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This is an archive of the May 2020 entries for the Covid19 news feed. You may return to the current page here.
In Philadelphia: Center City locks down amid looting; protests continue | Added May 31
Protests continue in Philadelphia in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. The Mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, has announced that much of Center City will be locked down to prevent more damage, “following a night of violent protests.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on Sunday said he would lock down much of the Center City sector to prevent more damage, following a night of violent protests over the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
“We’re locking down Center City today and tonight and probably extend the curfew,” Kenney said.
Kenney revealed the plan to NBC10 as he and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw surveyed the area. The closures were in place for vehicle traffic on all streets, river-to-river, from Vine to South streets. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf also ordered closed the Benjamin Franklin Bridge leading into Philadelphia.
Around 2:30 p.m., the city ordered all retail businesses immediately closed to better allow for the enforcement of an 8 p.m. curfew. Anyone who was out boarding up businesses or cleaning the city was told to return home by 5 p.m. The curfew was set to last through 6 a.m. Monday.
Kenney said that many of those arrested the night prior were from out of state, and he called them “anarchists” and “right-wingers,” all the while praising the restraint shown by the city’s police department.
Still an uneasy tension remained in Center City on Sunday.
Protests for George Floyd go global | Added May 31
Protests have erupted around the world in solidarity with the demonstrations taking place in the Untied States. Vox has coverage on the various protests taking place:
As protests continue across the United States, the rest of the world is watching the chaos unfold in America’s cities, and is commenting on the systemic issues the demonstrations — and their inciting incident — reveal.
The death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after a white police officer pushed a knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, has garnered international attention, as have the sometimes-violent protests that have erupted in the US.
Demonstrations in solidarity with Floyd protesters popped up in cities like London and Berlin, and world leaders, allies and foes of the US alike, have commented on the violence across the country.
Top doctor in Milan: ‘In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy’ | Added May 31
The new coronavirus is losing its potency and has become much less lethal, a senior Italian doctor said on Sunday.
In another case of news outlets not reporting what you think would be a major coronavirus development even in light of everything else happening, one of Italy’s top doctors has claimed that the coronavirus has lost it’s potency and is no longer as lethal as it once was. He also chided some experts as being too alarmist regarding a prospective second wave.
The new coronavirus is losing its potency and has become much less lethal, a senior Italian doctor said on Sunday.
“In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy,” said Alberto Zangrillo, the head of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan in the northern region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of Italy’s coronavirus contagion.
“The swabs that were performed over the last 10 days showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago,” he told RAI television.
Roundup on facial recognition and ID software | Added May 31
We’ve got a couple of stories on face rag use and facial recognition software. Bottom line: tech sectors are quickly finding a workaround.
This first story is from Venture Beat and was published April 8. It lays out how AI based systems are being employed and bolstered to be able to recognize faces behind masks; Google and Apple based phones already had the capability to recognize a person if they were wearing sunglasses or if they decided to trim their beard. However identifying faces behind masks was beyond their reach.
Notably researchers from Wuhan University released “the Real World Masked Face Recognition data set” in March. They said it’s “the biggest masked face data set in the world. Using one of three real and simulated data sets, they claim they trained AI to achieve state-of-the-art performance, correctly recognizing people 95% of the time.” Wonderful.
More information on how China is implementing such technology can be found here, from Reuters.
Here’s a broader report from Wired published on May 1. They bring up the use of facial recognition technology in the U.S. and also mention how China and Russia are two of the main users of the tech.
Now maybe you’re wondering: “If wearing a mask doesn’t work, what can I do to protect my privacy from facial recognition software?” Well you can wear a different type of weird, face mask-thing. Or perhaps a “wearable face projector” that projects (frankly horrifying) images of other faces onto your own. How about nightmarish, wearable, full face blobs? All of these and more are featured in this Business Insider article from March 10.
To be honest the makeup idea they feature seems interesting, if not a little reminiscent of the Hunger Games.
Chinese CDC says virus didn’t originate at Wuhan wet market | Added May 30
Well here’s a story that seemed to slip through the cracks (of everyplace except Planet Waves — we’ve been saying this for months): the Chinese CDC has admitted, following tests on animals at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, the coronavirus did not originate at the market.
The Wall Street Journal reported on this on May 26 and seems to take the stance that this announcement is an attempt on the part of China to downplay the possibility that the virus originated from China and/or one of the labs in Wuhan. We would also like to point out that the nature of the testing is also in question.
Business Insider, in their May 28 coverage of this development, cites the above article however they also include past coverage and research supporting the conclusion that the virus did not originate from the market. Notably they include this study from Nature which we may not have previously shared.
From Business Insider:
Experts still don’t know where the new coronavirus came from.
Genetic evidence has all but confirmed that the virus originated in Chinese bats before it jumped to humans via an intermediary animal host. But where and how that happened is still up for debate.
Authorities in Wuhan, China, initially reported that the first cases of the virus emerged at the local Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. But the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that following an investigation of the animals there, it ruled the site out as the origin of the outbreak.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese CDC, told Chinese state media, “It now turns out that the market is one of the victims.”
Contact tracing is certainly creepy…
Japan — no tests, no pandemic | Added May 30
In this article the New York Times explores Japan’s situation further; Japan has reported “fewer deaths than other major nations” despite not testing, and despite enacting a late, negligible lockdown. The articles notes the concerns of critics who say that Japan has “undercounted coronavirus deaths.” However hospitals were not swamped, and as of yet data on excess deaths are still pending.
As the world tries to get a handle on the coronavirus and emerge from paralyzing lockdowns, public health officials have repeated a mantra: “test, test, test.”
But Japan went its own way, limiting tests to only the most severe cases as other countries raced to screen as many people as possible. Medical experts worried that the approach would blind the country to the spread of infection, allowing cases to explode and swamping hospitals.
It hasn’t happened. Japan — the grayest country in the world and a popular tourist destination with large, crowded cities — has one of the lowest mortality rates from Covid-19 among major nations. The medical system has not been overwhelmed. And the government never forced businesses to close, although many chose to.
This week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared Japan’s battle against the outbreak a resounding success, taking the country off an emergency footing — a sort of “lockdown lite” that lasted only a month and a half.
Researchers attempt to understand why virus is deadlier in U.S. and Europe than in Asia | Added May 30
In an analysis of data that details the lethality of the virus across the world, researchers have attempted to solve why there is such a disparity in deaths between Asia and the West. It is briefly mentioned that there is a lack of a worldwide standard for determining and monitoring Covid deaths, and the reasons explored for the disparity in deaths include the use of masks and good hygiene, past vaccinations, and the possibility of deadlier strains spreading to the West. Yet, admittedly, no convincing answers are presented.
It is one of the many mysteries of the coronavirus pandemic: Why has the death toll from covid-19 apparently been lower in Asia than in Western Europe and North America?
Even allowing for different testing policies and counting methods, and questions over full disclosure of cases, stark differences in mortality across the world have caught the attention of researchers trying to crack the coronavirus code.
Parts of Asia reacted quickly to the threat and largely started social distancing earlier on. But researchers are also examining other factors, including differences in genetics and immune system responses, separate virus strains and regional contrasts in obesity levels and general health.
China, where the virus emerged late last year in Wuhan, has recorded fewer than 5,000 deaths, which translates to three deaths per million inhabitants. Japan has around seven per million, Pakistan six, South Korea and Indonesia five, India three and Thailand fewer than one per million. Vietnam, Cambodia and Mongolia say they have recorded zero covid-19-related deaths.
Flu shots and coronavirus risk | Added May 29
In 2012 there was a study that suggested a link between flu vaccines and an increased risk of “noninfluenza respiratory virus infections.” Coronaviruses happen to fit under that definition. On March 2 of this year, retired pediatrician Allan S. Cunningham referenced that 2012 study in the context of what is currently said to be a coronavirus pandemic. Cunningham has called for a case-control study into influenza vaccines to establish whether they had a hand in the current health crisis we are seeing.
John Watkins is right; we need to think beyond containment, but he overlooks the possibility that seasonal flu shots are potential contributors to the current outbreak. (BMJ 2020;398:m810—February 28)….A randomized placebo-controlled trial in children showed that flu shots increased fivefold the risk of acute respiratory infections caused by a group of noninfluenza viruses, including coronaviruses. (Cowling et al, Clin Infect Dis 2012;54:1778) From Table 3, vaccine recipients had 20 noninfluenza virus-positive ARIs and 19 virus-negative ARIs; non-recipients had 3 noninfluenza virus-positive ARIs and 14 virus-negative ARIs. These figures yield an odds ratio of 4.91 (CI 1.04 to8.14).
Such an observation may seem counterintuitive, but it is possible that influenza vaccines alter our immune systems non-specifically to increase susceptibility to other infections; this has been observed with DTP and other vaccines. (Benn et al, Trends in Immunology, May 2013) There are other immune mechanisms that might also explain the observation.
To investigate this possibility, a case-control study is in order as we study and care for the victims of covid-19. Influenza vaccines have become sacred cows in some quarters, but they shouldn’t be.
Trump to end relationship with WHO; take action against Chinese spying | Added May 29
Speaking at the White House this afternoon Trump announced that the U.S. will be ending its relationship with the WHO today and that actions will be taken to curtail Chinese spying at American universities. The Washington Post covers this here.
On the issue of Chinese spying, despite the appearance that these actions are in direct response to the ongoing dispute regarding Hong Kong, these measures against spying have “been in the works for months.” This is according to a May 28 report from Reuters where it detailed that Chinese graduate students in the U.S. will “have their visas cancelled and will be expelled…those outside the United States will not be allowed to return.”
This is purportedly in an effort to “clamp down on spying and intellectual property theft that some Chinese nationals are suspected of engaging in on U.S. university and college campuses…” The administration expects push back from colleges due to the “financial interests in Chinese student enrollment.”
This spying isn’t unheard of, however. The New York Times coverage of this story references China’s Thousand Talents program, which the FBI classifies as a form of “nontraditional espionage” wherein research and researchers are funneled back to China. The NYT’s also mentions the arrest of the chairman of Harvard University’s chemistry department Charles M. Lieber: a premiere researcher in nanotechnology.
He was arrested in January for misleading “the national Defense Department and the National Institutes of Health about his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Plan while the U.S. agencies were spending more than $15 million to fund his research group in the U.S.”
Enough of that for now, here is Trump’s announcement from today.
From the Washington Post:
“We will today be terminating our relationship” with the WHO, the president said, adding that the organization’s more than $400 million annual U.S. contribution would be diverted to other health groups.
The president said he would issue a proclamation to protect sensitive American university research from Chinese spying and bar some Chinese nationals from entering the U.S. He also directed an administration working group to evaluate Chinese corporations that are listed on U.S. financial markets as a potential target of additional restrictions.
The moves seemed certain to intensify growing U.S.-China tensions and risked unsettling financial markets that are still trying to regain their footing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump’s fury at China has escalated in recent weeks, as he has blamed Chinese officials for not doing more to contain the outbreak and warn the outside world of the danger. On Friday morning he tweeted simply “CHINA!”
Moderna works miracles for those invested in the markets, and… | Added May 29
…other things to remember while we’re rushing vaccines to production.
Part of the damaged economy is still working for some people – even as what drives this engine might not be working so well for the rest.
From STAT News:
“The top five Moderna executives have cashed out $89M in shares this year, as stock price has soared on Covid-19 vaccine hopes. The trades, which led to about $80 million in profits, were prescheduled through a legal program that allows company insiders to buy and sell shares at a later date.”
“But the volume and timing might prove alarming to Moderna’s shareholders, especially in light of the company’s May decision to raise more than $1 billion in a stock offering. If Moderna’s early-stage vaccine can one day prevent coronavirus infection and the company’s best days lay ahead, why are insiders selling?” asks Damien Garde of STAT.
This should not come as a surprise to anyone paying attention to the blended motivation and conflicting loyalties driving the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.
As reported by Ed Silverman of STAT, the for-profit efforts in biotech and pharmaceuticals is ever more inextricably woven with benefits to research institutions and professional organizations.
“Medical societies have ‘extensive’ financial ties with drug and device makers. A new study looked at 10 professional medical societies and found that none of them had a leadership free of financial ties to drug and device makers.
“’These extensive ties between doctors and industry can undermine the integrity of research, education and practice – and threaten public trust in medicine,’ said Raymond Moynihan, a study co-author and an assistant professor at the Institute for Evidence-Based Healthcare at Bond University in Australia.”
“The authors of this latest study…contend their research sheds new light on the matter, because there is a ‘paucity’ of data available on the financial ties between industry and the leadership of professional medical associations. Besides influencing research and physician education, the authors note that medical societies can also sway diagnoses and the appropriate use of medicines.”
One might ask how such considerations apply to a healthy critique of the current crisis being driven by the collective response to SARS-COV-2. We’ve already seen the selective nature of the benefits of a rollercoaster market response to news of experimental treatments and early stage vaccines trials; should we also expect to see hurried approvals and distribution of products granted by individuals biased by their own financial participation?
Volunteer for Moderna vaccine trial has ‘adverse reaction’ | Added May 29
Ian Haydon, one of the more prominent volunteers for Moderna’s vaccine trial, is now in the news again after he revealed that he had a severe reaction to the vaccine. He shared his experience on Twitter and STAT News later published a report on May 26:
Haydon has spoken about the vaccine on CNN and CNBC. He even said he’d volunteer to be exposed to the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, if researchers want to test to see if the vaccine was actually effective. But up until now he has left out a key detail: He is, apparently, one of three people in the trial who had a systemic adverse reaction to the vaccine.
Twelve hours after receiving his second dose, he developed a fever of more than 103 degrees, sought medical attention, and, after being released from an urgent care facility, fainted in his home. He recovered within a day.
He has not brought up the side effects previously, he said, out of “an abundance of caution.”
“I understand that sharing the story, it’s going to be frightening to some people,” he said. “I hope that it doesn’t fuel any sort of general antagonism towards vaccines in general or towards even this vaccine.”
You know Ian Haydon from many appearances on CNN and other networks celebrating his heroic act of volunteering to test Moderna’s experimental Covid vaccine. The sun has now set on Haydon’s television career. He is no longer useful to the Pharmedia narratives that all vaccines are always safe for all people,that Moderna’s business partners,Tony Fauci and Bill Gates we’re justified in skipping animal studies and that Moderna’s vaccine will soon rescue us from the Pandemic. Ian Haydon is now an embarrassment to Fauci & Gates and their CNN cheerleaders. He will therefore vanish into the censorship twilight.
Moderna chose Haydon for the study because of his robust good health. He was among the 15 volunteers in the high dose group. Within 45 days ,three of these-a shocking 20% -experienced “serious” adverse events according to Moderna’s press release meaning they required hospitalization or medical intervention. Less than 12 hours after vaccination, Hayden suffered muscle aches,vomiting,spiked a 103.2*fever and lost consciousness. His girlfriend caught him as he fell. His Moderna trial supervisor instructed Haydon to call 911 and described him as being the “sickest in his life”. Moderna let Haydon believe the illness was just a sad coincidence unrelated to the jab. Moderna never told Haydon he was suffering an Adverse Event.
“Moderna’s press release was the first I learned of the 3 AEs in the high dose group.” Haydon confessed today on Twitter,”Later a study doc confirmed that what happened to me was an AE.” While hiding this truth, Moderna encouraged Haydon to appear on tv to deceive the public and it’s shareholders by declaring Moderna’s COVID vaccine trials a smashing success. On May 7 Haydon told Sanjay Gupta about his reactions in a pre interview. The two men agreed to keep this bad news secret when he went on air. This corrupt deal bespeaks the pathetic state of journalism at CNN. Fauci and Gates are proceeding with their plan to funnel half a billion taxpayer dollars into their reckless vanity project to create 30 million doses by November and 2 billion within a year manufactured in the US and Switzerland.
Pandemic relief and ‘looting’ | Added May 28
Protests in response to the killing of George Floyd continue across the country, and recently there have been reports of “looting.” David Sirota, in his newsletter TMI, both challenges the use of the word “looting” in this context, and charges corporations and the wealthy beneficiaries of recent congressional pandemic relief as the actual ones looting. He provides a list of 10 instances, but we will only provide the article’s introduction here.
Headlines this morning are all about looting — specifically, looting in Minneapolis, after the police killing of an unarmed African American man was caught on video. In the modern vernacular, that word “looting” is loaded — it comes with all sorts of race and class connotations. And we have to understand that terms like “looting” are an example of the way our media often imperceptibly trains us to think about economics, crime and punishment in specific and skewed ways.
Working-class people pilfering convenience-store goods is deemed “looting.” By contrast, rich folk and corporations stealing billions of dollars during their class war is considered good and necessary “public policy” — aided and abetted by arsonist politicians in Washington lighting the crime scene on fire to try to cover everything up.
To really understand the deep programming at work here, consider how the word “looting” is almost never used to describe the plundering that has become the routine policy of our government at a grand scale that is far larger than a vandalized Target store.
Indeed, if looting is defined in the dictionary as “to rob especially on a large scale” using corruption, then these are 10 examples of looting that we rarely ever call “looting”…
HHS Awards $15 Million to Rural Tribal Communities | Added May 28
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded Tribal nations across the U.S. $15 million through the CARES act to “prepare, prevent, and respond to Covid-19.”
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded $15 million to 52 Tribes, Tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations, and other health services providers to Tribes across 20 states to prepare, prevent, and respond to COVID-19 in rural tribal communities.
“President Trump stands with Tribal nations across the country as they grapple with COVID-19 in rural communities,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Today’s funding gives Tribes critical support to build up their capacity for fighting COVID-19, boost testing capabilities, increase purchases of PPE, and hire and pay the personnel they need.”
These awards are funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that President Trump signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020. HRSA made awards to Federally Recognized Tribes and other tribal organizations based on their needs and capacity to implement COVID-19 related activities in their rural communities. Tribes could request up to $300K in funding for these activities through the Rural Tribal COVID-19 Response (RTCR) program.
Hospitals in California struggle financially | Added May 28
Hospitals across the U.S. have been struggling financially following the measures taken to prepare for the anticipated surge of Covid-19 infections that never showed. The healthcare industry in California has requested about $4 billion to help cover the costs of both the past few months and for help in the new fiscal year.
As the novel coronavirus tore through Italy and then New York in March, California, anticipating a deadly surge in cases, ordered hospitals to shut down routine procedures and called in thousands of health care workers to help patients.
But the predicted surge never came.
And the cost of all that preparation – setting up field hospitals, doubling the number of intensive care rooms, purchasing protective equipment – dealt a blow to hospital bottom lines, while the ban on all non-emergency procedures cut revenues in half.
The measures drove hospitals in the most populous U.S. state close to bankruptcy, costing them as much as $14 billion and forcing them to lay off of thousands of health care workers, according to the California Hospital Association.
Now, reeling from the twin financial blows, hospitals are struggling to get ready for a possible new surge in cases this autumn, and wrestling with the question of whether they over-prepared last time around.
Trump signs executive order on social media | Added May 28
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in regard to information on the coronavirus: Trump has signed an executive order on social media in response to Twitter fact checking a statement of his about mail-in ballots. The order could give federal regulators the power to “punish Facebook, Google and Twitter for the way they police content online.”
But advocates for the tech sector, lawmakers in Congress and a variety of legal experts from across the political spectrum Thursday doubted the legality of Trump’s draft proposal and feared its implications for free speech. Others questioned whether the U.S. government even could carry out the order as the president intended. Some in the tech industry even began quietly discussing their legal options, including a potential lawsuit challenging Trump’s order once it is signed, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because talks are early.
“This is simply setting the wheels of law enforcement and regulation in motion against a private company for questioning the president,” said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, a Washington trade group that represents Facebook, Google and other major tech companies.
Trump’s order would pave the way for U.S. agencies to revisit and potentially undo long-standing legal protections known as Section 230, which spares tech giants from being held liable for the content they allow online and their own moderation decisions. The directive specifically could open the door for the Federal Communications Commission to rethink the scope of the law, the people familiar with the document said. A change could have dramatic free-speech implications and wide-ranging consequences for a broad swath of companies reliant on doing business on the Internet.
‘Fitness trackers’ to become ‘sickness trackers’ | Added May 28
In the latest development in health surveillance researchers are repurposing fitness trackers into wearable tech that can track coronavirus symptoms or, as the Washington Post calls them, “sickness trackers.” That’ll certainly help with contact tracing the coronavirus, or any symptom deemed “suspicious.”
Oura, a health-tracking ring, is one such device that is $300, looks like jewelry, and collects heart rate, breathing data and “critically, for the coronavirus — temperature.” What, are fevers only caused by the coronavirus now?
From the Washington Post:
Data from a wearable device can reveal coronavirus symptoms days before you even realize you’re sick, researchers have found in preliminary studies.
That means fitness trackers could be on their way to becoming sickness trackers.
The initial findings from two academic studies are a small step in the fight against the coronavirus, and a giant leap for wearable tech. If Fitbits, Apple Watches and Oura smart rings prove to be an effective early-warning system, they could help reopen communities and workplaces — and evolve from consumer tech novelties into health essentials.
Since March, a half-dozen studies have been exploring whether the constant stream of data that wearables gather about our bodies offers any clue about who has caught the coronavirus. Last week, wearable maker Fitbit announced its own effort. I’ve been a guinea pig for two of the academic studies, though I prefer the term “citizen scientist.” (See below for how you can contribute to studies still recruiting volunteers.) For now, these aren’t clinical trials — rather, researchers are gathering data and looking at it retrospectively for patterns.
Overflow field hospital shuts down in Pennsylvania | Added May 28
Another overflow field hospital has shut down, this time in Levittown, Pennsylvania which is in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. They say there was no guarantee that it would be needed — and it wasn’t used at all — but it was set up in April just in case.
The overflow field hospital that was to be used in case Bucks County medical centers were overwhelmed by patients at the peak of the initial wave of COVID-19 cases was taken apart last week.
The temporary medical facility at the Newtown Sports Training Center next to the Newtown Athletic Club on Penns Trail in Newtown Township was set up in early April but never needed to be used.
Jim Worthington, the owner of the facility, donated the space at no cost to the county.
Roughly 100 beds were set up in the 35,000-square-foot sports training building. The site, which has easy access to major roadways and was minutes away from the most densely populated portions of the county, would have been able to care for patients ranging from those in non-life-threatening condition to those who needed oxygen and intravenous therapy.
County officials said in early April that the center could take COVID-19 positive or non-COVID-19 patients if needed.
The site was set up as COVID-19 case numbers climbed. In recent weeks, the number of new infections has begun to slow.
“Our hospitals did a good job, and we have good bed availability as a whole throughout the county,” Bucks County Emergency Management Agency Director Scott Forster said when asked about the site closing.
Area hospitals have treated hundreds of COVID-19 patients at a minimum. Forster said at some times, intensive care units and medical surge capacity at hospitals were filled but never enough to warrant opening the overflow site.
CDC offers more information on spread of virus from services after their recent website change | Added May 28
It was just last week when the CDC said that the virus doesn’t spread as easily from packages and surfaces as initially feared. it doesn’t seem that they want you to get too comfortable, however, as they have released a news release on how spread from surfaces is apparently still danger.
Fears about catching the coronavirus from contaminated surfaces have prompted many of us to spend the past few months wiping down groceries, leaving packages unopened and stressing about touching elevator buttons.
But what’s the real risk of catching Covid-19 from a germy surface or object?
The question has been on people’s minds lately, and there was some confusion after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made some edits to its website last week. Social media sites and some news outlets suggested the agency had downgraded its warnings and that surface transmission was no longer a worry.
The C.D.C. subsequently issued a news release to clarify that indirect contact from a contaminated surface — what scientists call fomite transmission — remains a potential risk for catching Covid-19.
Trump planning to sign executive order on social media | Added May 27
Earlier today President Trump threatened to “regulate” social media platforms after one of his tweets was fact checked. And now, according to Reuters, he now plans to move forward with signing an executive order on social media platforms tomorrow.
U.S. President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on social media companies on Thursday, White House officials said after Trump threatened to shut down websites he accused of stifling conservative voices.
The officials gave no further details. It was unclear how Trump could follow through on the threat of shutting down privately owned companies including Twitter Inc. The company declined comment.
The dispute erupted after Twitter on Tuesday for the first time tagged Trump’s tweets about unsubstantiated claims of fraud in mail-in voting with a warning prompting readers to fact check the posts.
Separately, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington on Wednesday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by a conservative group and right-wing YouTube personality against Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple accusing them of conspiring to suppress conservative political views.
Poll shows half of Americans would not take vaccine | Added May 27
This story from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette cites a new poll where it was found that only half of Americans would get a vaccine for Covid-19. Of that half, “7 in 10 worry about safety.”
From the article:
Only about half of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if the scientists working furiously to create one succeed, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
That’s surprisingly low considering the effort going into the global race for a vaccine against the coronavirus that has sparked a pandemic since first emerging from China late last year. But more people might eventually roll up their sleeves: The poll, released Wednesday, found 31% simply weren’t sure if they’d get vaccinated. Another 1 in 5 said they’d refuse.
Health experts already worry about the whiplash if vaccine promises like President Donald Trump’s goal of a 300 million-dose stockpile by January fail. Only time and science will tell — and the new poll shows the public is indeed skeptical.
“It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“The unexpected looms large and that’s why I think for any of these vaccines, we’re going to need a large safety database to provide the reassurance,” he added.
Among Americans who say they wouldn’t get vaccinated, 7 in 10 worry about safety.
“I am not an anti-vaxxer,” said Melanie Dries, 56, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. But, “to get a COVID-19 vaccine within a year or two … causes me to fear that it won’t be widely tested as to side effects.”
CDC says antibody test wrong half the time | Added May 27
As if attempting to further fuel the ambiguity in this situation, the CDC and the FDA have both said that antibody tests are wrong up to half the time and they should not be used to guide policy decisions.
Antibody tests used to determine if people have been infected in the past with Covid-19 might be wrong up to half the time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance posted on its website.
Antibody tests, often called serologic tests, look for evidence of an immune response to infection. “Antibodies in some persons can be detected within the first week of illness onset,” the CDC says.
They are not accurate enough to use to make important policy decisions, the CDC said.
“Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities,” the CDC says.
“Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.”
Children’s Health Defense on Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome | Added May 26
Why, therefore, have most researchers—along with the entire mainstream media—decided to go on record with their belief that the new pediatric syndrome is linked to COVID-19?
Earlier today we shared a few stories on the Covid-like syndrome seen among children and young adults. On May 14 Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the Children’s Health Defense Team published an article on PIMS (pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome) where they called into question the overeagerness with which it has been linked to Covid-19. Below is an excerpt from their conclusion.
From the article:
At this juncture, it is likely close to impossible to determine whether “PIMS” is brand-new and whether it is related to COVID-19. Certainly, the increasing descriptions of COVID-19 as a “whole-body” rather than merely respiratory disease have persuaded some clinicians that SARS-CoV-2 is capable of attacking blood vessels and multiple organs. On the other hand, neither PCR nor antibody testing for SARS-CoV-2 is terribly reliable, and a significant proportion of affected children has tested negative on one or both. Why, therefore, have most researchers—along with the entire mainstream media—decided to go on record with their belief that the new pediatric syndrome is linked to COVID-19?
Speaking to the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee on May 12, Dr. Anthony Fauci cited the Kawaski-like inflammatory syndrome as a reason to throw cold water on legislators’ desire to reopen schools this fall, while continuing to beat the drum for a rushed and dangerous COVID-19 vaccine. Although “it is possible the novel coronavirus is playing some contributive role in this rare illness in children,” it is also quite possible that it is playing “absolutely no role” and is, rather, an expedient cover story that may needlessly frighten parents about a rare disease (about 5,000 cases a year) that, before COVID-19, few were talking about. Answers to these questions are hugely important, as they will affect children’s daily lives, shape how the U.S. carries out education and determine so much more.
After large donations, Cuomo gave immunity to hospital and nursing home executives | Added May 26
Here is an in-depth look at the connections between the large donations from health executives that Governor Andrew Cuomo received during his campaign in 2018, and the legislation that he signed last month that shileded” hospital and nursing-home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.” This comes from TMI, a newsletter by David Sirota:
Critics say data proves New York’s liability shield is linked to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic
As Governor Andrew Cuomo faced a spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary, his political apparatus got a last-minute boost: a powerful health care industry group suddenly poured more than $1 million into a Democratic committee backing his campaign.
Less than two years after that flood of cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), Cuomo signed legislation last month quietly shielding hospital and nursing-home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. The provision, inserted into an annual budget bill by Cuomo’s aides, created one of the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for health care industry officials, according to legal experts.
Critics say Cuomo removed a key deterrent against nursing home and hospital corporations cutting corners in ways that jeopardize lives. As those critics now try to repeal the provision during this final week of Albany’s legislative session, they assert that data prove such immunity is correlating to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic — both in New York and in other states enacting similar immunity policies.
Of masks and men | Added May 26
How about a Gender Patrol double feature: although Japan has recently lifted its state of emergency, here is a May 16 article from the New York Times on household work in Japan and how couples were coping during lockdown. There is also this article from The Guardian on how men are less likely to wear masks titled “Men are less likely to wear masks – another sign that toxic masculinity kills”
From The Guardian:
The results of my study, A Sociological Park-Based Meta-Analysis of Gendered Mask Habits (due to be published in the Journal of Arwa’s Thoughts) were unequivocal. Men were just as likely to wear masks as women. In face-coverings, at least, we had achieved gender equality!
It is with a great deal of disappointment, then, that I must announce that my findings have been refuted by a rather more robust study. A new survey of 2,459 people living in the US has found that men are less likely to don face masks because they believe wearing one is “shameful,” “a sign of weakness,” and “not cool.”
The survey, conducted by American and British researchers, also found that men are less likely to believe they’ll be significantly impacted by Covid-19 than women. Which is ironic, because there is a huge amount of evidence showing that men are much more likely to die from coronavirus. Researchers are still trying to figure out whether this is due to biology or behaviour.
Interestingly, the study found gender differences in intentions to wear a face covering basically disappeared in places were masks were made mandatory. In other words: men need to be forced to wear masks more than women do. You’re obliged to wear face coverings whenever you can’t socially distance in New York, which explains why I didn’t notice any gender differences in my own study. So I won’t give up hope of a Nobel prize for science quite yet.
Kawasaki disease, Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome and Covid-like illness in children | Added May 26
We have a small collection of stories to share regarding the Covid-like symptoms that some children have shown, and which share similarities with Kawasaki disease. This syndrome is now being referred to as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome. If this is your first time hearing about that, here is an article from the New York Times which covers the basics.
One of the newer developments happens to be that children are no longer the only ones suffering from this covid-like illness; young adults, as old as 25, have reportedly presented the same symptoms. You can find more about that here from the Washington Post, as well from this article from the New York Post. Lastly there is this article from National Geographic which takes a look at the syndrome and the related inflammation of the heart.
We’ll leave you with an excerpt from the Washington Post article:
Recent public health warnings about a severe and puzzling inflammatory syndrome linked to covid-19 have focused on children. But some doctors say they are also seeing the illness, similar to Kawasaki disease, in a few young adults.
A 20-year-old is being treated for the condition in San Diego, a 25-year-old has been diagnosed at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center, and several patients in their early 20s are hospitalized with the syndrome at NYU Langone in New York City.
Jennifer Lighter, a pediatric infectious diseases doctor at NYU Langone, said younger children with the condition seem to have symptoms that look more like traditional Kawasaki, which is characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels. But teens and young adults have more of an “overwhelming” response involving the heart and multiple organs.
Schools in the Philippines won’t reopen until vaccine is available | Added May 26
Schools in the Philippines will remain closed until a vaccine becomes available. This was announced by President Rodrigo Duterte and in a televised address on Monday.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will not allow students to go back to school until a coronavirus vaccine is available, even as some countries resume in-person classes.
Without a vaccine, sending children to school “spells disaster”, Duterte said during a televised address late on Monday.
“I will not allow the opening of classes where students will be near each other,” he added. “Unless I am sure that they are really safe, it’s useless to be talking about opening of classes.”
Children were due to return to school at the end of August after classes for more than 25 million primary and secondary students were shut down in March as the contagion took a firm hold in the Philippines.
Cuba cites two drugs as reason for low death rates| Added May 25
Cuba reportedly has two drugs which they are producing and which they cite as being the reason for their low death rates. According to Cuba’s president Miguel Diaz-Canel, “In Cuba, with the use of these drugs, 80 percent of those who end up in critical or serious condition are being saved.” We’ will continue to follow developments with this story.
Communist-run Cuba said this week that use of two drugs produced by its biotech industry that reduce hyper-inflammation in seriously ill COVID-19 patients has sharply curbed its coronavirus-related death toll.
Health authorities have reported just two virus-related deaths over the past nine days among more than 200 active cases on the Caribbean’s largest island, a sign they may have the worst of the outbreak under control.
The government, which hopes to increase its biopharmaceutical exports, has touted various drugs it produces for helping prevent infection with the new coronavirus and treating the COVID-19 disease it causes.
It ascribes the recent reduction in deaths of severely ill COVID-19 patients largely to the use beginning in April of two drugs that appear to help calm the “cytokine storm,” a dangerous overresponse by the immune system in which it attacks healthy tissue as well as the invading virus.
State officials censoring case data | Added May 25
We have previously reported on the dismissal of Florida’s Covid-19 Dashboard manager after she refused to alter data in support of reopening. This report from BuzzFeed News covers that story, as well as similar circumstances in Georgia and in Arizona where strong pushes for reopening are occurring.
From the article:
Disputes over coronavirus case counts in reopening states like Georgia, Arizona, and Florida are worrying public health experts, who fear public trust in health agencies is being destroyed by moves to silence or obscure unwelcome data.
“Ultimately this is going to kill people,” said biostatistics professor Ruth Etzioni of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. “People are going to see low numbers from these reports with manipulated numbers, go outside when they should stay in, get ill, and die.”
As those three states pushed to ease stay-at-home orders in recent weeks, they have each reportedly taken steps to obscure data that would have run counter to their plans, hiding or misapplying complete numbers of those who have died or become ill from COVID-19. The White House’s April guidelines to states called for a 14-day downturn in case counts before reopening, but the three states and others have proceeded before that happened.
Imperial College tries its hand at modelling again | Added May 25
If you’re not familiar with Imperial College London’s coronavirus models, their simulations are what guided many leaders in the West early on as they enacted their shutdowns. Since then Neil Ferguson, a mathematical epidemiologist at Imperial College London and one of the main ones responsible for the models, has been dismissed from his position after breaching lockdown rules. And that was after he spent two weeks quarantined due to testing positive for coronavirus. The accuracy of the models and the reliability of the software that produced them have also been called into question.
With all of that in mind Imperial College London has released new models showing coronavirus spread throughout the U.S. as reopenings commence. You can find them at Mother Jones.
Great summary of research about face rags | Added May 25
You too can crash your car into a telephone pole! Guaranteed to make things worse! Dr. Pamela Popper takes down the myth of “masks” — if you follow real (not retracted) research, you find out that face rags spread bacteria by creating constant hand-mouth contact, and that 97% of aerosols get through. Plus, they’re disgusting, most never get washed, and they obstruct breathing. She discusses this toward the second half of the video.
Cases falling too quickly in the UK for vaccine developers | Added May 25
Oxford scientists are having a little trouble working on a vaccine and have stated there is only a 50% of success because “the number of people in Britain with the virus is falling too quickly.” There’s talk that they will have to “chase” the virus around the UK.
Scientists involved in one of the world’s leading studies into finding a vaccine for the coronavirus say there is currently only a 50% chance of success because the number of people in Britain with the virus is falling too quickly.
The Oxford University mission to find a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus is in “a race against the virus disappearing, and against time,” Adam Hill, director at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, said this weekend.
Hill told The Telegraph newspaper that the number of people in the UK with the virus was falling at a rate that meant it might not be possible to effectively test the experimental vaccine known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.
NYT repeats wet market lie; WIV denies being the source once again | Added May 25
Yesterday, among the New York Times live updates, mention was made of the wet market origin theory of the virus, alongside the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s latest denial that they could, in any way, be the source of the virus. We’ve been following the many problems of the wet market theory which is disproven as none of the early cases in Wuhan can be contact traced to the market. Therefore, the disease was imported to the market rather than originating from the market. Eric previously discussed this in this May 1 article.
From the New York Times:
The Trump administration’s unsubstantiated claims that the coronavirus pandemic was set off from a Wuhan government laboratory are “pure fabrication,” the head of the lab was quoted as saying in Chinese state media on Sunday.
Wang Yanyi, who leads the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said that the institute first received a sample of the virus at the end of December. By that point, the virus had been circulating in Wuhan, a major travel hub, for weeks.
“We didn’t have any knowledge about the virus before that, nor have we ever met, researched or kept the virus,” Dr. Wang said.
Scientists are still studying how the outbreak first happened. Most of them believe that the virus was passed from bats to humans via an intermediary species, one that was probably sold at a wet market in Wuhan late last year.
My understanding of the realtime polymerase chain reaction assay being used to count ‘cases’ of Covid | Added May 24
By Eric Francis
When you hear the term “Covid case” or “confirmed case,” that means someone who has tested positive for what is being called the “novel coronavirus.” Actually, they have tested positive for a fragment of RNA, converted to DNA, that is said to be associated with the novel coronavirus.
The test does not actually measure viral load. It measures debris that is believed to be the result of viral load. Let’s go through the main problems with the test and how its used as a diagnostic tool. Note that per its inventor Kary Mullis, it was never intended to be used as such; it was designed as a research tool. Here is a web source explaining these same things in a slightly different way. Evaluate the facts for yourself.
First, to be meaningful, the test must find the thing known to be the pathogen, or it’s useless. It searches for a target fragment of DNA (or converted RNA) which is a marker for the supposed pathogen. However, SARS-CoV-2 has not been isolated and shown to be the cause of the disease. We do not know if there is a direct connection between what is being tested for and what is being found, and then attributed as a cause of disease.
They could be searching for anything. To say that someone is a “case” of Covid because they test “positive” for some RNA is like saying someone is a case of cirrhosis because they test for alcohol on a breathalyzer. But that’s an exaggeration because we know that excess alcohol causes cirrhosis.
Another way to think of it is like police radar that says you’re going 60 mph, but nobody knows how long an hour is, or how far a mile is. Therefore the concept of a “mile per hour” has no meaning, or it can mean anything except an honest measure of how fast one is going.
Second, few “positive” people even get sick, which argues that the stuff being sought out is NOT the pathogenic agent. The concept of a pathogen is that it dependably causes an illness. In biology, the fact that so few people with this stuff in their nose get sick can be used as proof that what they are looking for is not the pathogen. This is not difficult to understand.
As for those who do get sick, we don’t know what is making them sick. It could be some other virus or bacteria or environmental insult that’s not being looked for by the test. Even FDA and CDC documents about the test admit that PCR testing is not definitive: it’s not evidence of disease, of infection or of being infectious.
Other factors must lead to the actual diagnosis.
Third, since Gold Standard (as defined by Kary Mullis, the inventor of the PCR process, and Nobel winner for his work), we don’t know how much of the substance causes disease, if it does at all. All assays — Western Blot, ELISA or PCR — are judged on a gradient.
Without the Gold Standard, the line between negative and positive must be drawn arbitrarily. Without isolating the substance and proving that it is the pathogenic agent, they have no idea how much causes disease and therefore where to draw the line between negative and positive. So the net effect is the test is a work of fiction in its entirety, beginning with not knowing whether they are even testing for something relevant, and ending with not being an actual indicator of anything.
Now you know that the “case count” on this device is vapid of any meaning or relevance. And if that is irrelevant, so too is the “death count.” People are dying, but we do not know of what. And if we want to solve this problem, that matters.
The Safety Dance | Added May 24
A design firm from California has recently come up with a protective suit, pictured above, that is intended for would-be partygoers. This article from NBC Philadelphia describes it as being specifically for “partying and safety” and notes that it includes an “N95 filter as well as snap-in canisters for drinking and vaping.” Miguel Risueno, head of the firm working on the design, states that “the most exciting part is being able to have a deeper more emotional, physical connection with the people around you.” Well if that isn’t an example of Orwellian doublethink; there’s nothing like encasing yourself inside a protective barrier to make you feel your full humanity. Perhaps their intentions are genuine, but let’s not confuse ourselves: hazmat suits do not equal sensual reality.
From NBC Philadelphia:
It looks like a space suit with a tight helmet, filtration system and LED lighting accents. But this suit could be the future for big events like concerts or even clubbing during the coronavirus pandemic.
With many concerts and big events being postponed or even canceled, a local design firm has set out to create a wearable, technology driven personal coronavirus protection suit. They hope this will get crowds back in clubs and venues so they can socialize without social distancing.
“Micrashell is a solution for bringing people together safety,” said Miguel Risueno, head of inventions for Production Club. “It’s a half suit that kind of takes your safety and your security in terms of being close to airborne particles or viruses to the next level.”
Fauci: staying closed too long could cause ‘irreparable damage’ | Added May 24
As this article from CNBC notes it was “just last week” when Anthony Fauci warned that the U.S. could face further death and suffering from the coronavirus if states reopened too soon. On May 22 Fauci stated that the time had come to take a look at reopening in the country, depending on local situations.
Stay-at-home orders intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus could end up causing “irreparable damage” if imposed for too long, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNBC on Friday.
“I don’t want people to think that any of us feel that staying locked down for a prolonged period of time is the way to go,” Fauci said during an interview with CNBC’s Meg Tirrell on “Halftime Report.”
He said the U.S. had to institute severe measures because Covid-19 cases were exploding then. “But now is the time, depending upon where you are and what your situation is, to begin to seriously look at reopening the economy, reopening the country to try to get back to some degree of normal.”
The life of the potty | Added May 23
There’s a new term out there. It’s called ‘social piss-tancing.’
Now that we no longer have to fear the coronavirus surviving on our packages for a literal eternity, bathrooms are now the new concern. Although the issue of vaporized germs from public toilets was mentioned as an issue earlier in the crisis, it is becoming a new topic of conversation and concern now that lockdown orders are being lifted and people are going out once more.
Measures such as separating urinals, adding more touchless devices, and hiring bathroom monitors are being introduced — hey, maybe there’ll be cross-training for bathroom monitors and contact tracers. And business is now booming for companies that sell portable urinals and portable potties for men and women. “You don’t want your first try to be on the road or after a few drinks during a night out.” Right.
Just the fact that bathrooms tend to be highly trafficked and too cramped for social distancing makes them risky, he said. But on top of that, poor hand washing leaves doorknobs, faucets and other surfaces contaminated. And flushing the toilet can create a plume of vaporized germs up to 6 feet high, he said. While it’s not yet proven the coronavirus can spread that way, it is known that other viruses can.
“It really is a nightmare,” said Poland. With all that going on, he said, “you have a bioweapons factory in [there.]”
Some businesses are trying to adapt by installing touch-free doors, faucets and hand dryers, for example. Or they’re switching to touch-free paper towel dispensers to avoid the possibility of hand dryers blowing coronavirus through the air — another potential, though not yet proven, risk.
Businesses are also cleaning and disinfecting more frequently and requiring face masks to enter. Some are even hiring bathroom monitors to control crowds and enforce distancing.
Steven Soifer, president of the American Restroom Association, which advocates for clean and safe public bathrooms, said many businesses are also installing dividers between urinals or closing down every other one.
“There’s a new term out there,” he said. “It’s called ‘social piss-tancing.'”
Cannabis and coronavirus | Added May 23
The news we’ve all been waiting for: cannabis cures coronavirus. Well, not quite. But the New York Post says that “a team of Canadian scientists believes it has found strong strains of cannabis that could help prevent or treat coronavirus infections, according to interviews and a study.” So maybe it doesn’t cure it, but better safe than sorry, right?
Researchers from the University of Lethbridge said a study in April showed at least 13 cannabis plants were high in CBD that appeared to affect the ACE2 pathways that the bug uses to access the body.
“We were totally stunned at first, and then we were really happy,” one of the researchers, Olga Kovalchuk, told CTV News.
The results, printed in online journal Preprints, indicated hemp extracts high in CBD may help block proteins that provide a “gateway” for COVID-19 to enter host cells.
Kovalchuk’s husband, Igor, suggested cannabis could reduce the virus’ entry points by up to 70 percent. “Therefore, you have more chance to fight it,” he told CTV.
“Our work could have a huge influence — there aren’t many drugs that have the potential of reducing infection by 70 to 80 percent,” he told the Calgary Herald.
Moderna’s ‘positive vaccine results’ continue to be questioned | Added May 23
In this article the New York Times takes a look at the backlash against Moderna after the biotech company released some “upbeat vaccine news” which prompted their stock prices to rise. As we previously reported their stock prices then dropped soon after, following the publication of an article by STAT where it was pointed out that there was a lack of data alongside Moderna’s announcement.
From the New York Times:
The Moderna episode is a case study in how the coronavirus pandemic and the desperate hunt for treatments and vaccines are shaking up the financial markets and the way that researchers, regulators, drug companies, biotech investors and journalists do their jobs.
Drug companies accustomed to releasing early data to attract investors and satisfy regulators suddenly find themselves accused of revealing too much, or not enough, by a new, broader audience. Journalists may be scolded for hyping early findings, while those who ignore sketchy data may be blamed for missing the news.
Meet the new boss | Added May 23
Gabby Orr and Nahal Toosi have an article in Politico detailing Donald Trump’s plan to consolidate the pandemic response within the State Department. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, may be tapped to lead this unit.
Aides to President Donald Trump are considering a plan to shift the government’s global response to future infectious disease outbreaks to a new unit inside the State Department, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.
The proposal, discussed during a National Security Council deputies committee meeting on Thursday, already has set off a turf battle between the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. USAID officials were surprised and perplexed by the idea, which could lead them to lose control of significant funds and authorities.
People familiar with the issue say Dr. Deborah Birx, a top official handling the administration’s response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, is likely to wind up in charge of the new unit if it becomes a reality. The proposal also could, to some degree, establish an alternative mechanism to some of the work done by the World Health Organization, whose U.S. funding Trump has threatened to permanently end.
The overall effort, first reported by the media platform Devex, is described as the President’s Response to Outbreaks, or PRO.
Under the proposed initiative, the State Department would appoint a coordinator to oversee nearly every aspect of pandemic preparedness and response — from the global distribution of vaccines and therapeutics to the development of modernized protocols to prevent the spread of an outbreak.
CDC admits to over-counting ‘cases’ by counting recovered people along with ‘active infections’ | Added May 23
Yesterday we posted seven articles related to jurisdictions walking back death counts, for a diversity of reasons.
Today, The New York Times reported that CDC was combining its figures on people who had taken the discredited PCR test along with people who had taken the newer antibodies test. The result is to add those who have “recovered” to those considered currently “infected.” This inflates the number of presumed cases.
It also inflates the total number of tested by counting some people twice. This adds to the statistical cluster-fuck that has led us to assume that all publicly reported numbers are untrustworthy at best, and lies at worst.
Here are some choice quotes from the article:
“It just doesn’t make any sense; all of us are really baffled,” said Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida.
Stunned epidemiologists say data from antibody tests and active virus tests should never be mixed because diagnostic testing seeks to quantify the amount of active disease in the population. Serological testing can also be unreliable. And patients who have had both diagnostic and serology tests would be counted twice in the totals.
“Now that serology testing is more widely available, C.D.C. is working to differentiate those tests from the viral tests and will report this information, differentiated by test type, publicly on our Covid Data Tracker website in the coming weeks,” Ms. Nordlund said.
“We’re like the blind epidemiologists trying to understand the elephant,” said Michael Levy, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania. Health officials, he said, need good reporting to “understand the relationship between the epidemic that we can’t see, and the data that we can see.”
Overcounting Covid Deaths Greatest Hits: Seven Articles Follow | Added May 22
Most of the media reports you’ll hear are saying that Covid deaths are undercounted and the situation is much worse than anyone thinks. We’ve been tracking the problem of over-reporting, however. Much of this relates to the polymerase chain reaction “test” that is being used to “diagnose” a “case” but which in reality is doing no such thing.
PCR seems to be a work of fiction. So without any real knowledge of what a case is, and lots of people having a little dab of whatever up their nose, and therefore testing “positive,” we have no actual idea who is carrying the infection that may not be an infection. This is called the Gold Standard issue. A lot of people have written about it. This deserves a better explanation in writing — we will get to it. For a short, pleasant intro and an introduction to the one and only Kary Mullis, inventor of the PCR, this video will be instructive.
Then there are various medical, accounting and political problems, which you will read about here. This collection does not include the reports of doctors who say they were pressured to say a particular death was from Covid when they did not know, or when it was from another illness.
Our concern is that this crisis is being spun into something that it’s not, based on a crisis that is different in reality from what is being presented on TV and Twitter. The following seven posts are in this category, all added the evening of May 22.
Italy reevaluates numbers | Added May 22
As early as March Italy’s fatalities were thought to be high, reevaluated and deemed to be lower than initially said.
Why have so many coronavirus patients died in Italy? From the Telegraph:
The coronavirus pandemic is exacting a heavy toll on Italy, with hospitals overwhelmed and a nationwide lockdown imposed. But experts are also concerned about a seemingly high death rate, with the number of fatalities outstripping the total reported in China.
But Prof Ricciardi added that Italy’s death rate may also appear high because of how doctors record fatalities.
“The way in which we code deaths in our country is very generous in the sense that all the people who die in hospitals with the coronavirus are deemed to be dying of the coronavirus.
“On re-evaluation by the National Institute of Health, only 12 per cent of death certificates have shown a direct causality from coronavirus, while 88 per cent of patients who have died for other reasons, often attributed to Covid.
Deborah Birx concerned numbers are inflated| Added May 22
Deborah Birx and a number of officicals that were a part of the White House’s coronavirus response team worried that, due to CDC data, the mortality rate in the U.S. could be inflated up to 25%.
As deaths mount, Trump tries to convince Americans it’s safe to inch back to normal | From the Washington Post:
During a task force meeting Wednesday, a heated discussion broke out between Deborah Birx, the physician who oversees the administration’s coronavirus response, and Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Birx and others were frustrated with the CDC’s antiquated system for tracking virus data, which they worried was inflating some statistics — such as mortality rate and case count — by as much as 25 percent, according to four people present for the discussion or later briefed on it. Two senior administration officials said the discussion was not heated.
Funeral directors doubt Covid claims | Added May 22
A number of funeral directors are suspicious that Covid-19 is being falsely written on death certificates.
Funeral Directors in COVID-19 Epicenter Doubt Legitimacy of Deaths Attributed to Pandemic, Fear Numbers are ‘Padded’ | From Project Veritas:
Project Veritas today released another video featuring conversations with funeral home directors and their staff throughout New York City questioning the number of deaths officially attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In late April, a Project Veritas reporter spoke with Michael Lanza, the director of Staten
Island’s Colonial Funeral Home.
“To be honest with you, all of the death certificates are writing COVID on it, they’re writing
COVID on all the death certificates,” Lanza said.
Colorado Health Department admits to overcounting | Added May 22
Colorado’s recording of fatalities was called into question, after which they admitted to overcounting.
Colorado Health Department Admits It Overcounted Coronavirus Deaths by 24% | From Mercola:
Colorado’s health department is changing the way it records coronavirus deaths after a news story revealed that 24% of the deaths counted so far were not due to the virus. For example, a man who died of alcohol poisoning, but who was found to be carrying the virus, was counted as a COVID-19 death.
Once news reporters questioned the numbers, the health department announced it was adjusting its present counts and changing how they count future deaths. While the state’s chief medical officer said the reporting is “in line with federal guidance and matches how other states are also reporting deaths,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said people want to know who died OF coronavirus, not WITH it.
Pennsylvania walks back death count | Added May 22
Pennsylvania added then removed 200 probable Covid-19 death after being called into question.
Pa. removes more than 200 deaths from official coronavirus count as questions mount about reporting process, data accuracy | From The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Twice in the last week, Pennsylvania’s official COVID-19 death count spiked.
Then, on Thursday, the number plummeted.
Officials from the state Department of Health provided several justifications for the fluctuations, citing technical issues, lengthy investigations, and the addition of “probable” deaths — those considered to be caused by the coronavirus but without confirmation from a test.
But facing mounting questions about the accuracy of the count, officials on Thursday removed more than 200 probable deaths from the tally, further complicating the state’s accounting of the pandemic. Health Secretary Rachel Levine said the change was made in an effort to be transparent.
World Economic Forum warns of overstatement of death rate | Added May 22
World Economic Forum spoke out in April over the lack of “adequate testing” and how the mortality rate could be overstated as a result.
We could be vastly overestimating the death rate for COVID-19. Here’s why | From World Economic Forum:
- A lack of adequate testing means many of those who have been infected with the coronavirus will not appear in official statistics.
- This suggests that many estimates for its mortality rate are much too high.
- We need to build better systems for sharing and reporting data.
Public health epidemiology is the science of counting to prevent disease and promote health. We count the number of new cases of a particular disease; this is the incidence. Then we count how much a disease has spread in a population; this is the prevalence.
Not a walkback but an analysis | Added May 22
Dr. Judith Curry analyzes the UK model which guided many countries in employing lockdown measures.
COVID-19: Updated data implies that UK modelling hugely overestimates the expected death rates from infection | From Judith Curry:
There has been much media coverage about the danger to life posed by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. While it is clearly a serious threat, one should consider whether the best evidence supports the current degree of panic and hence government policy. Much of the concern in the UK resulted from a non-peer reviewed study published by the COVID-19 Response Team from Imperial College (Ferguson et al 2020). In this article, I examine whether data from the Diamond Princess cruise ship – arguably the most useful data set available – support the fatality rate assumptions underlying the Imperial study. I find that it does not do so. The likely fatality rates for age groups from 60 upwards, which account for the vast bulk of projected deaths, appear to be much lower than those in the Ferguson et al. study.
This is a must-see video. You will wish it was longer.
Former WHO director says vaccine not needed | Added May 22
According to the Telegraph a former WHO director has stated that a vaccine is not needed as the spread of the coronavirus could burn out on its own, naturally.
Coronavirus could “burn out naturally” so a vaccine is no longer needed, a former World Health Organisation director has claimed, as the Government announces it is dedicating more than £90m to a dedicated inoculation development centre.
Professor Karol Sikora, an oncologist and chief medical officer at Rutherford Health, said it is likely the British public has more immunity than previously thought and Covid-19 could end up “petering out by itself”.
“There is a real chance that the virus will burn out naturally before any vaccine is developed,” he wrote on his social media profile yesterday. “We are seeing a roughly similar pattern everywhere – I suspect we have more immunity than estimated. We need to keep slowing the virus, but it could be petering out by itself.”
Beware of contract tracing apps, and the whole enterprise of tracking via metadata | Added May 22
It’s spreading quickly now—governments around the world latching onto our smartphone locations as a proxy for where we all are, when and for how long. The data forms a map of population tracking to report on density and social distancing as well as anonymized travel patterns. Some governments are a level beyond, exploring movement tracking, contact tracing, quarantine enforcement.
What started in China, Singapore and South Korea as an exercise in rigorous containment has rapidly expanded to Europe and the U.S., countries within which the sacrifice of freedom still causes anxiety, despite the clear public interest. It turns out that after years of critiquing China’s surveillance state, come the crisis there were some useful lessons to be learned.
A few days ago, EFF (the Electronic Frontier Foundation) warned that governments have not shown these surveillance technologies “would make a significant contribution to containing COVID-19,” arguing that without such proof there is no justification. “Indeed,” they added, “governments have not even been transparent about their plans and rationales.”
And that’s it in a nutshell, the debate that will now run. And run. You want your government to fight the virus, to make everyone safe. But that will come at a heavy price—isolation, restrictions on freedoms and surveillance. But when the physical changes return to the new normal, what compromises will be left in place.
I am often asked what happens beyond the initial fight against coronavirus, as these surveillance measures take hold—will they be removed and the data deleted? We know there is a constant battle between law enforcement and the privacy lobby for where the line should be drawn, just look at the encryption debate.
But this goes further. Tracking millions of people who have done no wrong. And so it will be pulled back. The lessons learned, though, and the new capabilities built on the back of what happens next, those are here to stay. As Edward Snowden warned earlier this month, such measures tend to be “sticky.”
Dirty hospitals | Added May 22
Here is an interesting take shared by the New York Post: in this August 20, 2016 article they discuss the work of Dr. Jack Gilbbert who” wants to make our hospitals dirty” in the interest of “microbial diversity.” Gilbert’s work seems to be in line with a few of the ideas that Dr. Zach Bush shared in his interview regarding the microbiome. Take a look below.
From the New York Post:
His idea runs counter to hundreds of years of scientific practice. Since a surgeon named Joseph Lister became the first to use antiseptic techniques in 1867 and save thousands of lives, modern medicine has worked tirelessly to create sterile medical environments — free of micro-organisms.
It all changed when Dr. Gilbert, associate director of the Institute for Genomic and Systems Biology at Argonne National Laboratory, began studying dolphins in 2014. He noticed that the animals were much healthier the “dirtier” the aquarium water was.
“We saw the benefit in increasing the microbial diversity of the home,” explained Gilbert. According to Dr. Gilbert, the lack of a rich microbial ecosystem, especially in our hospitals, might be causing more harm than good, leading to drug resistant strains of powerful superbugs and infection-causing viruses.
CDC website says virus doesn’t spread as easily from objects or surfaces | Added May 21
Remember when we were being told that the coronavirus could “live” for an eternity on our packages and parcels? Well put away your alcohol, flame thrower, or any other decontamination equipment you may have, as the CDC has recently updated their website with information saying that the coronavirus doesn’t spread as easily by objects or surfaces.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says that the coronavirus “does not spread easily” through touching surfaces or objects. It appears to be a recent change to its guidance on the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Touching infected surfaces has long been a concern about the spread of the coronavirus, but multiple news outlets noticed this week that the CDC’s “How COVID-19 spreads” page appears to have changed the messaging.
It states that the coronavirus “is thought to spread mainly from person to person.” This includes people who are in close contact through respiratory droplets that can be produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. COVID-19 can be spread by people showing no symptoms.
“Information from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic suggests that this virus is spreading more efficiently than influenza, but not as efficiently as measles, which is highly contagious,” the website says.
But the CDC now says that while touching surfaces or objects is another way to catch the virus, it’s not the primary way it is spread.
If you’re going to San Francisco (be sure to wear a mask on your face) | Added May 21
Here’s an article from SFGate which takes a look at how the city of San Francisco mandated mask usage during the 1918 Spanish Flu, and how citizens responded. As time went on, citizens weren’t as compliant.
From the article:
In early 1919 new infections once again spiked. On Jan. 10, the health board reported 612 new influenza cases and 37 deaths, which led to [San Francisco’s top health official Dr William C. Hassler] to ask for reinstatement of the mask order.
Many Franciscans were growing frustrated by the repeated calls to re-mask by government officials. Several people complained loudly against the order to mask at the Board of Supervisors meeting considering the issue. One man wrote the mayor complaining that was the only city to compel residents to wear masks. “If Dr. Hassler feels inclined to wear a mask, let him do so, and as far as I am concerned, I hope he will have to wear one for the next five years,” he wrote.
Despite their pleas, the board once again ordered the public to wear masks. However, many people fed up with wearing masks organized an “Anti-Mask League.” They declared the mask order “contrary to the desires of the majority of the people,” according to the Examiner. The organization asked for the law to be stricken from the books.
Hassler was against rescinding the mask order, believing it saved hundreds of lives. But public sentiment had turned against him.
With few new influenza cases, Hassler finally dropped his opposition, and anti-maskers got their wish. On Feb. 1, Mayor James Rolph, with the backing of the Health Board, declared the epidemic over and “the necessity for the wearing of the mask to have ceased.”
Knock, knock; it’s SWAT | Added May 21
Nothing says safety like militarized pandemic response teams. Now we’re not experiencing that quite yet, but there seems to be a pattern forming here. First, there is this story from Dispatch-Argus where they discuss how some health departments are “sharing with police and first responders the personal identification of people who test positive for COVID-19.” It’s said to be for the safety of the responders, and, at least in Iowa, the information is given out on a per call basis. Second, we have a story from the Intercept on how the federal government has increased spending on riot gear and security services in response to the pandemic.
In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, Scott County Health Department Director Ed Rivers and Rock Island County Health Department’s Chief Operating Officer Janet Hill confirmed the sharing of information with emergency responders and law enforcement.
At least 35 states share the addresses of those who tested positive, and research by the Associated Press showed at least 10 states go further and share the names of people. Iowa is one of those states, along with Colorado, Louisiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee. Wisconsin stopped the practice earlier this month.
From the Intercept:
The purchase orders include requests for disposable cuffs, gas masks, ballistic helmets, and riot gloves, along with law enforcement protective equipment for federal police assigned to protect Veterans Affairs facilities. The orders were expedited under a special authorization “in response to Covid-19 outbreak.”
The Veterans Affairs department, which manages nearly 1,500 health care care facilities around the country, has also extended special contracts for coronavirus-related security services.
Redcon Solutions Group, a private security company founded by Iraq War veterans, has won over $1.6 million in contracts to provide guards for “Covid-19 screening security guard services.” Similar contracts have gone out to private security firms to guard VA facilities in San Francisco, Des Moines, and Fayetteville, among others.
Contact Tracing Discussion Begins to Sound Like Vaccine Uptake Discussion: It Only Works If Everyone Is Onboard | Added May 21
Testing! Vaccine! Treatment! Contact tracing! It’s become the familiar, easy to repeat mantra of items on the check lists set up for reopening any economies. But the complications of numbers are never far behind. In order to be useful, studies are suggesting that contact tracing apps will have to be widely accepted and properly used by smartphone users globally. Previous rollouts of such apps have highlighted the limitations of relying on users to keep Bluetooth apps open and phones unlocked.
Many are pinning their hopes on a collaboration between Apple and Google, charmingly dubbed Gapple, which will allow smartphone apps to collect contact data in the background, directly from the phones’ operating systems.
Data will then become available to public health agencies through an app interface which is expected to be available by the end of May.
Of course that’s just the beginning; everyone will have the to decide how public health agencies will access and use the data. Privacy is always a concern of course, given that data needs to be stored if people are to be traceable, but it appears that the discussion is ultimately revolving only around how it will be stored, i.e. centralized or decentralized, not if it will be.
From an article published in Nature on May 19:
The efficacy of such apps has yet to be proved. Modelling suggests they can help to slow the spread of the virus — but only if enough of the population uses them. A preprint from a group at the University of Oxford, UK, suggests that a take-up threshold of 60% of the population can bring an outbreak under control.
One recent study of 2,612 Americans, by a team including Kreps, reports “widespread reluctance” to embrace smartphone-based contact tracing. Only about one in four respondents (27%) “expressed willingness to download a hypothetical app with GPS location tracking, while 32% were willing when the app was described as using non-location-tracking Bluetooth technology”, the team reported. According to a report in The New York Times, only about 3% of the population of North Dakota had downloaded that state’s Care19 app as of late April.
Humans are part of our environment: chronic pain and weather conditions | Added May 21
One of the problems humans face in figuring out how to feel better is that most don’t know that we’re part of our environment. In England, people are notorious for associating their aches and pains with weather conditions — I once did a standup comedy routine based on the phenomenon and had a bunch of English journalists in stitches. This study, reported by Neuroscience News, opens up that topic. From the article:
A new mass study of people living with chronic pain in the UK has demonstrated the links between pain and certain atmospheric weather conditions.
Weather systems in the UK could cause chronic pain suffers to experience more or less pain on certain days as a result of certain pressure patterns and accompanying rain, humidity, and temperature caused by movements in the jet stream, according to new research published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
To better characterise which weather conditions most affect pain, a group of University of Manchester–based researchers and their collaborators, funded by Versus Arthritis, conducted a 15-month long study with over 13,000 UK residents living with chronic-pain conditions
Cuomo orders contract tracing for 1969 Woodstock festival | Added May 20
Planet Waves Music Bureau
BETHEL, TOWN OF WHITE LAKE — Gov. Cuomo said that everyone who attended the Woodstock festival in Bethel, NY in 1969 would be subject to contact tracing. This is due to the Hong Kong flu outbreak that was happening at the time. Though the festival happened nearly 51 years ago, the governor said “you can’t be too safe.”
“Those kids were not following social distancing guidelines,” he added in today’s news briefing, where he told the story of finally having a sensitive conversation with his daughter for the 145th time. “We realize that many of them are now great-grandparents, but it’s never too late. Better safe than sorry.”
He said New York State would trace every person that everyone who went to Woodstock had contact with for the past half-century, and everyone those people had contact with, which works out to 4,287,028,186 people.
About 450,000 attendees passed through Max Yasgur’s cow pasture between Aug. 15 and 18 1969, swimming in cow manure infused mud in the pouring down rain. Concert officials say nobody even caught cold.
Trump signs executive order pushing for deregulation to jump start the economy | Added May 20
Donald Trump has signed an executive order to suspend “regulations impeding the economy” at the behest of conservative groups whom he must answer to as his re-election campaign carries forward. He has effectively given his cabinet members “broad authorities to review each and every federal guideline and rule under their respective purviews – and propose which ones the White House ultimately will sign off on cutting.”
Donald Trump, eager to juice the staggering US economy to boost his re-election bid, signed an executive order on Tuesday that he said is designed to help businesses recover from the Covid-19 outbreak.
The president told his Cabinet members during a White House meeting the order “gives you tremendous power to cut regulation”.
The order is about “instructing federal agencies to use any and all authority to waive, suspend and eliminate unnecessary regulations that impede economic recovery,” Mr Trump said before signing it with a large black felt pen.
‘Pro-Trump’ doctors to campaign for reopening | Added May 20
According to this AP News article a group of “republican political operatives” are working to recruit “extremely pro-Trump” doctors to push for reopening and reviving the economy as soon as possible.
From the article:
On the May 11 call, Nancy Schulze, a GOP activist who is married to former Rep. Dick Schulze, R-Pa., said she had given the campaign a list of 27 doctors prepared to defend Trump’s reopening push.
“There is a coalition of doctors who are extremely pro-Trump that have been preparing and coming together for the war ahead in the campaign on health care,” Schulze said on the call. “And we have doctors that are … in the trenches, that are saying ‘It’s time to reopen.’”
The idea quickly gained support from Mercedes Schlapp, a Trump campaign senior adviser who previously served two years as the president’s director of strategic communications.
“Those are the types of guys that we should want to get out on TV and radio to help push out the message,” Schlapp said on the call.
“They’ve already been vetted. But they need to be put on the screens,” Schulze replied.
Schlapp’s husband agreed the president is getting criticized for not appearing to follow the advice of public health experts. Matt Schlapp is chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference attended by conservative luminaries.
“The president’s going to get tagged by the fake news media as being irresponsible and not listening to doctors,” Matt Schlapp said on the call. “And so we have to gird his loins with a lot of other people. So I think what Nancy’s talking about … this is the critical juncture that we highlight them.”
Manager of Covid-19 dashboard for Florida removed | Added May 20
Florida’s Covid-19 dashboard, which was used to keep track of case counts and death counts, has recently lost it’s designer after officials choose to remove her. According to Rebekah Jones, the designer, she was removed because she refused to alter the data in support of reopening.
As Florida starts to reopen, the architect and manager of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard, announced she’d been removed from her position, Florida Today reported.
Rebekah Jones said in an email to CBS12 News that her removal was “not voluntary” and that she was removed from her position because she was ordered to censor some data, but refused to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”
Jones made the announcement May 5 in a farewell email to researchers and other members of the public who had signed up to receive updates on the data portal, according to Florida Today. She said that for “reasons beyond my division’s control,” her office is no longer managing the dashboard, involved in its publication, fixing errors or answering any questions.
Hydroxychloroquine stockpile | Added May 20
Here’s a throwback from April 9: according to Forbes, President Trump has stockpiled 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine. To clarify, they are a part of the U.S. stockpile, not his own personal stockpile (to our knowledge). The article from Forbes also discusses the debate in France over the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine.
From the article:
A French doctor, Didier Raoult, claimed in mid-March he had successfully treated COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine.
The report, published online, claimed that 40 coronavirus patients were given hydroxychloroquine, with more than half experiencing the clearing of their airways within three to six days. The study suggested giving an anti-bacterial drug, azithromycin, in tandem, to eliminate the risks of bacterial infection. This research was based on a previous study by Chinese doctors.
On March 22, his colleague, Eric Chabrière, based in Marseille, at the Institut de Maladies Infectieuses (Hospital of Infectious Diseases)–which Didier Raoult runs–held a press conference on national television channel RTL on a programme called Le Grand Jury, highlighting the results.
Moderna’s ups and downs | Added May 20
While Moderna blitzed the media, it revealed very little information — and most of what it did disclose were words, not data.
We recently reported on Moderna’s announcement that they would be moving into phase 2 of their vaccine development. Their stock valuation rose as a result of their announcement, but their success was short lived after STAT published a story on May 19 which asserted that, so far, Moderna has not produced enough data to show that their vaccine is truly viable.
“Several vaccine experts asked by STAT concluded that, based on the information made available by the Cambridge, Mass.-based company, there’s really no way to know how impressive — or not — the vaccine may be. While Moderna blitzed the media, it revealed very little information — and most of what it did disclose were words, not data.”
According to Forbes the DOW fell nearly 400 points in response to STAT’s story.
Lastly, due to the limited production supply, Moderna will work closely with the U.S. government on distributing their vaccine. This is according to Moderna’s CEO Stephane Bancel in a May 8 interview with CNBC:
“In the case of the U.S., we anticipate to work very closely with the government and with key medical officials to decide who gets the vaccine in the first batch. And then when you have the next batch to ship to the government, how do we allocate it between health-care workers, people who are high risk and different geographies where you have more cases.”
Johnson and Johnson to stop selling talcum powder | Added May 20
In “Life Goes On at the Big Company news” Reuters reports on May 19, 2020, “Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday announced it would stop selling its talc Baby Powder in the United States and Canada, saying demand had dropped in the wake of what it called ‘misinformation’ about the product’s safety amid a barrage of legal challenges.”
This might be considered the end of an era for the consumer products giant which has sold the powder since 1894, and counted its baby talc as a “sacred cow” in its lineup, in large part credited with the deep trust formerly enjoyed by J&J. But mounting evidence that asbestos contamination over the years is responsible for myriad cancers has forever changed that image.
That the move comes amid the unprecedented flood of reporting about SARS-COV-2 might not be such a surprise. Again from Reuters,
“Christie Nordhielm, a professor of marketing at Georgetown, said it appears J&J made its decision to withdraw from the market while consumers are preoccupied with the pandemic. ‘It’s a nice time to quietly do it,’ she said, adding ‘it will minimize the reputational hit.’”
Influenza in 2017 — not good for you | Added May 19
In Dr. Zach Bush’s interview on the The Highwire he makes reference to how deadly flu season was in 2017, and states that we have not seen a comparable spike in “respiratory deaths beyond our baseline seasonal changes.” Here is a September 26, 2018 article from STAT on just how historically bad flu season was in 2017. (Note: Bush posits that “flu season” follows the amount of air pollution and carbon there is in the air, which cycles as the seasons change.)
From the article:
An estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications last winter — the disease’s highest death toll in at least four decades.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, revealed the total in an interview Tuesday night with The Associated Press.
Flu experts knew it was a very bad season, but at least one found size of the estimate surprising.
“That’s huge,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University vaccine expert. The tally was nearly twice as much as what health officials previously considered a bad year, he said.
In recent years, flu-related deaths have ranged from about 12,000 to — in the previous worst year — 56,000, according to the CDC.
Last fall and winter, the U.S. went through one of the most severe flu seasons in recent memory. It was driven by a kind of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths, particularly among young children and the elderly.
The season peaked in early February. It was mostly over by the end of March, although some flu continued to circulate.
Making a bad year worse, the flu vaccine didn’t work very well. Experts nevertheless say vaccination is still worth it, because it makes illnesses less severe and save lives.
“I’d like to see more people get vaccinated,” Redfield told the AP at an event in New York. “We lost 80,000 people last year to the flu.”
46 year old physician treated for Covid-19 with ECMO | Added May 19
This May 16 NBC News report tells the story of Karl Viddal, an Arizona physician, who traveled abroad and returned home with flu-like symptoms in March. His symptoms worsened and he ended up spending “28 days in a medically induced coma, 34 days on a ventilator and a total of 55 days in the hospital.”
As his condition grew worse his doctors used a rare treatment called ECMO which, instead of forcing oxygen into a body as ventilators do, it adds oxygen to one’s blood and “removes carbon dioxide before returning [the blood] to the person’s body.”
Viddal survived and was said to have possibly been “one of the most critically-ill patients in the U.S. to recover from COVID-19” by the hospital system that treated him.
Despite the intensity of this procedure the mechanics behind it, as they are presented here, seem to line up with what Dr. Zach Bush, Dr. Cameron Kyle-Sidell and others have said: what is being seen in hospitals needs to be treated as a hypoxic injury. That is, instead of forcing more oxygen into the body, the body’s process of retaining and transporting oxygen needs to be attended to.
Here is an explanation of ECMO from the article:
The treatment, known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO, is a form of life support that essentially takes the place of the heart and lungs, according to the American Thoracic Society. The machine connects to the veins and arteries in a patient’s legs, neck or chest via a series of plastic tubes. The person’s blood then flows through the ECMO system, which adds oxygen and removes carbon dioxide, before returning to the person’s body.
The machine is only used after a person has been on a ventilator, and it carries a risk of kidney failure, stroke, internal bleeding or other life-threatening conditions. But it essentially gives a patient’s organs and the rest of their body a break when they suffer respiratory distress.
Instead of a ventilator forcing as much oxygen into a person’s body as possible, the ECMO machine does the entirety of the gas exchange and brings oxygenated blood to all of the patient’s organs, according to Extracorporeal Life Support Organization, a nonprofit consortium of health care groups that evaluates therapies for failing organ systems.
Madagascar claims coronavirus cure | Added May 19
There’s a bit of a furor over Madagascar’s claims that an organic herbal drink they are producing can “prevent or cure the [coronavirus].” The plant it is derived from is used in antimalarial medication, and this seems to be a significant component of the controversy.
We are still looking into this aspect so, in the meantime, we’ll share this report from Anadolu Agency where the basics of the situation are given.
And we also have this really neat find: here is an overview of the situation from BBC News Pidgin, a Lagos based news service which reports entirely in West African Pidgin English.
From Anadolu Agency:
The president of Madagascar urged citizens to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus by drinking COVID Organics (CVO), an organic herbal beverage he claimed could prevent or cure the virus.
“Let’s drink this herbal tea to protect ourselves, to protect our family and our neighbors […] and there will be no more deaths,” Andry Rajoelina said in a speech on Sunday night, according to local daily L’express de Madagascar.
His remarks came a few hours after the announcement of the country’s first coronavirus death — a 57-year-old man who also had diabetes.
Rajoelina said none of the new cases in the country had drunk CVO, which he said was distributed free of charge in the three regions affected by the pandemic.
Researchers in Ireland further explore link between vitamin D and Covid-19| Added May 19
The link between Covid-19 and vitamin D has been brought up once again, this time by researchers from Trinity College Dublin. Vitamin D deficiency is said to correlate with Covid-19 deaths; also it is “produced in the skin from UVB sunlight exposure,” so it’s something we’ve been missing quite a bit of, being stuck indoors and all. The researchers from Trinity College Dublin have urged their government to amend their advice regarding vitamin D supplementation.
The authors propose that, whereas optimizing vitamin D levels will certainly benefit bone and muscle health, the data suggests that it is also likely to reduce serious COVID-19 complications. This may be because vitamin D is important in regulation and suppression of the inflammatory cytokine response, which causes the severe consequences of COVID-19 and ‘acute respiratory distress syndrome’ associated with ventilation and death.
Professor Rose Anne Kenny said:
“In England, Scotland and Wales, public health bodies have revised recommendations since the COVID-19 outbreak. Recommendations now state that all adults should take at least 400 IU vitamin D daily. Whereas there are currently no results from randomized controlled trials to conclusively prove that vitamin D beneficially affects COVID-19 outcomes, there is strong circumstantial evidence of associations between vitamin D and the severity of COVID-19 responses, including death.”
“This study further confirms this association. We call on the Irish government to update guidelines as a matter of urgency and encourage all adults to take supplements during the COVID-19 crisis. Deficiency is frequent in Ireland. Deficiency is most prevalent with age, obesity, in men, in ethnic minorities, in people with diabetes, hypertension and in nursing homes.”
Effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine | Added May 19
Here is a May 15 report from the Washington Post which takes a look at the effectiveness and safety of hydroxychloroquine. Alongside their conclusion that it is dangerous, according to the data presented in the article it seems that the key to administering it, if it is to be used, is one dose — as soon as possible. The later, the worse; the more, the worse. (Note: that is not an endorsement on our part for you to take it.)
From the article:
For two months, President Trump repeatedly pitched hydroxychloroquine as a safe and effective treatment for coronavirus, asking would-be patients “What the hell do you have to lose?”
Growing evidence shows that, for many, the answer is their lives.
Clinical trials, academic research and scientific analysis indicate that the danger of the Trump-backed drug is a significantly increased risk of death for certain patients. Evidence showing the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in treating covid-19 has been scant. Those two developments pushed the Food and Drug Administration to warn against the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of a hospital setting last month, just weeks after it approved an emergency use authorization for the drug.
Trump taking hydroxychlorquine | Added May 18
President is Trump is taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative. “Trump dismissed reports of side effects, saying, ‘All I can tell you is, so far I seem to be OK’.”
Time will tell. From AP News: President Donald Trump said Monday that he is taking a malaria drug to protect against the new coronavirus, despite warnings from his own government that it should only be administered for COVID-19 in a hospital or research setting due to potentially fatal side effects. That said, many drugs can cause a reaction that kills people; hydroxychloroquine is one of the oldest drugs on the market and is used regularly to treat malaria.
Trump told reporters he has been taking the drug, hydroxychloroquine, and a zinc supplement daily “for about a week and a half now.” Trump spent weeks pushing the drug as a potential cure or prophylaxis for COVID-19 against the cautionary advice of many of his administration’s top medical professionals.
The drug has the potential to cause significant side effects in some patients and has not been shown to combat the new coronavirus.
Trump said his doctor did not recommend the drug to him, but he requested it from the White House physician.
“I started taking it, because I think it’s good,” Trump said. “I’ve heard a lot of good stories.”
The White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said in a statement released through the White House press office that, after “numerous discussions” with Trump about the evidence for and against using hydroxychloroquine, “we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”
The Food and Drug Administration warned health professionals last month that the drug should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside of hospital or research settings, due to sometimes fatal side effects. Regulators issued the alert for the drug, which can also be used to treat lupus and arthritis, after receiving reports of heart rhythm problems, including deaths, from poison control centers and other health providers.
Drugmaker Moderna Inc. reported early results Monday from the first human study of its experimental coronavirus vaccine that gave a positive signal about the shot’s ability to protect people, raising hopes that a weapon to slow or halt the pandemic could be on the horizon.
The company said the vaccine induced immune responses in some of the healthy volunteers who were vaccinated, and the shots were generally safe and well-tolerated.
The results offered a preliminary but promising sign about one of the most advanced coronavirus vaccines in development, and suggested Moderna was on track to meet its ambitious timetable for producing it for possible emergency use in the fall.
The vaccine still has much to prove. The results don’t show whether it actually protects people who are exposed to the new coronavirus, a key proof point. Many vaccines fail to pass muster even after showing positive signs in early testing.
Growing worldwide support for joint Australian, EU coronavirus inquiry efforts | Added May 18
Today there is a World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva where a draft motion will be introduced calling for an”impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of “the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19.”
This is according to this May 17 article; neither the U.S. nor China supported the efforts. In fact China condemned Australia for initiating the call for inquiry. But this article published today seems to say that China does support a WHO-led investigation. We have, below, quotes from the May 17 article.
Note: the World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization.
From ABC News:
A coalition of 62 countries has backed a joint Australian and European Union push for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak ahead of a crucial World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting on Monday in Geneva.
Australia was the first nation to call for an independent inquiry into how the coronavirus started.
That drew furious condemnation from Beijing, which accused Australia of launching a political attack on China. But international support for the idea has been steadily growing.
The Morrison Government has now swung its diplomatic firepower behind the European Union, which has also been pressing for an investigation while taking a more conciliatory line with Beijing.
European nations and Australia have been rallying support for a draft EU motion which calls for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of “the WHO-coordinated international health response to COVID-19”.
As of Sunday evening, Canberra time, 62 nations — including Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Russia, South Africa and the United Kingdom — had backed the motion.
Health care workers protest Belgian prime minister | Added May 18
Nurses in Belgium have been in disagreement with their government over the handling of the coronavirus, and when the Belgian prime minister recently stopped by for a visit to a hospital, health care workers turned their backs in protest. This report is from a short article from Euronews where a brief video of the protest is also provided.
From the article:
Health workers took a stand against Belgium’s prime minister on the weekend, quite literally turning their backs in protest as she visited a hospital in Brussels.
Sophie Wilmes was arriving in a convoy of cars, and medical and non-medical staff lined the road leading up to the Hospital Saint-Pierre, turning their back on her as she passed.
The government has faced criticism over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with Belgium currently reporting the highest deaths per capita out of any country.
Chinese ambassador found dead | Added May 18
On Sunday May 17 China’s ambassador to Israel was found dead in his home. As of now the death has not yet been confirmed by the Chinese embassy.
China’s ambassador to Israel Du Wei was found dead at his home in a Tel Aviv suburb on Sunday, according to media reports.
Israel’s foreign ministry and the police spokesman have confirmed the death of the 57-year-old diplomat, but have not commented on the cause of death.
“As part of the regular procedure, police units are at the scene,” a police spokesman told Reuters.
Israel’s Channel 12 TV, quoting unidentified emergency medical officials, said initial indications were that Du died in his sleep of natural causes.
Du was assigned to the post in February in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, following a three-year spell as the ambassador to Ukraine.
This is ridiculous | Added May 17
In New York, a city where they don’t wash the sidewalks or the subways and where people are usually packed in like Pringles, it has now become a kind of a crime to meet someone, and anyone could be a suspect.
New Yorkers who flocked to city parks to finally greet the arrival of warm weather on Friday came face to face with the new normal of the coronavirus crisis — officially designated social distancing.
At Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, a cop in an N95 mask stood guard behind a steel barricade with a bright red sign bearing a stark instruction in white letters.
“KEEP THIS FAR APART,” the notice said, over a double-headed, six-foot arrow.
Meanwhile, at Brooklyn’s Domino Park, the message was even harder to ignore — with white circles painted on an artificial-turf field near the southern end of the former sugar factory along the East River.
Stay-at-home order in one North Carolina county to remain in effect indefinitely | Added May 17
Not all cities in the U.S. are in a rush to fully reopen; stay-at-home-orders will remain in place in Durham, North Carolina indefinitely. To be fair, the remaining strictures sound similar to those which Los Angeles will be rolling out over the next few weeks.
A stay-at-home order that has been in place for Durham County since late March will remain in effect indefinitely, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel said Friday.
A revised order, which takes effect at 5 p.m., will largely conform to Gov. Roy Cooper’s latest statewide order, allowing most businesses to operate if they adhere to strict cleaning protocols and take steps to ensure social distancing for both customers and employees.
Durham also has put its limit on gatherings at 10 people to align with the state order. Previously, the city and county cap on gatherings was five people.
But Schewel said the local order will continue to be stricter than the state’s in several ways, including requiring people to cover their faces in public whenever social distancing isn’t feasible.
China positioned to establish greater internet censorship; what about others? | Added May 16
Here is a discussion from The National Pulse on China’s plans to introduce a new design for a an important aspect of the internet, which provide them with much greater censorship capabilities. The question of what such technological developments could mean elsewhere, specifically the United States, in light of the coronavirus is also discussed; internet censorship has certainly become a more acceptable topic of conversation in regards to “disinformation” on the coronavirus.
From the article:
Chinese state-owned technology firm Huawei recently unveiled their own proposal to replace TCP/IP. Called New IP, this standard is designed to make communication more efficient, allowing for faster internet connections for smartphones and web-connected devices such as light bulbs and self-driving cars.
But the new proposal has a darker side.
The first red flag in the New IP proposal is a built-in kill switch that can be used to cut off websites or users that are engaging in bad behavior.
While that might sound like good news in a world of spammers, scammers, and hackers, authoritarian regimes such as China would doubtlessly use it to shut down political dissidents, Hong Kong democracy protestors, or even foreign activists that the Chinese Communist Party consider a threat to their total control of information.
Burundi expels the WHO | Added May 16
We have this report from Deutsche Welle which details a study from the WHO, as well as Burundi’s recent decision to expel the WHO from the country. The WHO’s study models the “likely rates of exposure to the virus in 47 African countries “and predicts that “around 22% of Africa’s population of 1 billion will be infected within a year.” Burundi, where election season is currently under way, felt that the WHO was meddling in their affairs and kicked them out; they continued to hold election rallies against the WHO’s recommendations. Below are some quotes regarding that situation.
From the article:
Burundi’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday expelled WHO experts, accusing them of “unacceptable interference in [Burundi’s] management of the coronavirus.”
Burundi is preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections next week. The public health experts had criticized the government’s decision to dismiss social distancing recommendations aimed at preventing the spread of “coronavirus during the electoral campaign.”
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi said it “deeply regretted the recent decision by the government to declare persona non grata the country representative of WHO and three of its experts.”
Burundian human rights activist Pacifique Nininahazwe told DW that there had been tensions between the government and WHO due to “the opaque management of the coronavirus crisis in Burundi.”
WHO not shy about mass vaccination agenda | Added May 16
The WHO had established their “new Immunization Agenda 2030” before the arrival of the coronavirus, and stated that their intentions were to reach unvaccinated children, and to “fight against vaccine hesitancy.”However in an April 23, 2020 article from their own website titled “Vaccines work at all ages, everywhere” they seem to imply that they’re expanding their goal to vaccinating everyone and not exclusively against the coronavirus. As the previous story below about the anti-vaccine summit shows, not everyone is willing to go along with this peaceably; so much for the WHO’s fight against vaccine hesitancy.
A few, select quotes from the WHO:
Our challenge now is to ensure we don’t slide backwards on vaccination coverage in the midst of the pandemic, but instead move beyond 86% coverage and reach everyone, everywhere. This will not only protect the health of children and their communities but will protect the health services from a second wave of diseases for which we have vaccines to prevent.
The new Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030) which sets the vision and strategy for 2021-2030, co-created with community organizations, government ministries, partner organizations, academia, vaccine makers, and with non-immunization partners, recognizes universal health coverage (UHC) as essential to immunization success. To improve coverage, IA2030 outlines strategies that are relevant for all countries to break through on stagnation in reaching children not vaccinated and fight against vaccine hesitancy.
And, for the first time the new vision expands the global focus for immunization to all age groups, not just children. While this will shift immunization programmes, it will allow us to rethink and strengthen people-centred care to ensure vaccines are taken up by older age groups.
Speakers at online summit: ‘There will be a war if they make us take a vaccine’| Added May 16
In April an online, anti-vaccine summit was held and at least one speaker threatened ‘war’ at the suggestion of forced vaccinations. We have coverage on this from The Independent which is rather dismissive of the concern, but as the story posted above this one shows, the idea of mandatory mass vaccinations is not as far-fetched as it is made out to be.
From The Independent:
Last month, activists held an online “Health Freedom Summit” at which [Andrew] Wakefield and other prominent figures in the anti-vaccine world spoke, denouncing vaccines and suggesting people were exaggerating the danger represented by Covid-19.
The summit was organised by Alana Newman and Stephanie Lind, who said they brought together 30 activists, writers and medical professionals.
According to The Washington Post, Wakefield told those watching: “One of the main tenets of the marketing of mandatory vaccination has been fear. And never have we seen fear exploited in the way that we do now with the coronavirus infection.”
He added: “We are seeing a destruction of the economy, a destruction of people and families, and unprecedented violations of health freedom. And it’s all based upon a fallacy.”
Newman, who has three children, told The Independent that if a vaccine for the coronavirus was found, she would not take it herself or give it to her children. If they became infected, she said she would be rather take therapeutics, which she claimed included a high dose of vitamin C, and the controversial anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which Donald Trump has touted as a treatment, despite his own experts saying there is little evidence it works.
“We’re not in this for money. We’re trying to keep our kids healthy,” said Newman, who lives in Louisiana.
“If they don’t want it, you can’t force them to take it. It’s medical rape. It’s not cool to force people to inject something into their bodies or the bodies of their children against their will. You’re going to get a war if you try to do that.”
Asked if she was talking about peaceful protests or actual violence, she said: “Americans are prepared to fight physically for things that they feel are important.”
Military will be mobilized to distribute coronavirus vaccine when ready| Added May 16
On May 14 President Trump announced that he will start preparing the military now to distribute a vaccine for Covid-19 which he hopes to have ready by the end of they year. This coverage comes from The Hill. Of note, there are quite a few vaccines in development. We have previously covered that, and Trump seems to be siding with whichever one can be pushed out the door first.
From The Hill:
“We’re mobilizing our military and other forces, but we’re mobilizing our military on the basis that we do have a vaccine,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business’s Maria Bartiromo
“You know, it’s a massive job to give this vaccine. Our military is now being mobilized so at the end of the year we’re going to be able to give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly,” he added.
Trump said the mobilization process for distributing a vaccine is “starting now” to get a head start once it is finished, adding, “We will have a tremendous force because assuming we get it, then you have to distribute it.”
announced Wednesday that he would place Army Gen. Gustave Perna as chief operation officer for Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s program targeting a fast development for COVID-19 vaccines.
Take us to warp | Added May 15
Look out, Kirk. Stand aside, Picard. President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed is gaining steam today as he announced the names of the leaders of the project. The project’s goal is to produce “100 million doses of a vaccine against COVID-19 available by November, 200 million by December and 300 million by January 2021.” This according to BioSpace who, in their coverage, happens to make reference to this Washington Post article which digs into the “last time the government sought a ‘warp speed’ vaccine” and what a “fiasco” that was.
Here is Biospace’s summation of the 1976 vaccine program:
As The Washington Post wrote, the last time the U.S. government tried to dramatically accelerate a vaccine program, in 1976 for swine flu, it was “a fiasco.” Insurers and manufacturers were concerned about liability, causing Congress to pass a law waiving liability. One drug company manufactured two million doses with the wrong strain, and as the testing continued, more scientific problems emerged, including early studies showing it was not effective in children.
Eventually the vaccine was associated with cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, then by 94 reports of paralysis, which resulted in the entire program being shut down. Guillain-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disorder affecting the nerves.
Luckily, the swine flu did not spread as expected. “Had it done so,” Max J. Skidmore wrote in his book, “Presidents, Pandemics, and Politics,” “the swine flu vaccination program would immediately have been reinstituted.”
The risk-benefit analysis, he suggests, with a relatively small number of Guillain-Barre syndrome cases compared to the risk from the flu, would have changed the calculus.
Operation Warp Speed is projected to cost billions of dollars with the Trump Administration seemingly signing a blank check, with funds coming from pre-existing government funds. Reportedly, no congressional approval is needed.
Deboarah Birx concerned that mortality and case count inflated by up to 25% | Added May 15
In a May 9 article from the Washington Post, which was chiefly focused on Trump’s efforts to convince the American public to “inch” back to normal, mention was made of an internal dispute within the White House over the ongoing handling of the crisis. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, reportedly called into the question the data and statistics upon which the models that are guiding lockdown policies are based. She and others were concerned that mortality and case counts may currently be inflated by up to 25%.
From the Washington Post:
Inside the administration last week, there were roiling disputes over the data used by the government to track the virus as well as over possible therapeutics. The debates underscored the administration’s chronic challenges in managing the crisis, even as Trump pushes to reopen the economy.
During a task force meeting Wednesday, a heated discussion broke out between Deborah Birx, the physician who oversees the administration’s coronavirus response, and Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Birx and others were frustrated with the CDC’s antiquated system for tracking virus data, which they worried was inflating some statistics — such as mortality rate and case count — by as much as 25 percent, according to four people present for the discussion or later briefed on it. Two senior administration officials said the discussion was not heated.
“There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust,” Birx said, according to two of the people.
Getting children back outside to play | Added May 15
Tim Gill is a noted UK children’s play advocate and has recently written a new post on his website Rethinking Childhood. In it he begins with his take on the clinical data of the coronavirus, then “looks at the collateral damage to children [from] the pandemic control measures” and “closes with implications for policy and practice, with a particular focus on children’s play and mobility.”
Here are the main takeaways which he himself provides at the beginning of his post:
- Children are much less likely to become seriously ill from Covid-19 than adults, and appear less likely to become infected.
- Unlike with influenza, it appears that children are not more likely than adults to spread the disease, and may be significantly less likely.
- There are good grounds for thinking that outdoor environments present a low risk of infection compared to indoor ones, especially where the time spent in close proximity to other people is short.
- Pandemic control measures are likely to lead to significant collateral damage to children, with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children worst affected.
- Government, local authorities and other public agencies should take a balanced approach to supporting children through the pandemic. They should:
- Encourage schools and child care centres to take learning activities outdoors, prioritising play and breaks, and maximize outdoor play time, as they reopen.
- Open all remaining closed parks, review the closure of playgrounds, and take a supportive approach to the oversight of children’s play and socialising in public space.
- Address the circumstances of disadvantaged children as a matter of urgency.
- Prioritise children’s active travel to school, to help reduce peak hours congestion.
- Closely monitor emerging evidence, especially from countries that have relevant experience of relaxing measures.
- Encourage the public to engage with and understand the science behind the pandemic, and keep them informed as it grows.
CDC reopening guidance | Added May 15
The CDC has finally released their guidelines for reopening the country after they were initially barred from releasing it by the Trump administration. We have more on this from Politico:
The CDC on Thursday released previously withheld guidance documents on reopening schools, restaurants and other institutions locked down during the pandemic, one week after the White House ordered the agency to revise an earlier draft it deemed “too prescriptive.”
The new CDC guidelines, which appear to be watered down from previously leaked versions, provide brief checklists meant to help key businesses and others operating in public reopen safely. In separate one-page documents, the CDC offers decision-making tools for schools, workplaces, camps, child care programs, mass transit systems, and bars and restaurants.
The White House had rejected at least two prior CDC drafts providing more detailed recommendations for reopening, according to documents published by the Associated Press in the previous week. A White House spokesperson last week said the administration requested changes because draft agency guidance didn’t comport with President Donald Trump’s strategy of putting states in charge of reopening decisions.
Tom Cowan on testing | Added May 14
Here is a recent newsletter from Dr. Tom Cowan on the issue (and unreliability) of testing.
A Positive Test Means You Have the Illness, or You Don’t
By Tom Cowan, M.D.
Imagine your refrigerator breaks down, and you go to a respected appliance store to find a replacement. You see a new model of a ‘fridge you have had your eyes on and ask the salesperson what he thinks of this particular model. “Yes, it’s the newer model,” he says. “It is possible it can keep the food cold, but it’s also possible it won’t keep the food cold.”
At that point, you might not only question whether you want to buy that fridge, but also how you got dropped into the middle of an Alice in Wonderland performance.
This past Sunday in our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, the lead story was titled “Antibody Test Hopes, Doubts.” Here are two quotes from the article. The first is a “disclaimer” from the FDA required on all the new Coronavirus antibody tests: “Negative tests do not rule out SARS-CoV-2 and positive results may be false.” In other words, the fridge might work or it might not.
Also quoted was Marin County’s public health officer. He said, “I tell them you will likely be negative” if tested. “And it either means you were not infected or you were and it’s wrong.” So, the test either means you were infected or you weren’t infected, which I guess covers all the bases.
I want to be clear about this point: This confusion is not a matter of “we need to improve the tests” or “we need to understand the immune system, virus, mutations, etc., better.” This circumstance is a failure of the very concept of surrogate testing, which is what’s being used with Covid-19. You simply can’t use a surrogate test EVER for diagnosis unless you have a definitive (called “gold standard”) test to compare it to.
I have addressed this topic many times during this crisis, but I’ll try again to be as clear as I can about the requirements for an accurate surrogate test. Take the example of the testing to diagnose a pulmonary embolism, otherwise known as a blood clot in an artery to the lung. In a patient with chest pain and suspicion of a clot in one of the arteries in a lung, one can do an angiogram, in which dye is injected into the artery. If a clot is present, the dye will show the presence of this clot 100 percent of the time. This test becomes the gold standard, meaning, you can use it to detect the presence or absence of a clot with 100 percent certainty. You can then test a surrogate examination called a V/Q scan against the angiogram results. The V/Q scan looks at the perfusion or flow of the blood into the lung (this is a somewhat simplistic explanation but it demonstrates the point). A clot will affect the flow of blood.
Here’s how it works. If you take 100 patients who have a blood clot present on angiogram, you can determine the number of patients who have a positive V/Q scan. If 99 out of the 100 proven patients with a clot have a positive V/Q scan, then you know with certainty that the false negative rate is 1 percent. At that point, the doctor can forgo the more expensive and dangerous angiogram and use the V/Q scan, knowing it will pick up 99 percent of the positives.
The next step is to do the V/Q scan on 100 patients with chest pain whose angiogram is normal, meaning, you are certain they have no blood clots. If the positive rate is 2 out of 100, then you know with certainty that the false positive rate is 2 percent. Again, this allows you from then on to forgo the angiogram and do only the V/Q scan on people with characteristic signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism because you know for certain the error rate of the test.
With Covid-19 testing, the gold-standard test has never been done. Therefore, it’s impossible to know how accurate the test is. The only conclusion that any rational person can draw is that the entire testing for Covid-19 is completely unstandardized and therefore meaningless. What happens in a situation like this is you get reports of wildly divergent false-positive and false-negative rates.
In addition, I’m frequently asked about antibody tests, as in, “doesn’t having antibodies mean you are immune to the Coronavirus and therefore must have had an infection at some point?” According to the Marin public health director, it turns out we have no clue what an antibody test means. Years ago, we were taught antibodies meant you were immune and therefore safe. Then they came out with HIV tests and found antibodies and told us that meant you had the disease. Then they said that sometimes having antibodies meant you were immune, sometimes it meant you had the disease, and sometimes it meant nothing. Antibody tests are another surrogate test that means nothing and can never be improved to mean something. The whole thing is a house of cards.
To finish this point, I was interested to read recently that the president of Tanzania was skeptical of the testing. He decided to test a goat, a sheep and a paw paw fruit to see what happened. He gave the samples names and dates of birth and sent them in to be analyzed. The goat and the piece of fruit tested positive. I hope this doesn’t trigger the FDA to ban goat-milk products and paw paws. But now that we live in Alice’s world, anything is possible
Stay well and keep questioning.
Senator Richard Burr served warrant by FBI | Added May 14
You may remember Richard Burr, the Republican senator from North Carolina, who made some controversial stock trades at the beginning of the pandemic, based on insider knowledge that he had. The Justice Department is currently investigating his stock trades and they seized his cellphone on the night of Wednesday, May 13.
Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, turned over his phone to agents after they served a search warrant on the lawmaker at his residence in the Washington area, the [law enforcement] official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a law enforcement action.
The seizure represents a significant escalation in the investigation into whether Burr violated a law preventing members of Congress from trading on insider information they have gleaned from their official work.
To obtain a search warrant, federal agents and prosecutors must persuade a judge they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. The law enforcement official said the Justice Department is examining Burr’s communications with his broker.
Such a warrant being served on a sitting U.S. senator would require approval from the highest ranks of the Justice Department and is a step that would not be taken lightly. Kerri Kupec, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment.
Surveillance technology and ‘pandemic policing’ in NYC | Added May 14
More from New York. Law enforcement agencies are increasingly expanding their policing powers and their use of surveillance technologies in black and brown communities. Civil rights organizations have responded by calling for “social-distance policing” to be curtailed.
A breakdown of arrests and summonses by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office showed that 35 of the 40 people police arrested for social-distance violations from March 17 through May 4 were Black. The NYPD has dedicated more than 700 officers to police social distancing measures, violations of which are now punishable with a $1,000 fine, even as the pandemic has left millions without work.
Yet instead of calling on the NYPD to scale back or suspend its enforcement of social distancing measures, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for such policing to be done more equitably — something longtime police accountability activists doubt will manifest given the NYPD’s history of racist and aggressive policing of people of color.
“It would be great if the mayor would take a stronger stance because we know that ‘equal’ policing has not and will not happen, so we need more leadership in this area,” says Simone Gamble with the New York City-based police reform group, Justice Committee.
The group is just one of dozens of police reform and civil rights organizations that have been calling on Mayor de Blasio to not only curtail social-distance policing but also to suspend all arrests and summonses for low-level offenses, fire officers who engage in discriminatory and abusive policing, reallocate the NYPD’s budget toward increases in social services and essential community needs, and move unhoused and incarcerated people from the city’s streets and jails into emergency shelters.
Agency which runs public hospitals in NYC to oversee contact tracing | Added May 14
We have previously reported on New York’s contact tracing efforts and it has recently come out that instead of the city’s health department running the show, it will instead be overseen by the public hospital system.
Interesting side note: Mayor de Blasio has put Dr. Mitchell Katz in charge of the contact tracing efforts. Prior to the shutdowns Katz wrote to de Blasio’s aides that there was “no proof that closures will help stop the spread,” and he pushed for an approach based on herd immunity, in lieu of shutting down and waiting for a vaccine.
New York City will soon assemble an army of more than 1,000 disease detectives to trace the contacts of every person who tests positive for the coronavirus, an approach seen as crucial to quelling the outbreak and paving the way to reopen the hobbled city.
But that effort will not be led by the city’s renowned Health Department, which for decades has conducted contact tracing for diseases such as tuberculosis, H.I.V. and Ebola.
Instead, in a sharp departure from current and past practice, the city is going to put the vast new public health apparatus in the hands of its public hospital system, Health and Hospitals, city officials acknowledged on Thursday night after being approached by The New York Times about the changes.
The decision, which Mayor Bill de Blasio announced at his daily briefing on Friday, puzzled current and former health officials, who questioned the wisdom of changing what has worked before, especially during a pandemic.
Covid-19: A report from Italy | Added May 14
We present here a take on the situation in Italy that was posted by Swiss Propaganda Research. (Note: we have left the formatting as is.)
A message from an observer in Italy about the situation in Northern Italy on March 31, 2020:
,,In recent weeks, most of the Eastern European nurses who worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week supporting people in need of care in Italy have left the country in a hurry. This is not least because of the panic-mongering and the curfews and border closures threatened by the „emergency governments“. As a result, old people in need of care and disabled people, some without relatives, were left helpless by their carers.
Many of these abandoned people then ended up after a few days in the hospitals, which had been permanently overloaded for years, because they were dehydrated, among other things. Unfortunately, the hospitals lacked the personnel who had to look after the children locked up in their apartments because schools and kindergartens had been closed. This then led to the complete collapse of the care for the disabled and the elderly, especially in those areas where even harder „measures“ were ordered, and to chaotic conditions.
The nursing emergency, which was caused by the panic, temporarily led to many deaths among those in need of care and increasingly among younger patients in the hospitals. These fatalities then served to cause even more panic among those in charge and the media, who reported, for example, „another 475 fatalities“, „The dead are being removed from hospitals by the army“, accompanied by pictures of coffins and army trucks lined up.
However, this was the result of the funeral directors‘ fear of the „killer virus“, who therefore refused their services. Moreover, on the one hand there were too many deaths at once and on the other hand the government passed a law that the corpses carrying the coronavirus had to be cremated. In Catholic Italy, few cremations had been carried out in the past. Therefore there were only a few small crematoria, which very quickly reached their limits. Therefore the deceased had to be laid out in different churches.
In principle, this development is the same in all countries. However, the quality of the health system has a considerable influence on the effects. Therefore, there are fewer problems in Germany, Austria or Switzerland than in Italy, Spain or the USA. However, as can be seen in the official figures, there is no significant increase in the mortality rate. Just a small mountain that came from this tragedy.“
More on Italy | Added May 14
Here are two stories on Italy which intersect with reports referenced to in Dr. Zach Bush’s interview on The Highwire. The interview is posted above. Note: it was said by the Higher Health Institute in November of last year that “Italy is top in the European Union for antibiotic-resistance deaths with over 10,000 of the 33,000 deaths in the EU each year caused by bacteria resistant to antibiotics.”
Only 12 percent of deaths directly attributed to coronavirus
In Zach Bush’s interview a report is mentioned that only 12 percent of deaths in Italy were due to Covid-19. That claim is sourced to a report we have, but which we may not have shared previously, from the Telegraph:
But Prof Ricciardi added that Italy’s death rate may also appear high because of how doctors record fatalities.
“The way in which we code deaths in our country is very generous in the sense that all the people who die in hospitals with the coronavirus are deemed to be dying of the coronavirus.
“On re-evaluation by the National Institute of Health, only 12 per cent of death certificates have shown a direct causality from coronavirus, while 88 per cent of patients who have died have at least one pre-morbidity – many had two or three,” he says.
Risk factors in Italy
This report below comes from Swiss Propaganda Research, an independent research group that mainly focuses on “investigating geopolitical propaganda in Swiss and international media.” Recently they have been following the coronavirus and news coverage surrounding it. Here they speak to the issue of pollution, among others, and how it is a potential risk factor for Covid 19:
Regarding northern Italy, several potential risk factors have recently been discussed.
It is true that two major vaccination campaigns against influenza and meningoc
It is also true that a high asbestos exposure was present in northern Italy in the past, which increases the risk of cancerous lung disease. But here again, there is no direct connection with Covid19.
Nevertheless, in general it is true that the lung health of the population in northern Italy has been affected for a long time by high levels of air pollution and other detrimental factors, making it particularly susceptible to respiratory diseases.
Hospitals in northern Italy report ’30-fold’ jump in coronavirus-like syndrome in children | Added May 14
This brief report from Axios summarizes the situation in Italy where a number of children are being admitted with symptoms that are “most often associated with Kawasaki-like disease.” There is also this New York Times article which details the similarities between Kawasaki disease, and Covid-19, and which also notes the increase in cases in Italy.
Here is a breakdown of the situation in Italy from Axios:
A hospital in the epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak has seen a 30-fold increase of children with severe inflammatory symptoms most often associated with Kawasaki-like disease, according to a study published Wednesday in the medical journal The Lancet.
Why it matters: This is one of the first completed studies to examine the rise of an inflammatory illness that is affecting children — some of whom have tested positive for the coronavirus or its antibodies.
What they found: 7 boys and 3 girls, all aged 5 to 7 years old, were diagnosed with Kawasaki from February 18 to April 20. They were admitted to the hospital, on average, after six days of prolonged fever.
- In the last five years,that hospital treated a total of 19 patients for those symptoms, the study finds.
- Eight of the children who were admitted to the hospital since February tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
Symptoms for patients up to 21 years old, experiencing what doctors are calling “pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome,” include:
- Persistent fever and inflammation
- Abnormal, sudden or rapid heart rhythm
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Weak pulse and rapid breathing
- Dizziness or loss of consciousness
The big picture: There have been at least 50 cases of the inflammatory symptoms throughout Europe, the New York Times reports, including in Switzerland, France, Britain and Spain. New York has reported 102 cases and three deaths as of Wednesday.
German hospital presumes that men with low testosterone levels at greater risk of death from Covid-19 | Added May 14
A recent study from a German hospital has reportedly found links between a lack of testosterone and death from Covid-19. This isn’t the first time that sex hormones have been linked to Covid-19, though. In April we posted an article from the New York Times on how men in the United States were being treated for Covid-19 with estrogen. Kind of the opposite, isn’t it? Nonetheless, here is the story on testosterone.
Men with low testosterone levels that contract COVID-19 are at far greater risk of dying from the virus, a study has found.
A recent study found men are twice as likely to die from the coronavirus, but clinicians have been unable to determine why this is.
But a study from a German hospital of 45 COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care reveals the male sex hormone testosterone may play a key role.
The hormone is known to help regulate the body’s immune response but when a man has low levels of testosterone, the immune system is not kept in check and can go haywire following infection.
This leads to a so-called cytokine storm which happens when the immune system goes out of control as it tries to kill the pathogen.
A cytokine storm eventually begins damaging the body itself and, if left unchecked, can be fatal.
Thailand reports no new cases of coronavirus | Added May 13
Thailand has reported no new cases for the first time in two months and, according to this article from Reuters, they were the first country outside of China to discover a case of the coronavirus.
Thailand, the first country outside China to discover a case of the new coronavirus, reported no new daily cases for the first time in two months on Wednesday as the government considered easing more restrictions on businesses.
The last day Thailand recorded no new cases was March 9, but within two weeks the daily numbers jumped to double digits and then to more than 100 a day.
That sharp escalation prompted the government to order the closure of shopping malls, restaurants, gyms and other businesses and to impose a 10 p.m. curfew.
Last week, as the number of new cases fell, some of those restrictions were lifted, with businesses such as hair salons and pet groomers allowed to open.
More on contact tracing | Added May 13
Here’s a bit of a roundup on contact tracing efforts across the United States. Yesterday we reported on the CDC’s training guide for contact tracers, and how Washington state is mandating that restaurants assist in contact tracing by taking information from patrons. Well according to AP News more than 1,300 people have been trained in Washington to “work with local health departments to do contact tracing” and of those “351 are from the National Guard, 390 are from the Department of Licensing and 630 are state or local health professionals.”
On the other side of the country the Fund for Public Health in New York City is hiring contact tracers and offering a salary of $57,000 and benefits. They intend to provide equipment so that the tracers can work from home, although preference will be given to those in New York City. Eventually the employees may be asked to work “from an on-site call center” that will operate daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the job may also require “in-person visits to investigate ‘congregate settings and selected cases and contacts.'”
There is a five-hour online course in New York which will serve as the pre-requisite for becoming a contact tracer; it was created by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. This comes from an ABC article which described the program thusly: “Financed in part by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose foundation Bloomberg Philanthropies has committed $10.5 million to the program, the New York State Health Department is recruiting, interviewing and training what Cuomo has referred to as an “army” of contact tracers.”
Also of note this article from Route Fifty details how the CDC is diverting 25,000 Census Bureau workers to do contact tracing and how 2,000 STD investigation specialists are now on coronavirus-related work.
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Bernie Sanders requests that coronavirus vaccine be made available to all for free | Added May 13
In an email to his supporters Bernie Sanders has called for a guarantee that a coronavirus vaccine be given freely to all people in the U.S. when one becomes available. This follows comments which he made last month in an op-ed that he wrote for the New York Times where he said “The absurdity and cruelty of our employer-based, private health insurance system should now be apparent to all.” We report here on his more recent comments from Common Dreams:
Sen. Bernie Sanders denounced “drug company profiteering” on Wednesday as he called for a guarantee from the Trump administration that a coronavirus vaccine, once developed, will be free to all people in the U.S., regardless of “income, immigration status, or health insurance coverage.”
“Let me be clear: This pandemic must not become another opportunity for the pharmaceutical companies to engage in profiteering and make billions,” Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in an email to supporters Wednesday.
“With efforts underway—often with federal funding—to develop a coronavirus vaccine, we must guarantee that it will be available to every man, woman, and child in this country without cost,” wrote Sanders. “That is the moral thing to do. That is good public health policy.”
Los Angeles County prepared to extend stay-at-home orders until July | Added May 13
When beaches reopen this week, how people can use the sand will look different. Face coverings will be required when not in the water, and sunbathing won’t be allowed. Only active recreation — surfing, running, walking and swimming — will be permitted.
A majority of states across the U.S. are attempting to manage their reopening at the state and local level. Los Angeles County however is considered to be the epicenter of the pandemic in California and is prepared to extend and progressively amend their stay-at-home orders.
Los Angeles County’s stay-at-home orders will “with all certainty” be extended for the next three months, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer acknowledged during a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.
Ferrer later added that even if the orders remain in place through the summer, restrictions will be “gradually relaxed” under a five-step plan.
“We are being guided by science and data that will safely move us forward along the road to recovery in a measured way—one that allows us to ensure that effective distancing and infection control measures are in place,” Ferrer said, adding that the county is counting on the public’s compliance with the orders to be able to relax restrictions.
When beaches reopen this week, how people can use the sand will look different. Face coverings will be required when not in the water, and sunbathing won’t be allowed. Only active recreation — surfing, running, walking and swimming — will be permitted. Coolers, chairs, umbrellas and any of the other accessories that typically dot the shoreline should be left at home.
Eat at Joe’s | Added May 12
As restaurants reopen across America guidelines are being drafted to facilitate a slow return to “normal” operating procedure. First however we’d like to share a sample of the CDC’s contact tracing training plan which is making the rounds. The CDC lists the target audience for the training plan as being “community health workers or volunteers with little or no experience conducting contact tracing.”
Presumably some states may attempt to train their recently unemployed and establish a civilian workforce program to perform contact tracing such as Pennsylvania is doing, which we reported on May 9. Remember: NEVER TALK TO A CONTACT TRACER IN PERSON. They could be infected.
In line with this contact tracing effort, Washington state is imposing measures to assist with the tracing. In phase two of their restaurant reopening proposal, they require establishments that offer table service to “create a daily log of all customers and maintain that daily log for 30 days, including telephone/email contact information, and time in” in order to “facilitate any contact tracing that might need to occur.”Why not request your social security number as well? Then we could have the federally mandated dining, consumption of food, and accurate accounting of caloric intake that we have always dreamed of.
Also on the list: all parties and tables must have 5 guests or less. (What exactly does that help? How did they determine that? With a six sided gaming die? ) Single use menus are required for in-person dining. And it is strongly suggested that customers wear cloth face coverings “anytime they are not seated at the table” including “while being seated or leaving, or while going to the restroom.” That was nice of them to allow the removal of face coverings while eating.
Lastly there is this roundup of stories from AOL that takes a look at how restaurants are faring as they slowly start to reopen across the country. It’s not going too well. In Colorado, at least two cafe’s were shuttered for not following regulations. And in Massachussets “a popular ice cream shop was forced to temporarily close just hours after it reopened because its young staff faced abusive comments from angry customers who disregarded the store’s request to order ahead of time and faced long waits to be served by the overworked counter staff.”
Covid cases from January in Ohio| Added May 12
And to conclude our brief update on the states, (the rest of which you will find below this item), Ohio has reported that according to antibody tests there were “at least five cases of coronavirus present as early as January.” We shared a similar story about Florida earlier this month and the same concerns of the trustworthiness of the tests, and which of the myriad symptoms were diagnosed come into play.
State Department of Health Director Amy Acton said Monday that the cases in question predate the beginning of February, the previous earliest onset date for the virus in Ohio. Acton said officials are working to confirm whether the earliest cases tie back to travel outside of Ohio.
The state Department of Health announced last week that it will test volunteers from 1,200 households for virus antibodies. Scientists have not yet confirmed whether having previously had the virus confers immunity, but Acton has expressed optimism that it will provide valuable insight into combating the virus regardless.
The state has a total of 24,777 confirmed and probable cases of the virus as of Monday, including 1,357 hospitalizations, 1,217 intensive care unit admissions and 1,357 deaths. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) imposed several restrictions on public activity, including a stay-at-home order on March 23, after the first confirmed cases.
Counties in Pennsylvania considering to opt out of lockdown order | Added May 12
In another case of disagreement between local leaders and state government, a number of counties in Pennsylvania are considering reopening without the approval of the state.
A growing chorus of local leaders across Pennsylvania in counties stuck in the “red phase” of the state’s coronavirus pandemic lockdown are calling now on Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration to provide more clarity or simply get out of the way.
Some said they may defy the state and reopen whether or not they have approval. One local district attorney, Berks County’s Don Adams, said he would not prosecute any businesses that violated the state’s lockdown orders.
In a survey of all Bucks County state legislators conducted last week by NBC10, two Republican lawmakers said they believed nursing home cases could be excluded from a count used to determine when a county is allowed to reopen.
“While COVID-19 related illnesses and deaths in that population should certainly be included in the overall count, their numbers are not a true indication of ‘community spread’ and should therefore not be used to determine when to loosen restraints on Bucks County businesses,” Rep. Craig Staats, R-145th District, wrote in an email.
In New York patients must test negative before being returned to nursing homes | Added May 12
On the issue of discharging patients to nursing homes, New York has amended a March 25 directive which required that patients who tested positive be returned to nursing homes. “This is where this virus feeds. It’s where this virus started, when it started in the state of Washington,”Governor Cuomo said on May 10.
The hospital change is a partial backtracking on a March 25th directive from the state requiring nursing home operators to take in COVID-19 patients who are discharged from hospitals.
Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa clarified nursing homes cannot discriminate against COVID-19 patients—meaning the directive from March remains—but rather, the hospitals must wait until patients test negative before allowing them to be discharged into nursing homes.
Someone with COVID-19 could still be taken into a nursing home from elsewhere, unless the operator tells the state they cannot follow proper procedures—like isolating patients from other residents, having enough personal protective equipment and other measures.
The governor also said nursing home staff will be tested twice per week for the coronavirus. Nursing homes are required to restrict visitation, except for end-of-life visits; wear personal protective equipment with COVID-suspected or COVID-positive patients; wear face coverings with all residents; check staff for symptoms; notify family and residents within 24 hours of a COVID-positive test or death; and separate residents and staff during an outbreak.
Florida pushes ahead with return to normal | Added May 12
Florida has become a bit of an anomaly in that it is currently “much better off” than the models predicted that it would be. Guesses have been made as to why Florida is doing so well, and Governor Ron DeSantis credits it in part to his order to not return nursing home patients who have tested positive back to their nursing homes. There have been at least two reports on the situation as a whole: one is from the Wall Street Journal, and the more recent one is from the Washington Post.
A few quotes from the Washington Post:
But whether by good planning, or good luck, Florida seems to have avoided the worst-case scenarios. A model developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington was predicting nearly 7,000 deaths in the state by August — though that number would fluctuate depending on the level of social distancing. There have been fewer than 2,000 reported deaths so far. Hospitals have not been overrun. And there is a large surplus of ventilators sitting unused. On May 7, the state got back 20,000 tests and found only 358 people, less than 2 percent, tested positive.
To DeSantis’s credit, even while keeping the state open, he did take some early actions that probably kept the virus from spreading: upping the state’s ability to administer coronavirus tests, limiting who could visit nursing homes and putting a pause on nonessential hospital procedures. Florida now has 13 drive-through testing facilities, 10 walk-up sites, and even an RV that can drive to vulnerable communities, such as nursing homes, and conduct testing on site.
The state may have also benefited from more localized actions: mayors shutting down beaches in their cities before it was mandated statewide, Disney World closing in the middle of March.
Now, what happens next, as DeSantis begins reopening the state, may determine whether the governor becomes a national star — perhaps even a presidential candidate in a post-Trump world — or another overconfident Florida Man entering a cage only to find himself face to face with a beast that he may or may not understand.
Mandatory face-covering orders rescinded in some California counties | Added May 11
Masks are currently a source of contention in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, (or the “IE” as trendy Los Angeles radio stations refer to it). Some cities are strictly business when it comes to mask usage, but a growing number of counties in the area are pushing back against mandatory orders on face-coverings.
How important is it to wear face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus?
Many health experts say it’s essential and have required the use of masks when conducting essential business. Some cities, such as Beverly Hills, have gone so far as to mandate the wearing of face coverings anytime residents leave their homes.
But there is also pushback in some California communities.
Riverside County officials voted unanimously late Friday to rescind all of the county’s stay-at-home orders that went beyond Gov. Gavin Newsom’s, including a face covering requirement that was one of the first in the state.
Officials voted for the use of face coverings to be “strongly recommended” by the county, instead of being mandated, as health director Cameron Kaiser had implemented last month. The use of masks is only a recommendation on the state level.
During the meeting, 5th District Supervisor Jeff Hewitt said he didn’t feel like he needed to wear a mask, citing conflicting evidence of the benefits of face coverings, but that he would continue to do so if certain businesses required it.
“That’s my personal choice,” he said. “I think that people are smart enough to make [that] decision themselves.”
A 78-year-old man, who spoke in support of rescinding the order on face coverings, agreed with Hewitt, saying he wears a mask only when he’s around people who are afraid. “I’m not afraid. … People get old and they die.”
Neighboring San Bernardino County rescinded its mandatory face-covering order last week.
“The County strongly urges everyone to continue wearing face coverings in public to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and businesses may still require face coverings for customers and employees,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman said in a statement.
Masks from the past | Added May 11
We have two stories dealing with masks and their efficacy that date back to before Covid-19. This first one is a Dec, 4 2017 article from Scroll.in and speaks on the potential health issues of mask usage in the context of pollution. From the article:
While ill-fitting masks let in pollutants, mask that fit too tightly can also be problematic. A person wearing any kind of mask faces breathing resistance as air filters through the device, making the wearer work harder to inhale than he would without the mask. This can have several adverse physiological effects when the mask is worn for long periods of time. Moreover, carbon dioxide that is exhaled can get trapped in the chamber of the mask the re-enter the body each time the mask user inhales. This delivers less oxygen into the body than when the person is not wearing a mask.
“It can lead to oxygen shortage, suffocation, respiration trouble, and heart attacks,” said Dr D Saha, scientist and additional director at the Central Pollution Control Board.
He pointed out that masks are a potential source of bacteria and viruses. “The moisture from exhalation inside the mask, when in constant contact with the 37 degrees Celsius warm human body, becomes ideal place for virus and bacteria to thrive,” he said. This could result in the growth of microbes on masks and aid the spread of airborne diseases like influenza.
This second story is from SFGATE and was published on Nov. 16, 2018, around the time of the California wildfires. It relates how people with breathing problems may not be suited to wear N95 masks. From the article:
People with breathing problems (ironically) are discouraged from wearing a mask without getting a doctor’s recommendation. In one statement, CA Dept. of Public Health writes, “Wearing a mask may actually be harmful to some people with heart or lung disease because it can make the lungs work harder to breathe.” A doctor will look at the patient’s condition, ability to draw in air, and guide them on how to make it fit right if recommended.
Trump expecting virus to disappear| Added May 11
President Trump has returned to his original claim that the virus will simply “disappear”. To be clear this was said on May 8 as reported by MSN, and the President has been known to change his mind. Interestingly this change of heart came after Judy Miokvits claimed that Trump saw her May 4 interview on America’s Voice News. Nonetheless, here is what he had to say at his Friday press conference. From the article:
President Trump has been bullish about a coronavirus vaccine — so much so that experts have had to talk him off a more aggressive timeline for it.
But on Friday, Trump seemed to shift his rhetoric on the topic, saying we don’t even need one for the virus to go away. “I just rely on what doctors say,” Trump said when pressed.
Except that’s not what his coronavirus task force doctor, Anthony S. Fauci, says.
Trump offered his new comments about the potential vaccine Friday afternoon at the White House.
“I feel about vaccines like I feel about tests: This is going to go away without a vaccine,” Trump said. “It’s going to go away, and we’re not going to see it again, hopefully, after a period of time.”
Trump said that there could be “flare-ups,” including in the fall, but that it would go away regardless.
“There are some viruses or flus that came and they went for a vaccine, and they never found the vaccine,” Trump said. “And they’ve disappeared. They never showed up again. They die, too, like everything else.”
Pressed on the claim, he doubled down.
“They say it’s going to go — that doesn’t mean this year — doesn’t mean it’s going to be gone, frankly, by fall or after the fall,” Trump said. “But eventually it’s going to go away. The question is will we need a vaccine. At some point it’s going to probably go away by itself. If we had a vaccine that would be very helpful.”
Fauci, though, has said we need a vaccine.
Analysis from Dr. Joseph Mercola | Added May 11
Here is a point of view worth knowing about from Dr. Joseph Mercola regarding vaccinations and the coronavirus. From the article:
Results were mixed. Interestingly enough, while seasonal influenza vaccination did not raise the risk of all respiratory infections, it was in fact “significantly associated with unspecified coronavirus (meaning it did not specifically mention SARS-CoV-2) and human metapneumovirus” (hMPV).
Those who had received a seasonal flu shot were 36% more likely to contract coronavirus infection and 51% more likely to contract hMPV infection than unvaccinated individuals.8
Looking at the symptoms list for hMPV9 is also telling, as the main symptoms include fever, sore throat and cough. The elderly and immunocompromised are at heightened risk for severe hMPV illness, the symptoms of which include difficulty breathing and pneumonia. All of these symptoms also apply for COVID-19. Again, while this study did not look at SARS-CoV-2 specifically, it did look at coronaviruses, so “It’s a red flag,” Kennedy says…
Comment by Eric | Added May 10
These virus sequences from which so many are now cowering are routinely injected into the blood of people around the world, by the millions, recommended by doctors.
A closing thought for the weekend as we enter a new week. I’ve been following the flame war and massive pushback over Dr. Judy Mikovits, and I’m noticing just how many people are dismissing her purely based on what others have said. Yet the details of what she’s saying about science and its industrial-scale practice are being left out of the discussion.
Naomi Klein and the Screen New Deal | Added May 10
The previous item posted below about employee-monitoring software fits directly into the larger world which seems to be forming around us. In this article from The Intercept writer Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, delves into Gov. Cuomo’s recent decision (which we previously reported on), to bring on tech billionaires and effectively allow them to establish a “new normal” as they see fit.
If you’re unfamiliar, The Shock Doctrine is Klein’s third book wherein she tracks how disasters are commonly utilized or engineered in order to “advance radical privatization combined with the privatization of the disaster response itself.”
From The Intercept:
It has taken some time to gel, but something resembling a coherent Pandemic Shock Doctrine is beginning to emerge. Call it the “Screen New Deal.” Far more high-tech than anything we have seen during previous disasters, the future that is being rushed into being as the bodies still pile up treats our past weeks of physical isolation not as a painful necessity to save lives, but as a living laboratory for a permanent — and highly profitable — no-touch future.
Anuja Sonalker, CEO of Steer Tech, a Maryland-based company selling self-parking technology, recently summed up the new virus-personalized pitch. “There has been a distinct warming up to human-less, contactless technology,” she said. “Humans are biohazards, machines are not.”
It’s a future in which our homes are never again exclusively personal spaces but are also, via high-speed digital connectivity, our schools, our doctor’s offices, our gyms, and, if determined by the state, our jails. Of course, for many of us, those same homes were already turning into our never-off workplaces and our primary entertainment venues before the pandemic, and surveillance incarceration “in the community” was already booming. But in the future under hasty construction, all of these trends are poised for a warp-speed acceleration.
Working hard or hardly working? | Added May 10
Back on the theme of surveillance we have this story on workplace monitoring. Although, with many people working from home these days, it’s more like work-from-home monitoring. Or perhaps home-work monitoring? A catchy name for this level of surveillance is still forthcoming, but the unsettling invasion of privacy that it presents is clearly illustrated in this New York Times article where writer Adam Satariano tested some employee-monitoring software out, and allowed his editor to track him for the duration of his experiment.
From the New York Times:
On April 23, I started work at 8:49 a.m., reading and responding to emails, browsing the news and scrolling Twitter. At 9:14 a.m., I made changes to an upcoming story and read through interview notes. By 10:09 a.m., work momentum lost, I read about the Irish village where Matt Damon was living out the quarantine.
All of these details — from the websites I visited to my GPS coordinates — were available for my boss to review.
Here’s why: With millions of us working from home in the coronavirus pandemic, companies are hunting for ways to ensure that we are doing what we are supposed to. Demand has surged for software that can monitor employees, with programs tracking the words we type, snapping pictures with our computer cameras and giving our managers rankings of who is spending too much time on Facebook and not enough on Excel.
The technology raises thorny privacy questions about where employers draw the line between maintaining productivity from a homebound work force and creepy surveillance. To try to answer them, I turned the spylike software on myself.
Plandemic: Damage Control Greatest Hits | Added May 10
A number of articles have sprung in response to the Judy Mikovits interview from the documentary Plandemic. It’s not as if you can easily watch the thing, seeing as how it is being taken down nearly everywhere. Nonetheless a number of outlets have taken it upon themselves to provide tailor made conclusions on the unwatchable interview, and to kindly guide the thinking of those who may have happened to see it.
We have this article from Lifehacker which they say is for anyone who may want to “learn more [about the interview] but are wary of being taken in by propaganda…” How thoughtful of them.
There is this New York Times article which attempts to dismiss Mikovits as a “champion” for “virus conspiracists.”
And lastly The Atlantic features some advice on how to talk to someone who has seen or shared Plandemic, or any other material deemed to be a baseless conspiracy theory. Take a look:
Whatever camp someone falls in, though, the general principles are the same. “It’s always important to respond in a way that doesn’t suggest that the other [person] is foolish, naive, or gullible, as much as you think they may be,” said Joshua Coleman, a psychologist with an expertise in family relationships. “So rather than saying, ‘I can’t believe that you fall for this crap!,’ better to say, ‘I have heard others talk about that as well. And I agree, these days there’s so much information out there, it can be hard to know what to believe.’”
CDC guideline for reopening leaked to the press | Added May 10
A couple of days ago the Trump administration shelved the CDC’s plan for reopening the country and reportedly told CDC officials that the plan would “never see the light of day.” There’s been a development on that front: Ars Technica reports that, in defiance of the Trump administration’s attempted censorship, a CDC official who “was not authorized” to release the guideline has indeed released the 17 page document.
From Ars Technica:
The guidance lays out detailed, phased recommendations for how to safely reopen child care programs, schools, day camps, faith communities, businesses with vulnerable workers, restaurants, bars, and mass transit. Though some of the general points laid out already appear on federal websites—such as an emphasis on hand hygiene—the document uniquely offers tailored recommendations for each type of business.
For instance, the section on reopening child care facilities recommends that the facilities avoid plush toys, make sure each child has their own plate during meal times, and stagger drop-off and pick-up times for parents. The recommendations for restaurants include installing physical barriers, such as sneeze guards, around host stations and avoiding the use of hand-held “buzzers” to inform waiting patrons that their table is ready.
Though such detailed recommendations from experts in public health are likely welcomed from business owners, they were allegedly a sticking point for the Trump administration. According to unnamed sources close to the administration who spoke with the AP, the White House has refrained from offering such specifics because different areas of the country have varying levels of disease transmission. Areas with less disease may want to take fewer precautions, for instance.
Anthony Fauci and two other White House coronavirus task force members in quarantine | Added May 9
Apparently there is now an option to be considered ‘low risk’ when potentially exposed to the coronavirus, as demonstrated by Anthony Fauci and the three other white house members who are now self quarantining. Also as the article notes, “all three men are scheduled to testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday.” Interesting.
Three members of the White House coronavirus task force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, placed themselves in quarantine after contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, another stark reminder that not even one of the nation’s most secure buildings is immune from the coronavirus.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading member of the task force, has become nationally known for his simple and direct explanations to the public about the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes. Also quarantining are Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Stephen Hahn.
Fauci’s institute said that he has tested negative for COVID-19 and will continue to be tested regularly. It added that he is considered to be at “relatively low risk” based on the degree of his exposure, and that he would be “taking appropriate precautions” to mitigate the risk to personal contacts while still carrying out his duties. While he will stay at home and telework, Fauci will go to the White House if called and take every precaution, the institute said.
All three men are scheduled to testify before a Senate committee on Tuesday. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the panel, said the White House will allow Redfield and Hahn to testify by videoconference, a one-time exception to the administration’s policies on hearing testimony. The statement was issued before Fauci’s quarantine was announced.
Civilian-Corp to help with ‘mitigation’ | Added May 9
According to a May 6 article from WHYY there are now efforts to employ the more than 1.7 million Pennsylvanians who have recently filed for unemployment in a “new civilian workforce program” which centers on a civilian corp to be used to assist in contact tracing for the virus.
From the article:
“The governor will announce more details in the coming weeks, but the corps would be a 21st-century approach to historic programs like those in the New Deal,” Kensinger said.
Wolf said he’s angling for a broad program to train workers to test for COVID-19 and conduct contact tracing to track infection rates, while also reducing unemployment.
“We have slowed this virus through shared sacrifices,” Wolf said. “We have bought precious time. We need to now use that time effectively by building a program that will allow our commonwealth to function as much as possible while we wait for a vaccine.”
Still unknown: When exactly the program would start, how many people the state might hire and how much it would cost.
Wolf said he’s still getting those details together, though the governor noted that “to have an impact on the economy, we want this to be a big deal.”
Wolf expects federal funding will pay for the program, though he didn’t say whether there’s a specific initiative he’s expecting to draw dollars from, or when.
“The hope is that we can get special funding from the federal government for this,” he said. “As this unfolds, as we know those details, we will be sharing those details.”
Kensinger said the corps would likely start work “sometime in the fall,” and reiterated that the administration is “exploring using federal dollars to help pay for the program.”
The civilian corps may involve an element of public-private partnership, the administration said in a news release.
To “recruit and train COVID-19-impacted dislocated and unemployed workers into public service for contact tracing roles,” Wolf’s press office said the administration plans to work with existing health training programs and the federal AmeriCorps program, among others.
From the Dangerous Ideas Department | Added May 9
Civil liberties and contact tracing | Added May 9
Here is a more nuanced discussion on the intersection between civil liberties and “public health surveillance” as was mentioned by the WHO in the previous item, below. This April 26 Law 360 article paints a clear picture of how corporate and government entities might use technology in their efforts to surveil public health, and it also discusses the legality of such measures in the U.S.
From Law 360:
Imagine your phone buzzing with an alert: Someone who passed you at the grocery store has tested positive for COVID-19. Based on location data transmitted through a smart phone app, authorities believe the stranger exposed you to the coronavirus. You might be infected.
The alert directs you to self-quarantine for 14 days to prevent further spread of the deadly disease. In the app, a map of color-coded dots displays the population of your home town. You notice the dot associated with you, previously green, has turned to yellow — now everyone else with the app knows you could be dangerous.
Whether the scenario sounds Orwellian or absolutely necessary could depend on your answer to a rhetorical question Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently posed during a live Snapchat interview.
“Do you give up a little liberty to get a little protection?” he said.
The answer seems to be yes in at least 23 countries, where dozens of “digital contact tracing” apps have already been downloaded more than 50 million times. Authorities in Australia, India, the United Kingdom and Italy are also deploying drones with video equipment and temperature sensors.
According to experts like Fauci, such widespread public health surveillance is essential to containing the deadly coronavirus that’s killed more than 50,000 Americans and infected nearly three million people around the world.
Calls for a return to public health surveillance | Added May 9
The WHO has called for a return to “public health surveillance” in dealing with the coronavirus. In light of the article shared above, a push for health monitoring worldwide does not sound all that great. With no mention of the potential for abuse with this level of surveillance, we have a few quotes from the WHO’s announcement below.
Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, said during a media briefing from Geneva that all nations should focus on the fundamentals of the global coronavirus fight: scouting potential new infections, hunting them down, confirming them and then separating those afflicted, to save others from the disease.
“We seem…to be avoiding the uncomfortable reality that we need to get back to public health surveillance,” Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, said during a media briefing. “We need to go back to where we should have been months ago — finding cases, tracking cases, testing cases, isolating people who are tested positive, doing quarantine for contacts.”
“Through solidarity we will win the fight and nobody is safe until everybody is safe”, Ryan said. “There is a path out, but we must remain ever-vigilant, and we may have to have a significant alteration of our lifestyles until we get to a point where we have an effective vaccine.”
Growing concern with internet censorship | Added May 9
Although this Business Insider article is from April 23 the issue of internet censorship regarding the coronavirus continues to develop and we are following it closely. This particular article focuses on the announcement that Youtube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki made where she “suggested that the video platform will remove content that contradicts the World Health Organization’s advice on COVID-19.”
From Business Insider:
In an interview with CNN published Sunday, Wojcicki said YouTube would be “removing information that is problematic” including “anything that is medically unsubstantiated.”
For example, she said, content that claimed vitamin C or turmeric would cure people of COVID-19 would be “a violation of our policy” and removed accordingly.
She continued: “Anything that goes against WHO recommendations would be a violation of our policy and so remove is another really important part of our policy.”
Wojcicki didn’t go into further detail, and it isn’t clear how rigorously YouTube is policing videos that might fall into the grey area of debating WHO’s guidance.
For example, WHO has advised that masks should be worn by healthcare workers and not by healthy members of the public. But experts are split on this, and there are plenty of YouTube videos advising people on making and wearing their own masks.
Wojcicki acknowledged that YouTube had had to quickly update its policies in response to the virus, and the accompanying spread of misinformation.
The platform has already banned videos that link 5G to the spread of COVID-19, a conspiracy theory that’s shown surprising longevity on online platforms many despite being widely debunked.
In March, YouTube said it would demonetize videos about the coronavirus over perceived insensitivity concerns, but reversed that decision a week later after a backlash from disgruntled YouTubers.
Hemoglobin and Covid-19 | Added May 8
In this May 3 article from the Jerusalem Post, the work of Italian pharmacology scholar Annalisa Chiusolo is discussed. She posits that Covid-19 damages hemoglobin which impairs “the ability of red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body, compromising the lungs and resulting in Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrom (ARDS).”
This article mostly speaks about her conclusion in the context of treating Covid-19 with hydroxychloroquine, but we’d like to point out that Chiusolo’s explanation speaks directly to the reports of “happy hypoxia” that have been going around. And her explanation also backs up the concerns of Dr. Cameron Kyle-Sidell whose videos we have previously posted; he first raised this issue at the beginning of April and later focused the point in a followup video.
From the Jerusalem Post:
If her thesis is correct, it would resolve many outstanding questions about the novel coronavirus, such as the greater vulnerability of men – specifically male diabetics – to become seriously ill from the virus, as well as the lower rate at which pregnant women and children contract COVID-19.
She told the Post that SARS-CoV-2, the formal name for the novel coronavirus, needs porphyrins for its survival – and probably for its replication – so it attacks hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in the blood, which translates to less oxygen available for the body. The consequence of less oxygen is the accumulation of carbon dioxide.
Still more biotech: CRISPR approved for coronavirus testing in the US | Added May 8
The emergency-use approvals from the FDA seem to keep coming. This time CRISPR, the gene editing technology, is planned as a diagnostic tool in testing for the coronavirus.
First, a definition from Live Science: “CRISPR stands for ‘clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats’. It is a specialized region of DNA with two distinct characteristics: the presence of nucleotide repeats and spacers. Repeated sequences of nucleotides — the building blocks of DNA — are distributed throughout a CRISPR region. Spacers are bits of DNA that are interspersed among these repeated sequences.”
It can also keep your salad fresh.
CRISPR has a slight difference in the way it works compared to PCR testing — a known folly that measures nothing — the net effect is more biotechnology being sold as medical diagnosis. But hey this is war! Approve every new technology for every imaginable purpose. Here are a few quotes on the emergency approval from a Nature article:
The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) emergency-use authority allows it to make tests and drugs available faster than usual in a public-health emergency. The new diagnostic kit is based on an approach developed by CRISPR pioneer Feng Zhang at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It will be used to test for SARS-CoV-2 in laboratories that are certified to provide clinical-test results.
Although the United States has ramped up testing in the past week — averaging nearly 250,000 tests per day, according to the non-profit organization The COVID Tracking Project — there are test shortages in some places. Widespread use of the new FDA-approved kit could help to alleviate backlogs and increase testing, says Mitchell O’Connell, a biochemist at the University of Rochester in New York, who was not involved in developing the test. But O’Connell cautions that it remains to be seen how well the test performs in real-world conditions, such as hospitals, compared with standard tests.
The CRISPR-based diagnostic kit has been developed by Sherlock Biosciences, a biotechnology company also based in Cambridge. It works by programming the CRISPR machinery to detect a snippet of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material in a nose, mouth or throat swab, or in fluid from the lungs. If the virus’s genetic material is found, a CRISPR enzyme generates a fluorescent glow. The test can return results in about an hour, according to the company.
This came in today…
Remember when remdesivir wasn’t working out to be the miracle treatment for COVID-19 infections? | Added May 8
When we say it wasn’t working that is based off of an early study done by Gilead, the maker of remdesivir, who could only claim 50% of patients receiving treatment showed improvement — plus the study was criticized for having no control group. But on April 29th, we heard Dr. Anthony Fauci announcing remdesivir would be the “standard of care” for the disease being ascribed to the SARS-COV-2 virus –despite showing a less than 4% improvement in mortality in the government’s study.
An article published at The Alliance for Natural Health highlights one reason why this might have come to pass. After acknowledging that mortality rates were only very slightly improved, it was decided to discuss another standard of success: recovery time.
From the Alliance’s May 7th Newsletter:
“The government’s study of remdesivir found the drug had an extremely modest benefit, with an 8% mortality rate for the study group on the drug versus an 11.6% mortality rate for the placebo group.
That’s right: the “standard of care” is a drug that improves survival by 3.6%! We can surely do better than this.
But the mortality rate was not the key metric used by the government to approve the drug’s emergency use authorization (EUA) for treatment of COVID-19. In fact, the government moved the goalposts of the study: rather than using the mortality rate to assess the drug’s effectiveness, NIAID decided to judge the drug on how long it took surviving patients to recover. Judging from the very modest reduction in mortality compared to placebo, it’s no surprise the government needed another metric to demonstrate success.”
BREAKING: Llamas in the news | Added May 8
Yes, we’re finally doing the llama story. If you hadn’t seen, researchers are hoping to use antibodies from a 4-year-old llama named Winter to treat Covid-19.
Winter is a 4-year-old chocolate-colored llama with spindly legs, ever-so-slightly askew ears and envy-inducing eyelashes. Some scientists hope she might be an important figure in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
She is not a superpowered camelid. Winter was simply the lucky llama chosen by researchers in Belgium, where she lives, to participate in a series of virus studies involving both SARS and MERS. Finding that her antibodies staved off those infections, the scientists posited that those same antibodies could also neutralize the new virus that causes Covid-19. They were right, and published their results Tuesday in the journal Cell.
Scientists have long turned to llamas for antibody research. In the last decade, for example, scientists have used llamas’ antibodies in H.I.V. and influenza research, finding promising therapies for both viruses.
Well did they do contact tracing on the
papaya pawpaw? | Added May 8
It seems like wherever we look we’re bound to find Covid-19 as a new report has come in saying that a
papaya pawpaw has tested positive for the coronavirus. (Note: in the original story we cited, the fruit that had reportedly been tested was incorrectly stated to be a papaya instead of a pawpaw. We have updated with a new source.) Where had the pawpaw traveled recently and who had he come into contact with? Maybe he had lunch with an infected banana.
It seems like the coronavirus is everywhere in the environment; but then again the results could also potentially be due to faulty test kits that get a positive result for fruit juice.
Coronavirus test kits used in Tanzania were dismissed as faulty by President John Magufuli on Sunday, because he said they had returned positive results on samples taken from a goat and a pawpaw.
Magufuli, whose government has already drawn criticism for being secretive about the coronavirus outbreak and has previously asked Tanzanians to pray the coronavirus away, said the kits had “technical errors”.
The COVID-19 testing kits had been imported from abroad, Magufuli said during an event in Chato in the north west of Tanzania, although he did not give further details.
The president said he had instructed Tanzanian security forces to check the quality of the kits. They had randomly obtained several non-human samples, including from a pawpaw, a goat and a sheep, but had assigned them human names and ages.
On the wonders of PCR testing | Added May 8
Here is an archived article from Nature which describes the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) process, which is being used to ostensibly determine positive Covid-19 cases. We’ve been following this issue extensively and would like to once again share two related stories on the process which we think you would like to see.
The first is from Celia Farber, a legendary AIDS reporter, who has written on the issue of using the PCR process to replicate the genetic markers of viruses despite there not being a standard for reference to determine someone as a positive or negative case based on the samples produced.
She got her information from the inventor of the PCR process Karry Mullis who, in the past, spoke out against the invalid use of PCR to determine infection. Mullis died in 2019, but we would like to share this 18 minute video interview with him where he describes the proper protocol for valid testing.
Europe easing lockdown restrictions and increasing contact tracing | Added May 8
Here is a brief roundup of stories from Reuters which center on countries throughout Europe attempting to loosen their lockdown:
First off, On May 6 the Director-General of the WHO warned that “the risk of returning to lockdown remains very real if countries do not manage the transition extremely carefully and in a phased approach.”
Austria, on the other hand, has already been loosening their lockdown restrictions for at least the past three weeks. And, of note, they have not seen “a spike in new infections,” but do continue to feel that “further viligance is necessary.”
As for the rest of Europe, a fledgling coalition is forming between a few nations who are looking to use contact tracing via smartphones in order to “help to reopen borders without unleashing a second wave of the pandemic.” One of the major issues they are facing in carrying out this idea is deciding how to do such contact tracing without impinging on privacy rights. Notably Austria already has a contact tracing app.
We’ll leave you with a brief quote from that last article:
Britain and France argue people should trust their health authorities to hold such information on a central computer server. A loose coalition of other nations, led by Switzerland and including Germany and Italy, believe data should be kept only on handsets so that it would be impossible for governments to spy on their citizens.
Trump names next postmaster general | Added May 8
Trump must be keeping up with our coverage. Yesterday we reported on the struggles that the U. S. Postal Service is currently facing, and among the coverage that we shared it was mentioned that the current postmaster general, Megan Brennan, intended to retire but had no one to replace her. Well now the President, who is not a big fan of the USPS, has tapped a major donor of his to take the job.
A major donor to President Donald Trump will become the next head of the U.S. Postal Service, an institution that has frequently come under criticism from the president amid one of its worst financial crises.
Louis DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman, will take over as postmaster general on June 15, according to a news release. He will replace Megan Brennan, whose intention to retire was reported by The Washington Post in October. Brennan had been subject to months of complaints from Trump that the Postal Service was losing too much money, The Post reported at the time.
Trump has repeatedly characterized the Postal Service as hemorrhaging money, demanding that it charge delivery behemoths such as Amazon more. Last month, Trump called the Postal Service a “joke” as it suffers major losses amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Vitamin D deficiency and Covid-19 deaths | Added May 7
So much for staying indoors. Researchers in Indonesia have found a potential connection between a lack of vitamin D (which your body produces when exposed to sunlight,) and Covid-19 deaths. Also of note, vitamin D deficiency interferes with zinc uptake — and zinc is an important mineral for warding off coronaviruses. Further, see the item below, about how 88% of new hospital admissions have stayed inside — whether voluntarily or as patients in nursing homes.
A team of Indonesian researchers led by Prabowo Raharusuna released a working paper showing a significant association between COVID-19 deaths and vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency in a sample of 780 laboratory-confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2.
“This study focused on identifying patterns of mortality among patients infected with COVID-19 and the possible association between serum 25(OH)D [vitamin D] levels and mortality outcomes,” state the researchers.
The key findings are as follows:
- A majority of COVID-19 cases with vitamin D deficiencies died.
- The odds of death were higher in older and male cases with preexisting conditions and lower than normal Vitamin D levels.
- When accounting for the effects of age, sex, and comorbidity, vitamin D status is strongly related to COVID-19 mortality.
People following stay-at-home order in New York being admitted to hospitals in large numbers | Added May 7
NBC New York has May 7 coverage, updated from the day before, on how there are a growing number of cases being admitted to New York City hospitals made up of older people of color who have stayed in their homes. Of course it is still possible that family members could have visited them, but the fact that these cases were as homebound as they could be should be a red flag that something about this doesn’t add up with stay at home and distancing regulations. Maybe see the above article about vitamin D deficiency, which is caused by staying in, and which is caused by lack of sunlight. Oh now it’s all starting to make sense.
And yet the official response, which shows up later in this article, is simply that more hand sanitizer and masks are needed? Are we just supposed to sit in full PPE at home, and keep wiping down the counter?
From NBC New York:
Preliminary data compiled from over 100 New York hospitals over a three-day period suggest most new COVID-19 patients are older people of color who have been in their homes, according to data released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his Wednesday coronavirus briefing.
The preliminary data was compiled after 113 hospitals provided information of over 1,268 new COVID-19 hospitalizations. The data was sought as Cuomo shifts his focus to the new cases coming into hospitals in an attempt to refine the state’s containment strategy.
Cuomo said the findings shed light on “where are those people coming from and what can we learn from those people to further target and refine our strategy.”
Overall, the data of the days analyzed show most new admissions are of people who have mostly been staying home, with 66 percent of new hospitalizations being of individuals who were admitted from their own residences.
U.S. Postal Service endangered at the least convenient time possible| Added May 7
The United States Postal Service is struggling to stay afloat financially. Even though nearly everyone in the country is relying on them for deliveries to some degree, it hasn’t been quite enough to make up for the losses they have previously faced, and the damage done after The Great Recession.
We have a few articles on this issue. First up, these provide a little bit of background: there is this PBS coverage from 2017 which discusses how the USPS had suffered financial losses for 11 years straight, and goes into detail on how they were attempting to manage that through cuts and operational changes. This 2018 piece from The Hill delves into their operational model, and offers several opinions on why they are struggling to bring in revenue.
Now, for something more contemporary. In an April 9, 2020 article Market Watch lays out the overall crisis which the USPS is facing at this time, and does so rather succinctly although they seem to be a little indifferent toward the organization. And lastly in this April 13 article Bloomberg goes in-depth on how USPS employees are attempting to cope in light of the coronavirus, and the struggles that they face in trying to manage both the pandemic response and lack of emergency funding. We’ll leave you with a few quotes from that.
The bitter irony is that just when the Postal Service is again proving crucial, its future has never seemed more tenuous. Even with a rise in package deliveries, the economic downturn is devastating the USPS. In a letter on March 24 to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House members Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said the USPS might run out of cash by June and urged him to include $25 billion in aid in the congressional stimulus bill that ultimately provided $2.2 trillion in relief. “We are barreling toward a catastrophic collapse if we don’t take action,” Connolly says.
The White House would agree only to permit the USPS to borrow an additional $10 billion from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to cover its Covid-19-related shortfall. That was at the direct order of President Trump, according to a senior administration official. Trump and the USPS have had a fraught relationship. In 2017, and again on April 7, he questioned the intelligence of its senior officials, saying it loses money on its contract to deliver packages for Amazon.com Inc., whose chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos, is not coincidentally owner of the Washington Post, which has frequently broken stories that are unflattering to the administration. The USPS says it makes money from the Amazon deal.
Possible Florida cases from late December | Added May 7
Data recently released by the Florida Health department has shown that there was possible spread of the coronavirus in Florida as early as Dec. 31, 2019. Notably Florida took their time implementing in-state testing, and they certainly weren’t testing as far back as December; the conclusion of there being spread is based off of clinical diagnoses of patients. That is, the determination is based solely on their symptoms.
We have covered the wide variety of symptoms that supposedly denote Covid-19, and a later quote in the article below briefly touches on the idea of: how do you know that you’re treating for Covid-19 based on symptoms? And we add to that, how do you trust the reliability of a confirmation from PCR testing?
In the article one of the early patients had a dry cough, fever and shortness of breath: the original symptoms associated with the virus. She was later given an antibody test and determined to have the long-term antibody for the novel coronavirus. To that, we’d also like to note that in the US there are so many different antibody tests, quite a few of them are known to be faulty, and comparative data on their efficacy is still forthcoming.
It was March 1 when Florida announced its first two cases of the novel coronavirus, a 29-year-old Hillsborough County woman who had traveled to Italy and a 63-year-old Manatee County man. But buried in data recently published by the Florida health department is an intriguing revelation: The spread of COVID-19 in Florida likely began in January, if not earlier.
State health officials have documented at least 170 COVID-19 patients reporting symptoms between Dec. 31, 2019, and February 29, according to a Miami Herald analysis of state health data. Of them, 40 percent had no apparent contact with someone else with the virus. The majority had not traveled.
At least 26 people who contracted COVID-19 started showing symptoms in late December or January — and at least eight of them both had not traveled and did not have contact with another person infected by the virus. The trend continued into February.
‘Post-pandemic public education’ to be ‘reinvented’ by billionaires| Added May 6
There’s nothing like the alleged noblesse oblige of the ultra-wealthy to lift one’s spirits: In New York governor Cuomo has enlisted the aid of a couple of billionaires to help plot out and build up the so-called “new normal.” Unsurprisingly Bill Gates is involved as well, as he so often seems to be in nearly every aspect of the coronavirus. The article below questions their qualifications and asks the much needed question of why they should have such a large say in the management of public education.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that he has tapped a second billionaires to “reinvent” education in New York state after the pandemic. According to the New York Post, Cuomo sees distance learning as “the wave of the future,” so who better to enlist as his advisers than Bill Gates and now Eric Schmidt of Google.
Reporter Rebecca C. Lewis of “City and State” just tweeted this report:
“Cuomo has announced the third billionaire to lead state efforts amid the coronavirus crisis: former Google CEO Eric Schmidt will be focused on new technology utilization. He joins Michael Bloomberg, who’s doing contact tracing, and Bill Gates, who’s doing education”
Neither Bill Gates nor Eric Schmidt is an educator. They made their fortune selling software. Selling stuff to schools does not make you an education expert.
Obviously Cuomo thinks that the future of education is online.
He seems oblivious to the eagerness of parents and students alike to return to real live teachers in real school buildings. Parents want to return to work, students want to see their teachers and their friends, and they want to return to their activities and sports. Teachers want to see their students. No one but Cuomo—and probably Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt—wants remote learning to become permanent.
Hospitals struggle to remain open | Added May 6
We have previously reported on the financial troubles that hospitals across the US are contending with, as well as on the financial support that hospitals receive for deeming patients as having Covid-19 and intubating. Many hospitals are running out of money due to the fact that they ceased performing elective procedures and lost their revenue. Here is another article exploring that further, and how they may potentially be facing closures.
The fallout from the pandemic, both nationally and locally, will result in the number of distressed hospitals increasingly “dramatically.” That, he said, will create significant industry consolidation on an accelerated basis.
“There is no doubt that many hospitals will have a major problem with liquidity, with cash,” he said. “They took a double hit. First their portfolios took a beating when the markets crashed. And then their revenue dropped like a stone when they stopped elective procedures. If they survive, the next challenge will be reopening their operations and getting people back to work.”
Additionally, Nemzoff said it’s likely hospital closings accelerate in this environment.
“When you run out of cash you typically file for bankruptcy but if there is no one there to buy you out of bankruptcy, then it becomes an asset liquidation and at that point you padlock the doors with a chain,” Nemzoff said.
Coronavirus timeline shifts in light of earlier determined cases | Added May 6
A couple of days ago we shared a story on how France determined that they had a case of Covid-19 in December of 2019. The fact that it was determined using the PCR testing method sheds doubt on the reliability of the determination, a facet of the testing which we continue to cover. Nonetheless if that be the case, the currently accepted timeline of the spread of the novel coronavirus is upended, which we noted, and as The Hill also reports in this article.
From The Hill:
The coronavirus that has exploded into a pandemic has almost certainly been circulating for several months longer than public health experts first suspected, masked by asymptomatic cases or illnesses incorrectly diagnosed.
Scientists believe the first known case of a patient contracting the coronavirus happened in mid-November, in a 55-year-old resident of China’s Hubei province. That was six weeks before the World Health Organization’s (WHO) surveillance network picked up reports of a cluster of atypical pneumonia cases in Wuhan, the province’s largest city.
There are increasing signs that the virus had begun its global spread long before it was identified. French scientists on Monday published the results of a study that found coronavirus present in samples given by a resident of a Paris suburb who was tested Dec. 27, four days before the Wuhan cluster was identified.
Pennsylvania coronavirus researcher ‘on verge of making significant findings’ found dead | Added May 6
37 year old Dr. Bing Liu was found dead in a home on Saturday May 2. Liu was a researcher for the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, worked in systems biology, and had been researching the cellular mechanisms of the novel coronavirus.
Ross Township Police Detective Sgt. Brian Kohlhepp told the Associated Press that the men “appeared to be connected beyond their proximity to each other.” A motive for the killings remained unknown, and the relationship between the men was also unclear.
In a statement, the University of Pittsburgh described him as an excellent mentor and prolific researcher who had co-authored more than 30 papers. His work focused on systems biology.
“Bing was on the verge of making very significant findings toward understanding the cellular mechanisms that underlie SARS-CoV-2 infection and the cellular basis of the following complications,” the school said. “We will make an effort to complete what he started in an effort to pay homage to his scientific excellence.”
Is the virus getting stronger or weaker? | Added May 6
This first one is from the LA Times discusses the possibility of a new, more contagious strain of the virus:
Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that has become dominant worldwide and appears to be more contagious than the versions that spread in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The new strain appeared in February in Europe, migrated quickly to the East Coast of the United States and has been the dominant strain across the world since mid-March, the scientists wrote.
In addition to spreading faster, it may make people vulnerable to a second infection after a first bout with the disease, the report warned.
Meanwhile the NY Post reports that the virus may be weakening:
Lead study author Dr. Efren Lim, an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, and his team use a new technology called next-generation sequencing to rapidly read the genetic code of the coronavirus, referred to by scientists as SARS-CoV-2.
UK advisor responsible for models which prompted lockdown resigns | Added May 6
Neil Ferguson, the scientist who provided the models which guided various countries in imposing lockdown measures, has resigned after “secretly meeting his married lover” in the midst of these stay-at-home orders. This is from the NZ Herald:
He praised his fellow citizens for following the social distancing measures he recommended – meanwhile, UK scientist Neil Ferguson was secretly meeting his married lover.
He was forced to resign from his government advisory position yesterday after allowing Antonia Staats, 38, who lives with her husband and children in another house, to come to his home even as he lectured the public about the need to stop the spread of Covid-19.
Staats visited the professor at least twice – despite the fact he had just been in isolation for two weeks after testing positive for coronavirus.
Ferguson and his team at the Imperial College London used computer modelling to warn the government that more than 500,000 citizens would die unless the country went into lockdown.
Coronavirus task force not disbanding | Added May 6
It seems like the White House coronavirus task force will not be breaking up. In fact they’re back and better than ever; President Trump says that he now plans to keep it going indefinitely. This is from NBC News:
A day after President Donald Trump confirmed that he planned to wind down the White House coronavirus task force, the president announced Wednesday that it will now continue indefinitely.
In a series of tweets, Trump said the task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, has done a “fantastic job of bringing together vast highly complex resources that have set a high standard for others to follow in the future.”
Trump said that ventilators are now being produced in the thousands, repeated the false claim that the U.S. is doing more testing than all other countries combined and said face masks and shields are “plentiful.”
“The last four Governors teleconference calls have been conclusively strong. Because of this success, the Task Force will continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN. We may add or subtract people,” the president tweeted.
Coronavirus task force to disband by June, administration says | Added May 5
Mike Pence has confirmed President Trump’s statement that the White House coronavirus taskforce will be “winding down.” This comes to us from Common Dreams:
President Donald Trump’s coronavirus taskforce is winding down, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday, with operations expected to conclude by June 1—the very same day an internal document from the Centers for Disease Control predicts will mark a doubling of daily deaths from the disease.
“They are just going to declare victory, let thousands die, and hope nobody cares too much,” tweeted journalist Jack Mirkinson.
The New York Times broke the news Tuesday afternoon, reporting that the committee’s “gradual demise, which officials said might never be formally announced, would only intensify the questions about whether the administration is adequately organized to address the complex, life-and-death decisions related to the virus and giving adequate voice to scientists and public health experts in making policy.”
Rick Bright, former head of federal BARDA, files whistleblower complaint | Added May 5
We briefly mentioned the sudden dismissal of Rick Bright a little over a week and a half ago. In another report from CNN today, it is said that he has filed a whistleblower complaint and alleges that, amongst other things, his warnings about the coronavirus were disregarded. From the article:
Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted director of the federal office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine, formally filed an extensive whistleblower complaint Tuesday alleging his early warnings about the coronavirus were ignored and that his caution at a treatment favored by President Donald Trump led to his removal.
Bright said in the complaint he raised urgent concerns about shortages of critical supplies, including masks, to his superiors in the Trump administration but was met with skepticism and surprise.
While Bright said some officials shared his concerns — including top White House trade adviser Peter Navarro — he describes an overall lack of action at the top of the administration even as the virus was spreading outside of China.
US invests heavily in company producing RNA vaccine |Added May 5
The US government has seemingly put all of their eggs in one basket and invested heavily into the pharmaceutical company Moderna and their vaccine development efforts. Moderna, a relatively new company with an unproven track record, is specifically working on an experimental RNA vaccine for Covid-19 that they claim they can have finished this year.
To clarify, this vaccine supposedly works by introducing mRNA into your body, which tells your body to produce the virus itself, to which antibodies are meant to be produced in response. Human trials are already in progress.
This CNN article covers Moderna’s journey, as well as the money on offer to them, and features a brief mention on how some scientists are rather skeptical. And they’re skeptical for good reason. Is now really the time to throw caution to wind with unproven technology simply because this is deemed an emergency, and especially when that unproven technology is in the hands of obscure companies being paid large of amounts of money?
From the article:
For starters, in the rush to get started, the FDA allowed Moderna’s RNA vaccine — called mRNA-1273 — to essentially gloss over the animal-testing that typically precede clinical trials in humans. Given the nature of this emergency, they are happening in parallel.
Siddiqi said this is cause for alarm.
“I would not let that [vaccine] to be injected in my body,” he said. “I would demand: Where is the toxicity data from the lab?”
Professor Nikolai Petrovsky at Flinders University in Australia, who is collaborating with Oracle to use computer models and AI technology to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, has concerns about the mRNA trials, insisting the US government has taken an unproven vaccine and “put (it) straight into humans.”
“It’s a double game,” he said. “An unproven platform for a new disease with no animal testing.”
Solitary confinement being used in prisons to suppress protests| Added May 5
We’ve previously reported on the high numbers of prisoners throughout the US who are testing positive for Covid-19. In this report from Solitary Watch, a watchdog group that monitors abuses of the use of solitary confinement, it is reported how inmates who attempt to speak out about their conditions are being placed into solitary indefinitely.
From their coverage:
In early April, as reports of deaths from COVID-19 began to emerge from U.S. prisons and jails, Aaron Campbell posted a desperate 20-minute Facebook Live video shot using a contraband cell phone. The video showed sick people gasping and coughing on his unit in the low-security federal FCI Elkton in Ohio, and one of the small bottles of soap that was supposed to last each person two weeks.
Campbell said that three people he knew had died in the facility, and that a prison nurse told them to prepare for more deaths on the unit. He claimed that people who met the criteria for home confinement, including himself, were being refused release. Staring into the camera, he said, “We’re people. People shouldn’t have to die like this.”
“Y’all might not see me again,” Campbell said, telling family members he loved them and asking his viewers to pray. But most of all, he asked them to share the video. “They might try to put me in the hole or something,” he said. “But do what y’all got to do. Spread the word on what’s going on to people in prison. Because this shit’s serious.”
The video went viral. Four days later, Campbells’ brother Adrian heard from another incarcerated person’s family that Aaron had been sent to solitary confinement as punishment for using the contraband phone, where he is locked down 23 hours a day with no access to the facility phones. Nearly a month later, Adrian said in an interview, Aaron is still in solitary, with no end date.
WHO claims ‘natural origin’ once again, denies lab origins | Added May 4
The World Health Organization has once again claimed that the virus is natural in origin and continues to associate it with Wuhan’s wildlife market despite not presenting their evidence. There is growing talk from other scientists that it may never be know how the virus initially spread to humans in the first place. The wet market theory has been throughly debunked by contact tracing that indicates the first 13 cases in Wuhan had no contact with the market.
An “intermediate host” animal passed the coronavirus from wild bats to humans, evidence suggests.
But while the World Health Organization says that the research points to the virus’s “natural origin”, some scientists say it might never be known how the first person was infected.
It remains unclear whether this host animal was sold in the now infamous Wuhan wildlife market in China.
But the wildlife trade is seen as a potential source of this “spillover”.
Researchers say the trade provides a source of species-to-species disease transmission, which caused previous outbreaks and has been blamed for this pandemic.
The WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “We were preparing for something like this as it’s not a matter of if, it is a matter of when.”
France finds case of Covid-19 from December | Added May 4
A man in France was determined to have had Covid-19 in December after old pneumonia samples were tested. We’d like to point out that PCR testing was used to determine this case therefore the results lose some meaning. Though if this be true it once again points out that spread was occurring earlier than initially believed, and by extension the models that predicted mass death beyond what is currently being reported were unreliable to begin with.
A French hospital that retested old samples from pneumonia patients has discovered that it treated a man with the coronavirus as early as 27 December, nearly a month before the French government confirmed its first cases.
Dr Yves Cohen, head of resuscitation at the Avicenne and Jean Verdier hospitals in the northern suburbs of Paris, told BFM TV that scientists had retested samples from 24 patients treated in December and January who tested negative for flu.
“Of the 24, we had one who was positive for Covid-19 on 27 December,” he told the news channel on Sunday.
The samples had all initially been collected to detect flu using PCR tests, the same genetic screening process that can also be used to detect the presence of the coronavirus. Each sample was retested several times to ensure that there were no errors, he added.
Amazon VP resigns in disgust | Added May 4
Amazon’s Vice President Tim Bray has resigned due to what he felt was a toxic company culture, exemplified by the firing of whistleblowers and the revocation of unlimited unpaid time off for employees who feared contracting the coronavirus.
Tim Bray, a well known senior engineer and Vice President at Amazon has “quit in dismay” because Amazon has been “firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19.” In an open letter on his website, Bray, who has worked at the company for nearly six years, called the company “chickenshit” for firing and disparaging employees who have organized protests. He also said the firings are “designed to create a climate of fear.”
Amazon’s strategy throughout the coronavirus crisis has been to fire dissenters and disparage them both in the press and behind closed doors. There have been dozens of confirmed coronavirus cases at warehouses around the country, and workers have repeatedly said the company isn’t doing enough to protect them. Last week, Amazon ended a program that allowed workers to take unlimited unpaid time off if they fear getting sick from the coronavirus. Last Friday, Amazon workers together with Target, FedEx, Instacart, and Whole Foods workers, went on strike to protest their working conditions.
In his resignation letter, Bray said that “firing whistleblowers isn’t just a side-effect of macroeconomic forces, nor is it intrinsic to the function of free markets. It’s evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture. I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison.”
New testing method from military research agency | Added May 4
In what a spokesperson from DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has called “absolutely a game changer” it has been announced that the military has developed a new test which reportedly can detect Covid-19 before it is infectious. On a side note, Tony Fauci, the U.S. epidemic master, originally stated that a vaccine for Covid-19 would be the “ultimate game changer.” If this game keeps changing, we won’t be able to keep up.
A new COVID-19 test could be able to tell whether someone’s caught the coronavirus just 24 hours after they were infected — before they even show symptoms or become infectious themselves.
The test came out of DARPA, the U.S. military’s research division, and may be granted an accelerated emergency use authorization by the FDA by the end of the week, according to The Guardian.
If the test works as expected, it could play a major role in preventing future outbreaks by letting people know they need to self-isolate well before they start spreading the coronavirus.
“The concept fills a diagnostic gap worldwide,” Dr. Brad Ringeisen, head of DARPA’s biological technologies office, told The Guardian. He added that, should the FDA approve the test for use, it could be “absolutely a gamechanger.”
The test seems to identify cases of COVID-19 about four days sooner than anything else out there, but DARPA scientists told The Guardian that that’s not yet a definite number. Should the FDA authorize the test, they would be able to conduct further research and nail down how soon it can spot the disease.
Rather than hunting for the virus, the test verifies that someone is sick by identifying their immune system’s response to the disease, which The Guardian reports is harder to miss.
Estimated time of delivery on vaccine | Added May 4
We have recently seen conflicting talk regarding when a vaccine is expected to be completed. Early on it was stated that a vaccine would not be available until sometime next year, and a spokesperson from the WHO has recently claimed as much.
However in an April 29 interview from the Intelligencer with Dr Peter Hotez, co-director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, Hotez asserted that there will not be a vaccine by fall of 2020 and he deemed it “irresponsible” to claim otherwise. He chalked up such claims as being platitudes for shareholders and also said that it was possible that there may be multiple vaccines, or no working vaccine any time soon. Here is his comment from the interview:
“I think we will have a vaccine; I just don’t think it’s a matter of weeks or months. It will take time. We’re going to need plan A and plan B. Plan A is what life looks like as vaccines come online — it will be multiple vaccines. Plan B will be what life will look like if we don’t have a vaccine in the coming months and years. That plan will need to look at some of the models coming out of Harvard, showing that we may see some seasonal spikes every winter, and be prepared to re-implement social distancing if that’s needed. I think that might be a very realistic scenario.”
It doesn’t seem like any actual solutions are being offered and if the situation with rolling out test kits is anything to go by, this lack of coordination and these competing interests don’t inspire confidence.
Maker of Remdesivir increased lobbying efforts early in the year| Added May 4
We’ve previously reported on how there was a lack of a control group in the government-run tests for the Covid-19 treatment remdesivir. And we know now from a May 2 NPR report that Gilead, the company that produces remdesivir, spent more money lobbying congress than it ever has before.
Gilead Sciences, the drugmaker behind the experimental COVID-19 treatment remdesivir, spent more on lobbying Congress and the administration in the first quarter of 2020 than it ever has before, according to federal filings.
The pharmaceutical company spent $2.45 million on lobbying in the first three months of the year, a 32% increase over the $1.86 million it spent in the first quarter of 2019.
The first quarter is also when Congress drafted and passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which contained numerous provisions affecting the pharmaceutical industry, including funding for the development of vaccines and treatments in response to the pandemic.
Early drafts of the legislation included a provision stipulating that COVID-19 vaccines, drugs and tests be affordable if they were developed with taxpayer funds. But the final bill included additional language that undercut that requirement.
Korean scientists conclude that people cannot be infected twice | Added May 3
It was not expected that the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test used to check the blood for antigens – actual particles of the virus itself – could also have issues.
In an admitted case of there being a problem with using the polymerase chain reaction test to check for Covid-19, researchers in South Korea have concluded that those who have been infected with it cannot be infected again. To clarify they believe that it is possible that Covid-19 could still mutate and “[infect] people who have previously overcome it, similarly to the flu.” However in the case of those who were still testing positive despite no longer showing any symptoms, it was due to testing flaws.
A number of reported cases of coronavirus patients relapsing after overcoming the disease were actually due to testing failures, South Korean scientists say.
Researchers at the South Korean centre for disease control and prevention (CDC) now say it is impossible for the COVID-19 virus to reactivate in human bodies.
…But it was not expected that the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test used to check the blood for antigens – actual particles of the virus itself – could also have issues.
South Korea’s CDC has found that the test results for the suspected relapsed patients were false positives, and warned the test it used was not able to distinguish between live traces of the virus and the harmless dead samples which remain after patients have recovered.
Is this undeclared martial law? | Added May 3
The weather is taking a turn for the better in Chicago but on Saturday May 2 Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not mince words regarding how the city will respond to residents who choose not to adhere to the states stay-at-home order. This story and the quotes below come to us from NBC Chicago:
“We will shut you down, we will cite you, and if we have to, we will arrest you,” [Lightfoot] said. “Don’t make us treat you like a criminal, but if you act like a criminal and you violate the law and refuse to do what’s necessary to save lives in the middle of a pandemic, we will take you to jail. Period.”
The state’s “stay-at-home” order is a legal mandate, and Chicago police have the authority to issue citations and to arrest those who are not complying with the order.
“If you host a party, promote a party, or go to a party, we are not playing games. We mean business, and we will shut this down one way or another,” she said. “The time for educating people into compliance is over. Don’t be stupid. We’re watching you, and we’re going to take decisive action.”
Mandatory face mask order amended in Oklahoma | Added May 3
CNN reports that an emergency proclamation in Stillwater, Oklahoma which required citizens to wear masks in stores and restaurants was scaled back due to the combative response it received. We also have a link to the city of Stillwater’s website where they have posted the amended proclamation.
“In the short time beginning on May 1, 2020, that face coverings have been required for entry into stores/restaurants, store employees have been threatened with physical violence and showered with verbal abuse,” Stillwater City Manager Norman McNickle said in a statement.
“In addition, there has been one threat of violence using a firearm. This has occurred in three short hours and in the face of clear medical evidence that face coverings helps contain the spread of Covid-19.”
Due to the threats of violence the city has decided to amend their emergency order but still want people to wear face masks whenever possible, the statement said.
Hospitals paid more for Covid patients | Added May 3
In an April 27 article from USA Today the claims of Republican Senator Scott Jensen of Minnesota are fact checked and reportedly true. According to the article Jensen, who is a physician, claimed in an April 8 interview with Laura Ingraham that “hospitals get paid more if Medicare patients are listed as having COVID-19 and get three times as much money if they need a ventilator.” He added to his assertion on April 19, part of which we feature below, from the article:
Jensen said, “Hospital administrators might well want to see COVID-19 attached to a discharge summary or a death certificate. Why? Because if it’s a straightforward, garden-variety pneumonia that a person is admitted to the hospital for – if they’re Medicare – typically, the diagnosis-related group lump sum payment would be $5,000. But if it’s COVID-19 pneumonia, then it’s $13,000, and if that COVID-19 pneumonia patient ends up on a ventilator, it goes up to $39,000.”
Jensen clarified in the video that he doesn’t think physicians are “gaming the system” so much as other “players,” such as hospital administrators, who he said may pressure physicians to cite all diagnoses, including “probable” COVID-19, on discharge papers or death certificates to get the higher Medicare allocation allowed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Past practice, Jensen said, did not include probabilities.
He noted that some states, including his home state of Minnesota, as well as California, list only laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses. Others, specifically New York, list all presumed cases, which is allowed under guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of mid-April and which will result in a larger payout.
Nashville homeless shelter tests 88 people, 100% asymptomatic | Added May 3
Here is a developing story that was sent in to us regarding the test results of a homeless shelter in Nashville. This story is from the Tennessean:
Nashville Rescue Mission confirmed 88 people at its men’s campus tested positive for COVID-19 and were transported to an emergency homeless shelter at the Nashville fairgrounds.
The positive cases included 80 residents, four staff members and four life recovery participants, according to Nashville Rescue Mission senior director of development Cheryl Chunn.
Chunn said all 88 positive cases at the men’s campus, located at 639 Lafayette Street, were asymptomatic. They were among about 500 tested at the Nashville Rescue Mission’s two campuses last week. She said there were no positive tests at the women’s campus, located at 1716 Rosa L. Parks Blvd.
Do you have anything to declare? Viral samples transported in luggage | Added May 2
On March 30 Yahoo News reported on a disturbing pattern of incidences wherein viral samples were transported in carry-on and checked luggage. The information comes from an unclassified FBI report that they obtained which describes, further, the “biosecurity risk” that China posed.
From Yahoo News:
In late November 2018, just over a year before the first coronavirus case was identified in Wuhan, China, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at Detroit Metro Airport stopped a Chinese biologist with three vials labeled “Antibodies” in his luggage.
The biologist told the agents that a colleague in China had asked him to deliver the vials to a researcher at a U.S. institute. After examining the vials, however, customs agents came to an alarming conclusion.
“Inspection of the writing on the vials and the stated recipient led inspection personnel to believe the materials contained within the vials may be viable Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) materials,” says an unclassified FBI tactical intelligence report obtained by Yahoo News.
The report, written by the Chemical and Biological Intelligence Unit of the FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate (WMDD), does not give the name of the Chinese scientist carrying the suspected SARS and MERS samples, or the intended recipient in the U.S. But the FBI concluded that the incident, and two other cases cited in the report, were part of an alarming pattern.
Bali is doing just fine | Added May 2
We have been following developments in Sweden and their decision not to enact a lockdown, but something new has been brought to our attention. According to a May 2 report from Al Jazeera, Bali is defying expectations in light of their moderate lack of response to the coronavirus. For the most part life has proceeded as usual, and according to the article, there has not been a surge on hospitals or graveyards.
From the article:
The Indonesian resort island of Bali, which received half a million international tourists a month until visas on arrival were halted on March 20, is now the site of a medical mystery that has beguiled many: There are no visible signs of a widespread coronavirus pandemic here.
Days after new tourists were banned and when much of the world was locking down, tens of thousands of Balinese attended Hindu ceremonies marking the New Year.
Life in the Balinese capital, Denpasar continues as normal as Al Jazeera witnessed last weekend in the city’s bustling wet markets.
As of Saturday, there were only 235 confirmed COVID-19 cases on the island, including 121 recoveries and four deaths – figures that fly in the face of predictions by contagious disease experts cited in reports by Al Jazeera and other news sources, which warned Bali could emerge as a coronavirus hotspot in Indonesia.
Bill Gates and his ties to Jeffrey Epstein | Added May 2
In fact, beginning in 2011, Mr. Gates met with Mr. Epstein on numerous occasions — including at least three times at Mr. Epstein’s palatial Manhattan townhouse, and at least once staying late into the night, according to interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with the relationship, as well as documents reviewed by The New York Times.
The many issues and conflicts of interest surrounding Bill Gates as he strives to be a leader in this time have been of great to concern to us. Prior to his current, darling status in the media there was this October 12 2019 article from the New York times that delves into Gates’ relationship to Jeffrey Epstein.
Despite Gates’ claim that they were not friends, they met many times as the article points out. The article also notes that Gates’ former science adviser Boris Nikolic was named one of three executors to Epstein’s estate (to which, Nikolic declined). What was the true extent of Gates’ and Epstein’s relationship? Whatever it was, it doesn’t bode well in light of Epstein’s history.
Note: Regarding whether Epstein was killed or killed himself, the issue remains unsettled in our opinion and in our view the medical facts are inconsistent with suicide.
From the article:
Mr. Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, whose $100 billion-plus fortune has endowed the world’s largest charitable organization, has done his best to minimize his connections to Mr. Epstein. “I didn’t have any business relationship or friendship with him,” he told The Wall Street Journal last month.
In fact, beginning in 2011, Mr. Gates met with Mr. Epstein on numerous occasions — including at least three times at Mr. Epstein’s palatial Manhattan townhouse, and at least once staying late into the night, according to interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with the relationship, as well as documents reviewed by The New York Times.
Two members of Mr. Gates’s inner circle — Boris Nikolic and Melanie Walker — were close to Mr. Epstein and at times functioned as intermediaries between the two men.
Growing strain on effort to launch clinical trials for coronavirus treatments | Added May 1
With so many different groups attempting to blaze ahead in producing treatments for the virus, the growing need for available personnel and patients is causing a problem. As some trials become redundant and others lack enough patients, the results of the trials are, if not being called into question, becoming less meaningful.
Scientists and drug companies searching for a coronavirus treatment have launched so many clinical trials that some now fear they will run out of patients to enroll, trial sites or personnel to carry out the tests.
There are more than 70 coronavirus drug and vaccine trials now registered with the Food and Drug Administration. Many, but not all, are taking place in the U.S. Although the number of new coronavirus infections nationwide is still climbing, the frenetic pace at which trials are launching — and the number that are potentially redundant or don’t involve enough patients to reach accurate conclusions — could prevent some of these studies from producing useful results.
In China, where stringent infection-control measures sharply reduced the number of new coronavirus cases, two trials of Gilead’s experimental antiviral drug remdesivir were halted recently for lack of participants.
Remdesivir refresher | Added May 1
A lot of news has broken about the drug remdesivir in the past few days, and in the interest of catching up and sharing relevant information, here is a roundup of stories we’ve collected on the drug. Starting with the most recent:
FDA announces emergency approval
We share this May 1 story from NBC Philadelphia which details the announcement of remdesivir being approved for use in the US. We include the quotation on the drug’s side effects for reference. From the article:
“U.S. regulators on Friday allowed emergency use of the first drug that appears to help some COVID-19 patients recover faster, a milestone in the global search for effective therapies against the coronavirus.”
“The FDA acted after preliminary results from a government-sponsored study showed that the drug, remdesivir, shortened the time to recovery by 31%, or about four days on average, for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.”
“The drug’s side effects include potential inflammation of the liver and problems related to its infusion, which could lead to nausea, vomiting, sweating and low blood pressure. Information about dosing and potential safety issues will be provided to physicians and patients, the FDA said.”
Results of remdesivir trial
STAT News ran an article on April 29 which detailed the results of the government run study on the drug and its efficacy. The results of the study are what lead to it being fast tracked and approved for emergency use, despite the issue of there being no control group for the study. What control group means in this instance is that there were no patients who were left untreated to compare to those who took the remdesivir. Stat points that out in the article, in detail.
Remdesivir trials initally called into question
On April 27 before the release of the study results, STAT News initally brought up the issue of there being no control group and what that could mean for the study.
Workers from Amazon, Whole Foods, and Instacart organize mass strike| Added May 1
A series of work stoppages, sick-outs, and protests in recent weeks will culminate on Friday, May 1 in a historic strike organized by frontline workers at some of the country’s largest corporations.
Workers at Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart, Walmart, FedEx, Target, and Shipt say they will walk off the job on May 1 to protest their employers’ failure to provide basic protections for frontline workers who are risking and losing their lives at work. Meanwhile, these same companies are making record profits.
Worker-led online groups, such as Whole Worker, Target Workers Unite, and the Instacart Shoppers (National) Facebook group, with thousands of members spanning the country—have been years in the making, but have experienced unprecedented growth during the pandemic, organizers say.
Analog hobbies make a comeback | Added May 1
Being stuck at home doesn’t have to equate with relying on the internet for your hobbies, pastimes and creative needs. The New York Times has a report on how under these shelter-in-place orders some people have decided to take up decidedly “Victorian” hobbies that are, for the most part, not reliant on the digital world.
With 26 million people applying for unemployment benefits in the last five weeks, and others furloughed or with hours freed from commuting, many are finding themselves with more leisure time, wanted or not. Some are turning to virtual versions of their favorite pre-pandemic activities: digital dance raves, game nights and exercise classes have all popped up since lockdown began.
But others are cutting down on screen time by pursuing old-timey crafts of a bygone era: namely the Victorian times of 19th-century England, when greater wealth and industrialization afforded the privileged upper class more idle time to hang out at home. The new leisure class filled their down time with activities like fern collecting, flower pressing, scrapbooking, board games and playing chamber music on their own instruments.
In the 19th century, intellectuals like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and others started to expand on the positive psychological benefits associated with a concept now known as mastery: practicing an activity at which you have no previous level of expertise, and experiencing gradual improvement over time.
“Drive-thru”strip club | May 1
Looking for something to eat? There’s a strip club in Oregon that is now offering both dinner and a show. The Lucky Devil Lounge has recently begun to offer food pickup via their drive-thru, strip club experience.
Customers slowly drive through a tent that contains four dancers and a DJ. The first 50 cars get a free roll of toilet paper.
“You pull in and you get one or two songs with the gogos, then we bring your food out to you and then you go on your way,” explained Lucky Devil Lounge owner Shon Boulden in a video report uploaded by The Oregonian
“We’re continuing to keep our kitchen guys working, all of our bartenders, all of our dancers,” he added.