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A Head Full of Coronavirus Research, Part 80

By December 20, 2020Commentary

Took a couple of days to catch up on real work, but trying to get back to CV-19 today.

A few words about Sweden first.  I have focused on Sweden because they were willing to buck the trend and pressure around lockdowns in the first wave of cases in the spring and while their per capita death numbers looked high at times, they were pretty much in the middle of the pack for Europe.  Now they are enduring a case wave, like most of the continent, and hotter heads are prevailing and they are placing greater restrictions on the population, but not to the same extent as other countries.  As usual, this appears to be happening as cases may already have peaked.  And as usual, it appears to be politically driven, not actually consistent with what we know about mitigation measures’ inability to slow spread.  But I am saddened to see this happen, to watch another government cave to hysteria and herd thinking.

The most notable feature of the Friday Minnesota briefing was a little more press pushback on the DOH and Walz administration messaging.  In particular, kind of a tough question in regard to whether there is any real data to suggest that there is lots of transmission among bars and restaurants and, given the clear decline in cases, what was the fear behind not opening up.  The lead up to the nub of the answer was more nonsense about whether the decline, which has been rapid over the last 6 weeks, is real.  The full answer was another admission that they have no data to support the idea that there is lots of primary or secondary transmission in these settings, which is consistent with the answer I published in regard to a Scott Johnson question.  Despite spending millions of dollars and deploying thousands of people to contact trace, the state is essentially clueless about where and how transmission actually occurs.  And incredibly, they referenced Sturgis as an example of why they are worried.  Sturgis involved hundreds of thousands of people and I don’t believe that whatever the state thinks they traced to Sturgis actually involved transmission in bars and restaurants there.  They are obsessed with Sturgis.  Another reporter asked about whether if people were in bars without masks and distancing, as we see in pictures, would it be okay if they were wearing masks and distancing.  The real question should be, if this is occurring, why aren’t we seeing all kinds of cases from those establishments?  The answer to the question about whether people who were vaccinated could still spread the virus was completely unhelpful.  As with adaptive immunity from actual infection, a vaccine-prompted adaptive immune response is not a physical barrier against exposure.  It likely will prevent “infection” and almost certainly will limit the likelihood of serious disease.  But given the goofy PCR tests used, it is possible that someone who is vaccinated could get tested at a brief moment when they might have virus in their upper respiratory tract.  So what?  And I think it is very unlikely that vaccinated people would be “infectious”.  Otherwise, what is the point of vaccination.

You know I like to start with all the good news caused by irresponsible and hasty actions by governments in response to the epidemic.  A study estimates that child abuse has increased during the epidemic but that as many as 250,000 cases haven’t been reported.  This means that the abuse situations can’t be rectified and children protected.  (CA Article)   (CA Study)

The CDC notices that the epidemic response has caused lots of overdose deaths.  (CDC Release)  Such deaths were up almost 20% nationally through May.  These deaths occur among younger people, so again, the total years of life lost due to the lockdowns and terror campaign will be far higher than that to CV-19.

I know it will be just shocking news, but the World Health Organization regrets to inform us that there could be issues with PCR tests, particularly those using high cycle numbers to determine positives.  (WHO Release)   Now you tell us, one billion low positives later.

Also from the what a shock department, viruses mutate and in doing so seek to evade the human immune system.  (Biovirx Paper)  The researchers looked at antibodies to strains of one of the seasonal coronaviruses over time and noted that it demonstrated what is referred to as antigenic drift, or development of mutations that existing antibodies aren’t effective against.  They note that CV-19 might demonstrate the same capability.  Really?

I am tired of making the obvious point that there was absolutely no reason to close schools to in-person learning and that doing so is just devastating a generation of children.  Another study, this time from Italy, finds basically no role of schools in transmission.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The authors looked at school reopenings and found no association with new case waves and continued very low prevalence among children.

It is obvious now that CV-19 has an environmental niche it does very well in, and fortunately, that is pretty limited.  Doesn’t like it too hot, doesn’t like it too cold.   (Medrxiv Paper)   The researchers used fairly sophisticated statistical techniques to find a clear association between temperature and spread and absolute humidity and spread, in both cases, a lower value was associated with fewer cases and lower spread rate.  In some time periods, they find that these variables can account for 80% or more of spread.  The primary temperature range conducive to more extensive spread appears to be 54 degrees to 64 degrees, but I think it is lower than that based on the waves in the US.  For absolute humidity there was also a fairly narrow range of virus transmission-enhancing values–dry, but not too dry.

One of the things I am skeptical about is how much asymptomatic spread there actually is.  An important question, since its alleged prevalence is a primary justification for restrictions.  The website Lockdown Skeptics, based in the UK, published a paper on this topic by some prominent researchers.   (LS Paper)   The researchers conclude, after reviewing a number of studies, that concerns about asymptomatic spread are likely overstated.

A study from China looks at transmission before and after symptom development and the effect of the euphemistic non-pharmaceutical interventions on that transmission.  (Medrxiv Paper)    The primary thrust of the paper is that most of lockdown type measures had the greatest effect on transmission after symptom development and therefore actually drove spread more toward the pre-symptom period, when it is harder to detect.  The authors did not comment on true asymptomatic transmission.

Finally, another paper demonstrating the clinical importance of PCR cycle numbers.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The authors found a clear correlation between the amount of viral RNA in the blood and disease severity, but also found a correlation between viral load according to nasal swab testing and that blood level and disease severity.


Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Dan says:

    And Britain has been told no Christmas and Israel on the verge of shutting the country down for a third time.

  • Ganderson says:

    I’m already hearing calls for stricter lockdown measures because the virus is mutating. Exasperating.

    The Sweden thing has me worried, as it suggests that there’s no stopping the panic. The wall of TVs in my health club were in a nonstop parade of panic.

    In addition, what if the various stimulus packages ( for stimulus read “ conjuring money out of thin air”) give us late 70’s levels of inflation?

  • Chuck says:

    Well, I just read, on the internet, that Wuhan hasn’t had a “reported case” since May. So maybe Gov Walz should be doing what they did? Hahahaha

  • Lee says:

    Will the powers that be surreptitiously lower cycle threshold so they can say vaccine worked because less cases?

  • SteveD says:

    ‘But given the goofy PCR tests used, it is possible that someone who is vaccinated could get tested at a brief moment when they might have virus in their upper respiratory tract. ‘

    Do we know for sure that the vaccine itself cannot cause a false positive?

    • Kevin Roche says:

      I am not completely sure, but I think it unlikely that the mRNA in the two released vaccines could trigger a PCR test, particularly a nasal swab or saliva one.

  • SteveD says:

    ‘I’m already hearing calls for stricter lockdown measures because the virus is mutating. Exasperating.’

    I think you can make a strong argument that lockdown and other mitigation measures (to the extent they actually work) facilitate the evolution of more contagious forms while at the same time suppress our immune systems. This means not only will Covid-19 evolve to more be contagious (and possibly more deadly) because of our response, but probably also influenza, colds, pneumonia, tuberculosis etc.

    Maybe this is the great filter; the answer to the Fermi Paradox.

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