. Spain 43 days – Jan 31 and March 14
  5. Italy 38 days – Jan 31 and March 9
  6. Poland 10 days – March 4 and March 13

(I’m using a reasonably early date for the USA as there was never a federal order to lockdown and it was left to each state/city) Now look at the number of deaths so far:

  1. USA 60,112
  2. Italy 27,682
  3. UK 26,097
  4. Spain 24,275
  5. France 23,660
  6. Poland 624

Other points to discuss in more detail: blame game – china, death versus economy, preparedness, slow vs fast, strict vs lax responses, unusual market response stimulus packages, eating habits

Coronavirus – the story so far

This written on my 49th day of home isolation….and it’s getting a little tiresome. As coronavirus cases pass the 3 million mark I wanted to look at what has happened up to this point before it is all lost in the mist of time.

Firstly some terminology:

  1. Coronavirus – a family of viruses that includes…
  2. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) – a specific virus that causes…
  3. COVID-19 – an infectious disease

For the most part, the world has decided to call the whole thing “coronavirus”.

As I write there are 3,139,471 confirmed cases and 218,024 deaths in more than 190 countries around the world, although in both cases the actual numbers are much higher thanks to the limited testing being done and the way that the majority of data is only gathered from hospitals. In the just over a million cases that have been closed (had a clear and final outcome) 81% survived and 19% died. In the nearly 2 million active cases, 97% have mild symptoms and only 3% or serious or critical. The striking difference between 3% and 19% is typical of how confusing the data is around this pandemic. If I catch COVID-19, is there only a 3% chance it will be serious, or is there a 19% chance I will die?

From what we know so far, sometime in December a new disease, COVID-19, was born. Early cases centred on the city of Wuhan in Hubei province which is kind of in the middle of China – 850km to the left of Shanghai, 1,120km south of Beijing and roughly the same distance north of Hong Kong. Wuhan has a population of around 20 million, double the size of London or New York and ten times the size of Warsaw.

How it started is not yet clear but there is a strong probability it jumped from wildlife to humans through the consumption of bat balti, pangolin pie or civet ceviche, all of which, we are led to believe, are available in Wuhan and all of which host coronaviruses that are more than 95% similar to the one causing all the trouble. A very high percentage of early cases centered around a “wet market” in Wuhan. Hard to say whether the wild animal to human transfer happened there or if it happened elsewhere and was then transferred to the market. I suppose I should also mention here the conspiracy theory that the virus was manufactured in the Wuhan Institute of Virology and accidentally released to the public. This theory is widely thought to be exceedingly unlikely.

Whilst SARS-CoV-2 is something new, we can’t say it is unprecendented. In 2002-04 the SARS outbreak bore many similarities to COVID-19. It was born in China, bats and civets were involved, the symptoms, complications and prevention were very similar, it was caused by a coronavirus, young people did better than old and women fared better than men. However, there were only 8,000 cases worldwide (7,428 in China, Hong Kong & Taiwan) and 774 deaths (721 in C, HK & T) so one assumes it was far less infectious.

Also, from 2012 on we have the example of MERS. Another coronavirus centered this time on the Middle East and South Korea. Bats are mentioned once more but also camels – a bat bit a camel, a guy kissed the camel…bingo. A total of 2,519 cases of MERS have been identified so far with 866 dead, a very high death rate of over 30% compared to SARS at just under 10%.

Anyway, back to how COVID-19 rolled out after its birth in late 2019. This is a list of some of the milestones;

  • Nov 17, 2019 – first COVID-19 case (unrecognised at the time)
  • Dec 31, 2019 – China informs WHO about pneumonia cases in Wuhan with an unknown cause
  • Jan 1, 2020 – Huanan wet market closed
  • Jan 7 – cause identified as a new coronavirus
  • Jan 9 – first death
  • Jan 12 – China shares genetic sequence of new virus
  • Jan 20 – first case in the USA
  • Jan 21 – WHO confirms human-human transmission
  • Jan 23 – Wuhan and other Chinese cities locking down
  • Jan 25 – France confirms three cases, the first in Europe
  • Jan 30 – WHO declares this a public health emergency of international concern
  • Jan 31 – first confirmed cases in Italy (Chinese tourists and an Italian returned from China). Also in Spain (German tourist). Also the UK (Chinese tourists) [Question -is this not too much of a coincidence?]
  • Feb 2 – global cases 17,386 (17,205 in China) and 362 deaths
  • Feb 11 – over 1,000 deaths
  • Feb 25 – US CDC says “not a matter of if, but when & it might be bad”
  • Feb 26 – first time there are more new cases outside China than inside. European Commission asks countries to check their pandemic plans…derrr
  • March 4 – first confirmed case in Poland
  • March 7 –  over 100,000 cases
  • March 8 – over 100 countries
  • March 11 – WHO declares a pandemic “We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction”
  • March 13 – Europe is now the epicentre of the pandemic
  • March 19 – Cases surpass 200,000 globally. It took over three months to reach the first 100,000 confirmed cases and just 12 days to reach the next 100,000.
  • March 22 – ……and only three days for the next 100,000
  • March 24 – …….and only two days for the next 100,000 (you get the gist)
  • March 27 – Boris Johnson tests positive. I was at a hospital where there were a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody,’ he boasted on March 3rd.
  • April 2 – more than 1 million cases globally
  • April 6 – Boris Johnson put in intensive care in hospital. Almost 90% of students globally are affected by school closures — over 1.5 billion children and young people.
  • April 8 – Wuhan lockdown is lifted
  • April 10 – over 100,000 deaths
  • April 11 – The United States records 2,108 deaths in one day — the highest death rate recorded for any country during the pandemic.
  • April 14 – Trump says he is cutting off funding of the WHO. The latest in his attempts to blame someone else.
  • April 15 – number of cases goes past 2 million
  • April 24 – US death toll passes 50,000
  • April 25 – global death toll passes 200,000
  • April 27 – more than 3 million global cases. Boris Johnston is back to work.

By comparison, this was my timeline at work…

  • Jan 29 – no travel to China and let us know if you’ve been there
  • Feb 27 – Italian offices told to work from home. More strict and regular updates and guidelines being seen. Business events starting to be cancelled.
  • Mar 3 – anticipating it to be over by end of Q2 and a sharp rebound later in year
  • Mar 4 – must self-isolate for 14 days if you’ve been to Mainland China, Italy, Iran, Hong Kong, South Korea, or Japan for any reason.
  • Mar 9 – first heard of a case in Poland, an employee of one of our clients who had visited Italy recently.
  • Mar 11 – a lot more information and restrictions. Government close the schools. Can apply for home working if you like.
  • Mar 15 – all employees are told to work remotely (except for critical need and a few people to check the post, deliveries, etc)

I’ve been home working / isolating since Thursday, March 12th.

Throughout all this there were some general themes in the background;

  1. Repatriation – getting people back to their home countries – firstly from China and infected cruise ships and then from wherever they happened to be.
  2. Locking down – closing borders, banning incoming flights
  3. Throwing money at it – trillions
  4. Blaming others – for causing the infection in the first place, for not doing their job, for hijacking equipment orders……etc
  5. A struggle to get enough protective equipment, ventilators, etc
  6. Oversued phrases – social distancing, flattening the curve, PPE
  7. Speculation about a V or U or W shaped recovery, or just a very long recession with no recovery in sight
  8. Job losses
  9. Panic buying – especially toilet rolls
  10. Heroes – health services getting applauded mostly but a few mentions of others
  11. What numbers can we believe and what other information can be relied upon
  12. Who has the right response – no-lockdown, fast and hard lockdown, half-assed lockdown – often there were multiple stages
  13. Promises it will be over within weeks alongside warnings it will last 2 years
  14. Saving lives versus saving the economy – which is more important?

I’m getting my numbers from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ and my timeline from https://www.devex.com/news/covid-19-a-timeline-of-the-coronavirus-outbreak-96396 and elsewhere.

That’s the basics. More commentary in the following posts.

USA East Coast trip – coronacancelled

When I said this “Coming soon! This summer, 2020, we will be adding new chapters to the Scattergood’s American Adventure – Washington DC, Boston, Salem, Cape Cod, Newport, Mystic, New Haven, Philadelphia & Chesapeake Bay. Seven new hotels, some flights and a road trip – so watch this space.”.

What I meant was this “This summer, 2020, will be spent at home or at best, somewhere else in Poland.”

I hadn’t planned for COVID-19, even though at that time, exactly three months ago, there were already 2,801 confirmed infections and 80 deaths. The first confirmed infections in Europe were reported the day before I posted, Jan 25th, in France. Who could have expected how much the world could change in just three months.

Sadly, through a combination of uncertaintly about how this will play out, mistrust of how the Trump administration are handling it and already felt personal economic impact of the pandemic response, I think it is time to cancel this trip. Doing it now will also give the people we intended to stay with a better chance to take advantage of their domestic “opening up” (good luck with that!) than if we leave it until the deadline for free cancellation, which is usually just a couple of weeks before we should check-in.

It was a well planned trip and we were looking forward to it but it will have to wait for another year. There are more important things to worry about.

America – hotel reviews

We seem to have got into a habit of visiting the USA in even years. We first went in 2016, then 2018 and now we are going back again in 2020. This is a review of the hotels we stayed in during the first two trips.

In 2016, the itinerary was: NYC, San Francisco, drive to Yosemite then over the hill and down the 395 to Los Angeles.

New York City – Bryant Park Hotel, 7.5/10

This 103m high, 26-floor gothic tower overlooking Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan was built in 1924 as the HQ of the American Radiator Company (later called American Standard) – hence the black bricks (coal) and gold details (fire). Around 2001 it was converted into a 130 room hotel – https://bryantparkhotel.com/

Positives

  • Huge room, massive bathroom, high floor with superb view on the park
  • The large dining table in the room was just big enough for two NYC “medium size” pizzas!
  • Main bed was comfortable
  • Good, unobtrusive, service
  • Great central location
  • Dining available in the hotel

Negatives

  • Sofa bed for Zosia was a joke (see the slippery turquoise couch in the photo)
  • On-site dining was good but crazy expensive. For breakfast we walked to a cafe down the street which was just as good and half the price. We tried dinner once but the restaurant was so noisy we didn’t bother again.
  • Could be slow getting a lift but they did try to prioritise guests over visitors (lot of “fashionable” events going on upstairs).

Would we stay there again – yes, but not using a sofa bed.

San Francisco – Hotel Nikko, 6/10

The 90m high, 28-floor Hotel Nikko has 532 rooms. It opened in 1987 and had a full makeover not long after we left, in Q1 2017. https://www.hotelnikkosf.com/

Positives

  • It didn’t do anything to really annoy us. Room was okay, food was okay, service was okay, location (in some respects) was okay.

Negatives

  • Downtown San Francisco has some unfortunate and colourful characters wandering around (mental health, drug use, homeless). We never felt threatened but we did feel we needed to keep our eyes open.
  • Nothing about it really impressed us.
  • San Francisco, as we now know, is really more about the “Bay Area” as a whole than about downtown SF. It’s not like Manhattan where you can locate yourself centrally and nowhere is very far away. So, the location of the Nikko has limited advantages for a tourist.

Would we stay there again – no.

Yosemite – Rush Creek Lodge, 5/10

Located right by the Big Oak Flat entrance to the Yosemite National Park and opened just a couple of weeks before we stayed there. 143 rooms with a log cabin, outdoorsy kind of feel. Although the hotel was open for paying guests it was so new that they had not yet got everything nailed down, especially the dining. The online reviews now seem very good so I don’t think our experience is necessarily reflective of how it is to stay there today. https://www.rushcreeklodge.com/

Positives

  • Very close to the park entrance so easy to get in and out to visit the valley.
  • Outdoorsy feel but more comfortable than a tent or old wooden shack.
  • Nice pool area.
  • Staff were trying hard (but a lot of them had clearly been thrown in the deep end).
  • The shop sold “Monkey Butt”!

Negatives

  • Wasn’t really up to speed, especially the dining which was quite limited.
  • Probably more aimed at families with smaller kids.
  • Felt like we really should have been doing 20-mile hikes and kayaking the rapids every day.
  • Smores – cannot see what all the fuss is about!
  • Not the best quality finishes.

Would we stay there again – no. We’d like to visit Yosemite again and stay at the Ahwahnee. https://www.travelyosemite.com/lodging/the-ahwahnee/

Bishop, CA – Holiday Inn Express & Suites, 6/10

Who cares! It was a one-night stopover on the way from Yosemite to Los Angeles and within the to be expected limitations of a Holiday Inn Express on a highway, it did a good job. We didn’t take the time to explore Bishop – not that there’s a lot to see.

West Hollywood, Los Angeles – Andaz West Hollywood, 7/10

This hotel is a rock & roll legend. In the days when it was the Continental Hyatt House Hotel it was known as the Riot House and home to the antics of bands like The Doors, Led Zep, Rolling Stones, The Who…. read more here – https://www.wehoville.com/2013/09/05/wehos-riot-house-4-reasons-really/. To stop people throwing TVs off the balconies they closed them in and they now make great seating areas with amazing views towards downtown LA. https://www.hyatt.com/en-US/hotel/california/andaz-west-hollywood/laxss

Positives

  • It has a story to tell
  • Good room, great view (from the front)
  • Good service
  • Easy walk to “Sunset Strip” – Whiskey a Go Go, Viper Room, Comedy Store, Roxy, Rainbow Bar & Grill…
  • Pretty easy Uber travel to other parts of LA
  • Rooftop pool

Negatives

  • Not the biggest rooms
  • Difficult to get a seat at breakfast without a wait
  • Very difficult to get a seat by the pool

Would we stay there again – yes, but there are other places to try first.

In 2018 we covered the same three cities in reverse order; LA, San Francisco (Bay Area), NYC.

West Hollywood, Los Angeles – Petit Ermitage, 6.5/10

The words quirky, hip & boutique come up quite a lot in reviews of this place and it is really quite a hard place to describe. For us it was a mix of highs and lows but we were clearly not the customers they are looking for. I have no idea if it really is a “cool” place to be in LA but it certainly wants to be. To me it seemed in a twilight zone somewhere close to hip but in danger of slipping into sleazy. It started badly with an argument at the front desk while checking in. A long time before arrival I’d got their confirmation of our stay and read the small print. I noticed something about “adults only” around the pool. As we were travelling with Zosia who was 15 at the time I called them and asked if this was strict and would it be okay for our grown-up, sensible 15 year-old to be there. They guy I spoke to said it was not a problem. On arrival, it was a problem, a big immovable problem. From the late afternoon onward the pool apparently becomes an area where nudity, alcohol and I guess other things are commonplace, I don’t know because we didn’t bother taking a look. Simply put, they should put very clear signs everywhere (their website, booking.com, etc) that this place is “Not recommended for families” and everyone would be happier. I also didn’t appreciate the inference that because I’d not bothered writing down the name of the person I spoke to that I was obviously a liar. https://www.petitermitage.com/

Positives

  • Good sized and comfortable room
  • They introduced me to Le Labo Santal 33 – https://www.lelabofragrances.com/santal-33.html
  • The relaxed breakfasts in the roofgarden were wonderful with excellent choice and service
  • Has a certain charm
  • Good location for getting around LA

Negatives

  • The incident explained above
  • Feels like it needs a damned good clean
  • Bathroom pretty crappy

Would we stay there again – no.

Berkeley, CA – Claremont Club & Spa, 8/10

Opened in 1915 this 276 room hotel, club and spa stands on a hillside overlooking Berkeley and the Bay beyond. With the right weather you can see the Golden Gate bridge in the distance. We had splashed out on a bay view room exactly like the one in the photo. The bathroom is through that door where the robe is hanging and is ginormous. https://www.fairmont.com/claremont-berkeley/

Positives

  • Definitely feels like a quality hotel
  • Excellent facilities – pools, tennis, etc
  • Great service – they even had the chef make up a plate of wedge salads so we didn’t go visit our friends empty handed
  • Short walk to Rick & Anne’s Cafe for great breakfasts and other meals
  • Dining options on site
  • Landmark building
  • Expensive but good value

Negatives

  • Club members can be a little snotty about their rules, like how you’re supposed to get in and out of the pool and which way you can swim.
  • Not the most convenient location for anything the other side of the bay and the Bay Bridge can get really busy. Good for Berkeley, Oakland.
  • On-site dining was okay but not quite up to the same quality as the rest of the hotel. No shortage of great restaurants in town though – like Chez Panisse for example.

Would we stay there again – definitely.

New York City – Refinery Hotel, 8/10

Located on 38th street, between 5th and 6th avenues in Manhattan’s garment district this former hat factory & Colony Arcade (from around 1918) opened as the 197 room Refinery Hotel in 2013. Our room (1008) was identical to the one in the picture, a big room (about 40 m2) with high ceilings and a modern but comfortable design. The stay here was spoiled somewhat by being charged twice (that’s 2 x $3,500) for the stay at check-in! It took a while to get them to understand it was not my bank’s fault (it turned out to be the fault of the middlemen between the hotel and my bank) but when they did realise, they handled it very well and compensated fairly at the end of the stay for the trouble caused. The on-site dining was pretty good and they had a nice and very popular rooftop bar with excellent views. With plenty of non-guests wanting to get to the roof, they managed the potential lift problem well by reserving only one of the three lifts for the rooftop. https://www.refineryhotelnewyork.com/

Positives

  • Very nice rooms, large, modern feel, good bathroom, comfy beds, good air-con.
  • Excellent service
  • Decent on-site dining & breakfasts
  • Great location, midtown, very close to Bryant Park where we stayed the first time in NYC (see above)

Negatives

  • Cock-up with the double payment was very annoying but was not strictly speaking their fault and was managed well, in the end.
  • Rooftop bar was busy at night, but no noise.
  • Views nowhere near as good as from the Bryant Park room

Would we stay here again – absolutely, although the prices just keep going up year on year!

Coming soon! This summer, 2020, we will be adding new chapters to the Scattergood’s American Adventure – Washington DC, Boston, Salem, Cape Cod, Newport, Mystic, New Haven, Philadelphia & Chesapeake Bay. Seven new hotels, some flights and a road trip – so watch this space.

Cats like orange

We have this bright orange bag that we got when we bought some cookware and it is a cat magnet! Without fail, every time this bag is left out the cats are laying on it or touching it in some way. In the case of the photo below the bag was full and laying on it wasn’t an option so Charlie stood next to it and pulled one side down so he could at least get his front paws onto the bag.

I conclude therefore that cats either like this bright orange colour, or, they have been paid by Le Creuset to advertise their high class cast-iron French cookware.

When I say “wasn’t an option” up there I think “wasn’t something he was in the mood for” is probably closer to the truth. When not being mesmerised by orange bags our cats are seeking out uncomfortable things to lay on. For example, why lay on the sofa or a nice flat floor when you can lay on the laptop charger cables or the tv remotes or a pile of books?