Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 27 May, 2021

I had friends and their children come and spend a lovely afternoon at my home this past weekend.  Apart from rushed visits by single people for no more than a few minutes, this was the first time in 15 months I’ve had a “real” visit by friends, and it was great to enjoy, without an overlay of great concern surrounding the event.  I’ve a friend coming around for a small birthday party on Friday.

The relief and return to normalcy in my life that is being enabled, thanks to the vaccine, is much greater than I’d anticipated.  Like doubtless many of you, I now find myself thinking that I/we have “conquered” the virus – that’s a very wrong perception, of course, but it is nice to be “naughty” and allow oneself to feel that way, even if only a little bit.

I expect most readers, particularly in the US, have already been vaccinated, too.  But if you haven’t, I’d encourage you to consider doing so.  Yes, they’re still experimental and relatively new, but they’ve now been given 288 million times to Americans, and 1.8 billion times in total, all around the world.  While there remains potential for unexpected long term problems, at least we can confidently now proclaim that problems appearing in the first six months or so are proving to be extremely unlikely, and at least based on those six months, the balance between vaccine risks and virus risks seems to strongly favor getting vaccinated.  For a mix of reasons, I continue to mildly prefer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but the appeal of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines with their apparently higher rate of protection against the virus is easy to understand, and so I hesitate to argue against them.

Can I continue the feeling of self-indulgence that I’ve been allowing myself, post-vaccination, by saying a terribly smug thing.  The number of times I’ve been correct when calling out “conventional wisdom” and disagreeing with it during the pandemic to date seems to be many times greater than the number of times I’ve subsequently been proved wrong.  I’ve been reminded of that incessantly this last week or so, as one by one, the main stream media outlets, even such extremist publications as the New York Times and Washington Post, are slowly collapsing and pompously conceding they might have been ever so slightly wrong in refusing to acknowledge the overwhelming certainty that the virus was man-made and emerged out of China’s Wuhan virus laboratories.  They’re full of excuses for their errors, and in some cases I fear their apparent admission is so ambivalent as to allow them to double-down triumphantly in another month or two and return back to the “natural appearance” theory, pointing to their great open-mindedness in the form of their commentaries at present.

The most delightful of all such concessions was perhaps printed in England’s The Times, which included this absolute truth :

speaking off the record, some virologists say that Trump was a factor. He wanted to blame China, so until recently they reflexively did the reverse

In other words, the same people chorusing “follow the science” were actually not doing that themselves.

I eagerly await the main stream media’s future capitulation on the subject of hydroxychloroquine, which seems to have suffered an identical anti-Trump reflexive dismissal, and, on the basis of “guilt by association”, the even more effective ivermectin, also unfairly discredited without a shred of substance, too.  (More on ivermectin and the one chance in 85,000,000,000,000 – ie 85 trillion – that the accumulated research to date supporting its use is wrong, below.)

And will Twitter now “re-platform” the accounts it proudly “de-platformed” last year for raising doubts about the official story that the virus just magically appeared from nowhere one day?  One has to wonder what other truths – especially in the form of lifesaving treatments such as HCQ and IVM – are also being kept from us by people blinded either by Trump-hate (although he might dispute this fact himself, the reality is he left office almost exactly four months ago – isn’t it time to move on) or by big-pharma’s big-bucks?

This article is another of the pompous “well, it wasn’t really our fault for getting it wrong” semi-retractions/apologies, and frankly I found it hard to read without needing to vomit at the same time.  If you feel the same, please skip down and then pause at the final section, where there’s a profound final commentary.  It is headed “The Perils of Twitter” and it is a totally true concept that helps explain why some types of news spreads like wildfire, while other types of news never gets exposed at all, and explains how dangerous myths are always introduced with the phrase “leading scientists all agree that ……”.

Never mind about the agreements, let’s base our knowledge on facts and science rather than ignorant consensus.  If the strongest point to support something is to say that most people/experts agree with it, that hints there are no underlying clear facts at all and instead an “appeal to authority” fallacy is being foist upon us.  Science is not democratic, and the majority does not win a vote to determine the correctness of their preferred hypothesis.  We should look at all the subsequently debunked “universal truths” of the past and wonder what the present-day similar nonsense might be that we’re now accepting complacently and without question.

In the past, everyone “knew” the earth is the center of the universe, and flat, for example.  Fires come from phlogiston, and then from caloric.  Diseases come from “miasma” (bad air).  All matter is comprised of a mix of the four fundamental elements – earth, air, fire and water.  Atoms are indivisible and indestructible. Outer space is filled with aether. Canals on Mars.  Dental cavities and tooth aches are caused by tooth worms.  It is impossible for heavier-than-air machines to fly.  People would be killed if the train they were in was traveling at over 100 mph because of the effects of the speed.  The Titanic would be unsinkable.  More recently, the suggestion that meteors (and sometimes space craft) burn up in the atmosphere due to the heat of air friction.  Red mercury.  Polywater.  And so on.

Okay, that’s a fun list and could be very much longer, but I hope you already get the point.  Every generation of mankind from the ancients to the present day has been smug and self-confident in its interpretation of the world around it, while ridiculing the errors of previous generations.  Why should we be any different in our smug certainties – perhaps they too will turn out to be laughably wrong.  We should always be open to the possibility of new ideas and better interpretations, and absolutely not “deplatform” people for raising them.

It is only a small shift from this topic to the topic of the morass of ever-changing rules and regulations attached to international travel now.  The concept should be totally simple, and in two parts :

(1)  If you’re vaccinated, you can travel anywhere

(2)  If you’re not vaccinated, you will be quarantined upon arrival

Beyond those two simple points, it is possible to develop some “1.5” points in the grey area between points 1 and 2, where people are traveling from a low-risk country to a higher-risk country – it is probably acceptable to allow such people into the higher-risk country without elaborate quarantine measures, but perhaps a double test – one three days or so prior, and one upon arrival – would be prudent.

Instead we’ve a terrible mess of what can and can’t be done, changing not only from country to country, but also from week to week, and with no apparent logic to it whatsoever.  The UK famously allowed its citizens to travel to a small number of “micro-countries” that no-one would ever want to get to, nor could they readily travel to, plus also Australia, New Zealand and Singapore – three countries that refuse to allow Brits in, so a totally useless gesture, and also to Portugal, a country with a higher rate of Covid infections than Britain and many other countries that Brits aren’t allowed to travel to.  No part of what Britain did makes sense.

European unity quickly fractured when the concept of “every country for itself” took over last year, and struggles to recreate the Schengen free-travel zone have yet to succeed.  European leaders have been promising, since 15 April, that vaccinated Americans can travel to Europe this summer, but now, six weeks later, they’ve still not explained how we can do so, or what type of proof of being vaccinated they will accept.

This article looks some more at the mess of conflicting requirements.

The press loves the headlines of imagined armageddon virus-inspired collapses.  There have been a series of never-correctly-identified “hot spots”, with India being the most obvious recent example, and now that word has finally reached the press that India’s numbers have been dropping pretty much from the start of being featured as the poster-child for Covid problems, they’ve moved on to an even stranger choice – Japan.

Japan’s case rate is among the lowest in the world, and dropping.  So how to understand headlines warning that Japanese hospitals are on the “brink of collapse” as claimed here and Osaka is “crumpling under the onslaught” as headlined here?

Needless to say the despicable idiots at the US State Department responded by raising to Level 4 (maximum danger) their Japan travel warning, advising Americans to stay away from Japan.  Why?  The rate of new cases in Japan is less than half the rate in the US, and – look at the chart above again – lower than just about every other country in the world.

Really, please stop and think about this.  How is it possibly justifiable to give a maximum level travel warning to a country with a Covid case rate less than half the rate here in the US?  The State Department has a $52 billion budget, and this is the junk they serve us in return?

Current Numbers

There were no changes in US state rankings.

The minor country list showed exceptional volatility.  Seychelles appeared, immediately at 7th position, and the Maldives came in at 8th position.  Bahrain moved up two places, and assorted other lesser changes.

The major country list saw Argentina move up two places, and some other minor changes in the bottom part of the list.

The death list was unchanged.  And the weekly change list saw the usual series of strong changes, although surprisingly the top four countries remained unchanged, albeit with Bahrain showing a massive increase on the previous week.

India continues to drop back down the list, being at 32nd place today, with a rate of 1,090 new cases per million people over the last week, a drop of 24% from the previous week.  The US has a rate of 485 new cases, a drop of 20% from last week, and the UK is at 285 new cases, a rise of 21%.  The world as a whole saw a 14% drop in new cases.

 

US Best and Worst States

Rank Cases/Million Deaths/Million
A week ago Now A week ago Now
1 Best HI (25,189) HI (25,449) HI (347) HI (352)
2 VT VT VT VT
3 OR OR AK AK
4 ME ME ME ME
5 WA (56,248) WA (57,273) OR (618) OR (631)
47 UT (125,917) UT (126,448) MS (2,445) MS (2,454)
48 IA IA RI RI
49 SD SD MA MA
50 RI RI NY NY
51 Worst ND (143,610) ND (144,109) NJ (2,933) NJ (2,947)

 

Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (175,369) Andorra (176,823)
2 Montenegro Montenegro
3 San Marino San Marino
4 Gibraltar (127,249) Bahrain (130,792)
5 Slovenia Gibraltar  (127,427)
6 Bahrain Slovenia
7 Luxembourg Seychelles
8 Aruba Maldives
9 St Barth Luxembourg
10 Lithuania (99,936) Aruba (102,235)

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (154,402) Czech Republic (154,749)
2 Sweden (103,908) Sweden (105,205)
3 USA (101,687) USA (102,177)
4 Netherlands (94,097) Netherlands
5 Belgium Belgium
6 France France
7 Portugal Portugal
8 Spain Argentina (80,387)
9 Poland Spain
10 Argentina  (75,656) Brazil  (76,392)
11 Brazil (74,329) Poland
12 Jordan (70,784) Jordan (71,304)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Rep (2,794) Czech Rep (2,802)
2 Belgium Belgium
3 Brazil Brazil
4 Italy Italy
5 Peru Peru
6 Poland Poland
7 UK (1,872) UK (1,873)
8 USA  (1,811) USA  (1,826)
9 Spain (1,702) Spain (1,708)
10 Mexico (1,699) Mexico (1,707)

 

Top Rates in New Cases Reported in the Last Week (new cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Bahrain  7,522 Bahrain  11,499
2 Uruguay  6,325 Uruguay  7,585
3 Argentina Argentina
4 Costa Rica Costa Rica
5 Trinidad & Tobago Paraguay
6 Lithuania Colombia
7 Paraguay Trinidad & Tobago
8 Chile Chile
9 Brazil  2,159 Brazil  2,074
10 Colombia Kuwait
11 Georgia Nepal  1,811
12 Nepal  1,941 Bolivia  1,553

 

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

Another Fauci reversal.  After being one of the leading “nothing to see here” advocates that the virus was some sort of natural spontaneous event (even though he secretly knew that he had been funding Covid gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab), he has displayed his great ability to switch sides whenever he senses a change in public mood, and now says he’s not convinced that Covid developed naturally, and is calling for a full investigation.  But, there’s that terrifying phrase – “full investigation”.  The same one promised us by WHO – remember, their version of “full investigation was to place one of the key China-apologists on their “investigatory team” and then publicly refuse to even countenance or consider the possibility of a lab escape.  Why?  Because the Chinese authorities told them it had not happened, and of course, the whole concept of a “full investigation” is apparently to simply accept everything China says without question.

There has to be a concern that Fauci’s call for another “full investigation” may result in another whitewash.  Details here.

Here’s a puzzling item.  On the face of it, the suggestion that a mild Covid case gives life-long immunity as a result is wonderful, and great to read about.  But how can that be reconciled with an increasing number of known confirmed cases of people being infected a second time?

This article suggests that perhaps the immunity is for the specific strain you were infected with, but not necessarily for other strains.  It would be interesting to know how much of a difference between two strains is enough to break through the immunity acquired from an infection.

Testing remains an essential part of the battle against the pandemic, and so this news, about a new 60 second “breathalyser” style test, is very positive.

And, how about today’s most egregious statement of the blitheringly obvious.  A physician warns that holding the Tokyo Olympics, with no quarantine requirements for the athletes, could cause virus variants to spread around the world.

Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine

Here’s an article referring to five more high quality “RCT” studies, all showing positive results from ivermectin use.

Another article has calculated that the chances of it just being a random coincidence that all the different ivermectin studies are showing positive results is one in 85 trillion.  At what point does it become significant enough for authorities, all around the world, to start acknowledging the life-saving properties of IVM?  Has there ever been any other drug, ever, with such an extraordinary abundance of proof of effectiveness (and safety), but which the authorities stubbornly pretend is ineffective?

But here’s a new IVM trial that seems designed to fail, at the University of Minnesota.  it is evaluating “early treatments” but a typical person participating in the trial might not get any ivermectin for a week.  That’s not a early treatment.  An early treatment is same day/next day, not a week later.  Is this simply ineptness?  Incompetence?  Or is some darker motivation present?

One also has to wonder – there have already been 56 trials of ivermectin, and the authorities refuse to acknowledge the outcomes of any of them.  Will one more positive result really make any difference?

Vaccine News

Continuing a theme of bias and possibly even dishonesty, it isn’t just afflicting promising treatments that could save lives.  It seems to extend to competition between the different vaccines, too, as seems to be the case with this fascinating story about attempts to dishonestly discredit the Pfizer vaccine in France.

One has to wonder – this is a clumsy attempt at biasing “influencers”.  But how many more sophisticated attempts at biasing influencers have quietly succeeded, without anyone revealing the campaigns?

Here’s another campaign to try and influence/bias vaccine perception, but perhaps this time it is a more noble undertaking – Ohio is holding draws for $1 million prizes, with entries given to people when they get vaccinated.  I wish this type of incentive was available nationally, and retroactively!  All I got was a coupon from Rite-Aid (where I was vaccinated) giving me a small discount if I bought a lot of products from them.

This is an encouraging item – if you previously had a Covid infection and are now suffering extended symptoms, ie, “long Covid”, a vaccine might help clear those symptoms away.

Timings And Numbers

Vaccination rates continue to climb everywhere, with the US now nudging 40% of the entire population (ie all ages) being fully vaccinated.  There can be no doubt that this is having a material impact on our daily new case rate numbers.

As this chart shows, daily new case numbers continue to steadily and significantly drop every day, and are reaching historical low numbers.  If we can keep up a high level of new daily vaccines, victory seems achievable.  But as for the daily rate, after peaking at a rate of 1.01 doses per hundred people on 13 April, our rate has steadily declined and is at almost exactly half that rate now (0.51 doses per hundred people on 26 May).

I’ve several times bemoaned the inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the key data being released every day about our fight against the vaccine.  This is a fascinating article that explains many of the problems that have been encountered over the last 15 months – the good news being that data now is more accurate than originally, but still far from consistent and exact.

Closings and Openings

Great news. Cruise lines are beginning to restart cruising.

Who Should Pay

This is an interesting chart that attempt to correlate state death rates and unemployment rates, plus also their general political leaning.  Can you see any specific correlation?  I’m not sure I can, although it is hard to ignore what seems to be completely blue states (for the benefit of non-US readers, for some bizarre reason, the US alone in the world shows its left of center party – the Democrats – as blue and its right of center party, the Republicans, as red) in the worst quadrant (upper right) and red states almost entirely in the lower two quadrants.

There is some commentary about this analysis here.

 Shortages

Clearly, many country’s health services have ignored the earlier potential shortages of oxygen in the US, and my commentary about oxygen concentrators too for that matter.  This article – another article in search of a disaster to chronicle – reports there are more than 30 countries that (ahem) could face oxygen shortages.  And I could wake up tomorrow a billionaire.

A very un-American shortage, although sadly these days, not such an American concept to hold close to one’s heart – a shortage of fireworks.  The suggestion to buy one’s fireworks early isn’t entirely practical in the states which have limited the sale of fireworks for only a week or so prior to 4 July.

 Logic?  What Logic?

Some very impressive outside-the-box thinking.  What do you do when your country forbids groups of people gathering together, such as for a wedding ceremony?  Simple – instead of a safe outdoor wedding ceremony, you instead cram all 161 people into a tiny aluminum cylinder, which surprisingly is legal, although outdoors assemblies with plenty of fresh air and social distancing is not.

The cylinder is of course an airplane, and the wedding group chartered a plane so as to still hold a ceremony.  A brilliant example of the total illogic of Covid rules and restrictions.

Talking about stupidity, and flying, can anyone explain to me :

(a)  Why does Canada continue to refuse to allow Americans to travel to Canada, even though the virus activity level is lower in the US than Canada and has been for over six weeks?  A visiting American is less threat than the person next door in much of Canada, currently.

(b)  Also, why, although the border is closed (in both directions) for people walking/driving across, it remains fully open for people wishing to fly.

How is it possible that it is safe to enter either country from the other, via a 30 minute flight, but not safe to drive through one of the land crossings?  Or is this a case of “one law for the rich, one for the poor”?  Details here.

Other

Politicians – at least those with any understanding of the society in which they exist – generally understand that it is fine to have people complaining and disagreeing with policies.  But once they start to ridicule them and make them the subject of jokes, that means that all hope of “winning the hearts and minds” of their voters has been lost.

Perhaps this Saturday Night Live sketch accordingly represents one of the pivotal moments in the battle between politicians and their public health officials on the one side, and ordinary sensible common folk on the other.  Our social response to masking has evolved from discontent to slow acceptance to puzzlement and now – perhaps deservedly – to ridicule.

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

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