TWiV 617: Coronavirus Times

May 24, 2020

Daniel Griffin provides a clinical update on COVID-19, then we review TETRIS by Paterson NJ, modeling the effects of intervention in the US on cases and deaths, mixing PCR and serology data, and much more, including listener email.

Hosts: Vincent Racaniello, Dickson Despommier, Alan Dove, Rich Condit, Kathy Spindler and Brianne Barker

Guest: Daniel Griffin

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Intro music is by Ronald Jenkees.

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12 comments on “TWiV 617: Coronavirus Times

  1. Christian Schroeppel, Germany May 24, 2020

    I fully share your suspicions about any institution controlled by the current U.S. administration. The PCR/antibody test reporting situation however, may not be as bad as it looked like a few days ago – Texas has apparently removed antibody tests from the denominator of their positive test percentage calculation.

  2. Steven Bachenheimer May 24, 2020

    Churchill quote after the defeat of Rommel by British forces in North Africa.

  3. Stanislav May 24, 2020

    On the topic of block testing, Osmosis did a fascinating video about it a month ago:

    They seem very enthusiastic about it and say it’s a great way to increase testing capacity without much extra cost. They specifically claim there is no decrease in sensitivity.

    In their example they show how a population of 100 that has 1 infected member can be effectively screened using only 17 tests. Of course, block testing only makes sense in situations where you expect more negatives than positives.

    My background being computer science, I quite like this approach, as it is a very algorithmic way of doing things.

  4. Loved this episode, as always.

    Alan said he thought most anti-vaccine people wouldn’t be so firm in their stance in the face of this pandemic. I wish I could believe that. Here in the Pacific Northwest, at least, we have a vocal contingent (not small) who are *very* against all vaccines but this one in particular.

    The general view seems to be some combination of the following: Bill Gates wants to track us/kill us/turn us into the Borg; no one needs a vaccine — we just need vitamins C & D (in fact, we didn’t even need the polio vaccine; all anyone needed was vitamin C); vaccines are filled with aluminum and other ingredients that can kill you; COVID is a made-up disease to push a “vaccine agenda” and make money.

    A lot of these people also refuse to wear masks, either because they don’t believe COVID is real or they think we need everyone to get COVID now so we can reach herd immunity without a vaccine. (Think chicken pox parties, like Alan mentioned.)

    Finding a viable vaccine is the first hurdle. Convincing this vocal group to get it is the second. I wonder what percentage of Americans can forego the vaccine and still allow us to reach herd immunity. Because I really do think the anti-vax contingency is going to rail against this vaccine.

  5. Karen May 25, 2020

    Thought this short current affairs TV story might be of interest (ABC Australia). Some Covid-19 cases have symptoms extending into months after infection, some still testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. Also a study on post viral fatigue syndrome from Covid-19.

  6. Please please comment on the following. The globe and mail is highly regarded in Canada yet this article discourages widespread testing due to imperfect tests, ie sensitivity and specificity. Canada’s Largest provinces of Ontario and Quebec are not managing to flatten their curves due to unclear and unhelpful messaging. Is this yet another example of this? Help!

  7. Glenn May 26, 2020

    Hi TWIVER’s,
    Listening to Daniels’ update and discussion of woman with recurrent onset of symptoms and subsequent positive PCR ….With all that “we” DON’T know about this virus, particularly durable immunity….how can we be certain it isn’t a re-infection ?

  8. Dallas Weaver Ph.D. May 26, 2020

    A quick question.

    As SARS-CoV-2 is now common around the world and we have thousands of unanswered questions about the details of the transmission mechanisms that can’t be answered without being able to tell the difference between non-viable and viable virus particles. Would it make sense to change the BSL-3 requirement for culture to BSL-2 standard so we can answer even simple questions like “is a 2 mo old case that is PCR positive a real carrier and possible source”?

    As this virus is inactivated at 60ºC (30 minutes) and even from high titer sources ( > 9 log) at < 80ºC (CDC's number), a toaster oven in a hood could inactivate any assay cultures. This would allow all BSL-2 facilities to speed up transmission studies.

  9. Kim Fyfe May 27, 2020

    I have been hearing about the BCG vaccination issue for a while now, but after this most recent podcast I thought I might offer some comments. Between 1949 and 1974, Quebec had a province-wide BCG vaccination program, offering free but non-mandatory vaccination for newborns and schoolchildren up to grade 11. The vaccination registry contains about 4 million entries. Today in Quebec we have 62% of the deaths in Canada (4,139 out of 6,671 at May 27th), and over half of the cases, despite having only 22% of the population. 81% of Quebec’s deaths are in seniors residences and long-term care homes, where it could be expected that a reasonably large number of the residents were vaccinated with BCG as children. Although the two data sets (BCG & deaths) have not been cross-correlated as far as I know, it does suggest that BCG is not providing any benefit against SARS-CoV-2 infection for the elderly in Quebec, at least not those living in care facilities. In closing let me thank you so much for the work you do on TWIV and the other microbeTV podcasts. I am a natural product chemist, now retired, and early on was extremely frustrated with the mass media coverage of the pandemic. I now get my news from the TWIV podcasts, have watched Dr. Racaniello’s virology course (2020 version, so fascinating to watch the pandemic unfolding over the lecture period), and have since picked up YouTube lectures on introductory microbiology. I have learned so much. Thanks again.