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Manhattan District Attorney is investigating president for bank and insurance fraud: NY Times

2020-08-03
photo courtesy of pixabay.com and Erika Wittlieb

A New York Times story has just come out revealing that the Manhattan District Attorney is investigating “Individual 1” and his companies for bank and insurance fraud– “a significantly broader inquiry than prosecutors have acknowledged in the past.” This came out in a court filing by the DA’s office that argues that the “Individual” must comply with its subpoena for eight years of personal and corporate tax returns. The individual is trying to have the subpoena declared invalid.

The subpoena was filed a year ago, in August 2019, and wended its way to the Supreme Court– which just last month declared that the State of New York had the authority to obtain the records, but punted back to the District Court the arguments over the breadth of the subpoena and its justification. In other words, the Supreme Court did the president’s bidding by preventing the State from obtaining the records immediately (although it claimed to be supporting the State’s rights to obtain the records eventually.)

There was some public support for limiting the State’s subpoena because the investigation had been thought to be limited to the case of Stormy Daniels, who received hush money payments in 2016 through the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

The president claimed that he was immune to investigation by the State by virtue of his position as president. The Supreme Court rejected this argument as any sane person, lawyer or not, would. However, the Court allowed the president to return to the Federal District Court to make other arguments against the subpoena– thereby “dragging out the legal fight and effectively shielding himself from criminal investigation” according to the DA. Carey R. Dunne, one of the DA’s lawyers, stated, “What the president’s lawyers are seeking here is delay” in an effort to run out the statute of limitations.

This is a true example of the maxim, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” This is particularly true in this case because even if the tax records are obtained by the grand jury, they will not be made public. Grand jury secrecy is usually immune to leaks. The records will only become public if criminal charges are brought and they are introduced at trial.

Once again, the Supreme Court has done the bidding of the sitting president, who has successfully hidden his tax returns from the public for more than four years. Only a resounding defeat at the ballot box will even begin to show the truth about this greatest of all con men.

(Most of this post summarizes the information from the New York Times story, which was posted/updated at 10:14 AM PDT and is available here.)

Extensive damage throughout federal government due to policies enacted by current administration: repairs will be difficult but are essential to our survival

2020-08-03
picture by Open Clip Art Vectors courtesy of pixabay.com

As noted in yesterday’s post, there are numerous examples readily available that show the administration has consistently tried to destroy large parts of the federal administration and has succeeded in many places. This has come by political appointees who head the larger agencies and have made policies inimical to their original purposes. The administration has tried to cut appropriations for everything except the military and Homeland Security. Attempts are being made to reduce staff through attrition, layoffs, and forced resignations; disgusted civil servants have voluntarily departed.

I could research all the many ways this has happened and is continuing to happen, but I don’t have time to lay out all the details. There are too many other important subjects to write about. In some cases, the damage is being hidden. In other cases, the decline in reporters and reporting has led to insufficient information about these destructive actions.

The bottom line is this: if a Democratic President is elected in November, the new administration will inherit a badly damaged and diminished federal government. Many of the advances that took place during the previous administration have been reversed. Many of the agencies that had been doing good work have been hollowed out, with the departure of civil servants who had been dedicating their careers to the betterment of this country and could no longer operate effectively or stomach the behavior of the political appointees in charge.

Priorities will have to be established, and the most urgent problems will have to be addressed first. The removal of political appointees who have philosophies inimical to the work of the agencies they head will lead to more vacancies and may cause chaos.

The agencies most in need of rehabilitation are: the State Department, Justice, and ICE. Large numbers of career employees will leave or be forced out when they discover that their new bosses do not favor the policies that they have used to abuse immigrants and people of color.

ICE, for example, has many career employees who actually enjoy the oppressive tactics that their superiors have encouraged. These people will be unhappy with the new policies and should be encouraged to leave.

A similar situation exists among the 15,000 local police departments of this country. A large number of line policemen, perhaps the majority, feel that their duties, to protect and serve, include the oppression of poor people and nonwhites at will. It would be better for their communities if they all resigned and were replaced by new officers who want true justice and mercy. Police unions will have to be taken over by the few line police officers who support extensive changes in policy that can put a stop to the things that happened to Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, and George Floyd.

At the same time, the deaths of people like Michael Brown will have to be left behind. There were no good witnesses to his killing. The new prosecutor who investigated his case was forced to close the case without making any indictments because he could not prove that Mr. Brown was shot unlawfully. The policeman who shot him was able to claim self-defense because no-one saw what happened. This is not to say that we should believe his claims, only that we cannot show beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not attack the policeman.

We have to pick our battles and prosecute the cases that have clear evidence of ill intent by miscreants like our current president. Like Adolf Hitler in “Mein Kampf”, this man made clear in his statements exactly what he wanted to do and why. We must reverse the damage he has done and repair our federal government. This will take time and great effort.

The changes we want will be opposed, tooth and nail, by the remaining Republican officeholders in the House and Senate. It is time to eliminate the filibuster and try to make up for time lost during the previous Democratic administration due to the obstruction of the Senate.

The loss of the majority in the House in 2010 can be tied directly to the failure of the Senate to push through the dramatic policy changes attempted by the administration of the time (not to minimize the negative propaganda churned out by the Tea Party.) There was a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for only a few months, not long enough to do what was needed.

There is no longer any time to waste. All Democratic office-holders must be united at making the policy changes that will lead to an improvement in the well-being of the vast majority of the American populace. It will be hard, and far-right propaganda will attempt to twist the appearance of the changes until they look like something sinister.

The gravity of the crisis we face in this pandemic, combined with worsening wealth inequality and perverse medical insurance policies, makes it essential that we quickly reverse the decline of the average American both economically and physically.

Education, medical care, and public health must be reformed before we fall further behind. If not, authoritarian countries (China in particular, but also Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran) will overtake us and establish an antidemocratic hegemony over the world that forces us into ever-greater conflict.

He-who-must-not-be-named has damaged America in many ways– this will have to be repaired at great cost

2020-08-02

A few of the government agencies that have been subverted by the present administration: ICE, CBP, DOJ, CFPB, USPS, HSA, DOE (Education). There are many less prominent agencies whose career employees have been intimidated by the White House. Every agency which has had a political appointee installed is certain to have been co-opted and subverted. In most cases, people were specifically appointed because they opposed the very reason the agency existed in the first place. For example:

Environmental Protection Agency

The first head appointed in February 2017 was Scott Pruitt, who had spent his career litigating against environmental regulations and was the Attorney General of Oklahoma at the time. At the same time, the president proposed a 30% cut in the agency’s budget. Mr. Pruitt resigned in July 2018 under multiple ethics investigations.

First, though, he hired a disgraced former banker to run the Superfund program. As Wikipedia put it,

Pruitt hired former Oklahoma banker Albert Kelly to head the  Superfund  program, which is responsible for cleaning up the nation’s most contaminated land.[27][28][29] Kelly completely lacked any experience with environmental issues, and had just received a lifetime ban from working in banking, his career until then, due to “unfitness to serve”.[27]

The second head, starting in July 2018, was Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, who claimed that the EPA was “brainwashing our kids.”

Francesca Grifo, the top scientific integrity official, was refused permission to testify before the House in July 2019. The hearing was to be about the importance of allowing scientists employed by the government to speak freely about their work and proposed legislation to ensure just that.

The current administration has attempted to roll back environmental regulations and has succeeded in a large number of cases– 64 so far and 34 more coming, according to Wikipedia. Vehicle emissions standards have been reduced, resulting in increased emissions.

Federal land has been opened up to drilling and mining. There has been the list of derogations is long and pitiful. The Clean Water Rule was repealed in 2019. Too many rollbacks to count have already been accomplished.

The end result is an estimated increase in deaths of 8,000 a year and an increase in respiratory problems for a million people. The list is in Wikipedia and covers National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior, Council on Environmental Quality, and the Department of Agriculture.

Department of Education

Since the very beginning of the present administration, Betsy DeVos has headed the DOE. This woman had no training in the field of education, nor any practical experience as an educator or administrator. What she did have was: ambitions to impose her point of view on others, evangelical Christianity, deep pockets used to support Republican candidates for office, and a devotion to charter schools or religiously based home schooling at the expense of public schools.

As head of DOE, Ms. DeVos has seriously damaged the drive to control for-profit schools. These scam schools have sucked money from desperate students that left them with worthless training and no job prospects. She has prevented people from getting relief when they owe money on loans that they used for tuition to these schools– money they can’t repay because they didn’t get the better jobs they were promised by the schools.

Ms. DeVos has done many other things to damage the institutions of learning, both public and private, in this country. Unfortunately, this is beyond the scope of this blog post. We need to describe all the ways this administration has damaged our country without getting bogged down in details.

Department of Justice

The first appointee to head the DOJ was Jeff Sessions. He was put in place because he was the first Senator to publicly support the president’s campaign. The arrangement fell apart when Mr. Sessions decided to follow the law and recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Sessions did tremendous damage even though he had lost the president’s favor already. The most obvious example was his decision to end all “pattern and practice” investigations of local police departments and to stop enforcing the agreements that had already been made as a result of previous investigations.

The second appointee was William Barr. He has destroyed what reputation the DOJ had left by trying to end the prosecution of the admitted liar and Turkish/Russian asset General Michael Flynn just when he was about to be sentenced. He also interfered in the prosecution of Roger Stone, the political trickster who has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back. Mr. Stone received a lighter sentence; at the last minute, the president commuted his sentence before he could report to prison.

Mr. Barr tried to take away the First Amendment rights of Michael Cohen. Mr. Cohen had been released from prison to home confinement, but in a bizarre twist, he was almost forced to sign a paper relinquishing his rights to publish or to be interviewed– a restriction never before imposed on a probationer. A judge had him released, calling the restriction “retaliatory.”

Mr. Cohen is writing a book about the president’s use of racist and anti-Semitic language in private (among other evil deeds perpetrated by the con-man-in-chief.) This was after Mr. Cohen turned on the president; before the turn, Mr. Barr tried to interfere with Mr. Cohen’s case in the other direction, and according to The New York Times,

Mr. Barr instructed Justice Department officials in Washington to draft a memo outlining legal arguments that could have raised questions about Mr. Cohen’s conviction and undercut similar prosecutions in the future…

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/nyregion/geoffrey-berman-william-barr-michael-cohen.html

Mr. Barr also had the US Attorney General for Manhattan Geoffrey Berman removed, while Mr. Berman was investigating the president (“Individual 1”) and his current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Mr. Barr tried to have a manifestly unqualified lawyer installed in Mr. Berman’s place. This man, Jay Clayton, had asked the president for the job while the two were playing golf.

Early on in his tenure, Mr. Barr interfered with other cases in an effort to crack down on the State of California for its tougher auto emissions standards. He also pushed an antitrust investigation of figures in the marijuana industry. As The New York Times had it in another article about Mr. Barr’s politicization of a supposedly non-partisan government department,

John W. Elias, a senior career official in the antitrust division, charged that his supervisors improperly used their powers to investigate the marijuana industry and a deal between California and four major automakers at the behest of Mr. Barr. He likened their efforts to burdensome harassment meant to punish companies for decisions the attorney general and the president opposed.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/us/politics/justice-department-politicization.html

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

The ways in which ICE has been politicized, undermined, and deformed under the current administration are so numerous that they would take another blog post and more time than I currently have available.

I will leave it at this: the current president has tried to put a stop to all immigration, especially from countries that are populated by non-whites and non-Christians. He has attempted to stop all refugees from even being processed and locked up asylum-seekers indefinitely, some of them in literal cages.

Some people who worked for ICE were already bigoted and violent, and he encouraged their worst tendencies. He called up the active military to the border with Mexico; since they are prohibited by law from participating in direct anti-refugee action, they were relegated to building border fences.

He claimed that refugees coming from Mexico were “rapists” (among other things.) He has tried to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and in part succeeded despite being told not to by the Supreme Court. He said of the children in DACA, “some are very tough, hardened criminals” (even though one requirement to enter DACA is not to have any criminal record.)

His prejudices were most clearly revealed when he offered to accept more immigrants from Norway (which sent just over 500 of its residents to the US in 2016.) This contrasts to his description of Haiti and several African nations as “shithole countries.”

Central Intelligence Agency

The president installed Mike Pompeo as director of the CIA immediately after his inauguration, replacing John Brennan. Mr. Pompeo was a member of the House from Kansas and a “Tea Party” Republican. Mr. Pompeo has supported the president without quibble, even repeating lies that have been elsewhere debunked.

Mr. Brennan, however, called the president’s behavior “treasonous” after he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and publicly accepted his denial that the Russians had intervened in the 2016 election to support the current president.

Articles in The Hill and in the Washington Post on July 29 state that Mr. Brennan has been writing a memoir and that it is due out this October. The president “accused him [Mr. Brennan] of being a key figure in the “deep state” conspiracy to undermine his campaign and discredit his election.” Mr. Brennan was prevented from accessing his CIA files for the memoir because of his “erratic behavior and the President’s belief that access to classified information should be solely for the benefit of the government and the American people.” This according to White House spokesman Judd Deere.

Former CIA Director John Brennan will release a memoir titled “Undaunted: My Fight Against American’s Enemies, at Home and Abroad” in October, Macmillan Publishers announced Tuesday. 

Mark Zaid, an attorney who has represented government whistleblowers and former intelligence agency employees who have gone on to write memoirs, told the Post that the blocking of the records was “unprecedented, as far as I know. This is demonstrative, once again, of a vindictive, political president whose actions have nothing to do with actual national security decisions…”

https://thehill.com/homenews/news/509524-brennan-memoir-slated-for-october-release-says-trump-blocked-him-from-accessing

The president claimed that he was revoking Mr. Brennan’s security clearance, but apparently it is still intact. This is an example of the president’s erratic behavior and sometimes empty threats.

Mr. Pompeo moved from the CIA to the State Department in April 2018 and was replaced by Gina Haspel. Unlike Pompeo, who had been a Congressman, Gina Haspel had been a CIA officer since 1985. We will get back to Mr. Pompeo later.

Ms. Haspel was involved in torture and ran a CIA “black site” where prisoners were tortured. She also had a hand in the destruction of videotapes that documented torture. In order to get the support of some senators, she wrote a letter saying that, in hindsight, the CIA’s detention and interrogation (torture) program was mistaken. (Wikipedia: “Gina Haspel”)

Senator John McCain, a Republican who was on the president’s wrong side, tried to block her confirmation but by then he was in the hospital with brain cancer. He had been tortured while a prisoner in North Vietnam and due to that, had bilateral frozen shoulders (he couldn’t lift his hands above shoulder level.) (Wikipedia: “Gina Haspel” and “John McCain”)

The president publicly denigrated the CIA on numerous occasions, but not in the last two years. Apparently, he is satisfied with the agency as it is run now. Ms. Haspel has quietly added a number of women to the agency, so that could be considered a positive for feminism (however, see Dr. Deborah Birx…)

State Department

The first head of the Department of State was Rex Tillerson, a former high-level oil executive (CEO of ExxonMobil, starting as a civil engineer for Exxon in 1975) who had spent years in Russia working for an oil company (he had been made president of a Russian subsidiary of ExxonMobil called Exxon Neftegas Limited in 1998.) He had been a Boy Scout and an Eagle Scout.

Mr. Tillerson had no professional diplomatic experience, but had a reputation as one who can deal with bureaucracies like his large oil company. He is worth at least $300 million, and contributed heavily to Republican campaigns (although not that of the current president.) He divested completely from his oil holdings when he became Secretary of State in early 2017 and received the full approval of  Walter Shaub, the director of the United States Office of Government Ethics,

Mr. Tillerson was confirmed in his position by a very close party-line vote of 56-43 in the Senate, an unusual occurrence given that no previous nominee for Secretary of State had been opposed by more than fourteen Senators. During his confirmation hearings, he was grilled about his contacts in Russia and his company’s funding of climate change denial. His answers to questions about both topics were unsatisfactory.

As a Secretary, he gained a reputation for being nearly invisible. He apparently did not have the confidence of his diplomats. More than half of them resigned; applications to join State dropped by half as well. He also deliberately hollowed out parts of the department, such as the division that tracked war crimes, and pushed for more staff cuts. He backed the president’s proposal to cut State’s budget by 30%.

Mr. Tillerson was unable to influence US policy; he was shut out by the president’s closest advisors, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon. Mr. Tillerson tried to tell the president a few things, but was rebuffed and word leaked after one meeting that after he left, he had described the president as “a fucking moron.”

There is so much more, but we have to move on. To sum things up, Mr. Tillerson was assessed by some experts as the worst Secretary of State ever. For more, read this article in Vox from March 13, 2018: “Rex Tillerson has been fired. Experts say he did damage that could last ‘a generation.’ “

Mr. Pompeo took over from Mr. Tillerson in April 2018. By then, State was a shell of its former self. Matters just went downhill from there– and then, the president called the President of Ukraine and asked him for a “favor.”

This article in The Atlantic from March 12, 2020 by William J. Burns, who retired from the Foreign Service in 2014 after 33 years as a diplomat, is a good place to start. It’s titled, “The Damage at the State Department Is Worse Than You Can Imagine. But it’s also more reparable.”

Centers for Disease Control

Unlike other government departments, until recently, the CDC retained a lot of independence. Things started to get dicey when the CDC was tasked with developing a diagnostic test kit for the novel coronavirus.

The CDC could simply have copied the World Health Organization (WHO) test or used a German test which was available in January 2020, but they developed their own (which they were fully qualified to do.) Unfortunately, in scaling up the test to make kits for all the state and local labs that would need them, they introduced a contaminant. The tests that were shipped February 6 were unusable, and the defect was not corrected for three weeks. By the time the tests were available on a wide scale, the virus had already spread everywhere.

The scientific experts who were brought in to advise the president were all career public servants, but the ones that got his ear shared certain characteristics. First, they were known to be evangelical Christians. Second, they made no rash statements that might spook the stock market. Third, they never, ever criticized the president.

This became difficult when the president made statements that were false, misleading, or likely to prevent people from understanding what they were up against. Things like, “It’s going to disappear soon.”

This describes, not Dr. Anthony Fauci, but Dr. Deborah Birx, who was caught early in the pandemic parroting the president’s remarks about how the whole thing would soon blow over.

Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the US Agency for Global Media

What used to be the Broadcasting Board of Governors was changed to the US Agency for Global Media. This agency controls the media which broadcast to countries around the world that don’t have their own free media (at least that’s what they say.)

In reality, the agency is controlled by arch-conservatives. They broadcast propaganda to Cuba, Iran, China, the Middle East, and other countries. Their influence is not felt in the United States but their listeners in other countries variously regard them as aspirational to an “American Way of LIfe” or just ordinary propaganda.

The USAGM is an arm of government that exists independently of any public influence. Its activities are unknown to US audiences and there is little information about them.

The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 requires the CPB to operate with a “strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature”. It also requires it to regularly review national programming for objectivity and balance, and to report on “its efforts to address concerns about objectivity and balance”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation_for_Public_Broadcasting

The Voice of America was accused of parroting Chinese propaganda when it showed a piece for Chinese New Year that was too positive. It is part of the propaganda put out by sources who wish to eliminate it from the federal budget.

The president has repeatedly attempted to eliminate funding for public broadcasting from the federal budget. Currently about 15%, or about $450 million each year, of PBS’ budget is paid by the federal government; the rest comes from people’s subscriptions or donations.

US Postal Service

The new Postmaster General has instituted a “cost-saving” program that eliminates overtime, prevents any new hiring, and has already resulted in two-day delays in mail delivery. Mail carriers and other postal workers are anxious and demoralized.

The Postal Service has been under pressure for years. As a government agency, it operates under certain rules. But there are some unique rules that have been imposed by Congress over the years that make it difficult.

For example, USPS is supposed to support itself with user fees, that is postage. A postage stamp represents the payment of these fees. Congress has imposed limitations on how much USPS can charge for first class stamps, including limiting increases to inflation. At the same time, they have imposed rules on such things as the retirement fund, which is required to pay into itself at an unusually accelerated rate which causes an additional burden on the budget.

At the onset of the pandemic, USPS projected that it would run out of money sometime this year. Since it could not operate at a loss, it asked for a subsidy from Congress or the administration. The White House offered a loan under onerous terms– including a demand that the price of packages be quadrupled.

Fortunately for USPS, the volume of packages dramatically increased during the spring– so much so that the date they would run out of money was postponed by months into next year. The loan offer was declined.

Then the White House changed the way USPS was controlled and imposed a new Postmaster General. In July, the “cost-saving” measures were imposed and mail began to back up. Now a crisis is building within USPS.

This may affect the course of the presidential election because a large proportion of absentee ballots are sent by mail and if there are delays in delivering mail, ballots may not reach the ballot boxes in time to be counted. A huge proportion of voting may be done by mail this year.

This crisis was created by moves made to interfere with the functioning of the USPS, deliberate attempts to cut off what was previously a reliable method of communication.

— so far this post is over 3000 words, with no end in sight. It will be continued tomorrow, Heaven willing.

Persistent symptoms after apparent recovery from COVID-19

2020-08-02
this image illustrates the electron microscopic appearance of the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerging from dying cells.
EM of sars-cov-2 budding from apoptotic (dying) cells–NIAID

This JAMANET article from July 9 describes a cohort of Italian patients who were examined a mean of 60 days after symptom onset. These patients were all hospitalized, for an average of two weeks, and 5% had “invasive ventilation” (mechanical, via intubation.) 22 of 179 potentially eligible patients (14 refused to participate) still had positive antigen tests– these patients had not recovered from acute infection after roughly two months.

Of 143 who had “virologic resolution” (negative antigen tests) only 18 (12.6%) were free of symptoms. Most commonly, patients had fatigue (53.1%) and dyspnea (43.4%).

Here is the results section:

From April 21 to May 29, 2020, 179 patients were potentially eligible for the follow-up post–acute care assessment; 14 individuals (8%) refused to participate and 22 had a positive test result. Thus, 143 patients were included. The mean age was 56.5 (SD, 14.6) years (range, 19-84 years), and 53 (37%) were women. During hospitalization, 72.7% of participants had evidence of interstitial pneumonia. The mean length of hospital stay was 13.5 (SD, 9.7) days; 21 patients (15%) received noninvasive ventilation and 7 patients (5%) received invasive ventilation. The characteristics of the study population are summarized in the Table.

Patients were assessed a mean of 60.3 (SD, 13.6) days after onset of the first COVID-19 symptom; at the time of the evaluation, only 18 (12.6%) were completely free of any COVID-19–related symptom, while 32% had 1 or 2 symptoms and 55% had 3 or more. None of the patients had fever or any signs or symptoms of acute illness. Worsened quality of life was observed among 44.1% of patients. The Figure shows that a high proportion of individuals still reported fatigue (53.1%), dyspnea (43.4%), joint pain, (27.3%) and chest pain (21.7%).

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2768351

This article supports the anecdotes from many patients who say they have not recovered from their illnesses two months or more after falling sick. Based on the MRI findings of myocardial inflammation (see previous post) in 70% of patients after recovering from mild disease, we can guess that most of those with fatigue and dyspnea have heart problems due to COVID-19.

We do not know how long it will take these patients to recover completely. We only know that COVID-19 is far worse than influenza, both in mortality and in persistent morbidity. Most patients who survive are nearly fully recovered from influenza after two to three weeks– but two or three months seems to be a conservative estimate for recovery from this virus.

White House trying to sabotage 2020 election

2020-08-01
photo courtesy of pixabay.com and Erika Wittlieb

The White House is trying on several fronts to prevent people from voting and to undermine the legitimacy of the vote on November 3. It seems that the president has come to the realization that the only way he can win is by cheating.

There is more and more polling evidence that Joe Biden holds a commanding lead in the election with only three months to go. Even swing states show consistent margins in Biden’s favor. There is going to be an “October surprise” of course, but people are unlikely to believe anything coming out of the administration that seeks to denigrate Biden at this late date.

On the other hand, there is Michael Cohen (the president’s former lawyer) who was sentenced to jail for the bribe paid to a woman to keep her quiet about having adulterous intercourse with Him until after the 2016 election… Mr. Cohen plans to have yet another book about the president’s racist and anti-Semitic remarks in private, among other nasty tidbits, out in October as well.

There is also John Brennan, former CIA director, whose memoir will be out in October too. He writes that the president had no interest in learning the truth about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Presumably, the president is expecting help with the 2020 election also.

Lies about the election

First, there are the statements that have come thick and fast recently claiming that the vote will be “rigged” and that mail-in voting is “fraudulent”– when all evidence is to the contrary. He has also stated that the election won’t be called within a reasonable time because of mail-in ballots (which may be true from his point of view since he has such a short attention span.)

Voting restrictions

Second, there are the attempts by several states to restrict voting times, places, and absentee qualifications. These have been going on for many years. Voting restrictions were worse during the years after Reconstruction, when white supremacists were able to prevent anyone who did not meet their standards of whiteness from voting.

Many restrictions have made a comeback since the Supreme Court invalidated a critical portion of the Voting Rights Act that prevented states with a history of discrimination from unilaterally passing new restrictions.

Not supporting state election offices

Third, there is the inadequacy of the federal monetary and strategic support for state’s efforts to make voting safer. Pandemic relief bills that include money to help state election offices have stalled in Congress.

Damaging the USPS

Fourth, there is a concerted attack on the ability of the US Postal Service (USPS) to deliver mail. The USPS will be required to handle an unprecedented volume of mailed ballots in November.

The administration has installed a new postmaster for USPS who has engaged in a sudden crackdown on the methods mail carriers have been using to ensure timely delivery. He claims that the new policies are meant to save money, but they are not needed because for the first time in years, USPS is not under immediate threat of running out of money.

Concerns that the pandemic would lead to USPS insolvency were alleviated when an increase in package deliveries (on which USPS makes a profit) salvaged the bottom line. As a result, they were able to refuse a loan offered by the administration which carried onerous terms.

Then the new Postmaster General sent out a memo “urging postal staff to leave behind mail at distribution centers if they thought it would cause a delay for letter carriers.  Another memo stated that the USPS would be looking to cut transportation and overtime costs…” Yet another memo signaled a new program that planned to ” send letter carriers out to deliver mail more quickly in the morning by prohibiting them from sorting any mail in their offices before they go.” (The Intercept, July 29)

The bottom line is that the president wants to privatize USPS and has installed an outsider as Postmaster General who intends to make it more “efficient” by prohibiting overtime, reducing multiple drive-outs to deliver mail, and other changes that will only save a little money but slow down delivery of both mail and packages.

USPS is competing with FedEx and UPS for packages, but it is a government agency with a mandate to deliver mail. Although mail is a smaller and smaller component of its service, it is critical for government purposes like balloting, Medicare and Medicaid information, and many other documents.

Feuding with Jeff Bezos

In April, the president called USPS “a joke” (which it certainly wouldn’t agree with) and demanded that they quadruple their package-delivery fees. Apparently he wants this because USPS is used by Amazon to deliver many of its packages, and he has a running feud going on with Jeff Bezos, who is Amazon CEO and also owns The Washington Post (although he exercises no editorial control over it.) See this article about USPS changes in the Post July 14.

The Post, of course, is a newspaper that regularly prints unflattering articles about the administration, and is, as he claims, “fake news” and “the enemy of the people.” In fact, most newspapers, including the Post, rigorously fact-check everything they print and immediately retract anything shown to be wrong. As to the latter, it would seem that the president is the one who is the people’s enemy.

Ironically, if USPS were to dramatically increase their package fees, Amazon would abandon it (building out their own delivery service instead), and USPS would suffer financially as a result– a self-defeating proposition. Don’t expect the president to understand things like “essential government services” or the role that USPS serves in delivering packages to out-of-the-way places that FedEx and UPS don’t want to serve.

Georgia youth summer camp had major outbreak of COVID-19 with 76% of testees positive: MMWR

2020-08-01
em coronavirus from NIAID– CC license

The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) for July 31 had this: A summer camp attended by children and teenagers aged 6-19 was affected by an outbreak of COVID-19. There was an overall “attack rate” of 44% (260 of 597) but only 58% were tested… 76% (260/344) of those tested had positive results for SARS-COV-2 antigens. 27 attendees were excluded from analysis because they were from out of state.

The camp was in Georgia, and was said to have required a negative test within 12 days before attendance. Staff members (120 people aged 14-59) were required to wear masks but the attendees were not. The session began with training held June 17-20, followed by camp starting June 21 and scheduled to end on June 27. On June 23, a staff member developed symptoms (chills) and left; the positive test was reported the next day and the camp was emptied out. The Georgia Department of Health began an investigation on June 25.

Here is a quote from the MMWR report:

A total of 597 Georgia residents attended camp A. Median camper age was 12 years (range = 6–19 years), and 53% (182 of 346) were female. The median age of staff members and trainees was 17 years (range = 14–59 years), and 59% (148 of 251) were female. Test results were available for 344 (58%) attendees; among these, 260 (76%) were positive. The overall attack rate was 44% (260 of 597), 51% among those aged 6–10 years, 44% among those aged 11–17 years, and 33% among those aged 18–21 years (Table). Attack rates increased with increasing length of time spent at the camp, with staff members having the highest attack rate (56%). During June 21–27, occupancy of the 31 cabins averaged 15 persons per cabin (range = 1–26); median cabin attack rate was 50% (range = 22%–70%) among 28 cabins that had one or more cases. Among 136 cases with available symptom data, 36 (26%) patients reported no symptoms; among 100 (74%) who reported symptoms, those most commonly reported were subjective or documented fever (65%), headache (61%), and sore throat (46%).

Szablewski CM, Chang KT, Brown MM, et al. SARS-CoV-2 Transmission and Infection Among Attendees of an Overnight Camp — Georgia, June 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. ePub: 31 July 2020. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6931e1

This summer camp, apparently a typical one, lasted only two days out of a planned seven, after a staff member developed symptoms and was sent home. It was too late by then to prevent 76% of those tested from developing COVID-19 in the two weeks after they went home.

The only unusual feature of this outbreak was that 74% of the positive cases had symptoms– mostly fever, headache, and sore throat. Note that the “attack rate” was highest among the youngest attendees.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Maybe wearing masks would have helped? Maybe group sing-alongs and cheering was a bad idea?

It is possible, indeed likely, that the first patient with symptoms was infected just prior to arrival at the camp, since it appears from the timeline that they arrived June 17 and symptoms started June 23. Having a negative test up to 12 days before arrival would not have been sufficient to prevent this occurrence.

Buddhism and Hinduism: more recent developments: a personal investigation.

2020-07-31
photo by WikiImages courtesy of pixabay.com (picked for its one-pointedness)

I’m writing this post today for two reasons: first, I don’t know what is going on with these organized religions today. Two, I wrote several posts about the origins of both religions in the eras surrounding the birth of the Buddha and the origins of the Vedas (documents that form some of the foundations of Hinduism.)

The Hindu religion is closely associated with India, home to the second-largest population in the world today (roughly 1.353 billion people in 2018 and growing about 1% a year or 13.53 million– meaning there are roughly 1,380,060,000 people there today. Actually, Worldometer estimates that there are 1,380004,385 people in India on July 31, 2021.)

According to Wikipedia, India is nearly 80% Hindu, and Nepal is 81%. Bali is also 84% Hindu. Wikipedia lists these other countries with large Hindu populations: Bangladesh (14 million or 8.5%),  IndonesiaPakistan (3.6 million or 1.8%), Sri Lanka (2.7 million or 12%), MalaysiaSingaporeUnited StatesMyanmarUnited KingdomCanadaSouth AfricaMauritius, and the Caribbean or West Indies.

Buddhism is associated with China, but not quite as strongly as Hinduism is with India. China has the largest population, estimated at 1,439,323,776 today by Worldometer. Some say that India’s population will overtake that of China soon.

China has been home to Buddhism since Chinese pilgrims (some of them Taoist monks) visited India in the early years of the common era.

Time.com says, “Official [Chinese government] statistics don’t exist, but the Pew Research Center, which surveys religious belief worldwide, estimates some 245 million Buddhists in China, around 18% of the total national population.”

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “The state [the People’s Republic of China, herein called the Chinese government] recognizes five religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam, and Protestantism. The practice of any other faith is formally prohibited, although often tolerated, especially in the case of traditional Chinese beliefs.”

Several smaller countries have significant populations of Buddhists. Taiwan, which aspires to be a separate country from mainland China but has some difficulty with international recognition, has some eight million Buddhists. Most of them are adherents of the Mahayana (“Greater Vehicle”) sect.

Other countries with large Buddhist populations: Tibet (legally part of China), Japan (45 millions), Thailand (64 million or 93% of the country), Sri Lanka (14 million or 69%), Nepal (3 million or 10%), Myanmar/Burma ( 38 million or 80%), Mongolia (1.5 million or 55%), Malaysia (5 million or 20%), Laos (4 million/ 66%), South Korea (11 million/ 23%), Cambodia (13.7 million / 97%), and Bhutan (0.5 million/ 75%). For the world, the total of Buddhists is 487 million or 7.1%. All this is from Wikipedia.

According to Wikipedia, “… an IndiaSpend analysis of 2011 Census data … there are more than 8.4 million Buddhists in India and 87% of them are neo-Buddhists or Navayana Buddhists. They are converted from other religions, mostly Dalits (Scheduled Caste) who changed religion to escape Hindu caste oppression.” (This means about 0.8% of India is Buddhist.)

That suggests another topic, the origins of the caste system, about which I have some thoughts and some need to research in order to form opinions. Not now.

Both religions started in Northern India.

As I noted in previous posts, Buddhism in India may be considered to have begun as an outgrowth of Hinduism– when the Buddha rejected the teachings of two sramana experts on meditation. There are many aspects of Hinduism which the Buddha found objectionable.

I won’t get into that now, but there were reports of Buddhists in China before 300 BCE. The Han emperor Ming Ti (reigned CE 57-75) is said to have had a dream that was interpreted to him as a vision of the Buddha.

In reality, it was more of a gradual process both before and after the emperor’s dream. The Silk Road trade route was a major factor in the wide spread of Chinese Buddhism, especially after the first century of the common era– the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE.)

Buddhist tantras or magical invocations (mantras) were popular because of their resemblance to Taoist practices. This made Vajrayana, or Tibetan Buddhism, particularly engaging for Chinese Taoists.

Not a good place to stop.

This is not a good place to stop but sometimes you have to stop for extraneous reasons and that is the case now. So I promise more later, especially if i get some “likes”… even if I don’t get any likes or comments. No, I don’t care if you like it or not, but it’s always nice to be liked. Really, I have to stop now. Don’t stop now. Stop now. Don’t stop now. Don’t. Stop. Now.

[microphone falls to floor]

COVID-19 study shows similar nasal SARS-CoV-2 antigen levels in children and adults: JAMANETWORK– Pediatrics. Opening schools will spread the virus even faster.

2020-07-31
photo by nastya_gepp courtesy of pixabay.com

This study came out on JAMANETWORK July 30, and it is devastating for the accepted notion that children do not pose a COVID-19 risk to adults. The study shows high levels of SARS-COV-2 antigen in swabs from the noses of small children presenting with symptoms or exposure to the virus. Children under five have more virus, and children 5-17 have the same amount of virus as adults.

It is worth quoting extensively; here is an excerpt from Methods:

This cohort included all individuals aged younger than 1 month to 65 years who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Patients with symptoms suggestive of a COVID-19–compatible illness and/or high-risk exposures were tested. We included the first sample tested for patients with multiple samples. Because patients with severe infection have lower CT values [reference 4] we excluded 7 children who required supplemental oxygen support. We also excluded 7 asymptomatic patients, 29 patients with unknown duration of symptoms, and 19 patients whose symptoms started more than 1 week prior to testing.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2768952

Here is an excerpt from the results section:

Our final cohort included 145 patients with mild to moderate illness within 1 week of symptom onset. We compared 3 groups: young children younger than 5 years (n = 46), older children aged 5 to 17 years (n = 51), and adults aged 18 to 65 years (n = 48). We found similar median (interquartile range) CT values for older children (11.1 [6.3-15.7]) and adults (11.0 [6.9-17.5]). However, young children had significantly lower median (interquartile range) CT values (6.5 [4.8-12.0]), indicating that young children have equivalent or more viral nucleic acid in their upper respiratory tract compared with older children and adults (Figure). The observed differences in median CT values between young children and adults approximate a 10-fold to 100-fold greater amount of SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract of young children. 

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2768952

In other words, in 46 children under 5 compared to 48 adults (18-65 y/o), samples taken from the nasopharynx (back of the nose) showed higher median virus levels and children aged 5-17 had similar virus levels (CT means amplification cycle thresholds, the inverse of virus numbers; lower CT means more virus, or: “lower values indicating higher amounts of viral nucleic acid.”)

In fact, “younger children had significantly lower median CT values” and this means “approximate[ly] a 10-fold to 100-fold greater amount of SARS-CoV-2 in the upper respiratory tract of young children.”

So younger children had roughly 10-100 times as much virus as adults in their noses, on average. The report concludes:

Thus, young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population, as has been demonstrated with respiratory syncytial virus, where children with high viral loads are more likely to transmit.6 Behavioral habits of young children and close quarters in school and day care settings raise concern for SARS-CoV-2 amplification in this population as public health restrictions are eased. In addition to public health implications, this population will be important for targeting immunization efforts as SARS-CoV-2 vaccines become available.

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2768952

This result contrasts with previous studies that supposedly showed less transmission to and from children. This report was actually “accepted for publication on May 31”– a two month delay in some very important news. There is a contradiction here that needs to be examined closer.

Previous research on children:

Let us look at the studies that supposedly showed less transmission in children.

This review, titled “Children are unlikely to be the main drivers of the COVID‐19 pandemic – A systematic review” from Acta Pediatrica dated May 19, asserts that “Data on viral loads were scarce, but indicated that children may have lower levels than adults, partly because they often have fewer symptoms, and this should decrease the transmission risk.”

Whatever else it says, this review is already obsolete– and the data it is missing (viral loads) was “accepted for publication” nine days before this one was published.

Another review, titled “Role of children in the transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic: a rapid scoping review” from BMJ (British Medical Journal) Open, says it was “received May 1” but also says it included studies “from 1 December 2019 until 28 May 2020. ” It states that, of 14 (1099 were considered) studies finally included, these statistics were found:

Although no complete data were available, between 15% and 55%–60% were asymptomatic, and 75%–100% of cases were from family transmission. Studies analysing school transmission showed children as not a driver of transmission.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7311007/

Children are not transmitters to a greater extent than adults. There is a need to improve the validity of epidemiological surveillance to solve current uncertainties, and to take into account social determinants and child health inequalities during and after the current pandemic. … There is also insufficient information on the child population as a source of transmission of the infection. Despite this, in the majority of countries, one of the first measures adopted has been the closure of schools…

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7311007/

One reason schools were closed is that influenza is known to be widely spread through schools to adults. While the novel coronavirus is not thought to be as contagious as influenza, it seemed a wise precaution at the time. Now the pressure to reopen schools seems to be ignoring that wisdom.

Since schools have been closed, there is little surprise in studies finding that most infected children got the virus from adults in their households.

Next, we have a report titled “COVID-19 in children: the link in the transmission chain” and published online March 25 in Lancet Infectious Diseases. (This is actually an analysis of a study written up by Chinese doctors; the original is available here.) It includes 36 children (1-16 y/o), about half of whom had pneumonia on CT scan but all of whom had clinically mild disease. It concludes thusly:

The most important finding to come from the present analysis is the clear evidence that children are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, but frequently do not have notable disease, raising the possibility that children could be facilitators of viral transmission. If children are important in viral transmission and amplification, social and public health policies (eg, avoiding interaction with elderly people) could be established to slow transmission and protect vulnerable populations. There is an urgent need to for further investigation of the role children have in the chain of transmission.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7156154/?report=reader

This would suggest caution in light of the possibility that children could transmit infection without appearing to be sick.

Then there is this Medscape article from July 10, titled “Children Rarely Transmit SARS-COV-2 Within Households”… It quotes a Swiss study that collected all patients identified by Geneva University Hospital surveillance between March 10 and April 10. Of 4310 patients with COVID-19, only 40 were under 16. The mild illnesses of these children is shown in this quote from the Results:

 29 (74%) patients were previously healthy; the most frequently reported comorbidities were asthma (10%), diabetes (8%), obesity (5%), premature birth (5%), and hypertension (3%). Seven patients (18%) were hospitalized to the ward, for a median duration of 3 days (IQR: 2–4); reasons for admission were surveillance for nonhypoxemic viral pneumonia (n = 2), fever without source (n = 2), apparent life-threatening event (n = 1), and sepsis-like event (n = 1); 1 paucisymptomatic child admitted because both parents had severe COVID-19 (n = 1). No patient required ICU admission or SARS-CoV-2–specific therapies. The others 32 patients were managed as outpatients. All patients had a complete resolution of symptoms by day 7 after diagnosis.

https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/146/2/e20201576

The familial clustering of cases was apparent from this data, headed Familial Clusters:

Familial cluster evaluation revealed a t number of 4 household members per family (IQR: 3–4). Among the 111 HHCs of study children, mothers predominated (n = 39), followed by fathers (n = 32), pediatric siblings (n = 23), adult siblings (n = 8), and grandparents (n = 7) (Fig 1). Adult HHCs were suspected or confirmed with COVID-19 before the study child in 79% (31/39) of cases. In only 8% (3/39) of households did the study child develop symptoms before any other HHC (Fig 1). Interestingly, 85% (75/88) of adult HHCs developed symptoms at some point, compared with 43% (10/23) of pediatric HHCs (P < .001). Also, 92% (36/39) of mothers developed symptoms, compared with 75% (24/32) of fathers (P = .04).

https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/146/2/e20201576

Note that it appears that 79% of child cases appeared to be preceded by, probably brought on by, adult cases. From the Discussion section:

In 79% of households, ≥1 adult family member was suspected or confirmed for COVID-19 before symptom onset in the study child, confirming that children are infected mainly inside familial clusters.6 Surprisingly, in 33% of households, symptomatic HHCs tested negative despite belonging to a familial cluster with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases, suggesting an underreporting of cases. In only 8% of households did a child develop symptoms before any other HHC, which is in line with previous data in which it is shown that children are index cases in <10% of SARS-CoV-2 familial clusters10; however, with our study design, we cannot confirm that child-to-adult transmission occurred.

https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/146/2/e20201576

This study does NOT show that children don’t transmit infections to adults. It shows that most children detected with infection caught it from adult family members. As the authors noted at the end:

This study has some limitations. The study sample likely does not represent the total number of pediatric SARS-CoV-2 cases during this time period. Indeed, patients with milder or atypical presentation might not have sought medical attention. Moreover, the recall of symptom onset among HHCs might be inaccurate, although this seems for once less likely because of the confinement measures and anxiety in the community.

https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/146/2/e20201576

An editorial in the same issue of Pediatrics quotes a Chinese study, which is well worth quoting again. From its Results section:

RESULTS: A total of 74 pediatric patients with COVID-19 were included in this study. Of the 68 case patients whose epidemiological data were complete, 65 (65 of 68; 95.59%) were household contacts of adults. Cough (32.43%) and fever (27.03%) were the predominant symptoms of 44 (59.46%) symptomatic patients at onset of the illness. Abnormalities in leukocyte count were found in 23 (31.08%) children, and 10 (13.51%) children presented with abnormal lymphocyte count. Of the 34 (45.95%) patients who had nucleic acid testing results for common respiratory pathogens, 19 (51.35%) showed coinfection with other pathogens other than SARS-CoV-2. Ten (13.51%) children had real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis for fecal specimens, and 8 of them showed prolonged existence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA.

https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/146/1/e20200961

Again, most (over 95%) of the 74 patients in this study got their virus from adults in their households.

Another fascinating finding was that 34 children were checked for other pathogens and about half of them showed “coinfection”– meaning that they also had another virus besides SARS-COV-2 in their systems. We’ll see coinfection again in a ski chalet, below.

Also, 13% of the children had the new virus in their stools and most of them had “prolonged” presence of virus in the stool. Fecal-oral transmission of SARS-COV-2 has not been studied and is unlikely in sanitary countries; this route is more likely to be important in places like India and Mexico where sanitary precautions are not universal.

The Medscape article mentions a letter about contact tracing. A French chalet where an English case infected 75% (12 of 15) of his chalet-mates includes a single pediatric case (who had a triple infection):

One pediatric case, with picornavirus and influenza A coinfection, visited 3 different schools while symptomatic. …

All [chalet] cases were negative for other viruses except for the pediatric case, who had a SARS-CoV-2 + picornavirus (rhinovirus or enterovirus) + influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 coinfection. His 2 siblings were negative for SARS-CoV-2, but had an influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 infection and an influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 + picornavirus coinfection, respectively. …  At school C, 30% (3/10) of contacts of the pediatric case had a picornavirus infection. … In addition, “classical” human coronaviruses such as HUK1 and NL63 were detected in 16% of contacts without any cross-reactivity with SARS-CoV-2 molecular diagnostics. …  the infected child, despite interactions with a large number of contacts in different schools, did not transmit the disease, as evidenced by the large number of negative results of his tested contacts. …  It is also possible that the very low viral load of the pediatric case and the subsequent lack of transmission might be related to his coinfection and the co-circulation of respiratory viruses. Viral load was only tested 8 days after his onset of symptoms. The child continued his normal activities and interactions as his symptoms were mild. 

https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/71/15/825/5819060

We could go on, but I’m out of time.

Cutting off debate due to time

That’s enough. There is a lack of information on the important question: will opening schools for in-person attendance during an uncontrolled outbreak of a novel disease cause more people to get sick?

There is a reason to think that the answer is yes: what we already know about influenza. When schools are closed, influenza morbidity and mortality goes down.

There is no data on the novel coronavirus that would contradict this observation. There is only unfounded optimism, based on the unusual behavior of this pathogen, which seems to cause less serious clinical manifestations in younger patients.

The new study mentioned at the head of this post shows that, despite mild or inapparent disease, children have equal or greater amounts of virus to spread when they are infected. This turns unfounded optimism into blind “polyanna-ism.”

I suggest keeping schools closed except for children with no internet access and to pick up the meals usually handed out to poor children. Teachers and staff can be first in line, with bus drivers and other essential personnel like health care workers, when a vaccine becomes available in January (I just picked that date because I’m a semi-founded optimist.) Then we can re-open schools in February, after the vaccine has time to take effect.

Case report of virus found in blood of recovered COVID-19 patient is puzzling.

2020-07-30
SARS-COV-2 EM photo courtesy NIAID

This patient, who had mild symptoms of body aches and sore throat without fever in March and was not tested, presented on April 23 to donate blood and was found to have both antibodies to SARS-COV-2 and viremia on a very sensitive antigen test. He had no antigen on a nasopharyngeal swab test taken after the viremia was found.

The case was reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine on July 17. The finding is particularly puzzling because viremia is unusual in previously published reports of acute cases. Only a minority of acutely ill patients were found to have virus in their bloodstreams.

The case report’s discussion states that the finding was unlikely to be a false positive because they found positive results for two different parts of the virus at low levels. The patient was unlikely to be infectious because of the low levels found; however, the blood bank has decided to lengthen its deferral period from 28 to 56 days after resolution of symptoms.

This is just another puzzling finding to add to all the other odd things that we have learned about this virus. I don’t have any explanations or even speculation to add.

Seroprevalence of SARS-COV-2 Antibodies, India: slums of Mumbai show 57%

2020-07-30
Taj Mahal by Free-Photos courtesy of pixabay.com

The Union health ministry said in a statement that 21,387 samples were collected in accordance with laboratory standards and were tested between June 27 and July 10 to determine the extent of the spread of the coronavirus disease in Delhi.

“Nearly six months into the epidemic, only 23.48% of the people are affected in Delhi, which has several pockets of dense population,” the Union health ministry, which commissioned the study, said in a statement.

https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/over-23-of-delhi-s-population-affected-by-covid-19-shows-serosurvey-results/story-Sq1XXdPkfmDdggyNwGdlSK.html

As on July 28, Mumbai has recorded 1,10,846 [sic] COVID-19 cases and 6,184 deaths.

A sero-surveillance study done in Mumbai has revealed that 57% of slum population and 16 per cent of non-slum residents in three civic wards had developed antibodies, indicating many people would already be affected by COVID-19 than the official tally suggests.

The Serological Surveillance for SARS-CoV2 infection was jointly commissioned by NITI Aayog, the BMC and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR).

The sero-surveillance started on June 3 and 6,936 samples out of an estimated 8,870 were collected from slum and non-slum population of three civic wards — R-North, M-West and F-North — in the first half of July.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-57-of-mumbai-slum-population-has-developed-antibodies-study/article32216939.ece

As of today, India has had 1,582,028 confirmed cases and 34,956 deaths, with 1,019,740 people recovered from the virus.

These reports are taken from Indian newspaper websites and published July 29. According to Wikipedia, the average age is 29 in India and more than 50% of the population is under 25. This is the youngest average for all countries in the world, according to this 2017 article in Financial Express of India.

For comparison, the median age is 38.2 in the US as of 2018; Maine has the highest median at 45 and Utah the lowest at 31.

The penetration of coronavirus is intense in the slums of Mumbai, yet the youth of the population seems to have reduced morbidity and mortality. Testing rates have been very low, although no exact data is available, only totals for the country. Authorities are freely admitting that funds for testing and treatment are simply not available in the needed amounts.

This article in the Washington Post on July 17 argues that India’s low death rate is due to under-reporting. The article also states that the pandemic is spreading unchecked throughout the country.

The hospital situation in India is surely as bad as that in Mexico. Fortunately for those who wish to know, there is better reporting about what is going on there. I was unable to locate any seroprevalence studies for Mexico at all.

Another statistic, not quite relevant but of interest: life expectancy at birth in India in 2020 for men is 68.4 and for women 71.2– while in the US, for men it is 76.2 and for women 81.2. For Mexico, men’s numbers are 72.12 and women’s 77.84. For Japan, the numbers are: 81.25 years for men and 87.32 years for women in 2018. (Numbers from Wikipedia and Google.)