Covid Advice #8 (07/05/2020):
It's Bad this Summer,
Deaths Will Skyrocket this Winter,
What to Do
It's Bad this Summer,
Deaths Will Skyrocket this Winter,
What to Do
- from Dr. Dennis Fong -
IT TRULY IS BAD THIS SUMMER
Isn't that just scaremongering? Why so bad? Haven't deaths dropped way down in June to just half of that in May?
It's so bad because in the summer there shouldn't even be a death rate at all. The death rate for the flu is near zero in the summer, and Covid is built just like the flu, with an outer shell of fat containing its innards (see here on Advice #7). So in the summer even with a few degrees of higher temperature the flu's outer shell melts much more readily, its innards spill out, and it's dead (or "inactivated"). So the flu's spreadability in the summer is pretty low. Now that's what we had expected for Covid, but instead, the death rate in June has only dropped by about half, from 49,000 in May to 23,000 in June, far from zero. Moreover, while flu's case rate also drops to nearly zero in summer, in June Covid's case rate is up, from 748,000 in May up to 844,000 in June. So one thing is for sure: Covid is way, way more spreadable than the flu, and this summer we are not taking enough care to prevent its spread.
But why are deaths down if cases are up? Doesn't it just mean we are testing more, digging up the asymptomatic cases that had always been there, and Covid is not really increasing? And doesn't the lower death rate suggest Covid might actually even be decreasing?
I wish it were true that Covid was decreasing. If Covid cases are up now only because we are testing more and digging up the asymptomatic cases, like they've done in some places in Asia where they test just about anybody and everybody, then the proporation of negative tests should increase. That, however, is not the case. Covid is, unfortunately, really increasing.
Deaths are down because it's the younger, healthier working age people who are now getting it, and they usually don't die; it's the old people who do most of the dying. The shelter-in-place orders have been withdrawn and the younger, healthier working age people are back at work and back in restaurants and bars. Their masks may still be mostly there and they may still be social distancing as much as they can, but they are now going out to be with other people, every day for hours at a time in the case of work. So the younger, healthier working age people are now getting it way more. The old people, on the other hand, are still not going out much and therefore not exposed to other people much. In summer, even though it's the same degree of prevention, the higher temperature will make a big difference to its effectiveness. So, the degree of prevention practiced by the old people now, while it may not be that effective in the coming cold winter, is very effective in the present hot summer. Therefore there are a lot fewer old people catching Covid now and therefore there are a lot fewer deaths.
WHY DEATHS WILL SKYROCKET
So why is this winter going to be so bad?
Answer: First, winter is going to be much colder than spring, and as we said above and here on Advice #7, cold temperatures make Covid much, much more spreadable.
Second and probably much worse is that there will be far more pre-symptompatic and asymptomatic cases around to start the winter off with. These people have Covid and either don't have symptoms yet or won't have symptoms ever, but they are still spreading it, only silently and therefore more dangerously. First, among the younger, healthier working age people who will now have been back at work for a few months, there will be far more pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic silent spreaders than this spring. Second, among the 56 million U.S. school-age children and teenagers who are going back to school in August, who often won't wear masks or practice social distancing and who, far more often than adults, remain asymptomatic when infected, there will be far more child and teenage silent spreaders than this spring when all the schools were closed.
I sure do hope I will prove to be only scaremongering about deaths skyrocketing this winter, but I fear I won't be. Deaths are going to go way up because the degree of prevention that is being advocated, though working well for older people in the summer, will be very inadequate in the winter. And even with far fewer asymptomatic spreaders to start off with, this spring we still had around 50,000 deaths a month in April and May. Put both things together and the death rate can only skyrocket.
VACCINE IS NOT GOING TO BE ENOUGH
But what about the vaccine? Isn't it due to come out end of this year?
Yes if we are lucky it will come out end of this year. The vaccine, however, will at best be only 75% effective and only at most 65% of the US population is willing to get it (Dr. Fauci, presidential national health advisor). Plus it will take at least a couple of months to get the population vaccinated. So it will take until the end of February or the beginning of March to get 65% of the population vaccinated with a 75% effective vaccine, which translates into only a 49% prevention rate. Not enough to stop all those new cases and deaths this winter from having already skyrocketed.
PRACTICE ROBUST SELF-PROTECTION
What do you suggest we do?
I suggest robust self-protection, and many such measures are already listed in my previous 7 pieces of advice on this webpage. I suggest you practice them all. Here today I want to especially talk about 4 measures:
Let's look at these measures one by one.
Why is the suit in your video so good?
Because my suit is based on the "hazmat space suit" idea. After the nurses and doctors who take care of Covid cases switch from wearing operating room outfits to the hazmat space suit there have been no more deaths. While the hazmat space suit has upper and lower body all in one piece and so is hard to take off without contaminating your car or home, my outfit is in 2 pieces and so is far easier to take off without contaminating your car or home. Plus it's cheap and the supply is plentiful. This winter just a mask isn't going to be enough, you will also need head covering and outer clothes, since Covid likes sticking to hair and clothing.
Start wearing my suit now, so you will get used to it and will be able to iron out all the details. Also, your grocery store, pet shop, neighbors and so forth will get used to it. There's one great thing about this country, it's a free country and nobody bothers you. If people stare real hard and long, just wave. And you might even say something like, with a light laugh and maybe even a thumbs up after: "I am doing this for everyone - it protects everyone when I don't get Covid."
If this winter turns out to be anything like what I fear, lots of people might start emulating you, and then you will have saved lives.
Dr. Fong's Covid Suit                                 "Space Suit"
2. Unwrap then Wash Vegetables, Meats and Fish in Soap:
Can't I just wash the plastic wrap around these foods?
No. Covid lives for a whole month on anything refrigerated, and vegetables and meats are refrigerated as soon as they are produced, that is, when the vegetable is harvested, the fish is caught, or the animal is slaughtered. So whatever Covid that gets on the vegetable, fish, or animal at any point in the supply chain to us will still be alive, because it's unlikely to have been a whole month already from the time the last person in the chain touched it. Disinfecting the plastic wrap around the vegetable, fish, or meat does not get to the Covid on the food itself. And you can't quarantine it - it takes a month and the food will spoil first.
In that case, what about freezing it and quarantining it in the freezer? Now that's a really bad idea. If frozen, the food will never be Covid free by the time you need to eat it - coronaviruses live for up to a whole 5 years in the freezer!
So as soon as you bring it home, you need to take the plastic wrap off, wash the food in a tub of soapy warm water, and destroy any Covid before you put the food into your fridge. Otherwise when the food touches your fridge shelves, drawers and walls Covid can get on them and can stay alive for a whole month. You can then get infected even when you don't touch the contaminated food itself, even after the contaminated food is gone, just by touching the inside of the fridge, or by touching other items that have touched the contaminated inside parts of the fridge.
Of course, use dish soap, which is safe to ingest. Just don't use detergent. There is no funny aftertaste if you rinse well with water.
Just so you know my advice isn't empty dreamt-up theoretical, my only case of Covid so far to July 18 is from not washing vegetables in soap. See my Covid Advice #10.
3. Avoid or Be Very Careful with Ground Meats:
Because it's impossible to disinfect ground meats - we can only wash or wipe the package, not the meat itself. And again since the Covid can live for a whole month refrigerated, we can't quarantine hamburger for a whole month - the food will spoil first.
So we need to handle ground meats very careful, as follows:
- Always disinfect the outside of the package of ground meat, before putting into the fridge;
- Always disinfect your hands after touching the ground meat itself;
- Always disinfect anything that come into contact with any raw ground meat, like cutting boards, kitchen counters, utensils, etc.
- Always cook the ground meat well-done, so the inside is cooked;
Of course, a lot of people, me included, are very busy multi-tasking when cooking, and prefer to be a bit more carefree when in the kitchen and the fridge, and so just avoid ground meat altogether.
4. Avoid Frozen Foods:
You mean the frozen steaks I buy? And ice cream?
Right, avoid frozen meats and ice cream, frozen vegetables and the like. Because coronaviruses can live for up to 5 years in the freezer, and it's either real hard or impossible to disinfect these foods themselves. With frozen meats and vegetables it's real hard because while you can perhaps get away with washing the wrapping, by the time you finish washing the unwrapped meat or vegetable itself in soapy warm water the item will be at least half thawed. While you might be careful handling these un-disinfected frozen items and eat them only after cooking, which destroys the Covid, your freezer shelves and walls can get infected and they can contaminate any other foods you put in there, plus you or your family can catch Covid just by touching the freezer shelves or walls.
A special word about ice cream. It's impossible to disinfect because one can only wash the container, not the ice cream itself. Even though the milk that ice cream is made from has been pasteurized and therefore safe, the entire production line of processing and churning the milk to make ice cream is in cold temperatures. So any employee along the entire line with pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic Covid might contaminate a batch of ice cream here and there. This would be especially so when Covid's spread explodes during the cold weather later this year. Stored in frozen temperatures, the Covid in the ice cream would live for up to 5 years.
Also a word about trying to disinfect frozen foods and the packages they come in by wiping them down. Many of the liquid disinfectants don't really work on frozen surfaces, including soap, as anyone who has tried to scrub a pot clean with cold soapy water can attest: the grease simply won't come off. You need at least warm soapy water. Covid is a clump of fat and on a frozen object, when the disinfectant reaches Covid at its tiny, quasi-molecular level the disinfectant probably freezes too, or at least is trying to work at freezing temperatures, so good luck trying to dissolve Covid or seep inside Covid to poison it. To disinfect a frozen package, you need to at least half melt the food first.
DON'T GET COVID EVEN IF YOU ARE YOUNG AND HEALTHY
But I am young and healthy, do I really have to worry?
Yes you do.
First, go here on Covid Advice #6 from 05/17/2020 for some very good reasons to worry about getting it, even if you are young and healthy.
Second, we don't know yet what long term damage Covid can do; we only know it attacks all body and organ systems, not just the respiratory tract.
Third, we don't know what disease can arise from having had Covid -- we know children can get a Kawasaki Disease-like disease called PIMS, which stands for pediatric inflammatory multi-system syndrome, where the heart, kidneys, liver and other organs are seriously and sometimes permanently or even fatally inflamed. We don't know how much later and what diseases might arise in adults, whose metabolism is far slower than children.
Fourth, and this is related, we don't know if Covid attacks the ovaries and testes and whether this would cause birth defects. If so, it would still be a great tragedy for young people who've remained healthy to have had Covid. So don't get it.
Wish you happiness! Stay healthy and stay safe!
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