COVID-19 Update, Morning 2-21-2020 — Living & Dying from China’s Biological Chernobyl

Wednesday the world got the worst possible news about COVID-19 from China, and it explained all the strange things China was hiding since this disease first appeared. We are in the midst of China’ Biological Chernobyl. But first, the numbers. As of 20 February 2020 at 7:04 p.m. ET there were 76,192 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 2,245 fatalities. China 74,988 cases, 2,234 fatalities and International 1,205 cases, 11 fatalities.  See the latest disease numbers here:

A quiet Chinese announcement Wednesday has changed the world.
It appears that COVID-19 is an airborne bug in some very common medical situations.  This was why China was keeping the CDC and WHO experts out of China.  It is also why they had such heavy casualties with medical workers.  You need a PPE-4 level independent oxygen supply to entubate a COVID-19 pneumonia sufferer.
“Airborne transmission” has a very specific medical-technical definition.  See the figure below.
This graphic explains the technical definition of airborne transmission.
This graphic explains the technical definition of airborne transmission. (Peak Prosperity video screen capture)
See this, the opening sentence of which is the technical description of “Airborne Transmission” —
China admits aerosol infection possible in coronavirus outbreak

KYODO NEWS – Feb 20, 2020 – 13:14

KYODO NEWS – Feb 20, 2020 – 13:14 | WorldAll

China’s health authorities have admitted that people may contract the pneumonia-causing COVID-19 coronavirus by inhaling small virus-containing particles floating in the air, or so-called aerosol infection.


Updated diagnostic and treatment guidelines published Wednesday say a person can be infected if they are “exposed to a high concentration of aerosol in a relatively closed environment for a long time.


This is the sixth edition of the guidelines for treating patients of the new virus in China. The guidelines posit that the main routes of transmission are “droplets from the respiratory system” and “close contact.”


Previous versions of the guidelines said the possibility of aerosol infection had yet to be clearly established.


Aerosol infection is said to be prone to occur during medical procedures, such as when inserting a tube into the windpipe to ensure an open airway.

And airborne transmission beyond the narrow medical procedures have been confirmed in South Korea. ROK public health officials tracked a single asymptomatic church lady to a Christian mega-church service of a 1,000 people.  Below is the result:

Steve Lookner
544 members of South Korea’s Shinchonji Daegu church have virus symptoms(This is the church with dozens of new cases in the past 2 days)
China also announced a prison had 200 prisoners and seven guards get COVID-19 last night. Essentially any institutional situation with poor/unfiltered circulation will see mass COVID-19 infection.
And it gets worse.  How much worse?  This much worse:
The Fight Plan of China's Biological Chernobyl
The Fight Plan of China’s Biological Chernobyl — 60,000 airline flights with poor air circulation where up to 12 million souls (assuming 200 unique people per plane flight) were exposed to an airborne transmitted SARS-CoV2 virus.

The heart of the issue for 2019-nCoV is that it is a virgin fields epidemic. Everyone who hasn’t got it, will get it, absent a genetic gift or  vaccine…and there will be no vaccine for a year, assuming this coronavirus is amenable to a vaccine.

This is compounded by the issue that the COVID-19 coronavirus infection takes a very low SARS-Cov2 viral load for the initial infection…

…and that low viral load initial infection takes a very, very, very, long time to manifest as either positive test result or as

Additionally, four of five people that test positive for COVID-19 have either no or very minor symptoms while being infection spreaders.
Case in point is the South Korean church-lady who seems to have given COVID-19 infections to 544 people either by giving out communion or singing.

The infection rate right now is over 20% for the souls aboard Diamond Princess and it will take at least 24 days from their last
exposure to be detectable in new cases.  The chaos and ineffectivness of the Japanese quarantine was such that every passenger, crewman or Japanese health ministry body on the Diamond Princess were likely exposed to infection causing viral loads right up to and through the flights back to their home countries.

There is now no chance stopping COVID-19, short of a vaccine, because China’s Communist Party allowed those 12 million exposed souls to travel the world.

COVID-19 is not just a flu.  It is 20 times deadlier (2% death rate) with an intact medical system and 50 time deadlier (5% death rate) in a collapsed medical system.  And every medical system in the world will collapse under the weight of SARS-CoV2 infections.

Buckle up.  This will be a rough ride.


26 thoughts on “COVID-19 Update, Morning 2-21-2020 — Living & Dying from China’s Biological Chernobyl”

  1. Scroll through here today if you dare:

    Iran appears to have incubated an outbreak that is now out of control (given incubation times, it must have been festering for weeks) and is going to bring their health system down and spread through the entire MidEast, and the world (already a case from there in Canada).

    There are actually TWO prisons in China with mass outbreaks.

    Japan reporting some children with the disease, which would shatter that talking point.

    One frustrating thing is it’s impossible to know how severe cases are, to know if the stories of how wide spread it is in the prisons and in the South Korean church are consistent with the claims of the strong age-dependency on the effects of the disease.

  2. Just the flu, and totally under control and nothing to worry about.
    “Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, plans to build another 19 makeshift hospitals to receive more infected patients, local authorities said Friday.”

    PS. Those aren’t hospitals. They’re basically prisons. Clearly they think locking people in their homes isn’t working, they need something more aggressive to separate out the sick from the not-yet-sick.

  3. Of course we should take any viral outbreak seriously — but Come On!

    “… four of five people that test positive for COVID-19 have either no or very minor symptoms …”

    Add to that the evidence that 4 out of 5 people exposed to the virus on the cruise ship did not catch the disease.

    And the evidence that most of the small minority who (a) catch the infection, and (b) develop serious symptoms — survive!

    This viral outbreak is not the end of the world. We have nothing to fear except fear itself.

    The big puzzle is why the Chinese government is over-reacting. Although now we also have to ask why some other governments are over-reacting too. Is this mostly bored government employees seeking some low-risk excitement in their lives?

    Yes, take it seriously — but let’s try to keep a sense of proportion too.

  4. Gavin: Think for a second–given the stats you are putting so much faith in, doesn’t the 9 (or more, now I think) dead in Iran suggest a massive number of people infected there? Doesn’t the 6 in Italy announced just today to be in serious condition suggest the same there? You’re acting like these numbers are certain. Even if they are, they still suggest what people have been saying since the beginning, which is that they are going to overwhelm the global health system–few places can handle that many people with severe pneumonia. A few will be fine, but once you get orders of magnitude more people than treatment beds, it doesn’t matter if individually they’re all treatable.

    You’re begging the question with asking why the Chinese are over-reacting. All we can do is look at how they are *reacting* and try to deduce what it means. Add Italy to the list of Japan, South Korea, and Iran, that has started shutting municipalities down.

  5. I still think this is the key:
    Not good news. Cured patient of #COVID19 in #Sichuan province infected again.

    This has been mentioned for weeks now as an ongoing issue.

    Has anyone seen anyone seemingly knowledgeable about this stuff discuss:
    – how this might explain some of the China numbers vs. the rest of the world numbers, to this point?
    – all the various implications of this, for dealing with the outbreak, for developing a vaccine, etc.?

  6. Brian,

    No, they seem to want everyone to develop it ASAP. That’s the only explanation for locking those who haven’t got it yet up with those who have it.

    “Clearly they think locking people in their homes isn’t working, they need something more aggressive to separate out the sick from the not-yet-sick.”

  7. From the Chinese response, something has the regime scared sh*tless.

    My guess is that the death/reinfection rate is a lot higher than they’ve been saying. I also suspect that there are a lot of deaths they’re not admitting to.

    End of the day, this is going to be a really bad disease for totalitarian states, and those who have lousy public health. Xi, darling? Wave that “Mandate of Heaven” bye-bye, and wait for the mob to do its thing. Ain’t going to end well, once this hits its stride. Especially once the international community blames China for the outcome from this–International pariah status? Yeah.

    Makes you wonder what’s going to happen, once this crap gets into their prison labor and re-education camp system. Gonna be ugly cubed. Bad, bad time to be an Uighur, that’s for damn sure. Can you say “inadvertent genocide”? CCP is going to be lucky if there are show trials, in the aftermath. That’d mean there are enough people and enough organization left in China to run them, and that might not be a given.

  8. Brian: “… doesn’t the 9 (or more, now I think) dead in Iran suggest a massive number of people infected there?”

    Could be — but what do we mean by ‘infected’? We are stuck in a fog of mis-reporting, but the most likely to be reliable sample comes from that cruise ship — 2 deaths out of 3,600; both of them over 80 and now both being reported as having pre-existing medical conditions. It is sad for the individuals, but it does not sound too frightening.

    My guess at what happens — there will indeed be massive numbers of people infected around the world, although the infected will constitute a fairly small portion of the global population. Most of those people infected will not even know they have been infected by the coronavirus instead of the common cold; many of them will not know they have been infected at all. Like SARS and Ebola, this virus will turn out to have been rather a damp squib in terms of direct lives shortened — but it may have very severe worldwide economic effects that hurt us all.

    Today’s update refers to “China’s Biological Chernobyl”. If we look back at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, about 30 people died at the scene controlling the incident. But the activists say that 9,000 people died — because that is what they can make their models say, counting people who died many years later, possibly prematurely. Let’s be skeptical about the data on viral infections & mortality — but let’s also be skeptical about alarmist projections.

  9. Mr. Black — Have you noticed how similar your approach is to that of the “Climate Change” scam-mongers?

    You are simply chanting about how bad it is going to be, without any attempt to look at the data. Objectively, you are more likely to be carrying water for the Chinese than me. You want us all to huddle in the corner, begging Big Government to protect us. Why are you doing your best to spread unwarranted fear, Mr. Black?

    If you want to insult people, at least try to find a more plausible basis for your insults.

  10. “You want us all to huddle in the corner, begging Big Government to protect us.”
    No one has said anything like that, Gavin. You are becoming as unserious as Baghdad Bob.

    Just out of curiousity, what is your threshold, if any, for when we can say it’s not “just the flu, no big deal”? When N schools in America are closed, when N people are in quarantine, at home or otherwise? Help me out, I really want to know when to start to be concerned.

  11. there is room for some middle ground here, imo. The last CDC person I heard said the broader spread was possible, maybe likely. But not yet a given. The conditions for aerosol spread seem limited. And all those plane routes were from weeks ago, plenty of time for the contagion to explode if it was as freely contagious as the worst case is supposing. But that has not happened, unless they are hiding thousands of cases.

    BUT the possible global spread should be included in the decision making process, when it comes to travel restrictions, and other prep. The possibility of overwhelmed care facilities is one multiplier effect. Another is the supply chain disruptions, which could reach beyond consumer goods, into more essential commodities, perhaps revealing our unwise dependence on China (they had a plan to dominate) for medicines or other essential components of the good life.

    There are many factors we don’t have pinned down yet, and awareness is good, but we could still stop it at the borders. The only new US cases have been from the cruise ship … afaik. It has been several weeks since all those flights out of the hot zone landed … if it was a worst case we would (probably, maybe) have seen many more cases by now. But that is no reason to be less diligent, and things could change quickly (mutations, or especially if other nations become fully overwhelmed, and their people start traveling to escape. A few others have tens of cases now … and in 2 weeks we will learn more about whether those tens have infected 100s)

  12. Maybe it’s time for a little math. There’s been a lot of discussion about exponential curves but very little analysis.

    From the natural history of viruses, the shortest, even remotely, plausible time from exposure to contagion is 1 day. Assuming the start on 8 Dec., there have been 76 days. Taking Wikipedia’s value of 7.7E9 as the population of the world as of April, 2019. This gives the number of people each infected person then needs to infect as (7.7E9)^(1/76)=1.35 people to infect the whole world.

    If you assume the contagion rate of 2.5 that I’ve seen mentioned, the number of steps from one person to 2.5 others is: LOG 7.7E9/ LOG 2.5 = 24.8. Going further: 76/24.8=3 days as the incubation period if the whole world was infected.

    I’m sure the people that do this for a living have far more elaborate models but this should do for a first approximation. If you can find any reliable value for the number actually infected, you can do it yourself.

    If a significant number of contagious individuals had traveled before early February, there would be millions more cases outside of China. Those cases simply don’t exist. This is not a guaranty that it won’t break out to the world at large but it hasn’t so far.

    Gavin is right and so am I for now. Whether a world wide epidemic is in store is still undecided. There is plenty of reason to be concerned but the situation, outside of China, seems to be favorable for containment, for now.

  13. Brian: “Just out of curiousity, what is your threshold, if any, for when we can say it’s not “just the flu, no big deal”?”

    Brian — I think this incident is a Big Deal now! Not because of the health impacts, but because of the supply chain interruptions, which could quite possibly be enough to shake our far over-priced stock market and send the world spiraling into recession. That could happen just in time to kill President Trump’s re-election prospects, which would reverse the only serious attempt to reduce our dependence on China.

    As far as the health aspects of this outbreak, I will consider it serious when the fatalities begin to approach those in a normal flu season. So far in the 2019/2020 flu season — in the US alone, about 29 Million people have been infected, about 280,000 have been hospitalized, and about 16,000 have died. Those numbers come from ABC News, so a proverbial grain of salt may be in order.

    If there had been 60 deaths on that cruise ship (2% of the passengers & crew) instead of 2, I would be taking the virus much more seriously as a potential global threat.

    Let me pose your own question to you, Brian. We both agree that caution is in order, people should take reasonable precautions, and the situation should be closely monitored. At what point would you consider the outbreak to be a Big Deal versus a Big Scare?

  14. The most concerning epidemic — outside China — appears to be South Korea AKA the Republic of Korea (ROK), as in three days they doubled from 50 cases, to 100 cases, to 200 cases to 400(+) cases.

    The next 24 hours is going to be make or break in terms of slowing COVID-19 down.

  15. So it’s only serious when 30 million Americans are infected or 16,000 are dead, whichever is reached first. I think I can safely ignore everything you have to say on the matter.

  16. This whole series of threads has gotten very heated. It’s not as if any of us have any real say in the response. I note that the person most likely to have some knowledge on this has chosen to give it a pass.

    The comparison with the flu is entirely apt. The health authorities seem completely complacent with the annual toll. Compare that with traffic fatalities that number about double. The flu vaccine is still based on a process that hasn’t advanced in decades and is so slow that the actual composition has to be guessed at a year in advance.

    This may actually be a blessing. The last time the government got really exercised about the flu was a disaster. As Trent has pointed out, the SARS vaccine may have backfired spectacularly. The Japanese incompetence seems to indicate that if we are in a favorable position to control this, it is more from luck than skill.

    If things start to slide south, you will have plenty of chance to tell us so. They haven’t yet and some of us would like to see the glass as half full.

  17. Gavin: We both agree that the numbers don’t suggest any reason for panic, or even concern, really. If the numbers were as reported, and everyone was behaving normally, then they wouldn’t even be noticed–China has ~100k flu deaths every year, after all. There might be some local headlines about a church in Korea having an outbreak, but it probably wouldn’t merit a full story in the world news. The difference we have is how to interpret the fact that the CCP, and now several other governments, are acting as if this is an existential threat. That’s either one interesting data point that is mystifying but not overly concerning, or the one data point that must be explained in order to even think you have a grasp on what’s going on, and that suggests that there might be a chance, far more than can be just shrugged away, that something truly horrifying is going on.
    Honestly, I’d feel a lot better if even one government said what you’ve been saying. The fact that not one has, that now a Western government (Italy) is reacting in truly unprecedented ways, is pretty clearly screaming that this is A Big Deal.
    There’s nothing any of us individually can do except hope for the best, and do some basic prep work, which realistically just means having a couple of weeks of food and basic necessities–it’s not like you need a year’s worth, or to stock up on guns or some other stupid stuff. I don’t see any sign that the CDC has really done much to prepare our health care system for a serious outbreak. Hopefully there is behind the scenes work that has been done, but I’m skeptical. Hopefully there are disaster contingencies that will hold up under pressure. I don’t know enough about the system to know if that’s a justified hope. I don’t think that treatment of the cruise ship passengers is a fair comparison, because there we know there is a strong change that they are infected, and everyone who treats them can be maximally careful. As we’re seeing in Korea, and Iran (which from twitter appears to be potentially already descending into chaos), and Italy, that’s not possible “in the wild”, and I am quite worried by all the stories about doctors and nurses getting infected.
    Italy has cancelled multiple soccer games in their major league, which should tell you that they consider this a really big deal (even if the martial law of several small towns doesn’t convince you). I honestly think we’ll see schools, major league sports, etc., closed in America pretty soon. I’m glad I don’t live in a big city. I think social media is going to exacerbate panic, and I really hope that the government agencies are able to communicate clearly and effectively, but that would be a first, so we can’t really count on it.

  18. Brian — It seems that we are blind men touching different parts of the same elephant. We agree that the odd part of this situation is the apparent significant over-reaction by the Chinese government, and now by other governments. So far, the health impacts are orders of magnitude less than a traditional flu season which gets barely a ripple in the news. I suspect the economic impacts are going to be much more significant, but mention of that is mostly relegated to the business pages.

    Earlier, I shared my guess at 4 scenarios which could explain the Chinese apparent over-reaction. I still think the most likely explanation remains “face”. Chinese leaders were previously subject to international criticism for their slow response to the SARS outbreak, which cost them “face” internally as well as internationally. So they decided that this time they would react very aggressively. Having started by treating the virus as a major threat, it is now difficult for them to dial it back.

    Now the bureaucrats and politicians in Italy, Iran, elsewhere have the same challenge, although we do not use the Chinese term “face”. If they were to treat this outbreak as a mild issue when the Chinese are locking down entire cities, they will be criticized. The Western Political Class may well be deciding there is less career risk in just going along with over-reaction than in publicly saying that China’s response is excessive and not supported by the data.

    That is the optimistic interpretation from a health perspective, and it does seem to be consistent with the rather limited morbidity that is being reported — lots of people getting infected, but not so many getting seriously sick. However, the economic impact of shutting down the Workshop of the World remains to be seen. Since it takes some time for supply lines to empty, we really don’t know if we should be expecting a pot-hole or the Grand Canyon.

    At this point, I don’t think we should completely rule out the possibility that the virus scare is a cover for an act of economic aggression aimed at influencing the US Election, and maybe broader than that. I hope I am completely wrong about that possible scenario — but what would “The continuation of diplomacy by other means” look like in an era where the risk of military action resulting in nuclear war is judged to be too high?

  19. In the absence of effective drugs or a vaccine, isolation is the only alternative to simply letting it take its course. No one really knows how bad it would be, so this reaction makes perfect sense. Even if the death toll were minimal, it would make sense to avoid the huge cost of a large proportion of the population being temporarily disabled if possible.

    I read something in connection with the Spanish Flu epidemic that I hadn’t heard before. One of the treatments was aspirin in doses equivalent to 100 tablets a day. Making it probable that some of the victims died from aspirin poisoning. I started wondering what sort of treatments the Chinese might be trying. I have heard that anti-retroviral drugs had been tried. Then there is the whole cesspit of “Traditional Chinese Medicine” sometimes literally snake oil. I would not be surprised to find some deaths from drugs or pseudo drugs.

    I don’t know if the Chinese reaction makes objective sense or not and won’t until this has run its course, one way or another. If they had done the usual rest, drink plenty of fluids, etc. I don’t think that a travel ban would have been imposed in time to limit the spread if ever. The Chinese quarantine forced the hand of the West and may have been only minimally helpful in China. If you want a conspiracy theory, try altruism; that the Chinese government knew that the only way to galvanize the Western governments was to send an unmistakable signal that this was dangerous. This to reduce the inevitable damage that being seen as a source of contagious disease would cause.

  20. Here’s an interesting piece from some apparent experts:

    I think lots of individual preparations are like seatbelts–you may end up not needing them, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them.

    I don’t think you guys are right. Hopefully I’m wrong. But I’ve already started doing much of this, and will do more, and will hope that leaders are on the ball.

  21. That is an interesting article by Lanard & Sandman.
    “We also recommend that people might want to slowly (so no one will accuse them of panic-buying) start to stock up on enough non-perishable food to last their households through several weeks …”
    Good advice — but if enough people start to follow it in this world of Just-In-Time inventories, it could very easily spiral into shelf-emptying panic buying.

    Put together supply disruptions from Asia with hard-to-foresee consequences (remember Subotai’s example of US micro-brewers depending on Chinese cans) with individually-reasonable demand increases in the West and the situation could become very difficult.

    The economic impacts of this virus are going to dwarf the health impacts.

  22. Gavin: Look at pictures from Italy today. You can either tell people now (or a month ago, ideally), to gradually buy a two-week supply of excess food in case of quarantine, and maybe see some empty shelves, or make them think a quarantine could come at any moment, and be guaranteed to.

    PS. They keep announcing more and more sick people from the cruise ship.

    PPS. Japan (and Iran twitter) reporting multiple sick children.

    PPPS. More sick and dead doctors from multiple countries.

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