This is an extraordinary scientific achievement, but is it safe?
The average vaccine takes approximately 10 years to develop. There are currently two COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) that will likely be authorized and released to the public within a year of the discovery of the virus. How can a safe vaccine possibly be developed so fast?
These will be the fastest vaccines ever developed, by a margin of years. The next fastest vaccine ever approved for public use was the mumps vaccine, and that took 4 years.
Unfortunately, that speed has made a lot of people nervous. Will the vaccine be safe? Are they skipping steps? How is this process moving so fast?
How are the powers that be twisting the facts?
Mark Twain once observed, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Those in the legal profession might say: "There are three kinds of liars: simple liars, damned liars, and experts."
Data can be manipulated and presented to support a specific narrative or a particular conclusion. Because of this, you'd be well advised to seek out and analyze data for yourself, as opposed to allowing others to summarize and present that data for you.
A number of data sources are particularly helpful regarding the COVID pandemic. Instead of relying on others to draw conclusions from raw data, you're better off analyzing for yourself.
Three things really matter in the discussion of COVID-19:
The Infection Rate
The infection rate not only tells us about the spread of the virus; ultimately it informs about the lethality of the coronavirus. Of course, lethality is difficult to measure during an outbreak, especially when so many infections are asymptomatic.
Indeed, a Penn State University study estimates that the number of people infected in March 2020 was 80 times the officially reported number (in other words, there were 8.7 million more infected people in March than reported).
Estimates of lethality vary, but the early projection of 3.4% from the WHO appears to be wildly overstated. Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford makes the case for a lethality of 0.25%. You can monitor the confirmed infection rate for yourself on a daily basis, including by state, at a helpful site from USA Today that posts data from Johns Hopkins University.
By watching this number – a minimum (as stated by USA Today), due to the great number of asymptomatic and unreported cases – you can correlate the rate of infection with other key metrics.
As of today, the new cases curve looks like this:
The Death Rate
Bearing in mind that any death in which the deceased has tested positive for Covid has been classified as a "Covid death" regardless of other contributing factors, you can monitor daily deaths at the same USA Today site.
Safeguarding human life should be our main concern, so please look at the data critically. On June 25th, for example, a spike appears in the data which, after digging through data state-by-state, incorporates results from a retroactive reclassification of ~1,800 deaths in New Jersey as COVID-related.
It's helpful to cross reference with the Worldometer site to identify any large daily discrepancies that could result from retroactive changes. By watching this number, including data concerning state levels, you can begin to correlate the tragic human toll of this disease with infection rate and public policy.
You can also start to draw conclusions as to both lethality and improvements in treatment over time. As of today, the death rate curve looks like this:
June 25th reclassification of ~1800 deaths by NJ.
The need to "bend the curve" and avoid overwhelming our hospitals initially drove the lockdown strategy. So, understanding the actual rate of hospitalization nationally remains very important. The CDC publishes that rate on a weekly basis, helpfully sorted by age group.
As of July 4th the hospitalization curve looks like this:
In addition, the CDC publishes state by state data with regard to hospitalizations so you can see the situation on the ground. As of July 10th, Arizona has an in-patient COVID occupancy of 28.4%, followed by Texas and Florida at 16% each.
The national picture looks like this:
Realize that these important metrics only take into account the COVID variable itself; they don't deal with the economic and collateral public health consequences of public policy. As public health officials - such as Dr. Fauci - clearly state, they don't advise on economics or on the broader impact of health policy recommendations.
I suspect that most people are quite able to judge the impact of policy on themselves, their families, and their communities.
The point of this article is to encourage everyone to take advantage of the information that is readily available - and the above is only a start. You should think critically and form your own opinions.
Obviously, any data set will be a snapshot of a given moment, but it allows you to access that data and monitor it over time.
New evidence suggests asymptomatic transmission is less likely than previously thought.
On Monday, a representative from the World Health Organization called asymptomatic transmissions of the coronavirus "very rare." This was quickly bolstered by conservative lawmakers to call for the end of social distancing guidelines and the mandatory wearing of face masks. Many health experts and scientists questioned WHO's statement, citing a lack of evidence.
Today, WHO has walked back their original statement, clarifying that the observation "was based on a relatively small set of studies," and, "Evidence suggests people with symptoms are most infectious, but the disease can be passed on before they develop."
So What Happened?
Essentially, the original statement was referring to a small set of data from various countries in instances where an asymptomatic case had been followed up and secondary infections among the asymptomatic person's contact had been sought out. This data suggested that infections among the people the asymptomatic person had come in contact with were "very rare."
The WHO emphasized today that there is no way of knowing if this trend is true on a global scale.
According to the BBC, the Director of the WHO's health emergencies program, Dr Michael Ryan, said he was "absolutely convinced" asymptomatic transmission was occurring, but "the question is how much."
What Exactly Does Asymptomatic Mean, Anyway?
According Dr Van Kerkhove, the WHO's head of emerging diseases, there are three categories within the designation of "asymptomatic."
- People who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic)
- People who test positive when they don't yet have symptoms - but go on to develop them (pre-symptomatic)
- People with very mild or atypical symptoms who do not realise they have coronavirus
Should I Continue to Social Distance and Wear a Mask?
Yes. There is still so much that experts don't know about the spread of COVID-19, so while some evidence may suggest the virus isn't as easily passed on by as many people as previously thought, that doesn't mean you won't contract the virus if you aren't careful.
New studies show a correlation between COVID-19 deaths and low levels of the "sunshine vitamin."
Vitamin D has long been a useful warrior in the fight against disease, but now some studies are hinting that it might help fight COVID-19.
In this day and age, everyone is desperately looking for a cure, the Internet is rife with misinformation, and nothing is certain about vitamin D yet. But several promising studies have found that lower levels of vitamin D can put patients at increased risk of death from COVID-19, while higher levels might increase patients' chances of survival.
An April 9 study from the Philippines measured vitamin D levels in 212 coronavirus patients and found that patients with lower Vitamin D levels had relatively mild symptoms, while patients with deficiencies tended to grow much sicker. Prior to that, an Indonesian study from May said that "majority of the COVID-19 cases with insufficient and deficient vitamin D status died."
A similar study from Northwestern University explored 10 countries and also "found a correlation between low vitamin D levels and hyperactive immune systems." Most recently, a new study from Trinity in Ireland came to the same conclusions, also finding that lower levels of vitamin D are linked to a higher mortality rate for COVID patients.
Vitamin D plays an important role in the body's immune response. It may also be able to help heal compromised respiratory functions, according to Newsweek. COVID-19 is still a relatively unknown disease, but it is believed that the virus creates what's called a cytokine storm in patients. That means that the body produces a superabundance of messenger proteins called cytokines, which can lead to inflammation in the lungs. Vitamin D can help prevent the release of cytokines.
These studies are inconclusive, and clinical trials are just beginning. "If vitamin D levels are really a marker for better diet, or more access to healthcare, or any of a variety of other variables that are not statistically assessed, then it is not the vitamin D that is the cause of the better or worse outcomes but rather the other factors," said Daniel Culver, Director of the Interstitial Lung Disease Program in the Department of Pulmonary, Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
To be clear, vitamin D is not a miracle cure. "We found no clinical evidence on vitamin D in COVID-19," scientists from Oxford University wrote after their study. "There was no evidence related to vitamin D deficiency predisposing to COVID-19, nor were there studies of supplementation for preventing or treating COVID-19."
Still, because it's relatively harmless, some countries are now calling for widespread dissemination of vitamin D supplements and advising people to pay attention to their own levels. It's important to note that it is possible to ingest too much vitamin D, but a few supplements, some eggs, or some extra (safe) sunshine is probably as good a prescription as any during these isolated times.
The COVID-19 conspiracy theories are nonsense, but there are some real threats that the new technology poses.
The next generation of cellular networks are beginning to roll out around the world at a time of unprecedented crisis and unprecedented connectivity.
For people who view global events as orchestrated by dark forces, all this change occurring at once is great fodder for conspiracy theories and doomsday predictions. For anyone familiar with that lens, their reactions (as crazy as they are) have been as predictable as the sunrise, but that doesn't mean that there aren't real causes for concern.
You must be very concerned about what your favorite companies are doing during this global crisis.
For most Americans, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned life as we know it upside down.
From school and restaurant closures to quarantines and social distancing, the American people are largely waking up to the fragility of our social systems. But for corporations, and especially marketing professionals, a new art form has emerged from amidst the chaos—the COVID-19 e-mail.
The COVID-19 e-mail, as an ideological concept, is quite simple. If major corporations are your friends, as American culture has attempted to establish time and time again, it follows that you must be very concerned about what they're doing during this global crisis. Sure, you might be a bit worried about how to feed your children when your paychecks aren't coming in and the schools are closed, but how could you sleep at night without knowing that Chipotle is safe? And yes, while it sucks that your grandpa might die without you even being able to enter his room for fear of spreading the virus to others, imagine how much more it would suck if GameStop didn't let you know what they were up to during these perilous times?
But fear not. All of your favorite corporations are right there in your e-mail inbox, detailing exactly what they're doing to prevent the coronavirus from spreading (short of shutting down while continuing to properly pay their employees).
While many Chipotle employees were upset that Chipotle was continuing to disregard sick leave laws even after the pandemic had already reached New York, Chipotle kindly assured us that their protocols were already "industry-leading." So even though it's scary that your significant other is coming down with an awful cough, hopefully knowing that Chipotle already supplied Purell sanitizer to their employees can take a hefty weight off your shoulders.
As an asthmatic, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that learning about GameStop's newly assembled "internal COVID-19 taskforce dedicated solely to this issue" is like aloe to the lingering burn of realizing that my compromised immune system makes dying a whole lot more likely. There's only so much that we can do to protect ourselves, so it's comforting to know that GameStop's "taskforce" is watching over everyone.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Indeed, this deadly pandemic has arrived in the middle of tax season, so it makes sense that many of us have been waiting on pins and needles to hear from our good pal TurboTax. Happily, they are continuing to "closely monitor, assess and respond to this situation" and, by all accounts, are planning to stay functional as a business with products that exist entirely online. I was upset enough about my brother being homeless after his out-of-state college dorm closed down, so it's great to know that at least TurboTax has their sh*t together.
Even while we're socially isolated, it's incredibly important for us to maintain our sense of community. After all, we're still a social species. Sadly, many of our human friends have been too ill or preoccupied with their lives falling apart to spend hours chatting online. There are few feelings quite as painful as wishing you could help the people you care about but knowing that doing so very well might make everything a whole lot worse. Free People understands this. "Whether you have questions about a pending order or shipment, where to find a coveted dress, or are simply looking for someone to talk to, we are always here for you," they promise. I hope that none of my loved ones die during all of this, but if they do, I'm genuinely grateful to know that Free People is there for me.
There's no reason that being stuck alone in your apartment needs to mean that you can't go all out. That said, if you want to keep your make-up supply stocked through an indefinite period of isolation, you're going to need to hit up Sephora while you still can. Yes, logically a company whose store model revolves around sampling shared display make-up should probably stop that practice for the good of literally everybody at the first sign of a global pandemic. But that's why Sephora wants you to know that they are "cleaning all display testers with disinfectant multiple times per day and replacing as needed." Who would Sephora be if not your fun, trendy friend who lives life on the wild side. If looking good means spreading just a little bit of coronavirus, so be it.
Personal story: One time before human society started imploding, my girlfriend and I were walking around New York City and had a sudden craving for cookies. A quick Yelp search directed us to a nearby cookie shop called Schmackary's. While checking out, I entered my e-mail for their reward point system or something, thinking that if the cookies were good, I might come back at some point. I do live in New York, after all. In truth, I don't crave cookies often and, in time, I forgot about Schmackary's. But that's the thing about long lost friends; even after years, they were still a part of your life, and sometimes it's nice to have the peace of mind that, while the sky falls down around you, an old friend is doing okay. Even as I run out of food and worry about paying my rent, even as my loved ones fall ill around me, even as paranoia sets in, my heart is filled with joy thinking about how Schmackary's is going "above and beyond in order keep our bakery safe and clean."