Whoa

Greece: 150 deaths
Population: 10.5 million

The Netherlands: over 5,000 deaths
Population: over 17 million

Canada: almost 5,000 deaths
Population: almost 38 million

UK: over 30,000 deaths
Population: 63 million

Vietnam: 0 deaths
Population: 97 million

US: over 75,000 deaths
Population: almost 329 million

Conclusion: Important lessons to be learned and applied. Because these differences cannot be explained – although some might wish – by some of these countries’ populations being in better health.

I should add population density next.

Working from home

It’s all over the news now that companies do not expect to return to the daily 9-to-5 commuter drudgery.

It will be better for the environment and yes, also better for the work/life balance.

I believe that if you see work as something that needs to be separated from life instead of something that is part of life, work is likely to be experienced as stressful.

As someone who’s been working from home for over twenty years, I know both the benefits and the downsides of working from home. Continue reading

Another COVID-19 resource, on vaccines

By STAT

  • Part 1: Antibody drugs that target the coronavirus: A conversation with George Yancopoulos, the co-founder, president, and chief scientific officer of Regeneron, on their antibody drugs in development to treat Covid-19.
  • Part 2: Fighting on multiple fronts: A discussion with Mikael Dolsten, the chief scientific officer of Pfizer, on the multiple routes the company is taking to fight Covid-19.
  • Part 3: Vaccines — can they come soon enough? With a sponsor introduction by Clem Lewin, Ph.D., associate vice president of R&D strategy for vaccines at Sanofi, as well as Tal Zaks, chief medical officer at Moderna and Matthew Herper, senior writer, medicine, and editorial director of events at STAT

What Bonnie Chiu and I have in common

We are both foreigners living in the UK. We both saw what was about to happen. We both started protecting ourselves and those around us. We were both ridiculed, dismissed as over-the-top crazy foreign females.

Then we both sadly gained respect when reality overtook the isolated lalaland illusions the British love to immerse themselves in. I feel somewhat vindicated, but I wish that there was no reason for it.

COVID-19: What’s next? (the long version)

The corona virus crisis is creating lots of opportunities for all kinds of good things. Let’s grab those opportunities. (See also the links below.)

  • We could create an automated pathogen detection network and start providing point-of-interest diagnostics. Whether you have systems that monitor the air and for example examine what’s on the filters (so that you can also detect anything that is new), have systems for passengers at airports and cruise ship terminals or systems at entrances to supermarkets or at train stations where people can get themselves tested, why not work toward this?

I hope that it does not upset anyone when I say that it appears that it might bring us much more benefit than taking off our shoes because ONE Brit was once caught with explosives in his shoes and tackled by his fellow passengers on board of an airplane (Richard Reid in 2001). I mean, we’ve already had over 28,000 extra deaths in the UK alone now and the number may rise to over 60,000.

No, the point is not at all whether people would be able to swab their own mouths and noses or whether they would be able to cough into a machine or insert swabs into a machine.

  • Instead of leaving millions and millions of people in disadvantaged situations of poverty and neglect, not to mention ridicule and abuse, we could embrace them and for example lift the UK’s poor out of poverty.
  • We could stick with the current more sustainable way of living, work more from home instead of drive our traffic back up to the old noise and pollution levels, the same pollution levels that have made people more vulnerable to COVID-19.
  • Yes, we should curb our ridiculous consumerism. It causes too much noise pollution, light pollution, chemical pollution, plastics pollution, atmospheric pollution (greenhouse gases up high, ozone and fine dust and other noxious gases in the air that we breathe, habitat destruction, harm to non-human animals… and everything that results in means that we are killing ourselves as a species.
  • So maybe you too could think about not seeing this crisis as something to get through – something bad and stressful that we want to leave behind us as soon as possible – but as something to be experienced as part of a rich life and to do lots of good with, fix problems. That is WEALTH.

LINKS

(These links may give you a warning about leaving YouTube, which is fine; that’s because I copied this from the description under the video.)

Biosensors for COVID-19:
https://www.ibj.com/blogs/the-dose/pu…
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-04/sflf-anb042120.php

Pollen counts:
https://www.worc.ac.uk/about/academic-schools/school-of-science-and-the-environment/science-and-the-environment-research/national-pollen-and-aerobiology-research-unit/home.aspx

About the spread of COVID-19:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-52526554

Air pollution and COVID-19:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/202… https://www.theguardian.com/environme…

About the manifesto drawn up and signed by 170 researchers working at Dutch universities:
https://www.staff.universiteitleiden….

Bioethicist Françoise Baylis is interested in doing something like this manifesto in Canada. Other people have been saying similar things, namely that we have the chance to do something really good now and that it is up to us what we do with this opportunity.

The manifesto (PDF):
https://www.staff.universiteitleiden….]

How to avoid falling into traps now and do better:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-52547885

Ageism in the UK:
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2… (2020) https://www.theguardian.com/society/2… (2011)

Poverty in the UK:
https://www.newstatesman.com/politics… https://www.theguardian.com/society/2… https://undocs.org/A/HRC/41/39/Add.1

Poverty and COVID-19:
https://reliefweb.int/report/world/re… https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/30/op…

What can we do in the UK?

https://www.businessgreen.com/news-analysis/4014922/seven-steps-green-resilient-recovery
https://angelinasouren.com/mastermind…

For the record. I am 60ish and I said so in the uncut recording. In Britain that would be something to be ashamed of. Nowhere else, as far as I know. Many Brits literally have a problem with anyone who’s over 35 and many other things. I moved to Britain when I was 44, got treated as if I was a senile 93-year-old. Ha ha! It almost feels like I lose 50 years every time I leave the UK, in terms of how I am treated. (I’m changing that. Plus powerrrr is super powerrrr.)

Rights and measures in a pandemic

If you feel that the measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 violate too many of people’s rights, then consider the following.

Many rights exist only by the grace of other people respecting them. This means that rights also create duties.

You observing measures can stop you from harming other people. That’s the duty you may have that translates into other people’s rights.

COVID-19: What’s next?

This is a short video I created for Twitter, without intro as Twitter videos have to be short. I’ll make a longer one and a few short ones after this one. There is much more to this topic.

The person talking about dialing up and dialing down any measures taken to halt the spread of COVID-19 and who believes that this should be done on a relatively small scale (and not mandatory but in the form of a recommendation) is Lindsay Wiley, by the way. (Who was very patient with me when I kept asking strange questions, I should add. A little bit too patient perhaps… She’s much more a legal scholar than an epidemiologist, I realised later when I looked into her. That may explain a lot.)

 

 

I can see what she means and why it might be needed – we’ve just seen Hokkaido dial measures up again after the infection numbers went up – but if you do this country-wide or island-wide as in the case of Hokkaido, it’s a very different story than if you do it regionally.

Regionally, though, has been the approach in the US so far as far as I can tell. I don’t know whether that has led to any problems with people travelling from a location with no or limited restrictions to a location with strict measures. County borders, state borders, city borders.

People have been protesting against various measures – unfortunately partly inspired by the hogwash spread by two doctors in California who would lose their licences if it were up to me – but these protests make bigger headlines than the news about Americans who have been defying their governor who eased or lifted a lockdown.

(And if you keep people in a lockdown too long, their physical health will start to decline because their lives have become so much more static, particularly for people who live in small apartments. That might make them more susceptible to COVID-19. When does that effect start to kick in and make a real difference? After two months? Three?)

What I don’t know is how it would work out longer-term if you were to dial up and dial down measures regionally or locally.

Would it cause chaos, such as when someone has a job interview or a project planned for which he or she needs to be in Chicago and then all of a sudden, the recommendation changes?

If it is not mandatory, then how effective would such measures be? Effective enough, presumably, as this is the approach that’s most strongly endorsed by expert panels in pre-pandemic plans/studies, so I understand.

If such measures are not mandatory and you have a job interview, then not many people are involved and the situation can be resolved.

But for anything involving more people – say, a large company – it may be tricky. If the company does not follow the recommendations, it may be sued by its staff. If the company does follow the recommendations, it may be sued by its clients.

Imagine having to construct a hotel for a famous real estate mogul and not showing up because the recommendation for the location in question has changed (been dialed up). Or having to install new computers and networks for a bank or a call center.

(There is also the question of how you would keep people informed. I think it could be part of the weather predictions, just like UV radiation and pollen counts are. If you travel, you usually check the weather at your destination before you travel or on the way.)

If, on the other hand, you limit people to traveling within their own city or county or state, you cause fewer problems for people who normally never travel beyond those geographical borders.

But how would you ensure that people would do that? If it costs them their job if they follow the recommendation or if their job is ten miles away but in a different county, how likely are they to follow that recommendation?

Then you might have spreading from the borders of your geographical area, inward, if the neighboring counties have a higher rate of infection. Do you use travel permits?

Do you test everyone within a certain distance of such a geographical border to identify new cases and quickly isolate them?

From a purely epidemiological point of view, it probably all makes perfect sense.

Does it also make sense from a practical point of view? That’s less easy to figure out. What does small-scale dialing up and down of measures mean for Joe and Jamie Public when they get up in the morning and prepare to take their kids to school? I can’t get a clear response to that question.

Besides, there also is a strong cultural angle to this. In some countries, citizens will be more likely to follow recommendations than in others, I’ve noticed. Socioeconomic aspects – level of inequality – as I’ve mentioned, play a role as well.

I have to conclude that the experts don’t have all the answers yet either. The experience is new for almost all of us, with the exception of people in parts of Asia that have gone through MERS and through SARS aka SARS-CoV-1.

The previous whopper of a pandemic we had occurred a century ago, after all (Spanish flu). Even the Hong Kong flu that hit around 1968 happened too long ago to be able to translate that experience into the way we are living now. In those days, most women in my home country stayed at home all the time anyway because they were home makers, for example.

But that’s for the here and now and short term. How about the longer term?

Continue reading

Hang on to your umbrella against COVID-19

Two doctors in California have been telling everyone that COVID-19 is not a problem at all, that they have tested lots of people and that most had the virus and that many were not ill.

But they were testing people who were screened and suspected of having the virus. It means that there are many more people out there that do not have the virus yet (and preferably should not get it either). I could say a lot more about these two doctors, but I won’t.

I also see a lot of confusion about what is called the prevention paradox. If you prevent something bad, some people will stop believing that it exists (or think it’s not actually that bad).

That’s like noticing that using an umbrella stops you from getting wet and then concluding that there is no rain.

Message for Joanne Snowdon (cc to Gerald Vernon-Jackson) – Civic Offices Portsmouth

Dear Joanne,

On the basis of correspondence received from your offices about midway during the present lock-down, which has meanwhile been extended, I must conclude it appears that I may be experiencing a repeat of what happened two years ago at around the same time. (An announcement of full cancellation followed by an announcement of increase.)

Because of the lock-down, I can’t stop by and there is little or nothing else I can do with regards to this other than post this message here.

Can you check and keep an eye on this, please? Thanks. I appreciate it.

Stay well.

 

Is my e-mail working properly?

For the past, oh, I don’t know how many years, I have rarely gotten responses to my e-mails and I often don’t get “message received/read receipts”. This includes e-mail to people I have worked with for decades and to old friends.

(My situation in England is often such that my means of communication are extremely limited and e-mail is often the only way I have to reach people.)

 

Continue reading

That Kern County Dr Erickson who talks about COVID-19 on YouTube

Update 3 May 2020: YouTube has meanwhile removed the two doctors’ “presser”. YouTube also sometimes deletes videos and channels when it shouldn’t. This time, I am very pleased that it did.

To my dismay, I had also received these doctors’ rubbish as news in an email a few days after I posted the stuff below. (If you subscribe to news media other people follow, people whose views may not overlap with your own, you get a much better idea of what is out there, what people outside of your own circles are thinking.) So I emailed them.

Continue reading

COVID-19 resources at US National Academy of Sciences and elsewhere:

First of all, here are two living documents elsewhere:

https://rega.kuleuven.be/if/pdf_corona

https://covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/

Here are some resources at the US National Academy of Sciences:

https://t.co/ezodPowbg6 (lab testing)
https://t.co/QHR4Gjborg (effectiveness of fabric masks)
https://t.co/iDArCYuk99 (viral shedding)
https://t.co/19VZuy0Oz5 (effects of temperature etc)
https://t.co/djGokzK7Eg (bioaerosol spread)
https://t.co/pwmYVxfX38 (stability on surfaces)

Apprentice Johnson, you are fired!

“Ministers declare the NHS Nightingale project a great success”, but staff tell The Independent’s health correspondent Shaun Lintern they want to do more – and they fear prominent PR is not helping.”

We’ve now also had the cheerful optimism beyond what is medically rational about a delayed shipment of gear from Turkey to protect frontline NHS staff against corona virus that apparently contained only 32,000 gowns. Worth several hours of protection.

And now US President Donald Trump has suggested injecting disinfectant may be a good treatment for COVID-19 patients.

With Boris Johnson sharing the optimism of Trump and wanting to cooperate with him closely on tackling the corona virus crisis, we should all be afraid, very afraid.

In spite of having all the information that was coming from China, the UK took TWICE AS LONG to respond effectively than China. Because on 3 February 2020, ten days after the lock-down began in Wuhan, Boris Johnson declared very loudly that he did not feel a need to respond strongly and swiftly to the virus. He said that imposing a lock-down went “beyond what is medically rational”.

Apprentice Johnson, you are fired!

Okay, now I can retire to Checkers

The UK government is finally really catching up with the information I have had on my website for… I don’t know how long!

It’s not rocket science! It’s all practical common sense. You do not need the latest minute scientific details before you can start applying plain common sense.

But has it updated the information for those who are advised to shield or is that still many weeks out of date?

Let’s check.

No, it has not been updated.

Okay, no retirement for me yet, then.

(I’ve meanwhile provided my criticisms to .gov.uk.)

 

About politicians failing to lead (sad parody)

I duct-taped this together today. I hope that YouTube won’t take it down. I have a shorter version, but the music is so cheerful and that’s what we all need lots of. And I didn’t want to leave any of the names out.

I was both crying and laughing while I made this. See for yourself. You’ll have to watch to the 3-minute point to get it.

There was more or different stuff that I could have added such as Trump having called pharmaceutical companies, “big ones with offices in London”, and them having “contacted all of Boris’s doctors” and doctors standing ready to help the doctors in London and “we’re getting more than we ever bargained for”, but hey, it’s all obvious anyway.

And here is a shorter, tweetable version:

The corona virus crisis: My message to the police in the UK

In this video, I ask British police to be understanding toward us when enforcing the social distancing rules because, in spite of the fact that the lock-down resembles being imprisoned to some degree, we haven’t actually done anything wrong.

Police officers should also comply with the rules themselves.

Why governments in the west have responded the way they have

A friend of mine in Florida responded that she had really enjoyed listening to this. That is a great compliment, coming from her. She is a microbiologist who used to work at the HRS Sarasota County Public Health Unit (now retired). I remember a fierce discussion we had when I was setting up some lab experiments of my own and wanted to add a guaranteed abiotic control.

UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities on the new eugenics

This morning, Michael Cook’s newsletter BioEdge pointed out an assessment by Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities at the United Nations.

Here is that article:
https://www.bioedge.org/bioethics/un-official-criticizes-liberal-eugenics/13401

And here is the report (PDF) by the Special Rapporteur:
https://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/HRC/43/41&Lang=E

Here it is as a Word file:
https://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/GetFile?OpenAgent&DS=A/HRC/43/41&Lang=E&Type=DOC

I haven’t read her report yet, but her views appear to overlap with mine.