Sunday, April 26, 2020

Eight reasons to support reopening our country

Several governors are beginning to engage in opening their states. Good. They should wait no further. As each day goes by, we learn more and more about the coronavirus and its effects, and the facts lead toward getting adults back to work and children back to school. We suggest a focus away from the blare and glare of raw death tolls and worst-case scenarios. Instead let’s look at less-alarming truths that are generally being ignored by a media more invested in shock and frenzy. Perhaps we should start with these:

The first numbers we heard were that the coronavirus would kill up to 2.2 million Americans. This dire prediction was the first out of the box and it stuck in too many minds, struck too much fear, and still lingers.

The correction came late in March, as we were told to expect between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the U.S. But the death toll estimates keep coming in lower and lower. We are being told this is because of mitigation and distancing orders. Forgotten is that those six-figure numbers included and factored in mitigation and social distancing orders. That is, experts and government officials now tell us our numbers are lower because we are doing what they told us to do, but social distancing was always part and parcel of their high predictions.

The same model used to predict 100,000 or more deaths now tells us to expect something closer to 60,000 deaths. Now, some health departments are artificially inflating their numbers. New York City’s Health Department is now counting “probable” COVID-19 deaths. As Dr. Deborah Birx put it, unlike other countries, “We’ve taken a very liberal approach to mortality . . . if someone dies with COVID-19, we are counting that as a COVID-19 death.”

The per capita infection and death rates and dates of lockdown in various states confirm our questioning of not only one-lockdown-fits-all policies, but also the effectiveness of lockdowns themselves. Lockdowns don’t appear to be highly correlated with infection and death rates. Look at the timing. California, our largest state by far, locked down only three days before New York. Per capita, California’s infection rate is 6% that of New York’s, and its death rate is 4%. Florida, also more populous than New York, locked down almost two weeks after New York. Per capita, Florida’s infection rate is 9% that of New York’s, and it has had 4% of its death rate. Ohio locked down one day after New York, and yet Ohio’s death rate is only 5% that of New York’s. Missouri locked down more than two weeks after New York, but its infection rate is 7% of New York’s, and it has 4% the death rate. The rest of the country is not New York.

A recent Stanford University study reveals the virus is 50-85 times less deadly than initially thought. The infection/mortality rate of COVID-19 is not the 2% to 5% rate others have surmised, wrongly, but one somewhere in the small hundredths-of-a-single-percent range. An even newer study done at the University of Southern California comes to the same conclusion for Los Angeles County.

The closing of our schools is an increasing curiosity. We drastically transfigured over 55 million children’s educational and social lives to protect them from a virus that affects them less than the annual flu. As of this writing, a total of three children have died from the virus in New York City -- each of whom had underlying health conditions. Fewer than 10 children have died nationally from COVID-19, although about 80 have died from the flu. The argument that children could spread the new coronavirus to adults is true, but that is true of the flu as well. This has put an additional burden on families, children, and, for our poorest, has ripped millions of them from nutritious meals and trusted adults and institutions.

All perspective was lost. We have needed to hospitalize just over 80,000 people for this illness. The previous two flu seasons in America required nearly half a million hospitalizations. As Dr. Jonathan Geach has written: “Our health care system is now underwhelmed and health care workers are being laid off and furloughed in droves as a result of health care centers having neglected patient care not related to COVID-19 in fear of a COVID-19 surge that failed to materialize on a nationwide basis. This means tens of millions of patients are failing to receive the medical care they need in a timely manner. Almost every hospital outside of the hot spots is empty.” At the Mayo Clinic, as one example, he reports “65% of the hospital beds are empty, as are 75% of the operating rooms.”

Our overreaction to this epidemic will create myriad other health problems. California Rep. Tom McClintock put it well: “How many of the 1.8 million new cancers each year in the United States will go undetected for months because routine screenings and appointments have been postponed? How many heart, kidney, liver, and pulmonary illnesses will fester while people’s lives are on hold? How many suicides or domestic homicides will occur as families watch their livelihoods evaporate before their eyes? How many drug and alcohol deaths can we expect as Americans stew in their homes under police-enforced indefinite home detention orders? How many new cases of obesity-related diabetes and heart disease will emerge as Americans are banished from outdoor recreation and instead spend their idle days within a few steps of the refrigerator?”

If you don’t want to listen to a Republican congressman, how about the United Nations: “The economic hardship experienced by families as a result of the global economic downturn could result in hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths in 2020, reversing the last 2 to 3 years of progress in reducing infant mortality within a single year.”

The political posturing, while predictable, is hypocritical and often one-sided. The Trump administration did not neglect this virus. Instead, Democrats criticized the administration for doing too much and for too little at the same time. The travel ban from China was “xenophobic” in late January, but his declaration of a national emergency in early March was too late. Meanwhile, not one word about this virus was uttered at the February Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, even though China was brought up several times in other contexts, such as in trade and defense policy.

As late as Feb. 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was telling people, “We think it’s safe to come to Chinatown and hope others will come.” And, on the last day of February, the principle expert on whom the president relies and the press reveres, Dr. Anthony Fauci, stated: “Right now, at this moment, there is no need to change anything you are doing on a day-by-day basis.”

Almost all of us are interested in the health, safety, and well-being of the American people. The daily death rate should decline dramatically in the next two weeks, and, by the end of the summer, most of this will be in the rear-view mirror. Already, we are being warned that a second wave of the virus will hit us in the autumn. Perhaps, but this is a certainty: There will be a second wave of this crisis that will result from massive unemployment and all the mental and social illnesses and deaths that will come from that and the other policies the lockdowns and shutdowns are bringing.

In short, there will be more pain and hardship -- and perhaps more deaths -- from the convulsing of our country as a result of the response to the coronavirus than from the coronavirus itself. The governors of our 50 states have real jobs — so do almost all other Americans. They should all be given them back while they still exist.



Wuhan laboratory scientists 'did absolutely crazy things' to alter coronavirus and enabled it to infect humans, Russian microbiologist claims

A leading Russian microbiologist has claimed the coronavirus is the result of Wuhan scientists doing 'absolutely crazy things' in their laboratory.

World renowned expert Professor Petr Chumakov claimed their aim was to study the pathogenicity of the virus and not 'with malicious intent' to deliberately create a manmade killer.

Professor Chumakov, chief researcher at the Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology in Moscow, said: 'In China, scientists at the Wuhan Laboratory have been actively involved in the development of various coronavirus variants for over ten years.  'Moreover, they did this, supposedly not with the aim of creating pathogenic variants, but to study their pathogenicity.

'They did absolutely crazy things, in my opinion. 'For example, inserts in the genome, which gave the virus the ability to infect human cells.

'Now all this has been analysed. 'The picture of the possible creation of the current coronavirus is slowly emerging.'

He told Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper: 'There are several inserts, that is, substitutions of the natural sequence of the genome, which gave it special properties.

'It is interesting that the Chinese and Americans who worked with them published all their works in the open (scientific) press. 'I even wonder why this background comes to people very slowly.

'I think that an investigation will nevertheless be initiated, as a result of which new rules will be developed that regulate the work with the genomes of such dangerous viruses.

'It's too early to blame anyone.'  He said the Chinese scientists created 'variants of the virus … without malicious intent' possibly aiming for an HIV vaccine.

Professor Chumakov is also connected to Russia's Federal Research Centre for Research and Development of Immunobiological Preparations.

Vladimir Putin's spokesman warned this week against allegations that coronavirus was manmade. 'In the situation where there is not enough information that has been supported and checked by science ... we think it is unacceptable, impossible, to groundlessly accuse anyone,' said Dmitry Peskov.



Mesoblast treatment achieves "remarkable" results for critical Covid-19 patients

An Australian-developed stem cell treatment has drastically increased survival rates in trials for ventilator-dependent patients suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) due to Covid-19.

Melbourne-based regenerative medicine company Mesoblast (ASX: MSB, NASDAQ: MESO) has been engaged in trials with New York City's Mt Sinai hospital to intravenously infuse its product remestemcel-L in patients, and the early signs are promising.

The sample size of 12 patients may be small, but 83 per cent (10) of them have survived after the stem cell treatment compared to a 12 per cent survival rate for ventilator-dependent Covid-19 patients with the condition at a major referral hospital network in the city.

Mesoblast reports 75 per cent of the patients (9) were able to come off ventilator support within a median of 10 days, compared to a 9 per cent rate for patients treated with standard of care during March and April.

Seven of the patients, who were given remestemcel-L within five days under emergency compassionate use, have been discharged from the hospital.

Using bone marrow aspirate from healthy donors, Mesoblast's proprietary technology is currently used to treat a condition called acute graft versus host disease (aGVHD), which many suffer after receiving a bone marrow transplant (BMT).

But as the Covid-19 pandemic took centre stage, the company hypothesised Remestemcel-L would be able to treat what is known as a cytokine storm in the lungs that often occurs with serious Covid-19 cases.

The company then quickly mobilised plans for trials in the US, Australia, China and Europe.

"The remarkable clinical outcomes in these critically ill patients continue to underscore the potential benefits of remestemcel-L as an anti-inflammatory agent in cytokine release syndromes associated with high mortality, including acute graft versus host disease and Covid-19 ARDS," says Mesoblast chief executive Dr Silviu Itescu.

"We intend to rapidly complete the randomized, placebo-controlled Phase 2/3 trial in COVID-19 ARDS patients to rigorously confirm that remestemcel-L improves survival in these critically ill patients.

The company's chief medical officer Dr Fred Grossman emphasises a significant need to improve the "dismal survival outcomes in COVID-19 patients who progress to ARDS and require ventilators".

"We have implemented robust statistical analyses in our Phase 2/3 trial as recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to maximise our ability to evaluate whether remestemcel-L provides a survival benefit in moderate/severe COVID19 ARDS," he says.




Republican states Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina announce plans to reopen some businesses, wind down coronavirus stay-at-home orders (Fox News)

Good news: Los Angeles County antibody study produces more evidence of widespread COVID-19 (Power Line)

Nearly three-quarters of adults fear losing personal liberties because of coronavirus (Washington Examiner)

Sixty percent of Democrats blame Trump more than Communist China for coronavirus (Rasmussen Reports)

Phase 4 relief emerges: $500 billion state and local bailout (Hot Air)

The Supreme Court correctly holds that jury verdicts in state criminal cases must be unanimous (National Review)

Publicly traded firms get $300 million in small-business loans (AP)

Feast or famine, part I: Walmart announces another huge round of hirings (The Daily Wire)

Feast or famine, part II: United Airlines posts $2.1 billion loss, seeks more federal aid (CNBC)

Historic buying opportunity: With oil below zero, Trump to fatten up Strategic Petroleum Reserve (Fox Business)

South Korea: No reason to think Kim Jong Un gravely ill despite U.S. media report (USA Today)

Policy: Why Has the Voice of America become a voice of confusion? (National Review)


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated), A Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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