Keeping up with Covid (& its bad brokers)
22 December 2021
NOOSA - I guess there are other people like me who no longer accept at face value the day’s official download of Covid information.
Too many of these ‘officials’ are Covid brokers – they have skin in the game.
Politicians whose ideology attracts them to prioritise commerce over health.
Research scientists trying to cosy up to ministers who may nudge the next contract their way.
Journalists willing to exchange prime ministerial spin for an exclusive.
Over the course of last year I’ve found myself increasingly checking with other sources whether what we were being told - about Covid, vaccines, hesitancy, hospitalisation, protective gear, treatments, lockdowns, mental health - aligned with global expertise.
These sources include great medical institutions like the US Centers for Disease Control, eminent scientists such as Dr Anthony Fauci and leading journals like the UK medical bible, The Lancet.
All readily accessible on the internet.
I quickly realised that this practice, known as research, was a smart thing to do.
And by comparing authoritative voices from the greatest scientific institutions on Earth with their peers in Australia, I soon worked out who were the most credible scientists, journalists and other interlocutors in my own land.
By a process of elimination, the weeds could be pulled out by the roots. I knew who were the compromised reporters and crap epidemiologists. I was dismayed to find there were many of both.
So each day for nearly two years I’ve spent an hour or so reading the good stuff and sieving through spin, half-truth and downright lies - mostly from right wing politicians and media but also from a number of professed scientists and health experts.
I have detected some fine collusion between a few ABC broadcasters and a number of second rate epidemiologists who kept trying to demonstrate that Covid wasn’t really so bad and stern measures were not really necessary.
These people were still at it last week but I’ve observed some strenuous bottom covering behaviour among them since, presumably as they begin to realise that the callow fool, NSW premier Perrotet, is about to drive the bus over a cliff.
There will be hundreds of books and theses and movies produced in future about the Great Australian Plague and, in the course of their creation many reputations will be diminished and some destroyed.
I hope that now the mote is being torn from a lot of eyes, we might see less of those politicians and their creepy cronies pushing lines about ‘mild’ Omicron and how the best way of coming to grips with this serious disease is to get a grip of yourself.
I hope the cynical efforts to sucker folks will cease. Efforts like telling us we don’t really want to know the daily casualty list, or how many sick people have been sent home to suffer, or promoting the vital booster to people who are told in the next breath they cannot get it for months.
I’ll be relieved when I’m no longer bombarded by cherry-picked information about what’s happening overseas when I know lies are being told and half-truths are being spun.
I’ll certainly be happy to put behind me the bare-faced lies of professors who, when every comparable country hits people with a booster after three months, tell us that five months is the go either because (a) anything less could be ‘unsafe’ and (b) just not tellin’.
Like many other folks, I’ve worked out the real answer is that the Morrison government has under ordered again.
Now, courtesy of the current NSW dominant premier parrot, we have this preposterous version of “indiwidual wesponsibility”, a gormless try-on to get him off the hook for e-w-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g, including dumping the most elementary and convenient precaution of wearing a mask.
I gave up wearing ties two decades ago when I couldn’t find one that would fit around my neck without an extender. But I’ve compliantly worn a mask every time I’ve slept for the last 20 years.
This mask and an accompanying tube convey a strong and continuous stream of air up my nose and down my throat. Generated by a bedside pump, the airflow keeps my respiratory system open because when I sleep I stop breathing.
Meanwhile Nervy Nellies and Fraid Ferdies find a simple medical mask protecting them from a virus to be a focal point for revulsion. They shout that it takes away their ‘freedom’.
What poor sad sacks. One of them was the last premier of NSW.
A small deviation here. Swedish mathematician Mikael Wejdemo-Johansson and his research team recently worked out how many different ways there are to knot a necktie.
The result: no less than 177,147.
Anyway, technical issues aside, back to Covid.
So I gather information and data on interesting, important or curious matters about Covid. After all, if this plague ends up killing me and my co-morbidities, at least I’ll die fully informed, as a journalist should.
Here’s some interesting stuff I’ve picked up in the last few days. The quotes are all sourced.
A recent study showed that half of people hospitalised with Covid had persistent long Covid symptoms nine months after they left hospital. Patients experienced an average of four or five long Covid symptoms, fatigue and breathlessness the most common - Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Robust data from a post-hospitalisation study show no or minimal improwements in symptom severity 12 months after hospitalisation for acute Covid-19 - Dr Rachael Ewans, clinical associate professor, University of Leicester
The booster is important because it will reduce risk of severe illness, reduce risk of death and reduce risk of transmitting and getting symptomatic disease - Prof Chris Whitty, chief medical officer, England
Patients with early-onset asthma hawe a lower risk of Covid-19 - Prof Caroline Lodge et al, Centre of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Uniwersity of Melbourne
A small study in South Africa has suggested that Omicron may be able to evade the booster. German tourists developed mild to moderate symptoms that did not require hospitalisation. The initial jabs had been Pfizer and AstraZeneca and the boosters were Pfizer and Moderna - Prof Wolfgang Preiser, Division of Medical Virology, Stellenbosch University
Scientists are evaluating safety and efficacy data for three oral drugs for Covid: two new antiviral pills being developed by Merck and Pfizer and an old generic drug for obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression which costs under $10” - Commissioner Janet Woodcock, Food and Drug Administration, USA
A large study of people with no previous memory problems has shown high rates of cognitive dysfunction (also known as brain fog) 12 months after they were treated for Covid.
When tested, 60% had significant problems: 34% had a score consistent with moderate brain injury and 24% a score consistent with mild Alzheimer Disease. The most common problems were with:
processing speed (longer time taken to do a mental task)
executive functioning (slower or more difficulty with in planning, focusing, concentrating, remembering instructions, juggling multiple tasks)
phonemic fluency (difficulties in listing words, e.g., beginning with a specific letter)
category fluency (difficulties in listing words in a category, e.g., animals)
memory encoding (difficulties in getting information into the memory)
memory recall (difficulties in getting information from the past out of the memory)
I found this list of symptoms particularly intriguing as they are precisely tho cognitive problems I experience with ME/CFS.
It is intriguing to witness the growth of knowledge.
None is complete and all will be augmented and changed over time.
It takes us forward. And it does not deserve to be abused by anyone for ulterior motive.
Especially by scientists, politicians and journalists.
The most vivid illustration of Keith's point about the political decision making surrounding Covid 19 is the performance of the NSW Premier.
He made a conscious decision to 'open up' the NSW economy, abandoning mandated masks and social distancing in the process, because of his ideological predisposition to preference the needs of business above those of health.
Consistent with that ideology, he urged residents of NSW to engage in 'adult behaviour' in taking reasonable steps to protect themselves and their families. In short, he shifted responsibility for public safety from the government to individuals.
These decisions took place in the face of clear professional advice from multiple sources that such actions could only result in an exponential increase in Covid 19 cases. This advice was ignored or regarded as alarmist, worst case thinking.
My learned former colleague Professor Adrian Esterman rightly described Perrotet's actions as being based upon 'Alice in Wonderland' thinking and a recipe for disaster.
Today, we have learned that mask mandates, social distancing and crowd limits have been reintroduced in NSW. The reason is simple: the professional advice about the high level of risk involved in Perrotet's previous 'let 'er rip' decision has proven to be accurate.
With well over 5,000 case recorded today it is apparent that Perrotet's folly will have grave consequences. The likelihood of arresting a rapid increase in cases over at least the next few weeks is next to zero.
We also know, as Keith has noted, that there are some inexorable mathematical certainties associated with Covid 19, with a clear relationship between total case numbers and the related need for hospitalisations. Once people are in hospital we know that the mathematics of the disease will ensure that a predictable number of them will end up on ventilators and an equally predictable number will die or, if they recover, be stricken with 'Long Covid'.
The long term implications of the latter are simply unknown at the moment.
Perrotet, along with his Federal confederates, is now desperately trying to put an optimistic spin on all this. They are loudly claiming that Omicron is not a lethal as Delta and consequently, that hospitalisations will remain stable.
There is, so far as I know, no definitive data to support either of these claims. They are, in practice, mostly spin or wishful thinking.
In a pandemic involving a novel virus, optimism about the likely spread and lethality of the disease is a dangerous folly. If the optimistic predictions prove false, then the result will be that the impact of the disease will be much worse than it need otherwise have been.
Thanks to Dominic Perrotet this is exactly where NSW is at the moment. Compounding the problem has been the relentless spruiking about the need to open up coming from the Prime Minister and others in his government.
This has been reflective of 'magical thinking', not reference to the facts in so far as these are known.
Eventually, I hope that the Great Australian Public wakes up to just how seriously wrong Morrison, Berejiklian, Perrotet and their fellow travellers have been at almost every point in this pandemic.
We are so used to their back tracking on bad decisions that some people may erroneously assume that this is an artefact of the pandemic itself rather than the poor judgement, ineptitude and folly of specific politicians.
Gratifyingly, it seems that the 'Alice in Wonderland' thinking seen in the Federal and NSW governments has been absent in the other states and territories.
In my own state of SA, which has a Liberal government, the Premier and his team have generally stayed highly focussed on public safety even though this has probably cost them support in the business community. It is a similar story in WA, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT and the NT where, irrespective of political colour, the politicians have preferred to listen to facts and exhibit sensible caution.
For our hapless friends in PNG, there has been a spectacular level of ignorance and folly on display from their government. Whatever words they may have uttered the abject failure to act to protect public health has been both shameful and disastrous.
In the absence of unbiased, rational and sensible political decision making and guidance, we will all be well advised to follows Keith's lead and do the research required to find credible local and international sources for information.
Posted by: Chris Overland | 23 December 2021 at 08:47 PM
Pandemics and upcoming elections don't mix:
Posted by: Philip Fitzpatrick | 23 December 2021 at 06:26 PM
Mohammed Salah has gone down with Covid but the VAR indicates nobody touched him.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 23 December 2021 at 04:37 PM
I briefly caught ScoMo's egocentric address to the nation yesterday until I found the remote control.
I would prefer listening to our harridan Attorney-General, provided I was supplied with suitable hearing protection.
It was embarrassing and devoid of any collective coherence, abductive reasoning, discernment or ecoliteracy and placed an inordinate emphasis on structuralism and behaviourism.
Even Jacqui Lambie has much more integrity.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 23 December 2021 at 10:42 AM
Being among people who live (and thrive) by wearing a mask as you describe, I am pleased at seeing you bring this into view. Thank you.
Humanity is but a species that currently survives by optimizing customs.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 22 December 2021 at 08:51 PM