Who spoke these words?

“we are starting to hear some bizarre autarkic rhetoric, when barriers are going up, and when there is a risk that new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic and a desire for market segregation that go beyond what is medically rational to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage, then at that moment humanity needs some government somewhere that is willing at least to make the case powerfully for freedom of exchange, some country ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles and leap into the phone booth and emerge with its cloak flowing as the supercharged champion, of the right of the populations of the earth to buy and sell freely among each other.”

Meanwhile, we have a pandemic on our hands

Turns out that the three-tiered system that the UK government introduced a while back is the old five-tiered system with the two top tiers removed because they thought that the worst of the pandemic was over.

Locally, we are a tiny blob on the map of the UK that is now in Tier 4. Petersfield is not. Southampton is not. Neither is Chichester. As far as I know, that is.

Turns out that the UK has a second strain of the virus going around that does not appear to be more deadly and does not appear to make people more ill but that is much more contagious. So the hospitals are being flooded again.

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Survivors of Covid-19 show increased rate of psychiatric disorders

Here you have it. The bridge that may finally make people see that “mental” conditions are in fact physical and that it’s the mental health stigma that is bonkers.

(Also, could we be trying too hard to stamp out the human aspects of what it means to be human – to be alive – and turning people into perfect little robots? What would life be like if we never had ups and downs? At all? Btw, one guy – I won’t mention his name; he is a geologist – once told me that when he smoked cigarettes – not weed, but cigarettes – his ups were less high and his downs less low.)

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/aug/03/survivors-of-covid-19-show-increased-rate-of-psychiatric-disorders-study-finds

(31% of COVID-19 survivors suffer from depression. Read the article in The Guardian to find out what else plagues them. We already knew that psychosis is linked to COVID-19 as well. Psychosis is also linked to the recovering from physical brain trauma.)

SARS-CoV2, wastewater and seashores

A few months ago, someone in Florida sent me a link to a news item – I think it was from Yahoo News – in which a professor in California was warning people to stay away from the seashore as she was sure that they would get infected by the ocean surf there.

I dissected the article and had to dismiss it as panicky nonsense. It for example mentioned the rapid spread (in Wuhan) as an argument but Wuhan is nowhere near the sea and everything that was ascribed to marine spray could much more easily be explained through asymptomatic spread. The existence of the latter was not even mentioned in the item. I did not expect the virus to be able to play a big role in the marine environment on the basis of my very limited knowledge in this area.

Just now, I spotted an article written by Kristen Kusek, who I know from my time in Florida. She is now the communications director at the place where we both were into marine science, while she also pursued journalism at the Poynter Institute a bit further down the road.

USF’s College of Marine Science has started the first American program to look at the virus in wastewater. I had earlier heard about the virus having been detected in sewage in, I think, Venice.

https://www.usf.edu/marine-science/news/2020/usf-partner-in-costa-rica-launches-the-countrys-first-program-to-detect-coronavirus-in-wastewater.aspx

It is very important to keep in mind that the virus having been detected waste water (or anything else) DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU CAN CATCH COVID-19 from it.

I also saw this:
https://coloradosun.com/2020/07/21/poop-early-coronavirus-warning-colorado-wastewater/

It was time for a quick update.

I found this:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004313542030436X

At first glance, this seems to confirm my assessment. Good.

Here is more on the topic:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004896972033151X

https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S004313542030436X?token=01D96FD19564AA8CCAF293E95112CB80711556EDFB30B8701D6895EEEAECA0747FB112F019F2BDD2877DDAC55EE331B7

https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S004896972033151X?token=7D077B4CFF621AF2C66AAE410611192580B09C4F7AFA638CD1CBE5BB26F6121305BABE2F25608A43C70A06F0D6BC74B0

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666016420300049

As I live in an island city, with a stormwater sewage overflow to the east of us and a (treated) sewage outlet slightly to the east of that, along the seashore, such questions have local relevance. So far, nothing to worry about.

(Please note that this does not mean that the situation will stay this way, but at this point, there is nothing to indicate that it won’t. That’s okay. We have plenty on our plate as it is.)

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!

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.

Disaster and emergency planning

Did western governments really have no plans to deal with this emergency at all?

GCHQ. Source: Wikipedia.

Yet we regularly hear about bioterrorism threats… Should I conclude that there is not really such a massive threat – no, not really – because if there was, there would have been plans in place? Was it only used to gain votes by scaring voters?

I am ASTONISHED that there seems to have been zero preparedness for dealing with events like this new corona virus.

Not only do too many politicians appear to have assumed that the Chinese (and the people in other Asian countries) were being stupid… They had no scripts and had no information on the shelves to tell the public about what was going on.

While corona viruses don’t all behave the exact same way and some facts only become clear after a while, governments could have given clear general information about how corona viruses tend to spread.

Instead we heard:

  • “Wash your hands.” So these viruses are excreted by hands, perhaps from fingertips or from sweaty hands? (No!) It’s bound to have made many people assume that as long as they were washing their hands or wearing gloves, they couldn’t get or transmit the virus.
  • “I’ve just been to a hospital that had several corona virus patients and I shook hands with all of them.” (Said by Boris Johnson at a press conference on 3 March 2020.) So people are just being silly, there is no real health danger, and the Chinese are overreacting and being stupid?
  • “Be wary of people who cough. Or sneeze.” But talking and laughing spread these droplets as well! This is general, very basic knowledge. It was not available??? Really???
  • “Stay inside.” This must have caused confusion all over because now it sounds like it’s something in the air, maybe like radioactivity. Or air pollution. (Or maybe something that only posh people who exa-cise get?)

What the hell is the public supposed to think and do on the basis of all this?

Clear general information could have been provided, with a note that more details would be added later.

We didn’t know, for example, whether our pets could become ill as well, whether they could spread the virus too. If so, might it be only dogs? Or cats too, or both? We didn’t have that kind of detail yet.

But we did have the kind of detail that said: IT IS SPREAD FROM HUMAN TO HUMAN because that was clear enough to conclude from what was happening in China. COVID-19 is caused by a corona virus, so it was likely to spread like other corona viruses like the flu and the common cold. We know how they spread among us.

And, with hindsight, I say: It seemed to be highly infectious, so the possibility that asymptomatic people were spreading the virus too should have been identified early on.

(Instead, we in the west must have assumed that Asians were just being really really stupid and coughing and spitting in each other’s faces?)

I was and remain quite flabbergasted to see that my own information which was mostly pulled out of my hat (head) and from the internet has been much more complete and accurate – earlier – than what the western world’s leaders had. How on earth can this be???

A long time ago, I was a member of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), for about ten years, but I certainly do not consider myself a microbiologist or virologist. I know very little. I consider myself completely out of touch these days.

So how come I – with near-zero financial resources and no staff – appear to know and understand so much more than the western’s world’s top leaders?

Last night, I saw an American governor (Georgia’s Brian Kemp) state that he had no idea – until yesterday – that asymptomatic people can spread the virus. I’ve known that for what feels like weeks. Ten days? Two weeks?

I also note that many Asian countries have actually been doing well relative to the west, in spite of all the blaming that some politicians are doing. China is sending medical teams to help all over the world, also to the UK.

Taiwan continues to be dismissed and excluded (by the WHO; no exchange of information is formally taking place). Taiwan learned a heck of a lot from SARS (also called SARS-CoV or SARS-CoV-1) in 2002-2004 and it remembered and applied those lessons.

In theory, we in the west had access to that information too. We saw what happened in Taiwan back then, didn’t we?

Is it the decision-making that takes too long? But that too would point in the direction of a lack of preparedness.

People!

We need to change a few more things than starting to respect non-human animals more so that we stop making ourselves ill with diseases that come from what is essentially animal abuse.

The lock-down in Wuhan, China started on 23 January 2020… And the west knew about it.

There are lessons to be learned, on all sides.

It seems weird to be saying all that from the sidelines.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/23/how-coronavirus-advice-from-boris-johnson-has-changed

But this here, this too, seems to be saying that leadership is “not done”:

“Coronavirus: US Navy removes Captain Brett Crozier who raised alarm”

“The commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt has been removed after saying the US Navy was not doing enough to halt a coronavirus outbreak on board the aircraft carrier.”

 

How can we support supermarket staff? Etc

Yesterday, I read on Twitter that a guy made someone at a Coop checkout burst into tears just because he thanked the person.

On Friday, the initial flash of emotion on the person’s face surprised me when I said “Stay well” to someone at a reception desk somewhere else. That too made me think few people had been expressing concerns for the people behind that counter.

I am often not great at it either.

Earlier this week, at Aldi, I thought I saw some tension in the person at the checkout, not surprisingly. I wish I could do something about that. When I got home, I noticed that one of the products I had bought had some substance on them and it took me a while to realize that the person at the checkout likely had been using a lot of hand sanitizer.

Although that helps, I don’t think it is enough and there is also the important task of doing things for the sole purpose of reassuring staff (making them feel protected) to help keep their stress levels down.

It kept bothering me.

I looked into what was happening in the Netherlands and read that screens had been placed around some checkout counters at DIY stores, though I haven’t been able to find any photos of it yet. Possibly, this was done to maintain the recommended distance (which protects people against this spray of tiny droplets of saliva when we speak).

(Update: When I looked into it some more just now, I saw that the Albert Heijn supermarket chain will be placing acrylic screens.)(Not sure if this is for the entire chain.)

(Update: I also found a video of a Dutch DIY store placing screens and staff saying they are really happy about that: https://www.nhnieuws.nl/nieuws/264087/spuugsschotten-moeten-caissieres-wormerveer-tegen-het-coronavirus-beschermen)

I think that placing any kind of larger screen around the people operating the checkouts might go a long way toward keeping their stress levels down. (In some supermarkets, the distance between them and the customers is smaller than at others.)

Such a screen could be acrylic (or wood or maybe even cardboard, with a small opening that might be covered with plastic, but even not covering it up but having a screen should already help protect checkout staff somewhat from the teenie tiny small droplets that fly from our mouths when we speak).

Having them wear gloves that they discard during breaks, into bins that have bags in them (liners) and then using new ones might be good but they’d go through a lot of gloves that way. But it would work as a physical reminder for them to stop them from touching their faces, which happens so automatically. (I too constantly catch myself doing things I know I shouldn’t be doing.)

Signs at counters – such as at Royal Mail – need to be at face height for standing people because we look at people first and only notice signs placed on the counter later. (But the signs on the counter may need to stay in place, too, for anyone who uses a wheelchair or mobility scooter.)

If you are working checkouts, also consider doing anything that stops your hair from falling into your face if you’d then automatically would want to push the hair out of your face – and touch your face at the same time.

And if you go to the supermarket, don’t use cash to pay if you can help it so that the cashiers don’t need to touch money.

To help protect supermarket staff. To help make them feel safer.

After customers leave the supermarket, they too should take care and for instance wash hands when they get home, but they’re already doing that, I am sure.

Regular cleaning of the self-checkout tills – to protect staff – is needed as well, but I am sure that that is already being done.

Particularly key people (management, local government) have to start doing things that will feel like total paranoia to them to protect themselves because so many people rely on them in so many ways.

Government officials and key managers may want to look into n-acetyl cysteine and assess whether it might help keep them maintain more functionality should they become infected, even though there are no data on this yet. See for example:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0882401017300505

While I am typing this, it feels like I am exaggerating, being totally over the top, but I only need to remind myself of Northern Italy to realise… no, I am not and the only thing that seems to have been able to stop (which may be merely “slow it down enough”?) the virus is to shut down all contact, the way it happened in China. (What that means for the long term is hard to tell. Delayed peaks, the virus coming back later and all that.)

Yes, I am bored as I have nothing else to do (which goes with my life in England at just about any time) and I like looking for solutions. And, also, I am furious about the weather gods having dropped the temperatures. At least it’s sunny. That’s something.