The U.S. has had over 4.6 million reported Covid-19 coronavirus cases with over 154,578 deaths, as of today, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Meanwhile, Australia has had 17,895 cases and 208 deaths. Yet, Victoria, the second most populated state in Australia, has just declared a “State of Disaster,” and Melbourne has moved into a “stage four” lock down.
That’s because Victoria just had 671 new infections along with seven deaths reported in a single day. Here’s a 9 News Australia report on the situation:
As you can see, Melbourne will now have a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., during which residents will be only able to leave home for work, medical care and caregiving. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews explained, “Where you slept last night is where you’ll need to stay for the next six weeks. There’ll be exemptions for partners who live apart and for work, if required.” If you live in Melbourne and want to exercise outside your home, you’ll only be able to do so for up to one hour per day. Moreover, only one person in your household will be able to go out shopping each day. Oh, and both exercise and shopping will have to occur within five kilometres of your home. That’s about 3.1 miles or 2,660 Hugh Jackmans if each Jackman were to lay on the ground head to toe. Jackman by the way is reportedly 74 inches tall even without the Wolverine haircut.
This lockdown has left Melbourne, typically a bustling major city, looking like this:
Such a lockdown certainly seems much more aggressive than the measures currently being implemented in most of the U.S. That’s even though cases and deaths have continued to rise in many parts of the U.S. such as Florida, Texas, and California over the past few weeks.
At the same time, Victoria is grappling with a potential H7N7 avian influenza virus outbreak. However, unless you happen to be a chicken in Victoria, particularly in a free-range egg farm near Lethbridge, you will probably not be at risk. While strains of avian influenza have jumped from birds to humans, this strain appears to be for the birds exclusively, so to speak. As Agriculture Victoria described, they are restricting the movement of birds, equipment, and products in and out of Golden Plains Shire and the affected property. So you won’t be seeing any chickens in the middle seats of airline flights from Australia anytime soon.
U.S. President Donald Trump responded to the news from Victoria. That’s the Covid-19 related news and not the avian influenza news as Trump doesn’t appear to be a chicken. He did so by tweeting out the following:
Umm. First of all, it’s called the Covid-19 coronavirus and not the China Virus. As I have indicated before for Forbes, real scientific or public health experts are not calling it the China Virus.
Secondly, a “breakout” is not the same as an “outbreak.” The Covid-19 coronavrius is not acne. You don’t tend to say, “maybe no one will notice this breakout of Covid-19 coronavirus if I cover it with more foundation or a bandanna?” Trump presumably wasn’t referring to a breakout room or session either. It would be very different if the Zoom conference organizer were to send you to an outbreak of Covid-19 coronavirus rather than a breakout room. Also, there’s no indication that Trump was referencing the Foo Fighters song, Breakout, or the 1970’s video game that emerged after Pong. If you are talking about a surge in the number of disease cases, the proper term is outbreak.
Thirdly, take another look at the Covid-19 case and death counts for both countries. Consider the fact that Australia’s population is about 26 million and the U.S. population about 328 million, which is about 12.6 times the number of people that Australia has. Multiplying this factor by the 17,895 cases and 208 deaths that Australia has had so far would yield the following tallies: 225,752 and 2,624. If you then do the math (which, in this case, means comparing two numbers to see which one is higher), 4.6 million for the U.S. would still be much higher than 225,752 and 154,578 would be much higher than 2,624. To put it in concrete terms, would you rather lose 4.6 million golf balls or 225,752?
Has the U.S. had more reported cases than Australia simply because of more testing? Trump has continued to push this theory:
Well, take a closer look at the testing situation in each country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of August 2, 2020, the U.S. has had 52,942,145 Covid-19 tests performed with 10% of these being positive. Compare this to the numbers reported by the Australian Department of Health: 4,346,382 test performed with 0.4% positive tests. Multiplying the Australian test count by 12.6 gives you a 54.8 million test tally, which is actually higher than the U.S. tally. Indeed, Australia has performed slightly more tests per capita than the U.S. Plus, the Aussies have had a much lower positive test rate.
Just because Victoria declared a “State of Disaster” doesn’t mean that they are necessarily worse off than the U.S. or have had a worse response. Similarly, just because you brush your teeth doesn’t mean that you have a worse tooth decay problem than someone who isn’t brushing his or her teeth. The shut downs in Melbourne are to keep the Covid-19 coronavirus from spreading further and the problem from getting worse. Consider these to be more proactive, containment measures.
It’s not quite clear why Trump chose to highlight what’s now happening in Australia. Their case load has been much lower than the U.S.’s. Melbourne is being more aggressive than most of the U.S. is currently being in restricting movement and enforcing curfews. The recent surge in cases in Victoria is further evidence that you can never quite fully relax as long as the virus is still spreading around the community, which kind of goes against Trump’s push to re-open schools before ensuring that the virus is no longer spreading in the community. Moreover, with our world so interconnected, outbreaks anywhere in the world could eventually lead to more cases in the U.S. So, it is also not clear why outbreaks in Australia will end up helping the U.S. “be stronger than ever before, and soon!” Unless, of course, Trump meant breakout sessions.