COVID on a Plane – EOH 9/22

In this cultural moment, COVID-19 encourages the media and Twitter blue checks to shoot first and ask questions later. Experts would rather cast judgement, moralize, and get clicks than wait for the evidence to come in. It is easier but far more damaging. It’s very difficult to update priors based on bad evidence when it is emotionally cemented. Take the airline industry. The airline industry is on the verge of collapse, but surprisingly airline workers have lower COVID-19 infection rates than  the general population. This defies much of what we know about COVID transmission; however, flying on an airplane  looks “scary” and “risky”. When you shoot first and ask questions later, flying becomes a COVID sin of normality. 

COVID News

Airline workers have lower rates of COVID-19 than the general population — and airline CEOs say it’s proof that flying is safe

https://www.businessinsider.com/airline-workers-covid-rates-is-flying-safe-2020-9

The data says that flying is fairly safe, but will people believe the “COVID science” or just the science. 

“The coronavirus spreads when people are in close quarters for extended periods of time, breathing the same air with little space between them. So you might expect airplanes to be the perfect environment for the transmission. But some surprising data from airline workers show that is not the case. In fact, flight attendants and other airline workers have had a lower incidence of COVID-19 than the general population. According to airline executives and union leaders, that’s a sign that the safety measures airlines are taking on airplanes are having an effect. “At United, but also at our large competitors, our flight attendants have lower COVID infection rates than the general population, which is one of multiple data points that speaks to the safety on board airplanes,” Scott Kirby, the CEO of United, said on Wednesday at a forum hosted by Politico. “If the experience of flying was not safe, you’d expect our people to get sick,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said on Thursday, speaking at the SAP Concur forum. “We track the health of our people. Our people are meaningfully less infected than the general population.” American Airlines President Robert Isom made the same claim at a conference a week ago, adding that customer-facing employees had the lowest rates. “The actions we have taken to ensure the safety and well-being of our team and customers are working,” Isom said. The data backs that conclusion. A little over 1,000 flight attendants nationwide have tested positive for COVID-19, according to data provided by the Association of Flight Attendants (the number includes their members, as well as members of other unions and non unionized workers).”

Nearly 11,000 people have been exposed to the coronavirus on flights, the CDC says

https://t.co/T6jE9xVen0?amp=1

A good article on flying  COVID-19 risk, with a bad headline. There are billions of exposures when you have millions of cases or “positive tests” in the community, so flying is fairly low risk compared to normal life. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated 1,600 cases of people who flew while at risk of spreading the coronavirus, identifying nearly 11,000 people who potentially were exposed to the virus on flights. But though the agency says some of those travelers subsequently fell ill, in the face of incomplete contact tracing information and a virus that incubates over several days, it has not been able to confirm a case of transmission on a plane. That does not mean it hasn’t happened, and recent scientific studies have documented likely cases of transmission on flights abroad. “An absence of cases identified or reported is not evidence that there were no cases,” said Caitlin Shockey, a spokeswoman for the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. “CDC is not able to definitively determine that potential cases were associated (or not) with exposure in the air cabin or through air travel given the numerous opportunities for potential exposure associated with the entire travel journey and widespread global distribution of the virus,” Shockey wrote in an email.She said that though the agency has received information about people who may have been exposed on flights subsequently becoming ill with the novel coronavirus, pinpointing when someone was exposed is difficult. Local health authorities also might not be able to test people reported as exposed or share test results with the CDC, she said. In guidance for the public, the CDC acknowledges that viruses do not spread easily on planes because of the way the air is filtered, but it also emphasizes that air travel means being in proximity to people for long periods and encountering frequently touched surfaces on planes and in airports.

Airline CEOs meet with White House in last-minute plea for more coronavirus aid

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/17/airline-ceos-plead-with-white-house-for-more-coronavirus-aid-as-industry-has-long-way-to-go-before-recovery.html

The COVID hysteria is leading to the collapse of yet another industry. 

U.S. airline CEOs met with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday, making a last-minute attempt to convince officials to approve more coronavirus aid as mass job cuts are set to hit the industry next month. After the meeting, Meadows said the White House is open to a stand-alone package for the sector, reiterating comments from last month. President Donald Trump late last month said the White House was weighing executive action to support the industry, but provided few details. Airline stocks pared earlier losses following the meeting, which was attended by American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby and Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, but the shares — except for United — still ended the day lower. Airlines received $25 billion in federal aid in the March CARES Act that prohibits them from cutting jobs through Sept. 30. With that date less than two weeks away, executives urged the White House to reach a deal on a new national bailout package as more than 30,000 sector jobs are at risk starting next month. The airline chiefs and labor unions that represent most of their workers are seeking another $25 billion in federal payroll grants that would preserve jobs through the end of March. Demand for air travel has been stuck at around 30% of last year’s levels after a strong rebound failed to materialize this summer, generally carriers’ most lucrative season. It could take three years or more for demand to return to 2019 levels, industry leaders have said. Lawmakers and the White House have been at loggerheads for much of the summer over the amount of aid and what it would include, though Meadows expressed optimism about a deal this week.

Research

Controversial ‘human challenge’ trials for COVID-19 vaccines gain support

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/07/controversial-human-challenge-trials-covid-19-vaccines-gain-support

Raise your hand if you want to be first in line. 

Since the early days of the pandemic, some researchers have advocated a fast way to determine whether a COVID-19 vaccine works: Intentionally attempt to infect vaccinated volunteers with the virus, SARS-CoV-2. Ethicists and vaccine scientists alike raised red flags, and the discussion has remained mostly theoretical. But now two key elements are taking shape: a large corps of volunteers willing to take part in a “human challenge” trial, and the well-understood lab-grown virus strains needed for the studies. The volunteers come from an advocacy group, 1Day Sooner, that has signed up more than 30,000 people from 140 countries. The group, co-founded by a 22-year-old, organized an open letter that was signed by 15 Nobel laureates and 100 other prominent researchers, ethicists, and philosophers, which it sent to U.S. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins on 15 July. The letter urged the U.S. government “to undertake immediate preparations for human challenge trials” in young, healthy people, who are less likely to suffer severe disease from COVID-19. Among the signatories was Adrian Hill of the University of Oxford, whose lab developed one of the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates and plans to produce virus strains that could be used in the trials.Researchers use human challenges to test vaccines for other diseases, including cholera and malaria, but in those experiments, proven drugs can help “rescue” study participants if the vaccine doesn’t work and they become seriously ill. In a June report on COVID-19 vaccine challenges, an advisory group to the World Health Organization (WHO) was split over whether they should take place in the absence of a rescue treatment. The group was also evenly divided on whether human challenges would truly speed the vaccine effort, given that efficacy trials using participants at risk of natural infection have already begun. Still, the report offered guidelines for these trials, suggesting they should recruit volunteers between ages 18 and 25 and require them to remain in “high-level isolation units” during the study so they don’t infect others.

Charts and Graphics

EU Faces Second Wave as U.S. Cases Ebb

The media seems to still be stuck on the assumption that the United State’s response is worse than Europe while it’s Europe that’s seeing the steady climb in cases!

New Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom and France

A new outbreak (or case-demic) in the UK and France. 

Hospitalisations for Coronavirus Still Low 

Despite surge of COVID cases in Europe,hospitalizations are still low.

Ireland’s Casedemic

The casedemic continues, this time in Ireland. 

The United States Following Governor Newsom’s 4 Tier Plan to Reopen

An example of how most COVID policies are completely arbitrary. . 

International News

Flight to nowhere? Qantas, EVA and ANA offer sightseeing trips to pandemic-weary passengers

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/airline-news/2020/09/18/qantas-eva-ana-offer-sightseeing-flights-despite-covid-19-pandemic/5827916002/

Meanwhile, people are actively taking flights to nowhere because they are desperate to return back to normal. 

For those who can’t wait to get back to the skies, some airlines have started to offer sightseeing flights that offer all the thrill of air travel without actually going anywhere. Australian carrier Qantas Airways has offered a flight billed as the Great Southern Land Scenic flight that both takes off from and lands in Sydney.  Taiwan-based EVA Air flew “Hello Kitty” themed flights roundtrip from and to Taipei in August, the Bangkok Post reports. Japan’s ANA offered a brief sightseeing flight from Tokyo in August on the planes it normally uses on the Honolulu run. The airline says 300 passengers “enjoyed a Hawaiian resort experience at the airport and onboard.” Singapore Airlines is weighing whether to give the concept a go. “Singapore Airlines is considering several initiatives that would allow us to continue engaging both our customers and members of the public. Currently, none of these plans have been firmed up,” said spokesman James Boyd. Airlines have seen vastly reduced interest in travel from most travelers during the pandemic . The special flights operate on the theory that a carrier’s most loyal customers feel cooped up and are ready to go somewhere — even if it’s not anywhere, really. Look no further for proof than the Qantas flight scheduled for Oct. 10: Its 134 tickets reportedly sold out in 10 minutes at prices, depending on the class, from $566 to $2,734, CNN reports. Qantas says those aboard will see such Down Under landmarks as the Great Barrier Reef, the massive sandstone formation Uluru, the Kata Tjuta rock domes, scenic Byron Bay and Sydney Harbor from the windows of their Boeing 787.” Relax in the sky in Qantas pyjamas” — yes, that’s Aussie for PJs — “as your flight makes its way around the country with a few surprises along the way.”  To those who don’t pay close attention to the details of the promotion, one of those surprises might be that there are no in-flight movies. The airline encourages passengers to bring their own entertainment players. No worries, mate! Being the special flight that it is, lots more is planned.

Covid: Is it time we learnt to live with the virus?

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-54228649

BBC begins to see the light.

The nation has been brought to a standstill once at immense cost to the economy, education and health more generally. And now with cases rising there is the threat of new national restrictions, while large parts of the country have already found themselves back in partial lockdown. But are we fighting a losing battle? Do we instead need to learn to live with the virus? Prof Carl Heneghan, the head of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University, says the current situation is “utter chaos” with a constant stream of new restrictions and schools sending whole year groups home when just one person tests positive. All this at a time when the level of infection is still very low. This, Prof Heneghan says, is the consequence of trying to suppress the virus. Instead, he argues we should accept it is here to stay and try to minimise the risks, while balancing that against the consequences of the actions we take. In particular, he’s concerned the Covid test is actually so sensitive it’s picking up what is effectively dead virus as it spots traces of it months after the person has stopped being infectious. “We need to slow down our thinking. But every time the government sees a rise in cases it seems to panic,” he said.The argument put forward by Prof Heneghan and a number of other experts is that more weight needs to be put on disease rather than cases. While hospital admissions have started rising they are still incredibly low compared to the spring and the increase is much more gradual than it was.

Boris’s ‘whack-a-mole’ Covid strategy is failing

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/boris-s-whack-a-mole-covid-strategy-is-failing

Boris Johnson’s decisions are detached from reality. 

Will the current cycle – lockdown; open up; eat out; restrictions; lockdown – go on forever? In their handling of coronavirus, Boris Johnson and his colleagues have become increasingly media-responsive, fear-bound, model-sensitive, sound-byte producing, u-turn prone and, quite frankly, embarrassing to all who believed the UK to be a beacon of rational thought. Has the Government lost the plot? We are not sure if it ever had one. This week at its annual meeting, the British Medical Association lamented the Government’s lack of grip on the public health during the current pandemic and proposed a ‘near-elimination’ strategy. Put simply, this involves what the BMA called ‘sacrifice in the short-term to ensure that we can avoid a large-scale prolonged lockdown that would be ultimately much more detrimental to the health of our society.’ To achieve this, the BMA proposed a number of measures. These included better messaging, targets for the daily and weekly number of new cases, hunting out cases rather than waiting for symptomatic outbreaks, and trigger points for the implementation of specific additional measures both locally and nationally. All of them have been tried in one form or another as part of the PM’s whack-a-mole strategy, and yet cases are increasing. So is ‘near-elimination’ really a viable strategy if it involves doing many of the things the government is doing already? It’s worth remembering that our options in the fight against Covid-19 are limited; one alternative – eradicating the disease entirely – is impossible. The WHO has declared only two diseases officially eradicated: one in humans (smallpox) and one in cattle (rinderpest). Trying to eliminate Covid-19 any time soon is not a viable option.

Israeli Lockdown Protests 

Who could have predicted that people would protest?

Best of the Team