From our good colleague Ben (@USMortality on Twitter) we now have some very strong evidence and...
Happy Halloween… remember as the holiday season arrives, nothing can escape the reach of Rona. It is the instrument to ruin the rest of 2020 and the season that brings us together. Our leaders have assured us if we disobey expect more trouble on the horizon.
Lockdown advocates have found their next disobedient target that reminds us of free society, the Western holiday season. Governor Newsom wants to directly control in your home’s festivities treating it as like a public space or a restaurant. From Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas, every holiday is under scrutiny to meet the standards of the “new normal”. In Germany, politicians floated the idea of forcing Germans to celebrate Christmas in shifts! Less than a few months ago we learned that these types of policies are a massive overreach. It ends up driving the average person mad and builds distrust in future public health interventions. Absurd policies that overreach only reduces morale and encourages “COVID fatigue” which translates for the average citizen as “the leave-me alone rebellion”.
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Gov. Newsom introduces a new authoritarianism for the holiday season.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strict restrictions on social gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving next month has sparked anger from many residents in the state, with a number of celebrities sharing their reactions to the rules on social media. Gov. Newsom and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) have released stringent new regulations in an attempt to curb growing cases amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Gatherings are defined as social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place. When people from different households mix, this increases the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” the CDPH said in a statement. Among the new rules are; all gatherings must include no more than three households, masks must stay on after eating and drinking and singing, chanting and shouting are “strongly discouraged.” The rules have been met with a lot of hostility from some of California’s famous residents.Comedian Rob Schneider took to Twitter to mock the Governor over the rules, disparagingly calling him “Emperor.” “Dear Emperor @GavinNewsom. During our allotted 3 family limit this Thanksgiving, if my Aunt comes over, can I throw her a slice of turkey from the window?” he tweeted. “We promise NOT to sing… we will all just whisper, ‘PLEASE RECALL DIPS*** GAVIN NEWSON!'”
Policing the holidays is the next step for lockdown zealots.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is urging city residents to stay put this holiday season, as the number of coronavirus cases nationwide surges to its highest level since the start of the pandemic. “I hate to say it, but I have to urge all New Yorkers to not travel out of state for the holiday,” de Blasio said during his daily briefing on Tuesday. “Realize that by doing that unfortunately you could be putting yourself and your family in danger and also the risk of bringing the disease back here.” The mayor’s warning comes amid fears of a second wave in New York, as concentrated outbreaks continue to take root in the metro area. The city’s daily case average topped the 550 threshold on Monday, and while hospitalizations and deaths remain low, health care officials have warned that could change quickly. Many medical experts have cautioned against unnecessary holiday travel, particularly for those vulnerable to the virus or who may be seeing a family member at higher risk. New Yorkers set on fleeing town should take certain precautions, such as getting a test before they go, and even pushing for an outdoor holiday dinner around the fire if possible, according to Dr. Stephen Morse, an epidemiology professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. During his briefing on Tuesday, de Blasio also urged the Trump administration — which has openly given up on controlling the virus —to mandate travelers receive negative COVID tests before boarding a plane. And he vowed to beef up enforcement of quarantine restrictions for those who plan to travel to one of 40 states currently on New York’s travel advisory list. For New Yorkers expecting out of town visitors around Thanksgiving or Christmas, the mayor is also pushing for a change of plans. “We’re going to have to be the center of things together, just ourselves,” he said. Long-running tourist attractions, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular, have already been cancelled. We’re going to choose to believe the same is true of SantaCon. Spending Christmas watching Home Alone in your sweatpants while eating Chinese takeout straight from the carton? Still perfectly safe.
The season that brings us together must end because of COVID.
THE STRANGEST, MOST confusing, most taxing year we Americans have collectively trundled through is about to get even more complicated: We now all have to figure out what to do about the upcoming holidays. Should we gather indoors as usual, where we’ll most readily spread the virus? Gather outdoors in the cold, where we’re safer? Tell our families we won’t be seeing them this year except at a distance on FaceTime or Zoom? “There is no easy answer,” says Aderonke Pederson, a psychiatrist and behavioral scientist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “It’s a difficult situation to be in.” It’s especially difficult considering that the US is now seeing a third massive spike in cases, that traveling brings its own risks of transmission, and that Covid-19 is a far deadlier disease among the elderly, who are a part of many family gatherings. The safest thing you can do is to just stay home. But because that may be a difficult choice for many families, WIRED asked the experts how to talk with your relatives about the risks of in-person gatherings. First things first: Talk to your family about the holidays ASAP. “Start the conversations now, because we’re a month away,” says Pederson. Find a way to speak comfortably about your concerns, she says, “because at the end of the day, while we’re trying to protect ourselves, we’re also trying to encourage our family members to protect themselves, too.” To be very clear: There is no such thing as a perfectly safe way for families to gather, over the holidays or otherwise. SARS-CoV-2 is a highly infectious virus, so no in-person interaction is risk-free. But there are gradients to this risk: Outdoors is better than indoors, masks worn at all times are better than bare faces, distance is better than hugs. And the fewer people, the better: California health officials suggest restricting holiday gatherings to three households for no more than a few hours, while Colorado has a two-household limit. “The headline is that the things that you do to keep yourself safe in public from strangers apply to the family with whom you’re gathering,” says Benjamin Singer, a critical care physician and pulmonologist at Northwestern Medicine. “Because for the purposes of transmission, your extended family that you’re visiting are strangers. They’re still people who aren’t in your household.” That means the 6-foot social distancing rule you’ve been using at the grocery store also applies at your relatives’ house. Yes, that would be awkward, but necessary.
Anything normal is scary to those who want the “new normal”.
On a typical Halloween, Sarah Schwimmer would answer her door and put candy in the outstretched hands of costumed trick-or-treaters, but this year she will be shooting their sweets through a 10-foot-long (3-meter-long) pipe rigged up as her COVID-19 socially distanced delivery system. “The kids – everything has changed for them, so anything we can do to keep that joy is important,” said Schwimmer, 54, of Lawrenceville, New Jersey. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised against traditional American Halloween activities that are considered “high risk” for COVID-19 infection, including haunted houses, hayrides with anyone not in your household and “direct contact with trick-or-treaters.” Screaming – in glee or fright – is risky behavior during the Oct. 31 holiday that celebrates ghosts and goblins, the CDC noted, advocating social distancing and wearing a mask to lower the risk of spreading the respiratory virus. Outright bans on trick or treating have been declared in cities as large as Los Angeles and towns as small as Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Even the headless horseman’s annual ride through the village of Sleepy Hollow, New York has been canceled. The traditional event commemorates Washington Irving’s classic 200-year-old short story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” With U.S. coronavirus cases surging past 8 million, the Halloween and Costume Association, working with the Harvard Global Health Institute, released a color-coded COVID-19 map of the United States to help parents determine the level of risk in their local community. The top danger zones on Halloween2020.org include North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana and Idaho, where cases have spiked. Health experts blame cooler temperatures, students returning to schools, more relaxed social gatherings, infection mitigation fatigue and the downplaying of mask-wearing by politicians including President Donald Trump. The White House said its Halloween celebrations would go on but Sunday’s pre-holiday event instructed all guests aged 2 years old or over to wear a face covering and practice social distancing. Trump, his wife Melania, and son Barron were infected with COVID-19 themselves earlier this month. Medical experts say trying to minimize the danger of virus spread by cancelling Halloween activities could jeopardize mental health, especially for children already anxious over the pandemic that has upended schooling, family visits, and time with friends.
COVID follows the typical pattern of other respiratory viruses.
When college students returned to campus this fall, jamming sidewalks and bars in the surrounding communities, many college towns emerged as major coronavirus hot spots. In many college towns, that’s still true: Washtenaw County, home to the University of Michigan, saw its largest number of confirmed cases of the pandemic this month, despite a stay-at-home order for undergraduates that was meant to squash outbreaks. In Wisconsin, especially around colleges, new case counts remain stubbornly high, with the virus now spreading to vulnerable populations. But some college towns have shown progress: After spikes in August and September, reports of new infections at several large universities have slowed markedly. At Penn State University’s flagship campus in State College, Pa., 10.7 percent of students who were tested in mid-September were positive, according to the campus tracker, while the surrounding Centre County had a 12.1 percent positivity rate around the same time. Those rates have since fallen by more than half: From Oct. 16 to 25, only 4.5 percent of tested students were positive, tracking with the county’s rate of 5 percent. The number of active coronavirus cases around the Kansas State campus shot up more than 400 percent in early September, a few weeks after students returned for the fall semester. By late September, the school’s test positivity rate, according to its campus dashboard, was 5.41 percent. That dropped to 2.2 percent for tests in mid-October, the most recent figure available. To the east in Lawrence, the University of Kansas has seen a similar turnaround: the campus positivity rate of nearly 11 percent in early September fell to 1.44 percent in mid-October. The counties surrounding the two Kansas schools still have higher rates of the virus, however, suggesting that campus outbreaks have spread to surrounding communities. Americans are divided sharply along partisan lines over whether colleges should have brought students back to campus, according to the Pew Research Center. Those who tend to vote Republican were more than twice as likely as those who support Democrats to say that it was the right decision. A New York Times survey of more than 1,700 American colleges and universities has found more than 214,000 coronavirus cases tied to campuses, and at least 75 deaths since the pandemic began. The vast majority of those cases have come in the fall.
An analysis on how the virus “actually” spreads.
Since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in December 2019, there has been an unparalleled global effort to characterise the virus and the clinical course of disease. Coronavirus disease 2019 (covid-19), caused by SARS-CoV-2, follows a biphasic pattern of illness that likely results from the combination of an early viral response phase and an inflammatory second phase. Most clinical presentations are mild, and the typical pattern of covid-19 more resembles an influenza-like illness—which includes fever, cough, malaise, myalgia, headache, and taste and smell disturbance—rather than severe pneumonia (although emerging evidence about long term consequences is yet to be understood in detail).1 In this review, we provide a broad update on the emerging understanding of SARS-CoV-2 pathophysiology, including virology, transmission dynamics, and the immune response to the virus. Any of the mechanisms and assumptions discussed in the article and in our understanding of covid-19 may be revised as further evidence emerges. SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped β-coronavirus, with a genetic sequence very similar to SARS-CoV-1 (80%) and bat coronavirus RaTG13 (96.2%).2 The viral envelope is coated by spike (S) glycoprotein, envelope (E), and membrane (M) proteins (fig 1). Host cell binding and entry are mediated by the S protein. The first step in infection is virus binding to a host cell through its target receptor. The S1 sub-unit of the S protein contains the receptor binding domain that binds to the peptidase domain of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE 2). In SARS-CoV-2 the S2 sub-unit is highly preserved and is considered a potential antiviral target. The virus structure and replication cycle are described in figure 1.Coronaviruses have the capacity for proofreading during replication, and therefore mutation rates are lower than in other RNA viruses. As SARS-CoV-2 has spread globally it has, like other viruses, accumulated some mutations in the viral genome, which contains geographic signatures. Researchers have examined these mutations to study virus characterization and understand epidemiology and transmission patterns. In general, the mutations have not been attributed to phenotypic changes affecting viral transmissibility or pathogenicity. The G614 variant in the S protein has been postulated to increase infectivity and transmissibility of the virus.3 Higher viral loads were reported in clinical samples with virus containing G614 than previously circulating variant D614, although no association was made with severity of illness as measured by hospitalization outcomes.3 These findings have yet to be confirmed with regards to natural infection.
“Bad Sweden”! Why aren’t cases skyrocketing? They need a lockdown!
Localized population immunity ending an outbreak.
Fear-based COVID-19 policymaking strikes again as a county in Colorado closed down gyms in response to rising cases. e Yet other businesses that remain open have far more associated cases.
A real change in hospitalizations in the US. This is not just a case-demic; however, the US is still far below its March/April severity peak
The world can’t handle a second wave of lockdowns!
More than two in five Canadians say their finances can’t withstand a second wave of Covid-19, an increasing concern as cases rise across the country. About 30% of Canadians already worry they’ll never recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, and 42% say they can’t financially handle a coronavirus resurgence, according to a study released Tuesday by FP Canada, a professional organization for financial planners. Canadians are increasingly pessimistic about their prospects as virus cases increase, threatening a new round of measures to combat the spread. A separate survey, the Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index, released on Monday, has dropped for four straight weeks, and only 12.9% of respondents in that poll believe the country’s economy will strengthen in the next six months.The number of active Covid-19 cases in Canada has more than doubled in the past month, reaching 24,685 as of Monday. The increase has prompted heightened restrictions in Ontario and Quebec that threaten to slow the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic’s first wave. More than a third of respondents in the FP Canada poll say they’ve drawn from personal savings or taken on new debt because of the pandemic. The toll of the crisis is weighing most heavily on Canadians ages 45 to 54, with 36% of respondents in that bracket saying they don’t expect to recover financially from the pandemic. The survey of 1,538 Canadians was conducted by market-research firm Leger on behalf of FP Canada from Sept. 18 to 20. It has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.
COVID authoritarianism fails again!
The rule of six and the 10pm pubs curfew are likely to have had “zero effect” on coronavirus transmission in England, a study has claimed. The study by the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) examined the impact of both measures, which were introduced last month. It interviewed thousands of individuals to assess if their contacts had been reduced by the rule of six, working from home and the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants. It found that 42% of the 3,222 individuals it surveyed about the rule of six had the same amount of contacts before and after the measure was introduced. Just over three out of ten (31%) reduced their contacts, while 26% saw more people after the rule was introduced. Researchers interviewed 1,868 people about the 10pm pubs curfew and found the data was “consistent with no change in other contacts”. When asked about the 10pm closure, 50% said their number of contacts had remained the same, while 25% said they had decreased and 24% said they had increased. In its conclusion, the authors of the study wrote: “We determine that the rule of six and encouraging people to work from home has seen the average person reduce contacts but these reductions are likely small. “There was little suggestion that 10pm closure has affected the number of contacts that participants make outside home, work and school. “In contrast to national restrictions, there was a strong suggestion that local restrictions reduced the number of contacts individuals make outside of work and school, though again, this effect was small in comparison to the national lockdown.”
Germany’s Commissioner for Nursing Care Andreas Westerfellhaus has advised families to celebrate Christmas “in shifts” this year to minimize the risk of infection, in a newspaper interview published on Tuesday. Westerfellhaus told mass-market tabloid Bild that people should celebrate with fewer people and to celebrate twice. “Unusual times require unusual solutions,” he said. “Different households could celebrate together on different days.” “You can also give presents on December 28 or even later,” he said. Presents are normally gifted on December 24 in Germany. Families typically enjoy a modest meal on the 24th, while the 25th is often reserved for a family feast. Christmas is normally a time of family gatherings in Germany, while many city centers are transformed into traditional Christmas markets. However, Christmas markets are likely to be canceled this year, if they haven’t been canceled already. Westerfellhaus is responsible for representing the political interests of those in need of care and ensuring that their concerns are at the heart of the care and health system. In comments to Bild, he said he could not say whether visits to all nursing homes at Christmas were possible. “Not all relatives can come to the homes on Christmas Eve. He therefore strongly recommended “staggered” visits. He said that previous lockdown efforts, which largely sealed off nursing homes, had led to terrible conditions for residents. “People have sometimes died alone without seeing their loved ones again. Such a thing must not be repeated.” “These are shocking fates. I think it’s good that Health Minister Jens Spahn and Chancellor Angela Merkel have said there must not be a complete blockade of the nursing homes again.”
Meanwhile in China…
The scene at the Great Wall of China this past week would have been unthinkable just months ago. Photos of the tourist attraction in Beijing last weekend show massive crowds crammed along the winding wall, pressed together in close quarters and squeezing past each other through narrow doorways. Most are wearing face masks — but a number of people, including young children, pulled their masks down to their chin, and a few seem to have foregone masks entirely. It’s Golden Week — an eight-day national holiday, one of China’s busiest annual travel periods, and a major test for the country as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. China’s official reported virus numbers have stayed low since the spring. There have been a few flare-ups, including a cluster in Beijing in June, but these were met with immediate lockdown measures and mass testing, and the outbreaks were contained within a few weeks.
With close to zero local transmissions, people flocked to bus stations, airports and transit hubs to travel around the country for the holiday, which kicked off on October 1. Local authorities competed to attract tourists, with provincial and municipal governments issuing travel vouchers and tourist attractions offering free or discounted tickets. The Great Wall has geared up for the rush of tourists as well. The most popular section of the wall — the Badaling section — reopened at the end of March, albeit with new restrictions like requiring visitors to reserve tickets in advance.
A speech by Lord Sumpton of the UK on the horrors of COVID authoritarianism.
The government has deliberately stoked fear over coronavirus while behaving like an authoritarian regime relying on police state tactics, according to the former supreme court justice Jonathan Sumption. In his most forceful critique to date of the government’s handling of the pandemic, the outspoken lawyer condemned the way “the British state exercised coercive powers over its citizens on a scale never previously attempted”. Delivering the Cambridge Freshfields annual law lecture, Lord Sumption said: “The ease with which people could be terrorised into surrendering basic freedoms which are fundamental to our existence … came as a shock to me in March 2020.” He is not the only former judge recently to lament the loss of effective parliamentary scrutiny of emergency Covid powers. Last month Lady Hale, former president of the supreme court, alleged that MPs and peers had surrendered their role during the coronavirus pandemic. In his address Sumption said the emergency measures were “the most significant interference with personal freedom in the history of our country”. He stated: “I do not doubt the seriousness of the epidemic, but I believe that history will look back on the measures taken to contain it as a monument of collective hysteria and governmental folly.” The government, he noted, had already tried to avoid parliamentary scrutiny during Brexit by proroguing parliament, a procedure subsequently ruled unlawful by the supreme court last year.
“Governments hold power in Britain on the sufferance of the elected chamber of the legislature,” Sumption argued. “Without that we are no democracy. The present government has a different approach. It seeks to derive its legitimacy directly from the people, bypassing their elected representatives.” Sage, the government’s panel of expert scientific advisers, he said, had this year noted: “Citizens should be treated as rational actors, capable of taking decisions for themselves and managing personal risk.” That warning, Sumption said, had been ignored.
Powers under the Public Health Act “were not intended to authorise measures as drastic as those which have been imposed”, Sumption added. The reason that legislation was exploited, he suspected, was that “the degree of scrutiny provided for under the Public Health Act is limited”.When the law was introduced in the 1980s, he said, its powers were mainly directed at controlling the behaviour of infected people. Announcing the first lockdown, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, had indulged in a “bluff”, Sumption said. “Even on the widest view of the legislation the government had no power to give such orders without making statutory regulations. No such regulations existed until 1 pm on 26 March, three days after the announcement.”