I turned 70 this year, so kind of sad to pass that in this series. Oh, well.
Oh, God, what a dreadful day for both data reporting and the coronavirus briefing in Minnesota. Our state epidemiologist, who I will henceforth refer to as Ruth Buzzi, for those of you who are as old as I am, hectored us about how we all, especially college students, have to behave ourselves or we will just have to shut down again. If she didn’t sound so completely airheaded, it might come across as scary. That guilting and shaming act, with the threats thrown in, is getting really old.
The state dumped 34,000 tests today and 17 deaths. This kind of garbage is what drives me crazy. The majority of the tests were a huge backlog which apparently was just reported to the state and the results were almost exclusively negatives. Some of these tests went as far back as April. Other states have had similar problems with labs not reporting negative results. Tends to drive the apparent positivity rate up. In general, I am sick of having inaccurate and incomplete data, especially in regard to reporting events on date of occurrence, not date of event. So I absolutely guarantee you that of the deaths reported today, the majority, probably the vast majority, occurred in earlier weeks, some probably going back quite far. Probably none actually occurred today, given the lags in sending death certificates to the state. It is very difficult to track actual trends when the date isn’t given by date of occurrence.
I also do not understand the dynamic of trying harder and harder to frighten and browbeat people when actually things are going pretty well. We don’t appear to have a lot of cases, they aren’t very serious, and deaths have been quite low. What do they know that we don’t and/or what are they afraid of if they tell the truth.
This article discusses flaws in a commonly cited study on the role of asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission. (Nature Article) One constant drumbeat from the fear-mongers is that asymptomatic people play a significant role in passing the disease to others. The research is pretty clear that this isn’t the case. One difficulty is assessing this is that some people may be infected, asymptomatic at the time of contact, but later develop symptoms, so they were really pre-symptomatic. It would really only make a difference if there is a difference in viral load and shedding between always asymptomatic cases and those that become symptomatic at some point. These researchers were reacting to an earlier study that estimated that 44% of transmissions came from pre-symptomatic cases. The original study came from China and the sponsoring institution refused to share the underlying data with these authors. Nonetheless, they identified a number of likely statistical and methodological errors in that study and in the model used to generate the original estimate. The refusal to share data heightens the likelihood that there were mistakes. The researchers reviewed a number of contact tracing studies which found that any contribution from asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic cases is in the single digit percent of all transmissions.
This is another piece of research looking at the T cell response to coronavirus infection. (Cell Article) The authors go into a great deal of detail about the T cells which develop as part of adaptive immunity, based on a study of nine recovered patients. They conclude that a lasting and robust T cell response occurs.
More evidence of the deleterious effect of scaring people into missing medical care. Doctors in Denver did research on the impact on heart disease patients. (Denver Study) The authors used paramedic data to assess use of emergency services for heart disease during the epidemic and in prior years. There was a very substantial jump in the number of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests following imposition of a stay-at-home mandate. The authors believe that these cardiac arrests led to a number of deaths, possibly more deaths than occurred from CV.