Archive for the ‘Coronavirus – Covid 19’ Category

Still more on the COVID vaccines’ 95% effectiveness rate…

December 29, 2020

WHO says “no evidence that vaccines prevent people from getting infected”
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True, but no reason to go anti-vax.

Bias alert: I’m pro-vax and plan to get vaccinated as soon as I can.

In a prior post, we parsed the Pfizer study results … honing in on one of the study’s limitations: it only counted the number of participants who exhibited at least one COVID symptom.

Said differently, the study was silent on the number of participants who might have been infected but asymptomatic.

So, I wasn’t surprised when the WHO’s chief scientist quipped:

“At the moment, I don’t believe we have the evidence on any of the vaccines, to be confident that it’s going to prevent people from getting the infection and passing it on,”

Based on the study’s design and results, I think that it’s reasonable to conclude:

1. The vaccines substantially decrease the probability of catching COVID and developing any symptoms … probably not by 95%, but by a very high number (say, 70%)

2. But, there is an undetermined (or unreported) chance of catching COVID but not developing any symptoms.

3. And, “the science” is still fuzzy on the likelihood of asymptomatic COVID infectees transmitting the virus to other people.

On the last point, some scientists say that asymptomatics are the primary transmitters of the virus.

Others argue that asymptomatics don’t develop symptoms because they have a low “viral load” … and, if their viral load is low, their contagiousness is low … so they’re not transmission threats.

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Bottom line: There’s little news in the headline that has gone viral … an no reason to fret.

I still plan to get vaccinated as soon as I can.

Does Fauci think before he speaks?

December 23, 2020

Loyal readers know that I’m no fan of Dr. Fauci.

It continues to amaze me that, despite all of his errant pronouncements and advice, that the MSM and half of America hangs on his every word.

This week, the media ubiquitous pop-doc went on CNN to reassure children that Santa is safe … that he (Fauci) personally vaccinated Santa and made sure that he was good to go.

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All right, I understand that it was all intended to be in good fun, but…

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What if the COVID vaccine had been launched sooner?

December 22, 2020

Bias alert: I’m pro-vax and plan to get vaccinated as soon as I can.
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On one hand, Trump has been justifiably basking in the success of his Operation Warp Speed program that encouraged and enabled pharma to speed up the development process.

It has been a sheer delight seeing the video loops of media pundits and “experts” looking ridiculous when previously dismissing the possibility of a vaccine by now.

See It’s official: Fauci whiffs, again!

Even Sen. Dickie Durbin — to his credit — stepped to the podium on the Senate floor to give Trump a shout-out for a job well done.

And yesterday, Biden conceded that “the Trump administration deserves some of the credit”.

But, headlines the past couple of days seem to be highlighting the logistical challenges, priority controversies and possible negative consequences of the COVID vaccines: “Man in Alaska Suffers Serious Side Effects”, “40% of Chicago Medical Staff Refuses the Vaccine”, etc.

So, I realize that I may be swimming upstream today, channeling a very provocative point-of-view that I saw offered up by Holman Jenkins in the WSJ:

Science triumphed but shouldn’t we have cut corners and moved faster?

Let’s drill down that…

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More on the COVID vaccines’ 95% effectiveness rate…

December 18, 2020

Probably overstated but, nonetheless, I’ll get vaccinated as soon as I can!
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It’s undeniable that Operation Warp Speed’s financial support and streamlined regulatory processes motivated rapid development of COVID vaccines,

That was largely predictable.

What wasn’t so predictable was the apparent sky high effectiveness of the early-launch vaccines.

Both Pfizer and Moderna report about 95% effectiveness.

Gotta ask: Are these effectiveness rates too good to be true?

In a prior post, we noted that  the 95% effectiveness is, indeed, sky high compared to previous flu and pandemic virus vaccines.

Today, let’s drill down on the 95% number…

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How do COVID vaccines’ effectiveness stack up against prior vaccines?

December 17, 2020

Answer: 95% is sky high compared to previous flu and pandemic virus vaccines.
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Today, let’s put the current COVID vaccines into perspective.

September 2019 White House report looked specifically at flu and coronavirus vaccines, noting that….

There is considerable variation from year to year in how much the flu vaccine reduces the risk of contracting the seasonal flu and flu-related illnesses.

Over the past 14 years, influenza vaccine effectiveness has ranged between 10% and 60%.

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Much of the variability depends on which viral strains predominate in a given year and, more specifically, whether the vaccine matches the viral strain that is circulating in a given flu season.

Although a mismatch between the vaccine and the virus circulating during a flu season reduces efficacy, vaccines still provide some protection against flu illness and decrease the severity of the illness, due to immunologic similarity between the viruses.

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When it comes to pandemic viruses

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So, who is social distancing and who isn’t?

December 14, 2020

The  “Covid States Project”  recently published their most recent survey of  how Americans  are (or are not) complying with the CDC’s COVID mitigation guidance (e.g. wash hands, disinfect surfaces, wear masks, socially distance)

In a prior post, we noted that  mask wearing compliance has steadily increased  to over 75%  (the light yellow diagonal  line running from the lower left to upper right corners).

But, “socially distancing” behaviors are declining … both the percentage of people avoiding contact with people outside their home (red line) and those avoiding crowded or public places (green line).

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More specifically, the survey indicates:

  • Education: Mask-wearing and social distancing is statistically unrelated to level of education
  • Gender: Women wear masks and socially distance more than men
  • Race: Proportionately fewer Whites wear masks than other racial groups; Whites and Hispanics tend to socially distance less than Blacks and Asians.

But, the differences among education levels, gender and race are relatively modest … probably within the margin of error.

There are a couple of identity characteristics that do show significant differences…

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Mask wearing up, cases up, deaths up … huh?

December 9, 2020

A team of northeastern academic researchers, doing a  “Covid States Project”,  recently published their most recent survey of  how “the human behaviors that have been shown to inhibit the spread of COVID-19 have evolved across the US since April, 2020.”

Said differently, they were evaluating whether or not people were complying with the CDC’s COVID mitigation guidance.

The researchers found that, since Spring, mask wearing compliance has increased from slightly over 50% to over 75%  (the light yellow diagonal  line running from the lower left to upper right corners).

Hmmm.

Mask wearing has increased to a relatively high level, yet the number of confirmed cases are spiking to record highs.

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Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

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Gallup says that 90% regularly wear masks…

November 24, 2020

So, if masks work, why are COVID cases soaring?
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COVID cases are soaring … and while the infection-to-fatality rate has dropped significantly, the daily tally of new deaths has been creeping up.

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CDC Director Redfield has testified:

Face coverings are the most powerful public health tool” the nation has against the coronavirus and “might even provide better protection against it than a vaccine.

The COVID death rate will be cut in half if mask compliance were 100%

With that in mind, a recent  WSJ article on “COVID" Fatigue” had a chart that caught my eye.

The high red line below  is the percentage of people who claim that they regularly wear masks when they leave home.

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Bottom line: Gallup says that over 90% of respondents claim they wear masks in public settings … that’s up from 80% who said so in May.

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Connecting the dots: Redfield says masks are more effective than vaccines … and, the vast majority of people say they regularly wear masks … but, cases are soaring.

How can that be?

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So, how risky is a Thanksgiving gathering?

November 23, 2020

Let’s throw some math at the question…
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It’s not a conscious thing, but these days, our brains are constantly running risk assessments:

  1. What’s the likelihood that I get exposed to COVID?
  2. What’s the likelihood that I get infected?
  3. How bad will it be if I do get infected?

Unfortunately, “the science” hasn’t been providing us with much useful “data to follow” on those questions.

So far, the best data is on question #3: How bad will it be if I do get infected?

CDC: 95% survivability rate if over 70 … higher with no symptoms, no co-morbidities or younger.

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Those are pretty good odds, right?
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Today, let’s look at question #1 — the likelihood of getting exposed to the virus, say, at a Thanksgiving gathering.

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The temperature – COVID connection …

November 15, 2020

A team of researchers at Goldman Sachs turned on their regression machines and found a compelling relationship between outside temperature and CODID case confirmations.

Goldman’s bottom line: As temperatures get colder, the incidence of COVID cases increases — pretty dramatically, regardless of local COVID mitigation policies.    Source

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Goldman points out that’s not surprising since:

Most other coronaviruses (i.e. the common cold), along with various influenza strains, are heavily influenced by temperature and seasonal effects (hence “flu season.

Why is that?

  • Researchers have found that the human immune system weakens in cold temperature, making people more vulnerable to viruses
  • Cold weather forces more people to be indoors more often, making them susceptible to infection if a  “carrier” breaches their poorly ventilated “bubble”.

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My add: Note that 72 to 80 degrees is the sweet spot.  That’s the temp at which most people turn off their homes HVAC systems, reducing the circulation of any airborne contaminants.  Hmmm.

Seriously: Why the push for a national mask mandate?

October 29, 2020

Biden has made it a focus of his campaign … and, the politico-scientists  are all in.
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For the sake of argument, let’s just accept the WSJ observation that:

Some studies show that widespread use of masks can reduce spread.

Even if masks are only incrementally helpful, they are among the least economically costly and burdensome options for reducing COVID spread.

OK, so there’s potential upside and no significant downside

With that in mind, a recent  WSJ article on “COVID” Fatigue” had a chart that caught my eye.

The high red line below  is the percentage of people who regularly wear masks when they leave home.

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Bottom line: Gallup says that 91% of respondents said they wear masks in public settings … that’s up from 80% who said so in May.

Let’s dig a little deeper on those numbers…

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Lessons learned from the White House COVID outbreak…

October 28, 2020

Now that the dust has kinda settled from the White House COVID outbreak, it’s a good time to step back and take inventory of lessons learned.

For what they’re worth, here are my takeaways:

> Screening — via temperature checks & rapid tests — doesn’t protect against viral breaches.

There are 2 stark realities:

  1. The tests are blunt instruments that are highly susceptible to false negative results.
  2. It only takes 1 infected person (i.e. an “index case”) to start the viral chain reaction.

So, other defense mechanisms (e.g. keeping a safe distance — especially from unmasked strangers) are absolutely necessary.

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> Applying a Grandma Homa adage: Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it initially seems.

On a practical level, the WH outbreak wasn’t all that bad.

From what I’ve heard or read, about 30 people ended up testing positive, but …

  • Nobody died (which is slightly better than the 99% overall survival rate)
  • Only 2 people were hospitalized (Trump & Christie)
  • Nobody is showing any after-effects now — especially a re-invigorated Trump who seems to have benefited from a couple of full night’s sleep.

As a doctor-friend of mine likes to say: “Getting infected isn’t a death sentence”.

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> The key: Find it fast and hit it hard!

The biggest advantage that the White House guests had was that they had ready access to re-testing via methods more reliable than the rapid tests … and, Trump’s infection lit a fire under all attendees to get tested, pronto.

That’s probably the best example yet of self-identified contact tracing.

Everybody who got infected (whether at the event or elsewhere) “found it fast”.

And, at least in Trump’s case, they “hit it hard”.

For months, Trump had been headlining the importance — and speedy development — of effective therapeutics.

When talking vaccine development, he usually added “… and therapeutics”.

Little did he know that he’d become a poster-child for the cause.

Whether it was the Regeneron or the uber-steroids that he was dosed, it’s indisputable that the combo of therapeutics got him on his feet and back in action at record speed.

Bottom line: Find it fast and hit it hard!

My view: Fast & hard is a resolute principle whether the disease is COVID … or, from our family experience, breast cancer … or, any other life-threatening disease.

 

Even more unsettled (and unsettling) science…

October 20, 2020

After the WHO & CDC have done a couple of u-turns (and full 360s) on masks, what’s the current “truth”?

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Let’s start with a basic question, how is COVID transmitted?

Initially, the science community (think: Fauci channeling the WHO and China’s disinformation) told us not to worry … that COVID was not transmitted human-to-human.

Then, we were told that it was transmitted human to human (to human) … via large droplets that contaminate surfaces (think: countertops and doorknobs) and hands … and transfer by handshaking and face-touching.

We bought into that … we started washing our hands and cleared store shelves of hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants (which are still in short supply).

Then, we were told that COVID is transmitted via large droplets that are delivered when infected people cough, sneeze and spray-talk on us.

That conclusion ushered in social distancing and masks went from “won’t help, might hurt” to “best line of defense”.  Most recently, CDC Director Redfield — apparently auditioning for a role as the village idiot –testified that wearing a mask is more of a viral deterrent than vaccines.

Then, a short-lived CDC guidance revision threatened to upset a big apple cart.

Here’s the back story…

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“What the Pandemic Has Taught Us About Science”

October 15, 2020

Bias, overconidence and politics can sometimes lead scientists astray.
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That’s where the WSJ comes out in an essay by Matt Ridley — author of “How Innovation Flourishes”.

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Mr. Ridley makes a couple of transcending points:

> Organized science is indeed able to distill sufficient expertise out of debate in such a way as to solve practical problems. But, science is a flawed and all too human affair.

> Scientists are fallible.They are not omniscient demigods whose opinions automatically outweigh all disagreement.

> There is no such thing as “the science”.  Rather, there are different scientific views that need to be tested and debated.

More specifically…

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NYT: “Pandemic will be over sooner than expected”

October 14, 2020

Begrudging credit finally given to Trump’s Operation Warp Speed
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Donald G. McNeil Jr. is a science reporter who has covered epidemics and diseases for the NYT since 1976.

He confesses that he has been “a consistently gloomy Cassandra, reporting on the catastrophe that experts saw coming: that the virus would go pandemic, that Americans were likely to die in large numbers.”

His view now: After taking the obligatory Trump-shot that, “with stronger leadership, the death toll would have been far lower”, McNeil concedes that:

Experts are saying, with genuine confidence, that the pandemic in the United States will be over far sooner than they expected, possibly by the middle of next year.

Why the sudden gush of optimism?

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Even more unsettled (and unsettling) science…

October 8, 2020

The CDC does another u-turn, turning a near-full 360 on how COVID is transmitted.

Spoiler Alert: It has to do with masks.
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So, how is COVID transmitted?

Initially, the science community (think: Fauci channeling China’s disinformation) told us not to worry … that COVID was not transmitted human-to-human.

Then, we were told that it was transmitted human to human (to human) … via large droplets that contaminate surfaces (think: countertops and doorknobs) and hands … and transfer by handshaking and face-touching.

We bought into that … we started washing our hands and cleared store shelves of hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants (which are still in short supply).

Then, we were told that COVID is transmitted via large droplets that are delivered when infected people cough, sneeze and spray-talk on us.

That conclusion ushered in social distancing and masks went from “won’t help, might hurt” to “best line of defense”.

That’s where we were, but a short-lived CDC guidance revision threatened to upset a big apple cart.

Here’s the back story…

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Did Trump “lie” and “cause” thousands of deaths?

October 7, 2020

That’s likely to be a major charge that Harris will be repeatedly lobbing at Pence in tonight’s debate.

For background, let’s reprise a past “must read” post that drilled down on Woodward’s “bombshell” book … which provided fodder for Harris-Biden’s campaign mantra.

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Bob Woodward certainly set the media’s collective hair on fire with his “bombshell” that Trump “knew” that the coronavirus was more serious than he was telling the American people … and, that confusion and delay resulted in “thousands of unnecessary deaths”.

The Biden campaign quickly shifted gears from “Build Back Better” to “Trump lied, people died”.

Really?

Bottom line: Save for the dramatic impact of the audio tapes, Woodward’s “bombshell” is old news that has been debunked by the science (and scientists) … and the data.

Specifically, the NY Times ran an  article dated April 11 that detailed practically all of Woodwards’s “scoops” … and subsequently “the science ” — voiced by none other Dr. Anthony Fauci — and “the data” provided context, explanations and refutations.

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Let’s start by flashing back to our April 13 post that analyzed the Times’ story…

Note: Trust me, the analysis is as relevant today as it was in April.  It’s long, but IMHO, well worth the reading time. 

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Which scientists to believe & to follow?

October 7, 2020

Over 6,000 public health scientists and medical practitioners have declared for Focused Protection.

Their full Declaration is a MUST READ… and, it’s only 1 page.

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Here are the key points being declared

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CDC: 95% survivability rate if over 70 … higher with no symptoms, no co-morbidities.

October 2, 2020

Pres. Trump has tested COVID-positive… here are his medical odds.

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Last week, the CDC updated its so-called Pandemic Planning Scenarios.

English translation: They revealed the key parameter settings for their “Current Best Estimate” of COVID outcomes.

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Buried in the details (and minimally reported by the MSM) were IFRs — “infection fatality rates” … the odds of dying of you get COVID-infected.

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Here’s the key exhibit from the CDC report.

There are 3 sets of numbers presented: a best case, a worst case and a “best estimate” (where “best” might be more appropriately called “most likely”).

Below, we’ll decode the numbers.

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Let’s focus on the far right column — the “current best estimate” of the IFR — the  “infection fatality rate”.

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The rates are very low … indicating that the likelihood of dying from COVID is very, very low … even if a person gets infected.

Let’s make those numbers a bit more understandable…

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The 3rd column is the ISR — the “infection survivability rate” … the inverse of the IFR.

For example, if you’re in the 50 to 60 age group and you get infected, there’s  a 99.5% chance that you’ll survive … that you WON’T die.

Even in the most vulnerable age group (the over 70 crowd) the probability of surviving a COVID infection is over 95% … over 07% in the best case and over 91% in the worst case (see charts below).

The 4th column — the F-Odds — are read, for example, that the current best estimate is that 1 in 20 infectees who get infected succumb to the virus.

The grain of salt: COVID deaths are a reasonably accurate number .. but the number of infections is a wild guesstimate given the unknown number of asymptomatic infectees who don’t get tested.

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Flashback: Ohio Gov. DeWine tested negative … after testing positive.

October 2, 2020

Not a surprise according to Bayes’ Theorem
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According to the NYT and many other sources…

As part of a screening by the White House, Mr. DeWine first received an antigen test, a newer type of test that provides faster results but is less accurate than traditional laboratory testing.

He tested positive for Covid-19

He was later twice-tested using a more standard procedure known as polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., an accurate but time-intensive method that requires samples to be processed at a laboratory.

That test result was negative for the Covid-19.

DeWine’s experience is a classic “false positive” … to be expected based on Bayes’ (Statistical) Theorem.

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Let me explain…

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If I test positive for COVID, am I infected?

October 2, 2020

The answer may surprise you, and it has big implications for test & trace.
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In a prior post, we reported that “Asymptomatics” are not rushing to get tested and provided some subjective reasons why that might be (e.g. no doctor referral, high hassle factor, privacy concerns).

OK, let’s up our game a notch or two and throw some math & economics at the problem.

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I’m a fan of “Freakonomics” … the popular call sign for a discipline called Behavioral Economics … the study of the rationality that underlies many seemingly irrational decisions that people sometimes make.

And, in my strategic business analytics course, I used to teach something called Bayesian Inference … a way to calculate probabilities by combining contextual information (called “base rates” or “priors”) with case-specific observations (think: testing or witnessing).

Today, we’ll connect Freakonomics and Bayesian Inference and apply them to the COVID testing situation…

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The most incredible COVID statistic…

September 25, 2020

I’ve heard or read this stat several times:

29 large universities including Notre Dame, the University of North Carolina, and Illinois State had reported some 26,000 cases by Sept. 9 yet no hospitalizations.

I used to frequently remind my students that incredible means not credible … and, this stat certainly sounded incredible … so, I largely ignored it.

But, when the statistic was repeated in the WSJ, I decided that it was worth looking into.

Here’s what I found…

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Biden demonstrates how NOT to wear a mask…

September 22, 2020

For the can’t-make-this-stuff-up file
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Remember a couple of months ago when the WHO, CDC, NIH (Fauci) and Surgeon General were advising against wearing masks?

At the time, among their arguments were that mask-wearing might give people a false sense of security — so they wouldn’t socially distance from others … that people would wear masks incorrectly — letting them slip down, breaching the protection … and that people would frequently touch their masks — transferring surface droplets to the “kill zone”.

I pooh-poohed that logic … until yesterday when I watched  Joe “National Mask Mandate” Biden give his speech in Manitowac, Wisconsin.

During the speech, Biden literally provided a demonstration on how not to wear a mask … and why their effectiveness may be overstated.

click to view the 30-minute speech
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Specifically

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Remember when Trump advised us to use scarves during mask shortage?

September 18, 2020

Of course, he was eviscerated by the med-science community and the mainstream media
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Flashback to late March when community spread of the coronavirus was ramping up.

The WHO, the CDC and US Surgeon General were advising against wearing masks … saying that they were, at best minimally protective, could exasperate the problem if worn incorrectly and would distract people from handwashing and social distancing.

“The science” was unsettled.  Scientists were unsure how the virus was transmitted. There were published peer-reviewed studies on both sides of the issue.

That said, the  real reason for the science community’s advisories: masks were in short supply and the supply chain was impaired by Chinese hoarding and off-shored manufacturing.

In a Task Force press conference, Trump cut to the chase … said the real reason was the need to supply hospital workers with masks first … and he casually opined that, in the short-run, folks could stop-gap by using scarves or other face coverings as a make-shift protective shield.

click to view video (90 sec.)
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Of course, Trump said it — and  he’s an MSM-certified idiot, so the media pounced:

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Of course, there’s more to the story…
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Did Trump “lie” and “cause” thousands of deaths?

September 14, 2020

Let’s drill down on Woodward’s “bombshell” (and Biden’s new campaign mantra)
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Woodward certainly set the media’s collective hair on fire with his “bombshell” that Trump “knew” that the coronavirus was more serious than he was telling the American people … and, that confusion and delay resulted in “thousands of unnecessary deaths”.

The Biden campaign quickly shifted gears from “Build Back Better” to “Trump lied, people died”.

Really?

Bottom line: Save for the dramatic impact of the audio tapes, Woodward’s “bombshell” is old news that has been debunked by the science (and scientists) … and the data.

Specifically, the NY Times ran an  article dated April 11 that detailed practically all of Woodwards’s “scoops” … and subsequently “the science ” — voiced by none other Dr. Anthony Fauci — and “the data” provided context, explanations and refutations.

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Let’s start by flashing back to our April 13 post that analyzed the Times’ story…

Note: Trust me, the analysis is as relevant today as it was in April.  It’s long, but IMHO, well worth the reading time. 

(more…)

More: Fauci confirms “Trump was saying what we were telling him”

September 11, 2020

MUST READ: This post was updated Sept.13 with a substantially expanded timeline of who said what, when they said it … and how Trump responded at the time.

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Woodward certainly set the media’s collective hair on fire with his “bombshell” that Trump “knew” that the coronavirus was more serious than he was telling the American people.

Biden: “Clear evidence of incompetence and dereliction of duty”.

Trump: “Listening to the scientists, and didn’t want to prematurely cause a panic”.

How to settle the question?

Let’s start with what Dr. Anthony Fauci had to truth-tell on the matter:

click to view 4-minute video
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By Fauci’s own admission, Trump was “following the science” … contemporaneously channeling what Fauci and other “scientists” were telling him at the time. 

Let’s dig a little deeper on that and look hard at the timeline…

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Fauci: “He was saying what we were telling him”

September 10, 2020

Fauci diffuses Woodward’s “bombshell”

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Woodward certainly set the media’s collective hair on fire with his revelation that Trump “knew” that the coronavirus was more serious than he was telling the American people.

Biden: “Clear evidence of incompetence and dereliction of duty”.

Trump: “Listening to the scientists, and didn’t want to prematurely cause a panic”.

How to settle the question?

Here’s what Dr. Anthony “My Word is Gospel” Fauci had to say on the matter:

click to view 4-minute video
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By Fauci’s own admission, Trump was “following the science” … channeling what he and other “scientists” were telling him at the time. 

Let’s dig a little deeper on that and look at the timeline…

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How effective are vaccines?

September 9, 2020

Answer: Not as much as you might expect.
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Excerpted from a September 2019 White House report which looked specifically at flu and coronavirus vaccines ….

There is considerable variation from year to year in how much the flu vaccine reduces the risk of contracting the seasonal flu and flu-related illnesses.

Over the past 14 years, influenza vaccine effectiveness has ranged between 10% and 60%.

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Much of the variability depends on which viral strains predominate in a given year and, more specifically, whether the vaccine matches the viral strain that is circulating in a given flu season.

Although a mismatch between the vaccine and the virus circulating during a flu season reduces efficacy, vaccines still provide some protection against flu illness and decrease the severity of the illness, due to immunologic similarity between the viruses.

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When it comes to pandemic viruses

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More: What did Trump know, when did he know it?

September 4, 2020

Most important: What did he do about it?
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In a prior post, we channeled an op-ed authored by members of a team that wrote a September 2019 White House report … and then we drilled down on the report’s details.

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The report’s fundamental conclusions:

  • Large-scale, immediate immunization is the most effective way to control the spread of pandemic viruses
  • The current government-centric approach to vaccine research,  development and deployment is far too slow.
  • To provide adequate risk mitigation for pandemics, public-private partnerships are needed to speed up the development and deployment of vaccines.

So, how did the Trump respond to the report?

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According to the authors of the aforementioned WSJ op-ed

“The administration was well aware of the threat of a pandemic before the novel coronavirus emerged … and there was “immediate presidential action” to implement the reports recommendations.

Specifically, they report:

On Sept. 19, a few days after the CEA issued its report, the president signed Executive Order 13887.

The essence of the Executive Order:

It is the policy of the United States to modernize the domestic virus vaccine enterprise to be highly responsive, flexible, scalable, and more effective at preventing the spread of viruses.

This is a public health and national security priority, as viruses have the potential to significantly harm the United States and our interests, including through large-scale illness and death, disruption to military operations, and damage to the economy.

The EO created several initiatives to modernize vaccine production, including “incentives for the development and production of vaccines by private manufacturers and public-private partnerships.”

In other words, the September 2019 White House report and the EO that quickly followed laid the groundwork for Operation Warp Speed — perhaps, the most critical component of the coronavirus response, hastening the development and launch of therapeutic drugs and vaccines.

More specifically …

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Operation Warp Speed (OWS)

Directly from the HHS site:

Goal: Operation Warp Speed (OWS) aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021.

Approach: To accelerate development while maintaining standards for safety and efficacy, OWS has been selecting the most promising development candidates and providing coordinated government support.

Rather than eliminating steps from traditional development timelines, steps will proceed simultaneously, such as starting manufacturing of the vaccine at industrial scale well before the demonstration of vaccine efficacy and safety as happens normally. This increases the financial risk, but not the product risk.

The federal government is making investments in the necessary manufacturing capacity at its own risk, giving firms confidence that they can invest aggressively in development and allowing faster distribution of an eventual vaccine.

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Bottom line: “Flattening the Curve” was intended to slow the spread of the virus to avoid blowing past hospital capacity while awaiting a virus-blasting vaccine.

Trump placed a big bet on Operation Warp Speed … and the clock is ticking.

What did Trump know and when did he know it?

September 2, 2020

Trump’s pandemic response triggered by a Sept. 2019 Report.
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During the DNC, Gov. Cuomo echoed the Dem talking point that the Trump administrations Covid-19 response has been “dysfunctional and incompetent” … that the federal government “couldn’t fight off the virus. In fact, Trump didn’t even see it coming.”

With that in mind, an op-ed in the WSJ a week ago caught my eye:

The White House Prepared for a Pandemic: A September 2019 report laid the groundwork for Operation Warp Speed

The authors  were on the team that wrote a September 2019 White House report that (1) calibrated the likelihood of a pandemic (2) identified rapid vaccine development as the key to an effective response, and (3) recommended policies and actions to speed vaccine development.

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Based on the report and its follow-up, the authors assert:

“The administration was well aware of the threat of a pandemic before the novel coronavirus emerged … and there was “immediate presidential action” to implement the reports recommendations.

Specifically, they report:

On Sept. 19, a few days after the CEA issued its report, the president signed Executive Order 13887.

The essence of the Executive Order:

It is the policy of the United States to modernize the domestic virus vaccine enterprise to be highly responsive, flexible, scalable, and more effective at preventing the spread of viruses.

This is a public health and national security priority, as viruses have the potential to significantly harm the United States and our interests, including through large-scale illness and death, disruption to military operations, and damage to the economy.

The EO created several initiatives to modernize vaccine production, including “incentives for the development and production of vaccines by private manufacturers and public-private partnerships.”

In other words, the September 2019 White House report and the EO that quickly followed laid the groundwork for Operation Warp Speed — perhaps, the most critical component of the coronavirus response, hastening the development and launch of therapeutic drugs and vaccines.
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Coming: A drill down on the Dec. 2019 White House Report

The consequences of Big Science’s bad bet…

August 27, 2020

Minimal research into coronaviruses and no drugs or vaccines in the pipeline.
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In a prior post, we channeled a report titled “The Road Not Traveled” by investigative reporter Christine Dolan.

For details, see: 15 years ago, scientists bet that the next pandemic would NOT be a coronavirus and Why the bad bet?

In a nutshell, Dolan concludes that circa 2003:

The scientific world bet that the next big pandemic would emanate from a more traditional flu and not a coronavirus like Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Obviously, that bet proved wrong … deadly wrong!

And, the implication of the bad bet:

“Although coronaviruses have been recognized as human pathogens for about 50 years, no effective treatment strategy has been developed.”

The fundamental reason: economics.

(more…)

The science community’s bad bet left us unprepared for the coronavirus.

August 26, 2020

Why the bad bet?
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In a prior post, we channeled a report titled “The Road Not Traveled” by investigative reporter Christine Dolan.

For details, see: 15 years ago, scientists bet that the next pandemic would NOT be a coronavirus …

In a nutshell, Dolan concludes that circa 2003:

The scientific world bet that the next big pandemic would emanate from a more traditional flu and not a coronavirus like Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Obviously, that bet proved wrong … deadly wrong!

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How did the science community collectively miss the mark?

(more…)

15 years ago, scientists bet that the next pandemic would NOT be a coronavirus …

August 25, 2020

That bad bet left us scientifically unprepared for the current crisis.
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Christine Dolan is a former Political Director for CNN and is now an Investigative Journalist, for a site called Just the News.

One of her latest reports provides some important context for this year’s response to the coronavirus.

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Dolan’s story starts way back, circa 2003…

(more…)

Let’s end the week on a high note…

August 21, 2020

B of A says “the Coronavirus is rolling over”.
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If you’ve been following our Daily C-19 Data Dashboard, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that the 7-day moving average of confirmed cases has fallen by over 30% since its peak on July 23.

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That’s good news but the case counts– as we oft repeat —  are a very fuzzy-math number since they are impacted by the number and mix of people being tested.

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Positivity Rate

Dr. Birx says to watch the percentage of people testing positive — the so-called “positivity rate”.

It’s currently at 6.5% — about 1/3 of the rate during the NY-area outbreak.

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That’s also good news but, again, “positivity” is an equivocal metric since it’s impacted by the mix of people being tested.

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So, the B of A analysts say to focus on hospitalization rates.

(more…)

What do New York and Sweden have in common?

August 20, 2020

Hint: Glance at the covid-19 death curves.
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Let’s reprise the oft-cited “Flattening the Curve” concept one more time…

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…. and, we presented data that strongly suggests (i.e. proves) that NY didn’t flatten the curve at all — it conformed to the “no mitigation curve” … while press-maligned Florida does seem to fit the flattening curve model.

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For details, see A covid tale of two states

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Now, let’s look at NY’s Cuomo-claimed “beautiful response” from still another angle

(more…)

Survey: Trusted medical experts.

August 19, 2020

Coincidently, I received 2 related emails this morning.

The first was a Georgetown broadcast email to faculty (even retired ones) and students:

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Reasonable advice from Dr. Anthony “Wide Left” Fauci:

“Trust respected medical authorities”.

Hard to disagree with Fauci on that one.

But, begs the question: Who are the medical authorities to be trusted?

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A second message came from a reliable HomaFiles’ source.

He reported that a survey was conducted asking people: “Which  medical authority do you trust most?”

And, there was a clear-cut winner…..

(more…)

About Cuomo’s “beautiful” response to the coronavirus…

August 19, 2020

Hardly a model of “flattening the curve”
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Talk about Chutzpah…

NY has amassed over 30,000 covid-related deaths (about 20% of the US total) … and, almost 1,700 deaths per million residents (2nd only to NJ’s 1,800; almost quadruple Florida’s 455).

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Cuomo was bold enough to commemorate New York’s death toll (chart above) on an anatomically accurate “Victory Poster” (image below). Note the shape of the deaths’ curve.

Today, I want to make a very simple (and irrefutable point)….

(more…)

Blood tests ID covid patients most susceptible to rapid health deterioration and death…

August 13, 2020

Five “biomarkers” can alert docs to the need for aggressive, immediate treatment

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According to an article published in Future Medicine by George Washington Univ. researchers

Currently, physicians determine risk for COVID-19 health deterioration and death based on age and certain underlying medical conditions, like having an immunocompromised state, obesity, and heart disease.

People over the age of 65 and those with underlying conditions are typically less able to fight off any infection, not just COVID-19.

But coronavirus has proven deadly to scores of otherwise healthy, relatively young people too – and scientists are still not sure exactly why some COVID-19 patients quickly spiral downward and others have no symptoms at all.

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George Washington University (GW) researchers found five biomarkers, medical indicators found in the blood, associated with higher odds of clinical deterioration and death in COVID-19 patients.

(more…)

A covid tale of two states…

August 12, 2020

One flattened the curve, the other didn’t … which is which might surprise you.
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Let’s start with the basic concept that has been the basis for the slow-the-spread lockdown and other covid mitigation initiatives: flattening the curve.

The concept is simple and intuitively appealing: Try to contain the spread of the virus so that the hospital system isn’t overwhelmed … and to “buy time” for the development of vaccines and other therapeutic drugs and treatment protocols.

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Makes sense, right?

OK, so let’s throw some actual data against the problem and see what we get…

(more…)

Ohio Gov. DeWine tests negative … after testing positive.

August 11, 2020

Not a surprise according to Bayes’ Theorem
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According to the NYT and many other sources…

As part of a screening by the White House, Mr. DeWine first received an antigen test, a newer type of test that provides faster results but is less accurate than traditional laboratory testing.

He tested positive for Covid-19

He was later twice-tested using a more standard procedure known as polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., an accurate but time-intensive method that requires samples to be processed at a laboratory.

That test result was negative for the Covid-19.

DeWine’s experience is a classic “false positive” … to be expected based on Bayes’ (Statistical) Theorem.

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Let me explain…

(more…)

The good C-19 news that the MSM will likely ignore…

August 10, 2020

Data indicates that the worst may be behind us … at least for now.
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The 7-day average for new cases has been trending down for more than two weeks, from more than 67,000 on July 22 to 47,849 on Sunday.

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There are 49,039 Covid-related patients currently hospitalized.  Hospitalizations are trending down and are below the 60,000 peaks reached on April 21 and July 27.

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The 7-day average for new reported deaths has also apparently peaked., trending from 1,246 on July 31 to the current 1,036, which is less than half of the peak reached on April 23 (2,229).

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The arrows are pointing in the right direction!

How many people are walking around infected with Covid-19?

August 7, 2020

Finally, some C-19 “prevalence” estimates…
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Loyal readers know that I’ve been frustrated by the lack of practical, personally-relevant data that the public health “experts” have been gathering, analyzing and disseminating.

For example, I’d like to know how likely I am to bump into a person who is infected with C-19 if I leave my house.

Reasonable question, right?

In infectious disease speak, that number is called the “prevalence rate” … the percentage of people in an area who are infectious-likely at a specific point in time.

Current testing procedures don’t answer the question (see: Why is COVID testing still so haphazard?) … so, the “experts” fixate on metrics that are muddled and potentially misleading (see: Birx: “Key metric that I watch is the positivity rate”).

Finally, I’ve stumbled on some “machine learning” analyses that take a stab at answering my question: What’s the Covid prevalence rate?

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OK, let’s get to work…

(more…)

C-19: State-level Cases, Deaths, Rates

August 6, 2020

Today, let’s drill down for some perspective…
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First, as oft-reported, NY & NJ lead the list for total deaths … the 2 states represent about 30% of the US total.

The Top 10 states account for 2/3’s of the US total.

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Let’s dig deeper…

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Gov. Cuomo says to follow the data, so…

August 5, 2020

Let’s compare NY (and its North East neighbors) to the spiking  Sun Belt states. 
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According to Gov. Cuomo, the fawning  MSM and  Dr. Anthony “First Pitch” Fauci:

Gov. Cuomo did a stellar job managing the covid crisis … and, all of the Sun Belt governors (except CA’s Gov. Newsome) are reckless dufasses.

Really?

I hate to ruin a good narrative with data, but since Gov. Cuomo says to follow the numbers…

Below is a current Covid recap for 4 North East states (NY, NJ, MA, CT) … 4 Sun Belt states (TX, FL, AZ, GA) … and California.

click to enlarge chart
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Here are a couple of takeaways….

(more…)

Have Covid cases peaked?

August 3, 2020

Let’s drill down on some numbers today…
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For the past 2 or 3 weeks, the number of new cases reported each day seems to have peaked … maybe plateaued, maybe turned the corner and is starting to decline.

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Over the same time period, the daily death rate has trended up from its previous trough … or, as the MSM media likes to say “in recent weeks, the daily death rate has catastrophically doubled from 500 per day to over 1,000 per day”.

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Putting those numbers into context, the daily case counts have more than doubled since the prior peak in mid-April … while daily deaths have hovered around 50% of their mid-April level.

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In numbers: New cases were running at about 30,000 per day in mid-April … and there were over 2,000 new deaths each day … a ratio of deaths to cases of about 6.7%.

During the recent spike, cases have been running at about 60,000 per day … and  new deaths each day have been averaging about 1,000  … a ratio of deaths to cases of about 1.7%.

That’s a 75% drop in the deaths to cases rate.

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Keep a watchful eye on the daily death rate …

I was very disappointed with Dr. Birx’s interview answers…

July 23, 2020

Old paradigms, lack of data, inconclusive.
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Yesterday, Bret Baer in-depth interviewed Dr. Deborah Birx.

For the record, I think that Dr. Birx is a trusted source: smart, experienced, knowledgeable, “clued in”, well-intended, apolitical, honest, etc.

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click to view video

I thought that Baer’s questions cut to the chase:

  • Where do we stand right now on the virus?
  • What is the key statistic that you track?
  • What’s the purpose of testing if it takes 3 or 4 days to get results?
  • Specifically, what do we know about kids catching and transmitting the virus?
  • What is your recommendation re: re-opening schools?
  • How susceptible are people to getting re-infected?
  • How good is the data that you rely on?

Unfortunately, Dr. Birx’s answers to these pivotal questions were, in my opinion, very disappointing.

(more…)

From “flattening the curve” to “learning curves”…

July 22, 2020

A conceptual rationale for why COVID cases are surging but deaths aren’t.
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All along I’ve been arguing that the truest and most relevant measure of COVID-fighting is the death rate.

MUST READ: How will we know when we’ve turned the COVID-19 corner?

And, I’ve recently been showcasing the relationship between confirmed cases and deaths.

See: Where’s the case-related spike in deaths?

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The data says: Since mid-April, the number of daily confirmed cases has more than doubled, but the number of daily new reported deaths has apparently stabilized at about half of mid-April levels.

How can that be?

Here’s a way of thinking about the how & why…

(more…)

Let’s end the week on a C-19 high note…

July 17, 2020

Some reasons to be optimistic
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WaPo ran an op-ed by Joseph Allen — a Harvard prof specializing in “exposure assessment science”.

Prof. Allen offers up 6 “positive developments to remind us that there is hope in this crisis”.

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Here’s Prof Allen’s list:

1. Therapeutic treatments

in addition to what we already have for most sick patients, more targeted therapeutic treatments will arrive — probably before vaccines.

Scientists have now engineered synthetic clones of coronavirus antibodies —  called monoclonal antibodies — and they are showing to be effective both therapeutically and to prevent infection.

(more…)

Coronavirus deaths spiking … or, are they?

July 16, 2020

The liberal media has been downright giddy this week, trumpeting an AP headline:

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The source of the gidddyness: An uptick in the number of daily new reported deaths … the 7-day average of daily new deaths troughed at 517 on July 6 … since then,  the 7-day M.A. has increased to 757 … or, as the press likes to say: “increased a catastrophic 50%”

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Those are the numbers … and, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the huge spike in sun belt cases is finally working it’s way through the system … catapulting the death rate upward. Right?

Well, maybe.

But let’s add some perspective to the numbers…

(more…)

Should you send your kids back to school this fall?

July 10, 2020

It’s hard to follow “the science” when it’s inconclusive.
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It appears that most school systems are on a path to open their schools either fully or partially (e.g. rotating students every other day or every other week) … and, to mitigate the risks by capacity limiting busses, socially distancing students in classrooms, wearing masks, etc.

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In a couple of weeks, many parents will be forced to make a very big decision: Do they send their K-12 children back to school or not?

Classical public health thinking would say to focus on four questions:

1. Are kids susceptible to the coronavirus?

2. If yes, will mitigation actions sufficiently reduce the risk?

3. Are infected kids vulnerable to severe outcomes?

4. Do infected kids transmit the virus to others?

Unfortunately, “the science and the data” don’t provide much guidance…

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During this week’s White House briefing on school reopening…

Sally Goza – President of the American Academy of Pediatrics said:

Children are less likely to become infected and they are less likely to spread infection.

But, White House health advisor Dr. Deborah Birx countered that there’s not enough data to arrive at that conclusion:

The U.S. data is incomplete, because the country has not been testing enough children to conclude how widespread the virus is among people younger than 18 and whether they are spreading the virus to others.

If you look across all of the tests that we’ve done, and when we have the age, the portion that has been the lowest tested portion is the under-10-year-olds.

Our data is skewed to people with symptoms, and then skewed to adults over 18.”

Bottom line: “The science” doesn’t know whether kids are susceptible to the coronavirus or not.

The mitigation actions are likely to reduce contagions risks, but it’s unrealistic to expect that they will eliminate the risks.

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Perhaps the best news so far is that there have been practically no coronavirus deaths among children.

A lot of people are hanging their hats on the apparently low fatality rate as an indicator that severe outcomes are unlikely.

But, keep in mind that kids have been sheltered-in-place since schools closed in the spring, so they have been minimally exposed to the virus.

Some health “experts” warn that’s a double-edged sword since kids haven’t had a chance to develop immunities that counter the coronavirus.

So, when schools open, the proverbial dam may break.

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That gets us back to whether or not infected kids are likely to transmit the virus to others.

This is, in my opinion, the pivotal decision factor.

Again, the evidence is, at best, equivocal.

“While some scientists fear schools could act as accelerators for the pandemic, no country where schools have reopened has so far reported a sharp increase in infections.” WSJ

That said, I side with Dr. Birx that “there’s not enough data to conclude whether kids are spreading the virus to others.”

So, I’d apply a variant of Pascal’s Wager to the transmission question.

See HITS: Pascal’s Wager … perhaps, we should be more righteous.

That is, assume that kids are susceptible to the virus, that mitigation actions will reduce but not eliminate contagion, and that infected kids do transmit the virus.

Then, the critical question is:

Are there vulnerable people potentially exposed to infected kids?

If there are vulnerable caretakers at home (e.g. are elderly or suffer co-mobidity factors) … or anyone with compromised or underdeveloped immune systems (e.g. chemo patients or newborns) … then Pascal’s Wager kicks in.

In those cases, the risks of going back to school increase substantially, maybe reversing the decision calculus.

It may be less about whether the kids will suffer bad outcomes … and more about who the kids might infect — and what the consequences will be on them.

Hmmm…