COVID-19 Information and Statistics

Origins

The virus emerged in the Wuhan province in central China, sometime around November of 2019. Local authorities originally covered it up at least until late December.

Dr. Li Wenliang was the first whistleblower but was forced to sign a confessional saying that there was no danger posed by the virus. He later died from complications stemming from it. He was 34.

It is currently believed that the virus stemmed from either consumption of bat meat or pangolin meat as it has several genetic markers that are similar to coronaviruses found in these animals.

There is a theory that COVID19 is an escaped bioweapon, since there is a high-security biolab in Wuhan. This is unlikely. Additionally, a multinational World Health Organization (WHO) investigative team team concluded in February 2021 that the virus is most likely of animal origin.

The R-Number

The R-Number is the reproductive rate of the virus. A number larger than 1 means the virus is growing, a number less than 1 means it is dying. There is a great video by Kathrine Frey Frøslie aka “Statistrikk The Knitting Statistician” that explains this concept.

Symptoms

Most people know the symptoms by now, but just in case here is the breakdown. It is from February 22, 2020, by which point the most common symptoms were well known.

Long COVID

It’s not just about you live or die. Many people suffer from “Long COVID”, which could have potentially lifelong debilitating effects including damage to the heart, lungs and brain.

This research is ongoing and not well-quantified yet. But given the length that survivors have suffered it points to COVID19 not being a disease to mess with.

Reinfection

While rare, it is possible to be reinfected with COVID-19. BNO has a tracker that’s updated daily. This tracker also includes information on how severe the second case is. They range from less severe to more severe, so there is no universal rule.

Disease Vectors

Surfaces

COVID19 almost never infects people via surface transmission (known as fomites). Even though people often cite a study made early during in pandemic, this study was later found to be using an unreasonable amount of COVID particles on a surface. In reality, the only way you would get the levels they were using would be if an extremely sick patient spat directly onto a surface, which is very unlikely.

There have been two confirmed cases of COVID spread via surface transmission; a trashcan lid in New Zealand and a cold-food truck driver in China.

Otherwise, COVID-19 rarely spreads through surfaces. It’s not a bad idea to spritz alcohol on your hand after touching a checkout keypad, but otherwise deep-cleaning surfaces is simply put; security theatre.

Airborne

COVID is predominantly spread through the air – and it doesn’t have to be a cough. Infected people “shed” the virus through breathing, where they expel small particulates that contain a viral agent. These particulates can travel up to 15 feet (4.5 meters), meaning if you are in an enclosed space and are not wearing a mask, you could be infected even if you are six feet away from someone.

This viral shedding is one of the reasons more recently discovered strains, like the ones from the UK, Brazil and South Africa are more infections; infected patients shed higher viral loads for longer periods of time than the original strain.

Animals

Pet cats and dogs have been confirmed to catch COVID-19. This is an infrequent issue, but it does affect pets in a similar way to humans, with fevers, coughing, diarrhea and vomiting. If someone in your house gets sick, try to isolate them from the pets as well as people. The CDC considers the risk of spreading COVID from pets to humans to be low, based on a lack of confirmed cases.

If you deal with livestock, be aware that there have been significant outbreaks of COVID in the populations of mink farms in the US and Denmark, resulting in the culling of thousands of minks. Lots of animals being packed close together and interacting with humans seems to be a strong vector for animal infection, which can then re-infect humans.

Tracker of confirmed infections in animals: World Organization for Animal Health.

People

One of the worst things about COVID is that infected people can take up to two weeks before showing symptoms, but are still infectious during this period. One of the worst vectors for COVID is through young people because they are less likely to show symptoms and thus will congregate in schools and other areas, believing they are healthy but are instead spreading the virus.

Dr. Margaret Stager (3/17/2020 @ 11:36 PM):

“Twenty somethings are MAJOR vectors for the virus. Current US protocols won’t get them tested but S Korea data shows they are spreading the virus everywhere. It’s time for the healthy young adults to stay home and stop spreading the virus.”

Mitigation

Social Distancing

Everyone knows this term by now and while it is effective at helping stop the spread, the biggest issue is that people seem to think it’s somehow a barrier to being infected. As noted in the “Airborne” section, COVID can travel long distances through the air. The six foot rule is based on the assumption that droplets (like drops of spit from a cough) are the primary driver of infection. This is not the case however, as noted in this medical journal:

“The Six-Foot Rule is a social-distancing recommendation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Transmission, based on the assumption that the primary vector of pathogen transmission is the large drops ejected from the most vigorous exhalation events,[…]. However, the liquid drops expelled by respiratory events are known to span a considerable range of scales, with radii varying from fractions of a micron to millimeters (9, 19).

There is growing evidence that indoor airborne transmission associated with relatively small, micron-scale aerosol droplets plays a dominant role in the spread of COVID-19.”

In short: just because your tables are six feet apart does not mean COVID cannot reach you. It can. Six feet is a mitigation measure against large drops expelled by coughing or sneezing but not microparticles exhaled through regular breathing. Without a mask, an asymptomatic patient can exhale COVID and contaminate any indoor space.

Painkillers

The French Health Ministry has found that painkillers like ibuprofen may exacerbate the symptoms of Coronavirus. They suggest taking paracetamol instead, which can be found in Tylenol.

Masks

  • Masks can protect you if they are fitted properly. They need to make an airtight seal against your face to be truly effective. The virus is 120–160 nm in diameter, so anything that can filter particles that small will do (N95s are perfect). See “Other Mask Options” below if you do not wish to purchase MaskSquared.
  • Disposable masks must be discarded after every use, but this may be unreasonable for some so try getting a good fitting reusable mask.
  • Masks must fit tightly over your nose. There is a metal clip at the top; squeeze it to tighten it against your nose.
  • Masks will not protect you from saliva, particulate, etc. that enters your body through your eyes. So be aware that masks are not 100% foolproof. You would need to wear goggles, a face mask, a disposable smock, gloves, etc. to be completely protected in public.

Vaccines

There are several kinds of vaccines available for COVID-19. Note that there are no currently approved vaccines for children.

This article explains vaccine efficacy (different than effectiveness):

“Efficacy is calculated based on trials that have an unvaccinated placebo control group, and at the end of the trial, they look at the number in the control group that ended up with symptomatic COVID to get the baseline infection rate. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for instance, had 95 percent efficacy in its clinical trial. That number came from the fact that 162 people in the placebo group got symptomatic COVID, and eight people in the vaccinated group did; that is 170 cases total. Eight is approximately five percent of 170. That is essentially how efficacy is calculated. “

mRNA-Based

These vaccines alter the RNA (not DNA) of your cells. If DNA is the blueprint for your body then RNA is the foreman – they carry the instructions to different cells to instruct them on what to do. In the case of mRNA vaccines, they instruct your cells to produce the spike protein unique to COVID-19. This lets your body know what to look for without ever having been infected. These vaccines have the benefit of being able to be tweaked to variants quickly, though this has not been yet tested in the field (3/3/2021).

  1. Moderna: Two shots required, 28 days apart. 94.1% efficacy.
  2. Pfizer-BioNTech: Two shots, 21 days apart. 95% efficacy.
  3. Johnson and Johnson: One shot. 66% against moderate to severe illness, 85% effective against severe disease.

Viral-Vector

In a viral-vector vaccine, a different virus than the target virus is modified to deliver genetic instructions to our cells. Rather than directly altering RNA instructions, viral-vector vaccines use a harmless virus to deliver the genetic instructions necessary to replicate the spike protein.

  1. AstraZeneca/Oxford University: Two shots, 28 days apart. 63.09% efficacy.
  2. Sputnik V, Russia: Two shots, 21 days apart. 92% efficacy

Inactivated Virus Vaccine

These vaccines use a killed off version of the virus to teach the body what the virus looks like and how to defend against it.

  1. Sinovac BioTech’s CoronaVac: Two shots, 14 days apart. 50.4% effective at preventing symptomatic infections, 78% effective in preventing mild cases needing treatment, and 100% effective in preventing severe cases (Brazil), 91.3% efficacy reported in Turkey.
  2. Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin: Two shots, 4 weeks apart. 81% effective.

Others

This is not an exhaustive list. All images were taken from this WHO presentation on vaccine development (October 2020).

Other Mask Options

Household Materials

Research has shown that teacloth (Sources 1, 2, 3) is roughly 83% as effective as a surgical mask at stopping particles smaller than the Coronavirus. If you don’t want to buy or can’t afford a MaskSquared mask, you can fashion a safe mask out of this material.

During the height of the crisis in China, a university there developed a mask alternative that is effective and can be made using ordinary household materials. Watch the video to learn how to make your own.

Elevons Respirator

In March of 2020 I developed a free respirator that you can 3D print at home. It will fit a variety of face shapes and has passed a fit test. You can download it for free here. It’s not as comfortable as MaskSquared and it does not use N95 material, but it will keep you safe.

Statistics

Data from Worldometers.

US Cases Graph:

Note: “Recovered” is not reporting correctly.