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Friday, 22 March 2024


The Metrix test looks interesting, but according to their web site it also requires a Metrix reader device, which is $50. It's a one time fee that lasts 1000+ tests (again, according to their web site), but with just a few tests, it ups the per test price by a significant percent.

Is this a repost from the 2020 archive?

Dear Vince,

If you only need a very few tests, I'd say you're better off paying for a lab PCR test when you need one.

If you buy directly from Aptitude Medical Systems, a starter kit with two tests and the reader costs $85:


If you buy a dozen tests ($300), they throw in the reader for free:


You can pay for either in four interest-free installments.

I suspect the reader will last until the contacts wear out. It's just electronics reading out data from the one-time test units.

pax / Ctein

No specific reaction to the above, other than, "Gosh, I love science." A tip of the cap to Ctein, and a hearty round of applause for the falsifiable hypothesis, wheresoever it may lead.

The Cochrane report, some 200 pages revealed that surgical masks or N95 did nothing significant to help. Depressing but that's what the science says.

"https://www.cochrane.org/CD006207/ARI_do-physical-measures-such- hand-washing-or-wearing-masks-stop-or-slow-down-spread-respiratory- viruses"

What did we want to find out?
We wanted to find out whether physical measures stop or slow the spread of respiratory viruses from well-controlled studies in which one intervention is compared to another, known as randomised controlled trials.

What did we do?
We searched for randomised controlled studies that looked at physical measures to stop people acquiring a respiratory virus infection.

We were interested in how many people in the studies caught a respiratory virus infection, and whether the physical measures had any unwanted effects.

What did we find?
We identified 78 relevant studies. They took place in low-, middle-, and high-income countries worldwide: in hospitals, schools, homes, offices, childcare centres, and communities during non-epidemic influenza periods, the global H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, epidemic influenza seasons up to 2016, and during the COVID-19 pandemic. We identified five ongoing, unpublished studies; two of them evaluate masks in COVID-19. Five trials were funded by government and pharmaceutical companies, and nine trials were funded by pharmaceutical companies.

No studies looked at face shields, gowns and gloves, or screening people when they entered a country.

We assessed the effects of:

· medical or surgical masks;

· N95/P2 respirators (close-fitting masks that filter the air breathed in, more commonly used by healthcare workers than the general public); and

· hand hygiene (hand-washing and using hand sanitiser).

We obtained the following results:

Medical or surgical masks

Ten studies took place in the community, and two studies in healthcare workers. Compared with wearing no mask in the community studies only, wearing a mask may make little to no difference in how many people caught a flu-like illness/COVID-like illness (9 studies; 276,917 people); and probably makes little or no difference in how many people have flu/COVID confirmed by a laboratory test (6 studies; 13,919 people). Unwanted effects were rarely reported; discomfort was mentioned.

N95/P2 respirators

Four studies were in healthcare workers, and one small study was in the community. Compared with wearing medical or surgical masks, wearing N95/P2 respirators probably makes little to no difference in how many people have confirmed flu (5 studies; 8407 people); and may make little to no difference in how many people catch a flu-like illness (5 studies; 8407 people), or respiratory illness (3 studies; 7799 people). Unwanted effects were not well-reported; discomfort was mentioned.

Hand hygiene

Following a hand hygiene programme may reduce the number of people who catch a respiratory or flu-like illness, or have confirmed flu, compared with people not following such a programme (19 studies; 71,210 people), although this effect was not confirmed as statistically significant reduction when ILI and laboratory-confirmed ILI were analysed separately. Few studies measured unwanted effects; skin irritation in people using hand sanitiser was mentioned.

The political scientist Raymond Wolfinger is often misquoted. He actually said: “The plural of anecdote is data.”


Thanks very much to Ctein, and to Mike, for sharing this useful information. I'll be passing it on. I had not heard of the newer tests.

Thanks to Vince for pointing out that the Metrix test requires a $50 reader. That makes the initial cost the same as a single LAMP test. Obviously, if it's worth it for one LAMP test, it's worth it for a supposedly much better test. But then subsequent Metrix tests cost $25, and can test two people at a time, according to Ctein. Not bad for the better test. And I presume the reader and its cost can be shared, say in a workplace, clinic, school, etc.

Even for individuals, anyone who needs a reliable home test most likely will need it more than once. It doesn't look like COVID is going away soon.

FWIW, I was advised by a public health professional that babies with COVID will continue to test positive on antigen tests for weeks after they have ceased to pose a risk to others. Obviously, that's an important thing to know if, for example, you need to travel with a baby, since babies can't wear masks.

That was an odd read. But with all the nods to believing in science and objective data there's not a single word about vaccines and the importance, at least for the older amongst us (which I am one), getting all the updated boosters offered.

Masks and tests are all good and well but the statistical data from millions and millions of vaccinations points definitively to the lowering of the possibility/probability of death provided by vaccines and that would seem to be at the top of the decision tree for someone who really, really looked with objective intent at the data.

Concentric lines of defense are good. Adding vaccines is even better.

Probably should be pointed out that there were concerns about what the Cochrane Review mask study (which was published in January of 2023) actually demonstrated.

In March of 2023, Karla Soares-Weiser, Editor-in-Chief of the Cochrane Library wrote:

“Many commentators have claimed that a recently-updated Cochrane Review shows that 'masks don't work', which is an inaccurate and misleading interpretation. 

It would be accurate to say that the review examined whether interventions to promote mask wearing help to slow the spread of respiratory viruses, and that the results were inconclusive. Given the limitations in the primary evidence, the review is not able to address the question of whether mask-wearing itself reduces people's risk of contracting or spreading respiratory viruses.”


Also, probably happier not reading about Covid on a site dedicated to a discussion on photography.

The Cochrane Review may suggest that wearing a mask makes little difference if people touch virus-contaminated surfaces and then touch body entry points, ie. eyes, nose. Frequent hand washing and/or disinfection wipes/gels may provide additional protection from infection than mask wearing alone.
As pointed out, up-to-date vaccination is the best protection against a serious infection. However, immunosuppressed individuals and those with increased susceptibility to bronchial infections (such as pneumonia) or other related co-morbidities need to take additional precautions.
Covid and the Flu have re-written our own personal rules of travel. Have a mask available to wear and wipes or gel handy if someone around you in a confined space (airplane, bus, cruise ship) has a "wet" cough or is repeatedly sneezing. Wipe down the airplane armrests, table, monitor and don't touch the in-flight magazines or info card - there are numerous warnings that the airline cleaning crew takes away the trash but does not disinfect anything. In public places try not to touch door knobs (anything openable with your elbow is better) and don't touch stairway railings! If you do, pull out the wipes/gel. It may sound like a lot to consider, but with practice becomes second nature.
Being both vaccinated and taking some basic precautions might make your travels, and photography, more enjoyable and productive.

Dear JBG,

Why in the world would you think that?! Color me thoroughly confused.


Dear Sean,

Oh wonderful! Thank you, I learned something. It is a GOOD day!


Dear Kirk,

My opening sentence reads, "Recently I've run across sufficiently valuable new information and products that I feel it's worth my time to write a column..."

It's that word, "new," y'see...

Plus, there's nobody reading this who hasn't heard of vaccines... and if they don't think they work nothing I could say at this point would change their mind. I am not THAT influential (they said, ever so modestly [grin]).

(please excuse any word-salad. Apple Dictate's fault)
pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Dear Robert,

Oh, please believe me – I really do sympathize and empathize. It is so depressing!

It bears mentioning, though, that this site is dedicated to whatever Mike feels like writing about, and he's persistently stated that that is predominantly but not exclusively photography.


Dear Ian,

I want to start off by emphasizing that that is a very competent study done by very careful researchers, and that's reflected in their conclusions. I don't think you paid enough attention to those. To quote:

>>"The high risk of bias in the trials, variation in outcome measurement, and relatively low adherence with the interventions during the studies hampers drawing firm conclusions. There were additional RCTs during the pandemic related to physical interventions but a relative paucity given the importance of the question of masking and its relative effectiveness and the concomitant measures of mask adherence which would be highly relevant to the measurement of effectiveness, especially in the elderly and in young children.

>>"The low to moderate certainty of evidence means our confidence in the effect estimate is limited, and that the true effect may be different from the observed estimate of the effect.

>>"We are uncertain whether wearing masks or N95/P2 respirators helps to slow the spread of respiratory viruses based on the studies we assessed."<<

That is scientist–speak for, "Oh, ferfuksake, we really don't know the answer, and we would really like more data!"

As has been noted elsewhere, some of the studies they threw into their meta-analysis didn't apply to the real world efficacy of masks. The ones that looked at mandates, rather than actual compliance, for example. Studies, of which there are many, which compared rates of compliance with rates of hospitalization/death (the only reliable measure, as "confirmed case" numbers don't match the real world number of cases at all), showed strong correlation between more mask use and fewer hospitalizations/deaths.

It's possible that those were due to masks making people more cautious in their behavior, rather than any direct physical effect. But nobody cares, not really—if carrying a lucky rabbit's foot (not so lucky for the rabbit — old joke!) reduced the incidence of Covid, it would be a legitimate prophylactic!

The healthcare professional studies were very relevant to the conditions they investigated, and they were generally of high quality, but they didn't resemble the real world. Those poor medicos were practically bathing in coronavirus! Given its virulence and infectiousness, masks could've been filtering out 99.9% of the virii and still leave them exposed to infection-inducing doses.

Think of it as if you were wearing a mask that filtered out 99% of the smoke in the air. Works really well when you've got one of those nasty "forest fire" days where the air is unhealthy. But if you walked into a burning building that was completely opaque with smoke, you'd be in trouble.

(please excuse any word-salad. Apple Dictate's fault)
pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Really??!! An article on COVID. Now there is two minutes of my life I won't get back.

New data about vaccines can induce people who do understand the value of vaccines to stay current on CDC recommendations. New data about testing for infection? Not as effective for most people engaged in decision-making about re-entering non-quarantined life.

I'm not sure of the wisdom of anecdotal appraisals of a nasal spray culminating in a tacit recommendation of a product that's not approved for distribution in our country. It's a fraught topic. Lack of double blind tests with multiple, large test groups and placebo groups (the scientific gold standard) make most of the information provided observational at best.

Finally, when mentioning experts I think it would be appropriate to name them and list their credentials.

What about injecting bleach?... ... Still too soon?

"Let's be careful out there" was the quote from the old police sergeant. After he died (both IRL and in-show universe), his replacement finished his morning roll call with a different sentiment: "Let's do it to them before they do it to us!"

I can even do snooker tables and weird keyboards, but paranoid musings on Covid in 2024, I'm out.

[Wait, you wouldn't mind more posts on weird keyboards?! Dude, stay! You might be the only one.... --Mike]

Eric -- third word on the page was "COVID". Any time you spent after that was your own choice!

By far the weirdest posting on TOP.

Dear Kye,

Hey, if it was good enough for our wannabe-dictator... [ROFL]

Kids, do NOT try that at home!


Dear Bob, Eric and Andrew,

No one is forcing you to read every column. Move along, move along, nothing to see here [smile].

pax / Ctein

Why a post on a medical matter from an unqualified person? Do please let us know the thinking.
I found the replies by ctein ...unsettling.

Dear Kirk,

Improved testing and information on testing won't affect how much risk you are at going into the outside world, but it affects how much risk you put other people at. For many people, that will play into their decision-making, both in terms of who they are comfortable engaging with and who is comfortable engaging with them.

Regarding Taffix, my apologies! I should've written more clearly. It's not my pet epidemiologists who tested it, it's outside field testing. IOW, not anecdotal at all.

As I said, it was modest testing and not well-controlled, but when even a week study produces a statistically significant 2/3 reduction in cases of Covid, that's major. Even if better-controlled studies ultimately wind up raising or lowering that number.

There are a whole bunch of nasal antiviral prophylactic sprays on the market. By and large they work in vitro; they aren't frauds, and they are safe to use. But there's a huge difference between laboratories tests that suggest it should reduce infections and testing in the field to see if it really does. So far, Taffix is the only one on which there is that kind of real-world data.

The reason it isn't approved in the US has nothing to do with either its safety nor efficacy, but with international regulations on importing medical devices (sufficiently messy stuff that I will not claim to begin to understand it). For me, being approved in the EU is good enough, and I don't mind having to buy from an international source. I can understand other people who might be reluctant.

I have no intention of naming my experts nor listing their credentials. It would NOT be appropriate. These are personal relationships—one of them is one of my partners, and the other one is her ex. They are not part of the public discourse, and they have a right to maintain their privacy.

(please excuse any word-salad. Apple Dictate's fault)
pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Thank you, Ctein, for a well-thought-out and comprehensive article on the reality of living in the current COVID-19 climate. Disregard those captured by the political ("paranoid" this was not; it was spot on). I know you will :-)

My partner and I always mask in enclosed public spaces. We ask our friends to test before any gathering at our house, allowing us the peace of mind to hold mask-free gatherings. We can eat, drink, talk, and generally enjoy each other's company with reduced fear of spreading infection. This protocol catches at least one case of COVID every other month, a friend who didn't know they were infected and would have attended otherwise.

As the very fortunate recipient of a LAMP tester[^1] from my employer, I know the peace of mind from having quality testing at hand. Since the end of major restrictions, my LAMP test kits are no longer subsidized. At ~$50/test, we hoard those tests for specific occasions when the timeline and accuracy requirements necessitate a LAMP result. I'm going to look into the Metrix setup because it sounds like it is half the price. Thank you for that.

Since we no longer have subsidized LAMP tests, we buy our rapid antigen tests in bulk. We've generally been able to buy antigen tests for about $5/test[^2], sometimes as low as $4/test. It's also not cheap as a one-time purchase, but the costs of ending up with Long COVID or worse are far greater.

Like you, Ctein, we have been lucky so far. While we also know that it's probably inevitable, we want to keep it as far in the future as we can. And we also know that the studies on repeat infection show higher liklihood of Long COVID, so even if we eventually contract the disease, we want to do so as few times as possible.

[^1]: https://cuehealth.com/covid-19-category
[^2]: https://cliawaived.com/flowflex-covid-19-antigen-home-test-50-test-pack.html

An expert is the first idiot, because he knows nothing outside of his field of study. Usually medically trained people do not study common sense.

Dear Louis,

1) How do you know I'm unqualified? I needed to get so good at the epidemiology in the first year that I got to the point of being able to *quantitatively* calculate the risk of infection from a given activity during 2020.

2) Regardless of (1), what information did you find inaccurate in my posts? I would really like to know.


Dear Bob,

Oh, yes!

Well... not that they know NOTHING, but their expertise in one area makes them prone to overrate their abilities in others. Best known example: Pons and Fleischmann's claims of cold fusion. They were great electrochemists, but incompetent at running physics experiments. They're not alone, sad to say.

At it happens, my pet epidemiology/biomedical people are huge polymaths... which means they know better than to step outside their areas of expertise. It's kinda "The more you know, the more you know what you don't know." Fortunately for me, they've been on Covid since Day 1. One of them was devising mass testing protocols back in Year 1, how to use clever maths to radically reduce the number of tests you needed to fully screen a large population, back when tests were in scarce supply.

(please excuse any word-salad. Apple Dictate's fault)
pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

An addendum, because life is filled with irony...

Several days after I'd sent Mike this column, I was expecting to leave for a two week vacation in Minneapolis. After packing and checking in online I ran a Metrix test, a routine precaution so that I didn't become a "Covid Ctein" (more alliterative than "Typhoid Mary").

I included Paula in the run because, why not, when two can test as cheaply as one?

Half an hour later the red (positive for Covid) light came on. Huh.

I started a solo test because it was most likely I'd contracted Covid, seeing as I have far more contact with the outside world than Paula. After another half an hour the green light came on. I was infection–free.

Double huh.

A third test, this time Paula—maybe the first was one of those rare false positives (it happens like 0.1% of the time).

Red. It was Paula, not I, who had Covid!

I didn't dare go to MN, too much chance I'd gotten infected by her (statistically, less than 1 in 3, but still...). Paula and I started the isolation procedures we'd planned.

Friday morning I took another Metrix test. This time, red. C'est la vie (or c'est le Covid dix-neuf, I suppose)!

We're both on Paxlovid. Paula has almost unnoticeable symptoms (on Day 7-9) and I'm entirely asymptomatic (on Day 4-6). Were it not for Metrix, we'd not have known we were sick... and I'd have been carrying an infection to my friends and partners to Minneapolis.

For the heck of it we've both taken several antigen tests. They all come up negative, demonstrating how it is not a reliable indicator in very mild cases.

How often is it that you get to be your own after-publication anecdote?!

If it weren’t for for the honor of it all...

Bob: You have a jaundiced view of physicians and scientists. I have personally known, and also met casually, scientists and physicians who were Nobel Laureates, and others in the field who were very informed and accomplished amateur artists, historians, musicians and even photographers. Scientists are people, with all of the virtues and faults of anyone else, who basically pursue a logic based on the what is known about a subject and how to apply that knowledge (which, by the way, is a paraphrase of the definition of "common sense").

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