COVID-19: Frustration

Many years ago I read about scientists in Alaska unearthing a mass grave of 1918 influenza victims. The hope was to recover some live viruses so they pandemic could be studied. That’s when I learned that The 1918 flu killed more people than WWI.

The documentarian’s comment went something like this: Americans seem to be incapable of concentrating on more than one tragic event at a time. For this reason, the 1918 flu went, for the most part, under the radar of most historians.

Did you learn about that pandemic when you were in school? I’m certain it didn’t appear in my history books alongside the WWI chapters.

I feel like we’re there again. Today’s news eclipses yesterday’s. People are still dying of this pandemic. And unfortunately, today’s news might just be making it worse.

Maybe it’s because CoCo and one of my neice’s had COVID-19. Maybe it’s because I’m a microbiologist. Maybe it’s because I worked in an FDA regulated environment.

Did you learn about that pandemic when you were in school? I know it didn’t appear in my history books alongside the WWI chapters

In the United State, over 106,000 people died as of yesterday. In my State, the only State to meet the President’s own guidelines, which for some reason he seems to have abandoned, 5,412 people died. Almost two million people in America became sick. And that’s only the confirmed cases. If you placed all the people who have confirmed cases of COVID-19 together into Chicago homes and moved out the current residents, they would displace the entire population of Chicago.

I’m afraid.

I’m afraid we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg. I’m afraid we’re in too much of a hurry to just do something. I’m afraid our collective attention span is short.

That’s just the confirmed cases. Many people have COVID-19 and are not counted. Often those are the people who don’t have transportation so can’t access a testing site, have asymptomatic illness, or what’s considered a mild case.

A mild case is often not so mild. CoCo had COVID-19. It lasted for seven and a half weeks. Besides the coughing, loss of taste and smell, headache, dizziness, and intestinal distress, CoCo had a fever for almost the whole time. Lucky for CoCo, she has health insurance, short-term disability benefits, an empathetic employer, and she has family nearby.

I shudder to think of the damage an illness that last for weeks has on the livelihood of people who don’t have a safety net.

States and communities count COVID-19 cases differently.

During annual Flu outbreaks, “Influenza-like illnesses” are counted.

Many people have COVID-19 and are not counted. Often those are the people who don’t have transportation so can’t access a testing site, have asymptomatic illness, or what’s considered a mild case.

One County in the State I live in had no COVID-19 cases. A little digging revealed that the County decided to test absolutely no one.

While CoCo was ill, the COVID Hotline called me every day to check up on her. CoCo couldn’t get the test because she wasn’t sick enough to be in the hospital. Thank God.

Authorized for Emergency Use (AEU) is different from FDA Approved.

“The test has somewhere between 15 and 67% false positives,” one of the more experienced COVID nurses told me. “If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck…”

I know, I know. Despite not test, It’s COVID-19.

The antibody test revealed very low levels of antibodies in CoCo’s system. With a disclaimer.

Tests performed by the Abbot Architect SARS-CoV-2 IgG method. This test has been approved for EUA by the FDA. Negative results do not rule out SARS-CoV-2 infection, particularly in those who have been in contact with the virus….Results from antibody testing should not be used as the sole basis to diagnose or exclude SARS-CoV-2 infection status. Positive results may be due to past or present infection with non-SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus strains, such as coronavirus HKU1, NL63, OC43, or 229E. Not for the screening of donated blood.

Northwestern Medicine

FDA Approved means that the manufacturer of the test/vaccine/medicine/device/etc. proved effectiveness and safety. AEU means it should be safe and effective. For COVID-19, in many cases, no data is even submitted for review.

A mild case is often not so mild.

CoCo had COVID-19. It lasted for seven and a half weeks. Besides the coughing, loss of taste and smell, headache, dizziness, and intestinal distress, CoCo had a fever for almost the whole time. Lucky for CoCo, she has health insurance, short-term disability benefits, an empathetic employer, and she has family nearby.

My niece, too, took weeks to recover. According to the COVID Hotline, 48 days of illness is far from unusual.

I shudder to think of the damage an illness that last for weeks has on the livelihood of people who don’t have a safety net.

Vaccine progress is cautiously optimistic

I hear a lot about Moderna Therapeutic’s innovative approach with mRNA technology. Yet, Moderna has no history of success with vaccines and the data they generated for a COVID-19 vaccine has not been peer reviewed.

…mRNA vaccines struggled with weakened stability. Once inside the body, the mRNA from a vaccine breaks down faster than DNA, which also limits the immune potency. Additionally, mRNA can aggravate immune cells, causing adverse reactions. 

National Geographi, May 29, 2020

People spread infectious diseases

That gets me back to America’s inability to focus on more than one thing.

The best way to spread any infectious disease is to crowd people together. In 1918, soldiers spread influenza in ships, in trenches, and on the battlefield. Today, we have demonstrations all over the country; actually, all over the world.

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Cities and States, some which just began loosening restrictions, brace for an uptick in cases. In Minneapolis the number of hospitalized is rising. According to the Associated Press, “The unrest has coincided with the very worst days of the pandemic so far in the Twin Cities.”

We need more than a wish and a prayer.

In 1918, we had virtually no understanding of viruses. We had no tests, and we had no knowledge of antibodies.

Perhaps the best solution is the simplest solution. The old fashioned solution.

  • Isolate and care for the sick.
  • Isolate those who come in contact with the sick for the two week incubation period.
  • Wear masks to protect each other.

Everyone wants to get back to normal. We’re on our way to a new normal. I’m certain of that.

Wise words from a wise guy:

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One of many Andrew Cuomo slides
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