Covid-19 What You Need to Know You Know and Don’t Know

Quarantining in Grenada

George and I remain in quarantine on our Sailboat moored off Sandy Island, Carriacou, Grenada.  We currently do not have a means to return to the United States.  Travel between most of the Caribbean  islands is not possible due to restrictions each island has put in place and the Grenada airport is closed.
Our situation is not dire.  We are comfortable and the Grenadian government has been gracious in providing a means for us to obtain food and necessities.  Should means become available to return to the United States, we will need to assess whether we would feel safe to do so.
I am a scientist, now retired –  but the scientist in me still is struggling to decipher from the limited information we have, contradictory advice and predictions we receive, what I know and what I don’t know to be factual.  I believe you would be wise to be certain of this as well.  The information we receive is more than tainted by political beliefs, half-truths, and best guesses.

What I “know” about the extent of the disease

  1. Summaries of the number of infected individuals and number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 infection are posted daily at midnight GMT (8:00 EST) by country and by state.
    • These numbers can change after initial posting as actual dates of deaths for some come later.
    • These numbers are subject to each state’s conventions for defining a death attributed to Covid-19.  For example, in some states, all deaths of individuals testing positive for the virus are counted.  In some, deaths with clinical symptoms characteristic of Covid-19 are also included.  In an extreme divergence from the norm, deaths in Alabama, including those for which the individual was Covid-19 positive, are reviewed by a physician who makes a determination of the cause of death.
    • The veracity of these numbers is compromised by the extent of testing and what was known about Covid-19 symptoms at the time of death.
    • Determining specific cause of death is challenging with individuals known to have significant pre-existing co-morbidities and a virus that compromises the function of multiple organs and causes blood clotting

Graph 1.  Number of reported deaths attributed to Covid-19 per day in the United States

These data are depicted on a logarithmic scale (on the vertical access, each incremental increase is a 10-fold increase).  When an increasing trend on a logarithmic scale is linear (straight), the rate of increase is said to be logarithmic.  Logarithmic, in this instance simply means the number of deaths per day (the rate of death) is steadily increasing with time.
The graph below depicts the number of deaths reported each day in the United States as reported on 29-April, 2020.
Graph 1.  (29-Apr-2020)

What does Graph 1 show?

  1. Through much of March, the daily number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 was doubling approximately every 3-4 days.  Had this rate been sustained, by mid-April the total number of deaths would have been approximately 1 million.
  2. Something changed around the end of March that slowed the daily number of reported deaths in the US attributed to Covid-19
    • My Guess –  large numbers of citizens or the most-susceptible citizens embraced social distancing
  3. From April 8th until April 29th, the daily number of reported deaths attributed to Covid-19 has oscillated between a high of 2683 per day and a low of 1156 per day with no appreciable trend up or down

Graph 2.  The Cumulative number of reported deaths attributed to Covid-19 over time.

These data are cumulative, which means each days total number of deaths is added to the previous day’s total.  This graph is depicted on a linear scale.  References of the cumulative number of deaths over time for several other countries are provided for comparison.
Graph 2.  (April 29, 2020)

What does Graph 2 show?

  1. Despite the fact that the daily number of reported deaths attributed to Covid-19 stopped increasing around April 8th, as depicted in Graph 1, the total cumulative number of deaths has been steadily increasing, from a total of 17,691 on April 8th to over 61,655 on April 29th.

Has the number of reported infections decreased over time?

The graph below depicts the daily number of reported infections in the United States increased throughout March and began to stabilize in early April.  It is very difficult to draw conclusions concerning this trend as guidelines prohibiting wide-spread testing and limitations in the ability to conduct tests is likely to have influenced the data, but it is suggestive that the number of highly symptomatic individuals (most likely to have been tested) has stabilized in the same approximate timeframe as the number of deaths have stabilized.
This should not be construed to suggest the number of infections are not increasing.  For the entire month of April, the number of newly documented Covid-19 infections in the US oscillated between 25,000 and 35,000 per day. (29-Apr-2020)

One more thing I believe I “know”

In the early March to end of March timeline the majority of reported deaths attributed to Covid-19 came from New York State as depicted in the graph below.  Throughout April, the reported number of  deaths reported each day has appreciably declined.
As we know from the first graph in this opus, the daily number of reported deaths attributed to Covid-19 has not changed over the month of April.  This can ONLY mean the number of reported deaths attributed to Covid-19 have increased outside of New York.  (29-Apr-2020)


You hear people often say, “Covid-19 is less deadly than the flu and we don’t quarantine for that.”
The data for the total number of deaths annually due to Flu vs Covid-19
Annual Flu deaths deaths in the US – 55,672 (source )
Covid-19 deaths, to date – 62,672 with unknown duration of the “season” (source ) up 1017 since I started writing this post

My Conclusions

Social distancing has very significantly curtailed the number of deaths and anyone with characteristics of the most susceptible should remain quarantined.  Anyone else who can remain quarantined without due hardship should do so as we do know deaths are not only occurring in those deemed most susceptible.
Deaths are increasing steadily as of April 29th at a rate of approximately one to two thousand each day and confirmed, newly infected individuals are increasing between 25,000 and 35,000 each day.
States other than NY are increasingly driving the numbers.
Projections of just how many deaths will occur due to Covid-19 are more dependent on our own behaviors than the virus itself and I do not believe any model can predict that.

Soufrière and the Pitons


Soufrière is first and foremost a lovely town nestled in a valley just north of the Pitons on the west coast of St. Lucia.  The town name is derived from the French word sufre which translates to sulfur in english, reference to the proximity of an active volcano and associated hot sulfur springs.  The Soufrière volcano is considered to be dormant – its last eruption of magna occurring in the late 18th century, however steam continues to be emitted.  The volcano and opportunity to bathe in hot springs and mud baths draws many tourists to the area.

Soufrière viewed from the northern rim of the valley with the prominent Pitons behind

The Pitons

The Pitons, Gros Piton and Petit Peton, were formed from magna that hardened in volcanic vents.  This type of landform is referred to as a volcanic plug.  In some instances, pressure builds up below the plug and may result in a violent eruption.  The hardened volcanic material that forms the basis of the Pitons was only revealed when the landmass surrounding them eroded away.

We visited this beautiful region with our daughter Allison and her family when they joined us in February.  Our sail from Marigot Bay could have benefitted from a bit more wind but afforded a nice opportunity for the kids to rest up from their previous exhausting day.

We moored in a bay between the Gros and Petit Pitons and spent an afternoon snorkeling the reefs on either side of the bay.  Sadly, I left my camera on Ice Floe when we snorkeled the south side.  The water was nice and clear and the reef was a colorful garden of sea fans and sponges such as we have not seen in many years.  The pictures below are from our snorkel on the north side.  At first impression I was disappointed as the water was not as clear and the most interesting part of this reef appeared to be in deeper waters.

However, I was directed to check out an area initially obscured by rocks.  Behind the rock wall was a veritable garden of colorful coral, tube worms, sponges, anemones, and plants.  
My best guess for what you are looking at:  The peachy pink masses – a cluster of nocturnal anemones.  In the evening, tentacles that catch food emerge and I bet it is absolutely beautiful.  The green and yellow animals are sponges.  The pale blue protrusion to the right of the green sponge is a Christmas tree worm (not in focus – better shot below) 
Glassy sweepers, often found in caves or hideaways like this one.
A collage of sponges, anemones, and sea urchins
The large yellow sphere is a brain coral.  The flat orange mat that looks like it has two eyes is a red boring sponge that, as its name implies, establishes its home by boring into the coral.  A beautiful orange christmas tree worm is displaying towards the top right and there is a white Christmas tree worm with tentacles out, as well as several other recoiled white Christmas tree worms below.
An elongated vase sponge.  Bottom spikey spheres are long spined sea urchins 
Smooth trunkfish.  Allison spotted this one and I took a wild shot and was lucky.
Again, best guess.  The blue and turquoise branched organism is a variant of the similarly-shaped white branched  organisms that look like “white tangled bryozoan”  Look closely and let me know if you see anything else?  Did you spot the fish in the upper left quarter of the photo.  I admit, I didn’t until I enlarged a portion of the original photo.  This fish is likely one of several types of fish that are usually resting, very still, on the sea floor or another solid surface.  They are generally well camouflaged and catch your eye when they dart from one spot to another
After lunch, George blew up our giant tube to tow Tristan and Riley.  George also offered rides to the two Angels who I wrote about in The Thin Blue Line .   We met them during a stay in Port St. Louis and as happens from time to time, we recognized their boat at the Pitons.  They declined, having spent an exhausting time swimming and snorkeling all day, but it was a pleasure to see them again.
As George was getting started the tube got caught behind some shallow rocks.  Allison’s attempts to free it resulted in her stepping on a sea urchin.  Let me tell you from my personal experience that this is very painful.  Allison had more than a dozen fairly deeply embedded spines.  Many had broken off or did so in the initial attempts to extract them.  There are always some tiny bits you cannot get out.  Allison reported that the last spine was expelled on April 25th, just about 2 months after she stepped on the urchin.
We scored a giant lobster and some fresh fruit from a local boatman.  We kept the lobster for the following day to have with lunch.
That evening was one we will remember as the second, roughest night we spent on a mooring or at anchor.  The craziest rocking experience happened many years ago when we rented a houseboat in Exuma, Bahamas.  Some day (maybe) I will find the time to tell that story in a Blog as it was the beginning of our road to cruising.  Allison and Mike made a Shutterfly book of the vacation that beautifully captures the fun we had with three generations on board – but I do digress.  
Back to the night at the Pitons – Ice Floe was in constant motion due to a significant swell, and seemingly, out of nowhere a katabatic gust of wind coming down between the Pitons would hit her and she would heel and swing like crazy.  At times we could see the wind hit the water and the water would splash straight up.  We turned on the navigation system to monitor the wind speed and clocked one crazy gust at just under 40 knots.

Day 2

We enjoyed a lazy breakfast and spent the balance of the morning snorkeling in a few more spots.

Lunch was the giant lobster along with a big salad.  George had to chop the lobster’s antenna off to get it to fit in our pot (IT WAS REALLY BIG!).  Delicious!!

We were cleaning up after lunch and making plans to stay another day to visit the Chocolate Hotel and/or a Botanical Garden.  Both were very close to Soufrière and quite a distance from Marigot Bay.  George emptied the giant lobster pot of steaming water off the swim platform and as he turned to step back up another giant wind struck Ice Floe and took her out from under his feet.

George landed hard and couldn’t even speak for a short while.  Those who know George know he is as sure on his feet as a mountain goat and stoic to an extreme.  He was really hurting.  Plans to stay another day to visit Hotel Chocolat and nearby Botanical Gardens were abandoned and we motored back to Marigot Bay.

George had broken his 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th ribs on his right side and had an approximate 500mL pool of blood between the diaphragm and lung, partially constricting his lung.  In addition, he injured his shoulder, a knee, and broke a toe.  I am happy to report, the diagnosis and care he received at Tapion Hospital (Castries) was outstanding and a tiny fraction of what it would have cost in the US.  He recovered in record time and has very few limitations, mostly pertaining to his shoulder and range of motion for his right arm.  He has been characteristically disciplined in doing a series of stretching and strengthening exercises and, no doubt, will be good as new soon.

Hotel Chocolat, Soufrère, St. Lucia

Our guest author, Riley (age 12)
Our guest author, Riley (age 12), brother Tristan, and her mother and father, Allison and Mike

The chocolate tour

Hotel Chocolat is a hotel on a cocoa tree plantation in St. Lucia. There are no kids allowed but we got lucky and we went on the two chocolate tours. They were Tree to Bean and the other tour was Bean to Bar.

We got to Hotel Chocolat a few minutes early so we took some pictures, here are some: 
One of the Pitons viewed from Hotel Chocolat

Tree to Bean

A cocoa pod
We also grafted a cocoa tree. Below is me and my brother, Tristan grafting the cocoa tree and me and my family with the tree we named Shenberger.   

Bean to Bar

The second tour was Bean to Bar what that means was we made a chocolate bar out of a cocoa bean. Each of us made our own chocolate bar. (this was not easy it was 45 minutes of crushing, smashing, and stirring). First we had to crush nibs (small pieces of crushed cacao beans) in a Mortar and smashed it with a pestle. Then we had to add cocoa butter (also called theobroma oil, is a pale-yellow, edible fat extracted from the cocoa bean). After the cocoa butter we added the sugar. We got to add as much sugar as we wanted. Then we added the nibs, cocoa butter, and sugar in a mold to harden. After that you would have a  chocolate bar! 
Me, making my chocolate bar

After we did the two tours we ate lunch at Hotel Chocolat. I think dessert was the best part because it is a chocolate hotel and they make chocolate and its the best. I had a salad for lunch and a chocolate  piton for dessert. 
Me, eating some bread while waiting for lunch
Me, eating my chocolate Piton

A bird that joined us at lunch

St.Lucia with Family – Rodney Bay

Happy Happy Times

I recently read that future generations may adopt a new use of the calendar reference to BC and AC. The new definition would of course be Before Coronavirus and After Coronavirus.  We all need a break from the current nightmare and lovely contributions from my grandchildren Riley and Tristan gave me just the opportunity.
A lifetime ago, mid-February – BC, our daughter Allison and her husband Mike, along with their delightful and brilliant children Riley and Tristan visited us in St. Lucia.  Our home base was Marigot Bay Resort and Marina, but we set off on adventures to Rodney Bay and the Pitons, as well (I am saving the trip to the Pitons for another day)

Rodney Bay – Jet-Skiing

We enjoyed a beautiful sail from Marigot Bay to Rodney Bay and anchored for the day.  Our guests immediately took off in the dinghy to rent some jet-skis.  Tristan was given a jet-ski adventure for Christmas and it was time to collect.

Tristan (8yo) is guest author for this summary of the fun they had.

We rented a jet-ski at Rodney Bay in St. Lucia. The jet-ski was yellow and was really fast. Mommy and I drove off into the bay. We were waiting for Daddy and Riley because their jet-ski wasn’t working but we didn’t know this though. I was siting in the front and Mommy was siting in the back. I was tricking Mommy by pushing the throttle over and over when she least expected it. When daddy and Riley came out Mommy and I were seeing how fast we could go. We went 39 miles an hour it was crazy the wind was so strong in my face I could not see at all! We went toward a in-caved part of the bay. It was a fogy day and it started to rain it felt like needles when we where going fast we drove back to the beach and asked the guy if we had more time he said we had 15 more minutes we drove back out and looked at these bungalows  that we saw. Then I started to get cold we tried to go fast again we went 45 miles an hour after that we went to Mimi and Gpa’s boat because we were dropping me off because I was cold. On accident I fell of the jet-ski and I had to swim to the boat the water was actually warm when Mommy, Riley and Daddy came back to the boat we ate lunch that was the end of our fun day of jet-skiing.

Rodney Bay – The Bouncy Water Park

After a quick break for lunch, they were off again to play on an inflated water playground near the shore.  For this adventure, Gpa (aka George) joined in.  I remained on the boat as I felt the need to get a bit ahead on cooking.  I had a feeling Riley and Tristan would be starving and tired when they returned and I wanted to make sure I had something ready.

I think they spent most of their time on a feature where one person (in this case Tristan or Riley) stood on a designated spot and another person (the bigger the better) jumped down from the top of the gym displacing air that launched the other.

The kids flew more than their own height into the air – all kinds of topsy turvy.  Of course they asked for this over and over which meant the adults had to climb up and jump off over and over.  One thing for sure was I guessed correctly that some very tired people would return from this fun.

Rodney Bay

While sailing back to Marigot Bay I made a couple of simple pizzas for Riley and Tristan (sausage and cheese and margarita) and they headed to bed.  Having a little more time, the adults got some salad and mushrooms added to their pizzas.

From Riley’s bed we heard a plaintiff “I like mushrooms” and “You guys got salad?”  We promised to save her some salad for breakfast and, without hesitation, she ate it the following morning.  Riley is a big salad eater;  she is quite a foodie, as well, often ordering a salad as her entree when we eat out and then sampling some of everything others ordered.

That’s all for now folks!