Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 16 May, 2021

Today we have two more very important commentaries that cut right to the heart of the competence, credibility, and even honesty of the medical establishment.  The first is headed “The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill” but actually, the underlying errors went all the way back to the beginning of the 20th century (although the specific error in this fascinating article is accurately dated).

It is amazing and distressing to see that even life-and-death matters and the science underpinning such vitally important issues can be so poorly researched and based on layers upon layers of unquestioned acceptance of an original mistake.

The second article is at times complex and not exactly clear in all the points it is making, but its key points and reasoning shine through.  It looks at how public health authorities have acted “strangely” (that’s a polite way of phrasing it) in their approach to ivermectin.

I’m starting to see a second answer to the obvious question (“Why have they been so unfairly biased against ivermectin?”).  It is a variation on the first answer.

The first answer was/is due to the representations of big pharma who want to develop their own expensive proprietary profitable patented medicines instead of producing unprofitable generic out-of-patent medicines.

The second answer is that a pre-requisite of getting emergency use authorization for vaccines is for big pharma to be able to credibly claim there are no other available alternative treatments or solutions to the virus problem.  If ivermectin was acknowledged as being available and effective, then – at least in theory – the EUAs for the vaccines would never have been granted.

As you surely now know, the CDC astonished everyone by announcing, with no prior hints or suggestions as to their thinking and timeline, that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks, indoors or outdoors.  They’ve yet to answer the question – why was it too dangerous to be maskless earlier in the week, but now it is perfectly safe?  What changed overnight on Thursday?  While I’m happy with the change, I’d really like to understand the science behind it.

This chart gently makes an amusing point.  Not a single “expert” correctly predicted when the CDC would make this announcement, with over half predicting it would be at least a year or more before masks would no longer be needed.

Were all the “experts” wrong”?  Or is the CDC wrong?  (Or, quite possibly, were/are both the experts and the CDC wrong!).

As I mentioned on Friday, the outcome is going to be not just vaccinated people no longer wearing masks, but many unvaccinated people will stop wearing masks too and will shamelessly lie if asked if they’ve been vaccinated.  So I see the net effect being greatly increased risks to those of us not yet vaccinated, and have now “voted with my feet”, reluctantly signing up to get the J&J vaccine on this coming Friday, at precisely 11.42am at a local pharmacy.  If you’re not yet vaccinated, I suggest you should do so soon – remember, wearing a mask is not so much to protect you as it is to protect others, or to put it another way, you get less protection from your mask than from the masks of people around you, and when they stop wearing masks, your risk will rise.

Offset against that, however, is the continued extremely good news about the reducing numbers of new cases of Covid being detected in the US (and in most other countries too).  Our seven day rolling average of new cases reported is now the same as it was on 23 June last year, and the actual number of cases reported today (17,834) is the lowest single day count since 25 March, 2020.

Every day I fearfully expect the case numbers to start rising again, or at least to stop dropping, and every day now for 32 days in a row, I’ve been wrong.  Let’s hope I continue to be wrong for many more days/weeks/months.

One number that of course continues to rise, however, is the cumulative deaths in the US. Just today saw us break through the 600,000 count, closing Sunday with 600,147 deaths.  That is one out of very 600 people in the country.

Some people suggest that number is massively less than it “should” be if you’re to analyze all “excess” deaths over the last 15 months.  Other people, less convincingly (because the best reference is the “excess death” count) claim it to be greatly overstated.  But whatever the number actually is, it is still a national tragedy of a type not experienced in over 100 years of warfare and disease, and should be a reminder to us all of just how weak and inadequate we truly are against the forces of “nature” – the quotes allowing for the probability that the virus was not a naturally evolved thing, but rather was created in a laboratory doing “gain of function” testing (that was at least partially funded by the US through Dr Fauci’s NIAID), deliberately choosing to make more dangerous viruses.

Is it too much to hope that medical researchers will instead focus on researching and developing new cures first, and then new threats only after the new cures have been developed!  (Yes, I know it is hard to develop cures first, but I’m sure you see the point I’m making!).

Current Numbers

In the US, Tennessee moved off the worst case rate list and was replaced by Utah.

In the minor country list, Lithuania and St Barth swapped places at the bottom of the list.  In the major country list, the US dropped one to third position, with Sweden moving up to second place, and Argentina swapped places with Jordan at the bottom of the list.

The UK dropped one place to 7th in the death rate list, and was replaced in sixth position by Poland.

The weekly trends table continues to show wild swings – Costa Rica, not on the list at all last week, suddenly appeared at fifth place this week, for example.

India is at 20th place this week, with a rate of 1,654 cases/million for the last week, a 16% decline from the week before.  We in the US had a 24% drop, to a rate of 669 cases/million.

US Best and Worst States

Rank Cases/Million Deaths/Million
A week ago Now A week ago Now
1 Best HI (23,453) HI (23,845) HI (345) HI (347)
2 VT VT VT VT
3 OR OR AK AK
4 ME ME ME ME
5 WA (54,671) WA (55,802) OR (600) OR (613)
47 TN (124,882) UT (125,568) MS (2,429) MS (2,437)
48 IA IA RI RI
49 SD SD MA MA
50 RI RI NY NY
51 Worst ND (142,353) ND (143,169) NJ (2,905) NJ (2,923)

 

Top Case Rates Minor (population under 10 million) Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (173,489) Andorra (174,609)
2 Montenegro Montenegro
3 San Marino San Marino
4 Gibraltar (127,249) Gibraltar (127,249)
5 Slovenia Slovenia
6 Bahrain Bahrain
7 Luxembourg Luxembourg
8 Aruba Aruba
9 St Barth Lithuania (98,750)
10 Lithuania (95,857) St Barth (98,354)

 

Top Case Rates Major (population over 10 million) Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (153,372) Czech Republic (154,092)
2 USA (100,634) Sweden (102,138)
3 Sweden (99,261) USA (101,342)
4 Netherlands Netherlands
5 France France
6 Belgium Belgium
7 Portugal Portugal
8 Spain Spain
9 Poland Poland
10 Brazil Brazil
11 Jordan Argentina  (72,596)
12 Argentina (69,106) Jordan (70,365)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (2,766) Czech Republic (2,788)
2 Belgium (2,107) Belgium (2,122)
3 Italy Italy
4 Brazil Brazil
5 Peru (1,913) Peru
6 UK (1,871) Poland (1,895)
7 Poland (1,852) UK (1,872)
8 USA (1,791) USA (1,804)
9 Spain (1,685) Spain (1,696)
10 Mexico (1,683) Mexico (1,694)

 

Top Rates in New Cases Reported in the Last Week (new cases per million) for Countries over one million population

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Bahrain  5,743 Bahrain  6,630
2 Uruguay  5,221 Uruguay  5,691
3 Argentina Argentina
4 Netherlands Lithuania
5 Lithuania Costa Rica
6 Cyprus Colombia
7 Georgia Netherlands
8 Croatia Paraguay
9 Latvia Latvia
10 Sweden Georgia
11 Colombia  2,125 Brazil  2,070
12 Slovenia  2,120 Trinidad & Tobago  2,066

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

There’s been such a lot of focus on vaccines over the last several months (some would say, and with a fair measure of justification, too much focus on vaccines) that it has been easy to lose sight of one of the other essential elements of controlling the virus – early testing and detection of newly infected people.  Even now that vaccine rates are transforming the shape of the pandemic, in the UK, in the US, and elsewhere in the world too, many authorities are setting their restrictions on who can go where and do what solely on tests for infection rather than considering vaccinations.

There are two acknowledged problems with the main “PCR” type testing (and some other problems not so universally agreed upon) – the two uncontentious problems being that it is too slow to product a result, and too expensive to use all the time, everywhere.  The speed problem is due to inexcusable inefficiencies – a friend told me recently of his struggle to comply with the standard international travel requirement “must have a negative PCR test within the three days prior to boarding”.  This in itself is a bad compromise of a requirement, and probably created in recognition in the delays in testing.  Ideally it would be “must have a negative test immediately prior to boarding”, because a lot can happen in any three days.

But even with three days, my friend struggled to find any service, anywhere, that could guarantee getting a test result back in that time frame.

The other problem with PCR testing is its cost – a problem made all the worse by the rapacious markups added to the underlying test costs by some service providers, resulting in tests that can cost as much as $250 each.  Clearly, that discourages people from testing any time they’re anxious, and also makes it impossible for, say, a restaurant charging an average of $75 per meal to require diners first spend $250 to be tested prior to then spending $75 on a meal.

So it is therefore very exciting news to read about a new test that promises accurate results within 25 seconds.  The article tells how BA is testing it, but sadly doesn’t tell us what the likely cost per test might be.  As I’ve observed before, rather than complaining about problems with current testing, and the cost of current testing, airlines should take the matter into their own hands and solve the problems themselves (well, yes, okay; in partnership with test developers!).

Still on the testing front, Pakistan is now deploying coronavirus sniffing dogs at their New Islamabad Airport.  It has been suggested in testing done in Helsinki that a dog can sense a coronavirus infection five days before the person develops symptoms, which is also three or four days sooner than all common testing can.

Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine

A new study in Mexico City credits ivermectin with reducing hospitalization rates by between 52% and 76%.  This was after Mexico started distributing health kits to people that included IVM tablets.

The study isn’t extremely rigorous – it is more qualitative than quantitative, but offset against the imprecise nature of the study is the massive measure of the outcome and benefit that came from the ivermectin use.

Vaccine News

This article started off laughably weakly by suggesting that the airlines provide excellent lessons in good management practices, but if you can read past that highly debatable claim, it is interesting to see the details of Delta’s policy on vaccinating its staff.  Whether you agree with their policy or not, hopefully you’ll at least respect Delta for boldly coming up with a clear policy and sharing it for the world to see, unlike other airlines that have dithered and avoided making any type of clear statement at all, while waiting to see what others will do.

The topic of vaccine passports has been inexplicably contentious, but also seems (to me!) to be a clearly established need.  We need some sort of formal non-fakeable vaccine certification, and probably doing that through a smartphone app is the best way, to allow for easy updates and proving of credentials/validity.

This article reinforces the already obvious reason why a simple piece of paper is useless.

My sense is the whole vaccination thing may become a non-issue in a year or so.  The first indicator of that has already been shown – zeroing out the need for face masks for vaccinated people.  This is half-way towards saying “If you are vaccinated, you are safe, and if you are not vaccinated, we’re no longer going to bother protecting you from yourself any more”.

Timings And Numbers

On the one hand, the growing numbers of vaccinated people is rising in all countries, as you can see.  But on the other hand, and call me impatient if you wish, but we’re still a very long way from having even 50% of our population vaccinated, and the long straight lines of rising numbers seem likely to start to flatten out now due to fewer and fewer people choosing to be vaccinated (the reason it has stayed straight for so long is due to the delay between the two doses of the vaccine – changes in completed vaccination rates take 2 – 3 weeks to appear in these lines).

12.9% of the US population became fully vaccinated in the last month – almost exactly 3% each week.  If vaccination rates continue at about the same speed, that’ll see us reach 50% in late June, and 67% right around 1 August.  Let’s hope the line doesn’t flatten too much, and let’s also hope the lines elsewhere in the world angle up more steeply.

Overall, as you can see, new case numbers have been dropping almost everywhere in the world over the last month.  The biggest surprise to us continues to be how poorly Canada has been doing, but at least it too has seen its numbers dropping.

Closings and Openings

We’ve expressed puzzlement before about how British PM Boris Johnson formulated his latest policies for where in the world it is safe for Britons to travel and where it is dangerous.  Here now is an excellent article that exposes, at least in one very major case, how the health policies were made for reasons that were totally unrelated to public health reasons or considerations.

As a result of the delay in restricting travel from India, the UK is now struggling to contain multiple outbreaks of the Indian virus variant and, even though new case numbers are remaining wonderfully low, the country is considering new lockdown measures to try and contain the Indian variant before it becomes more widespread.

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

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