Plague journal

It's getting real

Germany is banning gatherings in churches, mosques and synagogues. Wynn and MGM have closed their Vegas casinos. Here in Austin, the city has shut down swimming pools, golf courses, and libraries. All Alamo Drafthouse movie theaters are closed. San Francisco is expected to issue a “shelter in place” order any time now.

Not everyone got the memo, though. Disneyland (California) was closed down at the end of last week, but Disney World (Florida) stayed open for large crowds on Sunday night. Mercedez-Benz in Spain ordered workers to stay on the production line after a worker was confirmed to have COVID-19; they were rewarded with a wildcat strike.

The UK saw a half marathon take place in Bristol, with over a thousand competitors. Officially, though, people are now being told to avoid nonessential travel, and the talk of a herd immunity plan is now being explained away as a miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Italy is paying the price for failing to tackle the problem sooner. Their new draft proposals state that people over 80 will simply have to be left to die as triage dictates that resources be focused on the young. Although it’s less likely, young healthy people can still suffer respiratory failure from COVID-19 and need to be put on a ventilator.

Corporate responses to COVID-19 have been varied. At the responsible end of the scale, Apple have closed down all their stores, switched their developer conference to be online only, and told Apple Card holders that if they’re having trouble due to being temporarily unemployed, they can skip their March credit card payment. Of course, Apple has $202 billion in cash squirreled away, so they can afford it.

Similarly rich is the corporation which owns Louis Vuitton. They have switched production from expensive perfume and cosmetics to hand sanitizer, which they intend to give away to the French government for distribution.

Then we have Matt and Noah Colvin of Hixson, TN. They weren’t rich, but last week they did find time to drive their SUV around Tennessee and Kentucky and buy tens of thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer, which they started selling on eBay and Amazon for up to $70 a bottle. Then eBay and Amazon stopped letting people resell hand sanitizer, and they were left with a stash of 17,700 bottles of the stuff. After the New York Times story led to an inevitable backlash, the Colvins promised that they would donate their stash. After a mysterious lack of information about where the donation would be taking place, on Sunday the Attorney General of Tennessee went to the Colvins’ storage units and assisted them in donating the supplies.

Back in 2016, a team of scientists in Houston believed they were close to a cure for many coronaviruses. Unfortunately in 2016, SARS was a distant memory, and there wasn’t much money to be made curing something as minor as the common cold, so the possible cure ended up sitting in a freezer rather than put through human testing.

Now that we have a crisis, though, things are very different. Trump reportedly tried to poach a German pharma company which has a promising possible COVID-19 vaccine, with the goal of making it a US exclusive, but so far that isn’t happening.

The delightfully named Gilead Sciences owns another promising possible COVID-19 vaccine. The drug is now being tested as a last resort on some coronavirus patients. Meanwhile, the company is involved in a major legal battle with China — they applied for a patent on the drug in China to cover all coronaviruses, but now a Chinese company has applied for a patent covering its use on the new 2019-nCoV, which didn’t exist at the time of Gilead’s patent. The company are worried that the Chinese government might start making the drug without paying Gilead $50-100 per dose.

A more affordable treatment is Jim Bakker’s colloidal silver. Of course, it’s completely ineffective, but that didn’t stop him from claiming that it would eliminate coronaviruses. Austin’s Alex Jones has also been peddling colloidal silver, including in his special silver toothpaste — which contains no fluoride, obviously.

The CDC has announced guidelines saying no gatherings of more than 50 people. This evening the White House said please, no gatherings of more than 10 people.