How nations and US states are faring in combating the pandemic

In the US, different states have had different levels of success with limiting the growth of Covid-19 cases. California, the state I live in, has been better than most in the number of cases per capita and this is being credited to early and vigorous action by the governor in issuing social distancing rules and shutting down parks and beaches, since even a couple of days delay can make a big difference in outcomes

After a resident of California died of coronavirus on 4 March, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency. It was the first Covid-19 related death in the US outside of Washington state.

More than 24,424 people have tested positive for coronavirus in California and 821 people have died. Yet the losses, while tragic, are a fraction of what experts predicted the state’s 40 million people would face.

The virus is spreading fast in southern California and the state’s Central Valley – so it’s not out of trouble yet.

But considering the dire prediction made by Governor Gavin Newsom in March that up to 25 million Californians could be infected with coronavirus, the situation in California has been surprisingly well controlled.

California was the first place in the United States to issue shelter in place orders. Gov Newsom ordered California to shelter in place on 19 March – three days before New York.

But can a day or two really make that much difference? “Oh yes,” said Dr Neha Nanda, the medical director of infection prevention and antimicrobial stewardship at Keck Medicine, University of Southern California.

“Even being one day ahead can have a huge impact,” she told the BBC. “The morbidity we will be able to avert, the mortality we will be able to avert – it’s huge.”

Because so little is known about the virus or how it can be treated, it makes prevention “more important than anything else,” she said. “The most potent tool that you have in tool kit is social distancing.”

Of course, there are the usual caveats about the data, that since the amount of testing is so low, and ascribing any deaths to Covid-19 or to other factors is not so simple, these figures should be considered very approximate. Also the density of population in New York City is much higher than anywhere in the state of California and that has to account for part of the difference

On the international trend curve, Japan seemed to show promise of flattening the curve early on but is now seems to have lost ground. Sweden has been reluctant to enforce strict social distancing and as a result is still on the upward curve.

Just like some evangelical churches in the US are demanding that they be allowed to hold services in their buildings, Pakistan is facing calls by Muslim clerics to allow prayers, with both groups confident that their respective gods will save them from any infection.

In the capital, Islamabad, hundreds gathered at the Red Mosque, led by hardline religious leader Abdul Aziz, to offer prayers, standing shoulder-to-shoulder and filling the mosque’s main hall to capacity.

Reports indicated that congregational prayers were also held at major mosques in other cities, with varying levels of social distancing.

Aziz, who led an armed standoff between his followers and the government that culminated in Pakistani soldiers raiding the mosque in 2007, was not available to speak on Friday.

He had spoken to Al Jazeera earlier this month by telephone, during which he remained adamant that he would continue to lead congregational prayers at the mosque.

“[Lockdowns are] not the answer to these problems,” Aziz had told Al Jazeera. “We believe the people should not be made to fear things right now, they should have faith in God at this time, and to place their hope in him … If death is written for you, then it will come.”

Asked whether congregants should be asked to maintain distance between them in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Aziz was adamant.

“Our stance is against this. [Doctors’] opinion is not the word of God, that is their opinion,” he said. “It is our opinion that this is a punishment from God, and it is coming because we have filled the world with sins.”

Ah, yes, the old “everything is a matter of opinion and my opinion is just as good as the people who study these things for decades as part of their profession” argument.

Man, these people are so dense they do not realize that their actions could kill themselves and others.


  1. jrkrideau says

    One does not want the rubes faithful to get out of the habit of attending. Without constant repetition of the message people might start thinking. Of course for the US fundies it means a nasty it in the wallet. I don’t know if the same applies in a Sunni mosque but it must threaten revenues in the long run.

    PS: nothing in Al Jazzera but Sputnik reports that “a delegation of clerics has now said that the stance of the prime minister over the lockdown is a realistic approach”.

  2. johnson catman says

    Man, these people are so dense they do not realize that their actions could kill themselves and others.

    I really don’t give a shit if they kill themselves with these actions, but the problem is that they are not isolated from the rest of the population, making them a danger to everyone else. They just don’t seem to realize that their “freedom” ends where everyone else’s freedom begins.

  3. Ridana says

    Man, these people are so dense they do not realize that their actions could kill themselves and others.

    While I think that’s true for the freedumb fighters acting out in the US, who think they’re a) invulnerable, b) up against a hoax, and/or c) protected by God, it sounds like the opposite for these guys. They see risking death as a virtue of their faith, and a show of submission to the will of God. “If death is written for you, then it will come. … It is our opinion that this is a punishment from God…”

    I wonder if their thinking will change when they can see that the ones being punished in greatest numbers are the most faithful and the ones who left it up to divine protection or judgement.

    Among all the cherry-picking that the fundigelicals do, it’s always fascinated me, especially now, how they keep skipping over the verses about not praying in public and on the street corners but keep it at home between you and God, and the admonition against tempting the Lord thy God by insisting he save you from perils you actively courted yourself.

  4. Who Cares says

    The reason that Japan seemed to be dealing well with the outbreak initially is a classic reason for denial, the Olympics were to be held this year in Japan. And they were hoping that by underplaying the seriousness that it wouldn’t be cancelled. This can be seen in that the number of cases suddenly spiked after the Olympics were cancelled this year.

  5. says

    I thank the non existent gods every day that I live in a boring backwater state without a teeming megacity nearby. Out of a population of 1.7 million, South Australia has a total of 435 cases with only 0 or 1 new cases per day in the last week. Only four dead although there are still two people in ICU. The lockdown has been very easy to live with, you can still go out and exercise, shop for food or garden supplies without being arrested. Only gatherings larger than 10 people and travel across borders have been strictly controlled. Two charter planes with returned citizens have landed this week with no new cases as yet. Shortly I am going out to poke some shrubbery with a pointy object.

  6. tororosoba says

    The Japanese government is a great example for denial and inaction, perhaps worse than Trump’s. Unfortunately, it turns out that the Japanese health system is not prepared for an onslaught of COVID-19 patients, a fact that has been repeated by medical associations for weeks. The government’s answer: Spend 300 million dollars or so to send two masks to each household. It would be comical if it weren’t so serious. There are still over 40% of the electorate who support the government, no doubt people outside of the big metropolitan areas.

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