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A Head Full of Coronavirus Research, Part 29

By October 9, 2020Commentary

As an initial note, some of you may have seen the profile of Andy Slavitt in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, in which I was quoted.  While the quotes are pretty accurate, and the reporter was cordial and attentive in a long interview, I believe he missed the key points I wanted to make.  I told him, and I mean this, that notwithstanding my occasionally bombastic writing style, which I do partly for relief to readers from the long, dry posts about research and data,  I don’t have a personal dislike for anyone.  I do have very strong objections to things they say or actions they take that are clearly harmful.  My points about Mr. Slavitt were 1)  people should be careful what they say when they aren’t spending a lot of time actually reading research and analyzing data, and he isn’t; 2)  he is a primary example of the complete lack of balance in the response to the epidemic, the utter failure to consider the impact of actions on children, the poor, minorities, the isolated elderly, people with serious diseases other than CV-19 infection, and so on; 3) his perpetuation of this absurd notion that the virus can be “crushed”; none of the countries he cites has in any way suppressed the virus and many are in worse shape than the US right now; and 4) notwithstanding his protestations, he is deeply political, you only have to read his tweet stream to see that.  If you want to get political about it, take the states with Democratic governors and look at cases, hospitalizations and most importantly, deaths.  Then take the states with Republican governors and do the same.  Slavitt heaps praise on Cuomo and dumps on DeSantis.  The data tell a very different story.  If you took the Democratic run states out of our numbers and looked only at the Republican ones, we would look very good.  I would prefer to avoid the politics, this is about what is in the best interest of the population as a whole. Extreme lockdowns aren’t.

Now on to the research and articles.  A couple of quick hits.  I have mentioned that while protecting the frail elderly sounds good, they may not want to be isolated and prevented from having the few social contacts, especially with family, that mean so much to them.  This story from Colorado is a perfect example of that.  (Colo. Story)  The nursing home residents would rather die of CV-19 than loneliness.  You may recall my suggested solution may be to separate nursing home residents into two different areas in a facility.  Those who are willing to run the risk could be in one area and have visitors and those who are concerned about contracting CV-19 could be in another, more isolated part of the facility with very strict infection controls.  This is a complex topic, given the risk to LTC residents, but also the need to respect their wishes in what is likely the last few months of their lives in any event.

Three items from the if you don’t think lockdowns and terrifying people are resulting in non-CV-19 deaths, you are dead wrong department.  This article discusses Stanford Professor John Ionniadis’ long-standing belief that lockdowns are killing people, but also contains a specific example of a 38 year-old man with chest pain, who was afraid of going to the hospital and ended up dying of a heart attack.  (Cal. Story)

And this study from the UK finds a number of excess deaths which are clearly attributable to lockdowns.  (SSRN Paper)  The authors compared death rates from various causes in the period before lockdown and the period after.  In just one region of the country, dementia patients had a 53% greater risk of death during lockdown and those with serious mental illness a 123% higher risk of death.

Drug overdoses are up dramatically in San Francisco, 468 so far this year, four times the number of people who have died of CV-19.  (SF Story)   Doesn’t matter, these people don’t count, because they didn’t have CV-19.

A Chicago survey based on randomly requesting residents to return blood spot samples found a 20% antibody prevalence.  Not really a randomized trial, since return was voluntary but an interesting data point.  (Chicago Story)  The researchers are using a very sensitive assay, which probably results in a more accurate count.  For comparison, the reported infection rate in Chicago is about 3%, so the antibody prevalence suggests about 7 times as many cases as have been detected.

A study from England found that about three-quarters of people in the UK who were infected were asymptomatic.  (UK Study)  Based on an infection rate survey by the government, with over 30,000 people tested, there was a very low positive rate.  Of those who had positive results, on the day of the test 76% had no symptoms.  Could be a lot of false or low positives as well.

And I want to leave you with a wonderful quote from Harvard epidemiologist Martin Kulldorf on why he opposes the approach to the epidemic to date:  “One of the basic principles of public health is that you do not just look at one disease – you have to look at health as a whole, including all kinds of diseases, over a long period. That is not what has been done with Covid-19.”

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