Not much research, I am in the rare position of being largely caught up. So maybe a little recapitulation of the epidemic, which has gone on for over a year in this country. First a quick observation on our spring bump in Minnesota, and that is all it was. I think it has peaked, appears that way from the active case analysis and DD agrees. Much lower case rise than would have been seen last year if we were testing at the same level as this year. Very few deaths. And I am certain many of the cases are low and false positives. More on that in the next Coronamonomania post. (As a side note, someone wrote an editorial in the WSJ referring to Covid mania. I probably should have trademarked my phrase, but I think I got there first in any event).
While I think the risk from CV-19 has been grossly exaggerated, I don’t want to be heard to say that it isn’t a serious public health threat. It is, it has caused a lot of severe illness and a lot of deaths. The actions taken to mitigate or even suppress spread, however, are not only unprecedented but futile, actually exacerbate the epidemic in many cases, and ignore the harms caused by those actions. This has been the true disaster in the epidemic. The responses have undermined democracy and harmed society and citizens. Politicians have been irresponsible in their panic-spreading and their failure to rationally assess data and science in taking actions to mitigate spread. The lesson I hope that we learn from this epidemic is we cannot place decision-making authority in one person–they will make bad decisions–and we can’t let “experts” have any influence or power, they are wrong more than they are right, especially if they work for the government, where there are no consequences for being wrong.
So what do we know or think we know?
- The Pathogen. Coronaviruses have been around for a long time and we have all been infected by them and they usually cause mild illness, at worst. They infect a variety of hosts, and various strains can mutate and jump from one host to another. Coronavirus infects a lot of critters and has jumped to humans multiple times. This strain most likely arose naturally but I wouldn’t rule out Chinese lab involvement and we are never going to find out the truth from them. It is dangerous because it is more infectious than some CV strains, largely due to stronger receptor binding. It can infect vulnerable people with a relatively small dose and frequently causes immune system dysfunction, which leads to severe disease. It is a nasty little bug. Like all living things with a lot of replication, mutations arise and some may be favorable in the evolutionary race but so far none seem that much worse in terms of disease severity. More severe mutations arise in part because of of overly repressive efforts to limit spread.
- The Disease. Most people don’t even get what might be called a disease, which implies a somewhat serious impairment of some bodily function. A notable characteristic of the epidemic is the wide variability in disease. Almost all is mild, but it some people, most notably the frail elderly and the obese, it can be very severe and fatal. The difference in fatality rates between young and old is astounding. Many, many infections are never detected because of the lack of symptoms.
- Transmission. Transmission almost exclusively occurs by droplets, ranging from larger ones to smaller aerosols. Surfaces don’t appear to play any role. The lifetime of droplets and the viability of the virus in the droplets is uncertain and likely varies extensively depending on environmental and other conditions. People’s susceptibility to infection and their infectiousness also covers a wide range. Asymptomatic and mild infections appear associated with lower viral loads and shorter periods of infectiousness. No one knows the exact formula, but seasonality/geography are clearly the strongest factors influencing transmission, capable of creating conditions which are so favorable to transmission that mitigation efforts are overwhelmed. We have seen this repeatedly, and it may be mediated by effects on the virus itself (greater lipid envelope stability?), on transmission factors (longer lifetime and greater carrying distance of droplets and aerosols?) and on the human host (more time indoors, drier upper respiratory tract?). Other macro factors may be population density, demographics, and pre-existing health conditions. Variability in susceptibility is likely modulated at an individual level by some immune system boost from prior exposure to coronaviruses.
- The Course of the Epidemic. Left unchecked, the epidemic would clearly proceed in a series of waves associated with those favorable meteorological conditions. Those waves peak rapidly and fall rapidly as meteorological conditions change. Mitigation efforts appear to have a limited effect on epidemic curves. At some point a sufficient proportion of the population would have been exposed to slow transmission and eventually it would recede to a background level. This virus will not be eliminated and we must adapt to its presence and accept some number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Fortunately, CV-19 appears to be almost entirely substituting for influenza, likely because it has some ability to suppress flu infection in a host.
- Adaptive Immunity. Even mild or asymptomatic infection appears to result in a robust adaptive immune response. The quality of that response may vary somewhat by severity of disease and by age. The response is stronger in the T cell arm. The response appears to last for an extended time, likely years if the response to the original SARS and MERS are a guide. Reinfections are rare, and almost always result in very mild and short disease.
- Data and Science. For all our supposed technological skill, the use of data and the “science” relied on have been abysmal from the start. The initial modeling was catastrophically wrong, leading to lockdowns, and it hasn’t gotten much better, with almost no models incorporating seasonality. Our attribution of death to CV-19 is unprecedentially broad and contributed to the panic. The primary tests we use are wildly inaccurate at identifying who is actually infectious, which is the most important statistic for tracking the course of the epidemic. The alleged “science” behind social distancing, masking, excessive cleaning of surfaces and things like plastic shields is nonexistent and guidance has had to be withdrawn multiple times. Other science showing the futility of lockdowns and school closings and masks is ignored. Our “experts” have repeatedly issued completely inaccurate predictions.
- Mitigation Tactics. There can be no question now that not only have these largely not worked, they have consistently exacerbated the epidemic and caused more damage than CV-19 will. This is particularly true in regard to closing schools and to the terror campaign that accompanied the mitigation program. Notwithstanding widely varying mitigation programs, most states and countries appear likely to end up in the same place, when adjusted for factors like population age, health, density and prior coronavirus exposures.
- Coronamonomania. Our “experts” and the politicians they advise have completely ignored the effects of the mitigation measures on people’s economic, social, educational and spiritual lives. The ignore the health harms being done, they ignore the ruination of children’s lives in particular. There is no balance, no rational response except in a very few places, i.e. Florida. This is due to the suspension of democracy, which meant worse decisions as fewer opinions and data inputs were sought and frankly, people like our Governor became infatuated with their power. Our public health experts and physicians should be especially ashamed of themselves for their acquiescence in not considering the total good of the population.
- Vaccines. This is the bright spot, where technology did help. In an amazing short period of time, vaccines were developed, refined, tested and approved. They are impressively effective. They are very safe, when the number of doses and actual confirmed, caused side effects are considered. The vaccines may be what gets us out from under the dictators.
What’s next? My best guess is that by June we will have very few cases, due to prior infections, vaccination and seasonal factors. If we don’t see a southern/southwestern wave in late June and July, then we will know we have really slowed transmission. Will the idiots that govern us declare victory and stop the obsession? Don’t count on it.
Join the discussion 18 Comments
A good summary. I reposted it.
Kevin. I wonder if you’ve tried to get your work published nationally. I keep sharing your posts with my friends, but I feel like your assessment needs to be at the top of every major opinion page so that the “experts” can try and refute it. Throw data at them until they recognize some semblance of truth.
I am on Twitter and other forums but I haven’t spent a lot of time trying to get stuff published other than in the STar Tribune
Thanks for the summary.
A depressing week in the Peoples’ Republic of the USA.
No sign of backing down from restrictions here in MA- schools are supposed to open fully on Monday, but many districts have gotten waivers. The teachers’ unions have been particularly awful in this manufactured crisis. My unscientific survey of mask wearing in my immediate vicinity suggest no decline in the number of people wearing masks while walking, jogging, driving, all alone. High school lacrosse starts Monday- the players have to wear masks while they play, and the coaches have to wear masks at all times during practice and games OUTSIDE! One small ray of hope- according to MA guidelines we’re supposed to wear masks while we play golf, but almost no one does. The pro only does what he needs to to keeps the PTB off his back.
If you want to get really depressed, go take a look at Howie Carr’s show website- he’s posted a compilation of complaints to Governor BakerParkerBacon’s snitch line. Leaves me with no doubt that we, as a society would help load the trains to the camps if asked to do so.
I doubt very much if any of this madness goes away this year.
A question- are places like New Zealand in for a tremendous spike when they finally open up? Have they opened?
It depends on how quickly New Zealand gets vaccinated. If they can get everyone vaccinated, likely would not see much impact, although whenever they open up, the virus will come
Do you have any insight/data as to the effectiveness of the available therapeutics, remdesivir, ivermectin, etc.? Also blood filtering, apparently a military lab technique?
It’s my perspective that 80% of the people that passed in the first few months with this virus were mainly due to our lack of knowledge about the virus and the government’s direct interference into the use of the above named options. If you take these deaths out of data, it REALLY changes the curves and narrative about the virus’s severity.
Also, we had home test kits available a year ago that again the government wouldn’t sanction because they wanted control of the numbers via their misuse of the PCR scheme. It’s my understanding that these have now been released for use (maybe not in the us?). Do you know where this stands?
I don’t think the home kits are very reliable and there really wasn’t and isn’t a good process for ensuring good collection and then getting a specimen to an appropriate lab. I think home testing is just a really bad idea guaranteed to create more false and low positives. I don’t have a clear sense of the proven effectiveness of a lot of therapies. The research is all over the place. I suspect a therapy may work for one person but not another. What we really have is a lot of frail elderly who are going to die at the next puff of wind and CV-19 was the puff. Attributing those deaths to CV-19 is a joke
Can you comment on the continued funding of the Wuhan lab for Gain of Function research with Fauci led US government monies? It’s my understanding that the virus was developed by earlier research from US funding of the same lab. Always very hard to sort out sources of info in these controversial topcis.
it is apparently true that some funding from the US ended up at that lab, but not related to coronaviruses. I assume the US had no ability to monitor what was going on there, I can’t imagine the Chinese would give us any idea. There is enough data now on various coronavirus strains preserved in pre-epidemic samples throughout Asia to see a plausible path for natural development of CV-19, but I don’t trust the Chinese so I am not ruling anything out.
Good rundown, as always. My question is, how can CV-19 be “more infectious” than other coronaviruses, yet its infection rate of 20-25 percent is the same as previous pandemics? There’s a disconnect there.
Speaking of our “experts”, could you provide a recapitulation of the Osterholm timeline of “chicken little” predictions?
Fantastic summary. But just curious – why do you think the the absence of a “southern/southwestern wave in late June and July” is an indicator? Are you speaking of the southern hemisphere, and a lack of cases in what otherwise might be a time of a significant, seasonally-adjusted caseload?
the wave in the Southern and Southwestern states was basically kind of mid-June through mid-August last year, so you would expect another wave around the same time this year. Just as the wave in the Northeast and upper Midwest (except for the morons running Michigan) has been subdued, I believe due to vaccinations and prior infections, I am anticipating that what would have been the Southern wave will basically be nonexistent due to the even greater level of vaccination by then. But time will tell
This is such a clear, wonderful summary, thanks Kevin.
Kevin, thanks for this excellent summary. I found you through a link on Powerline. I have a question about the various vaccines. I and my young children have been fully vaccinated up to this point, and I’m a huge fan of vaccines. However, I will admit that as a woman of childbearing years, I feel hesitant about the Covid vaccines, which are not vaccines in the traditional sense. Specifically, I’m worried about future pregnancies (there had been some chatter about these experimental mRNA injections possibly affecting the placenta) and also about the potential for long-term issues that haven’t arisen yet in people who have received these – possible neurological problems, or, as was seen in previous coronavirus vaccine trials, pathogenic priming/ADE. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Really relateble I just started my own travel blog and then covid hit and I could not travel anymore from my country. No travel planning for me at all 😦
“[vaccines] are impressively effective. They are very safe, when the number of doses and actual confirmed, caused side effects are considered. The vaccines may be what gets us out from under the dictators.”
Well, here we are in early August 2021, and this comment has NOT aged well. The media, politicians, and public health “experts,” all seem to be doubling-down on masks, distancing, restrictions, and vaccines due to soaring “case” and hospitalization rates. Which leads anyone with 2 brain cells asking: do the vaccines work, or don’t they? If they do, then “cases” don’t matter. If they don’t, then getting more people to take more of them won’t help.
In any case, we are most definitely NOT “getting out from under the dictators.” The goalposts will simply be moved again. And again. And again.
you are correct, they are more determined to maintain the panic and hysteria and control over us than I imagined. We all just have to keep fighting back.