Kevzara in Clinical Trials to Treat Critical Wuhan/SARS-CoV2

Regeneron is holding clinical trials in the US for the drug Kevzara, for use in critically ill Wuhan virus patients. Sanofi Pharmaceuticals is expanding clinical trials for the drug in the countries Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Canada, and Russia.

The trial, expected to enroll about 300 patients, will recruit hospitalized patients from several countries who are severely or critically ill with [Wuhan / COVID-19] infection, a disease caused by the highly contagious coronavirus.

Kevzara is an immune response modifying drug in the class of monoclonal antibodies. Kevzara inhibits the inflammatory substance IL-6, and may help to stop the ARDS cascade in the lungs and elsewhere in the body. The drug is ordinarily used to treat the crippling disease rheumatoid arthritis, but like several other drugs is being “repurposed” for fighting Wuhan CoV-19.

The biggest causes of deaths from COVID-19 include pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in patients critically ill from COVID-19, and it is thought the drugs targeting the IL-6 pathway can address this life-threatening inflammation seen in these patients. __

Another “monoclonal antibody” drug that is being repurposed for Wuhan coronavirus is leronlimab, an anti-cancer drug.

“The coronavirus kills people because of acute respiratory distress in the lungs, because of inflammation in the lungs,” CytoDyn President and CEO Nader Pourhassan said. “Our drugs will take the inflammation down immediately.” … Preliminary results have been promising, according to its Interim Chief Medical Officer Jacob Lalezari. Some 10 patients have been given the drug, and, so far, four patients are exhibiting significant improvements.

… “To be very clear, leronlimab does not kill the novel coronavirus. It acts as a CCR5 antagonist by blocking pro-inflammatory cytokines, which prevents cytokine storm and thus could be useful in the treatment of COVID-19,” Pourhassan said. __ Source

“Cytokine Storm” is Associated with Life-Threatening ARDS

Under certain kinds of assault, the human immune system can be tricked into releasing a cascade of inflammatory molecules that can result in death. Note that some people are more prone to ARDS than others, which could help to explain why some people with Wuhan CoV-19 get a mild cold or a mild viral pneumonia, and others develop ARDS, cytokine storm, and die.

In early ARDS, increased capillary permeability is the hallmark outcome of the inflammatory process resulting from direct or indirect lung injury with disruption of the capillary-alveolar interface. This leads to leakage of protein-rich fluid from the capillary into the alveoli resulting in diffuse alveolar injury triggering an overwhelming release of pro-inflammatory cytokines mainly TNF, IL-1 and IL-6 and creating an imbalance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. This initiates the inflammation cascade and recruits’ neutrophils which again play a crucial role in causing inflammation by releasing ROS and proteases. It has been noted that patients with ARDS, have transcription abnormalities involving NF-kappa B which is required for transcription of genes responsible for pro-inflammatory mediators. Other substances such as endothelin-1, angiotensin-2 and phospholipase A2 have also been found to worsen vascular permeability and underlying inflammation causing increased lung injury[12-15]. A hyper- inflammatory sub phenotype in ARDS has been recently identified and associated with worse outcomes compared to a hypo-inflammatory sub phenotype[8]. __ Diagnosis & Treatment of Acute Pulmonary Inflammation…

Other Companies Involved in Treatments and Vaccines

A number of other companies are actively involved in the testing of existing drugs against the novel coronavirus. Yet more companies around the world are frantically developing new vaccines for use against Wuhan/COVID-19.

Johnson & Johnson’s announcement that it expects its vaccine to be available in 2021 comes after biotech firm Moderna administered its first dose of a vaccine to a trial patient earlier this month.

Other companies involved in the treatment or vaccine process include BioNTech SE and Pfizer, Gilead Sciences, GlaxoSmithKline, Heat Biologics, Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Novavax, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Roche Holding, Sanofi, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company and Vaxart, Marketwatch reported.

So far, only Moderna is in the clinical trial phase for a vaccine while Regeneron and Sanofi, Roche and Gilead Sciences are in the clinical trial phases for a treatment. The World Health Organization lists Moderna and China-based company CanSino Biologics, partnered with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, as the only two groups with a vaccine in the clinical trial phase.

DiaSorin Molecular and QIAGEN have received federal funding to develop coronavirus diagnostic tests that deliver results in an hour. And BuzzFeed News reported that Pharmaceutical Product Development was awarded money to study the use of hydrochloroquine and chloroquine—drugs used to combat malaria—as treatment for coronavirus patients.

“You’re going to be hearing over the next month or more about different drugs that are going to go into these randomized controlled trials,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious diseases expert at the National Institute of Health, said last week at the White House. “I feel confident—knowing about what this virus is and what we can do with it—that we will have some sort of therapy that will give at least a partial, if not a very good, protection in preventing progression of disease.”

Fauci has warned that it would likely be up to 18 months before a widespread vaccine would be available in mass quantities for the public. __ Newsweek

You Will Probably Not Die from Coronavirus

In the US, you are more likely to die of these things, in increasing order:

3,000: food poisoning
5,000: choking
6,946: accidental hanging
7,450: pedestrians hit by a car
7,740: obesity
12,316: pregnancy-related
20,108: inflammation resulting from food or liquids getting into the lungs
35,000: antibiotic-resistant bacteria
35,823: alcohol-induced deaths
36,336: falls
40,922: blood poisoning resulting from bacteria
47,173: suicide
55,672: flu and pneumonia
64,795: accidental poisoning
83,564: diabetes
121,404: Alzheimer’s
160,201: chronic lower respiratory disease
169,936: all accidental deaths
250,000: medical errors
599,108: cancer
647,457: heart disease __ Common Causes of Death US

When the reaper comes for you, all the toilet paper in the world will not buy you more time.

Because we have no vaccines and no well-established treatments for the severe form of Wuhan Coronavirus, it represents a temporary threat to populations, health care systems, and health care providers. These systems and providers are needed for dealing with other health problems which cause far higher numbers of morbidity and mortality than does Wuhan, so we are attempting to follow policies that we think will spare these workers and systems..

While we are not likely to die of the disease, we have to deal with it.

And even if China did not deliberately set this pandemic loose on the rest of the world,


The ongoing global pandemic is causing such severe economic disruption, that it represents a type of “reset” or “restart” global historical phenomenon. At the end of another such event — World War II — the US was essentially the “last man standing,” allowing the country to boost the rest of the civilized world to economic and industrial recovery from the horrible devastation.

The economic destruction and death counts from Wuhan-19 are nothing like WWII, yet the analogy of “reset” holds. Countries that give their economies the benefit of low taxes, low regulations, intellectual property rights, right to work, and fair trade practices, will be in a better position to skyrocket to higher levels of prosperity. Obviously China wants to be “the last man standing” after Wuhan CoV-19 plays itself out, but this can only happen if Europe and the Anglosphere let it happen.

US Wuhan CoV-19 Mortality Rates Lower than Most of World

The US and the world is hard at work developing vaccines, treatments, and better testing in order to meet the challenge of novel coronavirus. But while medical workers are battling on the front lines, other trained experts must make sense of the markedly non-homogeneous nature of the global outbreak. Besides the variability in the quality and quantity of intensive care treatment, it is likely that there is population variability in biological susceptibility to severe pneumonia and ARDS from coronavirus.

According to the Worldometer, a private statistical resource used by Johns Hopkins University, the New York Times and others, as of April 1, the United States had 188,881 cases and 4,066 deaths, for a total fatality rate of 2.15%.

That is the one of the lowest fatality rates among the world’s major developed countries. In the world as a whole, according to Worldometer, by April 1 there had been a total of 884,075 coronavirus cases, resulting in 44,169 fatalities, for a world fatality rate of 4.99%.

… Thus, the U.S. fatality rate ranks among the lowest of any developed country, bettered only by Germany and South Korea, and well ahead of China, Italy, Spain, France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. __

The case mortality rate on the Diamond Princess cruise ship was about 1%. There is no reason to expect the final number to be significantly higher than that, once the entire world catches up on testing for the virus.

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The Many Strains of Wuhan Coronavirus

The Deadly Chimeric Virus Has Many Strains

The origins of the Wuhan Coronavirus are wreathed in mystery. There are some who may wish the mystery is never solved.

Someone manufacturing a virus targeting people would have started with one that attacked humans, wrote National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins… __ USA Today

But scientific labs across the western world are now on the trail, and will not rest until they get some answers. By tracking genetic mutations in the virus, they can trace individual outbreaks to help snuff them out.

It’s like a wildfire, Chiu said. A few sparks might fly off the fire and land in the grass and start new fires. But if the main fire is doused and its embers stomped out, you can kill off an entire strain. In California, Chiu sees a lot of sparks hitting the ground, most coming from Washington, but they’re quickly being put out.

… “The outbreaks are trackable. We have the ability to do genomic sequencing almost in real-time to see what strains or lineages are circulating,” he said. __ Source

The SARS-CoV-2 virus first began causing illness in China sometime between mid-November and mid-December. Its genome is made up of about 30,000 base pairs. Humans, by comparison, have more than 3 billion. So far even in the virus’s most divergent strains scientists have found only 11 base pair changes.

That makes it easy to spot new lineages as they evolve, said Chiu.

… So far, most cases on the U.S. West Coast are linked to a strain first identified in Washington state. It may have come from a man who had been in Wuhan, China, the virus’ epicenter, and returned home on Jan. 15. It is only three mutations away from the original Wuhan strain, according to work done early in the outbreak by Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutch, a medical research center in Seattle.

On the East Coast there are several strains, including the one from Washington and others that appear to have made their way from China to Europe and then to New York and beyond, Chiu said.

… COVID-19 hits people differently, with some feeling only slightly under the weather for a day, others flat on their backs sick for two weeks and about 15% hospitalized. Currently, an estimated 1% of those infected die. The rate varies greatly by country and experts say it is likely tied to testing rates rather than actual mortality.

Chiu says it appears unlikely the differences are related to people being infected with different strains of the virus.

“The current virus strains are still fundamentally very similar to each other,” he said.

The COVID-19 virus does not mutate very fast. It does so eight to 10 times more slowly than the influenza virus, said Anderson, making its evolution rate similar to other coronaviruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

It’s also not expected to spontaneously evolve into a form more deadly than it already is to humans. The SARS-CoV-2 is so good at transmitting itself between human hosts, said Andersen, it is under no evolutionary pressure to evolve.

It Is Here; Be Responsible; Don’t Overreact and Make it Worse

Whether the virus was created and spread intentionally by networks of party operatives — or whether this entire fiasco happened by a long chain of accidents — the problem must be dealt with. Apart from individual responsibility and careful sanitation measures, we must decide what level of “social distancing” is appropriate for each region, country, province, and municipality.

We are trying to stave off and arrest a pandemic. Given what is being recommended, we think we need some second or third opinions. This pandemic, now that it has reached America, has taken 3,173 lives here. This, from a tested population of 164,359 cases. That’s a mortality rate of 1.9%. But immediately, questions must be asked. We record every case of death from the coronavirus, but we have no idea how many people have had the coronavirus. Clearly, there are more than 164,359 cases because not everyone has been tested. That would put the mortality rate at less than 1.9%. That rate could be far, far less. As Eran Bendavid and Jay Bhattacharya, professors of medicine at Stanford, have written, based on their model of over 6 million cases they believe exist: “That’s a mortality rate of 0.01%, assuming a two-week lag between infection and death. This is one-tenth of the flu mortality rate of 0.1%.”

Again, as we pointed have out before: Each death is a tragedy and horrible, but the chance of it is also very small, depending on if you contract the virus and what your age and underlying medical conditions are. Will the numbers be much bigger than our annual rate of flu deaths? Already this year we have lost 24,000 to the flu and expect that number to rise at least another 24,000, probably more. Coronavirus deaths at half the flu number would also be much smaller than our annual rate of opioid overdose deaths—46,802—or annual deaths due to motor vehicle crashes, 33,654. For none of these problems—some anthropogenic and due to acts of volition, some caused by nature—have we or do we change, literally, everything, from stay in shelter orders and travel bans to the shuttering of almost all retail and service businesses.

We have lost perspective. __

Safety in the Herd?

A Useful Look at Prospects for Immunity from Wuhan Coronavirus

Resolving the COVID-19 pandemic quickly hinges on a crucial factor: how well a person’s immune system remembers SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the disease, after an infection has resolved and the patient is back in good health.

Image Source
Two flu viruses can sometimes infect the same host cell. When they spill their contents into the cell, their genetic material can recombine, generating new hybrid viruses that are mixtures of their precursors. (Rebecca Senft, Science in the News)

This phenomenon, called immune memory, helps our bodies avoid reinfection by a bug we’ve had before and influences the potency of life-saving treatments and vaccines. By starving pathogens of hosts to infect, immune individuals cut off the chain of transmission, bolstering the health of the entire population.

… Even as the pandemic evolves, researchers are already looking ahead. Just as the response to this outbreak was informed by its predecessors, so too will COVID-19 teach us about what’s to come, Qiuhong Wang says. The entry of other coronavirus strains into our species “is inevitable.”

Herd immunity can be acquired by at least two means: widespread effective vaccinations, and large scale infection and recovery. A third method, passive immunity, only lasts as long as the person receives antibodies from another party.

Outlook for vaccines

The Mysterious Recombinant Virus is a Problem to be Solved

Two questions remain unanswered: in which organism did this recombination occur? (a bat, a pangolin or another species?) And above all, under what conditions did this recombination take place? __ Wuhan Coronavirus is a Recombinant Strain

The Wuhan coronavirus will be a hard lesson to learn. It is likely that its release was unintentional, although some of the subsequent spread was criminally negligent — if not criminally intentional. The costs will be high.

Nonetheless, because the original release of the virus was unintentional, this Chinese virus is not the one that will bring on the end of the world as we know it. If we learn our lessons well, the next one — the intentional one — may be much more survivable.

More: Numbers and causes of death in US

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Wuhan Virus: Is China At War With the Rest of the World?

No. It is the Communist Party That Has Declared War

Update: China’s war against Italy: A Pretense of Aid

Update: China sends faulty medical equipment to Europe

Guest Article by Brian T. Kennedy:

The Chinese Communist Party, led by Chairman Xi Jinping, has a membership of 90 million out of a country of 1.4 billion. Not all may be doctrinaire Marxists or Maoists, but they form a ruling elite for a regime that has managed to bring wealth and prestige to a once-poor people. They have overseen the building of a modern industrial base, and the creation of a first-world military complete with an advanced nuclear arsenal. Their intelligence services are larger and more sophisticated than those of any other nation on earth.

At the heart of China’s communist ideology is a deep-seated resentment against the world. After the Century of Humiliation where China was exploited by the Western powers, Russia, and Japan, they are committed to never letting that happen again.

If one doubts the CCP’s resolve, one need look no further than the fact that they have killed, through famine and other means, almost 100 million of their own countrymen in a series of communist social and economic reforms they believed necessary to modernize their country. In other words, these are not a people to be taken lightly. The presidency of Donald Trump presents the greatest strategic threat to their desire to establish themselves as the world’s preeminent economic and military power.

Although it is not the position of our government that the CCP was behind the creation and weaponization of the Chinese virus, we need to at least entertain the notion that a nation that has, in the recent past, killed tens of millions of its own people would not think twice about killing thousands or even millions of other peoples from other countries if it meant putting them in a greater strategic position and helping them fulfill their objective of a communist world order.

What is indisputable is the fact that the CCP almost immediately began to position the virus as a political and economic weapon against the United States. Whether the virus occurred naturally or was accidentally released from a laboratory, our Center for Disease Control was not, and has not, been given access to Wuhan. Either there was something they wanted to keep from the United States, or they sought to send a hostile message to the United States about their intentions.

Although the origin of the virus may be unknowable for now, the Chinese response was unambiguous. The CCP’s Xinhua news service threatened Americans that they could plunge us into a “mighty sea of coronavirus” since it was they who controlled the supply chain for the active pharmaceutical ingredients used in the production of 90% of our medicines.

This overt threat to the security of the American people was followed by a government spokesman propagating the lie that the U.S. military created and spread the virus in Wuhan. Their intelligence services also pushed the narrative that they did not even know where the virus came from, that it was likely an invention of the CIA, and that the world should be thankful for the CCP’s quick response. In war, this is what propaganda looks like.

Consider the possible alternatives.

When the virus broke out, the CCP could have immediately given open access to the United States and other countries with advanced healthcare systems in the hopes of trying to save lives both in China and those countries around the world that would inevitably be exposed to the virus. Open access would have been a signal to the world that China was a responsible global actor concerned about both the welfare of its own people and those of the world. Such action would have clearly communicated that our shared prosperity and well-being would require a global response.

The United States and the world would have opened their arms and their laboratories to help China get through this awful mess as quickly as possible. Each nation’s own self-interest would have dictated as much. Instead the CCP did the exact opposite. The United States was denied access and uncertainty about the virus increased dramatically throughout the world.

This uncertainty has led to greater fear and animosity about the lethality of the Wuhan virus than was necessary. So far the virus seems to impact different populations in different ways. It’s not yet clear exactly what threat profile it presents to America as a whole. But the fact that we don’t know has led us to err on the side of caution and treat this virus like a 1918-level event. The consequence has been a shutdown of the largest economy in the world.

Without putting too fine a point on it, China seems to have taken the position that if they were to suffer the coronavirus, so too was the United States and the rest of the world. What else is to explain the continuation of flights from China to the United States at the rate of some 20,000 passengers a day, until President Trump wisely shut them down?

The Chinese economy was already suffering the consequences of President Trump’s America First policies. Not only had tough trade deals been struck, but serious efforts were underway by the Trump Administration to stop the trillions being stolen in U.S. intellectual property, the CCP’s aggressive industrial espionage, and their sophisticated political influence operations throughout the United States. From the CCP’s point of view, their fundamental business model was under attack.

Given the problems in the Chinese economy that arose as a result of the ongoing trade war with the United States and Donald Trump, the CCP and Xi Jinping appear to have made the calculation that a crisis caused by the virus would be preferable. A virus-induced crisis would include the added benefit of slowing down the U.S. economy and might reset American politics as well. However popular President Trump might be, it would be difficult in an election year to handle an economic crisis of this magnitude without suffering some political consequences. That this does not make economic sense for China in the short run is rather beside the point. They are playing a much longer game.

Our immediate crisis is not only about the loss of life we will suffer from the Wuhan virus. President Trump has mobilized the economic and industrial engine of the United States to build the capacity to deal with the medical challenges that are about to occur. In a more fundamental sense, this is about our ability as a nation to wage war and defend our way of life.

This challenge is primarily intellectual. We must disenthrall ourselves of globalism. That we would allow the United States to have a key strategic commodity like medicine produced outside the country suggests a kind of death wish unbefitting of a free people. Although Wall Street kingpins will recoil from what they will perceive as a pull back from the rest of the world, our response must be a national commitment to relocate strategic global supply chains back to the United States. This kind of common-sense investment will be part of healing our broken economy.

Right now, the Communist Chinese are more than happy to have the United States on lockdown as long as possible. Every day that goes by, millions of American workers—deplorables if you will—are sitting home, many of them unemployed, and worried about their future. Efforts to reopen the economy are being met with calls for it to stay shut lest the virus spread. Democrat governors who oppose President Trump and members of the federal government’s scientific/medical community—who allowed us to be so ill-prepared in the first place—have little incentive to push for a reopening.

We need to take reasonable measures to prevent the spread of the virus. But the President needs to get Americans back to work as soon as possible. In wars men die. This war with the CCP is no different. As precious as we Americans believe each life is, this is about our freedom and our economic ability to defend that freedom. That will only happen when we are back to work and building the industrial capacity that will free us from Communist China. This can happen none too soon. __

I suspect the author of the above piece is correct: Once China understood how badly it would suffer from the virus, its communist leaders made a conscious decision to bring down as many others as possible. In that way, China’s strategic disadvantage would be minimized.

Pathogenic viruses found in Chinese scientists travel luggage

Mysterious Wuhan virus perhaps just one of many bat viruses collected by Wuhan scientist

It does no good to walk into the fire with our eyes closed. The behavior of the Chinese communists is the behavior of an aggrieved and guilty party, who wishes to do as much harm to others as possible — while at the same time giving the appearance of responsible concern and cooperation.

Keep in mind that much of the western media is playing along with the Communist Party of China’s propaganda storyline. These people are not your friends.

US Daily New Cases:

Watch the curve to see if it begins to flatten out over a sustained period. Trends over a few days are not as significant as trends that last a week or more.

How to write a false pandemic narrative

  • Silence dissenting voices
  • Block information
  • Spin up state-run media
  • Spread disinformation
  • Promote conspiracy theories
  • Write a book
  • Deploy a Twitter army
  • Gin up more conspiracy theories
  • Start donating stuff
  • No conspiracy theory is too wild

Chinese officials refused to provide samples of its coronavirus strains to U.S. researchers shortly after the outbreak became public and did not allow international disease specialists to visit Wuhan for weeks. __ Source

China’s assault on the world

Posted in Biomedicine, China | Tagged | 2 Comments

New 13 Minute PCR Coronavirus Test Being Ramped Up

Private industry is capable of responding to a crises — if it is taken off its government leash.

Abbott is in the midst of ramping up production and expects to deliver 50,000 of the tests per day in the US as of next week. However, one of its greatest advantages may be its existing footprint. The ID NOW platform already has the “largest” molecular testing presence in the US, and is already “widely available” in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms. If all goes well, the US could both have a more accurate representation of the pandemic’s scope and ensure that the infected get the right care as quickly as possible. __ Lab in a Box

This is not a simple “antibody test.” This test detects viral RNA after quick amplification (5-10 minutes) on site. It is a confirmatory test, not a screening test. But the company is ramping up production and release to the medical community, where it can be used to follow up on positive antibody screening tests.

American industries are responding to the crisis better than any other nation is, has, or can. Ford, GE, and 3M have pooled their resources to build ventilators (the hospital equipment that enables sufferers to breath) as well as face masks that may be able to filter out the virus. President Trump, having asked General Motors to help and found their response lacking, has ordered them to produce ventilators under the Defense Production Act. __ Source

Private venture capital giving money to Coronavirus-Tech Startups
3D printing coronavirus test swabs
NYC Makerspaces learn from creating 3D personal protective equipment

Blame the Swamp for Slow Global Response

China has its own swamp. Without the Chinese swamp, the global spread of CV-Wuhan19 would have been curtailed by roughly 95% of what we are seeing today. The EU also has a swamp, as does the US. Thanks to these entrenched and corrupt swamps, countries around the world were caught on the back foot and must fight back all the harder as a result.

You can compare the fatality rates by country in the table above. The Chinese rate is not considered reliable due to contradictory claims by government vs other on-the-ground parties. A similar lack of confidence applies to the Iranian counts and rates.

The US distribution of cumulative cases and deaths can be seen in the table below.

Note where the lion’s share of new cases and deaths are being seen. The lack of uniformity in disease stats between the different states and regions of the US should provide important information — just as the fact that Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan were able to quickly slow their rates of new cases and deaths should provide valuable information. And they did it without going “total draconian shutdown.”

In addition, comparing countries with tropical climates and warmer March weather, with countries experiencing cooler weather, should inform the discerning reader.

Draining the Swamp Will Save Lives

The Swamp kills. It is not surprising that the news media fails to pass that information along, since so much of the media is an important part of The Swamp’s activist element. But if you want to save lives, you will accelerate the draining of the vile swamp.

Under heavy White House pressure, agencies are lifting barriers. But it was only late Thursday, for example, that the Food and Drug Administration waived some restrictions on the production and sale of surgical masks — more than two months after the first coronavirus case in the United States was confirmed, in Washington state on Jan. 20.

It’s the latest example of red tape gone awry that could prove deadly. It took weeks for the feds to waive regs even on coronavirus testing kits. For more than a month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only allowed the use of its test — which proved to be inaccurate much of the time — even as companies were champing at the bit to produce better and faster kits.

South Korea kept the spread of the virus under better control than most countries because of its widespread testing, something that took the United States months to match. __ Cutting Red Tape

The disingenuous news media is blaming Trump for the actions of the swamp that he has been trying so hard for three years to drain. If only the news media/swamp had not been trying so hard to keep Trump from his job. Think how many thousands of lives might have been saved.

In Washington, leaders typically respond to crises by expanding federal power — drafting new laws and regulations, leaning heavily on federal muscle. The COVID-19 pandemic is revealing President Trump to be a different kind of animal, with instincts and alliances that were forged over years in the private sector, where initiatives tend to move faster and finding creative ways to save money is considered a bragging point. (After all, it is usually one’s own money.)

… Indeed, the medical equipment shortage which has so panicked health care workers from the onset of the crisis often seems to be largely logistical. In other words, a lot of the ventilators and masks are out there — just in unexpected and formerly off-limits places. With a more liberated FDA and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there’s a whole lotta creative repurposing going on.

Animal hospitals, for instance, are full of ventilators — and they are just like the kind humans use. __ Source

Trump has barely begun to free up private industry from the rancid tendrils of swamp grunge. As we discover how society can operate better with fewer regulations and less red tape, more people will understand the destructive effect of government bloat and overreach.

The swamp media has achieved a significant level of panic among the general public, thanks partially to faulty disease models. But there are only so many incompetent city and state governments as one finds around New York. Just as New York is custom made for the spread of infectious diseases such as CV-Wuhan19, so is the rest of the country more resistant to that kind of spread.

A media mis-reading of Fauci

We will watch Sweden closely, given its “outlier” containment policies

Social isolation should be tailored for the location. A one-size fits all policy is absurd.

The curious case of a decreased all-cause mortality in Europe (and the US). It is possible that we are not seeing the typical “flu bump” in total mortality, because people are being more cautious about contagion reduction.


  • go to work
  • stay away from crowds
  • wash your hands
  • wear a mask in public
  • don’t touch your face
  • don’t shake hands
  • keep public surfaces clean/disinfected
  • wear cotton gloves in public

In the grocery store:

Go shopping at a time that’s less busy. If you type in the store’s name and location in Google search, a box often will pop up showing when foot traffic there is highest.
Take germicide with you. Use it to wipe your hands and the cart before and after you shop.
Use a credit or debit card. That way, you don’t have to hand over bills or receive change. Also, use your own pen to sign receipts. If you can, use a virtual payment system like Apple Pay so that you don’t have to open your wallet at all.

More at source

More Draining the Swamp:

Another newly opened area is telemedicine. Formerly, the FDA and Medicare forbade anyone but rural seniors from accessing telemedicine, and they required that the doctor talking to the remote patient be licensed in the same state as the patient. But all of that is now changed, thanks to the temporary easing of rules protecting the privacy of sensitive medical records transmitted over computer networks. Part of that regulatory relaxation has included timely reassurance to doctors that they won’t get sued for patient privacy breeches during the crisis. Now, doctors may even use their own phones to do a computer consult.

Then there is the “Right to Try Act” act, which allows terminally ill patients to try experimental therapies, i.e. those that have completed Phase I testing but have not been approved by the FDA. Greeted with a vast yawn by the press when it was signed into law by the president in May, 2018, its importance has been underlined with the discovery that off-label uses of an anti-malaria drug called hydroxychloroquine may save people dying of COVID-19. President Trump has touted the early promise shown by the drug in treating COVID-19 patients, despite a more cautious posture adopted by Dr. Fauci and press criticism that the president is raising false hopes for a panacea and recklessly inspiring dangerous self-medication and risky experimentation.

Some of the folks hampered from doing more by federal regulations were the nation’s truckers, many of whom were eager to be part of the solution.

“Besides the doctors and nurses and hospitals, we’re the next level,” a 27-year-old trucker named Daryl Ward told a Memphis television station. “When you’re sleeping, we’re moving.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has now stepped in to issue a nationwide emergency declaration suspending the rule that drivers can only spend 11 hours behind the wheel in a 14-hour workday, provided they are hauling critical supplies like medical equipment, food, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectants.

Another federal waiver was needed from the Department of Transportation to reopen truck stops that were initially closed en masse by state governments struggling to comply with the requirement to close nonessential businesses. TV footage of truckers stopped on the sides of interstates, trying to catch naps in their crowded cabs, without a place to eat or use the bathroom, made for good television. So, on March 17, the U.S. Department of Transportation deemed truck stops “essential businesses,” too vital to shut down. __ Source

Bureaucrats are just doing their job. It is the people at the center of the swamp who are to blame.

Why didn’t the feds immediately waive those non-essential requirements when it became clear it was crunch time? Mostly because bureaucrats assume they can only get in trouble for allowing something that later produces problems, rather than for stopping something that was actually fine — a rule that’s all too true in normal times.

Federal manufacturing regs aren’t the only ones that have burdened the nation’s response to the pandemic. Only after Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in New York on March 7 did he put the pause on a number of now-ridiculous state rules — like one that kept doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants who were licensed in another state but not New York from jumping in to help.

Hospitals couldn’t even temporarily increase their bed capacities without state approval. Only registered nurses could collect swab specimens. The list goes on.

Even now, companies looking to help out face major uncertainties: The FDA has only said it “does not intend to object” to the sale of masks that don’t meet its normal regs, for instance — leaving open the risk that you could sincerely play good Samaritan now, and be slammed for it later.

We’ve always known red tape kills jobs. Now the nation is learning it can kill people, too. __ Source

Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | Leave a comment

New French Study Confirms Benefit of HydroxyChloroquine

A recent Marseille study of 80 patients with novel coronavirus showed very encouraging results, using the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin:

In 80 in-patients receiving a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, the team found a clinical improvement in all but one 86 year-old patient who died, and one 74-year old patient still in intensive care unit. The team also found that, by administering hydroxychloroquine combined with azithromycin, they were able to observe an improvement in all cases, except in one patient who arrived with an advanced form, who was over the age of 86, and in whom the evolution was irreversible, according to a new paper published today in IHU Méditerranée Infection. ___

These results will have ample opportunity to be replicated by medical personnel around the globe, as the case counts of the Wuhan coronavirus continue to ramp up — particularly in densely populated areas.

They Called Trump a Xenophobe and an Alarmist When He Restricted Travel

The mayors of NYC and New Orleans refused to take the warning seriously, and as a result their cities are bursting with new cases of Wuhan virus.

President Trump’s order to halt all travel from China on January 31, for example, was met with hollers of xenophobia from the loudest corners of mainstream media [ed: and the political opposition]. Those cries have since been memory-holed — quite literally, in some cases (Vox) — but it’s worth revisiting the where the worst actors in media stood when this pandemic started. In fact, it was the very next day after Trump’s executive order that mainstream media outlets published stories downplaying the threat as merely another xenophobic reaction to foreigners, just like they’ve done with Trump’s position on immigration at the southern border. __ Spectator

Now that they are being hit between the eyes with their own malfeasance, many of the country’s mayors and governors have rushed to blame President Trump for their self-worsened crises. What is even more despicable, the worst of them are rushing to demand that the economy be shut down to the point of destruction.

Destroying the economy will result in a far worse outcome than the Chinese virus could ever generate.

Alarmist disease models are being backed away from earlier holocaust-style predictions:

Crucially, those who began by claiming that we faced half a million deaths from the coronavirus in this country have now greatly lowered their estimate. Professor Neil Ferguson was one of those largely responsible for the original panic. He or others from Imperial college have twice revised his terrifying prophecy, first to fewer than 20,000 and then on Friday to 5,700.

… The vast majority develop very mild symptoms or none at all. Millions may already have had it. __

Wuhan was horrific. Lombardy was horrific. Iran was horrific. NYC and other poorly run municipalities are horrific. We should not base our hopes and fears on the polities that invited tragedy on themselves by refusing to face what was happening to them until they were drowning in the virus.

Keep in mind that most of the US cases come from cities and states — such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana — where elected officials pretended that President Trump was being xenophobic to restrict travel from China and other locations with severe outbreaks. But now these same pretenders are demanding that President Trump move heaven and Earth to help them so that they will not look bad. It is a good thing that Trump takes his job more seriously than they apparently took theirs.

The US outbreak of coronavirus is not uniform across the 50 states. It is worse in the coastal cities, densely packed and poorly prepared. Many of the epicenters are sanctuary cities, places where travel restrictions were laughed at — until it was too late. But large areas of the US have very few cases, and very slow growth of new cases. In much of the heartland of the US, recovery rates can be higher than new incidence rates.

The diameters of the circles are meant to reflect the sizes of the outbreaks. But there are only four sizes, with the smallest representing 2 cases and the largest representing 60 cases (or more!). That is a tiny range when considering how many coronavirus infections there actually are in cities such as NYC. Clearly that simple choice by the mapmakers represents a serious distortion of information transfer. Was it intentional? Given the blatant actions by the news media to mis-represent virtually every aspect of this epidemic (and to misrepresent every aspect of the federal response to the epidemic), it would not be unfair to suggest that it is an attempt to minimize the distinctions between the realities on the East Coast, and the much less harsh reality for most of the rest of the country.

This is a serious virus. Take precautions:

  • go to work
  • stay away from crowds
  • wash your hands
  • wear a mask in public
  • don’t touch your face
  • don’t shake hands
  • keep public surfaces clean/disinfected
  • wear cotton gloves in public

In the grocery store:

  • Go shopping at a time that’s less busy. If you type in the store’s name and location in Google search, a box often will pop up showing when foot traffic there is highest.
  • Take germicide with you. Use it to wipe your hands and the cart before and after you shop.
  • Use a credit or debit card. That way, you don’t have to hand over bills or receive change. Also, use your own pen to sign receipts. If you can, use a virtual payment system like Apple Pay so that you don’t have to open your wallet at all.
  • More at source

    Remember that a wide variety of treatments are being tried, some with good results.

    Be responsible. And try to hold your elected officials and news media responsible wherever possible.

    Posted in Biomedicine | 1 Comment

    Wuhan Coronavirus: A Relative Pinprick?

    Update: Preliminary report on clinical treatment of coronavirus with convalescent plasma:

    Five critically ill patients with confirmed COVID-19 and with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), who also had the following — severe pneumonia with rapid progression and continuously high viral load despite antiviral treatment; and mechanical ventilation — were chosen for treatment with convalescent plasma transfusion. The plasma was drawn from five patients, who had recovered from COVID-19. The study was conducted at the infectious disease department, Shenzhen Third People’s Hospital in Shenzhen, China, from January 20, 2020, to March 25, 2020. Clinical outcomes improved dramatically post the intervention, the authors record.

    They added: “Following plasma transfusion, body temperature normalised within 3 days in 4 of 5 patients, the Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score decreased, and the ratio that determines severity of ARDS increased within 12 days (172-276 before and 284-366 after). Viral loads also decreased and became negative within 12 days after the transfusion…. Of the 5 patients, 3 have been discharged from the hospital and 2 are in a stable condition 37 days after transfusion, the paper recorded. __ Source

    This is still early days in the evaluation of potential treatments for coronavirus. Good treatments will change the shape of the outbreak.

    Update: The hothouse of coronavirus vaccine design

    New York as an Outlier

    The Great Divide:
    New York, New Jersey, CT, Are the Blue Curve
    The Orange Curve is the US West Coast

    New York is becoming the new Italy. That is understandable, since Governor Cuomo along with the mayor of New York City kept New York open to the world for almost a full month after US President Trump wanted to curtail travel from China.

    even by late February, Cuomo boasted about his state’s accessibility to foreign travelers—his state, the governor said on February 26, is the “front door” for visitors from around the world—while only instituting voluntary quarantines for suspected coronavirus carriers.

    … The reason New York now has so many more cases of coronavirus, even more than California, is “because we welcome people from across the globe,” he said on March 25. “We have people coming here, we have people who came here from China, who came here from Italy, who came here from all across the globe.”

    Cuomo is now reaping the results of his open-door policy to Wuhan virus carriers.

    Aside from New York, US Cases and Deaths Not High Compared to Flu

    Compare coronavirus with the average flu burden in the US:

    “Flu Burden” in US Every Year

    Every year in the US, the flu infects up to 50 million people and kills up to 61,000. By comparison, Chinese Coronavirus has killed roughly 2,000 in the US this flu season, and infected about 120,000 confirmed cases. The cases and deaths from coronavirus are growing, but perspective is necessary when faced with public hysteria.

    Pneumonia deaths in the US this year have not yet shown a detectable uptick, when compared to previous flu seasons. We are likely to see more pneumonia deaths before the Wuhan virus pandemic has faded into the late spring and early summer, but outside of New York City perhaps not enough to overwhelm health care systems.

    Will Health Care Systems be Overwhelmed?

    We can see the estimates for US hospitalizations and deaths from the CDC in two tables — one that omits Wuhan coronavirus in the estimate, and the second that includes confirmed cases and deaths from coronavirus in the estimate.

    Hospitalizations and Deaths by Flu Season

    After Adding Confirmed COVID19

    Now, we all know that the Wuhan epidemic is still in its early stages in the U.S. and therefore these numbers will certainly rise, quite possibly exceeding the swine flu numbers from 2009-2010. In the end however I am quite willing to bet that they will not rise much higher than what was seen in 2018-2019, or in 2009-2010, years where no lockdowns occurred, no one exercised social distancing, no panics occurred, and if you had suggested imposing martial law you would have been laughed out of the room. __

    These numbers will certainly rise in New York, where the “open-door” policy of the governor and the NYC mayor painted a bull’s eye on the city and the state that the disease from Wuhan could not resist. And yet when compared with a “bad flu year” such as last year, we are not likely to see significantly larger numbers for this year. Particularly when you take into account the states that practically beg immigrants to break immigration laws.

    So why all the panic and hysteria from the news media — and the emphasis on every single hospitalization and death? We haven’t seen this kind of thing before, suggesting that the hysterical politicians and news media may have other motives for talking up martial law.

    Media Hysteria and Panic Mongering Has a Goal

    The public deserves better:

    Having failed in their first two prolonged attempts to derail President Donald J. Trump’s administration and drive him from office, the media has seized upon a new weapon: the Chinese coronavirus.

    As during the Russia collusion conspiracy fabrication and the concocted Ukraine impeachment fiasco, media reporting on the virus has exposed many journalists’ true aim: causing political harm to President Trump no matter the cost to the country, to the accuracy of their stories, or to their own journalistic reputations.

    … Americans can see that President Trump is out front and leading the country through this dangerous crisis. They can also see that the national news media, in general, have decided to serve as the opposition and seek to undermine the public’s confidence in the federal response.

    Proof that citizens can clearly see this dynamic is found in a new Gallup poll showing that 60% of Americans support the president’s handling of the coronavirus, but only 44% favor the media’s reporting on it. Unsurprisingly, the media came in dead last among entities included in the survey. __ RealClearPolitics

    They are basing their hysteria on faulty models yet again

    Democratic Party politicians and their news media flacks have been stalwart supporters of “open borders,” and harsh critics of President Trump’s efforts to control US borders against both illegal aliens and against pandemic disease carriers. But rather than facing up to their own hypocrisy, these mendacious loudmouths simply move from talking point to talking point — attempting to make up for their lack of logic and candor by sheer mass and volume of noise.

    This Virus is Deadly

    But long before COVID19 Wuhan virus was a gleam in a lab technician’s eye, humans around the world have always been surrounded by death.

    There have been about 14.1 million deaths in the world this year, almost 90,000 today. About 33,000 of this year’s deaths are associated with coronavirus. That is a rounding error in estimation, for this year’s global all-cause death toll.

    That suggests that news media and politicians are not only exhibiting panic and hysteria, it suggests that they are exhibiting “over the top” panic and hysteria. Particularly when they try to blame the made-in-China global crisis on the most visible politician in the world who showed early and continued signs of leadership in trying to slow viral spread in his country.

    Better Tests and Treatments Will Come

    As more people are tested, more cases of coronavirus will be found. The better and more widespread the testing, the larger the tally of infected persons. But keep an eye on the case fatality rates as we get a more accurate accounting of the total cases.

    Take reasonable precautions:

    • go to work
    • stay away from crowds
    • wash your hands
    • wear a mask in public
    • don’t touch your face
    • don’t shake hands
    • keep public surfaces clean/disinfected
    • wear cotton gloves in public

    In the grocery store:

  • Go shopping at a time that’s less busy. If you type in the store’s name and location in Google search, a box often will pop up showing when foot traffic there is highest.
  • Take germicide with you. Use it to wipe your hands and the cart before and after you shop.
  • Use a credit or debit card. That way, you don’t have to hand over bills or receive change. Also, use your own pen to sign receipts. If you can, use a virtual payment system like Apple Pay so that you don’t have to open your wallet at all.
  • More at source

    The sad thing is how readily much of the public swallows the huge doses of panic being fed to them by news media and how easy it is to lead them to a martial law standing.

    All panic and hysteria aside, this disease must be taken seriously — without inviting an epic global depression.

    Note: ARDS has long been defined as Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome.” ARDS is also referred to as “acute respiratory distress syndrome.” The facts are the same either way:

    The most common underlying causes of ARDS include:

  • Sepsis. The most common cause of ARDS is sepsis, a serious and widespread infection of the bloodstream.
  • Inhalation of harmful substances. Breathing high concentrations of smoke or chemical fumes can result in ARDS, as can inhaling (aspirating) vomit or near-drowning episodes.
  • Severe pneumonia. Severe cases of pneumonia usually affect all five lobes of the lungs.
  • Head, chest or other major injury. Accidents, such as falls or car crashes, can directly damage the lungs or the portion of the brain that controls breathing.
  • Others. Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), massive blood transfusions and burns.
  • Risk factors

    Most people who develop ARDS are already hospitalized for another condition, and many are critically ill. You’re especially at risk if you have a widespread infection in your bloodstream (sepsis).

    People who have a history of chronic alcoholism are at higher risk of developing ARDS. They’re also more likely to die of ARDS.


    If you have ARDS, you can develop other medical problems while in the hospital. The most common problems are:

    Blood clots. Lying still in the hospital while you’re on a ventilator can increase your risk of developing blood clots, particularly in the deep veins in your legs. If a clot forms in your leg, a portion of it can break off and travel to one or both of your lungs (pulmonary embolism) — where it blocks blood flow.

    Collapsed lung (pneumothorax). In most ARDS cases, a breathing machine called a ventilator is used to increase oxygen in the body and force fluid out of the lungs. However, the pressure and air volume of the ventilator can force gas to go through a small hole in the very outside of a lung and cause that lung to collapse.

    Infections. Because the ventilator is attached directly to a tube inserted in your windpipe, this makes it much easier for germs to infect and further injure your lungs.

    Scarring (pulmonary fibrosis). Scarring and thickening of the tissue between the air sacs can occur within a few weeks of the onset of ARDS. This stiffens your lungs, making it even more difficult for oxygen to flow from the air sacs into your bloodstream.

    Thanks to improved treatments, more people are surviving ARDS. However, many survivors end up with potentially serious and sometimes lasting effects:

    Breathing problems. Many people with ARDS recover most of their lung function within several months to two years, but others may have breathing problems for the rest of their lives. Even people who do well usually have shortness of breath and fatigue and may need supplemental oxygen at home for a few months.

    Depression. Most ARDS survivors also report going through a period of depression, which is treatable.

    Problems with memory and thinking clearly. Sedatives and low levels of oxygen in the blood can lead to memory loss and cognitive problems after ARDS. In some cases, the effects may lessen over time, but in others, the damage may be permanent.

    Tiredness and muscle weakness. Being in the hospital and on a ventilator can cause your muscles to weaken. You also may feel very tired following treatment.
    __ Mayo

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | Leave a comment

    15 Minute Antibody Test: Shining a New Light on the Problem

    The current tests being used for Wuhan Coronavirus are far slower than desired. If we truly want to be hot on the trail for current cases so that we can trace & test contacts quickly, we need a fast test. New 15 minute antibody tests might provide the new window on this pandemic that we need to be able to see it more clearly.

    The FDA recently approved antibody tests from 29 manufacturers. Such tests can detect antibodies in the blood that are specific to the Wuhan Coronavirus, in less than an hour.

    We Need to Know the Extent of Infection & What to Expect Next

    We can certainly learn a lot from the cruise ship “experiments.” And the Iceland experience can also reveal a great deal to disease detectives. But nothing exposes the inner workings of an epidemic better than quick — almost in real time — screening tests coupled with rapid contact tracing.

    More on what can be done with the new tests

    Disease Models Have Only Fueled Hysteria

    Politicians and news media have been driven to hysteria by poor disease models. More experts are beginning to realize that the doomsday models are leading entire countries down the path of economic ruin. And very slowly, a few politicians who had previously lost their heads to panic, are reluctantly beginning to admit they may have been too hasty.

    Sweeping statewide quarantine orders may not have been the most effective strategy to combat the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo conceded on Thursday, as he weighed plans to restart the economy.

    “We closed everything down. That was our public health strategy,” said Cuomo during an Albany press briefing. “If you re-thought that or had time to analyze that public health strategy, I don’t know that you would say ‘Quarantine everyone.’”

    China Continues to Lie About Wuhan Coronavirus

    It is not true that China is not experiencing new cases of COVID-19. Instead, China simply stopped testing for the virus, and now gives patients with ARDS a different diagnosis pointing elsewhere.

    Censors almost immediately removed a photo from the Caixin website showing a truck delivering 2,500 urns filled with the ashes of cremated people. Censors removed as well as an accompanying report that a truck had made another such delivery the same day.

    China shrouds its viral experience in mysterywhat is really happening?

    Government officials who have been too quick to praise and copy China’s draconian path, may have to back away from destructive policies that are based on the communist party approach. The knowledge that China was not nearly as successful as had been claimed should help the brighter and more conscientious ones to begin to rethink their precipitous and mindless hysteria.

    It may already be too late for New York, home to almost half the cases for all the US.

    Case numbers are growing rapidly in New York, compared to other US states with outbreaks. 15% of cases in the state reportedly require hospitalization. Number of deaths from Wuhan Coronavirus in New York exceed 500.

    Cases of a new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 69,000 on Thursday morning, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University. More than 33,000 of those cases are in the Empire State and at least 363 people have died, the most deaths in a single state in the country.

    It is not clear whether Cuomo’s “shelter in place” order has helped or hurt the public health crisis. But it is becoming clear — even to the governor — that it cannot be sustained for long.

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | 1 Comment

    A Distant World: A Pandemic of Virtuality

    Our closely packed cities are custom-made for spreading infectious diseases. Masses of people rubbing shoulders on sidewalks, packed like sardines in subways, clustered around conference tables sharing respiratory droplets, shaking dozens of hands a day, making those face to face contacts from dusk to dawn.

    At least partially thanks to pandemic panic, we are more quickly moving to a dispersed and virtual world, where schools are online, work is from home, shopping is done on the web and delivered to your home, and social interaction/entertainment is electronically mediated.

    Rise of Automation

    Now that we’re not supposed to be touching each other or touching anything anyone else has touched, but we still need to eat, automating food preparation sounds appealing (and maybe necessary). Multiple food delivery services have already implemented a contactless delivery option, where customers can choose to have their food left on their doorstep.

    Besides the opportunities for in-restaurant automation, “This is an opportunity for automation to happen at the last mile,” said Xing. Delivery drones, robots, and autonomous trucks and vans could all play a part. In fact, use of delivery drones has ramped up in China since the outbreak.

    Speaking of deliveries, service robots have steadily increased in numbers at Amazon; as of late 2019, the company employed around 650,000 humans and 200,000 robots—and costs have gone down as robots have gone up.

    ARK Invest’s research predicts automation could add $800 billion to US GDP over the next 5 years and $12 trillion during the next 15 years. On this trajectory, GDP would end up being 40 percent higher with automation than without it. __ Singularity Hub

    The pandemic du jour is not a sufficient cause for the coming world of virtuality and dispersal. But it may be the final straw, the tipping point for much of what is coming.

    It Happened Quickly for Schools

    It is taking them about a month to move US higher education from campus to online:

    With the first announcements of institutions shutting down f2f courses on March 6th, it appears that almost all moves to fully online delivery will have occurred by the week of April 6th (and just a handful of additional migrations over the following week). This four-week period shows remarkable adaptability by higher education institutions. What we are not seeing are mass closures through the spring academic term – schools are choosing to go online rather than to shut down operations beyond a transition period. While not shown fully in the graphic above, it appears that roughly half of schools chose some period of closure beyond Spring Break to help with the transition online. __

    A similar transformation on a smaller scale is taking place across much of the primary/secondary school systems.

    Dispersing from Large Cities

    Until recently, overlords of the “cultural elite” have been promoting hyper-urbanization and megacities, as cures for whatever fashionable crisis was being touted at the time. But with the Wuhan pandemic looming over their heads, many of these overlords are fleeing the cities for more dispersed environs.

    In the US, known cases and deaths are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Seattle area, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, and New York. Gotham, with six percent of the US population, now accounts by itself for nearly half of the 18,000 cases in the country. Even the New York Times, a consistent booster for packing people into small spaces, now acknowledges that the city’s high densities are responsible for its much higher rate of infection even than relatively dense but far more dispersed areas like Los Angeles, which is equally diverse and global but still consists largely of single family houses.

    In places like New York, crowded mass transit systems remain essential to many commuters, while suburban, exurban, and small-town residents get around in the sanctuary of their private cars. These patterns can be seen in a new report by the mid-American think tank Heartland Forward (where I am a senior fellow), which shows how relatively slight the impact has been outside of a few large urban centers on the coasts. Rural areas around the world have been largely spared, at least for now. The North American hinterlands, according to health professionals, benefit from less crowding and unwanted human contact.

    Living in dispersion may not save you from contagion, but being away from people, driving around in your own car, and having neighbors you know, does have its advantages in times like these. Even the urban cognoscenti have figured this out—much as their Renaissance predecessors did during typhus and bubonic plague outbreaks, wealthy New Yorkers today are retreating to their country homes where they struggle with the locals over depleted supplies of essentials. __ A Coming Dispersion

    Automation, Virtual Living, Dispersion

    3-D printing is another technology that may be boosted by today’s pandemic milieu. These devices are being used to print face shields, essential parts for respirators, and a number of other vital medical supplies which seem to be in short supply lately. More

    3D printers will also be used to print pharmaceuticals, and to provide personal drug delivery services in the home. This would be a useful service at any time, but particularly during times of pandemic. More on 3D drugs.

    Another useful medical tool in pandemic times is home medical tests. Many people monitor their blood sugars, blood pressures, and blood oxygen levels at home — to say nothing of home pregnancy tests. There are several iPhone apps to monitor the owner’s health. We can expect the home testing arsenal to expand rapidly in a short time.

    A surge in demand for telemedicine makes a great deal of sense. Telemedicine cannot do surgery or provide intensive care services, but it can help determine if one truly needs such things on an urgent basis.

    With the rise of new tools of automation and virtuality, can dispersal be far behind?

    … the bulk of the new growth of the “creative class”—the well-educated millennials critical to the urban renaissance—is “shifting away from superstar cities.” The rise in the migration of such prized workers is now two to three times faster in Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Grand Rapids, MI than in regions around New York, Los Angeles, or Washington, D.C. __ Quillette

    The bigger cities will not empty out — at least not because of this pandemic. But they are no longer seen as such a net positive location, when people are taking infectious disease risk into account.

    For better or worse, this pandemic will likely make us pick up the pace on our path to automation, across many sectors and processes. The solutions people implement during this crisis won’t disappear when things go back to normal (and, depending who you talk to, they may never really do so).

    But let’s make sure to remember something. Even once robots are making our food and drones are delivering it, and our computers are doing data entry and email replies on our behalf, and we all have 3D printers to make anything we want at home—we’re still going to be human. And humans like being around each other. We like seeing one another’s faces, hearing one another’s voices, and feeling one another’s touch—in person, not on a screen or in an app. __ Singularity Hub

    83 pp PDF report “The Age of Automation

    Assuming that the new age of automation will usher in “an era of unprecedented abundance,” who will benefit the most?

    Most importantly, we need to begin a conversation about who owns the machines and how to distribute their proceeds more fairly. While for most of human history our problems have revolved around issues of material scarcity, the new machine age promises to bring about an era of unprecedented abundance – more than enough to meet everyone’s needs. The question is whether we have the political courage and conviction to share the wealth wisely. __

    The book Homo Deus presents an interesting set of speculations on this question.

    Posted in Biomedicine, Education, Future, Technology | Tagged | Leave a comment

    It Wouldn’t Be the First Virus to Escape from a Laboratory

    Some Experts Believe the Virus May Have Escaped a Lab

    Viruses in the same family as Wuhan Coronavirus are routinely collected and studied at minimal protection levels, making lab accidents and viral leaks more likely.

    Ebright thinks that it is possible the COVID-19 pandemic started as an accidental release from a laboratory such as one of the two in Wuhan that are known to have been studying bat coronaviruses.

    Except for SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, two deadly viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past, coronaviruses have been studied at laboratories that are labelled as operating at a moderate biosafety level known as BSL-2, Ebright says. And, he says, bat coronaviruses have been studied at such labs in and around Wuhan, China, where the new coronavirus first emerged. “As a result,” Ebright says, “bat coronaviruses at Wuhan [Center for Disease Control] and Wuhan Institute of Virology routinely were collected and studied at BSL-2, which provides only minimal protections against infection of lab workers.” __ TheBulletin

    Past Chinese Virology Lab Leaks

    It happened in 1977:

    Due to lab mishandling, a strain of the H1N1 influenza managed to escaped from a Chinese facility that was likely trying to create a vaccine for the disease. The virus spread globally and had an infection rate of 20% to 70% among those exposed. Luckily, the strain of the virus caused only mild disease and few fatalities.

    And at least four times with SARS virus since the 2003 SARS epidemic:

    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was a global epidemic in 2003 that caused 8,000 infections and 774 deaths across 29 countries. Since the original epidemic, there have been six escapes of the virus from laboratories — four in Beijing, and an additional one each in Singapore and Taiwan.

    In all cases, the virus escaped due to negligence and human error. Fortunately, none of the escapes led to a renewed outbreak.

    The 2003 SARS virus did not spread as readily as its cousin from Wuhan. But like all viruses, it is subject to mutating — or to being altered.

    Genomic Analysis Suggests COVID-19 is Caused by a “Chimeric Virus”

    To create the Wuhan Coronavirus, a single animal would need to be infected with two distinctly different viruses at the same time. A “fusion” or recombination of the two viral genomes could create a new virus capable of infecting another species such as humans.

    … genomic comparisons suggest that the SARS-Cov-2 virus [Wuhan Coronavirus] is the result of a recombination between two different viruses, one close to RaTG13 and the other closer to the pangolin virus. In other words, it is a chimera between two pre-existing viruses. __ Science Alert

    If this occurred inside a Wuhan virology lab, sloppy technique could have allowed the new virus to escape into the population — where it would be free for several weeks to spread around the world, before any measures would be taken to slow its transmission.

    Information out of China is entirely unreliable

    Centuries Ago, A Pathogen From China Shifted the Balance of Power in Europe

    Venice was once one of the strongest powers of Europe. But when the Chinese plague struck, it struck hard and long. Venice declined, and others took its place.

    The Italian Plague of 1629 to 1631, was believed to have originated in China and spread West over Silk Road trading routes. As a major trading center, Venice was among the hardest hit. While authorities did their best to grapple with the disease (the word Quarantine comes from the Venetian dialect’s word for 40 days), it was not enough. The Italian Plague contributed to a major shift in the European balance of power as Venice declined and Northern European states, such as England and the Dutch Republic, rose to become major geopolitical powers.

    These historical lessons are instructive as we see that COVID-19 is already influencing the U.S.-China competition. __ Pandemics and the Rise & Fall of Great Powers

    The Wuhan Virus Will Likely Stay Around for Years

    When nations are faced with a likely multi-year pandemic, they cannot shut down their societies and economies indefinitely. They must use their experience with other mass casualty pandemic infections — and instead of shutting down their economies, they must tool their economies to generate a wide range of responses to the challenge.

    Quarantine, travel bans, closing bars and public performances and emptying college campuses have jeopardised the livelihoods of economically vulnerable individuals who have no financial cushion to tide them over. Financial distress in turn exacts a well-known toll on physical and mental health.

    Experience with seasonal flus teaches the virtues of calmly dealing with things as they come. Death rates in the US attributed to flu infections swing widely and unpredictably — from 12,000 in good years to 61,000 in bad years. Intensive care units, whose capacity is optimised for normal demands, face acute stress in bad years. And, every new season may bring mutations as deadly as the catastrophic Spanish flu. ___ FT

    Wild-eyed journalists and politicians are running around panicked, acting as if the Wuhan Coronavirus is the only problem that societies must deal with. But that is clearly not the case. An exclusive, full-bore policy focus on the Chinese virus alone — and ignoring the unintended consequences of draconian, anti-viral social and economic policies — would be disastrous.

    Governments were badly unprepared for this crisis. If government policies leave their societies economically weak and socially depleted, the next crisis will not go any better.

    Labs Will Always Leak Pathogens

    There is no such thing as perfect containment. As long as dangerous viruses are kept for study — and re-engineering — some will get loose. Instead of teaching our young to run and hide from every conceivable threat, perhaps we could try teaching them how to face down the threat?

    • go to work
    • stay away from crowds
    • wash your hands
    • wear a mask
    • don’t touch your face
    • don’t shake hands
    • keep public surfaces clean/disinfected

    There are ways, and Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan, may have found some of them.

    Japan must be one of the best places in the developed world to be at the moment, as the impact of the coronavirus appears extraordinarily mild. What’s more, government intervention in everyday life has been minimal, to the point of imperceptibility. There have currently been 900 reported cases and around 50 deaths in Japan, which in a country of 126 million, close to China, and with densely-packed cities and a high proportion of elderly people is remarkable. Italy (population 60 million) has 40,000 cases and 3,600 dead.

    After a brief flurry of postponements and cancellations, life seems to be going on pretty much as usual. Schools were initially closed but are reported to be reopening soon; and shops, bars, restaurant and even nightclubs are trading as normal. Many theatrical performances have been canceled, but not all, and people still turned out in huge numbers for the annual cherry blossom viewing last weekend, with the only government advice being to maintain a safe distance from others, and keep moving. __

    It is up to intelligent populations to shrug off the dangerous restrictions of sluggish governments and panicked news media in order to discover what works.

    More on the Chinese propaganda campaign to escape responsibility. The possibility that the virus escaped a Chinese virology lab makes the party propaganda campaign all the more urgent.

    A timeline of CCP lies

    Why Iran — a close friend of China — is suffering from Wuhan virus so badly:

    As the coronavirus got officially underway in China through January with an ever-rising death toll, Iranian officials did nothing to stem travel between the two countries, in a seeming attempt to maintain strong diplomatic ties. In an interview on Feb. 4, Bahram Parsaei, a ranking member of parliament from Shiraz, complained that despite a government decision on Jan. 31 to supposedly suspend all Iran-China flights, some Iranian airlines not only carried on business as usual but also helped transfer China-bound passengers in other countries. He added that even Turkey had “canceled all China flights out of care for people’s lives” notwithstanding its heavy economic reliance on tourism, including Chinese tourists. Yet Mahan Air pressed on with Tehran-Beijing flights until as late as Feb. 23.

    Imperial College drastically lowers its estimates of UK viral deaths from a previous estimate of 500,000 deaths down to a much lower estimate of 20,000 or fewer deaths. All models are wrong.

    The virus will likely be around for a while, but the crisis may be over sooner than we think.

    Another dissenting voice:

    The data from South Korea, where tracking the coronavirus has been by far the best to date, indicate that as much as 99 percent of active cases in the general population are “mild” and do not require specific medical treatment. The small percentage of cases that do require such services are highly concentrated among those age 60 and older, and further so the older people are. Other things being equal, those over age 70 appear at three times the mortality risk as those age 60 to 69, and those over age 80 at nearly twice the mortality risk of those age 70 to 79.

    The point, [David L.] Katz explains, is that all of the available evidence and the limitations of our health care system points to focusing our containment efforts on the elderly and chronically ill, not society at large.

    And save us from the age of heroic medicine

    What is China trying to hide?

    A smarter way to look at societal risk policies such as for COVID-19

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | 3 Comments

    Coronavirus Fatality Rates Do Not Justify Public Panic

    … The governors’ [of New York, California, and Illinois] numbers are hysterical and sloppy. None of them have released any detailed study that purported to support their extreme [economic shutdown] decrees. There was no opportunity for the many critics of their proposals to have their voices heard. The emergency mentality created a one-man gubernatorial dictatorship in each state. __
    25 March 2020

    Politicians and the media are running around like headless chickens, ripping apart economies and societies in the name of “saving the world from Wuhan Coronavirus.” But are they justified in their destructive actions, or are they only making matters worse?

    The Diamond Princess Experience

    My overall tCFR central estimates from the Diamond Princess 70+ age groups, where all the deaths are taken to have occurred, are 2.54% overall (8.34/328.5),[9] with a breakdown of 1.34% for ages 70-79 (3.58/266.9) and 8.04% (4.77/61.6) for ages 80+. For the 60–69 age group, there are sufficient test-positive occupants to make a crude median estimate of the tCFR, by calculating what it would need to be for there to be a 50% probability that no 60-69 year-old has died, as appears to have been the case. The thus-implied tCFR is 0.34%. There were too few Diamond Princess occupants in age groups below 60 with positive test results to provide any useful information about the COVID-19 tCFR for those groups.

    … It is notable that for all the 60+ age groups the projected excess death rates, based on Diamond Princess case data, caused by COVID-19 is substantially lower than the underlying non-COVID-19 annual death rate. Even assuming, very pessimistically, that there is no overlap between the two, and that the same proportion of each age group becomes infected, projected COVID-19 related deaths from an epidemic in which the vast bulk of the population became infected with COVID-19 are only 9% of expected annual non-COVID deaths for the 60–69 age group.[13] For the 70–79 age group, the proportion is 20%, and for the 80+ age group it is 26%. Relative to the expected non-COVID deaths over two years, the approximate period during which very onerous restrictions are projected to be in force in the UK, these COVID-19 excess death proportions would each be reduced by almost half. In practice, a high proportion of people killed by COVID-19 will have serious underlying health conditions, and would be much more likely than average to die from non-COVID-19 causes. __ Nicholas Lewis

    The Situation in the US

    Locally, the United States is high on cases (~35,000) but low on deaths (471). The conversion and expansion rate of COVID-19 are much in issue, and the breakdowns show a high variation across states, and within states. The state that continues to experience the most significant upward movement in fatalities is New York, at 122 as of March 23; its first death was reported only one week ago on March 14. Add in Washington State with 98 deaths, and now close to half of the fatalities are accounted for. California is at 33, with Georgia at 25.

    … The implicit assumption behind Ginn, Katz, and my earlier column is that the worst way to model growth in deaths from the coronavirus is through a geometric progression that runs rapidly through a large number of cycles, each of which generates more cases than the cycle before. If the exponent at each of these stages is greater than one, the model will quickly explode. Thus, if we assume that each infected person infects 2.3 other persons, a world that starts with 100 infections in the first period will have about 2,800, infections by the fifth period, and the rate would grow even more rapidly after that. If the periods are close together, it is easy to see how the fearful analyst could conclude that the world will be soon consumed.

    … there is no reason to assume that the doubling is a constant, and therefore there is no reason to accept the ratio of 800 to 1 for true cases compared to deaths. The situation in South Korea alone should dispel that narrative, where pervasive COVID-19 testing has revealed 8,897 cases against only 104 deaths, a ratio of approximately 80 to 1, an order of magnitude less than Pueyo’s representation of the situation. Political leaders predict rising rates of infection, running perhaps for three months, while more cautious analysts think that the cycles turn down far sooner than the doomsday models predict. All of the stay-at-home orders that we see assume that the growth of cases (and of deaths) will be exponential, which is the sole justification for imposing the draconian measures that have wrecked both the economy and upended the lives of millions of people. __ Richard Epstein

    Through their extreme tunnel vision combined with greed for power, politicians are ignoring the greater dangers to their populations by their draconian actions.

    The biggest threat to health is a shrinking economy

    Time to stop the shutdown?

    Unintended Consequences of Shutdown

    Bloated, Constipated Government is a Big Part of the Problem

    The US has been unable to follow the example of South Korea in controlling its rapid spread of Wuhan virus, because the arthritic US CDC and US FDA have been shamefully slow to respond to the challenge. In such a situation, hiding behind a monstrous bureaucracy is a fatal mistake.

    Some of the holdups in the critical early U.S. testing effort read like paradigmatic illustrations of bureaucratic bloat. In Emergency Use Authorization applications in the face of an epidemic, the government was actually requiring labs to mail in CD-ROMs for agency review, rather than permitting online submission, owing to outdated rules. (Thankfully, they’ve since dropped that particular rule.)

    … The current viral pandemic highlights the tradeoffs between speed and perfect safety. Delaying the introduction of new drugs to market costs lives, too. The 1992 Prescription Drug User Fee Act has helped facilitate getting some drugs to market more quickly. But it may not go far enough. Scholars studying the question have persuasively argued that we might be better served by jettisoning FDA efficacy review entirely for some or all new-drug approvals, and require only testing for safety. This would mean treating new drugs the same way we do old drugs prescribed off-label. __

    There are 5,000 “highly specialized virology labs” that were eager to move ahead with large-scale testing. But because of stalling by the FDA and the CDC, almost a month was lost to bureaucratic senility.

    Germany has been testing for Wuhan Coronavirus at a much higher rate than most other countries with large numbers of cases, and has been able to keep fatality rates below 1% so far.

    Germany has been testing around 120,000 people a week for COVID-19 during the monthlong period from late February to now, when it’s reached epidemic proportions in the country, the most extensive testing regimen in the world.

    And that means Germany is more likely to have a lower number of undetected cases than other countries where testing is less prevalent, which raises the question: Why is Germany testing so much?

    “We have a culture here in Germany that is actually not supporting a centralized diagnostic system,” said Drosten, “so Germany does not have a public health laboratory that would restrict other labs from doing the tests. So we had an open market from the beginning.”

    A Question of the Uncertain Origin of Wuhan Coronavirus

    Deadly Wuhan Coronavirus appears to be the result of “recombination”. Whether that recombination occurred naturally in the wild, or artificially in a lab, remains to be determined. When the time comes for a reckoning, communist party-ruled China has much to answer for.


    How the free market is responding to the crisis

    Creative community responses by businesses to the pandemic

    Of the many heroic jobs being performed by millions of private individuals, one of the unsung vocations is that of the delivery men (and women). With hundreds of millions confined to their homes, delivery men risk life and limb to provide the homebound masses with food and essential supplies. It is rumored that some delivery women are actually going topless on their rounds of mercy, to add a bit of extra solace.

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | Leave a comment

    Wuhan Coronavirus: Lessons from the Italian Skew

    Old, Sick Italians are Dying with Coronavirus

    Wuhan Coronavirus is loose inside the Italian medical system. While there, it preys upon health care workers. 4,824 of them so far. Most of these Italian healthcare workers will survive the virus.

    But while the virus is loose inside the medical system, it also preys upon the old and the sick — the kind of person who can be counted on to occupy the beds of medical institutions of all kinds. Many of these old, sick Italians have been catching the virus both inside and outside of medical institutions — and dying.

    Most of the Italians who are dying with coronavirus have been living for years with hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, renal failure, stroke, and a number of other common degenerative afflictions of people living in modern countries.

    Co-morbidities of Persons Who Tested Positive for Coronavirus

    Perhaps coronavirus is pushing them over the edge, just as often happens with influenza or any community infection — even the common cold. And sometimes being diagnosed with coronavirus infection may be incidental to the actual facts of their death. We need a lot more data to better understand the interaction between this virus and societies with aging populations loaded with co-morbidities.

    Out of the 2,003 [Italian] deaths, seventeen were people under fifty, and only 5 people under thirty died, while almost two hundred deaths were of people over 90. I’d read that the people dying in Italy were old, but I didn’t realize quite how old they actually are …

  • The average age was 79 years.
  • All but three of them had at least one other disease, so basically all of them were already sick.
  • Three-quarters of them had two other diseases, and half of them had three or more other diseases. Half!
  • … Here’s what I suspect. I think that the COVID-19 disease got established in a couple of areas in Italy well before anyone even knew the disease was there, perhaps even before the Chinese recognized it as a novel disease.

    And in some fashion, it got into the medical system. Doesn’t matter how. But once there, it was spread invisibly to other patients, in particular the oldest and weakest of the patients. It went from patient to patient, from patient to visitor and back again, and it was also spread by everyone in the hospital from administrators to doctors and nurses to janitors. In many, perhaps most cases, they didn’t even know they were sick, but they were indeed infectious.

    And that’s why the pattern of the Italian deaths is so curious, and their number is so much larger than the rest of the world. It’s not a cross-section of the general population. It’s a cross-section of people who were already quite sick, sick enough that they were already visiting doctors and having procedures or being bedridden in hospitals. It was 85-year-olds with three diseases.

    And it’s also why the death rate in Italy is so high—these people were already very ill. I can see why the Italians are distinguishing between dying FROM the virus and dying WITH the virus. __ The Italian Skew

    Figure 1. Deaths from the COVID-19 coronavirus expressed as deaths per ten million of the country population.

    We are trying to learn lessons from the broad range of experiences across the different nations. We cannot learn much from China because the communist party controlled nation has not been honest with its disease reporting, not from the very start and not now. We know that Japan and South Korea started with large outbreaks, but somehow brought them under a modicum of control. We know that Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and other nations closely connected to China were able to slow the spread of coronavirus from the beginning. There are lessons to be learned from them. Take South Korea, for example, and its voluntary “social distancing plan:”

    • go to work
    • stay away from crowds
    • wash your hands
    • wear a mask
    • don’t touch your face
    • __ Steve Mosher from Seoul, quoted here

    The South Koreans are not shutting everything down, but instead are following a rigorous program of contact tracing, testing every person with any conceivable contact with persons who have been diagnosed with Wuhan virus. The CDC needs to learn from that, along with other lessons from other nations that have successfully limited viral spread.

    Despite the Global Panic, Life Goes On

    In the throes of panic there is a tendency to lose perspective.

    Europe has about 8 million fatalities per year ( all causes ). That is around 22,000 per day every day. So far there are 8,000 COVID attributed deaths in Europe. The media breathlessly report “spikes ” of a hundred deaths like no one would ever die if it was not for COVID-19.

    France has average of 9000 seasonal flu deaths per year. Today is 670 covid fatalities.
    __ Comment on Climate Etc.

    If we surrender to this “tunnel vision,” we risk giving up a lot more than we will ever lose from a virus like Wuhan.

    US President Donald Trump wants to send America back to work by Easter, in about 3 weeks. But another optimistic person wants to put America to work in one week! He makes an interesting argument.

    America will change some things about the way it works, the way it schools, and the way it lives. And if we are lucky, a lot of Americans will develop a more realistic attitude toward vaccines.

    In any case, treatments for Wuhan Covid19 Chinese virus are being rolled out. New treatments and vaccines are being developed, tested, and trialed. More toilet paper is being rushed to supermarket shelves. And in the spaces around the panic, life goes on.

    Bonus Section on Wearing Masks:

    Remember the personal methods used in South Korea to limit spread?

  • go to work
  • stay away from crowds
  • wash your hands
  • wear a mask
  • don’t touch your face
  • You may wonder whether wearing a mask is helpful. In crowded, confined circumstances, a mask can be helpful. If you can get it to conform to your face, it can reduce the number of virus particles that get through, making you less prone to catch the disease. At the same time, it will reduce the amount of respiratory droplets that you yourself will release into the environment. This helps protect others who may be quite vulnerable.

    The routine use of facemasks is not recommended by WHO, the CDC, or the ECDC in the community setting. However, the use of facemasks is recommended in crowded settings (such as public transport) and for those at high risk (older people, pregnant women, and those with a medical condition) during an outbreak or pandemic. A modelling study suggests that the use of face-masks in the community may help delay and contain a pandemic, although efficacy estimates were not based on RCT data. Community masks were protective during the SARS outbreaks, and about 76% of the population used a facemask in Hong Kong __

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | 2 Comments

    Drugs that Seem to be Effective for Wuhan Virus

    Update: Which drugs work best against Covid19?

    This man claims his life was saved by plaquenil

    Update: Covid19 Treatment & Vaccine tracker — updated daily

    Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin

    Doctors in France, South Korea and the U.S. are using an antimalarial drug known as hydroxychloroquine with success… researchers in France treated a small number of patients with both hydroxychloroquine and a Z-Pak, and 100% of them were cured by day six of treatment. Compare that with 57.1% of patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone, and 12.5% of patients who received neither.

    What’s more, most patients cleared the virus in three to six days rather than the 20 days observed in China. That reduces the time a patient can spread the virus to others. One lesson that should inform the U.S. approach: Use this treatment cocktail early, and don’t wait until a patient is on a ventilator in the intensive-care unit.

    … As a matter of clinical practice, hydroxychloroquine should be given early to patients who test positive, and perhaps if Covid-19 is presumed—in the case of ill household contacts, for instance. It may be especially useful to treat mild cases and young patients, which would significantly decrease viral transmission and, as they say, “flatten the curve.”

    Emergency rooms run the risk of one patient exposing a dozen nurses and doctors. Instead of exposed health workers getting placed on 14-day quarantine, they could receive hydroxychloroquine for five days, then test for the virus. That would allow health-care workers to return to work sooner if they test negative.

    President Trump touted hydroxychloroquine in his Thursday press conference as a potential treatment… __ Jeff Colyer and Daniel Hinthorn from the Wall Street Journal

    We should expect a lot more reports of off-label uses of different drugs against coronavirus, from medical clinicians around the world. It is up to governments to smooth the way for these efforts to fight back against the China virus.

    Antivirals Being Used in Other Countries

    There are a large number of anti-viral drugs on the market. Some of them are approved in some countries and not in others. In the case of life threatening ARDS from Wuhan coronavirus, national drug regulators should not stand on ceremony, but should arrange for rapid approval for those drugs which display effectiveness.

    Doctors in Wuhan have aggressively treated patients with antivirals not approved in the U.S. The drug they utilized most often was Arbidol, manufactured by the Russian company JSC Pharmstandard. One preliminary study showed that Arbidol could drastically improve chest CT scans and speed the body’s clearing of the virus, perhaps by inhibiting viral replication. The antiviral drug Favipiravir, approved in Japan and China, could be more efficacious than Arbidol according to a sizable randomized clinical trial yet to be peer reviewed. While these early studies are promising, neither of these drugs should be regarded as effective until additional research is performed. Given COVID-19’s swift expansion, there should be plenty of opportunities to explore their potential. __

    Pandemic Models Can be Turned On their Heads by Effective Drugs

    The things we think we know about the coronavirus pandemic are mostly wrong. The more we look into the problem — and possible treatments — the clearer will be the way ahead. Politicians such as Nancy Pelosi who are trying to grab massive political and economic power for herself and her cronies, should be sorted out.

    To the extent that there is a solution, it is in releasing people from isolation without risking their lives. The medical system is the only one that can do that. It is a system built on the avoidance of all risk possible in the introduction of medicines and vaccines. This is not only a practical consideration but a deep ethical principle of medicine. But given both the damage wrought by the disease and the damage caused in combatting the disease, including the very real risk of economic and social havoc, I wonder whether the medical ethic of first doing no harm can be extended to the economic and social reality. A principle of calculated risk, with the federal government passing laws to protect error, might shift the medical timeline sufficiently to short circuit non-medical risks. I know nothing about the creation of medical solutions and am not speaking with any knowledge of that, but in looking at the problem, the rapid introduction of medicines, even those with some potentially disastrous side effects, might align the timelines to give us a softer landing. Otherwise, we cannot withstand months of isolation and social distancing.

    … For now, the crisis is not only the virus but the inability to combat it without massive economic cost, and ultimately social unrest. During Europe’s great Black Death, citizens marched with torches and burned those they felt were ill and those they felt were responsible for the illness. It was not only the plague that created a time of horror but the legitimate fear it generated in people and the inability of the state to protect them, in a world where kings were as likely to die as peasants. The virus is dangerous. The follow-on effect can be far more dangerous. __ George Friedman

    Shelter in Place Cannot Go On for Very Long

    The economic costs of “hunker in place” are tremendously high. Only the extremely wealthy can afford it for long.

    We should … consider more selective containment efforts. After a two-week period of quarantine—corresponding to the upper limit of the incubation period of the disease—some regions will see less community spread than others. We can then lift restrictions in these areas, permit more business activity, and institute border checks to enter cleared zones. Such a strategy may violate traditional views of America as a land of unrestricted free movement. But just as oil tankers separate interior compartments to minimize the disruption of a spill, we may need temporarily to isolate certain regions in order to revive some economic activity in others.

    We should also propose different quarantine procedures for the young and the old, recognizing the reality that the elderly are far more likely to require hospitalization and face a substantially higher mortality risk than the young. In addition, individuals with preexisting health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease, as well those with compromised lung function (for instance, due to smoking) face elevated mortality risks. We must find ways to ensure that these vulnerable populations can quarantine themselves and stay safe, while mitigating their economic losses and allowing lower-risk individuals to return to work.

    … We must take advantage of the time that we gain from these essential, but costly, shelter-in-place measures and invest now in strategic planning to lift the quarantine. We need an open debate about the costs and benefits of widespread quarantine efforts, the data that would help us make better decisions, and the investments required to minimize disease transmission. Each day that Americans aren’t working, shopping, or attending school represents progress in preventing Covid-19 transmission—but also countless losses to ordinary workers, who will suffer other health and financial consequences. __ City Journal

    People can be trained to limit the opportunities for the virus to spread. In fact, rather than propagating fear and panic, governments and media should have been promoting education for the populace in how to protect themselves and those around them — while going about most of their ordinary day to day activities.

    Each location of outbreak will dictate its own logic for response. China has probably been faking many of its mortality and morbidity numbers, but then we expect that kind of dishonesty from China. It is likely, though, that numbers from Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea, are reasonably accurate. And none of those countries have suffered to any degree like Wuhan, Italy, Iran, Spain, or any other of the countries with deaths/million population greater than 10. (see table at top of page)

    As More Effective Drugs and Vaccines Become Available Everything Will Change

    We are being smothered in a miasma of viral doom by journalists and politicians. We should keep a record of how they are trying to use viral panic against us, to create long-term damaging social and economic change. We should not forget how they have tried to use a tragedy for their own benefit.


    Moderna COVID19 (Wuhan Virus) vaccine may be available by Fall of 2020

    Two Canadian vaccine efforts: here and here

    In other news: Costco refuses to refund toilet paper purchases

    Posted in Biomedicine | Leave a comment

    Get Ready to Re-Open This Economy

    I have kept public health and economics separate, but they no longer are. Shutting down the economy is a public health measure. The costs of this measure are astronomical — at least a trillion dollars per month. __ John H. Cochrane

    We are in the middle of a mass hysteria that is media-driven and at least partially politically motivated. It is already having a devastating impact on financial markets, and threatens to devastate the greater part of the economy. Most of the proposed government actions meant to mitigate harm from the Wuhan Coronavirus will in fact prolong and worsen such harm.

    [Editor’s Note: The website removed the original version of the Aaron Ginn article linked just above. We are now linking to the ZeroHedge re-posting of the article.]

    The Re-Opening Plan

    It is delusional to believe that an economy can be “turned off” then “turned back on” like a light bulb.

    The option to force everyone to stay home and close all “non-essential” business for three or six months is simply not viable, at least for a disease something short of the bubonic plague. The option to wait two or three weeks and then start thinking about what it takes to allow, say, the local dry cleaner to reopen, which will take another month or so, is simply not viable.

    Take two weeks. Find out who has it and who doesn’t. Test test test. Isolate, put out the embers. And reopen. Slowly, cautiously, partly. But reopen.

    Shutting everything down and staying home for a few weeks is a [demolition] sledgehammer. OK, our leaders have to hit a virus with a sledgehammer when they have nothing else up their sleeve. But it cannot last. Businesses will close, people will lose jobs, the economy will not be there to start up again.

    Needed fast: a plan to open up the economy again in a virus-safe way. Every business should be (and likely is) working hard to figure out how to operate in a virus-safe way. Federal state and local government need to be working 24 hours a day during the next few weeks to promulgate virus-safe practices. Not because they are particularly good at it, but because they are the ones shutting things down, and their permission is needed to reopen, fully or partly. People also will want the confidence to know that businesses they patronize are compliant. You’ve got two weeks — figure out what combination of personal distancing, self-isolation, testing, cleaning, etc. will allow each kind of business to reopen, at least partially. __ Grumpy Economist

    Despite what we are told by those who consider themselves our overlords and masters, the world will not come to an end if places of business re-open, and people go back to work — as long as they are trained and prepared to severely restrict the chances of viral spread.

    Time to Get Real On Coronavirus

    Plain Facts That Should be Faced

    1. The Virus Does Not Spread as Easily As We Feared
    2. COVID-19 doesn’t spread as easily as we first thought or the media had us believe (remember people abandoned their dogs out of fear of getting infected). According to their report if you come in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 you have a 1–5% chance of catching it as well. The variability is large because the infection is based on the type of contact and how long.

      The majority of viral infections come from prolonged exposures in confined spaces with other infected individuals. Person-to-person and surface contact is by far the most common cause. From the WHO report, “When a cluster of several infected people occurred in China, it was most often (78–85%) caused by an infection within the family by droplets and other carriers of infection in close contact with an infected person.

    3. Summer Temperatures Likely to “Burn Off” the Virus
    4. Due to COVID-19’s sensitivity to UV light and heat (just like the normal influenza virus), it is very likely that it will “burn off” as humidity increases and temperatures rise.

      … The University of Maryland mapped severe COVID-19 outbreaks with local weather patterns around the world, from the US to China. They found that the virus thrives in a certain temperature and humidity channel. “The researchers found that all cities experiencing significant outbreaks of COVID-19 have very similar winter climates with an average temperature of 41 to 52 degrees Fahrenheit, an average humidity level of 47% to 79% with a narrow east-west distribution along the same 30–50 N” latitude”, said the University of Maryland.

    5. Children and Teens Are Not at High Risk
    6. It’s already well established that the young aren’t particularly vulnerable. In fact, there isn’t a single death reported below the age of 10 in the world and most children who test positive don’t show symptoms. As well, infection rates are lower for individuals below the age of 19, which is similar to SARS and MERS (COVID-19’s sister viruses).

      According to the WHO’s COVID-19 mission in China, only 8.1% of cases were 20-somethings, 1.2% were teens, and 0.9% were 9 or younger. As of the study date February 20th, 78% of the cases reported were ages 30 to 69. The WHO hypothesizes this is for a biological reason and isn’t related to lifestyle or exposure.

      … About 8% of cases were in people in their 20s. Those 10 to 19 years old accounted for 1% of cases and those under 10 also accounted for only 1%.

    7. Symptoms Show Up Earlier than Thought Previously
    8. The majority of cases see symptoms within a few days, not two weeks as originally believed.

    9. Asymptomatic Spread is Vanishingly Rare
    10. On true asymptomatic spread, the data is still unclear but increasingly unlikely. Two studies point to a low infection rate from pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. One study said 10% of infections come from people who don’t show symptoms yet. Another WHO study reported 1.2% of confirmed cases were truly asymptomatic. Several studies confirming asymptotic spread have ended up disproven. It is important to note there is a difference between “never showing symptoms” and “pre-symptomatic” and the media is promoting an unproven narrative. Almost all people end up in the latter camp within five days, almost never the former. It is very unlikely for individuals with COVID-19 to never show symptoms. WHO and CDC claim that asymptomatic spread isn’t a concern and quite rare.

      … “We still believe, looking at the data, that the force of infection here, the major driver, is people who are symptomatic, unwell, and transmitting to others along the human-to-human route,” Dr. Mike Ryan of WHO Emergencies Program.

      Iceland is leading the globe in testing its entire population of ~300,000 for asymptomatic spread, not just those that show symptoms. They randomly tested 1,800 citizens who don’t show symptoms and, as far as they knew, were not exposed to positive individuals. Of this sample, only 19 tested positive for COVID-19, or 1.1% of the sample.

    11. 93% Who Think They are Positive, Are Not
    12. Looking at the success in S. Korea and Singapore, the important tool in our war chest is measurement. If we are concerned about the general non-infected population, what is the probability those who show symptoms actually test positive? What is the chance that the cough from your neighbor is COVID-19? This “conversion rate” will show whether or not you have a cold (another coronavirus) or are heading into isolation for two weeks. Global data shows that ~95% of people who are tested aren’t positive. The positivity rate varies by country.

    13. 1% of US Cases Will be Severe
    14. As of mid-March, the US has a significantly lower case severity rate than other countries. Our current severe caseload is similar to South Korea. This data has been spotty in the past; however, lower severity is reflected in the US COVID-19 fatality rates .

      Early reports from CDC, suggest that 12% of COVID-19 cases need some form of hospitalization, which is lower than the projected severity rate of 20%, with 80% being mild cases.

    15. US Fatality Rates Will Decline
    16. Higher fatality rates in China, Iran, and Italy are more likely associated with a sudden shock to the healthcare system unable to address demands and doesn’t accurately reflect viral fatality rates. As COVID-19 spread throughout China, the fatality rate drastically fell outside of Hubei. This was attributed to the outbreak slowing spreading to several provinces with low infection rates.

      … “The one situation where an entire, closed population was tested was the Diamond Princess cruise ship and its quarantine passengers. The case fatality rate there was 1.0%, but this was a largely elderly population, in which the death rate from Covid-19 is much higher.

    17. Closing Down Society is Idiotic
    18. Based on transmission evidence children are more likely to catch COVID-19 in the home than at school. As well, they are more likely to expose older vulnerable adults as multi-generational homes are more common. As well, the school provides a single point of testing a large population for a possible infection in the home to prevent community spread.

      … With such little evidence of prolific community spread and our guiding healthcare institutions reporting the same results, shuttering the local economy is a distraction and arbitrary with limited accretive gain outside of greatly annoying millions and bankrupting hundreds of businesses. The data is overwhelming at this point that community-based spread and airborne transmission is not a threat. We don’t have significant examples of spreading through restaurants or gyms. When you consider the environment COVID-19 prefers, isolating every family in their home is a perfect situation for infection and transmission among other family members. Evidence from South Korea and Singapore shows that it is completely possible and preferred to continue on with life while making accommodations that are data-driven, such as social distancing and regular temperature checks.

    19. Politicians are Over-Precautioning Countries to Death
    20. Local governments and politicians are inflicting massive harm and disruption with little evidence to support their draconian edicts. Every local government is in a mimetic race to one-up each other in authoritarian city ordinances to show us who has more “abundance of caution”. Politicians are competing, not on more evidence or more COVID-19 cures but more caution. As unemployment rises and families feel unbearably burdened already, they feel pressure to “fix” the situation they created with even more radical and “creative” policy solutions. This only creates more problems and an even larger snowball effect.

      __ Evidence Over Hysteria

    We Cannot Afford this Wallowing in Doom

    We will see that the “shut it down” approach being taken by politicians — who are egged on by the media — is exactly the wrong approach, if they want to have a functioning society on the other side of the abyss.

    The media are at the forefront of stirring up apocalyptic dread over Covid-19. In Europe, there is also a performative apocalypticism in some of the more extreme clampdowns on everyday life and social engagement by the political authorities, in particular in Italy, Spain and France. Many governments seem to be driven less by a reasoned, evidence-fuelled strategy of limiting both the spread of the disease and the disorganisation of economic life, than by an urge to be seen to be taking action. They seem motivated more by an instinct to perform the role of worriers about apocalypse, for the benefit of the dread-ridden cultural elites, rather than by the responsibility to behave as true moral leaders who might galvanise the public in a collective mission against illness and a concerted effort to protect economic life.

    A key problem with this performative apocalypticism is that it fails to think through the consequences of its actions. So obsessed are today’s fashionable doom-predictors with offsetting what they see as the horrendous consequences of human behaviour – whether it’s our polluting activities or our wrong-headed voting habits – that they fail to factor in the consequences of their own agenda of fear.

    … Hundreds of thousands of people in Italy and Ireland have lost their jobs already, in the night-time, hotel and entertainment sectors in particular. That is a social and health cost, too: job loss can lead to the loss of one’s home, the breakdown of one’s marriage, and to a palpable and destructive feeling of social expediency. As to keeping elderly people indoors for months on end, as is now being proposed in the UK, it is perfectly legitimate to ask whether this poses an even greater threat to our older citizens’ sense of personal and social wellbeing than their taking their chances with a disease that is not a death sentence for older people (though it impacts on them harder than it does on the young).

    The point is, there is such a thing as doing too little and also such a thing as doing too much. __ Apocalypse is a Luxury

    A careful and measured re-opening of businesses, schools, and meeting places should begin taking place as soon as the people involved can be trained in effective virus detection and virus control/disinfection methods. This training — along with social distancing of those most at risk — is where the primary efforts of most government agencies (outside of the CDC and NIH) involved in fighting the novel coronavirus, should go.

    Vital Supplies Could be Scaled Up if Gov. Red Tape Slashed

    N95 Respirator Masks filter at least 95% of airborne particles measuring 0.3 microns. Many manufacturers of respirators would like to help out. But current government regulations leave manufacturers wide open to lawsuits. This is one of many places where government action could smooth the way for private industry to help solve an important shortage.

    Another area with similar bottlenecks is in the FDA drug approval process, and in the shockingly slow approval process for viral testing.

    Government bureaucracy has its uses, but it can also be a millstone around society’s neck.

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | 3 Comments

    Let’s Nuke this Virus!

    The Wuhan Coronavirus is stealthy, quick to spread, and often deadly. The Chinese government gave the virus a head-start by covering up the infection for seven precious weeks — and missed the opportunity to reduce the spread by 95%. But the rest of the world has a few tricks up its sleeve. It may be time to pull out the big guns and let the mad dogs off their leash.

    The Summit, or OLCF-4, supercomputer housed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee was used by ORNL researchers to run thousands of simulations that analyzed which drug compounds might effectively stop SARS-CoV-2 from infecting host cells. It identified 77 small-molecule drug compounds, an achievement ORNL researchers said is a key step toward developing the most effective treatment against this highly-contagious disease.

    ORNL researchers have published their findings in the journal ChemRxiv. Summit is currently the fastest supercomputer in the world, and is capable of 200 petaFLOPS. It was developed by IBM for use at ORNL and reduced the time it took to screen for useful drugs from months to just days. __ Intl Bus. Times

    We know that several drugs have exhibited preliminary signs of effectiveness against the novel coronavirus 2019, including the anti-malarial drug chloroquine. But none of them are ready for prime time just yet, and even when approved under the new “compassionate guidelines”, they will probably not be magic bullets against the virus. But they are a start, and a few of the treatments will likely be helpful in mitigating the severity of the disease in many cases.

    We have already looked at using the convalescent plasma of recovered patients as “blocking antibody therapy,” for cases that are critical, or heading in that direction. And we have looked at new monoclonal antibody therapies.

    Wuhan Coronavirus Is Muddying the Waters

    Politicians across the US are using the Chinese virus as an excuse to grab more governmental power. But the side effect of all of that is to badly hurt the economy — a cure that can be worse than the disease. Many people are wondering whether it was necessary for the politicians to bring about a recession, when other approaches might have worked better.

    Another reason Americans are “sick and tired” of this situation, is that many of them have been sporadically “sick and tired” through the winter, with flu-like symptoms. At the peak of flu season in February, only 30% of those with flu symptoms were testing positive for either Influenza A or Influenza B.

    Flu Tests Type A and B 2019/2020 US Flu Season

    How many of these 70% with flu symptoms who tested negative for influenza A or B, were actually experiencing infection with novel Wuhan Coronavirus? It is possible that Chinese tourists and other travelers from Hubei province have been bringing the virus to North American tourist sites since December, when the virus was spreading rapidly inside that part of China. Perhaps you yourself remember that “cold” or “flu” you experienced a few weeks ago? Perhaps it was really something else.

    Don’t Panic, Nuke Something!

    Viruses can be stealthy and resourceful in their deadly passage through human populations. But humans have brains. And in the long run, that should make all the difference. And because humans also have strong emotions, they tend to remember when they have come out on the short end of the stick. They want to destroy the offending party.

    Choosing the Targets

    When going after Wuhan Coronavirus for the kill, we should choose our targets carefully:

    • Target: reproduction
    • When virus’ RNA genome first enters a cell, it interacts with the host’s protein-making machinery, using it to make proteins that can copy RNA molecules.

      These RNA-copying proteins, called “polymerases,” make an enticing target for therapies. Because host cells don’t naturally have them, therapies that target these RNA-making proteins should have a lower chance of off-target effects. Block these RNA polymerases, and the virus can no longer reproduce, stopping an infection.

    • Target: processing
    • RNA copying polymerases aren’t the only potential therapeutic targets for a coronavirus. Their RNA polymerases are initially made in forms that aren’t fully functional; instead, they must have small pieces snipped out in order to adopt their mature configuration. Coronavirus RNA therefore encodes two or three proteins that do this cutting. They belong to a class of proteins collectively termed “proteases” for their protein-cutting ability. Proteases typically have a very specific site where the cutting takes place, and any chemicals that can fit into this site might shut the protease down. Not surprisingly, such chemicals are called protease inhibitors.

      This approach has been used successfully against other viruses, notably including HIV. Scientists have now found that protease inhibitors targeted to HIV might have activity against coronavirus, despite the fact that these viruses are unrelated.

    • Target: packaging
    • After replication, viral RNA can’t continue an infection until it is packaged up into a mature virus and gets outside of the host cell. This requires special packaging proteins. (In coronavirus, these proteins do double duty by also helping the viral RNA link up with its copying enzymes.) This packaging step would seem to provide a great opportunity for targeted therapy, as disrupting it should limit the amount of functional virus that gets made and exported from any particular cell.

    • Target: the viral shell
    • That leaves the spike protein. Spike is a complicated protein that provides a wealth of targets for potential therapies. As the most prominent feature of the virus’ exterior, spike is the main target of antibodies against the virus produced by the immune system.

    • Target: new infections
    • The final step in the virus’ life cycle is infecting a new cell… This series of events provides potential targets for therapies. One of these targets is the drop in pH. This is the step that’s targeted by chloroquine, the antimalarial drug. Chloroquine can cross membranes and so can enter the sac containing the virus. Once there, it can neutralize the pH.

      … The host cell proteases themselves also make a tempting target. A paper we mentioned above identified a protease that appears to be essential for the coronavirus spike protein’s activation. That team showed that an inhibitor of this protease blocked coronavirus infections in cultured cells. The inhibitor has been approved for use in humans by Japan, so this may be another promising avenue for tests. (Racaniello notes that this protease is also used to activate influenza viruses.)

    • Target: Beyond the obvious
    • A recent article in the New York Times described how scientists have identified hundreds of proteins made by host cells that interact with proteins encoded in the coronavirus genome. We don’t know the significance of most of these interactions and whether or not they’re important or coincidental, but any of them could potentially lead to a therapy. That would, however, probably take longer than a targeted therapy, since there are more steps involved in screening for effective drugs than there are in, say, screening a library of known protease inhibitors against the coronavirus’ proteases.

      There’s also the potential to intervene at the level of the body’s response to the virus, rather than targeting the virus itself. The more damaging consequences of some infections come from an exaggerated immune response to the virus. Biotech giant Genentech, for example, announced on Thursday that it was starting clinical trials of an immune-dampening treatment on hospitalized coronavirus cases.

      If any of the approaches described above—or one we didn’t consider—is even moderately effective, it could radically change our circumstances. It could ensure that far fewer coronavirus cases need hospitalization, and that fewer of those that do require critical care. A country’s healthcare system could then continue functioning in the presence of a higher rate of infection, which in turn could mean that less dramatic social restrictions are required. If carefully managed, this might even allow countries to allow enough infections so that they achieve herd immunity before the availability of a vaccine.

      __ Ars Technica

    Politicians are throwing the economy under the bus without having had any meaningful public discussions — and without giving the public a choice in its Wuhan viral destiny:

    Focus on vulnerable populations

    It is people in these vulnerable categories who are most likely to require hospitalization if they contract the virus. Flattening the curve among them would accomplish most of the public health benefits that attempting to flatten the curve among all of us is intended to achieve.

    The rest of us could have gone about our quotidian activities. More of us might get sick sooner. But we would get well, and back to work, quickly. There would have been disruptions in workforce availability that businesses would have had to work through and around. But nothing like the current massive shutdowns.

    There was never a formal decision to prioritize flattening the curve for everyone over everything else, regardless of the disruption or cost. Nor any formal consideration (and rejection) of the alternative of seeking to flatten the curve and protect just the more vulnerable population. It just sort of happened. __ Was Recession Really Necessary?

    Heavy-handed decision making which results in economic distress for large numbers of people, is not a good way to get on the good side of the people you are supposed to be serving.

    It seems a fool’s errand to pre-emptively and indefinitely risk everyone’s livelihoods without hard information about what is happening and a risk assessment that includes the serious dangers of killing the U.S. economy, not what computers project will happen with lots of missing, unreliable, and rapidly changing information. __ The Federalist

    We have been fed “worst case scenarios” throughout this political hysteria. Perhaps it is time to give the public the full range of projections, and while “protecting the most vulnerable” and making prudent recommendations, we let the rest of the people make their own decisions.

    … officials don’t appreciate the financial vulnerability of America’s 30 million small businesses when they are ordering all‐​encompassing shutdowns. California has ordered a general economic shutdown except for essential services. Pennsylvania has ordered “all non‐​life‐​sustaining” businesses in the state to close. All mining, construction, most manufacturing, most retail trade, and many other industries must close based on a government central plan. These sorts of actions are very heavy handed. Governments are offering emergency businesses loans, but that won’t compensate for the massive income loss imposed if this extends for more than a few weeks.

    Policymakers face tough decisions in the days ahead, but I fear that they are swinging too far toward virus control at all costs. We should be putting more weight on the economic and health damage that will be risked by extended business shutdowns. __

    Do They Want to Make Beggars of Everyone?

    Give a man a free house and he’ll bust out the windows
    Put his family on food stamps, now he’s a big spender
    No food on the table and the bills ain’t paid
    ‘Cause he spent it on cigarettes and P.G.A
    They’ll turn us all into beggars ’cause they’re easier to please
    They’re feeding our people that Government Cheese
    __ RainMakers “Government Cheese”

    F* that S* ! Let’s just nuke the bastard.

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | 2 Comments

    Panic, Damn You!

    Fear is contagious: Fear is more contagious than any virus could ever be, and the media has really fed the fear factor when it comes to the coronavirus. __ William Murray

    Democratic Governors of California and New York Push Panic Button

    The governors of both California and New York have ordered the people of their states to stay home except to buy food and medical supplies. Stock markets were predictably not happy about the intentional shutting down of most commercial activity in two of the wealthiest US states. And what comes next after the “shelter in place” order? This kind of power can go to a governor’s head.

    The former Mayor of San Francisco, and now California Governor, Gavin Newsom, has ordered all residents to stay at home until further notice. According to Newsom, “We need to bend the curve in the state of California.”

    Perhaps these solutions have merit. But they’re disastrous for the economy. Cash flows are running dry. Credit markets are freezing up. People are losing their jobs. Full mobilization is needed, we’re told, in the war on coronavirus.

    … As far as we can tell, the coronavirus has attracted prophets of all stripes like bees to a honey pot. Mass coronavirus hysteria has led to public and pretend prophetic histrionics.

    According to Bill Ackman, “hell is coming.”

    Maybe so. Or maybe the mass panic has been slightly overblown. By this, is the panic worse than the virus? Who knows? __ Panic Worse Than Virus

    Panic buying has been going on in stores across the US for weeks, as has panic selling in the markets. But the kind of all-out shutdown of commercial, personal, professional, and school activities that we are seeing in the Democratic Party bastions of California and New York is a type of “panic governing” that Americans are unaccustomed to. Because of a contagious respiratory virus of unknown but limited risk, governors who are supposed to have the best interests of their constituents uppermost in their minds are instead “snapping the whips of panic” without any concept of the consequences — and without a well-considered rationale for their actions.

    Death Rate Uncertain — Wildly Varies by Country

    So why is the death rate in Germany so low, and why is it falling in the U.S., exactly? The answer is simple arithmetic. If only people who are hospitalized or very sick get tested, then the denominator – the number of COVID-19 cases – will be biased downward. Those with milder symptoms or no symptoms will not be counted, and the virus will appear more deadly than it really is.

    For a clear explanation of the illusions created by incomplete data, and the clarity provided by an accurate denominator, see this from OurWorldinData. __

    Germany: Many Infections; Few Deaths

    Germany has experienced a rise in new infections, but its case fatality rate has been low compared with other sites of disease outbreak. Germany has plenty of old, vulnerable people. And Germany’s young have been flocking to the parks, not staying home. All the data suggest that the young are at much lower risk, so logically it makes sense not to sequestrate the young — as long as the sick and the elderly are isolated from public exposure.

    How Much Worse than Severe Flu is Wuhan Coronavirus?

    In Wuhan, Lombardy, and Iran, the Wuhan virus overwhelmed medical systems and cut a swath of death through populations. While influenza kills more people, this novel coronavirus is frightening for its speed of spread and the way it has decimated health care personnel. Because people can spread the virus early in the infection — before symptoms are noticeable — the infectious agent incorporates an element of stealth that is unsettling. And in certain places the mortality can be over 20X greater in symptomatic patients than for seasonal flu. For all these reasons, we experience a fearful emotional reaction that sees no limit to the catastrophe. We feel the primal instinct to panic.

    But besides being prone to emotional overreaction, we also have the facility of thought and logic.

    While the health care system must prepare for the worst case, there is a reasonable scenario for a better outcome — that deaths won’t be much worse than a severe flu and that the corner can be turned within the two months it took in Hubei. Let us hope — and act. __

    On the other hand, there is always the panic button if one gets tired of logical thinking.

    Panic, damn you!

    Stressed businesswoman

    And if you don’t want to panic, you don’t have to.

    … if you go into a grocery store right now and don’t see what you want, that doesn’t mean that what you want isn’t out there somewhere.

    People aren’t eating more food. They’re just eating it at home. Empty shelves mean there’s a bottleneck, not a shortage. Food that had been destined for restaurants, bars, offices and other gathering places will need to go to homes instead, and the system will have to account for the increased volume of groceries Americans cooking at home are suddenly buying.

    But the supply chain is built for some disruption, and there’s cushioning for it. Our food system can deal with the current demand; it just has to relearn how to distribute the supply.

    As long as farmers can keep farming, truckers can keep driving, packaging can be made and supplied and grocery stores can stay open, the empty shelves should be just a temporary inconvenience. __

    I have heard about miscreants that are being intentionally careless about virus precautions — as if they are intentionally trying to spread the virus around. That makes it doubly important for everyone else to take greater care about washing hands, guarding coughs and sneezes, keeping hands in pockets when not in use, and thinking of polite reasons not to shake hands.


    Stop Insane Overreaction

    The clock is ticking

    Remember Wuhan and the virus it gave to the world

    WHO helped China give the world Wuhan Virus?

    As long as the CCP rules, things will just get worse

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | 1 Comment

    Store Shelves to be Overflowing with Toilet Paper

    Why would anyone expect the US to run out of toilet paper? There should be a special word for that kind of insanity.

    “All the grocery stores are going to have pallets of toilet paper sitting in the aisles, and nobody is going to buy it, because who needs to buy toilet paper when you’ve got a year’s worth sitting in your garage?” Daniel Stanton, a supply chain expert and author of “Supply Chain Management for Dummies,” tells CNBC Make It.

    But what about food?

    Even if the COVID-19 pandemic stretches over months (President Donald Trump said it could last until August), there will be no big food shortages, especially on staples like milk, eggs, cheese, bread and meat, according to three supply chain experts who spoke to Make It. __ Toilet Paper Everywhere

    Free toilet paper given away by bars and restaurants

    While there is no national shortage of toilet paper, the COVID-19 pandemic has inspired “panic” buying, making it difficult for retailers to keep shelves stocked.

    That’s provided an opportunity for some restaurants and bars that are losing significant sales after closing off dining areas to comply with health orders aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

    On Tuesday, the Cambridge Bar and Grill in Cambridge, Minnesota, announced on Facebook that any “to go order” over $25 comes with a free roll of toilet paper.

    Many of their customers may prize the toilet paper more than the order of food and beverage.

    Fear-Mongering is the New Normal

    As an MIT PhD in Biological Engineering who studies & does research nearly every day on the Immune System, the #coronavirus fear mongering by the Deep State will go down in history as one of the biggest fraud to manipulate economies, suppress dissent, & push MANDATED Medicine!

    … In many places, they are telling us when we can leave our homes and when we must return to them.

    They have decided what events or religious services we can attend, how many people are allowed to be there and which businesses are allowed to stay open.

    In the process, the global economy has crashed with the assistance of the media stirring everyone into a mass panic. __ Four MIT Degrees Speaking

    Having four degrees from MIT doesn’t make him right about what the Deep State is trying to pull off. But we have had a lot of experience with the Deep State. There is almost nothing that the swamp would not do in its own interests.

    Russians Begin to Look at Their Own Predicament

    For weeks we have been treated to derision from the East, as Russians laugh at all the panic manifested by silly western Europeans and North Americans. But although Putin’s Russia knows how to restrict information flow, restricting virus flow may be a lot harder to do.

    Foreign nationals are now banned from entering until May 1 as part of an effort to slow the spread of the virus, and Moscow has barred all outdoor events and limited indoor gatherings to fewer than 50 people. Older Russians have been told to remain inside. Schools are now closed, as are major tourist attractions, while Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced a $4 billion bailout package on Monday to help businesses that are at risk due to the drop-off in economic activity. Russia has also shut its sizable land borders with its 14 neighbors, and the city of Moscow is currently constructing two large hospitals to house patients infected with the coronavirus.

    The recent speed of the government response may in part be due to recognition that the virus is, in fact, spreading throughout the country. __

    Just as in China, getting true information out of Russia is next to impossible. Watch what they do, not what they say.

    Politicians Don’t Want to Bother With the Details

    With all the grand posturing being done by governments around the world, very little is said about exactly how people are going to survive all of these political measures being laid down by the pompous fat-heads.

    Even people with the means and the flexibility to work from home and fully isolate still need to find ways to provide food and other essential goods and services for their families. And, if they’re unlucky despite the best of precautions, emergency medical services. In other words, like it or not, we are all interdependent on other people still willing, able, and allowed, to do their jobs. That means the entire global supply chain; a distributed network of farmers, ranchers, pickers, packers, truck drivers, shippers, distribution centers, grocery stores, delivery services, and the thousands of other functions I don’t even know about, and untold millions of people with special skills you don’t have.

    So when I see politicians mandating, or regular people demanding, as a moral imperative, that all human interaction cease immediately until the risk of infection ends, I know that they are probably not considering the consequences of such a policy. They are likely not thinking about, or are totally unaware of, the incredibly complex division of labor and distributed responsibilities that drive our prosperous modern economy. Millions, even billions of people you don’t know, are all working together constantly to ensure that each of us gets what we want and need to sustain our lives. We all contribute to this beautiful process, each of us deciding for our own selves, who does what best. __

    It is not their job to worry about how the little people will survive their idiocy. They make sure that they themselves are well-insulated from all the consequences of their poorly considered mandates.

    Most People Will Always Remember it As the Wuhan Coronavirus

    Some American commentators and Democratic politicians are aghast at Donald Trump and Republicans for referring to the pandemic as the “Wuhan virus” and repeatedly pointing to China as the source of the pandemic. In naming the disease COVID-19, the World Health Organization specifically avoided mentioning Wuhan. Yet in de-emphasizing where the epidemic began (something China has been aggressively pushing for), we run the risk of obscuring Beijing’s role in letting the disease spread beyond its borders.

    … Because the Chinese Communist Party was pretending that there was little to be concerned about, Wuhan was a porous purveyor of the virus. The government only instituted a lockdown in Wuhan on January 23—seven weeks after the virus first appeared. As events in Italy, the United States, Spain, and France have shown, quite a lot can happen in a week, much less seven. By then, mayor Zhou Xianwang admitted that more than 5 million people had already left Wuhan.

    If that weren’t enough, we can plumb recent history for an even more damning account. In a 2019 article, Chinese experts warned it was “highly likely that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China.” In a 2007 journal article, infectious-disease specialists published a study arguing that “the presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.” It was ignored. __ Atlantic

    A Lot of Conflicting Views and Information

    Perennial Optimist Matt Ridley struggles against despair:

    A vast experiment is happening as different countries try different strategies, with some in Asia having notably more success than others in Europe. But to stop the virus gaining a permanent foothold in the human population will require every single one of those experiments to work.

    In the long run, we will get through this. Effective drugs will be found. Methods for keeping the very sick from dying will improve. The milder forms of the virus will probably out-compete the harsher versions. A vaccine may yet work — though it has come as quite a shock to find out just how little vaccine development has improved in recent decades. Genomics allows us to read viral genomes in a flash and make messenger-RNA vaccines, in which the body manufactures the viral proteins, doing away with the need to put killed or attenuated viruses into the body. None the less, a scientific paper that I failed to read last year warned: ‘The current state of vaccine development is an expensive, slow and laborious process, costing billions of dollars, taking decades, with less than a 10 per cent rate of success.’

    We must not despair or return permanently to autarky and localism. With the right precautions, an open, free-trading, free-moving, innovating world is possible without pandemics and is essential for raising living standards. Government must both splash the cash and slash many of the things it does that are not urgent to alleviate human suffering, and there are a lot of them. But in the midst of our misery let us be thankful for one thing: unlike many plagues, this one spares children. __

    When faced with the exponential rise in cases that has been seen almost every time the virus confronts a new, vulnerable population, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the rapid growth of infection.

    Do Warm Temperatures Discourage Virus Spread?

    We have been discussing the possible effect of warm temperatures on the contagiousness of Wuhan Coronavirus for weeks now. Evidence is slowly trickling in:

    “Notably, during the same time, COVID-19 failed to spread significantly to countries immediately south of China,” the paper notes. “The number of patients and reported deaths in Southeast Asia is much less when compared to more temperate regions noted … The association between temperature in the cities affected with COVID-19 deserves special attention.”

    But, he cautioned, “… We can expect a dip in the summer. But that doesn’t mean that we will be out of the woods … Everyone in the scientific and public health community expects it to be back in the fall and we expect to be in this for quite some time.” __ More, with links

    Scan the countries in the table below, and note a rough correlation between the number of cases and the temperature/sunshine conditions for the specific country in March.

    China Could Have Reduced Spread by 95% !

    Early action by China could have reduced the spread of Wuhan Virus by 95%, according to this study at the University of Southampton in the UK.

    The communist party government of China took the opposite path, and destroyed the early medical evidence of virulence and spread which the global community of virologists and epidemiologists needed so desperately.

    Here is a timeline of some early cases in China’s Hubei province

    This table illustrates the wide variability of Wuhan Virus case fatality rate between different nations

    It is too bad that China dropped the ball and put the rest of the world in danger.

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | 2 Comments

    The Data is Useful; The Conclusions are Wrong

    Good and Bad Data are Intermixed

    We have to use all the data we can get, even while we know that a lot of the data is misleading.

    The data collected so far on how many people are infected and how the epidemic is evolving are utterly unreliable. Given the limited testing to date, some deaths and probably the vast majority of infections due to SARS-CoV-2 are being missed. We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300. Three months after the outbreak emerged, most countries, including the U.S., lack the ability to test a large number of people and no countries have reliable data on the prevalence of the virus in a representative random sample of the general population.

    This evidence fiasco creates tremendous uncertainty about the risk of dying from Covid-19. Reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4% rate from the World Health Organization, cause horror — and are meaningless. Patients who have been tested for SARS-CoV-2 are disproportionately those with severe symptoms and bad outcomes. As most health systems have limited testing capacity, selection bias may even worsen in the near future. __ STAT

    Most of the tests that are circulating now, have not been put through the type of rigorous quality control process that would allow for the kind of disease modelling that epidemiologists like to do. And the disease information from China is almost never the kind of thing you can take to the bank.

    Cumulative Cases by Country
    Financial Times via New Atlantis

    The most interesting thing about the graph is how a few countries (Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong) seem to have separated from the crowd in terms of growth of cumulative cases. Taiwan is another country with a divergent trajectory of cumulative cases. These divergences tell us that we cannot reliably predict the course of the “Wuhan Flu Pandemic” for countries at any stage of outbreak.

    Keep in mind that “cumulative case counts” do not tell you how many people have recovered and are presumably now immune. The data is useful, but is not entirely reliable and does not tell you all you need to know. Limited and somewhat unreliable information can lead to wrong conclusions.

    A new factor in the pandemic analysis is that countries such as China, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore are being hit by multiple new waves of infection clusters. These “new waves” are a reflection of both importation of new cases from overseas, and of previously undetected clusters in-country due to asymptomatic carriers who serve as disease reservoirs. Certainly China has been caught under-counting its new cases on multiple occasions in multiple cities. If you are in China and you point out the problem, you are likely to be either deported or jailed (or worse).

    Another thing to keep in mind is that countries may successfully contain the initial outbreak — in order to avoid a dangerous overloading of healthcare infrastructure — only to be hit hard six months later with another large outbreak.

    This is just a model, and models are always wrong. But it is useful data that should be kept in mind. Unless useful vaccines and treatments are developed and made affordable and widely available, the “can” may only be kicked down the road for a future confrontation. How many times can an economy deal with being shut down for weeks or months? Of course it is worth an initial “flattening of the curve” while we are trying to get a grip on the data, with a better understanding of the prevalence of disease and the best means of containing the spread.

    If the South Korean efforts are successful, they can provide a model for how to ease up on the restrictions needed for suppression. And add a new wrinkle to any epidemiological models of this coronavirus outbreak. __

    There is no perfect approach for everyone. South Korea found itself in the midst of a catastrophe, and devised a way to slow things down abruptly. Along with Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan, South Korea is a country to watch and perhaps to emulate. Taking the “China approach” is a certain route to ruin.

    We Do Not Yet Understand the Picture that is Unfolding

    Most of those who have died from novel coronavirus have been elderly persons and/or persons with serious underlying medical conditions. And some of those may have died with coronavirus, but not of coronavirus.

    In an autopsy series that tested for respiratory viruses in specimens from 57 elderly persons who died during the 2016 to 2017 influenza season, influenza viruses were detected in 18% of the specimens, while any kind of respiratory virus was found in 47%. In some people who die from viral respiratory pathogens, more than one virus is found upon autopsy and bacteria are often superimposed. A positive test for coronavirus does not mean necessarily that this virus is always primarily responsible for a patient’s demise. __ STAT

    Are We in an Epistemic Crisis?

    If we are floating in a sea of ignorance regarding novel coronavirus — which we likely are — when will be become grounded and more secure in our knowledge of the problem?

    F.A. Hayek was right that the use of knowledge in society is the central issue in economic and social organization. We had been cut off from the knowledge flow that otherwise would have been ours had we left this issue entirely to the private sector, which would have brought a Coronavirus test to you as quickly as you can order a pizza.

    … Lacking that knowledge, public officials freaked out. Stay home. Keep your distance. Everyone is a suspect. Anyone and everyone could be positive for Corona. Socially shame anyone out and about. Board up the bars!

    It was this sense, along with utter panic on the part of public officials, that led the markets to crash. After all, you can’t have an economy if people cannot engage and trade, can’t go to work, can’t distribute goods and services, and forget about investment.

    And here we find the key to understanding why this Coronavirus has produced a social and economic calamity, whereas the H1N1 (Swine flu) from ten years ago is barely remembered by most people. It came and went with a large health cost (infections: 57 million; fatalities 12,469) but low cost otherwise. The critical difference was that the CDC worked with private laboratories and medical facilities to get the test out there. A few public schools closed for part of the day but there was no panic, no large economic loss.

    … In the midst of all of this, this panic learning and trying, this speculation and searching, this mass national confusion, this endless and chaotic longing to know, this constant grasping for intelligence, one thing became certain: states at all levels decided to act. As if they knew the right course. And they acted with extreme force. And their message was always the same: stop whatever you are doing and do nothing instead.

    This was and is the ultimate expression of nihilism, the chaos that follows ignorance. Officials in this country decided to shut down society – as if this were even possible – as a replacement for reliable, usable, actionable knowledge that we were all forcibly prevented from gaining when we most needed it.

    … The ray of hope is that reliable tests are going to be distributed widely in the coming days, and that will solve the great epistemic crisis created by the CDC/FDA. There is hope and light at the end of this very dark tunnel of ignorance. __

    Reliable testing plus the prospect of viable treatments and effective vaccines, will all come together to provide a bit of clarity and perspective on what may be coming next. Perhaps when the air clears and we can see what is what, the panic will dissipate.

    We Also Need to Listen to the Skeptics

    Since much of what we “know” about this coronavirus pandemic is probably wrong, we should be both humble in making predictions, and skeptical about most of the predictions being made by others.

    Recall that the Spanish influenza pandemic, fully worthy of the name, resulted in perhaps as many as a half-billion infections and between 50 and 100 million deaths, world-wide, of which some 675,000 were Americans, many coming back from Europe in the aftermath of the First World War. The World Health Organization recently declared coronavirus a pandemic at a time when the death count was at 4,000, presently being just over 6,500. It will surely rise no matter what precautions are taken going forward, but what is critical is some estimate of the rate.

    By way of comparison, the toll from the flu in the United States since October ran as follows: between 36 to 51 million infections, between 370 thousand to 670 thousand flu hospitalizations, and between 22 thousand to 55 thousand flu deaths. That works out to between roughly between 230,000 to 320,000 new infections per day, and between 140 to 350 deaths per day for an overall mortality rate of between 0.044 percent to 0.152 percent.

    … Note that Washington state, with 676 reported cases and 42 deaths, has a mortality rate of 6.21 percent, which can be traced to a nursing facility in Kirkland Washington. While only contributing 57 cases, it was the source of 27 of the reported deaths, almost two-thirds of the fatalities. (We should expect, as has been the case, that the mortality rate in Washington will decline as the newer cases will not come exclusively from that high-risk population.) The next three states have 1,577 diagnosed cases and 11 deaths for a mortality rate of 0.69 percent, a number which has trended lower over the last few days. Unlike the deadly exposures in Kirkland, the exposures in New York state produced many documented illnesses, but only two deaths even after two weeks of exposure. And while it is easy to miss latent cases, it is harder to miss any virus-related death. Given that the incubation period is about two-weeks, the pool of cases before March 1 should be small.

    __ Hoover Institute

    We need to distinguish between prudent social distancing to “flatten the curve,” and panic behaviors that can easily lead to serious financial hardship for large numbers of people.

    I think part of the coronavirus conventional wisdom has become too pessimistic. Yes, the fight to stop the spread of the virus is going to have to be ongoing unless, and until, we develop a vaccine or highly effective medical treatments, which is to say for at least several months. But the nature of the disruption does not have to stay constant. It is necessary now to close schools and businesses, and tell people to drastically reduce social contacts in a way that is economically devastating to many businesses and workers. But there is a trade-off: The better we get at interventions to identify and isolate specific people with the virus, the less we should need to rely on interventions that isolate the entire population. That’s a reason the ramp-up of widely available testing remains such an important goal for the U.S.: More testing should, in time, allow for more normal living.

    We are seeing this already in other countries: South Korea and Singapore have been successfully addressing their coronavirus epidemics with less extensive social-distancing measures than are currently seen in Italy, France, and parts of the U.S., in part because of their effective testing and surveillance regimes.

    … It is also possible that effective antiviral treatments to treat the sick will be available much sooner than a vaccine that protects the healthy. This is partly because ongoing trials are testing whether already existing antiviral drugs, approved and on the market to fight other viruses, can reduce the severity of COVID-19 and save lives. __

    The World Will Change, But in What Ways?

    When this particular global outbreak is finally snuffed out, how will the world have changed?

    Communist China is fighting a propaganda war to save itself from a dark future.

    Unsurprisingly, China [has] enablers abroad helping to whitewash Beijing’s culpability. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus refused for months to declare a pandemic, and instead thanked China for “making us safer,” a comment straight out of an Orwell novel. This is the same WHO that has refused to allow Taiwan membership, due undoubtedly to Beijing’s influence over the WHO’s purse strings.

    China-based globalization was meant to be a “golden ticket” to global dominance, for the totalitarian dictatorship. But if other countries decide to move their manufacturing and supply chains outside of China, the prospects for Beijing’s future would shrivel.

    It is likely that a lot more people will become comfortable with expanding their online purchasing, and other things such as online schooling and online work.

    A long list of “Wuhan Losers”

    Hardest hit of all, however, is the media, whose anti-Trump mania, reliance on manipulative if not imaginary “anonymous sources,” eagerness to be seduced by former members of the intelligence community, general ignorance of almost every specialized field they encounter, political naiveté, and absolute fidelity to the party line (“Wuhan” is now racist) has rendered a once-proud profession little more than a mouthpiece for the Democratic National Committee and a constant reproach to truth, justice, and the American way.

    In the meantime, as we start to get better information and learn what containment measures are useful and what can be discarded, life will slowly move closer to an approximation of normal. And as treatments and vaccines begin in time to snuff out this particular emergent pandemic, fear will subside — hopefully with a growing immunity to the excesses of the largely dishonest news media.

    Stock Market Crash Reflects Political Class’ and Media Apocalyptic Thinking

    The real history of this crash is that the market began to fall exactly as the political class began to panic, speak of shutdowns, demand flight cancellations, talk of closing up and stopping history. Whatever you think about the virus threat, and even if you think all this is justified in the name of stopping the spread, let’s not be confused about what drove this disaster from the beginning: the fear that politics would attack commercial society at its root.

    For some years ago, the apocalyptic mentality has been gaining in our politics, with the right wing screaming about rampant immorality, globalism, and the breakdown of nations, while the left has been calling for the end of fossil fuels, wealth, and capitalism itself. They share a common enemy, the free and peaceful commercial society that empowers individuals over collectives. That the social order that has made everyone rich must be destroyed is something on which they agree. And now these gangs are demanding your allegiance in a time of grave crisis.

    The calamity before our eyes is beginning to look like some version of their imagined dystopia while the rest of us are left to struggle through this disaster the old-fashioned way, not with ideological delusion but with intelligence, calm, and rational planning for the future. There is indeed a virus among us, one far more damaging than that which goes by the name COVID-19.


    Draining the swamp may necessarily involve beginning to hold the media to a certain minimal standard of truthfulness.

    Again, some level of social distancing seems wise. Working and schooling from home — where possible — may lead to wiser long-term approaches to both. Reliable and available testing is on the way which will point to more effective and less disruptive containment measures. Eventually good treatments and effective vaccines will make our choices easier, and our outlook sunnier.


    Reality Check — for the 2009/2010 H1N1 pandemic there were approximately 60.8 million cases, and 12,469 deaths in the United States alone! Globally, it likely infected between 700 million and 1.4 billion people, resulting in 150,000 to 575,000 fatalities. [Source]

    For the Wuhan Coronavirus of 2019/2020 there have been 9,028 documented cases in the US with 150 US deaths so far. Globally there have been 218,220 cases with 8,937 deaths so far.

    At least in the US, there were no 2009/2010 mass closings or quarantines, no stock market crash, no panic buying at the Costco, no mass cancellations of sports events or trade meetings.

    They must have been a much tougher breed way back then.

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | 2 Comments

    Food is Abundant: Why are Shelves Empty?

    Panic at Costco
    Image Source

    Why the Bare Shelves?

    These people apparently do not know the difference between a low-grade respiratory virus pandemic, and a full-blown global catastrophe. Almost 12.5 million people have died on Earth in 2020 so far, and about 8,000 of those died from Wuhan Coronavirus.

    Look at the empty shelves. This is the face of panic. When everyone decides to visit the store at the same time for the purposes of panic-hoarding the same items — without giving the stores time to re-stock — the reason for the empty shelves has nothing to do with the availability of food. Even online retailer Amazon has been forced to prioritize shipments for certain high-demand items such as toilet paper, sanitizers, health supplies, baby supplies, etc. because of online panic-buying.

    It is a sad display of unwarranted fear, egged on by a panic-stoking news media that has no sense of perspective or basic honesty.

    Here is a look at actual food availability across America:

    “There is food being produced. There is food in warehouses,” said Julie Anna Potts, chief executive of the North American Meat Institute, a trade group for beef, pork and turkey packers and producers. “There is plenty of food in the country.”

    “Our stores are getting stocked every day,” Ron Vachris, chief operating officer of Costco, said in an interview on Saturday. “Transportation is functioning, our suppliers are working around the clock and the flow of goods is strong.”

    The National Chicken Council said it was not seeing any disruptions in production and noted that there were “ample surplus supplies of chicken in cold storage” — totaling more than 950 million pounds, according to government data.

    Still, the fear is palpable. The more empty shelves people see, the more panic-buying ensues, the more food is out of stock.

    … But even as farmers and slaughterhouses ramp up, producing food takes time. In the poultry industry, it takes 10 days for a chicken egg to incubate and hatch, and then five to six weeks for the bird to grow to maturity. For some chicken suppliers, the process takes even longer, depending on the type of bird.

    Across the industry, “you’re talking about 50 days to get to a customer,” said Matthew Wadiak, who runs Cooks Venture, a chicken supplier based in Arkansas and Oklahoma. “Fifty days ago, we didn’t know this was even on the horizon. There was essentially no way to plan for it.”

    … It’s clear that the modern supply chain, for all its efficiency and speed, is not equipped to deal with this kind of surge.

    Algorithms, perfected by Amazon, can pinpoint exactly how much inventory a warehouse or particular store must keep on hand during a typical week, right down to the soup can. But no algorithm could predict this extraordinary moment, leading to widespread out-of-stocks of hundreds of household necessities.

    “When the shelf is emptied in the course of 24 hours and the safety stock was built intent upon protecting a week or two of demand, you get this tremendous dislocation,” said Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School.

    … industries are starting to make contingency plans in case large numbers of workers producing and delivering food are incapacitated by the virus or roads are shut down as part of the effort to control the pandemic. Representatives for companies that deliver food in refrigerated trucks, for example, are working with local and state officials to make sure they can still make deliveries during quarantines. Some refrigerated warehouse workers could rotate in 14 day shifts to make sure there is backup.

    On Friday, officials from every part of the food chain — from fresh produce suppliers to refrigerated warehouses — met outside Washington, D.C., to discuss responses to the pandemic, including ideas for how to bolster parts of the system against disruptions.

    For now, the most pressing issue is getting more food on the shelves, while the supply chain is largely unaffected by illness. __

    This behavior has been going on since early March of this year, but seems to have intensified over the past week, along with the global stock market selling frenzy. The world might be better off if persons who are so prone to panic were not allowed to vote. Such people are apparently very easily swayed by grifters in politics, media, and academia.

    The Retail Industry is Responding

    Some people have to make sure the wheels keep rolling and the product gets to the customer.

    Grocers big and small are hiring more workers, paying overtime and limiting purchases on certain high demand items as they scramble to restock shelves that have been wiped out by panic shopping in response to the global viral pandemic.

    Amazon said Tuesday that it will only accept shipments from suppliers of cleaning equipment, medical supplies and household goods at its warehouses for the next three weeks to fill surging demand. It is hiring 100,000 people across the U.S. to keep up with a crush of orders as more people stay at home and shop online. It will also temporarily raise pay by $2 an hour through the end of April for hourly employees.

    Many grocers are also limiting purchases of products like Purell sanitizers, Lysol cleaning spray and canned soup so that there is enough to go around. And companies like Walmart and Wegman’s are curbing store hours for the public in order to give workers time to restock shelves. __ Source

    The Science of Panic

    Our brains evolved in such a way as to be attuned to the actions of others around us. If we see others begin to lose rational control, we become prone to making panic-driven decisions in turn.

    Since the coronavirus began spreading across the world, we’ve learned a lot about the lengths to which people will go for a roll of toilet paper, a tube of hand sanitizer or a face mask. As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increases and states and countries lock down large gatherings or shops to promote social distancing, these uncertainties are driving the so-called “panic-buying” that’s emptying store shelves quicker than they can be restocked.

    Panic-buying supplies is one way humans have coped with uncertainty over epidemics since at least 1918 during the Spanish flu—when people in Baltimore raided drug stores for anything that would prevent the flu or relieve its symptoms—all the way up to the 2003 SARS outbreak.

    “When you’re seeing extreme responses. It’s because people feel like their survival is threatened and they need to do something to feel like they’re in control,” explains Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

    Panic starts when a negotiation of sorts in the brain goes awry. Koenen explains that the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, wants us to get out of harm’s way immediately—and it doesn’t care how we avoid the lion.

    But the frontal cortex, which handles your behavioral responses, insists that we think the lion situation through first. When might we run into a lion again, and what to do about it?

    Sometimes anxiety can get in the way. Rather than talking directly to the parts of our brains that are good at planning and making decisions, the frontal cortex gets confused by all the cross-talk between other parts of the brain that are determined to play out all the possible scenarios for how we might become a lion’s dinner.

    Panic happens when the whole thing short-circuits.

    While our frontal cortex wants to think about where the lions may be tomorrow night, our amygdalas are in overdrive.

    “Panic happens when that more rational part of your brain [the frontal cortex] gets overrun by emotion,” Koenen says. Your fear is so acute that the amygdala takes over and adrenaline kicks in. __

    Unfortunately, too much of western news media is constantly focused on creating anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. There are underlying political reasons why the managing interests of media outlets attempt to manipulate the emotions of those who consume their product. The brighter persons in the population learn to tune the media out as much as possible. The alternative is to live in a state of chronic anxiety.

    Panic buying at the gun store — never pass up the opportunity to buy more guns & ammo.

    As frenzied stockpiling stripped gun specialty stores of inventory, more people also went online to order gun supplies in recent weeks. Online ammunition retailer witnessed an exponential increase in sales since late February, which the company attributes to public worry surrounding coronavirus.

    Are people capable of learning from their own over-reactions? Wait and see.

    “Panic leads your brain to think with emotion rather than intellectual higher processes of your brain,” said Mona Degan, a primary care physician in Los Angeles. “This can lead to irrational decisions, especially if we are part of a large group of people trying to do the same thing, such as stocking up on household supplies, which leads to unnecessary shortages.” __ ABC News


    Another look at “the great post-millennial panic”

    Pseudo-apocalypse in San Francisco: This would be a great time to film a post-apocalyptic film set in the city by the bay.

    Elon Musk points out that the panic is worse than the virus. But then, that is so often true of many of our fears.

    Africa slowly braces for coronavirus

    As the number of cases on the continent has slowly climbed, reaching more than 410 across 30 countries on Tuesday, some African leaders tried to prepare their countries to prevent the spread of the virus. Senegal banned public gatherings, including religious ones. South Africa declared a national disaster and closed half its borders. Libya closed its airspace.

    If you intend to panic-hoard, at least do so at a time when most other people are complacent. If people would learn to stagger their panic a few at a time, they would look a lot less like a stampeding herd of steers.

    Posted in Agriculture, Biomedicine | Tagged | 5 Comments

    Wuhan Coronavirus: Vaccine vs. Blood Plasma Therapy

    About 35 companies and academic institutions are racing to create such a vaccine [for Wuhan coronavirus], at least four of which already have candidates they have been testing in animals. The first of these – produced by Boston-based biotech firm Moderna – will enter human trials in April. _ Guardian

    NIH clinical trial of investigational vaccine starts today in Seattle

    But Americans want an effective treatment right now! What’s to be done?

    Old Style Blood Plasma Therapy to the Rescue

    Takeda Pharmaceutical Corp. claims to have a viable therapy for novel coronavirus that is derived from the blood plasma of people who have recovered from the virus. This approach is reminiscent of 1800s-style therapies, before the age of antibiotics and long before the age of anti-virals and targeted vaccine designs.

    The idea of using the blood of recovered patients with immunity to fight a disease goes back over a century, and was used during the recent H1N1 and Ebola epidemics

    The process to manufacture the therapy, using antibodies from recovered patients, is the same as Takeda’s other immunoglobulin products, which have approval from regulatory bodies around the world including the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Kim said. The company has not yet tested the therapy on any coronavirus patients.

    The Japanese pharmaceutical company could have an edge because the treatment involves a process that already has approval from regulators. The key point in negotiations with regulators for approval is whether it has the necessary concentration of the antibody, or titer, needed to fight the Covid-19 disease, said Julie Kim, Zurich-based president of Takeda’s plasma-derived therapies unit.

    … China National Biotec Group Co. has been using such plasma to treat seriously ill patients since Feb. 8, and claims they improved within 24 hours. __ Bloomberg

    Human blood plasma contains many different antibodies to a wide range of micro-organisms. A person just recovering from a particular virus — such as a coronavirus — would be expected to have high numbers of antibodies specific to that virus.

    Going back to the 1800s for viable therapies may sound like desperation. But what do you call it when a society shuts down most of its workplaces, schools, and social get-togethers?

    Another approach: Monoclonal Antibodies

    Regeneron’s drugs are what are known as monoclonal antibodies, proteins produced by the immune system that can neutralize pathogens. Regeneron’s antibodies are made in mice that have been genetically modified to have human-like immune systems, which means that, when they are given to a patient, his or her immune system will not attack the antibody…

    … By mid-April, Regeneron said, it will be ready to start preparing to do large-scale manufacturing. If all goes perfectly, human clinical trials could begin by early summer.

    Regeneron said in a press release that its scientists have isolated hundreds of virus-neutralizing antibodies from its mice, and more from patients who have recovered from Covid-19. It will choose two of these based on their potency and other “desirable qualities” like specificity, ability to be manufactured easily, and durability in the body. __ Regeneron Coronavirus Therapies

    More treatments:

    Working at a breakneck pace, a team of hundreds of scientists has identified 50 drugs that may be effective treatments for people infected with the coronavirus. __ Source

    One of the test drugs was chloroquine, an anti-malarial

    Discoveries from Australia: here and here

    China Knew Something Was Up as Far Back as November 2019

    China’s behavior surrounding this pandemic has been vile from the beginning, and continues to be vile.

    Sometime in late November the Chinese Communist Party apparat was aware that the ingredients of some sort of an epidemic were brewing in Wuhan. Soon after, it was also clear to them that a new type of coronavirus was on the loose, a threat they might have taken more seriously given the similar Chinese origins of the prior toxic SARS coronavirus and the resources of a Level 4 virology lab nearby.

    Yet the government initially hid all that knowledge from its own people in particular and in general from the world at large. Translated into American terms, that disingenuousness ensured that over 10,000 Chinese nationals and foreigners living in China flew every day on direct flights into the United States (Washington and California especially) from late November to the beginning of February, until the Trump travel ban of January 31. __ Yahoo

    Chinese Revisionist Propaganda Dominates Western Media

    Western media outlets are doing the bidding of the communist party in Beijing.

    Why are major media outlets in the United States running interference for the Chinese government? Several newspapers and cable news channels scrambled to decry any use of ‘Wuhan Virus’ as xenophobic and racist, after weeks of deploying the term themselves. This appeared to be a coordinated effort to deflect blame from China.

    We hear a lot of whining from the press when they’re dubbed the ‘enemy of the people’… But when news outlets parrot the Chinese government and shield them from any responsibility for the global pandemic, under the guise of political correctness or distaste for the current administration, the moniker seems a lot more fitting.

    … As COVID-19 spreads across the United States, mainstream outlets are publishing Chinese state apologia across the web, and China is leveraging their clear influence over these markets, using the Hong Kong protest blackouts as a blueprint. In recent weeks, three major national news outlets are guilty of this. The only question remains why.

    On March 14, the New York Times published a column by Ian Johnson, whom they only identified as a writer based in Beijing. The piece was titled ‘China Bought the West Time[!]. The West Squandered It’. He insinuates that many countries stood by and watched while China heroically battled a contagion alone they themselves originated. He overlooks that the PRC did this by dragging citizens from their apartments or welding their doors to keep them in altogether. __ Chinese Finger Traps Western News Media

    A list of websites for updates and news on the Wuhan Coronavirus outbreaks

    Why the US is not “The Next Italy”

    The catastrophic impact of novel coronavirus on Italy, Wuhan, and Iran, has stunned the world. It is easy to assume that all other nations and cities will suffer similar impacts from the virus. But is that a realistic assumption?

    So, is Italy our future? Almost certainly not. To see why, the following is a figure depicting case-fatality rates by country for those reporting at least 500 confirmed cases and one death.

    Notice that most EU countries, at least so far, are handling the crisis quite well. Germany, Austria, and the Scandinavian countries have low case-fatality rates. Spain, France, and the (former EU member!) United Kingdom are doing worse. The U.S. is right in the middle. While this graph certainly raises a lot of questions, the biggest question is not, “Is the U.S. the next Italy?” but, “What is wrong with Italy?”

    And we may have an answer to that question. An analysis by Andreas Backhaus shows that young people in Korea were much more likely to get infected (and hence survive) than in Italy, where a disproportionately large number of older people got infected (and hence died). We saw a microcosm of this in the Seattle area, where multiple people died in a single nursing home.

    This isn’t the only reason that the U.S isn’t the next Italy. The U.S., by far, has more critical care (ICU) beds per capita than any other country in the world.

    At 34.7 ICU beds per 100,000 people, the U.S. has nearly three times as many as Italy and almost ten times as many as China. While this doesn’t guarantee a wonderful outcome, it demonstrates that the U.S. has a critical care infrastructure that surpasses that of other nations. __

    The US government recently released a set of guidelines that encourages social distancing and other commonsense responses to the Wuhan virus. Perhaps when combined with new treatments, warmer weather, and the new vaccines that are beginning clinical trials, more people will begin to see beyond the immediate sense of panic that has been generated by an out of control news media.

    An NIH clinical trial of remdesivir to treat novel Chinese coronavirus has begun at U. Nebraska Omaha. The first patient in the trial was infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and repatriated to Nebraska.

    Interesting discussion of novel treatment options from Robert Kruse of Johns Hopkins via Marginal Revolution

    Why Panic Over Coronavirus, and Not Climate Apocalypse?

    Perhaps because Wuhan Coronavirus is real, and is actually killing people?

    Coronavirus is a recent, self-evident and rapidly escalating threat. It feels like a shock to the status quo, and the unease that shock engenders motivates action. Each day brings new evidence of the direct consequences of the outbreak, and these consequences are rapidly moving closer to home. It impresses as a clear and present danger that requires action now. __

    Climate apocalypse, on the other hand, is a “massive catastrophe” that keeps receding in time as each prediction of apocalypse moves beyond its “sell-by date.”

    Still, among the legions of “doomers,” at least a few of them are largely motivated by climate apocalypse. And by “climate apocalypse,” I mean Greta Thunberg-style lunatics with the will to sound the doomer gong, talk the doomer talk, and walk the doomer walk.

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | Leave a comment

    Wuhan Virus: Death Rates and Spread Rates Fluctuate

    When making sense of an epidemic, we want to know how fast it is likely to spread, and how many cases of the infection are likely to die from the disease. In the case of the recent China virus, these numbers tend to vary — making it more difficult to settle on an optimum policy of containment for all regions of the globe.

    … in the early stages of the outbreak the risk of death from COVID-19 reached 12.2% in Wuhan, China, the disease’s epicenter.

    … Mass testing, tracking, social isolation, and containment, as we’ve seen in South Korea and Singapore, can cap the number of cases at manageable levels and keep the death rate at 1% or lower.

    … For someone in Wuhan with the disease today, their risk of death is now likely comparable to the risk of death for someone living outside of Hubei Province in China, which stood at 0.9 percent or lower as of a month ago.
    __ Source

    Death rates in Italy and Iran seem quite high. If we are dealing with two different strains of Wuhan Coronavirus, some of the variation in observed virus behavior makes more sense.

    Rate of Spread

    The “reproduction number of a virus, R0, gives us an estimate of how quickly the virus will spread from person to person. The Wuhan virus has an R0 higher than seasonal influenza, but lower than that of the highly contagious measles virus.

    Measure of Spread Rate
    Estimates put this number for the coronavirus at between 2.0 and 2.5 (pdf), according to the World Health Organization. But that’s only a best estimate. The common flu, by contrast, has an average R0 of 1.3. The most infectious diseases, like measles, have an R0 of more than 10.

    The rate at which the viral infection spreads depends on intrinsic properties of the germ but also on what kind of chance societies give it to spread. Every virus has what’s called a basic reproduction number (R0, pronounced “R-naught”), a measure of how many additional people one affected person will infect. __

    Both of the above numbers are very important when attempting to predict the course of the pandemic using infectious disease models, or advanced disease simulations.

    Meanwhile, the death toll in places such as Iran or northern Italy has been horrific. Both outbreak sites had direct ties to viral carriers from Wuhan.

    16 March 2020 Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Map

    Raging Storm in Iran

    Iran has very close business and military ties to communist China, and is experiencing some of the blowback from those close ties.

    Iran’s official news agencies are reporting that the disease has taken a grim toll on the nation’s governmental and security apparatuses. “Iran’s senior vice president and two other Cabinet members have contracted the new coronavirus,” Iran’s FARS news agency reported this week. “Among the dead are five of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard members and an unspecified number of the Guard’s volunteer Basij force,” Iran’s health ministry revealed.

    “The economic depression is far more pervasive and contagious than the virus itself,” said one Iranian business owner. Iran’s economy is already estimated to have contracted by almost 10 percent in 2019 as a result of international sanctions, and the reduced domestic economic activity and trade with its remaining partners will only exacerbate these conditions. Perhaps more urgent for Iran, the efforts by Saudi Arabia and Russia to ramp up energy production have sent global oil prices into a tailspin.

    … It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the level of risk the Iranian regime is prepared to accept is directly proportional to the economic hardships it endures. And for Tehran, the threat posed by a global Coronavirus pandemic alongside the collapse of global oil prices is a perfect storm. It’s reasonable to assume, then, more violence in the Middle East will be forthcoming. __

    More details on why Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong are doing better than China, so far.

    There May be A Million More Viruses Where That One Came From

    Bats seem uniquely suited to act as hosts to a wide range of viruses. The Wuhan Coronavirus is not the worst virus that has come to infect humans by way of bats. There have been many in the past, and there are likely to be many more in the future:

    Bats carry and transmit some of the world’s deadliest zoonotic viruses: Ebola, Marburg, Nipah, and the pathogen behind severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS coronavirus, to name a few. What has puzzled researchers for a long time is why bats don’t appear to get sick from their unusually high microbial loads. The question has been nagging Peng Zhou, a virologist at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, for more than a decade, ever since he took part in a survey of bat populations in southern China. Zhou and his colleagues were looking for the strain of the SARS coronavirus responsible for the 2003 outbreak that sickened more than 8,000 people worldwide and killed nearly 800. “We started to think, why bats?” he says. __

    Another virologist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Shi Zhengli, has also been at the center of the search for SARS-like viruses in Chinese bats. She warns that there are a lot more viruses out there in those bat caves.

    Is the Reaction to the Virus Worse than the Disease?

    We have seen what can happen to health care infrastructures when they are overwhelmed by a rapidly spreading viral outbreak like the Wuhan Coronavirus. The collapse of health care systems in Hubei province, in Iran, and in northern Italy, all testify to the devastating effect an exponential increase in the number of serious infections can have.

    To avoid a crisis at overwhelmed hospitals, health authorities say it’s essential to slow the spread—what has become known as “flattening the curve.” While in the end most people might still get infected, spreading the problem out over time will save lives, because it will allow people to get the best care. Countries struggling with a burst of cases, like Italy, have much higher death rates, as hospitals fill up their intensive care units and run short of the equipment, like ventilators, needed to treat the critically ill. __

    But we are also beginning to see economic devastation from the reactions to the epidemic, when large parts of economies are shut down proactively to slow the rate of spread. In time, we will see if shutting down an economy is either helpful — or even necessary — in order to minimize the long term effect of being touched by the China pandemic of 2020.

    One dirty secret of “social distancing” and “self-isolation”: a lot of people will not take either measure seriously. I have already heard of cases in the US where persons infected with Coronavirus go for treatment at the ER, and deny having traveled — despite having only returned from Europe (or China or Iran) a few days earlier. I have read of other cases of persons staying in “quarantine hotels” who slip out of quarantine to go to convenience stores and other public places, then return for the night. One can also read about college students on the eve of college shut-downs, who get together for one last “going home party,” before they disperse for the rest of the semester to the four winds. Such behavior is probably more common than thought, particularly among persons with poor executive functions and high impulsivity — both of which can be highly heritable, or at least age-related.

    A lot of people almost seem to be intentionally trying to spread the infection. Be responsible for yourself, but also avoid putting others at risk unnecessarily.

    This pandemic continues to serve as a test of preparedness, and a test of competent response. One thing is clear: when the US CDC spends more time worrying about obesity than it spends time preparing for infectious disease pandemics, the upper echelons are in bad need of cleaning out (draining the swamp).

    What’s more, supply chains and manufacturing sites need to be moved out of China as quickly as can be done.

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | 1 Comment

    Coronavirus: “Free for All” vs. Quarantine vs. 2 Levels of “Social Distancing”

    The Washington Post website features 4 fascinating epidemic simulation scenarios. At that site you can observe simulated epidemic spread of a contagious respiratory disease like Wuhan Coronavirus — under 4 distinctly different conditions. The first simulation illustrates how an epidemic might spread with no restrictions on human interaction or distancing from one another. The second simulation depicts an attempt at total quarantine of all infected. The third simulation shows the effect of moderate voluntary “social distancing” on epidemic spread. The fourth simulation shows the effect of greater social distancing — with most social and commercial venues either shut down or severely restricted. You can run the simulations yourself

    A graphic summary of all four simulations is presented below over a several week/month timeline:

    4 Simulated Scenario Outcomes
    Brown = infected; Pink = recovered; Gray = Healthy

    1. The “Free for All” scenario displays a tall, steep, rapid accumulation of infected cases, with a relatively rapid recovery for most.
    2. The “Attempted Quarantine” graph displays multiple peaks of infection within the extended outbreak, which tends to last longer than in the Free for All scenario — as the quarantine is broken by multiple infected cases.
    3. The “Moderate Distancing” simulation displays a prolonged outbreak with lower peaking at a later time — and a long tail.
    4. The “Extensive Distancing” simulation reveals a prolonged — but very low intensity — outbreak, that infects a much lower proportion of the population.

    Simulation here

    None of the approaches above can be considered optimal solutions. The first simulation results in an overwhelming of medical resources — with many deaths likely in the population and among medical personnel, depending on disease virulence. The second simulation has much the same result as the first, when the quarantine fails. The third simulation somewhat mitigates the impact on medical resources by “flattening” the infection curve a bit — but it extends the duration of the outbreak. The fourth simulation spares medical resources, but extends the outbreak into future seasons — and the cost to society in loss of wages, loss of earnings, and loss of social fulfillment can be greater than the cost of infection, if the virulence of the infectious agent is relatively low. That is why we institute minimal restrictions on movement in the case of most seasonal flu — and no restrictions at all are used in most other seasonal respiratory viruses.

    Note that “herd immunity” is high after epidemic scenarios one and two, albeit with significant damage to the medical infrastructure when it is overwhelmed by cases.

    If virulence is high and there is a good chance of developing viable treatments/vaccines before the next likely virus season, then simulation 4 is the winner, hands-down. If virulence is low (Case Fatality under 1%) then a variation of simulation 3 combined with intensive testing of suspected infections and self-isolation of infected might involve less economic damage. That is the approach that South Korea has taken in response to its unexpected rapid infusion of the China virus, direct from Wuhan.

    Interesting Analysis of the Wuhan Virus Global Pandemic

    The discussion below attempts to use the specific characteristics of the particular virus, in an attempt to take a measured and balanced approach to containment measures.

    Before undertaking containment efforts of any kind, decision-makers need to look carefully at several issues:

    • Laying-off workers, even for a short time, severely adversely affects the economy.
    • The expected length of delay in cases made possible by quarantines is likely to be very short, sometimes lasting not much longer than the quarantines themselves.
    • We seem to need a very rapid improvement in our ability to treat COVID-19 cases for containment efforts to make sense, if we cannot stamp out the disease completely.

    Because of these issues, it is very easy to overdo quarantines and other containment efforts.

    In order to completely stop its spread, we would need to separate each person from every other person, as well as from possible animal carriers, for something like a month. In this way, people who are carriers for the disease or actually have the disease would hopefully have time to get over their illnesses. Perhaps airborne viruses would dissipate and viruses on solid surfaces would have time to deteriorate.

    This clearly could not work. People would need to be separated from their children and pets. All businesses, including food sales, would have to stop. Electricity would likely stop, especially in areas where storms bring down power lines. No fuel would be available for vehicles of any kind. If a home catches fire, the fire would need to burn until a lack of material to burn stops it. If a baby needs to be delivered, there would be no midwife or hospital services available. If a person happened to have an appendicitis, it would simply need to resolve itself at home, however that worked out.

    … The big issue with containing the coronavirus is that we cannot really tell who has it and who does not. The tests available for COVID-19 are expensive, so giving the test to everyone, frequently, makes no sense. The tests tend to give a many false negatives, so even when they are given, they don’t necessarily detect people with the disease. There are also many people who seem to spread the disease without symptoms. Without testing everyone, these people will never be found.

    … The number of reported COVID-19 cases to date is tiny, compared to the number that is expected based on estimates by epidemiologists. China reports about 81,000 COVID-19 cases to date, while its population is roughly 1.4 billion. If epidemiologists tell us to expect 20% to 60% of a country’s population to be affected by the end of the first year of the epidemic, this would correspond to a range of 280 million to 840 million cases. The difference between reported cases and expected cases is huge. Reported cases to date are less than 0.01% of the population.

    We know that China’s reported number of cases is an optimistically low number, but we don’t know how low. Many, many more cases are expected in the year ahead if workers go back to work. In fact, there have been recent reports of a COVID-19 outbreak in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, near Hong Kong. Such an outbreak would adversely affect China’s manufactured exports.

    Italy has a similar situation. It is currently reported to have somewhat more than 10,000 cases. Its total population is about 60 million. Thus, its number of cases amounts to about 0.02% of the population. If Epidemiologist Lipsitch is correct regarding the percentage of the population that is ultimately likely to be affected, the number of cases in Italy, too, can be expected to be much higher within the next year. Twenty percent of a population of 60 million would amount to 12 million cases; 60% of the population would amount to 36 million cases.

    … Is it possible to reduce overall wage loss and deaths by using quarantines? This approach works for diseases which can actually be stopped through isolating sick members, but I don’t think it works well at all for COVID-19. Mostly, it provides a time-shifting feature. There are fewer illnesses earlier, but to a very significant extent, this is offset by more illnesses later. This time-shifting feature might be helpful if there really is a substantial improvement in prevention or treatment that is quickly available. For example, if a vaccine that really works can be found quickly, such a vaccine might help prevent some of the illnesses and deaths in 2021 and following years.

    [Discussion of “Herd Immunity”]

    Let’s suppose that 55% would need to catch the COVID-19 to allow the population immunity to rise to 50%. The virus would likely need to keep cycling around until at least this percentage of the population has caught the disease. This is not much of a decrease from the upper limit of 60% during the first year. This suggests that moving illnesses to a later year may not help much at all with respect to the expected number of illnesses and deaths. Hospitals will be practically equally overwhelmed regardless, unless we can somehow change the typical seasonality of viruses and move some of the winter illnesses to summertime.

    It is very easy to believe that if some diseases can be subdued by quarantines, the same approach will work everywhere. This really isn’t true. We need to be examining the current situation closely, based on whatever information is available, before decisions are made regarding how to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Perhaps any quarantines used need to be small and targeted. __ Gail the Actuary

    Understanding the infectious agent helps immensely when devising counter-measures. Unfortunately, China has not been forthcoming in sharing its early experiences with the Wuhan Coronavirus — and is still censoring information from health care providers who were involved at the frontlines in Hubei province.

    It is easy to see why many policy-makers were hopeful that the virus could be contained using basic quarantine measures. But this is not the Coronavirus they were looking for. It is not a virus that wants to be contained. It spreads very early in an explosive manner, before symptoms are clear or pronounced. It defeats ordinary quarantines.

    If every country took the Chinese approach of “total shutdown,” as it did for Hubei, economies would be destroyed around the world. This might well result in more total loss of population well-being in the long run, than letting the virus run its course under conditions of moderate social distancing, widely-available testing, and self-isolation of the infected.

    Everything depends upon the combination of infectiousness plus the general level of virulence. Those things are crucial to know, plus the stage of infection at which the agent can be reliably detected. In addition, we must know whether reliable treatments are available, and whether a reliable vaccine will become available within a helpful time period.

    So far, there are no perfect solutions that can be applied to all populations. The pandemic is still evolving, and will continue to do so over the next year, at least. Don’t imagine for a moment that your country is out of the woods. Not even China is out of the woods. Only Wuhan has any kind of herd immunity at this time.

    15 March 2020 Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Map

    Avoid unnecessary travel or large gatherings. Discover cultural alternatives to handshaking.
    CDC FAQs

    They want you to panic, and run to Costco to vainly search for toilet paper and sanitizers to hoard. But you will not give them that satisfaction, will you?


    Here are two simple epidemic simulators —

    Plug in 3 parameters and run. It seems to be preset with an average mortality rate of around 0.2% (up to 20% mortality for the oldest). You set the initial number of infected, the “attack rate,” and the duration of illness/contagion.

    This simulator has 12 settings including death rate, attack rate, duration of illness, time to contagion, population, etc.

    This CDC website lets you play the disease detective in order to solve a number of outbreaks.

    You can find more realistic epidemic simulations online, but the learning curve can be steep for the best ones.

    The best approach to the epidemic at hand — the Wuhan Coronavirus — is the approach that brings you out on the other side in good condition physically, financially, and emotionally.

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | 2 Comments

    Europe is Becoming the New Epicenter of Wuhan Virus

    14 March 2020 Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Map

    Europe Has Been Reluctant to Restrict Travel From Infected Regions

    China is reporting significant slowing of its rate of new infections with the Wuhan Coronavirus. The epicenter of both new infections and of deaths from the virus seems to have shifted to Iran and Europe.

    As of the morning of March 11th, the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 case tracker showed that Germany had over 50 percent more confirmed cases than the U.S. – equivalent to an infection rate six times greater than our own… The U.K. has a per capita rate of infection that is almost twice the rate in the U.S.

    France, Netherlands, and Spain, with few if any restrictions on travel, have confirmed infection rates that are respectively 8, 7, and 12 times higher [per capita]. Switzerland’s rate is 23 times higher [per capita].

    A better measure of the true level of infection might be reported death rates, although this data is still not wholly reliable. All of the above European countries, except for Germany, have higher per capita death rates than does the U.S. France and Spain have rates that are 6 and 9 times higher than the U.S. rate. Switzerland’s is four times higher.

    Italy’s death rate is by far the worst, with a rate 118 times higher than the rate in the U.S. __ Source

    European Virus News

    Spain declares national lockdown
    France announces national lockdown
    Newly diagnosed cases jumped by +3,000 in Italy
    Ireland reports 2nd death
    Airlines cancel flights to Spain
    Latvia’s PM has just banned gatherings and banned foreigners, making Latvia the latest country in Europe and the first in the Baltic States to ban all foreigners, in defiance of Brussels’ policy recommendations.

    … even as Brussels bureaucrats insist that closing borders isn’t necessary, more European leaders are deciding to ignore Brussels and follow in the footsteps of Italy, which has declared a two-week national lockdown, and Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which have all closed their borders to foreigners.

    On Friday, Spain declared a two-week state of emergency that Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was necessary to help contain the outbreak that has spun out of control since thousands of marchers packed into the streets of Madrid for last weekend’s International Women’s Day march. __ Zerohedge

    Spread of Wuhan Virus in US Continues

    The Chinese virus is extremely contagious, with strong viral spread occurring in the early stages of infection — sometimes before the person has realized that they are ill. For a society as open as America, residents seem to be adjusting slowly to restricted travel and avoiding large public gatherings. But there is no consensus as to how dangerous the virus really is, or how far people and governments need to go to limit public distance between people. Likewise, there is no clear understanding as to how long such measures need continue.

    A Sense of Perspective: “Compared to What?”

    So far, the United States has seen forty-one deaths from the infection. Twenty-two of those deaths occurred in one poorly run nursing home outside of Seattle, the Life Care Center. Another nine deaths occurred in the rest of Washington state, leaving ten deaths (four in California, two in Florida, and one in each of Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, and South Dakota) spread throughout the rest of the approximately 329 million residents of the United States. This represents roughly .000012 percent of the U.S. population.

    Much has been made of the “exponential” rate of infection in European and Asian countries—as if the spread of all transmittable diseases did not develop along geometric, as opposed to arithmetic, growth patterns. What actually matters is whether or not the growing “pandemic” overwhelms our ability to ensure the well-being of U.S. residents with efficiency and precision. But fear of the disease, and not the disease itself, has already spoiled that for us. Even if my odds of dying from coronavirus should suddenly jump ten-thousand-fold, from the current rate of .000012 percent across the U.S. population all the way up to .12 percent, I’d happily take those odds over the destruction being wrought on the U.S. and global economy from this unbridled panic. __ Heather MacDonald

    Panic is what the news media wants, and to a significant degree that is just what they have created.

    How Far Should We Distance Ourselves?

    Albert Ko, the chair of the epidemiology department at the Yale School of Public Health: If you go to a crowded bar where you’re up one against another, that’s a lot different from going to a bar where you’re spread out. The CDC recommendations are to keep six to 10 feet away from other people. Bottom line, there’s no absolute indication not to go to bars and restaurants, but in practicing good public health—which is kind of a responsibility for everybody in the country—really think about how we can decrease those close contacts.

    Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security: It depends on local context. If we’re in a situation where the disease has been shown to be spreading widely, I think people will start to want to stay home and not go out into crowded settings.

    Cannuscio: People should avoid gathering in public places. People should be at home as much as possible. The measures that have worked to get transmission under control or at least to bend the curve, in China and South Korea, have been extreme measures to increase social distancing. __ Atlantic

    Three “experts,” three opinions. It goes on like that. Some “experts” praise China’s so-called quick response. Others more realistically point out that the first cases in Hubei occurred back in November of 2019. It took China precious weeks before it was ready to tell the world what it had on its hands. By that time, the virus had already spread to Italy, South Korea, Iran, and King County in Washington state, USA.

    As much to blame as the communist party of China, the World Health Organization [under pressure from China] condemned travel restrictions by the US and Australia — until the explosive nature of the outbreak had become all too clear even to WHO.

    Mass Forced Quarantines vs. Voluntary Work at Home

    Things Have Changed, Perhaps Permanently

    Instead of a rapid return to normalcy societies may experience a long period of adjustment in social distance norms, travel regulations, supply chain arrangements, personal privacy, and political norms. These will effectively produce a whole new world. The old global system may be in for a long siege and it is unclear that it will ever be the same again. __ Richard Fernandez

    Americans are suffering from a media-instigated panic shock. The wide-open society that Americans are accustomed to displays certain vulnerabilities to a fast-spreading respiratory virus like Wuhan. At the same time, the totalitarian society of China was completely unprepared to deal with the virus — resulting in thousands of deaths so far. By trying to “cover up” the outbreak, China’s communist government allowed the disease to entrench itself within multiple foreign countries to devastating effect.

    Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, were all early hosts to infected travelers from Hubei — and yet they have done a creditable job of containing the virus within reasonable bounds. South Korea was inundated with back-door infections from Wuhan, but has instituted measures that seem to be slowing the spread. There are many lessons to be learned from this “viral test” that China has sprung on the world.

    And remember, whether this was meant by China to be a test or not, it is certainly turning out that way.

    Germany and the EU government — perhaps fearing to offend China — have been slow to take strong measures. After the dust has cleared, we will need a close and detailed post-mortem of the entire episode from start to finish.

    Update: Berlin and Cologne are closing bars and clubs.

    As of Saturday, there were 3,795 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany, with eight deaths, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said. That was a rise from 3,062 confirmed cases, with five deaths, a day earlier.

    Cologne, in western Germany, which has a population of more than 1 million people, said nightclubs, bars, theaters, cinemas and amusement arcades would close until April 10. Church and religious services are also banned. Restaurants and pubs that serve food could remain open, as in Berlin.

    More: US Cases and Deaths 14 March 2020

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | 2 Comments

    Why Did Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong Succeed, Not China?

    After the deadly SARS epidemic hit China, Hong Kong, and Singapore in 2002/2003, their governments took steps to see that they would never be taken by surprise by a virus again. China failed miserably. Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, it seems, were better prepared.

    Along with Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea, Singapore instituted strict travel controls and protocols for identifying sick individuals—to get them help as well as to find the people they’d been in contact with. The Singaporean government posted detailed accounting for how many people had been tested for the virus, and the locations and natures of those people’s social contacts. All these governments instituted strict social distancing measures, like canceling events, closing schools, and telling people to stay home. As a result (at least in part), all have lower numbers of infected people and lower fatalities than China or Italy, proportionately. They “flattened the curve,” as public health experts now say—lowering a probable spike of infections, perhaps pushing that surge of seriously ill people further out in time so that health care systems don’t get overburdened. __ Wired

    Although South Korea suffered from an explosion of initial cases — brought directly from Wuhan — subsequent actions by the government have helped to “flatten the curve” and bring the number of new cases low enough to take pressure off the acute care medical systems. “Drive-thru testing” for the virus may be helping:

    Nearly 20,000 people are being tested every day for coronavirus in South Korea, more people per capita than anywhere else in the world.

    … In a car park behind a hospital in Seoul, 45-year-old Rachel Kim rolls down her car window and sticks out her tongue. She travelled to Daegu last week, the area with the highest number of coronavirus cases in South Korea.

    Now she’s developed a bad cough and a fever. Fearing the worst, she decided to get a Covid-19 test at one of the dozens of drive-through centres. Two people dressed head-to-toe in white protective clothing, clear goggles and surgical face masks are ready for her.

    … South Korea has created a network of 96 public and private laboratories to test for coronavirus.

    Health officials believe this approach may be saving lives. The fatality rate for coronavirus in South Korea is 0.7%. Globally the World Health Organization has reported 3.4% – but scientists estimate that the death rate is lower because not all cases are reported.

    … Schools remain closed, offices are encouraging people to work from home, large gatherings have stopped.

    However, slowly, day by day, more people are creeping back onto the streets of the capital city, Seoul. Restaurants, buses and subways are beginning to get busy again. __ BBC

    South Korea learned a lesson from MERS, and was better prepared this time.

    Why So Many Cases in Italy?

    Italy received multiple injections of Wuhan Coronavirus from Chinese tourists several weeks ago, at multiple sites. And Italy is very vulnerable, with an older native population than most countries.

    More than 10,100 people. That is how many people in Italy have been infected by the novel coronavirus, according to numbers released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday. It is the highest number outside of China. And it is by far the most of any country in Europe.

    By way of comparison, France has the second-highest number of cases in Europe, with around 1,700 and Germany is in fourth with 1,300, behind Spain. And there is another number that pops off the page: 631. That is the number of people in Italy who have died thus far. That isn’t just the highest number in Europe by far in absolute terms, it calculates to a death rate of 6 percent, which is unusually high.

    In China, where there have been 81,000 infections thus far, according to WHO, the death rate is under 4 percent… __ Der Spiegel

    Italy restricted travel from China, but it was too late. The Chinese virus had already been circulating inside the country for weeks.

    Total Isolation vs. Normal Open Society

    In the western world, we are accustomed to being able to move about and associate with as many other people as we wish. We do this in our private lives, our school lives, our business lives, and our religious lives. This openness has been rewarded by prosperity and pleasure. But a viral pandemic such as Wuhan virus points out some of the short-comings of the free and open commons lifestyle — under certain circumstances.

    Sometimes we have to compromise:

    Life is a calculated risk, and the question is whether protection against the coronavirus is possible, and if possible, whether it is worth it. I raise the number of automobile deaths to drive home the fact that we do take calculated risks. There has not been an overwhelming demand to create automobiles that allow passengers to survive crashes beyond the point where we are – with airbags, seatbelts and better engineering. We demanded steps within the framework of the cost of increased protection, and the price of decreased mobility.

    When the virus first appeared, the natural public response was to demand that the government stop it. Governments are useful things, but public expectations are sometimes extravagant. The next phase was to blame the government for failing to protect them. The third phase will be attacking the government for taking the steps it took to protect them. We are not there yet, but we are close.

    The cost of the protections is not merely disruption of how we live, but also a significant economic cost… The current imposition of increasingly intense measures, unless successful or unless the disease proves more dangerous, will lead to social adjustment and, of course, holding the government responsible for all prior fears. __ George Friedman

    The virus is always mutating, with the possibility that new strains may emerge — either from the Chinese source, or from any of the offspring outbreaks that spread so rapidly out of China.

    Reality Check

    Q: What’s the likelihood that coronavirus is in my community?

    A: Low. CDC reports: “There is not widespread circulation in most communities in the United States.”

    Q: How many coronavirus deaths have there been in the U.S.?

    A: So far, not many. CDC reports 36 deaths. Adding various news reports, the number could be about 40 and growing. Although one death is too many, the reported deaths are among 43 states (including the District of Columbia) reporting outbreaks since January in a population of more than 327 million people.

    Q: How many young people have died of coronavirus in the U.S.?

    A: So far, there are no reports of deaths among young people in the U.S. The U.S. Surgeon General reports the average age of people who have died from coronavirus in the U.S. is 80. Additionally, he says those who are most impacted have chronic, serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. __ More

    The reality is usually not nearly so bad as the portrayals in the news media. The news media is not your friend.

    Why Wear a Face Mask?

    If you are sick, you may be coughing or sneezing respiratory droplets into your environment. Some of these droplets may be full of infectious particles of various kinds. In many cultures, it is considered a common courtesy to wear a mask which may stop many of these droplets from getting out into the environment, where they may be in contact with vulnerable persons.

    If you are likely to be in close contact with someone infected, a mask cuts the chance of the disease being passed on. If you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, or have been diagnosed, wearing a mask can also protect others. So masks are crucial for health and social care workers looking after patients and are also recommended for family members who need to care for someone who is ill – ideally both the patient and carer should have a mask.

    However, masks will probably make little difference if you’re just walking around town or taking a bus so there is no need to bulk-buy a huge supply.

    … Most people who are not elderly and do not have underlying health conditions will not become critically ill from Covid-19. But the illness still has a higher chance of leading to serious respiratory symptoms than seasonal flu and there are other at-risk groups – health workers, for instance, are more vulnerable because they are likely to have higher exposure to the virus. The actions that young, healthy people take, including reporting symptoms and following quarantine instructions, will have an important role in protecting the most vulnerable in society and in shaping the overall trajectory of the outbreak. __ Guardian: Myths of Coronavirus

    If you do not contact infected persons or their body fluids (respiratory droplets etc.), you are very unlikely to be infected. That is a good argument for limiting your movement among the public, or among other persons who move freely among the public. But since most communities do not have cases of Wuhan Coronavirus, you will likely to limiting your own movement unnecessarily. Until more local hospitals institute the sort of widespread “drive-thru” style testing that is seen in South Korea, much of this will be guesswork.

    Americans are notoriously demanding when it comes to their healthcare. They expect to be given all the latest tests and treatments at a moment’s notice. At the same time, the American government bureaucracy is notoriously inefficient and at times incompetent. Think of the bureaucracy as an adjunct to “the swamp” which needs draining and you will not be far wrong. In other words, anything that involves the actions of governments is likely to be performed in a sub-optimal manner. This may call for greater patience than most Americans are accustomed to exerting.

    China Failed to Head Off the Virus

    The new COVID-19 coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries – bringing social disruption, economic damage, sickness, and death – largely because authorities in China, where it emerged, initially suppressed information about it. _ China Screwed the World

    And now China is failing to cooperate with national agencies which are tasked to keep their own populations safe. In the case of the US, China has issued a number of threats in regard to the China virus — including threatening to “drown the US in Coronavirus” and “refusing to provide ingredients needed for testing, medications, and vaccines.”

    As Rosemary Gibson, co-author of “China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine,” testified to a congressional commission last summer, China has a dominant role in the manufacture of the generic drugs that comprise 90 percent of what Americans take.

    The critical vulnerability isn’t just in finished drugs, but what are called active pharmaceutical ingredients, some 80 percent of which America now imports. Most of these come from Red China. __ Thanks for nothing Joe Biden

    In addition, Chinese propaganda outlets are claiming that the US Army released the Wuhan virus into Wuhan to begin with! Sadly, many western news media sources appear to be colluding in order to create panic and undermine the current efforts of the US federal government to slow and to mitigate the effects of the outbreak.

    Look Again at Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan

    These three “countries” were subject to initial exposure from infected travelers out of China. One would expect the virus to have been spreading for weeks inside these locations, before China finally admitted the problem it had been sitting on for so long. But instead we see places such as Iran and Italy displaying many multiples the number of cases and deaths, compared to Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, and many other countries with large Chinese populations expected to travel back and forth from mainland China routinely.

    Almost two weeks ago, we recommended that these places be closely observed to understand why their rates of infection and mortality were so low, relatively speaking. South Korea also seems to have some lessons to teach about controlling Wuhan virus.

    We are still early in the evolution of this global pandemic, and China is not helping us very much to understand where the virus came from, or what may have actually happened behind the bamboo curtain to unleash such a rapidly spreading plague. But now that real scientists are getting a chance to study the infectious agent and the course of infection, better answers should be coming.

    A word about the Chinese threat to global supply lines:

    The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the costs of Xi’s increasing authoritarianism. It should be a wake-up call for political and business leaders who have accepted China’s lengthening shadow over global supply chains for far too long. Only by loosening China’s grip on global supply networks – beginning with the pharmaceutical sector – can the world be kept safe from the country’s political pathologies. __

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | Leave a comment

    News Media Puts World and Markets Into Panic Mode

    What Virus is Killing Hundreds of Thousands?

    For now, influenza remains the far bigger global public health threat. Each year, about 1 billion people become infected with seasonal flu, killing some 300,000 to 500,000. This season alone (2019-20), about 20,000 Americans have died from flu, including 136 children. Yet, very few people fear the flu. Society has accepted it as part of reality, and people carry about their daily lives without excessive concern over influenza. This is the likely future for COVID-19. __ Why Do You Panic?

    According to the Johns Hopkins map above, worldwide there have been 4,720 deaths and 68,310 recoveries from the Wuhan Coronavirus. But it is likely that the number of “recoveries” is even higher than the official count because the number of undetected cases — particularly in high impact areas — has been high.

    This is a serious virus — particularly if you are elderly or if you have a serious chronic disease condition. But if you have been watching Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong — as I asked you to do almost 2 weeks ago — you would know that when the virus is treated with respect rather than panic, that the spread can be quite slow and limited.

    If you simply must panic over a respiratory virus, why not panic over the respiratory virus that kills the most people?

    One-Trick Pony Media Stuck in Panic Mode

    Viral Takeoff Rates

    Recovery rates from Wuhan Coronavirus are many multiples higher than death rates. Outside of China and Iran, most of the deaths appear to be in elderly persons with serious chronic health problems. Actions taken by governments such as the US to restrict travel and to limit the size of public events are reasonable, in order to slow down the rate of viral spread:

    Flattening the Curve: Slowing the Initial Spread

    Given how rapidly Wuhan Coronavirus spreads — and the fact that it can spread in a few meters’ radius around an infected person — it makes sense to limit travel, maintain interpersonal distance, and avoid large gatherings of people. But why all this media-inspired panic?

    There is NO INDICATION that this will last longer than any other virus issue. For now, it will probably continue to expand into April/May before we see any top in the number of cases… it is not such a justified health issue to be causing such a panic. That does make it seem that there is something else behind it. __ via ZH

    The Wuhan virus has had a horrible impact on Italy, Iran, South Korea, and Hubei province. All of these outbreaks were directly connected to persons who traveled from Wuhan. The same is true for the King County cases in Washington state. It will likely be found to be true for several other scattered outbreaks that are developing.

    For seven weeks, Chinese communists kept medical doctors in Wuhan from warning the rest of China and the world. They refused to cooperate with the US CDC and other national infectious disease centers. And weirdly, China is still trying to silence medical doctors who were at the center of the original Wuhan outbreak. The latest to speak out was emergency doctor Ai Fen, whose recently published interview was later deleted by state media.

    “How could I refrain from discussions with my medical colleagues knowing that a new and significant virus had emerged? I followed my intuition as a doctor – so what mistakes did I make?”

    … __

    We know that the Wuhan virus was actively spreading in the Hubei province since November. But the Chinese governments turned a blind eye to the warnings from multiple physician whistleblowers. Even now, it is unlikely that China is providing the world with accurate disease information.

    Propagandists from both the communist party of China and the Islamic revolutionary government of Iran, are attempting to promote a conspiracy blaming the US for the creation of the Wuhan Coronavirus. Given China’s culpability in allowing the virus to explode out of Wuhan to the rest of the world, this approach by the communist and Islamist propagandists appears to be an act of desperation. By taking this propaganda tack, China is adding credence to suspicions that the virus may have been at least partially engineered.

    Meanwhile, propagandists in the western world — who often call themselves “journalists” — are also busy attempting to blame specific political entities in their own countries, to gain political advantage for the well connected political cronies who own their particular media outlets.

    Besides blaming political enemies for the effect of a virus from China, these ubiquitous media propagandists are also working hard to instill panic in the population at large. A wild over-reaction by investment markets could easily lead to further signs of population panic. Thanks a lot, news media.

    As for readers, wash your hands, avoid crowds, and don’t shake hands or engage in close contact with strangers except under exceptional circumstances.

    Something to Cry About

    Modern people have little historical perspective, and tend to cry very readily in self-pity from something as minor as an ingrown toenail. Here is a look at some other disease outbreaks, for comparison with Wuhan Coronavirus:

    Of course if you want to panic over a minor league respiratory virus, then by all means sell your stocks and buy all the toilet paper off Costco shelves. Meanwhile the thing that will eventually kill you is still getting nearer with every day that passes. And it is not likely that a thing like hand sanitizer will stop it.

    As they used to say: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

    Posted in Biomedicine | Tagged | 2 Comments

    Why Electric Airplanes Can’t Get Off the Ground

    Because the Batteries Alone Would Weigh 2X Allowable Takeoff/Landing Weight

    After accounting for battery weight, there is no weight left over for the pilot, passengers, luggage, or even for the airplane itself!

    People can fantasize about flying an electric airplane as much as they want. The problem is that airplanes are meant as practical tools, for transporting people and objects from one place to another in an affordable manner. If a specific airplane design cannot even get off the ground due to the weight of its batteries, it can no longer be considered practical — and the word “affordable” loses any meaning if it cannot do the job.

    The planes now being touted as “electric airplanes” are nothing more than toys. Here is why that is not likely to change soon:

    Why Do the Batteries Weigh So Much?

    Batteries for electric vehicles weigh so much because they contain very little energy per kg (low specific energy). Being fair, we allow for the fact that electric motors and drive systems are lighter than liquid fuel engines and drives. We also allow for the higher mechanical efficiency of electric motors vs. aviation fuel powered piston driven engines. But it doesn’t matter, because the very low specific energy of lithium ion batteries (the best battery available for this purpose) forces us to pile on too much total battery weight in order to achieve useful range. And by “too much total battery weight” I mean too much weight for the plane to get off the ground.

    Here are some calculations done at the Aviation Stack Exchange Q & A website using a 90% efficiency for electrical systems and a 35% efficiency for the liquid aviation fuel system:

    The specific energy of avgas and jet fuel is about 43 MJ/kg. The best lithium-ion batteries top out at about 0.9 MJ/kg (the batteries in a Tesla are about 0.7 MJ/kg), so they have a fraction of the storage of liquid fuels.

    Assuming that all other factors are equal (propeller efficiency, etc) we can extrapolate the actual efficiency of the systems to get an approximate figure of an internal combustion on avgas: 35% of 43 MJ/kg = 15 MJ/kg of actual benefit. We can use that figure to determine what specific energy we would need from batteries to get the same amount by dividing by electric motor efficiency: 15 MJ/kg / 0.9 we get 16.7 MJ/kg.

    Right now commercially available battery technology is about 0.9 MJ/kg, so it would need 18.56 times more storage capacity (16.7 / 0.9 = 18.56) to supply the same amount of energy.

    __ Aviation Stack Exchange

    Here are some specifications for the Cessna 150, a small but useful airplane:

    The Cessna 150 comes with either a standard 26 gallon fuel system or an optional 38 gallon long range system. Burning fuel at about 6 gallons per hour, one might be able to fly between four and six hours at about 110 mph (wind and weather permitting). Let’s estimate the range at 400 miles.

    Looking at the standard C 150 fuel tank, 26 gallons is almost 100 liters, and there is 34.2 MJ of energy in a liter of avgas. A tankful of avgas provides about 3366 MJ of energy to fly about 400 miles. Compensating for the difference in efficiency, how heavy would your battery system have to be to provide an equivalent energy and range?

    3366 MJ X (0.35/0.9) = 1309 MJ of electric energy required. We will be generous and allow a specific energy for the battery of 1 MJ/kg, which requires us to provide a battery pack weighing about 1300 kg, or about 2880 lbs. Looking at the C150 specs, we see that takeoff weight is about 1500 pounds. Our battery pack alone is roughly twice the allowable takeoff weight for the whole plane/pilot/passengers/luggage!

    It is true that a battery system would cost less for the equivalent energy: It takes $130 to top off an empty C150 fuel tank (26 gal.) with avgas, while it would cost just under $45 to charge 1309 MJ of batteries (0.28 kwh per MJ, and $0.12/kwh). Electric energy is indeed cheaper, all other things being equal. But they are not equal at all. While you were flying your load of passengers or freight from Los Angeles to San Francisco, your friend “the electric pilot” would be spending all his charge just trying to get off the ground!

    It is Worse Than That

    Electric batteries do not perform well when they are either hot or cold. In fact you can lose over 40% of your range under cold battery conditions — such as those you find when flying an airplane over much of the year.

    Some EV drivers — including this correspondent — recently found that range can drop by half when the mercury tumbles into negative territory. The AAA study appears to be the first to have used standard, repeatable methodology to confirm the problem and compare the effect of winter temperatures on different models.

    Different factors can affect the loss of range, he and other experts have noted. Simply turning on the electric vehicles AAA studied in 20 degree weather revealed a 12 percent loss in range. On a vehicle like the Chevy Bolt, with an EPA rating of 238 miles per charge, that would drop range to 209 miles. But that part of the test assumed operating the vehicle with cabin heat and seat heaters turned off.

    Brannon said using climate control revealed an even bigger surprise: Range dipped by an average 41 percent — which would bring an EV like the Bolt down to just 140 miles per charge.

    The problem is that unlike a car with an internal combustion engine that can warm the cabin with waste heat, EVs have to tap into their batteries to power the climate control system. __

    It gets cold up there, and if you are using up your battery range just keeping yourself from freezing, you may not get where you planned to go. If you only plan to use your airplane in the summer, perhaps it is more of a toy than a practical tool?

    Airplanes are Highly Affected by Weight Considerations

    The very low energy density of the best lithium ion batteries makes the idea of an electric piloted airplane impractical. If you want a toy plane to fly around for a few minutes, impressing your green-minded friends, then you probably have nothing important to do with your money or your time.

    Electric cars are less affected by weight considerations than are airplanes, but they suffer from many of the same drawbacks as the electric airplane. Most EVs suffer in considerations of cost, weight, performance, range, time to refuel/recharge, cold weather/hot weather performance, decay of battery performance over lifetime, tendency of batteries to explode and burn, and other problems waiting to be discovered by unwary owners.

    Not all of an EV’s faults are due to low energy density/specific energy. But the truth remains that the current generation of electric storage batteries is not ready to power useful (not toy) airplanes, and does not do so very well with automobiles other than for the short commute. As for using these batteries to backup a power grid or to level a fluctuating grid load & an intermittent supply — forget about it.

    “Unless there’s a cosmic change in the battery, it’s just not going to work for bigger, faster airplanes,” he said. “It’s going to be a really long time before batteries weigh less than liquid fuel.” __ A Steeper Challenge

    Good Intentions Are Not Enough

    There are a lot of good books that look at the problems of the “energy transition” from the use of fossil fuels to an energy regime based upon electric power. But of all the people who vote for the politicians who devise energy policies, almost none of them have read anything about how energy systems work and how they fail — and even fewer of the politicians themselves know what they are doing.

    The transition from fossil fuels to the long-shot alternatives will be very rocky, expensive, and bloody.

    In terms of batteries, the resources are not there to back up those bold green projections.

    Energy Storage and Civilization Palmer-Floyd
    Img Source

    The same is true for other forms of energy storage. The resources are not available. The green visionaries have dreamed up a moronic plan. Society will pay an ugly price if these dreams are pushed forward.

    An abundant and expansive future is apparently a frightening prospect to most modern humans. Hence the appeal of the “Green New Deal,” a policy that would doom everyone but the political insiders who would insulate themselves from all the fallout.


    Any books on energy by Vaclav Smil will be enlightening. “Energy and Civilization: A History” provides excellent background.

    Without the Hot Air by David MacKay is a book that is sympathetic to “green energy” but sternly realistic at the same time.

    Think Big:

    Julian Simon: The Ultimate Resource II

    Think Real:

    Theodore Rockwell: Creating the New World

    More on electric flight:

    Virtually all of today’s electric airplanes are examples of battery assisted gliders. By thermal-hopping these “electric motor-powered gliders” can reach altitude and over time and in good weather can move a few hundred miles. As a stunt. Soaring is a wonderful sport, but it doesn’t get the work done.

    Beautiful examples of electric fantasies not ready for the sky. Artists and computer graphics techs can portray amazing looking “electric airplanes” but they cannot make them do useful work.

    A more viable solution is a hybrid system with at least two motors: an electric motor that turns the propeller and a gas engine that drives another generator for power. __

    Posted in Transportation | Leave a comment