COVID19 update, July 1, 2020: skipping phase 3 trial, China vaccinates entire army; Hong Kong loses autonomy; Israeli volunteer for “vaccine challenge trial”; how to recondition N95 masks

(1) I had somehow missed this bombshell: China skipped the Phase 3 clinical trial for its vaccine altogether and is now vaccinating its entire “People’s Liberation Army”, reports the Daily Telegraph. Dr. Campbell comments in his daily update. Epoch Times commentator Joshua Philipp (at 4:00 into the video) notes that, in parallel, it will be tested on 9,000 volunteers in Brazil: if these trials are successful, the vaccine will be manufactured in Sao Paulo and distributed free of charge. Free? Timeo DanaosSinos et dona ferentes. Keep watching for some insight on ChiCom influence operations in Brazil from, admittedly, a stridently anti-CCP commentator.

(2) While everybody was preoccupied with COVID19 and with the US riots, China’s sham parliament rubber-stamped the extension of China’s national security law to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, de facto (if not de jure) abrogating the “One Country, Two Systems” agreement. The UK is extending an offer of residence, with a path to citizenship, to the 3 million Hong Kongers with “British National Overseas” status.

(3) “Infect me”. The Times of Israel has an interview with Keren P., a US-born army veteran who just graduated as a mechanical engineer from the Technion. She is one of 61 Israelis who have volunteered to be “guinea pigs” in a vaccine challenge trial through the 1daysooner nonprofit. In a “challenge trial”, people are first vaccinated, then deliberately exposed to the pathogen under controlled circumstances.

(4) Following the sharp rise in new infections in Israel, the relevant Knesset committee has greenlighted the renewal of “track and trace” by Israel’s domestic security service, the Shin Bet.

(5) Can you recondition an N95 mask? An article in ACS Nano studies the question experimentally.

Quoting from the abstract:

We investigated multiple commonly used disinfection schemes on media with particle filtration efficiency of 95%. Heating was recently found to inactivate the virus in solution within 5 min at 70 °C and is among the most scalable, user-friendly methods for viral disinfection. We found that heat (≤85 °C) under various humidities (≤100% relative humidity, RH) was the most promising, nondestructive method for the preservation of filtration properties in meltblown fabrics as well as N95-grade respirators. At 85 °C, 30% RH, we were able to perform 50 cycles of heat treatment without significant changes in the filtration efficiency. At low humidity or dry conditions, temperatures up to 100 °C were not found to alter the filtration efficiency significantly within 20 cycles of treatment. Ultraviolet (UV) irradiation was a secondary choice, which was able to withstand 10 cycles of treatment and showed small degradation by 20 cycles. However, UV can potentially impact the material strength and subsequent sealing of respirators. Finally, treatments involving liquids and vapors require caution, as steam, alcohol, and household bleach all may lead to degradation of the filtration efficiency, leaving the user vulnerable to the viral aerosols.

ADDENDUM: CovidAGE risk calculator by Sanford Health (via Dr. Seheult)

COVID19 update, May 31, 2020: which patients benefit most from Remdesivir; asymptomatic infection rate; the post-lockdown economy; miscellaneous updates

(1) Dr. Seheult discusses remdesivir for different categories of patients, and suggests that the drug is most beneficial (in terms of quicker recovery) for patients sick enough to require oxygen, but not so sick as to require mechanical ventilation or ECMOs (“heart-lung machines”). In this latter group, the virus has already done so much damage that remdesivir amounts to “closing the barn door after the horses have fled”, while mild cases will resolve on their own.

The conventional division of patients is (averaged across age groups):

  • 80% self-limiting, self-resolving disease
  • 15% get more severely ill
  • 5% critically ill

So it would be the 15% where the drug can make most of the difference, probably by keeping patients from moving into the 5% critical group. 

(2) Dr. John Campbell’s video looks at the asymptomatic infection rate, which he frustratingly places “between 5% and 80%”, and briefly highlights different studies that arrive at wildly different rates. My working assumption all along has been “about 50%”. 

(3) The Economist has a somewhat pessimistic take on the post-lockdown economy. Note that at least some of the economic effects of the pandemic are also felt in countries that never locked down, like Sweden.

Relatedly, Die Welt (in German) looks at how in reopened Germany, spending habits have changed to the extent that some retailers say they don’t see the point of reopening. The main shopping streets have seen foot traffic dwindle by 30 to 75% (Berlin’s famous Kurfürstendamm was hardest hit). Stores with an online presence, who kept in touch with customers during the crisis, have weathered the storm better, while some with a primarily online business model have seen revenue rise (including a new online grocery shopping chain).

(3) Miscellaneous updates:

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines now moves into Phase 2 clinical trials, reports the Jerusalem Post, who also note that the chief scientific officer of Moderna is an expat Israeli. (Like in information technology, tiny Israel punches well above its weight in biotech.)

Forbes highlights what it calls the most important COVID-19 statistic: 42% of US deaths occur in a group that is just 0.6% pf the US population, namely care home residents.

Oddly enough: Monkeys steal COVID-19 testing samples in India. 

Tangentially related, the Daily Telegraph looks at what awaits Hong Kong under full ChiCom rule. The UK has offered asylum to Hong Kongers who still hold BNO (British National Overseas) passports. (This unusual type of passport does not come with automatic “right of abode” in the UK.)