Is Anything Else Happening in the World Besides COVID?

The orderly control of pandemics always starts with quick and reliable testing as well as proactive and selective prevention… Neither of which are being practiced with the response to COVID.  It appears that the current state of medical uncertainty (i.e., what is the true rate of transmission, rate of mortality, etc.) along with the global visibility (i.e., worldwide access to internet news, Twitter, etc.) continue to be the drivers for behavior around the world.

This posting will be updated frequently to share insights and perspectives on the progress with the coronavirus response.

Update

All we seem to hear about COVID from the mainstream media (CBS, NBC, ABC, NY Time, WaPost, etc.) is the case rate of the virus tremendously increasing and becoming more threatening.  Meanwhile, I’ve been insistent that a better metric for determining the level of impact is the hospitalization rate from the pathogen.

If you visit the CDC site where they are accumulating the data on hospitalization, you will find a useful web-based charting tool on this topic (of course, it’s only as good as the source data that they are collecting).  In the image below, you can see that I was able to generate a weekly hospitalization rate by age group.  This clearly shows a couple of phenomena:

  1. The hospitalization rates are not increasing by any significant amounts over the last 5 months
  2. The rates differ dramatically by age group with those over 65 having a rate that is roughly 4X of those under 50 years of age

 

October 17, 2020

Some comments about Dr. Fauci and this “lock-down syndrome” from a well-known physician:

I think some have accused him of being responsible for this crime against humanity. The reality is never in human history have we locked down a whole society. You quarantine the sick. You quarantine the vulnerable. You don’t shut down the whole country. What he is suggesting is scientifically antithetical and unsubstantiated. I’m shocked that this man has any sort of podium anymore. He’s been wrong so many times. It’s terrible!

Herd Immunity is how ALL pandemics end. Whether it’s induced by the use of vaccine or not. Under the age of 60 this virus acts as a prototype of the coronavirus vaccine. It makes you a little bit ill and you move on.

 

October 16, 2020

Here is an interesting story to throw into the ring about Covid and the use of masks.  I can’t vouch for the veracity of the data, but it’s certainly a pertinent perspective to include:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just published a report about a study that showed almost 71% of infected case-patients “always” wore masks...The study indicated that some of these people might have become exposed to the virus when they removed their mask to eat or drink at “places that offer on-site eating or drinking.” However, the agency noted that it could not decide on the exact location the exposure to the pathogen occurred.

The study offers insight into the reality that tens of thousands of Americans that are wearing masks are acquiring COVID on a daily basis.  This would seem to indicate that adherence to mask wearing has limited impact on stopping the spread.

 

October 12, 2020

If you missed some of the recent “unpopular stories” about COVID, there are two significant developments that run counter to beliefs of the folks that greatly enjoy centralized control.  In fact some of these events have been buried or even censored by sites such as Google:

1) World Health Organization – This world-wide organization reversed course and made public statements that advise against the use of punishing lockdowns. After more than six months of home lockdowns became a favored political tool of global governments, the WHO is calling for a swift end.

2) Great Barrington Statement – This is a petition signed by more than 8,000 medical and health scientists around the world that expresses grave concerns about the negative physical and mental health impacts from the prevailing lockdown policies.  Note: this is essentially the position espoused by Dr. Scott Atlas, advisor to Mr. Trump.

These positions obviously cast severe doubt on the heavy-handed lockdown approach advocated by Mr. Biden and the Democrats.  Thus, we will wait and see the results from the continued politicization of public health.

 

September 16, 2020

For the record, the CDC said last week that there have been 175,866 deaths in the US “involving” COVID.  This represents 0.06% of the U.S. population.  Of those deaths, 79% were people 65 years old or older.  Americans 55 and older represent 92% of fatalities.  The percentage of deaths that are 34 years old and younger is less than 1%.

We then have this chart of US deaths over time involving COVID by State, showing the greatest concentration in New York and New Jersey.

 

September 1, 2020

As noted in the ‘Core Philosophy’ section of this web site, I generally avoid using the word ‘never’. I say that due to the recent comments from the Governor of Florida who exclaimed “We will never do any of these lockdowns again…”

While I view the responses to COVID as unnecessarily leading to mass hysteria (to a level that would make Orsen Welles jealous that his “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast never had this type of impact), I fear that in the future there will indeed be a pandemic that has a calamitous mortality rate.   Thus, the Governor may want to qualify his statement by saying “…never do any of these lockdowns again for COVID-19”.

 

August 30, 2020

As this posting declared at its origin in March 2020, reliable testing is a key pillar for managing the outbreak of a pathogen.  Unfortunately, we are slowly discovering that the testing is anything but reliable.  We’ve observed that situation in Ohio when the governor was declared to be COVID positive one day, and then certified to have a negative result the next day.  I’ve personally observed this situation on numerous occasions in the last month with representatives at some of our customers.

We are now entering the unfortunate realm where politics is quickly overtaking anything remotely respecting objective science.  Even America’s equivalent of Pravda (The New York Times) has published an article questioning the efficacy of COVID testing:

potentially 90 percent of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 have such insignificant amounts of the virus present in their bodies that such individuals do not need to isolate nor are they candidates for contact tracing. Leading public health experts are now concerned that overtesting is responsible for misdiagnosing a huge number of people with harmless amounts of the virus in their systems.

 

August 20, 2020

I’ve just read an excellent article from Brad Schaeffer that describes the most dangerous pathogen is irrational fear, and the current response to COVID clearly fills that bill:

That fear has now spread like a pathogen of its own into our daily lives. We willingly surrender liberties while being subjected to the judgments of those whose visceral anxiety over the virus is so burned into their emotional make-up they will turn on, sometimes violently, anyone who doesn’t wear a mask in public.

At the same time we have a recent survey from investment company Franklin Templeton where the Chief Investment Officer wanted to determine the differences between public perception of COVID versus the reality.  This is summarized nicely in the piece entitled, “They Blinded Us from Science“:

Americans still misperceive the risks of death from COVID-19 for different age cohorts—to a shocking extent; The misperception is greater for those who rely more on social media for information…

From a public interest perspective, we believe the top priority should be better information and a less partisan, more fact-based public debate. It is shocking that six months into the pandemic so many people still ignore the basic mortality statistics, with perceived risk driven by political leanings rather than individual age and health. Misperceptions of risk distort both individual behavior and policy decisions.

 

August 7, 2020

This is one of the better articles that takes a broad analytical perspective on COVID and the efficacy of lock-downs (or lack thereof):

When China first deployed lockdown in January to “defeat COVID-19,” The Washington Post approvingly quoted a Georgetown University professor as saying, “The truth is those kinds of lockdowns are very rare and never effective…” 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pandemic planning documents state non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing are ineffective once a disease infects 1% of a region’s population….   Nature always finds a way. No respiratory virus ever needed a “lockdown” to dissipate. What it needs is herd immunity, preferably sooner than later, preferably developed by the young and healthy to minimize mortality.
Publicly available data shows no causal relationship between government orders and COVID-19 mortality outcomes

As indicated in March, during the origins of this posting, it’s pretty clear that the government ‘leaders’ are playing the politically expedient game.  In addition, this health care situation provides all the narcissistic political class the opportunity to exercise their tyrannical oversight.

 

July 29, 2020

The Director for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Robert Redfield testified this week that suicides and drug overdoses have surpassed the death rate for COVID-19. Redfield argued that lock-downs and lack of public schooling constituted a dis-proportionally negative impact on young peoples’ mental health…  This is what’s referred to as the law of unintended consequences:

“We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID. We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID,”

You have to give Dr. Redfield credit, he is generally very candid about the incentives and reality associated with COVID:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield agreed that some hospitals have a monetary incentive to overcount coronavirus deaths as they do deaths for other diseases… deaths are being overcounted by 25%.

 

July 16, 2020

Here is how one writer explained the intentional spreading of COVID panic by the New York Times:

In the weeks and months since then, the paper’s coronavirus doctrine was set in stone. It goes like this. This is a terrifying pandemic. Many millions will die. Everyone is vulnerable. The only solution is to lock down. If we don’t lock down, it is Trump’s fault. Therefore Trump is responsible for all death. That message has been repeated [by the NY Times] thousands of times, every day in every way, ever since.

 

July 6, 2020

The problem I have with the medical prognosticators involved in forecasting the impacts of COVID is similar to the issues that I have with those attempting to predict the climate and the weather.  Namely, these are all very complex systems where investigators have a severely limited understanding of the cause & effect relationships.  Thus, any person with experience in the sciences and engineering knows that these cannot be predicted with any amount of certainty (in addition, the science is never settled).  As a more practical example, you can bring three physicians into a room to review a patient with an unknown illness and you’re likely to get three entirely different diagnoses.  That’s just the nature of scientific uncertainty.

Now, if you apply this knowledge of uncertainty to Dr. Fauci, you realize that he is in an untenable position.  Unfortunately, he has chosen a path of projecting himself as the pandemic soothsayer.  This is summed up in a recent editorial from Victor Davis Hanson:

But the omnipresent Fauci himself unfortunately has now lost credibility. The reason is that he has offered authoritative advice about facts, which either were not known or could not have been known at the time of his declarations.

The point is not that he is human like all of us, but that in each of these cases he asserted such contradictions with near-divine certainty—and further confused the public in extremis.

Here we are 4 months later with much more data and insights, and COVID is still being treated as if it were equivalent to the medieval black plague…  Do you think there is a reason which has nothing to do with science (except perhaps “political science”)?

 

June 25, 2020

How do you like these apples?

Nearly 25 million Americans may have contracted the coronavirus, a figure 10 times higher than the number of confirmed cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Thursday…

For every one confirmed case, Redfield said, the CDC estimates that 10 more people have been infected.

Once again, this would imply a much lower mortality rate than the “experts” were predicting two months ago.  In addition, it highlights how useless and insane the lock-down methods are in controlling the outcomes.

 

May 21, 2020

Reference the update on April 16 below about the crazy mortality statistics and causes of death that we are likely to see.  You can now see what’s happening based on this headline today in the Sacramento Bee: California hospitals saw sharp drop in heart attacks during COVID-19 shutdown“:

The results, published as a research letter in the New England Journal of Medicine, show that although California avoided the kind of dire outbreaks seen in Italy and New York, the specter of infection may have kept people away from the hospital.

The rate of hospitalization for heart attacks was nearly cut in half, falling by 48% from the beginning of January until mid-April. The study used data from Kaiser Permanente’s 21 medical centers in Northern California and the Central Valley and measured the rate weekly.

There’s no intervention that we’re aware of that could drop the true incidence of heart attacks by this much,” Solomon said. “In other national emergencies like earthquakes or terrorist attacks, heart attack rates go up due to fear and anxiety. And there’s a ton of fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic.”

 

May 20, 2020

A deadly virus in not a new phenomenon on our planet.  Societies, without our modern technologies and much less equipped to deal with epidemics, have been managing the outbreaks  for centuries.  The most fundamental approach is by identifying those that have contracted the illness, quarantining those that have become infected, and sequestering those with the highest risk of mortality.  For some reason, here in the 21st century we are doing everything tushy-backwards by locking down 99% of the healthy people and introducing financial calamity.  Of course, States such as New York are the worst at handling the situation:

The sad news from the Land of 10,000 Lakes (and nearly 50,000 state employees) is that Minnesota has been implementing the disastrous Covid-19 strategy made famous by New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The essence of the plan is to forcefully reduce the income of people at low risk, while simultaneously increasing the chances of virus exposure for those at high risk.

It’s almost beyond belief that governors like Minnesota’s Tim Walz and New York’s Mr. Cuomo would impose impoverishing lockdowns that restrict so much of everyday life—while systematically endangering the elderly who bear by far the greatest risk.

May 17, 2020

It is interesting that COVID now appears to be the preferred explanation for most illnesses and deaths. In fact, it seems to becoming a universal diagnosis of what ails the entire human race.

While it should be emphasized that most, if not nearly all doctors are genuinely concerned about the health of their patients and about COVID-19 — which is a real disease caused by a real virus — it should be remembered that much harm has been done to human beings by fake science and by extending science beyond its capacities to observe and to analyze more than material realities. Scientific formulas and projections can cause great harm when extended beyond the scientific method into metaphysics.

 

May 11, 2020

Using the data of the relatively controlled settings of the Diamond Princess cruise ship (see earlier data in this posting) and the USS Theodore Roosevelt  war ship (neither of which are representative of a typical civilian population), we’re starting to an infection rate pattern in selected samples of approximately 25% and a fatality rate of roughly 0.1% :

The USS Theodore Roosevelt had a crew of 4,800.  Given the acute sample, testing was holistic.  This yields an actual infection rate of roughly 23 percent, and among those infected, the fatality rate is 0.09 percent.  Among the Roosevelt’s entire crew of assumedly healthy and able-bodied sailors, on a floating Petri dish, during the thick of viral outbreak that shut down all schools and placed healthy citizens across America under house-arrest, the fatality rate was .002 percent.

 

May 10, 2020

The public policy lunacy continues with the VAJINO governor of Illinois stating that his rules will remain in place until the coronavirus is eradicated… Eradicated?  How do you like that one?  It’s tantamount to: “I am the dictator of this bankrupt State until further notice”.  And how about the largest head fake in history being played on the population of this planet: “social distancing”.  Who made up this cockamamie phrase and concept?

Very likely, you already instinctively know that the guidelines suggesting that it’s somehow helpful to keep a six-foot space between healthy people, even outdoors, is not based on science, but just an arbitrary suggestion we’ve been conditioned to accept without evidence.

And your gut feeling would be right.  There’s a reason that “social distancing” wasn’t a buzzword common to the American lexicon prior to 2020.  There’s very little science behind “social distancing” at all.

There is a thousand years of history that you control epidemics by identifying and quarantining the infected… not the healthy!

 

May 7, 2020

This is a good summary statement from Newt Gingrich:

Today, the combination of news media desperation for something about which to be hysterical, the Chinese Communist Party’s role in hiding and then lying about the new virus, and absurdly overstated claims of supposedly scientific modelers has led to the greatest self-inflicted economic disaster in history.

 

May 7, 2020

Shutting down the economy has wide-ranging consequences that politicians are just starting to discover.  One of the most important for state political leaders is the resulting reduction in tax revenue (Somebody needs to tell these economic illiterates that no sales activity means no sales tax collection).   Governors who maintain state-wide lock-downs are making a mistake.  They think that they are somehow magically safeguarding citizens from COVID.  They have forgotten that the lock-downs were intended to only reduce the height of the infection curves to avoid overwhelming hospitals.  Unless there is an immediate cure or vaccination, the area under the curve remains the same.  Thus, the reality is these lock-down governors are actually exposing us to higher mortality risk from unemployment and poverty.

 

May 6, 2020

The law of unintended consequences strikes again.  With coronavirus, it’s like squeezing a balloon and having the latex distort simultaneously in multiple directions.  The latest is the lack of people visiting the hospital emergency rooms when faced with a life-threatening situation:

Across the U.S., doctors call the drop-off staggering, unlike anything they’ve seen. And they worry a new wave of patients is headed their way — people who have delayed care and will be sicker and more injured when they finally arrive in emergency rooms.

 

May 4, 2020

Well, it appears that the prognostications are becoming reality.  As noted in the April 16 posting below, the public will start seeing a gross distortion in the cause of deaths.  I have not reviewed the sources of their data, but the chart below is a compilation of absolute numbers from Citizen Free Press:

 

April 27, 2020

With more human testing and data capturing, we are starting to gain additional insights about infection and mortality rates. However, this knowledge hasn’t really reduced the quantity of spurious claims about the seriousness of this pathogen.  At this point, every ailment that somebody contracts leads to the question “Is this a result of COVID?”  As a result, you can surmise that most claims about coronavirus that appear in the daily news still begin life based purely on anecdotal observations, which often end up disappearing from the news without any follow-up.

…most criticism of the Stanford study has been aimed at defending the lockdown mandates against the implication that they’re an overreaction. “There’s some sort of mob mentality here operating that they just insist that this has to be the end of the world, and it has to be that the sky is falling…”

Most disagreements among scientists, he notes, reflect differences in perspective, not facts. Some find the Stanford study worrisome because it suggests the virus is more easily transmitted, while others are hopeful because it suggests the virus is far less lethal.

The irrational fears inculcated by the media have led the country to unrealistic expectations — State governments are now behaving as if it’s practical for absolutely every citizen to avoid ever being stricken with COVID.

 

April 22, 2020

Making large changes in operating policy often results in unintended consequences.   I used hyperbole and sarcasm in the April 16 posting about coronavirus and the primary causes of death in the United States (see below). Namely, the fact that people are ignoring the magnitude of deaths from coronary disease and cancer.  One tends to lose perspective when there are no daily internet updates on the other 7,000 deaths that occur every day in the US.  As a result, we are going to soon be seeing the impact and likely collateral damage from the panic introduced with the total focus on COVID:

Before the coronavirus hit, tens of thousands of people across the state sought emergency help each day. But in the weeks since the virus began its spread throughout the U.S., those numbers have plummeted by a third to a half…

They worry people are dying at home from conditions that could have been treated and others who survive will now suffer from serious, chronic conditions resulting from their failure to seek help… And at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, stroke cases also have dropped by half, while people being treated for heart attacks are down 30%.

 

April 21, 2020

Engineers recognize that most decisions in life involve trade-offs.  There are rarely ‘silver bullets’ that solve all your problems without any residual consequences.  This is especially true in cases that involve uncertainty and require careful risk management.

Naturally, there are numerous unplanned consequences from the hysteria raised around the COVID pathogen.  As indicated in this initial posting on March 18 and the time series presented in the posting on April 16, there are likely going to be other significant impacts on public health.  One example is the situation where patients afflicted with the most common causes of death (coronary and cancer diseases) are not seeking or receiving care:

Because of social distancing amid the Covid-19 pandemic, hospitals and doctor’s practices have cancelled routine screenings and non-essential surgeries. The dire predictions of the experts and pronouncements of the elected leaders may be causing some Americans to fear going to seek medical care for life-threatening illnesses.

It’s important to note that these are not just anecdotal comments from the mainstream media attempting to inflame emotions. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine notes:

As the coronavirus pandemic focuses medical attention on treating affected patients and protecting others from infection, how do we best care for people with non–Covid-related disease? … Cancer care, which often involves immunosuppressive therapy, tumor resection, and inpatient treatment, has been disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

This situation emphasizes the importance of maintaining a broader perspective on overall wellness and healthcare.

 

April 20, 2020

If you’ve been following the still murky but ever evolving COVID story, you are probably aware of the approach that Sweden is taking to manage the virus:

Sweden opted for a different approach to tackling coronavirus: cities, schools and restaurants have remained open. This was judged by critics to be utterly foolish: it would allow the virus to spread much faster than elsewhere, we were told, leading to tens of thousands of deaths…

Sweden hasn’t declared ‘victory’ – far from it. It’s still early days in this pandemic and no one really knows yet how the virus will spread once restrictions are lifted and what excess mortality it will have caused when it’s all over…

…the actual situation isn’t far away from the ballpark suggested by professor Tom Britton in a study that was released this weekend: that between 25 and 40 per cent of the Stockholm population have had the virus and that the region will reach herd immunity in late May.

 

April 16, 2020

To put the amount of death that occurs on a daily basis into perspective, it’s important to understand that there are more than 200,000 people that die each month in the United States.   Approximately 60% of those deaths are from heart disease and cancer.

With the CDC’s latest method of determining the cause of death (as well as State’s making arbitrary decisions), the chart below is my notional projection of what the likely time series chart for 2020 will look like for deaths in the US.   Overall, monthly deaths will not change by much even with the presence of the coronavirus.   However, one reaction will be, “Wow, look at that big bump for coronavirus deaths in there”.  This will be followed by, “Yes, with all of the people driving much less, it makes sense that deaths from accidents decreased.”   The most interesting comment will be something like, “Hmm, I wonder why the deaths from heart disease, cancer, and respiratory disease all decreased so much.”

This is a projection of what will be reported based on the ‘incentives’ of declaring all deaths as COVID-related.  It’s not at all a reflection of the likely reality.  It’s a cynical way of saying that the mainstream media is so distorted that they will draw the conclusion that coronavirus magically reduces deaths related to cancer.

Sources of historical data:

 

April 16, 2020

It may be a little early, but the analysis from a renowned scientist on the advisory board of the world’s largest pharmaceutical company has his own observations about locking down the world:

Professor Yitzhak Ben Israel has mathematically shown us that coronavirus closures were a mistake. It’s a tough reality. Americans lost their jobs and businesses went under because the United States, along with most first world nations, acted on the chilling predictions of a severely flawed model, a reading of Professor Ferguson’s tarot cards.

 

April 12, 2020

There are going to be numerous articles and commentaries soon about the abject failures once again of the government organizations that are charged with the mission of managing public health.   In particular, the derogatory reviews are going to focus on the lack of anything useful from the WHO, CDC, and FDA.  Examples are already emerging:

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) most public failure is its most recent, the blocking of any private production of coronavirus test kits during the initial outbreak. How many Americans will pay the ultimate price for this policy remains to be seen?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) mission states as its priority “confronting global disease threats through advanced computing and lab analysis of huge amounts of data to quickly find solutions.”…   Apparently not.  The most consequential failure involved a breakdown in efforts to develop a diagnostic test that could be mass produced and distributed across the United States, enabling agencies to map early outbreaks of the disease, and impose quarantine measures to contain them.

Rest assured that the New York Times and Washington Post will chime in and claim that it was all Trump’s fault.

 

April 10, 2020

An update on the more detailed information coming from the controlled setting in Iceland:

Iceland’s randomized tests revealed that between 0.3%-0.8% of Iceland’s population is infected with the respiratory illness, that about 50% of those who test positive for the virus are asymptomatic when they are tested, and that since mid-March the frequency of the virus among Iceland’s general population who are not at the greatest risk – those who do not have underlying health conditions or signs and symptoms of COVID-19 – has either stayed stable or been decreasing.

 

April 9, 2020

This is a story about the observations from a phlebotomist taking hundreds of blood samples for coronavirus.   While the data is more anecdotal/informal than scientific/controlled, it nevertheless illustrates the problem when not testing a reasonable cross-section of the population:

The number of patients coming through the testing center who appear to have already had coronavirus and gotten over it is far greater than those who currently have the disease…

Of those who contract the coronavirus, around 25 percent may be asymptomatic… A recent study of 1,000 people in the Heinsberg District of Bonn, Germany found that 15% of the population had contracted the virus, many unknowingly and without symptoms.

This would appear to provide support for the previous observations about the Diamond Princess, South Korea, and Iceland where wider testing provided much greater insight.  When fighting an epidemic, the most important first step is understanding the nature of the pathogen to enable the rapid introduction of wide-scale testing among a representative sample of the population.   It’s important to note that a representative sample is not just those coming to the hospital with manifest symptoms.

When the Government is trying to quarantine the 99% of the population that doesn’t have the virus instead of the 1% who do, that’s the first sign that the people employed full-time to watch for these problems (CDC) have majorly failed.  As you would probably expect, the CDC — the Center for Disease Control  — was too busy focused on racism and obesity.

 

April 8, 2020

And here you go!   As indicated in this posting back on March 18, the politicians will exclaim “It would have been even worse if I wasn’t in charge”.  Here is the first:

Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), predicted that the death toll from the Chinese coronavirus will be “much, much, much lower” than the models have projected due to Americans following social distancing recommendations.

Medical uncertainty and global visibility led all the politicians to take the extreme route of attempting to lock-down the world, without any regard for a rational approach to risk management.

 

April 6, 2020

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal uses a variation of the phrase made famous by Charlton Heston — “Let Our People Go”.  The focus is clearly on the notion that locking everyone in their homes is not the path to success:

We’re seeing the economic destruction wrought by blunt government instruments of prohibition. It’s time to let free people show how they can both fight infection and produce the wealth that is essential to good health.

While market-based indicators suggest that the financial markets may be stabilizing, economic activity, especially in the U.S. is still in freefall.

I realize that most people don’t like to bother themselves to understand the intricacies involved in a ‘supply chain’, but it’s essential as part of realizing that you can’t lock everyone in their homes and expect to have food items available for sustenance.

The simple supply chain illustration that I use for my wife is refilling the shelves at the grocery store.  I explain: to get the 1 gallon jug of milk at the local Kroger store, you need someone working to milk the cow; another person to pasteurize the milk; another to package the milk into containers; another person to load the pallet of milk containers onto the truck; somebody to drive the truck to the Kroger distribution center; another person to unload the delivery truck; yet another person to stock the shelves; and finally someone at the grocery store to take your money when you purchase the milk… then multiply that by the 5,000 or so items available at the grocery store.

 

April 5, 2020

It’s about 3 weeks since my initial observations (noted in the intro at the top of this posting) and little has changed…   This editorial provides a very good summary of the current lack of perspective being practiced by the political class:

The “experts” are people of genuine theoretical scientific knowledge but no real-world experience and no capability of risk assessment beyond the specific risks in their chosen field.  They are focused on the virus and only the virus, because it is not their job to worry about anything but the virus.  They could, without blinking an eye, recommend a six-month in-home lockdown.  You could scream, “But people will starve by the millions!”  That is not their concern.  If they starve to death in their homes, they did not die of coronavirus and thus the “experts” have done their jobs.  It doesn’t help that almost all of them are government employees for life guaranteed to receive full pay and benefits until the end of the known universe.  They are not capable of grasping the concept that no work equals no pay, no insurance, no food, and finally nowhere to live.

 

April 4, 2020

Another case study on coronavirus response is South Korea (home of Samsung, Hyundai, and 23,000 US troops).   This geographically small country adjacent to China, started turning the tables in the middle of March:

So how is it that the South Koreans got a handle on this virus without stopping the economy or shutting down the country? South Korea has a crowded population of some 52 million people crammed into a geographical location about the size of Indiana,  a perfect situation for a pandemic to spread – but it didn’t.

They were also very proactive, in testing and separating anyone who tested positive for the virus, whether they were showing symptoms or not. Because as you are correct, the majority of the cases are quite mild. It’s just very contagious… We had our scary moment too, when we had 5000 cases in one city and it really made people nervous and afraid. But the government and the medical staff just keep handling it very matter-of-factly, and because they didn’t quarantine everyone — it didn’t make us panic.”

 

April 3, 2020

Here is another relatively controlled setting for the establishment of more reliable statistics… As epidemiologists around the world try to get a handle on the actual prevalence of coronavirus and its true mortality rate, Iceland has been doing the testing that is necessary to determine an objective set of parameters.  Of course, while Iceland is a controlled setting similar to the Diamond Princess, it may not be representative of more populous nations.

About half of the people who tested positive reported no symptoms, underlining the importance of general testing in estimating the prevalence of infection…

Iceland’s response to COVID-19—which features aggressive testing, contact tracing, and quarantines of infected people but no general lockdown—is also strikingly different from the response in the United States, where the federal government squandered the opportunity to take a more proactive and targeted approach. Iceland began testing people in early February, weeks before its first confirmed case.

 

April 2, 2020

It’s appears that the Diamond Princess ship is lifting its quarantine after a detailed disinfection process:

The restoration group completed a Level-3 deep cleaning (highest level) of the entire ship. The Japanese Ministry of Health and CTEHLLC both monitored and approved this process,” the tweet read.  The ship has been held in a shipyard in Yokohama Harbor in Japan….  Some passengers said on Twitter they received health check forms asking if they had symptoms such as a headache, fever or coughing. Passengers who tested negative and had no symptoms still had to get their body temperature checked before leaving.

The ship’s operator, Princess Cruises, said in a statement Tuesday that 169 people who tested positive recently were still on the ship as they waited for transportation to hospitals.

As you can see in the data from the March 30 posting below, some of the numbers in this recent story don’t seem to jibe with the numbers in these statistics (169 “who tested positive” versus 109 [712 – 603] still infected).   Perhaps the 169 includes passengers that “recovered” but did not pass the exit criteria?

 

March 30, 2020

At this point, the most reliable statistics about the virulence of the coronavirus would appear to come from the relatively controlled situation about the Diamond Princess cruise ship.   There was a well-publicized outbreak among its 3,711 passengers and crew in January and February 2020.  The passengers were held aboard the ship in constricted quarters with 3,068 of the ‘guests’ tested for the virus.  The latest statistics from that situation indicate the following:

  • Total tested: 3,068
  • Total infected: 712
  • Total recovered: 603
  • Total deaths: 10
  • Approximate days to recovery: 14 to 30

This results in these epidemiological metrics:

  • Infection rate: 23%
  • Mortality rate: 1.4%

It’s important to note that many of those that tested positive for the virus did not manifest the typical symptoms.

 

March 18, 2020

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am weary from the overwhelming focus on the coronavirus… Frankly, people are behaving as if it’s the black plague with everyone catching skin lesions and a 50% fatality rate.

My executive summary of the situation: the combination of medical uncertainty (what is the true rate of transmission, rate of mortality, etc.) and unprecedented global visibility (worldwide access to internet news, Twitter, etc.) has resulted in the reaction that we have now.  That is, this combination has resulted in politicians taking the path most logical for them — being extremely risk averse without regard to cost/benefit.  The political “cover your rear” position is one of demonstrating to constituents that you are doing everything possible to save every life.  This enables the politician to exclaim “It would have been even worse if I wasn’t in charge”.

Now, for a little more detail (Please note that I’m an engineer acting as an amateur epidemiologist in describing the nature of potential viral epidemics).  It appears that the quantitative factors listed below are the best predictors of the virulence of coronavirus (or any pathogen for that matter).  You’ll note that I made ease of transmission (airborne versus contact) and level of mutability (virus changes structure as it multiplies) as sub-factors of the rate of transmission.

1. The rate of transmission
1a. The ease of transmission
1b. The level of mutability
2. The mortality rate

From reading recent papers in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the few takeaways that I have are:

  • The most common manifestation or correlation from a biological test is leukopenia (low white blood cells).
  • The costly CT exam has been the second most useful predictor of the presence of coronavirus (presence of glassy areas in the lungs).
  • It appears that there has been the lack of any reliable and quick diagnostic methods

I haven’t seen any reliable or statistically significant quantitative data about these set of factors that I listed above.  Based on the NEJM articles, I am assuming that most of the data is just now being generated and analyzed, and the greatest fears are the unknowns around 1a and 1b above, along with the absence of any reliable diagnostic testing.

Thus, here we are… “sheltering in place”, and waiting for the 21st century version of the black plague to come and get us… the mob mentality survives.

 

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