Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 27 May, 2021

I had friends and their children come and spend a lovely afternoon at my home this past weekend.  Apart from rushed visits by single people for no more than a few minutes, this was the first time in 15 months I’ve had a “real” visit by friends, and it was great to enjoy, without an overlay of great concern surrounding the event.  I’ve a friend coming around for a small birthday party on Friday.

The relief and return to normalcy in my life that is being enabled, thanks to the vaccine, is much greater than I’d anticipated.  Like doubtless many of you, I now find myself thinking that I/we have “conquered” the virus – that’s a very wrong perception, of course, but it is nice to be “naughty” and allow oneself to feel that way, even if only a little bit.

I expect most readers, particularly in the US, have already been vaccinated, too.  But if you haven’t, I’d encourage you to consider doing so.  Yes, they’re still experimental and relatively new, but they’ve now been given 288 million times to Americans, and 1.8 billion times in total, all around the world.  While there remains potential for unexpected long term problems, at least we can confidently now proclaim that problems appearing in the first six months or so are proving to be extremely unlikely, and at least based on those six months, the balance between vaccine risks and virus risks seems to strongly favor getting vaccinated.  For a mix of reasons, I continue to mildly prefer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but the appeal of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines with their apparently higher rate of protection against the virus is easy to understand, and so I hesitate to argue against them.

Can I continue the feeling of self-indulgence that I’ve been allowing myself, post-vaccination, by saying a terribly smug thing.  The number of times I’ve been correct when calling out “conventional wisdom” and disagreeing with it during the pandemic to date seems to be many times greater than the number of times I’ve subsequently been proved wrong.  I’ve been reminded of that incessantly this last week or so, as one by one, the main stream media outlets, even such extremist publications as the New York Times and Washington Post, are slowly collapsing and pompously conceding they might have been ever so slightly wrong in refusing to acknowledge the overwhelming certainty that the virus was man-made and emerged out of China’s Wuhan virus laboratories.  They’re full of excuses for their errors, and in some cases I fear their apparent admission is so ambivalent as to allow them to double-down triumphantly in another month or two and return back to the “natural appearance” theory, pointing to their great open-mindedness in the form of their commentaries at present.

The most delightful of all such concessions was perhaps printed in England’s The Times, which included this absolute truth :

speaking off the record, some virologists say that Trump was a factor. He wanted to blame China, so until recently they reflexively did the reverse

In other words, the same people chorusing “follow the science” were actually not doing that themselves.

I eagerly await the main stream media’s future capitulation on the subject of hydroxychloroquine, which seems to have suffered an identical anti-Trump reflexive dismissal, and, on the basis of “guilt by association”, the even more effective ivermectin, also unfairly discredited without a shred of substance, too.  (More on ivermectin and the one chance in 85,000,000,000,000 – ie 85 trillion – that the accumulated research to date supporting its use is wrong, below.)

And will Twitter now “re-platform” the accounts it proudly “de-platformed” last year for raising doubts about the official story that the virus just magically appeared from nowhere one day?  One has to wonder what other truths – especially in the form of lifesaving treatments such as HCQ and IVM – are also being kept from us by people blinded either by Trump-hate (although he might dispute this fact himself, the reality is he left office almost exactly four months ago – isn’t it time to move on) or by big-pharma’s big-bucks?

This article is another of the pompous “well, it wasn’t really our fault for getting it wrong” semi-retractions/apologies, and frankly I found it hard to read without needing to vomit at the same time.  If you feel the same, please skip down and then pause at the final section, where there’s a profound final commentary.  It is headed “The Perils of Twitter” and it is a totally true concept that helps explain why some types of news spreads like wildfire, while other types of news never gets exposed at all, and explains how dangerous myths are always introduced with the phrase “leading scientists all agree that ……”.

Never mind about the agreements, let’s base our knowledge on facts and science rather than ignorant consensus.  If the strongest point to support something is to say that most people/experts agree with it, that hints there are no underlying clear facts at all and instead an “appeal to authority” fallacy is being foist upon us.  Science is not democratic, and the majority does not win a vote to determine the correctness of their preferred hypothesis.  We should look at all the subsequently debunked “universal truths” of the past and wonder what the present-day similar nonsense might be that we’re now accepting complacently and without question.

In the past, everyone “knew” the earth is the center of the universe, and flat, for example.  Fires come from phlogiston, and then from caloric.  Diseases come from “miasma” (bad air).  All matter is comprised of a mix of the four fundamental elements – earth, air, fire and water.  Atoms are indivisible and indestructible. Outer space is filled with aether. Canals on Mars.  Dental cavities and tooth aches are caused by tooth worms.  It is impossible for heavier-than-air machines to fly.  People would be killed if the train they were in was traveling at over 100 mph because of the effects of the speed.  The Titanic would be unsinkable.  More recently, the suggestion that meteors (and sometimes space craft) burn up in the atmosphere due to the heat of air friction.  Red mercury.  Polywater.  And so on.

Okay, that’s a fun list and could be very much longer, but I hope you already get the point.  Every generation of mankind from the ancients to the present day has been smug and self-confident in its interpretation of the world around it, while ridiculing the errors of previous generations.  Why should we be any different in our smug certainties – perhaps they too will turn out to be laughably wrong.  We should always be open to the possibility of new ideas and better interpretations, and absolutely not “deplatform” people for raising them.

It is only a small shift from this topic to the topic of the morass of ever-changing rules and regulations attached to international travel now.  The concept should be totally simple, and in two parts :

(1)  If you’re vaccinated, you can travel anywhere

(2)  If you’re not vaccinated, you will be quarantined upon arrival

Beyond those two simple points, it is possible to develop some “1.5” points in the grey area between points 1 and 2, where people are traveling from a low-risk country to a higher-risk country – it is probably acceptable to allow such people into the higher-risk country without elaborate quarantine measures, but perhaps a double test – one three days or so prior, and one upon arrival – would be prudent.

Instead we’ve a terrible mess of what can and can’t be done, changing not only from country to country, but also from week to week, and with no apparent logic to it whatsoever.  The UK famously allowed its citizens to travel to a small number of “micro-countries” that no-one would ever want to get to, nor could they readily travel to, plus also Australia, New Zealand and Singapore – three countries that refuse to allow Brits in, so a totally useless gesture, and also to Portugal, a country with a higher rate of Covid infections than Britain and many other countries that Brits aren’t allowed to travel to.  No part of what Britain did makes sense.

European unity quickly fractured when the concept of “every country for itself” took over last year, and struggles to recreate the Schengen free-travel zone have yet to succeed.  European leaders have been promising, since 15 April, that vaccinated Americans can travel to Europe this summer, but now, six weeks later, they’ve still not explained how we can do so, or what type of proof of being vaccinated they will accept.

This article looks some more at the mess of conflicting requirements.

The press loves the headlines of imagined armageddon virus-inspired collapses.  There have been a series of never-correctly-identified “hot spots”, with India being the most obvious recent example, and now that word has finally reached the press that India’s numbers have been dropping pretty much from the start of being featured as the poster-child for Covid problems, they’ve moved on to an even stranger choice – Japan.

Japan’s case rate is among the lowest in the world, and dropping.  So how to understand headlines warning that Japanese hospitals are on the “brink of collapse” as claimed here and Osaka is “crumpling under the onslaught” as headlined here?

Needless to say the despicable idiots at the US State Department responded by raising to Level 4 (maximum danger) their Japan travel warning, advising Americans to stay away from Japan.  Why?  The rate of new cases in Japan is less than half the rate in the US, and – look at the chart above again – lower than just about every other country in the world.

Really, please stop and think about this.  How is it possibly justifiable to give a maximum level travel warning to a country with a Covid case rate less than half the rate here in the US?  The State Department has a $52 billion budget, and this is the junk they serve us in return?

Current Numbers

There were no changes in US state rankings.

The minor country list showed exceptional volatility.  Seychelles appeared, immediately at 7th position, and the Maldives came in at 8th position.  Bahrain moved up two places, and assorted other lesser changes.

The major country list saw Argentina move up two places, and some other minor changes in the bottom part of the list.

The death list was unchanged.  And the weekly change list saw the usual series of strong changes, although surprisingly the top four countries remained unchanged, albeit with Bahrain showing a massive increase on the previous week.

India continues to drop back down the list, being at 32nd place today, with a rate of 1,090 new cases per million people over the last week, a drop of 24% from the previous week.  The US has a rate of 485 new cases, a drop of 20% from last week, and the UK is at 285 new cases, a rise of 21%.  The world as a whole saw a 14% drop in new cases.

 

US Best and Worst States

Rank Cases/Million Deaths/Million
A week ago Now A week ago Now
1 Best HI (25,189) HI (25,449) HI (347) HI (352)
2 VT VT VT VT
3 OR OR AK AK
4 ME ME ME ME
5 WA (56,248) WA (57,273) OR (618) OR (631)
47 UT (125,917) UT (126,448) MS (2,445) MS (2,454)
48 IA IA RI RI
49 SD SD MA MA
50 RI RI NY NY
51 Worst ND (143,610) ND (144,109) NJ (2,933) NJ (2,947)

 

Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (175,369) Andorra (176,823)
2 Montenegro Montenegro
3 San Marino San Marino
4 Gibraltar (127,249) Bahrain (130,792)
5 Slovenia Gibraltar  (127,427)
6 Bahrain Slovenia
7 Luxembourg Seychelles
8 Aruba Maldives
9 St Barth Luxembourg
10 Lithuania (99,936) Aruba (102,235)

 

Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (154,402) Czech Republic (154,749)
2 Sweden (103,908) Sweden (105,205)
3 USA (101,687) USA (102,177)
4 Netherlands (94,097) Netherlands
5 Belgium Belgium
6 France France
7 Portugal Portugal
8 Spain Argentina (80,387)
9 Poland Spain
10 Argentina  (75,656) Brazil  (76,392)
11 Brazil (74,329) Poland
12 Jordan (70,784) Jordan (71,304)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Rep (2,794) Czech Rep (2,802)
2 Belgium Belgium
3 Brazil Brazil
4 Italy Italy
5 Peru Peru
6 Poland Poland
7 UK (1,872) UK (1,873)
8 USA  (1,811) USA  (1,826)
9 Spain (1,702) Spain (1,708)
10 Mexico (1,699) Mexico (1,707)

 

Top Rates in New Cases Reported in the Last Week (new cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Bahrain  7,522 Bahrain  11,499
2 Uruguay  6,325 Uruguay  7,585
3 Argentina Argentina
4 Costa Rica Costa Rica
5 Trinidad & Tobago Paraguay
6 Lithuania Colombia
7 Paraguay Trinidad & Tobago
8 Chile Chile
9 Brazil  2,159 Brazil  2,074
10 Colombia Kuwait
11 Georgia Nepal  1,811
12 Nepal  1,941 Bolivia  1,553

 

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Items below include another Fauci reversal, although we wonder if this one is real or just a feint, what type of immunity does having a Covid infection bestow, a new fast test, another totally useless expert commentary, lots more good news about ivermectin, and also a new ivermectin trial that seems to be biased to make it fail (why?), strange goings on in France, Ohio giving million dollar prizes to recently vaccinated people, another reason to get vaccinated, the US now has 40% of the entire population fully vaccinated, a great exposition on Covid data problems, another vapid disaster-seeking story that probably will come to nothing, a serious shortage, crazy Covid rules, and more crazy Covid rules, and how mask policies have now (and deservedly) become the subject of SNL ridicule.

SUPPORTER ONLY CONTENT

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END OF SUPPORTER ONLY CONTENT

Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Sunday.

Please click here for a listing of all our Covid-19 articles.

6 thoughts on “Covid-19 Diary : Thursday 27 May, 2021”

  1. lifegotinteresting

    You have every right to feel at least very satisfied with the quality of your work. You’ve been proven right far more than wrong (and I know you could calculate the probabilities of it being due just to chance). But the reason is that you applied the same tenacious approach that you have in all of your writing. Digging deeper and deeper, and letting your conclusions be driven only by logic and data. Wherever it led.

    I really believe that this pandemic has brought out your best work, because you have been dealing with issues of life and death. And trying to help make sense out of the unknown and one of the most frightening times in modern history.

    Sometimes I wonder why America has had such a shambolic response to Covid. And believe me, since my vaccination, I’ve been trying to think about the past year as little as possible.

    Think about it. The richest country. The most advanced technology. Some of the best pharma companies, hospitals, and universities in the world. How did we do this to ourselves? It has been estimated that the real number of Americans we lost is close to a Million. How did this happen? 5% of the World’s population, 25% of the Covid fatalities?

    I think a big part of this has been our fragmentation, our tribalism. So many groups working at cross-purposes. Health officials doing a CYA. Politicians using it for power and control. Different groups politicizing behaviors. The medical industry seeking profits. No sense of common purpose, working together. No quality leadership. Information that often couldn’t be trusted. No sacrifice, often selfishness.

    Everything that could go wrong, did. And yet we seem to be muddling through. But with so much, needless loss and death over the past year. Tragic. And no accountability. I keep hoping for accountability.

    1. David Rowell – Seattle, WA, USA – New Zealander now living in the United States.

      Hi, Peter

      I of course agree, or at least, modestly accept your kind comments. 🙂

      As for two of your other points, I totally underscore your call for accountability, and also recognize your sense of returning optimism – a sense that somehow, we have turned the corner and the light at the end of the tunnel, ever larger and brighter, no longer threatens to be an oncoming express train. Bravo for that.

  2. When I find time to look at some of the referenced studies, I tend to get frustrated. There seems to almost be a whisper a story many times affect in the meta analysis studies. Especially meta analysis papers referencing other meta analysis papers.

    I picked two of the study references in the paper linked to in this article. Just randomly. Both are less then stellar studies. It seems every time I follow some of the links the base articles, the quality of the study and/or the title/conclusion doesn’t reflect the limits of the conclusion. The latter tends to make the conclusions of the meta studies more positive than the underlying studies support.

    Unfortunately this isn’t the first time I’ve seen these issues. Its especially frustrating when odds are that Ivermectin is helpful, at least, in some set of conditions. I just wish the meta studies did a better job of quoting quality studies instead of anything that has a good headline.

    I’m thankful I’m not a MD. There seems to be lots of promising activity and some much poor quality data. I can’t imagine being sued for medical malpractice for prescribing a drug off label and having these studies used to show there wasn’t solid clinical evidence.

    The first one I picked (reference below) studied the difference between using Ivermectin and HCQ. You would not know this from the title nor the final sentence in the conclusion. There there wasn’t an inflected control group that didn’t get either drug. You could use the data presented to conclude that Ivermectin is good. Or you could conclude that HCQ negatively impacted that group’s outcomes.

    The second paper has this zinger:
    “There was no significant difference in the primary outcome, i.e. …” and goes on to list the trial criteria. In also states (in great clinical terms) “a significantly higher proportion of patients were discharged alive from the hospital when they received ivermectin.” There isn’t any details of the cause of death. There are comments on the article showing the mortality difference isn’t significant given the differences in ischemic heart disease conditions between the placebo group and those given the drug.

    This study was done on 112 people. The day 6 TR-PCR test data was only available for 76 people. So there isn’t any data on effectiveness in nearly a third of the small study group.

    1) Elgazzar A, Hany B, Abo Youssef S, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Ivermectin for Treatment and prophylaxis of COVID-19 Pandemic. Research Square. 2020;doi:10.21203/rs.3.rs-100956/v1

    2) Kirti R, Roy R, Pattadar C, et al. Ivermectin as a potential treatment for mild to moderate COVID-19 – A double blind randomized placebo-controlled trial. medRxiv. 2021;doi: 10.1101/2021.01.05.21249310.

    1. David Rowell – Seattle, WA, USA – New Zealander now living in the United States.

      Hi

      I think you’re approaching this the wrong way, and certainly don’t want to get into a study-by-study analysis with you (although see below).

      The situation is a bit like the TSA and aviation security. With the TSA, they need to be 100% effective and not miss any terrorists. But in searching for Covid cures, a single positive trial result is persuasive. If there are three negative results and one positive one, it is valid to seize on the positive one and identify what combination of elements it was that created the positive result, and then deploy the treatment in such cases. So I’m searching for positive trials, not negative trials.

      As for the two trials you looked at, here’s an analysis of the first one. I don’t think you’re being fair by criticising the trial based on its title or final sentence.

      https://c19hcq.com/elgazzar.html

      The second one is more fairly criticized, both by you and by this website https://c19ivermectin.com/ which says “… not statistically significant due to the small number of events.” and goes on to say “…biased loss of followup…”.

      I recommend the c19ivermectin site to you. It gives fair analysis of the 56 trials it reports on.

  3. Hi David –

    Where do you find some of the more unique charts — the unemployment/death chart is interesting. I appreciate you finding and publishing them.

    One interesting observation, looking at the 18 states where the unemployment is >2% and deaths >150, 14 of the states have one (or more) of the top 15 metropolitan areas in the US. So over 75% of the states with higher unemployment contain large metropolitan areas. Metropolitan areas have a higher percentage of services jobs that rural area. Rural areas tend to have a higher percentage of production jobs.

    More services jobs were lost during the lockdowns so the higher unemployment certainly makes sense.

    Further, unfortunately, urban areas had most of the early high case rates and over time treatments have reduced the likelihood of death if you were inflected.

    Thanks for making me think today!

    1. David Rowell – Seattle, WA, USA – New Zealander now living in the United States.

      I find stuff everywhere, and often as a result of readers sending things in. I keep expecting the flow of new material to dry up, but as witness the Thursday diary entry, there still seems to be an abundance of new items, even as case numbers continue their wonderful drop and the country (and world) moves (hopefully) steadily towards a return to normalcy…..

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