Here is my brief commentary before the summaries today. This is alarming and undoubtedly true, and a reflection of the decline of the classic scientific attitude, but we are seeing a concerted effort to suppress research and perspectives that don’t agree with a certain approach to the epidemic. The ideological taint of science has been apparent to anyone who follows this most important area of human endeavor over the years as closely as I have. Every mainstream journal has been coopted to a specific ideology and they allow that ideology to determine what research they publish and how they treat research. Scientists who oppose the “consensus” about the epidemic are pilloried and denied a platform on social media and even at supposedly scientific conferences. What has happened with the Danish mask study is just one example. This is very, very, very bad. We are dependent on scientists to do their work with no political or ideological bent and with a constant self-awareness to detect any bias they have that might influence outcomes. We need real facts, presented with their limitations, in order to inform the public and policymakers. We rarely get that any more. The corruption of every institution we rely on to provide stability and rationality to our society has been the worst development of recent decades.
Now on to the thrilling world of coronavirus research.
The epidemic has not been good for children. This paper explored mental health implications for children aged 9 to 15. (Medrxiv Paper) Children reported far more anxiety during the epidemic than before. Lack of physical activity and more screen time were associated with worsening mental health.
Being unhealthy is a bad mix with CV-19, as yet another paper shows. (Medrxiv Paper) Multimorbidity is the presence of more than one serious disease and the researchers found that people with multimorbidity had twice the risk of having severe CV-19 disease. Combinations of stroke, diabetes or chronic kidney disease with hypertension were particularly dangerous.
No post would be complete without a couple of mask-related items. Here is another BS study claiming that mask mandates are associated with fewer hospitalizations. I don’t know why I waste my time on these. Mandates are irrelevant, mask wearing behavior is what should studied. But here is what is really laughable, they stopped the study just as hospitalizations had begun to rise again, if they continued it for a few more weeks, the results would be completely different. Think that is an accident? They also used an odd measure of CV-19 hospitalizations as a fraction of all hospitalizations, versus as a percent of cases or some other measure. Have to be suspicious of that too. They claim the results are due to a whacko theory that masks reduce the dose of virus delivered. See the next note on that and see my commentary above on the abuse of science. (Medrxiv Paper)
NEJM won’t publish the Danish mask study, but at least it did publish an article suggesting that the “masks reduce the viral dose” theory is BS. (NEJM Article) As the authors gently put it, there is no evidence to support this notion. Proponents are desperate to come up with anything supporting mask use, partly because they know that sooner or later the Danish study will be published and they know what it will show.
And no post would be complete without something relating to testing and transmission. This paper talked about antigen tests, which are increasingly being used instead of or as an adjunct to PCR tests. (Medrxiv Paper) In essence the paper found that these tests work best only with higher viral loads, which the authors viewed as okay since those are the only people likely to be infectious and therefore needing to be isolated. But it also showed a pretty high rate of false positives. Out of 18 positives, 2 were determined to be false. That is over 10%. But the antigen test did a far better job than PCR testing of avoiding low positives–people who are unlikely to be infectious.
And this paper also dealt with testing and value of repeat testing. (Medrxiv Paper) The study followed about 70 asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals with PCR testing to identify viral loads over time. They found that asymptomatic and symptomatic patients developed similar viral loads in a similar period of time, but symptomatic ones shed significant virus for a longer period of time.
Another study on suicide, also showing no increase, possible decrease, during the epidemic compared to prior years. (Medrxiv Paper) The study comes from a city in Germany and compared prior years and periods with and without restrictions due to the epidemic. At first suicide rates appeared to rise, then declined when restrictions were impose. The authors suggest there may be a delayed reaction and they will rise again with time.