Category Archives: Social issues ( be civil ! )

How right could I be? Sadly it didn’t matter

The following post appeared exactly one year ago today, predicting the course of the pandemic. It was ignored. The tragedy is that the information it was based on was freely available, and our vaunted intelligence services either didn’t see it (what were we paying them for?) or ignored it.  Surely the CDC should have been looking at the Chinese press as they were certainly aware of it. 

The reason I found the information seems almost quaint in retrospect.  With family in Hong Kong, I was worried about the effects of the riots of the previous summer on them. 

The Wuhan flu morphed into SARS-CoV-2, but that’s what people were calling it a year ago. 

What to do about the Wuhan flu

This was published 27 Jan ’20.  Nothing has been altered (other than this).

What to do about the Wuhan flu?  The short answer is to lay in a month or two of dried food and drink, and have plenty of bottled water around.

The long answer depends on whether the new corona virus (called 2019-nCOV) becomes a pandemic and if the (symptomatic) case fatality rate continues at 3.5% (based on 80 deaths in 2,800 cases as of yesterday).

With a son, Chinese daughter in law and two grandchildren living in Hong Kong, I’ve followed the outbreak ever since hearing of it 1 January.

The best and most current source of info about the outbreak is the South China Morning Post — https://www.scmp.com.  It is in English and is not a government mouth piece.

Here’s the bad news

(1) As of a few days ago the virus had been found in 29/31 Chinese provinces.  This means that confining the virus to China is nearly impossible — how do you cut off a billion or so people from the rest of the world?

(2) Here’s more from today

  • Hong Kong University  faculty of medicine dean Gabriel Leung says research shows self-sustaining human-to-human transmission is already happening in all major mainland cities.   Here’s a link
  • https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/3047813/china-coronavirus-hong-kong-medical-experts-call
  •  Why is this significant?  You have to know how docs operate.  When I wanted information about some issue or disease, I’d call a doc whose opinion and background I respected.  It is likely that Leung made this statement after calling med school deans he personally knew in major mainland cities.
  •  

(3) There is no treatment, in the sense of stopping the virus in its tracks.  All we have is supportive care, oxygen rest, medication for fever, bronchodilators.  This is true for the vast majority of viruses.  Remember the joke that modern medical science can cure a cold in 14 days, but otherwise it takes two weeks.

(4) We know that you don’t have to be clinically ill to transmit the disease.  Screening new arrivals for fever is well and good but that won’t totally prevent spread.

(5) Some individuals are what is called ‘superspreaders’ — one individual infected 15 hospital personnel.

(6) I wouldn’t hope for a specific treatment any time soon — look how long it took to get any treatment for AIDS, despite the huge amount of resources devoted to it.

Here is some good news. It is quite possible that there are many more cases out there with people who were either asymptomatic or  just mildly ill.  The classic example is polio, in which for every case with paralysis there were 99 cases with mild GI illness or nothing at all.

This will need to wait until we can test people for antibodies to 2019-nCOV to find out how many people have had it.  This is probably at least a month away

Vaccines (if they can be made) are even more months away.  We’ll just have to hunker down and hope for the best.

Why lay in dried food ?– in a pandemic people will panic and clear out all food they can get their hands on.  There were pictures of empty bins in a Wuhan food market last week.

People are getting serious about it.  From Reuters -“U.S. President Donald Trump offered China whatever help it needed on Monday”.  It would be nice to have some of our people from the Center for Disease Control over there. Hopefully the Chinese won’t be too proud to accept the offer.

Addendum 28 Jan — apparently the US (in the form of the CDC) is begging China to let them help out — sad — why should they have to beg?  Apparently the first overture was 3 weeks ago ! ! ! ! — https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3047967/china-coronavirus-washington-asks-beijing-permission-send-health-team

 

A letter to the PNAS editor which will never be published

“Starting out the year 2021 by looking back at the year 2020 might seem like an exercise in masochism, given the horrific loss of life, the untold economic hardships, the resurgence of white supremacy across the country

As a good friend and college and grad school classmate of Nick Cozzarelli who edited PNAS for 10 years, I find this statement by the current PNAS editor — May Berenbaum, unhelpful, unscientific and frankly appalling. Had Nick not been taken from us far too soon in 2006 by Burkitt’s lymphoma, he’d likely be editing PNAS still. Does the editor’s statement rank with any of Nick’s work on DNA gyrase or DNA topology?

It is an exercise in the religion of political correctness, showing adherence to its current catechism, for political correctness and wokeness is nothing but a religion for the secular.  In our town expressions of faith abound on front lawns complete with statues of the virgin and signs proclaiming “we believe in science’. There really is no difference.

How a hack like Berenbaum got to be editor is beyond me, given the women scientists of great stature around (Doudna, Ghez, Randall).

Is Nick — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_R._Cozzarelli — an example of white supremacy? Nick’s father was an immigrant shoemaker from Jersey City and Nick worked his way through Princeton waiting on tables in commons.

A non-coercive way to get people to accept vaccination for the pandemic virus

Many people are afraid of being vaccinated (for anything, not just the pandemic flu). Yelling at them won’t help. Calling them stupid won’t help. You can’t pass a law to coerce them, but here’s a law that would likely convince them that it is a good idea.

Can you think of it?

I’m not sure if congress could do it, or whether it would have to be done state by state.

Just require all death certificates for people dying with COVID-19 to state whether they’d been vaccinated or not. Certainly now all of the deaths will be in unvaccinated people, but as time passes (say 3 – 6 months) and 95% of them remain in the unvaccinated (as studies of the vaccine have shown) and 1/3 to half of the population is vaccinated, people will take notice.

I don’t know any legislators, but maybe you do, and you should suggest it to them.

Good riddance 2020

It’s no good being right if nobody listens. It was clear to me in late January that we would be in a pandemic as my post of 27 January 2020 below will show. The press in those early months did not cover itself in glory. Here’s a link to a bunch of press headlines — forget that the site is a bit dicey — I remember reading many of these at the time — https://twitter.com/dbongino/status/1245341299320016897. Why the CDC didn’t figure this out is anyone’s guess. The problem wasn’t lack of staff, but lack of brains. We’re all playing the price.

What to do about the Wuhan flu

This was published 27 Jan ’20.  Nothing has been altered (other than this).

What to do about the Wuhan flu?  The short answer is to lay in a month or two of dried food and drink, and have plenty of bottled water around.

The long answer depends on whether the new corona virus (called 2019-nCOV) becomes a pandemic and if the (symptomatic) case fatality rate continues at 3.5% (based on 80 deaths in 2,800 cases as of yesterday).

With a son, Chinese daughter in law and two grandchildren living in Hong Kong, I’ve followed the outbreak ever since hearing of it 1 January.

The best and most current source of info about the outbreak is the South China Morning Post — https://www.scmp.com.  It is in English and is not a government mouth piece.

Here’s the bad news

(1) As of a few days ago the virus had been found in 29/31 Chinese provinces.  This means that confining the virus to China is nearly impossible — how do you cut off a billion or so people from the rest of the world?

(2) Here’s more from today

  • Hong Kong University  faculty of medicine dean Gabriel Leung says research shows self-sustaining human-to-human transmission is already happening in all major mainland cities.   Here’s a link
  • https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/3047813/china-coronavirus-hong-kong-medical-experts-call
  •  Why is this significant?  You have to know how docs operate.  When I wanted information about some issue or disease, I’d call a doc whose opinion and background I respected.  It is likely that Leung made this statement after calling med school deans he personally knew in major mainland cities.

(3) There is no treatment, in the sense of stopping the virus in its tracks.  All we have is supportive care, oxygen rest, medication for fever, bronchodilators.  This is true for the vast majority of viruses.  Remember the joke that modern medical science can cure a cold in 14 days, but otherwise it takes two weeks.

(4) We know that you don’t have to be clinically ill to transmit the disease.  Screening new arrivals for fever is well and good but that won’t totally prevent spread.

(5) Some individuals are what is called ‘superspreaders’ — one individual infected 15 hospital personnel.

(6) I wouldn’t hope for a specific treatment any time soon — look how long it took to get any treatment for AIDS, despite the huge amount of resources devoted to it.

Here is some good news. It is quite possible that there are many more cases out there with people who were either asymptomatic or  just mildly ill.  The classic example is polio, in which for every case with paralysis there were 99 cases with mild GI illness or nothing at all.

This will need to wait until we can test people for antibodies to 2019-nCOV to find out how many people have had it.  This is probably at least a month away

Vaccines (if they can be made) are even more months away.  We’ll just have to hunker down and hope for the best.

Why lay in dried food ?– in a pandemic people will panic and clear out all food they can get their hands on.  There were pictures of empty bins in a Wuhan food market last week.

People are getting serious about it.  From Reuters -“U.S. President Donald Trump offered China whatever help it needed on Monday”.  It would be nice to have some of our people from the Center for Disease Control over there. Hopefully the Chinese won’t be too proud to accept the offer.

Addendum 28 Jan — apparently the US (in the form of the CDC) is begging China to let them help out — sad — why should they have to beg?  Apparently the first overture was 3 weeks ago ! ! ! ! — https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3047967/china-coronavirus-washington-asks-beijing-permission-send-health-team

Noel

Despite a very depressing year for all, it’s good to remember that life goes on.

Taken 4 years and one month ago. They’re now almost 7 and 4. Amazing how maternal granddaughter Maren was at age 2.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all

Unfortunately I can’t figure out how to get rid of all this extra stuff

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Lockdowns hit the vulnerable the hardest

My wife’s doctor’s sister is a public school teacher in a town where the school system was failing so badly that the state took it over. The town has a 30% poverty rate, and a hispanic population (mostly Puerto Rican) of 44%.

Her students who need help the most have logged on once and then disappear. She describes their homes that she saw when they did log in as ‘chaotic’.

Compare this to my grandson whose parents are on his case to make sure he’s attentive when logged in and that he does his homework.

If you wanted to set up a system for disparate impact on minorities, school lockdown couldn’t be beat.

In some circles, disparate impact is prima facie evidence of systemic racism. So is my son a racist? My grandson is certainly going to get ahead of these kids.

Strikingly, the people most likely to use the term systemic racism, are the same ones pushing for lockdowns. It’s clear that the pandemic is of little risk to grade school kids. One can argue that locking them down prevents the spread of the virus, but that the evidence that they do so is weak.

This is basically a blog about matters scientific, not social issues. But like everything else important social issues have impinged on every aspect of our lives (and this blog) like it or not.

Due to writing about not touching your mask (2), Biden’s subarachnoid hemorrhage, the New York Times as America’s Pravda, the good stuff has been pushed to the side.

Here’s what you can look forward to if things quiet down

l. How the brain controls blood flow so active neurons get what they need

2. How studies of the transition state, show that actually calculating potential energy surfaces is a myth

3. How insulin is a protein in which folding to the proper form is very close to not happening.

4. How receptor tyrosine kinases activate G Protein Coupled Receptors — a paper by Nobelist Kobilka

DON’T TOUCH YOUR MASK !!!

I am fortunate enough to have a beautiful reservoir within a half mile of my house. Over the years in the 3.5 mile circumferential stroll it requires I’ve seen 3 black bears, 20 or so American Eagles, Swans, Mergansers, deer, chipmunks and 20 billion Canada geese.

I don’t wear a mask when I’m out there, because at most I’ll see 100 or so people during the walk. Everyone is very good about social distancing and actual propinquity lasts a few seconds at most when we’re walking in opposite directions. About 80% are wearing masks, or at least have them around their neck. Those wearing them around their neck grab them and cover their mouth and (sometimes) their noses.

This is a terrible mistake. The only way the pandemic virus can cause you serious trouble is if it gets to your mouth, nose or eyes. It will never get through your skin. Unless you carefully washed your hands before leaving for the reservoir, you might have it on the skin of your hands. Do not give it a free ride to your mask where it will happily reside getting a shot at entry every time you inhale.

Amazingly, this is not generally known, and people seem genuinely surprised when I tell them this. Most of them thank me.

Places like the reservoir are among the few where you don’t need to wear a mask. So protect yourself if you wear one, and don’t touch it.

Lots of people seem to be using cell phones on the walk, which is even worse, should they contain the virus, as contact is much more prolonged than a simple mask adjustment. How many people clean their cellphones?

One happy point now that winter is almost on us in these parts. The crucial spike protein of the virus (which is how it gets into your cells) deteriorates and becomes nonInfectious after storage for a week at 4 centigrade (about 40 F). What an overnight chill does for it is anyone’s guess. This is from a non-peer reviewed preprint — https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.07.12.199588v1

Reading America’s very own Pravda

Kremlinologists used to carefully look at who was in what position in the stands reviewing the annual May Day parade to understand behind the scenes power struggles and who was currently on top. Here in the States, we are more fortunate. All we need to do is read the letters to the editor on the editorial page of the New York Times. 

The letters Sunday 15 November tell it all. Usually it’s a collection of heartfelt Amens to the editorials. Just like “Home on the Range”, never is heard a discouraging word (or a letter which disagrees with the editorial stances of the Times).

Until Now.

The Times permitted several letters warning the faithful that the Times embrace of the the squad and the more extreme left hadn’t sold. Here are 3 direct quotes.

“When the masses hear “Defund the Police”,” Occupy Wall Street”, “Medicare for All” they recoil.” When was the last time you heard anyone use ‘the masses’ ?

“President Trump gave voice to voters who previously felt hopeless.”‘

“it remains obvious to this New York Times reader that your journalists and many of your readers still don’t understand President Trump’s supporters. I accept that and expect that this mistaken and condescending view (we are all “deplorables’ ) will yield gains for the GOP in 2022 and 2024.”

Just go back two weeks ago to the same section “Sunday Review” — All 15 opinion columnists in lockstep telling you not to vote for Trump. Where is that diversity of opinion we’re supposed to honor and defend?

So I think you are less likely to hear about systemic racism, the squad, reparations, global warming in the future. The Democrats may have beaten Trump, but they lost everywhere else and badly.

Here are a few of the new Republican congresswomen who took Democratic seats — Nicole Malliotakis, the daughter of a Cuban refugee. Young Kim and Michelle Park Steel, Christian Korean immigrants from California; Maria Salazar, the daughter of a Cuban refugee from Florida.

The Times is many things, but dumb is not one of them. Hence the letters.

Here’s how the Times squashed Hillary’s attempt at a comeback in May of 2017

The powers that be at the New York Times have decided that Hillary is toast

Kremlinologists used to carefully look at who was in what position in the stands reviewing the annual May Day parade to understand behind the scenes power struggles and who was currently on top. Here in the States, we are more fortunate. All we need to do is read the letters to the editor on the editorial page of the New York Times. 

Just like “Home on the Range”, never is heard a discouraging word (or a letter which disagrees with the editorial stances of the Times). 

So today (15 May 2017) 4 letters appeared concerning a column written 7 May by Frank Bruni titled “Hillary Clinton’s Absolution” — all highly critical of Hillary and Bill.

A few quotes: 

“The Clintons have been running the Democratic party like a personal fief for 25 years”. 

“But to ruminate about how Hillary would have won if only the Russians, WikiLeaks and James Comey didnot do her in — well, I have had enough of this.” 

“Frank Bruni” seems obsessed enough about Hillary Clinton’s feelings to write an opera.” 

“But it’s also her (Hillary’s) supporters in the DemocraticParty leadership who need to seek redemption for abandoning the working class voters who once formed the core constituency of their party.”

Do you think the publication of these 4 letters was unintentional?  By the purest of coincidences publication occurred the very day Hillary announced the formation of a new PAC to oppose Trump — http://fortune.com/2017/05/15/hillary-clinton-launches-political-action-committee-dedicated-to-liberal-causes/

The same day a full page article title “How Democracy Collapsed” concerning Venezuela. The word elites appears 3 times, the word socialism not at all. 

On a lighter note, the Sunday front page had an article titled “Many on the Right reject the Call for Healing” Way back at the end of the article, it was noted that thousands of Volvos and Prius’s all over the country have been vandalized for their “Resist” stickers of 4 years ago. They’re now to be found up on pickup trucks in the boonies.

Health tip: how to avoid infecting yourself with SARS-Cov-2

Being closer to 85 than 80 now, I try to stay in as good physical shape as possible by walking 4.5 miles around a beautiful reservoir within a mile of my home. It takes about 90 minutes, and I usually meet 40 – 100 walkers, runners, joggers, bicyclists, mommies with kids in baby carriages, and today a lady in a motorized wheelchair.

It is the one place where you don’t need a mask (unless you know you are actively infected with the virus in which case you shouldn’t be out there in the first place). Why? Because the virus is spread as droplets as you breathe out, and they don’t hang around in the air very long, and there’s lots of air when you go outside to dilute them. It’s closed spaces and prolonged contact with the same air which causes infection. If you haven’t already done so please look at https://www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them — it hasn’t been updated since May but you simply can’t do better than this. The examples he cites are convincing (and scary).

Now our skin is crawling with bacteria and viruses. Estimates go as high as 1 trillion (1,000,000,000,000) per human. But they don’t get through your skin. So if you have the pandemic virus on your skin (particularly your hands) it isn’t going to get through the skin to infect you. It will infect you if you put your hand to your nose or your mouth or your eyes, because those are the parts of you which are no barrier to the pandemic infection.

So aside from giving me dirty looks, when people raise their masks to their nose when they see me coming, they’re giving any pandemic viruses on their hands a free ride to their noses and mouths and a much better shot at infecting them.

Seriously.

If the virus makes it from your hand to the mask, and you keep the mask on, the virus stays there (and hopefully stays there rather than moving inside) as you breathe in an out. So you’re not protecting me and you are possibly harming yourselves. So don’t do it.

Put the mask on and keep it on in most other places, walking in crowded places, stores, restaurants, malls. But if you’re out walking in an uncrowded park enjoy yourself.

For those who don’t know, I’m a medical school graduate (Penn). I’m going to run this by two college classmates (both retired med school professors) and if they tell me I’m wrong, I’ll let you know. I’ll let you know even if they tell me I’m right.

Addendum — 10 November — from a retired professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. The other one is on his farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and will respond when he gets back


“I totally agree with you that unless you put your fingers in or around your nose, you aren’t going to get the covid virus from surface contact. Anecdotally, I would predictably get a significant  URI every year after our annual Hematology meeting in December because I am big on shaking hands, which invariably would touch my nose at some point.  I skipped the last two annual meetings and presto, no URIs since.

As for masking outdoors, for the first 6 months, I was assiduous and furious at nonmaskers. Now, I wear a mask outdoors but only when near other people (on sidewalks etc.). I probably don’t need to when socially distanced but do so as a courtesy to others because they are masked. Bottom line, in DC we’ve gone from ~ 50 % masked to 95 % masked. So I want to encourage that.”

Addendum 11 Nov

From the other retired med school professor


    -your exercise regimen is laudatory……..but you failed to state whether you walk clockwise, counterclockwise, or alternate between the two

    -as usual, your medical analysis is well-reasoned…..at least technically, but as a physician you know the importance of instilling a feeling of comfort and safety in patients (your fellow walkers, etc), so wearing a mask (of any kind) when they approach might better address the “human condition”

Here’s is sort of an engineering analysis of why masks don’t need to be worn in the great (uncrowded) outdoors.

Figure that  the 50 people I pass on the walk are in perhaps 30 groups 20 doubles 10 singletons.  4.5 miles is 23760 feet. so I see a different group every 792 feet.  Now I’m walking at a pace of 90 *60 seconds for 23,760 feet or 4.4 feet per second  — assume they’re walking at the same pace, so every second we move about 9 feet apart (forgetting the 6 feet or more sideways distance) and we’re well out of each other’s airspace in a few seconds.  That is a miniscule dose of the virus when you consider the volume it is being diluted into (and a very short time of exposure).  Here it is very important to read Bromage, because infectivity is not just dose, it’s  dose x time. 

A paper everyone should look at

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. vol. 117 pp. 25237–25245 ’20 presumably is ‘freely shared’. Here’s the link — https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/117/41/25237.full.pdf

The authors set up a mist of fine water droplets in front of a speaker and watch what the emitted air does to them (using high speed cameras). Sentences with a lot of plosives (such as p) e.g. peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers produce a jet which barrels along for a few meters. Different sound produce air flows in different directions. The pictures are incredible. If viruses are carried along with this, the implications for the pandemic flu are obvious. Wear a mask when talking to strangers.

Here’s a quote from the paper “We show that the transport distance of exhaled material versus time, in the form of three distinct scal- ing laws, represents the typical structure of the flow, including 1) a short (<0.5 m) distance, with large angular variations, where the complexity of language is evident and responsible for mate- rial transport in a fraction of a second; 2) a longer distance, out to approximately 1 m, where directed transport occurs driven by individual vortical puffs corresponding roughly to individual plo- sive sounds; and 3) a distance out to about 2 m, or even farther, where spoken sentences with plosives, corresponding effectively to a train of puffs, create conical, jet-like flows. “

Well, those are just words — if you do nothing else, look at the pictures in the paper.