Tom's Coronavirus Blog
Coronavirus Blog

Recent Writings on the
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Epidemic
March 13, 2020 (last updated March 27)

Has COVID-19 Caused Changes in Atmospheric CO2?

The underlying data for the accompanying graph, which were provided to me by NOAA, are daily averages for CO2 in the atmosphere in ppm, as recorded at Mauna Loa. The lines in the graph represent 30 day running averages (leftmost: Feb.26 – March 26, 2020; rightmost: Dec. 1 – Dec. 30, 2019). 30-day average concentrations, as expected, rose up to mid-February when they unexpectedly started to level off, peaking on Feb. 25 at 414.21 ppm, and then falling to 413.84 ppm on March 13 and rising to 414.09 on March 26.

Historically, concentrations or atmospheric CO2 should rise from October through May. So what caused the late February – early March decrease? My best guess is COVID-19. More precisely, the decrease in economic activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 was first confirmed in late December. Less then 2 months later, atmospheric CO2 peaked and started to decrease.

But then, what caused the uptick in atmospheric CO2 after March 13? Again, my best guess is that it is related to the COVID-19 pandemic, this time to the Chinese bringing the pandemic in China under control, and to the concomitant resurgence of industry in China.

It should be noted that there are other possible explanations for the February and March changes in atmospheric CO2. However, I think the explanation above by far the most likely. If the conjecture holds that these changes are, to a significant extent, due to COVID-19, it would mean that a decrease in economic activity should result in an almost immediate decrease in atmospheric CO2.

In other words, it is likely that we could begin to reverse global warming immediately, simply by decreasing unnecessary economic activity. It is also noteworthy that Nature is simply doing what we could have easily done for ourselves in an orderly manner, without the death and disruption caused by COVID-19. This certainly demonstrates the old adage, “Nature Bats Last;” or as Kumi Naidoo put it, “Nature does not negotiate, it responds to our intransigence.”

Caveat: One month is less than a blink of an eye in climatological terms. It will be interesting and exciting to see what tomorrow brings.

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March 24, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Corona Blowback
“I read the news today, oh boy,”
—John Lennon/Paul McCartney (A Day in the Life)

Oh boy! What a day. Don't know where to begin; so lets start with the numbers: over 10,000 new COVID-19 cases in the United States yesterday — up from over 9,000 the day before — an 838% increase from a week ago. We're setting new records day after day. No other country has come even close: not China, not Italy, not Iran, none. Among the ten countries with the most COVID-19 cases, United Kingdom is next with a 331% increase over the past week. Worldwide cases have increased 108% over the past week. And in China cases have increased less than 1% over the past week.

On January 28, I wrote:
“The United States is perhaps particularly vulnerable. We've gutted our public health infrastructure in favor of for-profit health care. When people are afraid to seek medical help because they might end up paying for it for the rest of their lives, how are we to keep contagious disease from spreading?”
On February 11, I elaborated:
“The United States, with it's for-profit health industry, is perhaps the least able of all wealthy countries to respond positively to such an epidemic. How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is too poor to afford to go to a doctor? How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is so afraid, that it would not bring itself to the attention of the authorities anyway? How do you fight an epidemic in a society that has become so used to blaming others for everything that goes wrong, that it has lost its power of introspection?”
So why is this happening? Many reasons:

1. This can't be happening to us! So, let's go to the beach and party. This is abject stupidity: Californians ignoring a “shelter in place” order and crowding onto the beaches en masse amidst a global pandemic.

2. How can we profit from the coronavirus? Profiteering is rampant. Even the President reportedly tried to buy up exclusive rights to a promising German vaccine that is under development.

3. A total lack of national leadership. We've spent decades getting “big government off our backs”. So it's hardly surprising to find big government missing in action when it is most needed.

4. While the world needs to pull together in face of the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of putting a hold on sanctions which degrade the ability of others to fight the pandemic, the United States is ramping up sanctions on Iran, one of the hardest hit countries.

5. Blame it on the Chinese. Donald Trump insists on calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus”, sparking racist assaults against East Asians in the United States. This, in spite of that nobody knows where and how COVID-19 came.
Note: I stand by my previous statement that, “in my opinion there is a significant probability that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage.”
Last week I quoted Shakespeare on hand-washing. Here's another Shakespeare line describing a similar situation:
“For ’tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard:”

(Hamlet III:4)
The Chinese have a much older saying:
“To pick up a rock only to drop it on one's own foot.”
Some other statistics:

1. There appear to have been few cases of internal transmission in China recently. China is ramping up surveillance at airports and border crossings in order to identify travelers with COVID-19 infections.

2. Israel, with a population of around 9 million, has reported almost 1,500 cases of COVID-19. Meanwhile, Palestinian prisoners are held in unsanitary conditions without access to the means to prevent the spread of disease. Israel also holds 1.8 million people, in the world's largest open air prison, Gaza, without adequate medical supplies or clean drinking water.

3. Europe has far more cases than any other continent: around 200,000.

4. Cuba and China are helping Italy and other countries fight the pandemic. Meanwhile, the United States is not even helping itself.

Juan Cole has written an excellent article on the US response to COVID-19.

5. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has tracked the rise and fall of the COVID-19 pandemic in China pretty closely. The epidemic spread in China throughout January, peaking in early February and then falling below 100 new cases per day by early March. The 30 day running average of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere peaked on February 25 and fell until March 13 tracking the earlier decrease in economic activity in China caused by the pandemic. After March 13, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere rose again, this time tracking the resurgence of economic activity in response to China's bringing the pandemic under control.

Historically, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations rise from October through May.

Maybe now that China has shown the world how to beat the coronavirus, next they will show the world how to beat global warming. It won't be easy; but I believe it can be done. Maybe they could also show the world how to live in Peace. It's never been done before. But, maybe, the time is now.

Note 1: Most of the statistics on COVID-19 above come from the tables and graphs at worldometers.info. The worldometers.info day begin at 00 hours universal (Greenwich mean) time which is 7:00pm cdt the previous day. Thus, yesterday refers to 7pm Sunday, March 22 to 7pm Monday, March 23 cdt. Weekly growth rates refer to 7pm Monday, March 16 to 7pm Monday, March 23 cdt.

Note 2: By time you read this, many parts of this post are likely to be out-of-date.

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March 17, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Corona Blowback
William Shakespeare on Hand-Washing
Gentlewoman
It is an accustomed action with her, to seem thus
washing her hands: I have known her continue in
this a quarter of an hour.
LADY MACBETH
Yet here's a spot....

Out, damned spot! out, I say!...

What, will these hands ne'er be clean?...

Here's the smell of the blood still: all the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand. Oh, oh, oh!
Doctor
This disease is beyond my practise: ...

Foul whisperings are abroad: unnatural deeds
Do breed unnatural troubles:
William Shakespeare, Macbeth 5:1

Sanctions: an Attack on Public Health
In truth, I am tired of writing about the COVID-19 coronavirus; yet, here I go again.

Here are three articles on Iran, Venezuela and Cuba and how US sanctions have degraded Public Health in these countries. I suspect Iran, Venezuela and Cuba will continue to do the best they can under the circumstances to inhibit the spread of the Coronavirus. Perhaps, in the long run, better than many far wealthier countries.

Iraq is another case. Sanctions of Iraq, 1990-2003, probably killed well over a million, mostly children, of preventable disease. It was known in the halls of government that this was happening, yet it continued for 13 years.

Kudos for China
China appears to have the COVID-19 coronavirus under control. Over the last 10 days, China has averaged 20 new confirmed cases per day.

China claims that if the rest of the world takes appropriate measures, as China has, the pandemic will be over by June.

China has objected to the use of the name Wuhan Coronavirus, pointing out that the virus may not have originated in China.

I agree. And I apologize for having used that name in the past.

And I think the Chinese and some others know exactly how it originated; and I suspect at some point they will go public. If I had anything to do with starting this pandemic, I'd be quaking in my boots right now.

Disease of the Wealthy Countries
Taking a look at the 20 countries with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases. They are, in order:

China, Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, South Korea, France, United States, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Belgium, Sweden, Japan, Malaysia, Canada, Australia, Portugal.

Except Iran and Malaysia, they are all relatively wealthy countries in North America, Europe, Australia and East Asia.

One can ascribe various reasons for this, but I can't help thinking:
“But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” —Matthew 19:30 (KJV)

What's Next?
This is what really scares me. As I've stated before, I think the world is primed for a really serious epidemic, one which will make COVID-19 look like the common cold. Think, for example, of a respiratory infection like COVID-19, but with all the characteristics of HIV/AIDS. That's scary.

The world better learn to put aside its differences and learn to work together.

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Coronavirus Poem: for children and advanced grownups
The Coronavirus

Bad Coronavirus!
He wants to crawl upon us;
This how we're gonna keep him off.
We'll wash out hands often,
With soap and warm water;
And cover our mouths when we cough.
And Here is a video of me reciting this poem to my grandchildren.

Coronavirus cartoon: The Lone Ranger meets the Coronavirus



March 9, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Coronavirus Update

As expected, on March 5, new cases worldwide surpassed new recoveries for the first time since February 18. The number of contagious cases, which had been decreasing since February 18 are now on the rise again.

New cases in China fell to 40 on March 8. Meanwhile new cases outside of China stood at 3,847.

Parts of Italy have been placed under partial quarantine. Will this work in Italy the way it has in China? Will the Italians show the dedication and discipline the Chinese have shown? We'll see.

There are now over 500 cases in the United States including one in Missouri. 22 have died.

Globalization

John Feffer notes how fragile our global civilization is and how it is literally disintegrating before our eyes under the scourges of climate change, pestilence and militarism. Feffer recommends a new globalization where the world hegemons, the United States and China, work together against climate change, disease and inequality. This is an important article. Please read it.

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March 3, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

Worldwide, recoveries have exceeded new infections since February 18, mainly due to the work of the Chinese in containing the virus. However, if the trend of the last few days continues, new cases outside China will soon dwarf recoveries in China.

To date, the world has seen close to 100,000 cases with over 3,000 deaths.

The coronavirus epidemic in China appears under control, probably due to draconian measures taken by the Chinese authorities, including the quarantining of millions of people. New infections in China fell to 202 on March 1, 125 on March 2 and 119 on March 3.

In many other locations, new infections are on the rise. Coronavirus cases in the United States reached 124 today. Nine deaths in the United States are attributed to the coronavirus epidemic.

Iran has experienced 2,336 cases and 77 deaths, perhaps partially due to US sanctions that have hit the healthcare sector very hard.

Previously I have stated that in my opinion there is a significant probability that the COVID-19 virus was genetically engineered and released in China in an act of economic or political sabotage. I stand by this statement. If true, with the coronavirus spreading worldwide, the perpetrators have a lot to answer for.

I have also stated previously that I felt that among wealthy countries, the United States, with its for-profit health care system and its corrupt government, is among the least prepared to combat an infectious epidemic. I stand by that statement too.

It appears that the Wall Street healthcare moguls are charging folks thousands of dollars just for COVID-19 testing. The cardinal principle of public health is to win the trust of the public. It appears that the cardinal principle of the United States healthcare system is to make as much money as possible off of the public's misfortune. How many will forego testing and spread disease simply to avoid these exorbitant charges?

For my part, I've written a short six line poem stressing the tried and true method of inhibiting the spead of respiratory infection: wash hands and cover mouth when coughing. Here's a video of me reciting this poem to my grandchildren.

On a lighter note, for all you Lone Ranger fans, here's a cartoon: The Lone Ranger meets the Coronavirus.

But lets keep this all in perspective. HIV/AIDS has killed over 32 million and still infects hundreds of thousands each year.

Note: Most of the statistics above come from these graphs on worldometers.info.

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February 25, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Wuhan Coronavirus

A reader sends in this article from the Washington Post dated Feb 2 on the early spread of the Wuhan coronavirus with no further comment.

My response:

This article highlights a major drawback of top-down authoritarian social systems: They can be slow to react. In the case of the Wuhan coronavirus, precious weeks were lost during which the spread of the virus could have been slowed.

However, the article does not mention the strength of China's system: that once the national leadership began to react, it quickly mobilized all the powers of the State to combat the spread of the virus: quarantining millions and building hospitals at break-neck speed.

Here are some statistics from a graph posted on Worldometer:
New cases appear to have peaked on February 4 shortly after China began to mobilize against the virus.

On February 18, recoveries began to outpace new cases, meaning the number of infected people began to decrease.

Don't be fooled by the spike of new cases on Feb. 12. It stems from a change in how new cases were reported.
And some final notes:
While new cases outside of China have spiked in the last few days, the transmission rate within China appears to have fallen.

Hindsight is always 2020. It is very easy to look back and say what should or should not have been done. It is much more difficult to make correct policy in real time.

It is still too early to say much about the future course of this epidemic. With the spread of the virus to other lands, only time will show how well others outside of China handle it.
Like other existential threats, such as climate change, it is imperative that humanity start working together against the common enemy, instead of making War on each other.

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February 18, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

From Our Readers: Wuhan Coronavirus

In response to last week's post in which I wrote:
“The United States, with it's for-profit health industry, is perhaps the least able of all wealthy countries to respond positively to such an epidemic. How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of your population is too poor to afford to go to a doctor? How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of your population is so afraid, that it would not bring itself to the attention of the authorities anyway? How do you fight an epidemic in a society that has become so used to blaming others for everything that goes wrong, that it has lost its power of introspection?”
A reader writes in:
“You say that the United States is the least able of the wealthy countries to respond to the epidemic. I have no idea whether you consider China a wealthy country, but it is certainly an economic powerhouse. Because of its secrecy and stonewalling it has certainly proved itself the least able to deal with such a crisis. I suspect that if Trump stays out of the way, our infrastructure will handle it okay. The CDC is very professional, and seems to be dealing with this correctly.”
My response:

I stand with World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and many others in believing that China has done an admirable job in responding to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. Do you think the United States could have quarantined a city the size of Wuhan? Do you think the US could build hospitals as quickly as China has? China has a system of universal health care and a history of top-down social control that permits rapid responses to public health emergencies. We do not.

Reading US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross's gloating remarks about the damage the coronavirus will do to the Chinese economy and the possible boost to the US economy, the first thing that popped into my mind was biological warfare and sabotage. Apparently, I was not the only one thinking along these lines. Here is a three part article about US biological warfare and sabotage including attempts to spread plague and other disease among the North Koreans and Chinese during the Korean War.
Part 1: Biological Weapons: A Useful and Timely Factual Overview

Part 2: The Geopolitical Deployment of Biological Weapons

Part 3: Genetically Modified Seeds: Conceived as a Weapon
[Hey, Wilbur, You're getting senile. You weren't supposed to say that in public.]

This article comes to me by way of Gary Kohls.

I highly recommend this three part article on biological warfare, although I would have liked to have seen mentioned:
1. The use of smallpox as a biological weapon against our Amerindian population. Smallpox could be as much as 95% fatal to a population that lacked immunity.

2. HIV/AIDS, which (in my opinion and that of others) was quite likely manufactured in a US military laboratory.

3. The use of bogus vaccination campaigns by the CIA to gather information. Such campaigns sow distrust of health workers and public health in general. (Consider the case of Shakil Afridi and the CIA attempt to gather information on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden through a bogus hepatitus vaccination campaign in Pakistan.)
And don't forget that 30 miles down the road from Rolla lies Fort Leonard Wood, home of the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School.

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February 11, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Two New Statistical Milestones
“I hate statistics. What I got to know, I keep in my head.” —Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean
1. Yesterday the daily average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at the Mauna Loa observatory surpassed 416 ppm for the first time since record-keeping began. (Just nine months ago the 415 ppm milestone was also surpassed at Mauna Loa.)

2. Yesterday the number of people killed by the Wuhan coronavirus surpassed 1,000.
What do these two statistics have in common? They both demonstrate the inability of “human civilization” to respond positively to global threats.

We've known for well over 30 years that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will heat the planet and make it increasingly hostile to “human civilization.” Yet, we seem totally unable to shed the behaviors that drive this crisis: Fighting wars, burning fossil fuels and eating meat (in that order) may be the three most important of these destructive behaviors.

“Human civilization” is primed for a global epidemic of gargantuan proportions. The Wuhan coronavirus epidemic may be only a harbinger of what is to come.

The United States, with it's for-profit health industry, is perhaps the least able of all wealthy countries to respond positively to such an epidemic. How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is too poor to afford to go to a doctor? How do you fight an epidemic when a large part of the population is so afraid, that it would not bring itself to the attention of the authorities anyway? How do you fight an epidemic in a society that has become so used to blaming others for everything that goes wrong, that it has lost its power of introspection?

Here's an interesting article from Science about the World Health Organization and its director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Russia and Cuba are actively helping China to contain the coronavirus epidemic. US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, gloats over the damage the coronavirus may do to the Chinese economy and the possible boost to the US economy.

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February 4, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Wuhan Novel Coronavirus

The Wuhan novel coronavirus, so far has infected at least 20,000 people, mostly in China and killed over 400, all but two in China. It's first cases appeared in December, 2019. While the world panics and markets fall, it is important to put this novel coronavirus in perspective.

Here is a list of epidemics from Wikipedia. Going through the list, the Wuhan coronavirus doesn't appear to distinguish itself. It's kill rate is 2 to 3 percent. Some of those infected early, appears to be healing which is a sign that the epidemic may be peaking. China is now testing the Russian antiviral drug, Triazavirin, on the virus.

Compare to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic that has killed over 30 million since its onset in the 1960s and still kills hundreds of thousands annually and infects millions each year. All attempts to develop an HIV vaccine have failed including this most recent one.

Both HIV and Wuhan coronavirus are thought to have jumped from other mammals to humans, although we should not rule out that these viruses may have been man-made.

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January 28, 2020 (written for Rolla Peace Newsletter)

Wuhan Corona Virus: This Could Be A Big One

With all the existential threats the human race faces, lets not forget this one: Pestilence. The Wuhan Corona Virus (aka 2019-nCoV,) has so far killed at least 132, spread to over 6,000, and caused China to place at least 60 million people under quarantine. The virus is thought to have jumped to humans from a bat or possibly a snake in a live animal market in Wuhan, although no one is really sure.

While it's too early to know how far this epidemic will spread, one thing is certain: humanity is ripe for a major epidemiological catastrophe. There are many reasons: war, poverty, a changing climate and overpopulation are just some that come to mind.

The United States is perhaps particularly vulnerable. We've gutted our public health infrastructure in favor of for-profit health care. When people are afraid to seek medical help because they might end up paying for it for the rest of their lives, how are we to keep contagious disease from spreading?

So wash your hands often and well, cover your mouth when you cough, and your nose when you sneeze and if you don't know how disease is spread, Tom Lehrer explains it in song in this two minute video.

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