A Head Full of Coronavirus Research, Part 39

By October 20, 2020Commentary

Back in Minnesota, where if winter hasn’t arrived, it is quite close.  And the freakout over an increase in cases is blaring from the newspaper headlines.  I wish I knew what accounted for the geographical/seasonal pattern that seems to be behind the current swell of cases in the upper Midwest and Rocky Mountain states.  I suspect some combination of meteorological and human behavior factors.  In any event we will get through this too, I suspect the peak is already near, if the timing is similar to the other waves.  So much is unknown about this virus, but it is clear that we have a very limited ability to slow spread and it is very damaging to ask people to turn themselves into pretzels to avoid transmission.

At the briefing yesterday our state health department officials continue to paint a grim picture.  Cases are rising faster than testing, which was oddly described as meaning we aren’t testing enough to catch all cases.  Excuse me?  I can’t follow that math at all.  Only one in twenty tests is positive (this is an update, a reader pointed out my early-morning still on West Coast addled math, I was thinking 5%, which obviously isn’t one in five), so we are obviously doing plenty of testing, too much in fact, given the actual prevalence.  What is apparent is that all the testing isn’t doing anything to help limit spread.  Whatever contact tracing is occurring doesn’t seem to have an effect.  So not clear why more and more testing, with more and more questionable results, is the answer.  They were asked about the quality of communication of the messages.  There is a concern about tuning out and finding more effective methods of reaching people.  I think when you continually paint the worst possible picture, you might expect some tuning out after a while.  Here is an example from the briefing; after expressing concern about hospitalizations and saying hospitals were 90% full, they then noted that this was actually typical.  That latter part is what should be emphasized, and giving people perspective about testing, cases, hospitalizations and deaths would likely improve the population’s attention to the overall message.

Another contact tracing study, this one from Spain, that finds a limited role for children in transmitting the virus.  (Spain Study)  All pediatric cases from Catalonia during the study period were examined to determine transmission patterns within the household.  There were 158 cases in children but only 89 had enough information for full contact tracing.  Children were the index case in only 3 of these situations.  It was obviously far more likely that an adult would transmit to a child than vice versa.  The authors suggested that there was little reason to keep children out of school based on this study.

Here is some refreshingly honest and transparent reporting from a government.  England and Wales are giving a lot of details on overall deaths.  (Wales Report)   The government notes that deaths from non-CV-19 causes have risen far above averages and that a shift in place of deaths has occurred, with more occurring at home.  The combination of these two data points obviously suggests that as people have been fearful of going out or going to a health care facility, they are dying from lack of treatment for serious illnesses.  Heart disease deaths at home are up 26% for males and deaths at home for dementia were up over 75% for women.

A similar article talks about the increase in dementia deaths in the United States.  (Dem. Article)   Such deaths are up 20% and the authors attribute it to isolation and lower access to care.  More good effects of lockdowns and terrorization.

Politicians beware, a new study finds that CV-19 is transmitted between weasels through the air over several feet.  (Medrxiv Paper)  Also known as ferrets, these poor animals apparently have become the vehicle of choice for CV-19 research.  Both the original SARS and CV-19 were tested along with flu.  The transmission occurred from over a meter distance.  Interestingly, the original SARS transmitted more effectively than CV-19.

This study looked at the immune system reaction to CV-19 right in the respiratory tract.  (Medrxiv Paper)  The authors looked at severe cases and found that the immune system in the respiratory tract appeared to be over-active in those cases, which contributed to the data severity.   This paper also described the infection of cells in the upper airway and the response to infection in that area.  (Medrxiv Paper)

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Ellen says:

    We’re hearing that the PCR test is a waste of time and money, as it isn’t really even a test. What other tests are being used and where, I wonder.

  • Chuck says:

    1 in 5 tests is positive? 20% I need to go listen to the final question of yesterday’s presser? I think the question was stating the doom and gloom shows 3 of the 4 dials need to be turned back? Com Malcom’s pretzel twisting answer was funny as I remember? I fell off my chair. I need to go listen to it again.

  • Christopher Foley says:

    For the Nth. Time cases do not matter. Resilience matters. Compression of morbidity matters. Herd immunity is the goal, not remdesivir sales and not mask profits. The Barrington Declaration has 50000 signatories and climbing but the media is silent and ignorant — a bad combo.

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