Monday, July 27, 2020

Coronavirus – a safety analogy

In my opinion taking precautions to prevent coronavirus infection is analogous to following the rules of the road when driving. The general purpose of stop signs, traffic lights, speed limits, railroad crossing gates, and so forth is the safety of drivers, passengers, and others. They help to prevent accidents or lessen the severity of them. Likewise, wearing a mask, keeping a safe distance from other people, washing hands and using sanitary wipes, not sneezing or coughing on other people, and so forth reduce spreading of a virus that may be harmful, even deadly, to oneself and other people.

Refusing to wear a mask (with an exception if doing so truly hampers breathing) and so forth is akin to refusing to obey traffic laws. It increases risk for ones self and other people in the vicinity. That some part of government prescribes what preventive measures people should take is quite unimportant to me. If a business or private road or property owner had and enforced the same rules, would the person who objects still object? Refusing to comply with the only “reason” being freedom dismisses personal responsibility and the reality of the virus. One’s person freedom ends when it impinges the equal freedom of others, and vice-versa.

When I take precautions against the coronavirus, I do so for my self-interest and a regard for the health and lives others. What government says about it is unimportant. Likewise, I drive with my personal safety in mind, which has a consequent regard for the safety of others.

The free-stater man interviewed here doesn’t make the same analogy but agrees about taking preventative measures against the coronavirus. An article The Libertarian Case for Masks describes anti-masking as an irrational anti-government symbolic gesture that all but guarantees more government overreach.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Coronavirus -- about the numbers

This ProPublica article explains the different numbers in the news about Covid-19 and how they are related in time. The number of cases and the number of deaths get the most attention in the news. The positivity rate gets much less attention. Hospitalizations get a little attention.

The authors couldn't resist a jab at Trump and Pence. ProPublica also couldn't resist another jab at Trump and Pence for what they said about testing about a month ago, including a picture, caption and link to an earlier ProPublica article. As I observed here about a New York Times article, the ProPublica article tried to refute what Trump and Pence said by invoking positivity rates, despite Trump and Pence having said nothing about the positivity rate. 

This site shows a graph of positivity rates for the USA. One can also select to see the graph for an individual state.

It seems a test result for an individual is either positive or negative, with no indication of how much positive if positive. (At least I could not find any such indication on the Internet.) If so, there is no way to know if more recent infections are less or more severe than earlier ones. I have seen rare mentions of "viral load", but they haven't been very informative.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Coronavirus - how deadly?

A Wall Street Journal article tries to answer how deadly COVID-19 is. The article is behind a paywall. The following is my summary.

Dozens of research studies have been done to calculate an infection-fatality rate for Covid-19. Such research -- examining deaths out of the total number of infections, which includes unreported cases that can only be estimated -- suggests that Covid-19 kills from around 0.3% to 1.5% of people infected. Most studies put the rate between 0.5% and 1.0%, meaning that for every 1,000 people who get infected, from five to 10 would die on average. The average is about 0.68%. The U.S. CDC estimate is 0.65%.

The estimates suggest the new coronavirus is deadlier than the seasonal flu, which has an infection-fatality rate of about 0.1%. Among confirmed global cases for Covid-19, roughly 4.2% of those people died (3.6% in the USA thru July 22). The percent of deaths among people with confirmed infections is higher than the percent of deaths among all infections, since many milder and asymptomatic Covid-19 cases are not in the denominator for confirmed but are for all. The U.S. CDC has estimated that for every known case of Covid-19, roughly 10 more went unrecorded through the beginning of May. From March to early May, the total number of infections was likely 6 to 24 times greater than the number of reported cases depending on the state, the agency said in a paper published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Covid-19 is not as lethal as SARS, MERS, or Ebola. Their case fatality rates range from about 10% to over 50%. (The article doesn't give infection-fatality rates for them. Ebola was mainly in Africa, where I suspect data collection and reporting are very deficient.) The coronavirus is killing more people than the deadlier diseases because it has infected many more people.

The Covid-19 fatality rate varies a lot depending on age, sex and pre-existing medical conditions. Researchers in the U.S. and Switzerland examined data from the Swiss city of Geneva to calculate fatality rates for different age groups. They found those over 65 had an infection-fatality rate of 5.6% — 40 times the risk of someone in their 50s.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Coronavirus -- drugs

Two doctors tell how government and the politically connected have interfered with doctors treating their patients for COVID-19.

Use of hydroxychloroquine and zinc to treat COVID-19 outpatients first made the news in March. Dr. Vladimir Zelenko of New York claimed successful treatment of 669 patients. Snopes declared the story "unproven" (link).  Note that Snopes does not say the treatment protocol is "disproven" nor give any proven treatment or better treatment. Snopes does say public health officials largely disagree with Dr. Zelenko's risk assessment of the treatment protocol. A French doctor, Didier Raoult, also made the news, reporting successful use of the same drugs.

Hydroxychloroquine Should Be Available Over The Counter  I believe the graph shown on the page is somewhat misleading since the age structure of each country's population is ignored. Countries with high CFRs (case fatality rates; red bars) often have high percents of older people, and countries with low CFRs (green bars) often have low percents of older people (link).

I am not a doctor or medical professional of any kind. Regardless, the politically powerless have a right of free speech as much as anybody else. The mainstream media ignores anybody -- such as these two doctors -- who doesn't fit its favored narrative. Also, the extent of interference by people in government and the politically connected is worthy of concern. They like to pose as knowing more and impose their authority on all, heavily supported by the mainstream media. In my opinion their performance during this pandemic has been poor. 

Other drug news

Update July 27

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Myth of Systemic Police Racism

This Wall Street Journal article by Heather Mac Donald is more than a month old, but still worth reading. Since it is behind a paywall, the following are excerpts.

In 2019 police officers fatally shot 1,004 people, most of whom were armed or otherwise dangerous. African-Americans were about a quarter of those killed by cops last year (235), a ratio that has remained stable since 2015. That share of black victims is less than what the black crime rate would predict, since police shootings are a function of how often officers encounter armed and violent suspects. In 2018, the latest year for which such data have been published, African-Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60% of robberies, though they are 13% of the population.

The police fatally shot nine unarmed blacks and 19 unarmed whites in 2019, according to a Washington Post database, down from 38 and 32, respectively, in 2015. The Post defines “unarmed” broadly to include such cases as a suspect in Newark, N.J., who had a loaded handgun in his car during a police chase. In 2018 there were 7,407 black homicide victims. Assuming a comparable number of victims last year, those nine unarmed black victims of police shootings represent 0.1% of all African-Americans killed in 2019.

A 2015 Justice Department analysis of the Philadelphia Police Department found that white police officers were less likely than black or Hispanic officers to shoot unarmed black suspects.


I pose the following question. If those who want to say "racism" every chance they get want to prevent white police from killing blacks, why don't they advocate far more black police and far fewer white police in mostly black neighborhoods? (I suspect black police want to work in safer neighborhoods as much as white police do.)

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Coronavirus - good news, bad news

The bad news is that the number of COVID-19 new cases in the USA are way up. The good news is that the number of COVID-19 daily deaths in the USA has fallen. The trend-line since the peak is significantly downward. See the graphs below. I won't politicize it like Rush Limbaugh and an article he refers to. Nor will I politicize it in the opposite direction like most of the hyper-alarmist, Trump-hating mainstream media.  

The article's title makes it a question, but it would be very premature to assert that the covid-19-epidemic is ending, unless "epidemic" means only that the fatality rate from COVID-19 has declined below a threshold (link). Most of that decline is the result of far more testing increasing the denominator of the fatality rate. The decline does not portend a continually lower count of daily deaths. Indeed, deaths have spiked recently and the short-term trend is rising again. 

How much the high number of new cases portends the number of future deaths is far from clear. The newer cases are reportedly younger people less susceptible to death following infection. Medical care is more informed. The virus might have weakened and/or the infected may not be infected as much. I hope all that does portend the future, but only time will tell.

The case count is probably inflated by counting people with antibodies, not just people who tested positive for the coronavirus. The hyper-alarmist mainstream media is fixated on case count. But higher case count has a flip side. It decreases the fatality rate!

This URL also shows graphs of daily cases and daily deaths. The numbers differ slightly, and I didn't know how to copy-and-paste them here.

Lastly, to add some perspective. To date the number of USA cases is 3.06 million, still less than 1% of the population. The number of deaths -- about 135,000 -- is about 0.04% of the population and still well below the count from the 1918-20 Spanish flu. That was in the range of 500,000 to 850,000, when the population was less than one-third of today's. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Coronavirus - Trump on testing

Lest anyone believes I am biased pro-Trump after my prior post, the following should at least raise doubt.

Last month President Trump said: "When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please."

That last sentence is inane and shows a callous regard for the lives or health of people in general. It indicates what matters to Trump most is that it might reflect badly on him if somebody tests positive for the coronavirus.

A person getting tested for the virus to see if he or she is infected is acting with rational self-interest. If the test is true positive, the person needs to act accordingly. If the test is true negative, that's good. 

I expect attack ads aired by Democrats for the 2020 election will exploit Trump's inane remark.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Coronavirus - sloppy, biased NY Times

I have been receiving daily emails containing briefings from The New York Times. The one that came Monday written by a David Leonhardt says the following. 

"Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have claimed that the rise in confirmed U.S. cases is largely the result of more tests. That’s not true, as The Times explains. The U.S., which once trailed Europe in per capita overall deaths, has now endured many more." 

The last sentence about deaths is irrelevant to what Trump and Pence said about tests.

The Trump-Pence claim was trivial but indubitably true. Neither Leonhardt nor The Times article show it is false. Is he trying to say that more confirmed cases are not a result of more tests? The Times article mentions a higher rate of positive tests. That shows a lower rate of positive tests is false, but Trump-Pence did not claim such lower rate.

The email showed a graph of Covid-19 deaths per million residents for the USA, Europe, and Canada. It showed the USA at about 385, Europe at about 295, and Canada at about 225. Below the graph says: "Source: Johns Hopkins University The New York Times."  Why is it not simply Johns Hopkins University? As this shows, John Hopkins does not show numbers for "Europe" -- whatever that means -- only individual countries. In other words, The New York Times concocted the 295 to slur Trump and Pence. 

When I looked at the numbers a few minutes ago they were as follows per million (10 times the per 100,000 numbers shown by John Hopkins):

Belgium 852, UK 657, Spain 607, Italy 575, France 447, Netherlands 355, Switzerland 230, Portugal 152, Germany 101.

The first 5 are all higher, some much higher, than the USA's 385 and countries 2-5 have large populations. How does one aggregate all of them and get 295? With junk math, cherry-picking, or lying with statistics!

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." -- Mark Twain