COVID-19 Continues to Spread in Europe, Latin America and Michigan

While COVID-19 cases remained relatively steady in the U.S. this past week, Europe and Latin America continue to struggle with the virus.

After the initial outbreak in China, our coverage of Coronavirus has focused on the United States (31 million cases), where we are based, and Europe, which has had a terrible outbreak (44.2 million cases). Lately, the extent of the infections in Brazil (13 million cases) has made the news. Now, we learn that Latin America and the Caribbean have surpassed 25 million cases. Their death toll is second only to Europe.

In Europe, things are especially bad in the Czech Republic, where the lockdowns and curfews remind many older residents of the repression they suffered under the Communist regime. The country reportedly has the highest number of deaths per 100,000 residents in the world.

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To Mask or Not to Mast, that is the Question

I can’t count how many times I walk up to a store and see the mask sign, forcing me back to my car to get my mask. We’re seeing those signs come down.

We went to the hardware store today, a place I seem to visit weekly to pick up fasteners and other hardware, and as I parked the truck, I told my wife she didn’t need to wear her mask. This surprised her, but went with it. Sure enough, none of the employees were wearing them, and I only saw one customer wearing a mask–around her chin but not her nose or mouth.

There was some point in late January or early February when I went into the hardware store and noticed I was the only one in there wearing a mask. Ever since then, I’ve left it in the car. For my wife, It was her first public outing without a mask in months.

After we left the store, my wife commented that it felt weird not to wear her mask. Not freeing, mind you, but weird.

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As the Shutdowns Draw to a Close, Traffic and Crime Rises

Shutting down the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19 had plenty of unintended consequences, from the economic to mental health. Reopening may have consequences, too.

My daughter, who lives in a mid-sized city, was complaining about the recent increase in traffic and how it is making her commute longer. (Since she works in healthcare, she has been back at work for months. And yes, she caught COVID-19 but recovered quickly, probably thanks to being young.) Apparently, people are going back to the office after the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and the highways are getting crowded again.

A friend in our old home town confirmed that traffic is “back to normal” or perhaps worse. Construction is also going on at a rapid pace, possibly because the area is one where people from large cities are moving to escape. I’m not sure moving from an apartment in a large city to a townhouse or condo in a mid-sized city is that big an escape, but it took me multiple steps to get from New York City to the country, so you have to start somewhere. That’s why we call it your prepping journey.

It will be interesting to see if the re-opening of American and the thought of facing crowds again drives more people out of cities.

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COVID-19 Bounces Back in the U.S. Signaling Possible Start to a New Wave

As COVID-19 case numbers rise again, we may be witnessing the end of the hope and excitement about a return to “normal” by summer.

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States grew this past week for the first time since the early January. Cases increased 12 percent over the past 14 days, according to the New York Times. I’m not going to call this a trend until we string together another couple weeks of increases, but we may have just seen the low point.

The number of hospitalizations and deaths continued to drop, although the drop in the number of patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 appears to be slowing. It will interest me to see if the increase in vaccinated people results in a lower percentage of hospitalizations and deaths if the number of positive cases rises. By inoculating most of the elderly population, where deaths mere the most common, you would expect that number to drop.

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New York City may be our Canary in the COVID Mine

For decades, miners would bring canaries into coal mines to act as an early warning system for carbon monoxide and other toxic gases. NYC may be our early warning system for COVID-19.

I left New York City back in the early 1990s. As a recent college graduate, it was a fun place to live and work, but it was a terrible place to raise children and an even worse place to be a prepper.

In 2002, I visited Lower Manhattan and saw the remains of the World Trade Center. It was a somber moment as 9/11 was still fresh in everyone’s minds. There was no formal memorial yet, just a makeshift one with photos, notes, flowers and such on the fencing that surrounded the ruins. I believe that was the last time I was there, and I have no desire to go back.

These days, in our COVID Crisis, there is even less reason to go. Thankfully, my wife’s close friend and former colleague who used to live on Staten Island moved to Florida, so there’s no reason to go back to “the city.”

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COVID Retreats in U.S., Continues to March Across Europe

The U.S. continues to ramp of vaccine production and distribution while Europe sees a new wave of COVID-19 cases begin to build.

This week’s COVID-19 report is much like last week: The U.S. is holding its own as the number of new cases flattens out, but Europe is doing worse and worse. Germany, for example, is experiencing an almost exponential rise in cases.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. reported 34,217 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, along with 444 deaths. Hospitalizations dropped to 39,333, down about 4,000 from last week and the lowest they have been since early October.

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COVID-19 Cases Lead to Worries, New Lockdowns in Europe

As new variations rise in prominence, Europe is paying the price for its slow vaccine roll out and Brazil suffers its worst week ever.

While number of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. continues to decline, the COVID-19 crisis in Europe worsens. Germany has determined that they are into their third wave of the virus and Italy will lock down two thirds of their population on Monday and ban travel over Easter weekend. Health experts believe Germany might bounce back in April to the higher number of daily cases it saw in December when the virus peaked there.

The cause of Europe’s worsening rate of cases appears to be the spread of new variations (which account for 70 percent of all recent cases in France, for example), a relaxation of lockdowns and social distancing rules, and a lagging vaccination process. The Wall Street Journal points to “Indecision by EU Governments” and political bungling of the vaccination process. . Italy, for example, hopes to vaccinate 80 percent of its population by the end if September. The U.S. says it will have enough vaccine on hand to do so four months earlier.

The U.S. is not only rolling out vaccines far faster and more extensively than Europe, but the Atlantic Ocean and international travel restrictions offer some protection from overseas variations. Variation B.1.1.7, which was discovered in the UK last fall, is in 46 U.S. states while the B.1.125 variant identified in South Africa is in 21 states, and the P.1 variant first found in Brazil has been identified in only nine states across the U.S. (Data on variations is from this article.)

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The Check is in the Mail: More COVID-19 Stimulus and Mask in the Great Outdoors

The house passed yet another COVID-19 Stimulus bill which President Biden says he will sign on Friday. Think about how you will use your cash.

The new stimulus bill that passed Congress today puts a good bit of money in my pocket from actual cash to tax benefits. That’s money I can use to continue to improve our new home, build out our garden, and buy supplies, but that doesn’t mean I think the stimulus was a good idea. 

Simply put, the government needs to stop spending money it doesn’t have. We’ve been spending trillions of dollars that have to be borrowed, or created electronically by the Federal Reserve. With the national debt expected to reach $33 Trillion by the end of this year, that house of cards is going to come crashing down at some point. In the meantime, our fiat money will buy less and less. That kind of inflation is an insidious, invisible tax that nibbles away at the money in our wallets and accounts.

I’ve talked about inflation before, so I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but follow my advice and stock up on anything you might need or want before prices go higher. I also expect some desirable items to be in short supply as people use their stimulus checks and their tax returns to go on a spending spree. 

Don’t be like the government. Get as debt free as possible.

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COVID-19 Increases in Europe Despite Continued U.S. Decline

Just two months ago, the U.S. was seeing COVID-19 cases grow at 9 percent per week. In the past week, the U.S. has seen growth of 1.4 percent. Meanwhile cases across Europe are climbing.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to slow in the U.S. with hospitalizations down about 70 percent from their peak, cases in Europe increased 9 percent over the past week. The big question is whether a similar increase lies in the future for the United States.

According to the WHO, its new variations of the virus that are causing the European increase, as reported in this article from the Associated Press:

The variant first found in the U.K. is spreading significantly in 27 European countries monitored by WHO and is dominant in at least 10 countries: Britain, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Israel, Spain and Portugal.

It is up to 50% more transmissible than the virus that surged last spring and again in the fall, making it more adept at thwarting measures that were previously effective, WHO experts warned. Scientists have concluded that it is also more deadly.

In reality, the difference in numbers may related to the greater success with vaccination in the U.S. The European Union, as we have reported before, was slow to order vaccines and is lagging the U.S. in both vaccine availability and the number of people being vaccinated per day.

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COVID-19: Is it Getting Better, Worse, or Does it Even Matter?

First it was masks and social distancing. Then it was the vaccine. Now scientists are finding new reasons COVID-19 way be with us. But will it change our behavior?

As governor Abbot of Texas opened his state 100 percent, the governor of Colorado predicted a “very close to normal” summer, and cases around the country drop, scientists are growing more concerned.  Fears that new, more contagious variants of the virus could spread as students head for what might be a super-spreader spring break in Florida and Texas beaches is just one concern.  Variants that are not prevented by the vaccine are an even greater concern, although there is very little evidence of those here in the U.S.

According to this article from Reuters:

Scientists “now believe that SARS-CoV-2 will not only remain with us as an endemic virus, continuing to circulate in communities, but will likely cause a significant burden of illness and death for years to come.

“As a result, the scientists said, people could expect to continue to take measures such as routine mask-wearing and avoiding crowded places during COVID-19 surges, especially for people at high risk.”

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