This is an archive of the July entries for the Covid19 news feed. You may return to the current page here.
Sanofi scores largest Operation Warp Speed deal yet; Russia aims to produce a vaccine even faster | Added July 31
‘We have very strict procedures and they will follow all of them,’ said Mr. Dmitriev. ‘I am so confident in the vaccine I injected it myself.’
There’s a lot going on over in the vaccine production world. Here are two developments: one regarding the U.S. and one from Russia. Also, be sure to see the related story about Astrazeneca being exempt from vaccine liability which is posted just below this one.
Today the French drug maker Sanofi announced that it had secured the largest deal yet to supply the U.S. government with 100 million doses of its experimental vaccine. The New York Times has this story. So far, through Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration has invested more than $8 billion dollars into developing a coronavirus vaccine, to date.
And speaking of rush-job vaccines, Russia seeks to be the first to produce a vaccine against the coronavirus; a research institute based in Moscow reportedly intends to register their vaccine candidate within the first two weeks of August.
The vaccine, which has gone through two phases of testing, is expected to be registered with the Health Ministry by August 14, said Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s Direct Investment Fund, or RDIF.
RDIF is developing and producing the vaccine with the state-owned Gamaleya Institute for Epidemiology and Microbiology and Russian conglomerate Sistema.
“We have very strict procedures and they will follow all of them,” said Mr. Dmitriev. “I am so confident in the vaccine I injected it myself.”
Astrazeneca to be protected from future coronavirus vaccine liability claims in most countries | Added July 31
In a report from July 30, Reuters shared that Astrazeneca, which is Britain’s second-largest drugmaker, will be exempt from future liability claims related to their vaccine.
AstraZeneca has been granted protection from future product liability claims related to its COVID-19 vaccine hopeful by most of the countries with which it has struck supply agreements, a senior executive told Reuters.
With 25 companies testing their vaccine candidates on humans and getting ready to immunise hundred millions of people once the products are shown to work, the question of who pays for any claims for damages in case of side effects has been a tricky point in supply negotiations.
“This is a unique situation where we as a company simply cannot take the risk if in … four years the vaccine is showing side effects,” Ruud Dobber, a member of Astra’s senior executive team, told Reuters.
“In the contracts we have in place, we are asking for indemnification. For most countries it is acceptable to take that risk on their shoulders because it is in their national interest,” he said, adding that Astra and regulators were making safety and tolerability a top priority.
Dobber would not name the countries.
Masks aren’t enough, now we need goggles! | Added July 31
Yesterday Anthony Fauci was in the news as he said that Americans should consider wearing goggles alongside a mask in order to help protect themselves from the coronavirus. “Fauci said that while face shields aren’t ‘universally recommended,’ people should wear them if they ‘really want perfect protection of the mucosal surfaces'”
There are only so many orifices that we have available to seal off.
Meanwhile in the Netherlands, the Dutch government said on Wednesday that “it will not advise the public to wear masks to slow the spread of coronavirus, asserting that their effectiveness has not been proven.” This is according to Reuters.
The head of the country’s National Institute for Health, Jaap van Dissel, stated that “the organization was aware of studies that show masks help slow the spread of disease but it was not convinced they will help during the current coronavirus outbreak in the Netherlands.”
“He argued wearing masks incorrectly, together with worse adherence to social distancing rules, could increase the risk of transmitting the disease. ”
The Netherlands has also opened schools with no restrictions for children under 12 years old.
Well, how about that.
From Behind the Scenes of the Pandemic Files: China is everywhere, and no friend to Democracy | Added July 31
Thank you Loreen Costa for this write-up:
If the “novel coronavirus” is the figure doing gallows stand-up on the world stage, then the behind the scenes maneuvering of world leaders would certainly qualify as the ground. One might ask why more European and American citizens aren’t more concerned about the Chinese exports like dubious antibody testing, big loans for a marginally effective vaccine, slave labor PPE — and single-party rule.
But, then again, just how different are the Chinese actions from those of the so-called Western democracies? When contemplating the EU pandemic bailout rules for member states, and the influence of the unelected here in the US, one begins to fear that “democracy” and “single party rule” is a distinction without a difference.
There’s another reason why Chinese vaccines like CanSino may get widespread use around the world even if they prove to be significantly less effective than other leading candidates. As CNN reported on Thursday, China announced a $1 billion loan to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean expressly for them to buy Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines.
With vaccines in high demand, and nations like the United States already laying out billions for access to the Oxford, Moderna, and Pfizer vaccines, the availability of these leading candidates may be months away for much of the world. So China is offering a bargain candidate to other countries—with low, low financing. A 50% effective vaccine doesn’t sound so bad, if it’s the only vaccine you can afford.
“Clearly the Chinese Communist party decided to take this opportunity of the upcoming election to show Hong Kong people and the rest of the world that they have redesigned the whole game,” said Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, a political scientist at the Hong Kong Baptist University, and former pro-democracy lawmaker.
“It is no longer one country, two systems,” he said, referring to the system agreed ahead of Hong Kong’s handover from British colonial rule, that was meant to guarantee the city substantial autonomy until 2047. “If the regime cannot even stand the moderates … we are moving very rapidly towards a one-party system in Hong Kong.”
Let’s go back to a simpler time | Added July 30
Trump suggests delaying presidential election | Added July 30
Today’s top story in the news has been Dona;d Trump’s suggestion that the Nov.3 presidential election be delayed, and the resulting backlash from both democrats and republicans. The New York Times has the details:
Facing disastrous economic news and rising coronavirus deaths, President Trump on Thursday floated delaying the Nov. 3 election, a suggestion that lacks legal authority and could undermine confidence in an election that polls show him on course to lose.
Republican leaders in Congress, who often claim not to have seen Mr. Trump’s outlandish statements and tweets and who infrequently challenge him in public, promptly and vocally condemned any notion that the election would be moved.
It was a moment of striking political isolation for the president, as Republicans felt no need to defend him, Democrats condemned him, and three former presidents gathered in a rare moment together, paying tribute at the funeral of Representative John Lewis of Georgia.
Kodak comes back | Added July 30
The Wall Street Journal reported a couple of days ago on the $765 million loan that Kodak — remember, the camera company? — received to produce ingredients that will be used in generic drugs. This deal was made under the Defense Production Act; the company’s shares rose by 60% after the announcement, according to BBC. The article published from The Wall Street Journal goes a bit more indepth, so we will share a selection from that.
From the article:
Eastman Kodak Co. KODK -10.15% has won a $765 million government loan under the Defense Production Act, the first of its kind. The purpose: to help expedite domestic production of drugs that can treat a variety of medical conditions and loosen the U.S. reliance on foreign sources.
The onetime leader in photography sales is gearing up to produce ingredients for a number of generic drugs, including the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine that President Trump has touted in the treatment of coronavirus. Meanwhile, the U.S. is aiming to shift from relying on countries such as China and India, Kodak Chief Executive Jim Continenza and U.S. officials said.
The loan is from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, a government agency akin to a bank, the officials said. The loan is the first of its kind under the Defense Production Act, which the Trump administration has previously invoked to speed the production of Covid-19 related supplies such as ventilators.
Was the PCR test ever meant to detect a virus? Investigative report from back in April by PCR maestro journalist Celia Farber | Added July 30
Here is a redux of an article that came out April 7, oh so long ago. This is by Celia Farber, the writer who in the 1990s broke the story about how the PCR test was being falsely used to measure “viral load” in AIDS patients when it does no such thing.
Invented in the early 1980s by Kary Mullis (for which he won the Nobel Prize in medicine), the polymerase chain reaction or PCR test is now being used in a similarly fraudulent way to maintain the staggering “case” count and thus the illusion of a pandemic, when really, there is a much smaller outbreak of a coronavirus going on. If you learn one issue, this is the one to get down cold.
In addition to picking up what may not even exist at all, and being used as a diagnostic tool when even the federal government says that it’s not one, the PCR test as it’s being used has every other conceivable problem of accuracy and reliability.
Way too freaky for YouTube to ban: crop circle helps reveal key to covid spike protein Sp8 | Added July 30
United States covid-19 death count may over-reported by more than 90% | Added July 30
It’s now easy to understand and understood by many that the PCR test being used to create the “case” count has no basis in reality. PCR is capable of creating positives when there is nothing going on, as the Dartmouth incident and others have revealed: PCR epidemics that turned out not to have a single case.
We learned about this case and others from a CDC document warning about this very problem and how it could blow up as it is doing today. If you want to learn one issue that will help you see through this problem, learn about the PCR test.
There’s a long section about that in the article Sunshine is the Best Disinfectant, toward the end — researched by our intrepid Covid19 News co-editor Spencer Stevens in his debut as an investigative reporter. If you read no other part of that article, read the last three sections.
Now we need to turn our attention to the death count, which has been a persistent problem. This is from Childrens’ Health Defense, which we have found to be a consistently reliable and good-faith source of information. It’s published by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., nephew to the late Pres. Kennedy.
There is no evidence to support that children pass the “novel” coronavirus to audits. There is only fear.
From the article on Kennedy News and Views:
— According to the CDC, 101 children age 0 to 14 have died from influenza, while 31 children have died from COVID-19.
— No evidence exists to support the theory that children pose a threat to educational professionals in a school or classroom setting, but there is a great deal of evidence to support the safety of in-person education.
— According to the CDC, 131,332 Americans have died from pneumonia and 121,374 from COVID-19 as of July 11th, 2020.
— Had the CDC used its industry standard, Medical Examiners’ and Coroners’ Handbook on Death Registration and Fetal Death Reporting Revision 2003, as it has for all other causes of death for the last 17 years, the COVID-19 fatality count would be approximately 90.2% lower than it currently is.
Canadian research labs warn about antibodies tests, and also about ‘immunity passports’ based on them | added July 29
Today’s top story is out of Canada: COVID-19 antibody tests that deliver a result on the spot are unreliable enough that they should stop being used immediately, according to new Canadian-led research.
Published Wednesday in The BMJ (originally the British Medical Journal), the paper is a review of all known studies about the effectiveness of the antibody tests. Even CDC warns that the tests can deliver false results half the time.
In the rush to find out everything all at once, governments, scientists and the news media have been trafficking in misinformation. Much of that involves the testing process, allegedly for the “novel coronavirus,” though there is no solid data from any of the assays. This new retrospective of studies warns that the spot tests being used in the United States are unreliable and should no longer be used.
Incredibly, 70% of these unreliable tests come from China and are less reliable than a disposable vaping pen. This article is from CTV News:
“The research, which involved a review of all known studies on antibody testing effectiveness, found particular weakness in the types of tests that aren’t processed in labs, called lateral flow immunoassay (LFIA) tests.
“These are the types of antibody tests being pushed for use in the U.S., largely due to their low cost and fast turnaround times. But the researchers found a large prevalence of false negatives in sample sizes from these types of tests.
“Overall, the poor performance of existing serological tests for COVID-19 raises questions about the utility of using such methods for medical decision making,” they wrote.
“Finding dependable information was not easy. The researchers ended up with 40 studies to look over, 70 percent of which came from China. Most of the studies were found to have been designed in a way that could create a bias in the results, and about half had not been peer-reviewed.
While everyone else is doing the Vax, Vax Vax dance | Added July 29
A multi-institutional study published in Nature (PDF), which screened more than 13,000 existing drugs against two strains of the live SARS-CoV-2 virus, found LAM-002A to be the most effective in combatting the virus, including in lung cells infected with the virus. In another study in the journal Cell, another group of researchers independently showed that LAM-002A could combat SARS-CoV-2 infections in human lung cells.
Known as LAM-002A (apilimod), the drug has a proven safety record. Preliminary research has shown it can block cellular entry and trafficking of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the cause of COVID-19.
Previous trials involving more than 700 patients have shown LAM-002A to be safe for the treatment for autoimmune diseases and follicular lymphoma. The drug has received Fast Track Status and Orphan Drug Designation from the Food & Drug Administration for treatment of lymphoma.
The Yale Center for Clinical Investigation is now enrolling patients in a Phase II trial for the drug’s use as a COVID-19 treatment.
Of tests and masks | Added July 29
For those watching the civil liberties beat, you’ll appreciate this video.
Call for the release of data that prompted further limitations on bars and restaurants in Pennsylvania | Added July 28
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has reversed course on choosing to release data which guided a decision to impose further, targeted limitations on restaurants and bars. These orders followed a report from a July 8 press briefing where it was stated that there had not been any outbreaks linked to bars and restaurants in Montgomery County, specifically. The video mentioned at the end of the last quote may be found on the article page.
On July 8th, Montgomery County Commissioner Dr. Val Arkoosh reported during a press briefing that there had not been any outbreaks associated with bars and restaurants in the county.
A week later on July 15th, Governor Wolf and Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine “signed new orders for targeted mitigation efforts in response to the recent rise in COVID cases, primarily in southwest Pennsylvania, but also in other counties in the state, influencing the decision for statewide mitigation efforts for bars and restaurants, gatherings and telework.”
The order reduced from 50% to 25% the capacity allowed for indoor dining and required alcohol to be served only when a meal was also purchased.
CBS21’s Brian Sheehan asked the Wolf Administration for the data it utilized to connect bars and restaurants to a rise in COVID-19 cases across the state. Wolf initially agreed to release the data and then declined to do so. Watch the video below and see how snippy Wolf gets about the request to release the data. That is the face of unchecked power.
Highly informative on key issues: vaccine debate between RFK Jr. and Alan Dershowitz | Added July 28
This video is ridiculous | Added July 28
Off-Guardian has sponsored a debate on masks between a philosopher and a physicist. Rather than framing it, we are linking to it.
Here is the problem with the discussion — in this discussion and most other places where it happens. To debate whether “masks” “work,” you need a definition of “masks,” and “work” and especially “work for whom.”
Then there is the question of whether the defined mask works well enough to become mandatory public policy. An N95 is different from an old bandanna, but we are attempting to reason about them at the same time. If the goal is to get a public health benefit, and an N95 gets that benefit but an old bandanna does not, then why can public health authorities insist on a “mask or cloth face covering”?
It is absurd to say that “the N95 works so therefore wear your Harley bandana.”
We then need a second discussion of the rationales used by public health authorities for their policies, contrasted with the rationales under previous public health recommendations specifically against the use of “masks” by the same public health officials. Was there some scientific breakthrough in April that we don’t know about?
We would then need a third discussion on the ulterior motives of public health officials for recommending “masks” which are rarely actual PPE (personal protective equipment) — such as the political motives for leaders insisting on face coverings as opposed to actual PPE. There are many potential motives and we need to be aware of them.
They are a crucial part of the anti-mask argument and are wholly ignored by the pro-mask side, which makes it seem like there is just one side to the discussion, and refuses to define “mask” even if they define work as “work a little” or “work better than nothing.”
That is not enough. I don’t get to claim that a bottle of water is the same thing as a fire extinguisher, and therefore satisfies the fire code, even though it would “work a little” to put out a fire.
Reuters: WHO says COVID-19 pandemic is ‘one big wave’, not seasonal | Added July 28
The World Health Organization’s warnings of a second wave have now been altered as WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris said today that this is “a new virus” and one that is “behaving differently.” According to Harris we are currently facing “one big wave” with ups-and-downs. Notably, this seems to be in regard to the “case” count, and not necessarily the fatality rate.
A World Health Organization official on Tuesday described the COVID-19 pandemic as “one big wave” and warned against complacency in the northern hemisphere summer since the infection does not share influenza’s tendency to follow seasons.
WHO officials have been at pains to avoid describing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases like those in Hong Kong as “waves” as this suggests the virus is behaving in ways beyond human control, when in fact concerted action can slow its spread.
Margaret Harris repeated that message in a virtual briefing in Geneva. “We are in the first wave. It’s going to be one big wave. It’s going to go up and down a bit. The best thing is to flatten it and turn it into just something lapping at your feet,” she said.
Pointing to high case numbers at the height of the U.S. summer, she urged vigilance in applying measures and warned against mass gatherings.
Nothing says Covid-19 relief like a Lamborghini — also, deaths incorrectly attributed to Covid-19 in Florida | Added July 28
How are things down in Florida, you ask? CBS 12, which serves the West Palm Beach area, has these two stories:
A Florida man was recently arrested for fraudulently obtaining “$3.9 million in federal COVID-19 relief loans” and for using some of that money to buy a Lamborghini. He initially “applied to a bank for approximately $13.5 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans on behalf of different companies, according to a criminal complaint.”
Also, CBS 12’s investigative team recently requested and examined a list of deaths in Palm Beach County that incorrectly attributed a number of deaths to Covid-19. From the article:
A 60-year-old man who died from a gun shot wound to the head. A 90-year-old man who fell and died from complications of a hip fracture. A 77-year-old woman who died of Parkinson’s disease.
These are some of the deaths in Palm Beach County recently, and incorrectly, attributed to COVID-19 in medical examiner records. The CBS12 News I-Team uncovered several examples in Medical Examiner reports of people counted as a COVID death who did not die of COVID. We requested a list of all COVID-19 deaths in Palm Beach County from the Medical Examiner’s office and received a spread sheet of 581 cases.
Each person on the spreadsheet is someone who tested positive for COVID-19. In each case line, the person’s cause of death and contributing causes of death are listed, if there are any. The I-Team found eight cases in which a person was counted as a COVID death, but did not have COVID listed as a cause of contributing cause of death.
Seaweed “decoy strategy” Covid-19 treatment | Added July 28
Researchers from Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute have recently published a study that explored “decoy strategies” wherein the spike proteins on SARS-CoV-2 are tricked into latching on to decoy molecules as opposed to human cells, in an effort to block viral infection.
Seaweed extract and heparin were both explored and compared to remdisivir, the “current standard antiviral” used in treating Covid-19.
In a test of antiviral effectiveness against the virus that causes COVID-19, an extract from edible seaweeds substantially outperformed remdesivir, the current standard antiviral used to combat the disease. Heparin, a common blood thinner, and a heparin variant stripped of its anticoagulant properties, performed on par with remdesivir in inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 infection in mammalian cells.
Published online today in Cell Discovery, the research is the latest example of a decoy strategy researchers from the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute are developing against viruses like the novel coronavirus that
All dolled up | Added July 28
On a related note to the story posted just below this one, China’s sex toy exports have increased in the wake of the global lockdowns. The South China Morning Post has this report, and they cite Shanghai-based The Paper as saying that exports of sex dolls in particular have doubled. Shipments to Italy, specifically, have increased “fivefold” since March.
From South China Morning Post:
Sex toy manufacturers in China have seen a surge in orders since the start of the coronavirus, marking one of a few bright spots in an economy battered by the pandemic, according to industry insiders.
China’s economy, including its manufacturing outlook and exports, crashed at the start of the year at the height of the outbreak with the official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index plunging to an all-time low in February, while exports shrank by 17.2 per cent
in January and February combined.
The overall economy has staged a mild recovery since, and the sex toy industry seems to have been able to enjoy a more rapid recovery since the enforced closures and lockdowns, with one Shandong-based manufacturer reporting a 30 per cent increase in exports and domestic sales.
This is just a tip — it’s not a firm rule | Added July 28
When a reader sent this to Eric (knowing he would be interested), he was sure it was a joke. He said he is envious of the idea, which turns out to be true. Yes, Canadian health officials are suggesting that a a glory hole is one of the ways you can have safe sex during the Covid pandemic. This would count as being part of the “make it stop” file of news items designed to instill paranoia in the public. That said, who can deny that glory holes are kinky, even if it’s not your thing.
B.C. health officials are recommending an age-old, occasionally cutting-edge tactic for sex during the coronavirus pandemic: “glory holes.”
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control added new recommendations for socially distant sex to its COVID-19 website this week. One of those tips was to try using a “glory hole” — a hole cut into a wall that’s only large enough for a penis to slip through.
Glory holes are typically used for anonymous oral or penetrative sex, according to Urban Dictionary, but they’re also an excellent way to limit physical contact during intercourse, the B.C. CDC says.
“Use barriers, like walls (e.g., glory holes), that allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact,” the health organization writes on its website.
This is a must-see video — Interview with retired Swiss immunologist Beda Stadler on “the tragic failure of science and the immunology behind Covid19” | Added July 27
We have just hit the jackpot on a presentation explaining the pandemic. Our resident truffle hound Cindy Tice Ragusa came up with it: an interview with a retired Swiss immunologist named Beda Stadler.
The fact of his being retired is important and he explains why: nobody can fire him for speaking his mind. What he has to say is plain and simple, which you might not think is possible until you hear him. I just listened twice riding down from Lake Placid, bouncing up and down in my car seat.
First of all, this is a job for an immunologist, not a virologist, since it’s not an abstract matter about viruses but rather how the immune system responds to them.
He covers the ways that speculative worst case scenarios were piled on top of one another with the resulting panic by a clueless press corps, and scientists trying to make a name for themselves and be first in line for federal funding.
He beings with how this is not a novel virus, it’s from a known family of coronaviruses. Therefore, there is plenty of natural immunity, both lateral immunity from other coronas, and T-cell immunity (the PacMan kind).
He explains why all the early projections were wrong because they were based on no information. He covers problems with the antibodies tests and the over-sensitive PCR test, which he says could be picking up all kinds of leftover garbage from people whose immune systems already processed the virus. He explains who gets sick and why.
There is so much more: he threads the needle on all the important issues. You will wish the video was longer. I am planning to play the audio on Friday night’s Planet Waves FM, and we are cooking up a transcript.
European Union faces struggle in attempt to secure vaccine from Pfizer, Sanofi, and Johnson & Johnson | Added July 27
There’s some trouble brewing in the European Union as efforts to secure one of the many vaccines being produced are being met with conflict over costs.
European efforts to secure potential COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer (PFE.N), Sanofi (SASY.PA) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) are mired in wrangles over price, payment method and potential liability costs, three EU officials told Reuters.
The bloc is in talks with at least six vaccine makers to acquire up front doses of potential shots against the novel coronavirus, officials told Reuters earlier in July, in a strategy meant to increase the chances of having COVID-19 vaccines for its population.
Despite the urgency to seal deals amid a global race to secure the most promising shots, the EU is struggling to reach swift agreements, said the officials, who are involved in the talks, and declined to be named because the negotiations are confidential.
The United States, meanwhile, has already inked two supply agreements with AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and Pfizer among other major funding deals.
Work-from-home or hardly working? | Added July 27
Did we already make that joke before? Nonetheless, Google has decided to keep it’s employees working from home into next year. They are the first major U.S. corporation to “formalize such an extended timetable.”
Google will keep its employees home until at least next July, making the search-engine giant the first major U.S. corporation to formalize such an extended timetable in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The move will affect nearly all of the roughly 200,000 full-time and contract employees across Google parent Alphabet Inc., GOOG +1.39% and is sure to pressure other technology giants that have slated staff to return as soon as January.
Alphabet Chief Executive Sundar Pichai made the decision himself last week after debate among Google Leads, an internal group of top executives that he chairs, according to a person familiar with the matter. A small number of Google staffers were notified later in the week, people familiar said.
Mr. Pichai was swayed in part by sympathy for employees with families to plan for uncertain school years that may involve at-home instruction, depending on geography. It also frees staff to sign full-year leases elsewhere if they choose to move.
Today’s edition of “Make It Stop” | Added July 27
A few times a week, “they” put out some piece of reactive news designed to get you and everyone else to panic. Please don’t fall for it. This is from The Guardian:
A female Siamese cat has become the first animal in the UK to catch coronavirus, prompting a warning to owners not to kiss their pets or share food with them.
The cat from southern England is believed to have caught the virus from their owner in May. It was initially diagnosed by a private vet with feline herpes. But samples from the cat tested positive for Sars-Cov-2 in June as part of a coronavirus screening programme for hundreds of cats at Glasgow Centre for Virus Research.
Follow-up samples tested at the Animal Plant Health Laboratory in Weybridge last week confirmed the cat was also infected with Covid-19.
The six-year-old cat experienced only mild symptoms including shortness of breath and nasal discharge and has since recovered. But Margaret Hosie, professor of comparative virology at Glasgow University, who leads the screening programme, advised cat owners to “observe very careful hygiene”.
The Department of Homeland Security has some opinions on the mask debate | Added July 27
Homeland security apparently has some concerns about masks, according to leaked law enforcement documents. The Intercept has a July 16 report on this where they detail how protestors, who were wearing face masks, had gotten around facial recognition software much to the dismay of law enforcement.
We previously covered this issue of face masks and facial recognition software at greater length on May 31 — some companies are quickly developing ways to enable their software to detect faces through masks.
We also shared this story from Business Insider which featured masks specifically made to combat facial recognition software. Some of the designs were interesting, to say the least.
More from The Intercept:
The rapid global spread and persistent threat of the coronavirus has presented an obvious roadblock to facial recognition’s similar global expansion. Suddenly everyone is covering their faces. Even in ideal conditions, facial recognition technologies often struggle with accuracy and have a particularly dismal track record when it comes to identifying faces that aren’t white or male.
Some municipalities, startled by the civil liberties implications of inaccurate and opaque software in the hands of unaccountable and overly aggressive police, have begun banning facial recognition software outright. But the global pandemic may have inadvertently provided a privacy fix of its own — or for police, a brand new crisis.
A Homeland Security intelligence note dated May 22 expresses this law enforcement anxiety, as public health wisdom clashes with the prerogatives of local and federal police who increasingly rely on artificial intelligence tools.
The bulletin, drafted by the DHS Intelligence Enterprise Counterterrorism Mission Center in conjunction with a variety of other agencies, including Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “examines the potential impacts that widespread use of protective masks could have on security operations that incorporate face recognition systems — such as video cameras, image processing hardware and software, and image recognition algorithms — to monitor public spaces during the ongoing Covid-19 public health emergency and in the months after the pandemic subsides.”
Moderna vaccine expected to be ready for use by the end of the year — though that depends on the definition of ‘ready’ | Added July 27
Everyone’s favorite biotech company Moderna has continued to beat the odds and is still on track to distribute their vaccine by the end of the year. That is, despite their unproven track record as a company — having never brought a product to market — and the concerns raised over the experimental RNA vaccine which they are producing.
Moderna Inc’s (MRNA.O) vaccine against COVID-19 could be rolled out by the end of this year, U.S. officials said on Monday, after the drugmaker announced the start of a 30,000-subject trial to demonstrate it is safe and effective, the final hurdle prior to approval by global regulators.
The trial is the first such late-stage study under the Trump administration’s program to speed development of measures against the novel coronavirus, adding to hope that an effective vaccine will help end the pandemic. Shares of Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna rose 9%.
Moderna has received nearly $1 billion from the U.S. government, which is helping to bankroll several vaccine candidates under its Operation Warp Speed program.
More than 150 coronavirus vaccine candidates are in various stages of development, with some two dozen prospects having advanced to human testing.
Breaking: meteorite hits California barbecue where everyone was social distancing and wearing masks | Added July 25
CALIMESA, CA (AP) — Just like that, it was all over. It was a fine Saturday afternoon in California. One moment, everyone was enjoying vegetarian hot dogs, veggie burgers (on gluten free buns) and watermelon. Kids were playing in the pool.
Nobody even saw it coming. But apparently they heard it — a strange, very loud whistling sound that lasted about 10 seconds, according to nearby residents. And then: BANG.
For only the second time in known human history, a meteorite came plunging in from the sky and took human life — in this case, killing all 38 people at the party. The prior event was on Aug. 22, 1888, in what is now Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. One person was killed in that event.
George Flanigan had just left the party 20 minutes earlier, and escaped with his life.
“Everyone was socially distancing,” he said. “People were wearing masks, everyone, including the kids in the pool. I don’t know how this happened.”
“We heard the fire ball, the crash and then a huge rumbling sound, like 100 earthquakes,” said his girlfriend, Molly Cowan, a nurse, who had left with Flanigan “It’s just unbelievable. It can happen to anyone, anywhere.”
It is believed that Mr. and Mrs. Alex Bunglehorst, the hosts of the ill-fated party, had even worn their masks while having sex earlier in the day, just to be on the safe side.
Local officials said it was a scene of total devastation.
“We’ve never had a meteorite before,” said Jim Willis, chief of the Calimesa Fire Department. “In fact we just inspected the place two weeks ago for fire code violations and they passed with flying colors,” he added.
In a hastily convened press conference, first responders said that though all the cars were badly burned, he could see that one of the cars had a Joe Biden bumper sticker on it.
Cowan, who had just left the party, said that all 32 adults who lost their lives were going to vote for Biden.
“At least it was California,” said a Don Donaldson, a spokesman for Biden2020, reached at the campaign’s Philadelphia headquarters. “We’ll win no problem, though we’re deeply saddened to lose such devoted supporters.”
NASA public affairs department said that the object that struck was a near-Earth asteroid about seven meters in diameter. Top officials of the space agency were meeting with Pres. Trump to determine whether all Americans should be ordered underground to prevent future loss of life.
“Where there is one, there could be another,” the agency said in a statement. “We cannot be too careful.”
Mike Brown, Caltech professor of planetary sciences, was reached by text message. “This had to be 1998-SP147,” he said. “That little fucker. We should have known.”
Only survivor was a two-year-old pit bull named Samantha, who was reported missing an hour earlier and was found hiding in the woods to the side of the development.
This is a developing story.
State Department evidence inconclusive on Wuhan Institute of Virology’s role in virus origin | Added July 24
On July 22 there was a Senate Foreign Relations Hearing on U.S.-China Relations where Senator Bob Mendez of New Jersey, and Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun spoke about the 2018 State Department diplomatic cables that warned of low safety standards at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
This lead to Menendez asking Biegun for a long delayed classified briefing on this information, and whether or not there is conclusive evidence for the claim that the virus originated from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, to which Biegun responded that the evidence is inconclusive.
What is provided below is a transcript from C-Span’s uncorrected closed captioning. we have edited it slightly to remove the all-caps. This portion of the transcript starts at 2:10:03.
Senator Bob Mendez: Finally, last week the state department released in 2018 diplomatic cable, noting that the Wuhan Institute of Virology had, quote, a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to operate this high containment laboratory, close quote. You may be aware, I have been asking since March of this year, repeatedly for these cables and for engagement and a briefing from the department for this committee on the question of Covid origins a vital national security issue to which I have received no response, no briefing, nothing. Even though all the statements by senior level administration officials on this issue, I find a perplexing that the administration has been unwilling to engage with congress as to these simple requests. As I’m sure you would where you still here as a senior staff member of this committee. Can you pledge to me that the department, by the end of this week, will schedule this long requested classified briefing and discussion for the committee to take place before the end of this work period, which is ending in another two weeks?
Stephen Biegun: I will pledge to try, senator. I will be back in touch with your team through our legislative affairs to seek to schedule such a briefing. Certainly the level of safety in Chinese laboratories around the breadth of the People’s Republic of China is an ongoing issue of concern. It has been written about extensively in any number of public journals, including a well known science magazine story about these cases in which virus slipped out of-
Senator Bob Mendez: We need to make an independent judgment of what you have or don’t have. I look forward to, hopefully getting this it has been going on since March. I see Peter Navare on TV and of course, the President himself and other senior administration officials talk about these things in public for the press for consumption. Members of the United States Senate of this committee cannot get access to something as critical to understand the nature of the veracity, the depth of the understanding and whether or not, this is the case that is being promoted by the President. Let me ask you this, in open, it’s not a question that is classified, does the United States government have clear and convincing evidence that this pandemic originated in and was released from the Wuhan Virology Institute?
Biegun: Like any matter that happens well outside the reach of our ability to see and touch and feel, there’s some uncertainty around that matter.
I have been part of the discussion on Covid-19 since mid January. I’ve had the opportunity to discuss with the leading members of the United States, including fellow members of the Vice President’s coronavirus task force, such as Doctor Redfield, Doctor Fauci as well as our own operational med experts in the state department. I will say that it is inconclusive, but that only highlights the extreme urgency for the World Health Organization inquiry that was authorized at the World Health Agency meeting earlier this year to be able to get on the ground in Wuhan, have access to the Wuhan Virology Institute and make that firm determination.
Mendez: So, I hear you say that it is inconclusive, I asked you whether there was clear, convincing evidence, you said it was inconclusive. I share with you that we should have all of the facts. But until we do have all of the facts, making statements and assertions that are as if they were facts does not serve as well. Thank you mister chairman.
CDC releases statement calling for schools to reopen | Added July 24
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a statement, and called for schools to reopen in the U.S. As this New York Times article points out, Donald Trump Trump criticized the CDC’s earlier, more cautious, school reopening recommendation.
CDC director Robert R. Redfield is quoted in the article as saying that this new statement is not meant to replace the earlier school reopening guidance, but “to really help put some more granular detail in how administrators and parents can begin to think about putting those guidelines into a practical plan.”
From The New York Times:
The nation’s top public health agency issued a full-throated call to reopen schools in a statement that aligned with President Trump’s pressure on communities, listing numerous benefits of being in school and downplaying the potential health risks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the statement, along with new “resources and tools,” Thursday evening, two weeks after Mr. Trump criticized its earlier recommendations on school reopenings as “very tough and expensive.” His words ratcheted up what was already an anguished national debate over how soon students and teachers should return to classrooms.
FDA guidelines allow food manufacturers to substitute ingredients without changing food labels | Added July 24
Back in May the FDA issued emergency guidelines, with no warning, that has allowed food manufacturers facing supply chain shortages to “make ingredient substitutions without changing food labels.” There are limits to the substitutions, which are shared in the selection below; however, how strict the FDA will be in regard to oversight remains in question. The FDA guidance may be found here.
Under the emergency measure, manufacturers are not allowed to substitute ingredients that may have an “adverse health effect, including food allergens, gluten, sulfites or other ingredients known to cause sensitivities.” The top eight recognized food allergens in the U.S. — milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soy — as well as other priority allergens, including sesame, celery, lupin (a legume), buckwheat, molluscan shellfish and mustards, cannot be substituted under the new guidelines. The FDA still requires them to be listed on package labels.
But other minor ingredients can be temporarily substituted. With 170 known food allergens in the United States, and with concerns about cross-contact among ingredients, people with allergies are concerned about these unannounced substitutions.
For example, if a company hits a snag in the supply chain for a peppercorn it has been using, it can substitute another type of peppercorn. Some peppercorns are related to cashews and can trigger anaphylaxis in people allergic to cashews and other tree nuts. Or, while the FDA considers highly refined oils safe for people with food allergies, many consumers do not. The new guidelines allow manufacturers to substitute sunflower oil for canola oil, for example, because they share similar fatty acid profiles.
Sunshine is the Best Disinfectant | Article for Thursday, July 23
Today we have Eric’s Thursday article that both provides a summary of some of what we have learned over the past five months, as well as a suggestion that we demand the truth about the virus and about Covid-19.
Early findings on sunlight and its ability to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 | Added July 23
This June 15 report summarizes the findings of a study that explored the effect of simulated sunlight, among other factors, on “the stability of SARS-CoV-2 in aerosols.” This report is from Contagion, a news resource centered on covering infectious diseases in all their aspects.
From the article:
Sunlight was found to inactivate severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) in a new controlled environment assessment.
The rise of aerosols in the transmission of COVID-19 has been something researchers and the medical community are looking to investigate more closely.
Michael Schuit from the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, led a team of investigators in a study looking at the effect of simulated sunlight, relative humidity, and suspension matrix on the stability of SARS-CoV-2 in aerosols.
White House and Senate Republicans near agreement on new ‘economic rescue proposal’ | Added July 23
The New York Times has obtained a draft summary of Senate Republican’s proposed agreement on an economic rescue proposal which currently includes “another round of stimulus payments to individuals” among other measures.
The White House and Senate Republicans neared agreement on Thursday on a new economic rescue proposal that includes another round of stimulus payments to individuals, additional aid to small businesses and a partial extension of enhanced unemployment benefits, according to a summary of the agreement that was circulating on Capitol Hill.
The draft summary, which was obtained by The Times, reflects a significant retreat by the White House after days of infighting among Republicans. It does not include a payroll tax cut, a favorite idea of President Trump’s, which administration officials backed away from amid tepid support from Republicans in Congress. It includes $16 billion in funds for new testing that the administration had opposed, and conditions only a portion of education funding on schools reopening.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, who had hoped to roll out his bill early Thursday, instead spent the morning continuing to negotiate with top White House officials over its central elements.
Reuters: Moderna, Merck say they will not limit price of coronavirus vaccines to company cost | Added July 23
We’ve previously referenced the ongoing vaccine gold rush amid efforts on the part of various biotech and pharmaceutical companies to produce a coronavirus vaccine. And, on July 21, Moderna Inc and Merck & Co didn’t seem too keen to downplay such intentions when they told a U.S. Congressional panel that they do expect to profit from their coronavirus vaccines.
Moderna Inc and Merck & Co on Tuesday told a U.S. Congressional panel that they expect to profit from their coronavirus vaccines once approved, amid concerns the vaccines may not be accessible to all.
“We will not be selling our vaccine at cost, although it is premature for us as we’re a long way from understanding the cost-basis,” Julie Gerberding, chief patient officer for Merck, told the House of Representatives subcommittee on oversight and investigations in a virtual, off-site hearing.
Merck’s has yet to begin human studies of its experimental vaccine, lagging the leading candidates.
Hotline set up for Ohio county residents to report people for not wearing face masks | Added July 23
Better watch out. If you happen to be walking in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County without a mask, residents now have a hotline they can call to report those who are not wearing masks. Masks have also been mandated in 12 other counties in Ohio. This is according to a July 13 report from USA Today.
From the article:
Local authorities in Ohio have set up a hotline for residents to report people who are not wearing face masks amid a rise in cases of COVID-19.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announced during a Friday press briefing that people who see others violating Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s order mandating masks in 12 counties could call into the hotline or file complaints online. By Monday, the county had received more than 500 complaints.
“It’s been overwhelming,” Budish told USA TODAY.
When a complaint is received, Budish said the county will contact the individual or business owner involved and then forward that information to the Board of Health and relevant municipal authorities.
Hand sanitizer remains problematic | Added July 23
The first Planet Waves article related to Covid involved how hand sanitizer is not only useless, it backfires.
It feeds dangerous bacteria, damages natural probiotic growth, encourages not washing, and leaves one’s hands tacky, so that new samples are collected (and spread around) ongoing. It is a genius invention if only for doing precisely the opposite of what it purports to do, though that’s the short history of the chemical industry.
Anyway apparently there is a recall. From the mainstream media:
“The Food and Drug Administration has expanded the list of hand sanitizers — some sold at Walmart, Costco and other national chains — being recalled to at least 75 recently, saying toxic levels of wood alcohol in them can cause injury or death.
The FDA said that there has been an increase in hand sanitizers that are labeled to contain ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, but have tested positive for methanol, or wood alcohol. If methanol is absorbed through the skin, it can cause blindness and hospitalizations, or death if ingested.
A list of recalled products includes-
Klar and Danver Instant Hand Sanitizer (labeled with Greenbrier International)
Modesa Instant Hand Sanitizer Moisturizers and Vitamin E
Hello Kitty by Sanrio Hand Sanitizer
For the complete list, go to FDA hand sanitizer updates”
Early report on possible lab origin of virus | From February 16, retrieved July 22
February seems like so long ago; here’s an early report from The Daily Mail on the possibility of a lab origin for the coronavirus:
Chinese scientists believe the deadly coronavirus may have started life in a research facility just 300 yards from the Wuhan fish market.
A new bombshell paper from the Beijing-sponsored South China University of Technology says that the Wuhan Center for Disease Control (WHCDC) could have spawned the contagion in Hubei province.
‘The possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus,’ penned by scholars Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao claims the WHCDC kept disease-ridden animals in laboratories, including 605 bats.
It also mentions that bats – which are linked to coronavirus – once attacked a researcher and ‘blood of bat was on his skin.’
The report says: ‘Genome sequences from patients were 96% or 89% identical to the Bat CoV ZC45 coronavirus originally found in Rhinolophus affinis (intermediate horseshoe bat).’
It describes how the only native bats are found around 600 miles away from the Wuhan seafood market and that the probability of bats flying from Yunnan and Zhejiang provinces was minimal.
Dr. Joseph Mercola on medical malpractice | Added July 22
A largely hidden issue of the COVID-19 pandemic is the risk of medical malpractice, and the consequences for you, health care workers and hospitals alike
New Jersey has granted civil and criminal immunity to health care providers battling COVID-19. Sweeping civil and criminal immunity has also been granted in New York, including for nursing home executives
Michigan, Massachusetts, Illinois and Connecticut have also issued immunity laws for malpractice related to COVID-19, and Iowa lawmakers introduced a bill to grant broad protections to health care providers, hospitals, nursing homes and a variety of other businesses in early June
The problem with handing out broad immunity to any and all health care providers and executives is that it may lower the quality of care. If you know you cannot be sued under any circumstance, you’re less likely to take all the precautions necessary to avoid making a mistake
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many doctors have been asked to provide care outside their area of expertise, which increases the risk of errors occurring
A unified theory of everything: the Bill Gates Mastercard Immunity Wellness Pass makes its debut in Africa, because why not? | Added July 22
We have seen this coming for a while — from five directions. This is from Mint Press News by Raul Diego:
A biometric digital identity platform that “evolves just as you evolve” is set to be introduced in “low-income, remote communities” in West Africa thanks to a public-private partnership between the Bill Gates-backed GAVI vaccine alliance, Mastercard and the AI-powered “identity authentication” company, Trust Stamp.
The program, which was first launched in late 2018, will see Trust Stamp’s digital identity platform integrated into the GAVI-Mastercard “Wellness Pass,” a digital vaccination record and identity system that is also linked to Mastercard’s click-to-play system that powered by its AI and machine learning technology called NuData.
Mastercard, in addition to professing its commitment to promoting “centralized record keeping of childhood immunization” also describes itself as a leader toward a “World Beyond Cash,” and its partnership with GAVI marks a novel approach towards linking a biometric digital identity system, vaccination records, and a payment system into a single cohesive platform. The effort, since its launch nearly two years ago, has been funded via $3.8 million in GAVI donor funds in addition to a matched donation of the same amount by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Vaccine gold rush/three-legged race continues | Added July 22
Feds purchase 100 million Pfizer jabs: The Trump administration on Wednesday announced a nearly $2 billion contract with the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and a smaller German biotechnology company for up to 600 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, with the companies on track to manufacture the first 100 million doses by December.
Gates pushing Moderna RNA ‘reprogramming’ injection: Pharma has over 170 COVID vaccines in development, but Gates and Fauci pushed Moderna’s “Frankenstein jab” to the front of the line. Scientists and ethicists are sounding alarms. The vaccine uses a new, untested, and very controversial experimental RNA technology that Gates has backed for over a decade. Instead of injecting an antigen and adjuvant as with traditional vaccines, Moderna plugs a small piece of coronavirus genetic code into human cells, altering DNA throughout the human body and reprogramming our cells to produce antibodies to fight the virus. mRNA vaccines are a form of genetic engineering called “germ line gene editing”. Moderna’s genetic alterations are passed down to future generations. In January, The Geneva Statement, the world’s leading ethicists and scientists, called for an end to this kind of experimentation.
| Added July 21
Wired published an article today focusing on the “risk of nasty side effects in the Moderna and Oxford” vaccine trials, which have been downplayed. The article is written in the context of heading off the “future spread of vaccine fear-mongering,” and quite soberly details the adverse effects that people have had to Moderna’s, and Oxford’s, vaccine trials; the marketing spin that both vaccine developers have participated in is also called out.
More good news on progress towards an escape route from this pandemic: On Monday, vaccine researchers from Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced results from a “Phase 1/2 trial,” suggesting their product might be able to generate immunity without causing serious harm. Similar, but smaller-scale results, were posted just last week for another candidate vaccine produced by the biotech firm Moderna, in collaboration with the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
As both these groups and others push ahead into the final phase of testing, it’s vital that the public has a clear and balanced understanding of this work—one that cuts through all the marketing and hype. But we’re not off to a good start. The evidence so far suggests that we’re getting blinkered by these groups’ PR, and so seduced by stories of their amazing speed that we’re losing track of everything else. In particular, neither the mainstream media nor the medical press has given much attention to the two vaccines’ potential downsides—in particular, their risk of nasty adverse effects, even if they’re not life-threatening. This sort of puffery doesn’t only help to build a false impression; it may also dry the tinder for the future spread of vaccine fear-mongering.
“Get a mask”: Trump holds White House coronavirus briefing | Added July 21
Just yesterday we posted Trump’s announcement that the White House coronavirus task force briefings would recommence, and here they are. Well, sort of. There were actually no public health officials alongside Trump — there was no “task force” per se. A one man task force, perhaps (or so we are to believe).
Trump managed to cause a stir nonetheless: he said that the virus will probably “get worse before it gets better,” and that is now being run in all the headlines. He also “implored citizens — especially young people — to wear masks.” Haven’t you heard? Mask-wearing is“patriotic” now.
President Trump abruptly departed on Tuesday from his rosy projections about the coronavirus, warning Americans from the White House briefing lectern that the illness would get worse before widespread recovery.
“It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better,” Mr. Trump said. “Something I don’t like saying about things, but that’s the way it is.”
In his first virus-focused news conference in weeks, Mr. Trump appeared before reporters to defend his track record, which has been widely criticized for his tendency to downplay the severity of the pandemic. Appearing without Vice President Mike Pence, Dr. Deborah Birx or Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, key members of his White House coronavirus task force, Mr. Trump also implored citizens — especially young people — to wear masks.
State lab in Connecticut announces testing system produced 90 false-positives out of 144 people tested | Added July 21
Ninety people who received positive COVID-19 results did not have the virus…
The Department of Public Health in Connecticut has announced that a flaw in one of the testing systems used to test for the novel coronavirus resulted in 90 people receiving false positive test results. The article, shared below, does not specifically state that it was a PCR test, but PCR tests have, wrongly, become the standard for diagnosis these day; again, we have covered this issue extensively.
PCR testing in this context is unreliable. But even from their point of view, to stop short and deem the false positives as due to a flaw in what are reported to be “widely-used laboratory testing [platforms]” without questioning the accuracy of booming case counts reads as dishonest. There seems to be zero impetus to question the technology that is meant to accurately indicate to us the severity of this crisis — and it needs to be questioned, as instances like this show.
And, lastly, those flawed test kits were used for almost a full month.
Ninety people who received positive COVID-19 results did not have the virus, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The department said the state public health laboratory uncovered a flaw in one of the testing systems it uses to test for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and 90 of 144 people tested between June 15 and July 17 received a false positive COVID test report. Many are nursing home residents.
State officials said the flaw has been reported to the manufacturer and the federal Food and Drug Administration and DPH has taken immediate steps to make sure the patients are notified.
According to the state Department of Health, the errant testing results were “from a widely-used laboratory testing platform that the state laboratory started using on June 15.”
European Union Leaders agree on $860bn economic relief package | Added July 21
Following what was almost a record-length summit, European Union leaders have come to an agreement on a stimulus plan in light of the coronavirus. Tensions ran high over the course of the summit which had been running since Friday of last week.
European Union leaders reached a deal on a massive stimulus plan for their coronavirus-blighted economies at a pre-dawn meeting on Tuesday after a fractious summit that went through the night and into its fifth day.
The deal will see the EU issue 750 billion euros ($860bn) of joint debt to help member states mitigate the economic downturn.
The agreement required the unanimous approval of all 27 member states and represents a victory for German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, who drafted an early outline for the proposal in May. The emergency fund will give out 390 billion euros ($446bn) of grants and 360 billion euros ($412bn) of low-interest loans.
China now requiring airport arrivals to provide negative coronavirus test results | Added July 21
If you’re flying to China then you’re going to have to get tested for the coronavirus, and, on top of that, provide negative test results. This decision was announced by China’s aviation authority, today. Note: in the article below it is said that a nucleic acid test is what is required. Nucleic acid tests are also known as PCR tests, which we have extensively covered as being completely unreliable when it comes to testing and diagnosing “cases” of the virus.
Passengers of China-bound flights must provide negative COVID-19 test results before boarding, China’s aviation authority said on Tuesday, as the government looks to further reduce the risk of imported coronavirus cases amid increased international travel.
Nucleic acid tests must be completed within five days of embarkation, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said on its website. Tests should be conducted at facilities designated or recognised by Chinese embassies in host countries, it said.
The embassies will carefully assess the testing capacity of host countries and formulate travel procedures when testing conditions are met, CAAC said.
More in hacking news: U.S. accuses Chinese nationals of hacking spree | Added July 21
Last week we heard about allegations against Russia for hacking Covid-19 vaccine data, and now, this week, China is in the hot seat. Following what The New York Times has described as a “multiyear cyber espionage campaign,” the U.S. Justice Department has charged Chinese nationals Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi for hacking “defense contractors, COVID researchers and hundreds of other victims worldwide.”
From The New York Times:
The U.S. Justice Department indicted two Chinese nationals for hacking defense contractors, COVID researchers and hundreds of other victims worldwide, according to a court filing published on Tuesday.
U.S. authorities said the Chinese nationals, Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, participated in a multiyear cyber espionage campaign that stole weapons designs, drug information, software source code as well as targeting dissidents and Chinese opposition figures.
Contact details for Li and Dong were not immediately available. The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Beijing has repeatedly denied hacking the United States and other rival powers.
The Wall Street Journal on the infection fatality rate of the coronavirus| Added July 21
The Wall Street Journal published an article today speaking to the infection fatality rate of the coronavirus. Well, for one, it cannot be IFR 1.0. We have seen 0.1 to 0.2 as the average and 0.4 in outlying New York City. This is even with their death count inflated by presumed and died withs. Note NYT fraudulently said 4.7 IFR two weeks ago in a page one story.
The IFR is not supposed to be based on known total but rather on the total extrapolated from the infection rate and the testing rate. Most deaths are known and most ‘infections’ are not. That drives the rate down lower.
Fauci and his boss are on record in NEJM recently as saying under 1% which still allows a very wide variable.
From the article:
That research—examining deaths out of the total number of infections, which includes unreported cases—suggests that Covid-19 kills from around 0.3% to 1.5% of people infected. Most studies put the rate between 0.5% and 1.0%, meaning that for every 1,000 people who get infected, from five to 10 would die on average.
White House coronavirus task force briefings are back on the menu | Added July 20
Looks like we’ll be able to enjoy more coronavirus task force briefings from the White House. Today Donald Trump announced that, for one night only, he will be reviving the task force briefings. Well, not exactly for one night only.
Actually this article from The Washington Post does not mention how long these briefings will continue to be held, but it does relate the story in the context of Trump’s reelection, and it does quote Trump as saying that he will hold them at 5 o’clock, just like they used to.
From the article:
President Trump’s announcement Monday that he would resurrect the White House coronavirus task force briefings is the culmination of weeks of debate among his aides about how best to turn around — or explain away — his administration’s failed response to the pandemic.
As the number of infected Americans surges and as Trump’s coronavirus-related approval ratings plummet, the president is pledging to “get involved” in the daily messaging campaign in a more direct way by returning to the podium where he headlined controversial news conferences in March and April.
The move to revive the briefings, which were at times contentious, meandering and at odds with public health guidance, comes as Trump has struggled to turn the country’s attention away from the surging novel coronavirus and accompanying economic devastation just months before voters head to the polls.
New York Times video on the problems with masks from China | Added July 20
This video appeared in The New York Times today on an issue that we haven’t seen covered before — where these masks may come from, and the conditions in which they are being produced.
Biotech company Synairgen announces preliminary results of Covid-19 protein treatment | Added July 20
There’s reportedly a new protein treatment for Covid-19 that, according to researchers quoted in this BBC article, heralds a “breakthrough” in treatment for the disease. The treatment is from the biotech company Synairgen, however the results from the trial have not been published; the BBC notes that “Stock market rules mean Synairgen is obliged to report the preliminary results of the trial” and that, at present, the claims made for the treatment cannot be confirmed.
The treatment from Southampton-based biotech Synairgen uses a protein called interferon beta which the body produces when it gets a viral infection.
The protein is inhaled directly into the lungs of patients with coronavirus, using a nebuliser, in the hope that it will stimulate an immune response.
The initial findings suggest the treatment cut the odds of a Covid-19 patient in hospital developing severe disease – such as requiring ventilation – by 79%.
Patients were two to three times more likely to recover to the point where everyday activities were not compromised by their illness, Synairgen claims.
It said the trial also indicated “very significant” reductions in breathlessness among patients who received the treatment.
In addition, the average time patients spent in hospital is said to have been reduced by a third, for those receiving the new drug – down from an average of nine days to six days.
Short roundup on TeleTracking, the company contracted to handle coronavirus hospital data | Added July 20
The hospital data that will no longer be sent to the CDC, by order of the Trump administration, is to be managed by the bed-tracking company TeleTracking who won the contract back in April. However it came out that the company received the $10 million contract in what was initially reported to be a no bid contract. That is, no other company purportedly took part in bidding for the contract.
The Florida Squeeze reported on this and discussed the implications of having coronavirus hospital data become privatized. In their report they reference this New York Times article from July 15 which covers the basics of this entire scenario with TeleTracking. And The New York Times followed up with this article where they reported on the Department of Health and Human Services claiming that it was a website mistake that made it seem as if there were no other companies that bid for the contract.
Here is an excerpt from the initial NYT article:
A $10.2 million “sole source” contract to run a centralized Covid-19 database for the Trump administration drew sharp criticism on Wednesday from congressional Democrats, who demanded that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention be reinstated as the primary repository of coronavirus data.
The contract drew scant public attention when it was awarded in April to TeleTracking Technologies, a Pittsburgh company whose core business is helping hospitals manage the flow of patients. But it drew scrutiny after the administration ordered hospitals, beginning on Wednesday, to report coronavirus information, including bed availability, to the new database, housed at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, instead of to the C.D.C.
Amid claims of high sanitation standards, janitors denied basic cleaning equipment | Added July 20
Among the high traffic locations reopening (such as airports) there have been claims on the part of officials that extra measures are being taken when it comes to sanitation. However, as The New York Times reports here, custodians have been denied basic materials and have resorted to bringing in their own supplies.
Cleaners have recently fallen ill across the country, from the University of Texas at Austin, to a Fox Entertainment lot in Los Angeles, to casinos in Mississippi. Workers in office buildings and supermarkets say they lack the time and training to do the job right. And though airlines have tried to win back customers by raising sanitation standards, pilots, flight attendants and cabin cleaners report that the efforts are still inadequate, with reused rags, unwiped tray tables and bathrooms that aren’t disinfected between flights.
Interviews with dozens of workers, employers, cleaning company executives and union officials, as well as a review of records from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, reveal other glaring problems. At a Miami office tower, Martha Lorena Cortez Estrada resorted to bringing in her own Clorox and making her own masks. ‘Our brooms were worn out; we were mopping with just water and no disinfectant,” said Ms. Cortez, 58, who makes $8.56 an hour.
Democracy Now! interview with Dr. Ali Khan | Added July 18
Somewhat as a followup to the vaccine story posted earlier today, here is an interview that Democracy Now! did with Dr. Ali Khan: an epidemiologist and the dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. They spoke with Dr. Khan on a number of issues, but one of the main points that he made was that “The road to an uncertain vaccine is paved in death.”
Here he is sharing that in context, in response to Amy Goodman asking him how optimistic he was about the development of a vaccine:
“I am optimistic; however, the road to an uncertain vaccine is paved in death. Right? So, we talk about 60,000 cases a day. So that’s basically we’re minting 600 to a thousand new death certificates every day. Right? We can’t wait for a vaccine. Right? And other countries have gotten their diseases contained and eliminated without a vaccine. So, yes, I would love a vaccine. There’s lots of data that makes it problematic. Immunity may be short-lived. We’ve never had vaccines based on these technologies. So, as anybody else, I’m optimistic. I hope there’s a vaccine. We don’t need a vaccine today so that we don’t kill another 600 to a thousand people tomorrow. We have the tools.”
White House vs CDC: CDC director Redfield blocked from testifying on school reopening | Added July 18
This story came in yesterday: in the ongoing feud between the White House and the CDC, the Trump administration has taken steps to block Robert Redfield from testifying at a hearing on “how public schools can reopen for in-person classroom instruction this fall.” It was just within this past week that the White House ordered hospitals to send Covid-19 data to a central database in Washington as opposed to the CDC.
The Trump administration is rebuffing House Democrats’ effort to hear testimony from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield on safely reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) sent Redfield a letter last week asking him or a CDC designee to testify at a hearing on how K-12 public schools can reopen for in-person classroom instruction this fall. But on Friday, Scott said his panel had been informed that the Trump administration would not allow CDC testimony at the hearing planned for next week.
“It is alarming that the Trump administration is preventing the CDC from appearing before the committee at a time when its expertise and guidance is so critical to the health and safety of students, parents, and educators. This lack of transparency does a great disservice to the many communities across the country facing difficult decisions about reopening schools this fall,” Scott said in a statement.
Vegas, vaccines, and the ‘vaccine-hesitant’ | Added July 18
Oxford is looking to recruit volunteers for what a “challenge trial” of their vaccine, according to The Guardian. Essentially they want to infect said healthy recruits with the coronavirus and test out the vaccine on them. Apparently a growing number of scientists “argue that the human challenge trial approach is justified given that the risk would be very low for healthy people in their 20s…”
Meanwhile in Las Vegas, researchers from the Wake Clinical Research Center of Nevada announced Phase 3 vaccine trials in the Las Vegas Metropolitan area, and they are currently seeking volunteers as well. From this report however, it does not seem to be a challenge trial.
Lastly, on the other side of all of this, The New York Times published an article today on the “vaccine-hesitant.” Here’s a snippet:
“A growing number of polls find so many people saying they would not get a coronavirus vaccine that its potential to shut down the pandemic could be in jeopardy. Distrust of it is particularly pronounced in African-American communities, which have been disproportionately devastated by the virus. But even many staunch supporters of immunization say they are wary of this vaccine.”
Google bans coronavirus conspiracy theory ads | Added July 18
Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Friday it would prohibit websites and apps that use its advertising technology from running ads on “dangerous content” that goes against scientific consensus during the coronavirus pandemic.
Google is taking steps to fight the valiant fight when it comes to misinformation. Those ads and ideas that do not comport with scientific consensus (which seems to change by the hour) will no longer be tolerated. Websites and apps that run such advertising will be prohibited.
Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Friday it would prohibit websites and apps that use its advertising technology from running ads on “dangerous content” that goes against scientific consensus during the coronavirus pandemic.
The world’s largest search engine updated its policy as the health crisis has continued to rage throughout the United States, and digital advertising giants like Google and Facebook Inc have faced calls to do more to clamp down on misinformation.
Content not allowed to make money from ads include debunked conspiracy theories, such as the notion that the novel coronavirus was created in a Chinese lab as a bioweapon, that it was created by Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates, or that the virus is a hoax, Google said in a statement.
On the topic of sex, here is what is going on in the porn industry | Added July 18
Pandemics can’t put porn on pause, apparently. In Los Angeles film and television production has resumed and that includes the porn industry; steps have been taken to ensure the safety of everyone involved, including masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
COVID-19 cases are rising in LA County, but film and television industries still got the green light to resume production. Extra precautions must be taken on set. That’s especially tough when you’re shooting pornography.
Erotic photographer Holly Randall restarted production two weeks ago. Crew members all wear masks, don gloves, and use hand sanitizer.
“It’s impossible to make the sets 100% safe, but everyone who comes to set knows they’re running the risk to contract the virus,” she says.
The virus can be sexually transmitted and cause male infertility? | Added July 18
Remember those concerns about the coronavirus being sexually transmitted? Well, now there’s a new worry to add to that. Researchers published a study in June where it was suggested that the virus could cause male infertility. KTSM has that story as well as a link to that related study.
From the article:
Scientists and medical experts are grappling to learn as much as possible about the biological impact of COVID-19 on the body.
New research examining COVID-19 and human sperm suggest potential risks for male infertility as well as sexual transmission.
A study published last month in JAMA analyzed semen samples of 38 COVID-19 patients and found the presence of the virus in 15 percent of patients.
According to researcher Dr. John Aitken, COVID-19’s pathological impact on the tested is underscored by data the shows active cases dramatically reduce testosterone to luteinizing hormones. Reduction in testosterone has a significant impact on the body’s responsiveness to Leydig cells that stimulate the secretion of sex steroids.
Aitken says this finding is to be expected because the blood-testis barriers offer little defense against viral invasion. Pathogenic viruses like HIV, hepatitis, mumps, and HPV have been linked to testes damage that causes host infertility. The presence of the virus in the testes also leaves the host susceptible to transmitting the disease to sexual partners.
Electric fence installed at pub | Added July 18
In St. Just, Cornwall the owner of a pub has installed an electric fence around the bar to ensure that customers maintain social distancing. It’s shocking to think that this is considered necessary.
Jonny McFadden, who runs the Star Inn in St Just, Cornwall, said there was limited space in his bar which only served drinks and no food.
He described the barrier as “just a normal electric fence that you would find in a field”.
Asked if it was switched on, Mr McFadden said: “Come and find out – there is a fear factor and it works.”
Mr McFadden said he had struggled to get the social distancing message across to some customers in the bar because “when you serve people a drink they change”.
He said the fence worked because “people keep away from it, people are like sheep”.
Ongoing issues with UK testing and death data | Added July 17
Recently, this May 21 article from The Telegraph floated by detailing how public health officials in the UK had admitted that tens of thousands of Covid-19 tests had “been double-counted in the Government’s official tally,”
“Diagnostic tests which involve taking saliva and nasal samples from the same patient [were] being counted as two tests, not one.”
The daily reported diagnostic test numbers were said to be inflated by over 20 per cent with ‘that proportion being much higher earlier on in the crisis before home test kits were added to the daily totals.”
Fast forward to July 3: The Telegraph reported on the UK government admitting that 30,000 fewer people had tested positive then initially thought; they revised their numbers. The New York Times, on their UK case count page, includes the update on this case count revision but they do not seem to have an article covering this in full.
And the problems continue; today the BBC has published an article focusing on Health Secretary Matt Hancock and his calls for an urgent review of England’s coronavirus death data following confirmation from Public Health England that “reported deaths may have included people who tested positive months before they died.”
The other UK nations only include those who die within 28 days of a positive test.
There have been 40,528 deaths linked to the virus in England.
Prof Carl Heneghan from University of Oxford, who spotted the issue with the data, told the BBC there was “huge variation” in the numbers of daily deaths reported in England by PHE.
While NHS England currently reports 30-35 deaths per day, Public Health England (PHE) data often shows double that or more, he said.
The reason is that anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus but then died at a later date of another cause would still be included in PHE’s Covid-19 death figures.
Bulgarian researcher claims ‘no one has died from the coronavirus’ | Added July 17
Dr Stoian Alexov who is president of the Bulgarian Pathology Association has claimed that “his colleagues across Europe have not found any evidence of any deaths from the novel coronavirus on that continent.” This comes to us from Off-Guardian where they also share that he has referred to the World Health Organization as a “criminal medical organization” for their part in “creating worldwide fear and chaos without providing objectively verifiable proof of a pandemic.”
From the article:
Another stunning revelation from Bulgarian Pathology Association (BPA) president Dr. Alexov is that he believes it’s currently “impossible” to create a vaccine against the virus.
He also revealed that European pathologists haven’t identified any antibodies that are specific for SARS-CoV-2.
These stunning statements raise major questions, including about officials’ and scientists’ claims regarding the many vaccines they’re rushing into clinical trials around the world.
Federal officers in unmarked vehicles detaining protesters in Portland | Added July 17
In another instance of increased militarization in the U.S., federal officers dressed in tactical gear and camouflage have been driving around Portland in unmarked vehicles and grabbing protesters off the street.
Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14. Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off.
The tactic appears to be another escalation in federal force deployed on Portland city streets, as federal officials and President Donald Trump have said they plan to “quell” nightly protests outside the federal courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center that have lasted for more than six weeks.
NYT takes a look at outdoor classrooms | Added July 17
The New York Times has published an article proposing the use of open-air schoolrooms. Open-air schoolrooms were employed in the early 20th century to stem the spread of disease and now a few officials in New York are considering it as a response to the coronavirus.
In New York the current focus is on distance learning — on May 6 we shared this story that mentioned how Governor Cuomo “sees distance learning as ‘the wave of the future.'” Cuomo conveniently enlisted the aid of Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt, and Bill Gates in order to “reinvent” public education in New York; both men happen to be tech billionaires, not educators.
In the early years of the 20th century, tuberculosis ravaged American cities, taking a particular and often fatal toll on the poor and the young. In 1907, two Rhode Island doctors, Mary Packard and Ellen Stone, had an idea for mitigating transmission among children. Following education trends in Germany, they proposed the creation of an open-air schoolroom. Within a matter of months, the floor of an empty brick building in Providence was converted into a space with ceiling-height windows on every side, kept open at nearly all times.
The subsequent New England winter was especially unforgiving, but children stayed warm in wearable blankets known as “Eskimo sitting bags” and with heated soapstones placed at their feet. The experiment was a success by nearly every measure — none of the children got sick. Within two years there were 65 open-air schools around the country either set up along the lines of the Providence model or simply held outside. In New York, the private school Horace Mann conducted classes on the roof; another school in the city took shape on an abandoned ferry.
Distressingly, little of this sort of ingenuity has greeted the effort to reopen schools amid the current public-health crisis. The Trump administration has insisted that schools fully open this fall, with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposing no plan for how to do that safely.
Reuters: EU in talks with Moderna, BioNtech, CureVac to secure possible COVID vaccines, sources say | Added July 17
Here is another entry in the seemingly endless, and almost hard to follow, vaccine production and distribution deals around the world. According to sources from Reuters, the EU is in talks to secure vaccines from Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, BioNtech, and CureVac.
We have previously covered Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s involvement with Operation Warp Speed in the U.S. And we most recently heard from CureVac in early July when it was announced that Tesla inc would be teaming up with the German vaccine developer to produce “molecule printers” to assist in vaccine production.
The European Union is negotiating advance purchase deals of potential COVID-19 vaccines with drugmakers Moderna (MRNA.O), Sanofi (SASY.PA) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) and biotech firms BioNtech (BNTX.O) and CureVac, two EU sources told Reuters.
The talks follow a deal reached in June by four EU states with AstraZeneca (AZN.L) for the upfront purchase of 400 million doses of its potential COVID-19 vaccine, in principle available to all 27 EU nations.
The information on the ongoing talks was shared by the European Commission, the EU executive arm, with EU health ministers at a meeting in Berlin on Thursday, the sources said.
Plague takes a curtain call | Added July 16
Apparently dissatisfied with being upstaged by the coronavirus, the bubonic plague just can’t seem to stay out of the news. If you recall, the most recent story going around was about the plague squirrel in Colorado. Now the Daily Mail has a report on a person contracting the plague from infected squirrels earlier this summer, according to Colorado’s Department of Public Health. However the form of plague the person had reportedly is in ones blood, and cannot be spread to other people.
What is going on in Colorado?
From The Daily Mail:
The first human case of the plague in Colorado since 2015 was confirmed by the state’s Department of Public Health earlier this summer.
The person caught the plague after exposure to infected squirrels as local health officials urge caution and warn residents that it’s not uncommon for the disease to be present in the state at this time of year.
The resident from southwest Colorado had septicemic plague, which is in the blood and cannot be spread to other people.
The person recovered and no other cases were identified.
‘Plague has been present in Colorado since at least the 1940s, and cases in wild rodents in Colorado are reported most years,’ Dr Jenifer House, Colorado’s public health veterinarian, said in a statement.
‘While we see most plague activity during the summer, the disease can be found in rodents year-round and sometimes spills over into other wildlife species as well as domestic cats and dogs.’
Today is the 75th anniversary of the first nuclear bomb test | Added July 16
Splitting the atom was one of the most catastrophic events in human history, and in scientific history. It should never have happened, rationalize it though many people do. Today is the 75th anniversary of what is called the Trinity Test, the first detonation of a nuclear device. The splitting of the atom came years earlier; this was an actual bomb. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists — a publication for which I have great respect — has done a commemoration of the anniversary.
For those interested in the astrology of atomic issues, here is my most recent, thorough article, called Notes from Downwind (we are all downwind).
From today’s Bulletin:
On July 16, 1945 the first nuclear bomb exploded near Alamogordo, New Mexico. The Trinity test marked the culmination of nearly four years of secret research led by an unprecedented collaboration of the world’s top scientists and the US military. It also guaranteed that the uranium gun-type weapon dropped on Hiroshima could be followed by another that used the plutonium implosion design tested at the Trinity Site. In essence, Trinity was a test-of-concept for the bomb that leveled Nagasaki.
The history of the Manhattan Project and the birth of the bomb have been examined and reexamined countless times over the past seven decades—as have the threats they posed to humanity.Though nearly all now are dead, many scientists, soldiers, and family members who attended the birth of the bomb documented their first-hand experiences in the pages of the Bulletin in a way that lives on, providing an exceptional and vivid glimpse of their struggles to achieve victory in war and science.
Read together, the eyewitness excerpts below offer a new retelling of the Trinity test, woven entirely from words that more than a dozen of the project’s protagonists first published in the Bulletin.
Russia accused of hacking vaccine developers | Added July 16
We haven’t seen much news on any vaccines being developed in Russia. Now we might know why: Britian’s National Cyber Security Centre, as well as U.S. and Canadian authorities have accused Russia of using a hacking group to attack “academic and pharmaceutical research institutions involved in coronavirus vaccine development.”
Russian officials have denied the allegations.
From Al Jazeera:
Britain, the United States and Canada accused Russia on Thursday of trying to steal information from researchers seeking a COVID-19 vaccine.
The three nations alleged that hacking group APT29, also known as Cozy Bear and said to be part of the Russian intelligence service, is attacking academic and pharmaceutical research institutions involved in coronavirus vaccine development.
Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre made the announcement, which was coordinated with authorities in the US and Canada.
“It is completely unacceptable that the Russian Intelligence Services are targeting those working to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement. “While others pursue their selfish interests with reckless behaviour, the UK and its allies are getting on with the hard work of finding a vaccine and protecting global health.”
Republican governor describes Trump’s bungled response to Covid crisis | Added July 16
Washington Post has published an article by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan detailing the Trump administration’s chaotic response to the Covid crisis. This is noteworthy because he is a Republican governor who understood the nature of the problem, and whose state would have benefitted from support.
From the article:
Now the kits had arrived. The crew members came down together, walked over and stopped six feet away. Yumi bowed, and the crew bowed in return. Following their lead, so did I. Then a caravan of Maryland National Guard trucks escorted by the Maryland State Police drove the tests from the airport to a refrigerated, secure warehouse at an undisclosed location.
The federal government had recently seized 3 million N95 masks purchased by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. We weren’t going to let Washington stop us from helping Marylanders.
This should not have been necessary. I’d watched as the president downplayed the outbreak’s severity and as the White House failed to issue public warnings, draw up a 50-state strategy, or dispatch medical gear or lifesaving ventilators from the national stockpile to American hospitals.
Eventually, it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation’s response was hopeless; if we delayed any longer, we’d be condemning more of our citizens to suffering and death. So every governor went their own way, which is how the United States ended up with such a patchwork response. I did the best I could for Maryland. Here’s what we saw and heard from Washington along the way.
American Airlines to furlough up to 20,000 of its employees starting in October | Added July 15
American Airlines has informed its employees on Wednesday that “it could furlough as many as 20,000 people starting Oct. 1, after federal stimulus funds expire.” This is according to The New York Times. If you recall, the airline industry received $25 billion in grants in loans; air travel has not recovered since the lockdown.
From The New York Times:
American Airlines told employees on Wednesday that it could furlough as many as 20,000 people starting Oct. 1, after federal stimulus funds expire.
“We know American will be smaller going forward and we must right-size all aspects of our airline to adjust to that new reality,” the airline’s chief executive, Doug Parker, and president, Robert Isom, said in a letter to employees. “Although this is a day none of us wanted to see, we have created new, generous programs intended to help offset as many front line furloughs as possible.”
Despite planning to send out legally required warnings to 25,000 employees, American said it expects to be overstaffed by about 20,000 workers this fall. The warnings, which the airline started sending on Wednesday, will go to nearly 10,000 flight attendants, 3,200 maintenance workers, 2,900 passenger service employees and 2,500 pilots, among others. Last week, United Airlines said it could furlough as many as 36,000 workers in the fall.
So now vocal recordings are a diagnostic tool? | Added July 15
Infections change the quality of our voices in various ways. But MIT Lincoln Laboratory researchers are detecting these changes in Covid-19 patients even when these changes are too subtle for people to hear or even notice in themselves.
Researchers from MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory are hard at work studying the slight, subtle — so subtle that you’re incapable of even noticing — vocal changes that asymptomatic Covid-19 infectees purportedly undergo.
MIT says efforts are underway to couple this research with mobile apps with the express purpose of using it to “screen people for [Covid-19], particularly those who are asymptomatic.” Imagine that: you’re living life, enjoying your new haircut, and talking to your travel agent of five and a half years on the phone when the helpful “vocal screening for Covid-19” kicks in and kindly tells you that due to some change in your voice, you are now suspected a positive “case” and to shelter in place. What a time to be alive.
It’s often easy to tell when colleagues are struggling with a cold — they sound sick. Maybe their voices are lower or have a nasally tone. Infections change the quality of our voices in various ways. But MIT Lincoln Laboratory researchers are detecting these changes in Covid-19 patients even when these changes are too subtle for people to hear or even notice in themselves.
By processing speech recordings of people infected with Covid-19 but not yet showing symptoms, these researchers found evidence of vocal biomarkers, or measurable indicators, of the disease. These biomarkers stem from disruptions the infection causes in the movement of muscles across the respiratory, laryngeal, and articulatory systems. A technology letter describing this research was recently published in IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology.
While this research is still in its early stages, the initial findings lay a framework for studying these vocal changes in greater detail. This work may also hold promise for using mobile apps to screen people for the disease, particularly those who are asymptomatic.
Moderna publishes data from vaccine trial | Added July 15
On July 14, Moderna, the biotech company that is working on an experimental vaccine previously unapproved for human use, published data detailing the result of its mRNA vaccine trial. The data was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the company’s stock soared in response to their claim that the trial vaccine conferred a “robust” immune response.
We have no way of knowing if they published their full data set.
This is significant as the last time Moderna announced vaccine trial results — without publishing any data — the company’s stock rose; the lack of data prompted a backlash and there was a call for an investigation into the company for insider trading.
The story from Stat News shared below has, in comparison to other outlets, somewhat comprehensive coverage of the journey thus far; they also happen to mention, albeit briefly, the severe adverse reaction suffered by Ian Haydon who was the face of Moderna’s trial, and received the highest test dose of the vaccine. That tends to be forgotten.
Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine led patients to produce antibodies that can neutralize the novel coronavirus that causes the disease, though it caused minor side effects in many patients, according to the first published data from an early-stage trial of the experimental shot.
The results were published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Moderna had previously released some results in a press release, but many experts said they were not sufficient to draw many conclusions. Even now, many are withholding judgment.
“It certainly is a good beginning,” said Betty Diamond, director at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, who was not involved in the trial. “There are certainly lots of things we don’t know yet right now.”
Children’s Health Defense on data highlighting Americans confirmed as recovered from Covid-19 | Added July 15
Children’s Health Defense provides a look at a few key findings from Covid-19 data through July 5th in this article published on July 15. We referenced this in our previous post, below. This article details the increase in new “cases” and its correlation with a significant increase in PCR testing, as well as the lack of coverage around the number of Americans confirmed as recovered from Covid-19.
From the article:
As of July 5th 2020, more than 1 Million Americans have been confirmed as recovered according to data compiled from each of the 56 US State & Territory Health Departments (USSTHD). This is undoubtedly good news and provides a source of hope for our beleaguered society.
While every recovery is to be celebrated, we also respect the physical demands recovery has placed upon many Americans and honor that the process of recovery is not without its own unique challenges or potential for long-term adverse health impacts. What we share in our collective work is a data-focused perspective and is never meant to marginalize the experiences of anyone adversely impacted by an infection.
The purpose of this statistical research paper is to provide the reader with a fresh and unique perspective regarding the SARS-CoV-2 virus, commonly referred to as the COVID-19 infection. One of the great concerns we have as authors and professionals is the skewed methodology of data reporting, leading to ambiguity in what the correct course of action regarding public health policy should be moving forward.
Far too frequently, the American people are underinformed by members of the mainstream media (MSM) and the Center For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) as to (1) the total number of cases, (2) the number of daily new cases, (3) the total number of fatalities, and (4) the number of daily new fatalities.1 Each of these categories are important statistics to be aware of, particularly in April when we knew much less than we know now.
Trump administration orders hospital data to be sent to central database in Washington instead of CDC| Added July 15
A lot of stories flew by yesterday and some got more press than others; this story here, and a few others above will provide a quick recap.
Yesterday the Trump administration ordered hospitals to send all coronavirus patient information to a central database in Washington handled by the Department of Health and Human Services, as opposed to the CDC. The reports are to include data on the number of Covid-19 patients, the number of available beds, and the number of available ventilators.
The order has been called out as a blatantly political move against an apolitcal agency that is said to “prize its scientific independence,” and there are fears that data will now be withheld from the public. However, as the story from Children’s Health Defense posted above claims, the CDC has already been withholding recovery data.
Interestingly the person who drafted this plan to bypass the CDC was Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator who at one point had been seen as a voice of reason on the coronavirus response team; Birx also had an issue with the CDC back in early May.
She and others had grown “frustrated” with the CDC, and were involved in a heated discussion over its “antiquated system for tracking virus data,” according to the Washington Post. Birx and others on the response were also concerned that mortality and case data had been inflated up to 25 percent.
And her concerns were not unfounded as just a few weeks later the CDC admitted to over-counting cases when it came out that figures were being combined from people who had taken the discredited PCR test along with people who had taken the newer antibodies test. The result was to add those who had “recovered” to those who were considered “infected.”
Concerns about transparency on the part of the CDC should have been called into question much earlier. But, instead, it is now being held up as a beacon of integrity.
The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and send all Covid-19 patient information to a central database in Washington beginning on Wednesday. The move has alarmed health experts who fear the data will be politicized or withheld from the public.
The new instructions were posted recently in a little-noticed document on the Department of Health and Human Services website. From now on, the department — not the C.D.C. — will collect daily reports about the patients that each hospital is treating, the number of available beds and ventilators, and other information vital to tracking the pandemic.
We’ve got another case of the bubonic plague, this time from a squirrel | Added July 14
It was just last week that we posted a story on the bubonic plague and how a herdsman in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia had been diagnosed and treated for the disease. Well now the plague has taken the world by storm, and managed to infect a squirrel in Colorado according to a positive test result from July 11 (hey, was it a PCR test?).
Interestingly there seem to be no details on why, exactly, the squirrel was tested. Nor is there any mention of whether or not the squirrel is a pet. Apparently it must be routine to just test squirrels in Colorado for bubonic plague; maybe they’ll do some contact tracing to see how the squirrel caught it?
Public health officials have announced that a squirrel in Colorado has tested positive for the bubonic plague.
The town of Morrison, Colorado, in Jefferson County, which is just west of Denver, made the announcement saying that the squirrel is the first case of plague in the county this year.
“Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, and can be contracted by humans and household animals if proper precautions are not taken,” officials from Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) said in a statement released to the public.
Philly cancels big events until February | Added July 14
Have you ever wanted to run in a virtual race? Well Philadelphia has got you covered as all large-scale events have been cancelled through the end of next February, in response to the coronavirus. The organizers of the Blue Cross Broad Street Run have planned to make the 10-mile race entirely virtual. This isn’t the first public race to be cancelled in the U.S. — if you recall, the New York Marathon, which was scheduled for Nov. 1, was cancelled on June 25.
Permits for other large, public gatherings in Philadelphia will not be accepted through February 28th, 2021.
The city said the moratorium covers events of 50 or more people. Included in the prohibition are festivals, parades, concerts, carnivals, fairs and flea markets.
Large scale events planned in the coming months such as the rescheduled Blue Cross Broad Street Run in October, the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade, the races of Philadelphia Marathon weekend in November and the Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day now can’t happen in person.
The annual Made in America festival on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway over Labor Day weekend had already announced its cancellation due to uncertainty over COVID-19.
City leaders couldn’t immediately say how many large-scale events will have to be canceled under the order. The event prohibition could be extended past February 2021 if needed, officials said.
The legality of out-of-state quarantines | Added July 14
On June 24, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut issued a joint travel advisory which required travelers who were “arriving from states with high coronavirus rates to quarantine for 14 days.” And, as of today, New York has added four more states to that list: Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin. However, The Hill has a piece from opinion contributor Daniel Ortner on the legality of such emergency powers and out-of-state quarantines.
His take on travel restrictions: they should not survive “constitutional scrutiny.”
From The Hill:
At the end of June, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced that anyone coming into their states from other states identified as coronavirus “hot spots” — now up to 19 states — are required to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Ironically, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York earlier in the pandemic called a similar policy put in place by Rhode Island for those who had been to New York unlawful and threatened to sue. But Cuomo was right then and is wrong now. These travel restrictions are constitutionally dubious and deeply problematic.
Although governors have been granted emergency powers to respond to a pandemic, these powers have limits. In particular, governors can only exercise the power that has been granted to them by the legislative branches of their state. Constitutional guarantees, such as the right to due process and the right to travel, further constrain the governors’ emergency powers.
Most state legislatures have recognized that the power to quarantine or isolate infected individuals is a critical tool in a governor’s pandemic response arsenal. However, ordering someone not to leave their home is a significant incursion on liberty. Accordingly, state legislatures have placed stringent limitations on the exercise of this power.
New study found that 5.4 million Americans have lost their health insurance | Added July 13
At the beginning of all this there seemed to be a larger conversation surrounding health insurance and how a large portion of Americans feared that they would not be able to afford treatment for Covid-19, or a potential vaccine. That is not to say that everyday people are no longer concerned about health insurance, but the media fueled panic around it seems to have subsided, somewhat. There haven’t been any recent stories similar to the one where a Covid-19 patient left the hospital with a million dollar medical bill — although he had medicare and was not expected to pay the full price — however, a new study has been published that found that 5.4 million Americans lost their health insurance between February and May.
The study is to be released Tuesday, July 14.
The coronavirus pandemic stripped an estimated 5.4 million Americans of their health insurance between February and May, a stretch in which more adults became uninsured because of job losses than have ever lost coverage in a single year, according to a new analysis.
As Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports, the study, to be released Tuesday by the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group Families U.S.A., found that the estimated increase in uninsured laid-off workers over the three-month period was nearly 40 percent higher than the highest previous increase, which occurred during the recession of 2008 and 2009. In that period, 3.9 million adults lost insurance.
“We knew these numbers would be big,’’ said Stan Dorn, who directs the group’s National Center for Coverage Innovation and was the author of the study. “This is the worst economic downturn since World War II. It dwarfs the Great Recession. So it’s not surprising that we would also see the worst increase in the uninsured.”
California rolls back reopening | Added July 13
Indoor operations for restaurants, bars, movie theaters, and museums have been shut down in California following an order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom, in light of the rising “case” count. Previously, only counties that were on the state’s “monitoring list” were ordered to close. However the new order, effective immediately, applies statewide.
Note, the notion of determining a “case” of the coronavirus is largely based on a positive result from a PCR test, yet “cases” determined via PCR are essentially meaningless.
PCR tests are not meant to be used as the only evidence for clinical diagnosis, according to a manufacturer of PCR test kit elements. And, according to the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization for PCR testing: “The agent detected may not be the definite cause of disease.” That is, people may be tested, and some trace of a virus may be found. However positive test results do not guarantee that whatever was tested for is what is making a person sick if they even happen to be sick.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all dine-in restaurants, bars, movie theaters, museums and other indoor businesses across the state to close Monday as Covid-19 cases continue to climb.
The businesses ordered to close statewide include indoor operations at restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos and museums, cardrooms and bars. They will be allowed to operate outdoors, if possible, he said.
The order comes after Newsom previously ordered these businesses to close in counties on the state’s “monitoring list.” The new order, which will now apply across the state, will be issued effective immediately, Newsom said.
In addition to the statewide order, Newsom said he would also close indoor operations for fitness centers, worship services, personal care services, malls, offices, hair salons and barbershops for all counties on California’s monitoring list, which represent 80% of the state’s population. There are now 30 counties on the list, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange counties, he said.
Rat’s all folks | Added July 13
Rats have had it rough with the shutdowns and a subsequent lack of food — The Guardian recently referred to it as a “lockdown famine.” In early April there were reports of desperate rat wars in New York (including rat-on-rat cannibalism), and in March rats reportedly swarmed the streets of New Orleans, searching for food.
Now, however, things are looking up as restaurants have reopened for outdoor dining in New York, and rats have taken to eating alongside those who are dining outside.
Diners are facing a surge in rat activity following a lockdown period where the rodents were cut off from key food sources as businesses including restaurants and grocery stores shut down, forcing rats to battle for snacks and even eat each other.
Since 22 June, New York City restaurants have been allowed to serve people again in outdoor settings, prompting sidewalks and car parking spaces to be dotted with tables and chairs. But the resumption of alfresco dining has led to people having unexpected rodent companions for their meals.
Giacomo Romano, who owns Ciccio, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan’s Soho, said rats from a nearby park have been harassing diners since the outdoor meals were permitted. “Last night, a customer had a baby rat running on his shoe, and I let you just imagine his reaction,” Romano told NBC.
Hawaiian lawmakers strike down bill that would have granted state health department increased screening oversight | Added July 13
Add another one to the list of questionable bills related to that coronavirus that have been struck down: on July 8, Hawaii’s House Bill 2502 was rejected. The bill outlined how Hawaii’s Department of Health could “enforce various types of screening, such as temperature checks and collection of travelers’ health, lodging and contact information — the type of details that the Department of Health’s contact tracers may need as they track the virus.”
$5,000 for noncompliance would have been codified.
The legislation reportedly originated “as a request from the Hawaii Attorney General,” under the auspices of establishing a legal framework for Hawaii’s traveler screening program for Covid-19 without the declaration of a state of emergency. Citizens and lawmakers who testified against the bill said it would “violate civil liberties of free movement and privacy.” Hawaii currently requires a 14 day-quarantine for those arriving, but will be offering a quarantine bypass option on the condition of a negative “molecular-based Covid-19” test result, starting Aug. 1.
Hawaii is already screening visitors, but many more are expected if the state continues with its plan to offer a quarantine bypass option starting Aug. 1 for travelers with negative molecular-based COVID-19 test results. The current screening already underway at Hawaii’s airports, such as temperature checks and the collection of health forms has been enacted via the governor’s emergency powers.
“Screening, investigating, monitoring, quarantining, isolating, data-sharing and other actions” are named by the bill’s authors as necessary in the name of protecting public health and safety.
But the legislators and members of the public who testified against the bill say it would violate civil liberties of free movement and privacy.
What is a scientific scandal? Meet IBT Labs, the Big Daddy of them all | Added July 12
For those curious about scientific scandals, here’s a Planet Waves classic from 2017. What we are witnessing with Covid is the most impressive case of science fraud I’ve heard of since what you’ll read about in this article: the IBT Labs situation.
I was on the phone with my friend and mentor Carol van Strum last night (she is the person who got the HoJo transcript out of the federal government) and said: If I didn’t know about IBT, I would not be able to wrap my mind around Covid.
The same FDA that approves vaccines also approves poisons in your food, with no concerns about the results. You are still eating most of the poisons discussed in this article, the “safety” studies for which were proven invalid and resulted in federal fraud convictions. But the studies were never redone.
Trump wears a mask in public for the first time; suddenly, nobody recognizes him | Added July 11
Unfortunately, Donald Trump wearing a mask has been today’s top story. Of all the news in the world, the media has continued its love-hate affair and nonstop coverage of Trump, and placed this story in their top slot. So, out of a reluctant sense of duty, here it is.
On his visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Donald Trump wore a mask publicly, for the first time. There was early talk that he was considering doing so. And, as CNN has previously reported Trump does wear a mask from time-to-time when not in public.
This coverage, if any, clearly demonstrates just how loaded and politicized mask wearing has become. The issue is not about “protection” but instead the outward demonstration of one’s beliefs which are to be subject to intense public scrutiny. So, there you have it.
President Trump on Saturday wore a mask in public for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, after repeated urging from aides that it was a necessary message to send to Americans resistant to covering their faces.
Mr. Trump wore a dark mask affixed with the presidential seal during a visit to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he planned to visit wounded troops. He was surrounded by Secret Service agents and others also wearing masks.
Anticipation over whether he would wear a mask had been building, after the president had repeatedly dismissed suggestions that he wear a mask, frequently appearing in public spaces without one, mocking those who did and ignoring public health rules in several states.
Integrity in journalism: NBC doctor claimed he had coronavirus, never tested positive | Added July 11
Dr. Joseph Fair, an infectious disease expert and a contributor to NBC, claimed that he caught the coronavirus through his eyes following a flight to New Orleans on April 24. Initially he suffered from (and documented on social media and NBC) what he said “felt like a moderately severe flu for the first week but after four days he realized he had developed ‘kind of a walking pneumonia’ — a secondary infection as a result of the virus.” He was hospitalized from May 13 to May 17.
However, he never actually tested positive for the coronavirus despite being tested four separate times — he also tested negative following an antibody test.
We have extensively covered the unreliability of testing when it comes to the coronavirus, and how ostensibly positive test results can be used to inflate the “case” count. However it’s interesting that, in this instance, the unreliability of testing seems to reinforce the fearful implication that “even if you test negative for the virus, you can still have the virus.”
There isn’t much press on people testing “positive” for the virus and not having it. And in this environment of “all illnesses are Covid-19,” a negative test has come to be met with the conviction that it must be Covid, or the designation of an “undiagnosed mystery.”
But if anything, all conclusions aside, the question should be: what was he actually suffering from?
A television doctor who believed he caught coronavirus through his eyes on a plane, and was left fighting for his life in the hospital, has tested negative for COVID-19, he confirmed.
Dr Joseph Fair, an infectious disease expert who spent his life studying deadly viruses, including Ebola, documented his struggle on social media and on NBC, where he works as a contributor.
The 42-year-old said he was severely sickened by something, but it was not COVID-19.
His illness ‘remains an undiagnosed mystery’, he said in a tweet on Tuesday.
Good enough for gov’t work: FDA sets 50% efficacy threshold (i.e., success rate) for Covid-19 vaccine | Added July 11
We’re going to need a vaccine that’s probably in the order of 70% effective and 70%, at least, of the population is going to need to take it.
Just about every multinational corporation is involved in some capacity to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. And, as if to make things easier in this vaccine gold rush, the FDA issued guidance on its expectations for Covid-19 vaccine development where, on June 30, they said that vaccine producers only have to demonstrate that a vaccine is at least 50% effective.
Peter Marks, the director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said “if you go much lower than 50% then the lower bounds of things start to get to a place where vaccines may have very little efficacy,” and he added, “On the other hand. if we held that number at 70% to 80% we may not have a vaccine until there’s herd immunity that’s occurred naturally.” So our choice is between a madly rushed vaccine, or natural herd immunity?
He also stated that in order to “eradicate” the virus “we’re going to need a vaccine that’s probably in the order of 70% effective and 70%, at least, of the population is going to need to take it.” And yet one of the things that scares him regarding a rushed, low efficacy vaccine for the coronavirus is that “a third or half of Americans are hesitant” about taking such a vaccine.
In its guidance, FDA said it expected sponsors to demonstrate a vaccine is at least 50% effective in a placebo-controlled trial, with an adjusted lower bound of >30%. (RELATED: FDA issues COVID-19 vaccine guidance, setting 50% effectiveness threshold, Regulatory Focus 30 June 2020).
During a teleconference with the Alliance for a Stronger FDA on Wednesday, Marks explained that the 50% figure is based on what the agency could tolerate for efficacy. “Can we show you some calculation of how we got there? No,” he said, noting that the agency does not typically set specific efficacy targets in its vaccine guidance.
“If you go much lower than 50% then the lower bounds of things start to get to a place where vaccines may have very little efficacy,” Marks added. “On the other hand, if we held that number at 70% to 80% … we may not have a vaccine until there’s herd immunity that’s occurred naturally.”
Chinese vaccine developer in talks to launch Phase III of their vaccine trial overseas | Added July 11
CanSino Biologics, a Chinese vaccine developer, is in talks with Chile, Russia, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia to “launch a Phase III trial of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.” The vaccine is being co-developed by China’s military, which we previously covered on June 29.
The vaccine had previously been approved for military use and may, or may not, have been mandatory. So far this is being presented as China “winning” the race for a vaccine. God bless ’em.
China’s success in driving down COVID-19 infections has made it harder to conduct large-scale vaccine trials, and so far only a few countries have agreed to work with it.
“We are contacting Russia, Brazil, Chile and Saudi Arabia (for the Phase III trial), and it’s still in discussion,” Qiu Dongxu, executive director and co-founder of CanSino, told an anti-viral drug development conference in Suzhou, in eastern China.
He said its Phase III trial was likely to start “pretty soon,” and the company plans to recruit 40,000 participants for the test.
Its COVID-19 candidate, Ad5-nCov, became the first in China to move into human testing in March but is running behind other potential vaccines in terms of trial progress. Two experimental vaccines developed by Sinovac Biotech and a unit of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) are already approved for Phase III trials.
Stimulus checks, Texas seeks repayment, and a UBI brought to you by Twitter | Added July 11
Here’s a bit of a short economic roundup:
This past Friday, July 10, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that the next round of stimulus to go out could potentially be less than $1200 and that the checks may be specifically targeted towards “lower-income and unemployed Americans.” And in fact, “the next round of stimulus checks might be distributed to Americans earning less than $40,000.” This comes to us from Forbes.
Over in Texas, the state is trying to “recoup tens of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits that it mistakenly paid to thousands of Texans…” Those who applied for the benefits say that they “applied for the benefits and spent them in good faith” and that the benefits were “approved by the state after navigating a difficult and confusing application process.” Houston Chronicle has that story.
Lastly Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter and Square, has pledged $3 million to “supporter experiments in free cash payments to Americans.” He announced this on July 9 — Dorsey is “giving the money to Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a coalition of mayors who advocate for universal basic income, as well as invest in pilot programs around the United States. Universal basic income, or guaranteed income, is a policy by which people receive cash payments from the government, irrespective of employment status.” CNBC has the details.
Conversation between Eric Francis and Spencer Stevens about all these crazy issues you read about here | Added July 10
For several months, a young man named Spencer Stevens has been co-editing Covid19 News with me, so far uncredited on these pages. Today we spoke for a while about the experience, and compared notes on some of the issues we’ve been reporting. The conversation will also air on tonight’s Planet Waves FM. Here it is as a stand-alone.
Trump administration attempts to demand FDA to grant hydroxychloroquine emergency approval, again | Added July 10
Will this hydroxychloroquine saga ever end? Trump’s White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro, has cited a relatively recent study from Michigan that suggested hydroxychloroquine improved survival chances for Covid-19 patients if given early; Navarro is using the study to push the FDA to grant the drug emergency approval once more.
We happened to share coverage on the study on July 3 and we hadn’t seen much criticism on it, however now that Trump is connected to it in this way the study is being more widely dismissed. Whether or not hydroxychloroquine is effective, people are sure in a rush to deem it ineffective.
And, of note, a cheap and widely available drug such as hydroxychloroquine doesn’t make companies like Gilead much money, whereas the $3000 they will be charging Americans for the use of their new drug remdesivir — which was to be the “standard of care” for Covid-19 according to Anthony Fauci, despite initially showing a less than 4% improvement in mortality rates — certainly would.
Also the major news outlets neglect to mention, in regard to this story, the Surgisphere scandal that happened in late May and early June. That is, they do not mention the retracted studies that were based on fraudulent data from the medical data company Surgisphere, which guided U.S. government policy regarding hydroxychloroquine and prompted the WHO to end their trial of the drug, the first time.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is leading a Trump administration effort to demand the Food and Drug Administration reverse course and grant a second emergency authorization for the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Navarro, armed with a new study that he says shows the drug’s effectiveness, is being cheered on by President Trump, who has long touted the drug as a “game changer” and even used it himself as a possible preventive measure. Trump praised the study on Twitter this week, urging the FDA to “Act Now.” The campaign also has been promoted by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, and Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News.
The man in the golden mask | Added July 10
I am not sure if it will be effective to protect me from a coronavirus infection.
If you are going to cover your face, then the only obvious way to do so is with gold: an Indian businessman has apparently paid $4,000 to have a mask made out of gold.
An Indian businessman is going viral after paying $4,000 to have a face mask made out of the pricey precious metal.
“It is a thin mask and has tiny pores that is helping me to breathe,” Shankar Kurhade, 49, of Pune, told Agence France-Presse.
“People are asking me for selfies,” he said. “They are awestruck when they see me wearing the gold mask in markets.”
Kurhade, whose company makes industrial sheds, told the Indian Express that he “didn’t do it for publicity” — but said the mask probably isn’t the best choice to fight the contagion.
“I am not sure if it will be effective to protect me from a coronavirus infection,” he admitted to AFP about the mask that weighs 2 ounces.
WHO teams up with Johnson & Johnson to combat smoking, announce new artificial intelligence based health worker | Added July 10
In a bit of word salad the WHO has announced that they will be teaming up with Johnson & Johnson (who fueled the opioid epidemic in the U.S.) to launch the Access Initiative for Quitting Tobacco, and also announced that they will be unveiling Florence: “the world and WHO’s first-ever digital health worker, based on artificial intelligence.”
That’s a lot to take in.
Part of the reason the WHO is trying to tackle smoking is to help prevent severe cases of Covid-19. Which brings to mind: does anybody remember that story about smoking, (well, nicotine to be accurate) being helpful with Covid-19? And, as an addendum, tobacco companies apparently wanted to help produce a vaccine back in February by trying to infect tobacco plants with a genetically modified version of the coronavirus.
If you smoke, now might be a good time to stop. Or, to start. It seems like things could go either way.
Then we have Florence the artificially intelligent, digital health worker. Friend Computer will supposedly help us “[dispel] myths around COVID-19 and tobacco and [help] people develop a personalized plan to quit.” If only we had Florence in the early 20th century to dispel myths about tobacco. Where would we be then?
All of this and more in the WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the July 10 Covid-19 briefing:
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.
Today, WHO is launching the Access Initiative for Quitting Tobacco, which aims to help the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users quit during the pandemic.
This initiative will help people freely access the resources they need to quit tobacco, like nicotine replacement therapy and access to a digital health worker for advice.
Smoking kills eight million people a year, but if users need more motivation to kick the habit, the pandemic provides the right incentive.
Anthony Fauci weighs in on reopening | Added July 9
On Wednesday, July 9, Anthony Fauci said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that states facing a rise in cases should “seriously consider shutting down.” Today he has pulled back slightly and suggested that the reopening process simply be paused, and added that “shutdowns would not be viewed favorably.”
Fauci previously spoke out about ending lockdowns right around the time that fatigue was setting in for a majority of Americans. On May 22 he was quoted as saying that staying closed for too long could cause “irreparable damage,” and just a week before those comments, he had warned off opening too soon.
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Thursday that hard-hit states should not be moving forward with reopening, but stopped short of calling for full shutdowns.
“I would think we need to get the states pausing in their opening process, looking at what did not work well and try to mitigate that,” Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told The Hill’s Steve Clemons. “I don’t think we need to go back to an extreme of shutting down.”
Fauci struck a different note than he did a day earlier in an interview with The Wall Street Journal when he said states should consider shutdowns.
WHO releases new guidance on modes of transmission of the virus | Added July 9
The World Health Organization has released new guidelines on the novel coronavirus’ modes of transmission. This comes after a group of scientists issued a statement requesting that the WHO consider the potential for airborne transmission of the coronavirus.
In the WHO’s new guidance the possibility of airborne transmission of the virus via aerosols is considered, but the organization refrains from declaring it the primary way the virus is spread. They continues to attribute the majority of the spread of the virus to droplets (which land on surfaces — why they say to wash your hands).
In this article from Reuters you can see the begrudging response from scientists who are glad that the WHO is taking the possibility of airborne transmission a tad bit more seriously, as well as a general overview.
The World Health Organization on Thursday released new guidelines on the transmission of the novel coronavirus that acknowledge some reports of airborne transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, but stopped short of confirming that the virus spreads through the air.
In its latest transmission guidance, the WHO acknowledged that some outbreak reports related to indoor crowded spaces have suggested the possibility of aerosol transmission, such as during choir practice, in restaurants or in fitness classes.
But the WHO said more research is “urgently needed to investigate such instances and assess their significance for transmission of COVID-19.”
Notes on the ‘it came from a bat at the market in Wuhan’ theory of virus origins | Added July 9
Perhaps against my better judgment, I continue to use Facebook as a forum for discussion of the Covid issue. There’s a wide audience and I gauge public sentiment based on the comments. This week a participant criticized a writer (in the USA Today rejected Op Ed incident) for referencing the theory that the virus originated from a lab. The Facebook user then said that it did not matter what she [the facebook participant] knew or did not know about the origins of the virus. My full reply to her follows:
It matters what everyone knows. If one does not know something, then one has no basis for objection to a factual statement or position grounded in it. Nobody could be traced to the market as a source. This is based on an article in The Lancet (publication of contact tracing by Chinese scientists) which we have documented has been vetted many times.
All of the early cases were imported to the market, not from it. That means they came from somewhere else.
Further, the market theory has a gap, even if contact tracing led there: they cannot state what was the intermediary animal between a bat and a human. That’s a large problem for a theory that purports to be true and which is still repeated in ad-based media.
The market theory was “supported” in public consciousness by a baldly racist meme of an Asian woman “eating” a bat with chopsticks, as if to say that someone (Chinese) ate a bat and that’s how this happened. Bats are not eaten in China and certainly are not sold in markets and eaten in cafes.
Note that those advocating the official theory of zoonotic events changed their tune circa March to state that the bat was just wandering around the market foraging, and happened to infect another animal which contaminated a human. But none of that ever happened, or not at the wet market, and nobody has proposed another potential place.
All who have commented on the zoonotic theory, including Dr Ward Stone in a March 17 Planet Waves FM interview, said that a virus would have to pass through another animal.
There exists contact tracing TO but not FROM the Huanan Seafood Market. In other words, the outbreak in Wuhan started somewhere else, and ended up at the market. There is no known animal the bat virus passed through to reach humans. The wet market theory had two potential, legs and now it has none.
There still may be a zoonotic origin to this problem. It is however merely a speculative theory without evidence. We would need to have some facts to support that, or even potential facts. What we do have is a known point source of bat coronaviruses taken from the cave from which the hypothetical bat vector came from, nowhere near Wuhan. There is also a second lab (Whuan CDC) that handles bat coronaviruses. When there is a point source of a disease vector or toxin, it’s important to fully consider that as the origin, as it’s the most likely one — it already exists.
Now, this may all be a huge coincidence — coronavirus labs in the city where the coronavirus somehow got loose. However, if you look into the history of lab accidents, that has a rap sheet.
So, de minimus, it is viable theory, with all of the pieces in place (for example) for someone to get exposed at work and spread the disease to others in the local area. Somehow, if we believe the facts as reported and accepted by all msm sources, it started in a rapid and concentrated way in Whuan.
So nobody can object to someone bringing up this issue as a plausible true version of events, while the “wet market” theory sounds more like plausible denial. That is a term of art.
CDC published unfounded speculation that elevator button was a vector for the virus | Added July 8
Eric recently challenged his Facebook readers to come up with a case study of one instance of transmission through contact with a surface. One of them provided this article in Business Insider and he posted it to Facebook, along with the original study, for evaluation and deconstruction.
Business Insider made it sound like there was scientific proof of transmission via the buttons in an elevator. But it turned out that the buttons were never tested for the virus, that air transmission via droplets and aerosols was never ruled out, and that the whole thing was speculative. So, we are back to square zero on surface transmission just like CDC said in May.
But let’s not allow that to stop us from finding new and “novel” reasons to be absolutely terrified of life.
From Business Insider:
New research reveals that an elevator can be a coronavirus transmission hotspot, even if an infected person doesn’t have symptoms and doesn’t ride with anyone else.
A woman traveled from the US back to her home in China’s Heilongjiang province on March 19. Although she did not have any symptoms, she quarantined in her apartment following her arrival, avoiding any close contact with other apartment-building residents. An antibody test would later reveal she was an asymptomatic coronavirus carrier.
Three weeks later, her downstairs neighbor (and four of the neighbor’s close contacts) tested positive.
Surprise: hastily built contact tracing apps pose a security risk and little help | Added July 8
In the rush to produce and implement contact tracing apps to track the coronavirus the risk such apps pose to data security hasn’t got much press. In the U.S., at least, private tech companies such as Apple and Google produced the framework for contact tracing apps being implemented here. And, although it may not have directly involved any particular app, contact tracing was used at the beginning of June to track protestors in Minnesota.
The entire concept is rife with privacy concerns but some countries, such as Norway, are taking actions in response to those concerns. Some are taking more effective actions than others.
In April, Norway released a smartphone app, Smittestopp or “stop infection,” that records users who come into close contact for more than 15 minutes and sends alerts if they have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Within two weeks, nearly 900,000 people — or about one out of five Norwegians older than 16 — had started using the app. But by mid-June, the government had temporarily turned off the service after data protection regulators there said Norway had so few coronavirus cases that the risks of intensified surveillance outweighed the app’s as yet unproven public health benefits. This week, the country’s data watchdog formally imposed an interim ban on the app.
In fact, “the vast majority” of virus-tracing apps used by governments lack adequate security and “are easy for hackers” to attack, according to a recent software analysis by Guardsquare, a mobile app security company.
“It’s a cautionary tale for governments aggregating such an enormous amount of data,” said Claudio Guarnieri, the head of Amnesty International’s Security Lab, who identified the problems with the Qatari app.
Moderna in vaccine patent conflict with U.S. government scientists | Added July 8
Moderna and their efforts to produce an unproven, experimental RNA vaccine for the coronavirus continues to be a focus for us. Especially seeing as how, in the United States, they were essentially Trump’s first pick to produce a vaccine by the end of this year.
However the company has had its share of issues and Reuters has a new exclusive detailing how Moderna has come into conflict with the federal government.
As the United States accelerates the search for a coronavirus vaccine, tensions have erupted between government scientists and Moderna Inc, one of the leading developers, Reuters has learned.
The federal government is supporting Moderna’s vaccine project with nearly half a billion dollars and has chosen it as one of the first to enter large-scale human trials.
But the company – which has never produced an approved vaccine or run a large trial – has squabbled with government scientists over the process, delayed delivering trial protocols and resisted experts’ advice on how to run the study, according to three sources familiar with the vaccine project. The sources said those tensions, which have not been previously reported, have contributed to a delay of more than two weeks in launching the trial of the Moderna’s vaccine candidate, now expected in late July.
Moderna “could be on schedule if they were more cooperative,” one of the sources told Reuters.
Trump threatens to cut school funding if they refuse to reopen in the fall | Added July 8
As for this week’s divisive issue, Trump has threatened to cut funding from schools that refuse to reopen in the fall. However various officials have pointed out that Trump “doesn’t have the authority to withhold federal funding.”
President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are threatening to cut federal funding if schools don’t fully physically reopen, increasing pressure on education leaders as the Trump administration intensifies its drive to get kids back in classrooms.
Trump on Wednesday morning tweeted, “In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS. The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families. May cut off funding if not open!”
On Tuesday night, DeVos said she is “very seriously” looking at withholding federal funds from schools that don’t open their doors this fall.
Trump administration moves to officially withdraw the U.S. from the WHO | Added July 7
Finally, a story today that isn’t from Reuters: the Trump administration has taken steps to officially withdraw the U.S. from the World Health Organization. Trump originally made the announcement around the end of May and, because withdrawal requires a year’s notice, it will not go into effect until July 6 of next year, 2021.
The White House has officially moved to withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization (WHO), a senior administration official confirmed Tuesday, breaking ties with a global public health body in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. has submitted its withdrawal notification to the United Nations secretary-general, the official said. Withdrawal requires a year’s notice, so it will not go into effect until July 6, 2021, raising the possibility the decision could be reversed.
Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted that the administration informed Congress of the withdrawal plans.
“To call Trump’s response to COVID chaotic & incoherent doesn’t do it justice. This won’t protect American lives or interests — it leaves Americans sick & America alone,” the senator tweeted.
Scientists issue statement on airborne transmission of virus; WHO to weigh in | Added July 7
Yesterday, July 6, a group of scientists issued a statement and requested that the World Health Organization consider the potential for airborne transmission of the coronavirus; the WHO responded on July 7. These particular conclusions have an impact on mask usage, and thus the underlying agenda should be a reminder that we cannot simply take these reports at face value. The scientists’ statement may be found here, here is a sample:
“We appeal to the medical community and to the relevant national and international bodies to recognize the potential for airborne spread of COVID-19. There is significant potential for inhalation exposure to viruses in microscopic respiratory droplets (microdroplets) at short to medium distances (up to several meters, or room scale), and we are advocating for the use of preventive measures to mitigate this route of airborne transmission.”
And as of July 7, the WHO has acknowledged “evidence emerging” of the airborne spread of the virus. Our old friend Maria Van Kerkhove, who said last month that asymptomatic spread of the novel coronavirus was “very rare” before she walked back her statement a full day later, said “We have been talking about the possibility of airborne transmission and aerosol transmission as one of the modes of transmission of COVID-19.”
Scientists have often been upset with the WHO and its conclusions, and it has been exacerbated by the fact that the organization does not release all of its data. Regarding airborne spread, the WHO’s conclusion has been that it is mostly an issue in medical situations. Other instances, such as the lack of spread following the protests in New York, suggest that the problem primarily seems to be large crowds in small places.
The WHO will soon publish an updated summary of the state of knowledge on the coronavirus’ modes of transmission.
Reuters: Tesla to make molecule printers for German COVID-19 vaccine developer CureVac | Added July 7
According to a tweet from Elon Musk on July 1, Tesla Inc will be producing mobile molecule printers — whatever the hell that means — to assist German vaccine developer CureVac. We keep being told that only a vaccine will save us and now, what do you know, a car company has gotten involved in the vaccine gold rush.
Essentially the printers will produce mRNA based vaccines and therapies. Moderna, whom we have previously covered, is one such company developing an RNA vaccine which supposedly works by introducing mRNA into your body, which in turn instructs your body to produce the virus itself, to which antibodies mount a response. This type of vaccine is experimental, and there have been no vaccines approved for human use that use this method.
Tesla Inc is building mobile molecule printers to help make the potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed by CureVac in Germany, the electric-car maker’s Chief Executive Officer, Elon Musk, tweeted on Wednesday.
CureVac, an unlisted German company, has said it is developing portable, automated mRNA production units that it calls printers and which Musk described as “RNA microfactories”.
They are being designed to be shipped to remote locations, where they can churn out its vaccine candidate and other mRNA-based therapies depending on the recipe fed into the machine.
But for the immediate pandemic use – should its vaccine candidate win market approval – it has production sites with regulatory approval in Germany with a capacity to produce hundreds of millions of doses.
The company, based in Tuebingen and backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a pioneer of the so-called messenger RNA approach, which is also pursued by BioNTech and its partner Pfizer as well as Moderna.
And now: tracking devices on schoolchildren | Added July 7
It’s like wearing a little necklace. It doesn’t really bother me that much.
In Colorado a new pilot program is being tested at what appears to be a combination middle and high school: students and teachers will be given Bluetooth monitoring devices to manage and track social distancing. It’s sort of like contact tracing on cell phones, but made expressly for schools.
A 6th grader explained that the device records where you walk and how close you get to people. “It’s like wearing a little necklace. It doesn’t really bother me that much.” One of the teachers noted that the technology was a bit “invasive” but concluded that “it’s not a big deal. If it gives us valuable data, I’m in.”
It’s not like this technology is just going to go away when the pandemic is declared “over.” And that’s not to mention the future psychological impact on children — or adults, for that matter — being inculcated with this level of existential fretting, and accustomed to the technological mandating of their physical existence.
Whatever good this supposedly does, it only serves to further alienate us from ourselves.
At Buena Vista Middle and High School in the Colorado mountains, summer school is in session at their brand new, still under construction, building. Students and teachers are piloting a new platform that leaders hope will help come fall.
The platform was installed in early June and created by tech company Wolk. It works like this — first, gateways are installed in classroom ceilings.
“The system is called Open,” said Rene Otto, Solutions Architect for Wolk.com.
Next, students and teachers put on a wearable device at the beginning of the school day.
“They’re given these safety cards or wristbands, so what these do is they act as beacons,” she explained.
The devices currently use Bluetooth to communicate. Using the gateways, the software shows when a beacon comes within a certain amount of space of another beacon, for how long, and if the beacon moves rooms.
“The point of it was to help people understand where they are in a physical space, so we can figure out if safe social distancing is being practiced,” Otto said.
Yes, let’s monitor more public data for health surveillance purposes | Added July 7
Researchers have developed a new algorithm that combines multiple data streams, including Google searches and social media posts, in order to predict potential outbreaks about two weeks before they actually occur. The real innovation here is that the multiple data streams are being used in conjunction; this data is being monitored already, but it’s disconcerting to see that this level of public data monitoring is being presented as acceptable.
Judging when to tighten, or loosen, the local economy has become the world’s most consequential guessing game, and each policymaker has his or her own instincts and benchmarks. The point when hospitals reach 70 percent capacity is a red flag, for instance; so are upticks in coronavirus case counts and deaths.
But as the governors of states like Florida, California and Texas have learned in recent days, such benchmarks make for a poor alarm system. Once the coronavirus finds an opening in the population, it gains a two-week head start on health officials, circulating and multiplying swiftly before its re-emergence becomes apparent at hospitals, testing clinics and elsewhere.
Now, an international team of scientists has developed a model — or, at minimum, the template for a model — that could predict outbreaks about two weeks before they occur, in time to put effective containment measures in place.
In a paper posted on Thursday on arXiv.org, the team, led by Mauricio Santillana and Nicole Kogan of Harvard, presented an algorithm that registered danger 14 days or more before case counts begin to increase. The system uses real-time monitoring of Twitter, Google searches and mobility data from smartphones, among other data streams.
In Italy’s Veneto region refusing coronavirus treatment could result in a prison sentence | Added July 7
In another story from Reuters, it is reported that those who test positive for the coronavirus and refuse treatment in Italy’s Veneto region could face prison sentences under a new measure introduced by the region’s governor. Italy’s Minsiter of Health also said on Sunday that “compulsory health treatment in cases where a person has to be treated and does not” is being considered.
From the article:
People who test positive for the coronavirus but refuse hospital treatment could face a prison sentence under a new regulation introduced in Italy’s northeastern region of Veneto.
The order by Governor Luca Zaia says that until the end of July hospitals must tell the public prosecutor’s office of anyone refusing admission after testing positive.
Anyone returning to Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, must also be given two compulsory swab tests, Monday’s regional order says if they are returning from a business trip outside the European Union or a non-Schengen country.
Under Italian law, anyone who negligently spreads an epidemic risks a prison sentence up to 12 years, while anyone who does so wilfully may face up to life imprisonment.
President of Brazil tests for coronavirus again | Added July 7
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus and is running a fever. This is not the first time that Bolsonaro has tested. Back in March Bolsonaro took the test after one of his close aides tested positive; this was right after they met with Donald Trump and Mike Pence at Mar-a-Lago.
Bolsonaro claimed to have tested negative, then, and initially fought to keep the test results private. Later, in June, he switched gears and claimed that he thought he had already contracted the disease. Now he has a positive test, as well as the news cycle for a day.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday he tested positive for the novel coronavirus, adding in a television interview that he was in good health despite running a fever.
The right-wing populist, who has played down the severity of the virus which he has called a “little flu,” took the test on Monday after developing symptoms.
In the interview broadcast on state-run TV Brasil, Bolsonaro said he began feeling ill on Sunday and has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug with unproven effectiveness against COVID-19.
‘Drunk people cannot socially distance’ according to police in England| Added July 6
Pretty much exactly what the headline says: drunk people cannot socially distance, according to police in England. Crowds have continued to gather throughout the UK as lockdown measures are slowly eased.
UK police said on Sunday revellers who packed London’s Soho district the night pubs finally reopened made it “crystal clear” drunk people cannot socially distance.
England’s hospitality sector sprung back to life after a three-month coronavirus hiatus on what the media dubbed as either “Super Saturday” or “Independence Day”.
Pubs and restaurants were allowed to start seating clients and barbers could get their clippers out for the first time since March.
For the most part, people appeared to abide by the rules and rejoiced at the chance on Saturday to raise a glass in the company of their friends. But in some places, large crowds raised concerns the deadliest outbreak in Europe may find fresh legs.
Australia to close its state borders for the first time in 100 years in response to rise in cases; locked down Covid towers struggle with food supply | Added July 6
Australia has closed the borders between its two most populous states as Melbourne reportedly deals with a spike in ‘cases’ of the coronavirus.
Not only that, as of July 4, and in response to the rise in ‘cases’, residents of nine public housing buildings in Melbourne are under “hard lockdown” meaning that more than 3000 people are forbidden from leaving their homes for any reason. Initially the lockdown was planned for five days, but “residents of two towers…received letters informing them they would be in ‘detention’ for 14 days, rather than the five days that was originally announced by the premier.”
There has been further uproar as it is reported that the government has delivered out-of-date food, and supplied pork to the primarily Muslim families living in the buildings. Volunteer and charitable organizations have stepped up and are providing food.
Now, back to the border closure.
The border between Australia’s two most populous states will close from Tuesday for an indefinite period as authorities scramble to contain an outbreak of the coronavirus in the city of Melbourne.
The decision announced on Monday marks the first time the border between Victoria and New South Wales has been shut in 100 years. Officials last blocked movement between the two states in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.
“It is the smart call, the right call at this time, given the significant challenges we face in containing this virus,” Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.
From the PCR Test Has Fatal Flaws Department | Added July 6
From Pam Popper’s weekly Get INFOrmed Newsletter – (Ohio)
“Over 100 companies are currently producing tests for COVID-19, and these tests were approved by the FDA under emergency authorization with almost no validation. The test makers only had to show that the tests performed well in test tubes and no real-world demonstration of clinical viability was required. Each vendor has established its own and as-yet-unmeasured accuracy. The variations are myriad, with some some tests able to detect as few as 100 copies of a viral gene while others require 400 copies for detection. Additionally, most will show positive results for as long as 6 months, while the actual time a person is contagious is only a few days.”
And this we already know:
“One of the most widely used tests is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which involves examining a sample of mucus from a person’s nose or throat to look for COVID-19 genetic material. Biochemist Kary Muliis is the inventor of the PCR test and won the Novel Prize in chemistry for his invention in 1993. Mullis stated in 2013 that PCR was never designed to diagnose disease. The test finds very small segments of a nucleic acid which are components of a virus. According to Mullis, having an actual infection is quite different than testing positive with PCR. According to Mullis, PCR is best used in medical laboratories and for research purposes.
Dr. David Rasnick, also a biochemist and founder of a lab called Viral Forensics, agrees. “You have to have a whopping amount of any organism to cause symptoms. Huge amounts of it. You don’t start with testing; you start with listening to the lungs. I’m skeptical that a PRC test is ever true. It’s a great scientific research tool. It’s a horrible tool for clinical medicine. 30% of your infected cells have been killed before you show symptoms. By the time you show symptoms…the dead cells are generating the symptoms.”
But this? We had not read this anywhere before:
“In fact, PCR testing was already shown to be wildly inaccurate almost 15 years ago.
In 2006, massive PCR testing was performed at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center when it was thought that the medical center was experiencing an epidemic of whooping cough. Almost 1000 healthcare workers were furloughed until their test results were returned. Over 140 employees were told that they had whooping cough, and thousands of others who tested positive were given antibiotics and/or a vaccine for whooping cough.
Almost eight months later, employees received an email from the hospital administration which stated that the entire episode was due to PCR testing error. Not even one case of whooping cough was confirmed with a more reliable follow-up test, and it was determined that the employees just had a common cold, not whooping cough.”
CDC Officials Urge Americans to ‘Get an Injection, Any Injection’ | Added July 6
ATLANTA (CNN) — The Centers for Disease Control and Infection has urged Americans to “get an injection, any injection at all,” in order to block the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“It will be a while before a vaccine is ready,” said Deborah Birx, the leader of the president’s task force on the virus, wearing an American Flag scarf in honor of July 4. “Therefore, we are recommending that Americans get any immunization available. It doesn’t matter what.”
“The most easily available is the seasonal flu. You can get that for five bucks, probably free if you have Medicare or talk a good line. In fact, can probably go drugstore hopping and get one at CVS, another at Rite Aid and another at the supermarket. They love giving that injection. The more you get, the better.”
She said that the MMR vaccine would suit just fine, or maybe a rabies shot. “Just have someone stick a needle in your arm and you’ll be fine. But the flu shot is best. There are a lot of coronaviruses cooked into the brew and you’ll get some lateral immunity.”
Then you could hear Vice President Mike Pence, the honorary chairman of the safety committee, say, “I love getting shots!”
Anthony Fauci, leader of the allergy and infectious disease section of CDC, stepped up to the microphone wearing the same red, white and blue Washington Nationals face covering he’s been wearing for two months, since the day he mysteriously reversed CDC’s longstanding guidance against healthy people wearing masks.
“We have leftover polio vaccine from 1961,” he mumbled gleefully, peeking over the podium.
“There’s this huge refrigerator full of product in the basement of the building where I usually work. You should see it. I bet we have 50,000 of those vintage doses left. They expired in 1962, but I know these products last a while, especially if you keep them in the dark.”
After a pause, he added, “Don’t worry about the simian virus contamination, the formaldehyde kills that,” he added. Some of the doses were personally made by Dr. Jonas Salk, he said.
Dr. John Malcom, the director of the Placebo Unit of the CDC, said that people could even inject air and get a good result.
In support of the measure, Pres. Trump tweeted, “They are right, any injection will do, even fentanyl,” he wrote. “If you’re in a pinch, heroin will work. An injection is an injection. They are all good for you, and our best scientists say that coronavirus hates heroin. INJECTIONS GOOD, DISEASE BAD,” he added, seemingly for clarity.
The White House said there is a little-known provision in Obamacare that entitles everyone to free cocaine injections, which any American who is covered could use. “You will love it,” a spokesman for the president said. Later, the White House said in an additional statement that people should walk around with a needle hanging out of their arm as a show of support for the “inject anything” campaign.
“We don’t know why injections work, but they do,” said CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, while shooting up some vitamin C. “Just do what we say. ‘Do the jab’, and you will feel better.” He held up a poster with that motto, which will be posted throughout the New York subways next week.
At press time, the nation’s rescue squads and ambulance corps were overloaded, which was believed to be due to fireworks accidents and drownings from the July 4 weekend.
Case of the bubonic plague confirmed in China | Added July 6
Seemingly unsatisfied with just the coronavirus, the bubonic plague has been unleashed on the unsuspecting masses. Or, rather, one herdsman in China’s Inner Mongolia province has recently been diagnosed with the disease. He has since been treated and is now in stable condition.
A herdsman in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia was confirmed to be infected with bubonic plague, health officials said, a reminder of how even as the world battles a pandemic caused by a novel virus, old threats remain.
The Bayannur city health commission said the plague was diagnosed in the herdsman on Sunday, and he was in stable condition undergoing treatment at a hospital.
The commission also issued a third-level alert, the second lowest in a four-level system, warning people against hunting, eating or transporting potentially infected animals, particularly marmots, and to report any dead or diseased rodents.
The city government said it had put in place plague-prevention measures that would remain in force for the rest of the year.
$700 million loaned to trucking firm, Treasury Department (the Tax Man) to take 30 percent stake | Added July 6
While following up on the Pandemic Protection Program story we came across this bit of news from July 1: the U.S. Treasury will loan $700 million to the trucking firm YRC Worldwide which assists the military with shipping needs, according to the government. In return U.S. taxpayers will reportedly acquire nearly 30 percent stake in the company.
Under the unusual arrangement, the Treasury Department will provide the emergency loan to YRC Worldwide, while taking a 29.6 percent equity stake in the company. The U.S. government does not typically take ownership stakes in companies but was given permission to do so by Congress as a way to ensure taxpayer funds are not misspent.
The deal is the first under a $17 billion loan program approved as part of the broader stimulus by Congress in March. That pot of money was earmarked for firms deemed “critical” to U.S. national security. Congress gave Treasury the authority to approve more than $500 billion in emergency loans to companies and cities, although most of that money has not been disbursed.
Recipients of small business pandemic loan named by Trump administration | Added July 6
On July 4 we mentioned how the treasury department the Trump administration had initially decided to forego naming the businesses that benefited from the funds distributed through the Paycheck Protection Program, and how that decision was reversed due to backlash. Today details have begun to be released, with more information reportedly to come.
Initial data released Monday by the Trump administration showed that businesses in big states like California and Texas received the most in loans from the government’s small business relief program, with health care, professional services and construction among the sectors that have tapped the largest amount of funding.
Of the $521 billion allocated through the Paycheck Protection Program, about $68.2 billion — roughly 13 percent — went to companies in California. Another $41.1 billion flowed to Texas businesses, based on data released Monday by the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration, which are administering the program.
Too bad about the Olympics. Hot dog eating contest going strong | Added July 4
We might not get to see canoeing or badminton at the Summer Olympics this year, but Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest goes on. Although there were no crowds, the contest was held as it consistently has been every Fourth of July, since 1942.
With Independence Day celebrations canceled around the country, one distinctly American tradition continued on Saturday despite the pandemic: the annual pilgrimage of competitive eaters to Coney Island for the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. But with cheering crowds turned away to promote social distancing, contestants instead chowed down amid a chorus of gulping and chewing from their competitors.
Held without fail every Fourth of July since 1942, the event ordinarily draws thousands to the original Nathan’s location in Brooklyn. Spectators sweat beneath foam hot dog hats, cheering as they watch a panel of competitors dunk the sausages into water — to soften the buns — all in the name of America.
“The Nathan’s Famous contest is synonymous with July Fourth, America and the celebration of freedom,” said the event’s host, George Shea, who is known for his extravagantly patriotic commentary. He introduced the winner of the 2019 men’s competition as “the very vessel of our freedom” and “the champion of the Fourth of July.”
Deadline for small business pandemic loan applications extended | Added July 4
We have another story from Reuters, this time regarding small business loans: Donald Trump has approved a deadline extension for pandemic loan applications. You may remember the Trump administration initially decided not to disclose how billions in taxpayer money was spent, nor who received the funds distributed through the Paycheck Protection Program.
But they reversed course following backlash.
From the article:
U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday signed into law a deadline extension to August 8 for small businesses to apply for relief loans under a federal aid program to help businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House said.
The extension to the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), which was launched in April to keep Americans on company payrolls and off unemployment assistance, gives business owners an additional five weeks to apply for funding assistance plagued by problems.
WHO halts hydroxychloroquine trials after claiming that it failed to reduce death | Added July 4
Just last night, we added a story from the Detroit Free Press detailing the results of a new study on hydroxychloroquine, and how it had been effective in helping Covid-19 patients survive in Michigan hospitals. Today the World Health Organization has discontinued its trial of hydroxychloroquine, as well as its trial combination HIV drug lopinavir and ritonavir, as they claim that it had failed to reduce mortality.
The Michigan study is available here. As of now the WHO has not released its data.
“These interim trial results show that hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir produce little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalised COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care. Solidarity trial investigators will interrupt the trials with immediate effect,” the WHO said in a statement, referring to large multicountry trials that the agency is leading.
The U.N. agency said the decision, taken on the recommendation of the trial’s international steering committee, does not affect other studies where those drugs are used for non-hospitalised patients or as a prophylaxis.
Another branch of the WHO-led trial is looking at the potential effect of Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir on COVID-19. The European Commission on Friday gave remdesivir conditional approval for use after being shown to shorten hospital recovery times.
Michigan study suggests hydroxychloroquine improved survival chances for Covid-19 patients| Added July 3
It’s time for the near-weekly story on hydroxychloroquine. This time: it was reportedly found to have helped patients better survive in hospitals according to a study done in Michigan. Notably, the article shared below mentions that hydroxychloroquine works “by inhibiting the immune system’s inflammatory response to the virus” and that the earlier it is given, the better.
This has been maintained throughout the entirety of the controversy surrounding it.
Early treatment with hydroxychloroquine cut the death rate significantly in certain sick patients hospitalized with COVID-19 — and without heart-related side effects, according to a new study published by Henry Ford Health System.
The study, published Thursday in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, is another curve in the continued research — and its sometimes conflicting results — into whether a drug that seemed promising at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic really works.
The Henry Ford study examined outcomes of 2,541 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between March 10 and May 2 across the Michigan system’s six hospitals. Overall, 18% of the patients died in the hospital.
Research from University of Calgary claims the coronavirus has been circulating among humans since 2013 | Added July 3
The University of Calgary has released a yet to be peer reviewed study that tracks the development and infectiousness of the novel coronavirus, and posits that it has slowly been developing since 2013.
COVID-19 showed up late in 2019. Since the virus is new to humans, there has been a lot of speculation about how it came to be.
While scientists have been studying the viral genome to find out more about it, it has been suggested that the virus jumped from an animal into humans. There have also been theories about it being made in a lab even though studies point towards its origin being natural and not man-made. Last month, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution to look into the origins of the virus.
Now, a group of scientists at the University of Calgary, Canada, say that the COVID-19 causing virus (SARS-CoV-2) may have been circulating amongst the human population since at least 2013, though not the same variant that is responsible for the current pandemic.
The findings of the study are currently available in the preprint server Biorxiv and the study hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet.
The paper also looks into the possible origins of SARS-CoV-2 and how much of a role ACE-2 receptors play in the infectivity (ability to infect) of the virus.
Edible vaccines: researcher developing a vaccine that comes in lettuce instead of a syringe | Added July 3
Instead of using a syringe, plant biologist Allyson MacLean at the University of Ottawa is working to create an edible vaccine for the the coronavirus. The research involves “injecting tomato, potato and lettuce plants” with small amounts of virus which, presumably, people will then ingest. That doesn’t sound too appetizing.
Eating your veggies isn’t only good for you — it may someday protect you against COVID-19.
That’s the hope of a plant biologist at the University of Ottawa who’s working to create an edible vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
Allyson MacLean’s research involves injecting tomato, potato and lettuce plants with a tiny particle of viral DNA swimming in a bacterial solution.
“We take a syringe that does not have a needle point. You press it up against the large leaf … and you basically push … the bacteria into the plant tissues,” said MacLean, 41, an assistant professor of plant biology.
The bacteria piggyback that DNA into the plant, which triggers the production of viral proteins. Eating the plant allows these proteins to pass through the digestive system, where they’re taken up by special cells in the gut, stimulating a type of immunity.
It’s called “mucosal immunity,” and it’s of particular interest to the scientists currently joined in battle with COVID-19 because the virus that causes the disease, SARS-CoV-2, enters the body via the mucosal surface of the respiratory system.
Alabama students throwing ‘Covid parties’ in order to get infected | July 3
Alabama’s “Safer at Home” orders have been extended and, meanwhile, students in Tuscaloosa are throwing parties with the intention of catching the virus. They’re also putting money in a pot and the first to catch the virus gets the pot. The school these students are from was not disclosed.
Students in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 have been attending parties in the city and surrounding area as part of a disturbing contest to see who can catch the virus first, a city council member told ABC News on Wednesday.
Tuscaloosa City Councilor Sonya McKinstry said students have been organizing “COVID parties” as a game to intentionally infect each other with the contagion that has killed more than 127,000 people in the United States. She said she recently learned of the behavior and informed the city council of the parties occurring in the city.
She said the organizers of the parties are purposely inviting guests who have COVID-19.
How bad is it? | Added July 2
More than six months on from the start of this whole ordeal, it is still nigh impossible to get a bead on just how bad this supposed pandemic is seeing as how contradictory information is being put out, all the while the more frightful stories are being elevated.
For example the current issue in this apparent pre-second wave is that “cases” are rising, and ICU bed capacity is filling up; the implication seems to be that Covid-19 is solely to blame for increased hospitalizations.
However this Los Angeles Times report cites health officials in Riverside County, California who claim that the “official numbers on bed capacity paint a misleadingly bleak picture.” In Riverside County, coronavirus patients only account for 35% of ICU beds and, according to Michael Ditoro, the chief operating officer at Desert Regional Medical Center, ICU bed capacity was reached “well prior” to Covid-19 and it happens “year after year.” He even goes on to say that scant staffing may be more of an issue.
According to JustTheNews.com, Texas is “logging every single COVID-19-positive hospital patient in the state as a COVID-19 hospitalization, even if the patients themselves are admitted seeking treatment for something other than the coronavirus,” and there is no distinction between being “hospitalized with the coronavirus versus those hospitalized specifically because of it.”
The article goes on to quote hospital CEO’s in Texas who spoke at a virtual press conference and said that they have the “fluidity and ability to manage” the current situation, that near max ICU capacities are normal, and that “that’s how all hospitals operate.”
KPRC in Houston corroborates this and features the press conference as well as this quote on ICU bed capacity from Dr. Marc Boom of Houston Methodist: “Just that number is being misinterpreted and, quite frankly, we’re concerned that there is a level of alarm in the community that is unwarranted right now,”
Stepping aside from ICU bed capacity, you have nursing homes: Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise issued a press release asserting that nursing home residents accounted for 42% of nationwide deaths from Covid-19.
Regarding the infectiousness of the virus, on June 29 The Washington Post published an article detailing how the primary coronavirus strain that is currently prevalent across the world had mutated to become more infectious.
And yet on June 30 The New York Times published an article that explores ongoing research focused on alleged superspreaders and the premise that”most infected people don’t pass on the coronavirus to someone else.” What does that mean for stories such as this where the lack of spread on the part of an infected hair stylist who saw 140 clients is reflexively attributed to mask usage?
The same way that any and all sickness has now become unquestionably indicative of Covid-19, any potential reasons for the virus not spreading — such as the virus not being all that infectious, one’s immune system being in good shape, for instance, or the questionable reliability of any testing they’re doing — are narrowed down and automatically concluded to be due to mask usage.
Lastly do you remember our old friend Zach Bush? In his interview with Del Bigtree, which we have made a transcript of here, Bush said that everything that we needed to know about the coronavirus was shown to us on the cruise ships that were docked and quarantined. We have previously reported on the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess.
Interestingly, on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the Naval ship whose captain was fired because the ship’s coronavirus outbreak, there were more than 1000 infected cases, only 50% of the sailors who tested positive had “symptoms” (which could really have been anything), and just one sailor died. That says quite a bit about the infection fatality rate.
So, again, how bad is this, really? There are clearly lingering questions and a lot of mischaracterizations. But narrowing the issue down to sick = Covid, and masks = no spread, does nothing to answer those questions or help to create a consensus on what’s actually going on.
Rise of the snot bots: engineers develop new robot for testing purposes | Added July 2
Engineers in Korea have developed a new robot that will have applications for coronavirus testing. If you have always dreamed of having a cold, unfeeling machine perform the medical duty of inserting a cotton swab directly into your nose, roughly toward the direction of your brain, then that dream is on the fast track to becoming a reality.
A team of engineers built a new robot that can automate one of the unsightlier parts of coronavirus medical work: jabbing a cotton swab as far as it can go up a patient’s nose.
The robot, developed by the Korea Institute of Machinery & Materials (KIMM) under the Ministry of Science and ICT, braces itself against a patient’s face while a technician in the other room remote controls a disposable swab, like the one used for a COVID-19 test.
“This technology allows samples to be retrieved from persons presenting symptoms of high-risk diseases even without direct contact,” Dr. Joonho Seo of KIMM said in a press release. “I expect it to be useful in the screening of high-risk diseases like COVID-19, and hope it will contribute to the safety and well-being of medical personnel during pandemics and epidemics.”
Contact tracing in New York: party guests subpoenaed after refusing to cooperate | Added July 2
Officials in Rockland County, New York issued subpoenas to eight people who were believed to have attended a June 17 party where nine others ended up testing ‘positive’ for the coronavirus. According to The New York Times, those eight people who were subpoenaed refused to cooperate with contact tracing efforts and, as such, potentially faced fines of $2,000 a day.
The New York Times also refers to a previous article of theirs that details the major struggle that contact tracing efforts have faced in New York. Early data was shared showing that “only about two in every five people who had tested positive for the virus or were presumed to have it shared information about close contacts with tracers.”
And this isn’t unique to New York. On June 10 we reported on the similar issues that contact tracers were facing in Lousiana.
Lastly, after the eight people who were subpoenaed in New York cooperated with the contact tracing efforts, no additional cases of the virus were discovered.
From The New York Times:
On June 17, a crowd of up to 100 people, most of them in their early 20s, attended a party at a home in Rockland County, N.Y., just north of New York City.
The event violated a state order in effect at the time that capped gatherings at 10 people in an effort to slow the coronavirus’s spread.
For local officials, that was just the start of the problem.
The party’s host, who was showing signs of being sick at the time, later tested positive for the virus. So did eight guests. County officials, eager to keep the cluster from growing, dispatched disease tracers to try to learn who else might have been exposed to the virus at the party.
Japanese supercomputer being used to ‘combat’ the coronavirus | Added July 2
On June 23, BBC reported on the “newly crowned world’s fastest supercomputer” and how it is currently being employed in dealing with the coronavirus. The supercomputer, dubbed Fugaku, is from Japan and is currently being used to simulate the spread of droplets in various locations.
Fugaku has already been put to work on fighting the coronavirus, simulating how droplets would spread in office spaces with partitions installed or in packed trains with the windows open.
When it is fully operational next year, experts are hoping the machine will also be able to help narrow down the search for effective treatments for the virus.
The room-sized machine lives in the city of Kobe and was developed over six years by Japanese technology firm Fujitsu and the government-backed Riken Institute. Its name is another way of saying Mount Fuji.
CDC advises dead people to wear masks | Added July 2
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an advisory for all deceased people to wear masks.
“There is no question that masks work,” said Deborah Birx, coordinator of Pres. Trump’s Covid task force. “Everyone has to participate, no exceptions, and that includes the dear departed. We must take care of them as well.”
Birx said that “everyone must take care of their own community,” including dead people. She said that there is new scientific evidence that wearing a mask will prevent a corpse from spreading the virus to other corpses.
She added that it was important that deceased individuals wear the mask whether in the funeral home, or in the hearse, or when buried.
“This may sound like overkill, but we cannot be too careful,” said Vice President Mike Pence, the honorary chairman of the safety committee. “There are a lot of dead people. We sent most of them a stimulus check. The least they can do is wear a mask.”
Dr. Chester Fibrion, chairman of the Department of Mortuary Intelligence at George Washington University, said, “Dead people actually do breathe, a little,” adding that “sometimes they even come back to life. We see a lot of that on CNN.”
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, lauded the move by the Trump administration, signaling the possibility of national unity. “Finally, they are doing something helpful, something that shows that they value life,” the former vice president tweeted. His official profile photo depicts him wearing a mask.
“At least we can all agree on something.”
How about wearing masks at home? | Added July 1
We all knew it was coming: researchers have provided a study and suggested the use of masks inside your home. Specifically they suggest it for those who are feeling ill so that they do not potentially spread the coronavirus to their housemates.
It seems like there are increasingly fewer places where we aren’t being told that we need a protective barrier between us and life.
If you’ve been diligent about wearing a mask when out in public to protect yourself and others from the spread of the coronavirus, pat yourself on the back. Public health experts and researchers agree that wearing a mask when you leave the house is one of the best things we can do to slow the pandemic as we wait for a vaccine.
Now, new research says that keeping your mask on at home might be an even better way to curb the spread of the disease. The study was published in BMJ Global Health and it suggests that you can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others in your own home by a whopping 79% if someone in the household is positive for the disease.
Drug overdoses rise in U.S. following shutdowns | Added July 1
Suspected overdoses nationally jumped 18 percent in March, 29 percent in April and 42 percent in May, data from ambulance teams, hospitals and police shows.
Suspected drug overdose numbers in the U.S. jumped in March, and have continued to rise precipitously since then. The Washington Post, in their coverage, suggested that “overdoses have not just increased since the pandemic began but are accelerating as it persists.”
From The Washington Post:
The bodies have been arriving at Anahi Ortiz’s office in frantic spurts — as many as nine overdose deaths in 36 hours. “We’ve literally run out of wheeled carts to put them on,” said Ortiz, a coroner in Columbus, Ohio.
In Roanoke County, Va., police have responded to twice as many fatal overdoses in recent months as in all of last year.
In Kentucky, which just celebrated its first decline in overdose deaths after five years of crisis, many towns are experiencing an abrupt reversal in the numbers.
Nationwide, federal and local officials are reporting alarming spikes in drug overdoses — a hidden epidemic within the coronavirus pandemic. Emerging evidence suggests that the continued isolation, economic devastation and disruptions to the drug trade in recent months are fueling the surge.
Trump administration seeks to shift blame for coronavirus management failures to the CDC | Added July 1
Politico reports that the Trump administration is looking to place blame for the mismanagement of the coronavirus in the U.S. on the CDC. To solve this apparent predicament, the administration reportedly seeks to narrow the mission of the CDC, or to “embed more political appointees in it.
White House officials are putting a target on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, positioning the agency as a coronavirus scapegoat as cases surge in many states and the U.S. falls behind other nations that are taming the pandemic.
Trump administration aides in recent weeks have seriously discussed launching an in-depth evaluation of the agency to chart what they view as its missteps in responding to the pandemic including an early failure to deploy working test kits, according to four senior administration officials. Part of that audit would include examining more closely the state-by-state death toll to tally only the Americans who died from Covid-19 directly rather than other factors. About 120,000 people in the U.S. have died of the coronavirus so far, according to the CDC’s official count.