All this year, we’ve been hearing about COVID variants and how they are going to do us in–only they haven’t yet. The last two months, it has been the delta variant which when it reared its ugly head we were told was the most contagious and deadliest of them all. I first wrote about the this variant more than a month ago in my June 6 post: COVID: The Big Drop, Free Beer, and a Good Show – Seek the Truth (seek-the-truth.com). In the UK, where it has caused a COVID resurgence, they were saying things like this back in early June:
PHE data indicates dominant variant ‘more likely to cause serious illness’ as Grant Shapps warns of threat to reopening on 21 June.
Ministers have moved to tighten Britain’s borders as new data suggests the Delta coronavirus variant is much more likely to cause serious illness and is circulating more rapidly within schools.
This variant has now spread to the U.S. CDC Director Wallensky calls it “troubling”. The WHO, along with Dr. Fauci, recommends a return to the past as they once again advocate for masking, a measure that failed to control the virus the past year and a half (more on masks below):
The World Health Organization recommended that fully vaccinated individuals continue to wear masks and social distance as the delta variant spreads. The CDC has yet to make such a recommendation.
Dr. Fauci has also used this as an opportunity to get more vaccinated, including kids (I have repeatedly argued that mass vaccinations of children is not advisable):
“It’s the unvaccinated people that we’re concerned about,” Dr. Fauci said in a recent interview. “They have to start paying attention to it now because if they are unvaccinated, they are at risk.” He recommends that parents and those in the community around them prioritize getting vaccinated to help protect the children who can’t get the shots.
But let’s follow the science and base our conclusions on facts and data. First, how are things in the UK after two months of struggling with the delta variant? May 9, the UK hit a low point in COVID cases, falling under 2,000 per day, but cases are up 15-fold in the last two months since the delta variant arrived. The picture tells the story better than I can:
I must admit I am astonished by this sudden increase. As you can clearly see, cases are now higher in the UK than they were last November when they peaked around 25,000 per day. This new development looks really bad. After more than a year of fighting COVID and finally finding a cure, we are going back to where we started.
However, appearances can be deceiving. Let’s look at the other side of the coin here. Last November 16, UK COVID cases were at 25,231 per day and deaths were at 416 per day (and they continued to rise further). But as of July 9 when cases are at 29,022 per day, deaths in the UK are only 25 per day. How can this be? With cases rising steeply for two solid months, how is it that deaths are 6% of the level they were last November when there were fewer cases than now? It is a puzzlement. Again, the picture shows this better than I can describe with numbers:
What is happening here? The delta variant enters the picture and infects tens of thousands every day, yet deaths are not out-of-control as would otherwise be expected. The delta variant is clearly very contagious as it is spreading rapidly in a country which has a very high vaccination rate. However, it appears to be less deadly than its predecessors.
The delta variant has come to the U.S. now as well. A couple weeks, I wrote about the increase in U.S. cases: COVID Cases Rise: What Does it Mean? – Seek the Truth (seek-the-truth.com). The numbers began rising June 22 and have risen every day since. But U.S. deaths from COVID continue to fall. Just as in the UK there is a disconnect between rising cases and falling deaths.
Folks, deaths are the key statistic. Cases could rise to a million per day, but if fewer and fewer people are dying, then how big a problem is this? The common cold is also a corona virus and it kills people every year, but we don’t track it in the same way we track COVID. Maybe some day COVID will go the way of the common cold. Maybe these variants become less and less deadly, not more deadly. We will see.
During 2020, U.S. COVID deaths never fell below 500 per day. Last July 5, U.S. COVID deaths were at 521 per day, the lowest point in all of 2020 (excluding the first week of the pandemic). But 12 months later, on July 9 of this year, they are down to 228 per day. The following chart tells an interesting story:
|Date||U.S. Deaths per day||% change since|
Clearly, in this moment in time, the situation is better than it has been since the pandemic’s start. I’m not a Pollyanna who says the numbers will never turn around or that this situation isn’t serious, but I am saying a complete look at all the relevant data puts things in better perspective. Our media and public figures are always pointing to the next crisis which may or may not come. They ignore facts that don’t support their hidden agenda.
Even with a five-week rise in COVID cases in early spring this year and now another rise in cases in early summer, the U.S, death rate has fallen steadily. Right now more people are dying from Alzheimer and diabetes in the U.S. than they are from COVID, not to mention Cancer, Heart Disease, Accidents, Strokes, and more. The current COVID death rate, which hopefully will continue to decline, is now more on par with deaths from the annual flu and pneumonia.
Let’s look at one more country, Israel. I’ve been writing about Israel along with the U.S. and the U.K. for months because they have been among the leaders in vaccinating their populations. Israel shot to the front of the vaccination pack early in 2021 and it appears their strategy is finally paying benefits; from June 10 to July 7, a period of 4 full weeks, there was one single COVID death in the state of Israel. Wow! Isn’t that the positive news you wanted to hear? Four weeks and only one death. The vaccine is clearly having an impact in Israel and I would say in the UK and the US as well despite the rise in cases.
Here is one final statistic regarding the delta variant. Daniel Horowitz, one of the few honestly reporting on COIVD, exposes as I have above what he calls the “delta deception”. How does he do this? By simply reporting on the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) which we can already see from above is relatively low:
As you can see, the Delta variant has a 0.1% case fatality rate (CFR) out of 31,132 Delta sequence infections confirmed by investigators. That is the same rate as the flu and is much lower than the CFR for the ancestral strain or any of the other variants. And as we know, the CFR is always higher than the infection fatality rate (IFR), because many of the mildest and asymptomatic infections go undocumented, while the confirmed cases tend to have a bias toward those who are more evidently symptomatic.
Also, there is more research which concludes the current vaccines are effective against the delta variant. Studies don’t agree on the level of efficacy against the dreaded delta, but they all agree that the rate of protection is substantial. Here is one such article among many: COVID-19 vaccines still work against delta variant, new research finds | PBS NewsHour
It is understandable that you might be troubled or alarmed by the rising case rate, especially after all the ups and downs we have been through. But don’t jump to conclusions and look at all the relevant facts before heading into the back yard to run in circles and scream and shout. As with so much of the news with COVID, those in charge of the message want to portray the worst possible picture to suit their own interests.
Just this week, I heard about the lambda variant. Lambda is the 11th letter of the Greek alphabet, meaning the lambda variant is the 11th variant encountered to this point. We’ve survived ten other variants to date, but maybe the lambda variant is the one that will finally do us in? I’m sure you can find people who will stoke your worst fears should you allow them.
In summary, the variants are here, they are infecting a lot of people at this moment, but far fewer are dying than ever before, at least in those places where the vaccine has been widely distributed. I will share more numbers below to demonstrate the positive impact the vaccination program is having.
This week we accidentally turned on the network news, only to hear the breathless intro of how the delta variant is sweeping the country and how we should all be afraid. It’s the same old story from these folks. Luckily, there are other bloggers and vloggers like me who are noticing that the numbers aren’t matching up with the rhetoric. Here is another regular guy from Canada who is arriving at some of the same conclusion as I have.
So, Let’s Mask Up Again?
The vaccines are proving effective at keeping people alive and stopping the spread, but we have many who wish to return to the tried and true rhetoric of the mask. Dr. Fauci on delta variant, booster shots and masks for the vaccinated | PBS NewsHour
I haven’t had time for a complete retrospective on the mask fetish and why it has been fool’s gold, but here is a quick primer until I can throw the kitchen sink at you:
- The cloth or paper mask you wear has microscopic gaps in its material. It must necessarily have such gaps or you couldn’t breathe any air at all through it and you would suffocate or hyperventilate. The problem is that COVID particles, like many viruses are small enough to penetrate that material. Dr. Osterholm, former Biden presidential advisor explains this clearly in this video: (19) Michael Osterholm – Masks June 12 2020 – YouTube. Dr. Osterholm gives his blessing to all who want to wear masks because he believes masks have some impact, but he also makes it very clear that impact from mask usage is very minimal, like a screen door on a submarine, is an analogy he uses–or like a truck which runs over you at 50 MPH instead of 60 MPH. It’s just not our most productive line of defense.
- Check the mask you are wearing. Are there gaps between the mask and your face, especially along the sides of the mask? The air you breathe, like flowing water, seeks the path of least resistance. You are breathing in unfiltered air through these very wide openings in your mask (they are actually massive openings relative to the size of the COVID virus particles; you could drive a truck them so to speak).
- COVID is in the air all around us. COVID virus particles, like dust and other microscopic pathogens, are light enough to float in the air. Like corks and bottles floating in the sea, virus particles don’t tend to stay in one place (i.e. they don’t remain a few feet from the person you’ve been sitting next to for the last 15 minutes). At a distance from others, you aren’t any safer than at close proximity to others. Many tend to remove masks when not close to others. Dr. Osterholm again explains you are literally walking in a sea of COVID and other viruses and pathogens, especially inside; the masks are not particularly effective in this scenario. Virus particles are vastly more dispersed outside, hence there has been little need to wear the masks at all outside (despite popular belief).
- At one point, Dr. Fauci himself basically admitted masks are not working by advocating for double masking. Dr. Fauci says it is just common sense that two would be better than one. But I would like to ask Dr. Fauci if one mask is doing the trick, why should a second be needed? But here is another link from Dr. Osterholm, one of Dr. Fauci’s peers, which dispels yet another mask myth: Top infectious diseases expert says double masking may actually increase COVID infection: ‘May do more harm’ – TheBlaze
- One of the best ways to make yourself sick is to touch your face. This is one reason we are told to wash our hands regularly. This isn’t because viruses break through the skin barrier on our hands. Instead, the virus remains on the outside of the skin until we touch the openings in our faces; then, the virus has a wonderful opportunity to infect us. People wearing masks have a tendency to touch their faces much more than others as they adjust the fit of the mask. This may be doing themselves more harm than good.
- Masks are not properly worn by most in any case. Medical professionals actually receive training on their proper usage. What training have you had? I was never offered any by the government, by my employer, or by anyone else. Do you know how to wear a mask properly or do you think it is intuitive? How do you think your six-year-old and eight-year-old are doing? Even the vaunted N-95 masks, the gold standard, are not the ultimate good we believe they are because the wearer may be protected, but can still be breathing out the virus. Unless the wearer has a double filter, you are still exposed to the virus when encountering someone with an N-95 mask. So, if you encounter someone with COVID wearing a single filter N-95 mask, you should run.
- Masks were not recommended by medical professionals even after the 1917 Spanish Flu pandemic all the way through the 2008 Swine Flu epidemic and beyond. Even Dr. Fauci and all medical professionals were advising against masking a little more than a year ago. But somehow in April 2020, with Dr. Fauci leading the charge, masks became the fad, a magic remedy in our medical toolbox. A trusting public was easily fooled because it seems like a good idea. We all need to be more curious as to why it wasn’t until 2020 and this particular virus (which is not by a long chalk the most lethal virus in all of human history), somehow requires the public to be masked when this was never a requirement through hundreds of prior outbreaks.
- The masks can actually be counter-productive. In a recent post, I pointed out one alarming story about how the mask actually captures numerous pathogens over a six-hour period. We could actually be making it easier to be infected with COVID and other infectious diseases with extended use of a mask: COVID: Fauci is the Science, Check Your Mask at the Door, and Be Informed on Vaccines – Seek the Truth (seek-the-truth.com). Numerous other studies have been done on the deleterious affects that masks have on children who are required to wear them during school. Carbon dioxide buildup as well is a concern I’ve heard highlighted in recent studies.
- Empirical evidence provides the strongest argument against mask wearing and mask mandates. Mask mandates have been applied, tightened, and tightened further while cases continue to rise. Cases rise and fall in a natural ebb and flow which the virus itself impacts more than our half-hearted measures do. In a post a few months back, I talked about the decline in cases and deaths in Texas and Mississippi when mask mandates were removed (despite claims of impending doom from Fauci and others): COVID Update: Positive Trend, More Insanity – Seek the Truth (seek-the-truth.com)
A Few Bizarre Statements
I am beginning to think Dr. Fauci is not just bad at his job, but he is wrong on just about everything he comments on. I wonder if he ever stops to reflect on his message before spouting off on TV. He appears to shoot from the hip continually. In a recent MSNBC interview he railed at people who don’t get the vaccine as making a political statement. Fauci says not getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a ‘political statement’ (msn.com)
I have been an advocate for the vaccine and I believe it is having a positive impact, but Dr. Fauci ignores all the other reasons why people might not get the vaccine. Folks might respond to his call for action better if he would address the specific concerns (shouldn’t that be his primary job?) and not denounce those who he sees as his political opponents. I find this comment very troubling because it is inappropriate for him to make, but also because it is not at all scientific or factual. Let me list a few actual facts for the greatest of all doctors to consider:
- Many are not vaccinating their minor children because their risk from COVID is close to zero. I have discussed this in numerous posts and provided quotes from medical experts who urge caution for kids (some even have said that nobody under 30 should be vaccinated). I got the vaccine for myself, but I don’t want my kids to get it because for them there is more risk than benefit.
- Those who were already infected have a natural immunity. I have referred to many doctors who say that natural immunity is sufficient (for now) and there is no need to expose yourself to the risk of the vaccine if already protected from COVID. (also note in the final section below that some are advocating for a single vaccine booster for those already infected)
- There are many who are alarmed at the stories of adverse COVID impacts. I still believe these are very rare given the massive numbers of vaccines administered, but they are real and many are hesitant after hearing anecdotal evidence. No public official is speaking out about the risks and trying to alleviate fears or put them in perspective for others. There is understandable hesitancy from people who don’t want to be the next victim. Also, given the current lack of trust of government institutions, they may also fear that information about vaccine risks is being withheld (and perhaps it actually is).
- Some folks just want to wait and see. Is the vaccine really working? Are the risks serious? They don’t want to be the first to try it. This is a natural reaction for clear thinking people. Give them time to get comfortable with the idea.
- According to many accounts, African-Americans are among the most hesitant to get the vaccine: Many Black Americans are hesitant to get the vaccine. Here’s why. – Bing video. I’ve been hearing this for some time and I don’t know how much legitimacy there is to it. Some have pointed to incidents like the Tuskeegee project in the mid-20th century as a reason for continued distrust of government projects. In these times of ultra racial sensitivity one would think Dr. Fauci would be more sympathetic to the plight of African Americans. Perhaps he is a racist as well?
Are all of the people with these concerns making political statements Dr. Fauci? How about addressing people’s concerns, whether real or not? Your bedside manner is crap.
Geez, I must have lost my head for a moment. I forget that an attack on Dr. Fauci is an attack on science and I shouldn’t say such things.
Bizarre comment number two comes from Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson. This past April, Hutchinson signed into a law a ban on mask mandates. Two months later, he is publicly contemplating the possibility of bringing the mask mandates back. AR Gov. Hutchinson on Mask Mandates, Shutdowns: ‘Theoretically That Could Be on the Table’ (breitbart.com) Where do we get the lousy crop of politicians we have today? Hutchinson signed a law banning mask mandates because it was popular in his state. Now he wants to bring them back as if the law just passed and his endorsement of it means nothing.
Finally, the last but not the least bizarre statement comes from Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary. In a recent press conference, she made the ridiculous claim that “herd immunity” is an outdated term. Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, July 6, 2021 | The White House
Are you kidding me? The whole point of a vaccination program is to reach herd immunity. Don’t they understand that? This comment gives me zero confidence that the current administration has the first clue about how to handle the COVID crisis. They are extremely lucky that the prior administration took care of the major obstacles for them. C’mon Mr. President. Can’t your team do better than this?
Analysis of COVID Spread
In my last COVID post a couple weeks ago, I did an analysis which showed the higher vaccinated states have lower death rates and lower cases rates. I re-did this analysis again this week. This time, however, I used fully vaccinated rates rather than partially vaccinated rates; fully vaccinated rates are proving to be a better predictor of how states are doing.
As of July 9, the highest COVID cases rates (more than 50 cases per 1 million) are in these 15 states: Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada, Florida, Utah, Wyoming, Louisiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Mississippi, Alaska, Colorado, Texas, and Idaho. All but one of these states, Colorado, has a vaccination rate lower than 50%, and Colorado’s rate (61 per million) is still declining. All but two of these 15 states, Colorado and Florida, have vaccination rates lower than 45%.
There are 18 states with case rates fewer than 25 per 1 million: New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Ohio, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, DC, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont. Of these, all but four (Ohio, Michigan, North Dakota, and South Dakota) have vaccination rates higher than 50% and all but one, North Dakota, have rates higher than 45%.
Note that a rate below 25 per million is an extremely low rate. Every state saw a peak of at least 200 per million, most with a rate of more than 1,000 per million at some point.
Clearly, there is a correlation between vaccination rates and the impact that the variants are having on cases and deaths in the individual states. I demonstrate this further in the chart below. I divided the states into five groups based on their current level of full vaccination, with the top group being 55% or above, the next being 50-55%, and then lower rates for each subsequent group. Overall, the U.S. has partially vaccinated more than 55% and fully vaccinated almost 48% as of Friday, July 9 (source: More Than 3.36 Billion Shots Given: Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker (bloomberg.com)
The per capita case rate (column 6) and per capita death rate(column 4) are still significantly lower for the first and second groups, those with 50% or more fully vaccinated. You can see that the rates are successively worse for each of the last three groups, but the distinction is not as great among the last three groups.
|States||Combined Population||Total Daily Deaths||Deaths per 1M||Total Daily Cases||Cases per 1M|
|VT, MA, ME, CT, RI, NH, MD, NJ, WA, NM, NY 55% or more fully vaccinated.||58,938,216||28||0.48||1613||27.37|
|OR, DC, CO, MN, HI, VA, DE, CA, WI, PA|
50-55% fully vaccinated
|IA, NE, MI, FL, IL, SD, OH, KY, AK, AZ|
43-48% fully vaccinated
|MT, IN, NV, KS, NC, TX, MO, SC, ND, OK|
39-43% fully vaccinated
|TN, UT, WV, GA, ID, WY, LA, AR, MS, AL 33-39%||40,356,458||41||1.02||3146||77.96|
Again, these numbers indicate that states with higher vaccination rates have better results, especially for the 21 states which have reached the 50% fully vaccinated level. I’m still waiting for those in the middle and lower tiers to increase their vaccination rates and see improved numbers. I should also note that at the moment case rates are going up in 90% of the states, but this analysis shows that the case rates are increasing more slowly for those with the highest vaccination rates.
So, I agree with Dr. Fauci that vaccinations are a key to solving this crisis, but I’m dubious that everyone should be vaccinated. Those most vulnerable should be vaccinated for sure, so we can hold down the death rate. However, cases spreading among the least vulnerable will confer immunity on them without increasing the fatality rate, and is not such a bad thing (this is actually the Swedish model and Sweden is doing better than just about everyone else in the world at the moment while many other countries continue to suffer).
What Does the Good Doctor Say?
I am sharing a few tid-bits from our pediatrician. His newsletter is usually chock-full of good information that is hard to find in other places. I call him the honest doctor, the one who cares more about you getting the message than how you interpret the message.
Here are some tid-bits that caught my eye this week, some of which relate to topics discussed above:
Yet again, we see data pointing to our own personal control of our health outcomes. We can as parents make the following decisions to reduce our risk of MIS-C for our children:
- No matter what has happened in the past, clean up your child’s diet by switching to an Anti inflammatory diet, Whole 30 diet or at the least a no processed whole food diet of predominantly fruits and vegetable matter. A highly processed modern diet is the most important antecedent trigger of dysbiosis and intestinal permeability.
National Geographic has a comprehensive article on the delta variant. LINK
In the Lancet we see new data on the delta variant in Scotland. It appears to double the risk of hospitalization versus previous circulating variants in the unvaccinated population. (Sheikh et. al. 2021)
Still zero evidence that the delta variant is more problematic to children at any age.
5) The mRNA vaccines are working to help unvaccinated individuals. “Here, by analyzing vaccination records and test results collected during the rapid vaccine rollout in a large population from 177 geographically defined communities, we find that the rates of vaccination in each community are associated with a substantial later decline in infections among a cohort of individuals aged under 16 years, who are unvaccinated. On average, for each 20 percentage points of individuals who are vaccinated in a given population, the positive test fraction for the unvaccinated population decreased approximately twofold” (Milman et. al. 2021)
Assuming this data set is verified in future analysis, which is likely, and we know that we are at 50% plus vaccination rates in many if not most communities, we then we have a five fold or 500% reduction in disease transmission among the under 16 year old age range. This is playing out clinically in the office as we are seeing rare COVID cases in all children since late April when vaccinations hit a community high. This, yet again, teaches us how effective vaccination is at stopping mass disease transmission on a population level and why it is so important.
Long lasting memory is happening: remember that the immune system is poised to respond to new but similar protein structures in viruses through an elegant system of memory. When a virus like SARS2 has the ability to mutate it’s RNA sequence and make variants that provide it an advantage for transmission or survival we must counteract this action in a similar way. This is exactly what happens. Our immune system has the ability, once it has seen the virus, to select for specific high affinity antibodies against SARS2. Then the cells that make these antibodies go and hide dormant in the bone marrow and lymph tissues with expressed goal of activating at lightning speed if SARS2 shows up again even with a variant mutation. (Palm et. al. 2019)
This is the principle reason behind why the variants are offering no major risk to the previously infected or vaccinated Americans. This was the scariest part of the pre vaccine response era for me. Now that we have months of data that the mutations are not thwarting our amazingly smart immune system, we can all breath easier and live life despite what some out there are saying about the variants. Until we see a variant that is circumventing the long lived plasma cells or memory B cells, I am going to live a healthy life without fear.
7) Big study from the UK regarding COVID spread at large events is very reassuring. 58,000 spectators at multiple events ended up leading to only 28 Covid cases. This is further reassuring news that the vaccinations coupled to individuals with prior infection have provided a viral reproductive buffer at mass events. (BBC) It is time to return to stadiums and concerts.
All of the studies keep pointing to quality immunity post vaccination or disease. With the memory cells also showing robust responses in multiple studies, we are in good shape for a while. How long is still a work in progress, but I am thinking in terms of years not months. I will be amazed if we will need a yearly booster like the influenza vaccine. Likely every 3 to 7 years or even 10 years like tetanus. These are outright guesses though.
10) If you have had confirmed Covid infection, then one vaccine dose is enough of a booster to have fantastic immunity and 100% prevention of severe disease. Many European countries are no longer recommending 2 doses after confirmed illness. (Dolgin E. 2021)
11) Preschool children with asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic Covid disease are mounting robust immune responses at 8 months post infection. (Cruz et. al. 2021)The data continues to show us that young children are getting exposed and clearing the virus rapidly with little to no long term problems and great immunity to date.