30 April 2020 – Thursday – #46

I may have got a bit ahead of Spain’s upcoming 11 May relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions. A friend stopped by yesterday to taste vermut on the terrace. After 50 days without face-to-face social interaction, I threw caution to the lovely Spring breeze outside. Besides helping me decode an invoice from the local water company, my friend confirmed a comment that appeared on yesterday’s Covid Diary BCN entry, namely that the second kind of apricot I tried in Spain was not an apricot at all! It was a nispero, or loquat. That explains why it tasted so different from an apricot.

With the added insight that comes from a few vermuts, the Spanish plan to relax Covid-19 restriction seems like an improved version of the US plan. Like US states, Spanish regions will manage the Covid-19 relaxation rather than the central government. That has the practical advantage that regions can respond to local health and business needs. It also has the political advantage that the central government can blame the regions if things go poorly, and vice versa.

In this dance between regional and central government power, far-right parties already are signaling a desire to take away the central government’s authority to prolong Covid-19 restrictions. El Pais points out, though, that “the level of aggression displayed by opposition groups was not as high as during previous sessions that dealt with the coronavirus crisis.” That made me wonder if El Pais political reporters carry around hormone tests.

Two people have called my attention to the Covid-19 relapse situation in South Korea. South Korean experts are saying that what appeared to have been Covid-19 reinfections in South Korea are really RNA tests amplifying inactive fragments of Covid-19 RNA. I first posted about this on 11 April when about 100 South Koreans who’d recovered then tested positive for Covid-19.

I could have sworn I posted earlier about the 6 April reports that 51 South Koreans appeared to relapse, too, but I can’t find that in Covid Diary BCN. I also could have sworn that I posted a similar RNA fragment amplification story when I made my imaginary post about the 6 April report. When I went back to search for these stories, my head started swimming with everything I’ve blogged about over the past 1-1/2 months.

In retrospect, I believe I decided not to post the initial 6 April Covid-19 reinfection report because I had read somewhere (but where where where?) about the possibility that the South Korean tests were amplifying Covid-19 fragments rather than picking up new Covid-19 infections. I must have decided to post the 11 April Covid-19 reinfection report because 1) there was continued concern that these were actual Covid-19 reinfections that would have significant implications for vaccines, and 2) the South Koreans are way ahead of almost everyone on testing, so they probably would have known by then their tests were amplifying RNA fragments rather than detecting a new infection.

Here’s my bottom line on the South Korean Covid-19 “relapse” story. I should have posted the 6 April report along with the story that those apparent Covid-19 reinfections could have been a testing artifact. Regardless of how the South Korean Covid-19 testing story plays out, humans often have a very weak immune response to Covid-19. In a non-peer reviewed study in Shanghai, researchers detected lower levels of Covid-19 antibodies in younger people, sometimes too low to establish clear Covid-19 immunity.

The Korean reinfection story was a possible confirmation of the Shanghai study. Even in the absence of the Korean reinfection story, though, the Shanghai study indicates that it’s possible that wide exposure to Covid-19 won’t produce herd immunity and that, if Covid-19 itself doesn’t generate a strong antibody response, vaccines may face the same problem.

Parenthetically, while I’m talking about vaccines, it’s a Covid-19 vaccine frenzy. Pfizer is teaming with the German company BioNTech to bring a Covid-19 vaccine to market this fall on an emergency use basis. This is in addition to previous reports about a Covid-19 vaccine from Oxford University this fall and another Covid-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson early next year.

This exercise of tracking down the South Korean reinfection story line reminded me of the enormous amount of Covid-19 dreck online. I was looking through Derek Lowe’s Twitter feed to see if that’s where I read that the 6 April South Korean tests results might be due to RNA fragment amplification and had to scroll though dozens of stories about hydroxychloroquine.

All that hydroxychloroquine dreck makes it even harder to find Covid-19 signal in the noise. That’s the power of the US presidency. In spite of the stupidity of the current office holder, his ill-informed statements amplify misinformation about hydroxychloroquine, bleach, testing, protective gear, etc. as media platforms struggle to assuage him.

Here’s an example of how media platforms are allowing the spread of presidential misinformation on bleach to avoid Trump’s ire.

Medie platforms won’t remove Trump’s remarks on bleach and Covid-19.

It’s a testament to Trump that he can push misinformation so far and wide, to his advantage and no one else’s.

Remdesivir! Or, maybe not! The latest study from Gilead shows that Remdesivir does not reduce Covid-19 mortality, but it does shorten hospital stays. That tells me that it’s value is during peak Covid-19 infection when reducing hospital stays cost-effectively makes more beds available. During non-peak Covid-19 infection, when healthcare systems aren’t overwhelmed and beds are available, the advantage of Remdesivir isn’t as clear to me.

Doctors are seeing all kinds of skin problems related to Coivd-19 including rashes and what looks like frostbitten toes.

Patients who end up hospitalized often develop a pink, itchy rash across their torso and limbs, [Dr. Alisa Femia] says. Others develop hives or, less commonly, a chickenpox-like rash. It can be tricky to determine whether skin conditions like these are actually caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus or are a side effect of medications used to treat it, but Femia says the rashes are popping up often enough that they are probably manifestations of the virus itself.

Time, “From ‘COVID Toes’ to Hives, These Are the Skin Conditions Dermatologists Think Could Be Signs of Coronavirus”, 28 April 2020

Skin problems and loss of smell are indications that you need to isolate!

Following up on yesterday’s US meat supply chain story, Rachel Maddow interviews Sheriff Tony Thompson here:

While Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg argue the merits of lockdowns, people like Sheriff Thompson have to deal with the fallout of corporations that fail to provide safe work environments, especially when employees may have limited access to healthcare.

Bu the way, the Musk- Zuckerberg dust up reminds me of my 28 March post. The oligarchs who need labor (think Koch, Green, Musk) hate lockdowns. The information oligarchs (think Gates, Zuckerberg) are all for lockdowns.

I’m going to finish up today with Covid-19 fashion. One thing I wish I had more time to discuss is Covid-19 fashion trends. My friend Heidi is making Biden 2020 masks and donating proceeds to help the less well off. And I just know there have got to be a lot of private “fashion shows” going on.

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