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A Head Full of Coronavirus Research, Part 24

By October 2, 2020Commentary

The big news obviously is that the President and the First Lady and several others contracted the virus.  One lesson is that it doesn’t matter how careful you think you can be, the virus is around.  It is the height of hubris to believe that we can suppress it and prevent transmission.  Personally, whether it is the President or a janitor, anyone who assesses the risk and decides to live their life in a certain way is doing the right thing.  I understand at one level people who lock themselves up in their homes, I understand people who truly are at high risk being cautious, but I also understand people saying there is risk everyday in a million things and I am not going to deprive myself, or most importantly, my children, of a normal life for a miniscule part of that risk.  The President made his decision about how to live his life, and that is fine by me.  I do the same thing; if I haven’t had CV-19 already, I expect to get it, and that is okay, I think I will be fine, but no one lives forever and I am not going to miss one opportunity to be with my children or grandchildren or enjoy traveling or all the other things that make life worth it.  It will be over soon enough.

South Dakota has been lovely so far, people are cautious but don’t seem obsessed, many stores, mostly national chains, do require masks, but you can generally wonder around and not see many.  People are nice, it was nice on a couple of trails to just chat with strangers and people act like they aren’t paranoid you will infect them.  And Devil’s Tower is one of the coolest geological items anywhere.

And in the there is still sanity in the world category, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the Governor overstepped her authority and violated separation of powers in her executive orders.  (Mich. Story)   Whether you think the Incompetent Blowhard or any other Governor’s actions are the right ones or not, you should be horrified that true democracy has been trampled for an indefinite period of time, and replaced with a dictatorship.  Not only is this antithetical to the core of our governmental system, it results in awful decisions like we have seen in Minnesota, because multiple viewpoints and evidence are not considered.

And speaking of authoritarian approaches, how timely is this piece of research, suggesting that the dictatorial approaches taken were not justified by any concern about epidemic spread.  (SSRN Paper)   The authors categorized seven types of authoritarian response to the epidemic, looked at which countries employed them, and compared level of deaths with the level of authoritarianism.  They found no lower death rates in the severe lockdown countries.  When you read the paper, think of the US states; things are actually worse in the states which most constrained citizens’ freedom.

More on seasonality and the CV-19 epidemic.  People keep trying to use data and modeling to figure this out, there clearly is some geographic pattern, but why?  (RS Paper)   The researchers looked at the effect of population density and climatic factors on deaths, finding that both seemed associated with spread and deaths across 209 countries, with climate being more impactful.  Among climate factors, solar radiance (negative effect), temperature (negative), humidity (positive) and precipitation (positive) all seemed positively or negatively associated with spread.   There was a large amount of unaccounted for variability, however, which suggests other factors are also significant.  Can you say pre-existing immune response?

And this paper from Sweden examined the seasonality of the prior coronaviruses.  (Medrxiv Paper)   Patterns of seasonal coronavirus infections were determined from samples from 2009 to 2020.  About 4% of samples had coronavirus in them.  Younger children were more likely to have an infection.  Across all strains, the seasonal pattern was similar, with high winter and low summer levels.  But by strain there were differences.  Betacoronaviruses peaked early in the winter than alphacoronaviruses and these two major types appeared to alternative prevalence every two years.  CV-19 is most like the betacoronaviruses.  But its enhanced ability to infect and transmit may mean seasonality is less pronounced.

And finally for this post, here is another study on the mechanics and mysteries of CV-19 transmission.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The paper focuses on generation of aerosols and droplets by infected persons.  The researchers examined production by uninfected humans and infected primates.  They found greater aerosol production among those who were older, obese and in the infected primates.  20% of the subjects released 80% of aerosols, which may be an explanation for the superspreader phenomenon.  Two things to note.  One is that there was in some people a very high aerosol production.  These are far more likely to linger and far less likely to be stopped by a mask.  The second is that the aerosol production peaked at the same time as the infection, so that when a person is likely most infectious, they are also most likely producing more aerosols.  Without being politically correct, avoid fat old people and infected primates would seem to be the advice of  this paper.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Ellen says:

    National chains making masks mandatory: why are they doing that? Can’t shop unless you wear a mask; keep up the ambiance of hysteria?

    (Is it political as when KOHL’s, for example, tells men they can go ahead and use what used to be the ladies’ changing rooms but are now gender neutral changing rooms? Why not just go ahead and skip the changing rooms altogether, then?)

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