Some of you might know of the directives of the Mayor of the New York City on the closure of public schools. Then, the Governor of the NY State said that those Sheriffs who did not follow his dictatorial directives were dictators themselves! He even wanted an extra approval process for the administration of Covid vaccines (over and above FDA approval) in New York State. Quite what he has in mind for his state is hard to guess.
That said, re-opening schools, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that children are quite safe, it is the teachers who are not yet ready to come to the schools. See this story in WSJ. It makes for sad reading. Partly, it is due to the fear & hysteria that the American media has built up. See below.
On the collateral damage of the panic and fright, Blue Cross reports on missed vaccinations for children. Via James Freeman in WSJ:
Millions of children have missed routine vaccinations this year, causing a precipitous drop in immunizations that threatens to leave communities throughout the U.S. at risk of losing protection against highly contagious diseases, including measles, whooping cough and polio…
As the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Americans to postpone or avoid receiving routine medical care, children are on track to miss an estimated 9 million vaccination doses in 2020, a decrease of up to 26% in childhood vaccination doses compared to 2019…
“The U.S. is on the precipice of a severe immunization crisis among children,” said Dr. Vincent Nelson, chief medical officer at BCBSA… According to the new BCBSA data, 40% of parents and legal guardians say their children missed vaccinations due to the pandemic. [Link]
Then, there is the NBER paper on how the media created a huge scare. Its effects are going to be felt for a few more years:
We analyze the tone of COVID-19 related English-language news articles written since January 1, 2020. Ninety one percent of stories by U.S. major media outlets are negative in tone versus fifty four percent for non-U.S. major sources and sixty five percent for scientific journals.
The negativity of the U.S. major media is notable even in areas with positive scientific developments including school re-openings and vaccine trials.
Media negativity is unresponsive to changing trends in new COVID-19 cases or the political leanings of the audience.
U.S. major media readers strongly prefer negative stories about COVID-19, and negative stories in general.
Stories of increasing COVID-19 cases outnumber stories of decreasing cases by a factor of 5.5 even during periods when new cases are declining.
Among U.S. major media outlets, stories discussing President Donald Trump and hydroxychloroquine are more numerous than all stories combined that cover companies and individual researchers working on COVID-19 vaccines. [Link]
You can download the paper from the above link. All emphases mine. It is not hard to guess the motives of the mainstream media here.
In spite of this paper being covered by WSJ, WSJ could not resist giving a major play to a largely speculative study at this stage. It really serves no public purpose other than to frighten and make people nervous.
Similarly, there was a report about how Sweden’s herd immunity strategy had gone to pieces. But when I checked the data at worldometers.info, the numbers did not back up the extravagant claims made in the article. At least, not yet.
Dr. Kulvinder Kaur is a doctor practising in Canada. I don’t know her personally. I stumbled upon her twitter handle through other twitter handles I track.
She has tweeted on the first peer-reviewed study linking obesity to covid-related morbidity:
First peer-reviewed meta-analysis capturing 399,461 Covid-19 pts globally found: people with obesity contracting SARSCoV2 were 113% more likely to be hospitalized than ppl of healthy weight, 74% more likely to be admitted to ICU & 48% more likely to die. [Link]
The study itself is here and the abstract extract:
Pooled analysis show individuals with obesity were more at risk for COVID‐19 positive, >46.0% higher (OR = 1.46; 95% CI, 1.30–1.65; p < 0.0001); for hospitalization, 113% higher (OR = 2.13; 95% CI, 1.74–2.60; p < 0.0001); for ICU admission, 74% higher (OR = 1.74; 95% CI, 1.46–2.08); and for mortality, 48% increase in deaths (OR = 1.48; 95% CI, 1.22–1.80; p < 0.001).
Mechanistic pathways for individuals with obesity are presented in depth for factors linked with COVID‐19 risk, severity and their potential for diminished therapeutic and prophylactic treatments among these individuals. Individuals with obesity are linked with large significant increases in morbidity and mortality from COVID‐19.
There are many mechanisms that jointly explain this impact. A major concern is that vaccines will be less effective for the individuals with obesity.
She has also tweeted on another peer-reviewed study:
French peer-reviewed study of 160 countries: no association between stringency of govt lockdowns/restrictions & Covid-19 mortality “Inherent factors predetermined mortality: improve prevention strategies by increasing population resilience—better physical fitness & immunity. [Link]
From the abstract of the paper:
Context: The human development territories have been severely constrained under the Covid-19 pandemic. A common dynamics has been observed, but its propagation has not been homogeneous over each continent. We aimed at characterizing the non-viral parameters that were most associated with death rate.
Methods: We tested major indices from five domains (demography, public health, economy, politics, environment) and their potential associations with Covid-19 mortality during the first 8 months of 2020, through a Principal Component Analysis and a correlation matrix with a Pearson correlation test. Data of all countries, or states in federal countries, showing at least 10 fatality cases, were retrieved from official public sites. For countries that have not yet finished the first epidemic phase, a prospective model has been computed to provide options of death rates evolution.
Results: Higher Covid death rates are observed in the [25/65°] latitude and in the [−35/−125°] longitude ranges. The national criteria most associated with death rate are life expectancy and its slowdown, public health context (metabolic and non-communicable diseases (NCD) burden vs. infectious diseases prevalence), economy (growth national product, financial support), and environment (temperature, ultra-violet index). Stringency of the measures settled to fight pandemia, including lockdown, did not appear to be linked with death rate.
Conclusion: Countries that already experienced a stagnation or regression of life expectancy, with high income and NCD rates, had the highest price to pay. This burden was not alleviated by more stringent public decisions. Inherent factors have predetermined the Covid-19 mortality: understanding them may improve prevention strategies by increasing population resilience through better physical fitness and immunity. [Link]
Lockdown policies adversely affect obesity levels and immunity levels and make the public more and not less vulnerable to the virus.
That is why it is important and good that the Indian government has ruled against any local lockdowns by states.
Finally, I am more than half way through ‘The Price of Panic’ published in July this year. From that book, I learnt that the World Health Organisation itself had published guidelines in October 2019 on dealing with epidemic and pandemic influenza. The report is titled, ‘Non-pharmaceutical public health measures for mitigating the risk and impact of epidemic and pandemic influenza.’ It is available here.
The conclusions appear very similar to the ones reached by the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins University in their report published a month earlier in September 2019. I had blogged on it here. A reader rather helpfully commented on that blog post and called the authors (doctors and scientists) ‘mediocre’!
The authors of ‘The price of panic’ ask the right question:
Why didn’t this bombshell of a report make headlines around the world? It came out just a few months before the coronavirus panic. It was sober and thorough, containing references to over 240 scientific papers and other works.
But few people wanted calm reasoning when the panic set in. Once the pandemic escalated from a medical thing to a political and social thing, the report seemed dull. Instead, WHO, the CDC,10 and everyone else urged us to be the guinea pigs in a multi-trillion-dollar social experiment that had never been run before, and with precious little evidence in its favor.
My personal view is that the authors do have their educated guesses but did not want to go down that path, for some reason.
First of all, it is rather odd that the Center for Biosecurity at JHU and the WHO should both discuss the merits and demerits of non-pharmaceutical interventions in September and October 2019 respectively and publish their reports, barely a month or two before the virus started circulating in China. I am discounting (nay, dismissing) recent stories that the virus was circulating in Italy well before that. That seems rather fishy to me.
Then, after the pandemic is declared, they proceed to disregard their own recommendations. The authors of ‘The Price of Panic’ attribute it to panic and do not ask further questions. That is rather lame.