COVID-19 Related Viral Immunity Discussion

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve seen a good deal of discussion of antibodies and immunity lately. I’ve found much of it to be misguided. I’ve researched and given a good deal of thought to the subject and would like to ask you all to consider the following. As a disclaimer, I am not a doctor. I have the opportunity to discuss things with doctors, but I have no formal medical training. My training is in engineering – the science (art?) of making things work.

How a virus (like the COVID-19 virus) works:

  • The virus enters the body through your breathing mechanism – mostly eyes, nose, mouth – and gains access to the soft tissue in your lungs and breathing passages.
  • The virus attaches itself to a soft tissue cell, takes over the cell, and turns that cell into a virus factory, producing more of itself (the virus).
  • As the virus moves through your cells, it kills those cells while producing an excess of that virus, some of which is expelled from your body by coughing, breathing, etc. (also known as being infectious).
  • Absent an immune response, this process would eventually kill the infected person (as in no longer able to breathe), but this is generally not what kills.

Immune response – this is what tends to be confusing:

  • Immunity is a continuum. If you were to be 100% immune from a virus, it would mean that your cells don’t react to the virus, as discussed above. That’s not the kind of immunity we are talking about here – and I’m thinking it’s rare but don’t know that. Having 0% immunity to a virus is, I believe, also rare. If that were the case, you wouldn’t last long in this world. That’s why immunosuppressed/immunocompromised people are at so much risk.
  • All of us have a naturally occurring immune response to a viral infection. As I understand it, when our body detects the presence of a viral infection, it produces antibodies – cells that attack and destroy bodily intruders. It takes time for the body to discover what type of antibodies it takes to fight any given virus type.
  • The fight between antibodies and viruses, and the byproducts that fight produces, and other actions the body takes is what ends up causing most death and organ damage.

In the context of COVID-19 (and many other viruses):

  • “I have no immunity to COVID-19” means your immune system hasn’t yet learned exactly how to fight the virus, so it will take a while for it to learn. Hopefully, you survive that process (without severe organ damage). If you are immunosuppressed by age or other ailments, I understand that to mean it will take even longer (probably dangerously longer) to do so.
  • “I have immunity to COVID-19” means your body has somehow developed the antibodies it takes to REDUCE THE TIME it takes for your body to figure out how to fight a new COVID-19 viral infection. Note that this DOES NOT mean you will not get infected. I believe the only way to avoid infection is to avoid the virus – which is very difficult in the midst of active infections near you. It means that your body will more effectively fight off the infection. It also DOES NOT mean you will not be contagious when you are infected. That depends upon how much excess virus you expel into your environment when you are infected.

I’m personally quite skeptical – given the contagious nature of COVID-19 – that “immunity” is even close to meaning “not contagious.” I hope I’m wrong about that. There is a lot of simplistic discussion going on in articles and posts that I find surprising. I thought I would attempt to address them here.

I think the answer to our dilemma is to get a vaccine that gives us the highest level of immunity possible, and then for those with immunosuppression, we need to find ways for them to protect themselves. I suspect they’ve been dealing with this for most of their lives, so they probably already know how to do it, but this might be a harder virus to protect against.


Homeowner Bailout Frustration

I am going to take a stab at NOT complaining about a supplier.  This is a bit of a complaint entry, but I do suggest a solution so not so much…

Generally I feel very badly for homeowners who have gotten themselves into an upside-down mortgage that they can’t pay for.  I don’t actually know anyone in that situation – at least I don’t know that I know anyone.  It has got to be a highly frustrating situation, particularly if it was due to predatory lending practices.

That said, when I hear a politician saying he wants to buy up mortgages and turn mortgages right-side-up at the expense of taxpayers (presumably), this gets my dander up.  I have taken great pains to maintain my financial reputation, and what this politician is basically saying – on the surface at least – is that “he” wants to punish people like me by making me pay to help get people in these upside-down mortgages out of their troubled situation.

It is NOT that I wish to see these folks go bankrupt, or lose their home in any other way.  I don’t.  I believe in home ownership.

In the process of considering this problem, I came up with an idea that I would like to share.  I don’t imagine it is original, but I haven’t heard it suggested so I will share it as if it were original with this caveat.  What I would suggest we do is buy up these mortgages as suggested, and in the process of adjusting the value of the mortgages we should take an ownership stake in each of these homes equal to the % of the mortgage value that we forgive.  When the home is sold, the government organization who holds the stake would be paid that % of the home value as repayment.  The homeowner could also buy the subject stake at any point under the same terms based upon a mutually agreed appraisal.

I used to think we should try to distinguish between “flippers” and homeowners interested in long-term ownership in this discussion.  It may be worth considering including all cases given the above scenario, but priority should be given to more traditional homeowners hoping to accomplish long term home ownership.

One other thing that bothers me is homeowners who get in a situation where they must default on their mortgage and then go in and destroy their property so that the lender or another entity does not benefit from their misfortune.  I have a hard time identifying with this mindset (and definitely do NOT agree with it).  My point is that if we bail out a given homeowner and take an ownership stake and the homeowner has to subsequently default AND destroys property, this would be a felony criminal action and so the whole process would discourage this behavior.  As far as I know, there is nothing – aside from ethics and good common sense – that currently prevents a homeowner from engaging in this behavior.

OnStar Service Quality

Sorry about this, but I guess this is my “absolution” blog…  :-/

One of my daughters drove her car through high water (references to 100 year flooding were made).  Other cars were making it through just fine, so why did her car then proceed to stall in the worst of it.  Good samaritans helped her push the car to a little-used turn lane.  Soon after, she pushed the little blue button in her car, and we thought all would be well.

Back to reality – she was told that due to the flooding, it could be 4-6 hours until it would be towed and could she leave the car unlocked with they keys in an agreed place if she needed to leave it unattended.  Her boyfriend helps her push the car to a Starbucks parking lot, and they hunker down (boyfriend shivering cold from having to push/walk through high water.  About midnight, the tow truck is nearby but the road is barricaded – what to do.  They agree that locking the car and calling again the next day is the thing to do, so she locks the car, and then the Starbucks fairy gives them a ride to their apartment – thank goodness for good people!

The next day – Friday before hurricane Ike – she calls OnStar again and gets put back in the 4-6 hour queue.  She waits several hours.  She gets a call saying they can’t get to her car and have to cancel.  She calls OnStar again, and they will be there to pick up the car in 4-6 hours.  She asks them to call her 30 minutes before they get there and she’ll be there to unlock the car/provide the keys.  She hears NOTHING.

Next day (Saturday – Ike day) she calls me and I call OnStar and get belligerent.  OnStar gets belligerent back – “we don’t control the roadside assistance people.”  I say “if you don’t, then who exactly does?”  That, sir, is between you and roadside assistance.”  I’m outraged, and continue to be, but this is a recurring theme.  I understand their frustration, but that’s part of the biz.  She 3-ways me in to the Roadside people, and they say the truck was there at 11 PM the night before but the car was locked so they couldn’t do anything.  “Why didn’t you call?”  “We tried, and no one answered.”  “What number?”  “217-xxx-yyyy”  “But my daughter’s number is 214-xxx-yyyy!”  No notes to say call before they arrive, no indication of how they can talk repeatedly on previous calls, but this one results in a wrong number and they couldn’t look back at the previous calls to see that they have a wrong number.  OMG!

Got all that out of the way – now, my daughter’s car is STILL in the Starbuck’s parking lot and I, along with 2 other family members, are on our way from MN to IL.  I’m sorry, sir, but there is flooding in the area and it will be 4-6 hours…  NO, THERE IS NOT – not since yesterday morning.  Yes, there is, sir – I just checked it this morning – oh, wait, someone removed it.  We’ll have someone out in under 2 hours.  This time they called and were met there and the car made is to the dealership about 5 minutes before closing time on Saturday – no time to even look at it so assured to be without a car for the weekend – Monday will be day 4 without a car.

Before we hung up from the Roadside folks above, I asked the OnStar person to stay on the line because we still had things to talk about.  She did, and when I asked what she was going to do for my daughter, she forwarded me to “Customer Care” – an interesting name.  Customer care listened to my story, said they don’t do rent cars, said they were very sorry about the delay, said the results of any given call were between roadside assistance and the customer and that there was nothing they could do.  She did say she would forward it to an executive review committee and they would get back with me.  To add insult to injury, as an apology for poor service (my understatement), she would like to tack 3 months of free service on to the end of our service time.  Wow – that’s just wonderful – NOT.

About 1 week later, I get a call from another OnStar customer care person – likely a screener for the executive review board.  She proceeds to ask me to go through my story, which strikes me as very strange since the first customer care person I talked to implied to me that she was taking meticulous notes.  She thinks I’m through after the first leg when the truck can’t get to the car the first night and says “sir, there is nothing we can do about that.”  I told her “you need to sit back and listen” because I’m just getting started.  At one point, she proceeds to tell me that if I will check our contract terms, I will see that the business arrangement is between us and roadside assistance once OnStar assigns the call.  I understand why they would wish a new business relationship upon their customers that doesn’t involve them, but the only money that I’ve paid to anyone is to OnStar and my logic and education says that the business relationship is between me and OnStar.  Anyway, no help from this person either, and to top of her apology, she says she is authorized to add 6 months to the end of our service.  I tell her I guess that is up to her, but I’m not sure I want any more service from them.

The ONLY reason we still have OnStar now is the possibility that we will be able to use the little blue button on the 2 lane roads on the way to and from the Texas Panhandle.  If we had an alternative, we’d be GONE in a heartbeat.  Monopolies are a curse and that’s what OnStar finds themselves with in the form of a little blue button.  Part of me hopes that when we experiment with it on the way there the next time we find that it doesn’t work – but then again, we want it to work so that we can have an out if the car breaks down!

I wish I was through complaining, but I’m probably not.  It is State Farm’s turn next.  My daughter STILL doesn’t have her car back at 2 weeks and counting.  Saturn may get a turn too since the service representation told me that to avoid a cracked engine block in the future, you really want to keep the Ion’s away from water and the engine intake arrangement SUCKs – I guess she meant water.

When I consider the situation, the part I feel worst about is that I started out trying to let my daughter learn something from the situation – dealing with OnStar, Roadside Assist, the Car Dealership, etc.  What I feel bad about is that she was basically “punished” beyond human endurance by these incompetents.  Yes, the first night was excusable.  The rest weren’t and OnStar isn’t being accountable.  I’m sorry, daughter, that you had to go through this – you ROCK!  🙂

Family Positions on Politics (cont. 1)

The Republicans sure know how to make things difficult for voters.  Coming into the week, I would’ve said they needed a miracle to be competitive.  Coming out of the week, McCain can say more of the right things and he can let Palin say the wrong things.  I must say that I tend to be in general agreement with McCain’s economic and foreign affairs policies – to the extent that I understand them (and that’s almost certainly inadequate).  I like the idea of strengthening the existing health insurance system.  I suspect I depart in a fairly big way when I add that we should make it mandatory for everyone to be covered at some basic level at a minimum.  I can see using something like school choice vouchers for this, and then we should add an FDIC/Pension Guarantee kind of function in to back up the system.   Do I have too much confidence in Market-based systems.  Would this mish-mash qualify as a Market-based system…

I believe the free market has been good for our country, but I also agree that individuals can amass more wealth than can be justified given what else goes on in the other 95 % (or pick your own %) of the population.  It is admirable that so much of those resources go back to the rest of “us” in the form of giving, but it seems as though a lot less giving would be needed if the system weren’t balanced so far in the favor of amassed as opposed to distributed wealth.  Of course, then you get into discussions about whether or not overall our country would have prospered so much had it not been the way it was/is – you know the type of impossible discussion…

So where does that leave me other than continuing to be “undecided”?