“Two-thirds of New Yorkers admitted to hospitals with coronavirus were in lockdown in their homes, a “shocking” statistic that defies social-distancing logic.” New York Governor Cuomo
“Thanks to the profound commitment of our citizens, we have flattened the curve and countless American lives have been saved. Our country is now in the next stage of the battle. A very safe, phased and gradual reopening of our country.” President Trump
- Recent Developments and Headlines
- Numbers and Trends
- Potential Treatments
- New Scientific Findings
- Update: Risk of Mutation – Not So Fast After All
- How Effective Are Lockdowns? – “Shocking” data from NY
- C19 Riddle – Why are some people affected much worse than others?
- Coronavirus Parties – a throwback to chicken pox parties
- Coronavirus Timeline – It may have started much earlier
- Stories From the Frontline
- High Hidden Costs of Lockdowns (Highly Recommended)
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A. Recent Developments and Headlines
Note: All changes noted in this Update are since the 5/6 Update
Sources: New York Times Coronavirus Updates, New York Post Coronavirus Updates, Zero Hedge Coronavirus Updates, Drudge, Breitbart, Wall Street Journal, Coronavirus White House Task Force Briefing, NY Governor Daily Briefing, and Worldometers
- President Trump: Possibility of ‘Some’ Death Due to Reopening, But People Are Dying in Other Ways
- Dr. Deborah Birx Questions Accuracy of IHME Coronavirus Model Predicting More Deaths
- Trump says coronavirus crisis ‘worse than Pearl Harbor’ or 9/11
- Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue: Meat Packing Plants Back to 100% Capacity in 7-10 Days
- Cuomo: Latest Coronavirus Cases Are Mostly People Who Stayed Home (see story below)
- Gov. Gavin Newsom: California ‘Not Going Back to Normal’ Until We Have a Vaccine
- Poll shows most in NY metro area think it’s too early to reopen economy
- California Confirms 2,000 New Cases In Largest Single-Day Jump
- Hong Kong reports no new local coronavirus cases for 17th day
- South Korea to reopen schools on May 13
- Germany’s Soccer to restart in second half of May
- Boris Johnson to unveil plan to end UK lockdown on Sunday
- Scotland says 60% of recent COVID-19 deaths linked to nursing homes
- China reports 0 new cases
- Kenya reports biggest daily jump in new cases
- Shanghai Disneyland to reopen May 11
- Russia reports 10k+ cases for 4th day in a row
- NYC subway closes for cleaning for first time in 50+ years Wednesday
- Germany reports slight uptick in new cases, deaths
- Thousands Donate To GoFundMe For Jailed Salon Owner Who Stood Up To Judge In Viral Video
- Comptroller Warns 1 In 5 Jobs Will Evaporate As NYC Faces Biggest Crisis Since Great Depression
- America Has Become “The Land Of The Snitches” During This Coronavirus Pandemic
- Trump Flip-Flops, Insists Coronavirus Task Force Will Continue “Indefinitely”
- US/UK Intelligence Warn China Is Trying To Hack Bio-Labs Working On COVID Research
- Texas Bar Owner, Quarantine Protesters Arrested After SWAT Team Swoops In
- While Brits Are On Lockdown, 100,000 People From Abroad Arrive At Airports Every Week
- Zimbabwe Begs For Aid To Avoid “Collapse”
- France To Use Existing Surveillance Grid To Enforce Social Distancing, Mask Wearing; Report
- “We Ask For Help But It Never Comes”: Dead Are Left To Rot, Then Buried In Mass Graves, As Coronavirus Overwhelms Brazil
- Most Americans Have Serious Doubts About The Official COVID Death Count
- Fallout From Coronavirus Will Be “Worse Than The Great Depression”
- Immunity-Segregation, Outdoor Classes, & Quarantine-Dorms: US College Campuses Prepare To Reopen
- The Bare Necessities: Federal Court Rules That Strip Clubs Are Entitled To Pandemic Loans
- Enjoy Your Future; We’re Spending It Now
- Amsterdam Restaurant Tests ‘Greenhouse Dining’ as Europe Opens Up
- London’s NHS Field Hospital to Be Closed After Barely Being Used
- Italians Hug Grandchildren for First Time Since Coronavirus Lockdown
- Italy Announces Successful Trial of ‘Rapid Saliva Test’ for Coronavirus
- Abandoning Centuries of Tradition, UK Parliament Caves on Digital Voting
- UK Government Rolls out Coronavirus Contact Tracing App
- Taiwan Pleads for Access to Coronavirus Data from China-Dominated WHO
- Hong Kong to Reopen Bars, Gyms, Theaters as Coronavirus Cases Dwindle
- Judge: New York Primary Back On, Cancellation Was Unconstitutional
- U.S. Records Lowest Coronavirus Deaths One-Day Rise in a Month in Past 24 Hours
- Nearly 1.5 Million More Tuberculosis Deaths Expected Due To Coronavirus Lockdowns
- Muslims Flood Somalia Where Mosques Remain Open
- Korean Baseball Returns with Socially Distant First Pitch
- Alabama AG Warns Against Enforcing Church Ban
- College Grads Face ‘Deaths of Despair’ Epidemic
- Don Jr. Offers to Walk Woman Down the Aisle After Liberal Parents Purportedly Reject Her
- Coronavirus Takes Down Barbie: Mattel Sales Plunge 14%
- Woman Wears Mask with Hole in It — ’Easier to Breathe’
- 50% Spike in North American Jews Interested in Immigrating to Israel Amid Virus
- Pakistani Government Finds Mosques Routinely Violating Coronavirus Rules
- Coronavirus Returns Long-Banned Drive-in Movie Shows to Iran
- Defense Sec Mark Esper: China Must Allow Access to Early Coronavirus Patients, Scientists
- America Has No Plan for the Worst-Case Scenario on Covid-19
- Authorities: Cook County Jail Inmate Switched Identities With Another Inmate, Was Released From Jail While Wearing Mask
- Federal court bans Bradenton ‘church’ from selling bleach as miracle COVID-19 cure
- 66% of New York state coronavirus hospitalizations are people staying at HOME and NOT essential workers – which begs question: Does lockdown even work? (see story below)
- Number Of Suspected Cases Of Mysterious Pediatric Illness In NYC Climbs Overnight From 15 To 64
- GA Gov. Kemp Warns Of Growing Outbreak Stressing Northeast Georgia (see story below)
- If coronavirus predictions keep changing, what good are they?
- Covid-19 hits rural areas hard
- In Sewage, Scientists Find Not Just Waste, But Coronavirus Clues (see story below)
- The CDC Has Been on a Steady Decline. We’re Just Finally Noticing.
- Detroit Casinos May Not Reopen For Months While Tribal Casino Up North Re-Starts Today
- Beijing demanded praise in exchange for medical supplies
- Iran warns of ‘rising trend’ as virus cases top 100,000
- Germany accelerates return to normality
- High and dry: Icelanders inconsolable without their pools
- Black Mirror creator not working on season 6 because we already feel depressed
- Central New York greenhouse emerges as new coronavirus hotspot
- San Francisco gives free drugs, alcohol to homeless quarantining in hotels
- Long Island town told to go on a diet in effort to combat coronavirus
- NY finally gives nursing homes coronavirus tests after making them take patients
- Science and the Constitution say: End the lockdowns
- Trump says he’ll call Wendy’s executive to help fix meat shortage
- Blood thinners could help keep seriously ill coronavirus patients alive (see story below)
- Nigeria’s death penalty via Zoom blasted as ‘cruel and inhumane’
- Online art marketplaces enjoy renaissance amid gallery closures
- JetBlue to do tribute flyover above NYC
- NYC mayor de Blasio was ‘all wrong’ to have NYPD police social distancing: Brooklyn Borough President
- Sick of your kids in quarantine? Connecticut summer camps to open in June
- MLB to present players with proposal in major step to start season
- Dad survives horrifying coronavirus battle which caused two strokes
- USDA buying $470M in surplus food to donate
- Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat see spike as coronavirus wreaks havoc on meat supply
- US may require face masks at airports to limit coronavirus spread
- Diabetic worker loses pay for refusing hospital gig with coronavirus patients
- US businesses are leaving China for India because of coronavirus
- California County To Remove COVID-19 Patients From Homes Based On ‘Living Situation’ — Will Place In ‘Other Kinds Of Housing’
- ‘We Have To Adjust To New Reality’ – Pandemic Leads To Surge In Americans Drinking At Home
- Your Genes May Determine Whether COVID-19 Puts You In Hospital Or Not (see story below)
- Gap plans to reopen stores where coronavirus lockdowns have eased
- Students in Wuhan, China’s coronavirus epicenter, return to class
- NYC has ‘work to do’ as coronavirus hospitalizations rise, de Blasio says
- UN chief says 1B people with disabilities hit hard by coronavirus
- The show may not go on for the 2020 Tony Awards
- Pompeo: US has not confirmed Wuhan lab released coronavirus
- States might have to shut down again if they reopen too soon, experts say
- Starbucks to reopen 85 percent of US stores this week
- White House ‘not going to forget’ China’s botched coronavirus response
- French encouraged to eat more cheese as act of patriotism
- Korean baseball’s Opening Day featured socially distant bubble boy first pitch
- Two boys drop dead while wearing masks during gym class
- ‘I don’t sleep at night’: How coronavirus deaths affect Trump
- De Blasio: Hospitalized coronavirus patients should return to nursing homes
- NY Gov. Cuomo: Health workers that volunteered to come to NY during pandemic have to pay state income tax
- NY Gov.Murphy: There’s no timetable to reopen from N.J. coronavirus lockdowns, ‘whether you like that or not
- Israel cautiously examining tourism safe zone with Greece, Cyprus
- Layoffs Start Turning From Temporary to Permanent Across America
- All viruses mutate, but there’s no sign that this one has got deadlier, scientists say
- Trump Says Task Force Will Focus on Reopening the U.S.
- Coronavirus Casts Deep Chill Over U.S.-China Relations
- California Sheriff: ‘I Refuse to Make Criminals Out of Business Owners’
- Lab Theory of Wuhan Virus Cooked Up in a Neocon Lab
- Mayor de Blasio: NYC Preparing to Furlough, Lay Off Essential Workers
- We Can Do Both: Save Lives, Reopen the Economy
- The Only Thing that Recovers Our Economy is Reopening
- Ginsburg Joins SCOTUS Obamacare Arguments from Hospital Bed
- Toilet Flush Interrupts First Supreme Court Live Stream
B. Numbers & Trends
Note: The numbers in this update only include cases that have been (i) confirmed through testing, and (ii) reported. The actual number of cases may be materially higher than confirmed cases, which means that the number of actual deaths from COVID-19 and recoveries may both be materially higher than reported.
1. Confirmed Total Cases and New Cases
- Total Cases = 3,819,843 (+2.6%)
- New Cases = 95,325 (+17.3%) (+14,078)
- New Cases (5 day avg) = 84,274 (+0.3%) (+214)
- Total Cases = 1,263,092 (+2.1%)
- New Cases = 25,459 (+2.7%) (+661)
- New Cases (5 day avg) = 26,412 (-7.4%) (-2,110)
- US States:
- 45 States > 1,000 cases (+0),
- 41 States > 2,500 cases (+0)
- 35 States > 5,000 cases (+0), plus DC
- 22 States > 10,000 cases (+1): NY, NJ, MA, IL, CA, PA, MI, FL, LA, CT, TX, GA, MD, OH, IN, CO, WA, VA, TN, NC, IA & RI
- 16 States > 20,000 cases (+0): NY, NJ, MA, IL, CA, PA, MI, FL, LA, CT, TX, GA, MD, IN, OH & VA
- 5 States With Largest Number of Total Cases:
Change in Total Cases (%)
Change in New Cases (#)
|Change in New Cases (%)|
- Top 5 States = 52.8% of Total US Cases (-0.3%)
- NY & NJ = 36.9% of Total US Cases (-0.4%)
- Trends: Top 5 States and NY/NJ percentages of total cases are declining as their average number of new cases continue to decline while new cases in other States are increasing
- For more information on US States and territories, see https://ncov2019.live/data & https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/
2. Serious or Critical Cases
- Worldwide serious or critical cases = 48,214 (-1,042)
- US serious or critical cases = 15,827 (-352)
- US serious or critical cases = 1.6% of Active Cases compared with worldwide percentage of 2.1%
- Worldwide deaths = 264,837 (+2.6%)
- Worldwide new deaths = 6,810 (+17.7%) (+1,024)
- US deaths = 74,799 (+3.5%)
- US new deaths = 2,528 (+7.5%) (+178)
- NY deaths = 25,956 (+3.0%)
- NY new deaths = 752 (+189.2%) (+492)
- Deaths per 1M population of 5 Countries with Largest Number of Confirmed Cases:
- Spain: 553 (+5)
- Italy: 491 (+6)
- United Kingdom: 443 (+10)
- France: 395 (+4)
- United States: 226 (+8)
- New York: 1,323 (+38)
- US Total Confirmed Case Fatality Rate = 5.8% compared with a Worldwide Confirmed Case Fatality Rate of 6.9% [Note: The number of cases in which infected people recovered without being tested is believed to be a large number, which would substantially reduce the fatality rate. US health officials have estimated that the US actual fatality rate is 1% or less, but we do not have yet have sufficient data to calculate or estimate the actual fatality rate.]
4. Countries/States Under The Microscope
- Total Cases = 23,918 (+702)
- New Cases (3 day avg) = 534 (+41.2%) (+156)4)
- Deaths = 2,941 (+87)
- Deaths per 1 million population = 291 (+8)
- Total Cases = 30,739 (+847)
- New Cases (3 day avg) = 689 (+32.6%) (+169)
- Deaths = 1,327 (+32)
- Deaths per 1 million population = 129 (+3)
C. Potential Treatments
1. Giving blood thinners to severely ill patients is gaining ground
- Treating C19 patients with medicines to prevent blood clots might help reduce deaths in patients on ventilators, based on new observational data.
- A team from Mount Sinai Health System in New York on Wednesday reported better results for hospitalized C19 patients who received anticoagulant drugs compared to patients who didn’t. The data are preliminary and require confirmation in larger studies with a more robust design, the authors say about their study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, but their findings add weight to medical guidelines.
- While there are no firm data on the frequency of clotting problems in C19 patients, there have been troubling anecdotal reports of patients whose lungs are peppered with tiny clots or who have suffered strokes. Last month, other Mount Sinai doctors detailed strokes in five C19 patients in their 30s and 40s, an unusually young age for such a damaging cardiovascular event. Other reports of strokes have bubbled up elsewhere, including 88 patients in the original epicenter of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, six in London, and three in Strasbourg, France.
- Together they add to accumulating evidence that C19 leads to abnormal blood clotting and that anticoagulant medications might help.
- The most recent Mount Sinai study analyzed data from more than 2,700 patients hospitalized for C19. The percentage of patients who died while not on a ventilator to help them breathe was about the same, whether or not they received some form of anticoagulant. Time to death was a week longer for those who were given anticoagulants: a median of 21 days compared to 14 days for those who did not receive anticoagulants.
- There was a mortality difference among sicker patients who were on ventilators in intensive care units: 63% of those given anticoagulants survived versus 29% who did not get anticoagulants. The patients were not randomly assigned to treatment or no treatment, however, meaning the study could not rule out other explanations for the apparent survival benefit.
- Bleeding is a risk for patients who take anticoagulants, but the study found no significant difference between patients who did or did not receive anticoagulants.
- “They interrogated their database of C19 patients and came up with an interesting, thought-provoking finding that patients [on ventilators] who received full-dose, systemic anticoagulants had a lower mortality than those who did not, particularly patients in the intensive care unit,” said Jeffrey Weitz, president-elect of the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis and a physician-scientist at McMaster University in Canada who was not involved in the study. “What it suggests to me is that anticoagulation alone might attenuate the disease, but it may not be the answer. We need more data and longer follow-up. Remember, this is just observational data. We don’t have a full picture on all of those patients.”
- Based on the data in hand, Mount Sinai has changed its guidance on anticoagulants, said Valentin Fuster, a co-author of the study and physician-in-chief at Mount Sinai Hospital. Doctors had been giving patients anticoagulants before, using their clinical judgment. “We developed a new policy once we got these results,” Fuster said. “And that is to increase the dose of anticoagulants to the patients with C19.”
- Current guidelines from the American College of Cardiology for managing abnormal blood clotting in C19 patients note that while most of its expert panel members recommend preventive doses of anticoagulants, a minority say they use the higher doses typically prescribed for patients with established blood-clotting problems. McMaster’s Weitz is a co-author of those guidelines. “What we’re really trying to find out is who should get it and how much,” he said about anticoagulant medication.
- Anu Lala, another co-author and a cardiologist at Mount Sinai, said while the data reflect what she’s been seeing in the hospital, they demand more study.
- “The very fact that there is a signal there is in line with what we seem to be observing clinically, having been on the wards for four weeks,” she said. “It opens the gate for us to do a deeper dive. There’s a lot more work to be done to prove or even really determine causality
- One unknown: Did patients have an underlying cause for blood clots, such as the abnormal heart rhythm atrial fibrillation? Patients had their blood drawn when they were adC19ted to one of the five hospitals in the Mount Sinai system, and if they had inflammatory markers, they were put on oral, injected, or infused anticoagulants. Higher doses were given in the ICU.
- In the earlier case reports on young C19 patients who had strokes, there were no signs of blood-clotting disorders. J Mocco, a neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai, said that right when New York was seeing a surge in hospital admissions for C19, he and colleagues in cardiology and pulmonology noticed a much higher than expected number of patients with stroke, amounting to a sevenfold increase over normal numbers. These patients were 15 years younger than typical stroke patients and they didn’t have risk factors for stroke such as irregular heartbeats or heart failure.
- “I don’t want every person out there being petrified they’re going to have a stroke because of the coronavirus being out there,” he said. “But within this group of individuals, it does strongly suggest that the virus is contributory to their strokes.”
- That argues for starting blood thinners sooner and looking at other measures, he said. “In some patients, we’re even trying clot-busting drugs to try to undo some of the clotting.”
- Why C19 patients have abnormal blood clotting isn’t known, but doctors suspect it’s related to inflammation and the ACE2 receptors the coronavirus latches onto, not only in the lungs and other organs but also on the lining of blood vessels. Inflammation and blood clotting normally go together, with a blood clot forming around the site of an infection. How this goes wrong in C19 and whether it’s just one factor is still not understood.
- At Mount Sinai, the next step is another observational study of 5,000 C19 patients taking blood thinners to home in on why they were started on anticoagulants, followed by a randomized clinical trial based on what is learned.
- “The more we learn, I think, the more we’re humbled, quite frankly,” Lala said. “We’ve got to keep going.”
D. New Scientific Findings & Other Advances
1. Antibodies grown in mice can neutralize coronavirus
- Italian scientists claim they’ve developed a potential coronavirus vaccine by growing antibodies in mice — and have already shown it can nix coronavirus cells in a world-first breakthrough.
- Local pharma company Takis says lab tests at Rome’s infectious-disease Spallanzani Hospital found their vaccine candidate can neutralize the virus in human cells, according to a report by Science Times magazine.
- CEO Luigi Aurisicchio told Italian news agency ANSA that it is the first time researchers have found a way to subdue C19, and human trials are set to begin in the summer.
- “According to Spallanzani Hospital, as far as we know we are the first in the world so far to have demonstrated a neutralization of the coronavirus by a vaccine. We expect this to happen in humans too,” he told the outlet.
- The scientists said their tests showed that with just one vaccination, the mice developed antibodies that can block the coronavirus from entering human cells. They developed 5 different vaccines and chose the 2 that showed the best results, according to Science Times.
- The vaccine candidates use a process called “electroporation” — a technique that uses high-voltage electric pulses to make the skin more permeable — to help break into the cells and trigger the immune system, Science Times said.
2. Israeli Institute Announces Breakthrough with Coronavirus Antibody
- Israel’s Biological Research Institute (IBRI) has made a breakthrough development in isolating an antibody that neutralizes the coronavirus, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.
- The Defense Ministry-run IBRI said while it was ahead of the world, it would still be months before a medication was formulated using the antibody.
- It should be emphasized that this scientific achievement has the potential to progress towards a treatment for patients infected with C19, and that it is not a vaccine for wide use.
- According to his ministry, IBRI was the first in the world identify an antibody that destroys the virus. It was also the first lab in the world to target this particular strain of aggressive coronavirus. The antibody is also monoclonal, and has very low risk of harmful proteins.
- “As far as we known, according to comprehensive scientific publication from around the world, the Biological Research Institute is the first in the world to achieve this breakthrough in these three parameters at the same time,” the institute said in a statement.
- “This is an important milestone, but afterwards comes complicated tests and a process of getting regulatory approval. Per an assessment by the institute’s scientists, this technological breakthrough is poised to shorten the process, which will go on for several months,” the statement said.
- “In the next stage, researchers will approach international companies to produce the antibody on a commercial scale,” said Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.
3. Testosterone-Reducing Therapy May Aid Against Virus
- Therapy to reduce testosterone and other hormones in men with prostate cancer may have a protective effect against the new coronavirus, a study of thousands of Italian patients showed.
- Men with the disease who got hormone therapy had a fourfold lower risk of virus infection than patients who didn’t get such treatment, the study showed. The difference was even more pronounced when the research team compared prostate cancer patients on hormone therapy with people who had any other type of cancer.
- The results don’t mean that virus patients should start taking hormone therapy, cautioned Fabrice Andre, director of research at the Institut Gustave Roussy in Paris and editor-in-chief of Annals of Oncology, where the results were published. But the data show that it would be worth studying the therapy in infected people, Andre said.
- “This is really a new piece in the puzzle,” said Andrea Alimonti, a professor of oncology at the Universita della Svizzera Italiana and ETH Zurich in Switzerland. Researchers are preparing a follow-up study in which high-risk virus patients would be randomly assigned to take the hormone treatment, and plan to be ready to start if there’s a second wave of infections later this year, Alimonti said.
- Reducing testosterone might help because a receptor for male hormones also regulates a protein called TMPRSS2, shown in other research to help C19 infect healthy cells. Therapies that suppress male hormones can also decrease TMPRSS2 — not just in the prostate, but in other tissues in the body, Alimonti said.
- The study looked at 4,532 men infected with C19 in Italy’s Veneto region, finding that about 10% had cancer, while 2.6% had prostate cancer. Cancer patients had nearly twice the risk of getting the virus compared with the male population as a whole, and got sicker once they were infected. However, among the 5,273 men on hormone therapy for prostate cancer in Veneto, just four got the coronavirus, and none died.
- One confounding factor could have been that cancer patients on hormone therapy are treated at home instead of going to a hospital, making them better able to stick to social distancing, Alimonti said.
4. Antibodies from llamas may protect against infection
- Winter is a 4-year-old chocolate-colored llama with spindly legs, ever-so-slightly askew ears and envy-inducing eyelashes. Some scientists hope she might be an important figure in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
- Winter is the llama chosen by researchers in Belgium to participate in a series of virus studies involving both SARS and MERS. Finding that her antibodies staved off those infections, the scientists posited that those same antibodies could also neutralize the new virus that causes C19. They were right, and published their results Tuesday in the journal Cell.
- Scientists have long turned to llamas for antibody research. In the last decade, for example, scientists have used llamas’ antibodies in H.I.V. and influenza research, finding promising therapies for both viruses.
- Humans produce only one kind of antibody, made of two types of protein chains — heavy and light — that together form a Y shape. Heavy-chain proteins span the entire Y, while light-chain proteins touch only the Y’s arms. Llamas, on the other hand, produce two types of antibodies. One of those antibodies is similar in size and constitution to human antibodies. But the other is much smaller; it’s only about 25% the size of human antibodies. The llama’s antibody still forms a Y, but its arms are much shorter because it doesn’t have any light-chain proteins.
- This more diminutive antibody can access tinier pockets and crevices on spike proteins — the proteins that allow viruses like the novel coronavirus to break into host cells and infect us — that human antibodies cannot. That can make it more effective in neutralizing viruses.
- Llamas’ antibodies are also easily manipulated, said Dr. Xavier Saelens, a molecular virologist at Ghent University in Belgium and an author of the new study. They can be linked or fused with other antibodies, including human antibodies, and remain stable despite those manipulations.
- This antibody is a genetic characteristic llamas share with all camelids, the family of mammals that also includes alpacas, guanacos and dromedaries.
- In 2016, Dr. Saelens, Mr. Wrapp and Dr. Jason McLellan, a structural virologist at the University of Texas at Austin, and other researchers looked to llamas — and, specifically, Winter — to find a smaller llama antibody “that could broadly neutralize many different types of coronavirus,” Dr. McLellan said.
- They injected Winter with spike proteins from the virus that caused the 2002-03 SARS epidemic as well as MERS, then tested a sample of her blood. And while they couldn’t isolate a single llama antibody that worked against both viruses, they found two potent antibodies that each fought separately against MERS and SARS.
- The researchers were writing up their findings when the new coronavirus began to make headlines in January. They immediately realized that the smaller llama antibodies “that could neutralize SARS would very likely also recognize the C19 virus,” Dr. Saelens said.
- It did, the researchers found, effectively inhibiting the coronavirus in cell cultures.
- The researchers are hopeful the antibody can eventually be used as a prophylactic treatment, by injecting someone who is not yet infected to protect them from the virus, such as a health care worker. While the treatment’s protection would be immediate, its effects wouldn’t be permanent, lasting only a month or two without additional injections.
- This proactive approach is at least several months away, but the researchers are moving toward clinical trials. Additional studies may also be needed to verify the safety of injecting a llama’s antibodies into human patients.
- “There is still a lot of work to do to try to bring this into the clinic,” Dr. Saelens said. “If it works, llama Winter deserves a statue.”
5. Human feces eyed as secret to curbing second coronavirus wave
- Studying human feces in sewer systems worldwide may be the secret to curbing a second wave of C19 until widespread testing is available, researchers said in a report Wednesday.
- “Infected patients are excreting the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, in stool,” Newsha Ghaeli, co-founder of wastewater epidemiology firm Biobot, told CBC Radio. “That’s how we end up being able to see the coronavirus, along with a whole bunch of other human health information in our city sewer system.”
- The Massachusetts-based biotech has been building a picture of the spread through samples collected from wastewater facilities across the country. So far, it has collected 300 samples in 40 US states — which researchers then use to measure the concentration of the virus and estimate how badly each area has been hit.
- Ghaeli says the firm’s research could be the key to early detection of a second wave of the deadly bug because many countries can’t afford — or don’t have access to — widespread testing.
- “We need a way to very easily and rapidly get a snapshot of what’s happening,” she told the outlet. “It’s very important that we have a robust surveillance infrastructure in place to be able to detect any new outbreaks and immediately contain them.”
- The study could also be expanded by collecting samples “directly from the sewer lines” in order to home in on more specific “community-by-community level information,” she said.
- “I would caution people from using it as an absolute truth and recognizing that often with models, there can be a high degree of uncertainty,” said Natalie Prystajecky, who began testing wastewater in British Columbia this week.
- “I would just want people to make sure that they understood the limitations of the data, as they interpret it.”
- Meanwhile, a team of researchers in France who have been testing wastewater since March 5 — less than two weeks before the country enforced a strict lockdown — say the results add up.
- “What we’ve seen is a gradual increase of the viral load in wastewaters up to the 10th of April,” Vincent Marechal, a human virologist working on the study, told CBC.
- After that, the viral load decreased, which Marechal said may indicate “that the lockdown procedure has been efficient.”
- He said wastewater tests could give local governments a general indication of the spread of the virus in a cost-effective way, especially when it comes to asymptomatic cases.
- “Wastewater helps you to investigate what happens in thousands of guts,” he told the outlet.
- “Instead of testing each person, you can just stay in a specific area, ‘OK, the virus is probably here because the wastewaters are positive for the virus.’”
E. Update: Risk of Mutation
1. Did a Mutation Turbocharge the Coronavirus? Not Likely, Scientists Say
- A preliminary report posted online claimed that a mutation had made the virus more transmissible. Geneticists say the evidence isn’t there.
- All viruses mutate, and the coronavirus is no exception. But there is no compelling evidence yet that it is evolving in a way that has made it more contagious or more deadly.
- A preprint study — posted online, but not published in a scientific journal and not yet peer-reviewed — has set the internet afire by suggesting otherwise. [Note: Our 5/6 Update included a story on the report that a mutation made the virus more transmissible, which can be found at https://dailycovid19post.com/]
- On April 30, a report by a team led by Bette Korber, a biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, claimed to have found a mutation in the coronavirus that arose in Europe in February and then rapidly spread, becoming dominant as the virus was introduced into new countries.
- The mutation, they wrote, “is of urgent concern,” because it made the coronavirus more transmissible. Following media coverage, the prospect of a turbocharged strain hopscotching around the world has unnerved many people who already had enough on their minds.
- But experts in viral evolution are far from convinced. For one thing, there is no new strain: Unlike the flu, the coronavirus so far has not split into clearly distinct forms.
- It does mutate, but that’s what viruses do. Just because a mutation becomes more common isn’t proof that it is altering how the virus functions.
- Mutations are tiny changes to genetic material that occur as it is copied. Human cells have many so-called proofreading proteins that keep mutations rare. Still, each baby arrives with dozens of new genetic mutations.
- Viruses are far sloppier, producing many mutants every time they infect a cell. Many of these mutations aren’t useful to the virus, disabling it rather than helping it proliferate. A few may be beneficial to the virus. The rest have little effect one way or the other.
- The virus has mutated. But that doesn’t mean it’s getting deadlier.
- Natural selection can favor viruses carrying a beneficial mutation, leading it to spread more widely. But it’s also possible for a neutral mutation to become more common simply by chance, a process known as genetic drift.
- “I don’t think they provide evidence to claim transmissibility enhancement,” Sergei Pond, an evolutionary biologist at Temple University, said of the new report in an email. “In order to establish this, you’d need direct competition between strains in the same geographic area.”
- Dr. Pond said you might also expect such a powerful mutation to arise in many different viruses and give their descendants an evolutionary edge. But that hasn’t happened.
- Some researchers took to Twitter to critique the paper. “I think those claims are suspect, to say the least,” wrote Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- “They got a bit over their skis on title, conclusions,” wrote Brian Wasik, an evolutionary biologist at Cornell University. “They deserve a strong and good-faith peer review.”
- None of the critics ruled out the possibility that a mutation could arise that would make the virus more transmissible. And it’s possible that D614G has provided some sort of edge.
- But it will take much more evidence to rule out other explanations.
F. How Effective Are Lockdowns?
1. Coronavirus survey reveals ‘shocking’ stats about hospitalized New Yorkers
- Two-thirds of New Yorkers hospitalized with the coronavirus were admitted from their homes, a “shocking” statistic that defies social-distancing logic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
- The curious conclusion was reached in a three-day survey of patients hospitalized with the bug conducted this week, and revealed by Cuomo during his daily press briefing.
- “66% of people were at home, which is shocking to us,” said Cuomo.
- The same survey found that 46% were unemployed, and 37% retired.
- “So, that says they’re not working, they’re not traveling,” said Cuomo. “These people were literally at home.”
- Despite the twist, Cuomo doubled down on his calls for social-distancing and personal responsibility, especially as hospitalizations and deaths continue to trend in the right direction.
- “It reinforces what we’ve been saying, which is, much of this comes down to what you do to protect yourself,” Cuomo told reporters at a Long Island hospital. “Everything is closed down, government has done everything it could, society has done everything it could.”
- “Now it’s up to you. Are you wearing a mask? Are you doing the hand sanitizer,” he continued. “If you have younger people who are visiting you and maybe be out there and maybe less diligent with the social distancing — are you staying away from older people?”
- And only about 4% of respondents — 3% among city residents — listed public transportation as their primary way of getting around, though Cuomo noted that 45% didn’t respond to that question.
- “We thought, maybe they were taking public transportation, and we’ve taken special precautions on public transportation,” said Cuomo. “But actually no.”
- As only 17% of respondents said that they were employed, Cuomo noted that fewer hospitalizations than feared were among front-line workers.
- “Predominantly non-essential employees, and that’s important,” said Cuomo.
- State officials commissioned the survey to try to better understand how the coronavirus is continuing to spread even as the growth in new cases has slowed dramatically in the weeks after the implementation of social distancing measures.
- They also clarified that the source of hospital admissions was simply asking patients where they lived before coming to the hospital — and was not an indicator of their compliance with social distancing guidelines or a potential source of infection.
- The data released by Cuomo’s office also revealed that black and Hispanic New Yorkers accounted for nearly half of coronavirus hospitalizations in the five boroughs, adding new evidence that the pandemic is hitting the Big Apple’s minority communities the hardest.
- Just 24% of the New Yorkers hospitalized in the Big Apple for coronavirus crisis white, even though they make up 32% of the city’s population, the stats released during Cuomo’s daily briefing show.
- African-Americans accounted for 25% of those hospitalized, Hispanics made up 20% and Asian-Americans accounted for another 8%.
- More than 1 in 5 respondents — 22% — fell outside of those broad racial categories and were identified as non-white.
- The data also showed that men accounted for slightly more than half of the hospitalizations and that virtually all patients — 96 percent — had an underlying illness.
- State officials drew the numbers from a three-day survey of 1,269 patients at 113 hospitals located across the state.
- More than 4 out of 5 patients surveyed reside in New York City, Long Island or in Westchester or Rockland counties.
- The survey and results follow weeks of questions from reporters, intense pressure from civil rights activists and the release of other data that showed minorities are dying at far higher rates than whites in Gotham.
2. In wake of coronavirus crisis, ‘targeted lockdown’ could be better for public health and the economy
- Nearly all of the U.S. has been on lockdown to fight the spread of C19, but newly published research by C19 economists argues that an “optimally targeted lockdown” might help protect the most vulnerable, while also protecting the economy.
- The working paper, which can be found in the National Bureau of Economic Research and has not been peer-reviewed, looked at infection, hospitalization and death rates for three age groups — “young” (20-44), “middle-aged” (45-65) and “old” (65 and older). They were compared to rates resulting from strict lockdown for all age groups and the study found that a targeted lockdown was able to achieve “the majority of the gains from fully-targeted policies.”
- “For example, a semi-targeted policy that involves the lockdown of those above 65 until a vaccine arrives can release the young and middle-aged groups back into the economy much more quickly, and still achieve a much lower fatality rate in the population (just above 1% of the population instead of 1.83% with the optimal uniform policy),” the authors wrote.
- “This policy also reduces the economic damage from 24.3% to 12.8% of one year’s GDP. The reason is that, once the most vulnerable group is protected, the other groups can be reincorporated into the economy more quickly.”
- The authors added that either “optimal semi-targeted” or “fully-targeted” policies reduce the mortality rate to 0.71% from 1.83%, saving 2.7 million lives. “
- Overall, targeted policies that are combined with measures that reduce interactions between groups and increase testing and isolation of the infected can minimize both economic losses and deaths in our model,” the authors explained in the study’s abstract.
- However, the authors also noted that there is “much uncertainty about many of the key parameters” for C19.
- “Any optimal policy, whether uniform or not, will be highly sensitive to these parameters,” the authors noted.
- “So our quantitative results are mainly illustrative and should be interpreted with caution,” they added. “Nevertheless, the qualitative finding that semi-targeted policies significantly outperform uniform policies is more general and is a consistent feature of all of our results.”
- A separate study published by researchers at Harvard University in late April warned reopening the U.S. economy is “much bigger than most people realize.” These researchers argued at least 5 million tests per day need to be delivered by early June “to deliver a safe social reopening,” jumping to 20 million a day “to fully remobilize the economy” by late July.
- Several states around the country have started to reopen, to varying degrees. On Tuesday, restrictions were lifted for certain beaches in California and several parts of Washington state, the original epicenter in the U.S., including fishing, hunting, golf and day use at state parks.
3. Nobel Prize-winning scientist shares C19 data showing strict lockdowns were an overreaction
- Professor Michael Levitt, who teaches structural biology at the Stanford School of Medicine, won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.”
- And according to Levitt, coronavirus data show that sweeping lockdown measures were an overreaction that may actually backfire.
- Levitt has been analyzing the COVID-19 outbreak from a statistical perspective since January and has been remarkably accurate in his predications. The data show that the outbreak never actually grew exponentially, suggesting harsh lockdown measures, which have drastically impacted the world economy, were probably unnecessary.
- According to UnHerd:
- His observation is a simple one: that in outbreak after outbreak of this disease, a similar mathematical pattern is observable regardless of government interventions. After around a two week exponential growth of cases (and, subsequently, deaths) some kind of break kicks in, and growth starts slowing down. The curve quickly becomes “sub-exponential”.
- This may seem like a technical distinction, but its implications are profound. The ‘unmitigated’ scenarios modelled by (among others) Imperial College, and which tilted governments across the world into drastic action, relied on a presumption of continued exponential growth — that with a consistent R number of significantly above 1 and a consistent death rate, very quickly the majority of the population would be infected and huge numbers of deaths would be recorded. But Professor Levitt’s point is that that hasn’t actually happened anywhere, even in countries that have been relatively lax in their responses.
- Instead of strict lockdown orders, Levitt told UnHerd that developing “herd immunity” is a better strategy to fighting a virus like C19.
- “I think the policy of herd immunity is the right policy. I think Britain was on exactly the right track before they were fed wrong numbers. And they made a huge mistake. I see the standout winners as Germany and Sweden. They didn’t practice too much lockdown and they got enough people sick to get some herd immunity,” Levitt explained.
- “I see the standout losers as countries like Austria, Australia and Israel that had very strict lockdown but didn’t have many cases,” he said. “They have damaged their economies, caused massive social damage, damaged the educational year of their children, but not obtained any herd immunity.
- “There is no doubt in my mind, that when we come to look back on this, the damage done by lockdown will exceed any saving of lives by a huge factor,” Levitt predicted.
4. Science vs. Lockdowns [By Alexander Galetovic and Stephen Haber, The Hill]
- Governors claim science” justifies continued lockdowns, but the governors are wrong.
- State chief executives assume they are trading “a short-term reduction in employment” for a long-term curb in “age-specific mortality,” but really they are trading a short-term dip in C19 deaths for more fatalities among working people over the long term.
- Research shows layoffs boost “age-specific mortality”; for middle-aged males, death rates rise 50% to 100%. Layoffs also “push families toward poverty,” which itself has a “brutal” effect on mortality.
- In the United States, “the poor die 10 to 15 years earlier than the wealthy.” Governors who persist in lockdowns are making “a huge mistake.”
- They think they are “safeguarding” folks from the virus, but they’re actually exposing them to greater “mortality risk from unemployment.”
[Note: For a much more detailed discussion of the costs of lockdowns, see story below “High Hidden Costs of Lockdowns”]
G. C19 Riddle
1. Why are some people affected much worse than others?
- When some people become infected with the coronavirus, they only develop mild or undetectable cases of C19. Others suffer severe symptoms, fighting to breathe on a ventilator for weeks, if they survive at all.
- Despite a concerted global scientific effort, doctors still lack a clear picture of why this is.
- Could genetic differences explain the differences we see in symptoms and severity of C19?
- To test this, we used computer models to analyze known genetic variation within the human immune system. The results of our modeling suggest that there are in fact differences in people’s DNA that could influence their ability to respond to a coronavirus infection.
What we did
- When a virus infects human cells, the body reacts by turning on what are essentially anti-virus alarm systems. These alarms identify viral invaders and tell the immune system to send cytotoxic T cells – a type of white blood cell – to destroy the infected cells and hopefully slow the infection.
- But not all alarm systems are created equal. People have different versions of the same genes – called alleles – and some of these alleles are more sensitive to certain viruses or pathogens than others.
- To test whether different alleles of this alarm system could explain some of the range in immune responses to the coronavirus, we first retrieved a list of all the proteins that make up the virus from an online database.
- We then took that list and used existing computer algorithms to predict how well different versions of the anti-viral alarm system detected these coronavirus proteins.
Why it matters
- The part of the alarm system that we tested is called the human leukocyte antigen system, or HLA. Each person has multiple alleles of the genes that make up their HLA type. Each allele codes for a different HLA protein. These proteins are the sensors of the alarm system and find intruders by binding to various peptides – chains of amino acids that make up parts of the coronavirus – that are foreign to the body.
- Once an HLA protein binds to a virus or piece of a virus, it transports the intruder to the cell surface. This “marks” the cell as infected and from there the immune system will kill the cell.
- In general, the more peptides of a virus that a person’s HLAs can detect, the stronger the immune response. Think of it like a more sensitive sensor of the alarm system.
- The results of our modeling predict that some HLA types bind to a large number of the SARS-CoV-2 peptides while others bind to very few. That is to say, some sensors may be better tailored to SARS-CoV-2 than others. If true, the specific HLA alleles a person has would likely be a factor in how effective their immune response is to C19.
- Because our study only used a computer model to make these predictions, we decided to test the results using clinical information from the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak.
- We found similarities in how effective alleles were at identifying SARS and the coronavirus. If an HLA allele appeared to be bad at recognizing the coronavirus, it was also bad at recognizing SARS. Our analysis predicted that one allele, called B46:01, is particularly bad with regards to both the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and SARS-CoV. Sure enough, previous studies showed that people with this allele tended to have more severe SARS infections and higher viral loads than people with other versions of the HLA gene.
- Based on our study, we think variation in HLA genes is part of the explanation for the huge differences in infection severity in many C19 patients. These differences in the HLA genes are probably not the only genetic factor that affects severity of C19, but they may be a significant piece of the puzzle. It is important to further study how HLA types can clinically affect C19 severity and to test these predictions using real cases. Understanding how variation in HLA types may affect the clinical course of C19 could help identify individuals at higher risk from the disease.
- To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate the relationship between viral proteins across a wide range of HLA alleles. Currently, we know very little about the relationship between many other viruses and HLA type. In theory, we could repeat this analysis to better understand the genetic risks of many viruses that currently or could potentially infect humans.
H. Coronavirus Parties
1. Coronavirus ‘parties’ linked to rise in cases
- Health officials in a county in southern Washington state say a rise in coronavirus cases is linked to “coronavirus parties.”
- “Walla Walla County health officials are receiving reports of coronavirus parties occurring in our community, where noninfected people mingle with an infected person in an effort to catch the virus,” the county said in a press release Tuesday.
- The statement stressed that scientists don’t know yet if people infected with the coronavirus become immune and that contracting the virus risks serious illness.
- “Health officials stress that there is much we don’t know about C19,” the release said. “Epidemiologists don’t know if immunity is a sure thing, if reinfection is possible, or if [the] virus could continue living inside you. They do know that even the young can be hospitalized, survivors may suffer long-term damage, and even a ‘mild’ case isn’t mild.”
- The county has 94 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including an additional six cases reported Tuesday. One person has died, according to the county website.
- Meghan DeBolt, the county’s community health director, told The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin that some of the confirmed cases can be linked back to the coronavirus gatherings.
- “We don’t know when it is happening. It’s after the fact that we hear from cases,” she said. “We ask about contacts, and there are 25 people because: ‘We were at a COVID party.’”
- In a Facebook video message, DeBolt said such parties are “not part of the solution” to reopening the community and asked residents to stay diligent.
- “We need to practice proper and physical social distancing and other prevention measures. And we also need to use this time to use good common sense and be smart as we move through this pandemic so that we can begin to reopen our community,” she said.
- “Coronavirus parties are not part of the solution. Live music at dinner pick-ups at restaurants are not part of the solution. Please help us to reopen our community and our economy,” she continued.
- DeBolt noted to the Union-Bulletin that chickenpox parties were at one point considered popular. At the gatherings, unvaccinated children were intentionally exposed to a child with the chickenpox so that they would get the disease.
- The CDC has warned that chickenpox parties can be dangerous and even deadly.
- DeBolt told the local news outlet that chickenpox is now a well-understood virus, but the coronavirus is new, and health officials are still trying to learn if post-illness immunity is possible or if reinfection can occur.
- “It is not an innocent endeavor, by any means. It really sets us back,” she said about the parties. “In reopening the county, we look at not only total case count, but if our community is being diligent.”
- DeBolt said her agency will be reaching out to local law enforcement to help find and break up such gatherings.
- There has been at least one other report of a coronavirus party in the U.S.
- Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced in March that a person tested positive after attending a coronavirus party.
- “We are battling for the health and even the lives of our parents and our grandparents,” Beshear said at the time. “Don’t be so callous as to intentionally go to something and expose yourself to something that can kill other people. We ought to be much better than that.”
H. Coronavirus Timeline
1. New discoveries shift coronavirus timeline by months
- The coronavirus that has exploded into a pandemic has almost certainly been circulating for several months longer than public health experts first suspected, masked by asymptomatic cases or illnesses incorrectly diagnosed.
- Scientists believe the first known case of a patient contracting the coronavirus happened in mid-November, in a 55-year-old resident of China’s Hubei province. That was six weeks before the World Health Organization’s (WHO) surveillance network picked up reports of a cluster of atypical pneumonia cases in Wuhan, the province’s largest city.
- There are increasing signs that the virus had begun its global spread long before it was identified. French scientists on Monday published the results of a study that found coronavirus present in samples given by a resident of a Paris suburb who was tested Dec. 27, four days before the Wuhan cluster was identified.
- The French patient, a 42-year-old fishmonger, had not traveled outside of the country since visiting his native Algeria in August, a potential sign that the virus came to France in someone else even earlier. One of the man’s children had symptoms of a flu-like illness, raising the prospect that the child infected the father — and further back-dating the point at which the virus had spread to Europe.
- The coronavirus also likely landed in the United States earlier than the first known American case, a man north of Seattle who traveled home from Wuhan in mid-January.
- Medical officials in California’s Santa Clara County said last month that a woman who died at her home on Feb. 6 had the coronavirus. That woman had not traveled recently, suggesting she contracted the virus through contact with someone else who may have returned to the Bay Area from overseas.
- Such back-dating is not uncommon when scientists are racing to identify the spread of a disease, experts said.
- “Exponential spread in the early phases is not recognized, and the reason it’s not recognized is that it doesn’t always cause a disease like Ebola or severe pneumonia,” said Paul Sax, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “This virus may have been circulating before we knew.”
- Tracing a virus to its root cause, or index case, gives scientists a window into how the virus made its zoonotic leap from a host animal to humans — and helps inform changes to society and culture that can prevent future leaps.
- It is not clear if the 55-year-old Hubei resident was the index case, or if others contracted the disease earlier. But its spread outside of Wuhan, a major manufacturing and transit hub, almost certainly happened long before the pathogen was even identified as a novel coronavirus, let alone before countries like the United States imposed travel restrictions to stop its spread.
- “It wouldn’t surprise me if it was here in December. There was so much connection between Wuhan and here, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “The horse was long out of the barn before anybody thought to close the barn door.”
- In some cases, a patient zero can never be identified. The AIDS epidemic of the early 1980s was not the first time HIV infected a human, Sax said, pointing to cases of what was almost certainly HIV as far back as the 1950s.
- In others, contact tracers can find the person who first contracted a deadly disease. Epidemiologists from the WHO and Guinea’s ministry of health traced the worst Ebola outbreak in modern history from a nurse who died in mid-January 2014 back to a toddler in the remote village of Meliandou who died in December 2013.
- What makes this particular coronavirus so difficult to detect, experts say, is that many of its symptoms manifest as nothing more than a common cold — and that the list of symptoms one might experience vary from something as simple as a runny nose to far more extreme cases that resemble heart attacks or cause strokes. The fact that the virus likely broke out just as flu season began in the Northern Hemisphere has added a layer of fog, complicating the search.
- The WHO is keeping tabs on the new research, a spokesman said, and it is likely other countries will find earlier initial cases as they retest samples taken in late 2019, like the French study.
- “This finding helps to better understand potential virus circulation of C19. The finding is not surprising given the earliest cases of C19 had symptom onset in early December. It is possible that some infected people traveled from Wuhan to other countries at that time. It is also possible that more early cases will be found as countries retest samples from patients who were sick in December-January or earlier,” said Tarik Jasarevic, the WHO spokesman.
- To better understand how the virus moved from China to France, scientists will need to build a “phylogenetic tree,” said Joseph Eisenberg, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan. That process involves sequencing the French sample’s RNA and comparing it to strains found in China, Italy and elsewhere to see how closely it is related. So far, scientists have sequenced RNA from more than 15,000 samples to chart its spread around the globe.
- International governments, led by the Trump administration and Australia, have been critical of China’s efforts to silence doctors who raised alarms about the early coronavirus cases. One doctor in Wuhan alerted national health authorities that a novel coronavirus was spreading in his hospital on Dec. 27, four days before the WHO picked up hints about the cluster of pneumonia. Internal documents show as many as 60 people a day were being infected in Wuhan by Dec. 20.
- But it is likely that the virus was spreading long before Chinese officials got the first indications of a new pathogen in their midst.
- “If Wuhan was the location where the virus spilled over from animals to humans, there was likely lots of transmission prior to the initial identified cluster,” Eisenberg said.
I. Stories From the Frontline
1. Kemp Warns Of Growing Outbreak Stressing Northeast Georgia
- Gov. Brian Kemp warned on Tuesday that a growing coronavirus outbreak is stressing resources in northeast Georgia.
- Kemp has moved aggressively to allow businesses to reopen even though infections are on the rise in some areas of the state. He made his remarks about northeast Georgia while touring a temporary medical pod in the southwestern city of Albany, one of the state’s earliest and worst hot spots for C19.
- The state Department of Public health reports that nearly 30,000 Georgians have had coronavirus infections confirmed by a test. About 1,300 in the state of 10.6 million people have died.
- Gainesville, a city about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta that is synonymous with Georgia’s large poultry industry, is quickly becoming one of the state’s most affected areas.
- Per-capita infection rates in Gainesville’s Hall County and in nearby Habersham County are now in the top 10% of counties statewide, a list that otherwise remains mostly dominated by counties in south and southwest Georgia.
- “They’re being stressed pretty hard up there at the moment,” Kemp said Tuesday while touring a temporary medical pod in southwest Georgia, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Republican governor said contract medical workers have been sent to the Gainesville area to help fight the outbreak. A temporary medical pod is planned there as well.
J. High Hidden Costs of Lockdowns
1. Anxiety From Reactions to C19 Will Destroy At SEVEN TO NINETY TIMES More Years of Life Than Can Be Saved by Lockdowns
- Medical studies show that excessive stress and anxiety are among the most debilitating and deadly of all health hazards in the world. Beyond their obvious effects like suicide and substance abuse—these mental stressors are strongly related to and may trigger and inflame a host of ailments like high blood pressure, digestive disorders, heart conditions, infectious diseases, cancer, and pregnancy complications.
- Based on a broad array of scientific data, Just Facts has computed that the anxiety created by reactions to C19—such as stay-at-home orders, business shutdowns, media exaggerations, and legitimate concerns about the virus—will destroy at least seven times more years of human life than can possibly be saved by lockdowns to control the spread of the disease. THIS FIGURE IS A BARE MINIMUM, AND THE ACTUAL ONE IS LIKELY MORE THAN 90 TIMES GREATER.
- This study was reviewed by Joseph P. Damore, Jr., M.D., who concluded: “This research is engaging and thoroughly answers the question about the cure being worse than the disease.” Dr. Damore is a certified diplomate with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, an assistant attending psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the U.S. Military Academy.
Stress and Anxiety Levels
- Scientific surveys of U.S. residents have found that the mental health of about one-third to one-half of all adults has been substantially compromised by reactions to the C19 pandemic. Examples include the following:
- An American Psychiatric Association survey in mid-March found that 36% of adults report that anxiety over C19 “is having a serious impact on their mental health.”
- A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in late March found that 45% of adults “feel that worry and stress related to” C19 “has had a negative impact on their mental health, an increase from 32% from early March.” Additionally, 19% of adults said it is having a “major impact” on their mental health.
- A Benenson Strategy Group survey in late March revealed that the C19 “situation has already affected” the “mental health” of 55% of U.S. adults “either a great deal or somewhat.”
- A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in late April found that 56% of adults “report that worry and stress related to” C19 “is affecting their mental health and wellbeing in various ways,” such as “trouble sleeping, “poor appetite or over-eating,” “frequent headaches or stomachaches,” “difficulty controlling their temper,” “increasing their alcohol or drug use,” and “worsening chronic conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.”
- Contributors to these mental health impacts include but are not limited to:
- empirically grounded concerns about the virus.
- anguish over the death of loved ones, although this is limited to a relatively small fraction of the public because the virus has killed one out of every 5,000 Americans, while one out of every 116 Americans die every year.
- media outlets that overstate the deadliness of C19 by:
- using false denominators that exaggerate its death rate.
- misreporting about the capacity of the virus to mutate and cause a large, ongoing death toll.
- government stay-at-home orders and self-imposed isolation, as evidenced by:
- a survey commissioned by the University of Phoenix in late March that found 44% of U.S. adults are more lonely than they have ever been in their lives, which is a risk factor for suicide and many other psychologically driven fatal afflictions.
- the late-March Kaiser Family Foundation survey, which “found that 47% of those sheltering in place reported negative mental health effects resulting from worry or stress,” a rate that “is significantly higher than the 37% among people who were not sheltering in place.”
- the late-March Benenson Strategy Group survey, which found that “71% of Americans say they are concerned that ‘social distancing’ measures will have a negative impact on the country’s mental health—including 28% who are extremely or very concerned about this.”
- government-mandated shutdowns of businesses in nearly every state that have cost millions of jobs and are reflected in the:
- late-April Kaiser Family Foundation survey, which found that 35% of adults and 55% of workers “have lost their jobs or had a reduction in hours or pay as a result of” responses to C19.
- mid-March American Psychiatric Association survey, which found that 57% of adults are concerned that responses to the pandemic “will have a serious negative impact on their finances,” and 68% fear it “will have a long-lasting impact on the economy.”
- Among all of the figures above, the lowest nationwide measure of people who have incurred psychological harm from reactions to C19 is the 19% of adults in the late-March Kaiser Family Foundation survey who reported a “major impact” on their mental health. This survey included 1,226 respondents and has a margin of sampling error for this result of ± 2.2 percentage points with 95% confidence.
- Therefore, at least 16.8% of 255,200,373 adults in the United States—or 42,873,663 people—have suffered major mental harm from responses to C19. This figure forms the first key basis of this study.
The Deadliness of Anxiety and Stress
- Medical journals are rich with studies that attempt to measure the lethality of stress, anxiety, depression, and other psychological conditions. Determining this is very difficult because association does not prove causation, and unmeasured factors could be at play.
- For example, a 2011 meta-analysis in the journal Social Science & Medicine about mortality, “psychosocial stress,” and job losses finds that “unemployment is associated with a substantially increased risk of death among broad segments of the population,” but there are conflicting theories as to why this is so. One is that “unemployment causes adverse changes in health behaviors, which in turn lead to deterioration of health.” Put simply, unemployment leads to bad health. The other theory is that bad health causes unemployment. Both of these theories may be true, and factors that are not measured in the studies could be causing both unemployment and bad health. Thus, it is very difficult to isolate these variables and determine which is causing the others and to what degree.
- While trying to address such uncertainty, the meta-analysis examined “235 mortality risk estimates from 42 studies” and found that “unemployment is associated with a 63% higher risk of mortality in studies controlling for covariates.”
- Regardless of whether job losses from C19 lockdowns are brief or sustained, the study found that the death correlation “is significant in both the short and long term,” lending “some support to the hypothesis and previous findings that both the stress and the negative lifestyle effects associated with the onset of unemployment tend to persist even after a person has regained a job.”
- Also of relevance to current job losses, the study indicates that added unemployment benefits, like those recently passed into federal law, are unlikely to mitigate the deadliness of job losses. This is because the meta-analysis found that the associations between unemployment and death in Scandinavia and the U.S. are not significantly different, even though the Scandinavian nations offer more generous welfare benefits. Thus, the authors conclude that “these national-level policy differences may not have much of an effect on the rate of mortality following unemployment.”
- A broad range of other studies have similar implications for anxiety-related deaths wrought by reactions to C19:
- A 1991 study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found that “psychological stress was associated in a dose-response manner with an increased risk of acute infectious respiratory illness.” A dose-response relationship, as explained by epidemiologist Sydney Pettygrove, “is one in which increasing levels of exposure are associated with either an increasing or a decreasing risk of the outcome.” She notes that when this pattern occurs, it “is considered strong evidence for a causal relationship between the exposure and the outcome.”
- A 2004 paper in The Lancet documents that “stress and depression result in an impairment of the immune response and might promote the initiation and progression of some types of cancer….” The paper details many human and animal studies germane to the C19 lockdowns, such as those dealing with a “lack of social interactions” that cause certain cancers to metastasize.
- A 2005 paper in the Journal of Experimental Medicine finds that “psychological conditions, including stress” trigger a “sophisticated molecular mechanism” that increases “the likelihood of infections, autoimmunity, or cancer.”
- A 2012 meta-analysis in the British Medical Journal finds “a dose-response association between psychological distress and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and external causes across the full range of distress, even in people who would not usually come to the attention of mental health services.” Furthermore, “these associations remained after adjustment for age, sex, current occupational social class, body mass index, systolic blood pressure, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and diabetes.” People with the lowest levels of psychological distress in this study had a 20% greater risk of death, and those with the highest levels had a 94% greater risk.
- A 2012 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry analyzes the death rates of more than a million young males in Sweden who underwent a government-mandated military draft physical that “included a structured interview by a psychologist” during 1969 to 1994. This study is particularly relevant to the effects of the current C19 anxiety because it involves nearly all the healthy young men of a nation and excludes those with “severe” mental or physical disorders because they were excused from the exam. The study finds:
- Young men who were diagnosed with neurotic and adjustment disorders were 76% more likely to die in the average follow-up period of 22.6 years. A neurotic disorder is a problem dealing with anxiety, and an adjustment disorder—which is now called “stress response syndrome”—is “a short-term condition that occurs when a person has great difficulty coping with, or adjusting to, a particular source of stress, such as a major life change, loss, or event.” These are apt descriptions of the tens of millions of Americans who report that reactions to C19 are seriously harming their mental health.
- Premature deaths associated with mental illness “are not primarily due to suicide or accidents, although risk of both is increased, but to a range of natural causes, particularly cardiovascular disease.” This suggests that the most pervasive harm from lockdowns does not manifest in obvious ways like suicides and overdoses.
- A 2015 paper in the American Journal of Epidemiology examines the death rates of all “Danes who received a diagnosis of reaction to severe stress or adjustment disorders” between 1995 and 2011. The study found that they “had mortality rates during the study period that were 2.2 times higher than” those of the general population.
- A 2015 meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry provides a systematic review of 148 studies of death and mental disorders with follow-up times ranging from one to 52 years, with a median of 10 years. It finds that the overall risk of death among people with mental disorders is 2.2 times that of the general population. Breaking these results out by condition, the mortality increases were:
- 43% for people with anxiety.
- 71% for people with depression
- 110% for people with mood disorders.
- 150% for people with psychoses.
- Among all of the results above, the smallest risk of increased death is 20% in the 2012 meta-analysis. This has a margin of error from 13% to 27% with 95% confidence. The lower limit of 13% translates to an average of about 1.3 years of lost life per person.
- Corroborating that figure, 22 of the studies in the 2015 meta-analysis included estimates for the average years of life lost by each person with a mental disorder. These “ranged from 1.4 to 32 years, with a median of 10.1 years.” None of these studies were for anxiety, but the low-end figure of 1.4 years provides additional evidence that those who suffer serious mental repercussions from responses to C19 will lose an average of more than a year of life.
- Therefore, the figure of 1.3 years of lost life is a bare minimum and forms the second key basis of this study. This varies widely by person and could be:
- 50 years or more for young people who committed suicide.
- one month or less for elderly persons who have cardiac events triggered by fear or loneliness.
- two years for the middle-aged people whose blood pressure begins spiking earlier in life than it would have in the absence of C19-related stress.
Lives Saved By Lockdowns
- In the science of epidemiology, or the study of human disease, ethical and practical constraints often make it impossible to conduct experiments that can definitively establish the effects of medical interventions. This applies to determining how many lives might be saved by government lockdowns during the C19 pandemic.
- One can easily compare C19 death rates—or the number of people who die from the disease divided by the total population where they live—in nations and states that took different actions. However, many other factors can affect these death rates, such as wealth, age, population density, government, hospital protocols, culture, genetics, diet, and exercise. For example, New York State enacted one of the strictest lockdowns in the U.S. but has 22 times the death rate of Florida, which had one of the mildest lockdowns.
- Given such considerations, the highest possible figure for lives saved by lockdowns can be estimated by comparing the nations of Scandinavia. This is because these countries are culturally, economically, and genetically similar to one another but have enacted very dissimilar policies to deal with C19. In the words of Paul W. Franks, professor of genetic epidemiology at Lund University in Sweden:
- The Swedish approach to C19 could not be more different from its neighbors, placing much of the responsibility for delaying the spread of the virus and protecting the vulnerable in the hands of the public. It’s now April and, albeit with some restrictions, Swedish bars, restaurants and schools remain open.
- This all contrasts the far more assertive physical restrictions imposed in the culturally similar neighboring countries. Across the borders in Denmark, Norway and Finland, schools closed weeks ago and movement has been severely restricted.
- Sweden has taken certain measures to slow the spread of C19, like limiting public gatherings to 50 people. However, these can hardly be characterized as “lockdowns,” and Swedish stores, restaurants, schools, beaches, and other public places are open and bustling.
- Comparing the current death rates of Scandinavian nations yields a maximum figure for the lives saved by lockdowns because Sweden’s plan involves more deaths in the early stages of the pandemic but less later on. As detailed by Professor Franks, simulations show that the overall death rate is “expected to be similar across countries,” but “unlike its peers, Sweden is likely to take the hit sooner and over a shorter period, with the majority of deaths occurring within weeks, rather than months.”
- As of April 27th, the death rate in Sweden is 32% higher than in the United States, 3.1 times that of Denmark, 5.8 times that of Norway, and 6.4 times that of Finland. [See chart here]
- Applying the Sweden/Finland death rate ratio of 6.4 to the United States, the maximum number of Americans who could have been saved by past and current lockdowns is 616,590. This figure is based on the most pessimistic projection of 114,228 deaths in the U.S. through August 4th by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. It is calculated by multiplying 114,228 deaths by 6.4 and then subtracting the 114,228 deaths that occur regardless of the lockdown.
- The figure of 616,590 lives saved by lockdowns in the U.S. is at the extreme high-end of plausibility because it:
- uses the worst-case projection for the U.S. death toll.
- compares the death rate in Sweden to Finland, even though Denmark—which has also implemented a strict lockdown—has twice the death rate of Finland.
- assumes that Sweden’s death rate doesn’t decline relative to its neighbors over time regardless of Sweden’s strategy to build herd immunity consistent with the following facts:
- The Imperial College—whose cataclysmic projections of C19 deaths have been a driving force behind government lockdowns—has acknowledged that “the more successful a strategy is at temporary suppression, the larger the later epidemic is predicted to be in the absence of vaccination, due to lesser build-up of herd immunity.”
- A 2012 paper in the journal PLoS One titled “Immunity in Society” notes that “when a sufficiently high proportion of individuals within a population becomes immune (either through prior exposure or through mass vaccination), community or ‘herd’ immunity emerges, whereby individuals that are poorly immunized are protected by the collective ‘immune firewall’ provided by immunized neighbors.”
- Large portions of people are highly resistant to C19 and experience no symptoms when they catch it, later making them firewalls against the spread of the disease. For example, the New England Journal of Medicine reported in mid-April that universal C19 testing of pregnant women at two New York City hospitals found that 88% of the women who tested positive for the disease were asymptomatic.
- U.S. states with strict lockdowns—like New Jersey and New York—have C19 death rates that are 3 to 5 times that of Sweden’s. [See chart at https://www.justfacts.com/images/health/covid-19_death_rates_state.png.%5D
- Nonetheless, this study uses the highly improbable and optimistic scenario of 616,590 lives saved by lockdowns. This figure forms the third key basis of the study.
Comparing Life Lost and Saved
- Combining the first two key figures of this study, anxiety from responses to C19 has impacted 42,873,663 adults and will rob them of an average of 1.3 years of life, thus destroying 55.7 million years of life.
- Combining the third key figure of this study with data on C19 deaths, a maximum of 616,590 lives might be saved by the current lockdowns, and the disease robs an average of 12 years of life from each of its victims, which means that the current lockdowns can save no more than 7.4 million years of life.
- In other words, the anxiety from reactions to C19—such as business shutdowns, stay-at-home orders, media exaggerations, and legitimate concerns about the virus—will extinguish at least seven times more years of life than can possibly be saved by the lockdowns.
- Again, all of these figures minimize deaths from anxiety and maximize lives saved by lockdowns. Under the more moderate scenarios documented above, anxiety will destroy more than 90 times the life saved by lockdowns based on:
- the mid-March American Psychiatric Association survey that found C19 “is having a serious impact” on the “mental health” of 36% of adults.
- the 2015 meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry that found a 43% average increase in mortality for people with anxiety.
- the IHME’s midpoint projection of 72,433 C19 deaths through August 4th.
- the fact that the current death rate of Sweden is 5.1 times the average of the other Scandinavian nations.
- Even the figure of 90 times is likely a substantial underestimate of the total life destroyed by reactions to C19 because it doesn’t account for:
- anyone under the age of 18, even though adolescents are disproportionately prone to stress-related suicides, substance abuse, and risky behaviors that cause fatal accidents.
- deaths caused by low levels of psychological distress—which have impacted an additional 20% of adults beyond the 36% with serious distress according to the late-April Kaiser Family Foundation survey—and are associated with a 20% greater risk of death per the 2012 British Medical Journal meta-analysis.
- psychological conditions that are more deadly than anxiety, like depression and mood disorders. Among the 36% who report a “serious impact” on their “mental health,” there is a mix of conditions, and the 2015 meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry finds that the increased risk of death is lowest for anxiety (43%), while it is 71% for depression, and 110% for mood disorders.
- deaths from non-psychological causes, such as:
- government-mandated and personal decisions to delay medical care, which has postponed tumor removals, cancer screenings, heart surgeries, and treatments for other ailments that can lead to early death if not addressed in a timely manner.
- economic decline and government debt, which have negative effects on healthcare, nutrition, education, and other variables that impact life expectancy.
- Unlike analyses that only compare the number of deaths from C19 to other causes, this study accounts for the years of life lost for each victim. This accords with the CDC’s principle that “the allocation of health resources must consider not only the number of deaths by cause but also by age.” Thus, the CDC explains that the “years of potential life lost” has “become a mainstay in the evaluation of the impact of injuries on public health.” This doesn’t mean that the lives of young people are more important than that of the elderly, but it recognizes and accounts for the facts that:
- humans cannot ultimately prevent death; they can only delay it.
- there is a material difference between a malady that kills a 20 year-old in the prime of her life and one that kills a 90-year-old who would have otherwise died a month later.
- A possible argument against this study is that it isn’t proper to compare anxiety to C19 because the effects of anxiety often don’t kill until the distant future, while the deaths from C19 are happening right now. Such logic relegates the harms of mental distress to years away, but the facts are clear that it can kill immediately, make life a nightmare in the present, and produce current and lasting physical ailments that end in early death. More importantly, tallying the life lost in any random unit of time, as opposed to an entire lifetime, is shortsighted and exclusionary.
- Other distinctions, such as whether or not the cause of death is contagious, are similarly myopic. The primary issues are prevention and harm, and the difference between them ultimately determines how much life is saved or destroyed.
- One of the most important principles of epidemiology is weighing benefits and harms. A failure to do this can make virtually any medical treatment seem helpful or destructive. In the words of Ronald C. Kessler of the Harvard Medical School and healthcare economist Paul E. Greenberg, “medical interventions are appropriate only if their expected benefits clearly exceed the sum of their direct costs and their expected risks.”
- Likewise, a 2020 paper about quarantines published in The Lancet states: “Separation from loved ones, the loss of freedom, uncertainty over disease status, and boredom can, on occasion, create dramatic effects. Suicide has been reported, substantial anger generated, and lawsuits brought following the imposition of quarantine in previous outbreaks. The potential benefits of mandatory mass quarantine need to be weighed carefully against the possible psychological costs.”
- Yet, when dealing with C19 and other issues, politicians sometimes ignore this essential principle of sound decision-making. For a prime example, NJ Governor Phil Murphy recently insisted that he must maintain a lockdown or “there will be blood on our hands.” What that statement fails to recognize is that lockdowns also kill people via the mechanisms detailed above.
- Likewise, a reporter asked NY Governor Andrew Cuomo about the impacts of his lockdown on people who comC19 “suicide because they can’t pay their bills” and others who die from the economic repercussions and “mental illness.” In reply, Cuomo stated five times that these fatal outcomes are “not death.” He also asked the rhetorical question, “How can the cure be worse than the illness if the illness is potential death?” The obvious answer is that the cure is also potential death.
- In situations like pandemics and many other realms of public policy, life-and-death tradeoffs are inevitable, and failing to recognize this can cause tremendous harm. This is the case with C19, where a broad array of scientific facts overwhelmingly shows that anxiety from reactions to the disease will destroy at least seven times more years of life than can possibly be saved by lockdowns. Moreover, the total loss of life from all societal responses to this disease is likely to be more than 90 times greater than prevented by the lockdowns.
- A final note for readers who are experiencing anxiety: Healthcare professionals can reduce these effects, so seek help.