Code Blue America: Coronavirus, An Ever Shifting Target


By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (6/18/20)

Dear Fellow Readers,

I will start with a short interview conducted by CNN host Chris Cuomo who interviews three of sixteen young friends from Florida who went to a bar upon reopening and were ALL infected, along with seven staff. It is a short video with a take-away that all felt they were safe based on what they felt they were hearing from politicians and officials. All now agree they were wrong and “it’s too early”. It is an powerful warm up.

If you want the longer view of how our collective experience with the Coronavirus is an audio podcast of a talk by Dr. Michael Osterholm provides important updated information and context. Osterholm is University of Minnesota Regents Professor in Public Health, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) and author of Deadliest Enemy – Our War Against Killer Germs. There are two segments.

The first roughly 16-minute segment is the single best summary of our Coronavirus experience to date, as well as the three most likely scenarios about what to expect going forward. We are not ‘done’, in fact we are a long way from being done. Osterholm addresses the question posed by the title, “Can We All Return to Normal Now?” His blunt reply is; “We’re just in the second inning of a nine-inning game”.

Osterholm’s remarks are a powerful contrast to other messages, like the ones that led 16 young friends to feel it was safe to go out to a local bar as a group. At the 9:50 minute mark, Osterholm describes transmission, followed by the percentage of persons exposed (5% for most of US and worldwide and a long way fro ‘herd immunity’) — which means we are still at risk for transmission. From there Osterholm proceeds with herd immunity, promise and potential problems, questions with immunity and the final minutes considering whether Coronavirus will act like a flu virus, a protracted ‘slow burn’ or open-ended ups and downs.

If you want to read the full CIDRAP Viewpoint go here.

Tragic tale of Sweden has implications for US

English doctor and nurse trainer Dr. John Campbell offers similar perspective in a recent video by showing how horrible the experience of Sweden has been compared to neighboring countries. Unlike the others, Sweden chose not to do a lockdown; a choice Swedish authorities now publicly regret. At the 22-minute mark Campbell compares the results of Sweden to a ‘hypothetical’ country that — like the United States — just happens to have a 2010 census population of 328.2 million persons and — using the numbers from Sweden — the outcome would be 984,600 deaths. Currently, the US death rate is 120,000.

Almost half of states are now experiencing increases in new Coronavirus cases; nine are experiencing record highs such as Florida with 2,783 new cases on Tuesday, Texas with 2,622 and Arizona with 2,392 are the worst examples.  The numbers change day-to-day but you can go here to see the sharp increases graphically.

Meanwhile Trump and VP Pence have washed their hands of concern and responsibility and instead cheerlead for reopening. Pence wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal saying that “fears of a second wave of infections are “overblown””. The guy that chaired Trump’s coronavirus task force has gone all in as co-cheerleader.

Pence’s claim is deliberately self-serving at the expense of anyone that takes him at his word. We are not even past the first wave let alone arguing about the potential for a second. Here’s a perfect graphical example; you can change the countries to chart for different insights of the good experiences like New Zealand vs. the United States. Here is the US compared to Russia (very similar), Brazil (even worse than the US).

Trump is running for reelection — we are essentials or warriors to get him there. Or maybe cannon fodder, just  like working in a meatpacking plant kept open by executive order.


So many questions unanswered

But why are some infected and some not, and why do some die and others do not? The short answer is there is an overwhelming lack of knowledge with the Coronavirus. But for those at risk we know older persons and persons with chronic conditions are more at risk. Children appear to be less at risk from contracting the Coronavirus. Children are half as likely to contract Coronavirus but younger adults are a source of pre- or asymptomatic transmission.

But there are so many questions unanswered. As an example: “…consumer genetics giants and 23andMe are getting involved. 23andMe recently released preliminary findings showing that people with Type O blood are 9 to 18 percent less likely to test positive for covid-19 than people with other blood types. The company is still exploring links between blood type and disease severity.”


Wearing out health care providers

But if we have a second wave or a protracted ebb and flow, who is going to provide health care?

I’m a Critical Care Doctor. I’m Tired, I’m Mourning, I’m Bracing for More.

We are still in the first wave, second inning of a 9-inning game, and critical care physician Dr. Daniela Lamas offers, “…everyone is tired. The adrenaline of those early days has turned to profound fatigue.”

Again, Trump has turned his back on fighting the Coronavirus. There were recent tweets of medical professionals modeling new FEMA PPE gowns – which were shipped with no armholes.

Meanwhile Trump is off to Tulsa, Oklahoma this Saturday for a rally with the intent of packing 20,000 — or more —  into an enclosed arena. As of Wednesday, Oklahoma was one of 21 states experiencing an increase in the number of daily confirmed new cases.

An extensive, detailed Royal Society study reveals there is one simple thing we can all do to make us all safer – wear a mask. IF a high proportion of us wore masks in public we would greatly limit the spread of the virus; “facemask use by the public could significantly reduce the rate of COVID-19 spread, prevent further disease waves and allow less stringent lock-down regimes.” 

The study includes useful day-to-day insights, including the fact that “experimental data, for instance, that show that home-made facemasks consisting of one facial tissue (inner layer on the face) and two kitchen paper towels as the outer layers achieved over 90% of the function of surgical mask in terms of filtration of 20–200 nm droplets [25].”

There is even a positive story of a hairdresser in Missouri who eventually tested positive but resulted in zero persons infected, out of dozens, while wearing a mask.

Wear a mask. I plan to update mine.

Be safe. Do note, La Crosse County is experiencing an increase in cases; a friend forwarded a note from Smith’s Bike Shop in La Crosse announcing a closing of the store to walk-in customers after a staff connection to someone that may have been exposed.