Case Update, January 13, 2023; New Variant XBB.1.5, California Physician Misinformation Act Goes into Effect, the Twitter Files and COVID

Friends,

Happy New Year!  I have a brief COVID update for you.  Then I’ll talk about a new variant, XBB.1.5.  I’ll also have comments on a smattering of evolving stories, like California AB 2098, “Physicians and surgeons: unprofessional conduct”, and a new Twitter Files thread on vaccine misinformation.

We have already reached the peak of the December wave.  Cases in the US, California, and San Diego, and even world wide, peaked at around Christmas.  Deaths never really had a peak during this December wave, except in San Diego County. 

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. Note that each number on the left is 10x higher than the one below it.
Daily Confirmed Cases – United States, March 16, 2022 to January 12, 2023. Peak of the first Winter Wave was on around Christmas Day. We may already be seeing the start of an XBB.1.5 peak.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Hospitalizations, from the CDC website.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. Note that each number on the left is 10x higher than the one below it.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. Note that each number on the left is 10x higher than the one below it.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. Graph is presented in a logarithmic format to emphasize small numbers. San Diego County now only releases information on Thursday each week. Data points shown are extrapolated using this information.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. Graph is presented in a linear format. San Diego County now only releases information on Thursday each week. Data points shown are extrapolated using this information.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.

However, we may see a second Winter wave this year…

New Variant XBB.1.5:  A new variant is spreading extremely rapidly in the US right now.  Variant XBB.1.5 is about 43% of the SARS-2 virus in the US right now.  A UK study suggests that this new variant is the most transmissible yet.  John Campbell, in another excellent analysis, suggests that about 80% of us will get it.  Antibody studies suggest that even those with prior COVID infections do not produce many antibodies that can neutralize XBB.1.5, so even those who have had COVID before are likely to get it again. The good news is, XBB.1.5 is another Omicron strain, and will produce very mild symptoms in the vast majority of cases.  I’ve had COVID twice already, and I will treat XBB.1.5 as a chance to get a free booster.

From the CDC page on Variant Proportions for the United States. Updated for January 14th.
From the CDC page on Variant Proportions for the United States. Updated for January 14th.
XBB.1.5 is the most infectious of the current variants, and perhaps the most infectious variant to date. From the UK Health Security Agency, Technical Briefing 49.

Despite the likely mildness of XBB.1.5, do others a favor and stay at home if you have COVID.  The over-the-counter antibody based COVID tests do not work very well, so if you are sick but have a COVID negative antibody test, you should assume you have COVID.  Only a PCR test can tell you if you’re really negative.

If you haven’t yet had COVID, I can no longer recommend that you get a vaccination or a booster, even if you are in an at-risk group.  If you are concerned about getting COVID, consider taking precautions instead.  Wear a N95, KN95, or KF94 rated medical respirator when indoors in public.  It’s also important to make sure your mask fits snugly.  The mask must filter air coming into your nose and mouth.  Loosely fitting masks with large gaps will not do this.  Do not wear a cloth or surgical mask.  These masks will not protect you from XBB.1.5.

California Physician Misinformation Act:  On October 4th, 2022, I wrote about California AB 2098.  This new law went into effect on January 1st and adds “the dissemination of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus” to the definition of unprofessional conduct for physicians in California.  Unprofessional conduct can result in the suspension or loss of license for physicians in California.

Just yesterday, I had lunch with a friend of mine who is a doctor in California.  I asked him how he is dealing with this new law.  He said most of the doctors at his hospital follow the official guidance promoting vaccination, and the few who don’t have become very quiet about vaccines.  Doctors can’t say anything negative about the vaccine, for the risk of their medical license.

In 2021, this same doctor was coerced into getting the vaccine to retain his position at the hospital.  He got a booster later in the year.  A month after receiving his booster, despite being very physically fit for his age, he had a heart attack.  His cardiologist said he had none of the arterial plaques that typically cause heart attacks.  My friend cannot prove this, but he strongly suspects that clotting due to the vaccine contributed to his heart attack.  Despite all this, he does not feel at liberty in California to give information to patients that would reflect negatively on the vaccines.

Because this law is so new, I don’t yet know how it will be handled by the Medical Board of California.  If they choose to ignore it, then doctors won’t be under threat.  However, doctors and pharmacists have lost their licenses in the last few years for violating CDC guidelines, so the threat is a real one.

If you live in California, you cannot expect your doctor to give you their honest opinion about vaccines.  This is literally illegal now. Consider writing your state senator or assemblymember and ask them to support the repeal of AB 2098.

The Twitter Files have exposed a trove of evidence that official government agencies have been coercing several social media companies to censor COVID related information.  In an amazing post from Michael Shellenberger, a F@¢eb00k official recently revealed that F@¢eb00k was reducing content not because they thought it was misinformation, but simply because it had a sensationalist tone.  In an email to a Whitehouse official, the F@¢eb00k employee wrote:

“As you know, in addition to removing vaccine misinformation, we have been focused on reducing the virality of content discouraging vaccines that does not contain actionable misinformation.  This is often-true content, which we allow at the post level because experts have advised us that it is important for people to discuss both their personal experiences and concerns about the vaccine, but it can be framed as sensation, alarmist, or shocking.”

Obviously, these efforts to limit expression by a government agency is a violation of the first amendment, our most important freedom.  There are now many, many examples of this in the Twitter files, relating to COVID, and other matters.

From the Michael Shellenberger Twitter Files post, January 11th, 2023.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

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