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Whence the Surge in Cases?
Including, but not limited to U of O footballers, a goat and a papaya

Oregon, like other states, is experiencing a surge of COVId-19 cases. Does this mean the virus is spreading unchecked? Oregon is one of the most restrictive states in the nation, sitting near the bottom at 44. Have we failed to contain it? Or are our mitigations are for naught. This issue is complex but deserves to be transparently discussed since we have given such sweeping authority over to public health agencies that are keeping schools locked down, businesses restricted and masks mandated down to 5 year-olds as well as the disabled despite their medical conditions which are supposed to exempt them. There is too much at stake to ignore this issue any longer. We already know that testing more will show more cases. But in reality it goes much deeper than that.

First, there is a high chance of false positive results in testing individuals without symptoms. Polymerise chain reaction, or PCR testing is used to directly detect the presence of an antigen, rather than the presence of the body’s immune response, or antibodies. It is generally regarded as unreliable when cycle thresholds are over 35 as is happening in Thermo Fishers used by Oregon and many other states. The Cycle Threshold (Ct) value is defined as the number of cycles of amplification (using rRT-PCR) required for the fluorescence of a PCR product (i.e. the target/amplicon) to be detected crossing a threshold.

In laymen’s terms? You could amplify anything long enough and it will produce a positive result. Remember the goat and papaya that tested positive? This is aside from the fact that dead viral RNA can be detected for twelve weeks.

Secondly, as we saw in University of Oregon football players, BionaxNow Rapid antigen tests produce high false positive results and in fact were not authorized by the FDA to use in individuals who are not showing symptoms. OHA and Lane County Public Health have admitted this is true.

In August, Governor Kate Brown announced an agreement with Thermo Fisher to increase testing capacity. At the same time Thermo Fisher had testing inaccuracies that discovered high false positives per the FDA who told them to fix it. Just over a month later Oregon experienced a “surge in cases”.

Not a surge in hospitalizations or deaths, but cases. Not infections. Cases.

Additionally, contacts of cases such as family members and co-workers are being added to daily case counts as presumptive positives and are never removed even if subsequently tested negative. I realize the task of tracking contacts after the fact would be enormous but why is there no protocol to remove contacts within, say 10-14 days if they never show signs of illness? Case in point, Mercy Hospital in Douglas County had a outbreak but despite their employees testing negative, OHA refused to remove previous presumptive cases off the positive column.

Lastly, there is one glaring example of the fact that too much testing will produce more cases. OSU has been conducting door to door testing campaigns using the Taqpath tests by Thermo Fisher, and as mentioned above are fraught with problems. Thermo Fisher has a notorious reputation for faulty tests prior to receiving a temporary Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. Last year, as parent company of their drug tests, they erroneously produced hundreds of false positives for hundreds of inmates and are facing a class action lawsuit.

One week after testing finished in four counties, they were either added to county watch list or forced to go back to Phase 1 Lockdown. Lincoln county was immediately included in the 7-th county mask mandate on June 24. Of significant note is the fact that the majority of the individuals tested did not have any symptoms. That they are called asymptomatic is highly misleading when test participants should be called false positives in healthy individuals.

Here’s a snapshot: What we began back in March was watch hospitalizations and ICU admissions. We need to prioritize that again. Look at severe disease burden more than cases and distinguish whether a person in hospital tested positive while in hospital or prior to. If we’re relying solely on cases to determine metrics our foundation is woefully flawed. Two weeks to flatten the curve 232 days is too long.


--Nicole DeGraff

Post Date: 2020-11-10 07:03:03Last Update: 2020-11-10 12:19:42



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