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Real Information: A Public Good

I think I’m going to be dividing the blog posts into two categories for the time being: coronavirus-related ones and completely nonrelated ones. It’s the biggest medical story right now – this one’s going into the history books, unfortunately – so I can’t pretend to ignore it. But neither can I go all-coronavirus-all-the-time. That would involve a lot of repetition and a lot of preaching to a readership that doesn’t need to be preached to. Regular visitors here can all read log-scale plots: we are in for a rough time. To get personal, I am currently self-quarantining away from my workplace (email and video conferencing instead) because of a possible exposure in my family (no signs of anything yet, fortunately, but I don’t need to be riding the train and sitting in conference rooms, either).

But if you do have some knowledge and expertise, one thing you can do is to try to share it. There is a vast amount of poor information out there right now, some of it deliberately poor. In that latter category I put the avalanche of quick-buck artists who are climbing the Amazon seller’s charts with supposed guides to the epidemic. These things seem to mostly consist of plagiarized news article shoveled between paperback covers and marketed to scared people who don’t know any better, and the people who are producing them are scum. They remind me of the artilleryman in H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, musing about how the Martians will treat humans after conquering the Earth:

He paused.

“Very likely these Martians will make pets of some of them; train them to do tricks—who knows?—get sentimental over the pet boy who grew up and had to be killed. And some, maybe, they will train to hunt us.”

“No,” I cried, “that’s impossible! No human being——”

“What’s the good of going on with such lies?” said the artilleryman. “There’s men who’d do it cheerful. What nonsense to pretend there isn’t!”

And I succumbed to his conviction.

The folks peddling the Amazon junk would do it cheerful, too, if they were energetic enough. So would the ones selling colloidal silver solutions, herbal wonder teas, and all manner of quack garbage to scared customers who don’t know any better but to believe their claims. Homo homini lupus; man is a wolf to man, and times like this bring out the wolves, for sure. Do what you can to spread better information among friends, neighbors, relatives, and online contacts, and help to knock down predatory behavior when you see it. We’ll be seeing more.

But those of us in the biomedical field don’t always have a high spot to stand up on, either. There have been a *lot* of irresponsible press releases, mostly (but not entirely) from small companies, touting their coronavirus moves. It’s annoying, to say the least, when you try to tell someone that one problem with this epidemic (as opposed to seasonal influenza) is that there is no vaccine, and they respond with a link to a story about how WhooZatBio says that they’re cranking one out right now. Some near-zombie biotech companies that have been staggering around in the public markets for years have popped up with hot coronavirus-themed PR hits, and people should be ashamed of themselves. No one should be looking out over the current landscape and seeing only a neat marketing opportunity. That goes for people seeing mainly a political opportunity as well; it’s obscene.

So fight for order, for sanity, for the best and most realistic information available. Be a voice of reason wherever you can, while resisting the temptation to get into pointless shouting matches that will sap your energy and your time. (I’ve started muting a few folks on Twitter for this reason, something I rarely do). Things are bad right now, and I very much fear that they’re going to get worse. Physical and public health hygiene is vital, and informational hygiene isn’t that far behind it. Do what you can.

93 comments on “Real Information: A Public Good”

  1. Hap says:

    I hope that you and your family stay ok.

  2. chiz says:

    And now it turns out, according to Vandana Shiva, that Monsanto is responsible for COVID-19. Because GMOs. Expect to hear more of this nonsense(*) over the weeks as sufferers of Monsanto Derangement Syndrome pick it up and regurgitate it endlessly.

    * It is of course nonsense – everyone knows that COVID-19 is really the work of Big Facemask.

  3. An Old Chemist says:

    Derek, I would guess that your Iranian family connection is likely the source of exposure. Or it could be your Biogen brass manager friends who recently attended a meeting in a hotel in Boston and are now under self quarantine (70 until now)?

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      Oh, I don’t have symptoms. But I’m quarantining myself based on a specific warning from my daughter’s university. My wife and her family have had no physical contact with anyone who’s been in Iran for at least a year, fortunately. As for Biogen, well, the whole Cambridge biopharma community has been thinking about that one. But I haven’t had any direct contact with Biogen brass (they’re the competition!), so it would be a bounce shot. As I say, though, no symptoms yet, which is how I like it.

  4. Big FaceMask says:

    You understand nothing of My Work.

  5. Nuflu says:

    A disease that only kills b 0 0 m e r s, will surely spell the end of tr*nps presidency, and the only side effect is a hit to my 401k? Sign 👏 me 👏 up 👏

    1. Old fart says:

      No worries, Nuflu. Next year’s mutant will aimed at millennials.
      So, you are correct, don’t worry about your 401-k.

      1. depends says:

        big if true

      2. loupgarous says:

        RAID for Young Whippersnappers has been on the market for decades in a variety of flavors: “bath salts”, “China White” made with carfentanil or 3-methyl fentanyl and injected with shared needles, MPTP, meth, and Colombian nose candy.

        Some millenials’ attitude toward “Boomers” is the intellectual equivalent of farting in a small room. Odd, considering none of them could even read this without the services of Boomer teachers, Boomer IT guys, Boomer engineers and… I give up. All this Internet stuff just appeared under the Christmas tree in 1987, according to Boomerphobes.

        1. Bo0mer safe space says:

          Not so funny when you’re the one triggered, is it?

        2. x says:

          Boomers are primarily responsible for the state of the world we live in. That means the hollowed-out economies, the pollution, the corrupt political establishments and on and on. Is the rest of the world supposed to forgive them for mismanagement because they punched clocks? All that internet-inventing, teaching and so on was just the ordinary business of society, not some kind of enlightened altruism.

          No one should be surprised that the most spoiled generation in history is now whining that the people most directly suffering from its mismanagement aren’t overlooking its failures.

          1. loupgarous says:

            People like you who make wide-ranging generalizations about whole groups of people and blame the world’s ills on them are the problem. Replace “boomers” with “Jews” and your rant would fit right into Mein Kampf,

        3. loupgarous says:

          “Triggered?” No. If you can’t take hard humor, don’t dish it out.

    2. permadoc says:

      The school may not have to pressure deadwood faculty to retire anymore….if they are over 70. Could open up a lot of faculty positions for 2020 and 2021. Dark, yes, but entirely possible. Analogous to how survivors got better wages after 1348 for many years.

      1. morbid says:

        Remember: the reason that the Black Death in 1348 caused so many fatalities is because it occurred long before scientists invented payroll tax cuts.

      2. x says:

        Forest fires are good for the forest.

    3. show some decorum says:

      delete this nephew

    4. Vader says:

      There is evidently more than one kind of sickness on the loose.

  6. entropyGain says:

    Any reports on general biotech work practices in Boston? How many companies have gone to work from home? What are “real” chemists doing. One can only write/read patents for so long before returning to the hood.

    1. M says:

      Out here on the west coast “work from home” is happening but at the companies I know this is followed by “when possible” so people who do lab work would still be expected to come in.

      My first reaction was cynical, but upon consideration: If you cut people in the work place by 70% you are reducing risk for everyone. And I don’t know that a complete shutdown is warranted at present.

      1. Anon says:

        If all of the lab folks are in the same area and not on shift rotations, the effective density of people isn’t meaningfully reduced. From the perspective of one lab scientist, I can say it feels like the lab folks are second class citizens compared with their non-lab peers.

  7. Chemist of sorts says:

    If it hasn’t been posted yet, I would recommend watching Tuesday’s coronavirus session from CROI:

    Accurate and credible information on the current outbreak…

    1. loupgarous says:

      Life’s horrible ironies: 70 cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed today at the hotel hosting the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportinistic Infections, which featured a live Web cast on COVID-19. Dr. Fauci took part via videolink and is probably grateful just now. The webcast is also here on YouTube.

  8. luysii says:

    We have two huge information gaps about the Wuhan flu

    l. We don’t know how many people are presently infected. We only know the severely symptomatic ones and probably only a few of them because of a monumental CDC screwup monopolizing testing and then distributing faulty test kits.

    2. We don’t know how many people were infected, fought it off, and are no longer sick (or infectious). The current tests measure only the presence of the virus (which the recovered do not have), not the antibodies to the virus which all infected people develop. Tests for antibodies to the virus are a long way off.

    For more on this and why the situation is actually hopeful if Prof. Marc Lipsitch is right that there are 100,000 cases out there — please see —

    1. Anonymous says:

      @luysii Antibody tests are not a long way off, they are already available and being used in China and Singapore. It’s only that the CDC is behind the curve and still developing their own.


      1. luysii says:

        Let’s hope these antibody tests actually measure what they claim. Tests for antibodies are not simple to develop, and antibodies often react to more than one thing, as drug developers well know. Validation may take some time.

        1. tlp says:

          I don’t think false positive is a major concern at this point.
          If moderna can start recruiting patients for vaccine trial without preclinical animal tests, diagnostic can have even lower bar.

        2. ChemBio says:

          You make an interesting comment about the selectivity of antibodies…
          Some colleagues of mine reassured me, without data, that antibodies are ultra potent and super selective.
          I wonder if anyone has any literature on a systematic study covering these issues?
          Thanks in advance!

          1. Derek Lowe says:

            They must have been reading the listings in the antibody catalogs.

    2. KOH says:

      I think that it is better to say that we do not know this information for the U.S. and most other Western countries. Once China admitted that this was serious, they became extremely aggressive in their testing. I live in China now and can confirm, at least in my province, that if you demonstrated any symptoms what-so-ever (mild or otherwise), you got tested! Health officials came by our apartment complex weekly to check on the well-being of everyone living there; and if you coughed or sneezed…tested! If you had direct contact with anyone who tested positive within the past two weeks, you got tested too, even if you were asymptomatic. As mentioned, other Asian countries, like Singapore and South Korea are taking a similarly aggressive testing approach. So, within these countries, at least, I would say that there is a pretty good estimate for infection rates and percentage likelihoods of developing only mild symptoms and fighting it off without hospitalization.

  9. Flavor says:

    So why is this more dangerous than the season flu? I fail to see it.

    1. TomiFlu says:

      how come cancer and aids kills yall but a common cold aint? can’t explain that!!

    2. milkshake says:

      imagine flu that makes you sick 3 times longer than normal flu, can leave permanent organ damage even with relatively young patients, and is about 30 times more likely to kill you. Several % of patients will get sick enough to require oxygen and or ventilator. The health system is not prepared to handle this, and US specifics is that hospitalization is extremely expensive and insurances do not want to cover it, and many poor people are uninsured or under-insured and have no paid sick leave = motivated to work when sick

    3. Xiben says:

      Death rate ~2% (0.1% for flu). Transmission R0 2~3 (how many people were infected by a single patient, 1.3 for flu).

    4. Derek Lowe says:

      More contagious (higher R0) and perhaps a 10x higher fatality rate. Those are pretty compelling reasons.

      1. milkshake says:

        I don’t want to spread alarm, but this is what doctors around Milan, Italy, are telling. It is a war-zone:

    5. loupgarous says:

      Some researchers in China who’ve studied and treated COVID-19 infection remark on how severe fibrosis happens around the alveolar sacs and the deep airways of the lungs, placing layers of tissue which don’t allow normal gas exchange (O2 in, CO2 out) to and from the bloodstream between alveoli and the lung airways.

      Inflammation in the lungs impairs gas transport when alveolar cells fill with fluid, and mucus also hinders normal breathing. If lung fibrosis plays a large role in COVID-19 infection, though, that could be a major difference compared to the flu. Older patients and smokers or others with more than usual dead space in the lung (where no gas exchange to and from the bloodstream’s happening are at a much higher risk of death.

  10. Vader says:

    I’ll raise your Latin. Homo homini lupus, man is wolf to man, is all too true. But those engaged in this are hostis humani generis, the common enemies of all men.

    1. metaphysician says:

      I definitely favor [i]hostis humani generis[/i]. I feel the other saying is far too unfair to wolves, who are intelligent, cooperative creatures possessing strong family bonds. Sure, they are efficient predators against their prey species, but are otherwise no more bloodthirsty than any other. . . and outside the unnatural environment of a Victorian zoo, not especially inclined to internecine violence. I’m not going to say that an intelligent civilized wolf-uplift wouldn’t be just as capable of deception and malice as a human. . . but the only real symbolic analog for human evil is the human.

      ( I also hate the phrase “Make them eat crow”, because I like crows. Crows are cool. Why would I want to make someone eat an intelligent language- and tool-user? *ahem* )

    2. Micah Schamis says:

      That is a disservice to wolves.

      1. Ogamol says:

        “ursis homines hominibus”? Because much of what bears do to other bears is done amongst men.

  11. loupgarous says:

    It was only a matter of time before Jim Bakker got into this. Where’s FDA on this? This goes way beyond a 483 – it’s the kind of vicious quackery that kills people, and which the FDA was formed to fight.

  12. Mister B. says:

    I have a thought for Keith Fagnou at the moment.
    Just sayin’.

  13. David says:

    “But she, or someone like her, will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish, spreading fear in the name of righteousness.” – Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

  14. Miles says:

    Hmm, like Vaxil with possily 2 staff working on development and 12 management overhead drawing the salaries? They did a phase 1 once…

  15. Charles H. says:

    re: Herbal Wonder Teas

    I don’t believe in them any more than you do, but I think many of the people pushing them actually *do* believe in them. I rate them as closer to Christian Scientists or Jehovah’s Witnesses than to con men. (Of course, I’m sure that some *are* con men…but I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt, as it doesn’t change my actions.)

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      I think you’re right; many of those folks are sincere, but definitely not all.

  16. JML says:

    Whether it helps or not, people will soon be wearing makeshift face masks (since legit ones are unavailable / too expensive). E.g. scarf on the face, tissue inside for filtration, ski googles. If set right, some kind of filtration does occur. In theory, this should be at least slightly effective (less touching the face, less out-borne aerosols). There’s a science for making effective face masks, so how come there’s no information on how to make less ineffective makeshift face masks? Are the materials so specific that nothing at home can even remotely play the same role?

    So Derek, if you can reach out to people in the know, here’s a good topic: the science and best practices of homemade face masks.
    Even if it’s to make sure there’s no hope on that road and we better invest our energy elsewhere…
    Best wishes

    1. loupgarous says:

      A project like that would subject anyone trying to explain it to legal liability in the event such an improvised mask failed to protect its wearer from injury. In “strict liability” states, it’s possible to be sued despite being duly diligent on how one described the procedure of making a protective mask and lacked any intent to defraud or injure anyone. That’s a project best left to the US government, which is immune to most personal injury lawsuits.

    2. Yohanan Weininger says:

      Davies A, Thompson KA, Giri K, Kafatos G, Walker J, Bennett A. Testing the efficacy of homemade masks: would they protect in an influenza pandemic? Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2013 Aug;7(4):413-8. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2013.43. PubMed PMID: 24229526.
      >CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that a homemade mask should only be considered as a last resort to prevent droplet transmission from infected individuals, but it would be better than no protection.<

      1. JML says:

        Thanks a lot! I suck at pubmed searches but still found another one:
        So even low-end homemade masks (cotton T-shirt, tea cloth) are better than nothing.
        Looks like there’s a real possibility that more elaborate homemade masks could make a difference.
        No government on this planet has made any kind of statement though. Would the epidemiologists really make such an oversight?

        1. x says:

          If you’re at the point where you’re desperate for a mask and anything is better than nothing, something like old-style cloth surgical masks would reduce droplet spread. Two layers of fabric sandwiching a cut-up piece of HEPA filter maybe, with straps attached… better than nothing at all? Of course it would be. Proof againt disease? No, and no one’s saying it is…

  17. Yohanan Weininger says:

    re: vaccine headlines… What info field(s) is missing from this incomplete, growing table of COVID-19 vaccines in development that WHO posted on Mar 4

  18. bks says:

    What’s wrong with the Johns Hopkins dashboard? Stopped updating new cases yesterday morning.

    1. Mike Penance says:

      Looks like all our Thoughts & Prayers have worked!!

    2. weaverchem says:

      Don’t know if this has anything to do with it, but Krebs on Security reports today that the JHU map is being used on websites to disperse malware.

    3. An Old Chemist says:

      The Johns Hopkins website on coronavirus (dashboard) is updated daily in the evening (ca 5:00 PM, California time):

    4. loupgarous says:

      Not only that, but the COVID-19 “dashboard” seems to have “forgotten” a few deaths, many active cases and ALL of California’s cases.

      Navigate to “Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center” today and you learn “The COVID-19 map is currently undergoing maintenance. Thank you for your patience.”

      1. loupgarous says:

        Whatever was wrong with Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 dashboard/map, it seems to be fixed for now.

  19. tally ho says:

    Here’s a good editorial from Holden Thorp yesterday that hits the nail on the head:

    1. Eugene says:

      Oh, if only Scientists ran the world instead of these simpletons! Things would be so much better. The takeaway from this is the admission that science education has been a complete and total failure for the general public (the simpletons).

      1. Derek Lowe says:

        I have no faith in a hypothetical government of scientists, having observed them up close for many years. I’m fine with a government of politicians, but just so long as they listen to advice.

        1. loupgarous says:

          Scientists have their passing fads and disconnects from reality, too. Eugenics was all the rage among the more politically-minded scientists in the early-mid twentieth century, long before we had a clue about molecular biology. The result, unfortunately, reinforced racial and ethnic bias all over the world, the US included. “Race science” had a long and bloody run in the 20th century and the “progressive” nations wrote it into their laws.

          Few realize the Nazis latched onto eugenics after seeing how it flourished in the US, forced sterilization laws and everything. Louisiana, early in the 20th century, had a eugenics law aimed at preserving the “golden mean”, mandating sterilization for people who fell either above or below a mandated range of IQ.

          Nothing wrong with science as such. Too often it’s not so much been tried and found wanting as it has not been tried. But we still have our scientific fads and people who insist we write them into our laws. Later, we sometimes discover both the fads and the laws were based on faulty scientific paradigms. Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is full of examples of how science constantly has to correct its errors.

          1. Hap says:

            Or to quote John Scalzi (maybe via others), “People are the problem, and they pretty much always will be.”

          2. loupgarous says:

            @Hap, I’d been following Scalzi since I laid hands on The Android’s Dream (which has the funniest first chapter in recent science fiction), and noticed a theme that started there and which Scalzi’s continuing in his “Collapsing Empire” books – synthetic (not just syncretic) religions whose deep elements are mostly rational.

            When actual science (not science-flavored power grabs like eugenics or the Green New Deal) influences society strongly enough to drive policy, it’ll have the some of the same emotional elements as religion – a deep certainty and faith in the scientific method (not its technology or other more visible elements). Scientific method would be a welcome change in politics and policy.

  20. Sal Zantz says:

    The worst of it, to me, is the (very large) number of people who are somehow trying to tie this to Trump.

    “If only Trump were [someone else] this would all be wrapped up now…”

    No, it wouldn’t. You may hate Trump and think he’s a fool, but there isn’t a magic bullet that but for Trump this would all be in the rearview mirror. Tell me about the problems in Western Europe, headed by people loved by many that many of the insane TrumpIsTheRootOfAllEvil crowd hate. Do any of them have the magic bullet?

    At times like this, people look to someone to blame. When you do, you look foolish and don’t move the bar at all.

    1. melanomia says:

      whatever ya say…. b00mer

      1. Eugene says:

        Ad hominem anyone?

    2. Anonymous says:

      I have only heard people saying Trump is responsible for how his administration has responded to the crisis by trying to make the reported numbers artificially smaller to the detriment of actually helping people, and for things like having fired the pandemic response chain of command and not appointed replacements.

      But go ahead and think that criticism is worse than people dying. You must have really hated the people who insinuated that Obama wasn’t born in America, right?

      1. steve says:

        Trump has lied about the issue from the beginning, calling it hoax, saying it was contained, saying the testing is “beautiful” and anyone can get it, and even last night claiming he knew absolutely nothing about his firing of the pandemic response team. Maybe Tony Fauci can explain it! He really said that. The man is an imbecile and a fool and thousands more will die because of his incompetence.

      2. dearieme says:

        ” You must have really hated the people who insinuated that Obama wasn’t born in America, right?” Starting with Obama who made that claim in the blurb of one of his autobiographies – or, at least, allowed it to be made. But this surely takes us a long way from the disastrous performance of the CDC and the FDA. Or are you trying to blame that on Obama too?

        1. Anonymous says:

          I was pointing out the poster’s inconsistency – Trump was pushing the birth certificate conspiracy theory hard, so if the poster really hated criticism so much, they would have good reason to hate Trump for his unfounded accusations, but instead they pretend there is no reason whatsoever to dislike Trump.

          No, Obama didn’t make that claim, or have any input on that blurb – you’re seriously trying to blame a long-forgotten editor’s mistake from 1991 (dug up by Breitbart to fan the flames of conspiracy) for the deliberate conspiracy theory pushing by Fox and Trump, among others? That is insane, and way off-topic. For reference, the topic was coronavirus misinformation, and the poster claiming that Trump was blameless and that criticism was the real problem, mirroring Trump’s new smokescreen that criticism of his handling the outbreak response was a “hoax”.

          1. dearieme says:

            The blurb was used as the excuse when the Clinton camp were pushing the theory in the 2010 campaign.

  21. BIG PhaceMasque says:

    Look on My Work Ye Mighty and Despair!

  22. dearieme says:

    I’m rather a fan of this because it ties together reason and evidence in a calm way:
    “UK Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Strategy 2011”. As far as I can see it’s what the UK government is currently pursuing.

    There must be an American equivalent. Can anyone direct me to it?

    1. Vaudaux says:

      See David Shlaes’ blog, Today’s post is “Coronavirus – an Event Foreseen” and describes planning (and lack of implementation) in the US.

    2. Ancient Briton says:

      Thank you for sharing this link to UK government policy as set out in 2011. Interesting read – yes, does look like policy UK government is following. Rightly or wrongly, more nuanced than many other countries (at least so far).

      Nice to be governed by a better class of narcissist. Sorry Mr President, viruses don’t do deals, diplomacy or twitter.

    3. Druid says:

      I hope the hospitals took on board the need for ECMO equipment. However, the NHS does not have spare capacity in hospital beds, and no country could have enough for the high proportion of elderly patients (actually, just older) who might be hospitalised. So the UK strategy now is to try to keep the elderly away from sources of infection, but let it run in the younger population. Under 40 the risk of requiring hospital attention is low and it would be tragedy if they find all the beds occupied by 80 year olds. If enough younger people can catch the virus and recover, herd immunity can slow the spread of the virus and eventually protect the elderly from the worst of the epidemic and maybe help them survive until there is a vaccine. The demographics matter. For a much younger popultation, this may not be so attractive. For a much older population like Italy, it may not be effective. It is an interesting experiment at least.

  23. the hoax is up says:

    According to Reuters, the WH has ordered federal health official meetings to be classified, undoubtedly as a means to contain political fallout and potentially embarrassing information regarding the administration’s handling of the coronavirus “hoax”. This is diametrically opposed to Public Health Crisis Management 101 – i.e. transparent and factual communication to the public. Clearly the current administration cares about only one thing – Donald J Trump – everything else is secondary, even if it costs lives.

  24. dearieme says:

    Thank you, V.

  25. steve says:


  26. steve says:

    In all seriousness, biotechs making false claims is not the problem. Trump has lied about the issue from the beginning, calling it hoax, saying it was contained, saying the testing is “beautiful” and anyone can get it, and even last night claiming he knew absolutely nothing about his firing of the pandemic response team. Maybe Tony Fauci can explain it! He really said that. The man is an imbecile and a fool and thousands more will die because of his incompetence.

    1. dearieme says:

      The man is an oaf. Hellary would have been even worse. Lord knows how the Husk of Joe Biden will do. You lucky people.

      1. loupgarous says:

        Unfortunately, the Presidential primary process is driven by money and publicity. Big journalism frames narratives, not always in a balanced way. Candidates and parties with the most money to spread around (not just for campaign advertisements, but to fund rallies, pay influential local leaders for endorsements and buy votes directly from the poor) have truly disproportionate power.

        It’s probably unrealistic to expect anything from a system like that other than what we’re seeing. If your large party primaries send venal incompetents to the November elections, there’s no fix for that.

        1. x says:

          Bernie had plenty of money to run on. What he didn’t have was the favor of the political establishment or the corporate media (and there are clear signs of electoral fraud, but never mind that, since electoral fraud could never happen in the US). Money certainly controls primaries, but not in the sense that popularity can be bought (although it can) but rather in the sense that the people who have the most of it have class solidarity and work diligently behind the scenes to ensure that those who don’t, don’t get one up on them.

  27. Anon Chemist says:

    What does everyone think about this publication out of China where chloroquine was shown to be effective and safe against CoVid-19 in 100 patients?


    1. dearieme says:

      I had a colleague who was made pretty ill by an anti-malarial – an inoculation before she flew to India. This stuff is quite different, is it, on side effects?

      1. loupgarous says:

        Unfortunately, there have been a number of unusually toxic antimalarials – like mefloquine.

        You ought to have an ECG strip run before you take chloroquine (it can give you bundle-branch block, AV block or cardiomyopathy), but most of the tox with chloroquine happens after long-term therapy. No one’s advocating more than a few weeks of therapy with chloroquine (along with azithromycin) for the causative virus in COVID-19.

        Mefloquine has most of chloroquine’s AEs, plus a 1:250 chance of neuropsychiatric side effects, some of which persist long after discontinuation of therapy.

    2. loupgarous says:

      I’d say “show me the peer reviews”. Most of what pops up when you Google that URL are PR sites.

  28. Ancient Briton says:

    Please scroll down for a different take on the virus crisis from the 6 March issue of Private Eye, an old school UK satirical mag only published in full as print version. Maybe the basis of the crisis has deepened since 6 March, maybe not.

    To set the scene, front cover dialog between the UK PM, a bloke with a reputation for doing more than his fair share to tackle ageing demographics, and first lady to be (Wife Mk 3) after the happy news of a couple of weeks ago:

    HER: It’s your Number 10 baby
    HIM: Is it? I lost count at 8…
    HER: And we’re getting married
    HIM: Yes – we can’t have another bastard in Downing Street

    And so to page 8, PANDEMIC UPDATE:

    “COULD fear of coronavirus cause more harm than coronavirus itself? Respiratory infections are a normal way to die, particularly when you’re old. Prolonged intubation and intensive care is often futile, expensive and unkind; yet we tend to panic and “pull out all the stops” for exciting new infections like Covid-19 when it might be kinder not to treat.

    Those with milder illness fuelled by media angst may rush to the NHS and spread viruses all over patients and staff when they should calmly self-isolate. Global panic paralyses the economy, risking recession and even more premature deaths from austerity.”

    Bleak and harsh. And yet… Universities and colleges suspending face to face teaching, overseas students flying home before it’s too late, UK schools about to follow suit with rest of Europe, parental livelihoods lost, pension funds trashed, over 70s in solitary confinement or under house arrest (phew, bit too close for comfort…), civil liberties conveniently curtailed “to keep us all safe.” This month curfew, next month Hunger Games, game on.

    Oh well, at least CO2 emissions could take a hit (assuming I live to see the graph). Back to re-reading The Plague.

    Link to article:

  29. loupgarous says:

    To anyone who, like me, wondered if the Strategic National Stockpile has ventilators in its secret warehouses.
    NPR has figures:
    THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS As The Pandemic Spreads, Will There Be Enough Ventilators? Patti Neighmond, March 14, 20207:00 AM ET

    “Ventilators are generally a temporary bridge to recovery — many patients in critical care who need them do get better. These machines can be crucial to sustaining life in certain emergency situations. And if there is a surge in seriously ill patients, as COVID-19 spreads, ventilators could be in short supply, from hospital to hospital or nationally. And if there’s an increase in very sick patients on a scale like what happened in China, Dr. Eric Toner says, the U.S. is not prepared. Toner studies hospital preparedness for pandemics at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “We are not prepared, nor is any place prepared for a Wuhan-like outbreak,” Toner tells NPR, “and we would see the same sort of bad outcomes that they saw in Wuhan — with a very high case fatality rate, due largely to people not being able to access the needed intensive care.”
    Toner says all hospitals have some lifesaving ventilators, but that number is proportional to the number of hospital beds in the institution. An average-sized hospital with 150 beds, for example, might have 20 ventilators. If more were needed, hospitals that need them could rent them, he says — at least for now. But if there’s a surge of need in a particular community — patients with serious pneumonia from COVID-19 or pneumonia related to flu, for example — all hospitals in the area would be competing to rent from the same place. “So that’s a very finite resource” he says. The latest study available estimates there are about 62,000 ventilators in hospitals nationwide. That figure is seven years old — so the actual number could be higher. There are also some machines in federally stockpiled emergency supplies, though the exact number isn’t public. “There is a strategic national stockpile of ventilators, but the numbers are classified,” says Toner. It’s been “publicly stated,” he says, that there are about 10,000 ventilators in the national stockpile. “That number might be a bit outdated, but it’s probably about right,” he says. Other estimates range from 4,000 to somewhat less than 10,000. While any extra ventilators would be an important addition, Toner says it likely wouldn’t be enough to sustain the entire country through an experience like that seen in Wuhan, China.”

  30. Albert Brouhaha says:

    While companies and schools around the world are closing urging people to stay home, pfizer is forcing all lab based employees to remain at work. They even are encouraging employees to gather in the atrium for some special treats to thank us for our hard work during this trying time

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