- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted colleges, think tanks, medical journals and governments to release scores of stats and studies — some good, while others fail peer review.

The research touches on comparative death counts, the sneezing range of nose droplets, cigarettes and how long the deadly virus can last on a piece of plastic such as a bottle or shopping bag.

“The problem with the media is the mindless reporting of ‘cases,’ as more testing means more cases, most of which are asymptomatic,” Steve Milloy, who researches for the Junk Science website, told The Washington Times. “A lot of hysteria, not much good data.”

Indeed, as more people are being tested in America, the case load is expanding and the mortality rate is dropping, to .012% from more than 3%.

Some recent scientific findings:

χ As the U.S. death toll approaches 1,000, The New York Times and other liberal media paint the U.S. mortality rate as near the top globally.

Not really, according to a chart created by Our World in Data at Oxford University. Founder Mark Roser crunched the mortality rate numbers on a per-capita basis, per million people, a statistic not produced by most raw data web sites. The U.S. has about 2 deaths per million, while Italy has more than 80, Spain has nearly 40 and France has 10.

χ Italy’s imposed isolation on March 9 appears to have reduced the country’s case growth rate, according to an article Tuesday in The Lancet medical journal. Before, experts estimated there would be 30,000 infections by March 15. Actual number for that date: 24,747.

“We urge all countries to acknowledge the Italian lesson and to immediately adopt very restrictive measures to limit viral diffusion, ensure appropriate health-system response, and reduce mortality, which appears to be higher than previously estimated, with a crude case-fatality rate of almost 4%,” the article said.

χ Press reports consistently say the elderly are at the highest risk from COVID-19. A study on Italy’s outbreak, with an epicenter the in Lombardy region, confirms this — to the extreme.

According to the Italian National Institute of Health’s website Epicentro, the country’s 5,019 non-health care worker death toll is almost all seniors: Age 60-69, 11%; age 70-79, 35%; age 80-89, 40%; and 90 and older, 9%. No deaths were reported for 29 years old and younger.

χ The New England Journal of Medicine put out a scary report. The coronavirus can live for hours on certain surfaces, with up to a 72-hour span on everyday plastic.

But Carolyn Machamer, a professor of cell biology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, says the study exaggerates.

“What’s getting a lot of press and is presented out of context is that the virus can last on plastic for 72 hours, which sounds really scary,” Ms. Machamer told the school. “But what’s more important is the amount of the virus that remains. It’s less than 0.1% of the starting virus material. Infection is theoretically possible but unlikely at the levels remaining after a few days. People need to know this.”

χ The same New England Journal study said COVID-19 droplets can remain in the air for several hours.

Dr. Machamer rebuts this. The New England Journal researchers used an aerosol spray, which produces a finer mist than the liquid from a cough or sneeze that falls to the ground.

“While the New England Journal of Medicine study found that the COVID virus can be detected in the air for 3 hours, in nature, respiratory droplets sink to the ground faster than the aerosols produced in this study,” she said. “The experimental aerosols used in labs are smaller than what comes out of a cough or sneeze, so they remain in the air at face-level longer than heavier particles would in nature.”

χ A “Viewpoint” article in The Journal of Clinical Investigation promotes antibodies as an immediate preventive measure or therapy for the sick. But as therapy, the serum must be injected soon after the infection is diagnosed.

“This Viewpoint argues that human convalescent serum is an option for prevention and treatment of COVID-19 disease that could be rapidly available when there are sufficient numbers of people who have recovered and can donate immunoglobulin-containing serum,” wrote Arturo Casadevall and Liise-anne Pirofski, both of the Johns Hopkins Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a Trump administration point-man on COVID-19, has said that antibodies stand today as the most promising viral treatment.

Drs. Casadevaill and Pirofski explain: “Passive antibody therapy involves the administration of antibodies against a given agent to a susceptible individual for the purpose of preventing or treating an infectious disease due to that agent. In contrast, active vaccination requires the induction of an immune response that takes time to develop and varies depending on the vaccine recipient. Thus, passive antibody administration is the only means of providing immediate immunity to susceptible persons.”

χ The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization agree that the first two signs of infections are a fever and dry cough.

Now the British Association of Otorhinolaryngology has added a new symptom: lost sense of taste.

In a Sky News report, the association of ear, nose and throat physicians said: “We have also identified a new symptom (loss of sense of smell and taste) that may mean that people without other symptoms but with just the loss of this sense may have to self-isolate — again to reduce the spread of the virus.”

Professor Nirmal Kumarm said: “In young patients, they do not have any significant symptoms such as the cough and fever but they may have just the loss of sense of smell and taste, which suggests that these viruses are lodging in the nose.”

χ An article posted Wednesday in the publication New Science points to a new study by Jeffrey Shaman at Columbia University. He purports to document the spread of COVID-19 in China in January, the month the virus went, as they say, viral.

Mr. Shaman looked at the spread between Jan. 10 and Jan. 23 and concluded that the infected who had no or mild symptoms, or 86%, created the lion’s share of infected.

New Science wrote: “Such undocumented cases are still contagious and the study found them to be the source of most of the virus’s spread in China before the restrictions came in. Even though these people were only 55 percent as contagious as people with symptoms, the study found that they were the source of 79 per cent of further infections, due to there being more of them, and the higher likelihood that they were out and about.”

χ A new study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology reported March 20 on a new COVID-19 symptom that might be the most important: diarrhea.

Researchers looked at early cases in Wuhan, China, and found that 99 of 204 infected residents first had symptoms of gastrointestinal distress before fever and coughing. And they had a higher incidence of mortality.

χ Contrarian news for cigarette smokers: A research article in the European Journal of Internal Medicine said there was no link between Chinese smokers and the severity of their COVID-19.

China is a smoker’s holiday with more than 50% of men puffing away, while fewer than 2% of women light up. Because the virus death rate is higher for men, a suspect factor is cigarettes.

Researchers looked at patients with severe disease and found no difference in non- and active smokers.

“In conclusion,” they wrote. “The results of this preliminary meta-analysis based on Chinese patients suggest that active smoking does not apparently seem to be significantly associated with enhanced risk of progressing towards severe disease in COVID-19.”

Junk Science’s Mr. Milloy said of all the scholarship: “If you are looking for useful facts, you aren’t likely to find any anytime soon. Sick and vulnerable people should stay home. The Democrat-owned and operated public health community should be reamed on this. Those are my facts.”

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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