Category Archives: Communication

Case Update: November 23rd, 2021; Is Vaccine Effectiveness Going Down?

This is a case update.  I’ll also discuss data suggesting that the v@¢¢¡nes are having a mixed effect.

For the US, new case numbers have begun to creep back up.  Several states like Vermont, Minnesota, Colorado, and West Virginia are experiencing increased cases right now.  This is likely at least partly because colder weather is forcing more people inside. Several states are still enjoying decreasing case numbers after the Summer Delta wave, like Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and the Southern states.

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 Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, November 21st, 2021
Endcoronavirus State Level Map, November 22nd, 2021

Last year’s Fall wave started in October, so it’s good news that a new wave may just be starting now, but keep in mind that new case numbers are just as high now as they were at the peak of last Summer’s wave.

In California and San Diego County, new case numbers are persistent, at around 5000 and 500 new daily cases respectively.  The higher persistent number likely reflects the higher infectiousness of the Delta variant.

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 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. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.

Internationally, several European countries like Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, and Czechia are experiencing increasing numbers of cases right now.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Daily new cases from Germany, November 23rd, 2021.
Daily new cases from the Netherlands, November 23rd, 2021.
Daily new cases from Czechia, November 23rd, 2021.

V@¢¢¡ne effectiveness:  A pile of new papers have come out regarding v@¢¢¡ne effectiveness.  A few weeks ago, I discussed Subramanian et al which claimed that v@¢¢¡nation rates are not correlated to case numbers internationally.  New papers from Britain, Germany, and even a story on msn.com are claiming that v@¢¢¡ne effectiveness is becoming reduced. 

The British paper states something I’ve suspected for a long time, that most SARS-2 transmission takes place in households, explaining why lockdowns are not an effective means of controlling COVID. They also claim that v@¢¢¡nation status is nearly irrelevant in a household setting, because of long term exposure to family members.

A Swedish paper (Nordström et al) suggested that v@¢¢¡ne effectiveness is reduced over time, especially for elderly men and those with co-morbidities. Effectiveness against severe symptoms begin to be reduced after about 9 months.

From Chris Martenson, using data from Nordström et al.

Disturbingly, some have suggested that v@¢¢¡nation is doing more harm than good.  A set of British data claims that v@¢¢¡nated individuals are dying at twice the rate of the unv@¢¢¡nated.

A German analysis of national data comparing German states is claiming similarly that excess mortality is actually due to v@¢¢¡nation.

Meanwhile, in the US, the CDC is claiming that v@¢¢¡nation greatly reduces the chances of hospitalization and death, although not to zero.  The agency currently claims that the unv@¢¢¡nated are 5.8 times more likely to become infected and 14 times more likely to die than v@¢¢¡nated individuals.

What are we to make of all this?  Is the v@¢¢¡ne really making people sicker?  Are things different in the US and Europe?  It’s hard to know right now.  We are in a period when v@¢¢¡ne effectiveness may be going down right now, so we may be getting mixed signals because we’re seeing this in real time.  The Delta variant is certainly exacerbating the issue, eluding antibodies developed against the Wuhan strain. We also have to consider that we may be seeing the effect of Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE), which may cause greater symptoms in those already infected with a related strain.

The present confusing situation is a great example of why it’s so crucial to accumulate as much data as we can, and to be as objective as possible about the results.  US agencies are still openly admitting that they have as a goal to promote vaccination (see slide 2),

From CDC powerpoint, July 29, 2021, slide 2. Red oval is mine.

and even to suppress information that works against this goal (see “Are adverse reactions …”). 

Screenshot from OSHA FAQ on vaccines. Accessed November 23rd, 2021

I cannot stress strenuously enough that if we work from incomplete or faulty data, we have no hope but to come to faulty conclusions and bad solutions.  If you have a hole in your gas tank, it doesn’t matter how much gas you put in it.  You will still have no gas.  You have to deal with the real problem first. 

The CDC has one and only one job.  To produce data and guidance on how to fight disease. But the very sad fact is that I don’t trust the CDC to produce truthful and/or complete data.  This is why we are relying on papers from foreign sources like Britain, Israel, and Japan to inform us on how to approach COVID.  With all the cases here, and 53 different approaches to the virus, we should have the best and most complete data set for figuring out what to do.  But politics continues to make this impossible. I hope this will change.

As discussed in the paper by Liu et al, boosters against the Wuhan strain will likely not offer long term protection against the Delta strain.  Instead, those who have been v@¢¢¡nated should get a v@¢¢¡ne against the Delta strain as soon as it is available.

Most people with severe symptoms are Vitamin D deficient. If you aren’t already, remember to be supplementing with Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and Zinc in order to reduce symptoms and viral load if you should be infected. Most Americans, especially those with darker skin, are Vitamin D deficient, since we spend so much time in doors. Alternatively, make your own by spending 30 minutes outside per day in shorts and a T-shirt!

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

Case Update, November 5, 2021; Vaccine mandate details released, Should you get a booster, do vaccines cause new variants?

This is a case update. I’ll also talk about the newly release v@¢¢¡ne mandate from OSHA, whether you should get a booster, and the question of whether v@¢¢¡nes lead to new SARS variants.

New cases in the US, California, and San Diego County are all fluctuating right now.  It’s hard to say if this represents the beginning of a new wave.  Most of us are feeling like the pandemic is basically over, but I will point out that in the post-Delta trough, we still have as many new cases per day as we did at the peak of last Summer’s wave.  Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona are all experiencing increases in cases right now.

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 Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, November 3rd, 2021
Endcoronavirus State Level Map, November 5th, 2021
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 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. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.

V@¢¢!ne mandate finally drops: In September, the President said he wanted government agencies to produce a mandate for v@¢¢¡nation.  Just this week, OSHA issued an Emergency Temporary Standard. This is official form of the v@¢¢¡ne mandate we’ve been waiting for.  The mandate conforms to the news you’ve heard, all employers with more than 100 employees must get v@¢¢¡nation status from all employees, and those who are not v@¢¢¡nated must be tested weekly.  The testing option means that the standard does NOT require that everyone be v@¢¢¡nated. Enforcement will begin January 4th, 2022.

Full length OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard.

As we saw last week, the CDC has known since July that a significant number of hospitalizations and deaths have occurred in fully v@¢¢¡nated individuals.  In addition to this, a recent Lancet paper from Singanayagam et al suggests that the transmission of Delta is less from v@¢¢inated individuals, but is still very significant. In light of this, I think all employees, regardless of v@¢¢¡nation status, should be tested regularly, although it would be impossible to test everyone every week. Ignoring the transmission threat from v@¢¢inated individuals is likely to lead to trouble. Everyone exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID should also be tested.

I saw a truly amazing thing on an OSHA FAQ page regarding v@¢¢ination. I checked it again just now to make sure it was still there.  Under the item “Are adverse reactions to the COVID-19 v@¢¢¡ne recordable on the OSHA recordkeeping log?” The answer reads:

DOL and OSHA, as well as other federal agencies, are working diligently to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations. OSHA does not wish to have any appearance of discouraging workers from receiving COVID-19 vaccination, and also does not wish to disincentivize employers’ vaccination efforts. As a result, OSHA will not enforce 29 CFR 1904’s recording requirements to require any employers to record worker side effects from COVID-19 vaccination at least through May 2022. We will reevaluate the agency’s position at that time to determine the best course of action moving forward.

In effect, an official government page is saying, we are asking you to ignore health information in order to get people to do what we want.  Some of you may be wondering why so many people are willing to ignore official calls to get v@¢¢¡nated, or are suspicious of government in general.  This is why. This also answers the question as to why it is so difficult to get clear information on adverse events. The government appears to have an official policy of ignoring these events.

Screenshot from OSHA FAQ on vaccines. November 5th, 2021

I’ll say again what I’ve said many times, I am not anti-v@¢¢¡ne.  I think many people with risk factors including age, obesity, respiratory or cardiac issues, those who work closely with the public, etc. should get v@¢¢¡nated. However, I am against a v@¢¢¡ne mandate.  I am not v@¢¢¡nated, mostly because of the ADE issue, and because I think I can avoid being infected.

I will also state what is obvious to many, but not to some that are making policy.  Lying or hiding information from the public will make people mistrust you.  You can sometimes force people to comply, but you cannot, even in principle, force people to trust you.  Trust must be earned. Once you lose it, it is very difficult to get back. 

This rule can be applied to any area of life.  Remember this if you’re a husband, wife, parent, child, pastor, politician, consultant, leader of a company, employee, or anything else where trust is required.  Trust is earned, and once broken, is very hard to get back. 

Should you get a booster?: Several people in the past few weeks have asked me if they should get a booster.  Right now, unfortunately, my best answer is “I don’t know”.  A booster may improve your immune response to the originally Wuhan strain of the SARS-2 virus, but the Spike protein from the v@¢¢¡ne is likely toxic on it’s own. In addition, the paper from Japan I wrote about some time ago suggests that another booster of the current variety is unlikely to provide complete protection against Delta.  Instead they recommend a Delta derived booster. 

Anyone who has had COVID or has been v@¢¢¡nated should get a Delta v@¢¢¡ne as soon as it is available to protect from any ADE related effects. Several companies are currently working on v@¢¢¡nes against Delta.

Does the v@¢¢¡ne create variants?: A nobel prize winning scientist is claiming that v@¢¢¡nation creates SARS variants.  I absolutely agree that v@¢¢¡nation creates selection pressures that can force viruses to gain new forms to avoid neutralization.  However, the very same can be said for natural immunity.  Both natural immunity and v@¢¢¡nation create selection pressures that can lead to new viral variants.  This is true of all viruses and other invading agents. In spite of this, our bodies are designed to use the immune system to fight off infection, and immunity has had a tremendous benefit, despite the selection pressure it poses. ADE is a rare exception to this rule. Our immune systems work much more quickly than viruses can adapt to them, which is why they are so effective at preventing infectious disease.

____________________________________
Updated November 23rd, 2021:

No COVID case update this week. Like last week, new cases are persistent in the US, California, and San Diego County. 

However, just wanted to note that the 5th circuit has placed a second stay on the OSHA vaccine mandate until further notice.  OSHA has suspended efforts to enforce the mandate. Text on the OSHA website reads:

“On November 12, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted a motion to stay OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard, published on November 5, 2021 (86 Fed. Reg. 61402) (“ETS”). The court ordered that OSHA “take no steps to implement or enforce” the ETS “until further court order.” While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation.”
_______________________________________

Don’t fear, but be smart!
Erik

Case Update, October 5th, 2021; Project Veritas video regarding Pfizer

This is a case update. I’ll also discuss a new video from Project Veritas featuring interviews from employees of Pfizer.

The Delta wave continues to wane in the US, with cases overall continuing to go down sharply.  This is great news, but I have to caution that last year’s Fall/Winter wave started in October, so there is a chance we will see a new wave starting in the Northern states.  In fact, cases are starting to increase right now in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine, while they are going down in the Southern states.

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 Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, October 3rd, 2021
Endcoronavirus State Level Map, October 5th, 2021

Cases are also going down in California and San Diego, although there was a spike in cases last week.  Since both regions saw the same spike, it suggests that the event causing the spike may have taken place in Southern California, but this is only speculation.

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 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. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.

Pfizer employees discuss immunity:  I always hate making politically charged posts, but this is another occasion when I must.  Project Veritas posted another video just yesterday.  In it, 3 scientists at Pfizer discuss the v@¢¢!nes, saying among other things that natural immunity is actually better protection against the virus than v@¢¢!ne mediated immunity. This is in agreement with the data from Israel published as a pre-print a few weeks ago.

As I’ve stated many times, for at risk people, a v@¢¢!ne is very likely to be of benefit. I have recommended that at risk people get v@¢¢!nated. If you’ve already had COVID, 1 dose of v@¢¢!ne is likely to provide extra benefit.  However, if you’ve had COVID, your natural immunity is likely to provide better protection than “full v@¢¢ination”.

They also make the claim that v@¢¢!nation benefit drops over time because the antibodies gained from v@¢¢!nation drop off over time.  I would also point out that another cause may be that new variants may diverge from the original Wuhan strain enough to makes v@¢¢!nes less effective, but this point is not addressed in this video.

One person even states “I mean, I still feel like I work for an evil corporation.” I want to make a comment about this.  It’s easy for us to blame big corporations for some of the decisions they make, since most of us aren’t in that position. I worked for Quest Diagnostics, a large medical testing company.  The vast majority of the people who worked there believed in the mission of providing high quality information to our client doctors and patients.  However, as with any large organization, there were those who were focused on profit, at times over the interests of the clients.  Most often this came in the form of passing over projects that would help patients, but would not bring in a lot of income. They would argue something like “We aren’t a charity.  We need to bring in money to survive as a business.”  This is of course partially true.  Director Spike Lee once commented in an interview that the most interesting conflicts are those in which both sides are correct.

Of course, a company or an individual can cross a line after which their actions become unambiguously wrong.  This often happens because they’ve made well intentioned compromises until they have lost their moral sensitivity. But I want you to remember something important.  The Presidents and CEO of companies work most directly for the board of directors. The board of directors works most directly for the shareholders. In our modern investment environment, which includes mutual funds, many of the shareholders don’t even know they are part owners of a company!  As far as they know, they just own a mutual fund.  As far as their mutual fund goes, they only care if it’s making them money, since they don’t know what companies they hold, or what their business practices are!  So the CEOs are ultimately working for people for whom profit is the only concern.  Folks, those people are you and me!

Yes, companies that behave unethically should be held accountable.  If Pfizer has misled the public, then they should be held accountable.  But we can’t forget that anyone who holds a mutual fund that includes Pfizer has a voice in this as well.  I will tell you that I am talking to myself as well.  I currently have no idea what companies are in the mutual funds that I own. We should all take the time an find out what companies we hold the most stock in, and consider finding out what they are doing.  You can then contact your mutual fund company and make suggestions about what they can communicate to these companies, or consider selling funds with stocks you don’t like. The small choices we make every day do have an impact.

V@¢¢!ne mandates:  V@¢¢!nes will certainly benefit at-risk individuals.  In addition, it is clear that countries with large v@¢¢!nation programs have had lower fatality rates during the Delta wave than other countries.  However, I am not v@¢¢inated, and am firmly against v@¢¢!ne mandates.  It is especially counter productive for hospitals and other organizations to be letting go of highly trained people who have chosen not to be v@¢¢!nated. I hope this new information will bring some balance to the current discussion.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

Case Update, September 23rd, 2021; Project Veritas Video on Vaccines

This is a case update. With some trepidation, I’ll also discuss the new video by Project Veritas concerning vaccines.

It appears that the US has reached the peak of the Delta Variant, with cases clearly starting to come down.  On the other hand, as numbers start to come down in the South, we may already be starting to see increasing cases in the North, as Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Iowa are experiencing increased cases right now.  If last year was any pattern, we may see large case numbers in the North as people start to spend more time indoors.

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 Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, September 13th, 2021
Endcoronavirus State Level Map, September 23th, 2021
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, September 13th, 2021

California and San Diego County are continuing to improve. LA County has “achieved” something in the last week, improving enough to give up the spot as the county with the most cases since last Winter.  2 counties in Texas, Harris (Houston) and Tarrant (Fort Worth), have had more cases in the last 2 weeks than LA 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.
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 San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. 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 San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. Graph is presented in a linear format.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. Graph is presented in a linear format.

Project Veritas released a video of a taped conversation between medical workers at a medical center in Phoenix. In it, the workers use, shall we say, colorful and scientifically imprecise language to suggest that the COVID vaccines are not performing as expected. 

There is a lot to say about this! First, let me say that available data is still insufficient to say with any certainty how many adverse effects there are, and of what kind.  I will speculate here, so keep in mind that I am mostly guessing, since I don’t have sufficient information to know exactly what’s going on.

Anecdotal evidence is based on the experiences of a few people, often relayed as a story or rumor.  This kind of evidence is an important pointer that something may be going on, but very often, it is insufficient to understand the situation with any clarity or as a foundation for policy.  At best, anecdotal evidence gives researchers the motivation to conduct a careful study of a situation so there can be more understanding.  At worst, they can cause rumors to overwhelm careful thinking, and lead to wrong conclusions in the minds of many.  This kind of evidence must be taken with a grain of salt, with final judgement reserved until more information is available.

My own thinking on adverse events has evolved a lot since the vaccines came out.  All vaccines carry risks, with a few adverse events happening with even routine vaccines like the flu.  On balance, vaccines have been extremely beneficial to individuals and society as a whole, effectively ending diseases like smallpox and polio. So when rumors of adverse reactions to the COVID vaccines first started coming out, I initially dismissed them as the standard rare event.

But then came the suggestion that the Spike protein itself was responsible for the vaccine’s toxicity.  While still not proven, this idea makes sense to me because it could explain the wide variety of reported adverse events. Increased inflammation aggravates the part of your body that is already under stress.  The Spike protein causes inflammation, so it’s no wonder that the vaccine causes strange and varying symptoms in some individuals. As someone with an auto immune disease, inflammation is a big deal for me.

Unfortunately, the vaccines cannot work without producing the Spike protein, because the protein is needed to produce a working immune response. The Spike protein is an unavoidable risk.

The recent Project Veritas video is a remarkable piece of anecdotal evidence.  It does not provide scientific or statistical evidence, but it does demonstrate that more information on adverse events is desperately needed. 

The most disturbing part of the video to me is the claim that adverse events are not being reported to the CDC VAERS system simply because the forms take too much time to fill out!  If true, this is frankly typical of a program from the CDC.  Since long before the pandemic started, the CDC has sought to keep tight control of information and guidance regarding the spread of infectious disease and related matters.  Legitimately, they try very hard to be accurate.  During a pandemic, however, information changes too quickly for this approach to be effective.  They are so careful to publish only accurate information, that information is often hopelessly out of date.  Ironically, in an effort to always be right, the CDC has usually been wrong. Nothing illustrates this better than the mixed messaging on masks.  Now almost everyone is hopelessly confused on this issue.

When there is a large vacuum of information, people will attempt to fill it with speculation. People from the federal government often complain about misinformation, but the CDC has contributed to it by leaving a huge hole for people to fill with guesses.

A form that takes 30 minutes to fill out is useless if no-one has the time to fill it out.  In response to the video, the CDC should immediately re-make the form, making it take only 5 minutes or even 30 seconds to fill out. Yes, they will be missing some information from each patient, but they’re getting nothing on them right now, so it will still be an improvement. Instead of making the necessary changes, the CDC will probably just call the video misinformation, and try to send it behind the Digital Curtain.

A note on the VAERS system: the system is meant to capture all data that may point to a vaccine producing a pattern of adverse reactions.  Any negative medical event that happens within a few days after a vaccination is recorded.  This even includes events that are unlikely to be attached to the vaccination. The hope is that patterns may be recognized by immunologists that will point to a problem with a vaccine.  For example, if you notice that a lot of people report hitting their head after a vaccination, this may suggest dizziness or disorientation.

Because of this practice not all adverse reactions are vaccine related.  Careful study of cases by a scientist may be required to notice patterns.  The data is not presented in a user friendly fashion!

Of course, the usefulness of this system is limited if a systematic problem, like a long form, is preventing events from being reported!

Vaccine rumors:  I still get questions about vaccine rumors like the following:

The vaccines will re-write your DNA
The vaccines will keep women from getting pregnant.
The vaccines will make you shed Spike protein into the environment

When addressing questions like this, I always ask “What evidence do you have that this is happening.”  Almost always, it’s just something they heard.  I can’t disprove that any of these things are happening.  Trying would take an enormous amount of time.  I can say, however, that I haven’t seen any evidence that they are. This doesn’t mean they aren’t happening! But if there isn’t any evidence for them, we don’t have to spend time and emotional energy worrying about them.

If you have any evidence, aside from persistent rumors, that any of above things or things like them are happening, please let me know.  If you see an article or blog post that argues for any of the above, they should contain actual data that supports these ideas, not just speculation.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

Possible low efficacy of current vaccines against Delta, possible Delta enhancement in the future.

This post is detailed, but adds an important new set of facts regarding the Delta Variant, the current vaccines, and prospects for a new booster shot.

You may have heard commentators in the last few days talking about the reduced efficacy of the current set of vaccines. There has also been a lot of discussion about a study from Israel about relatively high numbers of Delta COVID cases among vaccinated individuals.

First a little background on antibodies. Your immune system is making a random set of new antibodies all the time. In an ingenious mechanism, your immune cells “mix and match” pieces of a gene in your immune cells, producing the ability to make a zillion (scientific language for a whole lot) of different antibodies. Your body is basically making different “keys” that can fit into the “lock” of some new protein.

When you get an infection, several different antibodies may bind to the invading agent, on different regions, so you may be protected by several different “keys”. When this happens, a bunch of different things happen, including the manufacture of Memory B cells which makes just the antibody that binds to a particular protein. These cells get activated if you get re-invaded by something with that protein. All this to say, if you’ve had COVID, or been vaccinated, your body will have B cells with antibodies on them that bind to different parts of the Spike protein.

Before I say anything else, I want to repeat that I have not been vaccinated, but have recommended that high risk individuals get vaccinated! I’ve also pointed out many times in the past few weeks that countries with large vaccination programs have lower death rates due to Delta than other countries!

Literally 30 minutes after Thursday’s post on vaccine myths, a doctor friend of mine sent me a pre-print paper from a lab in Japan. Please note, this is a pre-print paper and has not yet finished peer review! The paper describes experiments using antibodies derived from patients infected with the Wuhan strain, as well as with the Delta Variant. They then studied binding of these antibodies to artificial viruses. The paper argues that Delta variant viruses are less neutralized by vaccines against “wild-type” or Wuhan strain vaccines. While the “wild-type” antibodies against Wuhan can neutralize a region of the Delta Spike protein called the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) (Figure 1C), other antibodies binding to another region of Delta Spike protein actually enhance infectivity. Figure 1D from the paper shows negative levels of “neutralization” for antibodies that bind the N-terminal domain of the Spike protein. The paper calls this “enhanced”. Yes, this is the ADE I’ve been talking about.

Figure 1 from Liu et al 2021.

They suggest that with rapid changes in COVID variants, a new version of Delta is going to be able to use the ADE pathway in the near future, when Wuhan era antibodies will no longer be able to neutralize a mutated Delta strain.

To sum that all up in simpler language, it basically says that Delta is more infectious because it is partially using the ADE method of infection. Future versions may be less prone to be neutralized by Wuhan antibodies, making them fully enhanced. If this happens, we may have more severe disease in those who get infected with this new enhanced Delta.

They conclude by saying a booster against the Wuhan strain will not be effective in improving protection from Delta, and that a new vaccine against Delta will be required.

The material in the paper may help to explain why we have been seeing lowering levels of vaccine effectiveness in some countries.

Just to be very clear, they are not saying that this new enhanced Delta exists now, just that it may exist in the future.

I will pay close attention to this issue. If you have already been vaccinated or had COVID, a new Delta vaccine will be your best defense against possible ADE arising from a possible enhanced Delta.

If an enhanced Delta arises, and you have had Wuhan COVID or a Wuhan vaccine, and you haven’t had Delta, then you may be at greater risk for severe disease.

If you have had COVID since July 2021, you are likely already immune to the Delta variant, and this will not be an issue for you.

I am fully aware this complicated. Also, the CDC has rarely if ever discussed this possibility, so unfortunately, most of the people you talk to about this will not believe it. I am sharing this with you so you can make wise decisions for you and your family.

Some companies are already working on Delta versions of the vaccine. If you have had the current vaccines, or had COVID, you should get the Delta vaccines as soon as they are available.

Of course, discuss your medical history with your doctor before making medical decisions.

Another note on misinformation: My post from last Thursday generated a lot of discussion regarding censorship and misinformation. I argued strongly that the dangers of misinformation do not outweigh the benefits of free speech. Many of you are pro-vaccine and others are suspicious of the vaccine. I would simply urge this:

1) If you use the words “misinformation” and “disinformation” in a post or in a discussion, please come ready with evidence to support whatever claim your making! Don’t just throw out this word, support it!

I recently saw a video with a pro-vaccine medical person saying “we just need to keep pounding this information into people”. That is the wrong approach. With someone who is not yet convinced to get a vaccine, “pounding” away on them is just going to raise their defenses and exasperate you. Instead, gently show them your reasons for believing what you do! Explain to them what the data means. You may not convince them, but you may move them toward being more open to your view.

2) If someone makes a claim that sounds unfounded or that you don’t trust, don’t just tell them they’re wrong or make a counter claim, ask them to provide evidence, or where they got their information. You don’t have to do their homework for them! If they can’t produce any evidence, you are under no obligation to counter it. I’ve saved myself A LOT of work with this approach. It’s OK that they just heard it somewhere IF their source is reliable and has evidence themselves. You can still ask them to provide you with a link or something to that person’s statement. However, “I just heard it somewhere” is not evidence.

Part of the reason I’m not so worried about “misinformation” for myself is because of my regular use of suggestion #2.

Don’t fear, but be smart!
Erik

Video: “Top 3 vaccine Myths” and Tech Censorship

In the interest of openness and full disclosure, I need to share a video with you that I just watched. Dr. Zubin Damania is a Youtube commentator that I actually listen to a lot, and I find him more reliable than many. He just posted a video “Top 3 COVID Vaccine Myths“. Two of his myths are:

2) The Spike protein is toxic.
3) Antibody Dependent Enhancement may cause vaccinated individuals to experience more severe disease if infected with SARS-2.

If you have been reading my posts, then you know I have been concerned about both these issues. So am I spreading myths?

2). My concerns about Spike protein toxicity are based on persistent rumors of people having moderate severe reactions to the vaccines. For awhile, I dismissed these as just the standard reaction that some have had to any vaccine, including those for flu. But more and more rumors piled up and made me wonder if something else was going on. Then I saw the video by Bret Weinstein and Robert Malone. Dr. Malone is the inventor of the mRNA vaccine technology. The video argues that the Spike protein itself is toxic. Dr. Malone’s credentials are at least as good as Dr. Damania’s on this matter, likely better, so I can’t dismiss his view.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to find enough reliable information on adverse events to form my own opinions based on the data, so I’ve been relying on others to inform me. Frankly, because of the politicized nature of the vaccine issue, I don’t feel at all confident that I can get reliable information. So I may never be able to develop an informed opinion on this matter.

Dr. Damamia claims that convincing evidence exists that demonstrates that Spike protein is not toxic, but he doesn’t give it in this video. This of course is very common.

3) I’ve talked a lot about the ADE issue. In this video, Dr. Damania claims that ADE has not been an issue in the vaccine roll out, and the new variants have not caused more severe symptoms. I agree with both of these points. I point these out in my November 2020, December 2020, and April 2021 updates to my ADE post. I am still concerned about that new variants may someday arise that can use the ADE pathway, or that a new SARS strain, a hypothetical “SARS-3” will arise that will be different enough to trigger ADE. So while I agree with Dr. Damania’s point on ADE, it’s not quite the point that I’m still concerned with.

As I’ve stated many times, the vaccines are likely to help you if you have a risk factor and I have several friends and family members that I have recommended get the vaccine. So I am not anti-vax per se. But I don’t think it’s the obvious choice for everyone, and I’m staunchly for personal medical freedom in regards to COVID vaccines.

So what do I do now? What should a thinking person do when confronted with new information from a trusted source that you’re not sure about? These things are all true when dealing with complicated issues:

People you generally agree with may say something you don’t agree with.
People you generally disagree with may say something you agree with or makes you think about an issue in a new way.

Both of these are normal. When dealing with a complicated issue like COVID, race relations, worldview, politics in general, it is critical to keep an open but critical mind. You have to read widely from both your side and others to hope to get a clear view of the issues involved.

I respect Dr. Damamia. He might be right! I’ll have to think about his points, do some more homework, and reassess my opinion. There are 3 possibilities.

I will abandon my position and accept his.
I will learn new things that will reinforce my position.
I will do a bunch of research, but will not find conclusive information that will allow me to form a new opinion either way.

If I can arrive at a place closer to the truth, then the exercise will be a good one. If I decide I think Dr. Damania is wrong on these points I’ll likely still watch his videos, since I think he is right more often than he is wrong, and he’s more open minded than most, so I think he is at least being honest about what he believes, which is a very valuable trait! Dr. Damania is both for COVID vaccination and against vaccine mandates.

I started out posting on COVID because as a scientist I felt a responsibility to help my non-scientific friends and family members make some sense of the pandemic, especially when scientific communication is so often poor. I hope I have done that. I can’t claim to always be right, and have changed by view several times. But I have given you the truth as best as I can find it, and supported it with evidence.

A word on tech censorship: The WHO said 2 false things early on:

SARS-2 is not human to human transmissible
SARS-2 is not transmissible as an aerosol.

Both of these things were demonstrably false, and perhaps politically motivated, even at time the WHO stated them. In in spite of this, the social media platforms came to hold the WHO as the gold standard for the truth on COVID matters. To this day, F@¢3b00k may place a tag on the end of this post claiming the WHO as the authority on COVID matters. Most platforms would delete or restrict anything that ran against the WHO. Yes, computer programmers in Silicon Valley are still pulling down information posted by medical doctors and scientists. Even Dr. Damania has had videos censored!

One of the worst results of the pandemic in the US is censorship of divergent opinions. Freedom of speech allows 3 things:

All opinions to be held up to public scrutiny.
True things to rise to the surface.
False things to be discredited.

When freedom of speech is restricted, none of these can happen. If a wrong thing becomes the “orthodox” view, and no other views are permitted, then the orthodox view will always be wrong, and we will end up solving all of the wrong problems. If there is a hole in your gas tank, it doesn’t matter how many times you put gas in it. It will always be empty. Fix the real problem first.

This is why all the claims of misinformation, from all sides, are so insidious. When you claim misinformation, you are claiming to have the whole truth on an issue. Sure, we can and should argue against views we think are false. But we must also protect the right to air all views! Or we are doomed only to have the first view that becomes dominant, and we are less likely to find the truth!

I also found an article on why some are still vaccine hesitant. For those of you who are wondering, you should read it.

As always, Don’t fear, but be smart!
Erik

PCR and the Ct Value

In the past few weeks in San Diego, I’ve heard several stories that discuss Ct values in regards to COVID testing. Since this is my field, I thought I’d talk about what a Ct value is and it’s relation to your results. This post is going to be pretty in the weeds, so if your not interested in the detail, you can skip this one.

PCR: The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) was invented in 1983, and by the 90s, it has become a commonly used technique foundational to several molecular biology techniques, including DNA sequencing, DNA manipulation, sequence detection, and many more. Basically, the technique is used to make many many copies of a small amount a DNA. The DNA molecule is double stranded, the 2 strands are reverse copies of each other, binding to each other with weak interactions.

Heat is used to separate the 2 strands, and small pieces of DNA called “primers” bind to the DNA copies at a lower temperature.

The primers are designed to perfectly match sequences in the template strands. This is why PCR reactions can be very specific to a particular target, like SARS-2.

Next, the template strands are copied by a protein called “DNA Polymerase”.

After this, the reaction is heated up again, and the process is repeated. For a PCR reaction used for detection, this is repeated 40 – 45 times. With every repetition of this process, the numbers of molecules doubles, so from every 1 molecule of starting DNA, you could theoretically end up with almost a trillion copies!

Real-time PCR: Lots of copies of DNA aren’t enough to detect it. You also need something else. Medical detection uses a process called “real-time PCR”. In this process, a third piece of DNA called a “probe” is also added. The probe has a fluorescent molecule called a “reporter” on the front end, and a molecule called a “quencher” on the back. The reporter gives off light during the reaction. The quencher is a molecule that absorbs light and coverts it to heat, effectively dimming the light coming from the reporter.

As the real-time PCR reaction progresses, the DNA Polymerase chops up the probe as well. When this happens, the quencher is separated from the reporter, and the reporter appears to give off more light! The medical instrument detects this extra light which leads to the result.

Ct values: You may have heard the term “Ct value” thrown around. As I mentioned before, with every cycle of PCR, the number of DNA copies doubles. At the same time, the reporter molecules start to give off more light. Even with all the reporter molecules around, the instrument can’t detect it until at least cycle 15. When it does, a graph of fluorescence coming from the reaction will start to show an increase.

Real-time PCR Results. This is from an ABI 7500 running version 2.3 software. The results for 5 patient samples. 3 would be reported as being positive, 1 negative. The sample giving the green line is over 40 Ct and may be repeated, or a new sample may be collected from the patient.

The more starting DNA you have in the reaction, the sooner the instrument will detect a rise in light. Scientists designing the test set a Cycle Threshold (the yellow line in “Real-time PCR Results”). This line is somewhat arbitrary at first, but when the test is validated, it is “set in stone” before being submitted to the FDA for approval. After the threshold line is set, the cycle at which the line of fluorescence for sample crosses the threshold line is called the “Ct value”. As you can see in the graph, the more starting DNA you have, the lower the Ct value is. The lower the starting DNA you have, the later the line will cross the Threshold, and the higher the Ct value.

A patient with a lot of SARS-2 in their sample will give a very low Ct value, almost never lower than 15-19. In the example above, the orange line represents a patient with a lot of virus. The higher the Ct value, the less virus a patient has in their sample. A sample that gives Ct value in the high 30s has very little virus, and is most likely not symptomatic. In fact, some scientists have even said that a Ct value of higher than 35 means the test is really just detecting viral debris after the virus has been cleared and the infection is basically over. A good test can detect as few as 50 virus molecules in a sample.

Most labs don’t even bother to report any result with Ct over 40. I’ve never heard of a lab reporting a result with a Ct over 45. Results like this are generally considered un-reliable, since PCR can give false positive results at very high cycle numbers. Most labs eliminate this possibility by just not reporting Cts over 40. A few weeks ago, a person at a San Diego County meeting claimed that many labs are reporting Cts over 45, and thus giving false positive results. I happen to know this man personally. We disagree on the proper approach to COVID, but he’s a good guy, and I like him personally. He is not a scientist. Anyway, I contacted him to ask him for evidence that labs are reporting Cts over 45, and I have not heard back. As I said before, I’ve never heard of a lab reporting a positive result for a real-time PCR test with a Ct over 45. So I’d be surprised if this was happening. If you have evidence of this, please let me know!

A local radio commentator in San Diego suggested on air that labs should report the Ct number. I’m all for this, but I know first hand that labs usually do not report the Ct number. In fact, many patients, and yes, even many physicians, don’t know what this number means and don’t actually want to see it in a report! Yes, that’s right, on one complicated test I built in which I included the Ct value in the report, doctors called to ask us to remove it! They said it was confusing the issue for them. This may have been because it was confusing their patients, but suffice it to say, many downstream users don’t want the Ct value and that’s why it’s not included. Generally, labs just report “COVID Positive” or “COVID Negative”. In some cases, “Detected” or “Not Detected” are used instead, to avoid confusion.

This is to avoid the issue of a patient saying “My result is positive! That’s great!” No, sir, it’s not that kind of positive.

I actually think the Ct number is very useful, and would love to see it included, but it probably won’t be.

Anyway, hope that was helpful. Your questions below will help me make this all clearer.

Don’t fear, but be smart!
Erik

Case Update, June 22, 2021; the Delta Variant, Spike Protein Toxicity

This is a COVID update. I also have a short note on the Delta Variant and sobering new information on vaccines.

New case numbers continue to trickle down in the US, California, and San Diego County. New cases in San Diego County have been less than 100 a day for most of last week. Unfortunately, new cases aren’t really plummeting, just trickling down, but we are still making progress.

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.
Endcoronavirus County Level Map, June 18, 2021
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 by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. 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 San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County. 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. The County is often making adjustments to various numbers and sometimes they do not update numbers for several days. As a result, this graph is becoming less reliable. This is likely impacted by the low number of cases, so that anomalies have a greater impact on overall trends. I may not post this graph for much longer.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site.

I did some traveling this week, and in several places, including airports, about half of the people there did not have masks on. I was OK with this, since I know most people are now vaccinated, but this is reflective of our ongoing transition back into normality.

The Delta Variant: Way back in October of 2020, a new variant arose in India. First called the India Variant, the naming of variants has changed again in the last few weeks, and it’s now being called the Delta Variant (B.1.617.2). As with other variants, it’s much more infectious than the original Wuhan strain, but it doesn’t appear to cause more severe disease. The current vaccines appear to be effective against the Delta variant, so if you’re vaccinated, you are likely protected against this variant.

___________________________________
Updated from June 29th, 2021 post:
As I’ve stated before, the Delta Variant is significantly more infectious than the original Wuhan strain, as well as more infectious than the UK Variant. I said last week that it is not more pathogenic. I have to adjust that assessment. While it hasn’t so far produced more deaths than other versions, it does seem to produce more hospitalizations, so it does appear to be more pathogenic at least by that measure.

I’m going to way out on a limb and suggest that the Delta Variant will not cause large numbers of new cases in the US because of our natural immunity and our large number of vaccinations. That being said, there have been reports of fully vaccinated individuals contracting the Delta Variant. None of their symptoms were severe. I may of course end up being wrong about this and I will keep you posted on new confirmed case numbers.

Some municipalities are considering new lockdown measures. I have not supported “lockdowns” since last Spring, but as an unvaccinated person, I still wear a mask in indoor spaces in public.
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Vaccines and Spike protein toxicity: Now for a topic that is even more likely to get me cancelled than last time. I ran into a video with Bret Weinstein, Dr. Robert Malone, and Steve Kirsch. Robert Malone is the scientist that was instrumental in the development of the mRNA vaccines, like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. He speaks very authoritatively on the vaccine issue.

Dr. Malone is very pro-vaccine in general, and certainly believes that the mRNA vaccine is effective in principle. However, he also has come to believe that while mRNA vaccines in general are safe, the SARS-2 vaccine in particular does have a big liability. This is that the Spike protein made by the SARS-2 vaccine has a toxic effect on multiple cell types. This explains the higher than normal rate of complications related to the SARS-2 vaccines.

Part of the reason SARS-2 is such a difficult virus is that the Spike protein attaches to a cellular receptor called ACE2. The ACE2 receptor is present on many cells types in the body. This is why the SARS-2 virus can infect so many different cell types, including immune cells.

In response to the vaccine, cells make Spike protein so that the immune system can develop a response to the virus. This is true of all vaccines. However, since the Spike protein can attach to so many different cell types, there is a wide range of symptoms a person may experience in response to the vaccine. Of course, most experience no symptoms at all.

So what if you got the vaccine? Should you be concerned? It’s too early to tell how prolonged an impact Spike protein in the vaccine will have on an individual person. My guess is the impact will subside after a few days, when the Spike protein in cells is degraded. However, since the Spike protein interacts will cells and impacts their functioning, some reactions may take longer to resolve. If you had no reaction to the vaccine, you probably won’t ever have one.

If you haven’t had the vaccine, should you still get it? There is no denying that the vaccine has had a positive impact on the re-opening process and has likely saved many lives. On the other hand, it obviously carries risk. If you are in a high risk group or work with the public, you are still very likely to benefit. As you know, I haven’t gotten the vaccine because of the ADE issue and also because I’m reasonably certain I can avoid getting the virus, especially now since cases are so low. I will be less likely to get the vaccine now.

Social media censorship: The full length version of the video linked above has been removed by Y0u†ub∑. Another channel has it available for now.

If you want to watch it, you should do it soon!

I believe that the censorship of ideas present in our current culture has had a profound and negative impact on the progress of the pandemic, and on our culture in general. As I’ve said repeatedly, politics and science are a terrible mix. We’ve seen many examples this year. I deeply hope we can find our way out of this mess as soon as possible.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

What is Science?

This is a long post about the philosophy of science. I probably should have written this one a long time ago, but here it is. 

During the pandemic, we’ve often heard scientists and commentators say “I’m just following the science.”  Confusingly, we’ve heard people on all sides of the issues say this, pro-maskers, anti-maskers, vaccine fans, vaccine detractors, people who love Hydroxychloroquine, and those who think it kills people.  Very often, when people have used the word “science” in the last year, they’ve used it in a way that you DIDN’T learn in high school biology class (thanks, Mr. Walker!).  So what do people mean when they say this, and how can you evaluate what they are saying?

When you hear the word “science” on the news or in discussions on the pandemic, other definitions are often smuggled in. I’ll give you a few different ways people use the word “science”, and then I’ll talk about how you can evaluate science related discussions.

1) In actuality, science is a method for measuring things in the natural world, and using reasoning and the scientific method to make, falsify, and confirm hypotheses about natural things.  Science has been phenomenally successful at describing aspects of the natural world, as well as producing useful applications for communication, travel, health, manufacturing, the arts, and nearly every conceivable human endeavor.  The incredible success of science has given it enormous cultural power as well, and many ascribe to it powers that it does not have. By definition, science measures and describes the natural world, but cannot describe many common aspects of reality, questions like “what is justice?” or “what is the meaning of life?”. 

While many contributed to the Scientific Method, the steps were formalized by Francis Bacon.  The steps include 1) the formulation of a question, 2) the development of a hypothesis, or a guess about what actually happening, 3) a prediction about what impact the hypothesis may have on a system, 4) doing experiments to test the hypothesis, and last 5) analyzing results, to include falsifying or confirming the hypothesis and forming a new question.

The scientific process is not a slow gradual accumulation of truth.  It’s often ugly, with long searches down the wrong path before finding the right one. Fields can experience sudden, jerky changes in direction.

2) The collection of facts currently believed by the majority of scientists.  When many in our current culture use the word “science”, this is what they mean. The phrase “settled science” often refers to this.  But scientific truth is not decided by a vote.  Yes, if a “fact” is believed by most scientists, it’s more likely to be true, but science history is full of people who had “weird” ideas that later turned out to be right.  By definition, topics under current study are not well understood, and there can be widely varying opinions about what’s going on. 

It’s always OK for a scientist to question current thought.  Trust me when I say that having a PhD does not mean that other scientists have to believe you.  I’ve heard shouting matches at conferences over what to believe about seemingly simple things.  

Real “Truth” transcends opinion.  Things are true whether you believe them or not. Science is the search for the truth about the natural world, not the search for ways to force your view on others.

Which leads to…

3) The collection of facts currently believed by scientists who agree with me.  When things are murky and not well understood, which is quite often in active fields, there can be 2 or more models of how a system is working. Sometimes the evidence that is out in the world can appear to be contradictory. This may be because some of the evidence is wrong, or because conclusions based on the evidence is wrong, or because a crucial piece of evidence is still missing, or because the system is just more complicated than anyone is aware of. At this point, a good scientist will try and rethink the available evidence or perhaps design a new experiment to try and get at something still unknown.  Instead, some people, even good scientists in a moment of weakness, will simply declare that their view is correct prematurely.  Scientists must always seek to be more persuasive, and not just shout louder.

4) The collection of facts currently believed by me, right now.  This definition is common for those who believe an outlier view.  It’s not bad to have a view that is outside the current orthodoxy, this is how scientific breakthroughs happen, but a person in this position must seek even more to persuade with evidence, not just be dogmatic.  Do more internet work, read more literature, or design another experiment.

5) An atheistic worldview, as in “I believe science”. Science is great at discovering information about the natural world, but it can’t answer the big questions. What some call “science” in this way is really “naturalism”, the belief that only matter and energy exists. It rejects any worldview that includes a transcendent or supernatural component. Science alone does not support this worldview, because by definition, science can’t “prove” the non-existence of things outside the known universe. Other philosophical structures are necessary to support this view.

So how do you figure out what’s really true about a scientific opinion being presented.  This can be difficult, but it can be a little easier to figure out if someone is abusing “science.” Here are some clues that science might be being misused.  You’ll have to dig deeper to be sure:

  1. A real scientific argument includes a conclusion supported by evidence.  Does the person talking give any evidence for their position? Often, people just make an assertion, a claim without evidence.  This is OK if they can back it up, but very often they can’t.  Ask “can you clarify that?” or “how did you come to that conclusion?”
  2. When questioned, a person should have evidence for their claim. If instead they call you anti-science, or *phobic or *ist, then they are abusing science.
  3. If a story or comment starts with “X person is brilliant and has been in the business for years”, this is often a red flag for me.  While a person’s qualifications are important, they must still present evidence.  A title or degree is not enough for them to be automatically believed.  The more glowing the terms used to describe a source, the more I’m suspicious that they are about to spout nonsense.
    Yes, these even applies to me.  If you tell someone “This Facebook friend of mine is a real scientist and he says <something really smart>”, you should rightfully expect your friend to ask what evidence I had for my claim. If you don’t know, then re-read my post, or just message me!  I’m happy to work through it with you, and I’ll tell you outright if I’m just speculating.
  4. News articles are OK, but they are only a starting place.  If a person references a news article, they still have homework. What news outlet? What evidence did the author use? Journalists often misunderstand or misrepresent information from scientific sources.
  5. Real evidence can be a scientific paper, a study learned about on the radio (who presented it?), or a comment by an authoritative source (who is the source?).  Each of these can in principle still be wrong, but they have more weight than other sources.
  6. Often, we gain knowledge about the world from someone we trust, an authority on the matter.  This is a fine way to learn things. Your parents were the first authority that you used for learning much of what you needed to know.  But authorities, even good ones, are not always right.  You learned this about your parents when you were a teenager. It’s OK to pick someone you trust as an authority on scientific matters, but still don’t believe everything you hear.  The CDC, the WHO, Dr. Fauci, the President (either one), yes even me, have been right about some things and wrong about some things during COVID. During an evolving situation, expect opinions and “facts” to change as more information is gathered.  Your favorite authority doesn’t know everything.

Of course, the debate on several COVID related topics have become politicized, which can make it difficult for scientists to do good work, and often VERY difficult for lay people to know the truth. I feel for you. It can be really difficult for folks to figure out what’s true about something that’s not in their field.  I feel the same way about climate change, an important topic of frequent debate that’s not in my field.  Don’t feel dumb if you have trouble figuring out what’s going on.  Lots of folks are abusing science, trying to make you agree with them.  Hopefully I’ve given you a few tips on how to discover the truth.  Here’s an article on how to communicate scientific things!

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

Case Update: September 15, 2020; Bob Woodward and Communicating in a Crisis.

Friends,
This is a virus update. I’ll also have a few comments regarding the recent Bob Woodward book. New confirmed cases continue to drop for the US, California, and San Diego. California new case numbers are back down to what they were before the 2nd Wave hit in mid June.

Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site.
Graph is by me, from data collected from Johns Hopkins University COVID site. “Active Confirmed Cases” numbers are calculated based on the assumption that patients confirmed to have SARS-2 virus at least 17 days ago have recovered.

San Diego had a moderate sized outbreak at SDSU in the last few weeks which created a spike in new confirmed cases for the County, but those numbers are coming down as well.

Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County.
Graph is by me, from data collected from San Diego County Public Health. See also regularly updated slides from SD County.

Endcoronavirus.org’s county view map now shows mostly yellow across much of the South, including California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, which was perhaps hardest hit by the 2nd Wave. It looks like that region is now recovering, and the Mid-West is now the region of greatest concern, with increasing numbers in many Mid-Western states.

Endcoronavirus County View Map

Bob Woodward comments: If you’ve been reading my posts for long, you know that I try to keep these posts as politics free as possible, referring to policies, but not to people. You also know that my recommendations sometimes support those commonly from the “left” and sometimes from the “right”. I do my best to pass along the science as I see it, since I believe politics and science are terrible together.

If you’ve read my July 7th post, you know that a major concern of mine is Antibody Dependent Enhancement. This phenomena is still not discussed openly in the media, and the only other commentator I hear discussing it is Chris Martenson of the Peak Prosperity YouTube channel. Tony Fauci has mentioned it only in passing. I have been concerned about this phenomena since February when I started studying the SARS-2 virus.

Why did I wait until July to post about it? In any crisis, there are people who are anxious about it, they are the first to react, and some overreact. There are others who are unconcerned, and react slowly if at all. Many are somewhere in between. Anyone who communicates to the public has to aim somewhere in the middle of these perspectives. My goal from the beginning has been to communicate adequate concern while being as positive as possible and not cause the anxious to over-react. As I’m sure you’ve heard, there have been many mental health issues attached to recent events, and I have friends in the mental health field for whom this is a great concern. I struggled for a long time before my July 7th post. I wanted people to be adequately concerned, but I didn’t want to cause needless anxiety. The ADE phenomena is still poorly understood, and it’s not certain if it will play a roll in this crisis. I finally decided to discuss it because I had a lot of friends who I felt were not taking the virus seriously enough, and I began to feel it was wrong of me to not inform them. To this day, I wonder if I waited too long, or maybe shouldn’t have mentioned it when I did.

All this to say, Bob Woodward’s discussion with the President was in February, if my understanding is correct. In February, the virus had still not come to the US, except for a few small clusters. Little was still known about how it would behave in the US, and the opinion of medical professionals regarding how to deal with it has changed many times since then. If President Trump was wrong to downplay the virus in February, then I was wrong too. I hope you will have some understanding for the difficult decisions to be made.

The CDC continued to treat the virus like it has always treated epidemics somewhere else, deep into March. Only in Mid-March did they allow other entities to do SARS-2 testing in the US, responding to the President’s request. Large scale testing did not start until early April. In my opinion, the CDC is most responsible for reacting too slowly to the virus.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik