CV19 – Sanity Check

One moment for a sanity check  by JT

In times of crisis such as now, there is so much static and mis-information that it is challenging to find meaningful facts and information. It is a good time for a sanity check. The purpose  of this is not change your mind but give you some information and facts, and maybe you will change your own mind. I do not mean to marginalize any death or sickness but we need to talk facts. First here are some facts about myself: I studied microbiology and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 25 years, in charge of sterile production of injectable medicines. It’s an almost impossible task to produce a sterile ‘anything’ in a non-sterile world, let alone a drug that is to be injected into a human body, and so I am very familiar with sterile practice including behavior and personal equipment.   I have intentionally left out references because I believe it’s important for you to do your own research and verification and not take the word of any one person, no matter their credentials, and check several sources.

The only way to discuss a pandemic is to treat it as a war or battle. Since the beginning of time we have been at war with a very nasty enemy that covers the planet – there are literally billions of different types of viruses. Like all viruses, the Covid 19 virus is invisible and nearly impossible to detect. Viruses are so small that we use a special measurement called a Micron (µ). If you divide a meter (roughly one yard) into one millionpieces, each one is equal to one micron. To put this in perspective, a human hair is around 20 – 50 microns, an average bacteria is 0.3 – 5.0 microns. Viruses are much smaller than bacteria and as small as .02 microns.  What exactly is a virus? I studied viruses and they are at the same time both fascination and terrifying. They are not alive and yet are not dead. They have no brain; no vital organs, no nucleus and they cannot move on their own but must ‘hitchhike on dust or liquid droplets. They can do nothing on their own and need a live host to be activated. I think they are more similar to a little simple robot with preprogrammed instructions (DNA or RNA) to seek and destroy specific cells in order to reproduce more of the virus.  

So how do we fight such a clever enemy? 

·         Isolation – Someone recently suggested only half serious the only way to protect all of us is to put everyone into a space suit. Sadly this true but also impractical. An alternative is to practice ‘Social Distancing’ but this is practical to a point. At some point we must interact with others whether to shop, take care of family or go to the doctor. To interact with others there are several methods such as:

·         Personal protection,  masks, etc. The most practical way to sterilize anything is filtration by exclusion. The best technology can only filter down to about .1 micron. (keep in mind a virus is around .02 microns). The N95 surgical face mask is rated around 1.7 microns (around 100 times larger than a virus). The reason the pores cannot be smaller is because it becomes difficult to breathe. The FDA defines the N95 face mask as follows: 

…”If worn properly, a surgical mask is meant to help block large-particle droplets, splashes, sprays, or splatter that may contain germs (viruses and bacteria)… While a surgical mask may be effective in blocking splashes and large-particle droplets, a face mask, by design, does not filter or block very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs, sneezes, or certain medical procedures. Surgical masks also do not provide complete protection from germs and other contaminants because of the loose fit between the surface of the face mask and your face. Surgical masks are not intended to be used more than once… 

·         If even the N95 mask is not the perfect solution, what sense is it to wear a piece of random cloth that can have a pore size up to 100 microns in size? The purpose of any face covering is to capture  larger droplets which may contain the virus,  but this is only marginally effective when the mask is disposed of after use and before the droplet has a chance to dry, when an organism can then penetrate the fibers.  Since there are no requirements or guidelines on the type of fabric or the use, this offers at best just a false sense of security. 

·         Flatten the curve – We hear this phrase a lot lately, as a strategy to combat the Covid 19 but what does it really mean? A graph is visual representation of the relationship of events (cases of Covid 19) over a period of time, and shown as a curve. There are two types of curves – a logarithmic curve is an extreme slope that goes nearly straight up and then back down over a short interval of time. A linear curve is a nearly straight line on a gentle slope over a much longer period of time. To flatten a curve means to stretch out a logarithmic curve over a longer period of time. Statistically this does not significantly change the results; it simply prolongs them over a longer period of time. As it applies to Covid 19 – there would still be approximately the same number of infections and deaths, just extended over a longer period of time. Which begs the question – what is the benefit of prolonging the inevitable? The answer is in the hopes of finding a miracle vaccine, so let’s talk about vaccines. 

·         So – when was the last time you got a flu shot? Many will say never – and why – many will say ‘because they don’t work’. Many have had a fly shot and still got the flu. Why is that? If there were any ‘easy’ options, we would already have cures/vaccines for the cold or the common flu virus,  the AIDS virus, which is one of the most studied and researched viruses or the Norovirus which has become infamous in the last several years and is probably more infectious and can sicken a cruise ship in a matter of days. If vaccines were so promising, why are we being told that shaking hands, going out to eat at restaurants and movies are a thing of the past? Yet, we are willing to Flatten the curve (prolong the crisis) hoping for a miracle vaccine for the Covid 19? Why is it so hard to create a vaccine (or treatment) for any virus – in our modern age of technology? There are several reasons. First it is hard to kill something that is not really alive to begin with. They must be damaged to the point that they are deactivated, which is difficult when they are made of the same basic building blocks as our own bodies and also makes it hard for any treatments to distinguish between a virus and healthy human tissue. They also have the ability to ‘blend’ into their human host and avoid the immune system. Viruses also mutate so darn easy: Because viruses are not alive, they need a living host to do their black magic. Once the virus injects its DNA or RNA, there is a ‘Translation’ process from the virus to the human host and like most translations, errors occur. These are called mutations, which can change the qualities of the virus and thus make it hard to target with a vaccine or medicine, since they are continually mutating.  The experts believe the Covid 19 has already mutated possibly 20 times, and one of the new vaccines may already be ineffective. So what do we do? Eventually through exposure we will naturally develop antibodies. Our body’s own immune system is probably the best and safest weapon we have in our arsenal. Speaking of antibodies, early testing of antibodies for the Covid 19 should that far more people have been exposed and were not even aware. 

Again, not to downplay any death or illness, it still comes down to numbers, our numbers. We are talking about a war that at this time directly affects 0.3% of the population (those infected), yet indirectly effects 99.97% economically.  Economic estimates place the total cost to fight this war from 7 to 47 trillion dollars (just for the US). Add to that the cost to the rest of the world and that would make this the most expensive world war in history, with the fewest casualties. 

Our country was not founded on the fear of what ‘might’ happen in the future. The founding Fathers created a document that defined the perfect life and perfect country and that these beliefs were worth defending to the death for them. It is known fact that if you change your lifestyle for more than 30 days, you are modifying your behavior and this becomes your new “Norm’. Many of us are getting impatient and irritable, because we inherently sense that we are creating a new reality and we don’t like it.  We are essentially living in the fear that we ‘Might’ become one of the 0.3% casualties. We also know that once there is a new ‘Norm’, it is nearly impossible to change.

So in conclusion: At what point does the cure do more damage than the illness, and what are we willing to accept? A rational mind says that you want to prolong something good and beneficial (such as a good economy) and something bad we want to make the experience as short as possible and not prolong it. But to ‘flatten the curve’ is exactly an irrational response. The simple choice is: do we flatten the curve and destroy our way of life as we know it, and still obtain the same results? Or do we treat this like the war that it is and confront it head on. As in war there will be victims and casualties. There are no easy, fast or magical solutions. We should expect that we will probably all be exposed to the Covid 19 virus at some time, or already have been just like the common cold or flu virus and most of us will survive and develop antibodies. And like the flu, some will die. I think it’s a bit like having the stomach flu – we know we are going to vomit eventually and we can delay that moment and continue to suffer or we can just get it over with and feel better. Do we choose to just ‘Vomit’ the virus and move on or do we prolong the war indefinitely with the same results? One fact is for certain – there will be other deadly viruses that infect the world, and we are now defining the new ‘Norm’ on how we will manage them. Ultimately it will not be the government that decides your future. It is up to you! Which ‘Norm’ do you want for the rest of your life and at what cost?

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