We read accounts of people dying from diseases or accidents that have nothing to do with COVID, yet because they "tested positive" they are being registered as a COVID death. If this kind of thing happens frequently then obviously the data on COVID deaths would be misleading.
Back in May the Gateway Pundit was skeptical and they published an article essentially saying that the overall death rate during the first four months of 2020 were not significantly higher than what we should expect. They concluded that the COVID pandemic was a lie.
The Gateway Pundit was wrong. CDC data confirms that a significant and historic epidemic did started in the middle of March 2020 and is now ending. This epidemic caused over 200,000 deaths in the United States from a respiratory illness. A large majority of deaths were in those over 70 years old.
There are two graphs from the CDC that accurately show the impact. The first graph (below) shows pretty clearly that toward the end of March deaths from all causes started to rise far beyond what was expected based on historical averages.
The second graph correlates with the first and shows that the increased deaths were almost all caused by a respiratory infection.
The not-so-flat rise in the percentage of all deaths from Pneumonia, Influenza or COVID-19 (PIC) peaked in mid-April (week 16). In that week alone 22,207 people died of PIC* which represented 27.7% of all deaths in the United States.
These two graphs taken together are strong evidence that we had a unique and deadly epidemic caused by an increase in deaths from a respiratory infection. This should silence those who claim that the number of deaths from COVID is in error because of erroneous or fraudulent death certifications.
*A discussion about PIC is a long one, and for the purpose of this article I will be assuming that PIC deaths in 2020 are synonymous with COVID deaths.
Patients are asking me if its safe to resume some of their normal activities. They ask if it is safe for their children to return to school and if it’s safe to return to church or work or to go shopping. Some patients are asking me to write a letters saying that it is “unsafe” for them to work because they have a medical condition.
These questions are almost impossible to answer because because everybody has different ideas about safety. Safety is subjective. Only you can ultimately decide what is safe for you. The best I can do is inform people about risk and offer my advise.
One piece of advice I often give is that people should stop watching the news. To get a healthy perspective, everyone has to acknowledge that for about six months now, the mainstream media has been carpet-bombing us with non-stop messaging of fear about COVID deaths, COVID cases, flattening curves, opening too soon, overwhelmed hospitals, second waves, shut downs, social distancing and masks, masks, masks.
Constant fear coupled with universal germophobic solutions have carried the day and it’s time to get a level-headed perspective. The best way for us to make good decisions is to look at the facts and assess your risk of dying of COVID so you can take reasonable actions to prevent it and to help others.
For example, we should recognize that dying of COVID is pretty rare. On August 1, Worldometer reported that over the last six months there have been almost 158,000 deaths in the USA from COVID. This means that 99.95% of the 330,000,000 Americans have not died of Coronavirus.
If you catch COVID, your chance of dying is very low. The CDC now estimates that the overall infection fatality ratio is about 0.65%. Yes, this is much worse than the typical influenza (0.1%), but those are still good odds. COVID is more deadly for the elderly. Those over 65 have about a 1.3% risk of death and the risk for those over 75 is higher than that. But the risk of death for healthy people under 65 is low between 0.05 to 0.2%. The risk of death in those under 50 without chronic medical conditions is less than 0.05% and the risk to school-age children and young adults is as close to zero as you can get.
The GA DPH website has good information, so I go there a lot. You can download the spread sheet of all deaths and do your own analysis. In Georgia, there have so far been 3,826 COVID deaths among our 10,600,000 residents. Half of those who died were over the age of 76 and two thirds were over 70. Only sixteen percent (16%) of all deaths were under the age of 60 and a significant majority of them had other chronic medical conditions. There were five deaths under the age of 22.
Closer to home, Bartow County has a population of over 100,000 people and 59 of them have unfortunately died of COVID. Half of those deaths were in people over 80. Only 10 of the 59 deaths were under the age of 70 and all but one of them had other chronic medical conditions. The youngest was 52.
I think healthy people under 60 can safely get back to a reasonably normal life because if they catch COVID their risk of dying is very low, on par with the risk of dying during Flu season. I’m assuming we “flattened the curve” already, so a very reasonable way forward is for lots of young people to catch COVID and get over it because their collective immunity to COVID is what will eventually slow the spread. They should be very cautious about getting near those who are vulnerable and at high risk which is those over 65 and/or those with medical conditions.
I think students can safely get back to school and college and lead a normal social life without masks. They are safe. But they should also be very cautious and socially distance themselves from those who are vulnerable and at risk.
PROTECT THE ELDERLY
If you are someone who is over 70 or over 60 with any chronic medical condition like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and kidney disease, then you are at a much higher risk of dying. If you are one of these people, I advise that you still follow social-distancing rules. You should stay away from sick people and crowds as much as possible. I think it is reasonably safe for you to go to uncrowded locations like a grocery store. Avoid (for now) close and prolonged contact with the young people I described above. I know it is a very lonely and difficult time, but be patient and hang in there. This will end.
The best way to make your own rational and logical decisions about how you will get back to normal is to look at the data yourself. Some of the sites I use are Worldometer, Our World in Data, GA DPH and the CDC.
Wearing masks in public has become a hot topic and it's not just because we have different opinions. The media messaging has become very intense and Governors are mandating it. Trying to decide whether you ought to be wearing a mask in public is becoming somewhat of a dilemma.
On the one hand, wearing a mask seems like a good idea because masks provide a barrier that could block SARS-Cov-2 or other viruses from entering or exiting your nose and mouth. And if you block viruses then you won’t contract or spread a disease, so wearing a mask seems harmless and potentially helpful.
On the other hand, masks are uncomfortable, and they stink and wearing one makes it harder to breathe and more difficult to communicate. The masks might not even help much when you consider that the COVID virus is only 0.125 microns in size which is much smaller than the pores in an N95 mask (0.3 microns) or a surgical mask (2-10 microns), so the mask shouldn’t stop the virus very much at all. Then again, the virus is carried on a respiratory droplet which is about 5 microns, so the mask fibers might stop something that size, so maybe they do help. But if your soggy mask traps all those virus/droplets and you keep wearing it, then wouldn't you inhale and exhale a lot of the viruses? What if you touch your annoying mask and then touch something or someone else and spread your COVID germs? There are obviously a lot of factors to consider.
In deciding about whether you should wear a mask, the most logical first step is to look at the science to help determine how effectively masks prevent the spread of disease caused by a contagious respiratory virus. Fortunately, we can turn to science because the efficacy of masks has been studied extensively. Influenza and Corona viruses are spread in a similar way and when the CDC looked at studies on Influenza, this is what they concluded:
“In our systematic review, we identified 10 RCTs that reported estimates of the effectiveness of face masks in reducing laboratory-confirmed influenza virus infections in the community from literature published during 1946–July 27, 2018. In pooled analysis, we found no significant reduction in influenza transmission with the use of face masks …. Our systematic review found no significant effect of face masks on transmission of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”
If you have Linkedin, go here because James Lyone-Weiler has a good summary of other studies, all of them concluding that masks don’t slow the spread of Influenza or other respiratory viruses. The World Health Organization also recommended that we not wear masks in public to prevent the spread of COVID.
The one study I am aware of that actually looked at the effect of wearing cloth masks was done in Vietnam on 1600 Health Care Workers in 14 different hospitals during Influenza season. The results were published in the British Medical Journal in 2015 showing that wearing a cloth mask actually INCREASED your risk of catching a Flu-like illness.
The scientific evidence indicates that wearing a mask in public does not prevent the spread of Influenza or other respiratory viruses, but the CDC, the media and scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are repeatedly telling us that we should wear them (even cloth ones) in public. What is going on?
For one thing, we should admit that there are reasons to wear a mask that don't have anything to do with science or with preventing the spread of a virus. Dr. Fauci likes the non-scientific and symbolic reasons. He says that masks let people know that we are doing the kinds of things that seem helpful. He also thinks that the leaders in government should mandate mask wearing and he wants to be sure that we send a unified message about them, and not a mixed message showing that we have different opinions. One opinion piece in the NEJM also points out that masks are ineffective, but useful because they provide psychological comfort.
So, the evidence from scientific studies does not support the idea that masking will protect us or slow the spread of the virus, so I think we should stop emphasizing it so much. We should spend our energies on more common- sense behaviors that have been shown to help:
The CDC thinks that between 20-50% of people who are infected with COVID 19 are asymptomatic. Those people will likely have long-term immunity and measurable antibodies. Knowledge of antibody status could be very helpful in deciding about interacting with others. In addition, those with antibodies might be able to donate plasma and help someone who is infected.
I am now able to offer a very accurate antibody test for SARS-CoV-2. Anybody who would like this test can call us at 770-382-1984 to schedule for a blood draw. The cost is $90 and the results should be available within a week and can be sent to you via our secure web portal or by mail, whichever you prefer.
The antibody tests from my office will be performed by Clinical Pathology Labs who will use Roche’s Elecsys Immunoassay which will measure the presence of three different antibodies: IgG, IgM, IgA.
Visit the following links for more information about antibodies and antibody testing:
FDA Emergency Use Authorization process
Clinical Pathology Lab Fact Sheet on the Elecsys Anti-CoV-2 Immunoassay
COVID 19 and Antibodies
Call us if you would like to schedule your test.
When President Trump announced “Operation Warp Speed” he claimed we might have a vaccine to fight SARS-CoV-2 within six months. I chuckled and wondered if Captain Kirk was going to get Dr. McCoy to beam something back from the future. Almost as unrealistic as that is the idea that a safe and effective vaccine could be developed within six months.
The CDC says that it takes several years to make a vaccine and their link to historyofvaccines.org explains the vaccine process in detail. Vaccine production requires human clinical trials and they can only be started after the exploratory and pre-clinical phases. Animal experiments must come before human experiments which can’t be rushed because it takes time to monitor for immediate and delayed side effects. Then more time is needed to determine efficacy. All this takes several years.
The only way to get a vaccine approved and produced in six months is to bypass a lot of the pre-clinical phases and rush through the clinical trials. A lot of pharmaceutical and biotech companies will be jumping at the chance to get warp- speed funding for their warp-speed trials.
Moderna seems to have a head start on all of them because one of their board members and heavy investors is Moncep Slaoui who was appointed by President Trump to lead the Warp Speed vaccine project. Moderna is a very interesting company with a unique concept. Their proposed vaccines and future medicines rely on their ability to manufacture genetic codes in the form of mRNA which they want to deliver into a human. The mRNA code is taken into cells which make a new protein. Their Coronavirus vaccine will consist of injected mRNA that tells your cells to make the unique Coronavirus spike protein which will then be recognized by your body so that you make antibodies. The antibodies are supposed to be protective in case you encounter the real SARS-CoV-2.
Is it safe? Will it work? We are about to find out because Moderna is ready to start their Phase 2 trial. They had already been approved by Dr. Anthony Fauci at the NIAID to start a Phase 1 trial back on March 16th. That means that prior to March 16th Moderna must have already done enough research with animal testing to get approval, right? When did Moderna do all that stuff? I mean, Dr. Fauci keeps saying that we still don’t know much about the novel SARS-CoV-2.
Moderna’s webpage explains that the “first clinical batch, which was funded by CEPI, was completed on February 7, 2020 and underwent analytical testing; it was shipped to NIH on February 24, 42 days from sequence selection. The first participant in the NIAID-led Phase 1 study of mRNA-1273 was dosed on March 16, 63 days from sequence selection to Phase 1 study dosing.”
So, they had 63 days prior to February 7th to do their animal studies. Is that enough time to organize and test a completely different type of vaccine? Did they do animal studies at all? I doubt it. More likely, they relied on prior studies done on a different mRNA molecule derived from the first SARS or MERS. Stay tuned.
The speed with which Moderna was able to move is amazing and it makes me uneasy. Even more amazing is that the CEO of CEPI (one of the funders of the “first batch”) Dr. Richard Hackett was almost clairvoyant because as early as JANUARY 17th, just two days after the first deaths were reported in China, he was already thinking of ways to get out a vaccine.
The bottom line is that there is a lot of momentum to push through a Coronavirus vaccine. There are literally billions of dollars on the table. The stage is set for conflicts, corruption and bad science with the possible outcome being an unsafe and ineffective vaccine.
I recommend extreme caution before you ever decide to get any Warp-Speed vaccine.
In my last article I analyzed the COVID data from NYC to show that for the general population, the overall risk of death from the new coronavirus is very low. I concluded that the quarantine measures we have taken are too extreme and advised that if you want to get a better sense of the impact of this virus, you should look at good sources of data like Worldometer.com or even the CDC.* Since then, I have been trying to find more information, particularly on the age distribution of deaths.
The CDC website* does not have good demographic information on COVID deaths but the Georgia Department of Public Health webpage does. The GA site is excellent and is loaded with a lot of useful information on COVID like how to protect yourself, how to get a test and what symptoms to look for. It also has guidance for schools, churches, restaurants, employers, and healthcare facilities. I recommend you check it out.
Their Daily Status Report is very useful because it allows you to download the demographic data on all Georgia cases and draw your own conclusions. I created the bar graph below from their data.
When you look at the graphs it is easy to see that the novel Coronavirus is most dangerous for the elderly. As of May 5th, the median age of death was 75 and 63.8% of all deaths occurred in those over 70.
The GA data shows that the virus is not very dangerous for the young- in fact there was not a single death from COVID in anyone under the age of 22 and there were only 6 deaths in those under the age of 30. In addition, there were only 22 deaths in those under 60 who had no know medical conditions.
The takeaway message is that protecting the elderly is very important. Those who are 70 and above and those with medical conditions should be very cautious and stay away from anybody who is at risk of transmitting the virus. For now, I think they should avoid public spaces as much as possible and the young and healthy should commit to helping them.
*There is good data on CDC.gov but you have to really hunt for it and he information is often presented in a way that is misleading. Be careful. Their lack of clarity is evident when you read their information on Influenza and Flu. I will post some articles explaining the difference between Influenza and "Flu" and compare them to SARS-COV-2 .
The story we hear about the novel Coronavirus from Dr. Fauci, the CDC, government leaders and the mainstream media is that SARS-CoV-2 is so dangerous that in order to prevent millions of deaths we had to shut down the global economy and isolate almost all healthy people. This portrayal is based on models that have proven to be inaccurate.
SARS-CoV-2 is in actuality not as dangerous to our society as they say and our extreme reaction to it is unnecessary. While it is a contagious respiratory virus that is more deadly than the typical seasonal Influenza Virus, your risk of dying from it is still exceedingly low. In fact, you are statistically more likely to die from a non-COVID pneumonia every week of every year.
I do not want to minimize the pain of death and suffering from COVID. On a personal and human level, the effects are devastating for thousands of families. One of my dearest patients died and it was tragic and very sad. At the same time, we need to objectively assess our risks so we can continue to function as a healthy society.
New York City
NYC has suffered from COVID more than any city in the world, so looking at their data is very useful. At the time of this writing, 13,365 people have died from COVID which means that out of the 8.4 million people who live there, 99.998% of them have not died of it. In addition, if you are healthy and young, your risk of dying of COVID is even lower. A lot lower! According to Worldometer, as of April 14th in NYC only 4.4% of all COVID deaths (300 people) occurred among those who were under 65 and without known underlying medical conditions. In other words, 95.6% of the NYC deaths occurred in people who were over 65 and/or had underlying medical conditions. Isn’t that helpful information? Have you heard that before? Does it change your perspective?
I would support a different policy that recommends quarantining only those vulnerable people and not the general population. Common sense says you should stay home if you are sick, do not cough on people, keep your hands clean and away from your face and be very careful around the elderly and medically fragile.
Get better information
We have accepted very extreme measures because the news that we continue to hear from the government leaders and the mainstream media promotes a lot of fear. I think we should stop listening so much to them and start looking at the actual data so we can make good decisions about how to not only recover from this epidemic, but how to manage others.
This is my first Covid-19 post so I will briefly explain how we are managing patients. Right now, there are a lot of unknowns surrounding the novel corona virus. We do know it is a contagious respiratory virus and since our office is not designed to safely separate "infectious" from "non-infectious" patients, we are unfortunately not able to see any patients who have symptoms that even closely resemble an infection with corona virus. We are strict because we want to protect our other patients.
When patients call us and have symptoms like cough, fever, sinus congestion, sore throat or even "allergies", we tell them that unfortunately, for now, we can't see them in our office. We do our best to help by providing a consultation by telephone or video chat. This arrangement is not ideal, but it is a good solution to a complicated problem.
All patients who enter our office are questioned, and if there is any hint of the above, we immediately get them a mask, send them to their car and we call them and give advice.
We are doing everything we can to keep our office a "clean" environment so that all of our other patients can be seen with the assurance that they will not contract COVID 19 or any other Flu-like illness or respiratory virus.
Please call us as you normally would if you need an appointment or have particular questions or concerns about the Corona virus. If we can't help, we will direct you to someone who can.
We are screening all our patients carefully to ensure that you will be safe here. We are open and seeing patients in the office. For those with COVID symptoms, can easily provide consultations over the phone or by video.