Covid19 News from Planet Waves – June 2020 entries

This is an archive of the June entries for the Covid19 news feed. You may return to the current page here.

‘New cases’ numbers are a highly effective tool for stirring political pots | Added June 30

“The United States may soon record as many as 100,000 new cases of Covid-19 a day if the current trajectory of the outbreak is not changed, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, warned on Tuesday.

The number of new cases is currently hovering around 40,000 per day.”

Says the people at STAT news. It’s always interesting to lead off with a future prediction of some scary number that’s twice an actual number of something- especially when the definitions are so elastic. There is every indication that both positive PCR swab tests (symptomatic, asymptomatic or presymptomatic people) and positive antibody tests (people whose immune systems were previously reactive to a coronavirus) are all put together as “cases.” This would seem to suggest therefore that some people would be counted twice.

STAT continues, “Fauci’s remarks, made during an appearance before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, came as the number of new cases in some Southern and Southwestern states has soared.”

It is however interesting that while the NIH case count is going up, hospitalization rates and deaths in Georgia, at least, apparently are going down.


Gilead charging $3,000 for Covid-19 treatment remdesivir in the U.S. | Added June 30

The American public helped finance the development of remdesivir — and will now be charged $3,000 for a treatment that experts say costs less than $10 to produce.

David Sirota is back with his newsletter TMI. This time he focuses on Gilead and how they are taking advantage of the largely corporate-run healthcare system in the U.S. and charging exorbitant amounts for their Covid-19 treatment remdesivir. This is despite the fact that “various government grants financed tens of millions of dollars of…remdesivir research.”

Remdesivir, if you recall, is the FDA emergency approved treatment for Covid-19 which, back in April, Anthony Fauci announced would be the standard of care.

It remains to be seen if any of the cost of the drug will be covered by insurers, or if patients will have to pay out-of-pocket.

From TMI:

In his open letter announcing the pricing scheme, Gilead’s CEO Daniel O’Day cast the pricing scheme as an altruistic and selfless act on behalf of his company, which recently tried to monopolize the distribution of the government-funded drug in order to expand on its $5.4 billion of profits last year.

“We approached this with the aim of helping as many patients as possible, as quickly as possible and in the most responsible way,” said O’Day, who secured a $29 million pay package last year. “In making our decision on how to price remdesivir, we considered the full scope of our responsibilities. We started with our immediate responsibility to ensure price is in no way a hindrance to ensuring rapid and broad treatment.”


Researchers warn of infectious new flu strain carried by pigs in China| Added June 30

We have a new thing to panic about: researchers in China say that there is a new strain of flu that is carried by pigs which may mutate and spread, easily, from person to person. Various scientists have commented that, based on the findings, this flu strain should be closely monitored. BBC has an article, published today, that gives the details. There is also this article from Science that goes into further detail.

Most coverage of this story is accompanied by a headline which notes the “pandemic potential” of this flu, and which also seems to capitalize on the fearful implication of us having to deal with two, simultaneous pandemics; the articles then discuss how highly infectious the strain could be. But, in the BBC article above, it’s stated that this is not an immediate problem and they even acknowledge that “in theory, a flu pandemic could occur at any time, but they are still rare events.”

It may happen, it may not. But, going by how it’s being presented to us, we’re supposed to be afraid of it, apparently.

First bats, now pigs. Are any animals safe?

From Science:

What the world doesn’t need now is a pandemic on top of a pandemic. So a new finding that pigs in China are more and more frequently becoming infected with a strain of influenza that has the potential to jump to humans has infectious disease researchers worldwide taking serious notice. Robert Webster, an influenza investigator who recently retired from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, says it’s a “guessing game” as to whether this strain will mutate to readily transmit between humans, which it has not done yet. “We just do not know a pandemic is going to occur until the damn thing occurs,” Webster says, noting that China has the largest pig population in the world. “Will this one do it? God knows.”

When multiple strains of influenza viruses infect the same pig, they can easily swap genes, a process known as “reassortment.” The new study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focuses on an influenza virus dubbed G4. The virus is a unique blend of three lineages: one similar to strains found in European and Asian birds, the H1N1 strain that caused the 2009 pandemic, and a North American H1N1 that has genes from avian, human, and pig influenza viruses.


U.S. excluded from the EU’s safe travel list | Added June 30

As we previously covered on June 23, the European Union had been considering whether or not to include the United States on their initial list of acceptable visitors. Today it was announced that the United States has been excluded from the list and Americans will continue to be barred from non-essential travel to the EU.

From Reuters:

The European Union has excluded the United States from its initial “safe list” of countries from which the bloc will allow non-essential travel from Wednesday.

The 27-member bloc gave majority approval on Tuesday to leisure or business travel from 14 countries beyond its borders, the Council of the EU, which represents EU governments, said in a statement.

The countries are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.

China has also been provisionally approved, although travel would only open up if Chinese authorities also allowed in EU visitors. Reciprocity is a condition of being on the list.


Whether you take issue with masks or monuments, they’ve got you covered. Jonathan Blanc/New York Public Library

New York Public Library lions look to lead with their face covering example | Added June 29

The two marble lions that sit outside of the New York Public Library have been fitted with masks as a reminder to New Yorkers to wear face coverings.

From NPR:

For the first time, the familiar marble faces outside the New York Public Library will be obscured by masks.

Patience and Fortitude, the iconic lion sculptures guarding the 42nd Street library, are wearing face coverings to remind New Yorkers to stay safe and stop the spread of COVID-19.

The masks arrived on June 29, and measure three feet wide by two feet tall, according to a library statement.

New York Public Library President Anthony Marx emphasized the symbolism of the aptly named lions, and said New Yorkers are similarly strong and resilient.


Nancy Pelosi calls for the mandating of face coverings in the U.S. | Added June 29

On Sunday, June 28, Nancy Pelosi called on the CDC to federally mandate the wearing of masks. As of now, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention only recommends the use of masks and face coverings.

From CNBC:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said that a federal mandate on wearing masks is “long overdue,” as state governors call for a consistent national message on the issue amid a surge in coronavirus cases across the nation.

Pelosi said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the use of masks to reduce the spread of the virus but never mandated it as to “not offend” President Donald Trump.


China’s military approves vaccine candidate | Added June 29

In what some are calling a “win” for China in the the first leg of a global race for a Covid-19 vaccine, China’s Military Commssion has approved the use of one of their vaccine candidates. It is currently limited to military use only, however the developer has “declined to disclose whether the inoculation of the vaccine candidate is mandatory or optional, citing commercial secrets.”

From Reuters:

China’s military has received the greenlight to use a COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by its research unit and CanSino Biologics (6185.HK) after clinical trials proved it was safe and showed some efficacy, the company said on Monday.

The Ad5-nCoV is one of China’s eight vaccine candidates approved for human trials at home and abroad for the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. The shot also won approval for human testing in Canada.

China’s Central Military Commission approved the use of the vaccine by the military on June 25 for a period of one year, CanSino said in a filing. The vaccine candidate was developed jointly by CanSino and a research institute at the Academy of Military Science (AMS).


A.I. robot to be the lead in $70M sci-fi movie | Added June 29

Lights. Camera. Robot. In response to the overall crisis surrounding the coronavirus it has been decided that, in a first, an artificially intelligent robot named Erica will be the lead in an upcoming $70 million science fiction film.

Erica is on the scene.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

As the industry grapples with how to reopen for production safely, one movie is proceeding with a lead actress who is immune to COVID-19 — because she’s a robot named Erica.

Bondit Capital Media, which financed titles such as To the Bone and the Oscar nominated Loving Vincent, Belgium-based Happy Moon Productions and New York’s Ten Ten Global Media have committed to back b, a $70 million science fiction film which producers say will be the first to rely on an artificially intelligent actor.


Plan to make microchipping in Michigan voluntary for workers and job providers passes House | Added June 29

On Wednesday, June 24, the Michigan House passed the “Microchip Protection Act” which will allow Michigan employers to utilize microchipping technology on the condition that the implanting of said microchips will not be made mandatory for employees.

More from Michigan House Republicans:

The Michigan House today passed the “Microchip Protection Act” with bipartisan support. The plan, sponsored by Rep. Bronna Kahle, will protect the privacy rights of Michigan workers and promote further growth for job providers as it relates to microchipping – a cutting-edge technology on the rise across the country that increases workplace efficiency.

“With the way technology has increased over the years and as it continues to grow, it’s important Michigan job providers balance the interests of the company with their employees’ expectations of privacy,” Kahle said. “Microchipping has been brought up in many conversations as companies across the country are exploring cost-effective ways to increase workplace efficiency. While these miniature devices are on the rise, so are the calls of workers to have their privacy protected.”


Traces of the coronavirus reportedly found in March 2019 sewage samples in Barcelona | Added June 27

Here’s another one to add to the list of samples of the novel coronavirus reportedly being found prior to December 2019: researchers from the University of Barcelona have tested samples of sewage water taken between Jan 2018 and December 2019 and claim to have found traces of the virus from March 2019.

From Reuters:

Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain.

Spanish virologists have found traces of the novel coronavirus in a sample of Barcelona waste water collected in March 2019, nine months before the COVID-19 disease was identified in China, the University of Barcelona said on Friday.

The discovery of virus genome presence so early in Spain, if confirmed, would imply the disease may have appeared much earlier than the scientific community thought.

The University of Barcelona team, who had been testing waste water since mid-April this year to identify potential new outbreaks, decided to also run tests on older samples.

They first found the virus was present in Barcelona on Jan. 15, 2020, 41 days before the first case was officially reported there.


NIH claims to have stake in Moderna’s vaccine | Added June 27

The NIH Clinical Center on the NIH Bethesda campus.

New information has come to light that suggests that the National Institute of Health has a stake in the intellectual property behind Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine. As we have previously reported, Moderna is the up-and-coming biotech company that has been facing quite a few ups-and-downs.
From Axios:

The National Institutes of Health may own intellectual property that undergirds a leading coronavirus vaccine being developed by Moderna, according to documents obtained by Axios and an analysis from Public Citizen.

Why it matters: Because the federal government has an actual stake in this vaccine, it could try to make the vaccine a free or low-cost public good with wide distribution, if the product turns out to be safe and effective.

The big picture: The NIH mostly funds outside research, but it also often invents basic scientific technologies that are later licensed out and incorporated into drugs that are sold at massive profits. The agency rarely claims ownership stakes or pursues patent rights, but that appears to be different with this coronavirus vaccine.

  • “We do have some particular stake in the intellectual property” behind Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, NIH Director Francis Collins said during an Economic Club interview in May.

Driving the news: New evidence shines light on the extent of NIH’s involvement.


Production of a flu vaccine vastly increased ahead of the upcoming flu season | Added June 27

Public health officials and vaccine manufacturers have increased production of flu vaccines doses in preparation of what they expect to be a season of “unprecedented respiratory illness.” The CDC has bought “7 million doses directly from manufacturers too be distributed to states for adult vaccination.”

From The Washington Post:

Worried about a simultaneous assault of the novel coronavirus and seasonal influenza this winter, public health officials and vaccine manufacturers are making millions of extra flu vaccine doses to protect those most vulnerable to the pandemic and influenza, according to government and company officials.

Even though flu season doesn’t begin until the fall, major flu vaccine manufacturers say they plan to boost production by about 10 percent, to about 189 million doses, up from 170 million doses last year, to ensure enough doses exist for an anticipated surge in people seeking flu shots.


Dexamethasone potentially risky for patients with mild symptoms | Added June 27

The full study results of dexamethasone, and its potential treatment of Covid19 patients, has been released after initially being made public in a “sparsely detailed news release.” Dexamethasone is a cheap and ubiquitous steroid that inspired the confidence of many experts at the initial announcement, but the new study results suggest that the timing of its use is critical and that the drug may cause harm in some patients.

From The New York Times:

Scientists in Britain announced a major breakthrough in the battle against the coronavirus last week, reporting they had found the first drug to reduce deaths among critically ill Covid-19 patients.

The results were first made public in a sparsely detailed news release. Now the full study, neither peer reviewed nor published yet, has been posted online, and it holds a surprise.

The drug — a cheap, widely available steroid called dexamethasone — does seem to help patients in dire straits, the data suggest. But it also may be risky for patients with milder illness, and the timing of the treatment is critical.

The drug “may harm some patients, and we’re not entirely sure which patients those are,” said Dr. Samuel Brown, an assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City, who was not involved in the research.


Coronavirus and the link to diabetes | Added June 27

Diabetes has been established to be a risk factor for Covid19, and now researchers are exploring the potential for the coronavirus to cause diabetes.

The story below focuses on 18-year-old student Finn Gnadt from Germany whose parents fell ill in Austria after a river cruise. Paul Zimmet from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia studies diabetes and discusses

From Nature:

Their hunch is based on a handful of people such as Gnadt, who have spontaneously developed diabetes after being infected with SARS-CoV-2, and on evidence from dozens more people with COVID-19 who have arrived in hospital with extremely high levels of blood sugar and ketones, which are produced from fatty deposits in the liver. When the body doesn’t make enough insulin to break down sugar, it uses ketones as an alternative source of fuel. “In science, sometimes you have to start off with very small evidence to chase a hypothesis,” says Zimmet.

Researchers cite other evidence, too. Various viruses, including the one that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), have been linked with autoimmune conditions such as type 1 diabetes. And many organs involved in controlling blood sugar are rich in a protein called ACE2, which SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect cells.


White House Coronavirus Task Force holds press conference for first time in nearly two months | Added June 26

Long time, no see: the White House Coronavirus Task Force held a press conference today lead by Vice President Mike Pence. Pence was reportedly quite happy with the progress made thus far.

From NPR:

The White House Coronavirus Task Force renewed calls for vigilance on Friday, acknowledging rising cases across Southern states and in parts of California.

The U.S. set a new daily record for cases on Thursday, but Vice President Pence insisted “this moment is different” than what the U.S. was grappling with two months ago, noting that the percentage of people requiring hospitalization from the virus was considerably lower than it was early on during the pandemic and that the number of fatalities is declining.

“We’re in a much better place,” Pence said. But he urged young people to take precautions to avoid spreading the disease to those more vulnerable.

The group’s first briefing in weeks, held at the Department of Health and Human Services rather than at the White House, comes as states move ahead with reopening.


Joe Biden says that as president he would mandate face coverings | Added June 26

Joe Biden, in a recent interview, has said that if he were president he would “do everything possible to make it required that people had to wear masks in public,” and that he would use his “federal leverage” to mandate mask usage.

From NBC News:

Joe Biden says that if he were president, he would require people across the country to wear masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The one thing we do know, these masks make a gigantic difference. I would insist that everybody in public be wearing that mask,” the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee said in an interview with the CBS Pittsburgh affiliate KDKA on Thursday.

Biden, who was wearing a mask during the interview and stood a distance away from the reporter and TV camera, said that anyone who wanted to reopen a business would have to ensure that people who walk in would have access to masks.

Asked if he would use his federal leverage to mandate the wearing of masks, the former vice president said, “Yes, I would from an executive standpoint. Yes, I would.”


Large crowds gather in the UK amid heatwave and and as lockdown restrictions are eased | Added June 26

Lockdown restrictions have begun to ease in the UK however most pubs and restaurants remain closed. But June 25 turned out to be the UK’s hottest day of the year so far, and tens of thousands of people flocked to beaches, parks and streams to cool off.

A fully packed beach in Bournemouth, Britain. Taken on June 25, 2020. Instagram/@Arubabournemouth

From The New York Times:

They descended by the tens of thousands on Britain’s southern beaches and jammed into city parks. They cavorted by the hundreds in swamps and streams. They attacked police officers who tried to disperse illegal block parties. And hundreds became stuck in mud flats while trying to reach the sea at low tide.

By Friday, the third sweltering day in a row in a country where many homes lack air conditioning, the message was abundantly clear: Many Britons are done with the lockdown.

Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain announced a major easing of lockdown restrictions this week and declared the beginning of the end of a “long national hibernation,” all pubs, restaurants and cafes will remain closed until July 4, leaving the public with few venues to enjoy their newfound freedom.


WHO claims that millions more could die in second wave of virus | Added June 26

The WHO continues to warn of a second wave of the virus and, in a comparison to Spanish Flu, they said that millions more could die.

Based on our research, this is a total mischaracterization. There is no basis for comparing the current situation to the 1918-1920 outbreak of what was called “Spanish Flu.”

From the Daily Mail:

Millions of people across the world could die if there is a second wave of coronavirus infections, the World Health Organisation warned on Friday.

Dr Ranieri Guerra, an assistant director-general for strategic initiatives at the WHO, said the pandemic had so far spread as health officials had anticipated.

Comparing COVID-19 to the Spanish Flu outbreak more than 100 years ago, Mr Guerra said the older pandemic ‘fiercely resumed’ in September and October – when temperatures were cooler – after a dip.


Texas to roll back reopening in light of rise in ‘cases’ | Added June 26

Texas will start to roll back on its reopening as the state has seen a rise in cases of the coronavirus and hospitalizations. Just yesterday, June 25, Texas governor Greg Abbot announced that the state’s reopening was put on pause, and he ordered a postponement on elective procedures to protect hospital capacity for Covid19 patients.

Visitors to San Antonio’s River Walk. Photo by Eric Gay.

During this crisis, the word “cases” has been expanded to include anyone who tests positive for the novel coronavirus by PCR testing. This is not a diagnostic tool, and a positive result, according to federal government documents, is not a sign of actual infection or contagiousness.

From CNBC:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday that he will roll back some of the state’s reopening as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

“As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the State of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Abbott said in a press release. “At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars.”

The order includes the following:
  • All bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to close at 12:00 p.m. Friday. These businesses may remain open for delivery and takeout, including for alcoholic beverages, as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
  • Restaurants may remain open for dine-in service, but at a capacity not to exceed 50% of total listed indoor occupancy, beginning Monday.
  • Rafting and tubing businesses must close.
  • Outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions.

Photo by Lanvi Nguyen. Candle handmade by Peter Lendved, Sugar Loaf Candles.

Reader-contributed ‘Silver Linings’ of Covid19 | June 25

Tonight we have our reader comments from the “Silver Linings” long form survey on how your life was improved by the lockdown, the work-from-home, sequester alone or with your family…

We’ve had many surprising and uplifting responses from our worldwide readership, and we invite you to take a look at what everyone had to share.

Read more


More than 1 million stimulus checks from the U.S. Treasury Department disbursed to the dead | Added June 25

The federal government sent coronavirus stimulus payments to almost 1.1 million dead people totaling nearly $1.4 billion, Congress’ independent watchdog reported Thursday.

It has now been pointed by an independent investigative agency that more than 1 million coronavirus stimulus checks, disbursed by the IRS and Treasury Department, were sent to dead people. Part of the problem is due to the fact that the IRS has access to death records from the Social Security Administration while the Treasury Department and its Bureau of Fiscal Service do not.

From The Washington Post:

The federal government sent coronavirus stimulus payments to almost 1.1 million dead people totaling nearly $1.4 billion, Congress’ independent watchdog reported Thursday.

The Washington Post previously reported that the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service disbursed some payments of up to $1,200 each to dead people. But the astonishing scope of the problem had not been known.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, an independent investigative agency that reports to Congress, issued the finding as part of a comprehensive report on the nearly $3 trillion in coronavirus relief spending approved by Congress in March and April. It said it had received the information from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration in an accounting as of April 30.


New York City Marathon cancelled | Added June 25

The New York City Marathon, which was scheduled for Nov. 1, has been cancelled in response to the coronavirus.

The 2018 New York City Marathon. Photo by Benjamin Norman.

From Reuters:

The New York City Marathon, one of the most prestigious events on the global running calendar, has been cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, race organisers said on Wednesday [June 24].

The New York Road Runners (NYRR), in partnership with the mayor’s office, said the decision to cancel the world’s largest marathon was made due to novel coronavirus-related health and safety concerns for runners, spectators, volunteers and staff.

The race was scheduled to take place on Nov. 1.

“Canceling this year’s TCS New York City Marathon is incredibly disappointing for everyone involved, but it was clearly the course we needed to follow from a health and safety perspective,” said NYRR Chief Executive Michael Capiraso.

The 26.2-mile race (42km), which traverses all five boroughs of the city, routinely attracts over 50,000 runners and more than one million spectators.


NY, NJ, and Conn. issue joint travel advisory | Added June 24

As of Wednesday, the advisory applies to Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas. It begins tonight at midnight.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced a joint travel advisory today which will require travelers “arriving from states with high coronavirus rates to quarantine for 14 days.” This includes travellers who are returning home to the previously mentioned states.

From CNN:

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut issued a travel advisory Wednesday that requires people arriving from states with high coronavirus rates to quarantine for 14 days.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said the travel advisory applies to anyone coming from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or a state with a 10% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.

“We have to make sure the virus doesn’t come in on a plane,” Cuomo said.

“We worked very hard to get the viral transmission rate down, and we don’t want to see it go up,” he added.

As of Wednesday, the advisory applies to Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas. It begins tonight at midnight.


Mandatory vaccinations for CO schoolchildren | Added June 24

Colorado recently approved their School Entry Immunization Act, also known as SB-163, which will require immunizations for all public school children in Colorado. Renée Parsons has the details in this article from OffGuardian.

From the article:

As its name implies, SB 163 mandates “immunizations“ for all children entering Colorado public schools; thereby taking the decision out of the parent’s hands and requiring a doctor to certify approval. The fact that the bill contains elements akin to Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother regime is disturbing.

SB 163 requires the State’s educational system to aid and abet in the monitoring of its students as it requires each public school to collect each proof of immunization and each exemption request that is filed.

Each school must also establish a tracking system and provide an annual report on that school’s rate of immunizations and the number of exemptions issued.

Such bureaucratese indicates, rather than a parental responsibility, each child’s vaccination will be tracked by the school district throughout that child’s history as a student.


CVS to offer company testing program for virus| Added June 24

CVS is reaching out and offering a diagnostic testing program to employers who would like to have their workers tested regularly. This is in light of the “general perception…that there is not going to be a sustained lull [in cases] over the course of the summer.” Antibody testing will not be included.

A CVS pharmacy in Manhattan with such a beautiful matching table cloth. Photo by Mike Segar.

From Reuters:

As U.S. employers grapple with trying to keep workers healthy and on the job amid fresh spikes in COVID-19 cases, CVS Health Corp (CVS.N) has begun selling companies a diagnostic testing program.

In addition to onsite and pharmacy testing, CVS also will offer symptom screenings, flu vaccines and other immunizations and add-on services like contact tracing for employees exposed to the virus.

The unexpected surge in COVID-19 in states in the South and West has increased demand for testing workers on a regular basis, such as every two weeks or every month, said Troy Brennan, chief medical officer of the company, which operates pharmacies, a pharmacy benefit management (PBM) service and the Aetna insurance plan.


Pseudo-science and ‘Technocrats at work’ | Added June 24

Here is an article that was reposted by the California Globe titled “The Miserable Pseudo-Science Behind Face Masks, Social Distancing and Contact Tracing.” The article takes a look at the aforementioned issues and charges the mainstream response to those issues as being based in pseudo-science.

From the article:

Merriam-Webster defines pseudo-science as “a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific.” The Oxford dictionary clarifies by stating, “a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method.“

Pseudo-science quickly emerged as the principal domain of Technocrats, but they soon found that scientific debate with those promoting real science was most inconvenient to their social engineering goals. The solution was simple: claim that their own pseudo-science was indeed the real science, and then refuse debate by excluding all other voices to the contrary.

In the context of pseudo-science, this report will examine the three primary tools of fighting COVID-19: face masks, social distancing and contact tracing.


Lakeview Terrace, a Los Angeles nursing home featured in the story. Photo by Andrew Cullen.

Nursing homes evicting residents | Added June 24

This article from The New York Times takes an in-depth look at how, in light of the coronavirus, some nursing homes have taken advantage of the lack of scrutiny around their practices and evicted some of their residents.

The article points out that there is financial incentive for this, and that this had been an issue before the coronavirus. However the current situation has made things even worse.

From the article:

On a chilly afternoon in April, Los Angeles police found an old, disoriented man crumpled on a Koreatown sidewalk.

Several days earlier, RC Kendrick, an 88-year-old with dementia, was living at Lakeview Terrace, a nursing home with a history of regulatory problems. His family had placed him there to make sure he got round-the-clock care after his condition deteriorated and he began disappearing for days at a time.

But on April 6, the nursing home deposited Mr. Kendrick at an unregulated boardinghouse — without bothering to inform his family. Less than 24 hours later, Mr. Kendrick was wandering the city alone.

According to three Lakeview employees, Mr. Kendrick’s ouster came as the nursing home was telling staff members to try to clear out less-profitable residents to make room for a new class of customers who would generate more revenue: patients with Covid-19.


There was a decline in infant mortality during the first several months of 2020 | Added June 24

This article analyzes death rates in the US in different age groups during the first several months of 2020 compared to previous years. Most intriguing is a marked decline in mortality for infants during this time. The hypothesis is that this is due to the fact that babies are not being vaccinated as usual.

“One very clear change that has received publicity is that public health officials are bemoaning the sharp decline in infant vaccinations as parents are not taking their infants into pediatric offices for their regular well-baby checks. In the May 15 issue of the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), a group of authors from the CDC and Kaiser Permanente reported a sharp decline in provider orders for vaccines as well as a decline in pediatric vaccine doses administered. (8) These declines began in early march, around the time infant deaths began declining.”


EU considering barring American travelers as borders start to reopen | Added June 23

According to draft lists seen by The New York Times the United States is currently excluded from the list of acceptable visitors to the EU. This is based, for the mot part on the perceived handling of the coronavirus, and is set to go into effect by July 1.

Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France. Photo by Gonzalo Fuentes.

From The New York Times:

European Union countries rushing to revive their economies and reopen their borders after months of coronavirus restrictions are prepared to block Americans from entering because the United States has failed to control the scourge, according to draft lists of acceptable travelers reviewed by The New York Times.

That prospect, which would lump American visitors in with Russians and Brazilians as unwelcome, is a stinging blow to American prestige in the world and a repudiation of President Trump’s handling of the virus in the United States, which has more than 2.3 million cases and upward of 120,000 deaths, more than any other country.

European nations are currently haggling over two potential lists of acceptable visitors based on how countries are faring with the coronavirus pandemic. Both lists include China, as well as developing nations like Uganda, Cuba and Vietnam. Both also exclude the United States and other countries that were deemed too risky because of the spread of the virus.


FDA warns of toxic hand sanitizer | Added June 23

We briefly mentioned hand sanitizer yesterday and now it’s in the news as the FDA has issued a warning on certain toxic hand sanitizer products produced in Mexico.

From the New York Times:

The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to avoid nine hand sanitizer products manufactured in Mexico because, it said, they may contain methanol, a substance that can be toxic if absorbed through the skin or ingested.

In an advisory dated Friday, the agency said it had tested samples of two products, Lavar Gel and CleanCare No Germ, and found they had 81 percent and 28 percent methanol, also known as wood alcohol.

“Methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitizers and should not be used due to its toxic effects,” the agency said.


Trump confirms that he requested testing be slowed down in the U.S. | Added June 23

Following remarks made at his rally in Tulsa, Donald Trump has clarified that he did indeed ask his administration to slow down testing so as not to find more cases.

More from Politico:

President Donald Trump on Tuesday insisted he was serious when he revealed that he had directed his administration to slow coronavirus testing in the United States, shattering the defenses of senior White House aides who argued Trump’s remarks were made in jest.

“I don’t kid. Let me just tell you. Let me make it clear,” Trump told reporters, when pressed on whether his comments at a campaign event Saturday in Tulsa, Okla., were intended as a joke.

“We have got the greatest testing program anywhere in the world. We test better than anybody in the world. Our tests are the best in the world, and we have the most of them. By having more tests, we find more cases,” he continued.


Italian doctor suggests that the virus has weakened and could disappear on its own | Added June 23

Italian infectious disease doctor Matteo Bassetti has claimed that the virus has weakened and that it may be “eradicated before researchers find a vaccine.”

Dr. Matteo Basseti

From the New York Post:

An Italian infectious disease doctor believes the coronavirus has become less dangerous — and could disappear on its own without a vaccine.

Dr. Matteo Bassetti, the head of the infectious diseases clinic at the San Martino hospital, said the virus appears to have become less potent, possibly due to genetic mutations, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

“The clinical impression I have is that the virus is changing in severity,” Bassetti told the outlet.

“In March and early April the patterns were completely different. People were coming to the emergency department with a very difficult to manage illness and they needed oxygen and ventilation, some developed pneumonia.”

But he said in the past month, “the picture has completely changed in terms of patterns.”

“It was like an aggressive tiger in March and April but now it’s like a wild cat,” Bassetti said. “Even elderly patients, aged 80 or 90, are now sitting up in bed and they are breathing without help. The same patients would have died in two or three days before.”


Fever screening being introduced at LAX | Added June 23

Los Angeles International Airport will soon start to screen for fevers; people who have an elevated temperature will be taken aside for a secondary screening in order to confirm. Participation is currently voluntary and during the pilot program you will not be stopped from continuing your journey.

Fever screening isn’t necessarily new. Well perhaps it is in the U.S., but in Hong Kong, they have been screening for fevers since 2004, in response to SARS. Also we would like to point out that there was a study back in May that said that only 50% of Covid-19 patients presented with a fever. And, as surprising as it may seem, people do tend to have fevers for reasons other than Covid-19.

The Theme building at Los Angeles International Airport.

From the Washington Post:

Starting Tuesday, some travelers at Los Angeles International Airport will be asked to undergo a new screening process long before they get to security checkpoints: walking past cameras that can flag travelers with a fever, which is a sign of the novel coronavirus.

Officials on Monday planned to announce a pilot program to test the use of thermal imaging cameras at the departures entrance and the corridor for international arrivals in the airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that our airport terminals are a safe environment, and we’re making sure that we’re doing everything we can to make it healthy for people to come in,” said Justin Erbacci, chief executive of Los Angeles World Airports.


Prof Karl Friston interview | Added June 23

Here is a half-hour video reviewing epidemiological data from Prof Karl Friston, a British neuroscientist who does complex models of brain neurotransmission and applied the model to Covid susceptibility. He divides the total population into susceptible and nonsusceptible subpopulations and then analyzes the susceptible subpopulation to get real numbers on what herd immunity really means. Herd immunity is not 80% of the total population but rather a much smaller percentage of the susceptible population, which is somewhere around 20% to 25% of the total population.


Seeking a cell line data researcher | Added June 22

Covid19 News is seeking competent researchers to focus a cell line project, of identifying problematic cell lines used in vaccines. This video is a map to the issue. If anyone with research experience wants to contribute to this project, please email us at at editors@planetwaves.net. This project is part of Chiron Return-Pacifica Radio.

 


Sweden’s Covid-19 Policy Decisions Offer Rare Opportunity for Comparative Analysis | Added June 22

Thank you Loreen Costa for this write-up:

In the future hindsight analysis, we may all come to understand that this Covid-19 event is really, at its core, a public debate about what it means for an individual- or a society- to be healthy.

We’ve seen many experts here and abroad suggest that it is healthier to die of medically induced drug addiction or poor nutrition at any age, or alone, behind a sterile barrier, as an elder, than to die at any time after an infection deemed “preventable” by social isolation. It’s suggested that widespread anxiety and mental illness are preferable to any risk to an otherwise healthy population — never mind any risk to an already at risk population. It’s suggested that certain illness and death are unacceptable, all the while obscuring the truth that illness and death are certain eventualities for us all.

It’s interesting that sociallly induced deaths by neglect and medically induced deaths by treatment are preferable to naturally occurring deaths from aging – and it’s absolutely interesting that life-long chronic illness and deaths which might honestly be attributed to environmental degradation are essentially not acknowledged.

It seems that Sweden at least is willing to have this larger debate on health now. The concept of “public health” does include keeping young children active and in school. It does include keeping places of spiritual practice available and keeping places for social contact open; in short, there is actual value placed on the present and future mental and social health of a population even as the nation debates the ways they may have better managed the care for their fragile elders. It’s a nuanced debate that makes use of mortality numbers without elevating numbers over human life experience. Dare we speak of the quality of life? In a culture focused only on its extension? It would seem the answer is “no.”

From the Financial Times:

“Leif Dotevall, communicable disease control officer in the region around Gothenburg, argues many people may be viewing Sweden’s strategy through the prism of whether they believe in lockdowns or not, rather than the overall health impact. ‘It makes the analysis right now skewed: you are so obsessed by your idea of the strategy and that emotional analysis makes you blind to the whole picture,’ he adds.”


International Institute of Forecasters says forecasting for Covid-19 has failed | Added June 22

The International Institute of Forecasters has published a critique of epidemiology forecasting. Here are a couple of excerpts from their conclusion:

Cirillo and Taleb thoughtfully argue [14] that when it comes to contagious risk, we should take doomsday predictions seriously: major epidemics follow a fat-tail pattern and extreme value theory becomes relevant. Examining 72 major epidemics recorded through history, they demonstrate a fat-tailed mortality impact. However, they analyze only the 72 most noticed outbreaks, a sample with astounding selection bias. The most famous outbreaks in human history are preferentially selected from the extreme tail of the distribution of all outbreaks.

Tens of millions of outbreaks with a couple deaths must have happened throughout time. Probably hundreds of thousands might have claimed dozens of fatalities. Thousands of outbreaks might have exceeded 1,000 fatalities. Most eluded the historical record. The four garden variety coronaviruses may be causing such outbreaks every year [15,16]. One of them, OC43 seems to have been introduced in humans as recently as 1890, probably causing a “bad influenza year” with over a million deaths [17]. Based on what we know now, SARS-CoV-2 may be closer to OC43 than SARS-CoV-1. This does not mean it is not serious: its initial human introduction can be highly lethal, unless we protect those at risk.

Blindly acting based on extreme value theory alone would be sensible if we lived in the times of the Antonine plague or even in 1890, with no science to identify the pathogen, elucidate its true prevalence, estimate accurately its lethality, and carry out good epidemiology to identify which people and settings are at risk. Until we accrue this information, immediate better-safe-than-sorry responses are legitimate, trusting extreme forecasts as possible (not necessarily likely) scenarios. However, caveats of these forecasts should not be ignored [1,18] and new evidence on the ground truth needs continuous reassessment. Upon acquiring solid evidence about the epidemiological features of new outbreaks, implausible, exaggerated forecasts [19] should be abandoned. Otherwise, they may cause more harm than the virus itself.


As many as 300,000 fake ticket applications found for Tulsa Trump rally | Added June 22

Trump’s recent rally in Tulsa, which was initially scheduled to be on Juneteenth but pushed back to June 20, had as many as 300,000 fake ticket applications according to a private admittance on the part of the administration. TikTok users and K-pop fans have claimed that they are the ones who reserved the tickets with no intention of showing up.

From The Daily Mail:

Donald Trump’s campaign has privately admitted that as many as 300,000 of the people who signed up for Saturday’s rally in Tulsa were online tricksters as the president’s fury mounts over the lack of attendance.

Trump and his campaign manager Brad Parscale bragged that one million tickets had been requested, only for the 19,000-seat BOK Center to have 6,200 people in it, according to Tulsa officials.

The high number of requests led the campaign to plan for an outdoor event to handle the expected overflow crowd – only have to cancel it at the last minute when people did not show up.

After going through the signups, the campaign determined that around 300,000 were fake, Politico reported, and, after analyzing the data further, determined that between 200,000 and 300,000 people lived in driving distance.

The worst case scenario was that 60,000 people would show up.


In case you missed the memo: Professional instruction on how to wash your hands | Added June 22

You will find that this post evokes some nostalgia for the good old days of the novel coronavirus, back when people still added the word “novel.” We do miss the adorable Korean videos, and especially the Vietnamese dance number. Standing around the water cooler near the Covid19 News city desk, we remember wistfully the days of singing Happy Birthday twice whilst you wash your hands. And driving on the New York State Thruway, those “wash your hands with soap” messages flashing from the 1980-styled light boards were so reassuring.

It’s been a while since we’ve read about how much pee is found in diner mint bowls, or reports by spies who stand in bathroom primping into the mirror, secretly clicking on a counter in their pocket to record who washes and who does not.

Okay, enough about old times. Today we received this email:

“We manage a website that provides training materials for Certified Nursing Assistants, and one of the skills that CNAs must demonstrate properly before being certified is handwashing.”

“We thought it would be a good idea to put together a hand washing guide page on our website using material from our CNA training resources to help better educate the public on the proper steps for hand washing to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases.”

Here is the hand washing resource. Pass it forward!

Here’s Eric’s takedown of hand sanitizer. Stay away from the stuff. It’s ridiculous.


‘Wastewater surveillance’ in the works around the world to track Covid-19 cases | Added June 22

Using wastewater in an attempt to track Covid-19 cases was briefly discussed by researchers a couple of months ago, and is now being implemented in some countries. Here in the U.S. its efficacy is still being tested while Finland, Germany and the Netherlands have already launched their programs.

More from STAT News:

What only a month ago had been merely an intriguing laboratory finding about analyzing wastewater to detect the virus that causes Covid-19 has quickly leapt to the threshold of real-world use.

With swab tests still plagued by capacity issues, inaccuracy, and slow turnaround, testing wastewater for the novel coronavirus’ genetic signature could give communities a faster way to spot a rebound in cases — as soon as this fall.

“There is real hope that this can be a sensitive, early warning” if, as officials ease social distancing measures, Covid-19 begins to spread again, said Peter Grevatt, CEO of the nonprofit Water Research Foundation. “Several labs have achieved a proof-of-concept in terms of demonstrating the ability to detect the RNA [genetic material] of the virus in wastewater.” Studies in the U.S. and the Netherlands, among others, have shown you can pick up a signal about a week before the first clinical case.


Photo by Lanvi Nguyen

Isn’t it about time that doctors, administrators and media give the Dutch a real picture of the danger of this virus? | Added June 20

By Maurice de Hond | From Joop | Auto-tranlsated

I could imagine that until mid-March we were very afraid of the consequences of the spread of the virus. The WHO indicated that the mortality rate if you became infected was around 3%. The images from the hospitals in Bergamo were terrible. The virologists, epidemiologists and doctors on television indicated that they knew very little and warned us about the many ways we could get infected, up to and including touching coins.

That at that time there was little room for the relativizations, which I could already make by studying the international distribution patterns (such as Rome and Naples, where much less was going on than in Lombardy), I could imagine.

In mid-March I found out via Peil.nl that 43% of the Dutch thought they had a chance of becoming infected of more than 50%. Approximately one third of the Dutch were afraid that if they became infected it would be fatal for them. For the Dutch between 55 and 64 years of age it was 50% and between 65 and 80 years of age it was 60%.

A large part of the Dutch people then had, let’s call it as it is, primary fear of death. And completely understandable by the news that came to them.

READ MORE


Several U.S. hospitals have started to treat severe patients with dexamethasone | Added June 20

Dexamethasone, the ubiquitous, low cost steroid that was recently used in a clinical study to treat severe Covid-19 patients, has been put into use at several U.S. hospitals. This is notable as the hospitals have beun treating their patients with it without awaiting further confirmation of the study’s preliminary results.

From Aol News:

Several U.S. hospitals in states with fresh surges of COVID-19 cases have started treating their sickest patients with dexamethasone rather than await confirmation of preliminary results of a study by British researchers, who said the inexpensive steroid saves lives.

The move illustrates how the pandemic is changing the way hospitals work, at least regarding COVID-19 patients.

Traditionally, doctors wait for detailed data to be published in a peer reviewed journal – or for guidelines from medical societies – before embracing a new treatment, so they can better gauge the risks against the drug’s benefits. The urgency of the coronavirus pandemic and lack of other treatments has altered those calculations.


Top European official says Europe and U.S. working to together to restructure WHO | Added June 20

Apparently Britain, France, Germany and Italy are in talks with the U.S. to reform the WHO so as to “ensure WHO’s independence.” The implication on their part is that China has an amount of undue on the organization. The reforms would include modifying the funding system to be more long-term, as the WHO currently operates on a two-year budget.

From Reuters:

European governments are working with the United States on plans to overhaul the World Health Organization, a top health official for a European country said, signalling that Europe shares some of the concerns that led Washington to say it would quit.

The European health official, who spoke on condition of anonymity while discussing initiatives that are not public, said Britain, France, Germany and Italy were discussing WHO reforms with the United States at the technical level.

The aim, the official said, was to ensure WHO’s independence, an apparent reference to allegations that the body was too close to China during its initial response to the coronavirus crisis early this year.

“We are discussing ways to separate WHO’s emergency management mechanism from any single country influence,” said the official.


Limited nursing home visits to begin in NJ | Added June 20

Beginning on Father’s Day, June 21, nursing home visits in New Jersey will be allowed but facilities will have to follow requirements such as outdoor only visits and the signing of consent forms on the part of family and residents.

From NBC Philadelphia:

New Jersey families with loved ones in nursing homes can begin seeing one another again amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the state health commissioner said Friday.

Commissioner Judy Persichilli said the reunions could begin to take place on Father’s Day, but facilities must adhere to several requirements. Those include that reunions must take place at designated outdoor areas, masked staff members must also be in attendance and residents and family must sign a consent form acknowledging that possible exposure to coronavirus can occur.

New Jersey’s nursing homes have been hard hit by the virus, with nearly half of the deaths from COVID-19 occurring in long-term care facilities.


We cannot be this afraid.

Bubble suits and ‘social distancing clothing’ | Added June 19

In this article The Guardian features a number of designs for “social distancing clothing.” Veronica Toppino, a milliner who is featured in the article, says that such projects make us “reflect on fashion as a tool to investigate new ideas,” and that she doesn’t expect anyone to wear the featured clothing any time soon.

From The Guardian:

With facemasks quickly becoming part of everyday style, a wave of new designs are feeding into the vogue for social-distancing fashion. This week as part of the Central Saint Martins graduate show, Harry Styles-approved designer Harris Reed presented a roundabout-wide hat and crinoline skirt, while as part of last week’s digital London fashion week, Westminster student San Kim showcased Protective Garments for Coronavirus made from M&S and Poundland bags.

Other recent ideas for social distancing clothing range from bubble suits for commuters to massive European size 75 shoes. As their designer, Grigore Lup, told Reuters: “If two people wearing these shoes were facing each other, there would be almost one-and-a-half metres between them.”


Google and Apple contact tracing to be used by UK in lieu of in house effort | Added June 19

The story posted below regarding the WHO’s warning about a second wave of the virus brielfy mentions the UK’s contact tracing efforts. Here’s a little bit more about that; the UK government has abandoned their “centralised coronavirus contact-tracing app” and switched to an alternative designed by Google and Apple. This is after the government spent millions of pounds over the course of three months on “technology that experts had repeatedly warned would not work.”

From The Guardian:

“In an embarrassing U-turn, Matt Hancock said the NHS would switch to an alternative designed by the US tech companies Apple and Google, which is months away from being ready.

At the Downing Street briefing, the health secretary said the government would not “put a date” on when the new app may be launched, although officials conceded it was likely to be in the autumn or winter.

The idea behind the NHS app was that it could trace anybody that a person with coronavirus symptoms came into close contact with by using the Bluetooth connectivity on a standard smartphone, and notify them to self-isolate.

Ministers had insisted on using a centralised version of the untested technology in which anonymised data from people who reported feeling ill was held in an NHS database to enable better tracing and data analysis. This version was not supported by Apple and Google.”


WHO halts hydroxychloroquine trials, again | Added June 19

In the ongoing saga of hydroxychloroquine, the WHO has once again halted its trials for the drug. This was announced on June 17 by WHO expert Ana Maria Henao-Restrepo and said to be based off of data from the Solidarity Trial — the WHO’s ongoing assessment of drugs to treat Covid-19 that enrolls patients from multiple countries — and a UK-led trial as well.

From Reuters:

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in its large multi-country trial of treatments for COVID-19 patients had been halted after new data and studies showed no benefit.

WHO expert Ana Maria Henao-Restrepo said investigators leading the so-called Solidarity Trial testing the drug – which had been promoted by U.S. President Donald Trump – had reviewed recent evidence and decided to stop recruiting new patients.

“After deliberation, they have concluded that the hydroxychloroquine arm will be stopped from the Solidarity Trial,” Henao-Restrepo told a media briefing.


Japan launches their contact tracing app | Added June 19

AS the WHO pushes for greater contact tracing effort throughout the world, Japan has released their new contact tracing app that was based on the core technology provided by Apple and Google, and built by Microsoft. A spokesperson for Japan’s health ministry has said, “A concrete plan for disseminating the app has yet to take shape.”

From Engadget:

Japan is finally getting ready to launch its COVID-19 contact-tracing app, which officials hope will help prevent a second wave of infections. The app — expected to roll out this week — has been besieged with various legislative challenges since work first began on it with the hopes of launching in early May. As Nikkei Asian Review reports, a government source involved in the discussions said, “We wanted to introduce the app when the sense of urgency was high among the public, but we did not make it in time.”

The Japanese government commissioned a team of Microsoft developers to create the app, which uses core technology jointly developed by Apple and Google. Tokyo-based company Code for Japan was initially hired to lead the project, but conditions imposed by Apple and Google — namely that the software could only be managed by public health agencies — meant the project was eventually transferred to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare while another developer was found. Around a month’s worth of work had gone to waste and in the meantime, contact-tracing apps were rolled out by more than 40 other countries.


WHO warns of second wave of the virus in fall | Added June 19

On June 18 the WHO warned of a potential second wave of the coronavirus in autumn, which is odd because most other media sources are claiming that we are currently facing a second wave. Nonetheless the WHO urges greater contact tracing efforts.

From the Daily Mail:

The World Health Organisation has warned that a second wave of coronavirus could hit this autumn, with nations urged to develop a successful test, track and isolate programme.

Dr Hans Kluge, WHO’s European regional director, stressed yesterday that contact tracing and quarantining people potentially infected with Covid-19 was ‘an essential element’ of the strategy.

His comments came a day after UK MPs were told the Government’s contact tracing smartphone app – previously heralded as a fundamental pillar of the country’s response to the pandemic – could be scrapped.

Today the UK Government performed a dramatic U-turn over its heavily-delayed coronavirus tracking app, scrapping its own in place of an existing system, the NHSX app, developed by tech giants Apple and Google – which may not be ready until the winter.


CA order requires face coverings in public | Added June 18

California has issued an order requiring face coverings in most settings outside of one’s home. Children 2 years old and younger, the hearing impaired, and people with “a medical, mental health or developmental disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering,” are exempt from the order. But, it is not clear how the state intends to enforce the order.

From the Los Angeles Times:

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered all Californians to wear face coverings while in public or high-risk settings, including when shopping, taking public transit or seeking medical care, following growing concerns that an increase in coronavirus cases has been caused by residents failing to voluntarily take that precaution.

Newsom’s order came a week after Orange County rescinded a requirement for residents to wear masks and as other counties across California were debating whether to join local jurisdictions that had mandated face coverings. The Newsom administration has not addressed how the new requirement will be enforced or if Californians who violate the order will be subject to citations or other penalties.

“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered — putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease,” Newsom said in a statement. “California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations. That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing.”


Reuters exclusive: EU and Johnson & Johnson planning vaccine deal | Added June 18

The European Commission and Johnson & Johnson are in advanced talks as the Commission seeks to “reserve or buy up-front” Johnson & Johnson’s current vaccine that is under development.

We have previously reported that Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical company that played a role in fueling the opioid epidemic in the U.S., is currently one of the companies taking place in Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. There is talk that the EU expects an announcement of a deal as early as next week.

From Reuters:

The European Commission is in advanced talks with pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) to reserve or buy up-front doses of its COVID-19 vaccine under development, two officials familiar with the talks told Reuters.

The move would be the first arranged by the European Union executive since it was mandated by the 27 EU national governments to use an emergency fund of more than 2 billion euros ($2.3 billion) to strike deals with up to six vaccine makers.

The Commission’s deal with the U.S. firm Johnson & Johnson is “in the pipeline”, a top health official from an EU member state said, asking to remain anonymous as these were confidential discussions about vaccines between the EU executive and EU governments.

A second EU source said the Commission had a call with Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday about the possible agreement.


FDA claims you can infect your pets with virus | Added June 18

Since this whole ordeal has started we have been clobbered with the message that “you will murder everyone you love by virtue of breathing and/or existing in the same space as them.” Well now that applies to your pets too as, according to the FDA; you just might give them the coronavirus.

However, in the course of this whole scenario, we have only heard of three cases of a canine testing positive and none in which they were seriously ill or died. (There was also the pawpaw fruit and the goat.) Dogs definitely get coronaviruses, which would seem to do little harm — to them. There is a plausible theory that whatever is going around came from coronavirus contamination entering the seasonal flu vacceine via dog kidney cell lines.

However, for our panic of the day, in a cheerful little video produced by the FDA, the agency offers tips on how to keep you pets safe from those dangerous people “out there” who could be carrying the coronavirus. And, if you happen to be sick, they suggest wearing a mask when interacting with your pet, or even having someone else care for them.

Really?

From WABC TV:

The Food and Drug Administration posted an adorable but cautionary YouTube video to warn people that while pets likely can’t spread the coronavirus, they can get it from their owners.

The video recommends that owners don’t let their pets interact with people outside the home. Social distancing applies to animals as well as people.

“Though it doesn’t seem like animals can give you the virus, it appears you can give it to them. So if you’re sick, avoid direct contact with your pets. If possible, have someone else care for them until you’re well again,” the agency said in the video.

While dogs can catch the virus, cats and ferrets are more likely to come down with COVID-19.

The FDA says people who are sick should avoid direct contact with pets.


Covid ‘long-haulers’ suffer ongoing symptoms | Added June 18

Writer Ed Yong has a story in The Atlantic focusing on patients, (some Covid-19 patients, and some that aren’t) who are experiencing enduring “relentless waves of debilitating symptoms” that change over time and last for a number of months. With any viral illness and many bacterial ones, and amoebas, this is going to be true for some patients; a lot of things that are nothing new are being treated as something new and special with this.

From The Atlantic:

When I spoke with [Vonny] LeClerc on day 66, she was still experiencing waves of symptoms. “Before this, I was a fit, healthy 32-year-old,” she said. “Now I’ve been reduced to not being able to stand up in the shower without feeling fatigued. I’ve tried going to the supermarket and I’m in bed for days afterwards. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.” Despite her best efforts, LeClerc has not been able to get a test, but “every doctor I’ve spoken to says there’s no shadow of a doubt that this has been COVID,” she said. Today is day 80.

COVID-19 has existed for less than six months, and it is easy to forget how little we know about it. The standard view is that a minority of infected people, who are typically elderly or have preexisting health problems, end up in critical care, requiring oxygen or a ventilator. About 80 percent of infections, according to the World Health Organization, “are mild or asymptomatic,” and patients recover after two weeks, on average. Yet support groups on Slack and Facebook host thousands of people like LeClerc, who say they have been wrestling with serious COVID-19 symptoms for at least a month, if not two or three. Some call themselves “long-termers” or “long-haulers.”


China is building a national genetic database | Added June 17

As the headline says, China is building a national genetic database, and it’s not to help with the coronavirus. It’s just because. Human rights advocates and some officials in China are rightly concerned about the privacy implications.

From Futurism:

Chinese police are gathering blood samples from the country’s roughly 700 million men and boys — with the express purpose of building a national genetic database of their DNA.

The Chinese government has reportedly been collecting these genetic codes since 2017, according to new research. Police have been showing up to people’s homes and even schools to draw blood and compile genetic information.

Once they’re done, the state will be able to track down any man or boy’s male relatives based on their genes, according to The New York Times, vastly enhancing China’s already ubiquitous surveillance powers into a Gattaca-esque genetic panopticon.

Even more alarming is that at least one American company, Thermo Fisher, is helping China do it — the pharma company sold China the tailor-made DNA testing kits that police are using to collect samples after actively pursuing the contract, the NYT reports. After the U.S. government criticized Thermo Fisher’s decision, the company continued onward.

Law enforcement officials in China cite law and order to justify their growing genetic database, arguing that the surveillance effort will help with criminal investigations. But human rights advocates — and even some officials in China — are concerned about the privacy implications of forcing everyone to surrender their genetic code.


U.S. Open to proceed in Queens, NY | Added June 17

Yesterday Andrew Cuomo announced that the U.S. Open will proceed without spectators. It is scheduled for Aug 31 to Sept. 13.

From the New York Times:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Tuesday that the United States Open would be held as originally scheduled but without spectators at the U.S.T.A. Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, approving a plan by the United States Tennis Association to salvage the Grand Slam tournament, one of the biggest sporting events in New York.

“It will be held without fans, but we can watch it on TV, and I’ll take that,” the governor said.

The Open is scheduled for Aug. 31 to Sept. 13. It will be preceded by the Western & Southern Open, a combined men’s and women’s event that is usually held in Mason, Ohio, earlier in August. Instead, it will be moved to New York this year to centralize operations, manage costs and limit player travel. The Western & Southern Open will also be played without spectators.


Skepticism over recently hailed Covid-19 treatment dexamethasone | Added June 17

It was just yesterday that the trial results for the steroid dexamethasone were announced. The commonly available drug was being looked to as the new standard of care for Covid-19 patients, however health officials have begun to question the results and have requested to see the data.

From Reuters:

The report on Tuesday of a powerful treatment for the new coronavirus brought skepticism along with optimism among U.S. doctors, who said the recent withdrawal of an influential COVID-19 study left them wanting to see more data.

Global pressure to find a cure or vaccine has accelerated the process of reporting coronavirus study results, feeding confusion over whether therapies have been proven effective. One influential COVID study was withdrawn this month by respected British medical journal The Lancet over data concerns.

Researchers in Britain said dexamethasone, used to fight inflammation in other diseases, reduced death rates of the most severely ill COVID-19 patients by around a third, and they would work to publish full details as soon as possible.

But hours later South Korea’s top health official cautioned about the use of the drug for COVID-19 patients due to potential side effects.


Pakistan offers example of alternative measures for ‘second wave lockdowns’ | Added June 17

Bloomberg has an opinion piece from Clara Ferreira Marques which focuses on alternative lockdown measures in the face of “a second wave of the virus.” Marques takes a look at Pakistan where an “unorthodox compromise” of two-weeks-on of lockdown measures, followed by two-weeks-off, is being floated.

From the article:

Take Pakistan. Official numbers have soared so dramatically that now roughly one in five of those tested are infected, a worrying indication of both spread and inadequate testing volumes. An already-fragile health system is overwhelmed and running out of beds. The country is now registering well over 6,000 new cases a day, compared with less than 1,000 before restrictions began to ease in May. It’s moving so fast, in fact, that the World Health Organization took the usual step of recommending officials reimpose shelter-in-place orders. Mindful of the financial realities of a crumbling economy, though, the global body suggests restrictions be applied two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off.

It’s an unorthodox compromise. It’s also just the sort of option many more countries will have to consider as they try to contain fresh waves of infection and keep fraying economies ticking over, with a vaccine not yet on the horizon.


Trump to speed up vaccine timeline further | Added June 17

As if things weren’t already moving fast enough, Trump is now pushing for an earlier release of a vaccine in the face of falling poll numbers.

From The Washington Post:

President Trump, faced with multiple crises and falling poll numbers less than five months before the presidential election, is prodding top health officials to move faster on a historically ambitious timeline to approve a coronavirus vaccine by year’s end.

The goal is to instill confidence among voters that the virus can be tamed and the economy fully reopened under Trump’s stewardship.

In a meeting last month with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar — who is overseeing the effort called Operation Warp Speed, along with Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper — Trump pushed Azar repeatedly to speed up the already unprecedented timeline, according to two senior White House officials familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Trump wants some people to be able to get the vaccine sooner than the end of the year to demonstrate that an end to the pandemic is within reach, according to those officials and two others.


Melatonin and Covid-19 cytokine storm | Added June 17

In this June 15 article, The Vaccine Reaction takes a look at a new study which suggests that melatonin may help to “prevent the cytokine storm that is associated with the most severe cases of covid-19 infections.”

A cytokine storm is a “hyper-inflammatory” immune response within the body, to which, melatonin is an “anti-inflammatory molecule produced by the body.”

From the article:

One of the primary processes by which COVID-19 induces serious illness is by initiating a hyper-inflammatory response known as a “cytokine storm,” or hypercytokinemia. A new study published in journal Medicine in Drug Discovery found that melatonin, an anti-inflammatory molecule produced by the body, may help prevent the cytokine storm that is associated with the most severe cases of COVID-19 infections.1

Cytokines are signaling proteins that affect the functioning of the immune system. Different types have different effects, i.e., some act to ramp up the inflammatory response of the immune system and others to slow it down. The release of cytokines is part of a normal immune system’s inflammatory response, but when the body releases too many too quickly, it results in a cytokine storm that can wreak havoc on the whole immune system.2

Many of the symptoms associated with serious COVID-19 infections, such as the high fever, lung injuries causing cough, shortness of breath and long-term lung fibrosis are indicative of a cytokine storm.3 Symptoms also may include inflammatory markers like redness and swelling, pronounced fatigue, nausea, enlarged spleen, excessive bleeding and low blood cell counts (red, white and platelets).4 5 If it remains unresolved, a cytokine storm can cause multiple organ failure and lead to death.


Green spaces and the microbiome | Added June 17

Medical Xpress has an article highlighting new research from the University of Adelaide which focused on microbiome rewilding and its positive impact on human immune systems. That is, by adding vegetation and green spaces to our cities and living spaces, soil is improved to a more biodiverse state which goes on to positively affect our immune systems.

This is what biodiversity looks like. Photo by Jacob MIlls.

From Medical Xpress:

A research team led by the University of Adelaide has found that revegetation of green spaces within cities can improve soil microbiota diversity towards a more natural, biodiverse state, which has been linked to human health benefits.

In the study, published in the journal Restoration Ecology, researchers compared the composition of a variety of urban green space vegetation types of varying levels of vegetation diversity, including lawns, vacant lots, parklands, revegetated woodlands and remnant woodlands within the City of Playford Council area in South Australia.

The purpose of the research was to understand whether it is possible to restore the microbiome of urban green spaces, a process known as microbiome rewilding. It is believed this process could expose us to a greater variety and number of microbiota (organisms living within a specific environment) and provide a form of immune system training and regulation.


Health officials in Philadelphia: so far no spike in cases following protests | Added June 16

It has been two weeks since thousands of protesters took to the streets of Philadelphia. Health officials have said that, so far, there has not been a rise in cases, nor in hospitalizations.

From The Philadelphia Inquirier:

Two weeks after protests in Philadelphia drew crowds of thousands and led to clashes with police, data maintained by the city indicate the large gatherings haven’t caused a spike in COVID-19 cases so far.

“We can’t guarantee there’s not going to be a later rise,” said city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, “but it’s a good sign we haven’t seen it yet.”

Farley and other health experts said that since the protests were outdoors and many people wore masks, a surge might not result.


‘Cases’ increase along major U.S. highways | Added June 16

There are reports of an increase in “cases” of the coronavirus along major highways in the United States. According to data from PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia the I-10, which runs from Florida to Southern California, is one of the highways along which a spike in cases has been found.

From the Daily Mail:

Coronavirus infections appear to be spreading along major highways and interstates across the United States as states continue to reopen and people start social distancing less, health officials have warned.

New COVID-19 hot spots are popping up along interstates in California, Arizona and the Carolinas, according to data compiled by the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

A PolicyLab map of current cases per 100,000 people in a select number of counties across the country show infections appear to be clustered around the I-10, which stretches through southern states from California to Florida.


Trial results are in for dexamethasone, a common steroid tested as a Covid-19 treatment | Added June 16

The widely available drug dexamethasone has reportedly fared well in a clinical trial where existing treatments were used to treat Covid-19.

According to Wikipedia, dexamethasone is commonly used to treat high altitude illnesses and is “commonly carried on mountain-climbing expeditions to help climbers deal with complications of altitude sickness.” This comports with what Dr’s Zach Bush and Cameron Kyle-Sidell said regarding Covid-19 and its similarities to a high altitude illness/hypoxic injury.

From BBC:

The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone is a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus, UK experts say.

The drug is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus.

It cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.

Had the drug had been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, researchers say.


Airlines getting stricter on mask usage |Added June 16

Since there are currently no federal regulations requiring masks on planes, major U.S. airlines are planning to enforce stricter rules for passengers and may refuse boarding to those who are not wearing masks. United Airlines is going a bit farther than that.

From CNN:

Major US airlines in Airlines for America, the carriers’ industry group, announced Monday that they intended to more strictly enforce mask wearing aboard their planes, including potentially banning passengers who refuse to wear a mask.

The announcement comes in lieu of a federal regulation requiring all passengers to wear masks — the sort of enforceable measure that governs requirements to wear seatbelts and not smoke…

United Airlines came out Monday with its own separate announcement that has more teeth than what it’s been doing so far. If you refuse to wear a face mask starting June 18, you could find yourself on a restricted travel list.


New study on infection rates in children | Added June 16

The Washington Post has reported on a new study indicating that children are only half as likely to be infected by the coronavirus. On a related note, The Washington Post also reports that all schools have been closed in Beijing as the city has raised its coronavirus response; schools had just reopened in May.

More from The Washington Post on the new study:

Children and teenagers are only half as likely to get infected with the coronavirus as adults age 20 and older, and they usually don’t develop clinical symptoms of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to a study published Tuesday.

The findings could influence policymakers who are facing tough decisions about when and how to reopen schools. Distance learning has been challenging for teachers, students and parents, and there is pressure on officials to restart in-person schooling to free up parents who have been juggling work and child care.


A good portion of Americans plan not to use contact tracing apps according to new survey | Added June 16

The results from a new study and survey are in, indicating that 71% of Americans will not “download a COVID contact tracing app.” The main reason cited was that “people don’t trust the technology to protect their digital privacy,” but, notably, according to the results Americans are “twice as likely to trust contact tracing technology provided by Big Tech to keep their data private over government-run apps.” The research comes from Avira where an in-depth report on the results of the study may be found. Below are a few of the key findings.

From Avira:

  • Over 71% of Americans said they don’t plan to download and use a COVID contact tracing app.
  • Of those who said they would not use the apps, the main reason was concerns that the technology won’t protect people’s digital privacy.
  • The most-trusted COVID contact tracing app technology is that from Big Tech: 32% said they would trust technology by Google/Apple to keep their data secure and private. Just 14% said the same for contact tracing apps provided directly from the government.
  • Those working in Government and Healthcare are the least-likely to download the technology – 84% of people from these sectors said they wouldn’t use the apps.
  • People age 25-44 rank COVID contact tracing apps as the biggest threat to digital privacy in 2020. They view the apps as a bigger threat than identity theft or even cybercrime.
  • The least-likely to use the apps are people over 55 – 88% said they don’t intend on downloading the technology. Women are also far less likely than men to use the apps; only 18% of women say they would download the apps, while 40% of men said they would.
  • Roughly 75% of Americans believe their digital privacy is at risk if COVID contact tracing app data is stored so government and authorities can access the data.

Professor Denis Rancourt on masks | Added June 15

No study, and there have been many, has been able to establish any advantage of wearing a mask or respirator, with viral respiratory diseases.

In a recent interview from OffGuardian, Professor Denis Rancourt spoke on the efficacy of mask use or, as he claims, the lack thereof. Specifically he says that there have been no studies that have established an advantage to wearing a mask. He also refers to a paper that he wrote on the subject, which you will find linked in the quote below.

From OffGuardian:

Denis Rancourt: In my article “Masks Don’t Work: A review of science relevant to COVID-19 social policy”, I show that there have been many randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and meta-analyses of RCTs, which were designed to detect any benefit from wearing a mask, in terms of reducing the risk of being infected by a viral respiratory disease.

In the many studies, in which the known bias of self-reporting is eliminated by using laboratory-confirmed infection detection, no statistically meaningful advantage is ever found, in either health-care or community settings, with either surgical masks or N95 respirators. No study, and there have been many, has been able to establish any advantage of wearing a mask or respirator, with viral respiratory diseases.

This means that, even in controlled professional health-care settings, any benefit is too small to be detected by science, and that other factors must be overwhelmingly more important.


Early coronavirus vaccines may not do anything to protect from infection| Added June 15

It seems that the early coronavirus vaccines that are being looked to as the key to returning life back to normal may not protect from infection, nor help to ease lockdown measures. According to this article from Fortune the earliest coronavirus vaccines may only help to protect from severe illness, but not help to slow the spread of the virus.

From the article:

Desperation for a way to keep economies from collapsing under the weight of Covid-19 could mean settling for a vaccine that prevents people from getting really sick or dying but doesn’t stop them from catching the coronavirus.

Although a knock-out blow against the virus is the ultimate goal, early vaccines may come with limitations on what they can deliver, according to Robin Shattock, an Imperial College London professor leading development of an experimental shot.

“Is that protection against infection?” Shattock said. “Is it protection against illness? Is it protection against severe disease? It’s quite possible a vaccine that only protects against severe disease would be very useful.”

As countries emerge warily from lockdowns, leaders are looking to a preventive shot as the route to return to pre-pandemic life. Fueled by billions of dollars in government investment, vaccines from little-known companies like China’s CanSino Biologics Inc. and giants like Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc are in development.


Socially distant theatre in Berlin removes seats| Added June 15

The Berliner Ensemble theatre group in Berlin, as the name implies, is reopening and in order to abide by social-distancing regulations they have removed 500 to 700 of the theatre’s seats. The theatre is set to reopen in September and, in the meantime, the removed historic seats will be renovated.

Guess you won’t be able to put your feet up on the seats in front of you anymore. Photo by Moritz Haase.

From Dezeen:

The Berlin-based theatre group, which operates from the 19th century Theater am Schiffbauerdamm building, shared an image of its auditorium on Twitter to give theatre-goers an idea of the experience they will have when it reopens following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Around 70 per cent of the auditorium’s seats have been removed, with every second row cleared and seats arranged either individually or in pairs on the remaining rows.


FDA revokes approval for hydroxychloroquine | Added June 15

The hydroxychloroquine saga continues as the FDA has revoked its emergency authorization of the drug as well as the related drug chloroquine. This comes to us from the New York Times where it is also noted that “the [FDA] said that after reviewing some data, it had determined that the drugs, particularly hydroxychloroquine, did not demonstrate benefits that outweighed their risks.”

What data, specifically, did they refer to? It wasn’t the recently retracted data, was it? The FDA, however, is fine with the continued use of the drugs in clinical trials.

From the New York Times:

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday that it was revoking emergency authorization of two malaria drugs to treat Covid-19, saying that they are “unlikely to be effective.”

The drugs, hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, were heavily promoted by President Trump after a handful of small, poorly controlled studies showed that they could work in treating the disease…

In March, the F.D.A. authorized stockpiles of the drugs to be used in hospitals to treat patients with the virus. But in a letter Monday revoking the authorization, the agency said that further studies have shown that the two drugs were unlikely to be effective in stopping the virus, and that current national treatment guidelines don’t recommend using them outside of clinical trials.


The closed entrance to Beijing’s Xinfadi Market where a cutting board apparently tested positive for the coronavirus.

It’s like déjà vu all over again: Food market shut down in Beijing; China adopts ‘wartime-like measures’ in response to new ‘cases’ | Added June 15

A food market in Beijing as well as a number of nearby districts in the city have been shut down in response to what is said to be a surge in cases. According to The Wall Street Journal health authorities in the city claimed that they “had detected the virus on a cutting board that belonged to a vendor in the market who sold imported salmon.”

Didn’t the United States CDC update their website to say that spread from objects wasn’t that big of a concern? Then again they reversed their position on that once the first update was reported on.

Regardless, the wartime-like measures that are being imposed in China include “travel restrictions, residential lockdowns and the mass mobilization of neighborhood-watchdog committees to conduct temperature checks and enforce quarantines.”

Lastly, in the South China Morning Post’s coverage of this story, it is noted that China claims to count only those who are symptomatic as cases.

More from The Wall Street Journal:

Chinese health authorities shut parts of Beijing and adopted tight controls after the capital confirmed a record number of new Covid-19 infections, sparking growing concerns about a coronavirus resurgence.

Beijing had recorded almost 80 new cases by Sunday, all locally transmitted and linked to Xinfadi, a sprawling meat and vegetable wholesale market in the southwestern district of Fengtai that supplies most of the city’s fruit and vegetables, officials said.


A church in Argentina turns into a bar… | Added June 15

So, apart from the breaded veal headed for table four, here goes the word of God from the house of the Lord to all nations.

Sounds like a variation on an old joke. But, truly, a pastor in Argentina has reopened his church as a bar in protest of the lockdown regulations in place there which continue to forbid religious services. The pastor of the church, Daniel Cattaeno, was quoted as saying “Bars can open, shops can open, why are they discriminating against us?”

From The Guardian:

They must serve a hell of a communion.

Bar tables were placed inside the church and pastors dressed as waiters carrying bibles on their trays in a mock service as part of call for religious services to be allowed during Argentina’s coronavirus lockdown.

“We are standing here today dressed like this, carrying a tray, because it seems this is the only way we can serve the word of God,” pastor Daniel Cattaneo, dressed as a waiter, said as he opened the “worship bar” at the Comunidad Redentor (Redeemer Community) evangelical church in the city of San Lorenzo, in Argentina’s central province of Santa Fe.

“So, apart from the breaded veal headed for table four, here goes the word of God from the house of the Lord to all nations.”


Thanks for sharing: Vladimir Putin weighs in on the United States’ handling of the coronavirus | Added June 15

It’s not entirely clear if Putin was asked a specific question, or if he volunteered his opinion on how the United States has handled the coronavirus. Either way, his opinion: Russia has done better.

From Reuters:

President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that Russia was emerging from the novel coronavirus epidemic with minimal losses, having handled it better than the United States where he said party political interests got in the way…

Russia’s political system had handled the crisis better than its U.S. counterpart, said Putin, because authorities at federal and regional level had worked as one team without disagreements unlike those in the United States.

“I can’t imagine someone in the (Russian) government or regions saying we are not going to do what the government or president say,” said Putin.

“It seems to me that the problem (in the United States) is that group, in this case party interests, are put above those of society’s as a whole, above the interests of the people.”


Leaked emails from Denmark’s health authorities reveal political manipulation of scientific info | Added June 13

Emails leaked to the Ekstrabladet newspaper showed how on March 20, new calculations showing that the reproduction number in Denmark was 2.1, considerably lower than the 2.6 previously estimated, were held back because they were ‘not desired politically’.

Emails between health officials in Denmark have been leaked to the press, highlighting the political drama in March that surrounds the implementation of public health policy. Notably, official calculations that showed a lower rate of spread for the virus were held back from the public for political reasons. In fact, the Danish prime minister extended the lockdown knowing that the rate of infection was about two thirds less than he had told the public.

From The Local:

Emails leaked to the Ekstrabladet newspaper showed how on March 20, new calculations showing that the reproduction number in Denmark was 2.1, considerably lower than the 2.6 previously estimated, were held back because they were “not desired politically”.

The health spokesperson for the opposition Liberal party told the Politiken newspaper that the email to [Danish top health officla] Bostrøm was “totally crazy.”

“It is quite simply a huge problem if you start trying to politically manage the official advice you receive,” he said.

“When in the [health] department you can write to the Danish Health Authority, sand say ‘now you just have to think about putting this into a political context when you reply’. If that is really what it says, in my honest conviction, that is quite worrying”.

He said the decision to hold back publication of the better than expected reproduction number showed the issue was gaining “scandalous dimensions.”


Did Wikipedia downgrade the Spanish Flu’s estimated case fatality rates? | Added June 13

Here is a March 9 article from OffGuardian we just found in an email search where they sought to answer a dispute of the reported case fatality rate of the Spanish FLu. The Wikipedia page for the Spanish Flu has since been changed.

From the article:

We’ve had a couple of people BTL take issue with us regarding the case fatality rate (CFR) of the 1918 Spanish Flu. Citing Wikipedia and the CDC we gave that rate as being between 10-20%. A couple of commenters, however, insisted the actual CFR was 2-3%, and this led us to look further.

What we found was quite interesting.

This is the pre-February 22 2020 opening paragraph of the ‘Mortality’ section on the Wiki page for the Spanish flu (our emphasis):

“The global mortality rate from the 1918–1919 pandemic is not known, but an estimated 10% to 20% of those who were infected died (case-fatality ratio). About a third of the world population was infected, and 3% to 6% of the entire global population of over 1800 million[51] died.[2]”

This is how the same paragraph reads now:

“It is estimated that one third of the global population was infected,[2] and the World Health Organization estimates that 2–3% of those who were infected died (case-fatality ratio).”


Former Covid-19 patient sent whopping $1.1 million medical bill for his treatment | Added June 13

The longest-hospitalized Covid-19 patient, Michael Flor, recently had a look at his 181 page bill from the hospital: $1.1 million dollars. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to pay for most of it. Danny Westneat covers this in the Seattle Times:

“The bill is technically an explanation of charges, and because Flor has insurance including Medicare, he won’t have to pay the vast majority of it. In fact because he had COVID-19, and not a different disease, he might not have to pay anything — a quirk of this situation I’ll get to in a minute.”

“But for now it’s got him and his family and friends marveling at the extreme expense, and bizarre economics, of American health care.”

Similarly, the writer David Lat had a bill for $320,000 following his Covid-19 treatment, and he too did not have to pay for most of it. The article mentions that Lat heard from cancer and leukemia patients who had similar large bills or co-pays in this same time period.

“It’s like we’re doing an experiment for what universal health coverage might be like, but confining it to only this one illness.”

“’Suffering from the novel coronavirus as opposed to cancer shouldn’t make a difference in terms of your financial burden,’ Lat wrote, in Slate. ‘What you pay as a patient shouldn’t depend, in essence, on whether your disease has a good publicist.’”


AstraZeneca to supply Europe with 400 million doses of vaccine | Added June 13

AstraZeneca, who previously made a deal to manufacture the vaccine that the University of Oxford is developing, has agreed to supply European governments with 400 million doses of the vaccine.

From Reuters:

AstraZeneca Plc has signed a contract with European governments to supply the region with its potential vaccine against the coronavirus, the British drugmaker’s latest deal to pledge its drug to help combat the pandemic.

The contract is for up to 400 million doses of the vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, the company said on Saturday, adding that it was looking to expand manufacturing of the vaccine, which it said it would provide for no profit during the pandemic.

Deliveries will start by the end of 2020.

The deal is the first contract signed by Europe’s Inclusive Vaccines Alliance (IVA), a group formed by France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands to secure vaccine doses for all member states as soon as possible.


New York hospital system plans to analyze their usage of ventilators | Added June 12

Northwell Health, the largest hospital system in New York, will be taking a look at its use of ventilators to treat Covid-19. This is in response to the assertion that ventilators played a part in killing patients; We have previously shared reports from doctors who raised this issue, a couple of months ago, such as Dr. Cameron Kyle-Sidell, and Dr. Zach Bush.

From the New York Post:

New York’s largest hospital system is conducting a sweeping analysis of its use of ventilators while treating coronavirus patients during the peak of the pandemic.

The study comes as experts have raised concerns that an over-reliance on the machines may have actually cost lives.

For so many sick COVID-19 patients, getting attached to a mechanical ventilator was a death sentence. More than two-thirds of the patients in Northwell Health facilities hooked to ventilators died in March and early April and the fatality rate was similar at other hospitals.

At the beginning of the pandemic, health officials were worried whether there would be a shortage of ventilators to intubate COVID patients with serious breathing and lung problems. But then discussion in the medical community turned to whether the machines were being overused and possibly contributing to a higher death rate.


A look at preexisting resistance to the virus | Added June 12

The Guardian has a June 7 article pondering why some places have fared better than others with the coronavirus. One of the ideas that comes up is cross-reactivity: earlier exposure to similar coronavirus could have conferred protection to the novel coronavirus.

Notably, Sunetra Gupta is interviewed in the article. Gupta was a part of a group, from the University of Oxford, that released a forecast for the virus around the same time as Neil Ferguson and Imperial College London.

In contrast to Ferguson’s model, Gupta’s group suggested that “up to half of the UK population could already have been infected by Sars-CoV-2, meaning the infection fatality rate (IFR) – the proportion of infected people who went on to die – was much lower than Ferguson’s group was indicating, and the disease was therefore less dangerous.”

From The Guardian:

In a paper published in Cell on 14 May, researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California reported that T cells in blood drawn from people between 2015 and 2018 recognised and reacted to fragments of the Sars-CoV-2 virus. “These people could not have possibly seen Sars-CoV-2,” says one of the paper’s senior authors, Alessandro Sette. “The most reasonable hypothesis is that this reactivity is really cross-reactivity with the cousins of Sars-CoV-2 – the common cold coronaviruses which circulate very broadly and generally give rather mild disease.”


Trump administration will not disclose who received billions in coronavirus relief loans | Added June 12

The United States Public Interest Research Group has responded to Politico’s coverage of the Trump Administration’s decision not to disclose the names of businesses that received Covid-19 bailout funds.

From U.S. PIRG:

“According to a report by Politico this morning, the Trump administration is signaling that it may not release the names of the businesses that have received a portion of the $500 billion-plus in coronavirus (COVID-19) bailout funds distributed through the Small Business Association’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the information “confidential” and “proprietary.” Not even Congress has all the details: Sen. Ben Cardin said at a hearing Wednesday that the Government Accountability Office, the watchdog agency that provides Congress with audits of governmental activity, has struggled to receive information from the SBA.”

And here is part of a statement released by U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget advocate R.J. Cross in response:

“The PPP is a unique, massive program designed to meet an unprecedented crisis. But after some of the first rounds of funding went to large entities such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Americans have reason to wonder how well the PPP is helping small businesses.That track record does not assure us, and today’s revelation that the government may never tell the public how this $500 billion is being spent is unsettling at best.

“The bailout is taxpayer money. Secretary Mnuchin says the information about where it goes is ‘proprietary.’ But the transparency taxpayers are asking for does not require the release of Coca-Cola’s secret formula. We are just asking who has gotten billions of our taxpayer dollars, and if that money has been spent well. That is very much our business.


Cybersecurity experts approve of virus alert system released by Apple and Google | Added June 12

A group of cybersecurity experts have apparently approved of the coronavirus alert system recently released by Apple and Google. To clarify, this isn’t a specific app. Rather, what was released was the system and technological infrastructure upon which “exposure notification apps” will be built.

More info from the Washington Post:

Apple and Google struck the right balance between protecting privacy and combating the coronavirus in a tool they released to help alert people who’ve been exposed to the disease, according to a majority of cybersecurity experts.

That assessment from 59 percent of The Network, a panel of more than 100 cybersecurity experts who participate in our ongoing informal survey, marks a vote of confidence for the system embraced by some state and national public health agencies but criticized by others for not providing enough information to help them slow the disease’s spread.

A number of states and at least 22 countries plan to build exposure notification apps using the technology.


‘Mass audit’ of scientific papers after Surgisphere scandal | Added June 11

On June 3 we shared this Washington Post article about clinical trials assessing the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine. On June 5 one of the studies that was included in that article was retracted: the legitimacy of the medical data company Surgisphere that provided the data for that study, as well as the legitimacy of their data, has been called into question. The Guardian first reported on that here. The WHO and other research institutes put a halt to trials on hydroxychloroquine around the world based on that study, but have since resumed trials.

As of now there is a mass audit of scientific papers that relied on Surgisphere’s data, and one expert claims that “a study that formed the basis of [Sapan] Desai’s PhD may contain doctored images.” Sapan Desai is the founder of Surgisphere. From The Guardian:

“Dozens of scientific papers co-authored by the chief executive of the US tech company behind the Lancet hydroxychloroquine study scandal are now being audited, including one that a scientific integrity expert claims contains images that appear to have been digitally manipulated.”

“The audit follows a Guardian investigation that found the company, Surgisphere, used suspect data in major scientific studies that were published and then retracted by world-leading medical journals, including the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine.”

Edit: We had previously written that images from Surgisphere’s data had been doctored. It has now been corrected; the allegation is that images formed the basis of Desai’s PhD were doctored.


Virus-resistant vending machines | Added June 11

In Japan measures are being taken to make vending machines there virus-resistant. There’s something about using used tea leaves. It’s a rather short article, so here it is in full. From The Japan Times:

Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan Inc. said Thursday that it will make some 30,000 of its about 700,000 vending machines resistant to virus and bacteria in response to growing hygiene awareness among the public amid the new coronavirus crisis.

Beginning this week, product selection buttons and dispensing slots of the 30,000 vending machines located at such public spaces as hospitals and train stations across the country will be covered with antiviral and antibacterial films.

As the films have strong antiviral and antibacterial properties, they can be effective against the new coronavirus, according to the company.

The films will be replaced with new ones every six months.

In the beverage industry, Ito En Ltd. started putting antibacterial seals utilizing used tea leaves on some 30,000 vending machines across the country starting June.


Fauci responds to the WHO’s statement that asymptomatic spread of the virus is ‘very rare’ | Added June 11

Yesterday on Good Morning America, Dr. Anthony Fauci responded to the WHO’s recently walked back statement about asymptomatic spread of the virus being “very rare.”

From the New York Post:

Dr. Anthony Fauci blasted the World Health Organization Wednesday, saying an official at the international health agency was dead wrong when she claimed it was “very rare” for an infected person to transmit the deadly bug to a healthy person.

“What happened the other day is that a member of the WHO was saying that transmission from an asymptomatic person to an infected person was very rare,” Fauci said on “Good Morning America.” “They walked that back because there’s no evidence to indicate that’s the case.”

“And in fact, the evidence that we have, given the percentage of people, which is about 25, 45 percent of the totality of infected people, likely are without symptom,” he said. “And we know from epidemiological studies that they can transmit to someone who is uninfected, even when they’re without symptoms.”

“So, to make a statement, to say that’s a rare event, was not correct, and that’s the reason why the WHO walked that back.”


Why is anyone still listening to Neil Ferguson? | Added June 11

Coronavirus: enforcing UK lockdown one week earlier ‘could have saved 20,000 lives’

The stark claim by Prof Neil Ferguson that thousands of lives could have been saved was repeated by chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, when he was asked about “his regrets about the handling of the crisis” to date.

“Had we introduced lockdown a week earlier we’d have reduced the final death toll by at least half,” he told MPs on the House of Commons science committee. “The measures, given what we knew about the virus then, were warranted. Certainly had we introduced them earlier we’d have seen many fewer deaths.”

What is unclear is by what means such a determination can be made. Not only had Ferguson himself come under fire for quite personally ignoring social distancing rules, the very modeling coming from his Imperial College has been shown to be ripe for professional dissection. Additionally, it seems certain from other compelling reporting that most deaths occurred- and continue to occur- in elder care facilities around the country. Such places are by nature already somewhat isolated.

Further irony exists in the opposite pressure Boris Johnson is coming under by MPs regarding the delayed reopening of schools and need to relax the 2m distancing policy. And who would be surprised? It’s no secret that there is continuing lack of clarity and logic about the effectiveness of current social distancing guidelines on the unfolding epidemic processes.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, was quoted as saying: “It is not a scientific rule – it is a risk-based assessment on when risk reduces … It is wrong to portray this as a scientific rule that says it is two metres or nothing.”

Such concerns are even evident in the more broad “excess deaths” numbers which are effectively agreed upon to include both “undiagnosed Covid-19 deaths as well as deaths caused by a lack of treatment resulting from the lockdown.” It has been recently reported in The Guardian that the rate of excess deaths is falling but it “remained 20% higher than the five-year average for England and Wales.”

Logic states it will be difficult to sort out the clean data on the causes of such numbers given how policy has been favoring the designation of deaths both “of” and “with” Covid-19 across all causes.


Trump to hold rally in Oklahoma | Added June 10

Donald Trump is preparing to hold his next rally in Tulsa, Okla. as he gets back on the campaign trail. This will be his first rally in the past three months. Of all days Trump will be holding it on June 19, also known as Juneteenth: the day commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States. Not only that, the rally’s planned location in Tulsa, Oklahoma is the site of one of the most horrific race massacres in American history. CNN has pointed out what a dog whistle this is.

We also previously reported, here, that there would be no social distancing measures at the rally, however a report from Business Insider has shown that attendees will have to sign a liability waiver.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Trump has also made it clear he doesn’t want to speak in front of gatherings that look empty because of social distancing, or to look out on a sea of covered faces as he tries to project a positive message about the country returning to normal life and the economy roaring back, even as his top health advisers have warned the pandemic is far from over. “Oh my goodness,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday. “Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of it.”

Campaign officials said they were considering some modest attempts at reducing risk by providing hand sanitizer on site, but said no final decisions had been made about how to safely bring together a large group of people.


Medical trade show held in Southern China | Added June 10

On the topic of facial recognition, there is an international trade show being held in China showing “anti-infection” medical supplies. At least one monitoring system being displayed combined “technologies for measuring body temperature and facial recognition.”

From NHK World-Japan:

An international trade show of medical supplies that help protect against the new coronavirus is underway in southern China.

The two-day fair began on Wednesday in Guangzhou, with about 600 manufacturers and retailers taking part. It is being hosted by trade organizations and the city government.

Among the exhibits is a humanoid robot equipped with a thermography camera. It moves around people while checking their temperatures.


Amazon now the second company to put their facial recognition tech on pause | Added June 10

Amazon is now the second company to put a hold on police use of their facial recognition software. We reported on IBM’s similar decision to put a hold on the technology, yesterday. Amazon has said that they hope the one-year hold will “give congress enough time to put in place appropriate rules” for the use of the technology.

From the New York Times:

Amazon said on Wednesday that it was putting a one-year pause on letting the police use its facial recognition tool, in a major sign of the growing concerns that the technology may lead to unfair treatment of African-Americans.

The technology giant did not explain its reasoning in its brief blog post about the change, but the move came amid the nationwide protests over racism and biased policing. Amazon’s technology had been criticized in the past for misidentifying people of color.


Masks and gloves are the new condoms | Added June 10

All those disposable masks and gloves end up somewhere. Turns out, they’re not being properly disposed and are now polluting the ocean.

From Newsweek:

Environmental organizations are raising alarm about growing ocean pollution caused by increased waste created out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Millions of people around the globe have donned disposable face masks and latex gloves, and while it helps slow the spread of the virus, they also may be disposed of incorrectly, groups warn.

In a video posted on Facebook, Laurent Lombard of Opération Mer Propre, a French nonprofit that works on ocean cleanups, according to the Guardian, wrote that “soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the waters of the Mediterranean.”

Lombard’s video showed disposable gloves and masks littering the bottom of a seabed off the coast of Antibes on the French Riviera.


US-Canada border reopening possibly delayed | Added June 10

We recently came across a report detailing upcoming the reopening of the border crossing between the United States and Canada. The border was set to reopen later this month but there was talk of the date being pushed back, again. On June 9 however,Reuters reported that sources shared with them that the border reopening will be pushed back to July. We have more on that below.

Side-note: as of June 8 immediate family members of Canadian citizens or permanent residents are allowed to entry the country, provided that they quarantine for 14 days.

From Reuters:

Canada and the United States are set to extend a ban on non-essential travel to late July as both countries seek to control the spread of the coronavirus, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Washington and Ottawa introduced month-long restrictions in March and renewed them in April and May. The ban, currently due to expire on June 21, does not affect trade.

Canadian and U.S. sources said although the governments had not yet taken a final decision, a further extension was highly likely.

“It’s going to be a clean rollover” on June 21, said a U.S. source who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation. “We will want to look at it again in July.”


Special Comment About Asymptomatic or Subclinical Spread and ‘Social Distancing’ Measures | By Eric, added June 10

“This is not a minor, technical clarification. The implications of what is being said are very, very substantial, and it requires a lot more context and explanation than W.H.O. is providing right now,”

Monday, an official of the World Health Organization issued a statement wherein she said that asymptomatic spread of the “novel coronavirus” is “very rare.” Planet Waves, CNBC, The New York Times and other media reported this. This represented a 180-degree reversal of the WHO position and was therefore newsworthy.

The notion of social distancing, of face “masks,” and plexiglass shields being put up randomly everywhere, is based on the notion that people can spread the “novel coronavirus” without having any symptoms. I have yet to see any direct evidence of this.

Then on Tuesday, the official attempted to walk back her statement, which is a typical maneuver when someone reveals information they were not supposed to share, or goes against the political grain.

One might assume that the “correction” or second statement by WHO is true, though that’s not the way it works. The fact that WHO walked it back the next day is scandalous in itself. They are supposed to provide consistent guidance based on the best scientific knowledge — not to act as political operatives or worse, as representatives of the pharmaceutical industry. We must demand to know what data this person is in possession of that contradicts the front-line position that WHO is taking.

There is ample additional evidence that social distancing measures are irrelevant and harmful; numerous medical doctors and some professional organizations are calling for an end to the lockdowns.

Forcing people into house detention, and keeping us physically separate from one another, carries consequences. These include increased domestic violence, depression, alcohol use, loneliness, vitamin D deficiency, and potentially lifelong emotional scarring if the fear of others is inflicted on children at certain sensitive developmental ages. In California, pediatricians are recommending that kids be allowed back to school. Many doctors have pointed out that staying in one’s home and away from others is immune suppressing and therefore increases susceptibility to disease of all kinds.

Here are two quotations related to asymptomatic spread, both reported Monday:

“Comprehensive studies on transmission from asymptomatic individuals are difficult to conduct, but the available evidence from contact tracing reported by Member States suggests that asymptomatically-infected individuals are much less likely to transmit the virus than those who develop symptoms,” according to Maria Van Kerkhove, part of the Health Emergencies Program at WHO.

“That fundamentally changes our understanding of how this virus is spread and what we should do as a response,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. “This is not a minor, technical clarification. The implications of what is being said are very, very substantial, and it requires a lot more context and explanation than W.H.O. is providing right now,” the Times reported.


Analysis from Forbes: ‘42% Of U.S. Deaths Are From 0.6% Of The Population’ | Added June 10

This May 26 analysis from Avik Roy and Gregg Girvan was published in Forbes and claims that “42% of all Covid-19 deaths have taken place in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.” Roy notes that there are some states, such as New York, that exclude those who die in hospitals from their nursing home death tallies “even if they were originally infected in a long-term care facility.”

More from Forbes:

2.1 million Americans, representing 0.62% of the U.S. population, reside in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. (Nursing homes are residences for seniors needing help with activities of daily living, such as taking a shower or getting dressed, who also require 24/7 medical supervision; assisted living facilities are designed for seniors who need help with activities of daily living, but don’t require full-time on-site medical supervision.)

According to an analysis that Gregg Girvan and I conducted for the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, as of May 22, in the 43 states that currently report such figures, an astounding 42% of all COVID-19 deaths have taken place in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Let that sink in: 42% of all COVID-19 deaths are taking place in facilities that house 0.62% of the U.S. population.

And 42% could be an undercount. States like New York exclude from their nursing home death tallies those who die in a hospital, even if they were originally infected in a long-term care facility. Outside of New York, more than half of all deaths from COVID-19 are of residents in long-term care facilities.


European Commission requesting monthly misinformation reports from social media companies regarding pandemic | Added June 10

The European Commission is set to introduce proposals that will require social media companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, to “provide monthly updates on how they’re tackling misinformation connected to COVID-19.”

From Politico:

The latest push by Brussels to clamp down on rumors, bogus cures and state-backed disinformation linked to the global public health crisis will be published on Wednesday. It forms part of the Commission’s wider efforts — to be published later this year — to overhaul how social media giants monitor and police online content.

As part of Wednesday’s proposals, the Commission is expected to call for greater cooperation with international partners, including NATO and the G-7 group of the world’s most wealthy nations, on combatting digital misinformation. Officials are also expected to call out both Russia and China for efforts to spread coronavirus disinformation aimed at undermining the West.


Louisiana contact tracing not working too well | added June 10

Louisiana is having some issues with contact tracing as people are not answering their phones. Contact tracing efforts in other states seem to be faring similarly. You could probably blame robocalls for that.

The French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana. Taken February 4, 2018. Photo by Pedro Szekely.

From The Advocate:

Louisiana is spending millions of dollars on the centerpiece of the state’s reopening plan, contact tracing, the practice of deploying callers to reach infected people and track down their contacts. But the plan is hitting a snag: people aren’t answering their phones.

Between May 15, when the state began its ramped-up contact tracing plan, and June 2, tracers successfully reached fewer than half of the infected people they called, according to data released by the Louisiana Department of Health.

The figures are similar to those seen in some other states, and raise questions about how effective the program will be in tamping down the spread of the highly-contagious coronavirus, especially as the state marches through its phased reopening plan. State leaders have urged people to answer the calls and take part in the program – especially so the people they may have exposed to the virus can be notified.


Pandemic surveillance network | Added June 10

Newsweek has an opinion piece from Jamie Metzl and Glenn S. Gerstell where they share their ideas on how to prevent the next pandemic. Their suggestion: a merger, of sorts, between the WHO and the power of global spy agencies.

From Newsweek:

Our spy agencies have the expertise to blend intelligence collection and analysis, the review of open source materials, input from science and medical professionals, and on-site data to arrive at comprehensive but detailed and specific insights—exactly what is now missing in the public health context. If we could employ that type of expertise in a new public health surveillance system, such a system might be able to sift through massive amounts of publicly available information to glean insights by monitoring activity at certain hospitals, check out spikes in certain drugs or medical supplies, or run AI tools to scan social media posts about friends or relatives getting sick. Far less often, the system might need to rely on more aggressive techniques, for example, to uncover secrets such as a local health official’s confidential report to central authorities.


Bill Gates responds to ‘stupid’ conspiracy theories about him and vaccines| Added June 9

The New York Post published an interview on June 5 where Bill Gates dismissed the idea that he had anything to do with “any sort of micro-chip type thing” and spoke on vaccine misinformation. As a point of clarification, the micro-chip concerns stem from Gates’ direct connection to and funding of “quantum dot tattoos,” invisible tattoos which simultaneously vaccinate and record vaccination data. Gates and his foundation is also heavily involved with ID2020: a group pushing for digital identification, centered on vaccination history, but larger in scope.

Here is Gates’ statement about micro-chips from the New York Post:

“During the call with reporters, Gates was asked about a recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll that purported to find 44 percent of Republicans polled saying they believed the Microsoft co-founder is, according to Yahoo News, ‘plotting to use a mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign as a pretext to implant microchips in billions of people and monitor their movements.'”

“Responded Gates on Thursday: ‘In a way, it’s so bizarre, you almost want to view it as something humorous, but I guess it’s really not a humorous thing. I’ve never been involved in any sort of microchip-type thing.'”

However according to a May 15 report from MIT the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation was a backer of Microchips Biotech, a company who was working on “birth-control microchip” at the time:

“While its first partnership is for treating chronic diseases, Microchips Biotech will continue work on its flagship product, a birth-control microchip, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that releases contraceptives and can be turned on and off wirelessly.”


Throwback: the Pentagon officially releases footage of UFO | From April 29, retrieved June 9

Hey does anyone even remember this? In the midst of everything else going on in the world, the Pentagon officially released video footage of a few Unidentified Flying Objects back in April.

From CNN:

The Pentagon has officially released three short videos showing “unidentified aerial phenomena” that had previously been released by a private company.

The videos show what appear to be unidentified flying objects rapidly moving while recorded by infrared cameras. Two of the videos contain service members reacting in awe at how quickly the objects are moving. One voice speculates that it could be a drone.

The Navy previously acknowledged the veracity of the videos in September of last year. They are officially releasing them now, “in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos,” according to Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough.


IBM plans to put a hold on their facial recognition technology | Added June 9

Here’s a rare instance of stopping to consider a technology. IBM is putting a hold on their research and offering of facial technology as they seek to start a national dialogue on the use of such technology by law enforcement agencies.

From The Verge:

“IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any [facial recognition] technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency,” Krishna said in the letter. “We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies.”


WHO walks back statement | Added June 9

Dr. Maria Kerkhove has walked back her statement that asymptomatic spread of the coronavirus is “very rare.”

From the New York Times:

A top expert at the World Health Organization on Tuesday walked back her earlier assertion that transmission of the coronavirus by people who do not have symptoms is “very rare.”

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, who made the original comment at a W.H.O. briefing on Monday, said that it was based on just two or three studies and that it was a “misunderstanding” to say asymptomatic transmission is rare globally.

“I was just responding to a question, I wasn’t stating a policy of W.H.O. or anything like that,” she said.


Satellite imagery has been used to study early hospital surge in Wuhan | added June 9

Harvard researchers have released a new study, yet to be peer reviewed, that utilized satellite traffic image to study traffic outside of five hospitals in Wuhan. They claim that there was a surge in traffic starting in August, 2019. China has dismissed the study.

From the BBC:

The researchers examined commercial satellite data from outside five Wuhan hospitals, comparing data from late summer and autumn 2018 to the same time period in 2019.

In one case, researchers counted 171 cars parked at one of Wuhan’s largest hospitals, Tianyou Hospital in October 2018.

Satellite data from the same time in 2019 showed 285 vehicles in the same place, an increase of 67%.

A surge in online searches for words associated with the symptoms of coronavirus on the Chinese search engine Baidu seemed to emerge at the same time.

“This is all about a growing body of information pointing to something taking place in Wuhan at the time,” Dr Brownstein told ABC.


Talk of potential merger between medical giants AstraZeneca and Gilead | Added June 9

Following up on our story on AstraZeneca from yesterday, there has been talk of a possible merger between the British drugmaker and Gilead, the producers of remdesivir.

From Bloomberg:

The U.K.-based firm informally contacted Gilead last month to gauge its interest in a possible tie-up, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details are private. AstraZeneca didn’t specify terms for any transaction, they said. While Gilead has discussed the idea with advisers, no decisions have been made on how to proceed and the companies aren’t in formal talks, the people added.

AstraZeneca, valued at $140 billion, is the U.K.’s biggest drugmaker by market capitalization and has developed treatments for conditions from cancer to cardiovascular disease. Gilead, worth $96 billion at Friday’s close, is the creator of a drug that’s received U.S. approval for use with coronavirus patients.

Gilead is not currently interested in selling to or merging with another big pharmaceutical company, preferring instead to focus its deal strategy on partnerships and smaller acquisitions, the people said. A representative for Gilead declined to comment. A spokesman for AstraZeneca said the company doesn’t comment on “rumors or speculation.”


WHO now says that asymptomatic spread of coronavirus is ‘very rare’ | Added June 8

Today the WHO said that asymptomatic spread of the coroanvirus is “very rare.” This is completely at odds with how nations around the world have been responding to the coronavirus — the whole idea of the shutdown, and of terrifying people into thinking they could kill their parents or members of their church congregation, is based on the notion of asymptomatic or subclinical spread.

This is also behind the concept of social distancing, mandatory face cloths, and all this plexiglass appearing everywhere. It would be easy enough to tell sick people to stay home, which we believe would solve the problem.

“Comprehensive studies on transmission from asymptomatic individuals are difficult to conduct, but the available evidence from contact tracing reported by Member States suggests that asymptomatically-infected individuals are much less likely to transmit the virus than those who develop symptoms,” according to Maria Van Kerkhove, part of the Health Emergencies Program at WHO.

The New York Times picked up the story.

“That fundamentally changes our understanding of how this virus is spread and what we should do as a response,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. “This is not a minor, technical clarification. The implications of what is being said are very, very substantial, and it requires a lot more context and explanation than W.H.O. is providing right now,” the Times reported.

From CNBC: Coronavirus patients without symptoms aren’t driving the spread of the virus, World Health Organization officials said Monday, casting doubt on concerns by some researchers that the disease could be difficult to contain due to asymptomatic infections.

Some people, particularly young and otherwise healthy individuals, who are infected by the coronavirus never develop symptoms or only develop mild symptoms. Others might not develop symptoms until days after they were actually infected.

Preliminary evidence from the earliest outbreaks indicated that the virus could spread from person-to-person contact, even if the carrier didn’t have symptoms. But WHO officials now say that while asymptomatic spread can occur, it is not the main way it’s being transmitted.


New York State Court of Appeals denies Cuomo the right to cancel election | Added June 8

New York will be holding its Democratic primary on June 23 following a ruling from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals where it was found that a federal court had properly ordered that the scheduled primary take place.

This is from Stephen Bergstein’s blog Wait a Second! where it was further detailed that after Governor Cuomo cancelled New York’s Democratic primary on April 27 in light of the coronavirus — the only state to do so. Democratic candidates who had suspended their campaigns challenged the cancellation under the first amendment and won in the Southern District of New York. The Court of Appeals has upheld that ruling.

“The Cuomo administration cannot offer compelling reasons to cancel the primary. Yes, we are in the midst of a public health pandemic, but voters can vote by absentee ballot, and while the state claims it need to conserve its resources to conduct other primaries, the state has not backed up this claim with real evidence. This asserted justification “warrants little discussion,” the Second Circuit (Cabranes, Kearse and Jacobs) writes.”


Maine closes its borders to outsiders unless one tests ‘Covid-negative’ | Added June 8

In an effort to salvage its 2020 tourist season, Maine will be requiring that tourists originating outside of Vermont and New Hampshire test negative for the “novel coronavirus.” This development was announced Monday during a press conference by Gov. Janet Mills.

If visitors do not want to be tested, they may be quarantined for 14-days within the state, though it is not clear where that would happen. One point of verification of testing will be at hotel, campground or bed and breakfast check-in. Those who have quarantined in Maine for 14 days will have the test requirement waived. Out of state quarantine does not count.

“Where constitutional law is concerned, this is virgin ground,” said Stephen Bergstein, a civil rights attorney, explaining how the virus scare has upended civil rights for the time being.

The argument is that Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire have some of the lowest “case” rates in the country and the state should not be tainted by those carrying in the disease from outside. Maine has had 99 deaths it claims are due to Covid-19.

“Many Maine people are fearful that more visitors will increase the spread of the virus while many small businesses are fearful that a lack of visitors will force them to permanently close their doors,” Mills is quoted as saying in an official state press release.

The state’s requirement for medical evidence to conduct business may run into legal problems on several levels, one of which was admitted by the governor today. “We don’t want to make the hotel staff become a repository for HIPAA-protected information,” Mills said. “Someone may ask for the test result, confirming it.” In other words, as we understand it, visitors will not actually be required to present the proof at hotel check-in, only to provide a compliance certification form.

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, a federal law that is supposed to guarantee privacy of medical status. Presumably, saying someone is not eligible for a public service due to medical status is illegal, as is demanding proof. Imagine if everyone had to provide the results of an HIV test to check in at a campground.

HIPAA’s guidelines mandate “appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization.”

“Where constitutional law is concerned, this is virgin ground,” said Stephen Bergstein, a civil rights attorney, explaining how the virus scare has upended civil rights for the time being.

“There is no way to predict their rulings because it’s going to be based on whatever judges think is important under the circumstances. There is no guidance on this. Courts don’t like to chances when they think people might get sick and die.”

He added that a federal appellate court in New York did not accept Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s argument that it would be unsafe to hold the New York Democratic primary election, which he wanted to cancel due to the Covid situation.


Two simultaneously released studies claim that shutdowns prevented close to 60 million infections | Added June 8

The Washington Post has reported on two new studies that claimed that shutdowns prevented nearly 60 million infections in the United States, and saved about three million European lives.

From the article:

The two reports, published simultaneously Monday in the journal Nature, used completely different methods to reach similar conclusions. They suggest that the aggressive and unprecedented shutdowns, which caused massive economic disruptions and job losses, were effective at halting the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Without these policies employed, we would have lived through a very different April and May,” said Solomon Hsiang, director of the Global Policy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley, and the leader of the research team that surveyed how six countries — China, the United States, France, Italy, Iran and South Korea — responded to the pandemic.


AstraZeneca has begun manufacturing vaccine despite unfinished clinical trial | Added June 8

In a June 5 article from Market Watch it was reported that the British drugmaker AstraZeneca had begun manufacturing the University of Oxford’s experimental coronavirus vaccine. But, the trial for their vaccine isn’t finished. Yet AstraZeneca is pushing ahead and has doubled their capacity of the vaccine to two billion doses.

“Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said the company wasn’t going to wait for clinical results, which it expected to have in August, and had begun manufacturing the experimental vaccine.”

Oxford began human trials at the end of April. They hope to know by July if the vaccine works, and plan to make the vaccine available by September in the UK, and by October for the U.S.

AstraZeneca has also secured agreements worth about $750 million “to supply the vaccine to low and middle-income countries through health organizations, including two backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.” Like most every other vaccine producer, they have a deal with Bill Gates. But they are also involved in deals with the United States government; AstraZeneca and Oxford are both a part of Operation Warp Speed.

“At the end of last month, AstraZeneca said it had received more than $1 billion in U.S. funding to accelerate the development of the experimental vaccine — an agreement that includes America getting 300 million doses. The deal between the company and the U.S. Biomedical Research and Development Authority also includes a Phase 3 clinical trial in the U.S. this summer with 30,000 volunteers.”

Based on the way remdesivir was pushed through and given emergency-approval from the FDA despite not doing much, and based on the apparent pass given to Moderna despite their track record, it seems that it won’t matter all that much if Oxford’s clinical results are not positive. There is too much money on the line to turn back now, and those who ought to hold these companies accountable (ie those managing Operation Warp Speed, and the sidelined, deliberative vaccine committee that was meant to assist them) seemingly will not do so.

Also, note this last quote:

“The British drugmaker also has a 7.7% stake in Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna, whose own experimental vaccine has been said to have had encouraging early results.”

Not only is AstraZeneca invested in Moderna, there is no mention of Moderna’s early results being called into question, nor the calls for an investigation into Moderna for market manipulation.


United States government’s supply of Remdesivir set to run out at the end of the month | Added June 8

Remdesivir, the Covid-19 treatment from Gilead that was emergency-approved by the FDA despite the lack of a control group during its efficacy trial, is at risk of running out in the U.S. Specifically the supply of the drug that was donated by Gilead to the U.S. government is set to run out, and, as this article from CNN puts it, “now that the free supply is almost gone, there are concerns Gilead will charge a high price.”

From CNN:

The US government’s current supply of remdesivir, the only drug known to work against Covid-19, will run out at the end of the month, Dr. Robert Kadlec, a US Department of Health and Human Services official, told CNN.

The government’s last shipment of the drug will go out the week of June 29. Gilead Sciences, the company that makes the drug, is ramping up to make more, but it’s unclear how much will be available this summer.

“Right now, we’re waiting to hear from Gilead what is their expected delivery availability of the drug as we go from June to July,” Kadlec said. “We’re kind of not in negotiations, but in discussions with Gilead as they project what the availability of their product will be.”

Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral medication studied to treat Ebola but now used on hospitalized Covid patients. While not a blockbuster drug, a study shows it shaves four days off a hospital stay, from 15 to 11 days.


New York City continues to reawaken | Added June 8

If you don’t count protests, riots, law enforcement, EMS workers and carpenters who have been busy the past two weeks, along with cleaners, GrubHub, to-go restaurants, grocery stories, and the stock market, New York City is getting back to work! The Times is reporting that as many as 400,000 people could go back to work today “in a city still recovering from the pandemic and roiled by protests.”

Notably, the USNS Comfort left New York Harbor nearly six weeks ago, the Javits Center was given back to civilians and barely used as an “overflow” hospital.

Please note that the case count and death count are not accurate, due to problems calibrating the test being incorrectly used used to “diagnose” the virus. Many jurisdictions are walking back their statistics. In any event, here is what we learn from today’s New York Times:

“Exactly 100 days since its first case of coronavirus was confirmed, New York City, which weathered extensive hardship as an epicenter of the worldwide outbreak, is set to take the first tentative steps toward reopening its doors on Monday.”

The Times and all other media are downplaying the extent of damage from protests to many retail operations.

“Many retail stores, battered by months of closure, are readying to do business again on Monday, starting with curbside and in-store pickup. Construction companies are adding safety features and stockpiling masks and gloves. Manufacturers, whose shop floors have idled since March, are testing machines.”


Epidemiologists worried about epidemic; maybe they should ask pandemicologists | Added June 8

The New York Times is reporting a third of epidemiologists surveyed still won’t touch the mail without precautions. One third won’t to go the doctor for a non-urgent appointment. About half won’t vacation overnight near home. More than half won’t get a haircut. About 20% said they wouldn’t do any of these things for a year or more.


For many, protests outweigh pandemic | Added June 8

The Washington Post has done a touching piece about how for many, attending a protest is more important than worrying about a pandemic.

Here are a few samples:

“People are so pent-up with frustration from being inside for so long,” said Patricia Newton, chief executive and medical director of the Black Psychiatrists of America, which has about 2,000 members. “That was the kindling, and the police brutality lit the fire. People tell me, ‘I need to get out of the house,’ and ‘I’m having cabin fever.’ When people feel hopeless, they feel they have nothing to lose and caution goes to the wind.”

And

“We were actually in bed and I finally woke Walt up and said, ‘Babe, I think you need to go down there,’ ” Shae recalled. “ ‘You need to see what’s going on, we need to be a part of this.’ ”

At 2:15 a.m., Walt went downtown to see, to make a statement. The Smiths had talked and talked about the virus; they knew joining the protests against police brutality meant a higher risk of being infected. They took the risk to give their 10-year-old son a chance at a future in which he is not “walking around with the spirit of fear,” Shae said. They took the risk because after dealing with the pandemic “we still have to do whatever it takes.”


How the illusion is built and maintained | Added June 8

Blogger Jon Rappoport has been doing a good job pointing out the ways that the “global pandemic” is an illusion. You may not think that is possible, though we have seen many, many elements of the fact pattern that support this theory medically and politically. Here’s what he says in a May 29 post we just found:

EIGHT: Real people are really getting sick and dying, but for the most part, they are people who are dying from traditional and long-standing conditions—flu-like illness, pneumonia, other lung infections, etc. These people are “re-packaged” under the new epidemic label—Swine Flu, COVID, etc. The official description of the “new epidemic disease”—the clinical symptoms—is sufficiently general to easily allow this re-packaging.

NINE: If there is new illness, it can be explained by causes having nothing to do with the purported new virus. For example, a toxic vaccine campaign. A highly destructive drug. Highly toxic pesticides.

TEN: Over time, the definition of the epidemic is arbitrarily widened to include more symptoms and clinical features, in order to inflate case numbers.

ELEVEN: Control of information about the “epidemic” is hardened at the top. The talking heads, from the press and public health agencies, know as much about actual science as rabbits know about drone strikes. But they are “in charge.” Dissident information is attacked and censored.

TWELVE: Medical drugs used to treat patients are toxic. If a vaccine is rolled out, it, too, is toxic. Illness and death resulting from these and other medical attacks are counted as “epidemic cases caused by the virus.”

THIRTEEN: ABOVE ALL OTHER ILLUSIONS, the main deception is: “the epidemic is one disease or syndrome caused by one germ.” This is sold with unceasing propaganda. Most people fall for it. They will even argue among themselves about which “it” is the single cause of the “it” disease. There is no “it” cause or disease.

FOURTEEN: The public is sold lie after lie about contagion and the “spread” of the “it.”

FIFTEEN: The public chants (as if no one has ever died before), “People are dying, it must be the virus.”

SIXTEEN: The virus fairy tale always functions as a cover story for government or corporate or medical crimes. It obscures and hides these crimes. For example, a large factory is spewing horrendous pollution into the ground and water of an area, and people are getting sick and dying? No, the cause is actually a new virus no one has ever seen before.

As I wrote at the outset of the COVID illusion, the only difference this time, in 2020, is the weight of the lies—because they led to the lockdowns and the economic devastation. This is West Nile, SARS, Swine Flu, Zika, writ large.


Eminently responsible Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists explains how virus may have come from one of the two Wuhan corna labs | Added June 8

One reason the freshmen may be confused is that there are three competing alt-theories about where this pandemic came from. First is the theory that it’s an illusion, that there is no pathogen, and that nearly all of the people dying were very sick would have done so anyway.

Then there is the theory that the sickness was precipitated by bad batches of flu vaccines in late 2019. Finally there is the theory that the virus — such as it exists — emerged from a lab in Wuhan where all they do is breed and test coronaviruses.

Based on our considerable research, these could all have elements of truth, but we don’t blame anyone for having a bad case of vertigo.

We have found the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to be a reliable, understated, scientifically-oriented and humane source of information for years. This just floated into my email — it’s a well-researched investigation, consistent with many facts we have uncovered over the months:

“By way of introduction, there are two virology institutes in Wuhan to consider, not one: The Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention (WHCDC) and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Both have conducted large projects on novel bat viruses and maintained large research collections of novel bat viruses, and at least the WIV possessed the virus that is the most closely related known virus in the world to the outbreak virus, bat virus RaTG13. This virus was isolated in 2013 and had its genome published on January 23, 2020. Seven more years of bat coronavirus collection followed the 2013 RaTG13 isolation.

“One component of the novel-bat-virus project at the Wuhan Institute of Virology involved infection of laboratory animals with bat viruses. Therefore, the possibility of a lab accident includes scenarios with direct transmission of a bat virus to a lab worker, scenarios with transmission of a bat virus to a laboratory animal and then to a lab worker, and scenarios involving improper disposal of laboratory animals or laboratory waste.”


June 7, 2020 | Planet Waves FM: The Nature of the Beast

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Tonight’s theme is The Nature of the Beast: for example, how it is that police are beating on people who are protesting against police brutality, as if to prove their point for them. That is the point of the protest. Tonight I have a lot to say about toxins. I refer to several articles, including one by me called Dioxin Critic Sued, as well as See No Evil by Vicki Monks (the investigative report on the extended New York Times fraud on Dioxin), and my Thursday article called They Were Barefoot in Babylon. Here’s the study saying you should wear a mask while having sex from The Annals of Internal Medicine. Many more resources can be found on Covid19 News published by Chiron Return/Planet Waves FM.


Deep Background: Examples of Scientific Fraud | Added June 5

Our background at Planet Waves, prior to astrology, is documenting scientific and journalistic fraud associated with toxins. This mini-feature will give you some background of what, in our experience, is typical conduct rather than outlying.

There are numerous documented cases of fraud and collusion. You will rarely ever read about them somewhere like The New York Times, which would have the effect of making them seem real. In fact, the Times has gone way out of its way to conceal major chemical issues and deceive the public (see last item).

In terms of government scientists getting caught in the web, there is in those areas of life the overall mentality of how to survive in a competitive, even cut-throat environment where corruption exists and persists and anyone who speaks up can end up fired, in exile, or in the river.

How to these events happen? Many different ways. Yes, sometimes there are meetings. And yes sometimes there are minutes taken. Carol van Strum (on our team) obtained the Howard Johnson’s secret meeting transcript document using the federal Freedom of Information Act. It documents direct collusion between EPA, FDA and pesticide manufacturers to keep the products on the market despite the total regulatory failure.

Sometimes corporate attorneys write memos and talk about the smoking gun evidence that the corporation then shreds (that memo said, “The retention policy is suspended. The documents shall be retained,” meaning all prior ones were shredded).

Sometimes the boss of a contaminated PCB processing facility has the documents in a box under his desk and a guy like Steve Sandberg finds it and takes it and sues.

Sometimes honest federal officials document the issue, and a newsletter publisher writes about it, and gets sued, and then the whole press shuts up, because they are afraid to get sued.

Sometimes, a previously-honest writer gets a job at the New York Times, hooks up with a corrupt guy at CDC who is on the take from the pulp and paper industry (dioxin producers) and writes a week-long front-page series in the newspaper which is then picked up by every other paper, about how dioxin is no longer dangers and all that money was wasted trying to clean it up. Then the story goes national and finally someone exposes the government and journalistic fraud.

Very, very typically, one issue is used to distract from another. This stuff is covered up by smoke and mirrors, public incredulity, ringers (scientist and analyst plants science and industry who act as independent people but who are really on the payroll of companies they are covering up for).


Operation Warp Speed vaccine producers narrowed down; advising scientists sidelined | Added June 5

It was news even to some top scientists involved with the White House–led program. “It’s been so chaotic, and it’s not even transparent to those of us who are trying to help out,” says a source linked to Warp Speed who asked not to be named.

We have previously reported on Operation Warp Speed and how Moderna was becoming Trump’s first choice as a vaccine producer due to their claim that they could have one finished by the end of this year. On June 3 the Trump administration announced that they had narrowed down their vaccine production candidates to five companies: Moderna, Oxford University and AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Pfizer. We have previously covered the issues and conflicts of interest surrounding these companies, and continue to follow them as well.

You may remember that Moderna recently received some flak after claiming success in their vaccine trial despite not releasing their data, and since then their have been calls for an investigation into the company over market manipulation. Also the face of their vaccine trial campaign recently experienced an ‘Adverse Event’ in response to the vaccine.

Now, members of a vaccine committee meant to advise Operation Warp Speed on choosing a vaccine have spoken out and said that they have been sidelined. Peter Hotez from Baylor College of Medicine said that “They’re asking us for advice, which we’re providing it, but we have no insight into the decision-making.”

And vaccine researcher Paul Offit, who is on the committee as well, said that project Warp Speed has selected vaccines based on manufacturing concerns, and not “the most promising scientific approaches.”

He was quoted as saying “They’re the ones that are first because in many ways they’re the fastest ones to make.”

If it wasn’t clear already, greed and speed have take precedence in the development of a coronavirus vaccine in the U.S.

From Science:

When the news broke yesterday that Operation Warp Speed had selected five experimental COVID-19 vaccines to fast-track through testing and, potentially, mass-scale production, it was news even to some top scientists involved with the White House–led program. “It’s been so chaotic, and it’s not even transparent to those of us who are trying to help out,” says a source linked to Warp Speed who asked not to be named.

The New York Times reported that according to “senior officials,” the Trump administration program had chosen vaccines from Moderna, the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck for the crash development program, which aims to have enough safe and proven product to vaccinate 300 million Americans by January 2021. The government’s Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority (BARDA) had already singled out all four for what could amount to more than $2 billion in funding if they hit milestones. The fifth vaccine flagged by The New York Times is made by Pfizer, whose CEO, Albert Bourla, said on 28 May at a media briefing that the company doesn’t want funding from any government because “We believe we can move faster if we don’t have to involve a third party.”

According to The New York Times, Warp Speed will give the chosen companies “access to additional government money, help in running clinical trials and financial and logistical support for a manufacturing base that is being built even before it is clear which if any of the vaccines in development will work.” A spokesperson for Warp Speed says it will make an official announcement on its latest vaccine short list soon but currently has no comment.


New York State Bar Association recommends mandatory vaccine | Added June 5

We have previously referenced this story and now feel that it deserves its own post. The New York State Bar Association recommended in a May 28 report that New York’s Department of Health should “adopt uniform standards for allocation of ventilators and personal protective equipment,” and should also launch a a “rapid mass vaccination plan.” They cited a 1905 U.S. Supreme Court case that “upheld the authority of states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws.”

From NYSBA:

A COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory for all New Yorkers except those whose doctors exempt them, the Health Law Section of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) recommends in a report issued today.

The report also calls on the state Department of Health (DOH) to adopt uniform standards for allocation of ventilators and personal protective equipment. These standards would be triggered whenever there are insufficient medical supplies, ICU beds or trained health care workers to meet the needs of all patients.

The report recommendations will be debated at a virtual meeting of the association’s governing body, the House of Delegates, on June 13.

The Health Law Section said a rapid mass vaccination plan should be launched in New York as soon as a safe and viable vaccine becomes available, citing Jacobson v. Massachusetts, a 1905 U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld the authority of states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws. The plan should also prioritize vaccines for essential health care workers and vulnerable New Yorkers who are at highest risk of infection, the report states.

“The current pandemic shows us how unsafe we all are when we face a virulent contagious disease without a safe and effective vaccine, widely administered,” said Hermes Fernandez, chair of the Health Law Section and attorney at Bond, Schoeneck & King.


British Columbia health official: ‘Absolutely no evidence’ the virus is airborne | Added June 5

Reka Gustafson, one of British Columbia’s top health officials, has come out and said that there is “absolutely no evidence that this disease is airborne,” and pointed out that if it were, then the measures that were taken to mitigate the spread wouldn’t have worked.

From CTV News:

While COVID-19 has spread globally for months, many questions still remain about the relatively new virus.

One of B.C.’s top health officials, however, says medical professionals have a pretty clear picture of how the virus is transmitted.

“There is absolutely no evidence that this disease is airborne, and we know that if it were airborne, then the measures that we took to control COVID-19 would not have worked,” Dr. Reka Gustafson, B.C.’s deputy provincial health officer, told CTV Morning Live Monday.

“We are very confident that the majority of transmission of this virus is through the droplet and contact route.”

Gustafson explained that airborne diseases – like measles or chickenpox – have a different way of transmission.

“The overwhelming majority of (COVID-19) transmissions occur through close, prolonged contact and that is not the pattern of transmission we see through airborne diseases,” she said.


Gamblers rush to Vegas as casinos reopen | Added June 4

Now that Las Vegas is starting to reopen, a growing number of tourists have shown up to gamble, many of them sans masks and with money to burn.

We have this from USA Today:

Snake eyes! (AP Photo/John Locher)

Vegas consumers, particularly gamblers, have been eager to resume traveling, in some cases quickly as casinos reopen, according to Jason Guggenheim, who leads Boston Consulting Group’s global travel and tourism group.

Travel search company Kayak saw a more than 100% surge in Las Vegas flight searches in late May the day after Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced the casino reopening plans, though searches were still down more than 60% from a year ago.

Stevens bets that the first visitors to return to Las Vegas will probably bring more money than usual to spend on blackjack, craps, roulette and slot machines because stay-at-home orders across the country have limited spending opportunities.

“If you’ve been able to keep your job, you’re still making your income, but you’ve had no where to spend it,” he said. “You can only do so much damage on DoorDash.”


Request made to FCC to delay 5G upgrades | Added June 4

A request has been made by Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to delay a vote on an “FCC order that would make it easier to deploy 5G equipment on existing communications infrastructure.” They cite Covid-19 as the reason for the delay and, as mentioned from the article, implementing such a an order would be difficult due to the fact that the majority of the workforce in the United States is working from home.

Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

From Fierce Wireless:

Lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum are citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to support or delay a vote on an FCC order that would make it easier to deploy 5G equipment on existing communications infrastructure.

A group of Republicans on Monday sent a letter (PDF) to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai saying the 5G Upgrade Order will allow companies to improve services in communities now, when they need it the most.

The next day, 24 Democratic members of the Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Chairman Pai pointing to the ongoing challenges that local governments face during the pandemic and urged him to delay the vote, saying the ruling would grant companies the right to expand existing cell sites without regard to local processes.

The FCC has said it will consider at its June 9 meeting a Declaratory Ruling and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would clarify, and seek comment on changes to, the FCC’s rules implementing a section of the Spectrum Act of 2012 in order to accelerate the deployment of communications infrastructure by facilitating the upgrade of existing sites for 5G networks.

More than a dozen counties and cities, including Los Angeles, Boston and Portland, Oregon, submitted a filing (PDF) on Tuesday saying the commission should not adopt the draft order as released. There’s no evidence that a change is required, but if the commission deems it necessary, it must consider the impact of the proposed changes on its test for whether a proposed modification “substantially change[s] the physical dimensions” of a wireless tower or base station, they said.

The City of Redmond, Washington, said the FCC’s proposed Declaratory Ruling could not have come at a worse time. The city, along with nearly every city in the United States, is adapting to the new reality: the majority of its workforce is now working from home.


Former head of M16 chimes in, says coronavirus began “as an accident” | Added June 4

Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of M16, has recently spoken out and said that “he believes the coronavirus pandemic ‘started as an accident.'” He states that his conclusion is based off of a scientific report that he has seen.

From The Telegraph:

A former head of MI6 has said he believes the coronavirus pandemic “started as an accident” when the virus escaped from a laboratory in China.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Sir Richard Dearlove said he had seen an “important” new scientific report suggesting the virus did not emerge naturally but was man-made by Chinese scientists.

The apparent discovery will raise the prospect of China paying “reparations” for the death and economic catastrophe wreaked upon the world, the former intelligence chief said. It comes as Beijing faces growing pressure to explain precisely how coronavirus first began to spread late last year.

International scientists have reached a near-unanimous consensus, however, that the virus emerged in animals – most likely bats or pangolins – before jumping to the human population….


California pediatricians suggest kids should return to school despite virus risk | Added June 4

A coalition of pediatricians in Southern California recently spoke out in support of having children return to school. Educators and administration are still leery about the prospects of such an action.

Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner said on Wednesday that returning to school is too risky without a vaccine or treatment. And, he is quoted as saying, “Returning to school facilities will need to balance three sometimes competing priorities — the health and safety of all in the school community, the impact of the pandemic on jobs and families and the educational needs of students.”

From the Los Angeles Times:

The damage done by keeping children out of school might outweigh the risks of COVID-19 transmission, a regional organization of pediatricians said Tuesday, pushing back against educators who have cautioned against reopening campuses too soon.
The Southern California chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents about 1,500 doctors, issued a statement pointing to research suggesting that the risks of COVID-19 transmission among children are lower than for adults, but that keeping children away from in-person instruction for longer will have negative consequences.

“Prolonging a meaningful return to in-person education would result in hundreds of thousands of children in Los Angeles County being at risk for worsening academic, developmental and health outcomes,” the statement said. “Children rely on schools for multiple needs, including but not limited to education, nutrition, physical activity, socialization, and mental health. Special populations of students receive services for disabilities and other conditions that are virtually impossible to deliver online.”

While they acknowledged the county is too big for a single reopening plan, the doctors also took issue with some of the L.A. County Office of Education guidance issued last week about safely returning to schools. While the 45-page framework left many decisions up to schools, it recommended measures including face masks for students and teachers, children eating lunch at their desks and greater use of outdoor areas for teaching.

“Our concern is that recently issued guidelines for schools re-opening in Los Angeles County are not realistic or even developmentally appropriate for children,” Dr. Alice Kuo, president of the pediatrics chapter, said in the statement. “For example, wearing masks throughout the day can hinder language and socio-emotional development, particularly for younger children.”


High altitude locales seem to be spared of virus | Added June 3

In high altitude locales across the world there have been fewer fatalities and fewer “cases” than scientists initially expected. According to this article from The Washington Post, “researchers hypothesize that populations living at high altitudes might be benefiting from a combination of an ability to cope with hypoxia (low levels of oxygen in the blood) and a natural environment hostile to the virus…”

The article reports that “Tibet’s infection rate was ‘drastically’ lower than that of lowland China.” Lhasa, Tibet. August 19, 2006. Photo by Pedro Szekely.

Notably hypoxia and the treatment of hypoxia was a major feature of Dr. Zach Bush’s interview when he spoke on the symptoms of Covid-19.

From The Washington Post:

When tourists from Mexico, China and Britain became the first covid-19 fatalities in Cusco, Peru, it seemed as if the onetime capital of the Inca Empire might be headed for a significant outbreak.

Nestled in a picturesque Andean valley, the high-altitude city of 420,000 residents, the gateway to the cloud forest citadel of Machu Picchu, receives more than 3 million international visitors per year — many from pandemic hot spots, including the United States, Italy and Spain.

Yet since those three deaths, between March 23 and April 3, at the start of Peru’s strict national lockdown, there has not been another covid-19 fatality in the entire Cusco region, even as the disease has claimed more than 4,000 lives nationally.

Infections have also remained low. Just 1,062 of Peru’s 164,000 cases come from the Cusco region, meaning its contagion rate is more than 80 percent below the national average.


‘That dog won’t hunt’ — New report on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine | Added June 3

We are tracking the hydroxychloroquine issue carefully. A new study being published today in the New England Journal of Medicine reportedly showed that hydroxychloroquine was “no more effective than a placebo — in this case, a vitamin — in protecting people exposed to Covid-19.” The Washington Post has this report.

In the article it is noted by infectious-disease specialist David Boulware, that “because testing was not widely available during the time of the trial, their analysis used a combination of lab-confirmed positive Covid-19 tests and symptoms to count someone as infected.”

We’ve extensively covered the issue of testing and how it is essentially meaningless, and therefore useless in determining a positive “case” of the coronavirus. On the issue of symptoms, the line has blurred between what is Covid-19 and what is simply being reported as Covid-19.

From The Washington Post:

Hydroxychloroquine did not prevent healthy people exposed to covid-19 from getting the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to a study being published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study is the first randomized clinical trial that tested the antimalarial drug as a preventive measure, according to researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School who conducted the trial. It showed that hydroxychloroquine, which has been touted by President Trump, was no more effective than a placebo — in this case, a vitamin — in protecting people exposed to covid-19.

“As we say in Tennessee, ‘that dog won’t hunt’ — it didn’t work,” said William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Schaffner, who was not involved in the trial, praised it as “rigorously done.”

The results were the latest development in a highly charged medical and political issue — the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in combating covid-19. Trump has repeatedly touted the drug as a “game changer” for covid-19 and recently said he took a course of it. But federal regulators have said it should be used only for hospitalized patients or in clinical trials, because of possible side effects including serious heart-rhythm issues.


Military efforts to produce vaccine by year’s end | Added June 3

Alongside private interest groups attempting to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus, various departments of the U.S. military are also working to develop a vaccine by the end of this year. The military plans to “test its own vaccine candidate on humans in the late summer,” according to Reuters.

We have previously reported that Trump mobilized the military on May 14 in preparation to distribute a vaccine if or when one becomes available at the end of the year.

And in light of the George Floyd protests, “as of Monday morning, 17,000 National Guard troops had been deployed in 23 states and Washington, D.C.” despite no states requesting federal assistance as is the “normal process for domestic military intervention.” This is according to Business Insider; Trump also wanted to employ the use of tanks to “quell” the protests.

The militarization of vaccine development and distribution efforts, combined with the seeming eagerness to increase domestic military presence in the U.S. paints a disturbing picture in light of the push for mandatory vaccinations referenced to in our previously posted story, below.

From Reuters:

A senior U.S. Army vaccine researcher said on Tuesday it was reasonable to expect that some sort of coronavirus vaccine could be available to part of the U.S. population by the end of the year.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper vowed on May 15 that the U.S. military and other parts of the government would, in collaboration with the private sector, produce a vaccine at scale to treat the American people and partners abroad by year-end.

Colonel Wendy Sammons-Jackson, director of the U.S. Military Infectious Disease Research Program, told a Pentagon news briefing it was “reasonable to expect that there will be some form of a vaccine that could be available at some level, to a certain population, by the end of the year.”


Sex even more illegal in England | Added June 2

Well, almost. A new lockdown measure has been introduced in the UK preventing people from “socialising (or gathering) with one person from outside of their household in a private space.” This report comes from The Daily Mirror. In a related study by three Harvard Medical School researchers, the authors warn that sex could spread the coronavirus. They recommend “avoiding kissing, showering before and after sex, and even wearing masks while having sex.

This research was partly funded by Gilead, producer of remdesivir, the FDA emergency-approved treatment for Covid-19 that was intended to be the standard of care for patients. This is cloaked by running the funding through the Fenway Institute, publishing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and the association with Harvard.

You can’t be serious. Photo by Arthur W. Felig.

Associating Covid with sex seems designed to propagate fear, that will in turn drive demand for the drug. This is also true of the push for mandatory vaccinations we are seeing on a near-daily basis. We have observed that just about every study associated with Covid comes back to a drug manufacturer, or to vaccine magnate Bill Gates.

From The Daily Mirror:

Sex in your house with someone from outside of your household is set to become illegal today.

The government is introducing new lockdown measures in England that prevent people from socializing (or gathering) with one person from outside of their household in a private space.

Up until now the person visiting a house for sex would have been the one in breach of the measures.

But now both people would technically be able to be prosecuted under the law, with Amendment Regulations being introduced in Parliament on Monday.

For those couples looking for a workaround, having sex in a public place is already illegal.

Downing Street today insisted police would show “discretion” and “common sense”.

No10 added officers have no powers to enter someone’s home for breaking the lockdown rules – unless they suspect “serious” crime.


20% of Covid patients acquired it at hospital according to NHS England figures| Added June 2

Dr Joseph Mercola shares another analysis this time on figures released from NHS England which “suggest that up to 20% of hospital patients with COVID-19 were infected at the hospital.” Boris Johnson has referred to these hospital-acquired Covid deaths as an epidemic. Mercola also takes a look at a meta-analysis of 40 studies that shows a high rate of nosocomial infections; that is, infections which originate in a hospital.

From the article:

I’ve often stated that if you want to stay healthy, staying out of hospitals, except in cases of emergency, is highly recommended. Not only are hospitals the scene of tens of thousands — and possibly hundreds of thousands — of preventable deaths annually due to medical errors, but they’re also notorious for spreading lethal hospital-acquired infections.

Each day in the U.S., about 1 in 31 hospital patients has at least one health care-associated infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 is now among them, with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, being transmitted from health care workers to patients, as well as from infected patients to other hospital patients.

Figures released from NHS England suggest that up to 20% of hospital patients with COVID-19 were infected at the hospital, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson went so far as to call deaths from hospital-acquired COVID-19 an epidemic. The data came from an NHS briefing and was reported by the Guardian…


How could you hate this little guy? Photo by Charlotte Roemer.

‘The Case Is Building That COVID-19 Had a Lab Origin’ from Independent Science News | Added June 2

Independent Science News features a thorough consideration of the lab safety issue, and the possibility of a lab origin for the “novel” coronavirus in this June 2 article. It also includes a brief history of lab releases in the past as well as insight from virologist Nikolai Petrovsky who, on April 17, made the claim that “no natural virus matching to COVID-19 has been found in nature despite an intensive search to find its origins.”

Our lab origin report from yesterday also featured Petrovsky and the lab procedure known as passaging, which he brought up in his April 17 interview. Similar to Gain of Function research where two or more viruses are cut and pasted together to create a novel virus, passaging is the “the placing of a live virus into an animal or cell culture to which it is not adapted and then, before the virus dies out, transferring it to another animal or cell of the same type.”

The result is a virus that looks the same as natural zoonotic transfer. In other words if the virus developed in nature, or through deliberate lab work, it would be difficult to tell the difference because of the randomly acquired mutations in both, and because there is “no signature of a human gene jockey” in the lab developed virus created by “human intervention.”

From the article:

If the public has learned a lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic it is that science does not generate certainty. Do homemade face masks work? What is the death rate of COVID-19? How accurate are the tests? How many people have no symptoms? And so on. Practically the lone undisputed assertion made so far is that all the nearest known genetic relatives of its cause, the Sars-CoV-2 virus, are found in horseshoe bats (Zhou et al., 2020). Therefore, the likely viral reservoir was a bat.

However, most of these ancestor-like bat coronaviruses cannot infect humans (Ge et al., 2013). In consequence, from its beginning, a key question hanging over the pandemic has been: How did a bat RNA virus evolve into a human pathogen that is both virulent and deadly?

The answer almost universally seized upon is that there was an intermediate species. Some animal, perhaps a snake, perhaps a palm civet, perhaps a pangolin, served as a temporary host. This bridging animal would probably have had an ACE2 cellular receptor (the molecule which allows cellular entry of the virus) intermediate in protein sequence (or at least structure) between the bat and the human one (Wan et al., 2020).


Recordings come to light suggesting that China delayed releasing coronavirus information to WHO | Added June 2

New recordings have come to light suggesting that, instead of China and the WHO colluding at the beginning of the crisis, China kept the WHO in the dark in many cases. This report is from the Associated Press:

Throughout January, the World Health Organization publicly praised China for what it called a speedy response to the new coronavirus and thanked the Chinese government for sharing the genetic map of the virus “immediately.”

But in fact, Chinese officials sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the deadly virus for over a week after multiple government labs had fully decoded it, not sharing details key to designing tests, drugs and vaccines. Strict controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were largely to blame, The Associated Press has found from internal documents, emails and dozens of interviews.

Health officials only released the genome after a Chinese lab published it ahead of authorities on a virology website on Jan 11. Even then, China stalled for at least two weeks more on giving WHO the details it needed, according to recordings of multiple internal meetings held by the U.N. health agency in January — all at a time when the outbreak arguably might have been dramatically slowed.


Pfizer’s Zoloft falls into shortage | Added June 2

Back in June 2018 , when Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain became two more names to add to the list of celebrity suicides, people were more seriously beginning to question the safety and efficacy of the range of drugs used as “antidepressants.” There was more and more discussion about the 2004 FDA black box warning about suicide. There were signs that a more nuanced approach to treating anxiety and depression – less dependency on drugs, more dynamic human-centered, interactive therapies – would again gain traction in popular culture. There was renewed popular interest in the history of the dubious assumption that “brain chemistry imbalance” was the mono-cause of mental illness — and could be therefore treated simply by ingesting profitable SSRIs.

How quickly we forget. Distracted for a time by the more visible death and destruction of the opioid crisis and its legal fallout, further distracted by the performance politics of the endless reality TV show being broadcast from Congress and the White House, and now in a climate of economic and social upheaval practically designed to create depression and despair, we’re back to queuing up for everything and anything the pharmaceutical companies have to offer while we shelter in place and wait for Operation Warp Speed to save us with a rushed vaccine.

From June 1, Bloomberg News:

“Late last week, the Food and Drug Administration added Zoloft, which is sold under the generic name sertraline and was first approved in the U.S. in 1991, to its list of drugs in shortage. The tablet is used to treat a range of conditions, including depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

For a more balanced medical discussion of the oversimplification of brain chemistry imbalance, read Jamie Eske from September 2019:

“A popular hypothesis is that mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, develop as a result of chemical imbalances in the brain.”

“While this theory may hold some truth, it runs the risk of oversimplifying mental illnesses. In reality, mood disorders and mental health illnesses are highly complex conditions that affect 46.6 million adults living in the United States alone.”

And for a critical history of how brain chemistry imbalance theory was a construct used to legitimize psychiatrists as doctors and drive pharmaceutical business, read Philip Hickey, PhD from February 2020:

“What we need to see are full page ads in all major newspapers and cyber news outlets acknowledging that the chemical imbalance theory was a hoax; that it induced millions of people worldwide to take these drugs; and that it was developed and propagated to increase psychiatry’s prestige and earnings. But that’s not what we are seeing.”


Minnesota health officials recommend protestors test for Covid-19 | Added June 2

From Star Tribune:

State health officials will be encouraging people protesting the death of George Floyd to seek COVID-19 testing — regardless of whether they feel sick — due to the increased risk of the disease spreading at mass gatherings.

A surge in COVID-19 cases among protesters isn’t a given — many are wearing masks, and protests are outside, which can diffuse the virus. But health officials on Monday said they are expecting that the gatherings will counteract some progress.

“Concentrated gatherings and loud talking, singing, yelling, you know, all of those loud vocal expressions, exacerbate the risk of spread,” said Jan Malcolm, state health commissioner, though it is “mitigated … by the fact that this is outdoors.”

Minnesota reported 361 COVID-19 lab-confirmed cases on Monday, which was the first day since April 28 when the daily count was below 400. The number was likely deflated by the lower reporting that has happened on most Mondays in this pandemic, and by the closure over the weekend of the state’s public health lab, which didn’t contribute results on Monday.


Calls for investigation into Moderna | Added June 1

Moderna is back in the news again, and this time there are calls for them to be investigated for market manipulation. You may remember that we have previously posted on how Moderna is an unproven company working on a new type of vaccine, and that the face of their vaccination trial recently disclosed that he experienced an adverse event from the vaccine. With all of that in mind here is CNN’s report on how former SEC officials are calling for an investigation.

From the article:

Moderna set off a frenzy on Wall Street earlier this month when it announced positive, preliminary results from its coronavirus vaccine trial. As the hype grew, the young biotech company and its leading investor wasted no time capitalizing on the briefly surging stock price.

Even as critics accused Moderna of overhyping the results released on May 18, a series of transactions were executed before its share price fizzled over the next week. The timing of those deals, former SEC officials said, appear to be “highly problematic” and should be investigated for potential illegal market manipulation.

Just hours after revealing the promising vaccine results, Moderna (MRNA) sold 17.6 million shares to the public. That share sale, unveiled after the closing bell on May 18, was priced at $76; Moderna traded at just $48 as recently as May 6. The deal instantly raised $1.3 billion.

Two of Moderna’s top executives also cashed in on the boom at their company, which had suddenly amassed a $29 billion market value despite the fact it has no marketed products.


Vaccine developers struggle to find virus in order to test for potential vaccine | Added June 1

We’re doing too well at stopping the spread of the virus it seems: vaccine developers say they are having trouble finding the virus in order to test potential vaccines. We previously reported on this happening in the UK on May 25. Now it seems to be a growing problem in the West.

From Reuters:

The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic may be waning. For vaccine developers, that could be a problem.

Scientists in Europe and the United States say the relative success of draconian lockdown and social distancing policies in some areas and countries means virus transmission rates may be at such low levels that there is not enough disease circulating to truly test potential vaccines.

They may need to look further afield, to pandemic hotspots in Africa and Latin America, to get convincing results.

“Ironically, if we’re really successful using public health measures to stamp out the hot spots of viral infection, it will be harder to test the vaccine,” said Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States.

A vaccine is seen as essential to ending a pandemic that has killed nearly 370,000 people and infected more than 6 million so far, with world leaders looking at inoculation as the only real way to restart their stalled economies.


More info on the possibility of a lab origin | Added June 1

Here’s more on the possibility of a lab origin for the coronavirus, this time from GMWatch where they discuss a couple studies pending peer review. In the article they reference China’s recent announcement that the wet market in Wuhan is not the source of the virus according to their testing, as well as research suggesting that the virus was brought to the market. Also discussed: whether the virus, if leaked from the lab, was simply studied or genetically engineered.

From GMWatch:

There are only so many pictures of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. So, instead, here is a picture of comedian Demetri Martin in the 2011 film Contagion.

The first study, led by Dr Alina Chan at the Broad Institute, MIT (USA), strongly challenges the much promoted narrative that the virus jumped from animals to humans at the Huanan seafood and wildlife market in Wuhan, China.

The researchers compared SARS-CoV-2 to the earlier SARS virus, SARS-CoV, which caused a human epidemic in 2003. They found that by the time SARS-CoV-2 was first officially announced and its genetic sequence reported in late 2019, it was already pre-adapted to human transmission, to an extent similar to late epidemic SARS-CoV. This is very different from how SARS-CoV first emerged. That virus was initially far less well adapted to infecting humans and had to acquire many mutations gained though many rounds of infectious cycles to reach peak infectivity.

This type of progressive adaptation (mutation and selection) is exactly what is expected and known to happen in animal to human virus disease transmission. But SARS-CoV-2, even at very early stages of its detection in humans, was already highly adapted for human infectivity. In other words, no sufficiently similar natural “parent” animal virus or, in the researchers’ words, “branches of evolution stemming from a less well-adapted human SARS-CoV-2-like virus” have been found.

Casting further doubt on the “zoonosis” (jump from animal to human) theory of the virus’s origin is that samples taken from the Huanan market in Wuhan were found to contain viruses that were genetically identical to human SARS-CoV-2. According to Dr Chan, “This makes it unlikely for the Huanan market isolates to have come from an intermediate animal host; likely from SARS2-infected humans who visited the market.”


Was the Wuhan Institute of Virology shut down prior to the outbreak? | Added June 1

While not concrete proof of a biohazard leak, the absence of cellphone traffic in and around the laboratory in October 2019 suggests the lab may have been shut down for a period, and the roads around it blocked off. The question is why?

Dr. Joseph Mercola takes a look at commercial telemetry (cellphone) data which he claims shows a reduction in device activity near the Wuhan Institute of Virology in October.

From Mercola:

Fueling suspicions that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from the lab in Wuhan — and that it began far earlier than admitted — is an analysis3 of commercial telemetry (i.e., cellphone) data showing a significant and unusual reduction in device activity in and around the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s (WIV) National Biosafety Laboratory during October 2019.4,5,6

According to the open source telemetry report,7 “Beginning on October 11, there was a substantial decrease in activity,” and “the last time a device is active prior to October 11 is October 6.”

Between October 14 and October 19, there was no device activity in the area around the laboratory at all. “During this time, it is believed that roadblocks were put in place to prevent traffic from coming near the facility,” the report states. What’s more, between October 7 and October 24, there was no activity within the facility itself.

While not concrete proof of a biohazard leak, the absence of cellphone traffic in and around the laboratory in October 2019 suggests the lab may have been shut down for a period, and the roads around it blocked off. The question is why?


Contact tracing being used in some capacity to track Minnesota protestors | Added June 1

Well that didn’t take long. Contact tracing is now being used in some capacity to track protestors in Minnesota. And, to clarify, it is indeed the contact tracing that was developed to monitor the coronavirus, not some previously unmentioned equivalent. As if that wasn’t enough, federal officials have also been flying a Predator drone over the protestors in Minnesota to monitor their actions.

From BGR:

An unarmed version of the above Predator drone, which is “commonly used on the battlefield to surveil and kill terrorists,” is now being used by US Customs and Border Protection to surveil the protests in Minnesota.

In some cities like Minneapolis, though, officials are starting to turn to a familiar tool to investigate networks of protestors. The tool is contact-tracing, and it’s a familiar tool in that people have been hearing about it frequently in recent weeks as an important component of a comprehensive coronavirus pandemic response. According to Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harringon, officials there have been using what they describe, without going into much detail, as contact-tracing in order to build out a picture of protestor affiliations — a process that officials in the state say has led them to conclude that much of the protest activity there is being fueled by people from outside coming in.

In fact, Minnesota’s Gov. Tim Walz told reporters that as much as 80% of those being destructive are from outside Minnesota.

Setting aside whether or not that’s true, the non-protest aspect to this is the fact that it speaks to privacy concerns around contact-tracing in general, since using this tool to fight the coronavirus pandemic is by definition an invasion of privacy. Contact tracers need to know personal details about you, such as who you’ve been around and where you’ve gone over a not-insignificant period of time. And now, it’s a tool that’s apparently being used to build a completely different, non-coronavirus-related informational picture of Americans.


Throwback: Experts Predict 70% of World Population Could Be Infected and that 1% to 3% or More Could Die | From March 11, retrieved June 1

This is one of the original reports that features information from the coronavirus models done by Imperial College London which the protocols for lockdown procedures in the West were based upon. Around this same time Angela Merkel announced that “70 percent of Germany’s population could become infected.” The case fatality rate worldwide was believed to be higher than 3 percent and the virus was thought to have an R-nought of “somewhere between 2 and 3.” That is, for every one person that became infected, they would spread the virus to two to three people.

Oh how the times have changed…

From the Washington Post:
A rash of alarming forecasts about the coronavirus pandemic emerged Wednesday. The viral outbreak officially became a pandemic in the eyes of the World Health Organization, which cited the alarming spread of the disease called covid-19 and the slow response of many nations to try to contain it.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said 70 percent of Germany’s population could become infected. On Capitol Hill, at a tense House of Representatives hearing, the nation’s leading doctors did nothing to dispel the atmosphere of gloom and anxiety.

“Bottom line, it’s going to get worse,” Anthony Fauci, the long-standing director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testified.