Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19’

The reasonable case for considering ivermectin

September 26, 2021

Some physicians think invermectin is useful as a treatment for Covid; others don’t.  I don’t have the medical or scientific knowledge to judge who is right.  

My view of invermectin is a form of Pascal’s Wager.  It is cheap and, if used as prescribed by a physician, it is safe.   If vaccines have failed or are not available, a person infected with Covid has everything to gain and nothing to lose by trying it.

I am vaccinated.  I think everybody who has access to vaccines should get vaccinated, unless they already have had Covid or have a good medical reason not to.  

But the vaccines now in use do not prevent infection or the spread of the disease.  You can catch Covid from a vaccinated person.  

Vaccines may not prevent breakthrough Covid.  A friend of mine who was vaccinated spent a weekend suffering intense pain, fever and chills, which I think was probably breakthrough Covid.

This doesn’t mean the current vaccines are useless.  They rally the body’s immune system to fight the virus.

What it does show, in my opinion, is the need for a treatment, or a sterilizing vaccine, that will actually kill the virus.

If ivermectin is such a treatment, this would be great for everyone. 

The small-scale clinical trials showing the benefits of ivermectin have sometimes been flawed.  All or almost all have been too limited to bring about conclusive results.  

That is why there should be large-scale clinical trials to settle the question one way or other other.  If ivermectin is not what it’s cracked up to be, then there should be an intense program, equivalent to Operation Warp Speed, to develop one.

It is established medical practice in the USA and other countries to allow government-approved drugs to be used for treatments of diseases other than the ones they’ve been approved for.  

I don’t believe in self-medication for serious conditions, but I believe physicians should be able to use their own judgment about legal treatments.

I  also believe physicians and scientists should be able to post discuss medical treatments on the Internet without being censored.

If I were dying of Covid, I wouldn’t want to be put on a ventilator, I would want my physician to try ivermectin.  If I were the president of an African country that couldn’t get vaccines because majority-white countries such as the USA and Canada want to give their citizens third doses, I would certainly  distribute ivermectin.

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Vaccines and COVID-19 death rates

September 22, 2021

Click to enlarge

Hat tip to David Zweig.

I’ll be 85 years old in December.  This chart from England makes me very, very glad that I was able to get vaccinated.  

I wasn’t able to find the original link to the chart, but the links below have the basic information.

LINKS

COVID-19 confirmed deaths in England (to 31 January 2021) by Public Health England.

Risk for COVID-19 Infection, Hospitalization and Death by Age Group in the USA by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The plan is for all Americans to get COVID

September 10, 2021

The Biden administration’s plan for fighting COVID-19 is for all Americans to get vaccinated. But that won’t stop the spread of the disease.  Being vaccinated just means you’re less likely to die or need hospital care if you get it.

But there is nothing in place to stamp out the disease and very little to stop the spread of the disease.  This means that all of us Americans are bound to get it, sooner or later.

I’m in favor of vaccination.  I’ve received two shots myself.  I would like as many people as possible to get vaccinated.   Mandatory vaccinations are nothing new.  Schools and other institutions have every right to require masking and vaccinations.

The thing of it is—the vaccines now available are not sterilizing vaccines, at least not as far we know.  They do not kill the virus, just rally the body’s defenses to resist it.  Other things being equal, a vaccinated person is just as potentially infectious as an unvaccinated person.

The way to stop the spread of the virus would be to require everyone entering an indoor public space to be tested, whether vaccinated or not.  As in China, there would be a temperature check, and everybody running a temperature would get a test.

Those infected would be isolated and treated until the infection goes away.  Do this long enough and the virus dies out.

Why isn’t this being done?  Probably because the U.S. pubic health system and medical care system don’t have the capacity to carry it out.

Of course, there are other ways to slow the spread.  Indoor ventilation would be a big help.  Indoor masking also would be a big help. 

But the disease won’t be stopped until there are treatments that kill the virus, as penicillin kills bacterial infections.  There is no national effort to develop one.

The Biden administration is content to push vaccination alone, vaccination and nothing else, and it blames people who don’t get vaccinated for the spread of the disease

The unvaccinated are conflated with deplorables who believe in crazy conspiracy theories, and both groups are conflated with Trump voters.  They will be the scapegoats for the comeback of COVID-19 this winter.

I’ve even heard people say that the unvaccinated do not deserve to be treated for the coronavius. 

Would such people say that cigarette smokers do not deserve medical care lung cancer? that sexually active gay men do not deserve medical care for AIDS? that people who’ve attempted suicide, and failed, deserve no medical care at all?

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Pushback against the war on ivermectin

September 8, 2021

The American Medical Association has joined the campaign to discourage people from using invermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.  But not all physicians are willing to accept the AMA’s judgment.

The following is a letter from Jane M. Orient, M.D., executive director of Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, to Gerald E. Harmon, M.D., president of the American Medical Association.

The AMA has taken the startling and unprecedented position that American physicians should immediately stop prescribing, and pharmacists should stop honoring their prescriptions for ivermectin for COVID-19 patients.  The AMA is thus contradicting the professional judgment of a very large number of physicians, who are writing about 88,000 prescriptions per week.  It also contradicts the Chairman of the Tokyo Medical Association, Haruo Ozaki, who recommended that all doctors in Japan immediately begin using Ivermectin to treat COVID.

AMA claims that ivermectin is dangerous and ineffective despite the safe prescription of billions of doses since 1981, and the mostly favorable results of 63 controlled studies in COVID-19.

AMA does not specify any recommended early treatments, but simply urges face masks, distancing, and vaccination.

Our members would appreciate clarification of the AMA’s stand on the following questions:

  • What are the criteria for advocating that pharmacists override the judgment of fully qualified physicians who are responsible for individual patients?
  • What are the criteria for forbidding off-label use of long-approved drugs, which constitute at least 20 percent of all prescriptions?
  • On what basis does AMA demand use only within a clinical trial for ivermectin, but call for virtually universal vaccination outside of controlled trials, despite FDA warnings of potential cardiac damage in healthy young patients, and no information about long-term effects?

We believe that these questions get to the heart of issues of physician and patient autonomy, as well as scientific principles such as the need for a control group in experiments.

We look forward to your response.

Ivermectin is a drug originally developed as a cure for parasitic disease, and has come to be used as an off-label treatment for bacterial and virus diseases.  Many reputable physicians prescribe it for COVID-19—not as a substitute for vaccination, but as a supplement for vaccines or as an alternative when vaccines are not available or not medically recommended.

Vaccines do not cure COVID-19.  They protect infected people against the worst symptoms of the disease.  We need for a treatment or a “sterilizing vaccine” that will kill the disease.

Everything I know about ivermectin leads to me think that it might be such a treatment, but I’m not a physician or an epidemiologist and I could be wrong.  If not there should be a search for a treatment—a search as intense as last year’s search for a vaccine.

The chief disadvantage of ivermectin from the standpoint of the pharmaceutical industry is that it is cheap, safe and not patented, which means that it is relatively unprofitable.  Using Occam’s Razor, this is the simplest explanation for the industry’s behavior.

LINKS

AAPS Letter to AMA Re: Ivermectin and COVID.

As US Prepares to Ban Ivermectin for Covid-19, More Countries in Asia Begin Using It by Nick Corbishley for Naked Capitalism.

US as Failed State: Covid Booster Shot Mess by Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism.

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The passing scene: Links & comments 9/1/2021

September 1, 2021

Here are some links to writings I found interesting.  Maybe you will, too.

Costa Ricans Live Longer Than Us – What’s the Secret? by Atul Gowande for The New Yorker.

The average Costa Rican’s income is about one-sixth that of the average US American.  Yet Costa Ricans enjoy longer life expectancies, and are healthier by many other measures.

Atul Gowande wrote that Costa Rica, more than most nations, emphasizes public health—preventing infectious disease outbreaks, malnutrition, toxic hazards, sanitary problems and the like.  It also has clinics that provide free medical care to the whole population, rural as well as urban, poor as well as rich.

Costa Rica is admirable in many ways.  Surrounded by military dictatorships, it has been a democracy with no army for 72 years and counting.  It also is a leader in renewable energy and environmental preservation.

The Great Game of Smashing Nations by John Pilger for Consortium News.

One of the rationales for keeping troops in Afghanistan is to protect women from being oppressed by the Taliban.  But, as John Pilger pointed out, the women of Afghanistan were doing just fine in the 1980s.  Half the university students were women, and women made up 40 percent of Afghanistan’s doctors, 70 percent of its teachers and 30 percent of its civil servants.

But Afghanistan was friendly to the Soviet Union.  The U.S. government recruited fanatic anti-feminist jihadists to overthrow the Afghan government, in order to draw the Soviets into a quagmire war.  The plan succeeded.  The people of Afghanistan, especially the women, paid the price.

Mob Justice Is Trampling Democratic Discourse by Anne Applebaum for The Atlantic.

In today’s USA, you can lose your job and become a social outcast if someone accuses you of violating social codes have to do with race, sex, personal behavior or even acceptable humor–codes that, as Anne Applebaum wrote, may not have existed five years ago or even five months ago.

I’m reminded of the McCarthy period in the 1950s, which I’m old enough to remember.  You could be accused of being pro-Communist for trivial reasons or no reason at all.  The difference is that, in that era, most academics and journalists defended freedom of speech and association, which is not the case today.

Zeynep Tufekci on the Sociology of The Moment, an interview on Conversations with Tyler.

Zepnep Tufekci, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, is doing some of the best writing on the COVID-19 pandemic.  She was born in Turkey.

Here she is interviewed by the economist Tyler Cowen about the pandemic, Turkey and her ways of understanding things.

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Public schools can be petri dishes for coronavirus

August 25, 2021

Back during the George W. Bush administration, Carter Mecher was head of a White House task force charged with making a plan to prevent pandemics.  He was contacted by Robert Glass, a scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, who’d been running computer simulations of pandemics.

Glass’s models indicated that kindergartens and schools were potential petri dishes for the spread of contagious disease.  I don’t think this would have been surprising to most parents and teachers.

At that time, there were more than 100,000 K-12 schools in the U.S., with 50 million children in them.  There were 500,000 school buses in operation, compared to 70,000 in the regular U.S. transportation system.  On an average day, school buses carried twice as many passengers as the entire public transportation system.

Michael Lewis, author of The Premonition, told what happened next.  Becher decided to visit schools. He found school classrooms were more crowded than any other public space.  Chlldren sat, on average, three and a half feet apart; they could touch each other.

In hallways and at bus stops, young children crowded together.  They lacked the adult idea of personal space.  School bus seats were on average 40 inches wide, just wide enough for three children close packed together.

School bus aisles were narrower than aisles of regular buses. Paramedics used special stretchers for school buses because regular stretchers wouldn’t fit.

Becher made videos of homes where the ratio of children to floor space was the same as in public schools.  They looked like refugee prisons, Lewis wrote.

Glass had concluded that closing schools and reducing contacts among children were the key to controlling pandemics.

That doesn’t necessarily apply to the present situation, because teachers and children over 12 can get vaccinated.  Many schools try to practice social distancing, although this doesn’t protect from an airborne virus in an enclosed space.  Glass’s model assumed no vaccines and no treatments.

But vaccines don’t eliminate the danger.  They suppress the symptoms of the disease, but they don’t necessarily kill the virus.  Vaccinated people can still be spreaders of the disease.  And vaccines may not be 100 percent effective.

I don’t know what I’d do if I were a parent, except listen to the teachers rather than the politicians or the CDC.

Children in families with a lot of books in the home, who watch educational programs on TV and talk about current events and books around the supper table—the education of these children would not suffer all that much from school lockdowns.

But children in families without books in the home, children with parents who work multiple jobs and don’t have time for suppertime conversations, children who depend on school lunches for their main nourishing meal of the day—these children would be hurt a lot by long-term school closing.

Wearing masks can help some.  Good ventilation can help a lot.  Vaccine mandates for teachers and staff might help, but regular tests for the virus would help more.

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Ivermectin study retracted

July 23, 2021
A report of a clinical study on the benefits of ivermectin as an anti-Covid treatment has been withdrawn.
 
The resport reportedly gave results that were mathematically impossible and differed from the raw data.
 
The retraction does not, in itself, discredit ivermectin as a possible treatment.  There are other studies that support the benefits of invermectin. 
 
But the fact that the Frontline Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) and the British Invermectin Recommendation Development (BIRD) Group cited it is not a good look.
 
My own opinion remains the same.  I believe the sale of drugs should be regulated.  I don’t think somebody should be able to sell Dr. Quack’s Covid Cure over-the-counter.  But prescribing approved drugs for non-approved purposes is a legal and common practice.
 
Ivermectin is a drug that has long been approved for treatment of parasitic disease and seems to hold promise for treatment of virus disease.  It has been proven safe, and is cheap because no longer protected by patents. 
 
There is no reason physicians should not prescribe ivermectin if in their judgment there is a benefit, especially when vaccines are not available or have failed.  Studies of invermectin should continue, and discussion of ivermectin should not be suppressed.
 
LINKS
 
Why Was a Major Study on Invermectin for COVID-19 Just Retracted? by Jack Lawrence for GRFTR.
 
Huge study supporting ivermectin as Covid treatment withdraw over ethical concerns by Melissa Davey for The Guardian.
 
Joint Statement of the FLCCC Alliance and British Ivermectin Research Development Group on Retraction of Early Research on Invermectin.

A vaccination-only anti-virus strategy

July 22, 2021

It seems as if the Biden administration intends to rely on vaccines alone to fight the COVID-19 virus.

The official advice is that once you get vaccinated, it’s safe to do anything you want, including spending time unmasked in poorly-ventilated indoor spaces.

That’s wrong.  Even if you’re vaccinated, you can be infected and you can infect others.  Masking, ventilation and other safety measures are still needed.

It’s true that availability of vaccines has dramatically reduced the death rate from COVID.  The chart above, showing waves of COVID infection before and after vaccines were available, indicates this.

Vaccination, however, does not confer 100 percent immunity.  The vaccines stimulate the immune system, so that, if you are infected, you are unlikely to experience symptoms of the disease and even less likely to be hospitalized. 

But they often fail to kill the virus.  You can be vaccinated and symptom-free and still be a spreader of the disease.

I’m in favor of vaccination. I got two shots of the Moderna vaccine as soon as I could, one in March and one in April.  I don’t take that as guaranteeing perfect safety.

It’s going to be a while before I eat a restaurant  meal indoors or watch a movie in a theater.  I may never take an airplane trip again.  I intend to wear a mask any time I am indoors with people I don’t know.

That’s not because I like masks.  I get short of breath when I wear one for a long time.  Everybody looks like they’re either terrorists, robbers or assisting in surgery.  But I can put up with this minor annoyance in order to reduce my own risk and the risk I create for others.

I understand that not everybody is willing to live as I do, or in a position to do so.  I am 84 years old, retired, unmarried, an introvert and a recluse. 

I don’t have to venture out into the world to earn my daily bread, and my temperament makes it easier for me than for most people to do without hugs and kisses.

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Lab leak or animal transmission?

July 22, 2021

It’s very possible that SARS-CoV-2 originated in an animal and was transmitted to a human being, because that’s how so many virus diseases originated.

But we don’t as yet have any example of an animal in the wild carrying the disease, let alone a specific person getting the disease from an animal.

It’s possible that the virus spread as the result of a laboratory accident, because lab accidents have been known to happen.

But we don’t have any proof that a laboratory accident actually occurred, let alone a specific person being infected.

It’s argued that it is more than coincidence that the virus was first discovered in Wuhan, China, a center for research in coronaviruses. I agree.

A center for the study of a virus in the lab would be a place where people would be most alert to detect the virus. But that’s not proof that the virus originated there. Diseases frequently are first discovered in places distant from where they originate.

It’s argued that the virus must be an artificial creation because it is so tailored to exploit human weaknesses. I don’t have the knowledge to make a scientific judgement one way or the other.

But it seems to me that this argument underestimates the malignant ingenuity of Mother Nature, operating through Darwinian random variation and natural selection.

None of this disproves the lab leak hypothesis, of course.

The lab leak hypothesis is more comforting than the animal transmission hypothesis because it is easier to fix human error that it is to cope with the forces of nature.

China haters tend to like the lab leak hypothesis. Trump haters tend to dislike it.

As for myself, I don’t have an opinion either way.

Why the U.S. failed to avert the pandemic (2)

July 21, 2021

Like Michael Lewis’s The Premonition, Andy Slavitt’s Preventable is a story of how people in authority disregarded warnings and allowed the COVID-19 virus to gain a foothold in the United States.

But while Lewis described the efforts of a number of far-sighted prophets, Slavitt concentrates on just one—himself.

Slavitt is an interesting figure—a political operator and member of the professional-managerial class, who influences policy, moves back and forth between government and the private sector, but would be unknown to the public except for this book.

He was an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, a consultant for McKinsey & Co., and founder of a company called HealthAllies, and then worked for United Health Group after it acquired HealthAllies. 

He served the Obama administration as head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2014, and was a medical adviser to the Biden administration during its first few months.

His power comes from being embedded in a network of politicians, corporate CEOs, wealthy philanthropists and academics, who all answer his phone calls and listen to what he has to say.

Preventable is about how he tried to alert the public to the danger, while also trying, from behind the scenes, to influence the Trump administration to take action before it was too late.

His book is a good overview of the Trump administration’s pandemic response and of the inadequacies of the American medical care system generally.

Much of the criticism of Trump is based on a knee-jerk response to his vulgar and offensive comments on Twitter and elsewhere, which don’t matter, and on a gullible acceptance of charges of collusion with Russian and Ukrainian leaders, which were either bogus or trivial.

Slavitt did a good job of showing the real problem with Trump, which was his inadequacy as an administrator and leader.  Trump refused to face unpleasant facts.  He thought of policy only in terms of public relations, not in terms of consequences, and he failed to think ahead even about public relations.

He calculated that closings are unpopular and openings are popular, so he shifted responsibilities for closings onto governors of states while positioning himself as the champion of openings.

As damning as Slavitt’s portrait of Trump is, it will not change the minds of Trump’s admirers because of Slavitt’s obvious bias and partisanship. 

The only named persons he holds accountable for the COVID-19 pandemic are Trump supporters, members of Trump’s administration and Donald Trump himself.  Democrats get a free pass.

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How the virus took hold in the U.S.

July 21, 2021

The following timeline is from Andy Slavitt’s Preventable.  It shows when there was a window of opportunity to prevent the COVID-19 virus from establishing itself in the United States, and when that window closed.

Nov. 17, 2019.  First COVID-19 case in Wuhan, China.

U.S. total cases: 0.

U.S. total deaths: 0.

U.S. daily cases: 0.

Jan. 20, 2020.  First COVID-19 case in the United States

U.S. total cases: 1

U.S. total deaths: 0.

U.S. daily cases: 1.

Jan. 29, 2020.  White House task force created.

U.S. total cases: 6.

U.S. total deaths: 0.

U.S. daily cases:  1.

Jan. 31, 2020.  First COVID-19 case in Italy.

U.S. total cases:  9.

U.S. total deaths:  0.

U.S. daily cases:  1.

Feb. 26, 2020.  First COVID-19 death in the United States

U.S. total cases: 16.

U.S. total deaths: 1.

U.S. daily cases: 1.

March 3, 2020.  100th U.S. case.

U.S. total cases: 100.

U.S. total deaths: 14.

U.S. daily cases: 50.

March 9, 2020.  1,000th U.S. case.

U.S. total cases: 1,000.

U.S. total deaths: 35.

U.S. daily cases: 292.

March 17, 2020.  10,000th U.S. case

U.S. total cases:  10,000.

U.S. total deaths: 123.

U.S. daily cases: 2,570.

March 20, 2020.  100th COVID-19 death in South Korea.

U.S. total cases:  24,100.

U.S. total deaths: 273.

U.S. daily cases: 6,090.

Why the U.S. failed to avert the pandemic (1)

July 20, 2021

Michael Lewis’s The Premonition tells stories of Americans who foresaw the danger of a pandemic and created workable plans and technologies to fight it, but in the end were brushed aside.

He throws light on U.S. unpreparedness to deal with pandemic disease and how COVID-19 was allowed to take hold when it could have been eradicated.

The stories of his heroes are oddly inspirational, even though they mostly failed in the end.  Their plans and inventions were usually not tried, or tried too late.  They were like Winston Churchill’s in a world in which he was never called to power and World War Two ended in stalemate.

Lewis’s book leaves off in the spring of 2020 when it became plain that a pandemic was not going to be averted.  Andy Slavitt’s Preventable takes up the story at that point. 

Slavitt’s provided a good overview of the Trump administration’s failures, but I learned little that was new to me.  Lewis’s book is more fragmentary, but his insights are deeper and his writing is much more readable.

The back stories of Lewis’s heroes are as illuminating as their responses to the pandemic.  I’ll just give the highlights of one of them.

Charity Dean was public health officer for Santa Barbara County, California.  In 2013. she was alerted that a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara had symptoms of meningitis B, a rare infectious disease that attacked healthy young people and could kill them in hours.  The test for the disease was inconclusive.

She asked the Centers for Disease Control what to do.  The CDC advised her to do nothing.  She didn’t have enough data.  She ordered the university medical authorities to test any student with a low-grade fever four the disease.  Three tested positive.  The CDC still advised her to do nothing.

Instead she ordered lockdowns of the fraternities and sororities and to gave the 1,200 students a prophylactic (preventive medicine).  Over the objections of the CDC, she thinned out the dormitories by sending some students into hotel rooms, shut down intramural sports and administered a vaccine that had been approved in Europe, but not by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

There were no more cases.  Two years later, the CDC drew up a plan for best practices for an outbreak of meningitis B, which included most of the things Dr. Dean had done.

Another time she was faced with the decision as to what to do about a home for the elderly, which was within the path of a possible mudslide that would kill them all. 

Meteorologists said there was a 20 percent chance of such a mudslide.  The medical director of the home said that maybe 5 percent of the 100 residents were so frail to they would die if they were moved.

Based on those figures, she ordered the evacuation.  Seven of the old people died.  There was no mudslide.

A short time later, Karen Smith, public health director for the state of California, asked Dean to become deputy state public health director. 

Dean asked, Why me?  Smith answered, Because you make decisions.

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Follow the science, or follow the money

June 23, 2021

I had forgotten this until recently, but there was an earlier version of Covid, which the U.S. and other countries eliminated without vaccines and without lockdowns.

The technical name of the current virus is SARS-CoV-2, which stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-CoronaVirus-version 2.

The earlier version, SARS-CoV-1, emerged in 2002-2004.  It was contained by means of testing people with symptoms, isolating and quarantining infected people and restricting travel to and from infected regions.

Only about 8,000 people worldwide were ever infected, and about 10 percent of them died.

SARS-Cov-2 would have been more difficult to control.  It is less deadly, but more infectious, and it is infectious before symptoms appear.

Even so, governments such as Taiwan and New Zealand acted immediately to trace contacts and isolate and quarantine the sick.  They succeeded in stamping it out with relatively few deaths.

The USA, UK and European Union nations did not follow suit.

Here in the USA, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the President’s chief adviser on the coronavirus, said the coronavirus was just like the ‘flu.  Back in February, 2020, he said the danger was “miniscule” and wearing of masks unnecessary.

By the time the U.S. government and state governments decided to take the virus seriously, it was already well established.  More than 600,000 Americans have died. 

The conventional wisdom now is that Covid may never completely go away.

What explains governmental failure, and apparent refusal to learn from failure?  I don’t know. 

The policy of the U.S. and many other Western nations is to rely exclusively on patented vaccines to control Covid. 

I’m all for vaccines.  I got vaccinated myself as soon as I could.  But the vaccine-only policy harms people in poor countries who won’t get vaccines anytime soon.  The policy only helps the big pharmaceutical companies.

I strongly recommend reading Thomas Neuburger’s good article on this topic.

LINK

The Politics of ‘Follow the Science’ by Thomas Neuburger for God’s Spies.  “Ivermectin is cheap and exists.  Undeveloped vaccines, with governments desperate to finance and promote them, are money in the bank for years.”

Who shall decide, when doctors disagree?

June 22, 2021

Brett Weinstein’s Dark Horse interviews with medical experts about COVID-19 have been taken down from YouTube, and there is a strong possibility that his whole Dark Horse podcast may be banned from YouTube for good.

One of Bertrand Russell’s rules for skeptics is that, when experts disagree, no non-expert opinion can be regarded as certain.

I don’t have any expertise of my own that would qualify me to judge which is the best treatment for COVID-19.  But what qualifies a social media company to judge?

Although experts disagree, the experts on opposing sides are not given equal voices.

There is pressure to focus on vaccines that are patented by big drug companies, and to suppress discussion of possible low-cost treatments that would not be profitable to the big companies.

The Catch-22 case against ivermectin, for example, is that, despite its apparent successes, (1) there have been no clinical trials by rich-country institutions meeting FDA standards and (2) there aren’t going to be any such trials, because there is no financial incentive to conduct them.

Maybe ivermectin is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Why not find out for sure?

LINKS

Why Has ‘Ivermectin’ Become a Dirty Word? by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

Meet the Censored: Brett Weinstein, an interview on TK News.

The mechanisms of action of Ivermectin against SARS-CoV-2: an evidence-based clinical review article by Asiya Delhani-Mobarki and Puya Delhani-Mobarki for the Journal of Antibiotics.

Global trends in clinical studies of ivermectin for COVID-19 by Morimasa Yagisawa, Patrick J. Foster, Hideaki Hanaki and Satoshi Omura for the Japanese Journal of Antibiotics.

Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19 by Drs. Paul Marik, Pierre Kory, Joseph Varon, Gianfranco Umberto Meduri, Jose Iglesias and five others for the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance.

Testimony of Pierre Kory, M.D., on Dec. 8, 2020, before the Homeland Security Committee on early treatment of COVID-19.

Delta Force: Notes on Our Newest Variant of Concern by Lambert Strether for Naked Capitalism.   The disease is evolving and adapting.  Are we?

They say Covid-19 is here to stay

June 11, 2021

The economic incentive of the drug companies is to reduce Covid-19 to a continuing low level threat, both in the USA and abroad, and to have a monopoly on the means of controlling it.

The model is the Great Influenza of 1918.  The ‘flu never went away, it just became something we learned to live with, and people like me get a ‘flu shot every year.

The drug companies seem to be getting their wish.  But their problem is that they do not have a monopoly on Covid-19 treatments.

There is ivermectin. There are other treatments.  There are the vaccines developed by Russia and China.

The U.S. government claims the Russian and Chinese vaccines are ineffective.  Maybe they are, I can’t judge, but an imperfect cure that is available and affordable is better than a perfect cure that you can’t get or can’t afford.

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The pushback against ivermectin for covid

June 9, 2021

Ivermectin is a well-known anti-parasite drug, cheap to make and proven to be safe, that a lot of physicians think is effective against Covid-19.

Several states in India tried it out.  New Covid-19 cases dropped dramatically.

Ivermectin results in three Indian states, vs. one where it was banned

The reaction of India’s public health agency?  Astonishingly, following the guidance of the World Health Organization, they dropped invermectin from a list of recommended treatments.

Physicians in India are still free to prescribe invermectin, but the only treatments with the official seal of approval are the expensive vaccines made by major drug companies, all still in short supply in India. 

I don’t see how this decision benefits anyone except the drug companies themselves.

Nick Corbishley, posting on the Naked Capitalism blog, tells the story:

India’s Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has executed a policy reversal that could have massive implications for the battle against covid-19, not only in India but around the world. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, are at providing stake.

Providing no explanation whatsoever, the DGHS has overhauled its COVID-19 treatment guidelines and removed almost all of the repurposed medicines it had previously recommended for treating asymptomatic and mild cases.

They include the antibiotic doxycycline, hydroxychloroquine zinc, ivermectin and even multivitamins. The only medicines that are still recommended for early treatment are cold medicines, antipyretics such as paracetamol and inhaled budesonide.

“No other covid-specific medication [is] required,” say the new guidelines, which also discourage practitioners from prescribing unnecessary tests such as CT scans.  [snip]

The decision to remove ivermectin, multivitamins and zinc from the treatment guidelines is hard to comprehend given the current state of play in India — unless one assumes foul play.

After suffering one of the worst covid-19 outbreaks since the pandemic began, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, India is not just flattening the curve, it is crushing it.

And the widespread use of ivermectin, a potent anti-viral and anti-inflammatory with an excellent safety profile, appears to have played an instrumental role.  [snip]

Other countries in the region have already taken notice. Indonesia just approved the use of ivermectin in Kudus, a local contagion hotspot.

This is the last thing the World Health Organization (WHO) and the pharmaceutical companies whose interests it broadly represents want.

As such, it was no surprise that WHO was delighted with the DGHS’ policy reversal. “Evidence based guidelines from @mohfw DGHS – simple, rational and clear guidance for physicians,” tweeted WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan, of Indian descent. “Should be translated and disseminated in all Indian languages.”  [snip]

It’s worth noting that while India’s DGHS has dumped most cheap off-patent treatment options against Covid, including even multivitamins, more expensive patented medicines continue to get the green light.

They include Gilead’s prohibitively expensive antiviral Remdesivir, which DGHS continues to recommend for “select moderate/ severe hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” even though “it is only an experimental drug with potential to harm.” It has also authoriszed the use of the anti-inflammatory medicine tocilizumab, which costs hundreds of dollars a dose.

Source: Naked Capitalism.

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COVID and “the crime of the century”

June 4, 2021

In this eye-opening video, Dr. Brett Weinstein, a biologist, interviews Dr. Pierre Kory, a physician, about the pandemic, the care of Covid-19 patients and the amazing recent of Ivermectin, for his Dark Horse podcast.

Ivermectin has been shown to be effective in both preventing and treating Covid-19, and also in treating the inflammation caused by the immune system’s response to the virus. 

It is cheap to make, and not restricted by anybody’s patent.  It has been in use for more than 30 years as a treatment for bacterial parasites, and is proven safe—unlike the new vaccines, whose long-term effects are unknown. 

Yet its use is being suppressed here in the United States.  Physicians are discouraged from even talking about it, and the record of Kory’s testimony before Congress was banned from YouTube. 

There is a race on to immunize the world’s population before the coronavirus mutates into a form that can resist both vaccines and Ivermectin.

There aren’t enough available vaccines to immunize the world’s population within the next year or two.  Preventing the use of Ivermectin could cost hundreds of thousands of lives, maybe millions.  Many lives have already been needlessly lost.

That’s why Weinstein calls suppression of ivermectin “the crime of the century.”

Kory is a member of the FLCCC—the Front-Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance.  This is a group of physicians who joined together to do what the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health should have been doing, which was to investigate ways to better treat the virus.

The video runs for two and a half hours, which is a long time to watch something on a computer screen.  Unfortunately, no transcript is available, so I’ll hit highlights.

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Ivermectin, an ignored Covid miracle drug

May 24, 2021

Invermectin is an anti-viral, anti-inflammatory drug that is cheap, effective against COVID-19 and already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

It has been approved for use in 20 countries, including India, Brazil and Mexico.

Yet the World Health Organization and U.S. Food and Drug Administration do not recommend it.  Many American physicians refuse to prescribe it, including some cases in which patients are dying.

News about it has been suppressed.  Even announcements by health ministries of Brazil and Slovakia have been canceled by social media, as has a YouTube video of testimony of Dr. Pierre Kory, a leading Ivermectin expert, before a congressional committee.

I learned about Ivermectin’s through a link on the Naked Capitalism web log to an article by a journalist named Michael Capuzzo.

I’m not a physician or medical expert, but the evidence presented by Capuzzo in his article, by Dr. Kory in his testimony, and by a team of physicians in a peer-reviewed article is so strong I can’t see how it can be refuted.

Why the opposition to use of this drug?   Nick Corbishley, writing for Naked Capitalism, suggested three possible reasons.

# As a generic, ivermectin is cheap and widely available, which means there would be a lot less money to be made by Big Pharma if it became the go-to medicine against covid.

# Other pharmaceutical companies are developing their own novel treatments for Covid-19 which would have to compete directly with ivermectin. They include ivermectin’s original manufacturer, Merck, which has an antiviral compound, molnupiravir, in Phase 3 clinical trials for COVID-19.  That might explain the company’s recent statement claiming that there is “no scientific basis whatsoever for a potential therapeutic effect of ivermectin against COVID-19.”  The company also flagged up “a concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies.”  Despite its obvious conflict of interest, Merck’s objections were recently cited by WHO in a statement aimed at browbeating India’s government into withdrawing its approval of ivermectin.

# If approved as a covid-19 treatment, ivermectin could even threaten the emergency use authorization granted to covid-19 vaccines. One of the basic conditions for the emergency use authorization granted to the vaccines currently being used against covid is that there are no alternative treatments available for the disease. As such, if ivermectin or some other promising medicine such as fluvoxamine were approved as an effective early treatment for Covid-19, the vaccines could be stripped of authorization.

Source: naked capitalism

I can think of an additional reason: the tribal nature of politics these days.  President Donald Trump criticized the WHO and CDC and speculated about unconventional therapies for COVID-19.  So anybody who is skeptical about WHO and CDC recommendations supposedly is an ignoramus who doesn’t “believe the science.”

LINKS

‘I Don’t Know of a Bigger Story in the World’ Right Now Than Ivermectin by Nick Corbishley for Naked Capitalism.

The Drug That Cracked Covid by Michael Capuzzo for Mountain Home.  It’s a real commentary on things that this article was published in a obscure regional magazine rather than the New York Times or The Atlantic.

Testimony of Pierre Kory, M.D., on Dec. 8, 2020, before the Homeland Security Committee on early treatment of COVID-19.

Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19 by Drs. Paul Marik, Pierre Kory, Joseph Varon, Gianfranco Umberto Meduri, Jose Iglesias and five others for the Front Line Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance.  These guys are heroes.

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COVID-19 links and comments: May 8, 2021

May 8, 2021

Click to enlarge. Source: ScienceDirect

Why DId It Take So Long to Accept the Facts About Covid? by Zeynep Tufekci for The New York Times.  The importance of airborne transmission of the virus, rather than droplets, has been known for many months, but the WHO and CDC have been slow to admit it.

If the importance of aerosol transmission had been accepted early, we would have been told from the beginning that it was much safer outdoors, where these small particles disperse more easily, as long as you avoid close, prolonged contact with others.  We would have tried to make sure indoor spaces were well ventilated, with air filtered as necessary.  Instead of blanket rules on gatherings, we would have targeted conditions that can produce superspreading events: people in poorly ventilated indoor spaces, especially if engaged over time in activities that increase aerosol production, like shouting and singing.  We would have started using masks more quickly, and we would have paid more attention to their fit, too.  And we would have been less obsessed with cleaning surfaces. 

Our mitigations would have been much more effective, sparing us a great deal of suffering and anxiety.

The difference between droplets and aerosols is like the difference between raindrops and fog.  Droplets fall to the ground and sick to surfaces.  Aerosols float in the air indefinitely. 

If you’re out of doors, and not in a tightly-packed crowd, you’re not in much danger from aerosols.  But if you’re in a poorly ventilated space for a long period of time, you’re going to breathe the same air as other people in that space, no matter how far apart you are.

This makes a big difference in how you protect yourself from the virus.  For example, masks are important indoors.  Outdoors, not so much.

To see this misunderstanding in action, look at what’s still happening throughout the world. In India, where hospitals have run out of supplemental oxygen and people are dying in the streets, money is being spent on fleets of drones to spray anti-coronavirus disinfectant in outdoor spaces.  Parks, beaches and outdoor areas keep getting closed around the world.  This year and last, organizers canceled outdoor events for the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.  Cambodian customs officials advised spraying disinfectant outside vehicles imported from India.  The examples are many.

Meanwhile, many countries allowed their indoor workplaces to open but with inadequate aerosol protections.  There was no attention to ventilation, installing air filters as necessary or even opening windows when possible, more to having people just distancing three or six feet, sometimes not requiring masks beyond that distance, or spending money on hard plastic barriers, which may be useless at best.  (Just this week, President Biden visited a school where students were sitting behind plastic shields.) 

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Success and failure in fighting the pandemic

May 6, 2021

Eric Berne, a famous psychiatrist, wrote that there is a psychological difference between winners and losers.  The winner’s goal is victory, and the winner hopes and expects to win despite any temporary defeats.  The loser’s goal is to avoid defeat, and the loser fears and expects to lose despite any temporary victories.

It seems to me that there is a similar sorting of winners and losers among countries in regard to the pandemic.  There were some nations who sought to eradicate the virus, and largely succeeded.  There are others who sought to bring down the rate of infection to something they could live with, like polio before the Salk vaccine.

A few countries, mainly in the Far East, including China, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea [1] and Japan, had a goal of eradicating the disease, and largely succeeded. 

Their lockdowns, if they had any. were short and sharp.  Their governments by and large used the lockdowns to track down and quarantine persons who were infected before the disease took hold and there were too many to trace.  Many cut off air travel to countries that were centers of the disease.

Here in the USA, the initial reaction was to dismiss COVID-19 as just a more severe version of the ‘flu.  Michael Lewis has a new book coming out, The Premonition, about how Americans in authority failed to react.

In January and February of 2020, hundreds of Americans in Wuhan, China, were flown back to the U.S. Considering how many people had died of COVID-19 in China at that point,  it would have made sense to test those Americans who were coming back.  But according to Lewis and his sources, then-CDC Director Robert Redfield refused to test them, saying it would amount to doing research on imprisoned persons.  [snip]

According to Lewis’ reporting, the CDC basically had two positions on the pandemic early on.  Early on it was that there was nothing to see here — that this is not a big deal.  It’s being overblown.  And then there was this very quick pivot when it started spreading in the U.S. and the position became it’s too late and there’s nothing we can do.

Source: NPR

The United States had partial lockdowns.  Some Americans were able to work from home or, like me, had sufficient retirement income to stay at home.  Some lost their livelihoods and were forced into poverty.  Some had no choice but to continue working, many under extremely unsafe conditions.

The center of infection in the USA was New York City, and the source of the infection was passengers arriving by air from virus hot spots in Europe.  This was known at the time.

It should have been possible to take the temperatures of incoming passengers, given COVID tests for those running a fever and quarantined or sent back those who tested positive. 

But neither Gov. Andrew Cuomo or Mayor Bill de Blasio did this.  They would have been severely criticized if they had, because the seriousness of the problem would not have been obvious.  Instead they waited until the problem did become obvious.

At first we were told that the virus spreads in droplets, and we needed to be careful to keep our distance even out of doors, and to avoid touching surfaces including touching our faces. 

Now we know that the virus spreads as a kind of mist, and you are at risk anytime you are indoors for a long time in a space without good ventilation, even if you are six feet from anybody else.  But we still act as if the problem was droplets.

The good thing is that vaccines were developed faster than many people expected, but many of us Americans don’t want to get vaccinated.  The idea of getting to “herd immunity” has been quietly dropped.

Sadly, the USA is not an outlier.  The virus is hanging on in other countries, including rich countries, just as much as here, while it is spreading to India and other poor countries.

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Covid-19 deniers who have Covid-19

April 25, 2021

Bertrand Russell once wrote, “Most people would sooner die than think; in fact they do so.”

I thought of that when I read this Reddit thread of stories by physicians, nurses and other medical workers about treating (or trying to treat) Covid-19 patients who think Covid-19 in a hoax.

Doctors of Reddit: What happened when you diagnosed a Covid-19 denier with Covid-19?

Human nature can be unbelievably perverse and irrational.  Also, very noble.  My hat goes off to  medical practitioners who risk their own lives and health to treat people who think they are their enemies.

The passing scene: March 22, 2021

March 22, 2021

Here are some articles I think are interesting.  Maybe you will, too.

Steve Donziger Ecuador Case: Q&A With Human Rights Lawyer Under House Arrest by Jack Holmes for Esquire.  This lawyer won a lawsuit against Texaco (since acquired by Chevron), which lasted from 1993 to 2011, on behalf of farmers and indigenous people who lived in the Amazon rain forest, who accused the company of dumping cancer-causing toxic waste where they lived.  THey won a $9.8 billion award.  Chevron refused to pay and counter-sued their lawyer. Awaiting a verdict, he has been under house arrest for more than 580 days for refusing to hand over his computer and phone with confidential lawyer-client information on them.  Incredible!

How the West Lost COVID by David Wallace-West for New York magazine.  “How did so many rich countries get it so wrong?  How did others get it so right?”  This is the best article I’ve read on this particular topic.

Your Face Is Not Your Own by Kashmir Hill for the New York Times. “When a secretive start-up scraped the Internet to build a facial-recognition tool, it tested a legal and ethical limit—and blew the future of privacy in America wide open.”  (Hat tip to O.)

Nina Turner: “Good ideas are not enough.  We need to marry our ideas to power”, an interview for Jacobin magazine.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

New study shows microplastics turn into ‘hubs’ for pathogens, antibiotic-resistant bacteria by Jesse Jenkins of New Jersey Institute of Technology.

The Crow Whisperer by Lauren Markham for Harper’s magazine.  “What happens when we talk to animals?” 

The Global South resists the COVID virus

March 11, 2021

My e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey sent me this chart and a link to a New York Times article indicating that death toll from the coronavirus has been a lot less in poor nations in Asia and Africa than in rich nations in Europe and North America.

The writer, David Leonhardt, isn’t sure why.  It’s not that the African and Asia nations fail to record the COVID-19 deaths, he wrote.  Record-keeping is pretty good in the cities, where you’d expect the disease to be at its worst.

Some possibilities:

  • Young people resist the disease better than older people, and African and Asian populations are on average younger than European and North American popultions.
  • People in Africa and Asia on average care for their elderly relatives at home rather than putting them in nursing homes, and a large proportion of COVID-19 deaths have been in nursing homes.
  • People in poor African and Asian countries on average are more exposed to infectious disease, and may be developed more of an overall resistance to infection.
  • Homes and places of business in tropical countries are better ventilated than in more northerly climes.

Ventilation is an important aspect of controlling an airborne, respiratory disease.  It hasn’t received near the attention it should in the USA.

I’d add another point.

Air travel is an important vector for the spread of the disease.  Infected passengers in the enclosed space of a plane spread the virus to others, and they all become potential speaders in the places where they land.

The spread wouldn’t have been nearly as bad as it was in, for example, New York City if incoming passengers from Europe had been screened for the virus.

Poor countries in Africa and Asia get less air traffic to begin with, and my impression is that countries that have been most successful in fighting the virus have restricted incoming air travel.

Or maybe the explanation is just that many poor countries simply did a better job of combating the virus than rich countries.

∞∞

The overall coronavirus situation is better than I expected it to be this time last year.  Drug companies developed vaccines in less than a year, and vaccinations are proceeding with all deliberate speed, especially here in the USA.

I think President Trump, for all the harm he did in discouraging masking, made the right choice in Operation Warp Speed, which was simply to give large amounts of money to drug researchers in the hope that a few of them would come up with something good.

In the present vaccine rollout, I don’t think the people who need the vaccine the most are not being prioritized as they should.  But maybe that’s less important than simply immunizing as many people as possible as quickly as possible.  If President BIden’s vaccination goal is achieved by May, that will be have been great achievement.

The anti-virus struggle isn’t over.  The new mutant strains are worrisome.  But things are better than they might have been.

LINKS

A cornonavirus whodunnit? by David Leonhardt for the New York Times.

How Europe and the United States Lost COVID-19 by David Wallace-Wells for New York magazine.  [Added 3/15/2021]

Covid conundrum: Pandemic is hitting rich countries harder than poor ones by Yen Makabenta for the Manila Times.

Why Does the Pandemic Seem to Be Hitting Some Countries Harder Than Others? by Siddhartha Mukherjee for The New Yorker

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‘Economies of fail’ and the vaccine rollout

January 27, 2021

How Monopolists Slowed the Vaccine Rollout, and Small Business Speeded It Up by Matt Stoller for BIG.  “CVS and Walgreens Didn’t Deliver.  Small pharmacies did.”

Winners and losers in the coronavirus war

January 1, 2021

Click to enlarge.  Figures in right-hand column are the important ones.

The response to the coronavirus pandemic is an objective test as to which of the world’s governments are able to perform their functions and which aren’t.

A blogger named Anatoly Karlin recently posted the most comprehensive review I’ve seen of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and government efforts to deal with it.

Karlin graded the test results.  The governments of eastern Asia, including Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Japan and China got high marks.  The European Union countries did less well, and the USA, Russia and Latin America even worse.

In east Asia, governments acted quickly before the virus established itself.  They implemented (1) universal mask wearing, (2) centralized quarantine, (3) travel restrictions and (4) mass testing.  Only China had a lockdown, and this was in effect only a relatively short time.

The USA did none of these things.  I’m not sure whether the U.S. government had the capacity to carry out such policies even if it had wanted to. 

Although President Donald Trump did and said harmful things, especially his disparagement of mask wearing, it is unfair to attribute all the U.S. COVID-19 deaths to him personally.  The failure was the failure of a system, not just of a single individual.

The bright spot, according to Karlin, was the unexpected speed with which new vaccines were developed.  Informed estimates at the start of the year were that it would take up to two years to develop a vaccine, and useful vaccines were produced in less than a year after China disclosed the molecular structure of the virus. 

So the ineffective governments of the USA, Russia and other countries may be saved by the triumph of science.  This will depend on them being effective in distributing and applying the vaccine, which is not a foregone conclusion.

The publication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus genome structure was essential to vaccine development.  I had thought the Chinese government did this as a matter of official policy.

It turns out that this wasn’t so.  It was the decision of an individual Chinese scientist, Dr. Zhang Yong-Zhen, and he got into trouble for doing it.

A favorite theme of science fiction is the nations of the world uniting in the face of an alien invasion.  But SARS-CoV-2 is as alien and deadly as any extraterrestrial life form. 

Where is the human solidarity in the fact of this threat?  I see many brave and dedicated individuals, but governments and institutions scrambling to capture scarce resources for themselves instead of working together for the common good.

∞∞

Update 1/2/2021In response to Bill Harvey’s comment and video link on poor countries being left behind, here’s a chart on the likely pace of the vaccine rollout.

Click to enlarge.

I predict Chinese COVID-19 vaccines will be widely available in poor countries before US and European vaccines are.

LINKS

The Year of Corona: Ten Megadeaths and the Crash of Western Supremacism by Anatoly Karlin for the Unz Review.  If you read the whole long article, you will be well-informed..

A pandemic atlas: How COVID-19 took over the world in 2020 by the Associated Press.  A nation-by-nation report.

The Pandemic Heroes Who Gave Us the Gift of Time and the Gift of Information by Zeynep Tufekci on Substack.

The Mutated Coronavirus Is a Ticking Time Bomb by Zeynap Tufekci for The Atlantic

Russia admits COVID death toll third-worst in the world by Al Jazeera.

Corona’s Toll in the Ex-USSR by Anatoly Karlin for the Unz Review.

Financial Times Coronavirus Tracker.