November 11, 2020

November 2020: The Rule of 70 and Why Your Hospitals are Feeling the COVID Tsunami Second Wave

Math helps us understand disease spread in populations. A historical view of the rise in cases of COVID19 as the first wave hit in March 2020. The apparent and surprising rise in cases after a long period of just a few cases is typical of the exponential nature of pandemic disease spread in populations. US data seems to have an instant-looking start because there was no significant amount of patient testing, then testing is being increased. Back in March, the actual cases in a population spreading COVID19 were increasing at 12% a day, which the Rule of 70 tells us is a doubling every 6 days. (Graph by KPMitton from CSSEGIS COVID19 data )

1/11/2020 UPDATE: 

This is an update of a posting I wrote back in March 2020 in the first wave of COVID19 just rising mostly in states where COVID19 first arrived. We are in danger again of having local hot spot states now like North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, where the percent daily increases in cases exceed 5% per day. Early in 2020, we were up to a national average of 12% per day in the first wave. Rates one month ago had dropped well below 1% but now the average US daily increase in cases over last week had risen to 1.5 % per day, but that is the average of all 50 states. In hot states now we are having community locations with over 5% daily increases, and the experience in March will now happen again in November and December 2020. When you have a constant percent daily increase in case number, this percentage factor leads to an acceleration in numbers that can easily and suddenly fill a hospital. Here is the reason, the simple math behind it all. The Rule of 70.

October 23, 2020

In search of reliable mobile fast tests for COVID-19 Antibodies.


While all research labs were shut down for a few months, late March to mid-June 2020, for all but COVID19 related research, I turned my biochemical skills to a project to help evaluate one version of a serum COVID-19 antibody test that can use a single droplet (10 microliters) of blood from a finger-poke and which gives a reliable result in 15 minutes. Also without using any powered equipment. Cheap, mobile reliable tests like this can be used in almost any location. The problem in January to March 2020 was that many unreliable kits for such tests were rolled out mostly by firms looking to cash in, even selling online to the public. The main problem with those test kits was that they either 1) fail to detect antibodies to COVID19 when people have them, or 2) they say you are positive for antibodies to COVID19 BUT you are not.

Using finger-tip blood for tests of this type is very possible, and in fact, there are FDA and European Union approved tests that use this format "lateral flow test" for AIDS and Legionnaires Disease. However, those tests have been around for some time and were of course tested to confirm their reliability. So I approached a particular manufacturer of antibody-based research reagents when I heard they were turning their expertise to making a reliable family of tests for COVID19 antibodies in blood. 

August 20, 2020

Interactive Graphs: COVID19 Cases, Deaths. (updated daily)

Here are graphs that you can adjust to look at different timelines for cases of illness and deaths for any country. I have embedded iFrame code in this posting to give you graphs that you can control. Table and MAP views are also available. You can return here as the data updates automatically. 

June 22, 2020

How the Family of a Bioscientist Shops and Cleans Groceries in the Midst of The American Pandemic of 2020.

I know you have anxiety about shopping for food for you and your family. I know you are scared. You can be afraid. Fear is normal when there is danger, but stop thinking about it and prepare to get your groceries. You can do this. You can order them for delivery, but it is true that delivery is not smooth in all parts of the United States. If you can find a grocery store that is using staff to control traffic of shoppers: distance control, limited numbers of people in stores, a system for sterilizing wagons for you, separation in check out lines, procedures for protecting you and the cashiers, then you can shop yourself as well. This too may vary around the country. In either case, what do we do when we get our food at our door? Well, in our household we wash them, in warm water with regular dish soap. NOT surface cleaners. DISH SOAP. The CDC does not recommending washing food packaging or foods with household surface cleaners because those would be toxic chemicals if they contaminate your food. 

I know that viruses are actually very susceptible to soap, detergents, and their main molecular components dissolve nicely in soapy water. Make sure you have enough dish soap to make suds, bubbles. Of course, any food you cook will destroy the virus too, but you can still wash your veggies for your salads and for safe handing in your own home doing food preparation. Make sure you rinse off all your dish soapy water well, but just use dish soap and do not use surface cleaners on your food.

You should be able to also use tap water washing without any soap at all, but I have heard from persons who have lots of anxiety about shopping for fresh food, and dish soap in water may help you feel less of that anxiety. 

Again, just use dish soap made for washing food dishes, and just use the dish soap in lots of water. Rinse the wash water off. Let your produce drip dry a few minutes before you try to place them in the fridge. 

Here is a little video on how. It's easy. 

You can do this. You can :).

Here are some updated guidelines from the US CDC regarding COVID-19 and food. So far there is no evidence that the spread of COVID-19 happens from food or the risk is extremely low. 
US CDC Food Guide for COVID-19

May 30, 2020

Manned Space Flight from the United States begins again. Watch Live on NASA TV successful!!

You can watch the launch about to happen from Florida here on NASA TV.

Using the Space-X rocket. Two astronauts. Bob and Doug reach orbit. 

Falcon 9 launch smooth. 

See more at NASA TV using the link below:

April 26, 2020

APOLLO 11 TRACKER: the Pandemic Lockdown Edition for NASA Lovers like me.

Come with me in 2019, and follow in real-time (50 years ago) what is/was going on with the Apollo 11 Mission to the Moon. You can get these reference books today if you are a NASA fan like me. I also have my Buzz Aldrin NASA Ball Cap on. These books were news reference books published by NASA. They were in the hands of Walter Cronkite and his coworkers and they are great for nerds like me. 

This is the updated version of my Apollo 11 blog in real-time, last July 2019 recapturing the mission of Apollo 11. I have reposted this for anyone stuck at home during our COVID19 pandemic stay-at-home activities. 

April 22, 2020

VIDEO: Why Coronavirus (COVID19) is not like the Flu, and how you can save lives staying home.

So, you are young or annoyed about wearing a face mask in public places like stores and airplanes? Do you think this pandemic is no different than the common flu? Well, you are wrong and with two simple numbers, I can show you how YOU can be responsible for either infecting and killing several fellow humans or help spare them by breaking the chain.  These numbers are 1.4 and 3.  They are tiny numbers, but they explain why COVID19 is causing many of our most vulnerable citizens to lose their lives in ICUs all around the United States and the world. Mostly in the United States unfortunately where many people are refusing to help protect others. 

April 20, 2020

Covid-19 Fatality Rates as of April 19th, 2020

I have prepared two graphs using data available on April 19th, 2020 from the Our World In Data resource.

1) The first graph illustrates the United States COVID-19 fatalities from April 1 to April 19th compared to total World fatalities from this virus. These are based on confirmed case data.
On April 1st, the U.S fatalities were less than 10% of World fatalities. As of April 19th, U.S fatalities have increased to 25% of World fatalities.

2) The second graph compares the fatalities over time for many countries including the United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Brazil, China, India, South Korea. The useful information here for the U.S. is to note that the rate of fatalities in the United States has increased dramatically in just the last week and is the greatest rate worldwide as of April 19th.

March 21, 2020

COVID-19 Cases by US State, Canada, Australia 3-21-2020 Graphed

United States COVID-19 Cases over time for US States, Canada, and Australia.

This post will be updated whenever I get time to pull the latest COVID-19 case data from and do the sorting and graphing. Please use and share the graphs in the public domain. I use this data so I can analyze and predict for myself where cases are going to rise fastest.

You will note from 3-21-2020 data that New York state is going to be the first hardest hit. The list of States or Provinces in each graph legend is in order, top to bottom, from the relatively highest number of cases to lower.

On 3-21-2020 I started to add graphs for Canada and Australia.

These graphs in PDF format are now available for free use for public education and by journalists. Use, share, educate, write, with my blessing.

I have a repository of graphs set up at GitHub:

You will find graphs in folders named by day.

Ken Mitton, PhD

March 20, 2020

Home and WorkPlace Surface Cleaning Precautions During COVID19 or Even for Flu Season.

Here are some youtube videos I have made to show you how to wash surfaces at home and at work to reduce the spread of COVID19 virus and flu viruses. Regular cleaners you use normally for kitchens and bathrooms will work. Any soap will do. You just need to have suds. 70% alcohol is also useful for wiping down phones, doorknobs, computer keyboards, and mice.

This virus is a simple, if dangerous, particle. It is made up of a viral RNA molecule, some lipid (like oil) membrane or envelope that it gets from the membranes of the cells it is produced in, and coronavirus envelope protein. RNA, lipids, and proteins, can all be broken apart and dissolved in soapy water, just as your dish soap dissolves fats and oils from your dishes.

Kitchen and bathroom cleaners also have a strong base (Lye) and/or bleaching chemicals that denature and oxidize especially the proteins of viruses.

March 10, 2020

Practical Advice for Coronavirus in the USA

No need to panic, but you should also listen to specific trusted authorities regarding how to go about your everyday life and prepare for the effects of COVID-19 illness in your State and your hometown or city. As a biomedical scientist, this is what I am doing in my home and workplace with my own Family, friends, and co-workers. As a boss, and a professor, I have to take the initiative, lead by example and offer help. Here are some simple things to follow if you are feeling stressed about your own Family in the midst of this pandemic. 

March 6, 2020

What is the Coronavirus PCR Test?

My PCR primer-probe sets, order for up to 50 tests that detect the genetic sequence of the COVID19 virus. Ordered on March 1, 2020, online on a Sunday. They arrived in my lab on March 3rd, Tuesday morning just after 10AM. Wednesday, I designed a test protocol for reaction set up with my technologist assistant, Ed Guzman, while I completed some committee work that day and worked on our VEGF and Norrin research. Thursday, March 5th, Ed set up reactions to run, which were completed in a few hours by the end of Thursday. This is not an FDA approved diagnostic test, but it is a test using primer probe sets ordered from the manufacturer that makes the same probe-sets for test kits in use. My cost for these COVID19 specific components was $170 US. We used New England Biolabs (USA) 2x real-time PCR (Probe) Master Mix, and an Agilent AriaMx Real-Time Thermocycler for our reactions. 
What is the coronavirus "PCR" test as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and also used by other countries around the world? One of our jobs as a University scientist is to make sure you understand how things work, like the coronavirus test. What is it, and how does it work?

I am a molecular biologist, a biochemist, who does biomedical research and it turns out that we use the same method, "Real-Time PCR", to measure the expression of genes we study in the retina and in retinal-vascular diseases. So we have made some videos to show you how the test works using the same CDC recommended PCR primer/probe sets. They are on YouTube to make them easy to view. What did I learn? Mostly that there is no excuse for the fact that the country that put the first men on the Moon did not have COVID19 testing ready. I ordered PCR reagents from the same company that makes primer-probe sets for the CDC on a Sunday, had them arrive on a Tuesday. We took one day to prepare the first test PCR reactions and run them. 

February 10, 2020

Portal to the Centers for Disease Control Coronavirus Information Focus Website.

The following information is a portal feed of the CDCs minisite for the 2019 Coronavirus outbreak. It is updated by CDC and I have used the public javascript feed to post here for your reference.

February 6, 2020

Science Reveals Autism and its Causes.


For decades, many parents with autistic children have wanted to know why their child has autism and they wanted something to blame for the condition. This has lead to vaccines being blamed, which many studies have shown is not true, and even other drugs such as antibiotics.

I previously wrote a blog post on this topic, describing the some of the first new findings of genetic reasons, DNA changes, that impact genes encoding for proteins that are important to the normal function of neurons (neural cells) in our brains. This has come about largely because of our ability to now completely read the entire genomic DNA sequence of a patient. Children with autism, and also the genomic DNA sequences of their parents.

January 29, 2020

Coronavirus is Why We Want Government Supported Scientists: Do Not Panic

MERS coronavirus and cell
This is a computer colorized TEM (transmission electron micrograph) image of some MERS virus particles (blue) found near the edge of an infected VERO-E6 cell (yellow). Image from the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland.NIAID is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), where government scientists work as part of the National Institutes of Health. MERS is a coronavirus like the current Wuhan China coronavirus. 

Coronavirus. I provide links in this posting to get information on this illness that you can trust. DO NOT PANIC. We see signs and memes all the time having fun with this phrase, but there are times when it is very good advice. This is one of those times while an epidemic of a dangerous coronavirus illness is spreading in mainland China and starting to appear in other countries. My best wishes and thank you to the Chinese mainland for throwing resources to reduce transmission and to treat the ill. The situation seems bad, but imagine what it would be like without the existence of our own U.S. Center for Disease Control (the CDC), or the World Health Organization (spawned from the United Nations). Imagine if we did not understand even what viruses were or how they work. It would be like the middle ages as plague spread and humans were oblivious about how to stop it, what it was, and even continuing to behave in ways that helped it spread more. I say, Do Not Panic. Why should we not panic now?