News & Politics

Now Our Health Experts™ Can 'Sense' Asymptomatic COVID-19 Spread?

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Dr. Deborah Birx toured the Northeast this week and warned of a coming COVID surge, according to CBS News:

“We do see some of those early signs that we saw across the South after Memorial Day, a sense that there’s early, asymptomatic silent spread,” Birx said.

“It’s happening in homes and social occasions and people gathering and taking their masks off.”

If the spread is silent and asymptomatic, what exactly is she talking about? New York City has a 1.2% positivity rate, as does the state overall. At the height of the pandemic, 4.8% percent of tests were positive. They have been hovering somewhere around 1% since early June. This metric has been steady, despite increasing the average number of daily tests to around 30,000 tests per day.

It is not clear what Dr. Birx is smelling or sensing. However, before she gets everyone stirred up, a few things need to be cleared up. It has never been clear if the health experts are actually talking about prodromal spread when referring to asymptomatic spread. These are two very different things.

Asymptomatic spread would mean someone who will never develop symptoms of COVID-19 can pass the virus to others. This seems unlikely because an individual would have to build enough of a viral load, or concentration of virus in their body, then shed enough to transmit. Prodromal spread would happen among people who are building a viral load, but are not yet experiencing symptoms, and can shed sufficient virus to infect someone else. This seems more likely and is a documented phenomenon with other viruses.

Dr. Beda M. Stadler, a Swiss biologist, emeritus professor, and former director of the Institute of Immunology at the University of Bern, explained a universal principle of human disease that scientists seem to have forgotten when they are dealing with COVID-19. “For every other disease that doesn’t afflict a certain group of people, we would conclude that that group is immune.”

He went on to explain that the idea that someone could be sick enough to transmit illness and never become ill is not a feature of other viral illnesses:

The “healthy” sick would have so much of the virus in their throats that a normal conversation between two people would be enough for the “healthy one” to infect the other healthy one. At this point we have to dissect what is happening here: If a virus is growing anywhere in the body, also in the throat, it means that human cells decease. When [human] cells decease, the immune system is alerted immediately and an infection is caused. One of five cardinal symptoms of an infection is pain. It is understandable that those afflicted by Covid-19 might not remember that initial scratchy throat and then go on to claim that they didn’t have any symptoms just a few days ago. But for doctors and virologists to twist this into a story of “healthy” sick people, which stokes panic and was often given as a reason for stricter lockdown measures, just shows how bad the joke really is.

The experts really need to clarify what they are talking about when they say, “asymptomatic spread.” If they are really discussing the “healthy sick” concept, there is something about this virus they are not telling us, because that is just not how it works.

Until we get some honesty about what the binary COVID-19 test result actually means, the number of positive tests is meaningless. It has been reported that the number of cycle thresholds used in the U.S. in the most common test for COVID-19 detects far lower levels of viral RNA than in other countries. Other countries use a lower number of cycles to amplify the RNA to identify cases most likely to become ill and spread the virus.

This means the United States cannot compare the number of positive tests it detects to other countries. “Asymptomatic” cases here could be picking up RNA left over from a normal immune response. Even the CDC discourages retesting because they understand this can happen in a PCR test. This flaw in the pure binary we use in the United States should be corrected immediately by providing cycle threshold guidelines to drive treatment, isolation, and contact tracing.

Dr. Birx also blamed her sense of increasing asymptomatic spread on people removing their masks in social settings. That is weird since the CDC published a study in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in September addressing this question.

Of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 in eleven academic healthcare facilities, 92% wore masks at least sometimes in the previous 14 days. A large majority, 70.6%, reported wearing them always. Only 7.8% reported wearing them rarely or never. The Blaze reports that a high school in Michigan is seeing an outbreak of strep throat, which spreads the same way as COVID-19, despite using masks.

Until these things are sorted out, can we stop with the predictions about things we can’t see in a pandemic where nearly every forecast has been wrong? Because dire predictions give tin-pot dictators in states like New York excuses to lock people in their houses and threaten to close churches.

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