You implement preventive measures before the problem worsens, Governor Walz

The numbers of the infected are surging in Minnesota, so now our governor says “Whoops!” and decides maybe we should refrain from wild partying.

Gov. Tim Walz strongly indicated during the Monday opening of a new saliva testing center in Minneapolis that he will soon announce restrictions on bars and restaurants as a way of stemming an explosion of COVID-19 infections in Minnesota.

Walz stood with Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm to announce another expansion in testing, this time at the Minneapolis Convention Center, but both officials further lamented an increase in both infection numbers and positivity rates. The state saw 10,000 new infections over the weekend and passed a 10 percent positivity rate.

Walz said health department information is seeing three infection sources: social events such as weddings and funerals, large family gatherings and bars and restaurants. The latter dovetails into another concern of health officials — the large number of 18-to-35 years olds who may be infected but asymptomatic. Those people can be efficient spreaders.

Barn doors, closed, after cow escapes, etc. OK. I think the citizenry have already learned to be slack about these things, unfortunately, and there is also going to be a subset of the population — you know the ones, the conspiracy theorists — who are going to see this as a validation of their belief that the Democrats want to steal muh freedoms.

In more positive news, I’ve been reading the news about the new potential vaccine. It’s an RNA-based vaccine? Cool. That’s an intriguing approach, except for the fact that RNA is remarkably fragile. My concerns were confirmed by this little bit of information:

Pfizer’s vaccine must be stored at ultra-low temperatures, which complicates the massive endeavor to distribute a vaccine throughout the population. Pfizer’s logistical plan includes using dry ice to transport frozen vials. Health facilities can keep the vaccine for up to six months at minus-70 degrees Celsius, or minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit. But many hospitals lack the special freezers that can get that cold.

So that’s like dry ice temperatures, but at least it’s not liquid N2 temperatures. I guess that’s doable, but it’s going to add to the expense and mostly force communities to upgrade their medical infrastructure a bit. Otherwise, though, the idea of using RNA to put the patient’s immune system to work making viral antigens is just kind of brilliant. I hope it’s working soon, and that maybe Governor Walz gets ahead of the game this time and starts making grants to regional medical institutions so they’re ready as soon as the vaccine is available.

Yeah, and closing the bars would have been a brilliant idea, too…last month.


  1. davidc1 says

    I don’t understand ,would not storing it at such low temperatures destroy the g5 chip that Bill Gates is putting in
    the vaccine that makes you a commie demoncrat voting gay ?

  2. naturalistguy says

    If Governor Walz had ordered restrictions on bars and restaurants a month ago, it’s likely that Angie Craig would have lost her seat to her Republican challenger because of the blowback. It’s certainly ironic that Pfizer waited to announce its vaccine until after the election though.

  3. whheydt says

    Re: davidc1 @ #1…
    Silicon chips do just fine at cryogenic temperatures, it’s the other components, like capacitors, that change value too much to keep a system working. There was an experiment done a CERN with a Rapsberry Pi. It worked down to (IIRC) -140’C. Below that the values of on-board capacitors changed too much for the board to work. (The experimenter was hoping it would work down to 100’K. But for a piece of consumer grade electronics, the results were surprisingly good.)

  4. unclefrogy says

    @3 did the values remain changed or did they revert to there rated values when returned to normal temp?
    uncle frogy

  5. wzrd1 says

    The storage temp is a little lower than CO2, just enough to be concerning over possible warm spots in some locations. Been looking at that one for the past month and still can’t source even 10% of the needed cooling units. After all, we’re talking a couple hundred thousand of them just for the US, add in other nations, we’re talking scarcity again.
    Transportation is another puzzle to solve. Even DLA would have difficulty with those logistics and that’s something I’ve never considered uttering in the past. But, they do have the cryo warehouses for safe storage.

    Still, 90+% efficacy, talk about knocking the ball clean out of the park!

  6. davidc1 says

    @3 Sigh do i really have to ,with all respect ,point out that i were taking the p1ss ?
    I think i’s about time the Doc treated us to a full emoji facility .
    @3 But you might have realised that ,and you were taking the p1ss as well .

  7. jaredcormier says

    Just thinking in text here, but shouldn’t they synthesize on-site prior to injections being done? They could ship negative sense DNA templates and have an RNA synthase that gets added a few hours prior to injection…. I know there are a lot of little caveats and asterisks, but that seems like a better (excuse the pun) solution for shipment.

  8. says

    “Ultra-low temperatures” had me expecting liquid nitrogen at least, but dry ice? Barely counts as a cryogen. –a person who studied “high”-temperature superconductors.

  9. Arkady says

    @8 You do get some variation in quality when synthesising RNA in a lab with standard reagents though, so trying to synthesise and purify in situ before injecting into people could have hugely variable results. Maintaining an ultra-cold-chain might be less of a challenge than maintaining quality control in those conditions. Might change when considering locations where we can’t maintain the cold chain. I know I would have to be super-paranoid with the RNAse-Zap if any of my colleagues had a cold, back in the days when I’d synthesise RNA viral genomes to electroporate into mammalian cells. Pretty much everything secretes enzymes that attack RNA, it’s a basic antiviral defence.

    Have half-joked with my partner that I could make him up some vaccine with a few lab reagents though! No idea what industrial scale RNA production looks like, but I’m hopeful it’s something they can scale up really quickly compared to other vaccines in development. Those other vaccines may have much better temp stability though, so it’s fair to say I want them all to work. Slight vested interest in other vaccines working as I’m a trial participant on the Oxford trial ;-)

  10. Kevin Karplus says

    mRNA vaccines should be quick to design, easy to manufacture, and hell to ship and store. You won’t be going down to your neighborhood drugstore to get an mRNA vaccine.

    I don’t think that we’ll get the cold-chain problem solved before a more conventional and more stable vaccine becomes available.

  11. Rich Woods says

    @Kevin #11

    I don’t think that we’ll get the cold-chain problem solved

    For remote areas and widely distributed populations, no, probably not. I can only speak for the UK distribution plan (which I’m not professionally part of), where the plan is to get at least one facility in each major town/city capable of administering one vaccine every five minutes, 12 hours a day, seven days a week (people will be called up in order of vulnerability). Dry ice is commonplace, so it’s easy to imagine that that end of the service can be maintained: supplying all of the facilities may be a different matter, requiring vehicles adapted to maintaining the cold chain, but I don’t see even that being more of a problem numerically than manufacturing the vaccine in the first place.

    Given that you’d want to be able to vaccinate all the care providers and their most vulnerable patients first, the estimate is that at least 30% of the population would need to be vaccinated before you could start to lift any lockdown measures. That would be something like 15,000 people in an average large town/city of about 50,000, which would take 13-15 weeks to do. Fifteen weeks seems a lot longer than any of the current set of right-wing politicians would like (some are already talking about rebelling in 3 weeks), so my guess is that this number is one which is realistically limited by the expected manufacturing rate.

    Bloody hell. It seems that the government may actually have listened to the scientists for a change!

  12. cafebabe says

    Sure, the instability of an RNA based vaccine is an issue. There are other approaches however. The University of Queensland (Australia) currently is running a phase-1 trial of a vaccine which uses some “sclamp” technique to stop the molecules from refolding during storage.
    The vaccine is administered with an adjuvant to sensitize the immune system of the recipient.

    cafebabe is part of this phase-1 trial, and I can report no noticeable effect so far – maybe I have the placebo?

    Later phases will not take place in Australia for the obvious reason that this country currently has essentially no community transmission. Estimating the effectiveness of the vaccine when you have zero positives in either the vaccine or placebo cohorts just doesn’t work.

    If the UQ/CSL vaccine does get up, it will not have the low temperature problem – but then it will not be available until mid-2021.

  13. Who Cares says

    For scaling, they expect 50 million doses between now and the end of the year. Then by ramping up over 2021 about 1.3 billion doses with 200 million plus doses/month by December 2021.
    I hope they do at cost licensing to get more producers else it takes 5 to 10 years to inoculate the world with just their vaccine

    Do note you need 2 shots of this vaccine.