Sullivan on Trump and vitamin D

May 24, 2020 • 2:15 pm

This week’s New York Magazine column by Andrew Sullivan (click on screenshot below) is, as usual, in three parts. The first one is, as always, the main one, and it’s about Trump’s pathology. The second discusses Vitamin D as a possible palliative for coronavirus infection (something I haven’t heard about), and the third is about Sullivan’s old mate and new Labour leader Keir Starmer, whom Sullivan much admires.  I’ll give excerpts just from the first two sections.

You’ve heard Trump’s many gaffes about the pandemic and virus these past few weeks: his “per capita” fluff, the infamous “put light and bleach up your bum” remarks, his claiming to take hydroxychloroquine, his failure to understand the difference between a positive or negative test, and so on. To reverse the famous saying of Walter Brennan as Grandpappy Amos, it was all “No fact, just brag.” And, as I wrote this morning, the failure of his arrant stupidity to alienate his supporters is pretty baffling, and doesn’t speak well of American rationality. I used to dislike Trump intensely and opposed his election and policies from the outset, but I’ve grown to despise the man with the white heat of a thousand suns. No, I’m not “biased against the man,” as one reader accused me of this week; he has made me despise him because of his incompetence and miserable failure as a leader. But I digress:

Here’s a bit of Sullivan’s take:

I know we’re used to it [all of Trump’s meshugga statements], but there is no rational or coherent explanation for any of this. There is no strategy, or political genius. There is just a delusional pathology in which he says whatever comes into his head at any moment, determined entirely by his mood, which is usually bad. His attention span is so tiny and his memory so occluded that he can say two contradictory things with equal conviction repeatedly, and have no idea there might be any inconsistency at all.

His COVID-19 press conferences were proof of his mental limits. He couldn’t understand basic questions. He had no grip on epidemiology. He believes that tests are bad, because they make America look bad, and then boasts of his record in testing (which is, of course, not good). When a White House staffer, Vice-President Pence’s spokesperson, Katie Miller, tested positive for COVID-19, this is what Trump said: “She tested very good for a long period of time. And then all of a sudden today she tested positive. So, she tested positive out of the blue. This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily, right, the tests are perfect but something can happen between a test where it’s good and then something happens and then all of a sudden, she was tested very recently and tested negative.” With anyone else, we would assume he was drunk when he said that. His sobriety is indistinguishable from alcoholic stupor.

. . .The key thing, however, is that none of this seems to matter to the supporters of the president. For them, the pathology seems to be the point. It is precisely Trump’s refusal to acknowledge reality that they thrill to — because it offends and upsets the people they hate (i.e., city dwellers, the educated, and the media). The more Trump brazenly lies, the more Republicans support him. The more incoherent he is, the more insistent they are. Bit by bit, they have been co-opted by Trump into a series of cascading and contradicting lies, and they are not going to give up now — even when they are being treated for COVID-19 in hospital.

Tribalism is now not just one force in American politics, it’s the overwhelming one, and tribalism abhors reality if it impugns the tribe. But you can’t have both tribalism and public health. When you turn wearing a simple face mask into a political and cultural symbol of leftism, when you view social distancing as a concession to your enemies, you deeply undermine the power of millions of small impediments to viral outbreak.

What we are seeing is whether this tribalism can be sustained even when it costs tens of thousands of lives, even when it means exposing yourself to a deadly virus, even when it is literally more important than your own life. We are entering the Jonestown phase of the Trump cult this summer. It is not going to be pretty.

Finally, Sullivan, who as an HIV positive man is immunocompromised, says he’s started taking Vitamin D, as he says that it “enhances our innate immune systems” and prevents a “cytokine storm” when the immune system is overstimulated. He quotes experts who say that vitamin D isn’t really a preventive, in the sense that it will help stop you from being infected, but could reduce the severity of a viral infection.

Sullivan argues that the palliative effects of Vitamin-D might help explain why black and Latinos die disproportionately often from the virus (vitamin D is made in the skin upon exposure to UV radiation, which is why it’s called the “sunshine vitamin”), and pigmentation reduces the rate of its production. But of course, as Andrew notes, there are cultural rather than genetic reasons why minority groups might have higher death rates. Sullivan also says that the Vitamin D effect might “help explain why, for example, Florida has done so much better than New York.” (But of course sunny Brazil is suffering mightily from Covi-19.)

I’ll contact my doctor and ask him to comment here about what evidence, if any, there is for a Vitamin D effect, and should we be taking it. The upside compared to nostrums like hydroxychloroquine is that the vitamin is much safer, and in reasonable doses has no bad side effects.

Sullivan closes with his advice for us:

Even among those most at risk, health-care workers, the disproportionate rate of deaths for racial minorities is striking. And even studies that fully control for preexisting health conditions alongside socioeconomic factors found part of the gap unexplained. A new study goes further and “argues strongly for a role of vitamin D deficiency in COVID-19 risk.” It seems to me a good idea to educate those most at risk — especially racial minorities and the old — and suggest taking a modest vitamin D supplement. It’s cheap, easily available, and might cut the death rate dramatically. What’s the harm?

Well, first do no harm. I suspect Andrew’s right about this, but let’s find out before we rush to the drugstore for Vitamin D.

119 thoughts on “Sullivan on Trump and vitamin D

  1. Lucky me! I’ve been on Vitamin D for year. I’m taking them per doctor’s orders though I am not really suffering from anything. I’ve never been a big fan of taking supplemental vitamins though there’s not much wrong with it in moderation. I always remember my mother turning orange because she took too much Vitamin A. Remember, “The dose makes the poison” or “There’s no such thing as toxins, only toxic doses.”

    1. Me too, 1000 IU daily. It is the only supplement I take, mainly for maintaining bone strength. TTBOMK, it is perfectly safe. It better be because I’ve taking it for decades.

  2. Vitamin D? Geez. I’ve been taking it for decades but only because it made my itching skin problem go away. And it is hard to overdose on. Still, as a Covid treatment? I’m skeptical.

  3. I live in Norway and here it’s genrerally recommended to take some Vit D in the winter. More and more science seems to show that it’s a good idea to take a small (1000 IE) daily dose year round. To much is bad, but so is too little. A u curve seams to suggest the best dosage

  4. The analogy that keeps popping up in my mind is the film Being There, with Peter Sellers as “a simpleminded, gardener who becomes an unlikely trusted advisor to a powerful businessman and an insider in Washington politics”.

    People believed he was giving sound advice in a minimalist way while he was just making foolish remarks which had no inherent value.

    tRump is likewise a total fool but many think he’s playing 3 dimensional chess.

    Likewise Forrest Gump has a similar theme.

        1. hmmm. Here’s an aside an a genuine question for th wordsmiths here at WEIT. Isn’t “perfect analogue” an oxymoron? Or at least circular? I mean if something is exactly analogous to something else isn’t it then that very thing and therefore cannot be an analogue?

          1. Interesting question. What I had in mind as a perfect analogue was one that was best suited to illustrate the point, not one which was identical in every way – which is weird.

    1. I think Sam Harris is the first person I heard refer to Donald Trump as “a malign Chauncey Gardner.” And I think it was in the excellent podcast he did with Andrew Sullivan shortly before (and about) the 2016 election.

      They both discussed their grave misgivings regarding Hillary, but both came to identical conclusions that, hands down, the only sane thing to do was to vote for her against Trump.

      And both expressed certainty that their common friend Christopher Hitchens would have come to precisely the same conclusion (notwithstanding the contempt Hitch had for the Clintons, as set forth in his No One Left to Lie to book).

      1. Yes, I’m sure as the tRump reign evolved, Harris, Sullivan, and ( wish )Hitch have come to see their worst fear realized. Hitch, of course, in his own colorful way, would have a lot to say. Don’t you just wish you could hear his voice on tRump?

          1. Let me clarify: This piece by Sullivan is really good. But it’s not all that different in substance from things I’ve said and written about Trump before myself, except much more articulate. (“The pathology is the principle” and “Tribalism abhors reality when it impugns the tribe,” I think, are especially well-turned phrases.)

            But with Hitchens, I can’t help but think he would’ve had something to say about Trump and this pandemic that had never occurred to me before.

  5. I am another who has been taking vitamin D for years on Doctor’s recommendation. 6000 IU per day and that just barely gets my levels to the bottom of the desired range. There is a toxic dose but it is pretty high. If you don’t have a doctor telling you to take more then don’t go over 4000 IU per day.

    1. I seem to recall that the danger zone for Vitamin D is when you get into multiples of 10K IU’s.

      But I’m still skeptical of taking it with expectations it will help you against COVID-19.

    2. I think the correct dose is highly individual. For me (male, 75 kg), 2000 IE seems to be a daily dose that gets me into optimal range. I agree that the toxic dosage is high, probably more than 5 000 IE daily for a long time, but I agree that for most people 4000 IE is considered safe according to the latest science.

  6. I’ve been looking into the ins and outs of vitamin D, this article is the best info I’ve found that’s aimed at the general educated public.

  7. I take vitamin D and Zinc supplements based on an MD I know. Certainly can’t hurt in small doses.

  8. Well, you could just go out in the sun and drink a gallon of milk. You will have good suntan to go with your covid-19

      1. Sounds like excessive vit-D has some of the same bad side affects as Jardiance for type 2. I had to stop that stuff.

  9. Tangentially related to the third section: I’ve so often admired the “Question Time” in the UK (and other nations, though I believe it originated in the UK). It’s a marvelous display of the courage of democracy and willingness to hold the feet of even the highest officials in the land to the fire.

    And just imagine if we had it here! Trump would look like a buffoon on a near-daily basis. I mean, he already does, but there would be even more opportunities for it.

    1. You’re right: it is indeed a good means of holding the Government to account. There are sessions of oral PQs every day when Parliament is sitting, with each Department coming under the hammer roughly every couple of weeks.

      Prime Minister’s Questions are every Wednesday, and frankly over the past 20 years or so have become a circus, not least because they are now on live TV. But we now have (a) social distancing, which has greatly reduced the number of sycophantic hecklers in the HoC; (b) a Speaker of the House who is not a self-serving narcissist, and (c) a serious Leader of the Opposition who, as Sullivan says, is at last capable of doing his job.

      What Starmer now needs to do is construct a coherent alternative to the Government’s chaotic, amateurish and self-serving performance. He has benefited from a bit of a honeymoon period. He now needs to step up a gear.

      1. Since you seem to be up to date on UK politics (I assume you’re a Brit…?), I hope you won’t mind if I ask a question about Starmer, as it’s kind of hard to search for answers about it. Has Starmer done anything to finally move forward the investigation into the antisemitism within Labour’s ranks and/or taken any actions on the issue yet?

    2. “Question Time” and “Speakers’ Corner” — Britain’s two great contributions to modern democracy, you ask me. (I realize some people might wanna go with Magna Carta or the Glorious Revolution or somesuch, but who’s askin’ them anyway?) 🙂

  10. Vitamin supplements for most people, amount to expensive urine; homeostasis is a powerful mediator of vitamin levels in our bodies (though vitamin D is one that accumulate in fat). But it can’t really hurt and vitamin D deficiencies are thought to play a role in some diseases, including respiratory disease, so perhaps there may be some marginal benefit.

    Few people are deficient in their dietary vitamin D uptake, however, and the physiological effect of lower vitamin D differ. Blacks, for example, have lower serum vitamin D levels than whites but higher bone mineral density or BMD, one of the chef physiological roles of vitamin D. It can’t hurt, but it’s hard to believe it will have a large (or even measurable) impact.

    1. I think it’s important to note that getting the recommended amount of vitamin D in your diet does not guarantee that you are not vitamin D deficient. I take a multivitamin daily and love milk, and the last two times I was tested still had a vitamin D deficiency.

      There is some debate, I think, about the efficacy of ingesting vitamin D vs. getting it from the sun; and whether or not low levels are even that harmful, so it may be neither here nor there – but, for what it’s worth, adequate intake does not guarantee adequate levels.

  11. Vitamin D I get from milk, something I love and would be devastated if I were lactose intolerant (hurray for genetics). My genetic report shows me having the ‘good’ gene but they also list out the percentage of people they have test that are likely lactose intolerant (which would make milk disagreeable to them). AA or AG is tolerant, GG is not. They’ve broken down the % by origin and for Europeans it’s 15% GG, but 65% for African, 99.9% for East Asian, 41.7% Latino, and 78% for South Asian.

    I find it interesting that the group most likely to be able to manufacture vitamin D on their own is most able to get it as a supplement (milk) while those with the darker pigment get the double whammy of reduced natural production and no milk.

    Fortunately, there are other ways to get vitamin D.

  12. My wife told me a couple of weeks ago about vitamin D.
    It is strange that many beaches are now open, but forbid sunbathing. Bright sunshine is pretty inhospitable to viruses.
    I don’t think heat is really a factor. Brazil is having issues because large numbers of people live in close and unsanitary conditions, and have little ability to self segregate.

    One issue I have wanted to ask about- Several states have made the decision to send people who test positive for Covid but do not require hospitalization to nursing homes. I can just not figure out the logic of such a decision. When I first read about it, I was certain that it was right-wing disinformation, but it appears to be actual policy.
    Has anyone heard a satisfactory explanation for such an action?

    1. Woah. That seems positively dangerous. Murderous, in fact. I hope that is one of the zillions of false stories going around.

      1. It’s happened elsewhere.

        Over 4,500 virus patients sent to NY nursing homes

        Cuomo says he was following federal guidelines: “I just want to reiterate once again that the policy that the Department of Health put out was in line directly with the March 13 directive put out by(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) that read, and I quote, ‘Nursing homes should admit any individuals from hospitals where Covid is present,'” said Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa. “There are over a dozen states that did the exact same thing, many of whom were concerned about hospital capacity…”

          1. I believe that the theory is/was that people who have tested positive but are not sick enough to require hospitalization should be sent to some central location (i.e. quarantined) where their condition could be monitored by people who would be capable of assessing whether they needed hospitalization. Japan, I’ve heard, was using hotels, with some medical staff to check on the inmates. I don’t think the idea was that you should drop COVID-19-positive individuals into a nursing home full of elderly but otherwise healthy (i.e. not COVI-19-positive) people.

            1. But that is what they were/are doing. In at least one state, any nursing home with less than 80% capacity was required to take in Covid patients. In others, nursing homes were specifically prohibited from refusing Covid positive transfers.
              A nursing home with non-Covid residents is just not set up for this. Shared ventilation, shared hallways and entrances. Staff that interact with both groups. Even a facility that had all non-Covid residents removed would be a poor choice, unless significant retrofitting were undertaken.

              A sad example is the young man in Michigan who was filming himself beating up elderly folks. Beyond the attacks, he was there because of a positive Covid test, and apparently not seriously symptomatic. He was obviously not being isolated from the regular residents. If he had not been filming and publishing his attacks, we would not know about it.

              When I was teaching biowarfare defense, we were dealing with much more dangerous pathogens and chemicals. But the basic prevention methods we used there were sound. Watching people these days is driving me nuts. I always used the space alien films as a teaching tool. The main lesson from those films is that you don’t open the airlock. If you plan to keep the airlock mostly closed, or even if you make a moderate effort to keep it closed, you might as well leave it open.
              Where I am now, restaurants are opening, but the plan is to make people wear masks until they start eating. That is mostly pointless. Lots of people wear their masks with their nose uncovered. Everyone seems to handle their mask between wearings.
              So mask wearing is largely symbolic. My wife wears one when she is out and about, even though she had and recovered from the disease (we found out that although she tested negative when she was sick, she later tested positive for antibodies).
              We seem to take symbolic but ineffective steps to protect the population, but also engage in horribly dangerous and misguided practices like the nursing home fiasco.

              I cannot help but picture a family at the assisted living home, standing outside the window to safely talk to grandma on the phone, while the maid, who has just come from a Covid patient’s room next door, comes in to change grandma’s sheets.

    2. The idea of sending COVID-19 positive people to nursing homes was to prevent overloading the hospitals.

      Which, by itself, at the very beginning, kinda made sense.

      Remember, though, the first hotspot in the U.S. was a nursing home in Washington state. Some governors ordered nursing homes to accept COVID-19 positive patients, then thought better of it and reversed themselves. Gov. De Santis in Florida never did it. By contrast, Gov. Cuomo in New York stuck to the policy, come hell or high water. Now he blames President Trump, somehow.

  13. Despite all the breathless & excited coverage in the US liberal press about Biden leading Trump by X%, it should be noted that Trump leads Biden on the economy.

    They also forget that while Hillary “never had the support that Biden has”, the Republicans have far more control over how the election will be conducted. Plus Hillary was running with Obama in office and setting the general tone.

    1. Also national polls are worthless. Biden needs to win in the formerly blue states that Hillary turned red.

      1. If Biden holds all the states Hillary won (and Donald Trump appears to be no threat to flip any of those states from blue to red), all Biden need do to reach 270 electoral votes is to flip Florida, or Pennsylvania & Michigan, and one other state — Wisconsin, Arizona, North Carolina, Ohio, even Georgia and Texas and some others seem to be in play for the time being.

        Old Uncle Joe seems to have quite a few paths to 270 electoral votes and victory; Trump essentially has only the one of winning the exact same states he did in 2016.

        1. That sounds very encouraging indeed Ken. In fact I remember being greatly relieved to hear pretty much the same thing exactly four years ago from you. (Which I appreciated, and still do, BTW — it saved me 6 months of stress.)

          1. Early in the nomination process for the 2016 election I thought and said there was no way in hell that this nation would elect the likes of Donald Trump to be its president.

            But once Trump secured the Republican nomination, I gave him a 15% chance of winning the general election. (Any presidential candidate from one of the two major US political parties has the built-in 40% support of the electorate, so always has, as I said at the time, at least “a puncher’s chance” of winning, as it’s known in prizefighting.)

            When you think about it, those are about the same odds you have playing Russian Roulette with a six-cylinder revolver — and, as it turns out, with the about same dire results for the good old US of A.

            1. For my part, I’ve only ever claimed it was pessimism that made me predict him winning, and I desperately wanted to be assured that it was indeed merely pessimism.

              What really horrified me though regardless was the way so many Dem supporters & he entire liberal media was crowing about what a great victory it would be for all their causes, without noticing that it was effectively half the country they were laughing at and gloating about. You can’t treat a (predicted) election win with a razor thin majority over as a victory in a culture war. (Dems did it when Obama won, and were expecting it to continue with Hillary.)

  14. I have no knowledge about Vitamin D’s effects, if any, on the immune response. But Andrew Sullivan’s concluding argument for taking it—it won’t do any harm—reminds me irresistibly of a classic Yiddish story told by Menashe Skulnik, as follows.

    The curtain is about to go up in a Yiddish theater show in New York, when the stage manager comes forward and announces: “Sorry, our star has died and there will be no performance “. The audience is hushed, and then someone yells: ” So give him an enema “. The stage manager replies that perhaps the person in the audience had not understood that the star had died. The guy replies: “well, give him an enema anyhow, it wouldn’t hurt “.

    1. Reminds me of the constant (potentially terminal) case of constipation suffered by Alexander Portnoy’s father. 🙂

      1. I take 5000 IU/day at my doc’s suggestion. My levels had tested low as well and then greatly improved. Good to prevent osteoporosis and increase Ca absorption. My bone density also improved after increasing my dosage. It would be a bonus if it helps against covid.

        1. Unrelated to your deficiency but morbidly interesting, I was getting lost in videos on YouTube as one sometimes does and ended up watching a woman putting on make up for a zoom call (whatever I like watching make up videos and hair videos sometimes). She actually said she puts on sun block every day even when staying indoors because “uv gets in the windows” and she didn’t want her skin to age. Maybe she was on to something as she was 58 and had great looking skin but most likely she was very low in vitamin d because she must never even look at natural sun light!! She really lathered that crap on too. I’m the lightest on the Fitzpatrick scale and I’m basically a walking melanoma poster but I put sun block on only when I can’t cover up or I’m out for a long time.

          1. It’s a delicate dance between Vitamin D deficiency and skin cancer. Bit there’s nothing wrong with going full solarphobe, as long as you take supplements.

    1. Which tells me they don’t have any understanding of how the world works. They are placing a certain emotional gratification over the welfare of the country and the world. But, of course the motives many had for voting for him in the first place had nothing to do with a serious weighing of consequences.

      1. Nothing is sweeter to them than liberal tears — even though Trump’s economic policies strongly favor the ultra-rich and even though his hardcore base could never themselves make it past the doorman at Trump tower.

      2. They would never admit to it but they’re nihilists. They see the system as broken and every candidate as equally bad, they might as well have a laugh over it.

  15. Pure truth. I’ve had my disagreements with Sullivan in the past, but this says what I wish I could have said.

  16. To reverse the famous saying of Walter Brennan as Grandpappy Amos, it was all “No fact, just brag.”

    Trump would probably want to reverse the citizenship of Pepino’s anchor baby. 🙂

  17. I would have my doctor answer some readers’ questions too but I can’t tell if my doctor is the dumbest doctor ever or if I’m the dumbest patient ever. He told me to run 5 miles a day for 2 weeks and I ended up 70 miles from my house. He told me to watch my drinking so now I drink in front of a mirror. Okay I stole those so sue me.

    1. My doctor told me I was fat. I said I wanted a second opinion. He said, ‘OK, you’re ugly, too.

  18. Happy to see that Walter Brennan is still remembered. I was in an episode of The Real McCoys (Teenage Wedding) in 1960. Also in the cast was another great character actor of the era, Edward Everett Horton, who played my grandfather. Great memories. I am a regular reader though I seldom comment.

    1. Wow, you knew Walter Brennan, three time Oscar winner. Even with his three academy awards, he seems under-appreciated. My thumbnail for The Real McCoys: The Beverly Hillbillies with better actors and earlier.

      1. Yup. Brennan was a most amiable fellow and well respected in the industry. The show was fun to do. I had the good fortune of working with many performers who were famous at the time but that few remember today.

      1. I’m afraid he will always be associated with the Rocky and Bullwinkle show for me. But he was the medicine man too (Roaring Chicken was his character I think). But he was in so many films. In a scene in Friz Freleng’s cartoon Hare Trigger, Yosemite Sam (in his debut) calls himself “the meanest, toughest, rip-roarin’-est, Edward Everett Horton-est hombre what ever packed a six-shooter!”

  19. I naturally have vitamin D in spades. Even living in a northern location during winter, if tested, I typically have more than I need. I can get vitamin D just by looking out the window. For years, I joked it was my “evolving under cloud cover” skin story. I started taking a supplement though when the lockdown began because I’m never outside as I was when I drove to work. Somehow though, given my own inflammatory issues, I highly doubt having vitamin D is going to help anyone. It will probably just cause it to be unavailable as a supplement as everyone rushes to use it as they did with vitamin C a couple months ago.

  20. Public Health England advise that everyone (over one) should consider a Vitamin D supplement. Particularly in the winter and perhaps all year round if you have dark skin.

    “The new advice from PHE is that adults and children over the age of one should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D, particularly during autumn and winter.

    People with dark skin, from African, African-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds, may also not get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the summer.”

  21. As to your statement “I used to dislike Trump intensely and opposed his election and policies from the outset, but I’ve grown to despise the man with the white heat of a thousand suns”, I agree 100%. What he has done to this country nationally and internationally is incomprehensible. When he did outrageous things at the beginning, I used to think he couldn’t do anything worse, but that was a fantasy and we are now living in a nightmare.
    I’ve been taking 2000 IU of D3 for about a decade because I was tested and my levels were very low. They have gradually increased, and I think/hope that has helped my immune system.

  22. I used to dislike Trump intensely and opposed his election and policies from the outset, but I’ve grown to despise the man with the white heat of a thousand suns.

    Welcome aboard, comrade. 🙂

    I knew from the get-go it was gonna be bad — really, really bad. But this bad, I couldn’t imagine.

    1. One reason we didn’t anticipate how bad it was going to be is that we didn’t realize the degree of the man’s mental illness, malignant narcissism some mental health professionals say. Nor did we anticipate the hold that he has on his cult. The fact that about 40% of the population looks upon him as their savior, who would resolve all their grievances, is a sad and depressing commentary about human nature. Equally distressing is that his political party now consists of toadies, who are like those who attended the rallies of Hitler and Stalin and were afraid to stop applauding. Most frightening of all is that the worst of him may not have yet emerged. If he loses the election, his now tenuous connection to reality may irrevocably snap, meaning he may call his supporters to take to the streets and the chaos they would create, in conjunction with a pandemic, could seriously jeopardize democracy. The next six months could alter American society permanently, and not for the better.

      1. Yes, if Trump loses the November election (as I hope and expect he will), this nation, its government, its institutions, and perhaps even the fabric of American society itself, will be tested during the lame-duck session in a way that they’ve never been tested before during our lifetimes.

        There’s no telling what mischief Donald Trump may get up to. The issue that may determine the fate of our Republic is how many of his followers (including those in the right-wing media bubble), and how Republican Party regulars (to the extent those two groups can still yet be considered distinguishable), will follow Trump over that cliff.

        1. He’s already started ranting about how the democrats want mail in voting to rig the election so we are off to a good start, as predicted.

        1. Yeah. I certainly did. Actually I may have been overly pessimistic. Things aren’t yet as bad as I thought they could become. Of course, we don’t really know all the damage yet. The next reasonably sane administration (being optimistic that there will be one) will have their hands filled just inventorying all the damages that need to be repaired.

  23. My read on the paper (published by some of my former colleagues at the U of C!): not clear to me they adequately adjusted for co-morbidities/ethnicity. Also, the difference in frequency of COVID-19 infection between patients with last known vitamin D deficiency that was treated vs. not treated didn’t reach statistical significance. Also, another retrospective analysis that used multivariable logistical regression to control for ethnicity (a known risk factor for COVID-19 infection) did NOT find an association between vitamin D levels and COVID-19 infections ( So we have two retrospective analyses with different results, where the results of the positive one didn’t reach statistical significance (and had some other methodological issues). Bottom line: we need prospective trials to answer the question, but I’m skeptical. Vitamin D deficiency should be treated when found anyway. The question the authors of this paper raise though is should there be a broad national intervention to identify and treat vitamin D deficiency to possibly reduce the prevalence of COVID-19? I’m not convinced.

    1. I think you are right, but the vitamin D studies have had an impact. I was at Trader Joe’s this week and wanted to buy my usual bottle of vitamin D3. They were sold out!

  24. I’ve been taking Vits.D and C supplements: Vit. D between 3000 and 4000 iu daily, and Vit.C (forgot the dose) I just pop a couple of times during the day. It’s better to space out your intake of Vit.C, and the body doesn’t store it.

  25. Sullivan is a decent political writer (a bit conservative for me often) but he’s been famously stupid on his medical pronouncements in the past. Vit D – which we MAINLY get from our diets – is a big time refuge of the woo sellers. Many doctors “diagnose” vit D deficiency (which is in reality very rare) to “treat” hypochondria often. Let’s listen to A.S. on politics, less so on medicine but do ask your dr. friend.

    1. I think deficiencies are fairly common. I found out I had a deficiency in very early pregnancy (too early for the baby to be using large amounts of it). If you Google first trimester vitamin D deficiency, it’s extremely common, and your sample group there are not people who sought out testing looking to cure a health condition, it’s a routine screen. I felt horrifically sick throughout my pregnancy and could barely choke down the prenatal vitamin, so rather than add a supplement told myself I would drink milk and spend time in the sun. That didn’t work either (although I wasn’t spending massive amounts of time in the sun, more like a daily walk or two, and I have somewhat darker skin.) Given that our ancestors were outdoors a huge percentage of the time and we are not, I think it makes sense that many people have to take a large dose in supplement form to get up to normal levels.

  26. “…I’ve grown to despise the man with the white heat of a thousand suns.” Thank you, Jerry, for summing up exactly how I feel.

  27. A large proportion of North Americans of every skin tone have a degree of vitamin D deficiency. The greatest benefit of vitamins and supplements is correcting a deficiency, not giving supra-pharmacologic doses to produce some new effect (eg vitamin C and scurvy vs cancer). It helps that we have good validated blood tests and semi reasonable (but controversial) guidelines for desired levels. The one caution: vit D is one of the “ADEK” vitamins in which excess intake is stored in fat rather than peed out in urine (I’m a Urologist so I get to use technical terms). So it’s possible to be harmed by too much.
    Bottom line: get your level checked, go on a supplement if low and recheck the level on therapy to assure you are at a reasonable level.

    1. PS. Take a supplement OR change diet and get out in the sun more if possible. Didn’t mean to imply supplements were the only way to raise a low level

  28. I seem to remember the “no brag, just fact” line being said by Brennan in a TV role subsequent to Grandpappy Amos, namely, Will Sonnet in the series The Guns of Will Sonnet. My mother and I liked to watch that show. I guess we were among the handful of people who tuned in, because the show was short-lived.

  29. There was once (still is?) a hypothesis that the greater indicence of Multiple Sclerosis in people who spent their first ~15yrs in more northern latitudes was related to lower Vitamin D production, and also the greater incidence in females because little girls are more likely to play inside.

    Anyone know if that’s still considered valid?

  30. By far the best source of Vitamin D is sun exposure during the middle of the day. In the summer months this is easy. However, it is extremely important NOT to burn, so adjust exposure o your skin type. This might be as low as 10-15mins for fair Northern European skin types.

    That said, in the winter months at latitudes above about 30deg there is insufficient UV radiation to produce sufficient levels of Vitamin D. Therefore supplementation of 1000-2000IU/day is useful insurance to maintain Vitamin D levels during winter.

    Most studies on Vitamin D and innate immunity show that the largest risk is for levels below the “normal” range. If you are below 25(OF)D of 10ng/ml or 25nmol/L on testing, large doses of >5000 IU/day may be needed short term for a number of weeks to bring levels back to normal and then the dose can be dialed back for maintenance.

    “Sufficient” and “Optimum” levels of Vitamin D are somewhat controversial.

    However, the following is a rough guide:

    Deficiency – 25(OH)D <10ng/ml or 25nmol/L

    Sufficient – 25(OH)D – roughly 20ng/ml or 50nmol/L

    Optimum – 25(OH)D – roughly 30ng/ml or 75nmol/L

  31. A few years ago now I was tested for vitamin D levels after having had six months or so on chemotherapy. Surprise, surprise I was deemed deficient, since I’d been told to stay out of the sun during chemotherapy. So I was prescribed vitamin D supplements. However no-one ever bothered to check it the supplements made any difference! I still take Ca plus vitamin D for osteoporosis, but have no idea if I am vitamin D sufficient or not

    1. I got tested again about 3 months after I started taking them and my levels had improved “bigly”.

      Typo ergo sum Merilee


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