A Journal of the Plague Year (28)

Daily New Cases in Canada Thus Far [from Johns Hopkins University]

April 13, 2020

Local hospitals and medical facilities in and around Ottawa have been bracing for an influx of corona patients. The Ottawa Citizen reports under “…that is a surprise”:

The daily report from Ontario’s critical-care system on Friday showed just two additional coronavirus patients admitted to an ICU anywhere in the province the day before. Despite having to treat over 530 confirmed or possible COVID-19 people, almost 78 per cent of the province’s expanded ventilator capacity remained free.
The patient volume was well under the “best case” scenario depicted in Ontario-government epidemic modelling released earlier this month…

[snip]

But even so, the dearth of apocalyptic scenes in Canada’s ICUs seems to offer at least a glimmer of hope, especially after the release of federal government modeling Thursday that predicted 11,000 COVID-19 deaths in a best-case scenario.

It will be very interesting to see how the predictions pan out. After all, experts are often wrong. The tragic cases are mostly from care homes for the aged and infirm. About half the total deaths in Ontario are from various care institutions. Ontario cases below:

One might have thought that the SARS outbreak of 2003 would have taught our governments a lesson. The Liberal government of the day committed to incorporating possible pandemics and public health emergencies with national security in considering threat assessments. Wesley Wark, a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, is quoted on CTV News:

“…Despite the idea that we were going to do this with the national security policy, it just never happened.”

Further…

But there is “absolutely no evidence” the major players of the security community have collectively focused efforts on a pandemic threat-assessment mission, he said. There is also no indication the Public Health Agency of Canada has conducted its own open-source assessment of the threat in recent years, Wark added.

Now that’s food for thought, especially as we now know that this virus has caused more damage to the world than a million terrorists.

On the medical data front, a study from NYU Langone Health Center focusing on New York City looks at the biggest factors in US hospital admissions related to Covid-19. [Full paper available on medRxiv [here]]. The study covered over 4 000 patients and found that the chronic condition that was most associated with critical illness [in Covid-19] was obesity. This was found to be more of a factor than any cardiovascular or pulmonary conditions. Obesity is pro-inflammatory and that in itself can lead to over-reaction of the immune system.

Writing in The Lancet, virologist Gregory Poland notes:

…we have an increasingly older age demographic across virtually all countries, as well as unprecedented rates of obesity, smoking, diabetes, and heart and lung disease, and an ever-growing population of people who are immunocompromised—all comorbidities that lead to significantly higher risks of severe disease and death from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In turn, these huge numbers of people who are more severely affected by this virus require ongoing and more complex care, overwhelming many times over the capacity of medical systems to care for them.

When will people start to realize that being fat is a health problem, even without Covid-19, and that the “all body types are equally beautiful” mantra is self-indulgent bunk?

Rebel Yell

Mr. Darwin’s Working Day

  • 7-8 am – Walk and a solitary breakfast
  • 8-9:30 – Work in the study
  • 9:30-10:30 – Join family in the drawing room, look over the mail, read family letters and occasionally listen to a novel being read aloud
  • 10:30 – noon – Work in the study
  • noon -inspect plants in the greenhouse and then walk further, but still on the property, for a specified number of turns around the gravel path
  • Lunch
  • Read the newspaper.
  • Write letters
  • 3 pm – rest and nap, smoke cigarette, listen to his wife read a novel
  • 4pm – walk
  • 4:30 pm – back to work
  • 5:30 – read novels
  • 6:30 pm – dinner
  • After dinner – two games of backgammon with Mrs Darwin
  • 10 to 10:30 – retire to bed

“What rescued Darwin from the indolence that might so easily have settled upon a man with a good wife, an ample income, and a chronic illness were the daily discipline and the methodical habits of work – virtues he said had been instilled in him on the Beagle. Darwin must take his place alongside Anthony Trollope and the other great Victorians whose creativity has been impugned by their methodicalness, on the supposition that genuine creation can only be erratic. Unlike Trollope, however, who was methodical in work so as to be prodigal in leisure, Darwin’s methodicalness had no other intention than to extract from the day a few good hours of work.” – Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, by Gertrude Himmelfarb

A Journal of the Plague Year (26)

April 11, 2020

Some disparate snippets today. First, on the virus testing front. In Britain, testing has been in notoriously short supply since the beginning of this crisis and shows little sign of improving even now. That said, some significant change may be in the offing.

One of the major holdups to rapid and widespread testing is that tests take too long to analyze and this analysis must be done in laboratories. What is urgently required is a do-it-yourself test that can be done by unqualified people at home, if necessary, and give the results in minutes or hours.

It seems like the biomedical brains at Imperial College London have been hard at work:

Imperial College London’s Regius Professor of Engineering, Chris Toumazou FRS, is working with clinical researchers to test a rapid, lab-free PCR test that detects COVID-19 and delivers results in just over an hour….
The Lab-in-cartridge rapid tests – based on Professor Toumazou’s DnaNudge consumer DNA testing innovation – have been clinically validated after a successful initial trial on COVID-19 patients and are continuing to validate on larger patient groups.

Further,

A key advantage of DnaNudge’s solution is that the RNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test requires no sample handling and is able to deliver processing outside of a laboratory environment – using DnaNudge’s patented and miniaturised “NudgeBox” analyser, which can be used anywhere.

This in itself is a huge advantage over other testing protocols making it essentially an off-the-shelf item. Results could be transmitted via smart phone to a laboratory data center. The next requirement is an antibody test to find out what part of the population has been exposed and may never have become sick. Once exposed, one is likely immune, at least for quite some time.

The testing fiasco in Britain is the result of an over-centralized behemoth of a government-controlled testing system stifled with regulations.

The same is true in the US, that bastion of free enterprise. Help has been immediately available from hundreds of laboratories and biotech companies. Many of them have been stymied by the red tape of over regulation–possibly justified in “peace-time” but a ball and chain on productive companies willing to help in a “war-time” situation.

In an article in City Journal, The FDA Graveyard, it is pointed out that:

… When researchers in Seattle tried doing early testing on their own in February, they were ordered to stop because their lab wasn’t federally certified and they hadn’t used the proper consent forms in collecting samples. As the researchers scrambled to get emergency approval, they were delayed for weeks by anachronistic rules, like the refusal to accept an emailed application because it needed to be submitted on paper, by mail, along with a copy on a compact disk or a plug-in computer drive.
It wasn’t until mid-March that the FDA, under White House pressure, finally gave private labs emergency dispensation to provide tests without the agency’s prior approval. But then it put up a new roadblock, when several companies launched tests (which they said were being sold at-cost, with no profit) for consumers to use at home. The FDA promptly declared that its emergency dispensation didn’t apply to at-home tests, forcing the companies not only to stop selling the tests but also to destroy the samples they had collected.

Note that it was pressure from the White House i.e., President Trump, to get with program, pronto.

The quickest way to get effective tests and masks to hospitals and the public—and to sort out the ineffective ones—is to rely on the free market’s vast pool of decentralized knowledge. Consumers routinely buy products more complex than tests or masks without relying on a federal guarantee of effectiveness. Researchers, doctors, hospital administrators, manufacturers, merchants, and consumers can process and share far more information than any agency in Washington, and they can do it a lot more quickly—especially in a pandemic.

Precisely. The Center for Disease Control and the FDA in the US have been sorely lacking in imaginative responses to emergency situations. They are both due for a radical review after this thing is over.

In Germany, everyone has health insurance, but hospitals are run mostly privately.

Hospitals are called Krankenhäuser. There are three main types:
• public hospitals (Öffentliche Krankenhäuser) which are run by the local and regional authorities;
• voluntary, non-profit making hospitals (Frei gemeinnützige Krankenhäuser) run by churches or organisations run by the German Red Cross;
• private hospitals (Privatkrankenhäuser),

divided up approximately one-third each. All of these and biotech laboratories in industry are able and capable of running everything required for antigen and antibody tests. That is one reason why Germany can carry out vastly more testing than Britain, and, until recently, the US. The rapid change in testing in the US is a result of the empowerment of America’s arsenal of good ole Yankee know-how and technology in private industry.

There’s a lesson here for Britain.

Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (25)

April 10, 2020

“New York is Flattening the Curve”…[here]
Is it?
Computer models should always be treated with a certain amount of circumspection. Especially when decisions of huge importance are mooted.

Of late, we have been treated to a plethora of projections for the likely, and possible unlikely, outcomes for deaths due to the covid-19 virus. The widely varying predictions depend greatly on the algorithms running on the computer and the values of the parameters being used to produce predictions.

The output is simply that—a prediction. Not data. Further, the predictions can vary between huge limits depending on the input. They can and do also vary hugely because the output is hugely sensitive to the values of R-naught, the infection parameter, which is not simply a function of the pathogen, but of human behavior and the social response to the spread.

The graphs above show how wide the variations can be. What does this mean? Basically, nobody really knows what is going to happen. However, some of the data tends to support the notion that this won’t turn out to be as bad as the most dire predictions projected. That may be because the fraction of the population that has antibodies is much higher than previously believed. According to some very recent work may be 30 to 50% of the population has antibodies. If so, then there are large numbers of people who are ready to be de-isolated and get back to work. However, massive antibody testing is required to really determine this. Ideally, of course, a DIY pin-prick blood test that can be done at home is required. Centralized testing is definitely not the way to go, as shown by the British NHS failure. That failure should lead to a massive re-think concerning a government-centralized health system.

For current updates and access to the best science work see the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College, London,…[here]

For world-wide data and modeling and detailed hospital data see IMHE, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/mrc-global-infectious-disease-analysis/covid-19/covid-19-weekly-forecasts/week-07-04-2020/ to download it all in Excel format.

For the latest preprints see bioRxiv at https://connect.biorxiv.org/relate/content/181

On the politics front, there is a very revealing article on politico.eu https://www.politico.eu/article/coronavirus-europe-failed-the-test/?utm_source=pocket-newtab (believe it or not) about the colossal failure of the EU bureaucracy to appreciate the oncoming tsunami, despite intensive warning from medical professionals. The focus of the politicians is always on fantasy, always on the slogans of the self-assured, the “science is settled” Al Gore types, rather than on the facts in the real world. They, and we, are all paying the price now.

And lastly, for your enjoyment, a list of the many Fake News media lies in their attempts to denigrate President Trump…[here]

And from Brad Spellberg in Clinical Infectious Diseases, July 2008,

Dr. William H. Stewart was the US Surgeon General during 1965–1969 [1]. Despite his significant accomplishments, Dr. Stewart is remembered primarily for his infamous statement: “It is time to close the book on infectious diseases, and declare the war against pestilence won” [2]. Depending on the source, the quote is dated to 1967 or 1969. Infectious diseases specialists, including myself [3, 4], have repeated this quote innumerable times to underscore how wrong it was.

Famous last words.

Rebel Yell

On Good Friday, Sauron has won the Ring

I am for various reasons a more faithful attendee of Good Friday services than Easter ones. No resurrection without death. But it is worse than death. Death comes for all living things and is as natural as falling water. It is eternal death that I worry about. Eternal Spiritual Darkness. I mean that for me Good Friday is the day of triumph of evil, for ever. The boot stomping on a face, forever. God renounces his only Son. “Son, you have to do this for yourself. Otherwise no one will believe you went through everything a man will go through. You have to die, Son. Agony, bloody sweats, pain, humiliation, degradation, and a sneering mob. Only then will mankind pay attention to you, when you come back from the dead, and you have to die to do that. So have a really bad day, Son. It is the only path, and we have foreseen this day since time began. Now be a Man and die”.

Not a cheerful doctrine. But I believe it is a true one. In the meantime we live in the world where Sauron has the One Ring, and all is lost, at least until the Resurrection, when we can begin to hope again that his rule is not complete or final.

The Crucifixion of Jesus | Jesus was crucified on a hill cal… | Flickr
What Could Sauron Have Done Had He Regained the One Ring? | Middle ...

A Journal of the Plague Year (24)

Premier Doug Ford of Ontario
April 9, 2020

As the old saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Well, we’re certainly seeing that, in spades, around the world. President Trump is, of course, blazing the trail, not only by motivating people and being able to address a rapidly changing situation, but, I think, hammering the final nails into the coffin of the Fake News Media in the US (and probably in other countries too). It’s remarkable in a way how, in a national and international emergency, the media cannot fail to behave as the putrid partisan hacks they always are.

On the international front, the EU leadership, for want of a better name, was called to task by a Polish MEP and former Polish Ambassador to Iran, Witold Waszczykowski [here]

After spending its time idolizing teenage half-wits from Sweden who think they can foresee the future, or debating how many sexes there are, real issues, like preparations for medical emergencies and ensuring that basic protective equipment and drug therapies are left unattended. Moonbeams and unicorns rather than the daily toil of solid work. Instead,

…For decades, both the UN and the EU have been on a quest for the modern Holy Grail – sustainable development. For a couple years, Europe has been attempting to build resilience against crises such as foreign aggression, democracy deficiency and other ailments of the modern world. Unfortunately, it has failed miserably.

And further:

…After all, in recent history we have faced AIDS, SARS, Ebola, swine flu, avian flu, African swine fever, European spruce bark beetle and anthrax. As it turns out, supposed populists received more attention from European bureaucrats than critical data and resources that would protect our citizens from epidemics. It turns out that the most prosperous European states are short on respirators (such devices have been in use for almost a century), cleaning products and sanitizers. In the meantime, the only thing EU institutions are capable of is allowing their member states to loosen their fiscal belts.

About time to get real.

On a more local note, along with dealing with the medical crisis, Premier Doug Ford has announced a Jobs and Recovery Program  to focus on how to restart the economy as this thing winds down. That’s one thing the politicians DO have to think about. How it works will depend very much on how the plague works, but this is something governments must be thinking about now. More importantly, it gives the folks at home something to think about and something to plan for, even if the timelines change—as they inevitably will.

Whatever prognostications the powers that be may make on the thing, remember:

“All models are wrong; some may be useful.” The models are a “maybe”; how it pans out is up to us.

Rebel Yell
[PS more on models tomorrow].

A Journal of the Plague Year (23)

 

April 8, 2020

In the US, Senator Rand Paul (Republican) has just been through covid-19 and recovered. As he’s an ophthalmologist he’s using his medical knowledge and expertise by volunteering at the local hospital and not going back to Washington. Bravo! We all need more politicians like him. Suck on that Clinton.

We see this devotion to duty and the community while all Hillary Clinton can do is bitch from the sidelines. Thank God she never made it to the White House.

One of the products of this new pandemic has been to show the importance of social distancing in suppressing the spread of the disease. Distancing human contact is difficult in doctor–patient relations, but necessary. Here again, the Internet steps in to the rescue. Telemedicine has suddenly come of age. After smart phones entered the world’s psyche, medical information from blood pressure and heart rates to X-rays and CT scans can be transmitted from patients to doctors and back. Much personal contact can be avoided in the Age of Corona.

Since this information can be transmitted anywhere, state boundaries in the US are becoming a hindrance to the practice of medicine.

In 2017, 76% of hospitals in the U.S. were connecting health care providers to patients – not to mention health care providers to fellow providers – via video and other forms of telehealth technology. It saves time and money, while providing the same, if not better, levels of care satisfaction….


…That’s why, as part of its coronavirus response strategy, the Trump administration has been focused on lifting barriers to telehealth for Medicare patients: 44 million people across the country. Rules that limited payments for telehealth visits have been removed. Regulations that blocked the use of popular applications like FaceTime and Skype have been suspended. Thanks to these actions and others like it, telehealth is more accessible than it’s ever been.

A result of this is that President Trump is rapidly deconstructing many of the bureaucratic strictures that prevent the medical professionals working to their full capacity. For example, he is moving rapidly on a number of fronts to:
[For a full description: [here]

Relax Medical Licensing Rules that Prevent Health Care Professionals from Performing Services They Are Trained to Provide
Lift Other Barriers to Telemedicine
Accelerate the Approval of New Medicines
Do Not Require Premarket Approval for Laboratory-Developed Diagnostic Tests…
…Among other things.

And in the other fantasy land of the EU, the Chief Science Director, Professor Ferrari, has resigned, saying:

…he had “been extremely disappointed by the European response” to the pandemic. He complained about running into institutional and political obstacles as he sought to swiftly set up a scientific programme to combat the virus.
“I have seen enough of both the governance of science, and the political operations at the European Union,” he wrote. “I have lost faith in the system itself.”

A pretty definitive critique, n’est-ce pas? The EU has shown itself to be simply a power bureaucracy for the globalist money class; they have shown no interest in behaving like an actual government that might have responsibilities towards its citizens. Judging by the opinions emerging in Italy and Spain, its days are numbered. Maybe the drunkard Juncker and his other megalomaniac eurocrats can retire to a bar and drink themselves to death. They’d be doing us all a favor.

Rebel Yell

A Journal of the Plague Year (22)

April 7, 2020

Entirely due to Mrs Rebel Yell, we have this wonderful lemon tree in our apartment bursting forth into blossom, filling every room with its succulent aroma.  Some joys truly are simple.

Rex Murphy is one of the best commentators, along with Conrad Black, in Canada. His National Post article [here:] draws attention to some of the really important things going on in Canada behind all the fog of corona hysteria. Why are we in such a mess?

As Rex points out, the entire attention of the governments in this country, and particularly the federal Liberals, has been focused for many years past, on absurdities. To respond to any crisis, our country must have essential supplies within our own borders; basic industries and manufacturing must be cherished along with the vital people like farmers, health workers and truckers. Yes, it’s remarkable that so many of our lower paid workers who are taken for granted are now suddenly seen as important.

It’s as old as the fine axiom of “stand on your own two feet.” Others’ limbs will not support you when it most matters. But here in Canada we have displaced that idea, shackled those industries central to the country’s capacity to own itself. And we have neglected and even disparaged the most central enterprises, diminished the respect for enterprise itself, leaving us open and vulnerable to factors over which we have no influence.

Central to this is the absurd notion of chasing rainbows and unicorns, seats on the Security Council of the Useless Nations, climate change fantasies that pretend to control the weather a century from now, and the devastation of our energy industries at the behest of eco-babbling frauds like David Suzuki and his ilk.

On April 1st a carbon tax was introduced. Why, when our economy is in ruins, and millions of our citizens facing penury, would any government that had even a rudimentary grip on reality propose such an absurd act of robbery on the nation? These ridiculous acts are probably masterminded by the leftist trolls behind Trudeau, who appears just to be the magazine cover for the real rulers.

Worse, our chattering classes, endlessly babbling on about the latest narcissistic fad to infect society, occupy almost all the airtime on our equally useless media. How many programs about our farmers or oil workers will you see compared to the ever growing number of self-obsessed, vain celebrities?

In the complacency of our long uninterrupted prosperity we have forgotten, and in some cases, demeaned the people and activities that secured that prosperity, those essential activities and industries that have enabled the great balance of the Canadian way. Those who have dirty faces and grimy hands after a day’s work are the spine of the rest of us’s comforts. And elements of the “better” classes have been and are demeaning them, and remain ignorantly unaware that their petty status depends on those who do what I regard as genuine work.

We have sacrificed our fundamental economic strength to the false gods of globalism. When the chips are down, the castles in the air, like the EU, show their true nature—they are massive bureaucracies, efficient at accreting power and control, and useless when required to dispense real help.

Take care first of your own citizens, which means limiting the contingencies of external dependence. Provide those citizens with what can best be hoped for in security of food, technology, energy and a functioning economy — and then in times of crisis such as we are now experiencing we will at least have the strongest shield possible for our collective well-being.

Absolutely, Rex. You’re a national treasure. But will any of the self-centered mediocrities that rule us ever learn from this?

Rebel Yell