Dispatches from the Corona Experiment

Who Do You Trust?

Another remarkable day in the history of mankind, or just another day?

Today, I learned that Dr. Anthony Fauci lied to the American people in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic about wearing face masks. We were told that “They (face masks ed.) are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus“. Now he admits that this message was a ploy to prevent the general public from hoarding masks, knowing that there were not enough masks for health providers and the general public.

I am used to politicians lying to us for any given reason, but a scientist and medical professional? I don’t understand.

Are we, the general public, considered so dumb that we would not understand the truth? The truth in this case was, we did not have enough N95 face masks for everybody. We did not even have enough PPE for the medical community in the beginning. So, let’s keep the sheep in the dark.

Dr. Fauci, you owe us an apology!

The consequences of this irresponsible behavior are two-fold:

First, lives could have been saved, and the spread of the disease could have been diminished if people had worn any kind of face mask early on. Any mask is better than nothing.

Second, what shall we believe now? The vaccine is coming, we flattened the curve, let’s reopen? Are you wondering why people now do whatever they think is right? Where I live, the minority of people wears a mask in public. That’s frightening, and against the recommendations of our chief medical officer.

Lying is one sure way to lose credibility.

In this case, some innocent people will pay with their life for this faux-pas.

Note to self

What the World Needs Now

Where to begin? First a pandemic, then an act of police brutality that went around the world, followed by peaceful and violent protests. Throw in a couple of hurricanes and you wonder, how to keep your head up in those times of mayhem?

A few days ago I came across a podcast with Tom Rivett-Carmac and Christiana Figueres. The authors were instrumental in the ratification of the Paris climate agreement, a daunting, if not impossible task, to bring more than 190 nations to the table and sign an agreement that requires sacrifice and action. Before the agreement was signed Christiana Figueres was asked at a press conference when she would expect all nations to sign the agreement. Her honest, instant response was: “Not in my lifetime”.

When she reflected on her response later she realized this statement was not based on reality or facts, it reflected her attitude. That’s when she came up with the concept of “stubborn optimism”, the determined attitude change, to take action, even if we, as an individual, cannot control the outcome.

During the pandemic if feels as if climate change has taken a second seat. Maybe we can handle only so many crises at a time. But we should remember two things: During the pandemic most people on Earth were forced to change their daily routines. We could not go out as we were used to, we could not buy just anything we wanted to… We did this, because our governments said so, or because our common sense told us. As an individual we did this for our own sake, but in the big picture we did this for the benefit of mankind.

So, in the days ahead we need this relentless optimism, a change of our own attitude, to move on and not go back to business as usual. If we stay passive and just go back to that, we go back to doom-and-gloom with social inequality, racial injustice, and a diminishing quality of life.

Consider that a climate crisis will be orders of magnitude worse than the current pandemic, if we don’t take action. There will be no vaccine, no cure to climate change. Climate changes will have long-lasting effects.

As with the current pandemic, time is of essence.

Dispatches from the Corona Experiment


“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.

Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

Marc Aurelius

Life is a fragile thing. Every once in a while we are reminded of that. Such as during the current pandemic. “Every day above ground is a good day.” I have heard that before a couple times.

Chernobyl – We were gone for the weekend, away from radio and TV, camping in the woods, climbing rocks, oblivious to the “invisible enemy” that rained down on us. After returning to the city we could trace our steps in the lab in the hallway using liquid scintillation counting. Everything become radioactive. Clothes, shoes, hair, the grass outside, the fresh milk from cows eating the grass, everything. There was no escape.

Luckily the wind shifted and most of the isotopes were short-lived and “the enemy would just disappear”.

Typhoid fever – On a trip abroad, I caught the bug causing typhoid fever. Without treatment the mortality rate is about 20%, with antibiotics treatment it is reduced to about 1%, still scary. Being in a foreign country, having bouts of high fever, not knowing… Hadn’t thought about that event for a while. Until now. Until it hits you or somebody close statistics are one thing. A 99% probability of surviving sounds pretty good. But when you are directly affected, it becomes “there is a chance I could die”.

So it’s all about perspective. We can choose the angle.

Stay positive, stay healthy.

Dispatches from the Corona Experiment


The Corona virus experiment enters the next phase: Easing of restrictions. Why? Not sure.

I think we are confused as ever about this disease. Even for a scientist it is difficult to comprehend what’s going on.

Yesterday there were 30,000 new COVID-19 cases in the US and over 1800 humans died from the disease in one day. Why would we ease restrictions? Maybe because we are bored at home, need money, or what?

We have now tested about 1% of the population in the US for the presence of virus. Most of the tests were given to people that were ill or had reasons to believe they were in contact with infected people. So that’s a small fraction of the whole population and a highly biased selection.

No problem. We need to test people at risk.

However, at this point the number of tests is too small to make any claims about the prevalence of the disease.

Why is this important?

Well, some officials think about reopening the country. One of the conditions discussed is a “certificate of immunity”. You get tested for COVID-19 antibodies. Your test comes back positive. You can go to work.

I think there is an issue that, which has to do with specificity, selectivity, and prevalence.

First, none of the antibody tests are perfect, meaning they are not 100% specific nor selective. That’s not unusual.

I thought a test that produces in 95% of truly positive cases a positive result is pretty good. And if the same test has a 5% false positive rate that should make a great test, right? Well, it depends. It depends on the prevalence of the disease. If only a small fraction of the people carries or carried the disease than the predictive value of a positive test is rather low. This is all nicely illustrated here.

Since we don’ know the prevalence of the virus in the general population and the unknown predictive power of a positive antibody, we should not send people back to work, unless we want to tolerate 2000 or more individuals dying every day in this country for the foreseeable future.

Please correct me if I am wrong.

On with the experiment.

Stay healthy.

Dispatches from the Corona Experiment

How I Feel

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

It’s been a strange couple of weeks now. Too much time to think. That’s when it came to me: I am reminded of Microbiology 101. We would pour agar plates, inoculate, infect, select, and watch what grows, what survives, what mutates, and what survives.

That’s how I feel now. Being part of a big experiment, except this time I am in the petri dish. Not really in charge what’s going on. Many folks have their hands in this experiment and I am not sure they are all qualified to run this experiment.

A microbiology experiment is usually finished in a day or two. This corona thing seems to linger for a couple of months. Yikes.

How are you doing this time around?

Happy Easter.

Dispatches from the Corona Experiment

How the Pandemic Will End

How are you dealing with the current virus outbreak? Are you keeping your distance? Do you hope it won’t affect you? Are you already tired of it? Don’t want to hear more about it? Think this, too, will pass?

Maybe all of it at the same time?

Welcome to the club.

I try to limit my reading about the pandemic, especially the “breaking” news.

So here is the article of the day: How the Pandemic Will End.

Stay sane.