PCR-CT – Another angle that needs attention

I was recently inspired to reach out to my department of health to figure out the manufacturer(s) of the PCR Tests being used here in Virginia to determine a positive case of COVID-19. I’ve suspected all along that the incredibly numerous “cycles” required to determine positivity means we are magnifying and magnifying and magnifying so much that we’re calling tiny little mRNA/viral fragments VIRUS!!!!! and causing people to panic unnecessarily. Ironically, the ridiculously high false positive rate means we have a corresponding high “survival” rate but good news is not news, so…

Dena Potter, the Director of Communications for the Virginia Department of General Services, sent me three photocopied pages, presumably from the package inserts, from the 3 PCR Tests Virginia’s Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) is using.

Thermo Fisher Scientific, Incorporated TaqPath COVID-19 Combo Kit (page 121)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCo V) Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel (page 36)

NeuMoDX SARS-CoV-2 Assay (page 9)

After thanking her profusely for providing exactly the information I was requesting, I sent the following response:

From a laymen’s perspective, it appears two tests allow up to 40 cycles, and one up to 37 cycles, to determine a positive result.

I have a limited understanding of virology, to be sure, yet I have suspected all year that the high amplification of mRNA fragments might be resulting in an enormous number of false positives, which could be used to strengthen the erroneous “asymptomatic spreader” theory, and completely distorts the public understanding of the risks associated with SARS-COV2.

I recently came across an article in the New York Times (published in August) discussing PCR Cycle Thresholds. In the article, Dr. Mina suggests cutting off the CT at 30 cycles. In fact, “The CDC’s own calculations suggest that it is extremely difficult to detect any live virus in a sample above a threshold of 33 cycles.” Yet it seems we are going with either 37 or 40 cycles here in Virginia, and as a result, we are seeing a high “positivity” rate.

Here’s what I recently received from VDH:

“The Virginia Department of Health does not have information about Ct values because laboratories are not required to report these to the agency.  The Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) has published an informative handout about Ct values, nucleic acid amplification testing, and how Ct values can be used.  This may provide additional information that might be helpful.  The document can be found at https://www.coronavirus.kdheks.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1607/APHL-Ct-Values-PDF “

Ron Desantis, in Florida, has taken action on behalf of his constituents and is now requiring labs to report their CT with every COVID PCR test.

When will Virginia’s Department of Health stand up for us? The never-ending panic over COVID-19 has been spurred on by a “spikes in cases” despite the fact that we are seeing false positives due to the extreme magnification of viral fragments.

Who should I follow up with with questions about the standards for determining a positive case in Virginia? What can we do? Who should I talk to next?

{OvO}

Following up with Mr. Lyons

Below is a summary of the email response I got from Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors Dan Lyons, and my response to him.

Mr. Lyons sent me the following information regarding the effectiveness of masks. I have linked to the articles with links as provided (or not) in his note to me. You will see numbers in parentheses – those are my footnotes. Click each footnote to skip to my comments which I sent via email to Mr. Lyons today.

Wearing cloth masks can help prevent people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 from spreading the virus. (1) Link

A cloth mask is intended to trap droplets that are released when the wearer talks, coughs or sneezes. Asking everyone to wear cloth masks can help reduce the spread of the virus by people who have COVID-19 but don’t realize it. (2) (No link)

A recent study published in Health Affairs, for example, compared the COVID-19 growth rate before and after mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia. It found that mask mandates led to a slowdown in daily COVID-19 growth rate, which became more apparent over time. The first five days after a mandate, the daily growth rate slowed by 0.9 percentage-points compared to the five days prior to the mandate; at three weeks, the daily growth rate had slowed by 2 percentage-points. (3) Link

Face masks help contain respiratory droplets that can transmit SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, from people who do not know they have the virus. (4) (No link)

(1) This suggests masks help prevent sick people from spreading viruses. It does not suggest healthy people should wear masks, which is what the Governor has mandated.

(2) This refers to the “asymptomatic spread” of this virus (or presumably other viruses). This one is tricky, because the spread of the virus from “healthy” individuals, ie, the vast number of positive tests amid an otherwise healthy population, suggests asymptomatic spread is a serious concern. However, as I mentioned in our phone conversation, the testing we are doing means we are finding “cases” where they do not exist. Link

(3) This is another example of cherry-picked data. The Washington DC Mask Mandate was put in place on July 22, 2020 and you can see via this link, there was indeed a reduction in cases over late July and into August. However, you’ll notice there was a “spike in cases” in the fall that mimics many states, cities, counties and countries. If masks are so effective why did we see a “spike” like this in Washington, D.C., and in nearly every jurisdiction around the world?

(4) This article refers to asymptomatic spread, see note #2 above.

You mentioned on the phone that “masks don’t hurt” and in your note below, you said “they do help slow down the spread of the virus.” Simply put, those statements are incorrect. Masks cause an increase in upper respiratory distress, reduction in blood oxygen levels, and an increase in cavities and gum disease, not to mention the psychological effects of forcing an entire healthy population to cover their faces. Here are some great sources.

Sir, if you agree that the mask mandates are at the very least non-sensical, help me fight them. Your refusal to push back, or ask questions, suggests you support this never-ending State of Emergency and the associated mask mandates and crowd limits. I have tried for months to get an answer from Governor Northam regarding what he is looking for in order to end the State of Emergency. A certain threshold of deaths per month or week? A vaccine? Complete elimination of positive tests? We need to know his goals. Or, we need to make him admit he doesn’t have any. Either way, we deserve answers, and I’m having NO luck getting them. Please help me.

{OvO}

Trying to get answers…

This is a copy of an email I sent to my local elected official. In Rockbridge County we have an elected Board of Supervisors (there are 6 districts) and an appointed County Supervisor. I copied all of them (and Sheriff Steve Funkhouser) on this email.

Please consider sending something like it to your local officials.

Mr. Lyons,

Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me today. It is up to you, our local elected officials, to take a stand when the governor oversteps. Virginia is a Federation of Counties, not an Autocracy. This never-ending State of Emergency is unacceptable, and your continued compliance with it, and the various Executive Orders that have been enacted under it, is unacceptable. I hope you and the Board will re-consider acquiescing to the Governor’s increasingly restrictive dictates. I’ve copied the rest of the BoS as well as Sheriff Funkhouser, and County Admin Spencer Suter so we can all be on the same page.

Additionally, I truly appreciate your comment that there is research on both sides of the mask argument. I’m sending along some of my findings and hope you will send me yours, so we can have an educated discussion about the facts, instead of getting wrapped up in emotion. After all, masks either work or they don’t – it’s not a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of fact. Let’s work together to get to the bottom of it!

Here’s a great site that summarizes the lack of effectiveness of mask mandates in various states in the US. What’s particularly interesting about this work is Slide 4 which compares 3 states with early mandates, mid-summer mandates, and no mandates, with similar populations/geography (Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah) and finds nearly identical case curves in all three states. 

Here is some data from a randomized trial done in Denmark that clearly demonstrates the ineffectiveness of masks.

Many of the mask studies done recently in the US and around the world have failed to use real world scenarios – poor fitting masks, spray bottles + mannequins, things like that. I am eager to see what studies you have found that show a likelihood of real world success of mask-wearing. I agree there are studies that show a properly-fitted N-95 mask may be effective at preventing some viral spread – but you and I both know our community (and even the CDC recommendations) are NOT using properly-fitted N-95 masks. Either we wear real masks and learn to use aseptic technique (sterilize your hands before donning the mask, limit use of a particular mask to a few hours at a time and then get a new one, don’t touch the mask while you’re wearing it, etc) or we admit that what we’re doing is useless.

And in regards to testing, it is clear that our testing model has been skewed toward more and more “cases,” despite seeing relatively few hospitalizations and very few deaths. The more you have to magnify a particular sample in order to detect viral cells (as is done with PCR testing) the more and more likely you are to find a positive result. It’s like standing in a junk yard with a BMW emblem in your hand, and thinking “Oh, this must be a BMW dealership!” Here is an article, from the New York Times, that illustrates my concerns. If we have to cycle the test 35+ times to find a “positive” result we don’t have any virus. The “surge in cases” is a reflection of this virus having already spread throughout the community (and the world) with fortunately VERY LITTLE negative impact.

A recent study from Oxford University proves that the widely-distributed PCR tests are utterly useless for detecting SARS-COV2 due to the impractically high cycle threshold required to obtain a positive result in many people. Do you know if there has been any discussion about establishing a standard to ensure our case count is an accurate reflection of illness?

Florida Governor Ron Desantis is now requiring labs to report their CT value with every COVID-19 test. This is a step in the right direction and something we should be asking Governor Northam to do as well. I have made calls to the VA Dept of Health in an effort to ascertain our testing/reporting protocols. Let me know if you hear anything first?

I am eager to hear back from you and look forward to our discussion.

{OvO}

Constitutional Sanctuary Counties in Virginia?

I’m still trying to figure out how to push back against Gov. Northam’s 2nd round of lockdown + mask mandates. I am concerned, given the Health Director’s comments about mandating a vaccine when one becomes available, that we must do something NOW to protect ourselves from this and future takings of personal liberty.

Has there been any discussion about following a model similar to the 2A Sanctuary push last year by establishing Constitutional Sanctuary Counties in Virginia? I am frustrated that our 2A brothers and sisters were so threatened by Gov. Northam and his leftist gun control agenda that they would {righteously} storm his office in Richmond, but have done NOTHING to stand up for our human right to bodily and familial autonomy as he attempts to force our children to wear masks, trample our right to religious freedom, and take control of our social lives all for a “disease” that has a 99% survival rate! 

According to the VA Constitution (Article 1, Section 3):
{The Virginia} government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration; and, whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.

And in Article 1 Section 7:
That all power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, by any authority, without consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights, and ought not to be exercised.

Are there any sheriffs or sheriffs deputies out there that might speak to this? Is there an effort underway to create Constitutional Sanctuary Counties in Virginia? If so, please direct me to that effort.

{OvO}

Happy Birthday, Opal

One of the best things about 2020 was finding our Great Pyrenees, Opal, in Amherst, VA in March. Her breeder takes livestock guardianship seriously, and started Opal and her littermates on poultry, sheep, goats, and pigs. She also spent time walking them on the leash, and taught them all to sit “for love.” We had to pay a little more, and wait a little longer, but it has been absolutely worth it. From day one Opal has been a loving friend to us and a stoic guardian for our flock.

It’s just about time to move the sheep to their winter paddock, and since Opal and Romeo {our 4-year old Maremma male} are both intact, we can’t keep them together. Instead, we’ll move Opal into the barnyard where she can keep an eye on the chickens. She’s been with our birds before, and didn’t have any issues, but we’ll still take things one day at a time. Our plan is to keep the chickens inside their PoultryNet within the paddock, to see how Opal behaves. She’s incredibly smart and seems easy to train, so we’re hopeful she’ll understand what’s okay and what’s not okay and will settle in to her new job quickly.

{OvO}

Letter to the Editor

Editor, The News-Gazette:

Why is Virginia still under a state of emergency?

It is the state of emergency in Virginia that allows Governor Northam to mandate masks, social distancing, and crowd limits. But Virginia isn’t sick, SARS-COV2 isn’t as deadly as we feared and there is little evidence that masks are effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

The rolling seven-day average number of deaths related to SARS-COV2 in Virginia has been less than 10 deaths per day since Sept. 26, and an average of only five deaths per day since Oct. 11.

Although we are seeing a lot of positive tests nationwide, those who are affected and are less than 70-years-old have a better-than-99 percent survival rate due to improved therapeutics and treatment protocols.

Most importantly, a survey conducted by over a dozen medical institutions for the CDC and published in Sept. 11’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Fisher, et. al. 2020) showed 85 percent of those who contracted COVID-19 during July among the study group either “always” or “often” wore face coverings within the 14 days before they were infected. More than 70 percent of those outpatient individuals who tested positive reported always wearing masks. Just 3.9 percent reported never wearing a mask.

With daily deaths so low, such a high survival rate among those affected by SARS-COV2 and masks apparently having little effect, why are we still under a state of emergency and a statewide mask mandate?

If you have questions about the State of Emergency, please call Governor Northam and ask him for clarification. I have tried a number of times to make contact with his office and have had no success – (804) 786-2211.

BECKY ALMY Kerrs Creek

Editor’s note: According to a “fact check” by USA Today following the release of the Sept. 11 report mentioned in this letter, that report is open to misinterpretation.

Taking the mask off to eat in a public setting had a lot to do with contraction of the virus, according to the study, the USA Today noted. The Centers for Disease Control tweeted about the study that “People w/ and w/o #COVID19 had high levels of mask use in public. Even for those who always wear a mask, there are activities where masks can’t be worn, like eating or drinking. People w/ COVID-19 were more likely to have eaten in a restaurant.”

The report, the USA Today writer explained, analyzed 314 symptomatic adults who received SARS-CoV-2 test results during July. Of those, 154 tested positive, which were referred to as “case patients.” Another 160 tested negative, referred to as “control patients.”

While 70.6 percent of the case patients self-reported always wearing a mask, a higher percentage of the “control patients” who did not contract COVID-19 self-reported always wearing a mask, “which suggests that their mask-wearing may have helped stave off the virus.”

The USA Today story also noted that just 11 patients in the entire study reported that they never wore masks. “So the percentage of individuals who tested positive and never wore masks was guaranteed to be low.”

The CDC continues to recommend wearing masks as a way of preventing the spread of the virus from those with COVID-19 to others. CDC director Robert Redfield said last month that the U.S. would be able to get the coronavirus outbreak under control if people universally wore masks and socially distanced for 12 weeks.

Researchers from the University of Washington’s School of Medicine recently predicted that current state strategies could lead to over 500,000 deaths nationwide by Feb. 28, but that nearly 130,000 lives could be saved if at least 95 percent of the public wore masks.

Link: https://www.thenews-gazette.com/content/emergency-order-mask-use-questioned

{OvO}

We are Harvest Hosts!

We have been RVers for a couple of years and decided to sign up for Harvest Hosts last year. After a trip this summer, and a lovely stay at the Morris Farm Market in North Carolina, we decided to become a HOST!

What is Harvest Hosts?

Harvest Hosts is a membership program that provides access to a network of wineries, farms, breweries, museums and other unique attractions that invite self-contained RVers to visit and stay overnight. For a yearly membership fee, Harvest Hosts’ members are invited to stay at hundreds of interesting locations around North America, and experience new opportunities to explore and enjoy the RVing lifestyle. The company’s goal is to provide meaningful experiences for RVers and Hosts alike.

Staying at Owl Moon Farm

You can visit the farm year-round and camp overnight in our hayfield. We offer NO amenities (no power, no water, no sewer) but the views can be terrific. We’re close to I-64 so we might just make the perfect stopover on your next RV trip.

Check out their site to learn more. www.harvesthosts.com

Why is Virginia still under a state of emergency?

With 0-1 deaths related to COVID per day in the entire state, which seems like a pretty clear win, I’m still left wondering – what are we waiting for?

In the past few months, there has been an incredible amount of research and data collected to show, definitively, that Virginia (and the nation) are in great health, and that the continued panic regarding SARS-COV2 is unhelpful, and in fact, quite dangerous. We have never, ever, eradicated a virus like SARS-COV2 (or any other coronavirus, or any influenza virus) with vaccines, social distancing, or mask wearing, and to suggest that it is even possible to do so is simply anti-scientific. We have no idea what our population’s IFR is with annual influenza, for example, because we do not routinely test healthy people for the flu. So with nothing to compare SARS-COV2 to, every COV-positive test seems terrible – even though the overwhelming majority of people who test positive are non-symptomatic, ie, healthy.

We were told our strict lock-down measures were put in place to “flatten the curve” and to “slow the spread” in order to improve our hospitals, equipment and staffing. We were not trying to ELIMINATE the virus or to STOP the spread. Epidemiologists have long understood that herd immunity is required for a virus to die out. Unfortunately, due to the drawn-out lock-downs, we are 8 months into this and we still have a virus.

Thanks to science, we now have numerous successful treatment protocols and safe and effective medications that are improving the outcomes of most patients. In fact, we are seeing a better-than-99% survival rate in all patients except those 70 years and older, who, after age 72, have out-lived their average life expectancy in the United States. We simply aren’t seeing the firestorm of disease we were warned about in the now-debunked Imperial College study. With all this excellent news, why are we still mandating masks and limiting crowds?

We are as safe from SARS-COV2 as we are from SARS-COV1 and the annual cold or flu. We don’t mask school children for the flu – which they actually do spread to adults – and we don’t limit the number of people at outdoor gatherings for the flu.

This State of Emergency must end. Immediately. And we must return to normal. Not new normal. NORMAL.

This may come as a surprise to some of our neighbors, but it’s not just me saying so. I hope you’ll take the time to read The Great Barrington Declaration if you haven’t already. 

In addition to the CDC and VDH websites, I’ve also found this website to be very helpful in sifting through the data.