For a change, let’s start off with some good news this week.
There’s been something happening that we’ve been quietly watching and wondering when to comment on. What started off as a possible short term anomaly has continued unabated every day since 11 January – the world-wide total of new reported virus cases has been dropping.
As you can see, the rate of fall is steady and substantial. The international drop in new cases is matched by a drop in US cases, too.
The US seven day moving average also peaked on 11 Jan and has been dropping – this is not altogether surprising because the US numbers, by themselves, make up a huge share of the total world numbers each day.
Astonishingly (and gratifyingly), at the end of Thursday 4 Feb, US new cases are being reported at a rate almost exactly half of those on 11 Jan.
This of course raises the question of why they are falling so quickly, here and most other countries too. Let’s first think about things that are not contributing factors :
Herd Immunity – It is increasingly seeming that acquired immunity is very weak after having had the virus. Indeed, the CDC is saying that you should still be vaccinated, even if you previously fought off an infection. Even if post-infection immunity were a factor, with only 8.2% of the country having had the virus, that’s so far away from the 70% or more that is needed for herd immunity as to be a non-event. It is possible – probable – we have massively under-counted total virus cases, but even if we double this to 16.5%, we’re still so far away from an impactful level as to be totally irrelevant.
Some people claim it is all about herd immunity. I totally disagree, not only for the three reasons cited above, but also because herd immunity would be a more gently impacting factor, not a sudden thing that appears from nowhere like whatever this mysterious thing is.
Vaccinations – The US is now the third best country in the world for speed of vaccinating. Israel doesn’t appear on this chart because it is “off the chart” high – 60% of the Israeli population have received one dose. But the US total of 10.2% of people having had at least one dose represents perhaps only maybe 2% or 3% of the population receiving both doses and now with some immunity, with the vaccines not necessarily preventing a person from being infected anyway, just preventing them from having an infection become severe or fatal.
Masks and Social Distancing – I don’t know about where you live, but here where I live, there’s been little difference in social distancing over the last month, and as mentioned last week, in some parts of the country there’s very little mask-wearing or social-distancing at all. These two charts, above, show only an imperceptible rise in overall mask use (from 62% on 1 Jan to 63% on 30 Jan) and a slight drop in social distancing (from 17% less than “normal” to 21% less).
Weather – We’re moving into colder wintry weather, in theory, a great time for virus transmission.
So, what has happened to cause this plunge in new cases?
The situation is even more pronounced in India.
Similar possible – or should I say, impossible – explanations apply there, too. As you can see from the chart, India’s daily new case numbers peaked way back on 17 September and are currently 1/8th of the level they were back then. India’s current average of 11,794 cases a day has to also be viewed alongside their enormous population of 1.39 billion. That would be the same as the US reporting 2,821 a day. Our current 7 day average is 129,894 – 46 times higher than India.
India seems to have all the social and climactic conditions that would be ideal for rapid spread and growth in new cases, but that never happened. India’s situation is all the more surprising because their case numbers never went very high in the first place, and currently, their total reported cases is less than one percent of the population (0.78%) which is less than one-tenth the total cases in the US. Details here.
We need to understand why case numbers are dropping, everywhere, and why countries such as India never had as severe an infection rate as we have.
You know the “opposition” – whoever and whatever they are – are getting desperate when they start censoring and blocking factual positive reports about ivermectin. Alas, as this article mentions, that is what is now starting to happen.
There’s something very wrong when credentialed medical professionals are being prevented from sharing their factual observations by social media sites, and by people on them who probably wouldn’t recognize a medical textbook if one fell off a shelf and hit them on the head.
Why are sites (hello, Facebook!) now choosing to stop us from learning about this wonder-drug, the discovery of which earned its discoverer a Nobel Prize?
Meanwhile, here are results of a double-blind placebo-controlled study in Bulgaria of ivermectin. It showed positive outcomes from ivermectin use, although the study size was too small to be compellingly definitive.
I do wonder what is the point of going to the bother of a full-on formal trial, but not having enough people enrolled in it to ensure a meaningful result. It is a bit like saying “I’m going to see how fast my car can drive 50 laps nonstop on the racing circuit” but only putting enough fuel in the tank for 50 laps.
There’s also something very strange going on at NIH, with their secret panels of “experts” who adjudicate on issues such as if ivermectin should be considered as a potential care-solution for Covid or not. This article struggles to understand the secrecy behind NIH’s actions (but can’t!).
Wouldn’t public health decisions like this be best done in public, and accountably? Presumably there is an articulable and scientific basis for every decision made, don’t we deserve to know the basis for each decision.
Oh, the “a” word. Accountability. Here’s a great article and linked Op Ed about what happens when experts fail – what consequences and sanctions the “experts” suffer. But you can skip reading it (although you really should) because you can probably guess the answer. Just like “too big to fail” protects banks from their mistakes and allows them to repeat them, the same concept and zero accountability seems to often be enjoyed by “experts”, no matter how colossal their errors.
In that context, I’d mentioned on Sunday about the CDC’s failed $44+ million project, taking over six months, to build a vaccination tracking system. Its failure is so severe that other organizations are now being forced to build their own alternate systems. Except, unlike the CDC, these other systems are being created in as little as a single afternoon, and at zero external cost. As I asked on Sunday, who at the CDC is losing their job over this fiasco? The answer continues to be “no-one”.
Do you remember, a few weeks ago, when Britain suffered from mass-insanity and their “experts” suddenly started saying “there’s no need to bother about a second vaccination, and if you really do want to have a second vaccination, it doesn’t matter which vaccine you use for your second vaccination”? Both those statements were shouted down by anyone with a brain, and have been slightly modified subsequently.
In now a classic example of a Mad Queen/Alice in Wonderland “verdict first, trial second”, Britain is now commencing a trial to see if the idea of mixing and matching vaccines is valid or not. My question has to be – why was the decision made before the trial had even started?
The trial itself seems predestined to be almost useless. Although scheduled to run for an encouraging 13 months, it will include only about 800 test subjects, while testing a number of different combinations (so smaller sample sizes for each tested scenario). Those numbers will very likely prove to be too small to allow for statistically meaningful outcomes.
But wait, there’s more. These same 800 people are also planned to be used to test the vaccine’s effectiveness against some 4,000 different variants of the virus. While it isn’t exactly relevant to compare the 800 people to the 4,000 variants, it sure does make 800 seem like an even smaller number than it did when merely viewed in the context of testing the “mix and match” theory.
What’s up with the Brits?
One last opening comment. The WHO investigative team in China says it has been having “very frank” discussions with Chinese scientists about the origins of the virus. Am I the only person who considers this entire “investigation” to be nothing other than a carefully orchestrated whitewash that will end up absolving China of any blame at all for anything (and everything) at all, other than perhaps a few very minor careful comments to show how the investigation truly was “fully neutral”.
My cynicism is massively increased by the claim of frank discussions. A frank discussion about the virus, in China, strikes me as about as likely as a non-partisan vote in the second Trump impeachment. One also has to wonder what the topics of the frank discussions are. The WHO team leader has already dismissed the more inconvenient and embarrassing-to-China theories/probabilities about what happened as irrational and saying the investigators would not waste time chasing the “wildest claims”.
No changes in US rankings this week. Aruba has taken tenth place on the small country list from Liechtenstein. A swap in positions between Spain and Portugal on the major country list, and on the death list, Portugal shot up from 10th place to 6th place.
US Best and Worst States
|A week ago||Now||A week ago||Now|
|1 Best||HI (18,039)||HI (18,495)||VT (276)||VT (290)|
|2||VT (18,467)||VT (20,037)||HI (287)||HI (294)|
|5||WA (40,881)||WA (42,205)||OR (458)||OR (474)|
|47||TN (105,076)||TN (107,827)||MS (1,998)||MS (2,077)|
|48||UT (106,815)||UT (109,569)||RI (2,024)||RI (2,085)|
|49||RI (107,380)||RI (110,719)||MA (2,082)||MA (2,145)|
|50||SD (121,849)||SD (123,000)||NY (2,221)||NY (2,284)|
|51 Worst||ND (127,686)||ND (128,643)||NJ (2,398)||NJ (2,454)|
Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Andorra (126,447)||Andorra (131,072)|
|2||Gibraltar (121,182)||Gibraltar (123,586)|
|4||San Marino||San Marino|
|8||Israel (68,376)||Israel (73,456)|
|9||Lithuania (66,727)||Lithuania (68,515)|
|10||Lichtenstein (64,806)||Aruba (66,650)|
Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Czech Republic (89,983)||Czech Republic (94,521)|
|2||USA (79,303)||USA (82,110)|
|3||Portugal (67,330)||Portugal (73,570)|
|4||Belgium (60,218)||Spain (62,938)|
|5||Spain (59,710)||Belgium (61,653)|
|7||Sweden (55,700)||Sweden (57,678)|
|8||UK (54,980)||UK (57,159)|
|12||Italy (41,640)||Italy (42,998)|
Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Belgium (1,802)||Belgium (1,826)|
|2||UK (1,515)||UK (1,619)|
|3||Czech Rep (1,487)||Czech Rep (1,569)|
|4||Italy (1,446)||Italy (1,494)|
|5||USA (1,336)||USA (1,406)|
|6||Spain (1,236)||Portugal (1,325)|
|7||Peru (1,218)||Spain (1,300)|
|8||Mexico (1,184)||Peru (1,256)|
|9||France (1,144)||Mexico (1,243)|
|10||Portugal (1,140)||France (1,193)|
I Am Not a Doctor, But….
The best thing about the CDC’s mandate to wear masks on public transport is they also specified the types of masks that are and are not acceptable. I’ve been calling for this since before the CDC even acknowledged that masks could be helpful, and while their lists of acceptable and unacceptable masks are still somewhat vague, it is a great step in the right direction. Details here.
As I showed above, the US is the third best country in the world for getting its people vaccinated. But that isn’t to say it couldn’t be doing better. Here’s a rather telling article about problems and shortcomings in how the vaccination program has been managed to date.
Here’s another drug showing exciting potential as an anti-viral agent. One of the important things about many of these anti-virals is that, unlike vaccines, they are not so sharply focused on only one exact form of virus, so they are better able to handle a broader range of mutations, such as are increasingly appearing around the world.
This drug – still extremely experimental – is also very appealing because it could be administered as a pill, rather than requiring advanced care facilities for an intravenous infusion.
The good news? You can now buy Covid tests from a vending machine at Oakland Airport. That’s excellent, and just the sort of thing that is needed to help identify and control new infection cases.
The bad news? They are priced at $150 each, and results aren’t instantaneous. So, they are disgracefully overpriced and almost useless as a practical control measure.
I opened today’s diary entry with good news. Of course, there is bad news too. The new more infectious versions of the virus are popping up everywhere. They are also increasingly believed to be more deadly, and are displaying varying degrees of immunity to the vaccines. The bottom line, as this article headlines – the pandemic may be with us for longer than we hoped. And this second article includes the quote “It’s a different pandemic now“.
There is also a new terrible scenario now documented. People being simultaneously infected with two different Covid virus strains. This might be happening surprisingly frequently, but we don’t know, because in the US, less than 1% of all virus infections are analyzed to see which strain is causing them.
Here’s an interesting line of research – while the CDC and others are saying you still should be vaccinated if you’ve had a virus infection already, this study wonders if maybe you only need a single shot rather than a double shot in such cases.
Here’s an example of what seems to be a well-run trial with clear results and analysis – astonishingly, it is of the Russian vaccine, and suggests 92% efficacy at this partway point in its third stage trial.
What a contrast between that and the British AstraZeneca/Oxford trial, its results, and its interpretation. This article points out how the vaccine trial provides only very weak evidence to support the vaccine’s use by older people. And this article takes issue with gushingly excited newspaper headlines claiming the a single shot of the vaccine might also prevent vaccinated people from getting infected and passing the virus on to other people. There are two problems with the data – the first is that it has been culled to select only the 22 – 90 day period with the strongest results, ignoring the collapse in the 90 – 120 day period, and not thinking all about 121 days and further out. The second is that the asymptomatic part of the results is so statistically meaningless as to be laughable. The asymptomatic part of the result says “there is a 95% chance that the vaccine impacts on infection rates somewhere between an increase of 88% infectiousness and a decrease of 62%”. That’s a meaninglessly wide range.
So the entirety of the British excitement over “their” vaccine rests around a narrow 68 day period after vaccination, with a prevention of infection probably ranging somewhere from 49% to 78%.
Timings And Numbers
Only one state showing growth, a couple stable, and the rest with decreasing rates of daily new cases.
We continue to make great progress on getting people vaccinated, and are closer to 1.5 million doses/day than the Biden target of 1 million. This article has a list of vaccination rates by states – is your state in the top or bottom halves?
Some months ago I read an article looking at the supply needs for a mass vaccination campaign. One of the items predicted as being in short supply was vials to hold the vaccine in. So it is no surprise to read that Moderna wants to place more vaccine in each vial.
Another obvious challenge would be getting enough syringes. The “discovery” that the Pfizer vials could provide one extra dose per vial (I think from six to seven) was based on using a more efficient type of syringe that doesn’t waste as much vaccine. Unfortunately it seems syringes are now in short supply. Apparently the rocket scientists who run our public health services never realized that we use syringes only once, and so if we are to vaccinate the better part of 332 million people, giving each person two doses of vaccine, we’d need the better part of 664 million syringes.
How can this possibly be a surprise?
These days it seems to many things end up falling victim to conspiracy theorists and conspiracy theories. Here’s a fascinating example of a nurse who fainted immediately after being injected with the vaccine, and now some vocal groups of people believe she is dead, even though she is apparently 100% alive.
Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Sunday.