Wherein Lies the Truth ?
As we follow the course of this pandemic the real truth about several issues remains elusive. In large part this is because so relatively little is know about this “novel coronavirus.” However, in addition there appear to be elements of misinformation given to us by our scientific leaders either because of their own lack of judgement, inability to understand what was really going on, failure to use sound common sense in dealing with this pandemic, unwillingness to read the signs emanating from China, or perhaps (hopefully not) underlying ulterior motives leading them toward decisions that may not be in the best interests of all.
“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), but at this point in time what is the the truth about this virus and how it is really being managed? So far it seems that we are being led by scientific experts who are sometimes flying by the seat of their pants, sometimes lying to us for one reason or the other, or sometimes doing both while they try to persuade us that they know what is going on and what is best for us. Many of our political leaders do not seem to be much better than their scientific counterparts when it comes to leading this fight against the virus as evidenced by the disjointed and confusing approach that many are taking. Likewise our “TV doctors” often contribute to the confusion by latching on to the “latest scientific study” as a breakthrough development and “gamechanger” when in reality these studies are often poorly done, misinterpreted or just not providing the answers we need. Let’s take a look at some specific examples from around the country that really highlight the confusion we are living with day to day as we deal with this pandemic.
Here are three areas where the truth is hard to find
First, to paraphrase Hamlet “to mask, or not to mask, that is the question.” Initially, we were told that we did not need to wear masks unless we were health care providers taking care of sick patients and that really only N-95 masks would be helpful. Furthermore, we were told that wearing masks would actually be worse than not wearing masks because we would end up touching our faces which was more likely to cause us to acquire the virus. Then we were told that the n-95 masks had to be reserved for the health care workers who would more likely need them than the ordinary citizen. Now we are by told that that any cloth mask would work (really to prevent transmission to others) and that we should use them when we go places where social distancing cannot be maintained. Yet the general public is so confused that people are wearing them when they are driving alone in their cars, and walking or jogging on empty streets. The problem here is that none of this is really based on hard science. It would make sense that wearing a cloth mask would help prevent droplet transmissions from you to another individual with whom you might come into contract. However, if you walk into a room where someone with Covid-19 has just had a sneezing fit a cloth mask is not likely to provide you with much protection from breathing in suspended airborne virus particles in that enclosed space. The problem here once again is that we really don’t have enough accurate information about the characteristics of this virus in terms of inhalational and surface transmission. So an N-95 mask would be the best to protect you from breathing in infected air. A cloth mask would probably not provide much protection to you except for some droplet protection if you are near someone coughing or sneezing. It might provide some protection to someone else if you are the sick one coughing or sneezing by reducing droplet transmission from you. So what do we do? We do the best we can under the circumstances. Use an N-95 in confined spaces like food shopping or pharmacy if you got it. Otherwise use a cloth mask or some other mask, but when you are in open spaces it does not seem to be necessary to use any mask.
Second, next consider the question about where this virus arose. Casting aside the Chinese assertion that the virus was made in the U.S. and brought to China by some U.S. soldiers, we were first told by the authorities in this country and elsewhere that the virus originated in a “wet market” in the city of Wuhan in China where bats were sold, and that the bats were presumably the carriers of the virus and if not the bats than the pangolins that were also sold at the market. Then were were told that the virus did not originate in the wet market but that it was being studied in the Wuhan Institute of Virology and that a worker there accidently acquired it and passed it on to others. An obvious suspicion has been raised by some politicians and people in the media that this virus may have been genetically modified in the Wuhan Virology Laboratory to make it more infectious and virulent. This hypothesis has been denigrated by most scientists who say that this could not be done. They insist that this a natural evolution of this virus. Yet, there are a few scientists who say that this is indeed possible, and that it was in fact done. Not being a geneticist or virologist myself I really cannot weigh in on this except to say that it would seem logical that something of this kind could in fact be done by manipulating the RNA of the virus. Could CRISPR technology or some other technology possibly be used to alter the nucleic acid sequence of an RNA virus? If so, perhaps this coronavirus was indeed modified in the laboratory to become more lethal and infectious. One has to ask the question why this virus, which presumably originated in bats living in caves in the Yunnan province of China many miles to the southwest of Wuhan, suddenly became a horrible pathogen in Wuhan when the there was no preceding epidemic amongst people living in the Yunnan Province in close proximity to the bat caves. This casts some doubt on the idea that this was a “spontaneous evolution” that occurred in this coronavirus because it would be logical to have seen evidence of a widespread infection in the Yunnan province where the bat caves are located before the infection spread in Wuhan City in Hubei Province. This was simply not the case. So we are left again wondering whether this virus was modified or somehow engineered in the lab at Wuhan.
Third, what is the real story behind hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin? At the beginning of this pandemic there were a flurry of reports about the effectiveness of this combination of drugs in treating Covid-19. Now the enthusiasm seems to have waned because of reports of some toxicity and lack of effectiveness when the data was looked at more closely. The chief complaint regarding the latter centered around the lack of large well controlled, randomized clinical trials. None the less it is hard to discount the large number of anecdotal reports and studies, which as flawed as they may be, purport to show the effectiveness of these drugs in patients with Covid-19. It is likely that the final word on treatment is not yet in as far as these drugs may be concerned. Remdesivir has now stolen the spotlight, yet it is generally acknowledged that this drug is not a “blockbuster” in the fight against SARS-CoV-2. Many other drugs are being evaluated about which we hear relatively little, but in the meantime Gilead Sciences will make a fortune. It also makes one wonder whether anyone on the task force has connections to and an interest in Gilead.
More to come….