Thursday, April 30, 2020

Opening And Closing The Flynn Case

Among the very interesting revelations in the Flynn case in the last two days--with more to come--is the FBI's Washington Field Office's EC (electronic communication) dated 1/4/17, closing the Flynn case. That is, closing it until Peter Strzok at FBIHQ got wind of WFO's intention to close the case and quickly told them to keep it open. Of course the rush to keep the case open was an administrative measure--in order for FBIHQ to pull off their Logan Act interview ploy with regard to Flynn's 12/29/16 conversation with Russian Ambassador Kislyak they needed an open investigation.

It's necessary to understand that the Logan Act ploy was not set in stone. The upper levels at both FBI and DoJ were looking for some way to attack the incoming Trump administration--if possible to abort the inauguration of Donald Trump as president. Nevertheless, due to the highly suspect constitutionality of the Logan Act, as well as the near certainty that it could not be applied to Flynn as an authorized person in the transition, the Logan Act could never really be anything but a colorable excuse for talking to Flynn. For FBIHQ to have opened an actual investigation of Flynn based on a WAT (wild ass theory) of a Logan Act violation was a non-starter. The hope was to catch Flynn in an inaccuracy that could be trumped up into a false statement under 18 USC 1001. Ousting Flynn and thereby putting Trump under suspicion would ultimately always have to be a PR op rather than a legal one--thus the leak to David Ignatius at the WaPo. If things went south in the interview, the Logan Act ploy was basically just a CYA device for the plotters. It was never really serious.

Fortunately for the plotters Peter Stzrok was on the ball and, as soon as he got wind of WFO's intention to close the Flynn case (codenamed CROSSFIRE RAZOR - CR), he texted WFO to keep CR open. The EC had been written, but the actual case closing administrative procedures hadn't been completed. CR remained open while the plotters made their plans.

What I find so interesting about WFO's closing EC is not so much what we learn about the machinations described above--although that's of interest too. It's what we learn about the actual opening of the Flynn case. Recall that in AG Bill Barr's recent bombshell interview with Laura Ingraham he uttered the memorable phrase regarding the entire Russia Hoax: "without any basis." In real legalese, when he says "basis" he means "predication." There was no predication (basis) for anything that was done to destroy the Trump presidency under the color of law. It was truly, as Barr added, the "biggest scandal in American history."

That memorable phrase, "without any basis" (or, predication) applies to the Flynn case, as well. Whatever happens with the Flynn case going forward--whether criminally or civilly--that lack of any basis or predication will loom ever larger. The combination of an official FBI investigation that was lacking any predication--should never have been opened--with the unquestionable ethical violations of Team Mueller will provide Team Flynn with a powerful one, two, combination.

So, let's take a closer look at that EC, and what was behind it.

Hands Down Best Commentary On Flynn Case

Every time I've listened to Brett Tolman discuss anything to do with the Russia Hoax I've been impressed by the way he gets right to the real heart of issues that are often difficult to grasp for people who are unfamiliar with the legal aspects of our national security apparatus. This morning on Fox and Friends Tolman was excellent and succinct as usual, in an interview that focused narrowly on the Flynn case, rather than the big picture of the Russia Hoax. Nevertheless, the implications for Durham's investigation could be enormous, as he will have crushing leverage over everyone involved in trying to screw Flynn--and through Flynn, Trump. Tolman was a former prosecutor, former USA, and former counsel to Orrin Hatch on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He really gets this stuff.

Here's how this excellent interview went.

Q: When you read the notes, it looks like a trap. And it looks like, going in, they were trying to get [Flynn] to admit that he had broken the Logan Act--which, that never happens, that never gets prosecuted [Tolman grin at mention of the Logan Act]--or to catch him in a lie. Cuz, ultimately, they weren't really interested in investigating his contact with the Russians but instead they were looking for a referral to the Department of Justice--and get that guy out of his job.
Tolman: That's right. This activity is outrageous. Everybody's saying it, but here's why it is. It's *predatory.* This is not ... a group of FBI agents who are informed there may be a line of investigation they need to look into. Instead, they are *creating* that investigation. And why are they doing it? They see him, potentially in the role he was in, they saw him as a threat. Perhaps he'd be a threat to what they wanted to accomplish through FISA. Whatever reason, they targeted him, and you can see now, it's starting to come out, that it was a target.

In other words, as I've maintained in the past: Setting False Statement Traps Is Not Official FBI Business. This interview of Flynn had no official FBI purpose--it had nothing to do with official FBI authorities or business. The excuse of the Logan Act was barely even a fig leaf--it was a joke, and a bad one at that. That excuse never rose to the level of a good faith belief that the interview had a legitimate FBI purpose. Nor was the FBI seeking information from Flynn for use in some actual legitimate investigation. The pretext for the interview was simply that the leak--probably an FBI authorized leak to begin with, and certainly one they gave a wink and a nod--had caused a public stir. Flynn fell for that. But the interview itself sought no information the FBI didn't already have and that was legitimately their concern--it turned out to be no more than a memory test for Flynn. And because his memory was claimed not to be up to snuff he was called a liar and was prosecuted. "Predatory." It is not official FBI business to conduct memory tests. That is not within the scope of FBI authority or duties.

The next question focuses on the enormous pressure that Team Mueller was able to exert over Flynn to coerce a guilty plea. The question ends up: "Does Lt. General Flynn now have some leverage to go for exoneration?" Listen to Tolman's response:

Tolman: Yeah, couple of things, very important, there. People plead guilty when they're innocent. Why do they do it in the federal system? Because the federal system has what's referred to as the trial penalty. If you take them to trial you're risking many, many more years in prison. Decades. And they can do it. They could do it in this case. They could create a sentence that he would be facing ... decades in federal prison. So there's enormous pressure. So he pleads guilty thinking it'll be probation, he'll get this behind him, only to learn and realize that his lawyers didn't serve him well, there were conflicts of interest. He's now feeling that he's stuck, he hires a new lawyer and she aims at one thing, one thing alone: She wants to see the underlying documentation that justifies what they did. That's called 'exculpatory evidence', what they found. Usually you find that kind of evidence and it suggests some sort of innocence. But here it suggests innocence *and* misconduct by the FBI. It's outrageous!

The final question is prefaced by a video clip of Devin Nunes saying "Clearly General Flynn is gonna have a civil rights case. ... Secondly, hopefully there's gonna be some prosecutions for this matter." So, the question goes, re Priestap's notes, which suggest strongly that Priestap thought the "game playing" was at least ill advised, perhaps even legally wrong: "James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe were in that meeting. What will happen to them?"

Tolman: So, a lot of people are throwing out the phrase, 'obstruction of justice.' That's *not* the only issue for these individuals. If they knew going into this that they were setting up and creating this crime that wasn't actually there [please refer again to my comments above] then they made representations to the grand jury, and then they made representations to the court--all of those can have criminal consequences. Keep in mind, the Supreme Court in 1971 said that an individual like Flynn can go after agents that do this kind of thing--knowingly violate someone's constitutional rights. It's called a 'Bivens action.' And I'm pretty certain, if this case gets dismissed, that'll be the first thing he does.

A Bivens action is not necessarily straightforward in all cases, but I believe Tolman is correct in this case. There have been, in relatively recent years, restrictions placed on Bivens actions by the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, in this case, where there is such strong evidence of a conspiracy to use the "color" or cover of federal law to knowingly violate Flynn's rights, acting outside of any plausible authority, that Flynn probably has a strong case. And a case that any lawyer would love to present to a jury. You can read about Bivens actions here.

This is what the conspirators are facing: the strong potential for crushing civil and criminal liability with all the attendant legal costs and gut wrenching consequences for personal lives. That's what Durham gets to work with to secure cooperation and/or pleas. That's the kinda stuff you should consider before getting into an attempted coup.

Jim Jordan Goes After Chris Wray

Congressman Jim Jordan appeared on Fox and Friends this morning. Probably the most notable aspect of the exchanges was the ferocity with which Jordan attacked waste of space FBI Director Chris Wray. He ridiculed Wray repeatedly, focusing on Wray's pathetic attempts to soft peddle FISA abuse, but also on the Flynn case. Here are some excerpts--mostly out of context--that TGP ran that will give a flavor:

Rep. Jim Jordan: “And now we learn that they set up the General Mike Flynn just days into the administration! What I want to know is why didn’t Bob Mueller tell us this? Remember we were told… this is the greatest guy who ever came to Washington. This is the greatest thing since sliced bread. He’s the most honest guy since George Washington. Why didn’t he tell us this and more importantly, where’s Christopher Wray? Why didn’t we learn any of this from him? Thank goodness for Sidney Powell or Bill Barr or we would have never got this information… Again why didn’t we hear this from Chris Wray? ... Again if they can do this to a three star general, if they can do this to the President of the United States, imagine what they can do to you and me?

Here are a few more excerpts that I liked. Steve set up the context for the Flynn case admirably:

Steve: It now looks ... somebody at the FBI, somebody at the Department of Justice, was out to get Flynn, essentially entrap him, ... so that they could get rid of him, embarrass the Trump administration--a *gut punch* just at the time of the inauguration.

Exactly. The Flynn setup wasn't just about Flynn. It was intended at a minimum to cripple the Trump administration, but the more likely maximum intent was to create a public firestorm to force Trump to resign or be impeached right at the start.

Jordan returns to the main point:

Jordan: Christopher Wray needs to tell us what he's been up to these last two and a half years he's been Director of the FBI.
Jordan: But the people at the top [of the FBI], remember what Bill Barr said a year ago? He said there was 'a failure of leadership at the upper echelon of the FBI'. That may be the greatest understatement ever. Comey, McCabe, Baker, Strzok, Page ... 
Steve: Explain how this [the Durham investigation, the Jensen review, etc., all put in place by Bill Barr] could be part of a bigger picture ... 
Jordan: Well said. ... The big question: What 'they' did before him [Barr].
Jordan: All these things happening ... The only thing we had wrong is, it was worse than we thought.

I think Jordan gets the scope of the Durham investigation: Everything that happened before Barr took over as AG. That means the Mueller Witchhunt, and the Mueller Witchhunt was no more than the prelude to impeachment. While it fizzled in that regard, for the most part, some of the same important players were involved in the impeachment hoax as were involved in the Russia hoax and the Flynn setup--notably Mary McCord.

I think this is why Durham's investigation keeps extending. He's making real progress and increasingly believes he can get to the end of that road: Mueller and fake impeachment.

A mark of disgrace in all this goes to sundance at CTH, who chose to run a lengthy screed attacking Bill Barr. Sundance makes the moronic claim that the Jensen review of the Flynn case occurred only because the FISC demanded that a review be done of all cases connected to the Carter Page FISA. The Jensen review was totally unconnected to the Carter Page FISA. The US routinely conducts electronic surveillance of Russian establishments. The Flynn case had no need to rely on the Carter Page FISA--the intercept of Flynn's conversation with Kislyak was pure routine.

Go Ahead, Sean Davis--Be Non-Controversial!

Last night on Laura Ingraham, Sean Davis took the tack of avoiding all controversy regarding the attempted coup against President Trump and, most particularly, the framing of Michael Flynn. It was led at the operational level by disgraced former FBI Director James Comey, of whom Sean says:

“It’s clear now that James Comey will go down in history as the most corrupt FBI director in American history. He has destroyed the FBI’s reputation through his actions, his arrogance, and his corruption.
“That will forever be James Comey’s legacy, this corrupt coup that he attempted to run against Donald Trump.”

Bill Priestap in his notes apparently saw this coming, kinda:

"Protect our institution [the FBI] by not playing games"

This entire brief segment is a good watch:

I like Sean Davis' totally non-controversial closing. Laura sets up the hanging curve question by playing a few clips of media shills making outrageously slanderous charges against Flynn--passing if off as fact. That he was "literally" a "Russian double agent," etc. Then she poses the question, which Sean knocks out of the park:

Laura: Will any of them come on television tomorrow and apologize or do a mea culpa, Sean? Will any of them have that decency? 
Sean: No. It'll never happen, despite the fact this Russia collusion hoax could never have been perpetrated without their willing work in it. No, they will never return their Pulitzer prizes that they got for reporting fake news. They will never apologize, they will never admit they were wrong--ever.

Non-controversial as that may be, it's important to keep pointing it out. Never forget. Never forget the utter lack of basic, lowest common denominator, human decency of the elites. Literally!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

UPDATES: Priestap Now Front And Center In The Flynn Case

Former head of Counterintelligence for the FBI, Bill Priestap (now retired) is featured in new and, presumably, soon to be unsealed FBI records regarding the framing of Michael Flynn. John Solomon provides a sneak preview--FBI notes detail effort to catch Flynn in lie to 'get him fired' as Trump adviser:

A senior FBI official's handwritten notes from the earliest days of the Trump administration detail a tortured debate among officials to use a bureau interview of then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to get him to lie so "we could prosecute him or get him fired." 
The notes and other emails were provided to Flynn's lawyers under seal last week and released Wednesday night by court order, providing the most damning evidence to date of potential politicalization and misconduct inside the FBI during the Russia probe. 
The notes show FBI officials discussed not providing Flynn a Miranda-like warning before his January 2017 interview —  a practice normally followed in such interviews — so that he could be charged with a crime if he misled the agents, the officials said. 

That's Peter Strzok and Lisa Page who had that discussion. Andrew McCabe would have had operational control of the Flynn interview, and Lisa Page was his legal counsel. It all fits in.

"What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?," the handwritten notes of the senior official say. 
Multiple officials confirmed to Just the News that the author of the notes is William Priestap, the now-retired FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence and the ultimate supervisor for fired agent Peter Strzok, who led the Russia probe.

I left Priestap off my original list of targets, but his role here is perfectly logical.

Justice Department officials are investigating whether Priestap's notes were written in conjunction with meetings he had with top leaders like then-Director James Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, officials said. A special prosecutor is reviewing DOJ's and the FBI's handling of the Flynn prosecution, which led to the former Trump adviser and retired general pleading guilty to lying to the FBI under a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia case.

Yeah, I'll bet they are!

Question: When did it become official FBI business to get someone fired? When did that became a legitimate goal of an interview regarding matters outside the FBI's responsibility? It seems to me that anyone involved in this is in a very hard place. Even if they somehow elude prosecution, Flynn will own them.

UPDATE 1: I've had a chance to look at some of the unsealed documents: US v Flynn - new unsealed docs.

What I see here is three things:

1) Peter Strzok emails James Baker Baker for legal advice on how "DD" (Deputy Director Andrew McCabe) should respond to various scenarios when McCabe makes the phone call to Flynn to send Strzok over for the interview. The scenarios that Strzok puts forward all appear to be aimed at hiding from Flynn the true nature of the interview. This is part of what Bill Priestap (below) will refer to as "game playing"--an "ambush" or "gotcha" plan of attack to frame Flynn.

2) Strzok and Lisa Page email re when "1001" (False Statement) warning should/must be given in an interview.

3) And this is most important. Bill Priestap's handwritten notes regarding what the interview is all about in the first place. Priestap's notes come in two parts. The first part, on the left side, are brief. However, the notes on the right side are longer, and appear under the heading "Afterwards." My guess is that these are notes that Priestap made either in advance of presenting an argument orally or perhaps as a draft for an email. Priestap says in this portion of the notes that he thought about the proposed Flynn interview "last night"--presumably after a discussion/meeting. Clearly Priestap began having second thoughts on the advisability of the proposed meeting--he thinks the FBI should "rethink" the whole idea.

Priestap's counter proposal is that the interview should be conducted on the up and up, by being open with Flynn about the FBI's concerns and by showing him the transcript of his conversation with Kislyak. Priestap regards the plan as proposed by others as smacking of "game playing," of a "gotcha" approach. And so he asks: What are we trying to accomplish? Are we trying to learn the truth, or are we trying to catch Flynn in a lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired? Priestap appears, after thinking about it overnight, to favor trying to learn the truth! He was, of course, overruled. He ends by stressing the risks of the proposed "game playing" approach--"the White House will be furious." He wants to "protect our institution"--the FBI--whereas the coup plotters are perfectly willing to risk all.

Overall, Priestap strikes me as a sap. How could he ever believe that the talk of a Logan Act violation was actually serious? It must have been a sore trial for the coup plotters to have to deal with a dummy like Priestap who didn't understand "What's urgent?"

That's my summary, but here's my transcript of Priestap's notes:

* We have a case on Flynn and Russians 
* Our goal is to resolve case 
* Our goal is to determine if Mike Flynn is going to tell the truth & his relationship with Russians 
* Can quote [REDACTED] 
* Shouldn't [REDACTED] 
Review [illegible?] alone 

* Afterwards
* Interview 
* I thought [about?] it last night, + I believe we should rethink this
* What's urgent? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?
* We regularly show subjects evidence with he goal of getting them to admit their wrongdoing 
* I don't see how getting someone to admit their wrongdoing is going easy on him 
* If we get him to admit to breaking the Logan Act, give facts to DoJ + have them decide
* Or, if he initially lies, then we present him [REDACTED] + he admits it, document for DoJ, + let them decide how to address it 
* If we're seen as playing games, WH will be furious
* Protect our institution by not playing games

I presume Priestap cooperated with OIG and is now cooperating with John Durham.

UPDATE 2: Sidney Powell stated to Hannity tonight that while the emails have, of course, always been in FBI custody, the written notes may not have been. She also stated with regard to the notes--which are being widely attributed (as above) to Bill Priestap--she is still not certain of the identity of the person who wrote those notes.

USA Jensen To Join Powell: Release The Docs!

USA Jeffrey Jensen is AG Bill Barr's handpicked "reviewer" of the Flynn case. Jensen made waves when he released to Flynn's legal team 5 pages of frankly, IMO, incriminating notes from FBI planning sessions in preparation for the attempted framing of Flynn. Those notes are said to have been taken by Comey's right hand man and top FBI lawyer, James Baker, who is said to be cooperating with the Durham investigation.

Now we learn that Jensen will join Sidney Powell in calling on Judge Sullivan for those records to be unsealed--presumably the first 5 pages. There are now reported to be 11 more pages of related records being redacted.

Catherine Herridge
#FLYNN DOJ official confirms @CBSNews US attorney will join Flynn Attorney @SidneyPowell1 calling for new records to be unsealed. AG Barr directed US attorney Jeffrey Jensen to scrutinize Flynn case. First batch docs small, including handwritten notes.  But review delivering more 
2:48 PM · Apr 29, 2020

Undercover Huber
DOJ provides 11 pages of additional materials to Flynn’s defense team, material “even more appalling” according to Sidney Powell
Quote Tweet

Sidney Powell 
While we await Judge Sullivan's order to unseal the exhibits from Friday, the government has just provided 11 more pages even more appalling that the Friday production.  We have requested the redaction process begin immediately.

4:25 PM · Apr 29, 2020

It seems significant to me that Jensen is joining Powell in calling for the unsealing of these documents--for two reasons.

1) It appears that Jensen has not only reviewed the Flynn case, he also seems to have taken over the handling of the case. Brandon Van Grack does not appear to be playing any role in what's now unfolding. Perhaps he's too busy answering questions that various investigators are putting to him.

2) In these circumstances it's difficult to understand how the government would oppose Powell's motion to dismiss the prosecution. It's conceivable that Jensen is simply doing the right thing in releasing clear Brady material to the defense, but joining in in calling for the material to be unsealed immediately suggests that he agrees with Powell's view as to the nature of the material. It's also always possible that there could be some procedural reasons for delay, but it's very difficult for me to conceive that this charade of justice is not coming to an end. And that eftsoons or right speedily.

It's also difficult to believe that, given what we're hearing about the nature of these documents, that John Durham doesn't have a number of people in his crosshairs for their role in the Flynn case, some of whom may already be cooperating: James Comey, James Baker, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Joe Pientka, Lisa Page, Sally Yates, Mary McCord, David Laufman, Rod Rosenstein, Team Mueller generally, Robert Mueller, Andrew Weissmann, Zainab Ahmad, Brandon Van Grack. And possibly more.

Sooner Rather Than Later--DNI Ratcliffe?

Remember when The Swamp told Trump, Take that John Ratcliffe nomination for Director of National Intelligence and shove it? Did they really think they could get away with humiliating Trump and Ratcliffe, and Trump would simply slink off with his tail between his legs? This is hilarious:

Arthur Schwartz
Typical CNN dishonesty. First they falsely reported that Grenell would be in place a long time because Ratcliffe wouldn’t be confirmed anytime soon. Now this.
CNN missed the original story from the start: Ratcliffe would be confirmed quickly.
Quote Tweet

Alexander Marquardt

Senate Intel is taking steps to hold confirmation hearing for Rep. John Ratcliffe for DNI next week. This suggests lawmakers would like to end the @RichardGrenell's time at the top of the intelligence community sooner rather than later, @ZcohenCNN @jeremyherb report.
12:38 PM · Apr 29, 2020·Twitter for iPhone

Meanwhile Grenell has taken many, many of the steps that Trump wanted taken to reform the Intel Community. He's actually turned ODNI into something resembling what it was supposed to be--a coordinator and overseer of intelligence, rather than a competitor with other entities and a place to obtain bloated compensation. Personnel are being sent out to other agencies to help do the actual work.

And Ratcliffe will come in knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt who his foes are.

Chris Steele: Hillary Knew, Susan Rice And Victoria Nuland, Too

The Alfa Bank's defamation suit against Christopher Steele continues to bear fruit. John Solomon has an excellent round up of what's been learned from Steele's testimony in depositions:
Steele reveals he believes Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice knew about his anti-Trump research
Rice denies former British spy's account, which comes in a novel litigation by three Russian businessman suing over Britain's data laws.
Importantly, Steele testified that it was his clear impression--based on statements by Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS--that he was ultimately working for the Clinton Campaign, no matter what the technicalities of the money being laundered to Fusion GPS through the DNC and the Perkins Coie law firm.

But the bombshell--something I'm sure John Durham is also aware of--is that Steele passed that knowledge about the Clinton sponsorship of the dossier on to the FBI, and Steele kept notes to that effect.

The Little Sisters Of The Poor--In The Front Lines

Remember the Little Sisters of the Poor? They're the order of nuns whose mission is to care for the elderly poor who are destitute. They fund their work by begging and take no government money. They're a danger to the American Way Of Life, and so they're persecuted by our Establishment:

Federal Court Forces Little Sisters of the Poor to Fund Abortions Under Obamacare Mandate

By Steven Ertelt,, October 22, 2019
A traditionally liberal federal appeals court HAS RULED once again that the Little Sisters of the Poor have to pay for abortions under their health insurance plan under the Obamacare mandate.
Over the past three years the Supreme Court has twice protected the Catholic nuns, but pro-abortion state officials have filed new lawsuits trying to force the Catholic order to pay for abortions in their health care plan. Today, a 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued a decision.
The panel’s ruling invalidated the new pro-life rules the Trump administration put in place to protect the Catholic nuns and others from being forced to fund abortions.
The panel’s ruling invalidated the new pro-life rules the Trump administration put in place to protect the Catholic nuns and others from being forced to fund abortions.

We received this email missive this morning:

It has been several weeks since the "Stay at Home" order was implemented here.

As I am writing this, I can say, thank God that we have had no positive cases of coronavirus among our Residents, staff, or the Little Sisters.

Our Sisters and Staff are working diligently to keep our Residents safe. Please keep us in your prayers. We want nothing more than to keep everyone in our Home safe and healthy.

We also want you to know that we are praying for you and your families. Four times each day we stop what we are doing and join together, Residents, Little Sisters and staff, in prayer.

Although we can’t say the rosary side by side, Residents and Sisters sit in their doorways and pray together each day.

A prayer box filled with your prayer requests sits next to a statue of St. Joseph, who we entrust all your intentions. The last Sunday of the month, the box is taken to the Chapel, where a Mass is offered for you. Be assured that every time we pray we remember your intentions.

Do you have a special intention
you would like us to remember in prayer?

Email Sr. Amy Marie at
and we will put it into our prayer box and include it in our prayers.

During these difficult times, we do have a reason for hope for Christ is Risen and Living by our Side!

Sr. Margaret Charles, lsp
Little Sisters of the Poor

Little Sisters of the Poor | St. Joseph's Home
80 West Northwest Highway | Palatine, IL 60067-3582
(847) 358-5700

UPDATED: Thanks For Your Service!

Scores of veterans killed in 'horrific' coronavirus outbreak at Massachusetts elder care facility

Count on it: The dying isn't over with at this facility. The account below gives a graphic picture of what is undoubtedly happening in many places. Meanwhile, Blue State governors whine about ventilators and Trump, trying to shift responsibility and blame.

I don't mean to be flip. I understand there are tough issues facing our society, lying ahead. The issues we've avoided facing for several generations. Surely a society that gives its veterans lip service rather than care is in decline. Ours is a society that has relied on voluntary service in many ways--not just in a military sense. Increasingly we've become a society where it's, Hey, look out for yourself--let the government take care of the rest. We're getting a glimpse of the results with the pandemic, but for anyone who has eyes to see we also see the results in other areas of life, starting with and education system that doesn't educate but only propagandizes.

The coronavirus has killed at least 80 veterans at an elder care facility in Massachusetts, in what's being described as the deadliest known outbreak at a long-term care facility in the U.S. 
An additional 82 veterans and 81 employees have tested positive for the virus at Holyoke Soldiers' Home, and federal officials are trying to determine whether residents were denied proper medical care as deaths continue to climb. 
“It’s horrific,” said Edward Lapointe, whose father-in-law lives at the home and had a mild case of the virus. “These guys never had a chance.” 
The outbreak has now claimed the lives of nearly one-third of all residents at the veterans' home, with a new fatality being reported almost every day.

With limited staffing, workers were forced to routinely travel to other units in order to provide help, which caused the virus to spread at an extremely high rate,
according to Joan Miller, a nurse at the home. Some workers were without proper personal protective equipment, the Boston Globe reported. 
She added that an entire unit was forced to shut down because it didn't have enough employees to run it, forcing veterans into close proximity with those uninfected. 
"Veterans were on top of each other. We didn’t know who was positive and who was negative and then they grouped people together and that really exacerbated it even more,” said Miller. “That’s when it really blew up." 
Many of the veterans were at an age that made them susceptible to severe illness from the virus. Before the outbreak, about one-third of residents were 90 or older and needed round-the-clock care, the paper reported.

UPDATE: Closer to home--my home, anyway ...

10 Die From COVID-19 At Cicero Nursing Home, Including Employee

Once again, you can count on more deaths to come from this. Illinois' fat ass Gov. Pritzker--from the Pritzker family that funded Obama's ascent to the White House--is one of the Blue State governors who's been trying to blame Trump:

More than 200 residents and staff of a Cicero nursing home have tested positive for COVID-19, while 10 of them — including one staff member — have died from the disease, city officials announced Tuesday. 
At least 163 residents and 41 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at City View Multicare Center, 5825 W. Cermak Rd., according to the results released Tuesday afternoon by city spokesman Ray Hanania. 
The deaths at the nearly 500-bed facility include nine residents and one employee who died in the last two days, Hanania said. The test results come after state health officials mandated last week that the City View test every resident and member of the facility. Test results are still pending for 39 staff members. 
Cicero officials have complained about City View’s health safety record, and hope the facility improves works to improve the safety of its residents.

As I recounted yesterday, the first outbreak in this area I heard about--probably at the beginning of March--was at a nursing home. At that time I told my wife I was sure they'd be prioritizing testing at medical facilities. While Pritzker whined about useless ventilators, what happened to the testing?

Look to the Florida model.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

TOTAL MUST READ: What If COVID-19 Immunity Doesn't Last Long?

I'm linking to Zerohedge, because they have the original MIT Technology Review article nicely formatted and reader friendly:

MIT: What If COVID-19 Immunity Doesn't Last Long?

Highly informative. This is the $64,000 question policy makers are wrestling with.

Here's the lead in:

Many Americans who haven't been closely following the stream of research, evolving opinions and changing recommendations of health-care professionals and organizations probably don't realize just how little we know about the virus. 
Few realize that when health care professionals and epidemiologists recommend these shutdowns, they're doing so based on evidence that, if left unchecked, the virus can overwhelm health-care systems relatively quickly, like it did in Wuhan. And while we know the lockdowns and social distancing have certainly helped, researchers and doctors can't say much more with certainty, ... 
But the most critical unknown by far is how long do people remain immune from the virus once they contract it and recover? ... 
And in this article by the MIT Technology Review, scientists explore the possibility that COVID-19 immunity just simply doesn't last.

And from the early part of the article itself:

For the coronaviruses “immunity seems to wane quickly,” says Jeffrey Shaman, who carried out the research with Marta Galanti, a postdoctoral researcher. 
Whether covid-19 will follow the same pattern is unknown, but the Columbia results suggest one way that much of the public discussion about the pandemic could be misleading. There is talk of getting “past the peak” and “immunity passports” for those who’ve recovered. At the same time, some hope the infection is more widespread than generally known, and that only a tolerable death total stands between us and high enough levels of population immunity for the virus to stop spreading. 
All that presumes immunity is long-lived, but what if it is fleeting instead? 
"What I have been telling everyone—and no one believes me, but it’s true - is we get coronaviruses every winter even though we’re seroconverted,” says Matthew Frieman, who studies the virus family at the University of Maryland. That is, even though most people have previously developed antibodies to them, they get the viruses again. “We really don’t understand whether it is a change in the virus over time or antibodies that don’t protect from infection,” he says.
... Is there a chance the disease will turn into a killer version of the common cold, constantly out there, infecting 10% or 20% of the population each year, but also continuing to kill one in a hundred? If so, it would amount to a plague capable of shaving the current rate of world population growth by a tenth.

What's The True Chinese Covid19 Death Toll?

As has been remarked previously, there's simply no way that the Chicoms decided to trash their economy unless they were totally up against the wall. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has come out with a paper that attempts to quantify the real death total in China from the Covid19 pandemic (see below). As opposed to the obviously bogus official numbers.

The official Chicom version is that there were 80,000 cases and 4,000 deaths--round numbers. US intelligence officials, per Fox News, are saying:

the true scale of China’s coronavirus outbreak is at least FIFTY times worse than the communist state is admitting to, and that 60,000 dead bodies per month could have been processed by the funeral homes in Wuhan.

In other words, AT LEAST 200,000 dead. Also around 2.9 million cases. There's a caution in this for the US. The "human geography" of the US is very different from that of China, but this isn't the flu and we do need to be very careful. Furthermore, if public health officials in the US are confident that there will be another wave in the fall, what about China? What will transpire in the southern hemisphere which is approaching their winter months?

We probably haven't heard the last of this.

A Swede Talks Abut The Swedish Model

As you read this extended excerpt from All is Not What it Seems in Sweden, remember that part of the Swedish model is to do very little testing. The excess mortality in Sweden over last year is a clear indication that the pandemic--which arrived in Sweden later than in other countries--is taking a heavy toll. The author is: Eva Johannissen, a Swedish novelist, painter, translator, and retired educator. 

UPDATED: Highly Recommended: The Florida Model

There's a really good article at Fox News today by William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn:

Coronavirus response — compare Florida with New York, and look at the results so far

The authors begin with a general comparison:

There’s one state in America that has a larger elderly population than New York, that is more ethnically diverse than New York, and that has two million more people than New York. Yet its death rate from COVID-19 is 5 percent that of New York. That state is Florida. 


In March, Florida was projected to be the second-worst state for COVID-19 deaths, with predictions of 174 per day and a total of nearly 7,000 by the end of the summer.  Nothing like this has transpired and it will not come to pass. 
Only one state has a higher percentage of elder Americans living in it than Florida — Maine. In Florida, that population constitutes over 20 percent of the state. In New York, it’s just over 16 percent.

So how did Florida do so well, when New York had a Superstar governor leading the charge? Here's how:

... Florida shut down its state much later than New York, almost two weeks later.  And there was much criticism for its delay. The shutdown in Florida was also much less severe than New York’s. Florida did not close churches and synagogues, nor did it order the shuttering of most of its beaches.  
What DeSantis did do was take a much more vertical approach to the virus than others, like Cuomo. In early March, DeSantis put out targeted and preventative messaging to his elder population, advising them to stay at home. In places like The Villages (home to over 125,000 retirees), DeSantis implemented golf-cart drive-through coronavirus testing. He deployed the National Guard to help institute testing in the state’s nursing homes where, unlike New York, older COVID-19 patients were not sent.    
Early on, DeSantis suspended visitation and ordered staff screening at long-term care facilities.  He also dispatched millions of masks and gloves and hundreds of thousands of face shields and gowns, also known as personal protective equipment, to nursing homes and other centers caring for the elderly. These actions, among others, led Florida to a 93 percent better per capita long-term care facility death rate than New York.  

What a concept--screen those in the closest contact with the vulnerable!

But, in my view, what this also illustrates--as discussed recently in The Miami-Dade Test Results--And "My" Narrative--is that the Wuhan virus is probably not as infectious as originally feared. In fact, its R0 may actually be elevated by the failure to implement basic protections for those who are in the most infection-friendly environments--the elderly in long term care facilities.

For most of the population, a larger dose of the virus is probably required before actually contracting the disease: Covid19. Sensible precautions can mitigate the threat: masking in crowded locations, senior shopping hours, targeted quarantines. But above all, testing and monitoring of personnel at care facilities housing the vulnerable.

Imagine what American would be like at this point if more governors had followed DeSantis' lead.

UPDATE: Just as I and several commenters were saying, Trump's gotta pivot ...

President Trump Meets With Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Highlighting Effective COVID-19 Response

Trump knows how to looks for solutions, and when he sees a guy who seems to have found one he talks to him.

MULTIPLE UPDATES: The Seamy Underside

Slowly but surely we're starting to get some transparency about the Covid19 pandemic. And it's an ugly picture.

We've known for a long time that the elderly and those with co-morbidities are at greatly disproportionate risk of dying from this disease. That's not to discount the serious consequences for younger people who survive--it's simple fact.

Now we're learning that greatly disproportionate numbers of deaths are occurring specifically in nursing homes. Commenter Ray-SoCal linked an NPR article that states that of all deaths in New York state, 58% have occurred in nursing homes in NYC.

This seems to be happening widely, both in the US and abroad. Last week I quoted at length from Daniel Greenfield: Blue States Lied, Seniors Died. At that time Greenfield was stating that as many as 20% of deaths have occurred in nursing homes, and it's starting to look like it's far worse.

Also last week I read about the Swedish model, but didn't do a separate post. It appears that part of the "Swedish model" is to do very little testing (a fraction of the testing done in other countries, even the US) but establish a very strict criteria for establishing cause of death for Covid19 (deceased must have tested positive). Presumably to keep the official death count lower. Doctors at nursing homes in Sweden are complaining that they are being pressured not to run tests, but the word is getting out: deaths at nursing homes are epidemic. The top health official expresses himself as flummoxed, claiming that nursing homes were strictly locked down. Sorry about that.

TGP ran a post last night that sheds further light on what's going on:

Monday, April 27, 2020

Steele Testified That He Was In Direct Contact With Clinton Lawyers

There's been a bit of a buzz about the tired old Alfa Bank story lately, and tonight The Daily Caller has a lengthy article on the origins of that hoax. Or sub-hoax, if you will.

Dossier Author Christopher Steele Had Previously Undisclosed Meetings With Lawyers For DNC, Clinton Campaign

The Russian Alfa Bank has sued Christopher Steele for defamation, over the September 16, 2016 memo that Steele wrote, which claimed that there was some sort of secret communications channel between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, routed through Alfa Bank's server. In testimony last month--March 17 and 18--Steele traced the story directly to Clinton lawyer Michael Sussmann as well as to the Clinton campaign's opposition research shop, Fusion GPS. Sussmann, of course, is the top Dem election lawyer, lawyer for the DNC, and has been for years. Steele also met personally with Marc Elias, the Clinton campaign's top lawyer, just a week after writing the hoax memo.

In his testimony, Steele explicitly states that the Alfa story was provided to him by Sussmann and that Glenn Simpson, Steele's employer at Fusion GPS, "directed" Steele to write the story up as a report. In other words, Simpson told Steele to frame Sussmann's phony story as an "intelligence" report. The Clinton lawyers and Steele then peddled the story to the FBI, the State Department, and various media outlets. Steele's testimony provides a glimpse of just how directly the Clinton campaign was involved in the production of the dossier--including its content:

Excess Mortality In NYC--Covid19 Deaths Bigly Underreported?

According to the NYT there's something going on in Gotham:

N.Y.C. Deaths Reach 6 Times the Normal Level, Far More Than Coronavirus Count Suggests
More than 27,000 New Yorkers have died since the start of the novel coronavirus outbreak in March — 20,900 more than would be expected over this period and thousands more than have been captured by official coronavirus death statistics.  
As of Sunday, the city had attributed 16,673 deaths to coronavirus, either because people had tested positive for the virus, or because the circumstances of their death meant that city health officials believed the virus to be the most likely cause of death.  
But there remains a large gap between this number and the total deaths above typical levels in the last six and a half weeks: more than 4,200 people whose deaths are not captured by the official coronavirus toll.

The "Durham Effect"--It's A Big Deal!

From Joe diGenova's WMAL interview this morning. Unfortunately he doesn't get into the Baker angle, but it's a nice big picture narrative:

diGenova: What you have going on right now, is, this is the Durham effect. It's like a halo. What's happening is, [Durham] is clearly investigating FBI officials and DoJ officials from the Obama era, along with Intelligence officials, for a conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Flynn, the President, and others and also to defraud the citizens of the United States. From that little letter [transmitting the Brady material] from the US Attorney in the Eastern District of Missouri we now learn a *boatload* about what Durham is doing. [comment about Durham hiring *former* FBI agents, not just current ones detailed to him]  
And in the middle of all this is David Ignatius of the Washington Post, who was the source of the famous story about Flynn's telephone call with Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador, about sanctions. It's unraveling. I expect charges--some against individuals, some as part of the conspiracy. A number of things. So, big week last week, a lot going on. 
Vince: Why would Durham hire *former* FBI agents? 
diGenova: Particular skills, and because he knows them. When you're doing something like this, which is *very* sensitive, and very *difficult,*--because this is a leak investigation as well as another type of criminal investigation--you need people you can trust. ... 
Mary: I question why it took so long for Flynn's attorneys to get this Brady evidence. ... We thought when President Trump became President and he puts his new people in and, listen, I get that we had to go through the whole thing with Jeff Sessions and hadda wait for the Mueller Report to come out, but it's been months since the Mueller report came out. Why now? Why has it taken so long? 
diGenova: Because it's coming to a breaking point. The Attorney General has tried to be patient and he's also tried to tamp down criticism by making a few statements, as you've seen, in the last week about how *serious* the investigation is, about how it's beyond just "troubling", it was serious, serious, violations of the law as far as he's concerned. 
In order to do that, in order to get to that point, you've gotta be locked and loaded from your investigation standpoint. You've gotta get people interviewed, you've gotta get people locked in on their testimony so that if they change their testimony later they can be prosecuted later for false statements--the *real, proper* use of false statements, not the phony Mueller/Weissmann use.  
And remember--What Durham is doing, he is *deconstructing* the Mueller/Weissmann inquiry. This investigation by Durham will show conclusively that the Mueller/Weissmann investigation was a fraud.  That it was never intended to find a crime. That it was intended to *entrap* the President, to get an impeachment for a false statement if he gave an interview. Which, of course, his lawyers and lawyers like us told him *never* to do, never give that information. ... 
It's taking time because he's destroying Mueller as he makes the case against Clapper, Brennan, Comey, and Sally Yates and others. This is a big deal. He's actually investigating the greatest crime in American history.

 As we've discussed here in the past, Durham is almost certainly a man on a mission. Years ago he was thwarted in his investigation of Mueller's corruption in Boston, and then saw Mueller rise to great heights in the Deep State--finally being designated by the Deep State to defenestrate the President of the United States.

Hmmm. I wonder what Rod Rosenstein is up to these days?

The Coming Flynn Exoneration--What Does It Mean?

I've always been confident that it would eventually happen, and last night Maria Bartiromo tweeted that this week is THE week for Flynn.

You can read about it and listen to Maria interviewing Devin Nunes and Doug Collins here. There's not much in the way of actual hard information on offer, except this--Maria is talking about the new documents that AG Barr's handpicked USA, Jeffrey Jensen from St. Louis, turned over to the court and to the Flynn team (led by Sidney Powell) after Jensen reviewed the Flynn case. And she slips a nugget of pure gold in. That nugget is very important for where Durham is, and where Durham is going:

Bartiromo: Those documents are exculpatory evidence. They were not shown to the court initially, and basically what they say are, they are notes about Michael Flynn's meeting at the White House and the FBI, that it was a complete setup. And that he never lied. It's all in Mr. Baker's notes. That's the exculpatory evidence.

Mr. Baker? Uh, that would be James Baker, former General Counsel for the FBI--basically the official personal lawyer (in re FBI business) for disgraced former FBI Director James Comey. That's the same James Baker that Joe diGenova recently claimed is cooperating with John Durham's investigation. Oh sh*t! as we used to say. I'll bet Baker has a lot more to tell Durham. Actually, he probably already has. Think of him as a consultant. Every time something comes up, something Comey or just about anyone else involved in the Russia Hoax says, Durham asks Baker: What about it?

I'd say Brandon Van Grack better cut a deal very quickly--if he hasn't already. And that will put John Durham right at the center of Team Mueller. Are you paying attention, Andrew Weissmann? I'll bet he is. And plenty of others Team Mueller alumni, too.

If you want to read about Van Grack's role on Team Mueller, here's a handy reference.

And, of course, Durham and Flynn will also be having some long conversations.

Grand Jury time for all the Russia Hoax boys and girls. This won't be fun for them.

Infection Rates, Immunity, Vaccines, Excess Mortality

Commenters Tom S and Bebe have provided some interesting links that go directly to some of the issues that I attempted to address yesterday.

Tom S sent a link to some tweets by Dr. David States, Chief Medical Officer of Angstrom Bio in Austin, TX (they have a great map at their site). The tweets are intended to address the matter of developing a vaccine against Covid19. Remember? That happened last week, or will happen next week, or maybe in 18 months. We'll get to that a bit later, but States touches on a number of matters that are important.

Rate of Transmission

First, I want to point out that he totally disagrees with my view or 'narrative' that Covid19 is less infectious or transmissible than the flu and therefore will not be spreading like wildfire across the fruited plain:

David States
Replying to @statesdj 
The problem is that SARSCOV2 is a highly contagious virus. While initial estimates for R0 were in the ~2.5 range, more recent estimates suggest it’s in the 3 to 5 range, and some individuals really do seem to be superspreaders shedding huge numbers of virus 5/ 
3:43 PM - Apr 21, 2020

David States
Replying to @statesdj 
That means a vaccine will need to be quite effective if it’s going to stop the spread of SARSCOV2. The polio, measles and smallpox vaccines are really remarkable medicines inducing high level long lasting immunity, but not all vaccines work so well 6/ 
3:43 PM - Apr 21, 2020

A Rate of Infection (RO) of 3-5 is very high for this sort of virus and would place SARSCOV2 at several times the RO of flu, which is known to spread widely through the population. And yet. Where is the evidence? The evidence that I'm aware of--and of course I have no comprehensive knowledge about this--seems to point in the opposite direction, based on antibody studies. Antibody studies in Italy have shown some significant hot spots, small mountain villages that are at 'herd' immunity levels--over 60%. However, for the general population in the north of Italy, one of the hardest hit areas in the world, levels are well below that, more comparable to those in the US. The Miami-Dade study that I cited yesterday came in at ~ 6%, and that was in a locality that was not rigorously locked down.

Overall, in a population with no immunity that was caught unawares, we would expect higher levels of infection if the virus really is that infectious. Again, the frequently repeated guideline--6 ft./10 minutes--would also seem to militate against such a high RO. As do the repeated statements by public health officials that most spread seems to occur in close circles, like families. One way or another, it doesn't appear that the virus is spreading like we had been told it would.

I may have to eat my words, but I'll wait a bit longer.


Before we look at States's views on immunity, we need to look briefly at the link that Bebe sent on the same subject: What is antibody identification? For our purposes, all we need to know is in this paragraph:

The first time someone is exposed to a foreign substance, like a virus or bacterium, it may take the immune system up to two weeks to make an antibody blueprint and to produce enough of a specific antibody to fight the infection. This initial response consists primarily of IgM antibodies. Several weeks later, usually after the immediate threat has passed and the infection has resolved, the body creates IgG antibodies. It remembers the blueprint for fighting this microorganism and maintains a small supply of antibodies (a mixture of both IgM and IgG). The next time the body is exposed to the same foreign substance, it will respond much more strongly and quickly, to provide primarily IgG antibody protection.

Obviously this information goes also to the issue of 'herd' immunity. We're talking about a timeline of several weeks, at least, for the development of antibodies. That's why the Italian findings are important, since the infection arrived in Italy quite early on.

However, keep that distinction between IgM and IgG antibodies in mind, because that's what States addresses. And what he says goes very much against the notion that has been irresponsibly propagated that 'herd' immunity is a thing that happens more or less inevitably. In fact, "lots of people don't develop much of an IgM response," and much like antibodies produced against the common cold (a human - as opposed to a bat - coronavirus), IgG antibodies against SARSCOV2 fade after about 2 months:

David States
There’s a nice preprint just out on antibody responses to SARSCOV2. Lots of people don’t develop much of an IgM response and the IgG response fades noticeably after just two months 2/
3:41 PM · Apr 21, 2020

And just to be sure you don't miss what he's saying, States rubs it in a bit:

David States
Replying to @statesdj 
This is consistent with the other human coronaviruses. They induce an immune response, but it tends to fade so the same virus can reinfect us a year or two later. 3/

Human Coronavirus: Host-Pathogen Interaction
Human coronavirus (HCoV) infection causes respiratory diseases with mild to severe outcomes. In the last 15 years, we have witnessed the emergence of two zoonotic, highly pathogenic HCoVs: severe... 
3:41 PM - Apr 21, 2020

That's distinctly bad news for those pinning their hopes on a rapid development of 'herd' immunity, with minimal mortality in the process.


States uses that information to make a prediction about vaccine development. We keep hearing people asking, Hey, scientists, roll out that vaccine already! Remember the HIV vaccine? The Ebola vaccine? No? Vaccines are by no means easy to develop, and in the case of coronaviruses I have read (sorry, nor ref.) that there has never been a vaccine developed for a coronavirus. Which explains why we don't get a vaccine for the common cold, which does, after all, lead to the deaths of many older people. So, in that context, and bearing in mind the fact the information about antibody development, States warns:

David States
If you’re hoping a vaccine is going to be a knight in shining armor saving the day, you may be in for a disappointment. SARSCOV2 is a highly contagious virus. A vaccine will need to induce durable high level immunity, but coronaviruses often don’t  induce that kind of immunity 1/
3:40 PM - Apr 21, 2020

So, if development of 'herd' immunity was Plan A, and development of a vaccine was Plan B, uh, maybe you need to be thinking about a Plan C. Hey, I've got that plan, but it's not scientifically endorsed.

Excess Mortality

Finally, there's the matter of excess mortality. In the US a lot of people claim that the government is inflating Covid19 mortality. In other countries, however, the claim is that mortality reporting is being deliberately depressed. For example, just last week I was reading a report from Sweden. There, for a death to be listed as due to Covid19 there must be an actual positive test result. Problem is, Sweden is testing at half the rate that the US is testing, and maybe a third or less the rate as the other Scandinavian countries. Doctors at Swedish nursing homes are complaining that they're being pressured to NOT do tests. But a comparison of year to year data shows that the raw mortality figures in Sweden in spiked beginning in March and have been running at 25-50% hire than a year ago. Hmmm.

So with these controversies going on, some smart aleck at the Financial Times came up with the bright idea of running a comparison of mortality numbers for lots of countries, using a basket of previous years and comparing that basket to what's currently going on, death wise. The conclusions are summarized at Zerohedge: Coronavirus Deaths Likely 60% Higher Than Official Numbers Reflect, FT Finds. The claim is that deaths have been underreported to the tune of 122K dead people not counted as Covid19 fatalities. The only country not to show this sort of reporting discrepancy was Denmark:

The death toll from coronavirus may be almost 60 per cent higher than reported in official counts, according to an FT analysis of overall fatalities during the pandemic in 14 countries. Mortality statistics show 122,000 deaths in excess of normal levels across these locations, considerably higher than the 77,000 official Covid-19 deaths reported for the same places and time periods. If the same level of underreporting observed in these countries was happening worldwide, the global Covid-19 death toll would rise from the current official total of 201,000 to as high as 318,000.

There's lots more at the link, but here are two graphs to give an idea of what's happening:

Notice that the US isn't included. But there's a second graph that includes NYC--which is a total disaster compared to basically everywhere else in the US:

In light of this, it's worth quoting from the conclusion at Zerohedge, if for no other reason than to show how optimistic my "narrative" actually is:

Bloomberg on Sunday reported that the number of severe respiratory infections reported in Mexico over the past two months, coinciding with the end of flu season, were up more than 50% compared with last year. Experts working for the Mexican government quietly told Bloomberg that the increase is likely 100% attributable to the virus. 
To be sure, the FT doesn't question the general trends displayed in global data - well, at least not in developed countries like the US and Italy. But it's just the latest reminder that armchair experts claiming that the true mortality rate for the virus is actually a small fraction of a percent are likely also gravely underestimating the total number of deaths that have gone underreported.

This just means that the grainy videos released by brave Wuhanese during the early days of the outbreak remain the most reliable indicators of what the novel coronavirus is capable of if left unchecked. 
Though they've been wiped from the Chinese Internet, millions around the world witnessed the videos of dead bodies of the elderly in the streets, hospital hallways packed with the doomed, pandemonium, chaos - and Party officials firing up the crematorium out back.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

About Those Antibody Tests--And Immunity

So, instead of Buzzfeed or a blog, I turn now to Scientific American. Actually this relatively brief article appeared on April 10. It explains succinctly what the limits to these tests are and no one should be relying on them for much of anything, in terms of policy recommendations. 

What Immunity to COVID-19 Really Means 
The presence of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus could provide some protection, but scientists need more data
Unlike diagnostic tests, which are used to confirm the presence and sometimes load, or amount, of the virus, antibody tests help determine whether or not someone was previously infected—even if that person never showed symptoms. Widespread use of such assays could give scientists greater insight into how deadly the virus is and how widely it has spread throughout the population. 
It is less clear what those antibody tests mean for real life, however, because immunity functions on a continuum. With some pathogens, such as the varicella-zoster virus (which causes chicken pox), infection confers near-universal, long-lasting resistance. Natural infection with Clostridium tetani, the bacterium that causes tetanus, on the other hand, offers no protection—and even people getting vaccinated for it require regular booster shots. On the extreme end of this spectrum, individuals infected with HIV often have large amounts of antibodies that do nothing to prevent or clear the disease. 
At this early stage of understanding the new coronavirus, it is unclear where COVID-19 falls on the immunity spectrum. Although most people with SARS-CoV-2 seem to produce antibodies, “we simply don’t know yet what it takes to be effectively protected from this infection,” says Dawn Bowdish, a professor of pathology and molecular medicine and Canada Research Chair in Aging and Immunity at McMaster University in Ontario. Researchers are scrambling to answer two questions: How long do SARS-CoV-2 antibodies stick around? And do they protect against reinfection? 
Early on, some people—most notably U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson (who has the virus and is currently in intensive care) and his government’s scientific adviser Patrick Vallance—touted hopes that herd immunity could be an eventual means for ending the pandemic. And although it appears that recovered COVID-19 patients have antibodies for at least two weeks, long-term data are still lacking. So many scientists are looking to other coronaviruses for answers.

So, the bottom line is ... that there really isn't a bottom line right now. All that shouting about 'herd' immunity? Perhaps this article helps explain why so many public health people were warning against that as a 'policy.' With a 'novel' virus it's more of a crap shoot. There's a reason why there's no vaccine for the common cold.

The Miami-Dade Test Results--And "My" Narrative

I'm taking the unusual step of pasting in a large portion of an article from the Miami Herald that provides the results of a serological (antibody) survey conducted in Miami-Dade County. I'm prefacing those excerpts with an attempt at a more systematic expression of my own views, or "narrative", as I've expressed them over the last few months.

My view has always been that, while the SARS-CoV-2 virus is almost certainly more dangerous than most seasonal flu (the deadliness of which varies with the season from year to year) once the disease is established in a person, whatever degree of deadliness it possesses will be mitigated by its lesser degree of virulence. Meaning, it is not transmitted as readily as are most strains of the flu. That view is not a result of my own insights, but rather expresses the early findings of scientists who have studied this virus. It also expresses my own seat of the pants view that the "human geography" of the US is different enough to provide a degree of protection when combined with the somewhat later appearance of the virus in the US.

And that means, in turn, two things--one good, and the other somewhat, well, mitigated:

1. We should not expect, contrary to what the "modelers" have presumed, that the virus to spread across the land like wildfire, and

2. On the other hand, contrary to what the "deniers" have maintained, the prevalence of the virus is very unlikely to reach rates anywhere near what is needed to establish a meaningful degree of 'herd' immunity.

I have also in the past featured articles that stress that the "dose" of the virus makes a difference. In other words, the vast majority of people are not going to develop the Covid19 disease just because they caught a whiff of the virus. The virus may be present, but the person will not develop the disease.

Old people in nursing homes and others who also have compromised immune systems, will be the most vulnerable in such a situation. Especially in nursing homes the inmates are being held in an artificially concentrated environment. Not only are they more inherently vulnerable, but they are more likely to receive a more direct and concentrated 'dose'. While you might think that cruise ships approximate that same situation, the different results on cruise ships point to significant differences. The population on cruise ships has been pre-screened for health and has usually been vaccinated for many diseases that might otherwise weaken their immune systems. They also have access to ample amounts of fresh air and sunlight.

In my view, the recent studies on the prevalence of the virus confirm my view. However, most of those studies have been pursuing what I regard as a wrongheaded approach. That approach is to maximise the instances of viral infection, no matter how minor, in order to minimize the "death rate." This is seriously misleading, because the tests that detect the presence of antibodies tell us little or nothing about the degree of immunity achieved (if any) or about how long any immunity will last--in the case of the common cold, another coronavirus, that immunity lasts for only about 2 months. Please note this, because it will be discussed in the the article below.

This misguided focus on "rates"--misguided, also, because bound to be an incomplete picture at this point--is not helpful in establishing policies that will both safeguard public health as well as enable the maximum of social and economic activity. Obviously I'm not enough of a specialist to present a coherent policy approach, but I do believe that the more common sense, not so statistical, view I've outlined offers a better starting point for discussion that could lead in a constructive direction, policy-wise.

Focusing on rates obscures the fact--which I have tried to draw attention to--that relatively simple precautionary measures, some of which were widely derided (inexpensive masks, gloves, common sense distancing, senior hour shopping, etc.), could be translated into measures applicable to high traffic, high density areas, such as public transportation and grocery stores. Many of those measures may still be highly advisable. The focus on rates and stats divorced from common sense understandings of the real suffering involved simply detracts from constructive discussion.

A final caution. I'm convinced that the evidence that this virus was engineered in a lab is strong. Given that dynamic--that the original bat virus was almost certainly modified to make it transmissible by humans and also to cause it to hide from the human immune system (which it does)--and the fact that viruses mutate rapidly, we do need to exercise caution. We simply don't know what direction this virus could take.

If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but I'm not hiding my position--this post can be taken as a base line for my views. So ...

I think you'll see why I like this article. The authors of the study are open about their methods. They're open about the limits of their study--in fact, they draw attention to them. They don't try to obfuscate their results with statistical noise, and they didn't signal their desired results beforehand.