The pandemic is the most important fundamental factor affecting the stock market and the economy
I have said this many times. Everyone is bored with the pandemic and eager for our lives to return to normal. But that may never happen. While we will find a new normal, the coronavirus might be with us for many years and possibly forever.
How does it affect the economy if no one cares about it anymore? Well, lots of us care and that is why I write these reports. Also, we just had the worst GDP reading in history. Even worse than in the Great Depression. That is a major economic consequence of the pandemic. Furthermore, the unemployment rate is still at 11%, which is 3 times worse than just 6 months ago. We all have changed our lifestyles and how we spend our money. All of this is because of Covid-19.
If the coronavirus is so terrible, how can the stock market be up? It is up exactly because of the pandemic. The Fed reacted quickly. It announced that it had infinite cash and it would not let the economy die. What stock investors heard was that the Fed was guaranteeing that stock losses would not be dangerous. They will do anything needed, including buying ETFs, to protect the economy. Also, many of the trillions of dollars that Congress is spending because of the pandemic are directly or indirectly ending up in the stock market.
Because the pandemic has had such a major impact on the economy, the Wall St. Journal, Forbes, Barron’s, Bloomberg, CNBC, and every other financial news outlet are covering coronavirus news extensively. I am providing what I think, as a physician, are the most important stories of the past week.
More dangerous than reports indicate
I have mentioned a few times that Covid-19 often damages other organs. It is a virus and it passes through the bloodstream.
While it has an affinity for lung tissue, it can infect any tissue. There have been many studies that have found damage to the lungs, heart, brain, liver, and kidneys.
The Journal of the American Medical Association this week published a study of 100 patients who recently recovered from Covid-19. They used cardiac magnetic resonance imaging and found that 78% of the patients had heart involvement and that 60% had ongoing heart inflammation.
90% of US deaths could have been avoided
The US is the richest country in the world and it has the best health care system in the world. Therefore we should expect far fewer problems than the rest of the world. Instead, we have 4% of the world’s population and 25% of the Covid-19 deaths. We are not just a little behind the other countries… we are doing 6 times worse than an average country!
If we only had 4% of the world’s deaths, there would “only” be 30,000 dead Americans, 120,000 fewer than what we currently have.
Since we are the richest country in the world with the best health care in the world, we should have half as many deaths as average. That means 2%, not 25%. Two percent is about 90% less than what we have. Therefore, if we had average leadership, we might have 135,000 more people alive today. In 4 months, we needlessly lost more people that we did in World War I. In addition, we would have saved hundreds of thousands from needless suffering and possible lifelong organ damage.
Excess death data show the under-count
We actually have had tens of thousands more Covid-19 deaths than what has been reported. Simply compare the total number of deaths in the US from March through July this year to last year. The increase over past years is called “excess deaths.” A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the monthly excess deaths caused by Covid-19 is averaging around 28%. That means the current total number of death caused by Covid-19 is probably around 190,000, not the reported 150,000. Many people are dying from it without every getting diagnosed.
Are these deaths simply due to testing? Whether or not you do any testing, anyone looking at the data can see that far more Americans are dying this year compared to the past several years. If not from Covid-19, then from what? It’s Covid-19.
Several years from now, scientists will come up with an accurate total for the number of deaths in the US from the pandemic. It will be hundreds of thousands of people, which is far greater than what people suspect today. Back in February before there was a single death in the U.S., I wrote that the pandemic could cause 500,000 or more. I still believe that is the path we are on.
Biggest medical blunder in history
Think about this. The number of Americans who died needlessly is staggering. This absolutely shocking fact shows just how badly we’ve bungled the pandemic. History will talk about this blunder for centuries as one of the most horrendous decisions ever made by an advanced country.
Yes, the President will get the blame, and he should, but where are the democrats? The democrats should be aggressively swaying public opinion by hammering the point every day that we are losing 10 times more people than we would be with just a minimal national plan.
It’s the number of deaths, stupid!
Stop talking about the number of people infected or the number of tests. It is a distraction that misses the point and it minimizes the gravity of this pandemic. Please only talk about the number of deaths. That has nothing to do with testing and it is something neither side can deny. It is a starting point for a united attack against the virus.
Why isn’t someone on TV every day insisting that we follow the simple guidelines repeatedly given to us by epidemiologist and virologists? Why is Washington still not demanding that everyone wear masks when in public?
The public is looking for leadership and it is not coming from either party. This is resulting in America passively letting the pandemic go unchecked and relentlessly ravaging our society.
I understand the democrats’ strategy. When an opponent is destroying himself, the best political approach is to stay out of the way and let him complete the job. But we are losing tens and maybe hundreds of thousands of people needlessly because of election year politics on both sides. The democrats should be demanding an end to this insanity. Their lack of leadership is enabling this ongoing disaster.
Damage from Covid-19 will be with us for decades
One of the consequences of our disastrous handling of the pandemic is that at least a third of the country will get infected before there is a vaccine. Since February, I have been writing that about half of the country could get infected.
The US now has 4 million confirmed cases. Since only 10 to 20% of cases get confirmed, there are 20 – 40 million people in the US who have been infected. By the time there is a vaccine, it might be 100 million.
If a significant number gets damage to other organs, those people will have less healthy tissue later in life. As we age, we lose function in every organ. If the function falls below a certain level, the organ fails.
I believe that 20 years from now, millions of Americans will develop serious medical problems because their government did not protect them in 2020. It will be such a common problem that when a person goes to the doctor in 2040 and the doctor diagnoses a heart problem or any other organ problem, the doctor will ask the patient if the patient had Covid-19 back in 2020. He will ask because he will know that millions of Americans sustained permanent organ damage because of the biggest medical blunder in history.
Drunk drivers and smokers
Some supporters of the President’s approach to the pandemic argue that they do not want the government to tell them what to do. It’s un-American. They want to make the decision about masks and social distancing themselves.
I do not see how this is different from allowing drunk drivers decide if they are too drunk to drive or allowing smokers decide when and where they can smoke. Drunk drivers and smokers endanger other people. I want the government to protect me from them. Let someone get drunk at home, but keep him off public roads. Let the smoker smoke at home, but not in public places. Let Americans go without masks at home, but not in public.
What is different about the masks is that you do not know if you are infected or if you are infecting and ultimately killing someone else. Many of the deaths are several people removed. You infect someone who infects someone else, and eventually someone gets permanent lung or heart damage or even dies.
That victimized person and his family would not have that suffering if you were forced by your government to wear a mask. Since you don’t see the people you are killing, it is easier to deny your responsibility and therefore not wear a mask. It allows you to be comfortable making the specious argument that this is an issue about the government micromanaging your life and not about your indifference to your fellow man.
We can easily end the pandemic in a month
I have written many time that if the President wrote an executive order mandating that everyone must wear a mask outside of the home and insisting that this is the patriotic thing to do, the pandemic would end in a month. Our lives and the economy would soon get back to near normal. It is as simple as that. But politics in an election year prevent even a simple solution from becoming a reality.
If our leaders in Washington united in putting the welfare of the American people ahead of their political goals, as they would during a military war (this is a medical war, but a war nonetheless), most Americans would eagerly rally around the cause.
It would not take much to end the pandemic
I have often written since February that just 4 weeks of a unified effort would end the pandemic. Look at South Korea. We have 6 times more people and 500 times more deaths. Who thinks we could not do much better?
That would also save the more than 100,000 people who will die over the next year from our insane, defenseless approach in a war against a virus. So simple, but an admission that the policy from the outset has been a disaster. Better to stick with the policy and hope for a vaccine so that the dying finally slows down ahead of the election.
Russian vaccine approval on August 10, 2020
Russia announced this week that it completed its trials of a vaccine. The Russians claim it is safe and effective, but have not shared their data. They expect approval on August 10.
Like all countries, they will first vaccinate people in the medical community who are at the greatest risk of getting Covid-19. They expect to release it widely in September.
Russia announced that India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, and many other countries have expressed an interest in this vaccine. Several US companies have also contacted Russia to get information about the vaccine.
The US government cannot ask for Russia’s help. It would be a huge embarrassment ahead of an election to concede that we have to rely on Russia for our healthcare.
Why is Russia so much ahead of us?
It is important to note that Russia has not even completed phase 2 of its testing. They expect to complete it by August 3. They will conduct phase 3 in parallel with the vaccination of its medical workers. It should not surprise anyone that Putin’s friends reportedly started getting vaccinated in April.
Russia claims that they have been able to develop the vaccine so quickly because it is similar to one they are already using for another disease. Moderna has been working with the US government on its vaccine, which also relies on the structure that they developed for the coronavirus that causes MERS. Therefore, that is not the true reason why Russia is so much ahead of everyone else.
The main reason why Russia is able to release the vaccine so much earlier than everyone else is that they are short-cutting the safety and effectiveness testing. The US will not do that. As bad as Covid-19 is in the US, it is not bad enough for the American public to accept a vaccine that has not been proven to be safe and effective.
Treatment is as important as a vaccine
You might have sensed that something is not right when experts talk about a vaccine for Covid-19. Why are they not constantly comparing Covid-19 to measles, mumps, chickenpox, and polio, which are diseases that vaccines completely prevent? Maybe it’s because they expect that a vaccine for Covid-19 will not be nearly as effective.
Why is that? Because it is caused by a coronavirus, and we have lots of experience with coronaviruses. All of us have had coronavirus infections. How do I know? Because coronaviruses are one of the 4 major viruses that cause the common cold. We all have had many colds, especially when we were kids. And there is no vaccine for the common cold. This is because the immunity that we develop after catching a cold goes away within a few months.
The fear of researchers is that the immunity from a coronavirus vaccine might not last a year. It might not even last 6 months.
Last week, I wrote that there was a study that showed that the half-life of antibodies against the coronavirus after Covid-19 is 73 days. Every 73 days, the level drops by 50%. There might not be enough left in your blood to protect you from another infection 6 – 12 months out.
That is why all of the Covid-19 vaccine trials are using a booster shot a month later. Scientists are afraid that a vaccine will not be enough to eradicate the virus. That means we might have to live with it, like the HIV virus.
Covid-19 might be with us for decades
So if the coronavirus turns out to be more like HIV than measles, treatment becomes more important than a vaccine. We will find out over the next year.
It took decades to develop very effective treatments for HIV. Treatment is not getting enough attention for Covid-19. But if the vaccine is inadequate, there will be much more interest in treatments.
I currently believe that we will find vaccines to be less good than what the media is making sound like they will be. “Don’t worry, science will save you!” This is especially true in the elderly and sick who need them the most. These are the very people who have weak immune systems and do not produce high levels of antibodies after getting vaccinated.
However, like with HIV, I believe that there will be effective treatments coming out over the next decade. Implicit in this comment is that I believe Covid-19 is going to be with us a long time, not just a couple years.
The end of the hydroxychloroquine hoax
Anyone who has been listening to the President would conclude that there is strong scientific evidence to support the treatment of Covid-19 with hydroxychloroquine.
In Congressional testimony of Friday, Dr. Fauci made his clearest statement yet on the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19:
“The overwhelming cumulative evidence of properly conducted randomly controlled trials indicate no therapeutic efficacy of hydroxychloroquine.”
The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) this week published a definitive study on the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19. The conclusion is that it is useless and possibly dangerous.
The NEJM is the most respected medical journal in the world. It is very difficult to get them to publish your research. They have very strict standards and demand the highest quality research from reputable medical scientists. Their track record is excellent.
The researchers conducted a multicenter, randomized controlled study of hydroxychloroquine. Fifty-five hospitals in Brazil participated and there were 667 patients. The patients either received standard care, hydroxychloroquine, or hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin.
After 15 days, the doctors assessed the patients. They found that there was no benefit from hydroxychloroquine with or with azithromycin. However, they did find that the hydroxychloroquine patients often developed abnormal EKGs and had elevated liver enzymes. It is therefore potentially dangerous.
No serious scientist is going to spend any more time on hydroxychloroquine
There is now a clear scientific divide. Either you believe in science or in hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19. Physicians will accept this report as definitive unless there are at least a couple comparable high quality reports that show otherwise.
You can bet that there won’t be. No reputable scientist will now spend any more time on this after it has been so thoroughly studied and proven to be useless. They will move on to study other treatments that will come along, hoping to find one that science will show is effective. Hydroxychloroquine has had its day and science has exposed it as a hoax. It is no more effective than ice cream or a slice of pizza.
Please, no more Dr. Risch
Dr. Harvey Risch, a Yale epidemiologist, has been a notable proponent of hydroxychloroquine. Being on Yale’s faculty automatically gives him credibility. Unfortunately, he relied on weak science to make his argument. After this NEJM article, I do not see how he can continue to promote hydroxychloroquine and maintain any credibility among his peers at Yale. Even his boss has distanced himself from him by saying that Yale values diverse opinions.
I want to translate the comments by Risch’s boss. What he is actually saying is that he and other members of the department are embarrassed by Risch’s ignorance, and Risch’s comments are hurting the credibility of the department. Guilt by association. Since the boss cannot fire a tenured professor, even though the guy is clearly an idiot, the boss felt compelled to make it clear to those who can read between the lines that he and the rest of the faculty believe Risch is an ignorant fool. It’s time to give up on hydroxychloroquine, Harvey, and move on.
Years ago, I was a budding medical scientist. One of the surprising things that I discovered was that some of the most highly respected doctors from the top universities in the countries were liars, frauds, or racists, just like you can find in any profession and in any location. Never assume that a PhD or MD degree is a certification of morality, integrity, or genius.
Finally, I can definitively say hydroxychloroquine is useless and dangerous
I have written several times that the reports showing the benefit of hydroxychloroquine were from sources that I did not trust. However, I also have been saying that there was no good scientific research showing that it was not helpful. Well, now there is.
I strongly believe hydroxychloroquine is useless in the treatment of Covid-19 and it is potentially dangerous. I would not use it and I am telling my family and friends to avoid any doctor who recommends it.
The face of hydroxychloroquine treatment is now only President Trump and Dr. Immanuel
President Trump this week tweeted a report about Dr. Stella Immanuel to support his strong recommendation of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19. She said that face masks are unnecessary because she cured 350 Covid-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine.
Several websites that support President Trump wrote faux erudite, persuasive articles supporting her research, making her appear reputable and trustworthy. It is all politically motivated sophistry designed to make gullible people believe that our nation’s approach has been reasonable when it so clearly has been disastrous. This is therefore harmful to people who follow these leaders.
This glowing coverage unfortunately gave her undeserved credibility and it will lead to desperate patients continuing to pursue dangerous alternative healthcare. People will die because of this.
Facebook took down Dr. Immanuel’s profile
If the President or those media outlets who support his belief in hydroxychloroquine looked into Dr. Immanuel’s background before attaching themselves to her, they probably would not be using her to support their unfounded recommendations. For example, she also believes that medical problems like cysts, endometriosis, infertility, and impotence are caused by women having sex in their dreams with demons and witches. Furthermore, she thinks that doctors are using alien DNA in medical treatments and that scientists are working on a vaccine to prevent people from being religious.
When Facebook took her profile down, she tweeted, “Hello Facebook put back my profile page and videos up or your computers with start crashing till you do. You are not bigger that God. I promise you. If my page is not back up Facebook will be down in Jesus name.” I don’t know how Zuckerberg will be able to sleep at night.
Don’t assume that an MD degree makes you an expert
Dr. Fauci this week correctly said that she is wrong and that hydroxychloroquine has been shown by many studies to be useless in the treatment of Covid-19. Yet, President Trump and his supporters continue to hurt their credibility by still promoting her as their medical expert.
I believe that the average American would see her as a charlatan who is enjoying her 15 minutes of fame and not as a medical authority. Remember the Bell curve. There are people at the extremes. You can always find an “expert” to validate any outrageous claim.
California jury instructions include this sentence: “If you decide that a witness did not tell the truth about something important, you may choose not to believe anything that witness said.” I am choosing to believe nothing that Dr. Immanuel says.
It is sad that politicians and their supporters in the media are willing to have people die for their political benefit. I just don’t see Kennedy, Reagan, George Bush senior, or Obama doing that.
Dr. Brooks’s earlier special reports on the Covid-19 pandemic:
- Many Covid vaccines and treatments, and less flu
- Covid-19 pandemic vaccine and its euphoric market impact