Morning Notes

By May 29, 2020 Commentary

It is a grim time in my home metropolitan area of Minneapolis.  The primary thing in common between the handling of the George Floyd tragedy and the coronavirus epidemic is the incompetence of our local and state officials.  A few articles and research summaries on the epidemic.

And finally, I noted before that the apparent racial differences in the effects of the epidemic would end up being due to differences in underlying health conditions and I knew from studies in other areas that this would eventually be validated and it has been in a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.  (NEJM Article)   The study was performed by the largest health system in New Orleans.  3481 patients were included, 1382 were hospitalized and 326 died.  While 77% of those hospitalized and 71% of those who died were African-American, after adjusting for underlying health status and conditions and socio-demographic factors, there was no difference in the rates of hospitalization and death between white and black patients.  In other words, a white person and a black person who had the same characteristics would have the same likelihood of being hospitalized or dying.

The mask nonsense has gotten out of hand, and I suspect we will shortly have reports of health issues caused by wearing or misuse of masks.  The World Health Organization, which has not distinguished itself during this epidemic, has recommendations on its coronavirus pages that do not support the widespread, constant wearing of masks.  (WHO Mask Advice)

Children are at far lower risk than adults of obtaining coronavirus diseases or spreading it to others, so schools never should have been closed.  This article describes the data showing that after Denmark re-opened schools there was no rise in cases.  (Denmark Article)   A similar effect has been observed in Finland and in other countries that have re-opened schools.  But in the US, our Governors are too stupid or stubborn to admit they made a mistake, so many children are stuck at home, not learning and in a far more dangerous environment for them than school.

Another article on the 1957-58 flu, this time about the US response.  This epidemic killed the equivalent of 230,000 people in today’s population, with 40 million cases, many among children, but no shutdowns, so no economic and non-economic harms from ill-considered over-reactions.  (Flu Story)   And it might have been far worse but for the development of a vaccine.

This study looks at variation in the epidemic’s trajectory in South Korea by age and gender.  (Medrxiv Paper)   In that country, which has been aggressive in trying to suppress spread, people between the ages of 20 and 39 had the most cases, consistent with their tending to have the most social interactions, and had the earliest peak, while the older population lagged behind.  Children had low rates of cases throughout.  The study did not use population sub-group adjusted results, which would be useful.  It should be noted that due to extensive suppression efforts, South Korea is now constantly battling re-emergence.  Once again, it is apparent that the better strategy would be to allow a more moderate spread.

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