Exploring Human Potential

The Truth Shall Set You Free – Who’s Doing Serologic Testing?

Posted on | April 9, 2020 | No Comments

Mike Magee

Three weeks ago, with the active support of Gov. Gavin Newsome, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti shut down Los Angeles in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. And while their early actions are paying rewards (200 deaths in Los Angeles compared to over  6300  in New York City), they recognize that only the truth shall set California residents free.

That is why Gavin and Garcetti have enlisted the help of  Neerja Sood, a vice dean at the University of Southern California, to coordinate serologic testing on 1000 randomly selected citizens at six sites in LA County this weekend. Sood is being assisted by faculty from USC and Stanford. The tests were donated by Minneapolis-based Premier Biotech.

The reason these tests are so important is their tie to the immediate future of their state’s health and its economy. With reports already surfacing of a growing panic around national hunger and food scarity, all eyes are beginning to focus on “herd immunity.”

For example, should this weekend’s LA serology tests reveal that half of LA County citizens have already been exposed, California’s leaders might confidently begin to plan at least for beginning to open up their economy. On the other hand, as is expected, if only 10% to 15% have antibodies, continued aggressive distancing will be required.

A second data beachfront comes to us thanks to a group of “viral historians”, genetic scientists who specialize in tracking viral genomes. Maciej Boni of Penn State is one of those. He traced the Covid-19 genome back to a near identical one derived from a Chinese horseshoe bat. The sleuth scientist was able to establish a split several decades ago based on some mutations in the gene code and by now, there are a wide number of varieties.

Viral historians have now detected seven different varieties of Covid-19 genetics in New York City. But as one cautions, “Just because something is different doesn’t mean it matters.”  Many of the changes affect neither human transmission or deadliness of the microbe.

Some 3000 plus full genomes of Covid-19 have now been unraveled by a team of Chinese and Australian researchers. These revealed original roots in China. But the New York scientists discovered that their strains all matched up surprisingly with European cousins.

The President’s ban of Chinese entry at the end of January (porous as it was with over 40,000 Chinese residents still managing admission since the ban) had little effect on New York City, since European travelers and US returning tourists were still streaming into the city, and silently carried the weight of the deadly virus on their shoulders throughout February and early March.

All agree that the nationwide failures in testing have been epic, and that this has continued. In the April 8 briefing, testing czar, Dr. Deborah Birx said, the high-output Abbott machines  are “not running. We’ve only run 88,000 tests in three weeks off of those machines, with a million test kits.” But California has wasted no time blaming the President and his administration. They are already placing their bets on serologic testing.

When Governor Gavin Newsome announced a $1.4 billion dollar purchase of protective gear including 200 million masks a month from Asia a few days ago, stating that they were done with going “small ball” and competing with the federal government for dwindling supplies, he described California, the 5th largest economy in the world as a “nation state” that was going “big time” in purchasing power.

If you want a look at “good government” in action, watch this space.


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