US COVID deaths not rising

U.S. COVID-19 Cases Are Skyrocketing, But Deaths Are Flat—So Far. These 5 Charts Explain Why

What’s happening now is not a result of how the virus treats humans, but rather how humans are treating the virus—that is, how we test for it, how we avoid it and how we combat it.

An elementary school student in Tiburon, Calif., gets her temperature taken on Oct. 16, 2020.

An elementary school student in Tiburon, Calif., gets her temperature taken on Oct. 16, 2020. Credit – Lea Suzuki—The San Francisco Chronicle/Getty Images


In just the last two weeks, the global daily tally for new COVID-19 cases has jumped more than 30%, according to TIME’s coronavirus tracker, which compiles data from Johns Hopkins University. The steep upward trend is driven by viral waves in Europe and the United States that started in August and mid-September, respectively. On Oct. 23, the daily case count in the U.S. reached a new record high, suggesting that this wave will be worse than the one that swept the country over the summer.

But despite this rapid uptick in cases, the daily death count in the U.S. is not yet rising at the same rate, and remains at lower levels than in April. At face value, a lower case-to-fatality rate suggests that fewer people who test positive for the virus are dying from it. But the virus hasn’t necessarily become less lethal; it isn’t mutating quickly enough for that to be the case.

What’s happening now is not a result of how the virus treats humans, but rather how humans are treating the virus—that is, how we test for it, how we avoid it and how we combat it. The following five charts explain how human-driven factors are, at least for the moment, keeping deaths from spiking as high as they did early in the pandemic, even as cases rise dramatically.

1. The big picture

The below chart shows the number of new daily COVID-19 cases and deaths on a per-capita basis. Compared with the U.S., the E.U. had the virus under better control in the early summer, but cases began to tick back up late in the season. The death count stayed low for some time, but surged in recent weeks, and is now on par with the U.S for the first time since April. The U.S. could follow the same path; deaths are a lagging indicator. But so far, U.S. deaths have stayed relatively flat at about 750 deaths a day, even though cases have been rising. Of course, that situation could change as winter approaches, especially if Americans become more complacent and “pandemic fatigue” sets in.

It’s also vital to also keep in mind that a coronavirus infection doesn’t have a binary outcome—that is, people don’t either fully recover or die. Many of those who survive their initial bout with the disease go on to experience mysterious and sometimes disabling symptoms for months.

2. More testing

Widespread testing is not the entire reason for U.S. cases going up (testing has been steadily increasing over the course of the pandemic, while cases have gone up and down, as shown above). But if more people are getting infected, a robust testing system can help uncover that trend—and that’s a good thing. Having better data helps researchers estimate the prevalence of the virus in a community, while rapid testing also allows people to protect others by isolating after they’ve been in contact with someone who tested positive. Widespread testing will identify the most severe cases as well as the most benign ones, including asymptomatic cases, which may account for up to 40% of all infections.

Early in the pandemic, many countries, including the U.S., were short on testing supplies. As a result, many mild cases went undetected. One U.S. study estimated that there were likely 10 times more infections between late March and early May than reported. Because only the sickest patients were being tallied as confirmed cases, the case-fatality rate was high, and the virus appeared more deadly. This is why the case-to-fatality rate isn’t a perfect indicator of how likely a person is to die from the illness: the ratio will vary depending on the number of people in a given population getting tested.

Because the U.S. is now doing more testing, this metric is more useful today than it was earlier in the pandemic, at least to assess general trends. And what we’re seeing now is a declining case-fatality rate, stemming from rising case counts and flat death death counts.

3. Public-health measures

In early March, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began encouraging communities with reported COVID-19 cases to enforce social distancing to limit face-to-face contact. A month later, the agency began recommending that people wear masks when near others outside of their household. These preventative measures had immediate effect in places where the virus had already taken off. For example, at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, new COVID-19 infections dropped by half among staff after a mandatory mask policy went into effect at the hospital in late March.

Such measures have paid off for the broader population, too. While masks and social distancing can’t always prevent 100% of exposure to COVID-19, they can reduce the amount of viral particles a person is exposed to. They will then carry a smaller “viral load” in their systems, making them less likely to become severely ill. Researchers at Wayne State University School of Medicine who tracked the viral loads in nasal swab samples collected from hospitalized patients in Detroit discovered that patients who were initially swabbed in early April had a higher viral loads than those who were initially swabbed in late April and May. Lower viral load was associated with a decreased death rate. “Social distancing measures and widespread use of face masks may have contributed to a decrease in the exposure to the virus,” the authors wrote.

3. More young people are testing positive

The coronavirus poses a greater mortality risk to the elderly compared to younger people. Among all Americans who have tested positive for COVID-19, the CDC’s current best estimate is that 5.4% died and were 70 or older, 0.5% died and were between 50 and 69, and only 0.02% died and were 20-49 years old.

In the first weeks of the pandemic, the virus tore through assisted-living facilities and nursing homes, where lots of vulnerable elderly people lived. As a result, the death count skyrocketed. But over time, as the virus spread in places like bars and college campuses, the share of U.S. COVID-19 cases have skewed younger, meaning many of those becoming infected are less vulnerable to severe illness. The CDC reported last month that children and adults under 30 made up around 16% of COVID-19 cases in February through April, but by August, that group accounted for more than one in three cases.

The number of younger people contracting the virus continues to grow, contributing to the rise in overall cases. Yet because they are less vulnerable to the virus, they are not driving up the number of deaths in tandem. (While young people are less vulnerable to COVID-19 in general, they can and do die from the disease, and can spread it to other people.)

5. Better treatments

Pharmaceutical companies have been racing to discover and produce drugs to treat COVID-19 patients since the onset of the pandemic. On Oct. 22, for example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially approved the first drug for treating COVID-19, remdesivir, which was previously being used on an emergency-only basis. The agency has allowed other treatments via emergency-use authorizations, including dexamethasone, convalescent plasma, anti-inflammatory drugs and steroid treatments. In addition, doctors now better understand how the virus behaves in the body, and have learned how to more effectively treat patients—they’re using ventilators more sparingly and positioning patients on their stomachs to facilitate breathing, for instance.

Thanks to these treatments, hospitalized patients often have shorter and less-intensive stays. A new study from New York University researchers found that COVID-19 patients admitted to NYU Langone hospital in early March had a 23% percent chance of dying; that dropped to 8% chance by mid-June. A research paper from the Houston Methodist hospital system found that in the spring, patients stayed a median of 7.1 days, but only 4.8 days during the summer surge. The below chart shows how the hospital system altered the frequency of certain treatments from the spring to the summer. The use of remdesivir increased, for instance, while the use of hydroxychloroquine decreased.

In the U.S., about 750 people succumb to the virus’s assault every day. Worldwide, it’s more than 5,000 every day. There’s hope that another human intervention—a vaccine—will dramatically drive down both cases and deaths when and if one becomes available, likely next spring. Still, considering that a vaccine will not eradicate the virus completely, and a large percentage of Americans say they’re reluctant to get the vaccine at all, public-health practices like social distancing and wearing masks will be crucial to keep the virus from spreading both before a vaccine becomes available and perhaps for months beyond.

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Risk factors explained

Covid-19: Why are age and obesity risk factors for serious disease?

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 26 October 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4130

Read our latest coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Worldwide more than 41 million people have now been infected with SARS-CoV-2 and over a million people have died. But what makes this virus so difficult to control, and why are some people more at risk than others? Elisabeth Mahase reports

Why is it so hard to stop SARS-CoV-2 spreading?

Paul Lehner, professor of immunology and medicine at the University of Cambridge, says that unlike the original SARS coronavirus or influenza, people with SARS-CoV-2 are most infectious before they become unwell, normally about a day before they develop symptoms.

“So you’re maximally transmitting virus while you’re feeling well,” he told a Science Media Centre briefing in London on 22 October. “This is a really brilliant evolutionary tactic of the virus. It means you can be out at the races, in a pub, singing in the church choir, at a matriculation—you’re feeling well.

“This is a hit and run virus . . . The question then becomes: how can you make so much virus and yet feel well?”

Lehner explains that the answer lies in the virus’s ability to switch off cells’ natural response to it. “SARS-CoV-2 knows all about interferons. It has to, because it’s super-sensitive to them. So it switches off the cells ability to make them, and it does this really well. In fact, it does it so well that you don’t even know you’re ill,” he says.

Interferons are proteins released by cells as a signal that a virus is present. In essence, they tell nearby cells to increase their defences. Lehner says that recent studies looking at cells infected by the virus show you can’t actually tell which ones are infected until you stain them, at which point you see they are “screaming with the virus.”

So can we do anything about this? Lehner says, “Yes, but we have to get better at asymptomatic screening.”

Why is obesity a risk factor for severe covid-19?

In July Public Health England estimated that having a BMI of 35 to 40 could increase a person’s chances of dying from covid-19 by 40%, while a BMI greater than 40 could increase the risk by 90%.1 But why is this?

Stephen O’Rahilly, director of the Medical Research Council’s Metabolic Diseases Unit at the University of Cambridge, also speaking at the briefing, said, “Two things happen when obesity occurs: the amount of fat increases, but also you put fat in the wrong places. You put it in the liver and in skeletal muscle. And that disturbs metabolism. The key disturbance is that you get very high levels of insulin in the blood.”

This disturbance is associated with a range of abnormalities, including increases in inflammatory cytokines and a reduction of a molecule called adiponectin that directly protects the lungs, he says.

It’s also possible that fat increases in the lung itself, which may disturb how the lung handles the virus, he adds. “The simple stuff you read about—big chest, big bellies, et cetera—is all grossly oversimplistic. What is really going on is metabolic, and we know that because if we look at genetic markers for the metabolic disturbance they are much more closely related to the bad outcomes than genetic markers for obesity itself,” O’Rahilly says.

Why is age a risk factor for severe covid-19?

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has said that eight in 10 covid-19 related deaths reported in the country have been among people aged 65 years or over.2 Meanwhile, in the UK just being 70 years old or over puts someone into the medium risk covid-19 group.

Tracy Hussell, director of the Lydia Becker Institute of Immunology and Inflammation at the University of Manchester, says, “Studies have shown that age alone is the most significant risk factor for severe disease, and generally this is the same with other coronaviruses and influenza viruses that affect the elderly.”

She says this could be because of the increased likelihood that a person will have comorbidities in older age, many of which are linked to poorer covid-19 outcomes. It may also be due to the medications that some of these patients take for their comorbidities, an area where Hussell thinks there is a lot more to learn.

However, it may also be due to the ageing immune system. “[In older age] the viral alert signals are much slower. And if you mount a very slow immune response, then you end up with greater viral replication. The immune cells that also take up the virus, the macrophages, are known to be slower in age. And this decline in the immune function is quite well known; it’s called immune senescence,” she explains. As we age, the thymus, which sits just above the heart and pumps out T cells, shrinks in size, decreasing the number of T cells it releases. This in turn affects many other aspects of the immune system.

Could old age reduce the effectiveness of a vaccine?

“Yes. Age will certainly affect a response to a vaccine, because a vaccine is trying to induce protective immunity,” says Hussell. “The immune system decreases with age, and so recognition and response to a vaccine are also reduced. The other thing is that a lot of old people are taking anti-inflammatory medications, and these may reduce antivaccine immunity as well.”

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.


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BBC retracts broadcast sympathetic to terrorists

BBC continues to sympathize with terrorists who kill Israeli civilians

For years, the BBC has presented Israel falsely as the rogue state in the region while downplaying or ignoring the attacks on Israelis and the incitement and anti-Semitism that are daily features of Palestinian Arab life.

  • Reprinted from Daily Alert, October 22, 2020


  • The BBC Incites Baseless Hatred over Israel – Melanie Phillips
    For years, the BBC has presented Israel falsely as the rogue state in the region while downplaying or ignoring the attacks on Israelis and the incitement and anti-Semitism that are daily features of Palestinian Arab life. The most recent example concerns a Palestinian terrorist, Ahlam Tamimi. In August 2001, she handed a guitar case filled with explosives to an accomplice who detonated it in the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, murdering 15 people, seven of them children, and wounded more than 130.
    Tamimi has repeatedly gloated over what she did. She was given 16 life sentences, but was released in a prisoner swap after only 10 years. Since then, she has lived in Jordan, where she hosts a talk show on Hamas-affiliated Al-Quds TV. The U.S. wants Ahlam Tamimi to stand trial on federal terrorism charges in Washington.
    Last week, BBC Arabic TV broadcast a sympathetic presentation of the story Tamimi wanted to tell about herself, framed as a sentimental human interest story which whitewashed the murderous activities by both Tamimi and her husband – himself a terrorist who participated in the murder of Israeli civilian Chaim Mizrahi in 1993. The program made no criticism of the Tamimis and none of those who were murdered in Ahlam Tamimi’s terror attack were mentioned. The writer is a columnist for The Times of London. (JNS)
  • See also BBC Apologizes for Broadcast with Hamas Terrorist behind Jerusalem Massacre – Tali Fraser
    The BBC on Wednesday apologized for a recent broadcast featuring Hamas terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, convicted for the 2001 bombing of a Jerusalem pizzeria. “We accept that the segment should not have been shown and apologize for the offense caused,” a spokesman said. (Jewish News-UK)
  • See also Senior BBC Producer Admits Sharing Pro-Palestinian Propaganda on Twitter – Lee Harpin (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
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Israel brings solution to Middle East peace

No Longer United Against Israel: The New Arab World

For several years now, the so-called “Arab world” has ceased to be what it once was. What exists today are two hostile coalitions that are fighting one another with great tenacity and no sensitivity to the casualties being suffered on either side.

By Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Signing of the Abraham Accords on the White House Lawn, photo via US Department of State

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,781, October 20, 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Arab states are no longer a single bloc opposing Israel but are divided into two coalitions. One is on Iran’s side; the other is against it. Israel, which in the past was perceived as the problem, has become part of the solution.

For many years it has been commonly accepted that there is an “Arab world.” That world had a unifying institution in the Arab League, a leadership body in the Arab Summit, and a more or less unitary agenda centered around the desire to see Israel disappear and a Palestinian state take its place.

That last element now belongs to the past. For several years now, the so-called “Arab world” has ceased to be what it once was. What exists today are two hostile coalitions that are fighting one another with great tenacity and no sensitivity to the casualties being suffered on either side.

One of these coalitions contains Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Qatar, and Gaza, and it is supported from the outside by Turkey, Russia, and China. Against it stands an opposing coalition made up of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, and Israel, supported from the outside by the US. The remaining Arab states lie somewhere between the coalitions.

Israel has been added to Saudi Arabia’s coalition because—and only because—it has proven in recent years that it is the only country in the world capable of inflicting, time after time and at an average frequency of once a week, severe blows on an Iranian force or a pro-Iranian militia in Syria. The Saudi coalition has noted with interest that with the exception of a single instance, Tehran appears to be afraid of hitting back at Israel. Israel is thus effectively deterring Iran.

For the sake of comparison, recall that in September 2019, Iran attacked Saudi oil-producing facilities and paralyzed a considerable part of the kingdom’s oil industry. Did we hear about a Saudi response? For that matter, have we heard about a response by any country to Iran’s attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea? Is Riyadh capable of deterring Tehran now that the Saudi army has failed in its attempt to destroy the Houthis in Yemen?

In the current situation, with Iran collecting Arab countries like old clothes, Israel—which in the past was considered “the problem”—has become part of the solution. It turns out that there are things more important to some countries than a resolution of “the Palestinian problem.” This means the biggest losers from the deep division in the Arab world are the Palestinians, and with them all who believed that Israel would be perceived as the Arabs’ ultimate enemy until the problem was solved to the Palestinians’ satisfaction. Now that the “Arab world” as it was once constructed has ceased to exist, the “Israel problem” has become a thing of the past.

There are several reasons for the marginalization of the Palestinian issue. The first is the escalation of the Iranian problem to the level of an existential threat, while the Israeli-Palestinian problem is not an existential threat to anyone. The second is Palestinian behavior over the years, and particularly in recent years. The residents of Saudi Arabia and the UAE well remember that Yasser Arafat backed Saddam Hussein when the latter took over Kuwait in 1990. The Saudis are also angry because the Palestinians violated the Mecca Agreement of February 2007, which was supposed to put an end to the rift between Fatah and Hamas. (Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudis’ nemesis.) They are also incensed that the Palestinians are willing to accept aid from Iran.

Meanwhile, deep processes are at work. The younger generation of Arabs did not experience the “Palestinian nakba” and it is not part of their historical memory. The “Arab Spring,” which precipitated the collapse of regimes and economies and the rise of the Islamic State, threw millions of Arabs into great distress and mass emigration for a life of refugee status, poverty, and suffering far from home. The Palestinians’ belief that those Arabs should fight for the “liberation of Palestine” is not uppermost among their concerns.

As for Palestinian conduct, here is an interesting case. One of Israel’s harshest critics is Jamal Rian, the brain behind Aljazeera and its main newscaster. He was born in Tulkarem, moved to Jordan, and became a prominent activist in the Muslim Brotherhood. It was recently revealed that Rian’s father was a land dealer who, before Israel’s establishment, sold sizable tracts of land to the Jews. What Arab wants to be a “sucker” and fight Israel to liberate for Jamal Rian the lands his father sold to Jews, a transaction that did not exactly harm his son financially?

Another factor that works against the Palestinian ethos is the huge increase in the use of social media. Today, any Arab can see the truth about Israel without needing to rely exclusively on his government’s propaganda outlets for information. Automatic translation allows him to “read” Hebrew websites even if he does not understand a word of Hebrew. This makes it much harder for the Palestinians to keep selling “the problem” the way it used to. Indeed, many Arabs now intentionally misspell “the problem” in a way that expresses contempt for it.

The Arab world of 2020 differs from that of 2000 in many ways. It is not the delusional “new Middle East” envisaged by Shimon Peres but its complete opposite: a region that is violent, fractured, rife with failed states, and afflicted with mass killing. But these unfortunate developments work in Israel’s favor. True, there is still no small hatred among Arabs for Jews and the Jewish state that must be acknowledged and contended with, and there are still hundreds of thousands of rockets surrounding and threatening Israel. Nevertheless, the trend is clear.

The peace and normalization between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain signifies the collapse of the old theories, enabling the Jewish state to be accepted as a member, not an enemy, in the “right” coalition.

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This is an edited version of an article that appeared in Makor Rishon on October 12.

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served for 25 years in IDF military intelligence specializing in Syria, Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups, and Israeli Arabs, and is an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups.

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Children suffer from virus restrictions

Coronavirus: Lockdown contributing to rise in mental illness in children, NHS says

The rise affected young boys and girls more or less equally but among older age groups, young women were much more likely to be affected than young men.

By Ivor Bennett, news correspondent

One in six children in England has a probable mental disorder, according to an NHS study.

The Mental Health and Young People Survey highlights how the coronavirus lockdown has made conditions like depression, anxiety and sleeping problems worse among boys and girls.

The study is based on data collected in July from 3,570 children and young people, who took part in a similar survey in 2017.

It found the rate of probable mental disorders has significantly increased over the last three years.

One in six (16%) children aged five to 16 is now identified as having a probable mental disorder, compared to one in nine (10.8%) in 2017.

The rise affected young boys and girls more or less equally but among older age groups, young women were much more likely to be affected than young men.

Among young women (aged 17 to 22), 27.2% were identified as having a probable mental disorder, compared to 13.3% of young men.

Rates differ between ethnicities, with 18.8% of children of white ethnic backgrounds affected, compared with 7.5% of children of black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds.

Approximately two in five of all children and young people felt that lockdown had made their life worse.

Sleep problems affected 28.5% of five to 22-year-olds, with girls (32.4%) more likely to report them than boys (24.7%).

Loneliness was more common in girls (13.8%) than boys (6.5%). Overall, one in 10 children and young people said they often or always felt lonely.

But the study found that children with a probable mental disorder (62.6%) were less likely to receive regular support from their school or college than those without a disorder (76.4%).

When it came to the views of parents, over one third felt their child was worried about missing school (37.7%), but fewer than a quarter felt their child was concerned about catching COVID-19 (22.3%).

About one in six (16.1%) five to 16-year-olds did not physically attend school at all between late March and July 2020, even though their school was open or had reopened for them.

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Alastair Campbell on surviving depression

Anne Longfield, children’s commissioner for England, said: “This dramatic increase in the number of children struggling with mental health problems, worsened by the COVID-19 crisis, is extremely alarming.

“It should shock the government into immediate action to tackle a growing epidemic.

“While there have been some welcome improvements in children’s mental health services over recent years, clearly the scale of the problem is getting worse, and what has been promised is just not enough.

“The NHS will have to upscale radically its plans for children’s mental health just to meet its existing commitments.

“Every school needs an NHS funded counsellor as a minimum, and we need a children’s mental health service that is properly funded, with no postcode lottery, so that children receive the support and treatment they need as quickly as possible.”

Emma Thomas, Chief Executive at YoungMinds said: “This alarming research shows the profound effect that COVID-19 has had on children and young people’s mental health.

“This research must lead to decisive action from the government. Schools urgently need additional funding to enable them to commission mental health support, and the NHS and charities must have the resources to provide help to all those who need it.

“With months of uncertainty ahead of us, there is absolutely no room for complacency.”

The Centre for Mental Health charity said earlier this month that up to 10 million people in England could need mental health support because of the pandemic.

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Arab media attacks peaceful coexistence

Al Jazeera Smears Prominent Arab-Israeli Video Blogger

His wrongdoing? Being an Arab who openly promotes peaceful co-existence, including between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians.

By Emanuel Miller

Nuseir Yassin has perhaps one of the most recognizable faces on Facebook. Over the last few years, his videos have taken social media by storm, racking up millions and millions of views.

Also known as Nas, or Nas Daily, his video clips, which are generally one minute long, touch upon a wide array of topics, including travel, food, arts, the environment and racism. His personable style, flashy video effects and youthful energy have enabled Nas to create a massively receptive audience online, with his posts generating huge amounts of likes, shares and comments.

But in an uncharacteristic video released on Wednesday, Nas took on Al Jazeera, exposing a campaign to smear him by the news network, which is effectively an extension of the Qatari government.

His wrongdoing? Being an Arab who openly promotes peaceful co-existence, including between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians.

In the video (see below), Nas shows clips of the Qatari channel spreading the lie that he is “using words such as… openness, coexistence, peace” in a bid to “make Israel look good.” If that wasn’t enough, Al Jazeera then claims that Nas is “using all the tools that the Israeli government provides him, and he is part of their official propaganda program.”

In his response, Nas shows how the false message was amplified by a network of shady Arabic-language “news” outlets that effectively operate as Al Jazeera subsidiaries.

Typically, Nas explained, a normal video on one of these channels would receive somewhere in the region of 30,000 views. But the video post targeting him was sponsored, thus skyrocketing the view count to some 2,000,0000 hits. With the video promoted on various such news outlets, it is likely that tens of millions have been exposed to the Qatari smear.

“So Al Jazeera or its affiliates in another country put government money to spread fake news against an individual,” Nas explains, while proof is shown on-screen of a sponsored video.

The evidence points to a comprehensive strategy in which money is being spent by a government apparently intent not only on discrediting one of social media’s more powerful voices of reason, but also manipulating divergent audiences.

As Nas explains, the technique was conceived and implemented years ago; namely, that Al Jazeera duplicitously disseminates often totally contrasting messages to its English-speaking and Arabic-speaking viewers. As Nas highlights in his video, “To the English world they say, ‘Let’s remember the Holocaust and never repeat it.’ To the Arab world they say, ‘Did the Holocaust really happen?”

Found this article informative? Follow the HonestReporting page on Facebook to read more articles debunking news bias and smears, as well as others explaining Israel’s history, politics, and international affairs. Click here to learn more!

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Lung cancer misdiagnosed as COVID

Coronavirus: Lung cancers ‘may have been misdiagnosed as COVID’ during pandemic

Professor David Baldwin, respiratory medicine consultant at the University of Nottingham, said: “At least a third of patients with lung cancer have already died since the beginning of the pandemic….”Some deaths will not have been recognised as lung cancer and may have even been labelled as COVID-19.”

The first wave of the coronavirus outbreak has had a huge impact on UK lung cancer patients’ survival and detection rates, a report has said.

A third of patients have died since the beginning of the pandemic, experts said, while waiting for life-saving treatment while referrals for the deadly disease dropped by 75% during the first lockdown.

The UK Lung Cancer Coalition warned that “the catastrophe that is the COVID-19 pandemic” is likely to reverse improvements in survival rates made over the past 20 years.

A cough is a symptom for both illnesses, meaning some patients who could have lung cancer were told to stay home for fear they had coronavirus.

They were therefore being diagnosed at a later stage, significantly damaging their survival chances.

The report said: “GPs are likely to misdiagnose early lung cancer symptoms as COVID-19 because of the large number of COVID-19 cases.”

Professor David Baldwin, respiratory medicine consultant at the University of Nottingham, said: “At least a third of patients with lung cancer have already died since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Some deaths will not have been recognised as lung cancer and may have even been labelled as COVID-19.”

It said that in some areas referrals by GPs to lung cancer specialists fell by 75% during the peak of the outbreak in Spring.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, former director of the National Cancer Institute, said: “There is a specific problem for lung cancer, which is the overlap of symptoms with COVID-19.

“Some patients may develop cough symptoms and be told to stay at home until their symptoms get worse. This has resulted in an increase in late stage presentations.”

Lung cancer is the UK’s most deadly cancer, killing 35,300 each year – more than breast and bowel cancer combined.

Prompt referrals from a GP to hospital for a scan are crucial for lung cancer survival chances.

The report said: “With studies showing a 16% increase in mortality if the time from diagnosis to surgery is more than 40 days, a delay of three months or more can mean the progression from a potentially curative tumour towards one that is only suitable for palliative care.”

It added: “It is estimated that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to an additional 1,372 deaths due to lung cancer, reversing the progress achieved in lung cancer over recent years.”

Detection and referral rates of breast cancer have also been affected by the pandemic, NHS England said in June.

The Department of Health urged people to come forward if they have lung cancer symptoms.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs on Tuesday “the number of people experiencing a long wait for cancer treatment has been brought down by 63% since its peak in July”.

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COVID antibodies fade quickly

Antibodies in Recovered COVID-19 Patients Fade Quickly, Study Says

“We don’t want to transfuse the virus, just transfuse the antibodies. But at the same time, our work shows that the capacity of the plasma to neutralize viral particles is going down during those first weeks,” Andres Finzi, PhD, one of the study authors and a microbiologist at the University of Montreal in Canada, said in a statement.

By Carolyn Crist

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Antibody levels in the blood of coronavirus patients drop quickly after the body clears the virus, according to a new study published in mBio, an open access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

For convalescent plasma to help patients who currently have COVID-19, the donated blood needs to be collected soon after recovery. Under current guidelines, however, patients can’t donate blood until 14 days after symptoms have resolved, and most donations occur even later.

“We don’t want to transfuse the virus, just transfuse the antibodies. But at the same time, our work shows that the capacity of the plasma to neutralize viral particles is going down during those first weeks,” Andres Finzi, PhD, one of the study authors and a microbiologist at the University of Montreal in Canada, said in a statement.

The research team analyzed blood samples from 31 people recovering from COVID-19 and measured antibodies at 1-month intervals. Overall, the immunoglobulins that neutralize the virus dropped about 6 to 10 weeks after symptoms began. The ability of the antibodies to neutralize the virus also fell during that time.

In previous studies, researchers found that antibodies peak around 2 to 3 weeks after symptoms begin and fall after that. Finzi and his colleagues have also found that the ability to neutralize the virus decreases after that — about 3 to 6 weeks after symptoms begin.

Antibodies block the “spike” protein on SARS-CoV-2 that allows the virus to invade a cell in the body. They neutralize the coronavirus by preventing it from locking into a host’s cells and replicating.

Scientists aren’t sure whether the neutralizing function drives the efficacy of convalescent plasma use in COVID-19 patients, Finzi and the research team wrote. If so, recovered patients should be allowed to donate as soon as possible, they said.

“Efforts should be made to ensure that convalescent plasma is collected as soon as possible after recovery of the donor from active infection,” they wrote.

mBio. 2020;11:e02590-20. Full text

EurekAlert. Published October 16, 2020. Full text

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