CovidGram: Making sense of the latest research

KHEPRW COVID CONVO presents COVIDGRAM, a weekly news digest


How CovidGram helps you stay on top of the COVID pandemic

CovidGram is a COVID information sanctuary that grew out of a conversation during Kheprw’s “Mumbo Jumbo” weekly community conversation series. It scans COVID news from worldwide sources and flags reports that appear to be misleading, false, or otherwise unreliable. Each week, CovidGram editors then analyze the remaining reports and repackage them in a neatly categorized format for easier reading along with short summaries for each category.

All of us, even the experts, need help understanding what is going on with COVID because news about the coronavirus pandemic is constantly shifting. The tug-of-war between politicians trying to stay in office and news sources trying to lure readers and advertisers makes the already unpredictable news from research scientists and drug makers even more difficult to follow. As a result, the average citizen is caught between conflicting advice from public health officials and government leaders. CovidGram gives you the facts in a form you can easily chew, digest, and use to draw your own conclusions in support of your health and the well-being of your loved ones.

CovidGram uses scientific validity as the standard for selecting and analyzing articles. No publication is immune to political influence and publications often considered too political sometimes provide valuable perspectives. CovidGram judges each article on its own merit regardless of its publication source.

CovidGram is a project of Kheprw Institute’s continuing efforts to empower communities on the ground level.

COVID Information Categories

I. Making sense of infection rates and death tolls

Summary. Fluctuating rates of positive COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths that vary widely by state and locale prompt some key questions.

  • Does Indiana’s relatively low rate of positive cases and low COVID death rate mean we can cut corners on government recommended safety measures?
  • Do all those people who can be seen over the past few weeks crowded in the city’s bars without the required face masks mean that masks are really unnecessary since the number of positive cases has not grown substantially?

In short, no, and no.

The first article below from The Atlantic explains in depth how reliably COVID deaths are starting to follow the premature reopening of cities and then the rise of positive cases and then the surge in hospitalizations. Indiana does not yet show such a surge, but the scant data Indiana provides about positive cases and hospitalizations could easily be hiding a second wave.

Unfortunately, the possibility of such a second wave does not occur to the large portion of Hoosiers scoffing at the Governor’s request for masks and distancing. That makes the COVID skeptics excellent subjects in an informal public experiment testing the second wave theory. If hospitalizations do not surge over the next two weeks in Marion County, then the public health experts will have plenty of explaining to do. The safe money, however, is on those who expect a second wave to happen and choose to protect themselves and others by complying with public health rules.

The Atlantic, July 2020, A Second Coronavirus Death Surge Is Coming

Indianapolis Star, June 28, 2020, Some States Are Seeing Coronavirus Cases Skyrocket. Not Indiana. Why?

CNN, June 24, 2020, Florida: What’s Behind the Surge in COVID Cases?


II. Effectiveness of lockdowns, testing, masks and other policies

Summary. Compared to certain other countries, most notably South Korea, the U.S. approach to managing the pandemic seems inadequate. After a rough start in February when South Korea was hit hard by a high number of cases, second only to China, Korean leaders imposed public health measures that now serve as a model for the rest of the world. Besides strict physical distancing, the government reduced the number of cases and effectively quelled any new outbreaks using instant test results to guide technologically advanced contact tracing.

Some of those techniques appear to be helping certain states, for example New York, to keep the pandemic under control. However, in states where COVID has established itself at a high rate, above 15 percent positive, measures like testing become less practical and contact tracing becomes virtually impossible. In other words, once the pandemic exceeds 15 percent positivity, South Korea’s methods don’t work.

The number of big name stores like Walmart and Target requiring customers to wear face masks is steadily increasing. It seems that the second wave of COVID in southern states and California following premature reopening after lockdown has succeeded in scaring governments and businesses to adopt mask wearing requirements. Yet, as of July 16, the governor of Georgia ordered cities, including Atlanta, not to require face masks in public, only to recommend them.

  • Politics aside, are our leaders making the best choices in public health policies to control the pandemic?
  • Can the U.S. government find the will to ramp up testing?

Time, April 30, 2020, How South Korea Is Beating Coronavirus Without a Lockdown, July, 2020

 Washington Post, July 13, 2020, California, Oregon Roll Back Reopenings


III. T-cell immunity

Summary. Aside from the highly competitive effort to develop a safe vaccine and effective antiviral drugs, considerable scientific effort is focused on understanding the specific immunology of COVID-19.  Recent studies are starting to show that the body’s T-cells may be providing some innate immunity due to their ability to “remember” specific viral agents and attack the invasion before it can take hold in the body.

  • Does a sub-infectious dose of coronavirus exposure—for example less than 100 particles in a near pass with an infected person who is simply talking and not sneezing—have the potential to induce a certain level of immunity via T-cell memory?

Reuters July 10, 2020, Scientists Focus on How Immune System T-cells Fight Coronavirus


News sources consulted:

The Atlantic

Washington Post




New York Times

Fox News

Bloomberg Businessweek

National Public Radio (NPR)




Kaiser Health News

The Lancet

New England Journal of Medicine

  • plus other leading general news outlets and hundreds of other medical and scientific journals indexed in major technical literature databases