Archive for February, 2022

KEEPING THE CONSUMER SAFE: Where is Daniel Ellsberg When We Need Him; Segment 15

Many of you are wondering who the hell is Daniel Ellsberg? Mr. Ellsberg was ground zero for a monumental media firestorm during the summer of 1971 about the Vietnam War. I won’t rehash what became known as the Pentagon Papers. I am hoping someone emerges with the “real” COVID-19 story.

As last reported, new studies are surfacing challenging the efficacy of various forms of COVID mitigation. This has heightened the polarization of what practices are going to be continued and what will be discontinued. The “science” seems to be waning in importance.

In the state of Texas, Omicron cases are on the decline. Fauci even recently announced the “U.S. is exiting the full-blown pandemic phase.” In an unconfirmed internet story, it was alleged during the HIV/AIDS epidemic Fauci was a strong advocate for vaccine development and almost anti-therapy development. This may or may not connect the dots to the current lack/shortage of COVID therapy development and explain the full-court press on vaccine participation (currently there are no HIV vaccines licensed for the market).

In what has been extremely limited local reporting, a February 5, 2022 Dallas Morning News article, “Approved virus treatments, and how to find them,” the sketchy existence of COVID-19 treatments was outlined. The good news is The Food and Drug Administration has given emergency authorization for 4 treatments. The only access to the treatments is by prescription or referral from a health care provider. The article goes on to state the “treatments are in short supply in North Texas.” Some of you have probably heard or seen mention of COVID “monoclonal antibody treatments and wondered what they are and where to get them. My random sample of four health care providers in Dallas/Fort Worth resulted in zero availability.

I’m not a scientist so am not going to try and explain what monoclonal antibodies are. However, here’s where things get murky. In December 16, 2020, CNBC reported, “antibody drugs used to treat Trump and others could cut Covid-19 hospitalizations by half, but they’re not being used by the general public.” According to Alex Azar, Health Secretary, “ what’s happening is people are waiting too long to seek out the treatments.” What?

Being skeptical, after reading the aforementioned stories, I decided further investigation was necessary and was surprised by my discovery. First, the monoclonal antibodies Trump received were not approved by the FDA. I for one was amazed at the speed Trump recovered and some even wondered if he actually was infected. Second, a federal “right to try” law was passed in May 2018. Simply, this law allows patients to “try” experimental drugs not yet approved by the FDA. This enabled Trump’s physicians to access the drugs from the company, Regeneron. Interestingly, Regeneron had developed the “approach and technologies” for these antibodies from work related to the treatment of Ebola.  Third, to add to the confusion, The Food and Drug Administration issued a statement on January 22, 2022, revising the use of monoclonal antibodies, bamlanivimab, etesevimab, casirivimab, imdevimab to only situations where the patient has been exposed to the Delta variant. Apparently, it’s been determined these antibodies are ineffective against Omicron. A peculiarity to this announcement is the testing kits being distributed by the government don’t determine which COVID variant a person has.

In summary, certain monoclonal antibodies have had their FDA authorizations revised. Seemingly, the FDA by their announcement has declared the COVID Delta variant over. Does the FDA ruling make the use of the aforementioned antibodies illegal in light of the “Right to Try” law? Are organizations treating patients using these antibodies subject to legal action? We’ve seen the NIH and CDC attempt to silence individuals with an alternative position, will the FDA exert the same type of influence?  Earlier during the pandemic, there was a surplus of monoclonal antibodies and currently they’re in short supply. On January 30, the Dallas County Health and Human Services reported 183 deaths for the week. This made it the deadliest week since the pandemic began.

As someone once said, there’s a fly in the ointment. The inconsistencies are mounting and explanations are getting fewer and further between.

As background, I was a junior in high school following the summer when the Pentagon Papers were released. Each day during my history class, we examined the inconsistencies between what had been reported about the Vietnam War and what the reality was. I realize the Papers did not end the War but they shed light on many questionable decisions Presidents made that cost thousands of American lives. Our conversations left an indelible imprint on me about the importance of reliable reporting. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m hoping someone is writing the COVID Papers.

Vietnam cost 58,000 American lives. COVID has taken 918,000 deaths and counting!


KEEPING THE CONSUMER SAFE: The Politicization of COVID: Segment 14

A couple weeks ago, Salvador Rizzo of The Washington Post wrote an article about the confrontational exchange between Anthony Fauci and Senator Rand Paul during a Senate health committee hearing. Several things in the article were interesting. First, COVID has escalated into a serious political issue. I say serious because few things other than war have as serious life and death consequences as COVID. Second, why has the The Great Barrington Declaration become so polarizing?

In the article, Rizzo refers to the 3 authors of the Barrington paper as “three conservative academics who opposed lockdown measures in 2020.” This has become a much more interesting topic as of late but more later.

How quickly the COVID world changes. In searching social media. the first thing I noticed was the NHL announced asymptomatic players were no longer going to be tested. With the NFL playoffs upon us and the Super Bowl only days away, the NFL followed with a similar decision. The NFL’s once a week testing of all players and personnel has now been changed to only testing players displaying symptoms. In the Friday edition of The Dallas Morning News, I noticed a brief note, “The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials has called on governments to stop conducting widespread contact tracing, saying it’s no longer necessary.” What?

Another significant social media event occurred Friday evening, January 24, 2022, on the episode of “Real Time With Bill Maher.” Both Bill Maher and his guest, Bari Weiss, disclosed their personal frustrations with living under COVID restrictions. This brought on a social media firestorm. On a more personal note, my local school district closed for two days because of a COVID caused teacher shortage. Anyone see conflicting messages but me?

Canada has a nation-wide trucking demonstration in opposition to mandates going on. Johns Hopkins University recently released a 60+ page “Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on COVID-19 Mortality.” The paper comes to the conclusion that “lockdowns in Europe and the United States only reduced COVID-19 mortality by 0.2% on average. Shelter-in-place-order studies were also ineffective, only reducing COVID-19 mortality by 2.9% on average.” For those familiar with The Great Barrington Declaration, the Johns Hopkins study seemingly supports the recommendations of the Declaration. This document came under intense challenge by Fauci and Collins who challenged the scientific validity of the document.

Needless to say I’m getting more confused as I attempt to stay informed about what’s going on with COVID and trying to provide meaningful/helpful commentary.  Amidst all of the aforementioned seemingly contradictory information the following headline appeared in The Dallas Morning News, “Omicron pushes death toll higher.” So from a logical perspective one would think there’s a pretty significant reason for people to consider any and all approaches to stop the dying. I can categorically say this is not the case. In the aforementioned article, it’s suggested even though omicron is “milder,” it’s highly contagious, causing more to become ill and die.

I’m not a biostatistician so my following conclusion is not based on any technical skill or training. Based upon a vaccination website on Google, 211 million Americans are vaccinated representing 64% of the population. Our mortality numbers seem to be gaining on the peak mortality numbers during last fall. Common sense would suggest with more than half the population vaccinated and some additional percentage of the population being previously infected and surviving, we shouldn’t be experiencing this type of outcome unless something else is going on. Is the vaccine not working on Omicron? What are we learning about immunity? Does having the Delta variant provide immunity to the Omicron variant? Are the risk factors identified for the Delta variant the same as Omicron? Are there new or different risk factors impacting mortality? Are mandates working? What are the unintended consequences of the mandates and are there mortality impacts associated with these? What are the most effective treatments? Where should people go for treatments?

I spend my days searching for answers to these and other seemingly important questions. What’s frustrating is the lack of consistency in how the Press is reporting on the evolving information. I’m getting the sense if the information does not conform to the political context or the reporting outlet’s viewpoint, it may or may not be reported. This is dangerous! In fact, it’s starting to remind me of a time when the Pentagon Papers were the headline of the day.

As discussed before, we’re living in real-time, scientific discovery mode that is being exposed via social media to the entire world. As stated before, history shows us the scientific discovery process is complete with much trial and error as well as pure serendipity. Politicians intent on making public policy on unproven, untested or changing scientific discovery are going to be wrong some of the time. This is going to require real-time course corrections. It’s going to require people to admit they were wrong and move forward. It’s going to require politicians with courage and backbone to make decisions and then make better decisions based upon new information. Hiding information because it conflicts with existing public policy will not end well for anyone.






Healthcare Consumer Navigator Center is a Healthcare Consumer Advocate Organization that helps consumer navigate the healthcare maze. The following Series “KEEPING THE CONSUMER SAFE; LIVING WITH COVID”.  Our goal is to provide a commonsense approach to living with covid with general healthcare information.

In a previous article, I compared medical innovation and making sausage. For those never seeing how a hotdog is made, consider yourselves lucky. I’ve decided having the whole world exposed to seeing how medicine/science is dealing with COVID is very much the same as making a hotdog. On the simplest level, we experience medicine by going to our doctor, getting a diagnosis, getting a prescription, and picking it up at the drugstore. Presto with have a fix. In more complex circumstances we go to our doctor, who sends us to a specialist who sends us to a hospital for some type of intervention. In either case, history and experience have created accepted algorithms of treatment and care. Things are predictable. Not so much with COVID.

Because COVID is occurring real-time and in the context of an advanced social media world. We are all seeing how scientific discovery happens. At times it does not always follow a straight line. So now we are dealing with a different version of COVID. In a matter of a few months we’ve gone from vaccinating those with compromised immune systems and over 65 to 5 years old and older.

I can only vaguely remember the beginning of COVID, as I recall the warning symptoms were, temperature, loss of taste, loss of smell, difficulty breathing and a scratchy throat. So now the CDC website lists the following as symptoms: fever or chills; cough; difficulty breathing; fatigue; muscle or body aches; headache; loss of taste or smell; sore throat; runny nose; nausea; diarrhea (the CDC is careful to note this is not a complete list). Complicating factors are now the Omicron variant and the impact of vaccination. More people are now asymptomatic. It doesn’t take a medical degree to realize there are many physical abnormalities that have the above mentioned symptoms.

I live in the great state of Texas. For 20 plus years in December and January, I have the displeasure of being extremely allergic to juniper pollen. I don’t know how many of our readers share this unfortunate condition, but I do know a number of colleagues. It is more commonly known here as “cedar fever.” The symptoms are fatigue, sore throat, runny nose, partial loss of smell,  temperature (usually not higher than 101.5), sneezing, itchy and watery eyes. Needless to say, to the layperson cedar fever bares an awful lot of similarity to COVID-19. In addition, we’re also entering a time of year the medical community refers to as the “flu season.” Because these symptoms are generally more common to everyone, I won’t delineate. Let me just say they are also very similar to COVID.

So combine the aforementioned medical conditions along with exploding COVID cases and a perfect storm for COVID-19 testing has been created. In very limited circulation is a document, “The Great Barrington Declaration,” written by 3 epidemiologists and public health scientists and as of this writing signed by over 916,000 supporters. Simply stated (you’re encouraged to read it for yourself) the document presents alternative approaches the writers call “Focused Protection” as opposed to COVID current strategies and was released to the public on October 5, 2020. What’s contributed to the notoriety of this document is the apparent opposition it’s created from the CDC and FDA and the political reaction to the document and the authors.

I’m more sensitive to the document now that I’ve been vaccinated, infected, recovered, boosted and surrounded by a circle of friends that share similar experiences. In all cases, vaccinated, they’ve not been hospitalized, minimal to no symptoms, recovered in 3 to 5 days without medical intervention other than over the counter cold and flu remedies. So as I read and hear stories on social media of people spending in excess of 8 hours waiting to be tested, I wonder why? Are all this people in the high risk categories? Are they responding to a panic being created by social media? It appears the majority of media is focused on the “vaccine or bust” agenda. There is almost no mention of the potential for infection despite vaccination, no significant messaging of infection and short recoveries and continued coverage of the outrageous demand for testing and the craziness this is causing.

I have lived with cedar fever for 21 years. I don’t look forward to it but have learned how to manage the 2 months when it impacts me. There seems to be a general feeling in the media there will be a complete eradication of COVID sometime in the near future, and we just need to live through these fire drills until that day arrives. Given my observations of the past 2 years, I think we’re more likely to be dealing with COVID for a much longer time horizon and should be adjusting to life-style changes that aren’t reactionary but permanent. Are we really going to make our children wear masks for the next 20 years? Are we really going to wear masks every time we get on an airplane? If we go to concerts, are the entertainers all going to be speaking through masks? Many of you aren’t old enough to remember the nuclear bomb drills we went through in the early sixties at school when we all were instructed to crawl under our desks.

Currently, I’m not spending my time waiting in line to be tested to see if I have cedar fever or the flu. I’m also not spending $20 on a home test kit to see if I have cedar fever. Because I have one of the top four comorbidities I take my temperature every day. I’m also very aware of any change in my physical well being.

I’m awaiting for my TSA-like vaccination card that enables me to live a more normal life. We need someone to start developing longer term approaches without the political influence, soon!


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