Truth and Unintended Consequences – EOH 8/26

Across the world, officials for the first time might actually be grasping the unintended consequences of the COVID-19 lockdowns. European politicians like Macron or Merkel have not advocated for a second round of lockdowns to deal with the new spike in COVID-19. The CDC updated their testing guidelines to focus on vulnerable, high-risk, symptomatic groups, instead of low risks groups. New Zealand has fallen from its perch, as the Prime Minister  delays elections and even admitted that 2020 has been ‘frankly terrible’. 

Some groups that lauded certain countries for their COVID-19 response have finally discovered that lockdowns  have awful consequences and only delay the inevitable, while countries like Sweden look stable and free from the lockdown quagmire.

COVID News

Meet the Philosopher Who Is Trying to Explain the Pandemic

Philosophers like Mr. Agamben remind us that the trouble with exceptional measures during exceptional times

“Wars have bequeathed to peacetime a “series of fateful technologies,” Mr. Agamben reminds us, from barbed wire to nuclear power plants. Such innovations tend to be ones that elites were already agitating for, or that align with their interests. Epidemics, he suggests, are no different. He believes that the fateful inheritance of the coronavirus will be social distancing. He is puzzled by the term, “which appeared simultaneously around the world as if it had been prepared in advance.” The expression, he notes, “is not ‘physical’ or ‘personal’ distancing, as would be normal if we were describing a medical measure, but ‘social’ distancing.

His point is that social distancing is at least as much a political measure as a public health one, realized so easily because it has been pushed for by powerful forces. Some are straightforward vested interests. Mr. Agamben notes (without naming him) that the former Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao, an evangelist for the digitized economy, was put in charge of Italy’s initial transition out of lockdown. Social distancing, Mr. Agamben believes, has also provided Italy’s politicians with a way of hindering spontaneous political organization and stifling the robust intellectual dissent that universities foster.”

Atlas adds a critical missing element to coronavirus task force

Scott Atlas despite his detractors provides a fresh perspective to the pandemic as Dr. Atlas actually pays attention to the economic consequences of COVIDmeasures

https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/513263-atlas-adds-critical-missing-element-to-coronavirus-task-force

“Scott Atlas was added to President Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force this month, and he quickly took center stage alongside the president. While he lacks the infectious-disease credentials of task force coordinator Deborah Birx, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Anthony Fauci or Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Atlas has a long history as a top health policy expert at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. Perhaps even more important, he brings a fresh perspective to approaching the pandemic. Atlas was a senior health adviser for Republican presidential candidates in 2008, 2012 and 2016, as well as for members of Congress. At the Hoover Institution, he focuses on public-private partnerships in health care, innovation and the impact of biotechnology and incorporating economic factors to derive practical solutions. He is co-director of Hoover’s “Socialism and Free Market Capitalism: The Human Prosperity Project.” He has appeared with me on “Doctor Radio Reports” on SiriusXM, where he presented himself as an anti-fear-monger, a non-alarmist who bases his views on logic and data. Nevertheless, his background as a non-virologist who is no longer seeing patients has left him subject to some media attacks. This seems completely unfair. There already are several respected virologists on the task force, but not enough health policy or public health experts.”

‘We’ve got to do better than this’: College students raise alarm by packing bars, avoiding masks

Who could have predicted that the measures universities tooks would be derailed by students’ most common pastime, partying? 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/17/alabama-georgia-college-parties-covid/

“Music blared outside a row of off-campus houses on Saturday near the University of North Georgia as hundreds of students packed the streets and front yards. Virtually no one wore a mask. The huge party in Dahlonega, Ga., captured in a viral Twitter video, was one of a number of mass gatherings around the country this weekend as tens of thousands of students returned to college towns already on edge amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Local officials from Georgia to Alabama to Oklahoma reacted with horror and anger on Sunday, warning that unless students take social distancing and mask rules seriously, the fall semester could come to a swift end. “Why?” tweeted Walt Maddox, mayor of Tuscaloosa, Ala., above a photo of hundreds of mostly mask-free University of Alabama students outside downtown restaurants. “We are desperately trying to protect @tuscaloosacity.””

New Thinking on Covid Lockdowns: They’re Overly Blunt and Costly

The WSJ continues its solid reporting on the cost of the lockdowns. 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-lockdowns-economy-pandemic-recession-business-shutdown-sweden-coronavirus-11598281419

“In response to the novel and deadly coronavirus, many governments deployed draconian tactics never used in modern times: severe and broad restrictions on daily activity that helped send the world into its deepest peacetime slump since the Great Depression. The equivalent of 400 million jobs have been lost world-wide, 13 million in the U.S. alone. Global output is on track to fall 5% this year, far worse than during the financial crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund..”

Americans misperceive the risks of death from coronavirus, research shows

Most people are bad at perceiving risk in general, and that trend continues. Most Americans don’t realize that they are not at notable risk for COVID-19. 

https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/longevity/512768-americans-misperceive-the-risks-of-death-from

“The U.S. continues to lead the rest of the world in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths, and some health experts project the nation could see close to 300,000 fatalities by the end of the year.  Recent research shows, however, that Americans have a significant misunderstanding of the risk of death from COVID-19 when it comes to different age groups.  A joint Franklin Templeton-Gallup research project released late last month found that on average, Americans believed people aged 55 and older made up more than half, 57.7 percent, of total coronavirus deaths. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through July 22, those 55 and older made up more than 92 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. Researchers also found that Americans believed people aged 44 and younger made up about 30 percent of total coronavirus deaths, when the actual figure was less than 3 percent.

Research

Overview of Testing for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/testing-overview.html

The CDC updated their testing standards to focus on high risk groups instead of the general population.  

“Revisions made on August 24, 2020

Diagnostic testing categories have been edited to focus on testing considerations and actions to be taken by individuals undergoing testing. 

This document provides a summary of considerations and current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations regarding COVID-19 testing strategies.  The CDC recommendations for COVID-19 testing have been developed based on what is currently known about COVID-19 and are subject to change as additional information becomes available.”

SARS-CoV-2 T-cell epitopes define heterologous and COVID-19-induced T-cell recognition

Due to T-Cells, we may have reached a point where COVID-19 becomes endemic.

https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-35331/v1

“The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic calls for the rapid development of diagnostic, preventive, and therapeutic approaches. CD4+ and CD8+ T cell-mediated immunity is central for control of and protection from viral infections]. A prerequisite to characterize T-cell immunity, but also for the development of vaccines and immunotherapies, is the identification of the exact viral T-cell epitopes presented on human leukocyte antigens (HLA). This is the first work identifying and characterizing SARS-CoV-2-specific and cross-reactive HLA class I and HLA-DR T-cell epitopes in SARS-CoV-2 convalescents (n = 180) as well as unexposed individuals (n = 185) and confirming their relevance for immunity and COVID-19 disease course. SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell epitopes enabled detection of post-infectious T-cell immunity, even in seronegative convalescents. Cross-reactive SARS-CoV-2 T-cell epitopes revealed preexisting T-cell responses in 81% of unexposed individuals, and validation of similarity to common cold human coronaviruses provided a functional basis for postulated heterologous immunity”

Charts and Graphics

New Confirmed Cases of Covid-19 in European Union, United States, Brazil, United Kingdom and India

The EU is about to surpass the US in new cases.

How Did Countries Fare in the First Part of the Pandemic?

The majority of pro-lockdown countries have had a 6% or higher loss of GDP. One of the few exceptions is  South Korea, who managed to deal with the pandemic with minimal economic cost. 

The Great Lockdown: The World Economy Will Experience the Worst Recession Since the Great Depression

Due to the economic crisis caused by world wide lockdowns, real GDP growth has declined far more than the  2008-2009 financial crisis.

Situation in France as of 24/08/2020

France is still dealing with a 2nd wave in cases, but these cases are milder overall.

New Daily Cases Per Million Residents, Top 10 Countries and U.S States

Overall, “the 2nd wave” seems to be over in the United States.

International News

Get on with your lives! Professor says as coronavirus ‘not as deadly as first thought’

https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1326293/coronavirus-death-rate-UK-fatality-rate

“Professor Heneghan – whose work led to a lowering of the official death toll after he revealed Covid deaths were being counted even if someone had subsequently died of other causes – spoke as he released new data revealing the infection fatality rate had fallen from 2-3 per cent in the height of the pandemic to 0.3. He said if the downward trend continues the pandemic may end up no worse than a bad flu season. Reasons for the fall, he said, could not only be down to the consequences of lockdown because cases are continuing to drop despite society opening up.”

Ardern Extends Auckland Lockdown to Get Control of Outbreak

After being seen as an example for the rest of the world, New Zealand is returning  to a lockdown,as Auckland suffers from a minor COVID-19 outbreak. 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-24/ardern-extends-auckland-lockdown-to-get-outbreak-under-control

“New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the largest city Auckland will stay in lockdown four days longer than initially planned to ensure a community outbreak of Covid-19 is under control. Auckland will exit lockdown at midnight on Aug. 30 rather than on Aug. 26, Ardern told reporters in Wellington on Monday. “These extra four days are believed necessary to allow us to move down a level in Auckland, and stay down,” she said, referring to New Zealand’s covid alert level system. Auckland contributes more than a third of New Zealand’s gross domestic product and is home to 1.6 million people. The city was put into level 3 lockdown on Aug. 12 when four cases were discovered, ending the nation’s 102-day run of being Covid-free, while the rest of the country was placed into level 2, requiring social distancing restrictions to be reimposed. Ardern said Auckland will shift to level 2 on Aug. 31, allowing schools, hospitality, retail and other entities to reopen, though most gatherings will remain limited to no more than 10 people. The remainder of New Zealand will stay at level 2, with a further review of all settings to be made by Sept. 6, Ardern said.”

Covid-19 Live Updates: Researchers Document First Case of Virus Reinfection

Researchers are terrified at the possibility that virus reinfection can occur, making many of their strict COVID  measures rather pointless.  

“Researchers in Hong Kong are reporting the first confirmed case of reinfection with the coronavirus. “An apparently young and healthy patient had a second case of Covid-19 infection which was diagnosed 4.5 months after the first episode,” University of Hong Kong researchers said Monday in a statement. The report is of concern because it suggests that immunity to the coronavirus may last only a few months in some people. And it has implications for vaccines being developed for the virus. The 33-year-old man had only mild symptoms the first time, and no symptoms this time around. The reinfection was discovered when he returned from a trip to Spain, the researchers said, and the virus they sequenced closely matched the strain circulating in Europe in July and August. “Our results prove that his second infection is caused by a new virus that he acquired recently rather than prolonged viral shedding,” said Dr. Kelvin Kai-Wang To, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong.“”

At least 13 people die in stampede, as police raid nightclub breaking coronavirus restrictions

https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/23/americas/peru-nighclub-covid-stampede-intl-scli/index.html

“At least 13 people have been killed and three others injured in a stampede at a nightclub in Lima, Peru, as partygoers attempted to escape a police raid on the venue, according to Orlando Velasco Mujica, general of the Peruvian National Police. Police were called to the Thomas Restobar in the Los Olivos district of Peru’s capital city on Saturday evening to shut down an illegal party that more than 120 people were attending. Social distancing measures are mandated in Peru, large social gatherings are banned and there is a nationwide 10 p.m. curfew in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Peru was one of the first nations in the Americas to take strict preventative coronavirus measures, but is now one of the worst affected countries in Latin America, with more than 576,000 cases, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. More than 27,000 have died of the virus so far, JHU reports. In an official statement, the Ministry of the Interior reported that the police did not use “any type of weapon or tear gas to clear the premises.” When people began to flee the 2nd floor venue trying to get away from the police they were crushed on the stairs.”

Merkel Warns Europe Against Reviving New Virus Lockdowns

Aftering seeing the economic damage that lockdowns caused, Merkel warns against other countries enacting lockdowns. 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-20/merkel-says-aiming-to-avoid-new-national-lockdowns-in-europe

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on European leaders to work together to avoid reviving lockdowns as a resurgence of the coronavirus threatens already battered economies. “Politically, we want to avoid closing borders again at any cost, but that assumes that we act in coordination,” Merkel said Thursday during a visit to Emmanuel Macron at his presidential residence along the Mediterranean coast. The meeting in person came as European authorities weigh reimposing restrictions to staunch a fresh wave of infections. The bloc is torn between the need to confront a public-health crisis without delivering another blow to economies that cannot handle a second shutdown. The dilemma became apparent as tourist-reliant countries tried to re-open for the summer season only to be forced to shut down late-night partying as social gatherings and travelers were blamed for a spike in cases. Merkel and Macron, who together helm the mightiest economies in the euro, intervened in tandem to say the goal is to avoid repeating heavy-handed measures adopted during the initial peak of the pandemic in March and April. The French leader laid the groundwork in an interview with Paris Match, in which he made it clear that “we cannot shut down the country, because the collateral damage of confinement is considerable.” “We have to have the same strategy and rules — that is a prevention strategy,” Macron said. “We want to avoid the errors that were made at the start of the crisis.””

Why are more people dying at home?

One of the major causes of death right now is not COVID-19, but the rise in loneliness due to social distancing rules. 

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/what-is-behind-the-rise-of-deaths-in-private-homes-

“The death drought continues. For the eighth week in a row the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has recorded fewer deaths in England and Wales than would be expected at this time of year. In the week ending 7 August, 8,945 people died, one fewer than the previous week and 157 (1.7 per cent) lower than the five-year average for this week of the year. There is, however, a geographical divide: deaths in the East Midlands are running five per cent higher than the five-year average. While deaths in the North East and North West are slightly higher than usual. With the number of deaths across England and Wales below average, the figure for ‘excess deaths’ for 2020 is also down. In the year to date there have been 389,008 deaths in England and Wales, 52,737 more than the five-year average. Unless there is a second wave of Covid-19, this figure can be expected to keep on falling in the short term for a straightforward reason: a lot of elderly and seriously ill people who would have died at this time of year instead died of Covid-19 during the spring. Social-distancing rules may also had led to a fall in other infectious diseases, such as influenza.”

Expanded Resources

We recently expanded our resources page to include additional resources, such as infographics and reports. 

Feel free to share them around and use them! As a taste, below is an infographic on COVID-19 risk between the young and the old.