14 votes

Weekly coronavirus-related chat, questions, and minor updates - week of January 11

This thread is posted weekly, and is intended as a place for more-casual discussion of the coronavirus and questions/updates that may not warrant their own dedicated topics. Tell us about what the situation is like where you live!

46 comments

  1. Deimos
    Link
    A new study in The Lancet did follow-ups with 1733 COVID patients discharged from a hospital in Wuhan, China and finds that most of them still have some form of lingering effects 6 months later:...

    A new study in The Lancet did follow-ups with 1733 COVID patients discharged from a hospital in Wuhan, China and finds that most of them still have some form of lingering effects 6 months later: 6-month consequences of COVID-19 in patients discharged from hospital: a cohort study

    A write-up of it in the New York Times: 6 Months After Leaving the Hospital, Covid Survivors Still Face Lingering Health Issues

    10 votes
  2. [12]
    kfwyre
    Link
    Usual personal update: My reprieve is over. It was nice while it lasted. Students return to in-person learning next week, and I go back to daily exposure and all the concomitant anxiety that...

    Usual personal update:

    My reprieve is over. It was nice while it lasted. Students return to in-person learning next week, and I go back to daily exposure and all the concomitant anxiety that brings. We currently have so many positive cases locally that I believe we will shut down within a week or two due to lack of staffing. Our test positivity rate has been alarmingly high for weeks now, and our numbers are only rising.

    The current read of the situation among teachers at my school is that our school board and superintendent don’t want to take the PR hit of choosing to keep schools remote any more than they already have, so they’re choosing to reopen and trigger de facto remote learning through staffing shortages. I actually had this thought and assumed it was just my cynicism talking, but two other teachers shared the same exact take with me, unsolicited, so clearly I’m not the only one thinking that’s a possibility. The decision to re-open certainly wasn’t data-based, as our local numbers are worse than they’ve ever been and are going nowhere but up.

    9 votes
    1. [9]
      Atvelonis
      Link Parent
      I've been following your updates for a while and I want to express how much respect I have for you and others in your role. I admire your perseverance, though I recognize how frightening and...

      I've been following your updates for a while and I want to express how much respect I have for you and others in your role. I admire your perseverance, though I recognize how frightening and uncertain things are too, and how uncomfortable that must be. The reckless behavior of some of your colleagues and community members you've previously described is jarring and deserves censure.

      If the board is worried about a PR hit, then surely the flip-flopping process of reopening and then inevitably closing due to poor preventative measures in classrooms—and, in theory, ensuing deaths—is far less optimal than waiting a couple weeks to fully vaccinate teaching staff, is it not? "Beloved teacher dies from COVID exposure in school one week before scheduled vaccination; administrators under fire" is not a headline I imagine parents (or admins) would like to read, even if they're nutcases about the virus as an intangible concept. I don't know what state you're in, but in New York, all P-12 faculty and staff are eligible for the shot as of January 11. The vaccine takes a few days to become effective and requires a booster for full immunity, but pushing back a return to in-person learning just a bit further to allow for teachers to vaccinate can't possibly hurt. My understanding of mRNA technology is that its lack of a live, attenuated virus qualifies immunocompromised persons too, so it's not like any staff would be left out. Is the potential fallout from parents really so bad that the district can't wait a short time longer for this base level of protection for its employees?

      I've argued in the past that in-person learning is essential not only for students' education but for their social development and mental health, with the caveat that it should only be implemented with strict procedures to decrease the transmission of the virus. I maintain this belief, but I also think that faculty shouldn't have to work in person if they don't want to. I know that higher education is a bit different than K-12, but there have been a few success stories in the colleges whose COVID statistics I've been watching over the past few months. One school, which had around 1000 students living on campus, had a total of only seven COVID cases for the duration of the fall semester; another with a slightly larger population had 14. That's honestly incredible given that students were both dorming in close proximity and commuting locally. It was achieved through somewhat militant enforcement of mask usage, social distancing, and group size limitations, among other things. And, notably, almost all of the faculty were remote. Some students would mask up, find a large, ventilated classroom, and put the lecturer up on a projector screen for every course. They learned their material, they had other students to talk to about it, and they were safe.

      Is this really not possible in K-12? Or at least in high school, where students are vaguely motivated to kinda sorta do work sometimes, even without an adult physically present to whip them into shape? If your district is going to force students to come back in person, It just doesn't make sense to me that administrators would prefer to put the lives of faculty at risk too, even if the whole plan is executed for the purely selfish reasons of avoiding criticism from parents. This is like a dual miscalculation of both existing scientific data and political whiplash.

      8 votes
      1. [8]
        kfwyre
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Thank you, Atvelonis. Post-comment edit: Whoa, this turned into a lot! Sorry for unloading on you like this! I promise I'm trying to be helpful and explanatory rather than combative or...
        • Exemplary

        Thank you, Atvelonis.


        Post-comment edit: Whoa, this turned into a lot! Sorry for unloading on you like this! I promise I'm trying to be helpful and explanatory rather than combative or overbearing. Any failure of my comment to come across that way is entirely my own. I mean you no ill-will! Quite the opposite, really: I cherish your kind words and thoughtful questions.


        A lot

        The whole situation is very complicated, and while I have immediate ire for my superintendent and board right now (which could be undeserving — I don’t know their actual motivations, and they did make a right call in going remote post-break), they are not acting in a vacuum. They themselves are openly pressured and not supported to go remote by my state, which has been attempting to push schools to reopen unsafely the entire time. Meanwhile, at the federal level, the FFCRA leave benefits program expired at the end of 2020 and was not renewed, which puts pressure on families through districts and employers -- to say nothing of the failure of financial support people have seen throughout this entire process.

        Likewise, the ongoing COVID-related culture war has numbed our country to reality and unfortunately we give credence to the loudest, most deliberately uninformed voices because they also tend to be the most aggressive and difficult to deal with. Certainly not all who are pushing for school reopening are coming from that place — many are parents who are deeply concerned and informed but exist in a state of severe economic uncertainty due to job loss or potential job loss due to lack of childcare. You would also think that the community would see schools open right now as a threat to their individual safety, as kids could potentially bring the virus back to their households, but this seems to be a largely absent view. Schools open is widely seen as nearly unconditionally good.

        No one says it's about childcare, but we all know it is. Government offices in my area are closed right now. Our district leadership is working remotely from home and will continue to do so. If it's not safe for people who have their own offices to occupy them then it's definitely not safe for classrooms to be open, but it's either us or parents looking after the kids, and parents are hurting and teachers don't have any community capital to cash in on.

        There is a ton of discourse out there about educational fidelity and social emotional health, both of which I'm rather sick of as talking points. That is not directed at you at all (I believe you are unfailingly thoughtful and genuine, both in your response to me and in many of the other comments I’ve seen from you on Tildes) but because I’ve seen so much bad faith argument using them that it makes me angry. I watch my own school board and superintendent grandstand about it during meetings and seethe from my Zoom rectangle because they’re either ignorant of or deliberately lying about the reality of what is happening inside classrooms in their own districts.

        The reality is that the protocols that are put into place to prevent COVID spread are so limiting that even during in-person instruction we are still doing remote learning — the only thing that changes is that we’re in the same room. I cannot go near the students — they cannot go near one another. All of their assignments are digital because we are discouraged from sharing physical items. Even if we could pass things out, it wouldn’t help, as we have to make assignments digital anyway because on any given day 20-50% of a given class will be out due to a regular absence, a precautionary absence due to them displaying some sort of illness, an absence with COVID-19 symptoms, or an absence due to a quarantine. In order to provide safe air to breathe, our windows remain open during the day.

        I live in a northern state, where temperatures regularly drop below freezing. My students wear winter coats, hats, and gloves in my classroom. One day it was cold enough in my room that my whiteboard marker wouldn’t erase. It just stuck on the board, as if frozen. The background noise of fans and air purifiers create a noise floor over which it’s hard to hear, exacerbated by masks that muffle sound and hide mouth movements, and large distances over which soft-spoken voices simply fall away. Shouting and yelling increase expulsion of the virus significantly, so merely communicating in person is both frustrating and less safe. I have no problems projecting my voice as a teacher, but my timid students face a special kind of hell should they want to share out. I actually do a lot of typing via our chat program to students even when they're in person because it's easier than shouting over fans through masks to a student who's 30 feet away.

        The quality of the education my students get doesn’t change drastically between remote and in-person right now, and in fact, being in-person inhibits some of the interventions I can use. During remote learning, I do a lot of one-to-one video calls with students as a way of checking on them individually and helping them through things. I simply mute my classroom mic and then initiate the call, making my feedback individual, immediate, and private. I can’t do this in-person, as a one-to-one call would be audible to the whole class. The chat app is an alright substitute, but it doesn't make up for the clarity and personality of verbal communication.

        I will say that I’m speaking as someone who teaches kids who are at an age where they are able to be functional, independent learners. The conversation definitely changes when you go younger, and one of my frustrations with schools has been a near-complete failure to consider solutions beyond one-size-fits-all methods. I think that a more strategic approach could be much more successful, but as we have seen, a lack of planning, foresight, and understanding have inhibited even basic responses to the virus (e.g. mask wearing). I (sadly) think it’s a tall order that we have a robust and well-reasoned response institutionally.

        With regards to social emotional health, there has been an absolute avalanche of advocacy for in-person learning, a very small amount of which I actually consider genuine. Most of what I hear articulates a huge swell in mental health issues for kids (which I believe to be true), and that immediately gets linked to the need to have schools open. It seems much more likely to me that this swell we’re seeing is less about schools themselves and more about the national and global environment these kids are in. Adults will joke to the ends of the earth about how terrible 2020 is and how shit their mental health is as a result of the past year of events, but as soon as kids come into the conversation that gets ignored and we act as if schools being closed are the only reason kids might be feeling anxious or depressed.

        This kind of rhetoric also ignores the disclosure of kids themselves, which is what really grinds my gears. I’ve had conversations with my students about what they prefer, and many of my students would genuinely prefer to stay home. They’re not saying that to dodge learning or accountability so they can just play Xbox all day — they’re saying that because they live with the same anxiety I do when they’re here: a fear they might get sick, and a fear that they might transmit it to their families. My students are old enough to get what is going on and understand their own role and vulnerability in it. I do not think that is a fair position to put kids in.

        I’m certain many people roll their eyes when I get angry about my job and see me as a navel-gazing, self-serving narcissist, but part of my frustration with how this is being handled comes from how it affects kids that I deeply care about. I’ve been mad for years that I have to annually train my students on what to do if an active shooter comes into our classroom. Rather than our country handling this issue as adults and protecting kids from such darkness, we have instead normalized it for them and involved them in the “solution”. What does it say about the sincerity of concern for kids’ social emotional health when we also teach 8-year-olds that the likelihood they might be shot at school is high enough that they need to be ready for it?

        I see our response to COVID in a similar way. Everyone talks about the supposed benefits for mental health of in-person learning for kids, but seemingly no one talks about the damage to mental health of putting kids in a known harm’s way. Part of why I consider much of the advocacy on this topic to be in bad faith is because it doesn’t start nor end with students’ genuine feelings. It simply presumes that students feel bad when schools aren’t open and feel good when they are, but I can speak definitively, on behalf of my students, that many of them feel worse when they have to attend in person. Even if a child isn't worried about COVID, the at-home learning experience is better in almost every way. They can wear what they want, eat snacks, take movement breaks, pet their dog, etc. In person they stay in the same desk all day, wearing an uncomfortable mask in a freezing room, where they're not even allowed to get up and move around without permission.

        With regards to your question about whether schools can be safe, I actually think they can. Distancing, masks, ventilation, and filtration are all effective measures that mitigate virus spread. We know that if these are in place, with fidelity, it severely reduces the risk of transmission.

        Proper implementation of these does not eliminate risk entirely, but I think they can create an environment in which there is an acceptable risk. Unfortunately, one of the other variables that has to be considered is the number of cases in the community. A school might be properly mitigating spread when there is a low incidence rate, because few cases will make it into the building in the first place, and then the likelihood of one of those cases transmitting is quite low. In the event that there is a very high incidence rate in the community, however, the likelihood that all of the mitigating strategies will hold is far lower. My community used to be at a level where our mitigation strategies created a theoretically acceptable risk, but we are no longer there. It used to be a question of whether, in a given week, I might have had one positive case in one of my classes. We are now at a point where, statistically speaking, it's not whether or not I've encountered a positive case in my day, but how many.

        Higher education has seen successes in part because of robust testing regimens. The higher ed teachers and staff I know get tested regularly; most of them 2-3 times each week. The colleges in my area also hired contact tracing teams so that they could track and handle potential outbreaks immediately. They are also able to impose severe consequences should students engage in risky behavior. These methods aren't available to K-12 schools -- at least not in widespread ways. We have no testing regimen (we can't even compel families to test their own kids); contact tracing is a joke (it literally doesn't happen because our desks are spread out); and we cannot impose consequences for irresponsible behavior (the child whose extended family and friends met up for Thanksgiving is back in my classroom on Monday, sitting in a desk six feet away).

        There are ultimately no good answers, and there isn't a single solution that will satisfy everyone. When schools close, teachers cheer and parents fear. When we reopen, the emotions trade places. I'm now in the queue for fear -- a line that many parents stood in for the past two weeks when they again had to scramble to figure out what to do with their kids in the absence of school-based childcare. I don't begrudge them for feeling what they do, and I get where it comes from. Just as I feel I've been left out in the cold in this (quite literally, given our open windows), so too have they. Cascading failures of leadership and planning have created a morass of foreseen outcomes that are sadly unchangeable due to our ability to only act in the most ineffectual and reactive of manners. We're seeing the frictions of a shared helplessness that make us believe different segments of our community are at odds, when in reality we should be aligned against a common enemy of humanity -- an uncompromising virus that has stolen from us not just the lives and health of many, but the safety, security, and trust we are supposed to have in our own society.

        10 votes
        1. [3]
          cfabbro
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          You should consider taking all that out of the <details> element, since that was a great (albeit depressing) read, and is worthy of being shared openly, IMO. I would honestly even suggest you turn...

          You should consider taking all that out of the <details> element, since that was a great (albeit depressing) read, and is worthy of being shared openly, IMO. I would honestly even suggest you turn it into a fully-fledged article, and submit it to a newspaper as an opinion piece!

          This part in particular resonated with me a great deal, and isn't being talked about nearly enough, IMO:

          Everyone talks about the supposed benefits for mental health of in-person learning for kids, but seemingly no one talks about the damage to mental health of putting kids in a known harm’s way. Part of why I consider much of the advocacy on this topic to be in bad faith is because it doesn’t start nor end with students’ genuine feelings. It simply presumes that students feel bad when schools aren’t open and feel good when they are, but I can speak definitively, on behalf of my students, that many of them feel worse when they have to attend in person.

          p.s. You are 100% getting an exemplary from me when I get another one back to give. That was an excellent, eye-opening, and thought provoking comment. Thanks for sharing your perspective on this topic (and for being a wonderful, considerate, and thoughtful teacher and person too).

          10 votes
          1. [2]
            kfwyre
            Link Parent
            Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate that you have faith in them. I feel I would be remiss if I don't point out that I don't believe they would be received well with a wider audience, nor...

            Thanks for the kind words. I appreciate that you have faith in them. I feel I would be remiss if I don't point out that I don't believe they would be received well with a wider audience, nor should they. I bring a specific gravity to my posts here because I want people to understand my experiences, but what's missing are the gravities of people far more deserving of public empathy right now.

            My situation pales in comparison to retail workers, who are risking infection and dealing with difficult customers daily. Restaurants and other social businesses have been put in impossible situations. Waitstaff who live off of tips have seen their incomes slow to a trickle or stop altogether. Healthcare workers are by far the most egregiously wronged here, seeing the worst of this deadly disease on their job and then continued widespread denial of it when they check their social media feeds.

            Yes, I believe teachers have been dealt a shit hand, but I also believe nearly everyone has been dealt a shit hand, and I am no more deserving of empathy than others. I would far rather people focus their energies and goodwill towards those who are fighting this pandemic, caring for the sick, and maintaining/distributing food and other essentials than I would for someone like me, who has maintained employment and has relative control over my environment. There are many more than me who are hurting right now, and many of them don't have the energy like I do to sit down and articulate their situations. In some ways sharing what I've shared here pulls focus from their plights, and in that way I believe my words should be met with a critical eye rather than an affirming one. I believe there are people who would read what I have written here and respond very negatively, and I ultimately believe that many of them have every right to feel that way.

            8 votes
            1. cfabbro
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              You're too humble for your own good sometimes, IMO. ;) Just because there are other people with other problems working in other areas of employment during this pandemic, doesn't mean your field...

              You're too humble for your own good sometimes, IMO. ;) Just because there are other people with other problems working in other areas of employment during this pandemic, doesn't mean your field and perspective on it doesn't have enough merit to share with the wider public. I think the topic and issues related to it that you covered are important ones, and many people (my father included, who keeps railing against the school closures here in Ontario) needs to hear perspectives exactly like yours.

              I was being entirely serious when I suggested you should rewrite your comment to be more widely read as an opinion piece. You have a way with words, and I think an article written by you about this could genuinely do some good, by potentially changing some people's minds on the subject... or at least make them stop to consider things a bit more before they make a final judgment on school closures and reopenings.

              7 votes
        2. [3]
          spit-evil-olive-tips
          Link Parent
          Holy crap. I knew in an abstract way that in-person school must be terrible right now, but I don't have kids and everyone I know who has school-age kids is doing remote learning, so these details...

          In person they stay in the same desk all day, wearing an uncomfortable mask in a freezing room, where they're not even allowed to get up and move around without permission.

          Holy crap. I knew in an abstract way that in-person school must be terrible right now, but I don't have kids and everyone I know who has school-age kids is doing remote learning, so these details of the day-to-day experience hadn't really sunk in.

          This...this is...what's the word for something that's almost torture, but not quite?

          5 votes
          1. kfwyre
            Link Parent
            Something I haven't talked about: my students are badasses! They have met the restrictions and frustrations this year with incredible maturity. I am genuinely proud of how seriously they take...

            Something I haven't talked about: my students are badasses! They have met the restrictions and frustrations this year with incredible maturity. I am genuinely proud of how seriously they take things and how well they've dealt with the myriad unfairnesses thrust upon them.

            5 votes
          2. MimicSquid
            Link Parent
            Torture. And with the knowledge that you'll be back there over and over again due to institutional forces who chose that for you.

            Torture. And with the knowledge that you'll be back there over and over again due to institutional forces who chose that for you.

            5 votes
        3. Atvelonis
          Link Parent
          Thank you for the detailed and candid response. Reading about your experience in the "COVID classroom" in such depth is informative, and I feel I have a much better understanding of the complexity...

          Thank you for the detailed and candid response. Reading about your experience in the "COVID classroom" in such depth is informative, and I feel I have a much better understanding of the complexity of the situation now. I hope you and your students get through the following weeks in good health.

          5 votes
    2. [2]
      NoblePath
      Link Parent
      Where are you? If you are uncomfortable identifying precise destrict, mayby general description (e.g medium southern city in a tech corridor (how I describe my home coty of Raleigh)).

      Where are you? If you are uncomfortable identifying precise destrict, mayby general description (e.g medium southern city in a tech corridor (how I describe my home coty of Raleigh)).

      2 votes
      1. kfwyre
        Link Parent
        I'm not interested in identifying my location -- even a general one. Sorry.

        I'm not interested in identifying my location -- even a general one. Sorry.

        6 votes
  3. [3]
    spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    Honolulu Police Spent $150,000 In CARES Funds On A Robot Dog

    Honolulu Police Spent $150,000 In CARES Funds On A Robot Dog

    As for its use helping Honolulu combat COVID-19, the city’s spending data says Spot was purchased to take people’s temperatures at HPD’s tent city for homeless people.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      cfabbro
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I know it sounds a bit ridiculous and overkill, but to be fair to Honolulu PD, Boston Dynamic actually does market Spot for this purpose, and they also offer addons specifically designed to assist...

      I know it sounds a bit ridiculous and overkill, but to be fair to Honolulu PD, Boston Dynamic actually does market Spot for this purpose, and they also offer addons specifically designed to assist with telemedicine, remote vitals checking, and remote disinfection/sterilization. See:

      Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot is helping hospitals remotely treat coronavirus patients
      https://www.bostondynamics.com/COVID-19
      https://github.com/boston-dynamics/bosdyn-hospital-bot

      7 votes
      1. Omnicrola
        Link Parent
        Also, in perspective, they received ~$23m in total. As far as I can tell, they only bought one Spot. Is it strictly necessary? Maybe not. But their point about not paying more overtime to officers...

        Also, in perspective, they received ~$23m in total. As far as I can tell, they only bought one Spot. Is it strictly necessary? Maybe not. But their point about not paying more overtime to officers ($18m) is a reasonable one. Even if it's a failed experiment and the robot doesn't work out.

        2 votes
  4. [2]
    skybrian
    Link
    Ireland had one of the lowest coronavirus rates in Europe. It’s now highest in the world [...] [...]

    Ireland had one of the lowest coronavirus rates in Europe. It’s now highest in the world

    Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin said Monday that people mixing over Christmas and the arrival of the new variant created a “perfect storm.”

    He noted that the latest testing showed 42 out of 92 new samples were positive for the variant — so nearly half.

    [...]

    Former CDC director Tom Frieden tweeted about the “exponential increases” in Ireland and Britain.

    “I’ve never seen an epidemic curve like this, and the curve is with lockdown. If the variant becomes common the U.S., it’s close to a worst-case scenario, with a baseline of full hospitals,” he said.

    [...]

    Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar noted that the third wave was lashing many European countries and said it was “too simplistic . . . to say that if one thing had been done differently, everything would be fine.”

    He suggested five factors may have contributed to Ireland’s spike: the opening up of hospitality in December, the mixing of households, people fanning out across the country before Christmas, noncompliance at funerals and wakes and the rise of shebeens (illicit drinking shops), and the new variant.

    6 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      Pfizer to reduce vaccine deliveries to Europe [...]

      Pfizer to reduce vaccine deliveries to Europe

      Pfizer will temporarily reduce deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine to Europe while it upgrades its production capacity to two billion doses a year. However, the company confirmed on Friday night that the move will only impact supplies next week.

      [...]

      Pfizer is increasing its output of the vaccine from 1.3 billion doses to two billion. Of this, 260 million extra doses will be achieved by taking six full doses from each vial instead of the original five. The upgrade of the company’s Puurs plant in Belgium will deliver the additional 440 million doses this year.

      1 vote
  5. [2]
    skybrian
    Link
    States were anticipating a windfall after federal officials said they would stop holding back second doses. But the approach had already changed, and no stockpile exists [...]

    States were anticipating a windfall after federal officials said they would stop holding back second doses. But the approach had already changed, and no stockpile exists

    Because both of the vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States are two-dose regimens, the Trump administration’s initial policy was to hold back second doses to protect against the possibility of manufacturing disruptions. But that approach shifted in recent weeks, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

    These officials were told that Operation Warp Speed, which is overseeing the distribution of vaccines, stopped stockpiling second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the end of last year. The last shots held in reserve of Moderna’s supply, meanwhile, began shipping out over the weekend.

    [...]

    HHS spokesman Michael Pratt confirmed in an email that the final reserve of second doses had been released to states for order over the weekend but did not address Azar’s comments this week, saying only, “Operation Warp Speed has been monitoring manufacturing closely, and always intended to transition from holding second doses in reserve as manufacturing stabilizes and we gained confidence in the ability for a consistent flow of vaccines.”

    5 votes
    1. cfabbro
      Link Parent
      Worth noting is that Pfizer came out with a statement somewhat contradicting that WaPo report: Pfizer says it has second doses of COVID-19 shot on hand, expects no U.S. supply problems

      Worth noting is that Pfizer came out with a statement somewhat contradicting that WaPo report:
      Pfizer says it has second doses of COVID-19 shot on hand, expects no U.S. supply problems

      Pfizer Inc has been holding on to second doses for each of its COVID-19 vaccinations at the request of the federal government and anticipates no problems supplying them to Americans, a spokeswoman said in a statement on Friday.

      Pfizer’s comments run counter to a report in the Washington Post that the federal government ran down its vaccine reserve in late December and has no remaining reserves of doses on hand.

      “Operation Warp Speed has asked us to start shipping second doses only recently,” the spokeswoman said. “As a result, we have on hand all the second doses of the previous shipments to the US.”

      2 votes
  6. skybrian
    Link
    Coronavirus shutdowns have quashed nearly all other common viruses. But scientists say a rebound is coming. [...] [...] [...]

    Coronavirus shutdowns have quashed nearly all other common viruses. But scientists say a rebound is coming.

    Veteran virus trackers say they are chronicling something never before seen — the suppression of virtually every common respiratory and gastrointestinal virus besides the novel coronavirus. They theorize that is largely due to global shutdowns, mask-wearing and a host of other health protocols aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus.

    These other viruses — including influenza A, influenza B, parainfluenza, norovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human metapneumovirus — all appear to be circulating at or near levels lower than ever previously measured. The same is true for the respiratory bacteria that cause pertussis, better known as whooping cough, and pneumonia.

    [...]

    The possibility of a rebound is not merely theoretical: It appears to be happening already in Australia. Official reports showed historically low levels of flu-like illness among children and adults beginning in May, usually the start of flu season in that hemisphere. The sharp decline in cases came as the country imposed strict shutdown measures. But in the last few months, after the coronavirus was virtually obliterated and the country ended those restrictions, the number of flu cases among children aged 5 and younger began to soar, rising sixfold by December, when such cases are usually at their lowest.

    [...]

    The question, of course, is why SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19, continues to spread like wildfire when so many other viruses have been crushed. The primary answer, epidemiologists say, goes back to that “wildfire” metaphor. Nobody on Earth had been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 before its emergence last year in China, and so we were all fully susceptible. (Similarly, the indigenous populations of North and South America were devastated when Europeans brought with them not just smallpox, but also chickenpox, cholera, influenza, measles, and other pathogens to which they had never been exposed.)

    [...]

    Viral interference could also help explain a deep mystery about the coronavirus: why so few children are getting severely sick from it. As it happens, one of the only endemic viruses still circulating widely now is rhinovirus, which typically causes the common cold. And according to Meyers, “Rhinovirus is circulating only in pediatric populations. It’s been wiped out in adults.”

    4 votes
  7. skybrian
    Link
    Large trial of new treatment begins in UK

    Large trial of new treatment begins in UK

    Britain on Tuesday began a large-scale trial of a new COVID-19 treatment in which patients inhale aerosolized interferon beta proteins into the lungs with a nebulizer. The treatment, developed at Southampton University Hospital and produced by biotech firm Synairgen, cut the odds of COVID-19 patients developing severe symptoms by nearly 80 percent, according to a small, phase 2 trial of 100 patients. The new phase 3 study involves more than 600 subjects in 20 countries, half of whom will get the treatment and half a placebo inhalant.

    4 votes
  8. skybrian
    Link
    Ohio researchers say they’ve identified two new Covid strains likely originating in the U.S [...] [...]

    Ohio researchers say they’ve identified two new Covid strains likely originating in the U.S

    Researchers in Ohio said Wednesday that they’ve discovered two new variants of the coronavirus that likely originated in the U.S. — one of which quickly became the dominant strain in Columbus, Ohio, over a three-week period in late December and early January.

    [...]

    The Ohio State University researchers have not yet published their full findings, but said a non-peer-reviewed study is forthcoming. Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement to CNBC that the agency is looking at the new research.

    [...]

    Jones added that it’s too early to determine how much more infectious the strain in Columbus might be, but researchers believe it’s likely more contagious just based on how quickly it’s spread over the past few weeks.

    4 votes
  9. spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    Biden’s plan to fix the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, explained Direct link to the fact sheet released by Biden's campaign (4-page PDF)

    Biden’s plan to fix the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, explained

    President-elect Joe Biden announced a plan on Friday for what will likely be his most pressing challenge when he takes the White House next week: fixing America’s messy Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

    Above all, the plan aims for something that President Donald Trump’s administration didn’t do with Covid-19 more broadly and the vaccine in particular: greater federal involvement. The Trump administration has repeatedly pushed against that concept — going as far as characterizing more support to help states actually get shots in arms as a “federal invasion.” Biden has rejected that rhetoric, calling for a bigger role by the feds and cementing it with his plan.

    Direct link to the fact sheet released by Biden's campaign (4-page PDF)

    4 votes
  10. skybrian
    (edited )
    Link
    California Covid-19 Vaccine Availability is a website that launched this morning about where the vaccine is available in California. This happened after Patrick McKenzie (patio11) sent a call to...

    California Covid-19 Vaccine Availability is a website that launched this morning about where the vaccine is available in California.

    This happened after Patrick McKenzie (patio11) sent a call to action on Twitter two days ago. Fast work!

    Here is this morning's announcement. He's relying on volunteering from people he actually knows. (Due to trust issues.)

    4 votes
  11. cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    I tested the dumbest PPE of all time - the Rich Guy COVID Helmet Worth clicking on for the ridiculous pics alone (don't miss the slideshow), but the writing is also pretty funny too.

    I tested the dumbest PPE of all time - the Rich Guy COVID Helmet

    Worth clicking on for the ridiculous pics alone (don't miss the slideshow), but the writing is also pretty funny too.

    4 votes
  12. skybrian
    Link
    California COVID surge shows early signs of leveling off

    California COVID surge shows early signs of leveling off

    The number of newly hospitalized coronavirus patients statewide has declined to 2,500 admissions every 24 hours over the past two days from a previous daily average of about 3,500 new admissions, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in an online briefing with reporters.

    Ghaly called it “the biggest signal to me that things are beginning to flatten and potentially improve.”

    He cited several other promising trends, including a slowdown in confirmed daily case numbers - 36,487 reported Tuesday, down from a seven-day average of about 42,000 cases every 24 hours - and a leveling off in the rate of diagnostic tests coming back positive, stabilizing at 13.5% after weeks of a steep upward climb.

    3 votes
  13. spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    In New Jersey, smokers can now get the coronavirus vaccine before teachers or public transit workers Interesting medical ethics decision playing out in real time.

    In New Jersey, smokers can now get the coronavirus vaccine before teachers or public transit workers

    Interesting medical ethics decision playing out in real time.

    State officials say smokers should be a priority for the nearly 732,000 doses New Jersey has received so far because, just like those suffering from other underlying medical conditions, they run the risk of experiencing more severe covid-19 symptoms.

    “This would not be a group that would bubble up to high priority,” Eric Topol, a cardiologist and the founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, told The Washington Post. “Just smoking doesn’t cut it in my view,” arguing that only smokers also suffering from a chronic respiratory condition should get early vaccines.

    3 votes
  14. cfabbro
    Link
    Yelp data shows 60% of [US] business closures due to the coronavirus pandemic are now permanent

    Yelp data shows 60% of [US] business closures due to the coronavirus pandemic are now permanent

    Yelp on Wednesday released its latest Economic Impact Report, revealing business closures across the U.S. are increasing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic's economic toll.

    As of Aug. 31, some 163,735 businesses have indicated on Yelp that they have closed. That's down from the 180,000 that closed at the very beginning of the pandemic. However, it actually shows a 23% increase in the number of closures since mid-July.

    In addition to monitoring closed businesses, Yelp also takes into account the businesses whose closures have become permanent. That number has steadily increased throughout the past six months, now reaching 97,966, representing 60% of closed businesses that won't be reopening.

    Different states are also facing varying degrees of closures, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Yelp sees a correlation between states with a high number of closures and states with a high unemployment rate. Looking at closures per 1,000 for each state, Hawaii has been hit the hardest, followed by California, Nevada, Arizona and Washington state. Hawaii's unemployment rate sat at 13% in July, and the state also relies heavily on tourism.

    3 votes
  15. skybrian
    Link
    Tipsters, tech-savvy kids, pharmacy hopping: How Americans are landing coronavirus vaccines It seems crazy how bad they are at managing demand. It would have made sense to bring the age...

    Tipsters, tech-savvy kids, pharmacy hopping: How Americans are landing coronavirus vaccines

    It seems crazy how bad they are at managing demand. It would have made sense to bring the age requirement down gradually, by one year every few days or something like that. It would make it very obvious when to start looking, and it wouldn’t be so many people at once.

    3 votes
  16. skybrian
    Link
    California has nearly 2 million unused doses of vaccine even as demand soars. Here’s why [...] [...] Meanwhile, according to @nwilliams030 on Twitter: So apparently federal government stopped...

    California has nearly 2 million unused doses of vaccine even as demand soars. Here’s why

    Many counties say the doses they have in freezers already have been scheduled for release to patients. Or they may hold on to vials of doses until they have a large group of people to inoculate at once, since the temperature-sensitive vaccines must be used quickly before they expire.

    Given the inconsistent vaccine supply coming from the federal government, some providers may also hold on to some doses longer to make sure people who have received their first dose can get a second one of the same type of vaccine.

    In Contra Costa County, 72,000 doses have been allocated to providers and just 36,000 had been administered as of Friday. But many of the remaining doses are accounted for.

    “The county is not just sitting on the other 36,000 doses,” Dr. Ori Tzvieli, the deputy health officer, said Friday. “We have scheduled thousands of people to receive those doses in the next coming days and weeks.”

    Similarly, in San Francisco, about 40% of the doses the city’s health system has received — about 14,000 out of 34,000 — have been injected. The remaining 20,000 have been designated for eligible residents, including health care workers, and are expected to be injected by next week.

    Those examples explain why some doses are sitting in storage, but it’s not clear why two-thirds of the state’s vaccine supply hasn’t been used — putting the nation’s largest state far behind West Virginia, the Dakotas and most other states in the proportion of population that has been vaccinated.

    The state says it may be partly due to a data reporting lag: Counties and health systems may not always immediately report doses injected. But California’s fractured, complicated distribution system makes it nearly impossible to tell where vaccine has gone and how much of it has been administered.

    [...]

    The state never physically receives any vaccine, said a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health. The doses go straight to county health departments and large health care providers from Pfizer, which makes one of the vaccines, or McKesson, which distributes the other vaccine, made by Moderna.

    [...]

    Many counties don’t know how many doses are going to private providers in their county because some of those providers are getting doses directly from the state. Nor do they know how many doses are going to CVS and Walgreens, which are vaccinating nursing home residents in California as part of a federal pharmacy program. (The federal government has a more direct role in allocating doses to the drugstore chains’ nursing home program than it does to other providers; the Department of Public Health says shots administered through this program are not counted in the state’s vaccine numbers.)

    Meanwhile, according to @nwilliams030 on Twitter:

    Calling pharmacies for the community-sourced California Vaccine info doc ( @ca_covid ) - pretty unreal to hear pharmacists say they have the vaccine inventory at their pharmacy and have state approval but are just waiting on county approval

    So apparently federal government stopped hoarding second doses, only to have California counties do it. This is what just-in-time inventory systems are supposed to fix. I guess they'll have to be reinvented? But it requires trust within the supply chain that new inventory will be there.

    Even saving doses for a week or two means that many people not vaccinated in the meantime, and the more infectious variants are coming...

    3 votes
  17. skybrian
    Link
    Coffey County Health Department nurses decline to give the COVID vaccine

    Coffey County Health Department nurses decline to give the COVID vaccine

    The Coffey County Health Department [in Kansas] is preparing to help distribute the COVID-19 vaccine ahead of the end of this month for Phase 2 of the state’s plan; however, none of their 4 nurses will actually be administering it.

    In a call with 13 News Wednesday (Jan. 13), health department administrator Lindsay Payer says that neither she nor her staff “feel comfortable” giving the vaccine. Instead, the county health department will contract with at least one outside nurse to give the vaccine and possibly other providers.

    3 votes
  18. spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    How a Well-Meaning Health Policy Created California’s Coronavirus Nightmare

    How a Well-Meaning Health Policy Created California’s Coronavirus Nightmare

    The health-care system in California is fraying because the state has tried to run its health system efficiently. The principles are simple: Keep patients out of hospitals, funnel people to primary-care doctors, and don’t build hospitals you don’t need. In normal times, that strategy would make perfect sense. Typically, doctors’ trying to treat patients outside of hospitals is smart. Medical advances mean that procedures such as mole removals and knee replacements can be done in just a few hours instead of a few days. And holding patients in hospital beds is much more expensive than sending them home, while people languishing in hospitals risk acquiring infections.

    2 votes
  19. skybrian
    Link
    Is Your Covid Vaccine Venue Prepared to Handle Rare, Life-Threatening Reactions [...]

    Is Your Covid Vaccine Venue Prepared to Handle Rare, Life-Threatening Reactions

    Of the more than 6 million people in the U.S. who have received shots of the two new covid vaccines, at least 29 have suffered anaphylaxis, a severe and dangerous reaction that can constrict airways and send the body into shock, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Such incidents have been rare — about 5.5 cases for every million doses of vaccine administered in the U.S. between mid-December and early January — and the patients recovered. For most people, the risk of getting the coronavirus is far higher than the risk of a vaccine reaction and is not a reason to avoid the shots, Grayson said.

    [...]

    “We are really pushing to make sure that anybody administering vaccines needs not just to have the EpiPen available but, frankly, to know how to use it,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a call with reporters. She was referring to a common epinephrine injector that many people with severe allergies carry with them. Those health care workers must also know the warning signs of the need for advanced care, she added.

    2 votes
  20. skybrian
    Link
    The Magical Extra Doses and Supply Chain Optimization [...]

    The Magical Extra Doses and Supply Chain Optimization

    As pharmacists began vaccinations using the Pfizer vaccine some of them discovered that it was possible to extract a 6th or even 7th dose from a standard 5-dose vial. Where were the extra doses coming from? The fortuitous discovery was not due to over-filling. The vials contained just 5 doses when using standard syringes. But some of the vaccine distribution sites had access to low dead-volume syringes, syringes that leave less vaccine trapped between the plunger and needle — the “dead volume” — after a shot is given. Thus, less vaccine was wasted in the syringe and more available for putting into arms using the low dead-volume syringes.

    [...]

    The catch? Not all syringes provided by Operation Warp Speed and Pfizer are low dead-volume syringes so not every vaccine distribution site is getting the extra doses.

    2 votes
  21. skybrian
    Link
    Brazil airlifts emergency oxygen into pandemic-struck state, vaccine drive lags [...] [...] [...]

    Brazil airlifts emergency oxygen into pandemic-struck state, vaccine drive lags

    Doctors in Amazonas were using their own vehicles to transport patients, as locals sought to buy oxygen tanks on the black market, according to media reports. Desperate relatives, protesting outside hospitals in the state capital of Manaus, said patients had been taken off ventilators as oxygen ran out.

    Health authorities there said oxygen supplies had run out at some hospitals and intensive care wards were so full that scores of patients were being airlifted to other states. Doctors reported sharing oxygen between patients, alternating every 10 minutes.

    The Air Force flew cylinders with 9,300 kilograms of oxygen in from Sao Paulo state with another cargo expected on Friday. It said a flight carried nine patients from Manaus to Teresina in northeastern Brazil, and evacuations will continue with two planes taking patients to six cities.

    Officials had planned to airlift 61 premature babies in incubators out of Manaus, but the relocation ultimately was not needed because emergency oxygen supplies were procured.

    [...]

    Brazilians protested against the right-wing president’s handling of the health crisis on Friday night. Residents of the country’s largest cities banged on pots and pans from their windows, many shouting “Out with Bolsonaro” and some crying “genocide.” The protest on social media was labeled #Brazilsuffocated.

    [...]

    Brazil is now dealing with a snowballing second wave and a new, potentially more contagious, coronavirus variant that originated in Amazonas and prompted Britain on Thursday to bar entry to Brazilians.

    [...]

    The hoped-for 2 million AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute now face delays while India decides whether to loosen export regulations as it begins its own inoculation drive this weekend, a source briefed on the matter said.

    India, which is starting the world’s largest vaccination campaign on Saturday, should decide on whether to export vaccines within the next few weeks, Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told Reuters this week.

    2 votes
  22. skybrian
    Link
    A black market for illegal coronavirus vaccines is thriving in the Philippines [...]

    A black market for illegal coronavirus vaccines is thriving in the Philippines

    No coronavirus vaccine has been approved for general use in the Philippines, nor is one expected to arrive, officially, until at least February. It is illegal to import unauthorized pharmaceuticals. But soaring demand among Chinese workers, many of them employed in the Philippines’ lucrative online casinos catering to gamblers in China, is driving a black market where vaccine doses are sold for many times the standard $30 price in China.

    [...]

    The bootleg vaccines aren’t limited to Chinese workers. In late December, President Rodrigo Duterte said members of the Philippine military had already taken the coronavirus vaccine from Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company. Members of the president’s security group admitted they had received the shots, angering ordinary Filipinos who are grappling with one of the region’s worst outbreaks yet lack access to vaccines. (Sinopharm’s vaccine has been approved for general use in China, but not in the Philippines; the company did not respond to requests for comment.)

    2 votes
  23. skybrian
    Link
    Looking at “our world in data”, about half of confirmed US COVID-19 cases happened since mid-November. It’s an exponential curve with a doubling time of two months. Worldwide, cases have doubled...

    Looking at “our world in data”, about half of confirmed US COVID-19 cases happened since mid-November. It’s an exponential curve with a doubling time of two months.

    Worldwide, cases have doubled since the start of November for a doubling time of two and a half months.

    Carl Bergstrom suggests this might be why we see more mutations now, and we should expect to see more soon.

    2 votes
  24. cfabbro
    Link
    COVID-19 reduced U.S. life expectancy, especially among Black and Latino populations

    COVID-19 reduced U.S. life expectancy, especially among Black and Latino populations

    The COVID-19 pandemic, which claimed more than 336,000 lives in the United States in 2020, has significantly affected life expectancy, USC and Princeton researchers have found.

    The researchers project that, due to the pandemic deaths last year, life expectancy at birth for Americans will shorten by 1.13 years to 77.48 years, according to their study published Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    That is the largest single-year decline in life expectancy in at least 40 years and is the lowest life expectancy estimated since 2003.

    The declines in life expectancy are likely even starker among Black and Latino communities. For Blacks, the researchers project their life expectancy would shorten by 2.10 years to 72.78 years, and for Latinos, by 3.05 years to 78.77 years.

    Whites are also impacted, but their projected decline is much smaller — 0.68 years — to a life expectancy of 77.84 years.

    Overall, the gap in life expectancy between Blacks and whites is projected to widen by 40%, from 3.6 to more than 5 years — further evidence of the disease’s disparate impact on minority populations.

    1 vote