This is a case update, and it will come with a big correction from last week.
New confirmed cases continue to rise due to the Delta variant in the US, California, and San Diego County, although at a noticeably slower rate.
I said last week that we may see the peak in US cases this week because Sunday’s number was the same as the previous week’s. This week’s numbers were erratic, but continues to show an upward trend, with yesterday’s new case number being higher than last week’s. So we are still on an upward trend, but it is slowing.
For California and San Diego County, new case numbers are definitely flattening, and we could very well start seeing a downward trend this week.
Correction on new deaths: Last week I said that new deaths were not rising at all as a response to the higher Delta peak case numbers. While this was true last week and is still true, I also have to say that I assumed that deaths generally followed cases by 2 weeks. After looking back at data from the US and other countries, deaths appear to trail new cases by anywhere from a few days to as many as 4 weeks. Since our current wave started at the beginning of July, it’s still too early to say if we will get a new peak in COVID deaths.
Several countries have indeed seen Delta peaks in cases without a peak in deaths so far. The UK and Portugal are both 6 weeks into their Delta variant peaks, without a substantial rise in deaths so far. My statements from last week may still end up being true. I will certainly keep you posted on this.
How many breakthrough cases? There has been a lot of discussion around breakthrough cases, a new COVID case in a person who has been fully vaccinated. According to the CDC, there have been 6,587 hospitalizations or deaths in 163 million vaccinated Americans as of July 26. This is a proportionally small number, but is obviously not zero.
I could only find data until April 30th for any SARS-2 infection, 10,262 infections for 101 million vaccinated Americans from January 1st, to April 30th. Note that this is before the Delta wave started in the US (early July). There were 12,376,975 confirmed infections in the US during that time, so the proportion of infections in vaccinated individuals is 0.083% according to CDC numbers.
While the proportion of infections and deaths in vaccinated is very low, I hear persistent unconfirmed stories about vaccinated people being infected. Hopefully, given the politicized environment, we will someday get good data on this.
This is a COVID case update. There were large increases in confirmed cases in the US, California, and San Diego County last week. Wave 5, the Delta Variant wave, can no longer be considered a blip to be sure. In all three regions, case numbers are significant, even matching last Summer’s wave. Most new cases are concentrated in the Great Lakes States, the South, and the West.
For the US, I’ve noticed that the Friday numbers are always particularly high these days. This may be because labs are trying to report out all their cases before the weekend. Sunday continues to be the low reporting day. Last Friday’s number was very high for the US, 177k new cases. So we had a big upward trend for the week. However, Sunday’s number was about the same as last week.
I’m going make a very tentative point now that may very well be wrong. Since yesterday’s number was basically the same as last weeks, this MAY be an indicator that we’ve hit a peak for Wave 5. This next week will show if that’s true. In many nations, the Delta variant has created a sharp peak, with numbers quickly rising before the peak, and quickly falling after.
California’s numbers are very high was well, and San Diego County is the 9th highest county in the nation for new cases.
There is some good news. At least in the US and San Diego County, new deaths have not gone up with the number of new cases. In fact, in San Diego County at the time of this writing, new deaths are lower than they have ever been during the pandemic, with just 24 in June, and just 18 so far in July. California is experiencing a slight uptick in new deaths. This pattern appears to be true for many first world countries, including those in Western Europe, and Eastern Asia like Japan and South Korea.
World wide, cases continue to climb. In many countries including Indonesia, Russia, and India, new Delta Variant cases did result in a large number of new deaths. This suggests that vaccination in a country has resulted in better outcomes for infected people in that country.
This long post will be a summary of what we have learned so far about the Coronavirus, and I’ll make some predictions about what to expect next. Since I’ll be sharing so much information, I won’t give references for everything here. I also have to make the disclaimer that new studies are constantly being done, and some of the below information may need to be revised later. To make my standard disclaimer, I am not an epidemiologist or a physician. I have a Ph.D. in molecular biology, and my specialty is infectious disease testing. On much of the below, I have an informed but not expert opinion.
Coronaviruses: Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses unrelated to the flu. What we think of as the common cold, are actually member of several classes of viruses like Adenovirus, RSV viruses, Rhinovirus, and several Coronaviruses. Many Coronaviruses cause diseases no more virulent than the common cold. However, just like novel flus can cause extra trouble, so can novel Coronaviruses. The first SARS virus was much more lethal that the SARS-2 virus, but because SARS had a short incubation period and made almost every infected person sick, it was much easier to contain. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Coronavirus infects a few people every year, and is very lethal, with a fatality rate of 34%, but it also has not made a global impact. The reason SARS-2 is so dangerous is that it’s VERY infectious (Ro of between 2.5 and 5.7) and has a VERY long incubation time (2-14 days), making it very hard to track. Plus, it’s at least 2x as deadly at the annual flu.
Name: The official name of the virus is SARS-2-CoV (for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-2 CoronaVirus). The official name for the disease it causes is COVID-19 (for COronaVIrus Disease-2019). You may notice that the term SARS actually sounds a lot like a disease. You would be right. So why did they need a different disease name than SARS-2, or SARS-19? I don’t know.
Origin: Controversy over the origins of the SARS-2 virus began very early in the pandemic. The most common theories were that the virus arose naturally at a live animal market in Wuhan China, where animals from a wide variety of species are sold. The predominant theory is that the SARS-2 virus arose in bats, then transferred to another animal, perhaps a pangolin, before moving to humans. This has been the most accepted theory for the majority of the pandemic, promoted by the WHO, the CDC, and American media.
The lab leak theory, the idea that the virus arose from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was present from the beginning, but was heavily disfavored by official channels for most of the pandemic. On May 23, 2021, the Wall Street Journal published an article that gave evidence for idea, followed closely by an article from Vanity Fair. The articles normalized discussion of the theory and as of this writing, polls show that a majority of Americans believe that the virus came from the WIV.
Emails between several virologists, public health officials and Dr. Fauci strongly suggest that this group believed that the virus may have come from the laboratory as early as January 31, 2020. However, this same group published a scientific article on February 9th supporting the natural origin theory. The paper was at odds with discussion in the email correspondence. If investigations show that the group published claims they knew to be false, this would represent a significant case of scientific fraud.
Spread: Early reports were that SARS-2 mostly spread like a flu, with droplets spreading from coughing or sneezing. It became apparent later that the virus was also spread through aerosols by laughing, singing, shouting, or even just talking in close proximity for long periods. As further study was done, it appears that most infected people don’t infect anyone else. Rather, most infections come from “super-spreader” events, in which a single person infects a large group of people. This usually happens indoors (at least 19 times more likely) during activities like fitness classes, funerals, concerts, and choir practices. While outdoor activities aren’t completely immune to these events, outdoor transmission of SARS-2 appears to be extremely rare.
Viral load upon exposure appears to be an important determinant of how severe a case will be. Basically, this means that if you’re infected by a “low dose” of virus, your disease is likely to be less severe. I have several physician friends who have stated that it seems to them that cases in the hospital are less severe than they used to be. One likely reason for this is that since more people are wearing masks in public than early on, those who are infected are being infected by a lower viral load.
Early studies demonstrated that viable viral can exist on objects for hours or days. However, it does not appear that a substantial number of people are being infected because they have touched a contaminated object.
The WHO made a confusing claim that asymptomatic people cannot spread the virus. While this is technically correct, they were not clear that “asymptomatic” is a technical medical term meaning someone who does not have, and will never have, symptoms. Another group is “pre-symptomatic”. These are people who currently don’t have symptoms, but will develop symptoms in a few days. As it turns out, pre-symptomatic people do spread virus, and are likely responsible for up to 80% of new cases. So yes, people without symptoms can and do pass the virus to others.
Risk Factors: Many believe that only old people are at risk. While it’s true that age is a dominant factor, other risk factors are important, and younger people have also experienced severe symptoms. Other risk factors include:
age asthma or COPD heart conditions kidney conditions liver disease high blood pressure diabetes obesity auto-immune disease use of NSAID anti-inflammatory medications being immunocompromised (HIV infected, undergoing cancer treatment, under medication for a transplant) vitamin-D deficiency type A blood (Type O appears to be protective) inadequate sleep
Always check with your doctor before changing your medications. I have an auto-immune disease and take daily anti-inflammatories, but my doctor has advised me to continue taking these unless I experience COVID symptoms. Make sure your doctor is aware if you have any of the above conditions.
Symptoms: Many people who have SARS-2 experience no symptoms, or experience mild flu symptoms. If you have ANY cold or flu symptoms, contact your doctor and see if you can be tested. If you live in San Diego County, and your doctor cannot offer you a test, call 2-1-1 to get a free test from SD County Public Health. If you have additional symptoms like shortness of breath (you just can’t seem to get enough air), loss of smell or taste, nausea or diarrhea, contact your health care provider or an urgent care immediately.
In severe cases, the virus can do wide spread and permanent damage to multiple organ systems. Early treatment is necessary to prevent the most severe symptoms.
Precautions: While lockdowns may have been effective in the US during the early stages of the pandemic, especially at a time when masks were hard to come by, recent evidence suggests that lockdowns provide only a moderate benefit over other means of control. Here’s what appears to be beneficial:
Masks: Masks are not all the same and some are better than others. Their main benefit is that they stop, reduce, or slow the travel of virus from infected people. This prevents surrounding people from infection or lowers the viral load of exposure. N95, KN95, and KF94 respirators are effective at filtering close to 95% of virus. A good mask is well fitting and filters the air moving in an out of your mouth and nose. The commonly used surgical masks and other loosely fitting masks do not filter air and I don’t recommend using them.
Social Distancing: Aerosolized virus can travel through the air. Staying 6 ft away from others helps prevent infection. Social distancing may be more important for droplet transmission, like the flu, than for aerosol transmission in which microdroplets can stay suspended for much longer and travel much further.
Adequate sleep: Sleep is very important for a wide variety of body functions, including the immune system. Get 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night. A 26 minute power nap during the day is also beneficial if needed.
Vitamin D: Several studies have suggested that patients with the most severe cases of COVID also have the lowest levels of Vitamin D. Because of our often indoor lifestyle, most Americans are Vitamin D deficient to some degree. The best way of getting some Vitamin D is to make it yourself by going outside in shorts and a T-shirt for 30 minutes a day. This is because Vitamin D is manufactured in our skin in response to sunlight. If it’s not practical for you to do this, consider a Vitamin D supplement. Darker skinned people are more likely to be Vitamin D deficient in the US. Supplementing Vitamin C and Zinc is also recommended.
Home isolation: If you have cold or flu symptoms, contact your doctor immediately and see if you can get a test. Tests are much more available that early in the pandemic, and you should be able to get a test by request. Also, if at all possible, isolate yourself from the rest of your family until you can be tested as negative. Many new infections are taking place among family members.
I’ve been traveling all over the country, and have been in dozens of airports, gas stations, and stores. I get tested regularly and have always been negative. Here are the precautions I use:
1) Wear a mask or face covering indoors in public. Now that vaccines are available, I no longer avoid unmasked people indoors, but as an unvaccinated person, I still wear mine. 2) Keep 6 ft away from others. (I basically ignore this one if other precautions are in place, especially on an airplane!) 3) Avoid indoor gatherings, especially ones in which singing or shouting is likely. This is now voluntary now that we have vaccines, as an unvaccinated person, I still follow this rule. 4) Outdoor gatherings are fine, even without masks, if everyone maintains a distance. I have hosted several outdoor gatherings. 5) While many restaurants are open for limited indoor seating, I personally am still not comfortable eating indoors at a restaurant. I enjoy eating outdoors at restaurants, however. 6) Wear an N95 or KN95 mask when going to more high risk areas like airports or public areas where people may gather. These masks are rated to filter out 95% of viral particles. In my opinion, surgical masks and especially neck gators are nearly worthless in these settings. 7) I never take my mask off on the plane, and find an isolate spot in the airport to eat or drink on layovers.
Vaccinated people can relax many of these rules! Vaccines are 90-95% effective, so you still have a small chance of infection.
Testing: There are several kinds of tests, and they tell you different things.
PCR: These tests use material collected from the nose and need to go to a specialized laboratory for processing. They are very sensitive and specific, and indicate whether the patient is currently infected. This is the most common kind of test. They can take longer to process because they need specialized equipment that most small labs don’t have, so most of the wait time is just for shipping to a specialized facility.
Antibody: These tests detected antibody from a patient’s blood to see if the patient has been infected for at least a few days. IgG tests may also tell if a patient was infected weeks or months previous, but are no longer infected. Some patients do not mount an immune response that will provide long term antibody. These tests are cheap and fast, but are more prone to false positives and false negatives than PCR tests.
Antigen: These tests use a very similar technology to Antibody tests, but instead of detecting a patients antibodies against virus, they use antibodies to detect viral proteins in a sample. An “antigen” in immunology lingo is just a protein that can induce an immune response. So in this context, an “antigen” is a SARS-2 protein that can be bound by an antibody. Like PCR tests, these tests detect an active infection, because they detect viral proteins currently in the body.
Isothermal amplification: The Abbott ID Now COVID tests uses this relatively new technology. These tests are similar to PCR but more prone to false negatives.
If you have cold or flu symptoms, contact your doctor immediately and see if you can get a test. Testing is much more available than it was early in the pandemic. San Diego County is encouraging anyone who wants a test to be tested.
Antibody Dependent Enhancement:I’ve written about this a lot and I won’t describe it in depth here. In short, this pathway allows some viruses to create more severe disease on the 2nd time infecting a person than the first. It is theoretically possible, perhaps even likely with SARS viruses, which is why I have been careful to avoid infection and why I’m not going to get the vaccine unless perhaps my work requires it.
Treatments: Treatment for COVID is complicated and not all patients can be treated in the same way. Additionally, treatments are evolving rapidly, and your doctor many not treat you in the ways listed below.
Supportive care: Most treatment is supportive care, treating symptoms while the patient recovers naturally. Anti-inflammatory medications are often used to prevent the immune system from over-reacting to the virus.
Ventilators/nasal cannula: While widely used early on, some doctors now state that ventilators carry risks that may be unacceptable for COVID patients. Many doctors now favor oxygen therapy using a nasal cannula, using ventilators only as a last resort breathing if labored.
Remdesivir: This antiviral was used widely for much of the pandemic, but many sources now claim it has limited effectiveness.
Dexamethasone: Steroid used to treat patients with low oxygen levels.
Hydroxychloroquine, Azithromycin, Zinc: Several doctors from several countries have reported success with this combination. Studies on the effects of these drugs have as yet still been non-conclusive. Some positive studies suggest that Zinc is the main virus fighter of the treatment, with Hydroxychloroquine allowing better penetration of Zinc into cells. Unfortunately, the debate on the efficacy of this regimen has taken on a strongly political tone, which almost always interferes with the scientific process. Now pundits, as well as scientists, weigh in on this regimen. Treatment with Ivermectin is likely more beneficial in a wider range of disease state than HCQ.
Ivermectin: A anti-parasitic medication used since 1981, Ivermectin has reportedly been used by doctors around the world, notably India and Mexico, to reduce COVID fatalities. Reports claim that Ivermectin is beneficial in a wide range of disease state, from pre-disease prevention to late stage disease. Like Hydroxycholoroquine, promising data was often labeled “misinformation” by outlets in Western countries, and western doctors were strongly discouraged from prescribing it. Thus, experimentation with Ivermectin was hindered and the drug’s potential is still unknown.
Vaccines: Each spring, scientists learn which flu is likely to be prominent by the following Fall. They make some guesses and create a vaccine for the flu season. The manufacture process takes a few months. But it’s only this short because they already know how to make a flu vaccine. Development of a brand new type of vaccine takes between 4 and 30 years! There are many methods to make a vaccine, and scientists must try many of them before finding one that works. Then they must try the vaccine on patients and make sure they are relatively safe. Every vaccine carries some risk of side effects.
Several vaccines against SARS-2 were finally released to the public in December of 2020. The vaccines released to the public are in 2 types:
Attenuated vaccine: This type has been commonly used for decades for a variety of viruses. The technique makes a severely weakened form of the virus that still makes viral proteins that provoke an immune response. With this type of vaccine, the patient is infected by a weak form of the virus that they quickly recover from, usually with no symptoms other than occasionally the flu like symptoms that are your body’s natural response to invasion.
mRNA vaccine: This is a brand new technology that has been worked on for years. The SARS-2 vaccines are the first ones that have been introduced to the public using this technology. The vaccine includes a piece of mRNA inside a lipid bilayer that mimics the cell wall. The mRNA is inserted into the cell where it is translated into a copy of the viral Spike protein. These vaccines are 90-95% effective against infection, and even those infected have less severe symptoms. However, they are not 100% effective, so some infections of vaccinated individuals has occurred.
As has often happened, the vaccines have generated significant controversy. As you know, I have been careful to avoid being infected and also getting the vaccine because of the potential of ADE. My concern with the vaccine actually has nothing to do with the new mRNA technology, I actually have no reservations about the mRNA vaccines. From an ADE perspective both the attenuated vaccines (Johnson & Johnson) and the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) produce Spike protein that may trigger an ADE response should a new strain of SARS virus appear, not a variant, a new SARS strain, like a “SARS-3”.
When the vaccines were released, rumors of side effects, sometimes severe, arose immediately. For some time, I minimized these as a risk of any vaccine. All vaccines carry the risk of side effects and even death. However, a video podcast featuring Robert Malone, the inventor of mRNA vaccine technology, convinced me that the Spike protein itself has toxic properties of its own, separate from the vaccine technology used. This is because the Spike protein can bind to cells all over the body and may have wide ranging effects.
Despite ADE and issues with side effects, I actually still believe some will benefit from the vaccine. These include the following groups:
Anyone over 60 Anyone with 1 or more risk factors:
obesity certain auto-immune diseases use of NSAID medications heart, lung or kidney condition immunocompromised patients (HIV, cancer and transplant patients) respiratory condition such as asthma or COPD.
Frequently working with the public Musicians who sing in indoor settings Medical personnel
Again, I am not a physician, so check with your healthcare provider while making decisions about getting the vaccine or changing your medication.
If you’ve had the vaccine or had COVID and are concerned about ADE, remember that it will only become a factor if a significantly new strain arises (“SARS-3”). If this happens, then the procedure for you would be to be very careful initially, then get the “SARS-3” vaccine as soon as possible. The new vaccine will protect you from the new virus. In the future, vaccines against Coronaviruses will be produced even more quickly than this time.
The vaccines have pros and cons. I’m in support of vaccines for some but not necessarily for others. Each person needs to weigh the risks for themselves. I am not for companies or government agencies coercing individuals to get the vaccine.
Herd Immunity: The idea of herd immunity was popularized in pre-pandemic discussions on vaccines, promoting the idea that the more people are vaccinated, the more protection for those who can’t be. The idea is useful, but in my opinion, efforts to push people into getting vaccinated to achieve herd immunity are misplaced. Before a vaccine is available, the only way to reach herd immunity is to expose large numbers of people to the virus, which is counter productive. Now that the vaccine is available, those who are concerned should just get the vaccine themselves and not harangue others about getting it. Gentle persuasion may be convincing, but haranguing rarely is. Given even the pre-pandemic resistance to vaccines, a forceful effort to vaccinate is likely to back-fire.
Variants: During the course of the pandemic, several variants have arisen that have a slightly different Spike protein sequence from the original Wuhan strain. Confusingly, naming conventions have changed several times, making it difficult to keep them all straight. As a general rule, the variants have all been more infectious than the Wuhan strain, but have not been more pathogenic. Fortunately, the vaccines have been effective against all of the variants, although are not as effective against some variants.
The Delta Variant: The UK/Alpha variant caused waves of new infections in some countries and was more infectious than the original Wuhan strain. In late 2020, a new variant arose in India, the India/Delta variant. This variant was significantly more infectious than other strains and has caused huge peaks in cases in several countries. As of this writing, several countries are still experiencing waves of new cases most likely due to the Delta Variant, including the United States.
While the Delta Variant has caused large numbers of new cases and an increase in hospitalizations, data suggests it may be less pathogenic than the Wuhan or UK variants.
Current Status: In late Spring, at least in the US, life began to get back to normal, with approximately 50% of the US population vaccinated, much lower new case numbers, and reduced restrictions. Currently however (July 21, 2021) a wave of infections, likely caused by the Delta variant, is causing concern and some calls for new restrictions. Several other countries scattered across the globe are also currently experiencing peaks in cases.
The Future: Since vaccination started in the US, there have been many fewer new cases. This has led many to basically go back to behaving normally. The Delta Variant is rightly causing concern, but I’m still hopeful that the current peak in new cases will be short lived. In other countries with Delta related waves, the peak has been very sharp, with quickly increasing, then quickly decreasing case numbers. However, I’ve started to be a little more cautious in public again, while we wait for the increase in cases to slow.
Several other countries are still experiencing an elevated case load. The pandemic won’t be truly over until cases are low in all countries. I’m hopeful that this will happen this year, but it’s certainly too early to know for sure. So far, all new variants have been susceptible to the vaccines and natural immunity. There is a small chance however, that we may see new versions that are not. If this happens, SARS may become endemic, circulating seasonally like the flu does. So far, I don’t see evidence that this will happen.
In the future, we may have a “SARS-3” a new virus from the SARS family that will be similar, but different enough to trigger the ADE pathway. If this happens, those of you that have had COVID or been vaccinated should be very careful to avoid infection initially, then get the “SARS-3” vaccine as soon as it is available.
In a future post, I’ll give my recommendations for what should be done differently if a new pandemic should arise.
This is a case update. We continue to see cases going up significantly in the US, California, and San Diego County. Frankly at this point, cases are going up further than I expected, although they still are not as high as our most recent small peak in April. These new cases are likely due to the more infectious Delta Variant. According to endcoronavirus, new cases are concentrated in the West, Midwest and South of the US.
In the past I’ve seen that Sunday numbers are most consistent week to week and usually are an indicator of what we will see in the following week. This past Sunday, case numbers were significantly higher in the US than the previous week, although I might be optimistic and say that we may already reached the new peak in California. San Diego did not report Sunday numbers last week, so I can’t say what the current trend is for San Diego.
Happily, we have not seen a corresponding increase in deaths. A slow yet consistent downward trend in deaths in the US has apparently not been effected at all by the Delta Variant, but did rise a little in California.
A new study preprint by Bernal et al suggests that the Pfizer vaccine is 88% effective against the Delta Variant as opposed to 93% for the Alpha/UK Variant. The vaccines provide good protection when compared to others, but are not completely protective.
This is a case update. We’ve been seeing a definite trend upward in cases in the past week for the US, California, and San Diego County. It’s not a huge number of new cases, but there is definitely an upward trend.
In the graphs today, I’m showing a logarithmic graph for the US since the beginning of the pandemic, and a linear graph for cases since the start of the Fall peak last October. Logarithmic graphs are useful since they emphasize small numbers and are more useful when numbers become low, but they do make small numbers look deceptively high. So I’m showing both today so you can get a more full picture of the Delta Variant peak that we’re seeing right now. It’s significant, but not huge.
According to endcoronavirus, regions in the West and Midwest of the US are particularly impacted right now, with Arkansas, Louisiana, Nevada and Colorado perhaps being the most hard hit. Remember that in the endcoronavirus map, a red county means that cases are increasing, but total cases may still be low. For the Montanans reading this, new case numbers are still quite low in Montana, except for small rises in a few places, like Billings, Bozeman, and Missoula.
Deaths are not increasing in the US yet, but are increasing in California.
Worldwide, numbers are far below the most recent India Variant peak, but are increasing in some areas scattered across the globe, like Russia, Cuba, Senegal, and Burma. The Delta/India Variant peak is over for many countries including India.
This is a case update. Reporting has become erratic in the last few weeks. San Diego County in particular only reports new numbers on Wednesdays now, so we are no longer getting daily new numbers. Also, Johns Hopkins is no longer reporting Recovered Cases, so I can no longer give Active Cases. These disclaimers aside, there has been an increase in cases in the last few weeks. This is almost certainly because of the more infectious Delta/India variant.
I predicted last week that we wouldn’t see a major new spike in cases, and that’s arguably still true, but we are seeing increases in numbers. New cases are currently almost double what they were at this time last week for the US, California, and San Diego County. We’ll have to see how this progresses. I continue to believe at this point that we won’t see a major new peak, but what “major” means is still subjective.
In San Diego County, 79% of eligible residents have received at least 1 dose of vaccine and 68% are fully vaccinated. This represents 105 and 90% respectively of the Counties goal of 75% of the population.
Worldwide, new cases are a little higher than a few weeks ago. Countries with current outbreaks are scattered across the globe, with examples being Russia, South Africa, Indonesia, Tunisia, Cuba, and Columbia.
Friends, this is a case update. I’m also going to update information on the India/Delta Variant.
New confirmed cases are starting to creep up in the US, California, and San Diego County. Most commentators are suggesting this is because of the India/Delta Variant which is now percolating into the United States.
According to endcoronavirus, there are pockets of increasing cases in the US, particularly in East Texas. In most of these counties, new case numbers are just slightly higher than “baseline” numbers.
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.
Don’t fear, but be smart, Erik
Note: I am no longer posting graphs of California and San Diego recovered cases, since those municipalities are no longer giving regular updates on those numbers.
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.
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. ____________________________________
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.
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.
I’m going to discuss the hypothesis that the SARS-2 virus arose from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. While I will attempt to avoid being overtly political, and the topic of the pandemic should not be political at all, we all know that many topics have taken on an unfortunate political tone and discussing them at all can become “problematic”. So I’m going to be problematic. In fact, F@¢3b00k may remove my post, so I’ll link to my blog page in a separate post.
You are free to disagree with my conclusions, but keep it civil. I retain the right to delete comments that don’t advance the discussion in a productive way.
Lab Leak Hypothesis: Since the beginning of the pandemic, rumors were swirling about the lab leak hypothesis. Also from the beginning, the idea was often discussed as if it were obviously a crazy conspiracy theory. I always thought it sounded plausible, and actually came to think it was likely by last summer. I didn’t write about it because I couldn’t prove it. It still can’t really be proven, but there is some evidence pointing toward the idea.
Please note: I do NOT currently see any evidence that the Chinese Communist Party intentionally released the virus as a form of bi0w∑@pon. I currently believe the release was accidental.
Until just a few weeks ago, the idea was basically forbidden to be taken seriously in polite society and would get you banished from F@¢3b00k, YouTube or Google. This changed suddenly when the Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair published articles on the topic. Mysteriously, this made the dam burst, and now media from all over the political spectrum are taking the story seriously.
What evidence exists for the WIV being the source of SARS-2? Several pieces of circumstantial evidence and a few pieces of scientific evidence suggests a lab origin.
The first patients appeared in Wuhan China, the home of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). The lab conducts research into bat coronavirus, close cousins of the SARS-2 virus. The wet market often blamed for the outbreak is about 300 yards from the WIV.
Public records surveyed by Matthew Tye suggest that in late November, the lab posted a call for new employees for work on a dangerous new virus. Around the same time, a scientist at the lab, Huang Yan Ling, went missing. Her information was removed from the lab’s website. As of this writing, she had not yet publicly reappeared. Many suspect she is dead.
Tye used to reside in China, is married to a Chinese woman, and posts under the name Laowhy86. He is very critical of the Chinese Communist Party for several reasons, but not of the Chinese people generally.
The WIV had been doing experiments with “Gain of Function” research in which virus are given the ability to infect human cells in order to study them in a system relevant to humans. This practice is very controversial even among scientists, with many believing they are too dangerous to be done. The director of the WIV coronavirus program, Dr. Zhengli-Li Shi, co-wrote articles featuring this research (more on this later).
A paper was published by Andersen et al claiming that the virus was natural. However, the paper includes a sequence comparison showing a feature called a “polybasic cleavage site” that exists in SARS-2 but not in closely related coronaviruses. Similar sites exist in the most infectious Flu viruses, including the 1918 virus. Since this site does not appear in closely related coronaviruses, many speculate that this site is evidence of laboratory manipulation. More on this paper later.
It is nearly obvious to many, including me, that an investigation into the origins of the virus is warranted, including data, documents, logs, and protocols from the WIV. The Chinese government has strenuously objected to any investigation. As of this moment, no serious on-site investigation has been performed.
Fauci Emails: A few days ago, Buzzfeed released the results for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for emails to and from Tony Fauci regarding the pandemic. Since then, journalists and others have been combing through the emails looking for interesting tidbits. And they have found some.
An exchange between Fauci and a group of other scientists and public officials occurred between January 31st and February 4th.
On January 31st, Kristian Andersen wrote to Tony Fauci. His comments include, “The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered.” and “Eddie, Bob, Mike, and myself all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.”
On February 1st, a group including Andersen and Fauci had a conference call discussing the issue. The details of the call are not available.
On February 4th, members of the same groups discussed wording of a paper to be submitted. The paper is the same one I mentioned in number 4 above, and argues that the virus had a natural source. 4 of the 5 authors on the paper were on the February 1st conference call. The paper was submitted for publication on February 9th, just over a week after Andersen’s comments to Fauci on January 31st. Remember, the paper argues that the virus had a natural source, but the January 31st email suggests that several authors believed it was engineered.
I personally read this paper last year, and it convinced me, at least for a few months, that the virus was natural. It’s amazing and personally offensive to me that the authors duped me and many others.
I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that while science is an extremely useful tool for learning about the natural world, it cannot answer the main questions of life. Philosophical tools are needed for that. In fact, science depends on philosophical ideas to work. Science depends on scientists being honest and transparent when they write! To publish material that is knowingly false is scientific fraud, and can be extremely damaging. In the scientific arena, authors who commit fraud are often publicly shamed, can be restricted from publication, and lose funding.
In a separate February 5th email to a friend, Dr. Fauci said “Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection. The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you.”
Of course, Fauci’s statements on masks have been inconsistent. At times he’s said:
We don’t need masks We should have them but can’t because the medical community needs them We should be required to wear them We should wear 2 masks
As you know, my position is that good masks (N95s, KN95s, KF94s, and some homemade masks) are very useful in indoor settings, but are not necessary outdoors, except in crowds. I’ve also said that surgical masks, neck gators, and bandanas are nearly useless against an aerosolized virus. Fauci’s February 5th email is difficult to interpret, but I think it’s consistent with my position. When he says that masks don’t work, he’s talking about the very common masks that people wear, blue surgical masks and other loose fitting masks. Needless to say, the February 5th email will surely add to the confusion regarding Dr. Fauci’s position on masks.
_________________________ Update, June 16: In an interview on MSNBC posted on June 9th, 2021, Fauci was discussing the recent criticism of him. In the interview, he stated that “…attacks on me quite frankly are attacks on science.” and “You’re really attacking not only Dr. Anthony Fauci, you are attacking science.”
It is inappropriate for a leader to equate him or herself with a country, business, church, or practice like science*. When they do this, they are trying to protect themselves by borrowing the loyalty and good will people have for those things and applying it to themselves. The loyalty and good will people have for science is not owed to Tony Fauci or any individual scientist. A scientist only gets to claim “science” when they are practicing science. What is at issue is whether Fauci has actually been practicing science in regards to the issue of the connection between SARS-2 and the WIV. He doesn’t get to just claim this. He needs to provide evidence to support his view. As stated in my post on science, a scientist must provide evidence for their view, not just call you anti-science.
*Napoleon, in a speech to the French Senate in 1814, said “I am the State.” _____________________________
Collins on Gain of Function research. Hugh Hewitt recently interviewed Francis Collins, the current director of the NIH. I have been a big fan of Collins. However, in the interview, Collins seems to argue that collaborating on gain of function projects with researchers in China is a good idea. Frankly, with the increased belligerence of the Chinese government for many of its neighbors in recent years, I find Collins comments disturbing.
Podcast episode “We are Indebted to those Who Volunteered for the Vaccine Trials”. Search “Hewitt Collins” in podcast software.
Outdoor protests and COVID: Since I’m already in deep trouble today, I might as well pile on. A paper published in November of 2020 compared the number of Black Lives Matter protests to increases in COVID cases in the cities involved. The paper argues that there was a statistically significant but still small number of COVID cases arising from the Black Lives Matter protests. This gives more evidence that outdoor spread of COVID is minimal, even in large groups. Of course this also suggests that anti-lockdown protests were also unlikely to generate large numbers of new cases.
This is a COVID case update. New case numbers for the US, California, and San Diego County continue to steadily drop. In particular, San Diego County has seen fewer than 100 cases in a single day reported 15 times in the last 2 weeks. Also, California has had several days with less than 1,000 cases, and the US has had several days with less than 10,000 cases.
Things feel like they’re getting back to normal all over. As I’ve mentioned before, I still haven’t been vaccinated, and am often the only weirdo wearing a mask in an indoor environment. It doesn’t bother me. I know at least 60% of the people I encounter have been vaccinated, and I’m also used to being a weirdo.
Internationally, case numbers are down, but not everywhere. Cases in India are coming down, but cases in Brazil are persistent. There are still countries in Southeast Asia that have very high new case numbers.
I will probably have another post later today or tomorrow regarding the Lab Leak hypothesis and all the stuff swirling around that issue right now.