Scientists keep reminding us that the main test used to “diagnose” coronavirus is so sensitive it could be picking up fragments of old infections. You are “infectious” for a week, but may test “positive” for several weeks, even beyond a month – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
We need to get our heads and hearts and expectations reoriented if ever global travel and tourism and other “normalities” are to have a fighting chance to keep pace with the encouraging COVID realities and numbers on the ground.
We also must immunise ourselves from groundless panic if small “surges” take place in winter months, or when borders are open.
We need to understand case load and viral load, and as I’ve written, ensure our tests are modulated accordingly. We have to read data and realise that outside a vulnerable cross-section (global 99% recovery rate), this is far tamer than other causes of mortality we already have to inevitably navigate and manage.
So, to fortify and bolster all of this, here is some continuing insight into latest findings and conclusions from the global front lines.
The names we dare not speak
It is fascinating that we dare not talk about Sweden, which has had 11 collective deaths roughly since July, a plummeting case load, and that an utterly policy-befuddled nation like the UK still requires travellers returning from Sweden to quarantine, when those coming from Portugal or Italy needn’t, despite higher caseloads and worse COVID stats overall! So, it’s not logic or science, but politics and preening.
Of course, we must not speak of Taiwan with still only seven deaths, or the relative non-lockdown, non-compulsory masking success enjoyed by Japan, or numerous other anomalies to the orthodoxy – the falling off of cases and deaths in South Korea after their periodic, focussed and targeted Lockdowns were lifted, how Florida lampooned for their COVID laxness has roughly one-third the deaths despite a larger population than New York State, and so on.
All these “irritants” (called “facts” in more quaint eras), must be scrubbed, ignored, or “spun.” We must not study them, because “facts” in this instance are just not friendly to the prevailing narrative of usurping rights and at least indirectly inflicting economic ruin as far and as widely as possible.
Oh, those damned tests!
Scientists keep reminding us that the main test used to “diagnose” coronavirus is so sensitive it could be picking up fragments of old infections. You are “infectious” for a week, but may test “positive” for several weeks, even beyond a month. This analysis is being championed, by among others, Carl Heneghan and his team at the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford.
Even the cruelly misnamed “SAGE” (the Government advisory body whose panic porn models threw the planet into a tailspin), in a paper just published says that if the detection threshold is set low enough, it could be more than just “misleading”.
“When these swab samples are tested, the amount of signal they produce in a test is proportional to the amount of virus in the swab sample…true negative samples (e.g. water, buffer or a sample taken from an uninfected person) can also give a very low signal. When a test is implemented, a decision must be made about where to set the threshold level that a signal must cross in order to be called a positive test result.”
No kidding? If you read the above, a sample consisting entirely of water could test positive. Tanzania, with 21 total fatalities from COVID turned increasingly against Lockdown, masks and other panic porn orthodoxies when a papaya and a goat tested positive for COVID! Literally!
Understandably, Dr. John Pombe Magufuli, the President of Tanzania proceeded to sack his chief health adviser! In the UK, and certain US states, one fears such a lout would be enshrined.
It is “alleged” that the PCR tests can distinguish between garden variety flu and COVID-19 or at least the current iteration of the coronavirus being garlanded with that dire tag today.
However, the tests are hapless estimating the number of people currently actively infectious (‘The British Medical Journal,’ along with Oxford and Cambridge University seem to concur). We do not precisely know the current false positive stats, however it is widely believed by experts of the ilk above, to be greater than the actual remaining prevalence of the virus (which is about .05% of the population as per the ONS prevalence survey 14 August 2020).
With prevalence lower than the results produced, the positives are invariably going to be more “false” than “true” wasting time in surgeries and delaying attention to other medical issues and fertilising mindless further encroachments on life and liberty. Since virtually nowhere have recent “surges” in cases (the identification of which as above are often not worth the paper they’re printed on), been accompanied by people actually getting ill in any commensurate way on the numbers, going to the hospital, much less dying in elevated numbers, such “positives” could be “false” or “cold” (residue, fragments not intact or capable of replication or causing disease).
For some reason “herd immunity” raises hackles in illiterate media circles postulating that the suggestion is that you let this killer contagion ravage your population, and those that survive, live on.
Spurious, silly and absurd. “Herd immunity” as per specialists and not scriveners, as a theory states that the percentage of the population remaining who are susceptible to the virus has fallen sufficiently far that a sustained and growing outbreak of the virus is no longer rationally supported. We are told by leading researchers, “It is how mammals – specifically jawed vertebrates – learned to live with the thousands of viruses that infect every living organism on the planet.”
And wondering if immunity is “permanent” is silly. We are more fortified, if any of our millennia of evolutionary history in dealing with viruses and illnesses holds water, after such exposure. We are then less threatened, less likely to play “host” and we grow more immunologically robust.
Some viruses die out, others like the cold virus, mutate and return annually, we do not know why. But hardier immune systems, those that have T-cells who have “memorised” a short piece of the virus they were exposed to so the right cell types can multiply to protect us from a related infection, will flourish in relative terms, and rebound. Hence researchers have pointed out that while COVID-19 ‘may’ be novel, coronaviruses are not, and hence we have seen T-Cell reactions from those never previously infected as best we know.
These are conclusions drawn by Paul Kirkham, Professor of Cell Biology and Head of Respiratory Disease Research Group at Wolverhampton University, Dr Mike Yeadon, former CSO and VP, Allergy and Respiratory Research Head with Pfizer Global R&D and co-Founder of Ziarco Pharma Ltd., and Barry Thomas, one of only a handful of epidemiologists to work with the NHS, in a newly released paper. One away to approach “herd immunity” thresholds is to study infection and mortality data.
Early in the pandemic, we saw daily deaths soar, and in synch with past epidemiological experience, those most vulnerable were invaded easiest, and succumbed fastest.
Once they were more isolated, the march through the rest of population for this evident pathogen was much more of a slog, as susceptibility fell far closer to the “dreaded” herd immunity (actually a Holy Grail). This is why the virus, in whatever distinctive 2020 showing it made, seems to be disappearing from the environment.
All heavily infected countries in Europe say the authors, several of the US states, follow a similar shaped curve as described here insofar as daily deaths and time. You can superimpose data from Italy, France, Spain, Sweden and the UK, and you see a glaring implication of a natural process not resulting from this or that human intervention (which varied considerably in intensity and even nature across these viral national playing fields).
Second wave hooey
More malarkey trotted out with fanfare here. France and Spain had everyone animated with “second wave” concerns. But as previously outlined, where we test more, we locate more “alleged” cases, but who cares, as it’s about the lethality, not playing PCR test “bingo”.
As illness, hospitalisations and deaths have not soared in any measurable fashion in these countries, these track amplified testing. France in particular, six weeks into an apparent surge in cases, the number of deaths remains completely flat in all age bands through 31 August.
The fixation on raw case data, the last scrap of alarmism pageantry left to the woebegone, is what is “surging” again in key US states and certainly in the UK.
The US “second wave” came and went with almost nary a ripple (just first wave aftermath more likely due to madcap testing). So, 32 deaths in a single day in the UK recently reported is the current poster child for coming unglued and unhinged and preparing to ban social gatherings of greater than six and working to aggravate and perpetuate an economic coma in numerous key economic sectors. The march of folly indeed.
A mistake by any other name
So, did we blow it? Yes, and still blowing it sadly. Who ever dreamt the response to a contagion was shutting down whole continents? “Unprecedented” doesn’t even cover it.
The Asian Flu of 1957-58 killed about .07% of the US population back then (116,000). The 68-69 Hong Kong flu killed about .05% of the then US population (100,000). If we even accept the oddly “tagged” and at times controversial COVID death numbers as 185,000 for US COVID deaths, that is .055% of the current population (globally both of these earlier pandemics were more lethal), and the current one is focused on those older than 65 with comorbidities, unlike the earlier two. Regardless no state-wide lockdowns ever took place as we have mentioned in earlier articles, in the latter of the two, Woodstock thrived, the moonshot went forward.
And so the same whiff of risk aversion that is coming to a head ,where jungle gyms have to be banned from playgrounds, and colleges are not building intellectual and emotional resilience and robustness but providing bunkers against perceived microaggressions, shows us a maladapted future of paranoia and cowering.
The claim to “follow the science” was fatuous and focused only on reducing COVID-19 deaths, and then when that became too easy, cases. Other dimensions of wellbeing, careers, other medical needs, psychological trauma, fell afoul of an almost “vindictive protectiveness.”
So you shame and hector beach goers, limit seating in restaurants so as a business they are not economically feasible, extend school shutdowns (though children virtually never get or even transmit the virus on the best evidence available), ban church services and even museum visits – while turning a blind eye to mass protests and crowded demonstrations for ideologically ratified causes.
How ironic that the Democratic party citadels of New York, Washington, LA, San Francisco have had their civic fabric rent asunder most palpably, cultural capitals in ruins, whereas the exurbs and the countryside were far less hard hit. Congestion and population density to some extent, but policies and “magical thinking” re immunity to seemingly self-evident and escalating consequences on the other.
And for what? Likely only delaying infections that as described above, naturally drop off in lethality and collectively deliver us to being better able to buffer nature’s medicine.
Might we actually think?
A recent preprint study from biologists at Emory University and Penn State predict, with alarming rationality (“alarming” the feckless and the frenzied) that the virus will transition from an “epidemic” (such that it is) to an “endemic pathogen” which dallies with us in a very mild form for the foreseeable future.
And here’s the rub. Their analysis of the immunological and epidemiological data reveals that while “infection-blocking immunity” wanes rapidly, “disease-reducing” immunity is long lived. In other words, immunologically the current scourge is downgraded to something akin to a coronavirus cold.
Ergo, we may hear more about “reinfections” (which were supposed to not take place). Given our testing is so shoddy and imprecise, we must beware this narrative. People could well be “reinfected” insofar as the virus having become a far less grandiose cold, but not in terms of contracting the same clinical-level disease we are currently fretting about.
So, we are back at “herd immunity.” Nature’s corrective. Not amenable to political showboating or obfuscation. It is the time-honoured way forward. That solution is coalescing all around us, while petty tyrants with their “scientific” lap dogs continue to perpetuate a hoax, truly full of sound and fury, signifying only the sordid, silly and perhaps also sinister world of modern-day politicking.
Quietly, implacably, in the background, nature continues to conjure with her ineffable alchemy. We here in Sri Lanka, should avail of the best medical insights while also celebrating our affinity to natural wisdom. Let “nature” and “nurture” together hold sway!