Well, Maybe I Was Wrong

Edited to add an interesting possibility at the end

It’s early yet, but in last Friday’s post on 2019-nCoV/COVID-19 I had my doubts about the virus coming from either the BSL-4 National Bio-Safety Laboratory or the Wuhan Institute of Virology. As I noted then, I remain agnostic on the first paper suggesting that it was engineered and still feel that the response would have been different had it been a leak of a bioweapon.

That said, there is a new scientific study and additional analysis that would appear to support both the original paper and the theory that the virus is bioengineered. Is it proof positive? No, not even close. It is additional data, and until other studies take place — and the White House has directed that research into the origin be a priority — we simply have some more data.

I maintain that if it were a bioweapon, it was not an end-stage product. We would be seeing many more dead and a higher infection rate if it were an end-stage product. That said, there is reason to believe it is more infectious than previously reported and good reason to believe that the death toll is much higher than the Chinese government has admitted.

Inside China, by all reports, the situation remains very bad. Outside China, provided it does not spread into Africa (where it could form a natural reservoir as has happened in China), there will be more cases but if quarantine and proper procedures are followed, it will remain an epidemic but not become a pandemic. I will caveat that by saying that this is based on what we know at this time, and given how little we truly know about it so far there is room for error.

Outside of China, the largest impacts will be economic and non-virus medical. Again, keep in mind that China provides quite a bit of the medicines in the world, as well as a large amount of the precursor materials for medicines, vitamins, etc. They also provide a great deal of disposable medical equipment, including masks.

So, where do we stand this morning? Per the interactive graphic we have the following:

Epidemic: Yes

Pandemic: No

Total cases as of 0545 Eastern: 71,810

Total cases in mainland China: 70,553

Total Deaths: 1775

Total Recoveries: 11,258

Alert Status: Sit Up

Best way for personal prevention outside of China? Wash your flippin hands frequently, then follow with hand sanitizer, use hand sanitizer liberally when you can’t wash; cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze; and, keep your bugger hooks out of your eyes and nose. In other words, standard flu protocols.

Hat Tips to Rod Dreher and Instapundit/Ed Driscoll.

UPDATE 1: It occurred to me a few minutes ago that the belief that this is not a bioweapon because both the R value and death rate are too low could be very sadly mistaken. About 20 years ago, there was a lot of work on forms of non-lethal/non-world-ending weapons. And, yes, there has been a lot of speculation and probably even efforts over the years to develop chemical and/or biological weapons that would incapacitate a population for a period of time. During that period, of course, actions could be taken such as invasion, disarming, etc.

Suppose that COVID19/COVID-19/2019-nCoV was not intended as a weapon of mass destruction, but as an economic weapon? Release it into a target area and the spread as well as the deaths would have a severe economic impact (for China, it may well be crippling) but not totally destroy the target population. In that case, the R3 that seems to be emerging makes more sense from a weapons perspective. Purely food for thought, and to keep in mind as we start to get real and accurate data on the disease.

Other COVID19/COVID-19/2019-nCoV articles:

Expansion On A Theme

Well Maybe I Was Wrong

Some Quick Thoughts On Coronavirus 2019-nCoV

Why Should You Be Prepared?

Keeping Alert

Coronavirus And Practical Preparedness

Some Quick Thoughts On Coronavirus 2019-nCoV

I plan to do a longer review of things soon, but this morning there are a couple of things I want to touch on very quickly.

First, a few days ago, I provided a link to a paper which claimed the virus is man-made. As there are two labs in Wuhan that experts believe have been/are involved in bioweapons research, there has been a lot of uninformed (with a small amount of informed) debate on the subject.

As for the paper itself, I remain agnostic as the levels of microbiology involved are well outside my area of expertise. I will state that if this were a finished bioweapon that leaked, we would be seeing a huge difference in spread, modes of infection, and fatalities. So, not a true bioweapon.

In getting to bioweapons, however, there are several (sometimes quite a few) stages of development. You get the basics of what you want then start refining. Is it possible that what we see could be one of those middle steps that got out? It is a possibility, but for right now I’m discounting that as well. Though I do think there’s a great novel to be written on this topic.

One of areas that makes me doubt it was an accidental release of some kind is the official response to the incident. It is a given that the Chinese government has lied from the start. It is also a given that the cover-up started at lower levels before going to the very top.

In that wonderful form of governance that is communism, particularly Chinese communism, one does not make waves unless they are the right and expected waves showing competence with and adherence to doctrine and policy. I’m willing to bet that even if doctors and public health officials had gone to local/regional leaders right at the start that they were ignored or told to treat but deny. Failure to protect the State and the Great Leader at best results in the gulag, and more likely either being shot or having your organs harvested while still alive.

The leadership at almost every level would be devoted to cover-up and denial. Keep the bad news from going higher, take ineffective steps designed more to cover asses than effective treatment/prevention. By the time the lid blew off, things were more than a bit out of control. At this point, the head of the government has to deny, mitigate, and pretend that things are not as bad as they are lest his control slip. He has cracked down, and the people are fighting back against that — and it is a good thing to see.

The thing is, I would expect a different type of denial/cover-up response were this a leak from a bioweapons lab of some mid-range effort. So far, all I’ve seen is a fairly typical bureaucratic effort. Had it been a release, I would have expected to see the top leadership involved sooner, since the local party bosses would have the head of the lab to toss under the bus.

In my last real update, I mentioned that my personal Defcon on this was between concerned and worried. Well, that really works out to being between Sit Up and Really?!? At this point, I think we are going to see a lot more cases in the U.S., though I don’t think we will get the death totals/percentage of China.

I strongly suspect the economic impact and the impact on normal life will be far greater. When I say “impact on normal life” what I mean is the amount of products that come from China or those where key components come from China who’s loss will be profoundly felt. While the bulk of this are disposable medical materials, drugs, and vitamins there are many other areas that will be hit as well. Given that others have been publicly sounding the alarm for a while, perhaps we shall see both an immediate reaction and some long-overdue discussion on having one of our greatest foes responsible for production of many critical supplies including medicines.

More to come, for now I must run. May you have a good day and a great weekend.

Other COVID19/COVID-19/2019-nCoV articles:

Expansion On A Theme

Well Maybe I Was Wrong

Some Quick Thoughts On Coronavirus 2019-nCoV

Why Should You Be Prepared?

Keeping Alert

Coronavirus And Practical Preparedness

Coronavirus Update

Again, I have to start by saying there is no need to panic (yet) if you are in the United States. Running around in a mask and/or exposure suits is not helpful or smart, nor is making a “joke” and saying you have it: both types of things just point out that you are a dumbass.

Is there reason to worry? Yes. Now that even the WHO is reported as saying that there are likely more than 100,000 cases (mostly in China), it provides some validation to this study, this study, and this study.

As I’ve said before, the Chinese government has lied from the start about the disease and how bad it is. Read this article about what is coming out of China, and this article by Rod Dreher. The last also brings up two things that you do need to know about, along with some heartbreaking information from inside China.

The first is that the medical gear/drug shortage in China is not just a Chinese problem. It is also a problem here, in that there are already shortages here. It is going to get worse before it gets better. A number of people have argued for some time that it was not a good idea to become so heavily dependent on China for medicines and medical gear [not to mention electronics (including efforts to make us dependent upon them for military electronics) along with other finished products and raw goods]. Using regulation and other tactics to push things overseas was seen as a positive foreign policy in regards China and trying to control it. I would call it what I think of that policy, but am trying to some degree to keep this PG-13. Is this all going to have an impact on the US, Chinese, and global economies? Yep.

The second thing was a twitter link that Rod added to the article. I pulled up the source site for the graphic, and found it interesting to look at China and compare it to the interactive graphic from Johns Hopkins I’ve been linking to on a regular basis. I’m still playing with the data a bit, but I do find the correlation between high sulfur dioxide levels coming out of the cities with known high contagion rates interesting. Yes, it does appear to suggest that crematoriums are working overtime. And possibly in areas where there are no official cases…

If the models are correct, and if even the current official reports from China are correct, it appears that 2019-nCoV is more contagious than originally thought (hoped). The death rate, based on official figures, is approaching five percent however. If the unofficial reports coming out of China are correct, it is potentially much higher.

I wish the travel restrictions had been implemented much sooner. Then, you might not be reading about new cases in England and elsewhere, and the efforts to locate and test everyone those tourists contacted/interacted with during their trip. If the current restrictions and quarantines had been implemented even a week sooner, it would have taken thousands of potential transmission opportunities off the board. This article from Scientific American looks at some possibilities that are not good.

For all that I trust the WHO about as much as I do the Chinese government, they have daily situation updates that are a resource as you monitor what is going on.

So, should you panic? No. Should you be concerned? Yes. What is going on worries me, which on my personal defcon levels is a step above concerned. What am I doing? I’m watching, reading, and researching. Yes, I have started beefing up some of my normal levels of preparedness. If nothing happens, what I’ve gotten will get eaten, used, etc. in the normal course of life. More on preparedness later.

Other COVID19/COVID-19/2019-nCoV articles:

Expansion On A Theme

Well Maybe I Was Wrong

Some Quick Thoughts On Coronavirus 2019-nCoV

Why Should You Be Prepared?

Keeping Alert

Coronavirus And Practical Preparedness

Quick Update

Sorry, work has had me hopping, but hope to get back to more regular posting tomorrow. Keep an open mind, and remember that good preparedness always pays off.

This paper has created a lot of controversy, with scientists of varying stripes jumping in to say it is trash or that they may have something. Things hit in threes it seems, as on top of swine flu and coronavirus, China now has a new outbreak of bird flu. Rare occasion that I link the NY Slimes, but good article on this becoming a pandemic. Some good food for thought on transmission.