Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 18 February, 2021

 

We passed through another significant marker on Wednesday, when the US exceeded half a million Covid deaths.

The biggest story of the the entire outbreak is the one which no-one (other than me) seems willing to dare express – the majority of those deaths, as well as most of the 28.5 million people officially counted as having been infected by the virus – were preventable deaths and cases.

Official incompetence has caused some substantial number of hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.  There is no point in even asking how many people have lost their jobs for this stunning atrocity, because the officials have closed ranks and aren’t even admitting to any shortcomings, even though there have been a number of compelling and searing indictments written about unforced errors and mistakes.

Perhaps it is because the incompetence has been so widespread that it has been hard to see any “best case” exemplar of how our agencies should have worked better.

But keep in mind the next time you read about the CDC telling us two masks are better than one, that this time last year, and more recently too, they were telling us there was no need even for a single mask.  All we had to do was wash our hands regularly, and maybe social distance in some situations.

Most of all, the next time you see the official statements saying there are no known treatments for preventing infection or to address early stage infections, and arguing against hydroxychloroquine, citing two studies that weakly showed no positive effects, keep in mind the 205 other studies, most of which have shown very strong benefits from its use.

These two charts (taken from here) show, on the top, the results of all trials using HCQ as an early treatment, and on the bottom, the results of all HCQ trials, of all types, and at all stages of treatment.  HCQ has always shown benefit as an early treatment, and most of the time in all other situations too.  HCQ critics selectively pick one or two of the negative trials (the red bars), but ignore all the positive trials (the green bars).

Someone who was sincere about fighting the virus and reducing mortality would try to distinguish the elements that caused the apparent failure of HCQ in some trials but the outstanding success of it in other trials, and focus on the scenarios where it could be used positively.

It is the same with ivermectin, except that with ivermectin, every study has been positive.

(Data from here)

How can anyone fairly ignore these consistent and extraordinary results, which lead to an inference that early ivermectin use can reduce deaths almost ten-fold?  Keep in mind that ivermectin is widely in use all around the world, with almost no side-effects of concern at all.  It is inexpensive and readily available.  There’s no measurable downside to using it, and an enormous upside.

Other treatments are also showing great promise, but are struggling to be recognized due to the lack of interest in them.  We can understand why the big commercial drug companies have no interest in researching public-domain drugs that anyone can make and which have no major profit potential.  But what about all the government health agencies and sponsors – why are they too ignoring cheap, well-known, already-proven-to-be-safe drugs, while lavishly funding new experimental drugs that, if successful, will be in short supply and very expensive per treatment.

How many people have died because of this official myopia?  It seems possible the answer is above a quarter million people.  When will someone bring about a wrongful death class-action lawsuit against the individuals and institutions that have ignored these treatments?

Another example of how we are being killed through incompetence is in the area of testing.  Readily available testing with fast results – and followed up by contact tracing – would give us essential tools to help stop the uncontrolled spread of the virus from one person to the next to the next.  Everyone is agreed on the pivotal importance of testing.

There is now an instant at-home test kit that is very similar to a pregnancy test kit.  The manufacturer sells them in bulk to the government for $5 each.  But many of the kits the government have purchased are sitting in storage, rather than being used, for all manner of weird and ridiculous reasons.

If you want to be tested yourself, “just because”, you can’t buy one of these tests yourself.  Instead, you have to be “pre-screened” to determine your degree of risk, and then you have to pay $25 for the kit and to have an online specialist coaching you through the drop-dead simple process of doing the test, and then “interpreting the result”.

Imagine if home pregnancy tests required an online specialist to explain the simple process and then “interpret the result”.  For a woman in the prime childbearing age range, a pregnancy is a much bigger risk and more impactful event than coming down with Covid.  But we trust the woman to pee on a stick and then see if a line appears on it a few minutes later or not.  Why can’t we trust people to take a swab sample, transfer it to the test stick, and see if a line appears on it a few minutes later or not, too?

In both cases, simply recommend that a positive result should then be officially confirmed at a medical center.  That’s what is already done with pregnancy tests, so why can’t it be done with Covid tests, too?

Why is the FDA being so over-controlling to the point of stifling the available of quick and inexpensive testing for everyone?  Here’s a great article on this egregious mishandling of yet another part of our Covid response.

We mentioned before the need for a huge class-action lawsuit against all the state organs of health policy for the unnecessary deaths and suffering caused by their mistakes and missteps.  There’s an interesting case just starting to make its way through the court system at present with a woman suing her husband’s employer – he contracted the virus at work, then infected her at home.

We’re not sure how liable employers should be in this case, but we think it is an important issue to be discussed and debated, at a legal level, at a moral level, and at a social level too.

I also mentioned above about how big pharma has no interest in unprofitable drugs.  A vivid example of that is Merck – they actually manufacture ivermectin, but are ignoring it entirely while spending almost half a billion dollars to buy another pharmaceutical company to get access to a promising new anti-viral treatment it is developing.

We understand how private for-profit companies feel their first obligation is to their shareholders and their bottom line profit, so we’re not complaining too much at the actions of Merck and others.  But what about NIH, CDC, and the alphabet soup of other governmental public-health agencies?  What is their excuse?

Indeed, the NIH is so stunningly shortsighted that last year, when a company seeking a grant to develop a “broader spectrum” vaccine that would work against both known and some/many as-yet-unknown new variants of the Covid virus, the NIH refused to support the research, because independent scientists reviewing the grant application claimed there was no need for a pan-vaccine.  Those were presumably some of the scientists who claimed the virus was stable and wouldn’t mutate.

The naked incompetence and lack of vision of such people is breathtaking.

Showing the lie that underpins the claim that the virus is either stable or that mutations would trend to less harmful is this statement “A clear signature of evolutionary benefit” being used to describe virus mutations that make it more transmittable from person to person.  That would seem abundantly obvious to normal people, even if not to “experts” – the evolutionary pressure on the virus is to encourage it to become more readily passed on, so the appearance, in multiple places around the world, of new mutations that are more infectious should not be at all surprising.

How is it our “experts” are so grossly incompetent?

You’d like another example?  Here’s a statement that will come back to haunt those making it – the virus may never go away but could change into mild annoyance.

I’ll call BS on that right now.  The only things that will keep the virus at bay are vaccination or effective treatments.  People who haven’t been vaccinated, and possibly even those who have been vaccinated, but now either encountering a different virus strain, or having their vaccine benefits fading and no longer so protective, will always be at risk of severe illness or death, at least until HCQ, IVM, and other simple easy treatments are finally accepted and made readily available at all pharmacies, just the same as people buy cold remedies, antacids, pain relievers, and so on.

We also point out the article quotes researchers as expecting people getting reinfected with the virus a second time will have a milder infection.  Unfortunately, that’s an expectation not borne out in the real world, with one person in particular known to have had a mild first case, then a subsequent second case that killed them!

Current Numbers

Worldwide new case numbers have halved in five weeks.  In the US, a similar thing is happening, but our numbers halved in less than four weeks, and now are at less than one-third of the 11 January peak new case rate, at a level comparable to on 27 October last year.

Each continued day of these dropping rates is a precious gift.  Long may it continue.

There was no change in either set of rankings in the US.

Astonishingly, there was no change in either the minor states or major states rankings.  In the death rates, Portugal moved up one, displacing the US down one.

US Best and Worst States

Rank Cases/Million Deaths/Million
A week ago Now A week ago Now
1 Best HI (18,840) HI (19,070) HI (299) HI (302)
2 VT (21,233) VT (22,675) VT (301) VT (309)
3 ME ME AK AK
4 OR OR ME ME
5 WA (43,211) WA (44,027) OR (487) OR (510)
47 TN (110,121) TN (111,478) MS (2,147) MS (2,194)
48 UT (111,848) UT (113,663) RI (2,147) RI (2,234)
49 RI RI MA (2,215) MA (2,276)
50 SD (124,182) SD (125,326) NY (2,346) NY (2,399)
51 Worst ND (129,062) ND (129,955) NJ (2,514) NJ (2,558)

 

Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (134,353) Andorra (137,179)
2 Gibraltar (124,774) Gibraltar (125,486)
3 Montenegro Montenegro
4 San Marino San Marino
5 Slovenia Slovenia
6 Luxembourg Luxembourg
7 Israel (77,717) Israel
8 Panama (75,768) Panama
9 Lithuania (70,056) Lithuania (71,237)
10 Aruba (68,550) Aruba (70,553)

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (99,331) Czech Republic (104,765)
2 USA (84,294) USA (85,853)
3 Portugal (76,473) Portugal (77,898)
4 Spain (65,036) Spain
5 Belgium (62,901) Belgium
6 Sweden (59,634) Sweden
7 Netherlands Netherlands
8 UK (58,712) UK (59,948)
9 France France
10 Brazil Brazil
11 Italy (44,422) Italy (45,781)
12 Argentina (44,187) Argentina (45,025)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Belgium (1,851) Belgium (1,875)
2 UK (1,696) UK (1,753)
3 Czech Rep (1,658) Czech Rep (1,748)
4 Italy (1,535) Italy (1,571)
5 USA (1,466) Portugal (1,548)
6 Portugal (1,462) USA (1,521)
7 Spain (1,373) Spain (1,426)
8 Mexico (1,308) Mexico (1,364)
9 Peru (1,294) Peru (1,338)
10 France (1,236) France (1,276)

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

My major commentary above was how “expert bungling” has killed the best part of half a million people in the US so far.  There has been another killer lurking, not so prominently, in the background too – political correctness.  Of course, that is definitely a factor now with “equity” based policies for distributing vaccines.  In case it isn’t obvious, an “equity” based policy is actually, in a manner that now is becoming commonplace rather than shocking, a case of using a word to mean the opposite of what normal people would understand its meaning to be.

Fairness – ie equity – might be thought to argue for giving vaccines first to those at greatest risk of dying from the virus, or perhaps to those at greatest risk of being infected, or perhaps even to those at greatest risk of spreading an infection if they became infected themselves.  But “equity” means giving the virus to “disadvantaged” groups, no matter what their actual medical risk might be.

The other form of deadly political correctness has been the unwillingness of the authorities to allow volunteers to be deliberately exposed to the virus – what is termed a “challenge trial”.  Instead, we’ve had to validate vaccines by vaccinating tens of thousands of people, and not vaccinating tens of thousands more people, then waiting months to see the respective numbers of infected people, and hoping that the two groups have experienced identical risks of becoming infected.

A challenge trial can be really fast.  Vaccinate volunteers, then have them inhale or in some other way be exposed to an infectious dose of the virus, and see what happens, with a statistically significant outcome requiring no more than two weeks, and perhaps 100 or 200 volunteers, instead of many months and many tens of thousands of volunteers.

I’ve never been able to understand why we haven’t been doing many challenge trials to help answer all the questions surrounding the experimental vaccines that currently have emergency use approvals.  There is a huge social benefit from a fast direct challenge trial, and by recruiting lower-risk volunteers, there should be no objection to allowing these people to altruistically volunteer to help the world as a whole.  But some people feel that volunteers shouldn’t be permitted to volunteer, and sadly, it is those people who get to make the decisions.

But great news this last week.  Britain has now allowed one challenge trial, with 90 volunteers being exposed to the virus.  We hope this will be the first of many challenge trials.

Is the glass half-full or half-empty?  In Israel, there are more serious cases of Covid now being reported in younger age groups than before.  But is that truly more cases in younger people, or is it less cases in older people?  Which is the number that has changed to upset the relativity between them?

This article details the shift, and includes the promise in its headline (“… here’s why”) to explain the shift.  It doesn’t explain why, merely offers speculation, although, to be fair, Israel’s rapidly growing vaccination numbers could well be part of the reason.

Another possible treatment is showing some encouraging results – this time, Tocilizumab, and for people already hospitalized with moderately severe Covid cases.  Plus there’s a new trial getting underway for another low-cost well-used drug that has already shown positive signs of anti-viral action in early treatment – Pepcid (aka famotidine).

Britain is considering requiring people to have a Covid vaccine “passport” before they’ll be allowed to go to a bar or restaurant.  That’s a bad idea for several reasons, one being that we still don’t know enough about how much the vaccines reduce a person’s ability to become infected and infectious.  A vaccination means the vaccinated person is no longer at so much risk, but it does not mean they are not still a risk to other people.

The other reason it is a bad idea?  Unsurprisingly, in Israel, which requires a type of vaccination certificate before people are allowed to do certain things, there are reports of thousands of people forging the vaccination certificates.

In a similar light, one wonders how often people would simply bribe the doormen to be allowed in.  Taking bribes to allow people into venues is often a large income source for many doormen, who isn’t to say they’d not be happy to accept bribes to overlook the lack of a vaccination certificate, too.

But perhaps bribes don’t work so well when trying to enter Hawaii without a test certificate, as this couple found out to their cost.

Vaccine News

This is an interesting article, because it highlights some of the amazing lack of consistencies in how the different vaccines have been tested and rated.  Don’t you sort of think there should have been – and now should be – a consistent set of definitions for how the vaccines are tested and rated?

Why is it the authorities obsess over “lack of proof” about the value of HCQ and IVM, ignoring hundreds of independent and positive studies, but suddenly become relaxed and easy-going when it comes to the “proof” of the effectiveness of the experimental vaccines, based on non-standardized studies by the drug-manufacturers themselves rather than multiple independent studies?  Double standards, much?

Timings And Numbers

Here’s a look at the cumulative numbers of vaccinations, expressed per 100 people.  Remember that the vaccinations need to be given twice, so you only reach 100% when the count is 200 vaccinations/100 people.

Tiny Israel (population 10 million) is way ahead of all other countries.  That’s not to denigrate their outstanding success, of course, but it is sometimes awkward to compare countries of very dissimilar sizes.

I continue to be very puzzled indeed about the massive fall in new case numbers.  Even more puzzling is the eagerness of “experts” to give wrong answers.  I had analyzed the lack of support for Britain’s explanation about why its numbers are falling, and here now is an article pointing to a puzzlement about why India’s numbers are falling.

Here’s another explanation that fails to explain – this time the article suggests US numbers are falling because of social distancing and mask wearing.

That is a credible theory.  The only problem is the facts don’t support it.  On this page, you’ll see that US mask wearing has been in a narrow range between about 74% and 77% between 1 December and now.  Please keep in mind the numbers are approximate rather than exact; a move of 3% could simply be sampling error.  There is no sudden strong uptick in mask wearing to match the sudden downtick in new cases.

As for social distancing, just a bit further on down the page, it gently dropped a bit in December, then rose in January.  Again, the methodology used to measure social distancing is very approximate, and indeed, the results seem to have no relation at all to what we know were major periods of less social distancing around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year.  There’s no sign of any major trend sufficient to cause the plunge in new cases we are experiencing.

I find it fascinating that there is this mysterious drop, all around the world, and also that experts are coming up with laughably wrong explanations that are immediately disproved by published data.  Why are the experts “making mistakes”?

Talking about experts making mistakes, if you look up at the vaccination chart, you’ll see that on 20 January, almost 5% of the US population had already received a vaccination shot, including the new President being inaugurated that day.

But this week, Mr Biden tells us that there wasn’t even a vaccine when he came into office.  What does he think he was injected with?  Is he that out of touch with the vaccination program as not to know that 5% of the country had already been vaccinated by his inauguration?

Closings and Openings

The hotel quarantining program in England isn’t going very well.  Actually, that’s an understatement.  An article quotes a border official as saying it is “an absolute joke”.  Another case of being betrayed by experts.

Who Should Pay

The $1.9 trillion “stimulus bill” the Democrats are moving through the legislating process includes $160 billion for a nationwide vaccination program to get the vaccine into people’s arms.

You’re probably thinking this is a great item in a bill that, alas, has plenty of not-so-great items in it.  But let’s pause for a minute.

First, the country has already bought enough vaccine for everyone to be vaccinated.  Second, we’ve already given a double dose of vaccine to 8.5% of the population with the existing infrastructure, which seems to be getting up to 2 million doses to people every day at present, in its present form.

So, for the 91.5% of people remaining – 304 million people, we are budgeting an additional $160 billion dollars to get them vaccinated a bit faster than otherwise would be the case with the existing system already in place.  Let’s say the $160 billion boosts the speed for 200 million people.

So how much is the government planning to spend to vaccinate each of these 200 million people – a total of 400 million vaccinations?  $10 per vaccination?  $20?  $30?  I’d guess the low end of that range, because we’re talking about production-line type efficiencies, where people are steadily flowing through a vaccination site, and a dozen or so staff each have a highly specialized role in each person’s vaccination.  Between them all, a vaccination team should be outstandingly productive.  But, the government is the government.  Let’s say an unthinkable $40 per shot.

Actually, if you divide $160 billion by 400 million doses, you end up with $400 per shot.

I guess “experts” designed and costed this.  But, seriously, and all joking aside, our country is supposed to be better than this.  If this was any other country, we’d immediately assume that $1.5 of the $1.6 billion was being diverted into someone’s back pocket.  But what do we assume here in the US?  How did we end up with a number that is at least ten times higher than it should be?

Our country is no longer a wealthy country.  We can’t afford to waste money like there’s no consequence from having wasted it.

Doesn’t anyone care?

Logic?  What Logic?

England has come up with a “red list” of countries.  If you want to travel from one of those countries to England, you can’t.  You are banned.  But have a look at the list – some obvious countries are not on it, while other countries that are on it seem to be really strange choices.  For example, Tanzania is a red list country.  Tanzania is the third least-affected country in the entire world – they are a country with almost the same population as Britain, but whereas Britain has had 4,083,242 cases, Tanzania has had 509.

On the other hand, why is the US not a red listed country”  Or the Czech Republic, Israel, Spain?  (Update – they are now thinking about adding the US to the list….)

What sort of “expert” puts Tanzania on a banned list but not the US or many European nations?

Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Sunday.

Scroll to Top