Sunday, November 13, 2022

Day 1017: Yet Another Bad Mask Study

Of course, it's about masks. The NEJM paper is about an observational study of Boston schoolchildren, so it's been especially newsworthy here in Massachusetts. Vinay Prasad brought in Tracy Høeg to debunk the thing:
In the Boston study, the identified masking effect size against cases that is implausibly high. They say the dropping of the mask mandates corresponded with an additional 11,901 cases, which was 33.4% of ALL cases in the unmasked districts. Among the staff they found 40.4% of the cases to be attributable to the lifting of the mask mandates.

This is unrealistic considering most cases come from the community into the school AND we have a randomized study from Bangladesh failing to find any effect of either community or cloth masking in anyone under 50 (and that signal was modest, at around 11% decrease rate with surgical masks, which was uncertain, and no significant decrease with cloth masks). We also have a regression discontinuity design study from Spain which takes advantage of the fact that 5-year-olds don’t mask and 6 year old do and there was no significant discontinuity from age 5-6 as compared with other ages to suggest an effect of masking on case rates.

Additionally, the authors of the Boston study made the difficult-to-understand choice of “consider[ing] community rates of COVID-19 as part of the causal effect of school masking policies rather than a source of bias” in other words they saw community case rates to be a result of school masking policies/school case rates rather than community case rates to be the major source of school cases. A large body of research has suggested the opposite finding COVID-19 in schools is up to 10-20x more likely to come from outside of the school than from within. This includes a study from the UK where children <12 were not masked.

But they did plot the results of school COVID cases vs community covid cases and, as you can see here: [graph omitted] school case rates had a similar relationship to city/town case positivity rates in all districts, with all school case rates similar in relation to that of the community, which speaks against any large impact of school masking. Further, it is unclear why cases would be presumed to be coming from the school to the community with the school peak lagging the community peak in two of the districts or why any difference seen in the masked district would be presumed to be due to masks when the March 17 and the did not lift groups appear so similar in the difference between school (black) and community (orange) case rates. Looking overall at how much the mask district differs from the community compared with the unmasked districts, it’s clear the difference is modest---and of course may not be attributable to masks!
They both note the paper's strange focus on structural racism.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Day 1005: Amnestesia

The response to Emily Oster's recent plea in The Atlantic for a COVID-craziness amnesty went over surprisingly poorly. She got ratioed on Twitter for her forgive-and-forget stance, and all the usual suspects blogged their implacable opposition to letting anyone off the hook for criminal COVID insanity.

Mathew Crawford recaps some of the posts qua Apology Games (the lack of an apology being the first thing that comes up in criticism's of Oster's amnestesia), notably Eugyppius' salty take and Vinay Prasad's "narcissistic fence-sitting". Eugyppius was actually harsher than Crawford lets on:
Emily Oster may have said a few reasonable things in the depths of her pandemic moderation, but she can take her proposal for pandemic amnesty and shove it all the way up her ass. I’m never going to forget what these villains did to me and my friends. It is just hard to put into words how infuriating it is, to read this breezy triviliasation of the absolute hell we’ve been through, penned by some comfortable and clueless Ivy League mommyconomist who is ready to mouth support for basically any pandemic policy that doesn’t directly affect her or her family and then plead that the horrible behaviour and policies supported by her entire social milieu are just down to ignorance about the virus. We knew everything we needed to know about SARS-2 already in February 2020. The pandemicists and their supporters crossed many bright red lines in their eradicationist zeal and ruined untold millions of lives. That doesn’t all just go away now.
But of course the bad cat has the saltiest take:
it is precisely BECAUSE following vicious, evil orders is so easy in times of fear and that humans break and bow to authority with such ease that there must be sharp penalties, reputational and otherwise for so doing.

otherwise, you're just greasing the rails for next time.

it’s the low energy path of submission and freeing it from consequence serves only to render it a path more followed.

ignorance of the law is [no] excuse. neither is ignorance of ethics or epidemiology.
P.S. Not to be outdone, Eugyppius goes another round against Emily Oster and her fellow "Head Girls":
One of the reasons things like lockdowns and mass vaccination frenzies have become possible in the first place, is the uniformity of outlook and opinion among the governing elite. When everybody, from university professors to the minister president of Bavaria to municipal police administrators, believes that with enough social distancing we can eradicate SARS-2, and that the unvaccinated are responsible for prolonging the pandemic, the result is a powerful if erratic and ever-shifting social tyranny. Social media technologies have been particularly noxious for the consensus formation of the Head Girls, widening the range of issues on which they have functionally identical opinions and enforcing conformity more thoroughly than was ever before possible. And should one of their runaway preference cascades go off the rails and destroy society, they’ll rapidly reunite around the new consensus position, that nobody could’ve known any better and all the worst offenders—especially their friends and colleagues—acted in good faith with the knowledge that was available at the time.
P.P.S. Cartoonist Bob Moran also has something to say:

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Day 1002: The Misinformers

On Monday, the Ethical Skeptic finally published Part 2 of his series on the CDC's death-reporting malfeasance. He elaborates on their missing and misclassified records---most notably, cancer deaths reclassified as COVID deaths to reduce the excess death rate from cancer below 9σ)---along with their callous disregard for the 20σ high in heart disease deaths since the inexplicable date of MMWR Week 14 2021.

To add insult to injury, he also find the CDC inventing fictional deaths among the unvaccinated to get the pro-vaccination results they wanted out of a sampling study, and their misuse of all-cause mortality figures. He concludes with a frightening number for excess non-COVID mortality:
In the end, it is this last chart depicted in Exhibit 6 which serves to confirm the claims made in Sections 1 through 4 of this article. The level of excess natural cause death which is not Covid itself, is around 13.3% to the excess of where it should be – even given a 1.1% baseline growth inside an aging demographic (see Exhibit 6, dark orange baseline ‘annual growth’).

Exhibit 6 – Excess Non-Covid Natural Cause Mortality as a metric, serves to filter out the distractions of Covid-19 as well as mortality from accidents, overdoses, and assault – all of which serve to cloud one’s ability to observe the entailed alarming signal. As of MMWR Week 40 2022, the US has experienced an additional 385,000 natural cause deaths above and beyond what we should have seen for this period of time. Couple this with 80,000 non-natural deaths during the same timeframe, and one finds an excess of 465,000 deaths which have occurred since MMWR Week 14 of 2021. A pandemic all unto itself.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Day 993: Frankencovid in the South End

The bad cat is incensed about the gain-of-COVID-function story:
“hey, what if we could make omicron even more immunity evading and as deadly as ebola?”

asked no sane person.


this is the biomedical equivalent of jumping up and down on a pogostick while holding the nuclear launch trigger. granted, this was just done in mice, but hey, that was good enough to approve a booster, right?
Eugyppius took it a little better:
To be clear: Just three years after Wuhan researchers decided it would be cool to insert a codon-optimised furin cleavage site at the S1/S2 junction of this interesting SARS-related bat virus they found, Boston researchers thought maybe it’d be fun to start mixing and matching different SARS-2 proteins to see if a new chimeric virus might be more exciting than boring old Omicron. The payoff is not any vaccine or treatment, but the mere knowledge that it is not just the spike protein that contributes to the pathogenicity of SARS-2. For extra fun, they did not conduct this research in space or at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, but in a BSL-3 facility at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories on Albany Street in the Boston South End.
He notes that while Alex Berenson thinks this is all a nothingburger, its flailing short-order cooks still pose a serious threat to humanity:
But, I’m just not much comforted by this. Beyond broader concerns with the entire enterprise of enhancing viruses in the lab for shits and giggles: The experimenters improved a slower-moving and more lethal wild-type strain by giving it the more infectious Omicron BA.1 spike. I think there are evolutionary reasons why such a combination is unlikely to arise naturally, and why this kind of research amounts to helping viruses achieve otherwise out-of-reach protein combinations for which our natural defences are ill-equipped.
He's also disturbed that the short-order cooks at BU seem to feel the need to lie about it to boot.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Day 985: The Cold Pandemic

Despise surprisingly low rates of toddler vaccination and adult boosting against COVID (under 5% each), the pandemic of the moment appears to be the common cold:
Sick kids are crowding emergency rooms in various parts of the country, and some pediatric hospitals say they are running out of beds. But this uptick in illness has largely been due to viruses other than the coronavirus, like RSV, enteroviruses and rhinovirus.

While respiratory infections typically surge in the winter months, experts say that this year the season has started much sooner, and that numbers are unusually high.

"Rates are as high as 25% of those [who have] tested positive for RSV. That is quite unusual for October, we would typically start to see higher rates in November, December and January," said Dr. Ibukun Kalu, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at Duke Children's Hospital in Durham, North Carolina.


For now, the issue is concentrated among younger patients. But Kalu said that with the colder months coming up, it could begin to impact more people.

"As we see more viral infections in kids, we will see a similar pattern in adults," she said.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Day 973: Deja Poo

Credit for today's title goes to the Boston Herald, reporting on the MWRA COVID spike:
The seven-day COVID wastewater average for the north-of-Boston region has jumped more than 100% within the last week, according to Wednesday’s update from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority tracker.

The daily average for the north-of-the-city area is now 1,016 copies per milliliter, a 104% spike from the average of 497 copies last Wednesday.

The seven-day COVID wastewater average for the south-of-Boston region has increased 56% within the last week. The average is now 993 copies, which is up from 637 copies last Wednesday.
Why a sudden spike when the weather hasn't changed much this month? Well, it is booster season, and the Daily Skeptic has picked up Alex Berenson's reporting on a paper in the Lancet showing immune suppression immediately after the shots, as well as the general negative efficacy of COVID vaccination:
The top two [figures from the paper's supplementary data] show that in the two weeks following the first jab individuals were three to four times more likely to test positive for Covid than their unvaccinated counterparts. This is further confirmation of the post-jab spike in infections that has often been noted and which there is evidence is a result of the vaccination temporarily reducing immunity.

The third figure shows that two weeks or more after the second jab – which during 2021 was regarded as ‘fully vaccinated’ – individuals were 44% more likely to be infected than their unvaccinated counterparts. This is negative vaccine effectiveness (where infections are higher in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated) of minus-44%. This negative effectiveness is in line with what was seen in the raw data from England at the time and also in studies from other countries, but contradicts the Government’s official estimates, which claimed effectiveness to be 60-85% against Delta infection. The new study indicates that the negative effectiveness was not just a result of confounding factors or a ‘catch-up’ effect, where the vaccinated have lower infection rates initially then higher infection rates as the effect of the vaccine wears off, as some have claimed.

Acknowledging the figures, the authors write: “Surprisingly, we observed a higher risk of test positivity after vaccination with one or two doses across all BMI groups, which is contrary to evidence reported by the U.K. ONS.” What they don’t mention is that it is fully in line with data from the UKHSA, nor that the ONS is known to overestimate infection rates in the unvaccinated because it underestimates the population – the ONS puts the unvaccinated adult population at 8% whereas the NIMS database puts it at 19% (and surveys higher still at 26%).
Or we could just blame it all on innocent schoolchildren, again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Day 963: ADE in Vitro

The usual suspects have all picked up on the new report in Nature on antibody-depenent enhancement (ADE) from both COVID vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments. To the pro-vaxxer cries of "this is merely in vitro," Eugyppius adds a handy reminder that we may already have plenty of in vivo data:
Remember how everywhere mass vaccination occurs, we tend to see higher frequencies of infection? Remember how, in the deeply unadjusted and unreliable UKHSA vaccine efficacy statistics from the start of the year, the double-vaccinated appeared to experience higher rates of infection and death than the unvaccinated? Crazy conspiracy theorists might be forgiven for wondering if these are the effects of antibody-enhanced virus replication in the lungs of people more than six months out from their second jab.