Covid-19 Good News


We all know that bad news travels around the world while good news is just getting dressed. The media prefers bad news because it sells more newspapers and increases television ratings. But there is good news about the pandemic despite all the negativism.

The first chart below depicts the current hospitalizations, daily new Covid cases and deaths in the U.S. averaged over seven days. The second chart shows daily new Covid-19 tests conducted and positive tests; again, a seven-day rolling average. A close analysis reveals the number of new cases peaked on January 11 at 257,927. The current number, as depicted by these charts is 70,591 – a 73 percent decline in six weeks.

The seven-day average of test positivity – a marker of virus prevalence – has dropped from over 14 percent in the first week of 2021 to 5.3 percent as of this day. On January 6, 132,464 people were hospitalized with Covid-19. For the last 40 straight days that number has declined. Today it is nearly 60 percent lower at 55,403. Deaths are also declining, although they are a lagging indicator.

There is no doubt the credit for this improvement goes to the vaccines. A year ago it was considered laughable to think we would have a vaccine just a year later. What’s more, the vaccines are 95% effective, far better than the annual flu vaccines. Credit for the vaccines goes to Operation Warp Speed and the Trump administration.

There’s more good news. One study has found that the Pfizer two-dose vaccine is up to 85 percent effective after a single dose, and it also doesn’t have to be stored at -94 degrees F, as previously believed. This greatly improves the logistics of getting the vaccine into people’s arms. A second report from Pfizer, BioNTech, and Israel’s Health Ministry found the company’s Covid-19 vaccines are 89.4 percent effective at preventing infections, which means the vaccine limits most asymptomatic transmission of the virus, too.\

According to The Dispatch, who interviewed Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the news couldn’t be much better. “The two mRNA vaccines we have been using have 95 percent efficacy against all manner of disease: mild, moderate, and severe. And they may – likely, I think, probably – reduce shedding, it just hasn’t been studied carefully. And to date in the preapproval studies, we couldn’t find any evidence for serious adverse events in tens of thousands of people. And now the vaccine has been in tens of millions of people, so you can say with some confidence that the vaccine doesn’t even cause a rare serious adverse event. So, I’d say it’s remarkable. I don’t think anybody could have predicted this a year ago.”

President Biden recently took time to honor the grim milestone of 500,000 deaths in the U.S. attributed to the pandemic. While this was certainly a solemn ceremony and an appropriate reminder of the impact of this virus on our country, it’s a shame he didn’t also mention the great progress that has been made recently. There’s definitely light at the end of this dark tunnel. Be sure to get your vaccination as soon as available.

CDC Director Caves to Politics


Dr. Rochelle Walensky didn’t know any better. As the newly appointed Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) she didn’t realize that politics comes before science. So, she did that rare thing in Washington – she told the truth.

In an article published January 26th in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), three researchers from the CDC found “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission” of the coronavirus. The CDC researchers looked at more than 90,000 students in 11 North Carolina districts and found that only 32 students and staff members were infected in school, while 773 got infected during the same period out of school. The science was clear; reopening schools was safe for children and teachers.

Then Dr. Walensky made her big mistake. On February 3rd, she announced these findings to the press. She made it clear that the science supported reopening schools.  In her statement she said, “Vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.” This was a direct refutation of the demands being made by teachers unions before they would return to the classrooms. When asked about her statement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded Dr. Walensky was speaking “in her personal capacity” and not as the director of the CDC.

In other words, Dr. Walensky hadn’t cleared her statement with the White House. Even though she was their newly appointed scientist to lead the nation’s largest organization for disease prevention, she was not considered the final authority on disease and safety.

Since that day she has learned her lesson. If she wants to keep her job, she must toe the line with the White House. Science must take a backseat to politics, despite all the Biden administration claims they would “follow the science.”

On February 12th, Dr. Walensky held another press conference to clarify the CDC position on reopening schools. In her new statement she said, “We strongly encourage states to prioritize teachers and other school staff to get vaccinated. If we want our children to receive in-person instruction, we must ensure the teachers and school staff are healthy, and protected from getting Covid-19 in places outside of schools where they might be at higher risk.”

Then she added insult to injury when she said, “I want to reassure you that our operational strategy is science based, with the goal of protecting students, teachers, and staff, and their families while getting back to the classroom safely.”

Anyone who is shocked by this turn of events hasn’t been paying attention. President Biden made it clear before he was elected that he was a big fan of the teachers unions. His wife, Jill, is a member of the NEA, the nation’s largest teachers union. The president can only be accused of keeping his promise to the teachers unions, while ignoring his promise to “follow the science.”

The clear winners in this battle are the teachers unions. The clear losers are all the children who can’t return to the classrooms and their agonizing parents. Former N. J. Governor Chris Christie, writing in The Wall Street Journal, says, “The CDC is being used as a political tool, flip-flopping on the science under pressure from the national unions and their Biden administration allies. This betrayal of our children and their families must end. The long-term mental health effects and educational deficits created by continuing this policy will be devastating. It’s time to put our children’s interests first in this pandemic.”

Dr. Walensky has learned a hard lesson; unless you follow the White House political agenda you can be replaced. As a nation we have also learned some hard lessons; for the next four years the CDC has lost all credibility and “follow the science” means whatever the Biden administration says it means.


Vaccines Versus the Variants


As more and more Americans get vaccinated, optimism for the future of this pandemic should be on the rise. Yet many are fearful of the new coronavirus variants detected in other parts of the world, and recently some of those in the U.S. Should we be worried?

Naturally, the media wants us to be fearful; they seem to believe that’s their special role. Yet news from the world is mostly comforting. A recent report from London declared the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca/University of Oxford is effective against a variant of the coronavirus that is spreading rapidly in the U.S. and around the world. This is a reassuring sign for governments banking on mass vaccinations to bring the pandemic to an end.

Other manufacturers reported similar results including Pfizer and Moderna. They found their Covid-19 shots offer protection against new virus variants that have contributed to a fresh surge in cases in the U.K., Europe, South Africa, and elsewhere. Nevertheless, these same vaccine makers are preparing new shots that zero in on the new variants even more precisely. It is likely that such adaptation in the vaccines may be needed in the future much like changes in the flu vaccine are made annually.

Speculation abounds about the new variants and many suggest they are more easily transmissible than the original Covid-19. Some even suggest these may be deadlier, but this is all speculation at this time. Current studies indicate the AstraZeneca vaccine is about 75% effective against the new variants while it is 84% effective against the older strains.

Almost 120 million doses of vaccine have been administered world-wide, according to figures compiled by oxford’s Our World in Data project. Some countries have been more aggressive than others, with Israel and the U.K. moving rapidly to inoculate their most-at-risk citizens. Vaccine makers say the technology behind Covid-19 vaccines should allow them to swiftly retool their production lines to produce shots targeted more precisely at new and emerging variants.

There has been more cause for concern in South Africa. AstraZeneca has temporarily paused a small clinical trial when it appeared to fail to protect recipients against mild and moderate illness from a new variant found only in that country. The country plans to temporarily halt rollout of the vaccine until there is more information on the vaccine’s efficacy.

Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, whose vaccines have yet to be authorized in any country, have also found that their shots were less effective in recent clinical trials in South Africa, compared with trials in the U.S. or U.K. Yet their vaccines were still found to be 50% or more effective at preventing mild or moderate cases of Covid-19 and even more potent at shielding recipients from severe illness and hospitalization from the new strain. The South African health minister still intends to deploy the J & J vaccine soon and has ordered 9 million doses. The J & J vaccine was found to provide 57% efficacy with one shot at preventing mild and moderate cases of Covida-19 and 85% efficacy preventing severe illness.

We are blessed to have so many vaccines available for these new viruses in such a short time. It has only been a year since this pandemic began and there are now two vaccines authorized and being delivered in this country already, and two more likely in the coming weeks. This competition between vaccine makers has been made possible by the public-private partnerships initiated by Operation Warp Speed and these companies will continue to develop new vaccines as more variants of the virus appear worldwide. These vaccines represent the most effective means for ending this pandemic and should be embraced by everyone whenever possible.