Tag Archives: Testing

Did I or Didn’t I Have COVID-19? Blundering through Unknowable Truths

Coronavirus Testing Capacity Is Going Unused - WSJ

            Few things are more terrifying than the unknown, as we are discovering as we struggle to navigate, avoid and (if we fail) survive a mysterious new virus. That goes double when reliable information is hard to come by; it is unquantifiably worse without credible leadership.

            “Who ya gonna believe,” Chico Marx asked, “me or your own eyes?” More than other cultures of which I am aware, Americans are acculturated to ignore their instincts and the truth of their observations. A smoker might wake up coughing up phlegm every morning for decades yet he only begins to internalize that tobacco is dangerous to his health after a surgeon general he has never met issues a report. You might live in the same house years on end but discount your observation of the fact that it used to snow but now it doesn’t; global warming only becomes official when hundreds of climate scientists certify what you already knew.

            Sometimes you have to trust yourself.

            Even when you are mistaken about some details.

            I’m 90% sure that I had COVID-19. It was in November. I was in LA for several weeks. In March I blogged about my symptoms: “I had an incessant dry cough…I had a constant fever. My temperature ranged from about 101° during the day to closer to 103° at night. My chest was tight: it felt like a car was parked on it. I had absolutely no energy whatsoever. I was exhausted. Even walking half a block, I had to take a break. I would get back to my hotel after a meeting and be asleep by 6 PM. I would sleep 14 hours and wake up still wiped out. ‘What the hell,’ I would ask myself, ‘is going on?’”

            I tested negative for influenza. An x-ray revealed early-stage pneumonia. I was prescribed antibiotics and a nebulizer. Obviously I recovered; here I am writing this. But I’m still weak and tired.

            If I could prove I had the novel coronavirus in November, it might be a news story. Aside from a New Jersey mayor who says he is sure that he had COVID-19 in November and a 55-year-old Chinese man whom doctors say had the disease on November 17th, the scientific and journalistic consensus is that the coronavirus pandemic originated in Wuhan, China in December. Last week my physician administered a serology test to determine if I have antibodies consistent with past infection with SARS-CoV-2. It came back negative. I was puzzled. If I hadn’t had COVID-19, or the flu, what the hell was this horrible illness?

            I’m 56. I’ve had trouble with my lungs my entire life: asthma, lots of bronchitis, several cases of pneumonia, swine flu. My symptoms are remarkably consistent. My November experience was nothing like anything before. What bronchitis gives you fever for weeks at a time? What pneumonia?

            The day after my doctor called with the negative antibody test result, the FDA issued a statement essentially declaring such lab tests worthless for the purpose of figuring out whether you’ve ever had COVID-19. So even if it had come back positive, it wouldn’t have meant anything.

            Even if my test had been 100% reliable, and it had come back positive, all the test result would have proven is that I had COVID-19 at some point. It would not have evidenced that I contracted COVID-19 in November. I could have caught something else in November and COVID-19 asymptomatically, later.

            Further reducing my reliability as a possible COVID-19 Patient Zero is a failure of memory: in my blog, I wrote—because I believed it—that this happened in January. When I subsequently reviewed my records, I came across a photo selfie of me on the nebulizer in a West Hollywood urgent care clinic. It was dated November 15th and I had already been sick for a couple of weeks. You may be less surprised that I made such a mistake when I tell you that my mom was desperately ill at the time, and she died on February 7th after a year of hell. Whatever it was, COVID-19 or something else, definitely happened in November.

            Does it matter? Scientifically of course the answer is yes. Epidemiologists benefit when they can trace a viral pandemic to its roots. Personally, medically, probably. Though the experts remain officially uncertain whether someone can be reinfected by COVID-19, the evidence appears to say that COVID-19 survivors probably cannot get reinfected to a significant extent. It wouldn’t prompt me to go out in public without a mask or stop washing my hands. I know it’s selfish but I won’t deny it: I would love the peace of mind of knowing that this particular beast isn’t going to kill me. And I would like to donate blood for use as plasma in order to treat coronavirus victims.

            As it stands, most of my thoughts on this subject are a muddled rumination about the nature of humanity and the reliability of personal knowledge. If I were an animal, and had never heard of science, and had memory and self-awareness, I would know—know with the same certainty that I know I am typing this column—that I had COVID-19 and that I should probably worry about something else more than the possibility that I might get it again. But I am not an animal, I am an American filled with self-doubt, in awe of Science and the desire to document what can probably never be proven and that in fact might not be true at all.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie,” updated and expanded for 2020. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Coronavirus Cures Big Lies

For decades we have been told that we should not have a socialized or national healthcare plan in the United States because this country has the best healthcare system in the world. Obviously the coronavirus pandemic and the total absence of medical coverage or testing ability or adequate space in hospitals proves that that was always a lie.

The Speech Trump Must but Cannot Give

Trump's Oval Office speech did the opposite of what it was ...

Some of my commentary about politics is presented in the form of “advice” to the ruling classes. Please understand: I don’t really expect them to take my advice. My advice is not really directed toward them. It is a theoretical exercise.

I am really speaking to you, the people. My goal is to set a standard of behavior and policy to which we ought to expect the ruling class to conform. I set a minimal bar. I know that the ruling classes will not meet the minimum standard to which we are entitled. I want our rulers’ failures to be placed in the sharpest possible relief so we can judge them accordingly and take the next logical step, getting rid of them.

If I were a speechwriter, I would advise President Trump to deliver something like the following from the Oval Office on national television. He will not. He cannot. The system won’t allow it.

But he has to. And he won’t. Which is why the regime is on the way out.

“My fellow Americans,

“I know you are scared. I’m scared too. Anyone who is paying attention is frightened.

“We will lose some of our sons, our daughters, our spouses, our parents and our friends. Even after the coronavirus has been eradicated, it will take years to recover from the economic shock. Pain, suffering and death are inevitable. We will lose many of our best people.

“But I want you to know that we will get through this. America survived the Civil War, which killed 2% of the population at the time, the Spanish Flu epidemic and the Great Depression. The COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered as a challenge on par with those horrors, but not greater.

“Today I want to assure you that no American will come out of this economically ruined. It will be tough. But no one will lose their home to eviction or foreclosure. No one will go hungry. The United States government has ample resources to meet the basic needs and necessities of every American. This assurance goes beyond the end date of the present crisis. No one will be asked in 6 or 12 or 18 months when we come out on the other side of this, to pay back rent or back mortgage or giant medical bills.

“This assurance extends to noncitizens. The COVID-19 virus does not care if you are a native-born citizen, naturalized, a permanent resident or an undocumented worker, so neither do I. We are all in this together. COVID-19 is a lowest-common-denominator problem; neglect of the physical and medical needs of the most disadvantaged among us will increase the rate of transmission throughout the entire population. For the time being there are no Americans, there are only people who happen to live in the United States.

“This and many other decisions I will be making in the coming days, weeks and months may be unpopular. I take full responsibility. If you disapprove of my policies, please vote against me in the coming election. Which I personally guarantee you will take place even if most votes are cast online.

“There are no Democrats or Republicans, only the people of the United States. This is not a time to promote conservative, moderate or liberal values—only intelligent, fact-based decision-making. I am open to any and all suggestions of how to address the healthcare and economic challenges that lie ahead of us. For that reason, I am setting up a special White House telephone hotline and website in order to encourage academics, experts and ordinary citizens among our extraordinarily talented people to contact us with any and all ideas that might help.

“Because this is a global pandemic, I am asking leaders along with top medical and economic experts from every country to join me via teleconference at the United Nations next week for an open-ended international discussion of what the world can do to slow and eventually stop the spread of COVID-19. To those countries with whom the United States does not have diplomatic relations like Iran, North Korea and Cuba, we wish to restore full diplomatic relations now.

“It never hurts to talk. Nations with whom we have fallen out should know that our attitude has changed, that we want to engage with them on every level and to help them as much as we can. I am personally reaching out to the leaders of countries that have been hit hardest by COVID-19 such as China, Iran and Italy. High-level liaisons will keep lines of communication open at all times.

“As you know, I have been personally criticized for failing to take the coronavirus threat seriously enough early enough and for failing to order the manufacturing of disease testing kits. Harry Truman, who sat at this desk 75 years ago, said that the buck stops here and he was right. I screwed up. I am sorry.

“As president I am powerful. But I can’t make the clock run backwards. All I can do now is learn from my mistakes, roll up my sleeves and give you my very best, as well as the very best leadership at all levels of government. Toward that end I will provide you with daily press briefings during which I will accept many questions from journalists from around the world, during which I will let you know what your government is doing on your behalf.

“My goal is to get every American tested for the novel coronavirus and for the antibodies that show whether you have ever had COVID-19. I will keep you informed about the development of the tests and their distribution and where and how you will be able to get them.

“No one should suffer or die because they cannot receive medical care, whether for coronavirus or other afflictions, due to an overwhelmed healthcare system. We will create a state-of-the-art referral system to transport everyone who needs care to a facility where they can get it.

“The $2 trillion stimulus package that I signed into law after a bipartisan vote in both the House and the Senate is merely a start. We are going to issue regular payments to citizens and businesses to make sure that they can meet their expenses as long as the crisis continues. Those payments will also be put into the hands of noncitizens including undocumented workers, despite my belief that Americans should always come first because leaving out the undocumented means endangering Americans too. Special outreach efforts will make sure that the homeless not only receive their payments but are provided with proper long-term shelter.

“We will get through this. We will defeat the coronavirus. Then we can mourn our dead and resume—as we must—the vibrant political debate that makes our country great.

“Good night.”

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

They’re Testing Driverless Cars Against Clueless Pedestrians? Come With Me If You Want to Live.

A woman in Tempe, Arizona recently became the second victim of a fatal car accident between an innocent person and a driverless car. Advocates of driverless cars say that in the aggregate they will be safer. But the fact remains, there’s something incredibly creepy about automated driving, especially when it’s being tried out in area is full of oblivious pedestrians. Technology is heading toward more and more automation, including pilotless planes and drones that choose their own targets for assassination. How will the human race survive the new paradigm? Very, very carefully.