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Life in the Time of Corona

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Charles Darwin

Denis Noble

JP Rushton

Richard Lynn

L:inda Gottfredson

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2150 words

(Disclaimer: None of this is medical advice.)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since December 2019, you should have heard the panic that SARS-CoV (which causes COVID-19—coronavirus disease) is causing ever since it emerged in Wuhan, China (Singhal, 2020). This virus spreads really easily—though asymptomatic transmission is thought to be rare, according to the CDC. There is one case report, though, of an infant who showed no signs of COVID-19 but had a high viral load (Kam et al, 2020). In any case, Trump flip-flopped from calling it a ‘hoax’ to taking it seriously, acknowledging the pandemic. “I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic“, Trump said. Ah, of course, It must have been just a facade to say it was a hoax. (Pandering to his base?) The ever prescient Trump knows all.

Speaking of prediction, Cheng et al (2007) statedThe presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.” Quite the prediction from 13 years ago—implicating southern China’s “culture of eating exotic mammals”, which is more than likely the origin of this current outbreak.

There has been some discussion on whether or not the coronavirus is “as bad” as they’re saying, which has been criticized, for example, for not bringing up the context-dependency of the numbers. The number of cases in the US, though, as of Friday, March 20, 2020, was at 15,219 with 201 deaths. The number of cases keeps increasing daily. As of 3/22/2020, America has had 26,909 cases with 349 deaths while 178 recovered. Ninety-seven percent are in mild condition right now while three percent are in serious condition.

The current recommendationssocial distancing, self-quarantining—are what we are doing to fight the virus, but I think we are going to need more drastic measures. Social distancing and self-quarantining will help to slow the spread of the virus, but the virus is still obviously spreading.

All of the talk about what to call it—Wuhan virus, Chinese virus, China virus, coronavirus—is irrelevant. Call it whatever you’d like, just make sure that whomever you’re communicating with knows what you’re talking about. (And, if you want to ensure they do, just call it “coronavirus” as that seems to be the name that has stuck these past few months.) I understand the want to identify where it began and spread from, but of course, others will use it for racial reasons.

The past few days there has been a lot of attention focused on hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and azithromycin. These are anti-malarial drugs; a trial was done to see if it would have any effect on COVID-19 (Liu et al, 2020).

For HCQ, there is an “expert consensus” on HCQ treatment and COVID-19, and they state:

It recommended chloroquine phosphate tablet, 500mg twice per day for 10 days for patients diagnosed as mild, moderate and severe cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia and without contraindications to chloroquine.

Chloroquine has been shown to reduce spread and infection of coronaviruses (Vincent et al, 2005; Savarino et al, 2006; Wang et al, 2015; Wang et al, 2020). Wang et al (2015) note that:

HCQ and chloroquine are cellular autophagy modulators that interfere with the pH-dependent steps of endosome-mediated viral entry and late stages of replication of enveloped viruses such as retroviruses, flaviviruses, and coronaviruses (Savarino and others ; Vincent and others ).

I don’t know what to make of such results, I am awaiting larger trials on the matter. There is some hope in using anti-malarial drugs in the hopes of curbing the disease.

The Chinese knew that this virus was similar to other SARS strains, their scientists were ordered to stop testing on samples and to destroy the evidence. (See here for a timeline of the case.) The scary thing is that this virus has symptoms similar to the common cold that we get every winter so some may brush it off as ‘just the cold.’ I came down with a cold at the end of January and I was out of commission for the week. Thankfully, it was not COVID-19.

Italy and China had a strong trade relationship, which seems to have cost Italy. Italy has one of the oldest populations in the world. Ninety-nine percent of corona deaths in Italy, though, had other health problems, such as being obese, having hypertension, previous heart problems, etc. Italy began locking down cities as early as two weeks ago, though they have reported a staggering 4,825 deaths. This, though, is to be expected when a quarter of the country is aged 65 and older with multiple comorbidities. So if it is that bad in Italy with a smaller population, what does that mean for the US in the coming weeks?

New York and New Jersey banned gatherings of more than 50 people, dining out, gyms, etc in an effort to curb the transmission of the virus. Then, Friday night at midnight (3/21/2020) only essential businesses were allowed to stay open—essentials include healthcare, infrastructure, food (no dining-in, take-out or delivery only), grocery stores, mail, laundromats, law enforcement, etc. In NJ, all businesses were ordered to close down except things like grocery stores, banks, pet stores, convenience stores, etc. This affected me (gyms closed) and so I cannot work. I preempted this a few weeks ago and found a job in logistics, but I got laid off on Friday due to the shut-downs of nonessential businesses (the shut-downs decreased my work). Now, I’m thinking about hunkering down until at least June. Due to what we know about the social determinants of health (Marmot, 2005; Cockerham, 2007; Barr, 2019) we can expect what is associated with low class (poor health, stress, etc) to increase as well.

This is only going to get worse in the coming weeks. I do see a decreased number of people out on the street, and I am glad that states are taking measures to curb the transmission of the virus, but I still see people not really taking it seriously. From the ads on the radio informing us about what is going on around the country in terms of death rate and transmission rate, they are strongly suggesting for people to stay home and to avoid public transportation. Obviously, in places that are enclosed and many people walk in and out in a timely manner, that is a great place for the virus to spread. ….what if we’re doing what the virus ‘wants’? Don’t worry, the evo-psychos are here to tell us just-so stories.

By this account, COVID-19 is turning out to be a remarkably intelligent evolutionary adversary. By exploiting vulnerabilities in human psychology selectively bred by its pathogen ancestors, it has already shut down many of our schools, crashed our stock market, increased social conflict and xenophobia, reshuffled our migration patterns, and is working to contain us in homogenous spaces where it can keep spreading. We should pause to remark that COVID-19 is extraordinarily successful epidemiologically, precisely because it is not extremely lethal. With its mortality rate of 90%, for example, Ebola is a rather stupid virus: It kills its host — and itself — too quickly to spread far enough to reshape other species’ life-ways to cater to its needs. (The Coronavirus Is Much Worse Than You Think)

Ah, the non-lethality of COVID-19 is to its benefit—it can spread more, it is an “intelligent evolutionary adversary” but it is causing a “moral panic” as well. The damage to our psyche, apparently, is worse than what it could do to our lungs. And while I do agree that this could damage our collective psyches, we don’t need to tell just-so stories about it.

When we come out of this pandemic, I can see us being very cautious as we go back to normal life (in places affected, people are still going out where I live but not as much). Then, hundreds of years later, Evolutionary Psychologists notice how averse people are to go outside. “Why are people so introverted? Why do people avoid others?” They ask. “Why are those who wear masks more attractive than those who don’t wear masks?” They then discover the pandemic of the 2020s which ravaged the world. “Ah! Critics won’t be able to say ‘just-so stories’ now! We know the preceding event—we have a record of it happening!” And so, the evo-psychos celebrate.

In all seriousness, if people do take this seriously, there may be some social/cultural customs changes, including how we greet people.

Cao et al (2020) conclude: “The East Asian populations have much higher AFs [allele frequencies] in the eQTL variants associated with higher ACE2 expression in tissues (Fig. 1c), which may suggest different susceptibility or response to 2019-nCoV/SARS-CoV-2 from different populations under the similar conditions.” Asian men smoke more cigarettes than Asian women (Ma et al, 2002, 2004; Chae, Gavin, and Takeuchi, 2006; Tsai et al, 2008). In your lungs you have what is called “cilia fibers’ and these fibers move debris and microbes out while they also protect the bronchus and trap microorganisms. COVID-19 attacks these same cilia fibers that degrade when one smokes. Therefore, the fact that East Asian populations have higher allele frequencies in ACE2 expression tissues along with higher rates of smoking may be why Asian men seem to be affected more than Asian women. In any case, smokers of any race need to exercise caution.

What if after the pandemic is over life does not go back to normal? What if life during the pandemic becomes the ‘new normal’ when the pandemic is over because everyone is paranoid about contracting the virus again? For introverts, like myself, it’s easy to lock-in. I have hundreds of books to choose from to read, so if I do choose to lock in for 2 months (which I am thinking about), then I won’t really be bored. But my thing is this: what’s the point of locking in when everyone else isn’t, the virus still spreads and when you finally go out the pandemic is still going on? The point of quarantining is understandable—but if everyone doesn’t do it, will it really work? Libertarians be damned, we need the government to step in and do these kinds of things right now. It’s not about the individual, but the public as a whole.

On the other hand, it is thought-provoking to think about the fact that the government is ramping up the drama in the news to see how far they can go with social control. What a perfect way to see how far the public would go if they got “suggestions” from the government. Just like the government is “suggesting” we be inside at 8 pm to mitigate viral transmission, for example, it’s just to see what we would accept and how far they can go until they make it mandatory. It is interesting to think about how all of the toilet paper, hand sanitizer, hand soap, etc are being sold out everywhere.

People in my generation have 9/11 to look back to as the “That’s when the world changed” time. Well, kids alive today (around 7-15 years old) are experiencing their “9/11”, as that’s when the world changed for them. But this coronavirus pandemic is not on a country level—it is on the world level. The whole WORLD is affected. So since our Gregorian calendar is based off the birth of Jesus, I propose the following: change 1-December 2019 AD/CE to BC (before Corona) and anything after December 2019 to AC (after Corona).

I hope that, looking back on the current goings-on now that we are not talking about high death tolls and that we can get this under control. The only course of action (for now) is to attempt to stop the transmission of the virus—which is to stop its transmission from human to human. COVID-19 can be said to largely be a social disease since that is how it is most likely to be transmitted, which is why social distancing is so important. Being social is how the virus spreads, so to stop spreading the virus we need to be anti-social.

If we do not heed these warnings, then we will permanently be living in the Time of Corona. Coronavirus will be dictating what we do and when we do it. No one will want to get sick but no one will also want to take the steps needed in order to eradicate the threat. This thing is just getting started, by the end of the month into the first few weeks of April it is only going to get worse. I hope you all are prepared (have food [meat], water, soap, etc) because we’re in for a hell of a ride. With many businesses closing down in an effort to curb the transmission of COVID-19, many people will be out of jobs—many low-income people.


2 Comments

  1. King meLo says:

    Yeah I saw that 2007 study on reddit.

    We need to listen to scientists more. Maybe I’m being optimistic but maybe this whole crisis will open the eyes of millions of Americans who don’t see a fault in our healthcare system or the anti-intellectual mindset that pervades our society.

    Like

    • LOADED says:

      Maybe we’ll pay attention to acientists more and we’ll learn about climate change. That’s just my optimistic perspective. If we don’t trust scientists more we’ll repeat the fates of our apocalyptic forefathers.

      Like

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