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A Head Full of Coronavirus Research, Part 40

By October 21, 2020Commentary

A set of interesting papers today, challenging some of what I and others might believe is happening, but we try to report on all the research, not just what fits our conceptions.

The CDC releases a paper on excess deaths in 2020.  (CDC Paper)  About 300,000 deaths above average had occurred through October 3, with around 200,000 attributed to CV-19, which I again have now come to view as an untrustworthy number.  The CDC does the usual “we must be undercounting” CV-19 explanation but also acknowledges that other factors, i.e. terrorizing the population, may be at work.   The extra 100,000 aren’t CV-19, as demonstrated by the fact that the biggest percent increase in excess deaths came from people aged 25 to 44 years-old, where there is a low number of CV-19 deaths, but there are lots of deaths due to overdoses, suicides, etc.  Looking at deaths by cause is more informative and hopefully the CDC will do that soon.

A study out of Massachusetts suggests that at least in that state, suicides have not increased during the epidemic.  There can be a lag in reporting but even accounting for that, the authors finds that suicides were not up in 2020 compared to the same time in earlier years.  (Medrxiv Paper)   Trends were similar across age groups.  I will be surprised if we don’t see an increase in suicides as a result of the epidemic and the lockdowns, especially among young people, but the data will tell us what happens.

This paper reviewed use of emergency and unscheduled pediatric health services during the epidemic.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The research comes from Scotland and examined utilization and outcomes during the lockdown period in that country.  They found that while utilization declined, it was primarily for respiratory disease, which is kind of ironic.  They found no change in death rates or clinical severity scores, suggesting that parents weren’t avoiding necessary care for children during this time.

There has been contradictory analysis of whether smoking is associated with lower risk of CV-19 infection or death.  This meta-analysis suggests that you should puff away.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The authors reviewed the available research and concluded that the risk of being hospitalized was significantly lower if you smoke.  Virus must not like tobacco.  Likely explanation is some change in receptor availability or other biochemical changes induced by smoking.

CV-19 appears to be driving other respiratory viruses away.  (Medrxiv Paper)   Looking at data from two health system, one in Boston and one in Atlanta, researchers identified that compared to earlier years, rates of influenza and RSV appeared to be significantly reduced.  This is consistent with national monitoring data from the CDC for influenza-like illness and global data from the WHO.  It could be that the measures taken to reduce CV-19 spread also affect other respiratory viruses but it also could be that CV-19 has an ability to inhibit co-infection by other viruses.

This is another paper claiming evidence that masks work to prevent transmission.  (Medrxiv Paper)    Six case-control studies were included in the review.  Many of the studies come from China and those show a higher effect.  Supposedly infections among health care workers were reduced by 70% due to mask wearing, but health care workers have many other confounding variables.  Not much detail is given on the actual studies, but apparently only one actually looked at non-healthcare workers and did not show any significant effect.  Just more BS research.

Everything has become politicized, including the epidemic.  It is very obvious that certain states, governed by a particular party, have far higher per capita death rates that certain other states, generally governed by the other party.  This paper doesn’t highlight death rates, but creates a complex set of adjustments to find that states governed by Republicans have much higher case rates than those governed by Democrats.  Aside from wondering why he didn’t highlight his death rate analysis (oh, wait, maybe the answer is because it shows much higher death rates in Democratic led states), the major problem with the paper is a failure to account for differential testing rates across states. Far more testing was done in the south and southwestern waves in states largely governed by Republicans than in the early waves in Democratic northeastern and midwestern states.   (Medrxiv Paper)   You can probably guess which party the university professor who did the study comes from.  Far and away the primary factors which explain case rate differences were minority population percent, population density, population age distribution and income, not political party, and many of those factors are correlated with voting.


Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Mark McRae says:


    I don’t know how you manage to get through papers that are blatantly biased. I mean, when I read a scientific paper, as soon as I recognize the ideological and/or political bias — as usually expressed in the language of the piece — I find it next to impossible to finish the article; I know the terminology is intentionally technical in order to avoid bias, but after reading so many papers, one learns quickly the momentousness of word choice.
    At any rate, I appreciate your persevering spirit. And wish I shared this character trait.

    Keep up the great work!

  • Rob says:

    I wonder if the reduction in suicides in Massachusetts correlates to a reduced number of college students living in the state.

  • Rob says:

    Also, that Massachusetts study only went through May 2020, so it’s only covering the initial lockdown phase.

  • Harley says:

    We can add a new oxymoron to go alongside “military intelligence”, “small crowd”, and “jumbo shrimp”:

    “scientific research”.

  • Doug Young says:

    The media is pushing a 26% increase in all cause death for 25-44 year olds from that CDC study you’ve gone through today. What the headlines don’t say is that only a little more than 20% are from COVID (and lets see the cycle threshold on those affirming RT-PCR tests, while they’re at it) . The rest, obviously, from lockdowns (suicide, OD, some missed treatments), since “dry tinder” is applicable to only older folk. Even Scott Gottlieb is admitting this.

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