Where to get reliable Covid science information – resources I use

There is lots of news about COVID-19, especially new therapeutics or vaccines. But I always check out what I hear at the resources below. I use resources for both the general public and for scientists. Where to get reliable Covid science information is very important. Updated 10-20-20

What I include in this blog

Below are the resources I use regularly in this blog, and consider the most reliable, including fact checking. They are links for the general public and are not too technical.

All my writing and speaking has always been NPA: No Politics Allowed. Some of the references have occasional “political” discussions in the material. You can just not listen or scroll past those comments.

Since I am a scientist, I look for the technical side of what is happening. I want to know the source so I can check it out. For example, a common question from my friends is can you get infected twice. I finally found the primary source at that time: a study in South Korea, which I referenced in my blog.

I sometimes reference technical science information, especially to the original study or data. I always read them myself before including a link.  

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Covid Safety Tips When appraising apartments and non-residential buildings

Apartment Risks

All types of properties have Covid risks inside. To me, 2-4 unit properties are the most difficult apartments to appraise, due to different types of buyers (owners, investors, etc.). They can also be more tricky to inspect and keep safe from Covid. Larger properties focus on income.

I have appraised many apartment properties, from duplexes to hundreds of units. From converted Victorians to new construction. The fewer the units, the more difficult the appraisals, for appraising and sometimes risk, such as all the units have a different floor plan or a converted Victorian with difficult to measure unit locations.

Face Masks: You and every occupant must have a face mask. Bring extras, such as inexpensive disposable or re-usable cloth masks which you can re-wash. Your PPE: The usual: mask, gloves, etc. Do not re-use masks at another property. Hand sanitizer in car. Gown for apartments with lots of personal belongings.

Minimize the risk of going into the units – time, unit selection, etc.

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The “Big Picture” of How to get Covid-19 testing for everyone: where and when we need it (Video and full transcript) 9-7-20

Dr. Atul Gawande

9-7-20 7 minutes. PBS NewsHour. “As summer comes to a close, the United States is averaging about 830 coronavirus deaths per day, along with tens of thousands of new cases. Although testing for the virus has improved, problems with access and obtaining expedient results persist. But Dr. Atul Gawande of Brigham and Women’s Hospital has a plan for how testing can be improved.”

Topics discussed include
Assurance testing, similar to what the NBA is doing. Assure that we can live together and work together
More approved labs needed. Now we have 4 big labs that do most of the testing. But many more labs are capable of testing but can’t get approved.
Insurance payments are complicated.

Click here to watch

My Opinion

Continue reading “The “Big Picture” of How to get Covid-19 testing for everyone: where and when we need it (Video and full transcript) 9-7-20″

How the death rate is determined in a pandemic

My next-door neighbor died in his sleep awhile ago. The day before he was pruning his fruit trees. He had died in his bed. He was over 75 and had heart problems. We called the police. No investigation. No autopsy. His death was recorded in public records as a heart attack.

But when pandemics are surging, such as in New York and Italy, people die in their homes or on the way to the hospital. Hospitals were overwhelmed. We did not know much then about Covid-19. Sometimes deaths were not recorded as due to Covid-19.

There have been issues in the past about how the cause of death is estimated. For example, suicide, which many families don’t want recorded. Or AIDS, when the epidemic was very strong. In some rural areas, for example, the coroner is not a physician and maybe a funeral director or other occupation. For Covid, people who died tended to have serious pre-existing conditions, which can make selecting one specific cause of death difficult.

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Who gets the vaccine first? Discussion Draft Released with 4 Phases 9-1-20

When we hear about vaccines one of our first questions is “Who will get it first?There are many, many issues. This Discussion Draft will give everyone somewhere to start in trying to decide who gets it. 4 Phases of distribution are proposed. See below.

Update 10-15-20 New report, Framework for Equitable Allocation of a COVID-19 Vaccine, done by the same committee, with lots more detail, dated 10-2-20 Click here to read.

“Discussion Draft of the Preliminary Framework for Equitable Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccine” was released on September 1.

Table of the 4 Phases
Scroll down to read more details

FOR A MUCH LARGER IMAGE, RIGHT CLICK TO OPEN IN A NEW TAB.

The committee’s final report is expected early this fall, after input from the public and other interested parties.

There are many uncertainties affecting COVID-19 vaccine allocation, such as the number and timing of available vaccine doses, number of available vaccine types, vaccine efficacy and safety, vaccine uptake, and vaccine distribution and administration.

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Dr. Fauci is Back! Comments on deaths, schools, asymptomatic testing, etc. (VIDEO) 9-1-20

The interview is 5 min. 39 seconds. on 9-1-20 His “raspy” voice is gone (from too many interviews). Fauci took two weeks off to get vocal cord polyps removed.

Very good short interview. To watch the video, click here. 30-second of ads but worth waiting for the video. The transcript link is below the video on the right. The related extras link below goes to another recent Fauci interview.

Why does Fauci do so many interviews on Instagram, Facebook live, etc.?

Everyone wants to interview Dr.Fauci! But, his interviews have to be approved. They were restricted. Interviews on major news stations started declining significantly in early May.

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Physical distancing – 3 ft. vs. 6 ft. vs. 13 ft. vs. ??? – new research

We know now that airborne small particles are emitted whenever we breathe, speak, etc. We don’t have much data about how much, if any, Covid viruses are included in the airborne particles. There are many factors: outside vs. inside, crowded small rooms, etc. We know that measles can travel through the air (distances vary) and particles can remain in the air for several hours or longer.

Studies regularly cited are observational (for example, choir practice in a small room and many were infected) or airflow patterns in research labs. Fluid dynamic studies spraying particles to see how far they go. But there is no information about how far viruses can travel in the air. An air sampling study published in late July in hospitals found that Covid was in the air particles in nearby rooms. In hospitals, Covid travels through the air, but the people are very sick and exhaling a lot of air.

Video image of cloud of airborne particles (21 to 24 feet) emitted by natural human violent emission such as a sneeze, From The BMJ article referenced below.

The WHO’s original three-foot guideline followed some of the earliest research into how diseases spread. In the 1930s, Harvard researcher William F. Wells measured how far large exhaled droplets traveled and arrived at the three-feet figure. Click the Continue reading link below for more information on the new research study and an excellent Risk Table.

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Coronavirus, Novel Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, Covid-19 What are the definitions?

The new virus was identified as a coronavirus by Chinese scientists in December 2020. The virus was labeled “novel” because it has never infected humans. It has probably been around for some time in animals, possibly bats. Since December, 2020, the terminology has changed. Coronavirus, Novel Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, Covid-19 What are the definitions?

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. Seven coronaviruses can infect people.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. The total number of coronaviruses is not known. Bats can host thousands of types without getting sick.

Coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and make people sick and become a new human coronavirus. The virus can cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Three recent examples of this are SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV, (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) and the most recent: SARS-CoV-2

How SARS-CoV-2 was named

This new coronavirus is similar to SARS-CoV. The virus was named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses on February 11. It was discovered in 2019.

The disease caused by the virus was named COVID-19 (COronVIrusDisease-2019) by WHO on Feb. 11.

For more information on SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV see the August 23 post below: Previous epidemics and pandemics https://covidscienceblog.com/previous-virus-epidemics-and-pandemics/

Preprint vs. peer-reviewed scientific research papers. What is the difference?

Before the pandemic, academic researchers submitted their research to scientific journals and their peers reviewed them. To get ahead in their careers “publish or perish” was needed. Few preprint scientific research papers were done They are needed now for the COVID pandemic.

COVID is a pandemic now. People are dying all over the world. Scientists can’t wait to have a study published to find out about new ideas about therapies (treatments), vaccines, Covid and how it works, etc.

What is a preprint?

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1918 Spanish flu documentary (Video)

56 minutes. This fascinating PBS documentary “Influenza 1918” was first available in January, 1998 and was re-issued in March, 2020.

Dr. Fauci, in his “normal” non-raspy voice, speaks several times in the section on what scientists were doing in 1998 and his hopes for the future.

The film takes viewers back to September of 1918, when soldiers at an army base near Boston suddenly began to die. The cause of death was identified as influenza, but it was unlike any strain ever seen.

The film includes interviews from survivors of the flu in different parts of the county. Many people died, including entire families.

There is a  “mystery” story of how the virus genome was finally completed around 1995. It starts with a young Swedish virologist who went to a small Alaskan village in the 1950s and retrieved samples from people who died and buried frozen in the permafrost. To read about the “Mystery” story of how the genome was decoded “Scientific Investigation of the 1918 Flu” click here

50 million deaths worldwide. 675,000 Americans died. The U.S. population at that time was 103,268,000. The death rate was 6.5%. Mass graves were used.

My comments: The film is not about today’s political issues. It was produced in 1998. I watched it in mid-March when it first became available. I recently re-watched it. The film is even more relevant today as it helps us understand our last U.S. pandemic. Similar to New York in March, there were mass graves, many people in hospitals, large crowded events, etc.

Click here watch on youtube Also available on Amazon Prime

Many of the issues in 1918 are relevant today. There was denial, failure to wear masks, crowds, no physical distancing. Of course, back then no one knew what caused it. We did not know about viruses until the electron microscope was invented in the 1930s and we could see them.

To watch another popular video, Deadliest Plague of the 20th Century: Flu of 1918, click here.

Previous epidemics and pandemics from today to 5,000 B.C.

(Updated 9-14-20) Most of the recent pandemic and academic viruses are influenza (flu) coronaviruses, as you can see below. They mutate into different versions. Fortunately, Covid-19 does not appear to mutate very much, so far.

Every epidemiologist’s nightmare was a respiratory virus pandemic. Now we have SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which is similar to the 1918 Spanish flu, our last pandemic.

“The virus met all his four criteria for a nightmare scenario” Per Dr. Anthony Fauci: new, respiratory-borne, easily transmissible and has a significant degree of illness or mortality.”

Electron microscope view

1918 Spanish flu (H1N1 influenza coronavirus) was a “novel” (new) coronavirus. No human had ever been infected. The most recent U.S. pandemic. The avian-borne flu resulted in 500 million infected and 50 million deaths worldwide, from February 1918 to April 1920. 675,000 Americans died. The U.S. population at that time was 103,268,000. The death rate was 6.5%.

The Spanish flu disappeared when most of the infected had either developed immunities or died (herd immunity). Many of the deaths were people in their 20s to 40s, very unusual, which had a significant negative effect on America. Covid mostly affects older people, especially over 80 and has a much lower death rate, .6 to 1.0%. 

1957 Asian flu (H3N2 influenza, combination of other coronaviruses) caused an estimated total of about 1.1 million deaths globally, with 116,000 deaths in the United States. A vaccine was developed, effectively containing the pandemic.

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Why what scientists say about COVID keeps changing

SARS-Cov-19, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, is a new (novel) coronavirus. No human had ever been infected by the virus.

Scientists looked at other recent coronaviruses, such as SARS, MERS, swine flu, and influenza viruses to help them understand COVID-19. Scientists are learning more daily, even hourly.

Scientific research is shared openly and is transparent. For COVID this means new results can change what we understand about it.

Sometimes what was reliable last week may be wrong this week. We will know a lot more in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, etc. But, recommendations had to be made early in the pandemic, based on the viruses we knew about.

Comparing Covid to seasonal influenza (flu)

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SARS-Cov-19, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, is a very efficient virus

Viruses are not alive. Their only reason for existing is to reproduce and spread to as many hosts as possible.

This is a new (novel) type of coronavirus. Humans have no immunity. Every human can be infected. We do not yet know if any of us has “natural” immunity (cannot get infected).

The virus kills a relatively low percentage of people (estimated 0.6% to 1%), compared with Ebola at 50%. With Covid, more people are left alive to infect. It is easily transmitted through the air (respiratory), much more efficient than requiring close physical contact (Ebola), and mostly kills old people, especially over 80. More younger humans are left alive to infect.

About 50% (estimate has varied over time) of people infected with the virus have no symptoms (asymptomatic) and can spread the virus. This is unusual for a virus and greatly increases its ability to expand into many humans. (Note: the percent has changed over time.)

Emerging research suggests that people may actually be most contagious during the 48 hours before they start to experience symptoms. It can take between 1-14 days for COVID symptoms to show up. More time for infected people to spread the virus and infect others.

It “waits” for humans to help it expand by leaving their homes, not using face masks or doing physical distancing, crowding inside rooms with lots of unmasked people and poor ventilation, not washing hands, etc.

If you are infected no one knows if you will be immune or for how long. Some viruses, such as in the seasonal flu, regularly mutate, so humans have relativity short immunity time.

On the plus side, it is a “starter” virus, much less deadly than SARS, with a 10% death rate or Ebola at 40%. It is less contagious than measles, which has very tiny droplets, that can remain suspended in the air for up to two hours after someone with measles has left an area.

Also a plus, COVID has not mutated much in the past 6-7 months, making vaccines easier to work for longer periods of time (assuming this will continue). Flu viruses mutate every year with new vaccines required.

Covid Airborne Transmission Inside Homes (Podcast)

Note from all the experts: We don’t know much yet about how the virus is transmitted.

Podcast (16 minutes) “Open the Window: Talking about Airborne Transmission”

“Can the novel coronavirus be spread through the air? And if so, what can we do to make sure the air inside our homes and buildings is as clean as possible? Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks with Joseph Allen, Director of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, about the science behind airborne transmission.”

A very good, understandable and interesting, discussion by an expert from many angles, focusing on homes. But also discusses schools. Starts with tenement housing many years ago, which often lacked windows, and what was done to provide windows. I see many older apartment buildings, pre-1940, built with small “air vents” in the middle of the building providing ventilation.

On CNN Fact vs. Fiction with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. One of my favorite Covid podcasts. To listen to the Podcast Click here

The Fauci Tracker

When people ask me about the best source of scientific information on Covid, I always say Dr. Fauci. That’s why I started this Fauci Tracker!! He is a very reliable source for the “big picture” including forecasts, but interviews with him can be hard to find. He is an “insider” who is on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, plus does Covid vaccine research in his lab. Fauci explains topics so everyone can understand what is happening now and his forecasts for the future.

In this blog, I post information on Dr. Fauci’s most recent “sightings” on youtube, Facebook live, podcasts, etc. plus written interviews, so you can listen to the full version of what he said. I post the interviews that are well done, with experienced interviewers.

Don’t Mess With Dr. Fauci! 10-18-20

Fauci on his media restrictions, Trump contracting COVID, masks, White House superspreader event, death threats, and more. Don’t Mess With Dr. Fauci!

In a wide-ranging 60 Minutes interview on October 18, 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci expresses his frustration with a Trump campaign ad. He explains why, early in the pandemic, masks were largely recommended for health care workers; and says that he plans to vote in person.

The episode included videos from a previous 60 Minutes interview 4 years ago, including his vaccine lab.

My comments:

I have watched Fauci on video many times. This one was different, as he was very outspoken with his opinions, including discussing Trump. Don’t Mess With Dr. Fauci! In response, of course, Trump had to say mostly incorrect negative comments about Fauci. But, he did say that Fauci was a nice person.

The interview is very personal and includes his wife, who seldom speaks out. He and his wife have had death threats and his adult children have been harassed.

Why is Fauci discussing “politics” after 40 years of a “no-politics” policy? He does not register to vote with any party. Looks like it was the use of a video clip in a Trump ad, taken out of context, implying that he supported what Trump was doing.

To read my full post, click here

Table of contents – Fauci tracker recent posts

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About Ann O’Rourke, the author of this blog

Ann O’Rourke has a science background (college, labs) plus has been a writer and publisher since 1992. I have been a self-employed real estate appraiser since 1986 and have given presentations around the U.S. and Canada about appraisal business issues. I have two appraisal newsletters and have written for many appraisal publications.

My first job after college in 1986 was in a toxicology lab. I worked in other labs plus worked for 5 years at a biotech company.

In both science and appraising, you are trained to be objective and analyze the data. You look for the truth.

I want to provide a reliable source in the blog to help everyone understand what is happening with Covid-19. Every day I spend 2-4 hours learning about Covid, including reading original research studies. I am a writer, not a journalist, and often give my opinion. Both my business and science writing is based on my related education and experience.

I select the articles, podcasts, and videos that are most useful for this blog They have interviewees that are experts and can write or speak well. I always include references to related information and links to the original research papers, when available.

To read more about my science, appraisal, and business backgrounds and, why I started this blog, informations sources I use, and how to contact me, etc. Click “Continue Reading” below.

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