Friday, May 22, 2020

Time to Stop the Madness

Given what is now known about the coronavirus, governors opposed to ending the shutdown are on a fool’s errand.

By George Parry, a former federal and state prosecutor.

My maternal grandparents were Lebanese Christians who came to America in the first decade of the 20th century. They settled in Atlanta, Georgia, where my mother and her older brother, Tom, were born. When my mother was a toddler, her mother died.

My grandfather was a peddler who made a subsistence living selling dry goods to hillbillies from the back of a horse-drawn wagon. He and his children were very poor and lived in what was easily the roughest, most notorious, and least desirable part of the city.

One day, when he was about 12 years old, Tom vanished without a trace. My mother and her father frantically searched far and wide. But, after a week, my anguished grandfather gave up. Tom was gone, apparently for good, and his possible fate at the hands of persons unknown was terrifying to contemplate.

A few days later, as my mother continued her solitary search, she heard her name being called again and again. She looked around and then up. That’s when she saw Tom shouting and waving to her from a high window in a grim-looking stone building.

The building was called the “Pest House,” and it was where indigents with suspected communicable diseases were forcibly quarantined. As Tom later explained, a policeman had grabbed him off the street and marched him to the Pest House on suspicion that he might have a contagious disease. Which disease was never made clear.

Nevertheless, Tom was to be held until a public health doctor deemed him to no longer pose a risk of infecting others. His pleas to be allowed to get word to his father were ignored. It is a matter of speculation as to how much longer he would have been held incommunicado if not for my mother’s discovery of his whereabouts.

Whenever my mother would tell the Pest House story, she would shake her head at how off-handedly callous and indifferent the public health system had been to her big brother. But, she would sigh, that was just how things were handled back then.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have reflected many times on what happened to my Uncle Tom. He had been imprisoned and treated harshly with fewer due process rights than those of a common criminal. His offense? Being poor and sickly looking on the streets of Atlanta.

But, compared to the wanton, unwarranted, cruel, and industrial-scale destruction of lives, jobs, livelihoods, and businesses being caused by today’s ongoing, ill-conceived, and utterly destructive societal lockdowns in states across America, the Pest House’s quarantine-the-sick public health strategy was enlightened, rational, and benign.

The mantra among the governors who continue to preside over the destruction of their states’ economies is that they are following “the science,” which purportedly requires that the lockdowns remain in place to prevent another wave of COVID-19 cases. They contend that the lockdowns must continue until the number of COVID-19 cases decreases to an acceptable level and their states have adequate testing facilities and “armies” of investigators to track and trace any future infections. As they say, they don’t want to give up the progress already achieved against COVID-19 by reopening too soon.

Well, if that’s their true goal, then the governors are on a fool’s errand. Why? Because no matter how long we shelter in place, there will be future major outbreaks of COVID-19. We know this because COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus designated as SARS-CoV-2. Reasonably assuming that SARS-CoV-2 propagates like the coronaviruses that have caused seasonal influenzas, it will be with us for many years and will continue to infect and kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between October 1, 2019, and April 4, 2020, there have been between 24,000 to 62,000 deaths related to the seasonal influenza. There is no scientific basis to expect that SARS-CoV-2 will not return annually and do the same or worse.

Admittedly, we have not — for very sane, sound, and obvious reasons — attempted to halt the spread of the seasonal flu by staging annual shutdowns of the economy. But, by the same token, the whole rationale behind the current lockdown was not to eliminate or permanently prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, but to “flatten the curve” so that our medical facilities wouldn’t be overwhelmed. The idea was to spread out the COVID-19 burden over time, during which our medical infrastructure could prepare for the onslaught. No medical authority has ever maintained that the lockdown would somehow deliver us to a safe harbor free from future infections.

So the governors really need to stop with the “losing gains” blather. Many more COVID-19 cases will occur, and prolonging the devastation and misery of the lockdowns won’t change that immutable outcome.

As for the idea that we have to stay locked down until the states have the testing capacity and investigators to enable tracking and tracing of future COVID-19 cases, we are told that SARS-CoV-2 is airborne. Isn’t that why we are being told to socially distance in public and wear masks? Moreover, now that between 5 percent to 15 percent of Americans are estimated to have already been infected, just how are we to track, trace, and confine future outbreaks? Isn’t the metaphorical cow already out of the barn, and won’t SARS-CoV-2 continue its airborne spread?  If so, just how will those supposedly necessary armies of investigators be able to effectively track and trace future outbreaks?

We are told that you are more likely to become infected by prolonged exposure to someone who has a heavy viral load. So, is such prolonged exposure more likely to occur in public places or by sheltering in confined spaces? Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the spiritual leader of the gubernatorial lockdown caucus, recently expressed consternation at a recent study showing that, of the 1,000 new COVID-19 patients admitted to New York hospitals over the last week, 66 percent had been staying at home and 18 percent came from nursing homes.

“Overwhelmingly, the people were at home … which is shocking to us,” said Cuomo.

But, however shocking, the study necessarily prompts the uncomfortable question as to whether the lockdowns are either effective or necessary. Now that we have wrecked our economy and too many governors like Cuomo are continuing their destructive lockdowns, it comes as no small irony that the sobering and negative answer to that question is beginning to emerge.

Appearing on Sunday’s Meet the Press, Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, courageously spoke truth to the public health establishment’s power when he warned that the coronavirus can’t be contained, not even with massive testing. He confirmed the assessments of other experts that, within the year, 60 percent to 70 percent of Americans will have contracted the coronavirus.

“We have to understand that we’re riding this tiger, we’re not directing it,” he said. “This virus is going to do what it’s going to do. What we can do is only nibble at the edges, and I think it’s not a good message to send to the public that we can control this virus in a meaningful way.”

“Contact tracing and testing are important, but they won’t stop [the spread of the virus],” he said. “We can’t give people a false sense of security that we’re going to do more than we can, but we also have to figure out how to live with this virus, and that’s what we’re not doing.”

Although others have offered the same assessment only to be banned by YouTube,, and similar platforms, this is the first time that the uncomfortable truth has been broadcast in the mainstream media. That alone is a sentinel event and a step in the right direction.

Since we can’t halt its spread, can we live with the coronavirus? We most assuredly can.

First, despite initial predictions of 2.2 million COVID-19 deaths in America and a correspondingly disastrous infection fatality rate, as of this writing there have been 79,180 COVID-19 “related” deaths, yielding a fatality rate similar to that of the seasonal flu.

Second, the general population is not at risk. COVID-19 deaths are overwhelmingly confined to persons age 65 or older and/or with comorbidities such as diabetes and heart disease. For example, Pennsylvania health officials have just reported that 79 is the average age in that state for persons suffering COVID-19 “related” deaths and that 11.7 percent of the deceased had four comorbidities, 22.7 percent had three, 27.2 percent had two, 22.6 percent had one, and 11 percent had none.

These statistics are commensurate with the data from across the country and around the world. In short, unlike the 1918 Spanish flu, which wiped out 675,000 Americans of all ages and physical conditions, COVID-19 threatens discrete cohorts that are readily identifiable and can socially distance themselves without having to shut down the country.

Third, we have highly successful, effective, scalable, and inexpensive drug treatments (e.g., hydroxychloroquine and methylprednisone), which, if administered in the early stages of COVID-19, will save lives without the use of hospitals, ICUs, or ventilators.

In short, we can most assuredly live with the coronavirus without having to shelter in place. The only question is whether or not the governors who continue to keep their states shut down will allow their citizens to reclaim their lives.

As with too many other so-called blue states, Gov. Tom Wolf recently extended his lockdown of Pennsylvania to June 4, 2020. Although he has allowed some counties to start very limited steps to reopen, vast areas of the Commonwealth, such as Dauphin County (where the state capital is located), remain closed. This prompted the chairman of the Dauphin County Board of Commissioners to publish a letter last Friday stating that “enough is enough” and that he has “no faith” in Gov. Wolf’s “ability to do the right thing.”

“It is time to reopen the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and return our state to the people (as prescribed by our Constitution) and not run it as a dictatorship,” the chairman wrote. “This decision has ruined the livelihood of millions of hard-working Pennsylvanians in exchange for 0.4 percent of our population. I have great sympathy for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. I also have great concern for the families that now have to struggle with financial concerns, mental health stress, addiction and more because of the shutdown. Again, our governor has pitted groups of Pennsylvanians against one another.”

The proposition can’t be stated any better than that. However well-intentioned in the beginning, we now know that in the long run the lockdowns won’t make us safe and are destroying jobs, livelihoods, and the economy. If we are to survive as a feasible, cohesive society, the lockdowns must end immediately.

The evidence is in, and the verdict is clear. It’s time to stop the madness.



CDC now says coronavirus 'does not spread easily' via contaminated surfaces

For those of you still wiping down groceries and other packages amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, breathe a sigh of relief: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now says the novel virus “does not spread easily” from "touching surfaces or objects" — but experts warn that doesn’t mean it’s no longer necessary to take "practical and realistic" precautions in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Though it’s not exactly clear when, the federal health agency appears to have recently changed its guidelines from early March that simply said it “may be possible” to spread the virus from contaminated surfaces. The CDC now includes "surfaces or objects" under a section that details ways in which the coronavirus does not readily transmit.

Other ways in which the virus does not easily spread is from animals to people, or from people to animals, the federal agency said on its updated page.

“COVID-19 is a new disease and we are still learning about how it spreads. It may be possible for COVID-19 to spread in other ways, but these are not thought to be the main ways the virus spreads,” according to the CDC.

The CDC did, however, remind citizens that the virus does mainly spread person-to-person, noting the virus that causes a COVID-19 infection, SARS-CoV-2, "is spreading very easily and sustainably between people.”

More specifically, the agency said the virus primarily spreads from person-to-person in the following ways:

* Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)

* Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs

COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms

The change comes after a preliminary study from March suggested that the novel coronavirus can remain in the air for up to three hours, and live on surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to three days, prompting many to take to wiping down packages and other items. However, at the time, the study was yet not peer-reviewed, and, as Yahoo notes, did not determine if people could be infected from touching certain surfaces analyzed.

Dr. John Whyte, the chief medical officer for the healthcare website WebMD, called the CDC’s changes an “important step in clarifying how the virus is spread, especially as we gain new information.”

“It also may help reduce anxiety and stress. Many people were concerned that by simply touching an object they may get coronavirus and that’s simply not the case. Even when a virus may stay on a surface, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually infectious,” Whyte told Fox News in an email.

“I think this new guideline helps people understand more about what does and doesn’t increase risk. It doesn’t mean we stop washing hands and disinfecting surfaces. But it does allow us to be practical and realistic as we try to return to a sense of normalcy,” he added.



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.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Thursday, May 21, 2020

Torturing Our Elderly And Stealing From Our Children

Stay-at-home orders imposed on U.S. citizens – especially elderly singles living alone – amount to torture according to the standards advocated by the United Nations[1]. The UN expert concludes that:

“The severe and often irreparable psychological and physical consequences of solitary confinement and social exclusion are well documented and can range from progressively severe forms of anxiety, stress, and depression to cognitive impairment and suicidal tendencies. This deliberate infliction of severe mental pain or suffering may well amount to psychological torture."

If the psychological damage from the Federal and state governments’ unprecedented attack on the civil liberties of its current citizens is not enough reason to restore our freedoms, consider the financial effect on America’s future generations. The ongoing and massive Federal government giveaways are stealing money from our children. Each trillion dollars being given away saddles each American years from now with another $2,000 or more in debt. Future generations will never pay it off. Many young and unborn Americans will be burdened with huge annual interest expenses over their entire lives on debt that they did not incur.

The economic plight of our country was supposedly justified to reduce deaths from COVID-19. Eventually evidence will show that it was foolhardy. But it will be our children – not the dictators and bureaucrats – that end up bearing the long-term financial toll.

It should be noted that our Federal government is perfectly happy oppressing its citizens merely on the pretense of protecting property rather than saving lives. I remember as a child being warned over the radio that going into public after a certain hour risked being shot by the National guardsmen who were patrolling our town in the aftermath of a flood. The goal was prevention of looting because there were many unoccupied houses in the flooded areas. But the threat was not that looters would be shot or that shootings would only occur in flooded areas – it was that anyone violating the curfew risked being shot.

Victims of this flood in upstate New York in 1972 were eligible for small business disaster loans of about $5,000 (the program was available to anyone – not just business owners). Half of the loan was forgiven if the funds were used to rebuild property supposedly damaged by the flood. Thousands of residents were eligible to use the loans to upgrade their summer homes on the various lakes in the area. Most of that money went to make improvements to docks and sea walls since very few of the lakefront properties had damage to the living quarters.

The massive government giveaway of 2020 is allowing many businesses to reap massive profits on top of their usual profits. A firm with virtually no consequence from the pandemic can get two months of their 2020 wages paid by the Federal government if they declare in good faith that the “uncertainty of current economic conditions” makes the loan necessary for their business. Think about that phrase as you pay higher taxes in the future.

Government aid to displaced employees is so generous that firms will struggle for years to coax able-bodied recipients back into the workforce. Leftists are ecstatic that more and more unemployed Americans can get living wages and healthcare. But government giveaways remove incentives for recipients to contribute anything valuable back to society – where something valuable here is defined as something that people will voluntarily purchase rather than being something that the left proclaims as being valuable (e.g., community organizing).

Politicians are now turning their attention to bailing out failing local and state governments. Apparently financially-mismanaged state and local governments (primarily in jurisdictions controlled by leftists) feel that they should be bailed out by taxpayers of well-managed jurisdictions. State and local governments who struggled to keep their finances in order will find their stewardship was foolhardy and that future financial responsibility is unnecessary; simply wait for the next government-created crisis and pass the debt on to the whole country. It is a classic tragedy of the commons.

It has been said that “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” Our Federal and state governments are using both.



No Doubt, the Left Hates Grassroots Americans

From verbal smears to actual violence, leftists are increasingly angrily intolerant.

If there’s one thing that has been learned over the last three and a half years, it’s that Patriots are targets. Some, notably commentators Kurt Schlichter and Dennis Prager, have been warning us for years. Schlichter, in particular, has pulled no punches about the fact: On the Left, hatred of grassroots Americans exists and dealing with it is going to be very necessary.

Anyone who doubts this just needs to trust their own eyes and ears. It has been blatantly obvious in everything from venomous declarations on social media to campaign slander to smears you’d see while watching TV — news or drama, if you can tell the difference. Maybe you’ve even heard it from those around you.

It goes beyond statements. Look at the nearly 400 incidents of violence directed at Trump supporters. These things didn’t happen because someone just woke up and decided to beat up Trump supporters. It came from a long campaign of dehumanization involving a series of big lies. It’s gotten far worse since Trump pulled off a huge upset against Hillary Clinton.

But those who want to claim that somehow Trump made this all worse are simply not seeing what happened previously. Claims of racism have been aimed at Republicans at least since Ronald Reagan won in 1980. It wasn’t just Reagan: George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney all faced such nonsense charges.

It wasn’t just those running for president, though. Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and scores of other prominent Patriots have been smeared as racists and Nazis. Had Mitt Romney won in 2012, or even if John McCain won in 2008, we would still see the same Resistance emerge, only this time citing the defeat of Barack Obama as proof of racism. The congressional power of Gingrich and DeLay made them targets.

For a long time, Patriots have joked that the way to tell if a leftist is losing an argument is hearing them declare their opponent a “racist!” The jokes have more than a grain of truth to them — as we have seen, the phony claims are often used to distract from failures. Even trying to fix messed up school lunches led to vicious personal attacks.

That said, perhaps we should have been far more serious, especially as the Left broke out more and more comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis. The fact is, we can answer one question Dennis Prager posed in 2018: They seem to really mean it, and they are acting on the belief that Republicans are no different than Nazis.

It’s graduated beyond name-calling to mobs of antifa outside the homes of government officials and journalists. People are attacked in restaurants or even while registering voters. Once upon a time, that was seen as cause to bring in the FBI. These days, though, there is some local coverage — maybe a report from Fox News — but it’s quickly swept under the rug by far too many journalists who seem to think the victims had it coming.

It’s easy for some on the Right to just dismiss the warnings from Prager and Schlichter. But those who have should be asked a very simple question: Is there any evidence that can disprove their observations? Because from where we sit, we have to say they’re right.




President Trump, citing the organization's "alarming lack of independence from the People's Republic of China," threatens to make WHO funding freeze permanent (NBC News)

Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine to protect against coronavirus (The Washington Post)

On the heels of Katie Hill's "throuple," Democrat Rep. Steven Horsford admits to decade-long affair with former intern (The Washington Free Beacon)

They've been through riots, protests, and natural disasters — but America's colleges have never seen anything like the financial meltdown the coronavirus is about to bring to their campuses (The Washington Free Beacon)

China slaps an 80% tariff on drought-affected Australian exporters as brutal punishment for push for COVID-19 inquiry — just hours after saying it'll support inquiry when pandemic is over (UK Daily Mail)

Japan has slipped into a recession as its economy sank for a second straight quarter (UPI)

Hope for producers as oil clears $30 a barrel (Washington Examiner)

Oregon's coronavirus restrictions ruled "null and void" after governor failed to get approval from legislature (Fox News)

Democrat-imposed coronavirus orders face lawsuits across the nation (Fox News)

Gov. Charlie Baker announces Massachusetts reopening plan (The Hill)

Mayor Bill de Blasio warns beach swimmers will "be taken right out of the water" (The Daily Wire)

Not-so-mission accomplished: Over 100 million in China's northeast face renewed lockdown (Bloomberg)

Good news: Early data show Moderna COVID-19 vaccine generates immune response (STAT)

Four ways the 1957 H2N2 pandemic resembles, and differs from, COVID-19 (The Daily Signal)

Policy: How blind faith in scientific expertise wrecked the economy (The Federalist)

Policy: The public health crisis means cities need to reevaluate transit projects (The Hill)


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.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Wednesday, May 20, 2020

‘We could open up again and forget the whole thing’

Epidemiologist Knut Wittkowski on the deadly consequences of lockdown

Governments around the world say they are following ‘The Science’ with their draconian measures to stem the spread of the virus. But the science around Covid-19 is bitterly contested. Many experts have serious doubts about the effectiveness of the measures, and argue that our outsized fears of Covid-19 are not justified. Knut Wittkowski is one such expert who has long argued for a change of course. For 20 years, Wittkowski was the head of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design at The Rockefeller University’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science. spiked spoke to him to find out more about the pandemic.

spiked: Is Covid-19 dangerous?

Knut Wittkowski: No, unless you have age-related severe comorbidities. So if you are in a nursing home because you cannot live by yourself anymore, then getting infected is dangerous.

We had the other extreme in Switzerland, which was hit pretty hard. There was one child that died. People believed that this child was born in 2011. In fact, it was born in 1911, and that was the only child that died. It was a mere coding error. Somebody with the age 108 was coded as aged eight.

spiked: How far along is the epidemic?

Wittkowski: It is over in China. It is over in South Korea. It is substantially down in most of Europe and down a bit everywhere, even in the UK. The UK and Belarus are latecomers, so you do not see exactly what you are seeing in continental Europe. But everywhere in Europe, the number of cases is substantially declining.

spiked: Have our interventions made much of an impact?

Wittkowski: When the whole thing started, there was one reason given for the lockdown and that was to prevent hospitals from becoming overloaded. There is no indication that hospitals could ever have become overloaded, irrespective of what we did. So we could open up again, and forget the whole thing.

I hope the intervention did not have too much of an impact because it most likely made the situation worse. The intervention was to ‘flatten the curve’. That means that there would be the same number of cases but spread out over a longer period of time, because otherwise the hospitals would not have enough capacity.

Now, as we know, children and young adults do not end up in hospitals. It is only those who are both elderly and have comorbidities that do. Therefore you have to protect the elderly and the nursing homes. The ideal approach would be to simply shut the door of the nursing homes and keep the personnel and the elderly locked in for a certain amount of time, and pay the staff overtime to stay there for 24 hours per day.

How long can you do that for? For three weeks, that is possible. For 18 months, it is not. The flattening of the curve, the prolongation of the epidemic, makes it more difficult to protect the elderly, who are at risk. More of the elderly people become infected, and we have more deaths.

spiked: What are the dangers of lockdown?

Wittkowski: Firstly, we have the direct consequences: suicides, domestic violence and other social consequences leading to death. And then we have people who are too scared to go to the hospitals for other problems like strokes or heart attacks. So people stay away from hospitals because of the Covid fear. And then they die.

spiked: Were hospitals likely to be overrun?

Wittkowski: Germany had 8,000 deaths in a population of 85million. They had 20,000 to 30,000 hospitalisations. In Germany, that is nothing. It does not even show up as a blip in the hospital statistics. In Britain, the highest hospital utilisation was about 60 per cent, if I am not mistaken.

In New York City, it was a bit higher. The Javits Congress Center was turned into a field hospital with 3,000 beds. It treated just 1,000 patients in all. The Navy ship sent to New York by President Trump had 179 patients but it was sent back because it was not needed. New York is the epicenter of the epidemic in the United States, and even here at the epicenter, hospital utilisation was only up a bit. Nothing dramatic. Nothing out of the ordinary. That is what happens during the flu season. People have the flu, and then there are more patients in the hospitals than there otherwise would be.

spiked: Are we on the way to reaching herd immunity?

Wittkowski: All the studies that have been done have shown that we already have at least 25 per cent of the population who are immune. That gives us a nice cushion. If 25 per cent of the population are already immune, we are very quickly getting to the 50 per cent that we need to have what is called herd immunity. We will actually get a bit higher than that. So we have flattened what otherwise would have been a peak, and if we now let it run, even if the number of cases would increase a bit, it would not get as high as it was, because we already have enough immune people in the population. So it is not going to spread as fast as it could have spread in the beginning.

spiked: Should we worry about a second spike?

Wittkowski: This is an invention to justify a policy that politicians are afraid of reversing.

spiked: Should people practice social distancing?

Wittkowski: No.

spiked: Why not?

Wittkowski: Why? What is the justification for that? People need to ask the government for an explanation. The government is restricting freedom. You do not have to ask me for justification. There is no justification. It is the government that has to justify what it is doing. Sorry, but that is how it is.

spiked: How did we get this so wrong?

Wittkowski: Governments did not have an open discussion, including economists, biologists and epidemiologists, to hear different voices. In Britain, it was the voice of one person – Neil Ferguson – who has a history of coming up with projections that are a bit odd. The government did not convene a meeting with people who have different ideas, different projections, to discuss his projection. If it had done that, it could have seen where the fundamental flaw was in the so-called models used by Neil Ferguson. His paper was published eventually, in medRxiv. The assumption was that one per cent of all people who became infected would die. There is no justification anywhere for that.

Let us say the epidemic runs with a basic reproduction rate of around two. Eventually 80 per cent of the population will be immune, because they have been infected at some point in time. Eighty per cent of the British population would be something like 50million. One per cent of them dying is 500,000. That is where Ferguson’s number came from.

But we knew from the very beginning that neither in Wuhan nor in South Korea did one per cent of all people infected die. South Korea has 60million people. It is about the same size as the UK. How many deaths were in South Korea? Did they shut down? No. The South Korean government was extremely proud to have resisted pressure to drop the very basic concepts of democracy.

The epidemic in South Korea was over by March, the number of cases was down by 13 March. In Wuhan they also did not shut down the economy. Wuhan had restricted travel out of the city. They stopped train services and blocked the roads. They did not restrict anything social within the city until very late. We have seen, then, in Wuhan and South Korea, if you do not do anything, the epidemic is over in three weeks.

Knowing that the epidemic would be over in three weeks, and the number of people dying would be minor, just like a normal flu, the governments started shutting down in mid-March. Why? Because somebody pulled it out of his head that one per cent of all infected would die. One could argue that maybe one per cent of all cases would die. But one per cent of all people infected does not make any sense. And we had that evidence by mid-March.

spiked: Just to clarify, cases are different from people infected?

Wittkowski: Cases means people who have symptoms that are serious enough for them to go to a hospital or get treated. Most people have no symptoms at all. But waking up with a sore throat one day is not a case. A case means that someone showed up in a hospital.

spiked: The UK government was also heavily influenced by the situation in Italy. Why did that go so wrong?

Wittkowski: What we saw in Italy was that the virus was hitting those who were both old and had comorbidities, so lots of people died. But the median age of those who died in Italy was around 81 years. It is not that children or working people were dying. It was the elderly in nursing homes – not even the elderly living by themselves mostly. We saw lots of deaths and that scared people. But then, Italy did an illogical thing. It closed schools so that the schoolchildren were isolated and did not get infected and did not become immune. Instead, the virus spread almost exclusively among the old, causing more deaths and a higher utilisation of hospitals. And that is mind-boggling.

Very early on, we knew from China and we knew from South Korea that this is an epidemic that runs its course, and there was nothing special about it. But when it hit Italy, we stopped thinking about it as an age-stratified problem, and instead lumped everyone all together. The idea that if we did not shut down the schools the hospitals would have been overwhelmed does not make any sense. I frankly still cannot fully understand how our governments can be so stupid.

spiked: Governments say they are following the science. Is that really true?

Wittkowski: They have the scientists on their side that depend on government funding. One scientist in Germany just got $500million from the government, because he always says what the government wants to hear.

Scientists are in a very strange situation. They now depend on government funding, which is a trend that has developed over the past 40 years. Before that, when you were a professor at a university, you had your salary and you had your freedom. Now, the university gives you a desk and access to the library. And then you have to ask for government money and write grant applications. If you are known to criticise the government, what does that do to your chance of getting funded? It creates a huge conflict of interest. The people who are speaking out in Germany and Switzerland are all independent of government money because they are retired.

spiked: Did the Swedish scientists get it right?

Wittkowski: Sweden did the right thing. And they had to take a lot of heat for it. Now compare Sweden and the UK. The only difference is that Sweden did fine. They did have a problem. They had a relatively high number of deaths among the nursing homes.They decided to keep society open and they forgot to close nursing homes. Remarkably, the politicians acknowledged that it was a mistake to extend that open concept to nursing homes. The nursing homes should have been isolated to protect the elderly who are at high risk. But I think the Swedish government is doing well to even acknowledge that mistake.

The first death in the United States was in a nursing home in Seattle. And that was by the end of February. So everybody knew that we were expecting the same thing that we had seen in Italy – an epidemic that hits the elderly. But until just this week in New York State, the government told the nursing homes that if they did not take in patients from hospitals, they would lose their funding. So they would have to import the virus from the hospitals.

One third of all deaths in New York State were in nursing homes. One could have prevented 20,000 deaths in the United States by just isolating the nursing homes. After three or four weeks, they could have reopened and everybody would be happy.

That would have been a reasonable strategy. But shutting down schools, driving the economy against the wall – there was no reason for it. The only reason that this nonsense now goes on and on, and people are inventing things like this ‘second wave’, which is going to force us to change society and never live again, is that the politicians are afraid of admitting an error.

spiked: Is this easier to see in hindsight?

Wittkowski: What I am talking about is not hindsight. The epidemics in Wuhan and South Korea were over in mid-March. In March, I submitted a paper to medRxiv, summarising all of that. At least towards the end of March, the data was there, and everybody who wanted to learn from it could.

On 17 April, Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, presented data at the coronavirus presidential briefing at the White House. And there was one plot that he presented. And I looked at it and asked why people were not jumping to their feet. Why were people not understanding what they were looking at? The plot was the data from the ILINet. For 15 years, hospitals have counted every person who shows up with an influenza-like illness – fever, coughing, whatever. There were three spikes in the 2019-2020 flu season. The first was in late December – influenza B. The next was in late January – an influenza A epidemic. And then there was one that had a peak in hospital visits around 8 March – Covid-19. For the peak to happen on that day, those patients have to go through a seven-day incubation period and then have symptoms. But they do not go to the hospital with the first symptoms. If it gets worse over three days, only then do they go to a hospital.

Four weeks later, on 8 April, the number of new infections was already down. In time for Easter, our governments should have acknowledged they were overly cautious. People would have accepted that. Two weeks’ shutdown would not have been the end of the world. We would not have what we have now – 30million people unemployed in the United States, for example. Companies do not go bankrupt over a two-week period. Two months is a very different story. If you have to pay rent for two months for a restaurant in New York with no income, you will go bankrupt. We see unemployment, we see bankruptcies, we see a lot of money wasted for economic-rescue packages – trillions of dollars in the United States. We see more deaths and illness than we would otherwise have had.

And it is going on and on and on, just because governments are afraid of admitting an error. They are trying to find excuses. They say they have to do things slowly, and that they have ‘avoided 500,000 deaths’ in the UK. But that was an absurd number that had no justification. The person presenting it pretended it was based on a model. It was not a model. It was the number of one per cent of all people infected dying. And nobody was questioning it. And that is the basic problem.

spiked: People will say that the interventions in South Korea – like contact tracing – were more effective.

Wittkowski: How many orders of magnitude, take us from 500,000 to 256, the number of deaths in South Korea? To have that kind of effect you would have to put everybody in the UK into a negative pressure room. It is totally unrealistic to even consider a reduction from 500,000 to 256.



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.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Vaccine 'by September'

Britain will get first access to a coronavirus vaccine being developed by Oxford University with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca poised to make 30 million for the UK by September - if it works.

Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, today announced a deal has been done between the university and the company to manufacture the vaccine which is currently in clinical trials.

He pledged an additional £84 million to accelerate the development of the vaccine - on top of a previous £47 million pot of cash - so that mass production can start as soon as possible if it is proved to be effective.

Mr Sharma said the Oxford project is 'progressing well' and that another vaccine effort by Imperial College London is 'also making good progress'.

However, he cautioned that despite the growing optimism there are 'no certainties' and there may never be a vaccine developed capable of tackling the deadly disease.

Mr Sharma also revealed that six drugs designed to treat coronavirus have now entered initial live clinical trials. The world is yet to identify a drug clinically proven to treat the disease.

The COVID-19 trials are taking place at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford and started on April 23. A second vaccine from Imperial College London is also hoped to face human trials in June. 

A working vaccine is viewed as likely the only surefire way for the world to go back to something resembling normal life.

Mr Sharma last month announced the creation of a new vaccine task force to bring together the Government, universities and industry in the hope that the UK could lead the way in developing a vaccine.

The Business Secretary said he was 'very proud' of how quickly different sectors had united for the 'critical mission' with the Oxford and Imperial programmes emerging as 'two of the world’s frontrunners'.

The Oxford vaccine is now in its first clinical trial and all phase one participants have now received their vaccine dose and are being monitored by the clinical trial team. 

Mr Sharma said: 'The speed with which Oxford University has designed and organised these complex trials is genuinely unprecedented.

‘Imperial College are also making good progress and will be looking to move into clinical trials by mid-June with larger scale trials planned to begin in October.

‘So far the Government has invested £47 million in the Oxford and Imperial vaccine programmes. ‘But today I can announce an additional £84 million of new Government funding to help accelerate their work.

‘This new money will help mass produce the Oxford vaccine so that if current trials are successful we have dosages to start vaccinating the UK population straight away.



‘There is nothing unprecedented about the virus itself’

Lionel Shriver on the hysteria driving the worldwide Covid shutdown

The ‘new normal’ of lockdowns, social distancing and economic catastrophe has been greeted with remarkably little resistance. The novelist Lionel Shriver is a rare dissenting voice. In the language of coronavirus, she proclaims to have ‘immunity’ from the ‘herd’. She joined spiked editor Brendan O’Neill for the latest episode of The Brendan O’Neill Show. What follows is an edited extract.

Brendan O’Neill: You have talked about the supine capitulation to a police state that has happened in the UK over the past few weeks. Do you think things are that bad? Do you think it is not only so bad that we have a police state, but it is even worse because everyone has capitulated to it in a rather craven fashion?

Lionel Shriver: I think it’s pretty impressive. I have come across, in more than one article, references to how ‘free thinking’ and ‘independently minded’ British people are supposed to be, and I don’t think that this situation bears that out. There has been research into the English attitude to authority. The English, in particular, capitulate to authority. They obey the law for the law’s sake. This runs completely counter to my own inclinations, because I’m afraid I have a very deep-set ‘fuck you’ impulse. I don’t like being told what to do, and most of all I want people to justify it when they tell me what to do. I don’t do things just because of the law. I do them because they are the smart and right things to do. There has not been enough questioning on the public’s part, especially as to whether or not these lockdowns are even epidemiologically sensible.

O’Neill: Why does the lockdown not add up, in your view?

Shriver: I don’t think it makes a lot of sense once the virus has spread generously in the population already. There is plenty of evidence that the virus does continue to spread, even if you do have a lockdown. What we are doing is dragging the period of infection out. A lot of epidemiologists will back that up. Rather than reducing the absolute number of infections and absolute number of deaths, you simply make them occur over a longer period of time. You could argue that is actually socially destructive. As long as your healthcare system can handle a higher rate of infection – which our NHS could do right now – then it’s probably better to get it over with.

O’Neill: One thing that you have raised is the absence of critical voices in the mainstream media. As you point out, there are actually epidemiologists who believe that the idea that you can lock a disease away in a cupboard and make it disappear is complete idiocy and is completely unworkable and only puts off the inevitable, which is that the disease will become part of the family of diseases. Those voices are not being heard as much as they might be, and certainly not with parity to the other, more terrifying voices. What have you made of the broader media culture around this discussion of the virus and the lockdown?

Shriver: The media are worse than the public. Of course, the media are also controlling the public to a degree. I have been especially appalled by how few dissenting voices ever appear on television. I force myself to suffer through news programmes on a nightly basis, and I was really struck recently by Channel 4. This was not even a story, it was just a little statistic that they flashed up on the screen. It was that we are expecting 1.5 billion people – which is, they were careful to clarify, half the workforce of the entire world – to have no source of livelihood. That was just a little fact. Then we went back to the situation in care homes in the UK, which took up most of the rest of the broadcast. It’s as if it was incidental. This never gets any attention.

Nor does any dubiety among the scientific community about the wisdom of treating this disease completely differently to how we treat any other disease. Nor do I ever see any comparative statistics aired on television news – and you rarely find them in newspapers, either – putting the deaths in context, both in the context of how many people die every year in certain countries and worldwide anyway, and also of how many people die of other diseases routinely.

In 2017, the number of people who died of malaria was 620,000. That is almost all in Africa. We totally ignore it. That’s three times the number of people who’ve died of Covid-19 so far worldwide. But it’s just ordinary. They live with it. In 2018, 1.5million people died of tuberculosis. And TB is especially dangerous because it’s developing a resistance to our treatment to it. So it’s actually more terrifying than Covid-19. Again, we forget about it. Typhoid, which we think of as a disease of the past, still kills up to 160,000 people a year. Cholera is the same – it kills about 140,000 people a year. Influenza, which Covid resembles in many ways, kills up to 650,000 people every year. It took me five minutes to find those statistics. Why don’t I ever see them reported?

O’Neill: I want to go back to a point you made there about the incidental nature of the unprecedented economic collapse that the world is heading for. I have noticed that too; that in the media and in lots of political discussions, the predictions of a historically unprecedented contraction of economic life are treated either as incidental, or as significantly less important than Covid-19 itself. You give the example of 1.5 billion people losing their livelihoods in some way. Of course, in the UK, it is now being predicted that this will mean a 13 per cent drop in national output, which will be the largest contraction ever recorded. Why do you think that stuff is being pushed aside? Part of me thinks it’s some kind of Covid-related madness in which the media cannot see the broader picture. Or do you just think they cannot let anything get in the way of the politics-of-fear narrative that they are currently pushing?

Shriver: Madness is the word, but it is a shared hysteria. We are dealing with an international hysteria. You hear that word ‘unprecedented’ all the time. There is nothing unprecedented about the virus itself. It is very much like lots of other viruses and lots of other illnesses. In fact, it is less deadly than many other illnesses that we have had to learn to live with – some of which we have cured.

What is unprecedented is our reaction. And it’s the reaction that is causing the inevitable economic depression – or collapse, even. That is the level of economic failure we are dealing with. But it is as if the disease has caused the collapse. All that economic fallout is seen as simply the inevitable fallout of this terrible illness. But it has nothing to do with the illness. It has everything to do with our reaction to it. We have never done this before. We have never said we must close whole countries because of a contagious disease.

With these kinds of contagious diseases, you cannot just wait. If you are going to wait for it to not be there anymore, you are going to wait forever. That is what is really dangerous about the government’s change of strategy. It used to call for flattening the curve to save the NHS. And then as soon as we saved the NHS, we were still in lockdown. A new purpose for the lockdown was found, instead of ending it once it achieved its purpose.

Of course, the other thing that has happened is that the people have been so successfully brainwashed that it is getting very difficult to un-brainwash them. So it’s going to be difficult to get people to go back to work. It’s one thing to open restaurants again, it’s another thing to convince people that they want to go out to eat.

Furthermore, these new laws look as if they are going to be virtually indefinite. Many of these laws are going to make it impossible to run a successful business – if the business is even allowed to open. If you have a restaurant in which everyone has to be two metres apart, then how do you serve enough people to pay your staff and pay your chefs and pay your food bill and, most of all, pay your rent? The whole model is not going to stack up. You can’t spread people out too much, the facilities don’t allow for it. And therefore, it cuts your productivity so much that you cannot make any money. Everyone is just dealing with all of these measures as if they are inevitable, as if it’s just too bad, and it’s the fault of the virus. No, it isn’t. It’s the fault of the rabid overreaction to the virus.

O’Neill: Do you think there is a class or cultural component to that blindness of the lockdown fanatics to the consequences of the decisions that they are taking and the actions that they are pushing through? We know from the experience of recent years that we live under elites that are cut off from ordinary people’s lives and beliefs. Do you think there are some sections of society who are rather enjoying the lockdown because they can carry on working from home and the Deliveroo guys will still bring them their food? They live in nice houses and their blindness to the consequences of what they are doing or what they are supporting seems to be driven by their distance from people who have to work and have to mix together and have to make a living.

Shriver: I do think there is a segment of the population that is having a wonderful time, especially people who are being paid 80 per cent of their salaries. The irony being, of course, that they are paying themselves 80 per cent of their salaries. It’s taxpayers’ money. These are the same people who are heavy taxpayers, so they are going to end up having to pay their own furloughed salaries in future.

I think for some people, this has turned into a kind of indefinite holiday. You do not have to work very hard. You do not have to get dressed for work. You can stay in your pajamas. You can sit in front of the computer and feel self-righteous about it. Right now, being incredibly lazy and unproductive is patriotic. It’s the best of all possible worlds. In this sector, it is going to be hard to go back to normal, especially now that we are constantly informed that we cannot go back to normal. There is going to be a so-called ‘new normal’ – one of those expressions that we all now have learned to hate.

O’Neill: In terms of the economy, one of the striking ways in which people justify their blindness to this situation, or justify the acceptability of what is about to occur, is by making this very shallow propagandistic distinction between lives and the economy. You will know from personal experience that anyone who questions the lockdown or the reaction to the virus is depicted as caring more about the economy than lives, caring more about profit than lives, hating old people and so on. But to make a distinction like that between how people live and economic life is completely false, right?

Shriver: I think it is self-evident. [We] cannot have a country without an economy. What is abstract about an economy is the word. An economy is anything but abstract. It is all the very literal, tangible things we do between ourselves that make high-density living possible. If we do not have an economy, we cannot have a city – we would all be grubbing on our own little patch of dirt trying to raise a stalk of corn. When we are doing that all by ourselves, then there is no economy. But if we want to go to the supermarket to get popcorn, there has to be an economy. This whole idea that you can shelter human life and throw the economy into the toilet is patently ludicrous.



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.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Monday, May 18, 2020

Blood-thinning drugs can help save the lives of coronavirus patients by stopping dangerous clots forming on the lungs, British scientists discover

London specialists made the discovery after finding Covid-19 caused potentially deadly blood clots in the lungs of most patients who die.

NHS England will give hospitals new guidance on blood thinning, which may lead to the administration of higher doses for those who are critically ill.

Specialists at the Royal Brompton Hospital's severe respiratory failure service identified the clearest link yet between Covid-19 and clotting.

They used hi-tech dual energy CAT scans to take images of lung function in the worst patients - which found a lack of blood flow, suggesting clotting within the small vessels in the lung. 

This may explain why some patients die of lung failure through lack of oxygen in the blood, doctors told The Sunday Telegraph.

Low oxygen levels have been regularly recorded in Covid patients reporting no breathlessness.

Prof Openshaw, a specialist in experimental medicine at Imperial College London told the publication: 'This intravascular clotting is a really nasty twist that we haven't seen before with many other viruses.

'It does sort of explain the rather extraordinary clinical picture that is being observed with people becoming very hypoxic, very low on oxygen and not really being particularly breathless. That would fit with it having a blood vessel origin.'

As a result of the new evidence, clinical trials to test blood-thinning drugs are being fast-tracked as part of the Government's response to the pandemic. 

The new NHS England guidance is independent of the work, and is believed to have been issued on the advice of haematology specialists.

Doctors at the Royal Brompton said blood thinning medication should be used carefully and specialists have said treatment would need to 'start very early' to prevent clots forming.

Dr Brijesh Patel said she thinks the majority of patients will end up on 'significant therapeutic doses' of blood-thinning drugs as scientists learn more about the disease, and if implemented properly they will save lives.   



Delaying herd immunity is costing lives

The current lockdown is protecting the healthy instead of the vulnerable.

Climate scientists are frustrated by people who do not believe in climate change. In epidemiology, our frustration is with anti-vaxxers. Most anti-vaxxers are highly educated but still argue against vaccination. We now face a similar situation with ‘anti-herders’, who view herd immunity as a misguided optional strategy rather than a scientifically proven phenomenon that can prevent unnecessary deaths.

Because of its virulence, wide spread and the many asymptomatic cases it causes, Covid-19 cannot be contained in the long run, and so all countries will eventually reach herd immunity. To think otherwise is naive and dangerous. General lockdown strategies can reduce transmission and death counts in the short term. But this strategy cannot be considered successful until lockdowns are removed without the disease resurging.

The choice we face is stark. One option is to maintain a general lockdown for an unknown amount of time until herd immunity is reached through a future vaccine or until there is a safe and effective treatment. This must be weighed against the detrimental effects that lockdowns have on other health outcomes. The second option is to minimise the number of deaths until herd immunity is achieved through natural infection. Most places are neither preparing for the former nor considering the latter.

The question is not whether to aim for herd immunity as a strategy, because we will all eventually get there. The question is how to minimise casualties until we get there. Since Covid-19 mortality varies greatly by age, this can only be accomplished through age-specific countermeasures. We need to shield older people and other high-risk groups until they are protected by herd immunity.

Among the individuals exposed to Covid-19, people aged in their 70s have roughly twice the mortality of those in their 60s, 10 times the mortality of those in their 50s, 40 times that of those in their 40s, 100 times that of those in their 30s, and 300 times that of those in their 20s. The over-70s have a mortality that is more than 3,000 times higher than children have. For young people, the risk of death is so low that any reduced levels of mortality during the lockdown might not be due to fewer Covid-19 deaths, but due to fewer traffic accidents.

Considering these numbers, people above 60 must be better protected, while restrictions should be loosened on those below 50. Older people who are vulnerable should stay at home. Food should be delivered and they should receive no visitors. Nursing homes should be isolated together with some of the staff until other staff who have acquired immunity can take over. Younger people should go back to work and school without older coworkers and teachers at their sides.

While the appropriate magnitude of countermeasures depends on time and place as it is necessary to avoid hospital overload, the measures should still be age-dependent. This is how we can minimise the number of deaths by the time this terrible pandemic is over.

Among anti-herders, it is popular to compare the current number of Covid-19 deaths by country and as a proportion of the population. Such comparisons are misleading, as they ignore the existence of herd immunity. A country much closer to herd immunity will ultimately do better even if their current death count is somewhat higher. The key statistic is instead the number of deaths per infected. Those data are still elusive, but comparisons and strategies should not be based on misleading data just because the relevant data are unavailable.

While it is not perfect, Sweden has come closest to an age-based strategy by keeping elementary schools, stores and restaurants open, while older people are encouraged to stay at home. Stockholm may become the first place to reach herd immunity, which will protect high-risk groups better than anything else until there is a cure or vaccine.

Herd immunity arrives after a certain still unknown percentage of the population has acquired immunity. Through long-term sustainable social distancing and better hygiene, like not shaking hands, this percentage can be lowered, saving lives. Such practices should be adopted by everyone.

Social distancing that cannot be permanently sustained is a different story. Some people will eventually be infected, and for every young low-risk person avoiding infection, there will ultimately be roughly one additional high-risk older person that is infected, increasing the death count.

Anti-vaxxers do not suffer the consequences of their beliefs, as they are protected by the herd immunity generated by the rest of us. Neither will the anti-herders, many of whom can afford to isolate themselves from Covid-19 until natural herd immunity is achieved by others. It is older and working-class people that disproportionately suffer from the current approach, becoming infected and thereby indirectly protecting much lower-risk college students and young professionals who are working from home.

The current one-size-fits-all lockdown approach is leading to unnecessary deaths. Protecting older people and other high-risk groups will be logistically and politically more difficult than isolating the young by closing schools and universities. But we must change course if we want to reduce suffering and save lives.



How coronavirus spreads, and why some are spared – and others not

New study analysing dozens of actual Covid-19 clusters from around the world shows enclosed spaces are hotbeds of the virus

Risk of coronavirus infection is much higher within households or other enclosed environments in which contact is close and sustained

Almost every day now, a new study is published that shines light on the way in which the new coronavirus is spread. It will be years before the precise dynamics of transmission are nailed down, but the broad outline of how the disease moves is becoming clear.

The latest findings come not from epidemiological estimates but from analysis of dozens of actual Covid-19 clusters unpicked by contact and trace teams from around the world. These studies are like a forensics report from a crime scene. While a good psychological profiler can point detectives in the right direction, the CSI team gives them the smoking gun.

An analysis of such studies was recently posted on Twitter by Dr Muge Cevik, an infectious diseases clinician and researcher from St Andrews University. It was promoted by Sir Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage). "If you read one thread,make it this one," Sir Jeremy said.

Dr Cevik starts with a big Chinese study that traced 2,147 close contacts of 157 confirmed Covid-19 cases. The overall infection rate was six per cent, but it was much higher among friends (22 per cent) and family members (18 per cent). In terms of location, the main risk factors were homes (13 per cent) transport (12 per cent) and dinner and entertainment (seven per cent).

Broadly similar findings emerge in several other papers. Risk of infection is much higher within households or other enclosed environments in which contact is close and sustained. In the outdoors, it falls to something in the 0-5 per cent range.

Transmissibility also appears to be impacted by age and the type of relationship people have with one another. A Chinese study of 392 contacts of 105 confirmed cases found that the attack rate in children was just four per cent within the home, compared with 17.1 per cent in adults, for example. The infection of spouses was super high, at 28 per cent.

Emphasising the link with age, another study found that household members over 60 were much more likely to become infected (18 per cent) than those under 20 (five per cent).

Children, it seems, are not only better able to resist the infection within the home but also less likely to bring it back with them. A study, funded by the Australian Research Council, of 31 household clusters including children found that only 10 per cent had been sparked by children.

"Whilst SARS-CoV-2 can cause mild disease in children, the data available to date suggests that children have not played a substantive role in the intra-household transmission of SARS-CoV-2," said the authors.

Using these and other studies, Dr Cevik concludes that they suggest (not prove) the following:

Close and prolonged contact is required for transmission of the virus.

Risk is highest in enclosed environments such as houses, care facilities, public transport, bars and other indoor spaces where people congregate.

Casual, short interactions are not the main driver of the epidemic.

Susceptibility to infection increases with age.

Dr Cevik does not look at how the virus passes from person to person, but plenty of other research suggests it moves in droplets expelled from the infected. Droplets may land directly on the mucus membranes of others (eyes, nose, mouth) or indirectly via shared surfaces (plates, desks, doorknobs). If the virus were truly airborne, household infection rates would almost certainly be far above 20 per cent.

Is this good or bad news for the Prime Minister, who is working hard this weekend on the UK exit strategy? And what sort of policies might it point to?

On the upside, it suggests lockdown can be relaxed with much less risk in outside spaces. In truth, Britain has been more liberal on this from the start than places like Spain, France and Italy, and the evidence suggests it can almost certainly go further. The trick will be to find mechanisms to stop people from inadvertently forming crowds by turning up at the same places at the same time.

The evidence also points to the power of good hygiene. Household attack rates are high, at 20 per cent – but that leaves 80 per cent who escape despite living under the same roof. There is some evidence that UK infections started to fall ahead of lockdown because of hand-washing and other hygiene messages. These should almost certainly be ramped up again, and extended. Think hand-cleansing facilities at every doorway, public or private.

On the downside, our winters are cold and wet, forcing us to congregate inside. Dr Cevik says this points to the need to "redesign our living and working spaces and rethink how to provide better, ventilated living and working environments for those who live in deprived and cramped areas". That will be a hard task, but an essential one.

It is winter that the Government will be most worried about. It can give us some outdoor freedom now, but it knows that won't mean much beyond September. The NHS also comes under much greater strain in winter, and Covid-19 symptoms will become harder to detect when mixed with flu and winter sniffles.

Ministers will therefore want to do everything possible now to drive down the virus to levels at which contact tracing teams can keep it in abeyance before winter arrives. Anything else and they risk a second major outbreak two to three months after the nights draw in.



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.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here  (Personal).  My annual picture page is hereHome page supplement


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Neurosurgeon Says Face Masks Pose Serious Risk to Healthy People

Every Karen on Facebook is shaming her neighbors for not wearing a face mask. We are being told by governors that if we don’t wear masks we are selfish, horrible human beings with no souls who want Grandma to die a horrible death. Police are tackling people who don’t wear face masks properly in the subway. Grocery stores are throwing maskless people out and denying them service.

But now, there’s another doctor weighing in—besides Dr. Fauci, bonafide sex god and ruler of us all, who also said face masks are largely security theater and of no use to the healthy. Dr. Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon, has written an editorial saying that “masks pose serious risks to the healthy.”

First, Blaylock says, there is no scientific evidence that masks are effective against COVID-19 transmission. Pro-science people should care about this.

As for the scientific support for the use of face mask, a recent careful examination of the literature, in which 17 of the best studies were analyzed, concluded that, “ None of the studies established a conclusive relationship between mask/respirator use and protection against influenza infection.”   Keep in mind, no studies have been done to demonstrate that either a cloth mask or the N95 mask has any effect on transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Any recommendations, therefore, have to be based on studies of influenza virus transmission. And, as you have seen, there is no conclusive evidence of their efficiency in controlling flu virus transmission.

It is also instructive to know that until recently, the CDC did not recommend wearing a face mask or covering of any kind, unless a person was known to be infected, that is, until recently. Non-infected people need not wear a mask. When a person has TB we have them wear a mask, not the entire community of non-infected. The recommendations by the CDC and the WHO are not based on any studies of this virus and have never been used to contain any other virus pandemic or epidemic in history.

Beyond the lack of scientific data to support wearing a mask as a deterrent to a virus, Blaylock says the more pressing concern is what can and will happen to the wearer.

Now that we have established that there is no scientific evidence necessitating the wearing of a face mask for prevention, are there dangers to wearing a face mask, especially for long periods? Several studies have indeed found significant problems with wearing such a mask. This can vary from headaches, to increased airway resistance, carbon dioxide accumulation, to hypoxia, all the way to serious life-threatening complications.

There are studies to back that claim up.

In one such study, researchers surveyed 212 healthcare workers (47 males and 165 females) asking about presence of headaches with N95 mask use, duration of the headaches, type of headaches and if the person had preexisting headaches.

They found that about a third of the workers developed headaches with use of the mask, most had preexisting headaches that were worsened by the mask wearing, and 60% required pain medications for relief. As to the cause of the headaches, while straps and pressure from the mask could be causative, the bulk of the evidence points toward hypoxia and/or hypercapnia as the cause.

That is, a reduction in blood oxygenation (hypoxia) or an elevation in blood C02 (hypercapnia). It is known that the N95 mask, if worn for hours, can reduce blood oxygenation as much as 20%, which can lead to a loss of consciousness, as happened to the hapless fellow driving around alone in his car wearing an N95 mask, causing him to pass out, and to crash his car and sustain injuries.

I am sure that we have several cases of elderly individuals or any person with poor lung function passing out, hitting their head. This, of course, can lead to death.

A more recent study involving 159 healthcare workers aged 21 to 35 years of age found that 81% developed headaches from wearing a face mask. Some had pre-existing headaches that were precipitated by the masks. All felt like the headaches affected their work performance.

Blaylock says studies have also shown that face masks impair oxygen intake dramatically, potentially leading to serious problems.

The importance of these findings is that a drop in oxygen levels (hypoxia) is associated with an impairment in immunity. Studies have shown that hypoxia can inhibit the type of main immune cells used to fight viral infections called the CD4+ T-lymphocyte.

This occurs because the hypoxia increases the level of a compound called hypoxia inducible factor-1 (HIF-1), which inhibits T-lymphocytes and stimulates a powerful immune inhibitor cell called the Tregs. . This sets the stage for contracting any infection, including COVID-19 and making the consequences of that infection much graver. In essence, your mask may very well put you at an increased risk of infections and if so, having a much worse outcome.

In other words, if you wear a face mask and contract some sickness, you will not be able to fight it off as effectively as if you had normal blood oxygen levels. The mask could make you sicker. It could also create a “deadly cytokine storm” in some.

There is another danger to wearing these masks on a daily basis, especially if worn for several hours. When a person is infected with a respiratory virus, they will expel some of the virus with each breath.

If they are wearing a mask, especially an N95 mask or other tightly fitting mask, they will be constantly rebreathing the viruses, raising the concentration of the virus in the lungs and the nasal passages. We know that people who have the worst reactions to the coronavirus have the highest concentrations of the virus early on. And this leads to the deadly cytokine storm in a selected number.

How about cancer, heart attacks, and strokes? Blaylock says face masks can make all of those conditions worse.

People with cancer, especially if the cancer has spread, will be at a further risk from prolonged hypoxia as the cancer grows best in a microenvironment that is low in oxygen. Low oxygen also promotes inflammation which can promote the growth, invasion and spread of cancers. Repeated episodes of hypoxia has been proposed as a significant factor in atherosclerosis and hence increases all cardiovascular (heart attacks) and cerebrovascular (strokes) diseases.

If that’s not bad enough, how would you like COVID-19 in your brain?

It gets even more frightening. Newer evidence suggests that in some cases the virus can enter the brain. In most instances it enters the brain by way of the olfactory nerves (smell nerves), which connect directly with the area of the brain dealing with recent memory and memory consolidation. By wearing a mask, the exhaled viruses will not be able to escape and will concentrate in the nasal passages, enter the olfactory nerves and travel into the brain.

Why is it that we only listen to dire predictions from Dr. Fauci and we don’t consult other experts in the field of medicine? Is Anthony Fauci the only qualified person to talk about this virus? Furthermore, if he is, he agrees with Dr. Blaylock that only sick people should wear them and he said so on 60 Minutes. So why aren’t we listening to him?


Stanford Antibody Studies Indicate No Safe Option for Eradicating COVID-19, Including Lockdown

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford Medicine recently released his antibody study of the staff of 27 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams from across the nation. The study is of mostly staff, not players, and covered a broad demographic range. The results of the MLB study showed that only 0.7% of the staff had the antibodies indicative of having had COVID-19.

Some staff is located in areas where antibody testing has been conducted for the general population such as New York, Los Angeles, and Santa Clara. Most of these locations showed the MLB staff had a much lower rate of prior infection than the general population. For example, the New York City metro area showed 25% of the population had antibodies. The MLB staff for the Yankees only showed antibodies in 1.64% of the employees. The Mets tested positive at a rate of 2.61%.

Dr. Bhattacharya said this was indicative of a trend seen in the other studies he has done. Lower-income residents had higher exposure rates to COVID-19. While the MLB had put mitigation policies in place, he believes that middle-to-upper-income individuals, like most of these staff in this study, have lower exposure. The ability to work from home and live in areas away from where they work that are less densely populated may be a factor.

The conclusion that Dr. Bhattacharya comes to based on the studies he has done to date is that the epidemic is far from over. The good news is his studies show about 70% of those who display antibodies were asymptomatic. This testing also places the death rate at somewhere between 0.1- 0.5%. This is orders of magnitude lower than originally thought.

This is important because, according to Dr. Bhattacharya, containment strategies are not likely to be effective and the virus is not going to disappear:

“I think in the back of people’s heads there is this idea that somehow we can eradicate this disease if we just stay locked down. That is not possible. The serologic evidence, even the MLB study, suggest this. It suggests the epidemic is too widespread to eradicate. It spreads via asymptomatic contact. Like people who don’t have very many symptoms, even mild cold symptoms can spread the thing. They aren’t going to show up for testing. They aren’t going to show up at a hospital or a doctor.”

He said containment could actually backfire if a positive test requires forcible quarantine of the individuals and members of their households as some public officials are proposing. In these circumstances, he said people may begin to avoid testing. Then he added that lifting lockdowns will absolutely cause an increase in the spread of the illness. Lockdowns have simply delayed the full spread.

Dr. Bhattacharya is clear:

“There is no safe option. If you think that having a lockdown will provide you safety, you are mistaken. Because the problem is this lockdown has had enormous negative effects on the health of people in the United States and around the world.

For example, 1.4 million tuberculosis patients in India are not getting critical antibiotic treatments due to shutdowns. In the U.S., we know chemotherapy patients have missed treatments. Individuals have suffered heart attacks and strokes at home rather than go to the hospital, and mental health resources have seen staggering increases in calls. He also referenced the lagging deaths of despair that are likely, saying the current impacts will be larger than the 2008 recession.

Based on his research to date, Dr. Bhattacharya advocates for lifting lockdowns based on local experience data. His sense, though he has not confirmed via testing, is that this could be accomplished in most areas of the country. He also has some ideas of what the priorities need to be in proceeding, including widespread disease testing. He agreed with Dr. Fauci’s previous statement that disease testing is simply an answer at a point in time. A negative test does not confer any long-term assurance.

When asked, Dr. Bhattacharya clearly understood the political calculations that leaders are making. He said leadership is what is needed because politicians are going to face the consequences of COVID-19 or the problems caused by economic collapse. According to his assessment, a vaccine is an open-ended question. None of the other coronaviruses that infect humans have one and there is no guarantee this one will. So, he recommended the following:

Protect at-risk groups that are obvious such as nursing home residents. The disease most often seems to require some extended close contact to spread, so these environments need to be addressed.

Continue to share clinical information broadly. Ventilator protocols have improved significantly based on the sharing of best practices. This will result in more effective treatment.

Use the current global clinical information to determine more precisely who is at risk for severe illness with a COVID-19 infection.

He said the final bullet should be the focus for epidemiologists. For example, we know the elderly have a higher risk. But not all elderly patients suffer from severe disease. For those who suffered severe disease or death below the age of 65, what were their common health, demographic or genetic profiles? If researchers could refine this picture, then individuals and public health services could be advised appropriately.




FBI serves warrant, seizes phone of Sen. Richard Burr in stock sales investigation (USA Today)

Not good: Senate narrowly rejects plan to require a warrant for Americans' browsing data (TechCrunch)

House Republicans open inquiry into mysterious drone program officials use to police Americans who aren't social distancing (The Daily Caller)

FBI arrests NASA researcher for failing to disclose China ties (National Review)

Wisconsin Supreme Court invalidates state's stay-at-home order (Reuters)

Judge orders Massachusetts gun shops to reopen, but imposes unfair restrictions (PJ Media)

Los Angeles County announces new "safer at home" order with no end date (FOX 11)

Boy Scouts banned from planting American flags on veterans' graves for Memorial Day (Fox News)

Parkland cop, fired after school shooting, will get his job back (South Florida Sun Sentinel)


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