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A COVID-19 Exercise: What Next?

As we transition from the first phase of COVID-19 into what comes next, I’ve been thinking a lot about what comes next. No, I don’t mean recovery-wise, I mean what do we do next to make sure we are prepared when the next pandemic threat knocks at our nation’s door?

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do some reading and studying and maybe even ask for your opinions on the subject of “what’s next?” One thing that is 100%, minted in gold, true is we CANNOT respond to the next pandemic disease threat like we responded to this one. As a nation, we got caught with our pants down. We failed to realize the looming threat. We failed to imagine it could happen to us. We failed to respond rapidly and with intent and the virus spread like a wildfire.

We tried to throw cow poo to cover over the problem while telling everyone it was chocolate. The best nation on the planet with the finest people, a great health system, and all the data we needed fell flat on its face. It will take years to recover from the loss in life, health, security, economics, and trust in our elected officials. Years.

The blame falls on everyone. We should have done better. Period.

We can do better. We need to do better. We should demand better from our leaders. We have the plans, the data, the institutions. What we lack is a cooperative system that has a green light to track, analyze, and respond to international, national, state, county, city, and neighborhood threats. This type of system has been bouncing around in my head for weeks. Sound impossible? Maybe. But think about a system you rely on daily and that you really don’t give a second thought to its complexity.

The weather report.

Meteorology relies on data collection, analysis, and modeling to predict what will likely occur in an hour, a day, a week, months, etc. Maybe the weatherman gets a rain shower wrong every now and then but they rarely miss the big threats, like hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards.

In public health and infectious disease, we have data, we have analytical tools, and we have computer models. What we need is to make the infectious disease reporting system and response as rapid and as commonplace as our weather service.

I envision a system that can give officials rapid, accurate, point-specific information to help them make decisions about how to best implement responses, resources, and social contact initiatives.

Can we do it? Absolutely!

As they said on the Six Million Dollar Man, “We have the technology.”

It’s a question of do we, as a nation, have the resolve to do it.

Lives are at stake. We cannot accept the loss of 50,000+ Americans to a pandemic again. Never, under any circumstance or political environment or world events.

We need better leadership. We need to use our resources. We need to understand and react.

Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willna’ be fooled again! ― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men.

AWIPS-3-head-workstation

 

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A COVID-19 Exercise: Theoretical effect on local hospitals

Note: This post is the product of my brain working quite a bit on the COVID-19 pandemic issue. It is not meant as any kind of official public health or medical advice. I’m a molecular microbiologist. I’m not a doctor or public health official. There are people A LOT smarter than me supplying official information. There are also many buffoons spewing idiocies out there. In difficult times, knowledge is power. Do the work. Find the truth. Ignore the myths. The most valuable tool we have right now is the same powerful tool we have at our disposal every single day of our lives. Our brain.

On 4-9-2020, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), through their excellent COVID-19 Resource Center web page, reported 1106 confirmed COVID-19 positives with 263 requiring hospitalization (a 23.8% rate). These numbers got me thinking about how my small Kansas town and our excellent local hospital might be affected by the coronavirus. 

I did some calculations on what might be in store for our local medical resources if the coronavirus becomes community transferred in our fair city. Information on our local hospital’s website says they are a 25-bed facility. In an emergency, I imagine they can swing another 5-10 beds but I don’t know for sure.

Doubling times are important in a contagious infection scenario. They mean it takes X number of days for the number of infected individuals to be doubled. The latest I heard last week was that COVID-19 was running at a doubling time of four days, so I included that in the table as well as an eight-day doubling timeline. The whole goal of social distancing and flattening the curve strategies are to extend the doubling time as far as possible. By stretching out the timeline of infections, as you can see in the table, a community can keep the number of infections and patients needing medical services within the limitations of the local medical system.

The public health issues rise exponentially once the illnesses overburden the system. It is vital to stay under these critical numbers and to stay within the limitations of our medical systems. As you can see in the table below, for our community hospital, in theory, the key period will be how fast we go from around 50 total positives (~10 patients hospitalized) to 250 positives (~50 patients hospitalized). If we don’t alter the doubling time of 4 days, our medical system will go from adequate to overwhelmed in about ten days. Ten days!

Bottom line. Stay home. Do what the local and state authorities advise. Be safe. Be kind. Help each other out.

# of COVID-19 Positive Cases Local Hospitalization (at a 20% rate) Days @ Doubling Time = 4 days Days @ Doubling Time = 8 days
1 <=1 0 0
2 <=1 4 8
4 1 8 16
8 1.6 12 24
16 3.2 16 32
32 6.4 20 40
64 12.8 24 48
128 25.6 28 56
256 51.2 32 64
512 102.4 36 72
1024 204.8 40 80
2048 409.6 44 88
4096 819.2 48 96
8192 1638.4 52 104
16384 3276.8 56 112

Here are a few things I’ve posted elsewhere about COVD-19:

Novel Coronavirus 2019: Scientist Roundtable

April 6, 2020 Facebook post about antivirals.

What are antivirals? They’re medications that reduce the virus making more of itself. They do their job in a variety of ways from affecting the genes being made into functional proteins to the proteins not being able to be put together properly to make new virus. They don’t completely kill the virus. They are effective because they can reduce symptoms or shorten the length of infection.

What antiviral drugs aren’t are miracle cures. You don’t inject an antiviral and expect to be protected or to stand up and walk out of ICU in a few hours. They may have serious side effects that may cause more harm than health so the balance has to be weighed between the doctor and the patient. That’s why antivirals and vaccines and all other drugs undergo extensive testing to give the doctor and patient the best information to make the best decisions.

Antiviral drugs are important in new outbreaks. In pandemics, like we’re in now, reducing and shortening hospital stays is vital. But, we have to remember one of the first tenets of medicine as we move to use existing antivirals in novel scenarios, “First, do no harm”.

The best way to stop pandemics? Prevent pandemics. That, my friends, is something I’ve been thinking a lot about and will write about soon. It’s time to elevate infectious disease defense to the level of national defense.

Have a good day! Stay safe. Be nice. Help each other out.

March 31, 2020 Facebook post on Social Distancing

Unacast has some interesting data tools they use to track movement by GPS. Below is a link to their Social Distancing Scoreboard.

Yesterday, Dr. Lee Norman of the KDHE talked about the importance of the stay-at-home order. At our current ~35% reduction in Kansan movement, the infection doubling time is around 3.6 days. If we can get to a 45% reduction, the doubling time increases to ~6.5 days. At a 55% reduction, it jumps to almost 10 days.

Why is this so damn important, you ask? Because at 55% reduction & 10 days doubling time, Kansas has ample medical resources to handle it. 45% & 6 days pushes the health systems to their limit. The health system becomes stressed and overloaded at our current 35% reduction or anything below that.

Stay safe, friends! Minimize movement and help each other out, if only with a wave and a smile.

 

NY_Foundling_Hospital_-_Operating_Room_-_circa_1899_-_Byron_Company_-_MNY25924

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Thai-beñero Sauce 2019

A bubba has to eat—and eat well to fuel their body and allow them to perform. Really this goes for any athlete. Good, well-balanced food, water, and at least eight hours of sleep a night is vital to a teenage athlete’s performance and their health. This is one of the reasons why I learned long ago to cook. Today, I’d like to share a kitchen experiment I made recently to add a little flavor and pop to my food, thai-beñero hot sauce.

Last May when I shopped at our local hardware store for the traditional jalepeño peppers plants for my garden, Thai and habeñero peppers were all they had left in their temporary greenhouse. I was a bit disappointed but jumped at the chance to jump into an experimental garden addition for 2019. The weather was weird for gardening and not the best for tomatoes and peppers. Wet, cool, wet, and then even more wet but we survived and even thrived with an abundance of cucumbers that were absolutely delicious. The hot peppers, however, were slow and few and far between. I did harvest enough green peppers, tomatoes, and Thai peppers to make a batch of homemade salsa. The extra kick from the Thai peppers tasted fantastic and made for some excellent salsa that was eaten before it needed to be canned. 

The slow production of the hot peppers disappeared in mid-August as the weather turned hot and dry. By the end of September, the plants were loaded down with both Thai and habeñeros. I had a plan to pickle some and maybe put a few in the freezer for winter stews. Then as October rolled around, the weather went Kansas-haywire and we had a forecast of a whole weekend of sub-freezing overnight temperatures. After work that Thursday, I went out as the thermometer plummeted and picked all the hot peppers on the plants. I felt pretty good about myself saving those perfectly fine and perfectly flame-throwing vegetables. After a week of sitting in a bowl on the counter, though, Mrs. Hays began to send friendly death glares in my direction about the dangerous bowl sitting out in the open. I ignored her as usual. The next week, the peppers began to wrinkle so I decided I had better do something about them.

A flash of brilliance descended upon my mind. A vision from heaven. Inspiration at it’s highest and most powerful. I thought about one of my grandfather’s favorite condiments, Tabasco sauce. I thought, you know they have to make that from a recipe and if they can make such a delicious sauce, why can’t I? I searched the food websites and found a recipe for Homemade Cayenne Pepper Sauce at the Chili Pepper Madness site.

It was pretty easy. It tastes great. It smelled even better simmering on the stove. It’s a winner and well worth purchasing a Thai and a habeñero plant again next year solely for hot pepper sauce purpose.

  • Rush out in a biting north wind and pick peppers before covering them with a tarp.
  • Let them sit on the counter until the other people in your house can’t stand it anymore or else they begin to wilt.
  • Wearing protective nitrile gloves, rough chop the peppers, seeds and all, and place into a pot.
  • Add the garlic, a half cup of white vinegar, and two teaspoons of salt.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from the stove and allow it to cool for 30 minutes or so.
  • Pour all the contents of the pot into a blender and blend on high until liquified. Add water slowly until you achieve the consistency you prefer.
  • Strain through a colander into a glass bowl.
  • Transfer to a canning jar or glass container. Label properly because this stuff can be dangerous if not handled properly.
  • Keep refrigerated and use as is, or boil process for long-term storage.
  • Place the solids filtered out in the colander on a piece of aluminum foil and dehydrate overnight. Use these dried solids as a seasoning in your favorite stews, soups, or meat rubs.

That’s it! The result was a sauce with a bite but with an exceptional flavor. I’m happy with it and have already enjoyed it on eggs, pasta dishes, and soups. Plus, I look forward to adding the dried seasoning to a dry rub the next time I smoke a pork loin or shoulder for a little extra kick.

Wow! Take one more look at those beautiful hot peppers.

 

Bon appetite, Bubbas! As you hit the offseason for football and look toward your other sports, remember to keep eating a balanced diet. Your energy and your health affect your performance. Never forget this simple fact. Eat well, drink water, and get 8-10 hours a sleep a night. Learn to appreciate the food you need to grow and develop as an athlete. Your body will thank you.

 

 

 

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A 2019 Pocket Blessing

Numbers 6:22-26

The LORD said to Moses:
Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: This is how you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!

Keep this verse from Numbers in your pocket, wallet, or purse throughout the new year, just like a poem on Poem In Your Pocket Day. Let it put a smile of your face and a spring in your step at times of greatest need. It’s a blessing of hope. It’s a blessing of support. It’s a promise from the Lord there will always be someone to have your back.

Have a prosperous 2019! Dream and let it fly.

Keep swinging even if you’ve just struck out four times in a row.

You can’t get a hit if you don’t swing.

 

 

 

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A good week ruined?

I used to LOVE college football bowl week.

Now I don’t.

I used to get an education in football by watching as many games as I possibly could over the course of the week. I’ve even written about this before with a post called, Crash Course.

I can’t really pinpoint the exact reason for my shift in Bowl Week fandom. My first thought is that ESPN, who used to do an exceptional job hosting the bulk of Bowl Week, has become too entrenched in the College Football Playoff politics. While watching a few minor bowl games this year on ESPN, I felt like the network’s sole purpose in broadcasting that particular minor bowl game was to talk about the College Football Playoff games. The CFP hung heavy over the 2018 Bowl Week.

Another reason that came to mind is there are just too many damn bowl games. The quality of matchup has been diluted to the point of a whole slew of bland and boring bowl games. Case in point for 2018? The 10-7 final, TCU/Cal Cheez-It Bowl. Plus, there rarely were multiple games broadcast at the same time, leaving thumb-happy remote control users like me, stuck with only one game on. Come on, man! I want to click-it action during Bowl Week!

And what’s the deal with all these NFL prospects choosing to skip their team’s bowl game. Okay, there’s always a chance you might break a nail before the NFL Combine but didn’t that school you’re leaving high and dry just sink a couple hundred thousand dollars into your development as a student-athlete? Besides that, how about the three most important things in team sports? Duty. Honor. Team.

Dear NFL prospect, play the damn bowl game.

Am I ready to give up on my lifelong fandom of College Football Bowl Week? Not hardly. But I do feel like Bowl Week is letting me and my desire to study & learn more about the game of football down on a more consistent basis.

And, for me, that is a problem.

Here’s to wishing for better Bowl Week product in 2019. Please don’t let me down, ESPN!

 

 

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The Need for Science 2018

October 4. 1957. It was a Friday evening in Washington, D.C. The Soviet embassy was holding a party in honor of the International Geophysical Year rocket and satellite conference being held in Washington. Over 50 scientists from 13 nations were enjoying the festivities. The top U.S. scientists and officials were in attendance and running high on the confidence that within the next year, they’d be launching the first man-made satellite into near-Earth orbit. New York Times reporter Walter Sullivan was called away from the party to take an urgent phone call from work. After hanging up the receiver, he hurried to U.S. physicist, Lloyd Berkner and whispered in his ear. Berkner collected himself, tapped on the table until quiet fell across the room. “I wish to make an announcement,” he said. He raised his glass to his hosts. “I am informed by the New York Times that a satellite is in orbit at an elevation of 900 kilometers. I wish to congratulate our Soviet colleagues on their accomplishment.”

Thus began the Space Race. The bombshell news of being beat to space by the USSR sent shockwaves across the nation. This was not supposed to happen. We were supposed to be first. We were, or we thought we were, the leaders in both military and scientific technology. But the 20MHz signal being emitted from Sputnik I as it orbited the earth could be heard by anyone with a receiver. In one day, the U.S. went from the perceived superior power on the planet to the perceived runner-up.

Why did we lose?

Because we became too comfortable talking about how awesome we were instead of being awesome. We didn’t do the work or invest the resources into developing the technology and, just as important, developing the scientific minds necessary to be as good as we thought we were.

On a bright side, though, the shock of Sputnik I woke us up. Under the calming leadership of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, we invested the resources to tackle the technical issues of space flight head-on. We also did something at the grassroots level that paid dividends in returning the U.S. to the position of World Leader from the mid-1960s to recent times. We invested in the education and development of our young minds. We valued the greatest resource at our country’s disposal. Our youth.

As part of research around Sputnik I and early satellite programs, I came across this great paper published in The Mathematics Teacher (Vol. 58, No.4, pp.290-294) from April of 1965, Using high school algebra and geometry in Doppler satellite tracking by Robert A. Thompson of The Standard Oil Company. The paper rose out of a Standard Oil workshop at the 1962 NASA Space Science Fair teaching high school students to participate in one of the greatest citizen-science adventures of the 20th Century, tracking satellites by the Doppler shift of their radio signal.

My favorite part of this awesome article is a sidebar at the end outlining the Scientific Manpower Commission’s policy on promoting and developing future scientists and improving the general science education commitment in the United States.

I think these points are well taken and incredibly relevant. We’ve gotten complacent once again. It’s time to invest and value science education as part of a well-rounded education. It’s time to build thinkers from the ground up. Greatness comes in action, not in nonsense spewed from ignorance.

Major scientific problems are facing us. Will we be up to the challenge? Will we have the resolve to respond as we did in the 1960s?

I sure hope so.

And the 1965 Scientific Manpower Commissions policy guide is a damn fine place to start.

Scientific Manpower Commission policy guide

The Scientific Manpower Commission, an independent agency representing eleven major scientific societies, in meeting on September 23, 1964, issued a comprehensive policy guide on national scientific and technological manpower problems. Recent uncertainties in the job market and intensive development of means for scrutinizing manpower policy in the government indicate concerns calling for a statement of position. The Commission presented its guide to action in the following statement.

THE SCIENTIFIC MANPOWER COMMISSION BELIEVES:

1 That the nation is experiencing rapid scientific and technological expansion which will continue well beyond the immediately foreseeable future;

2 That the nation’s capacity for leadership in world affairs, for national defense, and for essential economic growth are increasingly dependent on a continuously expanding scientific and technological enterprise of high quality;

3 That long-term educational and recruitment policies must be formulated without adverse influence from the pressures of short-term fluctuations of supply and demand;

4 That strong, continued emphasis on science education is justified since such education is not likely to become excessive either for the nation or for the individual, provided its structure allows flexibility, stresses specialization only on the foundation of broad education, and . . . includes the humanities;

5 That scientific inquiry and technological innovation are human intellectual activities requiring a freely competitive and self-disciplined professional environment for maximum development and expression.

Based on these concepts, the policy of the Scientific Manpower Commission shall be:

1 To remind the nation regularly of the importance of conserving scientific manpower by realistic national planning, careful accounting, adequate recruitment and education, and proper utilization;

2 To stimulate the development and dissemination of realistic career information, and to encourage steadily the entrance of qualified students into the scientific and engineering professions;

3 To promote the development of educational programs in the sciences which emphasize a judicious combination of depth with intra and inter-disciplinary breadth, and, above all, quality ;

4 To recognize the importance of communication between scientists and the rest of society, and to urge the recruitment and training of science writers, library scientists and others who can aid in effective communication of scientific knowledge;

5 To remind the scientific and engineering community that an undergraduate major in science offers students a broad, liberal education relevant to the needs of society and that future manpower needs include science administrators and others who will apply their knowledge of science to responsibilities in an increasingly wide range of human activities ;

6 To encourage the proper utilization and professional growth of practicing scientific and engineering manpower, including constant reminders to individuals, employers, and professional organizations of their obligation to initiate and maintain programs of continuing education;

7 To encourage participation in the development in less advanced nations of scientific and technical establishments commensurate with their needs, and to recognize participation in this effort as a legitimate responsibility of more advanced nations;

8 To advocate strongly the study and identification of worthy targets of potential scientific endeavor, and the manpower implications of each; so that as scientists become available through shifts in projects, retraining of current existing personnel and new recruitment, new projects can be initiated on some established priority schedule without serious disruption in the employment of scientists and engineers.

 

  1. The Mathematics Teacher | April 1965

 

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CCCHS Writing Prompt: The Judgement of Osiris

I had the honor of speaking to the Clay Center Community High School during their ELA Writing Week. It was a blast! Great kids, awesome teachers, and exceptional administrative/building support for this project. I was truly impressed. My presentation was on the power of story. I hope the students learned something and at the very least enjoyed viewing the first significant snowfall of the year through the CCCHS Library windows.

As is my custom, I prepared more than I had time for. (It’s an old habit from my coaching days where I vowed never to run out of things to do when dealing with teenagers. Keep them busy, keep them engaged, and don’t ever get caught with nothing.) So, as promised, I’m posting the second writing exercise we didn’t have time to do in any of the eight presentations hours.

The Judgement of Osiris


In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, it says that after a person died their soul was led to the Hall of Truth, where their soul was judged. There, their heart would be weighed by Anubis, the jackal-headed god of judgment, on the great golden scale against the white feather of Ma’at. The judgment would be witnessed and recorded by Thoth, the god of wisdom and writing. If the deceased’s heart weighed more than the feather, it was fed to Ammit (The Gobbler, The Eater of Souls, The Bone Eater), a horrific beast with the head of a crocodile, the body of a lion, and the hind end of a hippopotamus.) If the heart was lighter than the feather of Ma’at, the deceased would be led by Horus, the falcon-headed god of the sun and sky, to stand final judgment in front of Osiris, the god of the afterlife, the Egyptian King of Eternity. Osiris would approve the final judgment and send the soul to the Field of Reeds, an afterlife with eternal bliss.

The Egyptians believed in the philosophy of Ma’at, that is represented by the goddess Ma’at and her white feather. The Egyptians believed the soul resided in one’s heart. The philosophy of Ma’at meant to live with balance, justice, and harmony, If one lived by these philosophies, the heart would be light and spent out at the end of life. If not, the heart (soul) would be burdened and heavy at the end of life. Having one’s heart devoured by Ammit meant the soul would cease to exist, the worst fate an Egyptian could imagine.

Your writer’s mission is to:

  • Write your own story about your turn in The Hall of Truth. Write your piece in whatever format you choose. Prose, poetry, memoir, and/or graphic novel formats all work.
  • Show your reader what it’s like to walk down the Hall of Truth for your heart/soul to stand judgment before Osiris.
  • Your reader wants to feel your fears, pains, regrets, and, most importantly, your belief in your own soul.

Some things to consider:

  • What does it feel like walking down the hall?
  • How do the gods treat you?
  • Convey a sense of how life and life choices either lighten the heart or weigh it down.
  • How do you imagine your life will “balance” as your heart is placed on the great golden scale against the white feather of truth on the other side?
  • What are the stakes in the judgment?

CCCHHS students and staff – Thanks again for a wonderful day of talking words and story. Keep up the good work!

Read. Write. Repeat.

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