Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 9 September, 2021

President Biden gave a national address this evening.  The most interesting point, for me, was his announcement that the government will work to increase the supply of virus tests, and the White House has reached agreement from major retailers, including Amazon and Walmart, to sell at-home testing hits at cost, starting essentially now.

The lowest priced one I could find on Amazon just now was $50 for a pack of two tests, and not likely to be received prior to next Tuesday at the earliest.  When I was buying some test kits a month or so back, they were priced at $24, and I subsequently saw them for just under $20.

As I’ve said before, the time to be buying these tests is before you need them.  They might not be available when you do need them, and if you think you’re infected, it is not a good idea to then go out and visiting shops in search of test kits.

Biden could have – maybe even should have – gone further, as the governor of Colorado has done, and provide free test kits to everyone, anytime they are requested.

On the other hand, Biden is absolutely on the right track.  We should all be testing ourselves, any time we feel concerned as to if we might have an infection or not.  If we can detect infections earlier than we currently are, which requires convenient cheap testing and fast results, we’ll be able to isolate ourselves sooner and slow down the spread of the virus.

In terms of things that can most readily be optimized, this is probably the highest of all issues, followed quickly in second place by distributing ivermectin to everyone, as a pre-infection prophylactic, and a post-infection immediate treatment/cure, keeping people out of hospital.  With hospitals now claiming to be running out of beds, and mortuaries saying they are overflowing, surely the time has come to allow ivermectin use.

Of course, we could also, as President Biden seeks to do, try and increase the rate of vaccinations and improve the percentage of people vaccinated.  I’m far from convinced the switch from the carrot to the stick will do much other than stiffen suspicion and resistance, and I’m also far from sure that our problems of being inundated with new cases at present is solely to be blamed on the unvaccinated.  Depending on the study, it is clear that a sizeable number of the people who are getting infected, and possibly even a greater percentage of the virus spreaders (due to the milder symptoms meaning many vaccinated people don’t even realize they have the virus) are vaccinated people.

The authorities have even obliquely admitted the current vaccines are not working, by way of their rush to urgently start getting third shots into our arms.  In Israel, they’re already planning to move on from three shots to four shots.  If the first two shots were anything like as promised, there’d not be the clamor for third and fourth shots, would there?

Also on that point, the FDA quietly revised its definition of vaccine and vaccination.

Before the change, on their website (my highlighting) :

Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease.  Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

Vaccination: The act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease.

After the change :

Vaccine: A preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases.  Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but some can be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

Vaccination: The act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce protection from a specific disease.

Isn’t it amazing – at the same time we’re being compelled to be vaccinated, the FDA is weakening the definition of vaccine, a definition which presumably has stood the test of time since vaccines were invented in 1796 until now.  As far as the FDA is concerned, vaccines no longer need to protect us against a disease.

Am I the only one disappointed that the FDA’s response to the poor results of the current mRNA vaccines is to weaken the definition of what a vaccine is and does, and demand we take more of it?

With so many other vaccines already out there, and more coming on-stream steadily, why can’t the FDA look for better vaccines?  Instead it transitioning Pfizer’s failure from emergency use to full approval, while scapegoating unvaccinated people as being the reason our numbers are as terrible as they are.

One more point.  The VAERS – Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System – has apparently received more reports of adverse effects from the Covid vaccines, in just six months, than it has received from every other vaccine in the entire 35 years it has been in existence.  Keep in mind that just about every child in the country gets a dozen or more vaccinations; so over the 35 years there has probably been way over 100 times as many other vaccinations given to people as Covid vaccinations dispensed this year.

Sure, not all the adverse effects are serious, and very few are people dying from the vaccine, but the reports are numerous and growing all the time.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t vaccinate, but I am saying we should look at all vaccines and carefully select the best.  It is quite possible the “best” (safest and most effective) are not only the two mRNA vaccines and one other (the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, my preferred choice, and which seems to be in short supply and hard to obtain).

This is the same FDA, of course, that while pretending the Pfizer vaccine is wonderful and safe, also pretends that ivermectin is useless and dangerous.  Which brings me to this amazing article, written by a physician/professor :

The  Great  Ivermectin  Deworming  Hoax

If you read nothing else, please read this article.

It is compelling in its scholarly treatment, it is fully backed up with rigorous links to supporting documents, and it is devastating in its assessment of how the “authorities”, with the connivance of the media, have distorted and lied about ivermectin, while boosting an undeserved and very expensive treatment (remdesivir) that has failed to show any convincing benefit at all.

It is a brilliant piece, and should be read by everyone, because the issue affects us all, whether we be vaccinated or unvaccinated.

Current Numbers

In the minor country list, we had a couple of one place swaps.  Of note is the steady high level of ongoing activity in Gibraltar, the most vaccinated country in the entire world.  The most vaccinated country in the entire world is also the fifth most Covid infected country in the world – what’s wrong with that picture?  As I feel the need to always say at such times, I’m glad I chose to be vaccinated, and I would do so again if I had a chance to relive that decision, but I do feel we’ve been sold a bill of goods that is completely at variance with what we were promised.

You might say “well, no-one expected the Delta variant to come along, it surprised us”.  But, if you say that, you’d be wrong.

The Delta variant was not only expected, it was inevitable as an evolutionary response by the virus to the vaccine.  It was not only expected and inevitable, the Delta variant was first reported in October 2020, almost a year ago; before the vaccines were approved, and before we were urged to go get vaccinated and expect a miraculous escape from the virus, and way before Joe Biden celebrated our freedom from the virus on July 4.  Yes, I know that ex-President Trump had his fair share of “freedom from the virus” claims too, but two wrongs don’t make a right, and it was easier in the first few months of the virus to make mistakes, than it was in July 2021 after nearly 18 months of learning, and with new case numbers steadily rising since 21 June.

In the major country list the UK rose two places.  If it continues at that rate, it is likely to move up another place or two within the next week.  There were some other smaller changes, too.

In the death list, the US and Mexico both moved up one, and Tunisia appeared at the bottom while Poland dropped off.

In the most active countries last week list we saw the appearance of new countries, Serbia, Slovenia and Switzerland in particular.  The UK rose one place and the US dropped four places (I discuss this further, below).

Europe had an almost imperceptible 0.3% rise in cases.  Winners included Spain (a 36% drop in cases compared to a week ago), France (down 26%) and Italy (down 14%).  Losers saw the Czech Republic rise 65%, the UK is now on the rise again, with a 15% increase, and Germany, while still rising, is now doing so by only a moderate 7%.

Canada’s case count rose by 8%, while Mexico’s count dropped by 3%.  The world as a whole saw a 9% drop in cases, a puzzling but pleasing number.  How is it the world’s numbers are dropping while we’re in the grip of the Delta variant and with too little of the world vaccinated?

Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Seychelles (201,660) Seychelles (207,861)
2 Andorra (194,202) Andorra (194,776)
3 Montenegro Montenegro
4 Gibraltar (158,971) Gibraltar (160,605)
5 San Marino San Marino
6 Bahrain St Barth
7 St Barth Bahrain
8 Maldives Maldives
9 French Polynesia (142,071) Georgia (143,955)
10 Georgia (138,136) French Polynesia (142,053)

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (156,463) Czech Republic (156,724)
2 USA (120,470) USA (124,692)
3 Argentina Netherlands
4 Netherlands Argentina
5 Sweden Sweden
6 Spain France (105,093)
7 France Spain (104,818)
8 Portugal UK (104,407)
9 Belgium Portugal
10 UK (99,399) Belgium
11 Brazil Brazil
12 Colombia (95,294) Colombia (95,581)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Peru  (5,918) Peru  (5,926)
2 Czech Rep  (2,833) Czech Rep  (2,834)
3 Brazil Brazil (2,730)
4 Argentina Argentina
5 Colombia Colombia
6 Belgium Belgium
7 Italy Italy
8 Poland Mexico (2,039)
9 Mexico (1,981) USA (2,024)
10 USA (1,976) Tunisia (2,009)

 

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 Israel  7,108 Mongolia  7,108
2 Georgia  6,215 Israel  6,215
3 Mongolia  5,870 Cuba  5,870
4 Malaysia Malaysia
5 Cuba Georgia
6 USA  3,450 UK  3,450
7 UK  3,438 Serbia  3,438
8 Costa Rica  3,218 Costa Rica  3,218
9 Palestine Palestine
10 North Macedonia USA
11 Azerbaijan Slovenia
12 Iran  2,609 Switzerland  2,609

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

I was mentioning false celebrations of the end of the pandemic, above.  This thoughtful article points out how there is no real consensus about when (or even if!) the pandemic will end.  So much for just following the science.

I’ve made this point several times – the nonsense of the supercilious claim made by some that they are “following the science” and the accusation that anyone who disagrees with them is scientifically illiterate and with no valid/valuable opinion worth considering.  I’m not criticizing the science per se – it is actually a very healthy sign to see different views allowed to be expressed, rather than censored with opprobrium.  An important point of “science” is discussion and debate.  I only criticise the people who pretend that science, whether it be virus-related or, horror of horrors, climate-related, is simple and black and white in nature.

We’re starting to see more and more articles about the latest Mu virus variant.  This article tells us the variant has now been detected in 49 states, and the clear implication is this is very scary.

It might well be scary, but we don’t yet know for certain.  There have been claims the Mu variant evades all vaccines, but, again, we don’t yet know for certain.  It also appears, as the article itself concedes, that the number of Mu cases is declining rather than increasing.  So keep in mind it is “only” a variant of interest at this stage, and is not yet a variant of concern.

Do you remember the testy exchange between Senator Rand Paul and Dr Fauci on July 20?

Paul :  On your last trip to our committee on May 11, you stated that the NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. And yet, gain of function research was done entirely in the Wuhan Institute by Dr Shi and was funded by the NIH.

Fauci :  With all due respect, you are entirely, completely incorrect.

That was already a laughable misstatement by Fauci when he made it, based on what we knew at the time, but of course, the main stream media didn’t dare question the sainted Dr Fauci.  The not-quite-so-mainstream publication, The Intercept (which, it must unfortunately be added, is more left-wing than right-wing in its leanings) has now obtained still more documents through an FOI request which it says even more clearly implicates Dr F and his NIAID organization in funding gain of function research in Wuhan.  A more right-wing interpretation is here.

Fauci’s comment to Paul was sweeping and total in its denial.  There would seem to be no way to worm out of that statement now.  We await his being held to account for lying to the Senate Committee, and his being pilloried in the mainstream media for his erroneous claim.

Timings And Numbers

I’d mentioned last week that the long weekend would throw the US Covid case reporting into disarray.  Even now, after Thursday’s numbers have been collated by worldometers.com, I find myself reluctant to consider the counts over the last some days as accurate, but perhaps they are.  Certainly it was clear that case numbers had essentially stopped rising by the day before the long weekend started, but none-the-less, it is surprising to see such a sharp transition from the slow fall in case numbers rising, to a sudden plunge and a substantial drop in daily new case numbers.  Indeed, the last time that happened was the Memorial Day weekend.

But let’s hope the numbers are true, and certainly, there has been a trend in many states to reinstitute social distancing controls and mask wearing.  Perhaps its working.  Let’s also hope that the double whammy of the Memorial Day weekend get-togethers and events, and the return to school about now, won’t give fresh impetus to case numbers in the next week or so.

We’ve probably all learned that one of the often less-exact sources of data are the airlines and the studies they commission.  As an example of that, here’s a new study that shows how Delta’s pre-flight Covid testing decreases the rate of Covid cases on its flights.  That’s actually not a surprising nor a contentious statement, of course, but the real debate should be how much it decreases the rate of Covid among passengers on its flights.  Even that pivotal point is not all the study suggests.

What has me puzzled is where the study compares the rate of Covid-infected (but tested) passengers on flights – 0.05% – with a claim that at the time of that sampling, the community rates of Covid were running at 1.1%.  A community rate of 1.1% is the same as 3.67 million people, and the average rate of new Covid cases in the US during the December 2020 – May 2021 study period was 109,265 new cases a day, a rate of 0.03%.  If we say that the phrase “community rate” means “number of currently active cases” and if we say a case lasts ten days, we’d be able to get to 1.09 million cases and a rate of 0.3 percent, but I can not see how they reached the 1.1% number.  In any case, its relevance is not altogether clear, because presumably the infected people were somewhat semi-self-isolating.  The number of not-yet-detected cases in the community is a matter for conjecture and debate, but is probably more than 0.03% and less than 0.3%.

There’s also one further point to consider.  The 0.05% is a measure of the “known” infected people.  It is not necessarily a measure of all infected people.  We know it can take 5 – 7 days for an infection to be detected, particularly with the rapid antigen tests being used.  The testing process is a PCR test up to 72 hours before departure, then the confirmation is a rapid antigen test immediately before boarding, and another rapid antigen test immediately upon arrival in Italy.

But those antigen tests would not detect anyone who became infected perhaps a day or two before the PCR test, or the up to three days after the PCR test and the flight and the tests before and after the flight.  How many people slipped through that testing process, undetected?

Well, we don’t know, of course.  But it is not fair to suggest the 0.05% is the actual number.  The actual number might be only slightly greater, or it might be two or three times greater.  In other words, it is probably a meaningless finding, which coupled with the strange community prevalence metric, makes the whole study rather meaningless.

Dr Fauci is in the news again (groan).  Well, he’s in the news pretty much every day with his platitudes and cautionary tales, isn’t he.  But this time, he made a strange statement – Fauci said that the pandemic will no longer be a worry when case numbers drop down to 10,000 new cases a day.

We dropped down to just over 10,000 cases a day in June.  Perhaps it was Fauci’s assertion that 10k/cases a day means you can start feeling comfortable that encouraged Joe Biden to seize on a couple of days with under 10,000 cases and announce we were free of the virus on July 4?  Well, as you know, we’ve had 7.2 million more Covid cases since the numbers dropped to 10k/day, and after peaking at almost 200k new cases a day in early September, we’re currently running at about 150k new cases a day, hospitals overflowing, etc etc.

Tell me again, Dr Fauci, exactly why you think we can relax at the 10k/day rate?  Even if US cases drop to zero a day, as long as the virus is active elsewhere in the world, it is likely to travel to the US again, and start off an entire new round of cases, all the more so if we’re “feeling comfortable”.  Look at the NZ example, where even after instantly creating a national lockdown after one case appeared after six months completely Covid free, that one case has grown to 879 cases so far and the outbreak is not yet contained.  That vividly shows what can happen in a country that is 100% mobilized and united in the fight against the virus.  In the more fractious US, it seems likely one new case might spread to 8,790 or 87,900 more people.

Closings and Openings

Goodness gracious me. Have we all taken leave of our senses?  A four-year-old piano prodigy has been denied her scheduled Carnegie Hall debut because she is too young to be vaccinated, but the venue insists that all performers must be vaccinated.  I’m not sure which is the more asinine – the demand that a four year old be vaccinated when the FDA forbids that, or pretending that one four year old on stage playing a piano is a health threat to the audience, some considerable distance away.

Microsoft showed some wisdom this week by abandoning its changing timeline for when its US offices will fully reopen.  The reality is that the virus sets the timetable for such things, not us.

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

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