Drowning in Coronavirus Research, Part 34

By July 5, 2020 Commentary

First up, as usual, I like to start with all the good things created by the lockdown and the intense terrorization of the population, so that many people don’t seek health care for even the most basic needs.  This article from the director of the National Cancer Institute projects a large number of cancer-related deaths over the next decade due to people missing needed care out of irrational fear, induced by our gutless leaders.  (NCI Article)   Already, he notes, there has been a sharp decline in cancer diagnoses, although there is no reason to believe there is an actual decline in incidence.  And clinical trials for new treatments have been disrupted.  Models project over 50,000 excess deaths from breast and colorectal cancer alone.

It would be apparent to anyone with half a brain, which leaves most of our political leaders out, that this virus is a disease of the frail elderly.  Death rates by age are remarkably similar around the world.  And even among the elderly in nursing homes, asymptomatic illness is quite common.  This study comes from Belgian nursing homes.  (Belgian Study)   About 280,000 people were tested, 142,000 were residents of the facilities and 138,000 were staff.  The median age of residents was 85.  3.8% of residents tested positive and 3% of staff.  75% of those residents who tested positive were asymptomatic, as were 74% of staff.  Some may have been presymptomatic.

And here is a report from the United Kingdom on coronavirus in nursing homes.  (UK Report)   Results of testing showed that 10.5% of residents were positive for the virus and 3.8% of staff.  81% of residents who tested positive were asymptomatic.

I am not sure that seasonality, or variable weather conditions, amount of sunshine, temperature, humidity, etc. have much to do with the strength of the virus or its ability to infect humans.  This article from the Center for Evidence Based Medicine attempted to ascertain if there was a relationship.  (CEBM Review)   They summarized 14 studies, concluding that there was not sufficient evidence to establish causality, but saying higher temperatures, higher relative or absolute humidity and low wind speed may lead to fewer cases.  It is pretty hot and humid in Florida and Texas right now.

This paper examined how well commercial assays picked up the presence of neutralizing antibodies to the coronavirus.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The researchers found that while the assays generally all picked up the presence of antibodies, they had poor performance in terms of false negatives.  This may be related to other papers showing the generation of low levels of antibodies in asymptomatic and mild cases.  They did find that patients developed a wide repertoire of antibodies against multiple parts of the virus.

Researchers are still trying to ascertain how hardy this virus is and whether it might be transmitted by surface contact.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The stability of the virus on skin, currency and clothing was measured for up to 14 days AT ABOUT 39 degrees, 72 degrees and 99 degrees.  It was supposedly stable on skin at 39 degrees for up to 14 days, for 4 days at 72 degrees and for 8 hours at 99 degrees.  Assuming you are still breathing, I suspect that last temperature is the one likely for most people.  On currency, it was stable for 4 days at 39 degrees, 8 hours at 72 degrees and 4 hours at 99 degrees.  It makes the experiment a little suspect that there was a difference between one and twenty dollar bills.  On clothing the virus was stable 4 days at 39 degrees, 4 hours at 72 and had no persistence at 99.  The levels of virus, however, were not high in many cases.  So while transmission may be possible, it seems pretty unlikely.

This study examined risks associated with flying.  They are absurdly low, you have about a one in 7000 chance of getting infected, assuming all seats are filled and about one in a million of dying.  (Medrxiv Paper)   But they assumed a case fatality rate of 1%, which is way too high, and I believe the average age of an airline passenger is well under that of residents of nursing homes.  So I am guessing your chances are more like one in ten million.

And let’s finish up with more good news about extreme shutdowns.  We know the lockdowns had a bad effect on health care use.  Marin County in California has the dubious, if not infamous, distinction of ordering one of the first extreme lockdowns.  This paper finds that the order substantially reduced ER visits, by over 50%, with a greater effect on non-respiratory visits, many of which were likely for serious conditions like potential heart attacks or strokes.  (Medrxiv Paper)   But just remember, only a death from coronavirus is a death worth saving.

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