COVID-19 Update: A Local Surge?

Ken AshfordEbola/Zika/COVID-19 Viruses, Local Interest, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment



NC and local:

The local paper:

The Forsyth County Department of Public Health announced Thursday 60 new cases of COVID-19 and two coronavirus-related deaths. It’s the third day in a row with at least 50 new cases announced.

One of the patients who died was in their early 60s and the other in their early 70s, according to the health department. Both had underlying health conditions. The health department isn’t releasing any other information about them.

Thursday’s new cases bring the Forsyth total to 555, and 315 of the cases are considered active. Seven people have died from coronavirus-related illnesses in the county.

In Forsyth County, at least 70 local cases of COVID-19 are people who either work at the Tyson plant in Wilkes County or have come into close contact with someone who works there, according to Forsyth health officials.

Meanwhile, the number of cases in Wilkes County jumped from 21 on April 27 to at least 274 with 173 considered as recovered.

Wilkes health officials said that, as of 8 p.m. Wednesday, about 85% of cases are considered to have come from close-contact exposure, most related to the Tyson plant outbreak

Tyson conducted a temporary three-day shutdown of its fresh chicken production plant “for deep cleaning and sanitizing” from Saturday through Monday.

The plant resumed operations Tuesday, but Tyson announced Thursday it will conduct additional deep cleaning that will shut down its Fresh plant 2 facility and its food services plants until Tuesday. Its Fresh Plant 1 will operate on a temporary basis.

The facilities have combined about 2,200 production and support employees.

Across the state, case totals increased significantly from Wednesday, with at least 731 new cases and at least 20 additional virus-related deaths announced, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and local county health departments.

Forsyth’s 160 new cases over the last three days make up approximately 13% of all new cases in North Carolina, according to available data. County Health director Joshua Swift, in a teleconference with reporters, said Thursday the new cases are predominantly in the Hispanic community.

As of Monday, white people comprised only 27.1% of all COVID-19 cases in Forsyth County, with people of Hispanic or Latin descent being the largest ethnic group to test positive. As of Monday, 29% of all cases in Forsyth County were people of Hispanic or Latin descent.

“Part of that is we’re seeing more testing in the Hispanic community,” Swift said.

Contact tracing is taking place daily by the Forsyth health department’s nursing team, said Tony Lo Giudice, assistant health director.

Science magazine reports on a new study of COVID infections in France:

The worldwide pandemic of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus which causes COVID-19, has resulted in unprecedented responses, with many affected nations confining residents to their homes. Much like the rest of Europe, France has been hit hard by the epidemic and went into lockdown on the 17 March 2020. It was hoped that this would result in a sharp decline in ongoing spread, as was observed when China locked down following the initial emergence of the virus (12). Following the expected reduction in cases, the French government has announced it will ease restrictions on the 11 May 2020. To exit from the lockdown without escalating infections, we need to understand the underlying level of population immunity and infection, identify those most at risk for severe disease and the impact of current control efforts.

Daily reported numbers of hospitalizations and deaths only provide limited insight into the state of the epidemic. Many people will either develop no symptoms or symptoms so mild they will not be detected through healthcare-based surveillance. The concentration of hospitalized cases in older individuals has led to hypotheses that there may be widespread “silent” transmission in younger individuals (3). If the majority of the population is infected, viral transmission would slow, potentially reducing the need for the stringent intervention measures currently employed.

The idea that we have a lot of “silent transmission” among young people who had the virus without knowing it or had just a very mild case and are now immune is one that all of us have been hoping was the case. It would mean more than just “herd immunity.” It would also mean that many people could safely go back to work without fear of getting sick or spreading the disease.

Unfortunately, this study is not good news about this:

France has been heavily affected by the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic and went into lockdown on the 17 March 2020. Using models applied to hospital and death data, we estimate the impact of the lockdown and current population immunity. We find 3.6% of infected individuals are hospitalized and 0.7% die, ranging from 0.001% in those <20 years of age (ya) to 10.1% in those >80ya.

Across all ages, men are more likely to be hospitalized, enter intensive care, and die than women. The lockdown reduced the reproductive number from 2.90 to 0.67 (77% reduction). By 11 May 2020, when interventions are scheduled to be eased, we project 2.8 million (range: 1.8–4.7) people, or 4.4% (range: 2.8–7.2) of the population, will have been infected.

Population immunity appears insufficient to avoid a second wave if all control measures are released at the end of the lockdown.

If this is true, we are in for a rough time in the fall. There are going to be too many places just opening up willy nilly and individuals throwing caution to the wind. And it appears that a whole lot of them will be spreading the virus into a population that still will not have anything close to herd immunity.


Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted director of a key federal office charged with developing medical countermeasures, will testify before Congress on Thursday that the Trump administration was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic and warn that the the US will face “unprecedented illness and fatalities” without additional preparations.

“Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities,” Bright is expected to say Thursday, according to his prepared testimony obtained by CNN.

“Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history.”

So… that’s interesting.

I know it’s depressing. But the best we can hope for right now is to unflinchingly face reality. It’s very hard to do in the Trump era but it’s never been more vital. We can get through this but it requires that we follow the facts and the science. It’s now up up to each of us as individuals, families, communities and states to do it ourselves since there’s no chance the Trump administration will do anything right. They are simply incapable of it.

If you watched the hearings yesterday with expert Dr. Bright, the whistleblower from BARDA, who claims that he tried to warn the trump administration in January and was ignored, you’ve seen wingnut after wingnut Congressman blather on endlessly about Hydroxychloroquine. They are still pushing this as a Miracle Cure Holy Grail and suggesting it’s being suppressed by the Democrats. Or something.

It’s just twisted at this point. If we need any more proof that Trump is the Dear Leader of a very powerful cult of personality, this is it. I’m just surprised they aren’t all ostentatiously drinking bleach on camera at this point.

Anyway, here’s a new piece from HuffPost about the origins of this snake oil bullshit:

President Donald Trump’s obsession with the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus may have started in part because of a self-described philosopher in China who is a fan of white nationalists, tweets anti-Semitic rhetoric and calls chloroquine “a Nazi drug that is here to teach a lesson to leftists about bias.” 

Weeks before Trump first promoted the drug, a Twitter conversation about hydroxychloroquine between “philosopher” Adrian Bye and two cryptocurrency investors set off a chain of events that would bring the unproven drug to the attention of Elon MuskFox News pundits and Trump. 

Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine as potentially “one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine” and repeatedly promoted its use on the coronavirus. He has asked about it both in public and privately, until recently mentioning it on a nearly daily basis, and the Trump administration has allegedly pressured health officials to distribute it despite their concerns about its safety. The drug’s bizarre path to Trump’s embrace highlights a dangerous information pipeline from questionable sources in right-wing media to the president.

On March 11, cryptocurrency investors Gregory Rigano and James Todaro mused about coronavirus treatments and potential death tolls on Twitter to their then-small number of followers. Bye, who says he has been living in the Wudang Mountains in central China for the past few years and formerly interviewed tech “thought leaders” for his startup, responded to one of Todaro’s tweets about the virus. 

“Chloroquine will keep most people out of hospital. The US hasn’t learned about that yet,” Bye replied to Todaro. 

The three briefly discussed medical studies and a YouTube video about chloroquine’s use. As Politico has reported, Rigano asked Bye for more information about chloroquine and data on its uses before telling Todaro and Bye on March 12 that he would be “publishing a report tomorrow [with an] eminent scientist, peer reviewed.”  

“thank u james and adrian. next level humans,” Rigano tweeted. 

On March 13, Rigano and Todaro touted chloroquine in a self-published, non-peer-reviewed Google doc falsely claiming to be affiliated with Stanford University School of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences and the University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Medicine. (All three institutions told HuffPost that they had no connection to the document, and Google later removed it from its platform for violating its terms of service.) The paper largely cited a French study that scientists and the publisher of the journal it appeared in have subsequently criticized for its shaky methodology.

Bye complained to Todaro and Rigano on Twitter that their paper didn’t acknowledge him, saying, “I told you both about Chloroquine, and you didn’t even bother to mention me.” He also expressed his hesitation about the paper’s findings. Rigano replied minutes later that he wanted Bye’s permission to include him but “time was of the essence,” telling Bye to send him his email address. The Google doc was updated to include an acknowledgment of Bye.

The Google doc, with its grand claims and the help of its false affiliation with Stanford and other institutions, quickly went viral and was tweeted out to millions by prominent venture capitalists and Tesla CEO Musk ― none of whom appeared to vet its methods or sources. Fox News and other right-wing media jumped on the paper and touted the drug as a potential quick fix for the virus. Fox News host and informal Trump adviser Tucker Carlson had Rigano on his prime-time show, with Rigano falsely identified as an adviser to Stanford and claiming “what we’re here to announce is the second cure to a virus of all time.” Rigano made a similar appearance on right-wing radio host Glenn Beck’s program and with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who then privately met with Trump in early April to promote the drug.

The day after Rigano appeared on Carlson’s show, Trump mentioned the drug during a briefing for the first time and in the following days heavily promoted it. He called himself a “big fan” and heralded it as a potential “game-changer,” though Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned against the anecdotal evidence surrounding the drug. 

There’s more at the link. These people are nuts.

Here’s more on the French scientist who ran the first bogus study on the drug that helped make Drs Ingraham and Hannity become full-time proselytisers for the drug. He’s a real piece of work.

Half of America has reverted to medievalism. Or maybe they were always this way and we just didn’t know it. Either way, it’s a very, very bad sign.