The coronavirus story changes on a day-by-day, no hour-by-hour, basis. We are making incredibly rapid progress, which demonstrates what highly motivated humans focused on a singular goal can accomplish. Let’s not forget that capacity once Covid-19 is behind us. Let’s use this ability to focus on other problems.

Today, I want to highlight three stories. But, I want to begin by saying we are not past the worst of this yet. The numbers of cases are still rapidly rising, our hospitals in the United States are reaching capacity, and the death toll continues to climb. Keep up the work we are all doing with social distancing to give us time to save as many as possible. I don’t report any of this to make you complacent. This is a serious threat and must be taken very seriously over the coming weeks.

Twenty vaccines are in development:

Last week I reported a couple of vaccines were in development. Work we have done on other vaccines gave us a head start. The coronavirus’ genetic sequence was found just about two months ago, just two months after the virus itself was found. There are already vaccines in trial. We could still be a year and a half away from a vaccine. But, that is rapid development in terms of vaccines. There’s good reason to believe a vaccine will be found relatively soon.

More treatments are being found:

I’m not going to mention specific drugs here. People are hoarding drugs. Already a prescription drug for Lupus is in short supply. At least one person died taking something that had a name that sounds like something that shows promise. But, anecdotally, a friend who I am almost certain has/had Covid-19 showed remarkable improvement when given the proper drug. It’s reasonable to believe we’ll have several drug treatments that are shown to be safe and effective in a matter of days or weeks.

The worst-case models may be wrong:

A model developed at the Imperial College of London is the one that set off the alarms around the world when it predicted the numbers of infected and dead. Others are now saying that model may have been wrong- maybe even by orders of magnitude. A new model from Oxford gives us reason to believe we might be later in the pandemic curve than originally thought which means we are closer to the peak and the numbers should not climb as high as originally thought. The new thinking is more people may have had the virus than thought and already have immunity. That number could be in the millions. The creator of the Imperial College of London model predicted 500,000 dead in the UK. That number has been revised down to 20,000. If the new estimates are right, that would be great news for the healthcare system and would put Covid-19 on par with seasonal flu. We may be only a couple or three weeks away from the peak.

While this is all excellent news, we need to stay vigilant. I do not want to be a part of this first wave. My plan is to hold off on getting this as long as possible. Social distancing is my best bet to accomplish this. Treatments will get better. We don’t know for certain who will develop serious or life-threatening complications. We need to keep the health care system and our health care workers free from too much stress. Stay the course, keep your distance in public, and stay home as much as possible.

The world has changed drastically in just a few weeks. We began hearing about a virus in China late last year. For months, we were told not to worry. Just a few weeks ago our own government called talk of a pandemic a hoax. Today, the world is closed for business, as we try to stop the wave of Covid-19. The first day of spring of 2020 is a surreal day as bars and restaurants are closed, people fight over toilet paper, and strangers keep a 6′ radius around ourselves when we have to venture out for supplies.

For us who were born after World War II, we’ve never seen anything like it. It sure feels like the end of the world. We’ve never been asked to sacrifice. We’re used to getting what we want when we want it. The last time we had this surreal feeling was immediately after 9/11, almost 19 years ago. Then, we were told to go shop to boost the economy. That was our sacrifice. Most of our parents don’t even remember WWII when people were asked to sacrifice. Over the six years WW II raged on 75-80 million people died. 3% of the world’s population died. But, that was a long time ago and, that war was not fought on our soil. Today, we fight an invisible enemy that any of us could be carrying. It’s scary. It’s OK to be afraid.

There is plenty of bad news, misinformation, things being taken out of context, and fear-mongering But, there is good news. There is a lot of good news about the coronavirus. I want to focus on that. I will provide facts, not speculation. And, I will provide sources.

This won’t be as bad as WW II for the reasons I’m going to give below. But, the world bounced back after World War II, as awful as that was. We will bounce back after this. We don’t know the true mortality rate of this virus. But, we do know that most people who get it won’t require hospitalization. It’ll be like a bad cold or flu. Some won’t even know they have had it. If we did absolutely nothing, most of us would survive it. While this is a novel virus, our bodies are incredibly fine-tuned machines, forged to keep us alive. Our immune systems are miraculous. Most of us will fight this thing off on our own. Trust your body. Wash your hands and practice social distancing so we can slow the spread of this and keep our medical systems working. But, know if you’re exposed, your immune system is a powerful weapon. You are not defenseless.

The measures we are taking to slow the spread of the virus makes it seem worse than it is. Empty streets, shuttered businesses, people fighting over toilet paper, I think these things trigger us to recall Zombie apocalypse movies, The Walking Dead television series, etc. Social distancing is keeping us isolated. Time on our hands is allowing our minds to wander to worst-case scenarios. While this social distancing is absolutely key to “flattening the curve” and keeping our vital medical resources available for those who need them, it has a psychological impact. It also is taking a very real economic toll on all of us. This is the sacrifice we must make to save lives. It will work. It’ll be a rough ride. But, we will get through it.

While our governments were slow to respond. They are responding, decisively. Short term sacrifice for long term gain is a new concept to many of us. But, hang in there. It will keep more of us alive. Now, for the good news:

China closed its last coronavirus hospital

China was overrun by the virus so quickly that it overwhelmed their normal hospital system. They had to build emergency hospitals for the overflow. In just a few months, they have turned the corner on the number of cases and been able to retire those emergency hospitals. This is great news. It must be tempered by the fact that we are four months behind China in where we are in the propagation of the virus. Our numbers are still climbing and will, for a while. Also, China has a society where the government was able to take Draconian measures. But, China shows it can be done. This virus will not run through us without a challenge.

Italy is an outlier

You might have heard about how bad things are in Italy, as their healthcare system was overwhelmed and they had to take drastic measures. Some have said we are two weeks away from where Italy is today. Italy has had many deaths, much higher than we think the average death rate for this virus is. Why?

Almost twenty-five percent of Italy’s population is over the age of 65. In the United States, it’s closer to 16%.  99% of those who died in Italy had other conditions as well. Almost 75% of those who died had two other illnesses. The median age of those in Italy who have gotten sick is 63. The average age of the people who have died is 79.5.

Doctors in India have had some success in treating coronavirus

You might have heard there is no treatment for Coronavirus. A few weeks ago, that was true. All doctors could do was provide support for the patients to get better on their own and assistance with breathing if it got to that point. Doctors in India have used a combination of anti-HIV drugs even on three elderly patients who have fully recovered. Update: This article was written on March 18th. On March 19th, it was announced that an old drug used to treat malaria might be effective to treat Coronavirus 19.

Testing should soon be widely available in the United States

I’m going to avoid being political. But, for a number of reasons, the United States has been slow to test for coronavirus. That’s why we have to assume everyone we see is carrying it, including ourselves. We must socially isolate ourselves from as many people as possible. The initial tests took days to get results and were scarce. While testing is still not to the point where we can all get one, tests are making their way to those who are symptomatic, with a doctor’s referral. Drive through coronavirus testing is popping up all over. With online doctors’ appointments, you can visit your doctor via your phone, get an order for a test, and have someone drive you to a testing facility. Testing will allow us to be smarter in our fight to isolate and weed out the virus.

People are recovering every day

This article will get dated very quickly anyway. If I give the number of people who have recovered from coronavirus, it’ll be dated tomorrow. It’s already in the tens of thousands, approaching 100,000. Given that we really don’t know how many cases there have been because, at least in the United States, almost exclusively only the most severely ill (hospitalized) have been tested. People are contracting the virus and recovering all the time. As people recover from the virus, they have immunity. I’m going to link to this site with the statistics. But, I suggest you not fixate on it, particularly in these early days. The cases are artificially low so the death rate is artificially high. The rate is the number of known cases, which again are the most severe cases. There will be more deaths among that population. It’ll be a while before we have real numbers on this. A 103-year-old woman in China recovered. A couple in the 80s and 90s both recovered. Covid-19 is not a death sentence.

Plasma from recovered patients could be used to treat the sickest

While we are working on effective treatments (anti-virals) and on a vaccine, an old technique that has fallen out of favor could be deployed. Doctors from Johns Hopkins hospital are promoting this idea. During the 1918 flu pandemic, plasma from recovered patients reduced the death rate by 50% among those treated. This could be a bridge between where we are now and when we find a vaccine or a drug treatment.

There is good reason to believe a vaccine is on the way

We can be cautiously optimistic about having a COVID-19 vaccine in a matter of twelve to eighteen months. While that may seem like an eternity, it’s really not. If we do all of the other things we can do in the meantime, a vaccine in a year to a year and a half would be wonderful. The first person in a phase 1 trial has already received the vaccine in Seattle.

Summary

It’s been just 123 days since the first known case of Covid-19. Four months. In that time, we have developed a test for the virus, have found some existing anti-viral drugs that show promise, could revive an old technique to cut the death rate maybe in half, and have started trials on a vaccine. This is lightning-fast speed.

 

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

This is a guest post from my friend Kim LaCapria. Kim is a professional skeptic and debunker. I am proud to say I introduced Kim to Carolyn Clapper, mentioned in the article. Carolyn is the one who changed Kim’s mind about mediums.

In my first RedStringSociety .com post, I explained how I’d gone from materialist/atheist to “atheist who understands consciousness survives death.”

In that post, I also mentioned my career and work — ironically, as a professional skeptic, a fact-checker, and a “debunker.” From my late teens I’d been immersed in that culture, certain of self-evident truths like “there is no cabal” and, most primarily, that all mediums are brazenly fraudulent “grief vampires.” (I met my husband on the Snopes forums, and we shared those views.)

In holding that belief for more than half my life, I exercised discretion never to expose that belief to anyone grieving, who had taken comfort in the idea consciousness survived death. That would have been cruel and unnecessary, and nothing I’d say would make their lives better.

But when it came to entertainment, I had no qualms about rattling off the laundry list of ways we skeptics and debunkers were certain that mediums were knowingly faking it. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)

Part of this juxtaposition might be the fact that I have lived most of my life on Long Island (save for stints in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Ireland), and Long Island is awash in not only mediums, but well-known mediums. In addition to John Edward, Theresa Caputo and George Anderson are also locals.

Instead of growing up taking these demonstrations seriously, I marveled at Long Island’s attachment to superstition.

Let me tell you, it has been a short but bizarre path from “there is no afterlife” to “wow … John Edward is the real thing.”

The first time I reconsidered John Edward was during a regular phone call with the medium who changed my mind (Carolyn Clapper). We discussed the seemingly high concentration of mediums on Long Island, and she opined she believed Edward was legitimate.

It didn’t really make much of an impression on me, but months later I was researching ayahuasca and watching YouTube videos. One such video on the channel of the user “Shaman Oaks” autoplayed a second video next, titled “Proof Psychic John Edward Isn’t Cold Reading.

Shaman Oaks’ video appeared a few months before an earnest but inaccurate and far more widely viewed effort by comedian John Oliver. Oliver excerpted Edwards’ readings and implied they were fraudulent (something I too had always believed). But the earlier video, below, is definitely worth watching and does a good concise job of explaining a lot of what I’m going to say:

Often, when a skeptic is using video clips to “debunk” a medium, they’ve already said that mediums “use deceptive editing” to give the impression they score more “hits” than they actually do. That may be a clever bit of projection (perhaps unknowingly), because those same example clips are often stopped at a misleading point.

At this point I’ll add that judgment passed on whether any particular “hit” was accurate is purely subjective. No third-party watching who is unacquainted with the person being “read” is any more qualified to rate its accuracy than any other.

From here, I want to discuss the myths I previously believed, and you can watch hundreds of clips of mediums like John Edward on YouTube and make your own mind up about these things. My own statements are based on experiences I’ve had, which again the first time was as a practiced debunker well, well aware of how to unmask all the tricks and “flim-flammery” purportedly used by mediums. Again, I was wrong.

Myth #1: Mediums get their hooks in by saying the deceased has a “J name” or an “M name,” the two most common initials.

Go watch some mediums on YouTube, good ones, with high view counts.

It is definitely true mediums — like Edward — reference initials, sometimes common ones like “J” or “M.” But just as commonly, they ask about a complete first name — Rita, or Bob, or Bill, or Anthony. For years, my fellow skeptics had convinced me the clever use of initials was a key trick in the arsenals of mediums, but that isn’t what you’ll see on YouTube.

And it isn’t what happened to me. In my first reading as a firm skeptic, I was consistently given entire names, names you couldn’t find online — itself a part of the next myth.

Myth #2: Mediums employ hot reading, obtaining most otheir detailed information through Google searches

No one would expect you to take anyone’s firsthand word for it, but the information provided by mediums in private readings is not only in my experience not Googleable, it’s not anything you’d ever put on Facebook or anywhere else.

It’s very private, very intimate information that you can barely even relay to your closest friends. It’s possible but difficult to give examples of how sensitive this information is, because of its nature. (As an aside, I suspect that television readings lack these details due to discretion on the part of parties involved — mediums don’t want to say “your wife said she’s wearing her red teddy” on the Today show.) Which leads into the next myth.

Myth #3: Mediums leverage people’s grief, providing only very vague details which could apply to almost anyone. Grief-addled victims are more than happy to make these vague claims “fit” their deceased loved one.

An interesting thing about the common accusations levied at mediums is how these claims often contradict one another — mediums are vague and say things that can apply to anyone supposedly, while also using Google to dredge up highly specific details. All at the same time, apparently.

Anyway, if we put aside the hot reading claim and look at the vague one, that’s not really something I feel is apparent in many videos of audience readings. In addition to names, family secrets, details about the insides of homes, tales of long-forgotten childhood memories, and myriad other things, a ton of highly specific things come out of mediums mouths.

Of note is that “who crashed a black car last month?” or “you found a ticket in your dad’s pocket the night of his funeral” are extremely confident and extremely specific things to “guess” — things that would presumably embarrass the medium if they were wrong. But very frequently, the person being read becomes visibly emotional and affirms the very specific “guess” was completely accurate.

Myth #4: Mediums carefully extract information from the people they’re reading, allowing those people to fill in answers and then repeating them back. The person being read (who often possesses a recording of the event) “forgets” having provided the information, and the medium dupes people into believing they discovered information which was actually provided by the person being read.

Again, this particular claim sort of beggars belief. We’re talking about mediums on live television, mediums who offer unedited recordings to clients, and mediums who are reading in front of a gallery or audience. Unless the entire room is invested in the one client’s reading, others would certainly think “the medium didn’t say that, the person said it.” But that doesn’t happen.

Conversely, if you watch videos of readings, you might notice that mediums constantly “SHH!” people they’re reading, insisting that they don’t want to become confused about the source of information. They repeatedly tell clients or those being read to be quiet, not say more, or sometimes, to “shut up.”

In my experience, this misconception is one on which poorly done debunkings often hinge — and it’s a complete lie. I myself have been shushed hundreds of times in just a handful of readings, prevented from speaking at all beyond “yes” or “no.”

Myth #5: If mediums were authentic, they wouldn’t play “charades.” They’d just say people’s names and details and not engage in this sort of guessing game.

Admittedly, I strongly believed this to be an iron-clad proof mediums were fake. Of course there was no afterlife, but if there was, ghosts or whatever would just come out and say stuff. They wouldn’t need to play “hot or cold.”

This is probably one of the slipperiest myths with which to dispense. The answer really boils down to what mediums are supposedly doing, and how they’re doing it.

Personally, I can’t access information the way they do, but I understand it’s not a phone call. But also from my own experience, I understand mediums are often seeing places, people, and events they’ve never seen. Ever try to describe details or conversations from a dream to someone?

Imagine if someone handed you a folder of photographs, names, pictures of houses and their rooms, and pets, and asked you to describe them to a person without showing them the folder’s contents. You don’t know how these things are connected to the person, but you have to get them to figure out what those things are.

In the folder is a backyard party in 1977, a living room from the 1990s, an office desk, a beach with very clear water, and just a photograph of a wall as if you’re staring at it. By your descriptions, the person is eventually able to identify their fifth birthday, the setting of their first child’s first steps, a work day that defined their life, a trip to a specific country, and what they did in the moments immediately after learning a parent had died.

Now try to imagine how mediums might get information from a discarnate person, assuming such a thing is possible. They often can’t hear speaking, and are only shown images like snapshots. These snapshots are of strangers and places they’ve never been, and they have to find a way to get the person they’re reading to recognize those things.

On top of that, the medium might look at the image and see “red overalls” or “chocolate cake,” details you don’t remember well. In contrast, you might remember the shoes you wore or the pizza that was served. But together, you have to figure out which impression is which.

Now think about all the memories you and your close friends or families have to remind one another of, and how often one party remembers something differently than the other.

Myth #6: Mediums skillfully turn anything into a hit, to create the illusion of accuracy when they’re not reeling the victim in hard enough.

This is just flat-out false. You’ll see this all the time, particularly with John Edward. I too experienced this.

I’ve spent 15-20 minutes with a medium telling me “no, not that … no, it’s not that. Keep thinking.” Mediums can take a “hit” in all these scenarios, but this is one of the most egregiously mischaracterized claims about mediumship. Mediums constantly reject hits, and tell the person being read that they’re not identifying the information correctly.

An example of this is in the video embedded above.

All of this is not to say anyone should change their mind about whether consciousness survives death, or whether John Edward is for real, or even whether Long Island mediums are grating (John Oliver made a huge point of mocking Theresa Caputo’s accent and hair). The point is about how critical thinking when it comes to mediums has, among self-styled skeptics, been incredibly lazy and faulty for quite some time.

Unfortunately, mediums are not incredibly well-regulated, and there are likely frauds. However, there are organizations like Helping Parents Heal or the Forever Family Foundation which recommend mediums based on real people’s experiences, so it’s not impossible to get a good start.

And skepticism is a great thing, always be skeptical. Never be easy to convince. Always listen to your instinct about being misled. But that goes both ways — listen for a ring of truth. If you feel like something is trustworthy, that’s also valid.

Debunkings of mediums are often poorly done — after my experience, I returned to the work of people in my field to reorient my perspective. None were convincing based on what I experienced, and a great many were misleading or inaccurate. Not one applied to what I had seen and heard, not one was ten percent as convincing as the evidence I witnessed.

Again, this is all a very personal matter. My overarching point is that even as a very skilled “debunker,” I remained wholly and entirely ignorant about mediums for 20 years. I stupidly relied on the word of my contemporaries as the final word on the subject. And having been proven wrong so resoundingly, I feel honor-bound to honestly describe these things to people who may be on the fence.

Although I was certain I was right about mediums being frauds, I now know I was very, very wrong. This being true alongside me knowing how to assess and debunk things means the average person might be even more confused. Much of the information to read about the topic hews firmly to materialist talking points, points which may be well-intended, but are misinformed.

author: Kim LaCapria