For those of you living in Minnesota, you have undoubtedly noticed that since the mask mandate was ended two weeks ago cases have soared, aided by those scary variants. We were warned by the commissioner of health, who should know, that it was a bad idea to end that mandate. And now we are paying the price for our foolishness.
Oh, wait, what’s that you say, cases have continued to decline and are almost back to where they were before the mandate. Well, how could that possibly be!! It might be early to definitively say that just as enacting the mandate didn’t do a thing to reduce cases, taking it off won’t cause them to rise, and vaccination obviously complicates things, but I don’t think masks make a bit of difference. If they did we would see cases rising in the age groups where vaccination rates are still low.
The Department of Health is just merciless in its general stonewalling and evasion of Scott Johnson’s questions. The one thing that was provided was that average length of stay for a hospitalization was 5 days in November, 4 days in December and January and preliminarily is 4 days for February through April. This is significant because it indicates that most stays are very short, in fact 25% were two days or under. These are basically observation stays, or I would strongly suspect admissions required solely for remdesivir or monoclonal antibody administration. They know nothing, nothing, Colonel Kling, about hospital admissions for persons who were admitted for another reason or who contracted the virus in the hospital. I don’t believe that for a second. In response to a question about PCR testing in low prevalence population they made the absurd claim that prevalence is high in Minnesota. Minnesota currently has maybe 10,000 active cases, at most, and likely far fewer than that. That is absurdly low prevalence and most of the testing is in asymptomatic persons or just random screening. They claim they are aware of only a handful of erroneous tests, but that is simply not possible. Also got more gibberish on why they don’t release deaths by date of death. About done with those useful dunderheads.
Here is another study relating to weather variables and spread. (Medrxiv Paper) The authors noted that initial studies suggested that high temperatures and higher humidity decreased transmission, but then the summer wave seemed to undermine this finding. (I would note that seasonality varies with latitude, including hours of sunlight, so it isn’t inconsistent that a more complex meteorological formula makes sense.) So these authors went county by county in the US and compared a variety of factors, meteorological and demographic. Some weird data stuff, they use county-level actual humidity data but average temperature data. And I am always puzzled by why people look exclusively at cases, which were so subject to testing regimes. In addition, no adjustment was made for the prevalence in the population after the spring wave, which clearly could affect spread. Latitude and longitude were considered. For the initial spring wave, latitude further south was positively correlated with more cases as was longitude further from the center of the US. The latitude finding is surprising. Relative humidity was not related to spread. Higher temperatures did correlate with lower case rises.
Remember that transmission is all about number of contacts and population density showed an exponential relationship to case increases. Other unidentified factors were also at work, as the model did not account for much of the total set of relationships for spread. In the summer wave, some of the spring factors had less influence. Longitude appeared to have no role, but latitude remained relevant. Population density was as strong a factor. Increased temperature now became associated with more spread, while higher humidity was associated with less spread. Given the level of household transmission, some behavioral effect of people being indoors more might be at work. The overall predictability of the factors tested rose, probably due to far greater testing and case identification and more consistent testing regimens across the country. Just shows that whatever the contribution of behavioral variables is, it is complex.
Researchers are attempting to ascertain the effect of schools being open on spread of cases. This study also examined the effect of mitigation efforts within open schools. (Medrxiv Paper) The lead author is Emily Oster who has done an outstanding job of advocating for children during the epidemic and producing excellent research to support her recommendations. The authors looked at factors like student density, masking and ventilation. The study shows how hard it is to attribute cause and effect. Lower student density was actually associated with more cases among students, but not teachers. Better ventilation was associated with less cases in Florida, but not New York. There were no correlations with mask mandates. Vaccination of teachers appeared associated with a decline in cases in schools.
Finally, another study reviewing the effects of vaccination in people with healthy and unhealthy (compromised) immune symptoms. (Medrxiv Paper) 20 healthy individuals who had no immune system issues and 7 immunocompromised persons were tested for T cell and antibody vaccine response to the spike protein and its two primary subunits. The healthy subjects had a pre-existing response to the spike protein. It actually declined marginally after the first dose of an mRNA vaccine, but rebounded following the second one and took a broader form. In the immunocompromised group there was a less widespread effect, but some immune response even in this group, among T cells, even if no antibody response was detected.