Category: current events

The Cure for COVID!

Like most of you, I’ve been scouring the interwebs trying to come up with a way to make all of this go back to normal. Life. Work. Health. The whole shebang. And today, in the middle of my writing group, it all hit me at once. The solution’s been staring me in the face this whole time. Due to my unique experiences, I think I was particularly well situated to come up with this, but I’m kind of stunned that it didn’t occur to me until now. Basically, it all comes down to one thing:

Somebody’s got to make Andie MacDowell fall in love with them.

I mean, that’s what did the trick for Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, and if we haven’t even given this a shot yet, then how can we really say we’ve been exploring all avenues? And I’m not talking about just some “she went on a fun date with me,” either. This isn’t something a simple snowman making session is going to take care of. It didn’t work for Bill then, and it won’t work now.

The good news is that we all know from Groundhog Day just how to get this to happen. We’re looking for someone who can:

  • Play the piano
  • Make a sweet ice sculpture
  • Know how to change a tire quickly
  • Can do basic chiropractic skills
  • Knows how to score WWE tickets

Ideally, they’ll convince Ms. MacDowell to bid on them in an auction, but I’m not 100% sure that needs to happen.

Other skills that would be useful, from my research:

  • Humble
  • Intelligent
  • Supportive
  • Funny
  • Romantic
  • Courageous
  • Good body, but doesn’t have to look in the mirror every two minutes
  • Kind
  • Sensitive
  • Gentle
  • Not afraid to cry in front of Ms. MacDowell
  • Likes animals
  • Likes children
  • Will change poopy diapers
  • Plays an instrument (see above)
  • Loves his mother

What I’m saying is that we’ve got over 300 million people in this country. That list there doesn’t seem insurmountable. There have to be some really solid candidates out there, and Ms. MacDowell is single right now . . .

True, from what I’ve seen, this approach really works the best if it happens on February 2nd, but I don’t think we need to get hung up on little things like “days of the year” at this point. The fact is, every single day feels the same as every other day, so what does it really matter?

Now, I’m not advocating we find Ms. MacDowell and subject her to unwanted advances. (That doesn’t work anyway, per my research.) But what if we made a television show out of it? “Make Andie MacDowell Fall in Love with You So We Can Cure COVID.” The viewership would be through the roof, right?

All we need now is someone to see if Ms. MacDowell is open to the idea. Anyone out there got any good contacts?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

To Open or Not to Open?

These days, it feels like you can find a raging debate just about anywhere you look. (I think some of this is due to the fact that so many of us have been cut off from other people, and the forum for discourse has shifted to social media, where people feel entitled to be rude and obnoxious to people they rarely (if ever) interact with in real life.) Yesterday I tackled hydroxychloroquine. Today I’m turning my attention to whether or not we should open schools back up, both K-12 and higher education.

First off, I will say that I don’t think a one size fits all approach would work for the country. Reasonable guidelines could be given at the federal level that could help inform school districts about when a safe reopening could happen and what it should look like when it does, but the actually application of those guidelines would depend on the district in question. There are many, many spots of the country that I don’t feel are ready for a return to school at any level. (Not that my opinion matters, but this is my blog, so . . . )

However, I’m not versed in all the ins and outs of every school across the country. I can speak for what I think should happen in Maine, or at least my corner of it. And in my opinion, schools at every level in Maine should be preparing to reopen. Yes, they should have various contingency plans in place to deal with the various “what ifs” that might occur later in the year, but from where Maine is right now, I can’t see a justifiable reason to remain closed.

There are currently only 421 active cases in the state. Compare this to hot spots like Florida (410,458) or California (319,833), and the difference is clear. True, those are places with much higher populations, but even when you look at cases per million, Maine has had 2,892. Florida has had 21,482. New York? 22,754. California? 12,337. All statistics are taken from Worldometer, a site I’ve been regularly using since this began.

Not only that, the percent of positive tests in Maine is extremely encouraging. According to Johns Hopkins, our 7 day moving average for positive tests is 0.8%. Florida’s in 19.3%. California is 7.2%. The country’s average is 7.8%. For the time being, we appear to be testing robustly, giving us an accurate picture of just how many people in the state have COVID. Overall, only 2 other states are “better off” at the moment: Vermont and Hawaii.

We have done an excellent job of containing COVID and keeping our state safe. Does that mean we will continue to do so? Hopefully. We’re almost through with July now, after all, and even with an influx of tourists, we’ve still stayed on top of things. That doesn’t mean we need to stop being vigilant, but if we stay the course and can keep things level through the end of tourist season, then things look even better. (I recognize that’s a big “if,” which is why I still strongly believe contingency plans should be ready.)

Of course, you could potentially make the case that there are parts of the state that have been worse hit than others. Parts that might want to take a different approach. Cumberland County currently has 274 active cases. York has 84. Androscoggin has 66. Franklin (where I am) has 6. I’m not familiar enough with the other counties to be able to definitively offer an opinion there, but I have a real struggle coming up with a the ability to say schools in Franklin County at any level should be closed because of 6 active cases.

I think you could still come up with ways to protect teachers, staff, or students who are at higher risk, but in my opinion that should be the exception. Yes, this still comes with the constant “this all might change if a huge outbreak happens,” but for now, I feel like moving forward with plans to open is the responsible thing to do. And yet I see many people in the state clamoring to stay closed. I’m sympathetic with the desire to stay safe, and I definitely feel like there are parts of the country where school should stay remote, but for the time being, those arguments don’t seem to apply to the situation we have here.

Let’s keep wearing masks. Keep washing our hands and staying socially distant. But all the studies I’m reading say that when you’re doing that AND testing properly AND the results are promising, then COVID can stay beat. Here’s hoping.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Summary of Hydroxychloroquine Research

As I mentioned on Facebook, I was in an all day meeting yesterday, away from the interwebs. I emerged from said meeting to find the hydroxychloroquine debate raised from the dead on social media, with Twitter and Facebook feeds jam packed with articles flying from both sides, with people clamoring both for and against the drug yet again. In an effort to get on top of the debate, I took some time to look through the actual studies and see what’s been said, who said it, and why. And because I thought this might be helpful to some others, I’m presenting it here on the blog.

Before I get into that, a disclaimer that I think would be good for almost all of the people trying to insert themselves into this debate to remember: I am not a doctor. I am not an expert in this field. I can consume information and question its validity, and I can have a fair shot at piecing together unbiased sources and research to try to get to the bottom of things, but I lack the background to really be able to look at a scientific question like “is hydroxychloroquine effective” and be able to hope to answer it. That’s what we rely on other experts for.

And a second note about experts: as much as I might not like popularity contests in general, in science, it’s kind of the point. Science doesn’t work by finding the expert who agrees with the opinion you want to be true. It works by doing research, making findings, having people confirm that research with their own findings, and thus having the entire scientific community reach a general consensus around an issue. Yes, there will remain things in debate on the edges, but as a whole, scientific consensus gets us where we want to go, even if it might be more slowly than we’d like. Research takes time, or at least, good research does. You want to pay attention to how the studies were performed, how many subjects they involved, their rigor, etc.

I entered into the research for today’s issue with a simple question: “Is hydroxychloroquine an effective, safe treatment for COVID-19? If so, how widely can/should it be used?”

First, it’s good to check why the debate suddenly surged back to the forefront of the COVID discussion. From what I gather, it boils down to two articles/videos. The first is a video by Dr. Stella Immanuel and other doctors claiming hydroxychloroquine cures COVID and that taking it protects you from COVID. The second is an article in Newsweek from Dr. Harvey Risch, stating that when taken by high risk patients early in the disease, hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment. (Immanuel makes some of the same disclaimers in her statement, but she pressed the issue further, implying there’s a “cure.”) Dr. Risch seems like a more solid source, judging from what I’ve read about Dr. Immanuel, but let’s set aside their histories for the moment and look specifically at the claims. Have more studies been done that prove what these doctors are saying?

Here’s a rundown of the studies I’ve found.

Date# of PatientsConclusionsLink
July 23667“Among patients hospitalized with mild-to-moderate Covid-19, the use of hydroxychloroquine, alone or with azithromycin, did not improve clinical status at 15 days as compared with standard care.”Study
July 16423“Hydroxychloroquine did not substantially reduce symptom severity in outpatients with early, mild COVID-19” (second study in Spain had similar results)Study
July 12,541“In this multi-hospital assessment, when controlling for COVID-19 risk factors, treatment with hydroxychloroquine alone and in combination with azithromycin was associated with reduction in COVID-19 associated mortality. Prospective trials are needed to examine this impact”Study
July 1FDA Review“A summary of the FDA review of safety issues with the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat hospitalized patients with COVID-19 is now available. This includes reports of serious heart rhythm problems and other safety issues, including blood and lymph system disorders, kidney injuries, and liver problems and failure.”Review
June 20500“A data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) met late Friday and determined that while there was no harm, the study drug was very unlikely to be beneficial to hospitalized patients with COVID-19.”Results
June 181,446“In this observational study involving patients with Covid-19 who had been admitted to the hospital, hydroxychloroquine administration was not associated with either a greatly lowered or an increased risk of the composite end point of intubation or death. Randomized, controlled trials of hydroxychloroquine in patients with Covid-19 are needed.”Study
June 152,300“There was no significant difference between the number of people in each group who developed COVID-19”Release
June 54,674“These data convincingly rule out any meaningful mortality benefit of hydroxychloroquine in
patients hospitalised with COVID-19. Full results will be made available as soon as possible”
Release
June 3821“After high-risk or moderate-risk exposure to Covid-19, hydroxychloroquine did not prevent illness compatible with Covid-19 or confirmed infection when used as postexposure prophylaxis within 4 days after exposure.”Study
28 MayMeta-analysis“The results of efficacy and safety of HCQ in COVID-19, as obtained from the clinical studies, are not satisfactory, although many of these studies had major methodological limitations. Stronger evidence from well-designed robust randomized clinical trials is required before conclusively determining the role of HCQ in the treatment of COVID-19. Clinical prudence is required in advocating HCQ as a therapeutic armamentarium in COVID-19.”Release
May 27Meta-analysis“These medications need to be widely available and promoted immediately for physicians to prescribe.” (There’s also a response to this analysis saying “We strongly think that there is no convincing evidence to support the claim made by Risch”, as well as a response to that response where Risch defends himself.)Study
May 27Meta-analysis“Evidence on the benefits and harms of using hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to treat COVID-19 is very weak and conflicting.”Release
May 2296,032“Large Multinational Cohort Study Finds the Use of Macrolide Antibiotics, Hydroxychloroquine, or Chloroquine Is Not Associated with Better Outcomes but Is Associated with Increased Harms.” NOTE: This study was retracted by the Lancet because the researchers wouldn’t fully share their dataStudy
May 14150“Administration of hydroxychloroquine did not result in a significantly higher probability of negative conversion than standard of care alone in patients admitted to hospital with mainly persistent mild to moderate covid-19. Adverse events were higher in hydroxychloroquine recipients than in non-recipients.”Study
May 111,438“Among patients hospitalized with COVID-19, treatment with hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, or both was not associated with significantly lower in-hospital mortality.”Study
May 5181“Hydroxychloroquine has received worldwide attention as a potential treatment for covid-19 because of positive results from small studies. However, the results of this study do not support its use in patients admitted to hospital with covid-19 who require oxygen.”Study
April 23368“In this study, we found no evidence that use of hydroxychloroquine, either with or without azithromycin, reduced the risk of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized with Covid-19. An association of increased overall mortality was identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone. These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs.”Study

After looking at all these different studies, the conclusion I reach is that more studies should be done, as suggested by the research. It does appear that if taken at lower doses, there’s a chance that hydroxychloroquine can have a positive impact. But the bottom line is that we just don’t know that from the science, and any doctor making claims to the contrary is being downright misleading, no matter how well-intended they might be. Hydroxychloroquine does not seem to be a cure.

As another side note, I find it interesting so many are looking to a drug for a cure while ignoring the obvious “wear a mask.” In Breitbart’s video (where Dr. Immanuel speaks), none of the doctors are wearing a mask. They’re not standing six feet apart. I suppose you could argue that’s because they’re just that confident that hydroxychloroquine has cured them, but I look at other root causes that might explain that a little more fully. “America’s Frontline Doctors,” as they call themselves, are funded by the Tea Party Patriots and actively speaking out against the lockdown measures. These are people with an axe to grind, not necessarily a country to save.

And here’s the kicker: we know exactly what we could do to stop this pandemic in America. It’s been done in many other countries around the world. This article sums it up well, but it boils down to having 6 weeks of real lockdown measures, stopping interstate travel, mandating masks, and quarantining cases aggressively. All the debate about miracle cures makes me think about someone running around the deck of a sinking boat, talking about experimental flotation devices, while a plug to the hole in the boat is sitting right next to them.

If a loved one caught COVID, what would I do? I’d certainly bring up hydroxychloroquine to see if it might be of some help or at least be worth a shot. The science certainly hasn’t said it harms people who take it at appropriate dose levels. But I’m also wearing a mask and following social distancing suggestions, because I don’t want loved ones to have to be in that situation. Every minute we sit around dithering about hydroxychloroquine, we’re not paying attention to the simple measures that can and should be taken to make us safe. Now.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Using Yesterday’s Arguments, Today!

A general observation post for you today. As I’ve watched some of the political debates being fought in the brutal modern-day trench warfare that is Facebook and Twitter these days, I’ve noticed a tendency toward using convenient statistics and science. This is nothing new. (100% of the people I polled for this post agreed with me, after all.) But a more disturbing trend is the approach where people will use outdated arguments to “prove” something, even though science has long since discredited those arguments.

A not-quite-so-current example of this would be centered around climate change. I feel like many people made their minds up around a decade ago that climate change was bogus. At the time, science had already strongly indicated that climate change was being caused by humans, but there was at least more debate around the subject, scientifically, than there is now. And so that problem was “solved” in some minds. Now, a decade later, they still cling to those past conclusions, despite the fact that we’ve got ten more years of studies and data. To me, trying to deny climate change now is like trying to insist the Boston Red Sox still haven’t won a World Series since 1918. I might wish that weren’t the case, and there might be a long string of data that supports it, historically, but that data has been rendered out of date due to evidence from the past 20 years.

For a more recent example, all you have to do is throw a dart pretty much anywhere in the vicinity of a COVID debate. How deadly is it? Do you need to wear a mask? Will there be a cure anytime soon? How contagious is it?

The problem with all of these issues is that the science on them hasn’t just been changing over years, it’s been changing over weeks. Over days, sometimes. And while I can try to sympathize with people who don’t handle change well (especially not under such trying circumstances), I have little patience for people who are willfully ignorant or who choose to ignore data to try and make their personal argument stronger.

Yes, experts waffled at first over whether or not masks were helpful for this disease. But the waffling is going away, as the scientific studies mount that masks really do help. You might not like that, but when even Donald Trump starts changing his tune, saying masks are now “patriotic,” I wonder how long it will be before people finally (finally!) start just wearing masks and moving on with their lives.

In the early days of COVID, several shared a graphic online, comparing COVID deaths to other various deaths. At the time, I could see how the data might make it seem to some that the world was overreacting to COVID. After all, as of March 25th, COVID had killed 21,297 people worldwide. Compare that to other deaths by that point: the seasonal flu (113,034), malaria (228,095), traffic fatalities (313,903) or HIV/AIDS (390,908). Why were we shutting the world down?

Well . . . none of those people have posted an updated chart, so I thought I’d go in and check how it’s looking now, four months later. As of today, COVID has killed 615,735 people worldwide. The seasonal flu (270,594), malaria (544,171), traffic fatalities (748,892), and HIV/AIDS (932,615). So it’s blown by the seasonal flu and malaria, and it’s only a matter of time before it passes the others as well, if we keep going the way we’re going. And that’s with a global shutdown. It doesn’t take a whiz kid to picture what it would have looked like if the shutdown hadn’t happened. Except maybe it does, because many people are still trying to compare COVID to the flu. They attack other data. The fatality rate. Or the recovery rate. Or they say too many deaths are being counted as COVID-related, and never mind that the same approach is used to tabulate seasonal flu deaths.

No matter how badly people might want to wish this virus was just like any number of other things, and that it’s far less worrisome than it is, the facts just don’t play that out. But if there’s one thing the past months have taught me, it’s the willingness of many to ignore facts if they’re inconvenient.

So I guess I’ll go with that approach. Just look at how awful the Red Sox are. They haven’t won a World Series since World War I! If we all just agree to believe that, it makes it magically true. Right?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Voting in the Time of COVID

First off, I’ll lead by saying the school budget passed yesterday by a vote of 2,454 in favor to 1,917 against. (All of the things I voted for yesterday passed easily, as a matter of fact. Huzzah!) And as is often the case, the typical commentators on our local online paper have shown up to bemoan the fact that the budget passed and accuse teachers of rigging the vote.

(Side note: These same budget hawks clamor and rattle their cages on each and every article about the school budget that gets posted on the site. It’s tiresome to hear the same arguments year after year, though I’m sure it’s tiresome for them to have their opinion voted down every year as well. It’s particularly discouraging to see how little actual debate they want to engage in. They’ve made up their minds, and those minds will not be changed. That’s something that’s happening across the country these days. I feel like many staunch Republicans have just decided to ignore any and all evidence that shows their positions might be misguided and their opinions flawed, choosing instead to focus on any shortcomings the Democrats might have, instead. It’s the same trend that makes it so that they dismiss the Black Lives Matter movement as full of cop killers and looters, but then turn around and say the police are wrongly maligned just because of a few “bad apples.” But this side note is getting very non-side-notey now, so I’ll stop.)

I’m relieved the budget passed, of course, but I was even more impressed with the voting process in my town yesterday. Heading into it, I was concerned it would be chaotic, or that there would be a big deal made about masks or no masks. Instead, Denisa and I got there around 11:20. There was no line, but 6 feet intervals were marked on the ground, in case a line formed. Someone was there at the door to ensure no more than 25 people were in the building at any one time. Everyone was masked. Pens were single use only before being sanitized. Plexiglass shields were up, and social distancing was very well enforced.

Really, it was surprisingly conflict-free.

I can’t say if it was that way throughout the day, since I only saw it for about 10 minutes of voting, but it gave me hope that we can continue to come up with good, practical ways of moving on with life but doing so in a safe, responsible fashion.

Way to go, Maine!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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