Let’s do a quick tour of the COVID numbers. We are in mid-October now and it is the time of the year that seasonal viruses kick in; however, since September 1, U.S. COVID cases are down from 166,000 per day to 85,000 per day, a drop of almost 50%.
Last year around this time, we were already seeing the case curve bend upward as we began the steep climb to 250,000 cases per day. The fact that the curve this year is still pointed downward and still moving down at a good clip well into October is a good sign–but it’s not yet definitive.
There has been a drop in world-wide COVID cases during the same time period, another positive sign:
There is definitely a seasonal influence on COVID. In the U.S., COVID spiked this summer as well as last summer; both years, the summer spike was concentrated more in the Southern, warmer climes. As it gets hot in the South, people spend more time indoors in the AC, making it more favorable for COVID to spread. Now that summer has waned, cases in 12 Southern states and DC have declined by more than half the last 30 days: Kentucky North Carolina Arkansas District Of Columbia Texas Louisiana Georgia Alabama South Carolina Mississippi Florida Tennessee Hawaii. Cases in Florida alone have dropped 72% in the last month and 86% in the last two months. Seasonality in the South has ended–at least for the time being.
On the other hand, in the last 30 days, 11 states have seen an increase in COVID cases, although fairly slight, to this point. All but one of these states (New Mexico) is a Northern state: Michigan Minnesota Alaska Colorado North Dakota New Hampshire Vermont Wisconsin New Mexico Montana Pennsylvania. Seasonality is just beginning in these states. We need to monitor these and other states in the the Northern half of the country to determine if we are in the incipient stages of the next COVID wave. I believe, we will know something definitive in the next couple weeks. I won’t dare make a prediction though.
Will the Vaccines Shine?
I said a few weeks ago, now is the time for the vaccines to shine. Over the summer, some of the luster came off the vaccines as we discovered they are not so good at stopping infection, although they still have prevented deaths and hospitalizations. The question is now: have the vaccines sufficiently prepped our T cells and B cells ahead of the next potential variant and potential wave?
Memory T cells and B cells are immune cells that remain in the body after initial infection and retain a memory of a pathogen. Memory cells fire up a fast and powerful immune response when the pathogen appears again. Immune and lymphatic system health is necessary for protecting your body from germs and diseases.
Just shy of two-thirds of all Americans and almost 80% of all adults have received at least one vaccine dose and 56.7% are fully vaccinated (note to Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo: that includes a whole bunch of conservatives as well as liberals, a lot of red state folks as well blue state folks). Roughly half the country lives in a state where 55% or more have been fully vaccinated. The chart below shows that in those states with lower vaccination rates, the number of cases is only marginally higher than those with higher vaccination rates: 295 per million vs 240 (refer to the Cases / 1M rate column), further evidence that the vaccines are not effective at preventing spread of the disease. However, the death rate for those states with higher vaccination rates is still half of those with lower rates: 5.62 per million vs 2.61 (refer to the Deaths / 1M rate column), providing continued evidence that the vaccines are limiting deaths from COVID.
|Vaccination Rate||Total Population||Total Deaths||Deaths / 1M||Total Cases||Cases / 1M|
Overall, deaths in U.S. are down more than 25% in the last month, dropping from 1850 per day in mid-September to about 1350 per day in mid-October. The six states with the current highest per capita death rates are all states which have a vaccination rate under 50%, as would be expected. In fact, the top ten all have rates under the national average of 56.6%.
However, there are three states in the 60% vaccination range in the top twenty. Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Virginia all have relatively high death rates at the moment, but they are also among the mostly highly vaccinated states. Three-quarters of all Pennsylvania residents have received at least one vaccine dose, yet Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Missouri, all of which have (full dose) vaccination rates in the 40’s have a lower death rate currently. Why? Are these three states outliers and the numbers will straighten out as we head into late Fall and Winter? Is this a seasonality effect showing up first in these states? Or is this telling us that the vaccine efficacy is fading? I think we should remain optimistic until there is clear evidence to the contrary, but it is just a bit ominous that deaths are rising in several states that are among the highest vax rates.
|State||Deaths per 1 Million (week of 10/10/21)||Fully Vaccinated Rate|
I continue to watch Florida as it has become the one control case for the U.S., the one state that has led the way in advancing COVID treatments. Florida has been pushing monoclonal antibodies for COVID treatment since August (others, as I have mentioned previously, are using Ivermectin which is also proving to be an effective treatment). The per capita death rate in Florida is currently the lowest in the nation at 0.56 deaths per million for the past 7 days. Both Florida and Pennsylvania have roughly the same vaccination rate, but Florida’s deaths are one-tenth of Pennsylvania’s. Go figure.
During the summer when the death rate in Florida was high (in part due to seasonality), the news was all about how DeSantis’s stance against masking and vaccine mandates was a disaster. Where are all those stories now?
Rogan vs. Lemon
The story now ought to be how treatments such as monoclonal antibodies and Ivermectin, in conjunction with vaccines, are another way out of this mess. I’ve been discussing these treatments in my last few COVID posts. I mentioned back in August that after the very popular pod-caster Joe Rogan successfully treated his COVID with both monoclonal antibodies and Ivermectin, that CNN went on the attack and mocked him and others for taking a “horse de-wormer”.
Somehow, Rogan was able to get CNN’s medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta to come on his show. What good luck. Most journalists, politicians, and folks in general tend to avoid the tough questions. Rogan pulled no punches and forced Gupta to admit that Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo’s shameful scorn of Ivermectin was unwarranted.
CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta acknowledged that the network shouldn’t have called a controversial drug being used as a COVID-19 treatment a “horse dewormer” — as he was grilled by podcast host Joe Rogan about why the media was “lying” about the medication.
“They shouldn’t have said that,” Gupta said of the network referring to the medication as a “horse dewormer.”
So, where is the retraction from CNN? Where are the repercussions for Lemon and Cuomo?
Where is the introspection from Lemon and Cuomo? Nowhere to be found. In fact, Lemon continues on the offensive as evidenced from this discussion he had with Gupta after the Rogan interview:
‘Ivermectin is a drug that is commonly used as a horse dewormer. So it is not a lie to say that the drug is used as a horse dewormer. I think that’s important- and it’s not approved for COVID, correct?’
‘That’s right,’ Gupta replied. ‘It is not approved for COVID and you’re right, even the FDA put out a statement saying basically reminding people- it’s a strange sort of message FDA, but said ‘You’re not a horse, you’re not a cow, stop taking this stuff’ is essentially what they said referring to ivermectin. Now, I think Joe’s point is that-
Lemon interjected: ‘That it’s been approved for humans but not necessarily for COVID, right?’
‘That’s correct,’ Gupta continued. ‘It’s been used for a parasitic disease- it’s called river blindness and it’s been very effective for that, but, you know, just because it works for one thing doesn’t mean it works for something else.’
Technically, Lemon is correct that Ivermectin is a drug used for horses and other animals; however, he conveniently chooses to ignore the fact that the FDA has approved it for human use and that it has been prescribed for humans more than 4 billion times. He conveniently ignores the fact that while the FDA is withholding approval for Ivermectin use for COVID (the bureaucracy has ground to a halt yet again), it has been touted as a COVID treatment by doctors all across the U.S. and the world. Are these doctors all wrong and does Don Lemon know more about medicine than them? Lemon also conveniently ignores the fact that high profile people like Trump and Rogan were successfully treated for COVID and instead attacked them for their ignorance. He conveniently ignores the successes that Florida and India and other places around the world have had in treating COVID with drugs not recognized by our federal public health officials (who haven’t proven all that trustworthy). He conveniently ignores that Ivermectin won the Nobel prize for medicine and has been proclaimed a miracle drug by many health officials (excluding those in our federal government).
Lemon defends his actions like my kids did when they were kindergarten. Yes, Donnie, it is a horse de-wormer, but it is so much more than that. You told us one true thing while lying or spinning the truth about all the rest. Don Lemon’s real agenda is political and he reveals that in his own words:
During a panel discussion on the issue, Lemon also told CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner that Rogan ‘took the deworming drug ivermectin that’s been touted by fringe right-wing groups.’
Right-wing people, you see, are always wrong, and it is Don Lemon’s job is to point out that tautology. On the other hand, I see my role as to pointing what is right and wrong, and what is right and wrong is not strictly linked to whether you are politically right or left. I would point Don Lemon to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which says the following. He needs to ask himself (as we all do) if he has taken the trouble to find out what is true and good:
A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgment about acts to be performed or already committed. This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.” In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1790-1791).
Vaccine mandates are still a scourge on us and California, New York, Australia, and the NBA are tyrannies run amok (I will take these topics on in upcoming posts), but we can take solace in several things as we head into the virus season. First, we have treatments which are proving to be safe and effective. We just need to get the word out about these treatments and call out those who are lying about them. I applaud Joe Rogan for doing both on his very large platform; the truth is getting out, however slowly it might be. Also, the vaccines are still proving to be effective, although there is still some uncertainty about how long they will remain efficacious. Finally, natural immunity is a real thing and a very large portion of Americans have that immunity now and can take heart that they are very well protected from COVID for now.
All three of these taken together, should give us genuine hope that COVID, while probably never going away, is being mitigated and is not out-of-control. I end this post with a note from our pediatrician’s newsletter which emphasizes the good news on the last two points:
Unfortunately and fortunately, almost 1/3 of the US has had natural infection. Why is that not being discussed in a positive way for immunity moving forward? In a well written opinion piece in the British Medical Journal, Jennifer Block raises many important questions regarding the illogical approach that the United States has taken regarding individuals with natural immunity. It is worth your time to read the whole piece. She asks very important questions. Why aren’t we counting natural infection like a vaccine or at minimum offer one dose of mRNA vaccine 3 months post illness for full immunity comparable to no illness and two vaccines? The data clearly supports this truth. Europe and Israel are using much more logical approaches to these questions. Here some excerpts from the piece:
“As more US employers, local governments, and educational institutions issue vaccine mandates that make no exception for those who have had covid-19, questions remain about the science and ethics of treating this group of people as equally vulnerable to the virus—or as equally threatening to those vulnerable to covid-19—and to what extent politics has played a role.” “But the studies kept coming. A National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded study from La Jolla Institute for Immunology found “durable immune responses” in 95% of the 200 participants up to eight months after infection. One of the largest studies to date, published in Science in February 2021, found that although antibodies declined over 8 months, memory B cells increased over time, and the half life of memory CD8+ and CD4+ T cells suggests a steady presence””In Israel, researchers accessed a database of the entire population to compare the efficacy of vaccination with previous infection and found nearly identical numbers. “Our results question the need to vaccinate previously infected individuals,” they concluded.””President Biden left no room for those questioning the public health necessity or personal benefit of vaccinating people who have had covid-19: “We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated … So, get vaccinated. If you haven’t, you’re not nearly as smart as I said you were.”” “A large study in the UK and another that surveyed people internationally found that people with a history of SARS-CoV-2 infection experienced greater rates of side effects after vaccination. Among 2000 people who completed an online survey after vaccination, those with a history of covid-19 were 56% more likely to experience a severe side effect that required hospital care.” (Block J. 2021)