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Coronavirus Science and Medicine

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    Excerpt from wikipedia:

    Coronaviruses are a group of related viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that can range from mild to lethal. Mild illnesses include some cases of the common cold (which has other possible causes, predominantly rhinoviruses), while more lethal varieties can cause SARS, MERS, and COVID-19. Symptoms in other species vary: in chickens, they cause an upper respiratory tract disease, while in cows and pigs they cause diarrhea. There are yet to be vaccines or antiviral drugs to prevent or treat human coronavirus infections.

    This is just a coronavirus intro post for now. The next post focuses specifically on the COVID-19 pandemic.




    Again, excerpting from wikipedia:

    Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the virus strain that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), a respiratory illness. It is colloquially known as the coronavirus, and was previously referred to by its provisional name 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

    I’m on a newspaper’s website daily, interacting in the comment section where most people not only seem mostly clueless about science, what is good political leadership and picking the best experts to listen to, but  also constantly criticizing local government for the restrictions they imposed on us to mitigate the spread of the virus. I’ll save the gory details of those interactions for later. Hint: They tend to love Trump and are easily, majorly triggered when anyone criticizes him.

    Meanwhile, I mainly wanted to point out an excellent (imo) article suggesting how the world will eventually have to deal with the pandemic. An epidemiologist wrote an opinion piece for NYT, and here are some excerpts:


    But in the many more places now in the throes of full-on epidemics, notably in the United States and Western Europe, the pressing concern is how to suppress the virus’s spread so as to avert a Wuhan-like health disaster, but without destroying economies or undermining people’s resilience and their willing consent to very taxing social-distancing measures.


    The Covid-19 pandemic can only be prevented from resurging when at least half the world’s population has become immune to the new virus. And that can happen in only one of two ways: After enough people have been infected and have recovered, or have been inoculated with a vaccine.

    Allowing the first option to happen, unmitigated, would be a humanitarian catastrophe: It would mean very many deaths, mostly among the elderly and poor people with limited access to health care. The second option — developing a safe, effective vaccine and making enough of it for everybody — is a goal at least one year, perhaps two years, away. Massive lockdowns and distancing measures cannot be sustained that long.

    […] a society can consider relaxing some measures (say, reopen schools). But it must be ready to reimpose drastic restrictions as soon as those critical figures start rising again — as they will, especially, paradoxically, in places that have fared not too badly so far. Then the restrictions must be lifted and reapplied, and lifted and reapplied, as long as it takes for the population at large to build up enough immunity to the virus.


    Gabriel Leung (@gmleunghku) is an epidemiologist and dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong. He is the founding director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control and is an adviser to the Hong Kong and Chinese governments on the new coronavirus.

    Good explanations for R0 (“R-naught”) and Rt are included.

    Next, I think it’s important to discuss how we will keep flattening the curve, by learning how to shop and work among increasingly large groups of people, while also learning how to drastically reduce the spread of the current pathogen among us. (I say “current” pathogen because it seems likely we’ll have to deal with others in the future.) If nurses and doctors can learn protective practices, some of us can learn some of those practices, too. We can never expect to achieve perfection–even the pros can’t–but we can still continuously improve on our personal skills and practices.

    (Did you know that cases of our every day kinds of communicable microbes are lower now as a result of social distancing?)



    COVID-19 (Viral Load) Testing

    16 April, Trump claimed we’ve now performed more tests per capita than South Korea. Incredulous, I checked, and sure enough he’s not significantly incorrect. (See screen captures of world testing data, below.) It’s a good milestone, but reaching it this late in the pandemic’s history is (imo) a major stain on Trump’s history of inaction. And our focus on tracing covid19 infections between people is much less concerted than South Korea’s, notably lacking (e.g.) data on real-time movement of people. (That’s yet another topic in itself.)

    Data source

    17 April 2020 Data

    17 April bar graph of covid19 testing, per capita by country

    Here’s the statistic from 4 April 2020 Data, as testing tends to lag about two weeks behind the actual number of how many (and which) people in the population are really infected, since people typically don’t even get tested until they’re symptomtomatic.

    3 April bar graph of covid19 testing, per capita by country

    Again it should be noted that several countries don’t need as much testing as USA does, because they have much more comprehensive tracking of the real-time movement of their people.

    Viral Load testing tests for the presence of the virus or pieces of it, for the purpose of determining how infectious the carrier (i.e. infected person) is. This is different from another kind of test which will become increasing important over time, “anti-body” testing. Anti-body tests indicate who has been infected and subsequently developed an immune response. This test is important 1) for calculating how many people in total have ever been infected and then recovered or died; 2) (most importantly) who we’re able to obtain serum anti-body from, to give virus-fighting anti-body (and effective immune response) to other non-infected people or to new covid19 patients.

    The following rant was first at the top of this post, but I decided to make it less (immediately) intrusive by moving it down here:

    When I’ve locked away my gun to keep myself from shooting myself, I’ll watch the latest daily “Coronavirus Task Force Briefing”. A day or two ago I realized that for first time in my 66 years of life, I actually hate a human being. He’s so full of hateful speech and behaviors himself, acting Divider in Chief, bragging about what he’s done and blaming Democrats or other countries for what’s wrong with America. He spends a significant portion of the coronavirus briefing doing just that, digressing to how great he is and how fucked up other people or non-Republican institutions are. But I digress too… I’ll remove this angstful remark because it’s just a personal rant, not adding useful info to the thread.





    This is not rocket science. Either a month long real lockdown followed by extensive testing/contact tracing across the globe or an effective vaccine that almost everyone gets. Otherwise this is just gonna be rolling hotspots (possibly seasonal) and economic disaster indefinitely until multitudes of infections and deaths result in high population immunity.



    This is not rocket science.

    Exactly. Mostly. But you summed it up exactly-correctly. 🙂

    Meanwhile, Trump is still misleading people (imo) about how we’ve been doing the best testing in the world, “even better than South Korea”, and then mentioning we have a low caseload per capita compared with other countries. What’s misleading is leaving out the “per capita” data on the testing figure. (See testing per capita charts, above). We’re far from best at it. In fact we’re so late coming to the testing party that we need to increase our testing per capita by maybe a hundred fold to save lives and future hospital overloads.

    What is rocket science (ok, relatively) is what the video’s about. Massachusetts has been way ahead of the country with their MIT + Harvard lab strategy, set up in only two weeks by this human genome guy, Eric Lander.

    Probably the biggest angst I have comes up when I’m reading comments from Trump fans who’ve taken over the local newspaper’s comment sections, even though our local population is largely politically progressive. I’m seeing stupid comments constantly, still, even now, like “masks don’t work”, and blaming progressives for all the job losses, nosediving economy, and keeping them from going back to work. Meanwhile they’re so scientifically illiterate (like POTUS) that they don’t even understand yet the difference between different kinds of tests that we need, or they claim that “requiring face coverings infringe on our liberties”.

    I’m sorry for ranting, because I’m sure everyone here knows this stuff already. I mostly want to point out how arguing with Trump fans over this kind of issue only makes them dig in harder, calling me a “Trump basher” even when I’m only pointing out his lack of science/medicine expertise. I didn’t even criticize him for his most recent “disinfection injection” gaff, because I could see he was obviously honestly trying to sound scientifically knowledgeable and accurate, in spite of his inability to truly comprehend the finer details. Just like his most loyal fans.



    This is not rocket science. Either a month long real lockdown followed by extensive testing/contact tracing across the globe or an effective vaccine that almost everyone gets. Otherwise this is just gonna be rolling hotspots (possibly seasonal) and economic disaster indefinitely until multitudes of infections and deaths result in high population immunity.

    As for contact tracing, it will require an army of investigators. But you know what, there is an army of investigators sitting at home watching Netflix or years old football games, almost all of them sitting there with a phone at their side. I’m sure much, not all, contact tracing work could be done by phone. Pay people a nominal amount, like $5/hr, and much of the contact tracing could be done on the cheap and the workers could make some money to spend on keeping their noses above water.

    Many might even volunteer.

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