Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spiritual and Physical Terror

Spread the love

On January 6th, 2021, the Republcian Party attempted a violent coup d’etat. The attack resembled previous attacks on state governments, most notably in Michigan, but was carried out on a much larger scale. Security agencies in Washington D.C. were internally hampered as part of the Coup, but managed eventually to put it down anyway. Immediately after the failed attempt to overthrow the government, a second date, for a new attack, was announced by the insurrectionists.

Much of my political life is governed by the regular tic-toc of monthly board meetings in one or another organization. One of those monthly meetings occurred after the January 6th coup attempt but before the announced Republican coup 2.0 date. At that meeting, one of our members talked about verbal attacks and physical threats, including trespassing, damage to property, and invasion in to her home, made against her and her family by one of her Republican neighbors. Others had less frightening stories to tell, but serious concerns nonetheless. Everyone became worried. We went so far as to consider setting up a phone tree and a network of safe houses to which one might flee in the event of a local attack, in particular against people of color, since that seemed to be the trend among the White Supremacists that make up most of the Republican Party.

In short, we were terrorized. Mostly “spiritual terror” with a touch of “physical terror.” Continue reading Spiritual and Physical Terror

Spread the love

Plymouth and Minnetonka MAGA Alert and Voter Guide 2021

Spread the love

Block a MAGA Takeover of the Wayzata School Board

Our Senate District 44 is now overwhelmingly Democratic. All but one small precinct in SD44 votes reliably for DFL candidates.

But sleepy off-year elections are perfect for a minority takeover since so few people vote. All it takes is a fired-up base and an organized plan. This year, the MAGA folks are enraged and they’re well organized to dominate the Wayzata School Board, a “non-partisan” body.

Republicans have recruited small teams of candidates to coordinate their campaigns in order to sweep the 2021 local elections in Minnetonka (council and mayor) and the Minnetonka and Wayzata school boards. Countering this well-organized plan will take fast, assertive action. Continue reading Plymouth and Minnetonka MAGA Alert and Voter Guide 2021

Spread the love

On the census results and the new House Count

Spread the love

The census results are in, and we now know which states gain and which states lose representatives to the United States House of Representatives (nickname: Congress, but it isn’t really Congress).

This is very complicated, way too complicated to trust most political reporters and their bone headed editors to properly explain to to the largely uninformed people what is happening. At least not right away.

Take Texas. Texas gains two seats. The reporting on this is, like, “Republican stronghold gets two more members of Congress! OMG there will be two more Republicans!!!!11!!” But no. Texas got two more seats because Texas grew in population size a tiny bit more than other states (but since Texas is huge, that small increase added up to two seats), but that growth was in people least likely to be Republicans. A fair redistricting would produce two more Democrats in Texas.

The new numbers are all the result of the same demographic changes that we are expecting to blue-up the country generally. If redistricting is done fairly, these plus ones and minus ones around the country are simply the jiggle on the jell-o of the demographic shudder caused by old white men croaking off at a reasonable rate while younger brown people step in to take their part of the Great Pie Diagram of population.

The important thing now is to find your state-wide redistricting activist groups, and support them. Do that right now, time is of the essence.

And, keep elections free, dammit.

Spread the love

Black Vaccine Hesitancy and Tuskegee: A myth brought to you by MSM?

Spread the love

It is commonly stated that Black Americans’ memory of the infamous and awful Tuskegee Experiment has induced a high rate of vaccine hesitancy. The hesitancy is there. One poll indicates that the average hesitancy rate for Americans is about 27%, but 26% among Whites and 35% among blacks. This has led observers who know about the Tuskegee experiments (read about them if you don’t know) to make the intuitive link, suggesting that Black Americans, in the light of Tuskegee and similar historical events, believe they are potentially in danger from the vaccine because those things happened then. This has even led some community leaders of color to amplify this idea.

However, this is likely wrong. Yes, sure, there are people making that link and thus making that particular decision. But a recent study (that I’ve not read but have on good authority) shows that people who have not heard about Tuskegee are more likely to distrust the medical establishment generally, and this distrust leads to vaccine hesitancy. I’m glad to hear this, because I was getting really annoyed about the Tuskegee link. People are not that stupid, to take a historical slight, single it out, and harm themselves and their family over it. The ease with with uncritical uncritical journalism has gone there is yet another example of systemic racism. Being distrustful of the medical establishment comes from inherent and demonstrable bias in that system, which does harm to people of color every day. And people see that, and know it.

I learned about this more informed perspective listening to Harriet A. Washington, author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, who said “We’re dealing with an untrustworthy healthcare system. And we’re dealing with people’s reaction to that healthcare system, which is, unfortunately, a logical reaction” in “A Shot In The Dark,” an episode of the Codeswitch podcast.

You can too:

Oh, and finally: Get vaccinated everybody!

Spread the love

Who will win, Biden or Trump?

Spread the love

I believe that the worst case scenario, with no cheating by the Republicans, is that Biden will get 290 electoral votes. (270 wins it).
That is with Biden losing Florida, Ohio, both Carolinas, and Iowa.

If he also wins Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida (all possible), he gets 358. This is a bit extreme but possible. If he gets Georgia (which is on the table) Biden gets 373. For the record, Texas would put Biden at 412. Not likely but we always need to visualize a blue Texas. Someday….

Spread the love

How to debunk a myth. The science of it.

Spread the love

Method 1: Yell at the passing clouds.

Method 2: Rely on your experience of fifty hears ago during which you got some bug up your butt.

Method 3: Demand rational thinking using a series of ignroance-based irrational arguments.

Method 4 (preferred method): Watch this video:

I find it interesting that Seifert (and thus by extension Cook) use a fire as an example. This harkens back to Eco’s use of a fire (in a couple of different contexts, including the cause of a building fire) to suss out the semiotics of meaning and linguistic processing.

Spread the love

Excellent Kids STEM Book: Copycat Science

Spread the love

Copycat Science: Step into the shoes of the world’s greatest scientists! by Mike Barfield looks like a graphic novel, acts like a very densely packed activity book, but stealthily serves as a textbook for learning all kinds of science.

Every page or two has something to do, using common household ingredients. You can extract and actually see DNA from an organism, play around with air pressure, create lightning, mess around with light, and of course, achieve a deeper than usual understanding of slime.

This is one of the better home science activity books I’ve seen, and it comes at a perfect time. For example, our school district is, for fifth grade, going to skip science for the first several weeks of Covid induced distance learning. Well, we may use this book each day during that hiatus, and thereby learn random things. Can’t hurt!

Strangely, the author is not a scientist, but a poet and ukulele maestro, but with excellent drawing skills.

It is a nicely formatted book, of solid construction.*

Spread the love

Our social distancing guidelines are underthought

Spread the love

Seriously under-thought.

One way Covid-19 spread is you shove your hand in your mouth, then you use your hand to gob onto a door knob, then the next person to come along licks the door knob. So don’t do that!

If you think I’m being silly, watch some pre-schoolers for a while.

But even adults, at a somewhat lower rate, continuously shed their sheddable viruses a little at a time onto every surface, where the viruses either die over a period of a few hours or get picked up by the next person.

So imagine a scenario in which a person is sitting in a room and a stream of people come in, one at a time, to socially distance at 6 feet away, masked, to have a conversation with that person. Further, imagine the person sitting in place is a teacher, and the visitors are little kids getting to meet their teacher before a semester of distance learning.

Sounds totally safe. Indoors, six foot distance, masks. Nothing can possibly go wrong.

OK, now lets backtrack and find the student in the parking lot. The student and her brother and two parents have just parked. They are coming from a sports event they’ve been attending weekly for a month, at which everyone is shouting and no one is wearing a mask. The are all infected but don’t know it yet. The family heads for the school, and let themselves in the front door. Four people have now touched the doorknob. They are now in the lobby and a school employee, masked and with a face shield, stops them and says, “OK, you’all stay here in the lobby but six feet away from the other families, and I’ll walk little sally to see Mr. Scary the teacher.”

While the student is away, the family gravitates over to some people they know, and start a conversation at what they think is a safe 6 foot distance, but they forget, don’t pay attention, whatever, and pretty soon they are closing in and talking around their masks at each other. Family 2 is now exposed, and has, say, a 1 in 30 chance of getting the virus. This scenario is, of course, playing out hundreds of times across the school district, so there will be some transmission at the door knobs and in the lobby. In the parking lot outside, even.

Little Sally is now being accompanied down an empty hallway by a person she does not know wearing a face shield and a mask, and she starts to cry (= major shedding) on the way down the hall and needs to have her hand held for the last few meters going into the room. While talking to her teacher she is overwrought being away from her parents in this strange place so she throws up breakfast. But that’s OK, the teacher and a para clean it up. But, remember, Little Sally is a carrier, so there is now a thin film of Covid-19 kooties from the lobby to the classroom, even where the hasty cleanup (everyone is behind schedule) happens. This is the first of a four day meet and greet, with two days this week, and two days next week. So this gives Mr. Scary and the para plenty of time to become contagious. So, on week two, one in 100 kids that come in to meet their teacher picks up Covid-19. That is’t many. But the school district has 10 elementary schools, and this scenario is happening in all of them, for a total of 3,000 kiddos. So there are now 30 sick and shedding elementary students mostly doing distance learning at home and, slowly, one by one, killing off the grandparents.

If you don’t like that scenario, make up your own. The point is, masking up and staying 6 feet apart slows, but does not eliminate, infection. As we return to schools, even with precautions, this is going to happen. Everywhere.

And now there is new research that gives us a better idea of how a 6 foot social distance is an oversimplified concept that provides a false, and in this case, deadly, sense of security. More to the point: People think that if everyone “wears” a “mask” (did you notice the scare quotes there?) and stays “six feet” away from each other, than the chance of infection is zero. It isn’t. It never was.

The following nuance inducing graphic is from “Two metres or one: what is the evidence for physical distancing in covid-19?” by Jones, Qureshi, et all, just published.

Risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission from asymptomatic people in different settings and for different occupation times, venting, and crowding levels (ignoring variation in susceptibility and viral shedding rates). Face covering refers to those for the general population and not high grade respirators. The grades are indicative of qualitative relative risk and do not represent a quantitative measure. Other factors not presented in these tables may also need to be taken into account when considering transmission risk, including viral load of an infected person and people’s susceptibility to infection. Coughing or sneezing, even if these are due to irritation or allergies while asymptomatic, would exacerbate risk of exposure across an indoor space, regardless of ventilation

I’m not going to provide much of a summary of the article. It is very readable and clear. Just click here and find it, read it yourself.

“Instead of single, fixed physical distance rules, we propose graded recommendations that better reflect the multiple factors that combine to determine risk. This would provide greater protection in the highest risk settings but also greater freedom in lower risk settings, potentially enabling a return towards normality in some aspects of social and economic life.

Key messages:

  • Current rules on safe physical distancing are based on outdated science
  • Distribution of viral particles is affected by numerous factors, including air flow
  • Evidence suggests SARS-CoV-2 may travel more than 2 m through activities such as coughing and shouting
  • Rules on distancing should reflect the multiple factors that affect risk, including ventilation, occupancy, and exposure time

Spread the love

Understating Airborne Covid-19

Spread the love

My title is slightly misleading but meant to tell you what this essay is about. I want to talk about recent reports that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, is airborne.

The concept of airborne in thinking about pathogens is probably the single most misunderstood thing in epidemiology, not by epidemiologists but by regular people. It is also probably the most evocative, and stupifying. Recently, the word “airborne” has been used in discussions of Covid-19, and this led to many extreme reactions. Like this:

Input: Bla bla bla Covid-19 bla bla bla airborne.

Output: All the credible experts have agreed that Covid is airbone! it is no longer spread by contact, but now it is airborne! The Fauci mutation probably made it airborne! And so on!

SARS-CoV-2 is spread by shedding from an infected person’s respiratory system and getting into a new host’s respiratory system via droplets of mucus that go from hand to hand, hand to mouth, mouth to hand, mouth or nose to surface, surface to hand then hand to mouth, etc. Human upper respiratory bodily fluids (snot, etc.) get on stuff and then people touch stuff and then it get into their respiratory system. This is how most cold and flu infections are passed on, generally. That is not airborne spread.

Among all the many viruses that give us colds or the flu — the many strains of influenza, rhinovirus, coronaviruses other than SARS-CoV-2, etc. — this is how infection happens.

Again, this is not airborne spread. It might be airborne in your head, because you imagine someone sneezing, into the air, droplets of virus-containing spittle and snot flying around in the air, and since that stuff flies through the air it must therefore airborne. But that is not what airborne means, and the distinction is important.

There is probably a certain amount of true airborne transmission in any of the above mentioned categories of virus, including the flu and more common colds. But it is rare enough that these diseases are not said to be airborne.

So what is airborne then, if it is not simply flying snot particles?

Airborne spread requires several things to be true often enough that an observable number of cases were spread in this way. First, the virus must be aerosolized. This means that the virus is embedded in a very small gobs of snot, perhaps near 5 microns, droplets that are small enough to be suspended in the air. Larger drops will fall out of the air, these smaller drops will float in the air like they were part of the air. They act like a gas in the air.

The droplets also have to be small enough to get into the parts of the respiratory system that the virus targets, which for SARS-CoV-2 is not too much of a limiting factor since it likes to inhabit the upper respiratory tract. But, since it also can invade the lungs, there would be the possibility that airborne transmission would be more associated with a more serious infection, if and when it happens.

Airborne spread also requires that the virus can live in the air long enough to get to its target. The longer the virus can live in the air, the worse of a problem it is because it can travel farther, through ventilation systems, down hallways, etc. There is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 does that like, say measles, the king of airborne infection does it. Whatever environmental conditions are experienced by this suspended droplet have to NOT kill the virus. IV light kills SARS-CoV-2, so it is not going to get far during the day, outside, when the sun is out. SARS-CoV-2 might like certain humidity levels. None of this is really known for SARS-CoV-2, but it is a virus of type that we generally know about. Other forms of coronavirus are known to survive a while in the air, so that may pertain here. Be cautious in reacting to what you hear though. Detecting a virus some distance away from a sneeze does not mean that the virus is viable or capable of infection

Also, the virus has to be out there in the air in sufficient numbers to actually cause an infection. One would think that it only takes one single virus to infect someone, but generally it takes a much larger number. There seems to be a threshold for most viruses. The body dispenses of the first N viruses, then after that it gets harder, and eventually the system is overwhelmed. Maybe. The point is, virus experts will tell you that is has to be a large number for most viruses, and this is certainly true for SARS-CoV-2.

Truly aerosolized, viable, in sufficient numbers.

Finally, note that if SARS-CoV-2 was mainly airborne, we would know it by now. You can look at it, epidemiologically, and say, no, the main form of transmission is not airborne. That does not mean that there is not an airborne component, but it means that airborne is not the major way of spread. That has not changed.

What does the new research tell us?

Well, by the standards of peer reviewed scientific research, pretty much nothing, because that research is still in its infancy. But here is what happened. Several cases of infection have been reported that can be best explained by airborne infection. How many? So few that some would interpret that as potentially useless data. These may be cases that are simply misreported. Somebody licked someone else’s tongue and refuses to admit it. Does that really happen? Well, ask any expert on the epidemiology of sexually transmitted diseases about it. Of course it can. Most rare cases can be explained away or ignored.

But in this case, a large number of experts have settled on a provisional consensus: They see enough cases of possible airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to ask the overarching institutional authorities like the CDC to seriously consider it and look into it. Yeah, that is it. Important, concerning, should shape policy modestly for now, requires more consideration. The smart money is on SARS-CoV-2 being transmittable via aerosol, though that will probably not be the main modality of transmission in most settings. That is my bet. Airborne transmission can happen, and will happen in some cases. More on that below. But, this is provisional.

What this does not mean.

This does not mean that there is a new mutation. Repeat: this is not a new mutation. This has been there all along, and the fact that it has not been obvious since the beginning means, as stated, this is not the new mode of transmission. This does not mean that the virus has changed. Probably.

This also has no impact on mask wearing. Airborne transmission will go right around the masks most people wear, but we already know that if airborne transmission is happening, it is not the main way the virus is spread. This is NOT AN ARGUMENT TO NOT WEAR MASKS so don’t go making that argument or you are a full-on jerk. Ignorant jerk. I know you won’t, but if you see that argument being made by others, that is what you are seeing. That argument is so stupid, you can expect Trump to make it soon.

What this might mean.

This is the important part of all this, worthy of careful consideration. Assume that normal near-distance non airborne transmission is the normal and most common form of transmission by a large margin. We assume that if people are kept a minimum of 6 feet away from each other (or 10 if you like) and do not share objects with their hands and faces, i.e, social distancing, that transmission will be minimized. This works for social gatherings, according to some, especially if masks are worn.

However, over longer term, while people are avoiding infecting each other by keeping their mucus to themselves, a low level background transmission via the air could be happening at a small level.

It would be rare. Say one hour of exposure within a single medium size room with modest air circulation has a one in a thousand chance of one infected person giving the disease to one other person in the room. (I am totally making up all these numbers, but just bear with me.)

But now, we take that room and put between zero and three infected people in it, and 30 target non infected people. But we put then in that room for 8 hours, and do that for 185 days. This configuration of people might sound familiar to you.

This is a classroom full of students social distancing. But wait, you say, if they are social distancing, they can’t fit 30 people in the room. But you would be wrong in some cases. Elementary schools with the pod system have four classes of 30 (including teachers) in the room. They will get their social distancing by spreading out into larger rooms in closed high schools or other places (gyms, etc.), so the main class of about 30 is still in one room. Maybe not. The point is, in the worst case scenario, we divide 1,000 by 8 (hours) then again by 185 (days) to get a baseline on transmission probability (though the math is slightly more complex than that) to arrive at this conclusion: Transmission within the classroom where there are one or two virus shedding individuals on any given day is nearly inevitable if there is a low probability of airborne transmission. Most classrooms may have zero infected people most of the time, but in a given school there would be several classes. In a given school system, maybe dozens and dozens.

If the air circulation does not remove the viruses, maybe they are being spread across the school. Students passing in halls, or any classes where the kids are reshuffled add to the dynamic, families with multiple kids (or both kids and staff) in the same school, etc. add to the dynamic.

You can do a similar calculation for restaurants and bars. Regular inside dining and bar hopping even with social distancing and mask wearing is probably not recommended if there is a low level of airborne transmission. More limitations on how retail shopping happens may be recommended. Certainly, unnecessary retail shopping maybe an unnecessary danger.

The final meaning of it all: When it comes to basic day to day life, under the current conditions of caution and distancing, this airborne problem would not have that much of an effect because it has to be rare. We know it is rare (if it is real) because if it was common we would see it. But, under school or large workplace reopening conditions, or reopening of indoor dining and shopping, etc., it may be a factor that causes two really bad problems.

1) More outbreaks, and some insidious ones. The school children, some getting very sick and maybe dying, others never becoming ill, passing the disease on to their families. Ignoring the airborne problem may involve asking our children to kill their grandparents, then live with that for the rest of their lives. You might get sick because you needed to shop for a new comic book or try out the headphones at the electronic store instead of ordering on line.

2) Not discussed anywhere else as far as I know, but I would think obvious: if we set up a situation where the rare airborne transmission has a better chance of actually transmitting the disease, we may also be setting up a positive selective environment for that. In other words, we may help make SARS-CoV-2 more airborne by giving it this chance. That is pure speculation on my part, but speculation based on some damn powerful theory (Darwinian evolution). It is not a chance I’d like to take.

Spread the love

The Art of Melania Trump’s Deal

Spread the love

When I first heard of this book I assumed it would be a prurient one-off by some hack reporter. Turns out it is a well researched and important contribution to the story of the metastasizing Trump “Presidency.”

“Based on interviews with more than one hundred people in five countries, The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump draws an unprecedented portrait of the first lady. While her public image is of an aloof woman floating above the political gamesmanship of Washington, behind the scenes Melania Trump is not only part of President Trump’s inner circle, but for some key decisions she has been his single most influential adviser.”

The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump by Mary Jordan, Washington Post reporter.

Spread the love

The argument for a police officer killing a citizen

Spread the love

Among the many arguments for a cop to kill a citizen, my favorite is the argument of reasonable fear. This is an actual legal doctrine, and it may even make sense. A cop is really really scared so he kills some dude. Gee, sorry.

The problem, of course, is that racists cops are automatically, by definition, mostly afraid of people of color, especially men, so that allows cops to kill black men and only rarely get in trouble.

My question is, does the reverse apply? Right now every person I know is more afraid of the police than ever before. I am afraid of what any particular random cop would do to a member of my family, especially family members that currently live or work right in the middle of the hot zone for protests and police brutality.

Is there an argument that citizens should start killing cops, to keep them in line?

That sounds like an ironic, or sarcastic, statement. A month ago maybe it was. But today? I’m not so sure.

Anyway, on this and related issues, The Daily has an interesting podcast in which Shaila Dewan of the New York Times outlines the reasons that the police usually don’t get in trouble when they murder or mutilate citizens. She covers the fear excuse, but many other aspects as well. Click here to hear.

Spread the love

Minnesota Republicans Reject Science, Call For Increasing Death Toll

Spread the love

In Minnesota, we have a Democratic Governor, a Democratic House, and a Republican Senate. We have what is recognized nationwide as one of the best responses to COVID-19 by any US State. Within Minnesota, we find the highest level epidemiology and immunology talent, with one of the top in a small handful of leading scientists in each of those field in the world, and they are directly advising Governor Tim Walz.

But, the Republicans are now holding us hostage. They will not proceed, until the shutdown ends, with what we call the “bonding bill” (the bill that comes out every two years that deals with funding but not policy, and covers a lot of the work done in infrastructure, including roads and bridges (which fall down when properly maintained), educational facilities, all of that. Their reasoning?

“Waaa waaa! We’ve done that for weeks now. Waaa waaa! It should be done by now. Mommy I don’t wanna any more.”

Typical Republican BS.

If you are in my neighborhood, vote for, or donate money to, Ann Johnson Stewart? or Adam Jennings? for State Senate, and, actually, ThrowTheBumsOut! The Democrats will take the Senate if both of these candidates win, and with enough support, then can win.

(Please forgive the question marks in the above links. That is an as yet unexplained bug in the latest version of WordPress, one that I find very troubling. With luck they have gone away by the time you see this!)

I can’t easily give a link to this story, but it is the Star Tribune (front page) May 3rd. In brief:

GOP says no bond deal amid stay-home

Kurt “Science Doubter” Daudt, Minnesota House Speaker. Photo from a 2016 story on how he can’t balance his checkbook.

After a brutal April that saw more than 300 deaths and hundreds of COVID-19 hospitalizations, Minnesota health officials say the new month promises more sickness and loss but also a health care system better equipped to handle the pandemic.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said his caucus will block passage of a public infrastructure borrowing package until the peacetime state of emergency Walz has used to enact the stay-at-home order and other coronavirus response measures comes to an end.

“We feel that this has gone on for basically two months now where we’ve had unilateral decisionmaking by the executive,” Daudt said.

Spread the love

A Coronavirus (Covid-19) Vaccine

Spread the love

There are no current vaccines for any coronavirus. I’m not comfortable explaining why that is the case, but I’m usually told that the actual killer coronaviruses (there are not many, most viruses of this kind are not big problems for humans) came and went too fast to “need” a vaccine.

This is not really true, since at least one such virus is endemic to a region, a continuous threat, but found mostly in domestic camels. There was a vaccine developed to address that virus, but testing was never completed, and deployment never happened, so we don’t know if it was really effective.

The question of “can there be a vaccine” and “do we develop an immunity to this virus” are related, and we still see the occasional panicked revelation that maybe humans don’t actually develop an immunity to this virus. Don’t worry, we do. If we didn’t the situation would look very different than it does now.

However, we don’t know everything we need to know about that immunity. We know that for this kind of virus, it is possible that a partial immunity develops in most but not all people, and that some people have a much stronger immune response than others. It is quite possible that we develop an immunity that lasts only a few years (for most people), and it is also possible that repeated exposures and/or vaccinations will build up a longer term immunity. These are all important questions, but they do not raise the possibility that we can’t be or won’t be immune to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19). Rather, they frame the issue of how a vaccine is actually deployed. We may see a world, in two years from now, where a Covid-stick is an annual event, but one that people take more seriously than they currently take the annual flu shot, and quite possibly, one that works better (SARS-CoV-2 and influenza are very different things).

There are several vaccines in development. In my experience tracking disease and epidemiology (I’m an immunologists or an epidemiologists, but both my wife and I play these roles in the classroom and she is actually a fellow in an immunology program for teachers), the assertion that “we’re close to a vaccine” is one of the Great Lies, which are “the check is in the mail” and two other ones.

But, there is hope, and it might be real hope, that there will be a vaccine, and there is even the possibility that it will take less time than the several years. It may even take less than the oft-cited but pretty much made up “18 month” time span.

A few takes current, add to comments your newer information if you have some:

April 14: Microneedle coronavirus vaccine triggers immune response in mice

Researchers led by Drs. Louis Falo, Jr. and Andrea Gambotto from the University of Pittsburgh have been working to develop vaccines for other coronaviruses… They adapted the system they had been developing to produce a candidate MERS vaccine to rapidly produce an experimental vaccine using the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

…a method for delivering their MERS vaccine into mice using a microneedle patch. Such patches resemble a piece of Velcro, with hundreds of tiny microneedles made of sugar. The needles prick just into the skin and quickly dissolve, releasing the vaccine. Since the immune system is highly active in the skin, delivering vaccines this way may produce a more rapid and robust immune response than standard injections under the skin.

When delivered by microneedle patch to mice, three different experimental MERS vaccines induced the production of antibodies against the virus. These responses were stronger than the responses generated by regular injection of one of the vaccines along with a powerful immune stimulant (an adjuvant). Antibody levels continued to increase over time in mice vaccinated by microneedle patch—up to 55 weeks, when the experiments ended….

April 14th: Johnson and Johnson claim a vaccine is imminent

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) said on Tuesday it plans to begin imminent production of its trial COVID-19 vaccine on an “at risk” basis, as the coronavirus pandemic infects nearly 2 million people around the world.

Manufacturing “at risk” allows the world’s third largest pharmaceutical company to produce a product before its ultimate design is finalized and released to the public. The company plans to produce its COVID-19 vaccine in the Netherlands, and a facility it is updating in the United States.

“We’re manufacturing at risk to ensure that should the clinical development and the trials be successful, we are in a position to kind of flip the switch and ready to go, to create great access across the globe,” J&J CFO Joe Wolk told Yahoo Finance in an interview.

J&J began developing its vaccine for COVID-19 in early January with its European subsidiary Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V. It’s using the same biological platform Janssen uses in developmental vaccines for Ebola, Zika and Influenza.

During J&J’s first quarter earnings call, Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels said the company is also negotiating with partners in Europe and Asia to produce the vaccine, and partnerships will be announced in the coming weeks.

“Our goal is to enable the supply of more than 1 billion doses of the vaccine globally,” Stoffels said.

April 14th: Two Pharmaceutical Giants Collaborating To Develop One. GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi are joining up …

” in an unprecedented collaboration. It brings together two of the world’s biggest vaccine companies with proven pandemic technologies and significant scale, all with the aim of developing an adjuvanted COVID-19 vaccine.”

An adjuvanted vaccine is one that includes a compound known as an adjuvant that enhances someone’s immune response to a vaccine. In the partnership, GSK will be providing the adjuvant and Sanofi will provide the specific protein component of the coronavirus that will generate the appropriate antibody response.

“… we’re planning to start trials in the next few months,” Walmsley said. “And if we’re successful, subject to regulatory considerations, we aim to complete the development required to make the vaccine available in the second half of 2021.”

There is an earlier reported vaccine in development at Johns Hopkins.

Spread the love

Enormous footprints found on cave ceiling

Spread the love

This is not something you see every day. Footprints measuring up to 1.25 meters in length, were found on the ceiling of a cave in a karstic cave in southern France, on the Causse Méjean plateau. It is suspected that they were left by a kind of Titanosaur. Artists reconstruction of a Titanosaur walking on the ceiling is to the right.

This prints date to the Bathonian age (ca. 168–166 Ma), which is near the middle of the Jurassic. Some of the tracks, found in three different trackways, are very detailed. And yes, it is possible (and not terribly uncommon) to erect a new species on the basis of footprints. In this case, the new species is Occitanopodus gandi, igen. et isp. nov.

The environment at the time is reconstructed to have been a lake, near the shore. I’ve only read the summaries, so I’m not sure of the exact context and orientation, but limestones from the middle Jurassic in Southern France are sometimes very tilted, so I suppose this could be an upside down (or at least, tilted over 90 degrees) layer. The find is some 500 meters below the surface, which counts as deep in a cave.

Moreau, Jean-David et al. 2020.
Middle Jurassic tracks of sauropod dinosaurs in a deep karst cave in France. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Article: e1728286 | Received 29 Oct 2018, Accepted 13 Dec 2019, Published online: 25 Mar 2020.

Spread the love