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A Head Full of Coronavirus Research, Part 99

By February 3, 2021Commentary

For Minnesota’s coronavirus briefing yesterday one of the announced topics was CV-19 scams.  I thought that meant they were going to come clean on their misuse of science and data to terrorize Minnesotans and ruin children’s lives.  For example, I thought they might finally give us some information on PCR cycle number distributions, false positives, hospitalizations in which the person wasn’t actually hospitalized for CV-19, real death attributions and the horrific toll from lockdowns.  But no, they just were talking about run-of-the-mill, petty scammers like those from Russia and Nigeria, not the official, government sanctioned ones who give us press briefings.  The other notable item from the briefing was that as long as there is a coronavirus anywhere in the world, they will keep businesses closed or limited, schools limited, everyone socially distanced and wearing masks and the IB will never give up his emergency powers.  You thought getting vaccinated would make a difference?  No way, have to hang onto control of everyone’s lives.  Meanwhile, in the real world there are basically no actual cases in Minnesota and no real spread.

More on my least favorite topic, masks.  This study again tested supposed effectiveness of different types of masks.  (Medrxiv Paper)   The authors were specifically concerned about whether people have accurate perceptions of mask effectiveness so they surveyed about 700 people on the topic.  Note in the opening paragraph the usual assumption that masks do work to slow community transmission.  Be nice if there was one piece of actual research to support that assumption.  The authors determined that fabric masks block between 6e% and 87% of “fine particles”, surgical masks block 78% and N95 masks over 99%.  Here is how they did the test–you will see how close to real life it is.  They had one person test each mask with 15 second bursts of particles of sizes in the rough range of a virus particle.   Note also that they adjusted the mask to be very close fitting, again, very much like happens in real life.  Now to be fair, they did use 25 bursts of 15 seconds each.  That also sounds like real-life mask wearing to me.  The survey revealed that people greatly  underestimate the effectiveness of masks, according to the study results.  No, I think they have a pretty accurate idea of what the real effectiveness is, actually, and probably enough sense to realize that what some dunce researchers pretend reflects real life, doesn’t.

This paper examined household transmission.  (Medrxiv Paper)  The study was done in Utah.  I am going to tread carefully here and suggest that perhaps with the larger family sizes in heavily Mormon Utah, it might not be the best place to do a study on household transmission and think it would be applicable to the rest of the country.  In any event, the researchers found a very wide variation in household transmission rates, with none in many households and a larger number in others.

Another study comparing sequences of prior dangerous coronaviruses and CV-19.  (Medrxiv Paper)   This work is important because of the concern of mutations and the implications for either natural or vaccine-aided adaptive immunity.  The authors examine the spike protein region of the CV-19 genome and suggest avoiding the receptor binding domain, which tends to mutate more frequently, and instead look at other parts of the spike protein, which are more conserved, or stay the same, across the more dangerous coronaviruses.

Next up, a study from California comparing characteristics of hospitalized patients.  (Medrxiv Paper)  4700 patients in one health system were included.  Being older, male and Hispanic increased likelihood of ICU admission.  38% of patients had no documented comorbidity.  Mortality was much higher for those patients who ended up in an ICU.  Although it is mentioned that some of the patients first tested positive in the hospital, no numbers were given on that percent.  That is important missing information.

Now a contact tracing study from Spain.  (Lancet Article)   The researchers examined index cases and contacts from the spring, with a focus on viral load.  314 patients were included, 282 had at least one contact and a total of 753 contacts.  32% of the clusters had one secondary case.  17% of contacts became infected.  The likelihood of transmission was much higher for index cases with higher viral loads.  Living in the same household and older age were also associated with greater likelihood of transmission.  Higher viral load was also associated with shorter incubation periods and more likely development of symptomatic illness.

And last, a paper with some relation to the long-hauler supposed phenomenon.  (Medrxiv Paper)    The researchers were interested in whether people whose symptoms resolved in a short time developed adaptive immunity differently than those who had longer-lasting symptoms.  People with longer-lasting infections did not appear to develop a different helper or killer T cell response.  Also, they interestingly observed that people with strong reactions to nucleocapsid proteins of CV-19, also had stronger reactivity to seasonal coronavirus nucleocapsid proteins.

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