Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 22 July, 2021

The strongest lesson I’ve learned over the past 18 months is that our pandemic is not so much based on the virus as it is on our inability to rationally optimize our response to it.  The pervasive idiocy that has tainted every part of our actions, from the most senior political and professional “thought leaders” to the most ordinary “man in the street” has failed to combat a virus that knows no political correctness, and doesn’t care about delicate sensibilities or winning elections.

I had a personal experience of that this week.  My daughter and ex-wife both thought they might have come down with Covid.  I doubted it for a number of reasons, but was as keen as they were to get the matter clarified – Anna (daughter) was due to come to be with me for some days and much as I welcome her company, if she and her mother both had Covid, it would probably be prudent to have them isolate together, rather than have her come here.  Plus Anna was scheduled to work in a local food shop for shifts on several days, and clearly that would be wrong, too.

It is a very basic tenet of infection control to identify infected people as urgently quickly as possible and get them out of the general population before they can infect other people.  So our personal wishes were completely aligned with what the public health authorities should be keenly pursuing, too.

There’s one more reason for urgently ascertaining if you have a Covid infection or not.  If you do, then you should immediately consider taking some of the unofficial but apparently extremely effective treatments (such as ivermectin and quercetin, or any/all of various others) to prevent your infection from spiraling out of control.

Unfortunately, the reality of quickly being tested for a Covid infection was totally different to the theory.

The good news – there were public, no appointment required, drive-up and drive-through testing facilities nearby.  The testing was even free.  What’s not to like about that?

The bad news – the testing was the PCR type testing, with one to two days delay being quoted between test and result.  Even at a humble $15/hr, two days for Anna of not working in her summer part-time job while waiting for results represented a $240 cost, plus of course, the uncertainty of whether Anna should stay with her mother or come to me.

So I researched some more, and discovered that the Walgreens drug store chain offered free instant testing – results in 15 minutes or so.  While the instant testing isn’t as accurate as the PCR (although note the PCR testing has its own accuracy issues too), an instant reading on the probability of infection was definitely better than not knowing anything for one or two days (and, who knows, possibly longer, particularly with the surging new cases in WA state).  Further, both Anna and her mother were at the “early symptoms” stage – when virus numbers are near their highest point and so most readily detectable.

Walgreens appeared to make the process really easy.  Their website showed locations and whether each location had open times for testing or if the location was semi or fully booked out.  Simply pick a convenient location and sign up for a test time.

I had Anna do this for the two of them, but she reported back that while all locations showed availability, the website refused to allow same day signups.  The soonest she could get an appointment time was the next day.

That seemed strange, so I simply rang a nearby Walgreens to skip the online signup and do it “the old fashioned way”, getting an appointment time over the phone.

The good news – the pharmacy technician confirmed they had lots of availability to test people that day.  She also acknowledged that the online booking system wouldn’t allow same-day bookings, but didn’t know why that was.

The bad news – after learning the location was not at all busy, I asked the lady “so when can these two people come be tested?”.  Her answer was “They just need to simply sign up online and make a booking through our system.”

I reminded her of our discussion, seconds before.  “But, as you said and we’ve observed, your online booking doesn’t allow same day bookings, and they want to be tested now, not tomorrow.”

Her response?  “I’m sorry, but that is the only way you can come in – you need to make an appointment through the computer”.

I asked if she could do this for us, because the computer wouldn’t allow them to do so, and she refused.  “It would take too long” she said.

My obvious rejoinder was “But you said you’re not busy at present”.

This point was lost on the woman, and try as I might, I couldn’t get her to agree to test Anna and her mother that day, even though she was not busy.

A call to Walgreen’s corporate office resulted in a front line agent refusing to help, telling me no supervisors were available, and refusing to escalate the issue any higher.

For a company that claims to care about its customers, I’d rate Walgreens at minus infinity on any customer care scale you choose to create.  Meanwhile, the virus was listening in to our call, and quietly laughing to itself.

I am stunned.  How can people be simultaneously so stupid and so uncaring?  Plus, what’s with their computer system that can’t make appointment in realtime?

There is a happy ending to the story.  I researched some more, and discovered that another drug store chain, and apparently even Walmart, sell at-home kits at a price of $24 for two tests, with results in 15 minutes.  As mentioned above, they are not quite as accurate as PCR tests, but “the excellent is the enemy of the good” and it has been well established already that an 85% – 90% accurate test, right now, is vastly preferable to a 95% accurate test in two days time.  Indeed, that is why the tests are packed in pairs – the idea is test now, and if you get a negative result, you can test again 36 – 72 hours later to confirm the result.

So – and I exaggerate not – in less time than I’d wasted on hold waiting to speak to various people at various Walgreens phone numbers, I drove to a nearby CVS, bought some of the Binax test kits, and dropped a pair for Anna and her mother.  15 minutes later, they had a result – they were not infected.

I very strongly recommend you to get some Binax tests to have on-hand in case you find yourself feeling poorly.  Amazon has them, too, at a discounted price of $20 for two tests.  I’ve now some spare test kits sitting in the medicine cabinet for “just in case”.

Even if you’ve been vaccinated, you should have some of these tests.  There is still a chance of catching the virus, particularly the currently prominent highly infectious Delta variant, and the ability to instantly test, at home, and have a high-probability indication of your status 15 minutes later is priceless.

If you live in Colorado, you can even get them sent to you for free by the state.

A postscript to this story.  It seems likely that Anna and her mother were suffering from this.

Okay, enough of my own experiences with the virus (or, as it happily turned out, not with the virus) this week.  Looking now to the broader theme of “We are the problem, much more than the virus itself” here’s a very powerful piece that details how the “all-knowing authorities” (yes, that does all-too-often mean Dr Fauci) have been spectacularly wrong about every aspect of the virus and how to respond to it.

As you read that piece (and please do) keep in mind that if Joe Biden (and the selfsame authorities) had their way, the publication of that article would be banned and censored.  Anything that disagrees with the official line would be – and, indeed, all-too-often already is – labeled as “misinformation” and banned.

On the other hand, some of what we are being officially told seems to be of dubious value/accuracy, and perhaps could be labeled misinformation too.

The government’s eagerness to censor its citizens every possible way is at the point now where one has to wonder what they are so desperate to hide.

Even the Wall St Journal is now publishing an Op-Ed piece that criticizes the push to vaccinate children.  It too contains some breathtaking assertions about how little research the “all-knowing authorities” have actually done before strongly advocating for children to be vaccinated.

Talking about Dr Fauci – a guy who seems to have a darker and darker record of past and current mistakes – he got into another testy exchange with Senator Rand Paul this week.  I don’t know enough to clearly say if Sen Paul was correct or not in the criticisms he was sending to Dr Fauci, but I do know one thing absolutely.  If one is being confronted by a person who is making awkward statements, there are two possible responses.

If the statements are wrong, the best thing to do is to rebut and refute them, to show how the statements are wrong and to explain what the correct facts are.

If the statements are awkwardly correct though, of course you can’t rebut/refute them, and instead, people go off on a tangent, either changing the subject, or attacking the questioner.

So it is interesting to note that rather than patiently walking Sen Rand through the issues and explaining the reality and truth, Dr Fauci simply started trading insults with Sen Rand and called him a liar.  Note to Dr F :  If Rand Paul is a liar, don’t just call him a liar and require us to trust and believe you.  We no longer do – you’ve even admitted to us, directly, that you sometimes shade the truth to encourage us to your preferred course of action.  Show us exactly how Rand Paul is lying, so we can accept your claim.

Current Numbers

You might not remember why I am so interested in Gibraltar, which this week rose one place in the minor country list.

It is because, since the beginning of May, Gibraltar has been fully vaccinated, indeed, it is now improbably showing itself as more than fully vaccinated.  So it had been hoped that Gibraltar would quickly become virus free.

But, as you can see, Gibraltar is experiencing rising case numbers again, just like most other countries.  Sure, the numbers of new cases a day are low, but so too is the population – Gibraltar has a mere 33,680 people there.  So when they report 40 cases, that is the same as if the US reported 400,000 new cases in a day.  Gibraltar has had several days recently with over 40 new cases reported, whereas the US has never, ever, had a day with 400,000 new cases, and currently is averaging about one tenth that rate.  (On the other hand, while Gibraltar’s cases are climbing, their death rate remains at zero, although this might simply be due to the about one month lag between cases and deaths.)

There’s more to the virus numbers than vaccination rates, alone.

In the major country list, the Netherlands jumped up two places, displacing the US which dropped a place.  Colombia also jumped two places, with France matching by dropping two places.

The death rate list had no changes.

The new case activity for last week table showed the usual wild swings.  The UK has climbed again and is now third on the list, after having grown a more moderate 25% week on week.

Europe as a whole is up 23%, but it is interesting to see the Netherlands have swung from massive increases to now a 5% drop between last week’s average and this week’s.  Also down is the Czech Republic, with a 7% drop.

At the other end of the scale, however, is Iceland, France and Italy, all of which grew by more than 100%.  Ireland was 79%, Austria 66%, Switzerland 65%, Germany 45% and Spain a more moderate 17%.

The US grew by 57%, with 965 new cases per million people over the last seven days.  The world as a whole recorded an 8% growth.

Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (183,983) Andorra (186,883)
2 Seychelles (171,806) Seychelles (179,283)
3 Montenegro (160,101) Montenegro (160,575)
4 Bahrain Bahrain
5 San Marino San Marino
6 Maldives Gibraltar (140,380)
7 Gibraltar (134,141) Maldives
8 Slovenia Slovenia
9 Luxembourg Luxembourg
10 Uruguay (108,439) Uruguay (108,968)

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (155,677) Czech Republic (155,819)
2 Sweden (107,622) Sweden (107,847)
3 USA (104,762) Netherlands (106,392)
4 Argentina USA  (105,730)
5 Netherlands Argentina
6 Belgium Belgium
7 Portugal (90,519) Portugal (92,791)
8 Brazil (89,959) Colombia (91,198)
9 France (89,163) Brazil (91,169)
10 Colombia (89,095) Spain
11 Spain France (90,690)
12 Chile (82,676) Chile (83,192)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Peru  (5,826) Peru  (5,841)
2 Czech Rep  (2,827) Czech Rep  (2,828)
3 Brazil Brazil
4 Colombia (2,232) Colombia (2,290)
5 Argentina (2,207) Argentina
6 Belgium Belgium
7 Italy Italy
8 Poland Poland
9 UK (1,884) UK (1,889)
10 USA (1,874) USA (1,880)

 

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 Cyprus  5,652 Cyprus  5,630
2 Botswana  4,476 Botswana  4,799
3 Tunisia UK  4,724
4 Cuba Cuba
5 UK  3,798 Spain
6 Netherlands Netherlands
7 Mongolia Georgia
8 Spain Mongolia
9 Namibia Tunisia
10 Colombia Malaysia
11 Kuwait Portugal
12 Argentina  2,344 Colombia  2,121

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

This virus will find everybody who is not immune“.  That’s a scary but probably accurate claim made by a Mayo Clinic doctor.

Also scary is a suggestion that “long haul” Covid symptoms could last up to three years.  Two questions – we’re only 1 1/2 years into the virus – how do they know that long haul systems might last that long?  And, secondly, how do they know that long haul symptoms will resolve at/by that time?

A UC Davis study has discovered what the rest of us already know and can clearly see all around us, every day.  People are becoming desensitized to the risks of the virus and are going back to normal life, ignoring risks that a year ago were considered substantial and now are being accepted as ordinary and irrelevant.

Also stating the obvious is this admission from the CDC Director – “We made a mistake when we celebrated the end of the virus“.  President Biden’s White House Party to celebrate the end of the virus on 4 July was made on the 13th day of steadily rising new Covid case counts – hardly the end of the virus at all.

If you’re planning on visiting Britain any time soon, better make sure you get off the plane with an empty bladder.  Returning Brits are reporting four hour long waits to go through Immigration – and that’s going through the faster “For UK Citizens” processing lines.  We can only guess how long the foreign visitor lines might be.

Vaccine News

This is an interesting article – the VAERS vaccine side-effect reporting system suggests there have been 12,313 unexpected deaths by recently vaccinated people.  The CDC says there is no link between the deaths and being vaccinated, and then deliberately distorts the figures and says even if there was a link, there have been 338 million doses dispensed, so the number is too low to care about.

The distortion is to count doses, rather than people.  Those 338 million doses probably represent 170 million people, and that’s the relevant number to look at.  One could also point out that the vaccinations are a one time event, but possibly linked deaths may continue on into the future, indefinitely, so will keep rising.

But, more than that, should we be outraged or reassured about 12,313 deaths that may (or may not) be linked to getting a Covid vaccination?  Certainly, as the article carefully points out, that’s a much greater rate of deaths than other vaccinations create.

But, it is still less than one in ten thousand people dying from the vaccination.  What would have happened if the 170 million people were not vaccinated?  If we look back to peak periods last year when we were averaging over 3,000 deaths a day, and compare that to the current average of about 250 deaths/day, it seems reasonable to say that the vaccines have saved many times the 12,313 people who died.

On the other hand, to say – as some do – that 99.5% of people who die from Covid now are unvaccinated only tells part of the picture.  The 12,313 vaccination deaths need to be factored into that number too, and if they are, then the balance of outcomes becomes a lot less overwhelmingly favorable.

Timings And Numbers

Here’s a look at what is happening in the world over the last 3 months in terms of varying daily rates of new cases reported.

Congratulations to Canada in particular for having got their new case rates so incredibly low.  Which leads in to the next point.

Closings and Openings

Canada has decided to re-open the border and allow Americans to visit once more, with effect from 9 August.  But the US is not matching with a similar re-opening for Canadians to come down to the US.

Now, look again at the chart above.  The US is currently suffering 12 times the rate of new Covid cases every day, per million people, than Canada is.  It is twelve times safer to brush shoulders with a Canadian than with a fellow American.  How is refusing to allow Canadians into the US a sensible or necessary decision?  If there is concern about disease transmission in the US, we should be restricting our movements, not those of safe Canadians.

Banning Canadians is utterly crazy.  How can our public health officials be so stupid???

Not so crazy though is an Appeals Court decision that allows the CDC to impose restrictions on who can go on cruises, overturning Florida’s ban on cruise ships “discriminating” against unvaccinated and possibly at-risk people.

Shortages

More crazy shortages are appearing.  Furniture, for example, due to a shortage of foam.  And Taco Bell food.

Even crazier are shortages of just about everything in Britain, due to their “tracking app” telling huge numbers of people they may have been exposed to the virus somewhere and requiring them to self-isolate.  Why they can’t just tell those people to go get tested – a much more impactful thing – is unclear, particularly because Britain is giving everyone who wants them unlimited free testing kits at home.  Details here and here.

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

 

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