Coronavirus Chronicles — The Light of Distant Stars

Obviously, one of the big problems with SARS-CoV-2 is, so many aspects of the organism and its behavior remain shrouded in mystery. In The Atlantic, writer Ed Yong quotes Beth Redbird, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University, whose many interests include group interactions and survey methodology. Redbird specifies a very important fact that people don’t seem to grasp:

[T]hings look fine until right before they’re very not-fine.

This two-minute animated video illustrates the principle. There is a moment when the observer realizes that indeed, the trajectory has suddenly headed in the direction of not-fine. (The hosting platform will likely suggest several similar short works framing the concept in slightly different ways, perhaps more comprehensible to other viewers.)

The bottom line is, the orgy of multiplication pictured by all the filmmakers is very similar to how a virus acts. It has one job: to reproduce, and it does so with unparalleled ferocity and determination. This should not be so difficult to understand, but as Yong notes, “Exponential growth is counterintuitive.” He adds,

It’s also because the coronavirus spreads quickly but is slow to reveal itself: It can take a month for infections to lead to symptoms, for symptoms to warrant tests and hospitalizations, and for enough sick people to produce a noticeable spike. Pandemic data are like the light of distant stars, recording past events instead of present ones.

In this era of instantaneous global communication, it is grotesque that so many people have not yet gotten the word: Yes, children can both catch and transmit COVID-19.

Megan E. Doherty wrote,

[E]xperts say, there is evidence that children aged 10 and older are able to transmit SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, at rates similar to adults, and a recent study found that children can carry high levels of the virus in their noses and throats.

From Maryland, medical anthropologist and epidemiologist Janelle Menard says,

For pediatric Covid-19, we don’t even know yet what we don’t know.

Menard works with the Covkid Project, which tracks infection rates among American children. As we have discussed, there is a tendency to divide COVID-19 patients of all ages into two bundles: sick enough to need hospitalization, or home and well. In reality, there is a vast middle ground of people who are still miserable and unable to resume normal life activities, and nobody is quite sure why, although there are two main theories.

They might still have the virus, or the immune system might be throwing up a delayed over-response. Doherty explains what medical science is currently trying to figure out:

[…] whether the virus lingers in people’s bodies, or whether lasting symptoms could be a result of an overactive immune response, organ damage, problems with gut bacteria, or even previously latent viruses reactivating.

Nobody seems sure how to declare for certain that any given person is not contagious. There are even speculations that the virus can “hide out” in various organs, undetectably, and then later make a dramatic comeback. We won’t go deeply into this but here is one reference for anybody who is interested.

Doherty also quotes confused Johns Hopkins researcher, Amesh Akalja, who says:

I don’t think this is the result of the persistence of the pathogen, because you clearly see the viral load go down, and that their body’s immune system is not behaving as though there’s a pathogen present.

Then, she quotes Columbia’s Daniel Griffin, also an infectious disease specialist:

The notion that people aren’t infectious after a certain time period is grounded in very small sample sizes. Now we’re taking an observation of a few dozen individuals and applying it to billions of people. If we’re wrong, it’s a huge problem.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “America Is Trapped in a Pandemic Spiral,”, 09/09/20
Source: “The Legend of the Chessboard,”, 01/11/11
Source: “When Children’s Covid-19 Symptoms Won’t Go Away,”, 09/02/20
Image by NASA/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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