Friday, May 15, 2020

Some Virus Stories That Have Grabbed My Attention

Over the past month, as the nation struggles with trying to resume some degree of normalcy and apparently is fighting off tyrannical state authorities without actually, so to speak, fighting those state authorities, a handful of stories have caught my eye and got stuck in a folder full of stories.  I thought I'd post about that here, but I could put dozens of pictures in this post and take dozens of screens to tell the story.  After some consideration, I thought I'd offer a link and a brief explanation. 

Bear in mind, I'm an advocate of the idea that the important things in any learning situation are the things that aren't expected.   It's often stated as “the most important phrase in a scientific investigation is rarely, 'Eureka! I've found it!!'; it's usually 'that's funny'.”  As one professor told me years ago, if you're not surprised, you're not learning anything new.

To begin with, there have been several papers that say lockdowns are ineffective.  The first I noted was in an Israeli publication called Mako and linked to by Townhall.
Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel of Tel Aviv University, who also serves on the research and development advisory board for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, plotted the rates of new coronavirus infections of the U.S., U.K., Sweden, Italy, Israel, Switzerland, France, Germany, and Spain. The numbers told a shocking story: irrespective of whether the country quarantined like Israel, or went about business as usual like Sweden, coronavirus peaked and subsided in the exact same way. In the exact, same, way. His graphs show that all countries experienced seemingly identical coronavirus infection patterns, with the number of infected peaking in the sixth week and rapidly subsiding by the eighth week.

The Wuhan Virus follows its own pattern, he told Mako, an Israeli news agency. It is a fixed pattern that is not dependent on freedom or quarantine. “There is a decline in the number of infections even [in countries] without closures, and it is similar to the countries with closures,” he wrote in his paper.
Another one of those sayings is along the lines of "one paper doesn't mean much; several might".  An Oxford Professor says the UK's Covid epidemic peaked in March and the lockdowns now are doing more harm than good.

We can't talk about this story without Sweden coming up.  Sweden, of course, had a very laissez-faire response to the pandemic, and yet their results are "middle of the pack" among the European Union and neighboring countries.  As in other examples, most of Sweden's infections and deaths were in the highest population density portions of the country - around Stockholm.
Critics point out that Sweden’s per capita COVID-19 death rate is higher than several of its Scandanivan neighbors—Finland, Denmark, and Norway. Proponents point out that Sweden’s death rate is lower than many of its European neighbors—Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy—who initiated strict lockdowns. Proponents also point out that Sweden has “flattened the curve,” noting that the nation of 10 million has not seen its hospitals overrun or experienced medical equipment shortages.
“Whether or not they have openly embraced the Swedish approach, many other countries are now trying to emulate aspects of it. Both Denmark and Finland have reopened schools for young children,” wrote Professors Nils Karlson, Charlotta Stern, and Daniel B. Klein. “Germany is allowing small shops to reopen. Italy will soon reopen parks, and France has a plan to allow some nonessential businesses to reopen, including farmers’ markets and small museums, as well as schools and daycare centers.”
A standalone article on The Spectator about how Sweden lowered its 'R naught' number without lockdowns.

A professor of Political Science isn't the kind of guy you expect to have insights about viruses, but professor Wilfred Reilly does numbers and that's what it's about.  He writes "There is No Empirical Evidence for These Lockdowns" on Spiked.  This is quite possibly the money quote:
The question the model set out to ask was whether lockdown states experience fewer Covid-19 cases and deaths than social-distancing states, adjusted for all of the above variables. The answer? No. The impact of state-response strategy on both my cases and deaths measures was utterly insignificant. The ‘p-value’ for the variable representing strategy was 0.94 when it was regressed against the deaths metric, which means there is a 94 per cent chance that any relationship between the different measures and Covid-19 deaths was the result of pure random chance.  [Bold added - SiG]
If you love data visualizations, you might like this place.  Big shocker, I know: the best predictor in this multivariate analysis for fatalities is population density.

An interesting study by Stanford Medical School doctor Jay Bhattacharya was to test antibodies to the virus among Major League Baseball team staff members. This focused on staff; not the players, the other thousand people in the various offices.
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 seems to be basically their socioeconomic status and it's a trend he has seen in other studies he has done. Lower income residents had higher exposure rates to COVID-19 while the higher income workers had lower exposure.  Perhaps the lower income residents ride the subways while the higher income workers take private cars or other means?

The implication to Dr. Bhattacharya is that lockdowns might even be counterproductive.
“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.”
“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.”
"Enormous negative effects on the health of people...?"  Since the lockdowns started, I've been saying we're only measuring one thing - the fatalities - and we're not measuring that accurately.  No one is tracking the actual costs and deaths from the lockdowns.  The National Institutes of Health ran this paper simulating the effects of the lockdown on diabetic patients, for example.  They conclude the longer the lockdowns, the worse the number of patients with diabetic complications.  

Early on in the spread of the disease, it was pretty easy to come to the conclusion that eventually everyone on earth will be exposed to this.  It's a new virus, and new viruses jump from animals to humans pretty regularly; it's simply how the world works.  I don't have strong numbers to base this on, but I believe the nationwide downward trend in new infections will continue downward, this numbers guy says the worst of the epidemic is over, but the virus will be back next fall.  It's my understanding that coronaviruses, as a group, are hard to create vaccines for.  The common cold is one of many such viruses that we're always exposed to, for example, and there's no good vaccine for the common cold, right? 

I'm not saying this is a cold; I'm saying it's in the same family of viruses.  OK, Google? 

So what do you do?  Covid-19, if it's unique at anything, seems to be very good at attacking the metabolically unhealthy.  The reason the death rates are the worst for those over 80 is that the majority of people in that group are metabolically unhealthy.  It's worse than that.  In the American population at large, less than 20% are ranked as metabolically healthy on five indicators that are assessed.  If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, a bad HDL:triglycerides ratio, existing heart disease or lung diseases, it might a good idea to isolate yourself. 

The surprising thing to me was how good blood levels of Vitamin D were as an indicator of surviving Covid-19.  Those patients with a measured blood level in the deficient range (under 20ng/mL) had a 10x worse chance of surviving the virus than those with normal levels of the vitamin (>30ng/mL), correcting for age, sex and other comorbidity factors (right plot here).  When you add that to the widely reported intolerance of the virus for heat and humidity, that might be a factor in the better numbers of Florida, Georgia and southern states as opposed to the Northeast.  Get outside in the sun, a few minutes a day to start if you've been locked indoors too long. 

A screen capture from an hour and a half podcast with those two guys whose images are stuck in the right graph; an American M.D. and an Irish biochemical engineer.  Interesting, but probably too geeky for most people. 


  1. More and more (putting on tin hat and Alex Jones facemask) it's looking like this was a political hit larger and more dangerous than all of the anti-Trump Russia-gate bullscat.

    Instead of just wiping out one country, they (those who control (see, alexjoneish) the puppets decided to go after the world.

    As weird as it seems, it's looking more and more like the weird conspiracy freaks are more correct than the normal people.

    Scary, isn't it?

    I mean, given all the information available before the lockdown and before the 'must wear masks' (thanks, City of Gainesville...) and the rest of the dictats and other illegal orders, none of it was necessary. Not one bit.

    Yes. Stop travel from China was good. Stopped further infection. Though it looks like Corona-Chan was here stateside by mid-November.

    All of it, kabuki theater. Fiddling while Rome burns. Political theater at its almost most destructive, though the purposeful targeting of those over 75yoa in New York and Pennsylvania, after Governors and Mayors had previously all stated that health benefits to old people should be curtailed because of their drain upon the health system. So... along comes the Wu Ping Cough and the first orders in certain states and cities was "Shove the Old People into Nursing Homes no matter what!"

    Purposeful targeting? Nahhh... Yahhhhh..... Naaaaaahhhhhhh....... Yaaaaaahhhhhh.....

  2. Anyone who hasn't come to the realization that the lockdown has NOTHING to do with health and safety is an abject moron. The power mongers keep moving the bar. First it was 'flatten the curve' then when the curve flattened they changed it to 'we need a vaccine'. The REAL reason for keeping us locked down is 'Till Biden wins the election'. The entire goal of this fiasco is twofold. First....the left HATES AMERICA. The lockdown will destroy the economy, our freedom and the country, something they have lusted after for decades. And second is they hope to pin the damage THEY are doing on Trump so that he loses in November. They are gambling that the destruction of the economy PLUS them forcing "mail in" voting on us will allow them to take FULL CONTROL of the House, Senate AND the Presidency. Once that happens America is TOAST. By then the economy will be a smoldering hulk but the left has always preferred to rule over a trash heap rather than be out of power in a paradise.

    1. Dan, you got it. The whole point to keeping this panic going is to get mail-in voting for the November general election. The Democrats can then stuff the ballot boxes in all states. If they get their way even Texas will vote "blue". I fully expect to go to the polls in November and be told that I have already voted by mail if this comes to pass. The Democrats cannot win an election on their ideas only by cheating.

  3. Bearing in mind that all of that prognostication and entrail reading (and that's what it is) is based on the same GIGO "data", lack of testing, and lack of specific testing, the same thing everyone uses to claim lockdowns were necessary.

    I have yet to see any evidence (or even plausible claims) that any antibody testing done anywhere to date is specific to COVID-19. uniquely, as opposed to coronaviruses genetrally. (I.e. instead of testing for exposure to COVID, they may only be documenting common cold infectees.) And every such US test has been so heavily skewed by inherent and obvious selection biases that taking anything from the results is risible.

    The only takeaway I've seen that tracks 100% is that those who think this was nothing will inherently latch on to anything, even the flatly recockulous, to justify their preconceptions, and those who think it's something are doing the same thing.

    And if we take them as representative samples, the idea that NYFC had 20K casualties, but that the virus' nominal penetration into the city as evidenced by MLB staffs was only 1-2%, not the wildly unlikely 25% from a "survey" only of people who were already out breaking quarantine daily, at the height of the outbreak, should scare hell out of people.

    Then factor in no evidence from anywhere that any amount of antibody titer correlates to immunity to infection, nor does any titer indicate infection, rather than simple exposure, all of which may make a vaccine pure unobtanium, and then tell me what NYFC's death rate looks like with an actual penetration of 25%, once the people who really stayed home begin going out and about.

    Claims to the contrary rely on assuming the 20K dead in NYFC to date are the weakest links, and that the virus unerringly found its way just to them, out of all proportion to the general population.

    Anybody up for 10 times as many dead if that all pans out?

    Does anybody think that, just maybe, gold-standard randomized, meticulous, and widespread testing that actually tracks actionable data instead of confirming biases, might be a wee bit smarter than blindly relying on bad data and faulty conclusions at both ends of the political and philosophical spectrum?

    Bearing in mind the people now telling you lockdowns didn't work and don't matter are the same statistical geniuses who told you Shrillary was a shoe-in for the White House...?

    Just saying.

  4. John Lott, the well-known economist, published an article linked in the weekly email to supporters, talking about how the death tolls are badly overstated.

    CPRC Website

    Dr. Birx herself says the death counts may be off by "by as much as 25 percent, according to four people present for the discussion or later briefed on it. . . . “There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust,” Birx said . . . "

  5. Aesop said "Anybody up for 10 times as many dead if that all pans out?"

    Yes. And that would still be less than one year's illegal immigration.
    And where do you get your numbers saying that all other numbers are bogus? This virus is here to stay. If we come out of quarantine at any time, the virus will spread, and people will die. If we keep quarantine forever, society fails, and far more people will die. And the virus will spread anyway.

    People die every day. We didn't panic and destroy society in 1997 or 1998 or 1999, did we? From

    During the 1997--98 influenza season, influenza A(H3N2) was the most frequently isolated influenza virus type/subtype. Influenza A(H1N1) and B viruses were reported infrequently. The proportion of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza peaked at 28% in late January. The longest period of sustained excess mortality (when the percentage of deaths attributed to P&I exceeded the epidemic threshold) was 10 consecutive weeks. P&I mortality peaked at 9.8% in January. Visits for ILI to sentinel physicians exceeded baseline levels for 7 weeks and peaked at 5% in mid-January through early February. A total of 45 state epidemiologists reported regional or widespread activity at the peak of the season.

    During the 1998--99 season, influenza A(H3N2) viruses predominated; however, influenza B viruses were also identified throughout the United States. Influenza A(H1N1) viruses were identified rarely. The proportion of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza peaked at 28% in early February. P&I mortality exceeded the epidemic threshold for 12 consecutive weeks and peaked at 9.7% in early March. Visits for ILI to sentinel physicians exceeded baseline levels for 7 weeks and peaked at 5% in early through mid-February. Forty-three state epidemiologists reported regional or widespread activity at the peak of the season.

    During the 1999--00 season, influenza A(H3N2) viruses predominated, but influenza A(H1N1) and B viruses also were identified. The proportion of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza peaked at 31% in mid- to late December. The proportion of deaths attributed to P&I exceeded the epidemic threshold for 13 consecutive weeks and peaked at 11.2% in mid-January. Visits to sentinel physicians for ILI exceeded baseline levels 4 consecutive weeks and peaked at 6% in late December. Forty-four state epidemiologists reported regional or widespread activity at the peak of the season.

  6. Unless we know exactly what deaths are Called CV deaths, it is not possible to understand the numbers. We KNOW, it was admitted, that people who died WITH CV were considered to have died From CV in America,, I have no Idea how honestly and reasonably deaths are being counted in other places. BUt we screwed ourselves for nothing, IMO. We had access to data from closed environments, asymptomatic people were a statistically significant part of those infected. And what did we do with it> Nothing,, Disregarded it,, Which would make the mortality rate Appear much higher than it actually is, and then we used That obviously false data to create panic and justify destroying the economy. Just because it was a popular idea in other places doesnt mean We needed to do it..
    The Modelers have yet to demonstrate that their Expertise is anything anyone should listen to.