Kaiser doctor: Cause, Effect, What’s the Difference?

A press release on the Kaiser Permanente web site showcases Doctor Robert Sallis, who conducted a study in which the data on 50,000 KP members diagnosed with COVID-19, finding that people who were less active were 20% more likely to be hospitalized and 30% more likely to die after diagnosis.

Yes, it’s just as nonsensical as you are quite likely thinking.

We know that various comorbidities, such as diabetes, asthma, old age, and kidney disease can result in worse outcomes when someone gets COVID-19. And we also know that these same conditions are associated with lower levels of physical activity.

So Dr. Sallis has found that … sicker people are less active.

But he interprets it as meaning that exercise can save you from dying if you get the disease. That might be true, but the press release comes nowhere near proving it.

Of course, it’s possible the actual paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has a more powerful analysis. So I found it.

Umm ….

The activity levels were self-reported. Red flag.

The authors mention confounders. That’s it. They make no effort to account for them, they just vaguely discount them: “There is also the potential issue of residual confounding due to unmeasured confounders or measurement error. However, many studies have demonstrated numerous strong benefits from PA, especially among those who suffer from a variety of chronic diseases.” Yes, but that doesn’t mean that exercise automatically has benefits in every case. It would in principle be possible to do a better analysis, in which you compared people in matched subgroups (groups matched by age and pre-existing conditions, where the only difference between members is level of physical activity). They didn’t bother to do that.

Let me be clear: if I had access to the data I could do that analysis. It isn’t mysterious. They just didn’t.

So … this paper is, let’s say, very far from convincing.

Conspiracy theorizing: killing people again

Wisconsin pharmacist who destroyed more than 500 vaccine doses believes Earth is flat, FBI says.

Pharmacist Steven Brandenberg deliberately ruined over 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, by leaving it out of the freezer so that it spoiled.

Why? Because he thought it would be harmful, cause infertility, and that it included some kind of microchip.

Why? Because he believes in conspiracy theories. Notably, he believes that the Earth is flat, and that the sky is fake, a physical dome put in place to prevent people from seeing God. Note that this last theory is not compatible with literally any religion I’ve ever heard of. He isn’t religious–he has fallen down the rabbit hole and is unable to properly reality-check. He’s measuring the value of a proposition, not by how well it comports with reality, but by how cool it would be if it was true.

And … if any of the incorrectly vaccinated or unvaccinated people he deprived of their shots die, he has killed them in the name of nonexistent harms and nonexistent microchips.

For more on conspiracy theorizing:

All science denial is a form of conspiracy theory by Steven Novella.

Terrifyingly transmissible variants?

So, we hear a lot about how the VOC 202012/01 variant (the “British variant”) and 501Y.V2 (the “South African variant”) are more transmissible than the baseline SARS-CoV-2 virus, and there is evidence that this is true.

However, something to keep in mind:

New Cases of SARS-CoV-2 InfectionUKSouth Africa
Jan 1641,34613,973
Jan 3023,2755,297
Source: Worldometers.info

So, while these new variants are coming to dominate new infections in both nations, both countries have reduced their number of actual infections dramatically. That isn’t an inconsistency–it just indicates that common-sense public health measures like distancing and mask-wearing actually work fine against the new variants. (There are lots of other factors, like the “post-Christmas surge” in cases abating, of course.)

This is what evil looks like

A protest forced the temporary closure of a COVID-19 vaccination site in Los Angeles. They’re literally willing to kill people for the fiction that COVID-19 doesn’t exist.


They’re willing to kill for a lie. I literally can’t think of worse evil. Bigger evil, sure, but not worse.

To quote a post from one of the protestors, “… please refrain from wearing Trump/MAGA attire as we want our statement to resonate with the sheeple. No flags but informational signs only.” Naturally, they had to lie about who they were.

Internet Archive Promotes Woo

I have used and liked the Internet Archive since it was just the Wayback Machine. I have donated money on multiple occasions.

And now they’re promoting The Secret. Yes, the infamous peak-nonsense idea that if you just want something really badly, you get it. The literal apotheosis of blame-the-victim, The Secret implies strongly that if you die of cancer it is your own fault, because if you wanted it to go away badly enough, it would have. Your own bad attitude is responsible for anything bad that happens to you.

And the Archive invited one of its best-known promoters, Michael Beckwith, to speak at their event.

I am discouraged. I believe that I will be donating to something else this year.

Retail Unmasked

I wrote this to a particular local store. I’m not going to name-and-shame them, so this is an open letter to many retailers:


I was in your store this morning.

Several of your staff were wearing their masks either around their necks, or not covering their noses.

This is another way to say, “Not really wearing masks.”

Or, “Not protecting your customers or each other from disease.”

I am deliberately not naming or describing them, because this is not a failure of the hourly employee. It is inevitably and inarguably the responsibility of the management to ensure that the staff follows proper health and safety practices.

If you need assistance, Suffolk County and the State of New York have many resources available to you.

I will note that at least one staffer was apparently walking in to start a shift. You may want to remind them to wear a mask whenever they are in the store, not just when they are on the clock. The same rules that apply to your customers apply to your staff. Masks protect us all, but only if we all wear them.

Let me emphasize that I’m not angry at your staff, or you. I am trying to help protect them, and you, from a potentially deadly disease.

Thank you.

Resurrections in Spain!

According to the Worldometer, 1915 people returned from the dead today (May 25, 2020). Specifically, COVID-19 victims.

I thought this would be the result of a statistical correction, maybe Spain reclassifying a bunch of deaths as being caused by something else, but their News section says nothing about that. My Spanish is very rusty, but their source also doesn’t say such a thing.

I was never that great of a programmer, but surely someone at the Worldometer could have inserted sanity checks for things like the dead rising from the grave. Is Spain threatened by a zombie apocalypse, in addition to the pandemic?

On that same page, they also show that -372 new cases appeared today, and that no one in Spain has recovered from COVID-19 since March 18.

I emailed to let them know about that last anomaly a couple of days ago. No answer so far.

I like the Worldometer’s coronavirus pages and look at them regularly. I have no idea why this slipped through and never got corrected.

Covid-19 and your business: an open letter

In the past few days, I have received emails from hotel chains, supermarkets, convenience stores, travel brands, and a storage locker company explaining how they’re protecting my health from the Covid-19 outbreak. Almost all of them are stamped from the same template:

  • We are sanitizing frequently-touched surfaces more often
  • If you have reservations, we are giving you flexibility to change them, even if we don’t usually let you cancel without penalty
  • We’re following applicable recommendations from WHO and the CDC

Only one, 7-Eleven, has mentioned a critical one: asking sick people to not come in, and saying that they’re directing any employee to stay home if feeling ill. That last is obviously key, though. Here’s the thing: they don’t mention “And we’re giving them sick pay.”

People who work in restaurants and convenience stores are often part-timers with no benefits, and in particular no paid sick days. Telling a person who needs her pay from the night shift to feed her kids, “Just stay home if you run a fever,” is like saying “Just let your family starve if you run a fever.” They won’t and they can’t.

So: how seriously do you really take this outbreak? Are you ready to pay your staff to stay home when sick? Because if not … then people will inevitably die.

No, I don’t think the Thais have cured the Wuhan virus

Did you see that Thai doctors have cured the Novel Coronavirus?

https://www.ibtimes.co.in/cocktail-flu- … and-812699

Don’t hold your breath. They claim to have used anti-HIV drugs. Those are almost all antiretrovirals. Coronavirii are not retroviruses. It seems very unlikely meds that work by inhibiting the enzyme reverse transcriptase would affect members of the Coronaviridae, since the RNA of a coronavirus is not reverse-transcribed into DNA.

Oseltamivir (trade name Tamiflu), their third drug, is specific to influenza and again would not be expected to work against a totally different type of virus. I actually found a Chinese study that tested it against the SARS virus (close relative of 2019-nCoV) and found no activity.

The whole media brouhaha is based on … one patient.

I can’t rule it out. I can and do doubt it a lot.

The Washington Post embarrasses itself

I just dashed off an angry letter to the Post about their recent article, UFOs exist and everyone needs to adjust to that fact. I reproduce my text below.

The above article is apparently a fairly subtle joke that has taken in the Post’s editorial team. Surely you wouldn’t post something so afactual and nonsensical without a disclaimer in a serious “Perspective” demi-editorial? Surely you should at least have had an article by a person competent in some sort of science? I find it hard to believe you were taken in.

On the off-chance you took that … set of words … seriously (I’m eliding my more strident description), may I suggest you consult Professor Massimo Pigliucci (CUNY), or Professor Steven Novella (Yale Med), or someone from the CSI (Center for Skeptical Inquiry)? Massimo in particular as a philosopher and scientist could point out both the factual incorrectness of some of the assertions, and the logical fallacy blatantly present in the phrase, “… but even those skeptics could not completely rule out the possibility that extraterrestrial activity was involved.”

I await your retraction.

Carl Fink

The article is a hot mess of nonsense. I’m embarrassed for every newspaper editor, just because their colleagues published this waste of photons.

(Image courtesy Wikipedia user D J Shin)