In 1918, when faced with the Spanish flu, the world did not have drugs or vaccines to aid them in their fight. The only tools they had were masks, social distancing, and quarantines. Hmm! Sounds oddly familiar, does it not? But wait, it gets better. They also faced lost jobs, severe damage to the economy, and protests. In other words, just as we see today, there was incredible pressure to break quarantine and open up ASAP. And, as we are seeing today, each city, state, and country responded to that pressure differently. Some resisted; some caved; and some even led the charge to reopen their economy.
What they learned was that those locations that resisted the pressure and held onto the quarantine a little longer and that then eased out of quarantine in a controlled manner, in the end faced far less death, far less disruption, and far less damage to their economies than those that rushed back in. , The problem was that those who lifted quarantine too soon faced a resurgence of the virus that killed even more people than in the first round, were forced to reimplement the quarantine for far longer than those areas that had held the course, and thus had much more severe economic consequences. Guess which path much of the world, and especially many areas in the United States, have chosen to follow in this pandemic?
If you believe what you are hearing from many world leaders and the media, we have turned the corner on COVID-19. The lockdown has not just flattened the curve, it has magically vanquished the virus. The lockdown, to varying degrees, is being dismantled around the world. In the United States, specifically:
People are emerging for the first time in weeks, exercising their Constitutional right to freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion.
Many have abandoned their sissy masks.
Images of people congregating in bars and on beaches are filling the airwaves.
Restaurants are reopening in many states.
Professional sports are announcing their imminent return.
And the stock market is booming again.
All is well, right? If only.
Look, I do not mean to be a Donnie Downer, but maybe, not so fast.
As the Spanish philosopher and poet George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Apparently, he was talking about us.
I Am Not a Virologist, but I Did Stay at a Holiday Inn Express
Let me begin by clearly stating that I do not do fearmongering. Over the years, I have addressed the SARS scare in 2003, avian flu in 2005, the Swine Flu in 2009, and Ebola in 2014 and 2019. In each case, public health authorities warned of the coming epidemic; the media jumped on the bandwagon with a vengeance, each trying to top the next with lurid headlines proclaiming the imminent end of life as we know it. Even many alternative health bloggers felt the need to join the chorus and terrify you with tales of the coming zombie wars. In each case, I suggested that the threat was nowhere near as dire as presented and that the ultimate impact of each “epidemic” was more likely to be economic and psychological than actually health related.
For example, in 2014, when many websites and pundits were predicting 1.4 million deaths around the world as a result of the Ebola epidemic, I said, “The bottom line is that there is little chance of Ebola spreading outside of Africa unless enough people in the West become distrustful of their own governments’ intentions, and then motivated by fear, they make the same kind of misguided decisions as the people in West Africa and end up turning a small outbreak into a full-blown epidemic. Truly, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
In other words, when I stated earlier this year on February 27th, two days before the first death from COVID-19 was even announced, that we were facing a pandemic, it was the first time in almost 50 years of writing on health and nutrition that I had ever used those words. And it turned out to be true. In fact, almost everything I said in that newsletter has played out exactly as I predicted.
So, how did I do that?
To be absolutely clear, I am not a virologist (not even a medical doctor), but I have been studying pandemics and immunity for almost 50 years, so I am an extremely knowledgeable “amateur.” Yes, specialists like Dr. Fauci know far, far more than I will ever dream of knowing about viruses and pandemics, but that said, I’ve put the years of study in to know far more than 99% of the pundits you now see on TV (or read on the internet), who are making it up as they go along. And perhaps that is why they have to keep doing 180’s on their predictions, whereas the predictions I made in February have turned out to be spot on.
So, I guess what I am trying to tell you is that what I am about to explain in the rest of this newsletter is based on rational, science-based projection, not fearmongering.
And one other note before we begin: I do not do politics in these newsletters. Do I have a political opinion? Absolutely! But I will not express it on this website. The purpose of this site is to provide honest health and nutrition information from a natural health perspective; and turning off half our readers by expressing political likes and dislikes would be a disservice. The only time I mention anything political is when those politics directly affect your health. For example: when I called out the current administration back in 2018 for:
Removing most of the financing for State Department emergency responses (including those for Health and Human Services) and shutting down our pandemic response capability.
Orchestrating the departure of the National Security Council’s health security chief, Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, who was in charge of coordinating any response to a potential pandemic.
And shutting down our entire pandemic prevention office, leaving the United States with no clear line of authority for responding to any outbreak of disease
It was about health, not politics. And as we have seen in the last six months since the virus first came to the attention of the world outside of China, it turned out to be remarkably prescient.
And why the political disclaimer? Well, it is because everything about COVID-19 has become politicized. It is now impossible to talk about any aspect of COVID-19 without stepping on somebody’s toes–on both sides of the political spectrum.
Quarantining has become fascist, socialist, communist, and a violation of Constitutional rights. It is, of course, none of these. And it is an impossibility to be all of them since most of those terms are self-contradictory. But hey!
Both masks and social distancing are a denial of masculinity, our individual freedoms, and a violation of Constitutional rights.
Accurately counting the number of deaths from the coronavirus has become a matter of political debate and a denial of our Constitutional rights.
Tracking down the people who might have been in contact with someone who is infected is now considered an Orwellian scheme involving George Soros and the Clintons–not a joke.
Even just revealing the number of deaths in some states has become a political question and a denial of our Constitutional rights.
Heck, we are now rebranding those who die from COVID-19 as “warriors” and “fallen heroes” to make their deaths more politically acceptable and claiming that anyone who says otherwise is violating their Constitutional rights.
How did we get here? (By the way, if you’re from outside the United States, you substitute your protesters and your Constitution for ours in the following paragraphs.)
Is There a Constitutional Right to Defy the Quarantine?
And the answer is: perhaps, and it depends. The standard Constitutional argument used to challenge state quarantines rests on two citations.
The First Amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Article VI, Paragraph 2
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
In other words, the First Amendment gives us the right to go to church and to assemble in any size groups we want, wherever we want (at work, in restaurants, in public protests, and in sports stadiums, for example)—COVID-19 be damned. And Article VI, Paragraph 2 says that no state can override those rights. Thus, ipso facto, any quarantine that inhibits those rights is a violation of our Constitutional rights.
However, there are several problems with that argument. First, taking things out of context and pairing them together can lead to some bizarre conclusions. For example, taken separately, the proverbs “Look before you leap” and “He who hesitates is lost” contain wisdom. Pair them together, “Look before you leap, for he who hesitates is lost” and you have erudite sounding nonsense. And second, and more importantly, the courts have already ruled on this issue. One highly relevant example would be the 1905 Supreme Court ruling in Jacobson v Massachusetts in which the court upheld the Cambridge, Mass, Board of Health’s authority to require vaccination against smallpox during a smallpox epidemic. Most notably, in Paragraph 6 of their ruling, they stated:
The authority of the state to enact this statute is to be referred to what is commonly called the police power,—a power which the state did not surrender when becoming a member of the Union under the Constitution. Although this court has refrained from any attempt to define the limits of that power, yet it has distinctly recognized the authority of a state to enact quarantine laws and ‘health laws of every description;’ indeed, all laws that relate to matters completely within its territory and which do not by their necessary operation affect the people of other states. According to settled principles, the police power of a state must be held to embrace, at least, such reasonable regulations established directly by legislative enactment as will protect the public health and the public safety.
And no ruling in the past century has challenged this sovereign power of States to make laws of all kinds. That said, what has changed since Jacobson v Massachusetts is the Court’s recognition of the importance of individual liberty and how it limits, but does not override, that power. Preserving the public’s health now requires preserving respect for personal liberty—but again, not overturning the right of States to enact laws to protect the public health and safety.
Let Me Offer a Hypothetical
Let us see if we can bypass the legal back and forth here and cut to the heart of the matter with a hypothetical scenario. If you are a Constitutional rights advocate when it comes to quarantines, how do you feel about the following?
A family infected and highly contagious with the Sudan strain of the Ebola virus, which has a 71% fatality rate, pops up in your community and insists on defying quarantine and exercising their Constitutional right to attend church (which happens to be your church) in assembly with your family and all your neighbors’ families. Do you support them in their exercise of their Constitutional rights even if it means your spouse and all of your children die? Does Fox and Friends invite them to the studio to join them on the couch and tell America how they are exercising their Constitutional rights?
If not, then you are acknowledging the limits of your personal Constitutional rights and, concomitantly, the right of the state to exercise enforced quarantines and even vaccinations, at least in some cases, on behalf of its citizens. The argument then comes down to whether or not the COVID-19 pandemic qualifies as “one of those cases.”
But More to the Point
Full-scale quarantine should never have been an issue in the first place. We should never have been put in the position of having to quarantine large sections of the population indefinitely. Unlike the 1918 pandemic, we have one thing they did not have then: the ability to test for a particular virus. Total population quarantine only became a necessity in those countries that never had an adequate test, trace, and isolate program out of the gate—in fact, six months in, the United States still does not have adequate levels of any of them. If, as a country, the U.S. had been on its game and headed the warnings, the only people who would need to be quarantined would be those who tested positive for the virus and those who had been in direct contract with them—and then, only for fourteen days. The only reason we were forced to implement a nationwide lockdown is because we were (and still are) flying blind. If you do not know who is infected and have no idea whom they might have infected, then your only alternative is put everyone in quarantine. And then, if you do not know when people are clear of infection, you have no idea when to lift the quarantine, so you are stuck with an indefinite quarantine.
If you want to blame anyone, blame the government officials who ignored the warnings, and blame the media that gave those officials a free pass and even encouraged their inaction. And even if you want to cut them some slack for not acting quickly enough (after all, who knew for sure what was going on in the early days), there is no conceivable excuse for not having adequate testing six months into the pandemic. If you are going to complain that the quarantine is an infringement of your Constitutional rights, then at least hold the elected officials responsible for putting us in this position accountable. As Keith Humphreys of Stanford University points out, the obstacles to mounting a nationwide “test, trace, and isolate program” are not technical—Germany and South Korea have managed to do so. The challenges are political and cultural in a country that has been trained since the Reagan administration to mistrust the government.
Where Are We Now?
We have now passed 100,000 deaths in the US, more deaths than in any other country in the world—by a long shot. By the way, just for some perspective, just a couple of months ago, many pundits were calling the COVID-19 pandemic a hoax and comparing it to the flu, pointing out that flu kills more people every year than the coronavirus. Doesn’t that pronouncement look just a bit off the mark now? And keep in mind, that while the flu does kill 55,000 a year in the United States, on average, and the coronavirus has only killed 100,000 so far, that sidesteps a vital point. For the flu, that total is for an entire year. For the coronavirus, in the United States, it only took three months to go from one death to 100,000. In other words, that number is going to keep climbing for another nine months before we can compare it to the annual totals for the flu. But to understand how high that number might go, we need to first understand the difference between Basic and Effective reproduction numbers. (Fortunately, this just happens to be part of a chapter I just finished in the rewrite of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, so I was able to just cut and paste it here. But I digress.)
Basic VS Effective Reproduction Numbers: R0
One quantity scientists use to measure how a disease spreads through a population is the “basic reproduction number,” otherwise known as R0 (pronounced “R naught”). In epidemiology, the basic reproduction number of an infection can be thought of as the expected number of cases directly generated by one person/case in a population where all individuals are susceptible to infection and no mitigation is in place. This number tells us how many people, on average, each infected person is likely to infect. While it does not tell us how deadly a particular virus (actually any kind of disease) is, R0 is a measure of how infectious it is and, therefore, helps guide governments and health organizations as to what containment strategies to implement. The “effective reproduction number,” on the other hand, reflects the R0 after it has been mitigated by factors such as increased natural herd immunity, social distancing, and the wearing of masks. As Governor Cuomo is now so fond of reminding us about COVID-19, If the effective R0 is less than 1, the disease will get less and less. An effective R0 larger than 1 means each sick person infects more than one other person on average, who then infects others, so the disease will grow, spreading through the population at an ever-increasing rate. For instance, a typical seasonal flu strain has an R0 of around 1.2, which means for every five infected people, the disease will spread to six new people on average, who pass it along to others. COVID-19, on the other hand has a basic R0 of 2.5, which makes it 66% more infectious than the flu, but with mitigation, its effective rate can be pushed below 1, as it is, for the moment, in a number of states and countries around the world. (Incidentally, COVID-19 is far deadlier than the flu, but that is incidental to the R0, so we will leave that point for now.)
It is important to remember, as we just explained, that basic R0 is a statistical estimate of how a disease spreads in a particular population if it is left unchecked. SARS, for example, has a higher R0 value (3.5) than the seasonal flu, but never spread widely enough to become a worldwide epidemic because governments acted aggressively to keep its “effective reproduction number” below 1.0. Flu, on the other hand, is always widespread despite having a relatively small basic reproduction number—the CDC estimates between 3 and 11 percent of the US population gets sick with the flu every year—because governments take no steps beyond vaccination to lower that number. It is common practice for people with colds and flu to go to work and infect anyone around them who is not immune.
The bottom line is that without mitigation, all these diseases would be catastrophic.
Note: there is one other mitigation factor that needs to be accounted for: weather. President Trump suggested that when the weather warmed up, the virus would magically disappear. That’s not going to happen. But, then again, he was onto something. As it turns out, according to public-health expert Ali Mokdad, the chief strategy officer for population health at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, “For every increase in heat of 1 degree Celsius (the equivalent of 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), we are seeing about 2% decline in transmission. We find this relationship in our data and possibly it would be more when the weather warms up this month.” In other words, as temperatures increase, you are looking at a slowing of the virus, but nothing close to magically disappearing. And it also means that when temperatures cool in the fall, you are likely looking at an accelerating factor—and therefore, a resurgence.
Look, the bottom line is this virus is infecting so many people with asymptomatic to mild symptoms that its almost uncontrollable. As I said back in February, it gives every sign of settling into the human population. In several years, unless an effective and annually updated vaccine is widely deployed each season, it is likely we will be looking at an annual cold, flu, and COVID-19 season for the foreseeable future.
So, How Many Deaths Are We Talking About?
This is the big question, isn’t it?
Some pundits suggest that the current “official figures” are far too high, that a number of flu deaths have mistakenly identified as the coronavirus, and that is true. However, an even stronger argument can be made that we are undercounting deaths from the coronavirus, that the real number could be double the official count. In fact, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine on May 14th found that during the week ending April 21, the number of reported coronavirus deaths was 20 times higher than influenza deaths reported during the deadliest week of flu season (over a seven-year average). Based on this analysis, the researchers concluded that the current number of COVID-19 deaths might “substantially understate” the actual number of fatalities.
For now, though, let us just use the official numbers.
The first officially declared death from the virus in the US occurred on February 29th. Yes, it is likely that many people died before then, but since we do not have an official tally of those deaths, we cannot use those numbers in our calculations. In any case, the fundamental point is that it took just three months to go from 1 to 100,000. Now, it is important to acknowledge that those deaths are weighted to infections that occurred in the first few weeks before any states instituted measures to mitigate the rate of infection. In other words, the rate of infection (and thus, ultimately, deaths) was higher when there was no mitigation and the virus was spreading at its basic reproduction number. The rate of both infection and deaths (given a two-to-three-week lag time) began to slow once mitigation produced a lower effective reproduction number. And what do we mean by mitigation? Vaccines, of course, can be a major mitigating factor (and we’ll talk more about them in a moment), but in the absence of vaccines, the major mitigators (and the ones that have been employed to control the pandemic to this point) are the same ones employed in 1918: quarantines, social distancing, hand washing, tracking, and masks.
So, let me translate that. Through the first three months, we have been losing about 1,000 people a day on average. If we were to continue the nationwide lockdown, we would expect that number to trend downward as we moved forward. Surprisingly, a key coronavirus model out of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington says that number was trending down to around 688 deaths a day even as quarantines were lifted. The researchers expressed surprise, saying, “We were expecting to probably go up because of the big surge in mobility.” They believe the difference lies in the number of individuals wearing masks and that people are being careful to keep their distance from others.
While some states have announced that they are relaxing their quarantines slowly and carefully, other states, driven by political and economic factors, have pretty much thrown open the gates. Not surprisingly, emboldened by the cavalier attitudes of those politicians, many citizens have decided to “see” the open gates policy and raise it to the “let’s party” level. In other words, they have decided to abandon masks and social distancing and pretend that COVID-19 is either in full retreat or was a hoax to begin with.
Tens of thousands recently descended upon the nation’s beaches as though the virus never existed.
And then there is the fact that Carnival Cruises reopened a limited number of routes in early May for bookings starting in August. Not a big deal by itself, but according to a report from TMZ, cruise reservations made through an American Express travel franchise are through the roof, up 200 percent from where they were at this time last year.
Or what about the 3,000-person impromptu block party that turned violent in Florida as the Governor relaxed the quarantine?
Finally, over the Memorial Day weekend, beaches from coast to coast and along the southern tip in Florida, Texas, and more were packed. Lakes saw an influx of boaters and partiers. Although many practiced social distancing, not everyone did, and the large crowds made the six-foot rule moot in many instances.
People gather on the beach for the Memorial Day weekend in Port Aransas, Texas, Saturday, May 23, 2020. Beachgoers are being urged to practice social distancing to guard against COVID-19. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) AP Images
Yes, a large majority of people in the United States are rightfully concerned about the virus and will continue to keep their distance from other people no matter what the President and Governors say about opening the economy. But as we are now seeing, there is a substantial minority that will handle things quite differently. In the name of freedom, false bravery, or simply believing that the whole thing is a hoax. They will brazenly try to take the virus on, face to face—which is exactly the wrong way to take on any virus.
Not surprisingly, then, and contrary to the IMHE prediction, on May 19th, the number of COVID-19 deaths spiked to 1,552 rather than moving down. So, projecting out, even if we use the conservative IMHE model of 688 deaths a day that assumes people are going to be responsible, we are still looking at 244,000 deaths by year’s end. And if we use the May 19th numbers as our model, we are looking at 415,000 deaths. And if we have an actual resurgence of the virus in the fall, as most health experts are predicting, we are looking at a probable 700,000+ deaths by year end. Now to give you some perspective, the leading causes of death in the US are:
Heart disease: 647,457
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
That means, that in the United States, COVID-19, depending on which numbers we hit, will rank either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd as the leading cause of death in 2020. And keep in mind, it is going to hit that mark in just nine months, not 12!
And when it comes to resurgence, as Lothar Wieler, the president of the Robert Koch Institute said, “We know with great certainty that there will be a second wave. The majority of scientists are sure of this. One also assumes there will be a third wave.” He went on to say, “This is a pandemic, and in a pandemic this virus will remain on our list of medical concerns until 60% to 70% of the population have been infected (or vaccinated).”
Is the Cure Worse than the Disease?
Look, I have to admit that I have not been a fan of Fox’s coverage of COVID-19.
They have compared it to the flu, but the flu does not kill 100,000 people in 90 days.
They have called it a hoax, but only if you ignore all the people dying.
They have claimed that the number of deaths has been greatly exaggerated, but if anything, the number of deaths has been greatly underreported.
They have claimed that the quarantine is a violation of our Constitutional rights, but the Constitution clearly allows states to take steps, with certain limitations, that are necessary to protect their citizens.
They have promoted bogus cures and then doubled down even after those “cures” have been proven to be bogus.
But one thing they have not got wrong is when they say, “The cure must not be worse than the problem.” How their pundits answer the question inherent in this statement (How many deaths are worth how much money?) may be at issue, but not the question itself. And responding, as do most of the other networks, that to even think this way is callous and inhumane, that even one death is too many, is disingenuous at the very least. In fact, we deal with this issue all the time. For example:
About 38,000 people die every year in highway crashes in the U.S., about 1.35 million worldwide. And yet no one suggests that we take cars off the road and stop people from driving. Yes, we try and make driving safer, but we have accepted the tradeoff that the value of automobile transportation outweighs 1.35 million deaths a year.
Multiple epidemiological studies have established an increased risk of bladder, colon, and rectal cancer from drinking water treated with chlorine. And yet, we have determined that the use of chlorine in drinking water to reduce the risk of death from bacterial infections that cause cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery, and Legionnaires’ disease more than offsets the deaths from the use of chlorine itself.
And of course, the fact that we allow companies to market high fat, high sodium, high sugar foods that cause hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer simply because they generate massive profits for large corporations and because people have literally become addicted to them is a trade-off of dubious value, at best, but a tradeoff we make nonetheless.
So, questioning whether the cure is worse than the problem is not unreasonable. If I were to ask, is $3 trillion dollars and 39 million people unemployed worth it to save just one life, most people would say no. What about two lives? 10 lives? 100? 1,000? What about 500,000—the possible difference in lives lost if we break quarantine too soon and it triggers a resurgence? Is that a tipping point cure VS problem question?
I am not going to answer that question by the way. It is above my pay grade—especially since I do not get paid for writing these newsletters. I write them because I want to and because several hundred thousand people around the world want to read them. All I am saying is that cost/benefit is a legitimate question to ask even when it comes to human life—and something we do all the time. Oh, and one other thing. If you are a government official who has a say as to when quarantine should be lifted and you are not willing to explicitly answer the question of how many lives you are willing to exchange for X number of dollars, then you have no moral authority to say that the cure is worse than the problem.
Ultimately, this is the $3 trillion dollar question: how many lives for how many dollars. And so far, I have not heard one single government official or pundit actually answer it. I have heard talking heads dance it and try and hide the real numbers or call those who die “warriors” in an attempt to reframe their deaths as something justifiable. But I have not heard a single one of them, from the President on down, actually pronounce a number. And so, we debate the question in theoretical terms, which allows everyone to feel self-righteous and morally validated without ever having to put their convictions on the scale of public scrutiny.
Incidentally, Sweden, which never issued a formal coronavirus lockdown and has instead merely encouraged citizens to stay home when they are sick and maintain social distancing when in public, in mid-May recorded the most coronavirus deaths in Europe per capita over the past week, according to data from Our World In Data, an online research publication based at the University of Oxford. I mention this because Sweden has been frequently singled out for praise by many in the anti-quarantine movement for their handling of the pandemic. Again, if you are not willing to answer the question of how many deaths are worth how many dollars, you have no moral authority to judge whether Sweden’s approach is good or bad.
By the Way
A question may occur to you right about now. How is it even possible for everyone to ignore so many deaths? I mean, if we looked out our windows and saw carts hauling away dead bodies every day, would we even be having this discussion? And the answer is simple: out of sight, out of mind. Think about this for a moment. How many people die every year in the United States from the flu? As I mentioned earlier, it is 55,000 people at the high end. Over the last 10 years, we are talking about 500,000 deaths give or take in the U.S. alone. That is a lot of people. Now, let me ask you: how many people do you personally know who have died from the flu in the last 10 years? I don’t mean celebrities you heard about in the news but people you personally know—friends, family, coworkers. As for myself, I can only think of one—the landlord for where we used to rent our Baseline Nutritionals offices (a really sweet guy). I have to go back 35 years to think of a second, my mother. That is two people in 35 years. For Kristen, it is only one really as she had not actually met my mother at that time, only talked to her on the phone. Over the years, I have asked many people that question, and the answer is almost always: one or none. In a country of 330 million people, a half million people represents only one in every 660 people. In other words, you have to personally know 660 people to have an even chance of personally knowing one person who has died from the flu in the last 10 years—and over 1,300 people to know just two.
And that is why it is so easy to accept so many deaths—since we do not personally know them, and those that do die, die in hospitals, out of sight, out of mind. And that, by the way, is something politicians count on when they make decisions that affect our lives. And if that were not enough, states are beginning to jigger the numbers downward for political reasons to hide the true number of deaths. For example:
The state of Georgia’s Public Health Department chart wrongly reported coronavirus cases that made it look like its COVID-19 cases were trending down by putting the dates out of order on its chart. May 5 was followed by April 25, then back to May again, whatever made it look like a downslope. When called out on it, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office issued an apology. Then again, the error was at least the third in as many weeks.
In Florida, Rebekah Jones, the architect and onetime manager of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard, announced that on May 5th she had been removed from her post after she would not censor data. She said that she had refused to “manually change data to drum up support” for Florida’s plan to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. Once she was removed, well, you can guess how that went.
Arizona’s governor tried to sideline analysts whose data predicted the state’s outbreak peak was still to come.
According to news reports, at least three states—Texas, Virginia, and Vermont—are deliberately mishandling their COVID-19 data by combining results of active illness tests and antibody tests so as to inflate their perceived testing capacity. This, however, renders their results functionally meaningless.
Meanwhile, the White House has treated COVID-19 data as campaign fodder, recently releasing a model created by a top administration economist that showed deaths dropping to zero by May 15, which, of course, they did not.
And in possibly the biggest deception of all, the White House is no longer requiring nursing homes to count COVID-19 deaths that occurred before May 6th. Since nursing homes are a focal point for coronavirus deaths, this will severely understate any data designed to measure the impact of the pandemic on older Americans. And nursing homes will be happy to assist in this deception since it helps them cover up their death rates. The reason you didn’t hear about this is because the government’s decision not to require reporting of deaths prior to May 6 was buried in Question 10 of the FAQs section of a May 6 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services memo.
Finally, it is probably worth noting that, on a global level, coronavirus cases spiked by more than a million in less than a week near the end of May, topping 5 million cases. And that included a 106,000 new cases in a single day, the highest daily spike in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.
Incidentally, large corporations are even more cold-blooded about the deaths VS dollars thing. For example, automobile companies do actuarial studies to determine the cost of having to do a recall to fix a defect in a line of cars VS the estimated cost of having to pay X number of families for the loss of someone who dies as result of the problem if they don’t fix it. And as often as not, they decide it is cheaper to pay for the dead.
When all is said and done, when all the calculations are made by politicians as to how many lives are worth how many dollars, it is crucial for our humanity that we not forget that each death we see tallied on our computer and TV screens was a real human being. And the loss of each person represents not just that one person but has devastating impact on all their family, friends, coworkers, and all the people who depended on them in their daily lives. Make no mistake, when the human costs of COVID-19 are finally added up, it will be a huge number–not just in the United States, but across the world. But we also must not forget that the costs of quarantines are huge, not just in economic terms, but in human terms. Not everyone will financially recover. Jobs will be permanently lost. Businesses will be permanently closed. Homes will be lost, families evicted. Lives will be Irreparably devastated. Make no mistake. These are human costs too. COVID-19 is not the flu.
At this point I need to say something about masks.
In the same way that protesters have argued that lockdowns infringe their freedom, much of the anti-mask rhetoric seems to draw from the same well—i.e., resistance to government mandates as an infringement on personal freedom. As Linsey Marr, an engineering professor at Virginia Tech with experience in airborne transmission of viruses, said recently “There’s such a strong culture of individualism that, even if it’s going to help protect them, people don’t want the government telling them what to do.”
Right now, thanks to encouragement from some politicians and media channels, according to a peer-reviewed paper published in the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, a staggering 30% of Americans believe in some type of coronavirus conspiracy theory. And masks have become a central part of it, with security guards even getting shot for telling people they need to wear a mask to enter a store. And it’s not just the conspiracy aspect. Some people view wearing a mask as an affront to their man- or womanhood, their courage to take on the virus “mano e mano.” Others see it as an assault on their Constitutional rights. And others have stated that their immune system can protect them better than any mask. And still others aren’t even pretending any justification but shamelessly trying to game the system by claiming immunity under laws written to protect the rights of disabled people and lying to store management they “have a medical condition that means they cannot wear a mask.”
But the truth is, wearing a mask has nothing to do with any of those things. Quite simply, wearing a mask in public is not about you. Despite what many people think, wearing a mask offers you almost no protection from catching the coronavirus. As I said in my March 12th newsletter, “In the end, a mask won’t keep you from getting infected, but if used properly, it should minimize your chances of infecting others and could push their infection down the road, which isn’t a bad thing.”
Or as Chris Hayes from MSNBC says, “If the stated goal here is to open up the American economy and get people back to work and achieve some level of normalcy, something we all desperately want, there is really good evidence that everyone wearing a mask can really help us in that project.”
Criminally Negligent Manslaughter
In a recent opinion piece written for USA Today, Rand Paul and Andy Biggs wrote:
“Freedom allows us to judge the risk and reward and determine a course we think best. If we feel going to a certain retailer, barber shop, restaurant, or some other business is risky, we have the judgment to decide to not go there. If we want to stay home, we can.”
But that so misses the point. It is not about your personal freedom to put your own life at risk. It is about whether you have the freedom to put other people’s lives at risk.
And with that in mind, let us wrap up this part of our discussion with a question. How would you feel under the following scenario?
In an exercise of his Constitutional rights, and in the name of a good time, Citizen A decides to head down to the local bar that has just reopened to mingle with his friends. And also, as an exercise of their “Constitutional rights” they decide to not wear masks and not to maintain social distancing as they celebrate the evening away.
Now, Citizen A does not catch the virus that evening for one simple reason: he already has it, but being asymptomatic, he does not know it.
But he does infect one of his drinking buddies who is partying in the bar with him.
And his friend then goes home and ends up infecting his sister who works at a nursing home where your great aunt resides.
The sister then goes to work asymptomatic, but infectious, and infects all the seniors where she works, killing 20 of them, including your great aunt.
How do you feel knowing that Citizen A is responsible for the deaths of 20 people including your great aunt simply because he chose to celebrate his defiance of government authority for an evening? There is actually a term for what he just did. It is called “criminally negligent manslaughter”—death resulting from a high degree of negligence or recklessness. And although he and his friends could never be prosecuted for it, you would hold them morally culpable, wouldn’t you?
Something to think about if you are one of those who feels that your state’s guidelines do not apply to you.
Vaccines and Drugs
Many people have suffered from an illusion/delusion—that “flattening the curve” meant that at the end of the quarantine, the virus would be “magically gone” and life would return to normal. That was never going to happen. All that flattening the curve meant is that you were going to spread out the same number of infections and deaths over a longer period of time. This would accomplish three things:
Although the same number of people would ultimately be infected and have to go to the hospital, since those infections would now be spread out over a longer period of time, hospitals would not be overwhelmed and unable to care for patients. Italy missed the mark on that goal, and conditions for several weeks were horrific with patient beds lining hallways in crowded Italian hospitals. And New York came right up to the edge but was able to avoid crossing over into disaster. Most other states and countries acted in time to avoid the worst of it.
It would buy time for the development of a vaccine that provides full, long-term immunity against COVID-19, which is the obvious crown jewel that the medical community is striving for. If you can get enough people inoculated (through a combination of people getting the vaccine and those who have developed antibodies to COVID-19 by having had the virus), you can make life return to normal. For example, smallpox, once the scourge of the world, is not even a consideration anymore. Likewise, outside of Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, the same can be said for polio. The problem is that no such vaccine will be available anytime in 2020. The normal development time for a vaccine is 10-15 years. The hope is that we might be able to cut that to 12-18 months for the coronavirus.Incidentally, no one knows how long the protection from any vaccine in development might last. However, a study was done back in 2007 with the SARS coronavirus. The results, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, were that among 176 patients who had had severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), SARS-specific antibodies were maintained for an average of 2 years, and significant reduction of immunoglobulin G–positive percentage and titers (the concentration of an antibody) occurred in the third year. Thus, SARS patients were likely susceptible to reinfection 3 years after initial exposure. That might be an indicator for the extent of protection any COVID-19 vaccine—or natural immunity from having had the virus—might offer. Incidentally:
Moderna potentially jumped the timeframe with its announcement on May 19th that their vaccine seemed to generate an immune response in Phase 1 trial subjects. This caused the company’s stock to surge to a $29 billion dollar valuation, an impressive feat for a company that actually does not sell anything yet. On the downside, they presented almost no data with their announcement. And even the limited data they did release was far more ambiguous than was reflected in their announcement. Bottom line: do not count on anything from Moderna this year. Even Dr. Fauci who has expressed optimism about the vaccine has talked early 2021 as an effective release date. And no other pharmaceutical company has announced anything that even looks likely to jump the 18-month timeframe.
Something to keep in mind about a vaccine is that even when a vaccine becomes available, it does not guarantee 100% protection in everyone that receives it. When it comes to vaccination, there are all kinds of variables such as the duration of prevention and uptake. In other words, as Deenan Pillay, professor of virology at University College London, said, “So I would like to also suggest that when we’re talking about how the future looks and guiding that scientifically, we’re actually thinking for a long-term pandemic with ups and downs, an endemic infection that will come up and down for maybe years to come, with perhaps interventions such as maybe vaccines, maybe partially uptake and so forth.”
And one other complication when it comes to a vaccine is mutation. A vaccine developed for one strain of COVID-19 may not be as effective when confronting a different strain, and the coronavirus has already shown an ability to mutate. To be sure, many mutations lead to no discernible changes in how a virus behaves. However, some changes in the genetic structure can lead to both changes in the virus structure and how the virus behaves. With that in mind, 13 mutations have already been identified, and one of those new strains has become dominant worldwide and appears to be more contagious than the versions that spread in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
PS: According to a recent survey, only 55 percent of Americans say they are willing to get vaccinated if/when a vaccine arrives. The rest—a significant minority—say they won’t get vaccinated (19 percent) or they’re not sure (26 percent). If those results were to hold, tens or even hundreds of millions of unimmunized Americans could ultimately undermine any vaccine’s ability to stop the spread of the virus. It is estimated that for COVID-19, we need to cross the 70% threshold for herd immunity. However, that final 15% required to cross the threshold could come from all those people who have gained natural immunity by having had the virus and overcome it. The confirmed count is that 1.7 million people have had the virus in the US, but the real number may be 10 to 30 times that, since only a tiny percentage of people have been tested.
And finally, flattening the curve can buy time for the development of drugs that might lessen the severity of symptoms and hopefully even reduce the number of deaths. So far, there is little in this regard:
Hydroxychloroquine. There is zero reliable evidence that hydroxychloroquine can help with COVID-19 in any way. On the other hand, there is reliable evidence that, at the dosages used for treating COVID-19 (1,200 mg a day VS 400 mg a day for preventing malaria), it can kill you. In fact, a massive new study published in the Lancet just found the chances of hydroxychloroquine improving COVID-19 outcomes is very low, while at the same time, seriously ill patients treated with the drug almost doubling their risk of dying or developing dangerous heart arrhythmias., In other words, despite Fox’s advocacy for this drug, you want to stay away.
Remdesivir has demonstrated in vitro and in vivo activity in animal models against the viral pathogens MERS and SARS, which are also coronaviruses and are structurally similar to COVID-19. Preliminary data from a government-run study of remdesivir showed a 31 percent faster time to recovery than those who received a placebo—11 days versus 15 days, on average. The findings also suggested that patients given remdesivir were slightly less likely to die. But that effect was so small that you would need to treat 28 patients with remdesivir to save one life. The bottom line is that while remdesivir may be helpful and may marginally reduce mortality, and is therefore worth taking, it is not a cure. It is not a game changer. The other problem is that supplies are currently limited, and it will not be widely available until sometime in 2021.
According to the Israel Defense Ministry, the Israel Institute for Biological Research (the IIBR) has made a “breakthrough” in antibody treatment for COVID-19. Unlike other proposed antibody treatments, which are polyclonal (derived from two or more cells from different origins), the Israeli breakthrough is a monoclonal antibody, meaning it was derived from a single recovered cell. This makes the Israeli antibody potentially more potent and potentially less “harmful.” However, it is experimental and nowhere near ready for use in humans.
Essentially then, none of these options will be of significant use to you any time before the end of the year.
Hydroxychloroquine will never be useful
Remdesivir is marginally helpful but will not be widely available until next year
The Israeli antibody is promising but experimental, has not been fully tested, and is unlikely to be widely available until sometime next year, if ever
The bottom line is that for the foreseeable future, you are on your own. You are going to have to take care of yourself.
As I said, in my March 12 newsletter:
“If you don’t actually have the virus when you’re under quarantine, after the quarantine, you’re no safer than you were before you went into lockdown. You haven’t gained any immunity to COVID-19 while hiding out in your wife’s she-shed. Unless you’re infected with COVID-19 while in exile, it’s not a one-and-done. The hard reality is that once you emerge from your quarantine, you’re even more at risk than before your act of self-sacrifice for the simple reason that this is now officially a pandemic, and it’s spreading rapidly. That means that after your lockdown has passed, there are that many more people with the virus walking about, so you’re that much more likely to come in contact, yet again, with someone who has the virus.”
In other words (with two caveats), the virus has not gone anywhere, and you are still at risk—as well as a risk to others. You will want to:
Keep social distancing even as you are out and about and reintegrating with the world. Incidentally, the risk of spreading the virus is 30 times greater at 3 feet away from an infected person VS six feet.
Wear a mask to protect others.
Wash your hands regularly.
Make use of a good echinacea-based immune building formula, or an equivalent, to have your immune system in its highest gear if/when you are infected by the virus.
Optimize your intestinal bacteria with a well-designed probiotic formula since they provide 60-70% of your immune function.
Have a supply of a natural antipathogen formula available to use at the first sign of infection in order to keep your viral load down until your immune system can “learn” the virus, build a defense against it, and take over for the final assault. This is your best bet to stay out of the hospital.
And considering the latest information about complications from COVID-19, you might want to consider supplementing with a good proteolytic enzyme formula, not only for its ability to reduce systemic inflammation, but also for its ability to break up and dissolve blood clots.
Now as for those two caveats:
If you have already had the virus, you are probably safe yourself and no threat to others. (Although not yet “proven” to be true, most virologists consider it a good bet.) If you have had the virus and have the antibodies, all of the above steps are essentially unnecessary—other than to reassure people who would be freaked out if you approached them without wearing a mask. In other words, even if you no longer need to wear a mask and keep a distance, you are still going to have to, at least until a viable vaccine makes everyone “feel” normal.
Also, the only way to know for sure that you have had the virus is with testing, and despite the continual assurances that anyone who wants a test can have one, that simply is not true. For example, I believe that Kristen and I had the virus almost two months ago, and we still have not been able to get tested.
The test needs to be accurate, producing a minimum of false negatives and positives.
It needs to be highly specific for COVID-19 so it is not identifying other coronavirus antibodies, such as those you developed in response a common cold, as COVID-19 antibodies.
And it needs to differentiate and identify what are known as “effective” antibodies.
Note: Finally, a reliable version of this test seems available in our area. We have scheduled an appointment.
Quite simply, as things now stand, you are on your own until such time as an effective treatment or vaccine is widely available. And of the two, the vaccine is more important, assuming you are willing to get vaccinated or haven’t already had the virus. Afterall, who wants to go to the hospital for an intravenous “treatment” if they get COVID-19. In fact, who wants to go to the hospital for anything if they do not have to.
The Status of My Antipathogen Formula
Despite never mentioning it by name or where to buy it, people from all over the world heard about it from friends or figured it out and tracked down my antipathogen formula sold by Baseline Nutritionals. They literally scooped up six-months of inventory in a matter of days, leaving Baseline out of stock for 4 weeks. The stunning thing was that 40% of the people who bought the formula had never purchased anything from Baseline Nutritionals before. It felt like this formula had become the toilet paper of natural antipathogen formulas—subject to a high degree of panic buying, leaving the shelves bare for anyone who followed.
It also should be noted that there is no definitive evidence this formula works with COVID-19. Yes, Kristen and I are convinced that it worked for us, but thanks to the lack of accurate antibody testing, we cannot even prove that we had the virus. We do know that the formula has built its reputation over the last 20 years from people who have used it to deal with colds and flu. And although we are talking about many, many, many, testimonials over the years, it is still anecdotal evidence—definitely not a double-blind placebo controlled “medical” study. And other than Kristen and me, all the testimonials are for other viruses, not COVID-19.
Anyway, Baseline now has thousands of bottles in stock. In other words, there should be plenty to cover anyone who wants any through the end of the year. Then again, if a resurgence of the virus redoubles panic buying, all bets are off. And if Baseline does run out as the result of panic buying, you will need to be patient. It would take anywhere from four to eight weeks to restock.
Also, if you have never used the formula before, you really should read the instructions for using it before buying (listed at thebottom of the Baseline Nutritionals product page for the formula). You will realize that you need 4-5 bottles per person on hand for dealing with an emergency situation.
And one final note: if you are looking to purchase the antipathogen formula from Baseline Nutritionals and you live outside the US, you will want to check Baseline’s list of the countries they can ship to. And check it regularly as the list is constantly changing, with countries coming and going as their postal services figure out how to deal with the flood of international package deliveries.
I can see from many of the comments below there was a misunderstanding about some of the things I wrote. Let me clarify.
I never said that I did not have a political opinion (quite the contrary, in fact)—only that I try not to express it in my newsletters. My intent is to only deal with politics as it relates to health. Which brings us to COVID-19 and the key line in the newsletter that many of the commenters seem to have missed:
“Everything about COVID-19 has become politicized. It is now impossible to talk about any aspect of COVID-19 without stepping on somebody’s toes–on both sides of the political spectrum.”
A fact amply demonstrated in the comments below. And at this point, I bow out of that part of the discussion and wish you and yours good health and long life—and hope that at least some of the advice I’ve offered proves helpful–as we all just try to muddle our way through these difficult times.