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Drowning in Coronavirus Research, Part 72

By August 22, 2020Commentary

Here is a piece of panic research done to satiate the desire of teachers’ unions to ruin the lives of the children they are supposedly aiding in developing into happy adults.  You wouldn’t know this if you haven’t read health research for years, but two of the authors are notorious ideologues who constantly do warped research in support of advocacy for single-payer health care and other political objectives.  (Annals Study)  This is a pathetically weak effort to somehow suggest that letting children go to school might sicken vulnerable adults.  The authors start by noting that children rarely have severe CV illness but can transmit infection (they don’t point out that they do so far less frequently than do adults).  But wait, they may live with “vulnerable” adults, those who have “definite” or “possible” risk factors for severe illness.  I like the inclusion of possible risk factors.  Even many of the definite risk factors have a very low level of association.  They examined the prevalence of these vulnerable adults among adult workers who weren’t teachers, adult workers who are teachers and all adults living with school age children.  Now instead of using a claims database or other more accurate source of information on prevalence of this pre-existing risk factors, they used self reported information on a national survey of around 14,000 adults; 592 of whom were supposedly representative of the 5.8 million actual teachers in the country.  These surveys are close to garbage.  They are not representative and self-reported data is generally not regarded as highly accurate.  Why not use actual databases that are easily available.  Because they won’t give you the answer you want.  They found that 50% of teachers had definite or possible risk factors, as did 50% of all adults.  Not sure what the recommendation of the authors is–give up your children, send them to orphanages, to protect yourself.  No consideration of the harms to children from not being in school.  And most importantly, not one word about all the contact tracing studies showing very little transmission from children to adults and no mention of other countries where schools have opened without a problem.  This is what you get when ideologues do research.  This is why I don’t trust politicians who say I follow the “science”.   The science, much as it sickens me to say this, has become politicized.

I will report on every piece of information I can find on the deaths and other health harms caused by the disastrous over-reaction to the epidemic.  This release comes from a suburban Chicago County and describes the soaring rise in overdose deaths in that county.  (DuPage Release)  Overdose deaths were up 52% in the first six months of 2020 compared to 2019, and the vast majority of those deaths occurred during the lockdown.  These deaths are among younger adults, so many more years of life are lost compared to those lost to coronavirus deaths, which occur mostly in the elderly.

How about some bad news on a global scale?  The United Nations annual report on Sustainable Development finds that the reactions to the epidemic have caused substantial regression of progress, meaning worse lives and more deaths in developing countries.  (UN Report)   Among other things the report notes that tens of millions of people are being pushed back into poverty and hunger, erasing years of progress.

How about a couple of mask-related studies?  In the first one, remember how I have been saying masks are great collectors of infectious disease agents, including CV, and provide a wonderful environment for them?  Here is a paper on sampling of face masks for virus presence.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The authors were just trying to see if exhaled virus loads correlated with positive infection tests.  But they came up with the idea of doing that by sampling in face masks.  Face-mask sampling was done on six health care workers who tested positive and 47 patients with a positive result.  The health care workers were sampled for 21 days after diagnosis.  The virus was detected in only four of the six workers.  There was no correlation between viral load indicated by the nasal samples used for infection testing and the loads found in the face mask sampling.  All face mask samples were negative by 14 days after diagnosis.  Higher face mask sample loads was associated with disease severity.  Among the patients, only 40% had virus in face mask sampling.  There was wide variation in load, with higher loads clearly associated with age and disease severity.  No cultures were done, so just as with PCR tests, you don’t know how viable the virus was.  But as a side note, you can see that virus accumulates in masks, may even like being there.  What do you think happens to that virus?  Some gets re-inhaled, that isn’t good.  Some manages to leak around the mask, see the next note.  Some will sit on the mask and eventually get pushed through it, since it can be reduced to particle sizes that fit through any mask.  So a mask actually does a great job of accumulating and spreading virus.

And this study looked at issues around mask fit.  I don’t think masks make much difference anyway, but if you don’t wear them right they definitely can’t stop the virus.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The researchers had seven participants check the fit of N95 masks, surgical masks, and fabric masks.  Both subjective fit tests by the user and quantitative checks by observers were conducted.  The self-performed checks were of little value, they simply weren’t accurate and people were not good judges of whether their mask was creating a good seal.  And four of the seven testers either worked in health care or another field which required mask use and were familiar with mask-wearing.   The N95 masks did not fit participants adequately and all the non-N95 masks had low fit scores.  Other studies have shown that leakage can account for as much as a third of the airflow across masks.  Obviously, the finer the particles you are trying to stop, the more important fit is.  Cloth and surgical masks, in the quantitative tests, all had at least 20% of particles in the mask, meaning they weren’t stopped by it.  Just more evidence why mask mandates won’t make a difference, but next, the government will be mandating multiple daily mask fit checks, or tell stores, restaurants, employers, etc., that they can’t let people in without doing a mask fit test.

No one actually has a good idea of how many people have been infected by the current coronavirus and the number is likely quite variable across different geographies.  Infection testing does not occur in a standardized manner across states and countries, and may not be as accurate as we believe.  Antibody surveys are rarely truly random, and the assays used are probably undercounting past infections.  15,000 people were randomly sampled in New Delhi, India, a very large city with a population of 20 million.  29% of the sample had positive results.  That would be 6 million people who have been infected if the survey is an accurate reflection.  New Delhi has recorded about 141,000 cases by infection testing.  So if the antibody survey is right, only 2.3% of all cases have been detected by infection testing.  That is astounding, and suggests a massive rate of asymptomatic illness.  (New Delhi Story)

The City of Los Angeles gave us a little detail on its coronavirus cases.  (LA Release)   227,346 cases have occurred in the county and 5446 deaths, largely concentrated among the elderly.  92% of those who died had pre-existing illnesses, especially hypertension, diabetes and neurological disorders, which likely means dementias.  Case average age has trended down and hospital length of stay has dropped in half over the last two months.  Pretty much the same story in every area.


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  • SteveD says:

    ‘The science, much as it sickens me to say this, has become politicized.’

    Another basic issue with science (and I say this as a scientist) is that it doesn’t tell you what your goal should be: herd immunity, flatten the curve, reduce deaths to below pandemic or baseline level, eradicate the virus?

    Science can only tell you how to achieve your goal after you have chosen it.

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