Miscellaneous Updates #1

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March 21, 2020 1:15 p.m.
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*** The President is now actively pushing Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin as potential miracle drugs for COVID-19 via Twitter. There is no substantial clinical evidence that these two drugs are effective against the disease. There is some very limited anecdotal reporting of possible efficacy but evidence based on actual studies or trials with control groups is not there. There’s not no evidence. This is a real possibility. It’s just not conclusive evidence. Anthony Fauci was very clear on this yesterday. Hydroxychloroquine is approved for malaria. But it is not an innocuous drug, certainly not if people are self-medicating. There are already reports out of Lagos, Nigeria of Hydroxychloroquine poisoning because of people self-medicating with the drug at least in part in response to President Trump pushing it. This medication may play a role. Don’t self-medicate. This isn’t some random herb. You need to know how to use it.

*** Here’s a good illustration of why the surgical hand washing technique is really pretty important.

*** In case you haven’t seen it, The Washington Post last night published the first of what I think were and are inevitable reports about how US intelligence agencies through January and February were going code red with warnings about severe danger globally and to the United States from COVID-19. No one could get the President to focus on it or take it seriously.

*** If you didn’t see it yesterday, read my report on the British government’s plan to stabilize employment and the economy in the UK. In short, the British government has signed on to take over payroll for everyone who cannot currently work because of the COVID-19 crisis.

*** Seasonality has been one of the big unknowns about COVID-19. Will it ebb into the Spring and Summer as weather gets warmer, as flu and colds generally do? Here are two just posted and as-yet un-peer-reviewed studies (one and two) which attempt to answer this question. First, it’s not just heat. It’s heat and humidity, which both play roles affecting the transmissibility of respiratory viruses and the relative strength of our immune systems. One study looks at cities in China in the short window of time between the beginning of aggressive tracking and the travel clampdown, adjusting for regional economic activity and population density. The other study looks at outbreaks so far around the world. They both find significant correlation between efficiency of spread and cool/temperate and dry weather. This obviously does not mean “good news, it’ll go away in May!” One critical thing to remember is that COVID-19 is a virgin soil epidemic. It has huge advantages over established colds and flus to which the global population has significant built-in immunity. But in conjunction with social distancing and other measures, this could mean some relative let up in the summer and return in the fall. Also significant, this could mean it may never hit Africa and tropical regions with quite the same force. That’s obviously a huge deal in itself since these countries lack robust health care systems. I stress again: these are highly preliminary, as yet-un-peer-reviewed studies using data modeling to look at possible seasonality patterns. They do not prove anything. But in a world of chaos and incomplete data they are suggestive of important information.

*** There is now significant evidence that the unfolding COVID-19 Crisis is elevating President Trump’s approval as President. That is obviously confounding and upsetting to many given just how poorly he has handled this and the degree to which his denial and refusal to prepare has endangered so many. I’m seeing many people blaming the media or Democrats for not making this case strongly enough. I see many saying it’s because Democrats aren’t making bold enough relief proposals. Those points may all be true. But I’d argue strongly against drawing these conclusions. We are in the midst of a world historical crisis unlike anything any of us have experienced in our lives. Some of us have individually experienced things which may be comparable. None of us have lived in a world where all of humanity was going through the same thing at once. We don’t know how polls operate in that environment. My assumption is that there is a huge tendency to rally around political leadership regardless. You don’t want to think the people you’re relying on aren’t doing a good job. I don’t know whether that theory is right or not. I simply caution people from drawing inferences when we’re in an unprecedented situation and normal rules and expected behaviors may not apply.

*** Cody, Wyoming went into lockdown yesterday after a health care worker at a local hospital tested positive for COVID-19. County health officer Dr. Aaron Billin said his staff believe the whole hospital (West Park Hospital) was exposed to the virus.

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.

COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).

IHME Projections Site (COVID-19 epidemic model which has become the canonical model for many states and hospitals.)

Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).

Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).

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