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Jon’s Postlife Crisis: Corona Virus Researcher Dr. Stuart Weston - Our Way Back To “Mostly Normal”

He has been studying corona viruses before they were “cool”.

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Dr. Stuart Weston - putting himself in danger so you don’t have to.

This episode I am joined by Dr. Stuart Weston, a coronavirus researcher from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Dr. Weston has been studying coronaviruses since 2016, before they were “cool”, before one of them was successful in destroying our world as we knew it.

Dr. Weston and I discuss:

  • What’s a Coronavirus?
  • How is Covid-19 like a Ford Taurus?
  • Treatments vs Vaccine - what is the difference?
  • What is our way back to “close to normal”?
  • Masks
  • Testing - May Deliver Us?
  • Does Demon Sperm Explain Twitter?

Dr. Weston’s Youtube Channel

If you listen to the podcast or read the transcript, you will discover that Dr. Weston has a youtube channel where you can learn more about coronaviruses from a person who has worked on them before Covid-19 blew up the world.

I find this stuff fascinating. I understand very little of it, but it’s still fascinating.

Corona Virus 101

How SARS2 causes COVID19

I Wrote A Book!

I wrote a book about recovering from a widowmaker heart attack. I put my life back together FROM DEATH.

Below is the social media graphic my book designer sent. I I like it. I feel like I should be in an old 70s disaster movie with Charlton Heston. (Think “Omega Man” or “Earthquake” rather than “Planet of the Apes”)

My book is available at Amazon!

Jon Johnston

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About the Transcript

Keep in mind that the following is a transcript. I use a service that automates the first draft. As much as “artificial intelligence” is included in the description of every bit of technology these days, it’s clear that computers understanding human speech is more artificial than intelligent. The transcript has been edited to take out human speech bites, you know, um, okay, uh, but it’s not been edited to be an “article”.


Jon Johnston: Welcome to Jon’s Post-Life Crisis. I am your host, Jon Johnston, founder, manager of, your Nebraska Cornhuskers site of happiness, because happiness is a choice you can make no matter what’s going on. Today, we’re talking with Dr. Stuart Weston. Dr. Weston is a research fellow at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, where he has been studying coronaviruses before it was cool. So how long have you been studying coronaviruses?

Dr. Stuart Weston: I joined the lab back in 2016, right at the end of November 2016. So whereas we’ve been studying coronaviruses. Well, I’ve been studying coronaviruses for the last four years now. But the lab I’m in, so my boss, he starts his lab in about 2010 on the back of the original SARS outbreak. So he’s been studying coronaviruses for a long time. And as you say, we were doing it before everyone jumped in and everyone realized how interesting these viruses are and how dangerous and destructive they can be.

Jon Johnston: So you mentioned SARS. Covid-19 is a coronavirus, but it’s one of many coronaviruses we need to start with the basics here, because I still have people in my life that say it’s just the flu. And my understanding is it’s also a novel virus and that means we’ve never seen it before. How can all of this exist at once?

Dr. Stuart Weston: Sure. So so just as as little points of covid-19 is actually the disease that’s caused by the virus called SARS coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). So similar to how HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, covid-19, is that a disease that’s caused by the virus, SARS-CoV-2. The “two” suggests there was an original, which was SARS coronavirus one. So that was a virus that spread from about 2002 and 2003 for about eight months or so. And it spread around the world, again from China similarly to this virus we’ve got now. But it only caused about 8000 cases and killed about 800 hundred people. So nowhere near to the level of what we’ve got now, but a similar type of virus. In that case, the disease was just called SARS, which stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, so that SARS was caused by SARS coronavirus. So here it got a bit more complicated with the naming for whatever reason, but just to differentiate things that we have Covid, which is coronavirus disease. 19, because it came in 2019 was when this virus started spreading. But as you say, there are other coronavirus is out there. So in 2012, we had an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. So this is known MERS coronavirus. So that, as the name implies, originated in the Middle East, but that virus doesn’t spread very well in humans. So since 2012 has only been about 2,500 cases of that virus. So it still spreads occasionally. There’s still sporadic cases every now and then.

Dr. Stuart Weston: But it’s a different virus, causes a different disease, and it’s actually a lot more deadly. So that virus kills about 40 percent of the people it’s infected. But then as well as these very severe ones that I’ve mentioned here, there’s four other common coronaviruses that cause common colds. So some of these were known before the severe ones and some have been found since the SARS outbreak. People started to look at coronavirus as more, but they just spread in the winter. So whenever you get that blocked up nose and sore throat or something that often is a coronavirus, some estimates suggest about 30 percent of common colds are caused by these common cold coronaviruses.

Dr. Stuart Weston: So there’s this big spectrum, whether it’s these three, that cause really, really severe disease and it’s lethal or such a broad spectrum of symptoms of COVID-19. But you also have these less dangerous ones which just cause common colds.

Jon Johnston: Oh my God.

Dr. Stuart Weston: Information overload, possibly.

Jon Johnston: I keep trying to think of this and what I think of this car manufacturers, right? Like Ford is a coronaviruses and Ford makes the Fusion, the Mustang, the F-150 pickup. There’s all these different types of cars and they do different things. Is that a really dumb analogy or is that work?

Dr. Stuart Weston: No, no, that’s that’s actually a very nice way to look at it.

Dr. Stuart Weston: I typically try and I the way I explain it is it’s kind of like how there are humans, there’s frogs, there’s chimpanzees. We’re all animals. We’re all some more closely related than others, but we’re all different. I think the car analogy is also great because Ford is the overarching thing. So coronaviruses and they’ve got all these different models and then you’ve got Toyotas and things like that. So flu with the Toyota, for example.

Jon Johnston: In real (hopefully) simple terms, what what makes a virus more... You mentioned that some are more dangerous. What makes a virus more virulent, my understanding of that word means it’s more contagious.

Dr. Stuart Weston: It’s a great question because that’s one of the core questions within virology. So people studying viruses, it’s one of the core questions is why some viruses are so dangerous and lethal and why some others aren’t. So, for example, Ebola, as you may be aware, kills anywhere between 50 and 95 percent of the people infected. In fact, why that is, is a really big question of research in terms of the coronaviruses. There’s a thought that it’s down to how long the virus has been spreading within the human population. So obviously the SARS-2 virus has emerged at the end of 2019. So we’ve only had it circulating in humans whatever that is, now, eight months, nine months or so. And because our immune systems are now seeing it, there’s no one who’s immune, no one who’s had it. It can spread rampantly and make a lot of people sick, as we’re saying, whereas the other coronaviruses, those common cold ones, they some of them have been around for potentially hundreds of years. So they might have decimated populations back then similarly to what we’re seeing now. But then people develop immunity. It’s harder for it to spread as rampantly. And maybe a feature of viruses is sometimes that they become less virulent the more they spread.

Dr. Stuart Weston: So viruses, just as a small package, actually, to use your car analogy is just a small package that delivers something like the car is just a way to deliver to you. It just delivers its genetic material and it makes more of itself. That’s all a virus does. It just copies itself. But if it kills the person it infects, straight away, kills 100 percent, it’s got no one to then make more of itself. So it’s actually advantageous sometimes for viruses to not be so lethal. So this is kind of something you see, the longer a virus is in the population, the less dangerous it becomes.

Jon Johnston: World War Z is popping in my head, and we shouldn’t go there.

Dr. Stuart Weston: Probably not.

Jon Johnston: You’re working on treatments for covid-19. Treatments are different than a vaccine. Explain treatments.

Dr. Stuart Weston: Sure. So the treatments are generally things that would be given to to someone who already has been infected because treatments can come with side effects so certain drugs can have side effects. So you don’t want to necessarily risk giving it to everyone. The cost associated and the distribution of those kind of things.

Dr. Stuart Weston: So they’re more for people who have already been infected as a way to help deal with the symptoms and to help stop the virus spreading within the person. So the more the virus grows within a person, the more damage it can cause, the more severe disease. So if you can limit how much it grows or limit the damage it causes, then you can stop a severe disease. And so that’s sort of where treatments are aimed. There are treatments that can be designed to be given prophylactically. So before you’re infected and those sort of going to be more direct to the people who are at high risk. So, for example, with HIV, there is prophylactic treatment which is given to people who are at higher risk of contracting HIV and with something like covid and SARS-2, it might be the health care workers who receive something like that, with a vaccine also going there.

Jon Johnston: Since you have existing coronaviruses, is that like a blueprint to start with?

Dr. Stuart Weston: Yes. You do this as a podcast. People can’t see me smiling as you say that. But I smile because they should have acted and could have acted. As to that blueprint. But there was a lack of money in the research for these things. So with when the SARS one outbreak hit in 2002-2003, there was a big spike in funding for treatments for vaccines. And I’ll circle back to vaccines in a second. Similar thing happened with MERS. There was a big spike in the funding. After those outbreaks stopped spreading, that funding went away. It was a lot harder to research these viruses. And the coronavirus field was pretty small until the start of this year. So that’s why I joked that we were doing it because before it was cool. It was hard for us to develop treatments and vaccines because there wasn’t the money going into it, because money was going into things that were actively there, not to prepare us for things that could appear, if you if you see my meaning there. To come back to vaccines, they are truly prophylactic. They are given to prevent an infection. And again, if there’d being the money going into it, we could have had vaccines. There’s a very good scientist, a vaccine expert, Peter Hotez. He’s been on a lot of the news channels. People have probably seen him. He always wears a bow tie.

Dr. Stuart Weston: He’s done he’s done everything from CNN to Fox. His lab made a great SARS one vaccine back in 2003. They got it towards the stage of clinical trials and then they lost the funding and couldn’t start doing any trials. Had they been able to, they’d have known that that was safe and they could have just changed that vaccine platform to SARS-2. And we could have been a lot further along.

Jon Johnston: We’re humans, we’re distracted by shiny things that come along and and we get tired. We look at that thing over there and we go, I’m tired of that thing I’ve seen for a while. There’s this shiny thing now.

Dr. Stuart Weston: Also we don’t have unlimited money. That’s the other part of it. So, of course, we’re going to get distracted by the new thing. So take whatever it was 2014 when there was the Ebola outbreak. A huge amount of focus gets put on that because we’ve got to stop this right now. There’s a huge amount of focus on SARS-2. In a few years, it might be SARS-3 or it might be a new strain of flu because it’s the active thing we have to deal with.

Jon Johnston: How many different types of - I don’t know if they’re medicines, drugs. Thomas Edison supposedly tried 84 million different combinations before he got the light bulb. How many variables are there that you guys have to work on to discover if there’s a treatment for this specific virus?

Dr. Stuart Weston: Endless numbers, really, there’s been there’s been quite a focus in something we’ve been doing in the lab was to focus on drugs that are already approved for use in humans.

Dr. Stuart Weston: So until it’s used in a human, it’s typically called a chemical and then it becomes a drug when it’s used as a treatment. So the FDA have approved hundreds upon hundreds of drugs for use for various different things that cancer or diabetes or whatever. And what you find in the lab is a lot of those drugs can have effects that inhibit virus growth in cells in the lab. This is an idea called drug repurposing, so the drug is used for something else and you could potentially repurpose it to treat a viral disease. I’m sure we’ll get to it. But this is sort of where chloroquine comes in. Chloroquine was used or is used as a antimalarial and due to lupus and some other inflammatory diseases, but also in cells in the lab, it can inhibit growth of the virus. So the reason for doing that is those drugs we already know are safe for use in humans. So you can get them into humans suffering covid-19 quicker because you know they’re safe and healthy humans for treatments. The other approach is to test a load of different chemicals that have shown promises,antivirals, which is where Remdesivir came in. Remdesivir was being developed by Gilead.

Dr. Stuart Weston: I think it was initially for treatment of HIV, but then it was used for Ebola and it was a new chemical that was being used and it’s also effective against coronaviruses. So now it’s being used in COVID patients. So you can see the breadth of options. And then there’s all these chemical libraries out there, which is something I’ve worked with for a while, was working with before SARS-2 arrived. I was doing it for some other research, looking at these really broad libraries of chemicals to see if we could find things that are antiviral that you could then make into treatment options.

Jon Johnston: You mentioned chloroquine and there’s this extension of that, hydroxychoroquine. Whenever you say that word it connotates some guy that has a really high profile. Everybody poops themselves and then we come up with demon sperm, which if you have been on Twitter, demon sperm makes sense to me.

Dr. Stuart Weston: In the same way drinking bleach does.

Jon Johnston: This has become so politicized that it’s as if you were in the position where you said there might be some value in this (hydroxychloroquine), people would freak out and, I don’t know, drive to your house or something. That’s not really that’s not really a virus research question. I guess you can answer it if you want.

Dr. Stuart Weston: Well, yeah.

Dr. Stuart Weston: I mean, it’s something I’ve thought about because we’ve actually got a paper that we put up on to Preprint server BioRxiv a few months ago. We’ve now just had it accepted for publication in a peer reviewed journal where we show that we show the thing I was just saying that chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine inhibit growth of the virus in cells in the lab, which various other labs around the world have shown. And we showed that chloroquine treatment of mice didn’t stop the virus growing, but it stopped them developing signs of disease. So obviously we can’t work with humans. So we use mice as a surrogate to look at the course of disease. But for that, we had to give it to the mice before we infected them and all the time while we were infecting them. So it’s protective if you just really highly dose. So there is some idea that maybe there’s some use to it. The problem is, this disease is very weird. There’s a lot of things that can inhibit the virus in cells in the lab, but then when you put them into humans, they don’t work. And that’s kind of the problem with finding treatments for viral diseases. And it’s why we don’t have hundreds of treatments already because hundreds of drugs work in the lab but if you put them into mice or into humans they don’t work. It matters when you give it to that person in the course of disease. Obviously, as I said in our mouse study, we had to give the drug before we infected. People who are going to try and get treatment with Hydroxychloroquine are already in hospital that already in that severe stage of the disease.

Dr. Stuart Weston: And so far, the best evidence from the good studies is suggesting that chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine are not effective for treatment of covid-19. Now, obviously, there is a lot of back and forth, as some people say it is and some people who say it isn’t. With regard to that is that’s kind of how science always has worked. Science has always had this back and forth, back and forth, but now it’s in the public eye so much more and it’s at warp speed. Everything’s coming out new stuff every day because everyone wants that treatment. Everyone wants the miracle cure. So you’re seeing science that normally takes 10 years until we have a consensus of it does or it doesn’t work. And we’re seeing that microcosm of it right now in full view of everyone. Of course people can get carried away and get excited and jump on it. Oh, it works. It works because they see the one study that says it works but don’t see the five that says it doesn’t. And so it just takes a bit of time to get the consensus and the human body, the human beings, we are these complex, strange organisms. And so it’s very hard to actually make drugs that are effective. And we’re seeing in plain view now.

Jon Johnston: Stephen Hatch wrote a book called “Snowball in a Blizzard”. It’s about breast cancer and looking at radiology reports and literally trying to determine if you have breast cancer (the snowball) versus the snow that is a radiology report. In that book, he said something about most of the times in the media, the focus of a story is on human interest so that the media really doesn’t understand how to handle health and science news because the focus is not a human interest story.

Jon Johnston: So they warp it, they’ll go on this hydroxychloroquine and then they’ll tie it to a human who was somewhere because they don’t know how to write about science. There’s not really a question there.

Dr. Stuart Weston: It’s a nice comment.

Dr. Stuart Weston: Yeah. You’ve kind of encapsulated what I was trying to get in a different angle of the media try and make it about the people. If people don’t think in the same way as scientists, which I don’t mean as a criticism, but if you don’t think about the fact that there’s one study showing it’s good, there might be some others, let’s compare and contrast. Is this a good study? Is it not? It’s harder to assess things. And obviously everyone is everyone wants that positive mindset of, yes, this works. This is going to be the miracle cure when caution is more that mindset within science. Let’s try and disprove our hypothesis. That’s the the way science is done. It’s to disprove this hypothesis. Oh, I can’t. Therefore, maybe it does work.

Jon Johnston: Basically what you’re saying is there’s nuance and discussion, something that doesn’t exist a lot because we pay so much attention to Twitter where there is no nuance or discussion, there’s only screaming.

Dr. Stuart Weston: Yeah. There’s only so much nuance you can get into 140 characters or 280 where we’re at right now.

Jon Johnston: OK, immunity. Are we done with the treatment part. I don’t mean to cut you off because obviously you probably could go on about that for eight or ten hours.

Dr. Stuart Weston: I mean just I guess to summarize is there are there’s a lot of things that are being looked at. There’s new drugs, there’s old drugs being repurposed, and we just need them all to be done in proper clinical trials and not these rushed trials that have problems where there’s no placebo controlled compare against. Eventually we may get a treatment. But about immunity, vaccines are probably our better approach or where we should be really looking for that. I don’t want to say miracle cure, are the thing that’s going to really make a difference.

Jon Johnston: Ok, so we have treatments. We potentially have a vaccine at some point. There’s this word called efficacy that’s really difficult because people look at a vaccine, they go, well, that should cure everything. And really it might be 50 percent. And then you have these people that won’t wear masks because it’s a political statement. And then they probably won’t take the vaccine because Bill Gates is involved in it. This is horrifying. All of this stuff and a lot of it is not science. And once again, I’m not sure I have a question there. But on the immunity thing, do they do they know if it lasts a long time? Is that something you can comment on? Is that outside your field?

Dr. Stuart Weston: Well, so with immunity, it’s still it’s an evolving question for this virus, because obviously, as we’re as we’re saying, this virus only been known about since the very end of December, the start of January kind of time. And with so and therefore, we haven’t had the time to really see if people are truly immune because it’s only been here for a number of months. What we can do, though, is we can extrapolate or we can get work on what we know about the other coronaviruses.

Dr. Stuart Weston: So with the common cold coronaviruses, those four that spread and just cause those mild colds every winter, what we generally see there is that people are immune for about one to three years or so and then you can be reinfected.

Dr. Stuart Weston: So if this virus is anything similar, which to come back to your analogy, it’s still made by Ford, it’s still within the family. The likelihood is that there is similarities, you may suspect that people could be immune for up to a year or so, naturally. So people probably are protected from reinfection. Those complexities within it, again, because as such, laser focus on what’s going on now, there’s the studies saying, oh, the people lose their antibodies within this length of time. Therefore, they’re not immune. But then there’s also now studies saying, oh, but the other part of that immune system is really still good in those people. So they’re just looking at antibodies. But there’s also t cells as part of the immunity. It’s these two arms, antibodies and T cells. Antibodies might go down, but T cells may be up, so people may still be immune. And again, because we’ve got so much focus on each little step of the way right now, there’s all this confusion that’s arising that will slowly so clear itself out and we’ll start to develop a picture. But based on coronaviruses, you are probably immune for about a year or so at least.

Jon Johnston: I know this is speculation, but I want college football. What that means is people want life to return to “normal”. I personally don’t think there’s ever going to be a return to normal. That’s a long discussion.

Jon Johnston: Economic influences, psychological influences, educational influences of kids being out of school for a year, things like that. Is there a path back to mostly normal that you can kind of give us? I know it’s speculation, but we speculate a lot. Everything is.

Dr. Stuart Weston: When when we get vaccine and a vaccine or multiple vaccines, which I do think is a case of when, not if, when we get vaccines, I think that’s when we can start to get back to that new normal. I don’t really like the expression, but mostly normal. I’ll use your expression,, I prefer that. When we get that’s when we might get back to a mostly normal, even though people may not take it, it may only be 50 percent effective or whatever. That’s still when we can go back to what we used to have, moreso is my speculation. Because even if only 50 percent got it, that’s still a lot of people who are immune. There’s also a lot of people who would have had it by that stage as well. It’s bad that it’s spreading, but more people are becoming immune. So we vaccinate all the people who’ve never had it, then you cover more and more people, and the more people immune, the harder it is for it to spread. So if you’ve got, say, 10 people together and only one of them is not immune, only one person can get sick. So the more people that are covered, this idea called herd immunity. Once we get the vaccine, that’s how we can go back to what we may think of as normal. But I think as well in the meantime, because the vaccine probably not going to be here until 2021. And obviously it’s will we’ll have approvals in early 2021, I suspect. But then you’ve got to ramp up production, you’ve got to get it out to people. It’s just going to be an ongoing thing through all of next year before actually covered in the same way we are with the flu vaccine, for instance.

Dr. Stuart Weston: In the meantime, the thing that’s going to be powerful is testing. So as we improve the testing, if we can get tests down from being a day to two weeks, at worst, for getting your results, if we can get that down to three hours or 30 minutes or 15 minutes, which is what some of these new tests are promising, that’s potentially how I think we can get more normalcy back. As an example you’re saying you want football back and probably want to be in the stadium and things like that? If you if you can test all of the players and get a result in 15 minutes, they’re all clean, you know, all the side. The coaching staff are all clean. They can go on the field and play without any concerns, potentially if the test is perfect. Similarly, then if you could test all the fans and you could do some kind of bubbling. So maybe 70 percent capacity, but you’ve tested everyone. They get their 15 minute tests as being negative. I think that’s how you can start to go back to normal. Similarly with school classrooms, right? If everyone can get a test, stand outside for 15 minutes, wait, check their watch. Negative. You can come in. I think if we can get that technology really ramped up and around, that’s when we might be able to go a bit more normal.

Jon Johnston: How far away do you think that is?

Dr. Stuart Weston: There are some there are companies that have now had approvals for those kind of tests. Becton Dickinson, for example, I’ve got a few friends who work for them here in Maryland and they’ve had an approval for a 15 minute test. Abbott has a 15 minute test as well. I think that’s the one that’s in the White House. I could be wrong on that one. But they they’ve got, I think, a three hour turnaround on that testing. And it’s just a case of them being shown to be very effective. What you don’t want is to get a load of false negatives because then you have a false sense of security and you end up spreading. These need to go through a lot of testing because if we can mass produce them and we can roll them out to a lot of places, that’s important, right? You don’t want them to be wrong. So, again, it just takes a bit of extra time to really make sure they work. But there’s multiple now that have the approval.

Dr. Stuart Weston: So I do think that will be coming online, speculatively. I based this just on on a thought, around 2021 as well. So as the vaccine is getting ramped up to be given out, we’ll hopefully have these tests in places and we’ll be able to cope with things better.

Jon Johnston: This is a maybe a dumb question, but when it comes to the testing and efficacy, its ability to actually be proper without a false positive, as you said. How do you how do you know that without people already being infected?

Dr. Stuart Weston: All of that kind of testing is the stuff that’s done in labs beforehand with known positive samples and no negative samples. And then then it will start to test in humans and it will start to roll out that just in small cohorts. So similarly to how clinical trials are done, you start with a few hundred people. You make sure it’s working, you how you compare it to other tests that have already been validated. So if you know that there’s a test that’s 95 percent accurate and yours is calling all of the same things as positive and negative, you can build up a sense of whether it’s working and then you just build it up and up and up until you’re confident that it really is accurate.

Jon Johnston: I have to mention masks. Just because if we didn’t put that in the recipe, somebody would go, you didn’t say anything about that.

Jon Johnston: The masks. People are freaking out about this. I personally wear a mask when I’m supposed to, when I go out just because if there’s even a possibility that it helps, why would you not do this. It is so simple. You can play dress up. That’s what I think of. You know, when this first started, I wore a red bandana and pretended I was a bank robber for crying out loud. Now I wear a gaiter and I think of myself as a ninja. Comment on the mask situation.

Dr. Stuart Weston: I find a weird we live in a world where a piece of cloth has become a political statement, I guess is my thought. I totally agree. Even if they even if they aren’t working, they’re not harming.

Dr. Stuart Weston: All of the evidence is suggesting they are working as well. So places that have got less spread are typically the places that are more compliant with masks, places in Asia, South Korea and Japan. They really got in control of the outbreak a lot quicker than other countries have. Partly that’s because they were better prepared. They learned lessons from SARS and MERS, for example, in South Korea. But there’s also more of a culture of mask wearing in those countries as well. They’re a lot more inclined to wear masks. Evidence suggests they work. If you do all these kind of studies where you look at the droplets that come out of people’s mouths and you shine lights on, so similar to how you can see dust when light streams through a window, you can do that with respiratory droplets, which is how the virus transmits. Those kind of studies show that masks block or reduce the droplets that come out. Obviously, that’s just looking at the droplets, not the virus itself, but it’s a proxy that they’re working. It’s just a piece of cloth that you put over your mouth. And as you say, you can make it part of your fashion statement. You’re wearing your red one. I just got given, it’s not going to show on the podcast. I just got a branded University of Maryland, Baltimore one sent to me. So, you know, you can get get the all the designs, do the fun things and as you say, if there’s no there’s no obvious harm from wearing them, so I don’t see why people find it such a problem.

Dr. Stuart Weston: And also the other part is you don’t always have to wear them. I sort of see people at home with their masks on or in the car by themselves. AI think that’s why people start to think it’s oppressive, because the messaging is not always spot on sometimes. So people think they’re being told they always need a mask on, which isn’t the case. It’s you’re in a situation where you’re at risk and you’re putting other people at risk when you can’t be distanced from people, when you’re in a confined space with other people, that’s when you need a mask. But just to sit at home, sit in your car by yourself or with the people that you live with, things like that, you’re with them all the time. You’re always at risk. So it really is. It’s about putting the mask on when you’re you can’t distance yourself from other people that you don’t really spend time with. When you’re indoors, particularly outdoors, you seem to be less transmission. So it’s less important to wear a mask. I see people running, for instance, with masks on. I wouldn’t want to do that myself, for example, but I wouldn’t I wouldn’t feel uncomfortable not doing it because I’m outdoors. I’m not in any kind of prolonged period next to someone talking to them. I think it’s I think there’s just again, there’s new ones coming back to. What we’re saying is there is nuance.

Dr. Stuart Weston: And I do understand that people have this concern that they’re being told they are being oppressed for is wearing a mask. But it’s that’s not the case. And the masks are working. They are protective and they do block spread.

Jon Johnston: You have a YouTube channel where you talk more in detail about this stuff. I tried looking at some of those. I find this stuff absolutely fascinating. My background’s in IT, so I never have to deal with humans. I did try to understand your stuff. I almost suffered a brain aneurysm, which would have been recorded as a covid-19 death, obviously. Tell us about your YouTube channel.

Dr. Stuart Weston: Yeah, thanks. I started the channel a few months ago. I guess I’m up to 30 something videos now. I was convinced into it by friends and family because just before we were going into lockdown, so back in February, March kind of time, I found I was in a lot of conversations similar to the one we’re having now, talking to people about what’s going on, what I think will happen. Then we went into lockdown and I spend less time in bars talking to my friends about this stuff. I got convinced to do a YouTube channel to talk about it and to take a bit of time explaining various different aspects. So obviously here I try to compress a lot of things into small segments.

Dr. Stuart Weston: What I do on the channel is I spend a bit more time unpacking each of those things. So my most recent video, for example, was talking about wearing masks. I’ve done other videos talking about Hydroxychloroquine. I dofive to ten minutes or so, spiel just me just talking to the camera, explaining some of the stuff that’s going on and trying to trying to give the scientists eye view to help help with some of the mixed messaging that we’re seeing in the media and things, again, what we’re just talking about. So just trying to provide a voice of sanity, I guess, in these in these strange times and provide some good information. That’s my hope for the channel.

Jon Johnston: Would you go on record saying the demon sperm is responsible for Twitter?

Dr. Stuart Weston: Oh, I don’t know if I can put that one on Jack Dorsey. (laughing)

Dr. Stuart Weston: No, I will not go on record saying that. I will go on record saying demon sperm is not responsible for covid-19. I will also say don’t drink bleach and don’t put UV light in places we don’t want to speak about if we’re still doing those things.

Jon Johnston: Is there anything else that I haven’t asked that we should add?

Dr. Stuart Weston: No, I think we’ve I think we’ve covered a good amount of ground, there is I think an important thing is to to be critical of everything you say. So obviously, we’re talking about chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, when there’s going to be another one that is going to hit the news in the next few days. I don’t know when you’ll put this podcast out, but it may have already hit by then. This is the oleandrin, I think it’s called. You may have seen it by now. It’s the my pillow guy has been promoting it and the president has also started to suggest it may be useful. This is another one similar to chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine. It works in the lab, there’s no evidence it works in humans. A final message, I guess, is to be critical of these things is to look at more sources than just the one that you get to see if there’s any consensus that can be built.

Dr. Stuart Weston: Don’t expect that they’ll suddenly be this miracle cure. It’s more complex than that. It’s going to take us time. And the best we can do until we have any kind of treatment or a vaccine is to wear masks and to improve the testing and to adhere to social distancing and those kind of things. That’s the best way to get this under control and to return to normal.

Jon Johnston: I thank you for your time, Dr. Stuart Weston from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Thanks for joining me. This has been Jon’s Post-Life Crisis. Thanks for listening. Go Big Red and y’all take care and be happy because it is just a choice you make.