Dispatches from the Corona Experiment

Dispatches from the Cold – № 1

In the spirit of pandemic isolation I moved from a comfy city apartment to an off-grid cabin in the woods. Was it cold? Glad you ask. The thermometer I trusted most showed negative 42.5 Celsius, there were others that showed even lower numbers, but give or take a few degrees below -40 degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit, that’s cold!

The first indication of this frigid situation were shiny crystals covering all surfaces of the interior. They were inside the cabinets, on the walls, just about everywhere.

Then there were the door nobs. Turning a door knob with bare hands caused some instant burning sensation. Same thing with the house key. One of the cabins has an outside key lock. You punch in a number and then remove the key to open the door. My skin turned instantly white where I had touched the metal box, the key pad and the key. I did that only once with my bare hands.

When I took of my boots, a cloud of hot air rose from my feet, as if they were on fire. It was just warm humidity hitting the biting cold air.

The last memorable impression was the mattress. Frozen solid. Sleep number 1000. It was hard as rock. I slept the first night in with three layers of winter gear until the cabin had warmed up. There are still some corners low on the ground where I could see ice crystals. I use those corners as my indoor fridge.

“Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.”

Henry David Thoreau

Now, a day later its nice and cozy, grace to a propane furnace. Hope that thing will keep me warm for the rest of winter. That furnace, insulated walls and an arctic entry way, are the only thing separating me from the bitter cold.

I hope there will be more dispatches from the cold with more agreeable temperatures, though.

Stay warm.

Stay safe.

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.

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.

Dispatches from the Corona Experiment

The 7 Social Sins

Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Worship without sacrifice.
Politics without principle.

Frederick Lewis Donaldson

We are not even close to the zenith of this pandemic and there are already voices asking for easing the restrictions, so that the economy does not tank. It is not surprising to hear extreme opinions in a country that is more or less evenly divided over most issues. However, it shows that some folks have lost their moral compass.

This is what Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had to say: “… no one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in. My message is, let’s get back to work. Let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it, and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country. Our biggest gift we give to our country, and our children and our grandchildren, is the legacy of our country.”

Patrick claimed after speaking to over a hundred people over the phone that they don’t want to lose the whole country over the current public health crisis and face an economic collapse.

No, there is something seriously wrong with this picture. To put the mighty dollar before people?

What is left of humanity, morality, and conscience?

Be safe.