Category Archives: Public Health/Coronavirus

Economically good news: “Coronavirus cases ease in Sun Belt states as nationwide deaths climb”

Called this about 2 weeks ago on my private blog. Officially the drop is said to be due to policy choices but the association between policy choices and outcomes are frequently random.

Across the nation, daily new Covid-19 cases have declined in recent days, driving the seven-day average of new cases down more than 5% compared with a week ago, according to Johns Hopkins data. Health officials have struggled for weeks to halt outbreaks in the American South and West, shuttering businesses and pleading with residents to follow social distancing guidelines and to wear face coverings.

Source: Coronavirus cases ease in Sun Belt states as nationwide deaths climb

I have ideas – supported by published research – why these trends are playing out this way. I suspect the hot spots will migrate to a few other locations too – and each will play out in a similar time line. But I keep these to myself as I am not in health care or biological sciences- therefore it is de facto required that I note that I am an idiot, have no expertise in any of this, and this post is for entertainment purposes only. (Public health people, on the other hand, are allowed to comment on economics, business, policy without any expertise and without disclaimers. Go figure?)

WA State Department of Public Health expects 30-60% of WA’s population to suffer significant mental health issues

Their report. They refer to the pandemic as a “natural disaster” – much of the disaster is the specific (and often based on no evidence) policies put in place and is not “natural”.

They forecast an increase in anxiety, depression, anger, aggression, violence, domestic abuse, suicides (particularly this fall and winter) and more.

it is anticipated that rates of depression are likely to be much higher (potentially 30–60% of the general population, which is equivalent to 2.25 million to 4.5 million people in Washington) due to the chronic and ongoing social and economic disruption in people’s lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a much higher rate than typical after a natural disaster where there is a single impact point in time.

If we are to experience an additional fall peak of illness as a function of this pandemic, significant behavioral health reactions or functional impairments may be experienced by approximately 45% of the population.

….

we can reasonably expect that approximately three million Washingtonians will experience clinically significant behavioral health symptoms over the next two to five months. Symptoms of depression will likely be the most common, followed by anxiety and acute stress. These symptoms will likely be strong enough to cause significant distress or
impairment for most people in this group

Their report implies that by the end of the year, up to 20% of all “pandemic” excess deaths will be due to suicide and drug overdoses.

Covid-19 new Cases in the U.S. trend

Source: Cases in the U.S. | CDC

This CDC chart presents a different perspective than that presented by most news reports. Remember, new cases precede the peak in hospitalizations by 1-3 weeks, and precede the peak in deaths by 1 to 4 weeks, typically. New cases can be going down while hospitalizations and  deaths are still increasing.

The media seems to be aware of this – they’ll initially report on new cases increasing, but when that stops happening, they change their attention to hospitalizations, and then to deaths.

Some interesting developments in my state. The state’s public health office said that a “death due to Covid-19” only means that the decedent had Covid-19 at time of death and may have had other associated factors. In other words, many people die “with” Covid-19 not “because of” but they have no information on how many deaths that affects.

To illustrate, our local news media learned yesterday that 5 of the 7 deaths in my County were of patients who were already in in-patient hospice care at the time they became sick but their death was recorded as a death due to Covid-19 not “with” Covid-19. They were in hospice care because they were already dying of other causes.

Update: As always my disclaimer that I am an idiot. I have no expertise in any of this and these posts are for Entertainment Purposes Only.

I have another blog solely on pandemic issues but it is private and not available for the public – I view it as a historical record and diary. Even though those posts are private, I add the disclaimer that I am an idiot and have no expertise.

Today I noticed others writing about pandemic issues – including university professors and scientists in other fields – also feeling compelled to add these disclaimers.

Why do we have to add these disclaimers? When public health officials make economic and / or political decisions, Orders and pronouncements, they never add a disclaimer that they have no expertise in those subjects.

Why is it necessary that those of us outside health care must add a disclaimer that we are idiots, while those in health care, when commenting on subjects outside their area of specialty, are never expected to make similar disclaimers? Serious question – why is that?

How do you classify a death?

An Oregon man died – his family says due to an obvious heart attack but a post mortem test found coronavirus so the state said he died due to Covid-19. (State officials reported Hermiston man as Oregon’s 226th coronavirus death. His family says they’re wrong – oregonlive.com)

A Florida man died as the result of a motorcycle crash but a Covid-19 test said he had coronavirus so the State said he died of Covid-19 ( FOX 35 INVESTIGATES: Questions raised after fatal motorcycle crash listed as COVID-19 death)

As seen on Facebook: A disease so severe you don’t know if you had it unless you get tested. Hah hah.

Some number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 are deaths “with Covid-19”. We have no idea how many.

To understand the distinction, consider some one who dies of a stroke but had prostate cancer at time of death. Is this death due to the stroke or prostate cancer? Most guys diagnosed with prostate cancer die with prostate cancer, not because of prostate cancer. That is why the government backed off its prior recommendation that all guys get tested every year with a PSA test. The treatments for very slow growing prostate cancer caused more harm, on average, than doing nothing.

Oregon now says that “deaths due to Covid-19” do not mean the person actually died of Covid-19.

Philip Schmidt, a spokesman for the state health authority, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that the state’s data is not conclusive as to whether someone died as a result of the coronavirus. Rather, it shows only that they died carrying the virus.

Wondering why public health has zero credibility?

“Stay Home. Save Lives. Don’t Kill Grandma.”

which is then reversed by public health “experts” to

Attend First Amendment and Mass Spreader Celebrations. This is more important than fighting a virus.

Yeah, that makes sense. From Stay Home. Save Lives, to protesting is more important than fighting a virus..

Public health is in the dark ages when it comes to tech

Back in 2004 when I was taking graduate courses in medical informatics, it was noted that the mining industry spent a larger percent of revenue on IT than did health care. 

As this article, below, notes, when time and accuracy are of the essence, public health data is sent … by FAX machines … 1990s technology. The received FAXes are hand delivered and manually transcribed into spreadsheets and databases.

Unbelievable, except its reality. They remain in the dark ages:

One of the labs the county’s health department has been working with recently sent back a stack of test results … by fax, which resulted in a bit of a mess for the department. Dr. Umair Shah is the executive director of the health department in the county that encompasses Houston, which has recorded more than 40,000 cases of the coronavirus, and Shah told the NYT doctors sometimes try to fax results to his personal number.

When the faxed test results do successfully come over, they have to be put into an envelope, labeled “confidential,” and physically walked over the to epidemiology department.

This is going on everywhere:

According to The Times, this is happening around the county because of “a reporting system in which some test results arrive via smooth data feeds but others come by phone, email, physical mail or fax, a technology retained because it complies with digital privacy standards for health information.

“These reports often come in duplicate, go to the wrong health department, or are missing crucial information such as a patient’s phone number or address.”

Source: The US coronavirus response is so bad for a reason you probably didn’t even realize – BGR

I’ve been charting my state’s official data.  I can download their data tables from one week to the next and there are massive changes. Everything changes, even data from months ago. Every week. None of the official data aligns with prior data. It is an absolute mess.

Continue reading Public health is in the dark ages when it comes to tech

Utah mostly abandons its contact tracing smart phone app

The GPS-based contact tracking system was hardly used; the app will continue to have a Bluetooth “close encounter” detector but unless a majority install the app, its mostly useless.

“We’ve learned over the course of the past three months that location tracking isn’t popular,” state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said Thursday. “And as a result, it hasn’t really been helpful to our contact-tracing efforts.”

So, state leaders this week revealed they were turning off the app’s location-tracking function, eliminating one of the features that made Healthy Together a contact-tracing tool in the first place.

Source: Utah’s expensive coronavirus app won’t track people’s movements anymore, its key feature – The Salt Lake Tribune

Are Face Masks really just “making a political statement”?

 Below is a list of counties that made face masks mandatory as far back as early to mid-April. All of these counties, as of July, are seeing an out of control spread of Covid-19. It appears that mandatory face masks have not resulted in solving the problem.  Several of these counties are now re-closing businesses.  Why are face masks not working? (See below for a lengthy list.)

Similarly, by late August, Hawaii has seen an explosion in new cases; Oahu has been placed back on lock down. Hawaii has had a face mask mandatory Order in effect since April, has had very tough travel restrictions not only to the Islands, but between the Islands, mandatory quarantines of travelers – even arresting those who violate the quarantine Orders. Yet none of this has worked. Why?

The media is spinning a controversy over face masks as a left versus right issue because the media is incapable of seeing other perspectives. In their spin, the left wears face masks and the right objects. And that is the end of the story. And they could not be more wrong.

Not everyone can wear a face mask, and if they can, it may depend on the type of face mask.

Recently published evidence for use of face masks was tortured by the media in to saying that “new study proves face masks work” when that was not the conclusion of the study – at all.  I summarize the full study here   and reproduce my summary conclusions here:

  • N95 respirators are valuable in reducing the spread of Covid-19
  • A 12-16 layer cotton mask appears to also be valuable.
  • No one is wearing 12-16 layer cotton masks. See if you can breath through 6-8 t-shirts placed in front of your face. Other studies found it is difficult to breathe using more than about 4 layers in a homemade face mask.
  • There is no current evidence to support the use of randomly designed, random materials, assembled by persons of unknown skill, home made face masks.
  • There is no evidence what so ever that wearing homemade face masks in outdoor setting has any impact what so ever on reducing the spread of Covid-19.
  • The study documents risks of wearing face masks (most studies did not have people wearing face masks full time, which is now required for many workers.)

The Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OHSA) has guidelines for evaluating an employees ability to use an N95 respirator type mask. These problems are already well known.

Employers are to take the following into consideration:

C. Medical Factors and Conditions

….

The medical evaluation is designed to identify general medical conditions that place employees who use respirators at risk of serious medical consequences. Medical conditions known to compromise an employee’s ability to tolerate respirator-, job-, and workplace-related physiological stress include: cardiovascular and respiratory diseases (e.g., a history of high blood pressure, angina, heart attack, cardiac arrhythmias, stroke, asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema); reduced pulmonary function caused by other factors (e.g., smoking or prior exposure to respiratory hazards); neurological or musculoskeletal disorders (e.g., ringing in the ears, epilepsy, lower back pain); impaired sensory function (e.g., perforated ear drums, reduced or absent ability to smell); and psychological disorders (e.g., claustrophobia and severe anxiety).

Source: OSHA Technical Manual (OTM) | Section VIII: Chapter 2: Respiratory Protection | Occupational Safety and Health Administration

As you can see, there are numerous medical and behavioral health conditions that make it difficult, if not dangerous, for many to cover their faces and airway. But from the media’s perspective, it comes down to left versus right politics … thus, if you have a medical or behavioral health condition that precludes mask wearing, the media insists you must be on the right. And if you are wearing a mask, you are obviously on the left.

The media’s spin translates to the world of social media insta-experts. Social media idiots publicly shame everyone who is not wearing a face mask, accusing them of everything from having the wrong politics to wanting to murder people.

Personal comments

I have suffered six traumatic brain injuries and experience “ringing in the ears” as well as generalized anxiety. I also have high blood pressure and exercise induced asthma since I was a teen. That’s 4 of the items on the OSHA list. Not until 2018 was the TBI connection recognized and I received treatment (over the years I experienced about a dozen and half effects of TBI).

Because of these personal challenges, I have been practicing – or training – to wear different types of masks while at home.

Continue reading Are Face Masks really just “making a political statement”?