With Mother Nature, if you don’t deal with reality, it will deal with you. To work effectively you need data: useful, verifiable numbers. How is America doing?
Let’s take a look at the pandemic.
In the last ten days, the first vaccine out of the box, the touted Oxford Jenner Astra Zeneca adenovirus vaccine, has developed two severe cases, at least one of which is transverse myelitis. Further recruitment to the U.S. trial has stopped.
How have those cases been affected? What other “side effects” have been noted? Does this mean Jenner vaccine is unusuable? How will this impact the many other adenovirus-based vaccines out there?
We don’t know.
Another highly touted vaccine trial, from Harvard and Johnson and Johnson, also adenovirus-based, has stopped due to adverse reactions.
We don’t know.
The president has touted monoclonal antibodies as a “miracle cure” that along with remdesivir and dexamethasone left him post-Covid infection feeling “so powerful.” The data on both products, from Regeneron and Eli Lilly, are not out. But Lilly reported terrific “first look” data. Then it said it had stopped its study due to side effects.
What are they? Who was hit?
We don’t know.
There are reasons of privacy and protocol to protect personal information in these trials. They must be respected. But with the world undergoing a pandemic in the midst of political warfare and an economic recession/depression people deserve to know. To get vaccines the public will take, you need transparency. People should have the opportunity to see the basic numbers to decide on benefits and risks.
Things have not worked that way.
The Covid Mess
How many people have been infected in America? How many have really died? How many have chronic disease?
We don’t know. The data are lousy.
Most civilized countries have national CDCs or equivalent which collect data from every region engaging standard formats and definitions.
Until recently, every one of Texas’ 254 counties reported Covid cases differently. Every state does it differently. Their criteria shift with the political winds.
Take Florida. It uses its own peculiar criteria for classifying a Covid “case.”
In many countries, you don’t open up your bars and restaurants if your case positivity rate is above 5%.
Look at the Florida Department of Health statistics. They have been skirting or under 5% for quite a while. Yet Johns Hopkins reports Florida’s recent case positivity rate at 10.2%, the Covid Project at 11.7%.
Is somebody playing games? What do you think?
Many civilized countries have done well in this epidemic, like Taiwan and Australia, and South Korea (North Korea like others we know hides its data.) They only use one or two standard chemical tests to determine caseness (generally viral antigens) and whether someone has previously been infected (generally antibodies).
We have over 100 different antibody tests running in the U.S. We have at least fifty antigen tests. How do they compare with one another? How useful are they in predicting overall infectiousness and immunity?
There are a few studies of a few tests. Like most of what goes on with Covid, we don’t know the answers we need. We do know you shouldn’t use a lot of them as screening tests. The Abbott rapid antigen test is meant to be used to determine whether you’re sick or not, not whether you’re infectious. But it was used by the White House to determine who was “cleared” to join a September 26th party celebrating a Supreme Court Justice that became a “superspreader” event for Washington and the world.
How many were ultimately infected? How far did the infections spread?
We don’t know. Even if the White House had activated its special CDC unit to trace and track (they did not bother,) we don’t have a national system to tell us the whole story.
We do know that reviews on the Abbott test showed it misses perhaps a third of cases. That’s why you must always think like the virus – give it an opening and it will rip you apart (https://regenerationhealthnews.com/sleep/interview-with-the-virus/).
But why worry? The soon to be Supreme Court Justice was asked about whether she believed climate change was real. Her answer “I have read things about climate change.” After explaining she is not a scientist, “I would not say I have firm views on it.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/14/opinion/amy-coney-barrett-health-care.html_
Mother Nature has firm views on climate change. So does the scientific community. Think about these personal versions of facts when environmental actions appear before the Supreme Court. Remember Flint?
And what’s the risk of infection, death, and chronic illness via Covid from taking a two-hour plane ride from Miami to New York? From Washington to Indianapolis? Weekend or weekday? How does the risk change if the plane is full or half-empty? What’s the risk of getting your hair permed in San Diego? In South Dakota, undergoing a post-Sturgis epidemic? How many first graders will get infected daily in south Florida? Sixth graders in Provo? Senior high schoolers in San Francisco? How quickly will those infections spread to others? The elderly?
No, we don’t know. But we could learn.
Things That Work
Taiwan has had seven deaths from Covid, the U.S. at least 210,000, closer to 300,000 if you look at excess deaths. Taiwan has a little more than 7% of our population. So proportionally, if we had done what Taiwan did, we would have had 96 deaths. They haven’t had a fatality for a long time.
Which country’s techniques would you prefer to follow?
Taiwan has organized and effective epidemiology. The U.S. used to (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2029812. (NEJM).
Our CDC once taught the world how to fight epidemics. How do you fix this mess? Tom Frieden, former head of CDC, has called for every health department in the U.S. to provide uniform data on 15 elements of Covid. Most are still doing a small fraction. To confront a problem, you need uniform, usable data. Then you need a nationally coordinated testing and tracking service, most of the workers hired by state and local health departments with national training help. Frieden figured about a quarter of a million people to begin and trace and track like the Taiwanese do. With real data and trained feet on the ground, you can nip the point outbreaks that are the hallmark of Covid’s uneven population spread.
Can we do this? Sure. To get it done we’ll need a different administration. People who believe protecting the population and keeping you safe is a national imperative.
This last week, the U.S. has been running about 50,000 cases a day, for a case rate of 107/100,000 per week. Germany has had about one-sixth as many deaths proportionately as we have, though they got hit much earlier. Germany has also demonstrated a far more robust economy. Their Robert Koch Institute, roughly like our CDC, considers 50/100,000 cases “serious danger.” At levels above that, their far superior to our tracing and tracking system breaks down.
So we are now in clear and present danger. Before cases spike as expected through the fall and winter. The president keeps telling it’s all “going away.”
Want to increase your survival chances? Vote accordingly.