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And now for the Back Story on …
Differences in coronavirus outbreaks
Throughout the pandemic, there has been speculation about why some communities seem to be hit harder than others or why one country might suddenly experience a greater rate of fatality than its neighbor, including strained hypotheses about different versions of the virus and dubious race-based claims about how Covid-19 affects different demographic groups.
Donald G. McNeil Jr., a science and health reporter for The Times who covers infectious diseases and global health, said that differences in outbreaks are often simply a matter of time.
“Once a case, or a few cases, arrive, it can spread exponentially,” he said. “But with borders as nonporous as they are these days, it may take days or weeks for one or a few cases to arrive in a new country.” The severity of an outbreak might also reveal something about a particular place, its approach to containing the virus or the population in the line of fire, he said.
In Belgium, for instance, which had the highest death rate per capita on the European continent, The Times reported that the authorities had mostly left nursing homes to fend for themselves: During the peak of the crisis, from March through mid-May, nursing home residents accounted for two out of every three coronavirus deaths.
According to a New York Times database, one of the countries logging the highest rates of deaths per capita is Peru, which is suffering a shortage of oxygen to administer to patients. “Up to 20 percent of all symptomatic Covid cases need oxygen to survive,” Donald said. “In Peru, the two companies that made oxygen served only the lucrative private hospitals, so there was a huge oxygen shortage there; plus much of the population lives at high altitude where oxygen is short anyway.”
We’ll have more on that topic soon.
Thanks for joining me for this week’s briefings. See you on Monday.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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