Covid, the brain, and the toffs: The pandemic update from Britain

The Covid targets targets that we hear most about are the lungs, the liver, the kidneys, and the blood vessels, but some Covid patients also have neurological symptoms, ranging from headaches to confusion to full-out delirium, and evidence is mounting that Covid can attack the brain. 

That’s according to a study posted online and–like most Covid studies in this crisis–not yet peer reviewed. 

Covid isn’t the only virus that does some breaking and entering inside the brain. Zika did, but the body mounted an immune response. Covid, though, is a sneaky little s.o.b., and the body doesn’t seem to notice what it’s doing up there, which is making copies of itself and leaving a trail of destruction. The study found no evidence of an immune response to its presence in the brain.

“Days after infection, and we already see a dramatic reduction in the amount of synapses,” Dr. Alysson Muotri of the University of California said. “We don’t know yet if that is reversible or not.”

Irrelevant photo: Virginia creeper. Photo by Ida Swearingen.

Researchers will need to analyze brain samples from autopsies to see if it’s present in people with milder versions of the disease and in the people who are being called long-haulers, the people whose symptoms hang on and on. A lot of them have a range of neurological symptoms. 

Some 40% to 60% of hospitalized patients have neurological and psychiatric symptoms, but they may not all come from brain infections. Some may come from inflammations throughout the body. So: autopsies.

The problem, though, is that autopsies need people to die first, so this all depends on the right categories of people conveniently keeling over.

Everybody seems to be saying this, but it bears repeating: So much about this disease is still unknown.


So what do you do about a disease like that? Well, at a town hall event hosted by the ABC network (that’s a TV channel), Donald Trump told the world that Covid will disappear when everyone develops a herd mentality. 

Conform, people. It’ll save us all.


At least in the absence of a vaccine and a herd mentality, testing is the most likely thing to save us, and a new Covid test that’s still in the development stage sounds promising enough to lift even my gloomy spirits. 

Gloomy spirits? Well, I keep telling people that it’s going to be a long winter, then I have an impulse to slap myself silly. I’m sure the other people in question feel the same way. To date, everyone’s good manners have kept the situation from spinning out of control.

But back to the Covid test: Researchers wanted to come up with a quick, accurate test that would be cheap enough for people to test themselves at home every day, and it’s looking promising. 

The test is called STOPCovid, which probably stands for something, since half of it is in caps, and the researchers come from enough U.S. universities that I won’t bother to list them all.

The details of the test involve RNA, magnetic beads, and a high sensitivity, meaning it correctly identifies a lots o’ positive cases. The details are also over my head and I’m going to arbitrarily decide that they’re over yours too, but hey, I’m giving you a link so you can go prove me wrong. 

Actually, it didn’t seem that complicated until I realized that I understood the sentences but not their content. A lot of my life is like that. What I did understand is that it’s promising and that it’s designed to be cheap, fast, and usable. 

Also that it’s not ready yet.

Stay tuned. 


The STOPCovid test can’t come fast enough for Britain, because the government’s taken what was already an expensive privatized mess of a testing program and made it worse.

It’s good that in these dark days we’re led by damn fools. 

What’s wrong with the testing program? People are being sent hundreds of miles from home for tests. People with symptoms can’t find tests, meaning they’re left not knowing if they can safely go back to work or if their kids can safely go back to school. 

The head of the test and trace program, Dido Harding (whose background is in business, not public health), explained the disaster by saying that nobody “was expecting to see the really sizable increase in demand.”

Of course not. No one knew schools were reopening or thought that might mean more people being exposed ans needing tests. No one noticed when Boris Johnson nagged everyone who was working from home to go back into the office, which would mean more people getting exposed and needing–yeah, you can see where this is going.

Meanwhile, Jacob Rees Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, is hailing the testing program as a phenomenal success and telling us all to stop carping about it. 

Me, I’m not carping. I’m a vegetarian. But I will say that the demand for tests is four times greater than the testing capacity.  

All hail the wondrous testing program.

You have to love these people. They have absolutely no shame and minimal contact with reality. Or any desire to contact reality. They caught a glimpse of it once. It involved a lot of people with accents they didn’t like and clothes that cost less than theirs. Not to mention with infinitely less money than they have. It was all very unpleasant and why go through that again?

Anyway, the problems with testing seem to involve a shortage of lab capacity. The labs are also privatized, not that I’m trying to make a point here or anything.

Meanwhile the number of cases is rising in parts of Britain and people are facing increased localized restrictions. 

Contact tracing’s going well too. Some people working in the system report–anonymously–that by the time they contact people who’ve been exposed to Covid and tell them to isolate themselves for two weeks, more than two weeks have gone by since they were exposed. And this past week, the tracing firm’s software was too embarrassed to go on and some tracers had to be told not to refresh their screens too often. Some of the people they called got so frustrated with how long the calls took that they hung up. 


Shall we be completely fair here? The full quote from Jacob Rees-Mogg is, “The issue of testing is one where we have gone from a disease that nobody knew about a few months ago to one where nearly a quarter of a million people a day can be tested, and the prime minister is expecting that to go up to half a million people a day by the end of October.

“And instead of this endless capring, saying it’s difficult to get them, we should actually celebrate this phenomenal success of the British nation.”

All hail the British aristocracy. They either manage to believe this shit or don’t care what they say. 

And somehow or other, they stay in office. No, I can’t explain it either.

49 thoughts on “Covid, the brain, and the toffs: The pandemic update from Britain

  1. My daughter’s family and the next door neighbours are all isolating – both families because of little boys getting coughs which probably are not Covid but they don’t know because it took a while to get the test and still no sign of results! Statistically if everyone knows two families like this it means no one is going to work or school!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I stopped by the school bus stop yesterday morning when I was walking the dogs and that was what all the parents were talking about. Colds are circulating again. Tests aren’t available. They all seem to have decided that they’re colds, and they probably are, but it’s all being done by the flip of a coin.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Who could see an increase in demand for CV19 tests when we’ve encouraged everyone out of their hidey holes with opening pubs and retailers, meal vouchers, then nagging, then threats to get back commuting to normal work.
    Second lockdown on the way soon, it’ll be our fault for not doing as we’re told and nobody will resign.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Here in the North East we are under the new restrictions, and apparently more coming nationwide on Tuesday. Then the virus cases will decline, then the restrictions will be lifted, then they’ll rise again and then…. looks like we’ll be yoyo-ing forevermore at this rate.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Or is it because we have the least competent leaders it’s gotten to this point?

      Or is it because we were being led by competent people who weren’t willing (or able–I don’t rule that out) to break with a system that’s run its course? What we need is something entirely new–ecologically, economically, and culturally. The old ways have run into a wall. We don’t have either a plan or the leadership that takes us to whatever we need to do next, and so people are putting their coins on blustering fools who make promises.

      My money’s on possibility 2.

      Liked by 1 person

    • And that will be only the beginning of what we must do. Just round one in a 12-round title fight to get the greedy sociopaths and the mindless evangelicals out of our government and our lives. Ellen is right: time for a complete rethink and redo which may well be triggered by the death of our beloved Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We will see if we have what it takes here in the US and in the UK or whether far too many of us will continue to fall for the glittery righteousness of The Promisers. I’m old. I alternate between wanting to participate in the fight and wanting to flee somewhere but where is the question that stumps me. So I guess it is the fight for me. Right now I’m going to make my way through California wildfire smoke to my checkbook and donate to Biden and others. P.S. Read New York Times travel (ha ha) articles about people taking boats out to wistfully gaze at the polluting Petri dish cruise ships idling in the English Channel and the folks getting on airliners to fly around for hours only to land back at the place because they miss flying. Nuts, just nuts.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. We’ve moved on from not being able to be tested to not being able to get the results in time for them to matter. But we’re calling that progress, because, as you may know, if you don’t test (or if you never get results), you have no cases. The whole thing is caused by testing. I’d say it’s a paradox, if I thought anyone in Washington knew what that was.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you again Ellen for the reminder that the US is not the only place with f’d up leadership and idiots attempting to look intelligent. I second your opinion to nananoyz, get rid of anyone and anything resembling the old guard, the white male patriarchy, the antiquated and privileged elite…call them what you will it’s time for a fresh start because really, could it be much worse?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. “I understood the sentences, but not their content. A lot of my life is like that.”
    Brilliant. A lot of my life is like that, too, but sometimes I’m afraid I might not even understand the sentences.
    RBG is gone. Woe is us.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. A friend informed me she is getting a Covid test. Since she has COPD I asked if her doctor required it. Umm, not exactly. She has to have a colonoscopy, and the facility won’t administer one until she is certified Covid free.

    I think the “herd menatlity” is proof of the effect of Covid on the brain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That may well make sense. If she’ll be inside a medical facility (and, um, yeah, colonoscopy–she would be, wouldn’t she?), they’d naturally want to make as sure as they can that it’s Covid free, otherwise they’ll expose everyone there and contribute to spreading the disease. My partner was hospitalized here recently and they kept her in an individual room until her test came back negative, then tested her again five days later to make sure she hadn’t been exposed while there. I appreciated their caution.


  8. The tests are not accurate enough. Even the rapid test here they think Is 85 percent accurate. People who were around in close proximity to people who tested positive were not tested if they did not have a high fever. If it was so catchable these people should have we tested. The antibodies test here in the US is not accurate either. They attach a page long disclaimer to the results. If you tested negative it is no guarantee you did not have it, etc. Some may have had it without antibodies showing up. Some in that category are getting kidney and other issues they ever had.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The antibody tests, at this point, are probably most useful for tracking the spread of the disease–in other words, useful for scientists but less so for individuals, since we don’t know for certain that having had a case provides protection. But testing to see if people have an active case, even if the test isn’t 100% accurate, is still useful in that it can, if people will go into quarantine (please!), decrease the number of people spreading the disease and bring the R number below 1, minimizing the spred. It’s imperfect, but it’s far, far better than nothing.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh, I’m so tired of COVID and yet, I still read. Officially I no longer have to pay attention to the election since I voted yesterday, but even though I’m really tired of each fresh hell every day, I’ll likely keep up with the news. Blergh.

    Liked by 1 person

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