8 votes

Weekly coronavirus-related chat, questions, and minor updates - week of September 20

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!

26 comments

  1. [7]
    skybrian
    Link
    The Unbelievable Grimness of HermanCainAward, the Subreddit That Catalogs Anti-Vaxxer COVID Deaths (Slate)

    The Unbelievable Grimness of HermanCainAward, the Subreddit That Catalogs Anti-Vaxxer COVID Deaths (Slate)

    I began reading because I wanted to understand how pro-social impulses could get coarsened to the point where advocates for lifesaving measures like vaccines—people who think of themselves as the good guys—are literally celebrating deaths. I’m no closer to understanding that, but something very strange did happen because I read these records: Despite reading loads of statistics and case histories and news articles about the pandemic, r/HermanCainAward became my most thorough source on what it’s like for a person to die from COVID. I understand the disease more deeply because I have read so many viciously curated “stories” in which ordinary people blathering about politics end up narrating their decline from it—with help from their families—as optimistically as they can. They are younger than COVID patients used to be. Trying to put a positive spin on things. Soliciting prayers. Generally avoiding conversions. They do not expect to die. It’s relentless reading. And it keeps ending up the same way. Only health care workers have seen this many people decline and die.

    11 votes
    1. [2]
      spit-evil-olive-tips
      Link Parent
      from the article: from the subreddit: A gentle reminder to any journalists who will/want to write about this sub: NONE OF US WANTS THIS SUB TO EXIST. there are also several comments disputing this...
      • Exemplary

      from the article:

      It is cruel, a site for heartless and unrepentant schadenfreude. This is a place where deaths are celebrated, and it is not the only one.

      from the subreddit:

      A gentle reminder to any journalists who will/want to write about this sub: NONE OF US WANTS THIS SUB TO EXIST.

      I’m sick of violent conspiracy theorist kooks receiving more sympathy in the press than their victims. What’s happening with the pandemic now is what happens when you coddle batshit.

      The problem with journalists like the one who wrote the Slate article targeting this sub, is that they COMPLETELY IGNORE (perhaps even deliberately) all of the misinformation that this sub is very clearly and methodically pointing out - the deaths are just final recognition of damage being done by misinformation. THAT should be the focus of the articles, and why targeted and pervasive vaccine misinformation is still allowed to flourish online, on FB, Twitter, and even on other Reddit subs.

      Why not write an article on all the parts of Reddit that are actively killing people by spreading misinformation regarding Covid / masks / vaccines etc? Start with r/conservative and r/conspiracy and then there are a hundred others even after that.

      there are also several comments disputing this line from the article:

      Even using Cain as the model is uncharitable; he was actually among the conservatives who didn’t deny that COVID was real. He advocated following CDC guidelines including social distancing and even masks on his radio show, despite not always adhering to those recommendations himself.

      he might have said some CYA-type things on his radio show, I'm not sure because transcripts aren't easy to find and the article doesn't cite a source. but:

      Just before announcing his diagnosis on July 2, Cain posted support for not mandating masks at a July 4 event at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota that Trump was planning to attend.

      “Masks will not be mandatory for the event, which will be attended by President Trump. PEOPLE ARE FED UP!” he tweeted.

      it is absolutely not accurate to portray Cain as one of the "sane" conservatives on covid. Mitt Romney is the only person in that category who comes to mind.

      19 votes
    2. [4]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      This put into words something I've been feeling but unable to express. I find myself frustrated at how normalized cheering on COVID has become, but I also find myself baffled at how "light" COVID...

      And yet: Chilled though I’ve been by how this subreddit can rejoice at a death, I’m somehow no less chilled by how easily the bereaved normalize their losses. A 35-year-old man with three young children and a free vaccine available should not be dead! There is astonishingly little recognition of this.

      This put into words something I've been feeling but unable to express.

      I find myself frustrated at how normalized cheering on COVID has become, but I also find myself baffled at how "light" COVID losses seem. Hundreds of thousands of people have died in the US alone, with millions worldwide. There should be some weight to that, but it doesn't feel like it has any heft. There's an emptiness to the deaths, both at scale and at an individual level, that I haven't really figured out how to process. I feel like we're living with a sort of pervasive emotional hollowness, and I can't help but wonder if a lack of mourning for the dead and a corresponding cheering on of certain deaths both come from within that void.

      12 votes
      1. [3]
        joplin
        Link Parent
        Do you know anyone who has died from COVID? I have one friend who had to have heart surgery during the pandemic before the vaccine existed. He was a science-believer who took the precautions you...

        Do you know anyone who has died from COVID? I have one friend who had to have heart surgery during the pandemic before the vaccine existed. He was a science-believer who took the precautions you would expect. He recovered and was doing well, then had to go back into surgery for some acute symptoms, and he never came out. It's not clear whether his problems in the second case were COVID-related or not. I didn't want to ask his spouse. But it seemed like COVID probably complicated things.

        That is as close as I've gotten to someone close to me dying from COVID. The rest of my friends and family are also science-believers who did a reasonably good job of distancing before the vaccine, and have all gotten the vaccine since. So for us, COVID deaths are all at arms length – things we see on TV or read about, not things we've actually experienced. They're terrifying, but I haven't had to deal with them face-to-face very much.

        On the other side, the people dying from it now are the unvaccinated. They're mostly non-believers who don't think COVID is real. There are all these stories of nurses and doctors having to subdue patients who get belligerent when told they have COVID and don't believe it. Morgues, particularly in the South, are being asked not to put COVID on death certificates because it would upset the family, and many are apparently complying. So from where they stand, nobody's dying from COVID. The numbers on the news are "fake". They don't personally know anyone who died of COVID because how can you die from something that doesn't exist?

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          kfwyre
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Sorry about your friend. And I get what you mean. I also had a friend die during the pandemic -- not from COVID but from cancer -- and even that hasn't felt as real to me as it should because it...

          Sorry about your friend. And I get what you mean. I also had a friend die during the pandemic -- not from COVID but from cancer -- and even that hasn't felt as real to me as it should because it began when we were all in isolation and then even after we came out of that we couldn't visit him. He died without us having seen him in person, at a distance from everyone. If I'm being brutally honest, its impact was lessened for me because of that, despite the fact that I know that, for him, it was far worse because of it. I wish it weren't like that, but it's the honest truth. I hate myself for that sometimes.

          As for COVID, here's what it looks like in my circles, for people who have some immediate connection to me:

          • 2 deaths (neither of whom I was close to)
          • 2 hospitalizations (one of whom I was quite close to)
          • 2 long-COVID cases (one of whom I worked directly with)

          If I go one degree out, to involve friends-of-friends or that sort of thing, the numbers get much higher. If I include my students in that, it skyrockets, especially if we're including non-health outcomes like job losses. I also personally haven't had COVID but have suffered from it directly, in terms of fear of contracting it, concern for others, and just how it disrupted everything. Last school year was hellish for me, and I consider myself lucky I kept my job and am not a healthcare worker.

          I don't have answers for the horror stories we're seeing, and your last sentence is a salient one. At this point I don't know what will reach those who still can't see it. I hate to write people off as lost causes, but I also don't know how you or me or anyone can get through to someone displaying such selfish, unrepentant obstinance.

          7 votes
          1. joplin
            Link Parent
            I’m so sorry that you also lost your friend. I agree that the distance the pandemic caused made everything weirder. Don’t beat yourself up, though. You didn’t cause the pandemic or put yourself in...

            I’m so sorry that you also lost your friend. I agree that the distance the pandemic caused made everything weirder. Don’t beat yourself up, though. You didn’t cause the pandemic or put yourself in that position.

            4 votes
  2. skybrian
    Link
    Closest known relatives of virus behind COVID-19 found in Laos […] […]

    Closest known relatives of virus behind COVID-19 found in Laos

    Scientists have found three viruses in bats in Laos that are more similar to SARS-CoV-2 than any known viruses. Researchers say that parts of their genetic code bolster claims that the virus behind COVID-19 has a natural origin — but their discovery also raises fears that there are numerous coronaviruses with the potential to infect people.

    […]

    Together with relatives of SARS-CoV-2 discovered in Thailand2, Cambodia3 and Yunnan in southern China4, the study demonstrates that southeast Asia is a “hotspot of diversity for SARS-CoV-2 related viruses”, says Alice Latinne, an evolutionary biologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society Vietnam in Hanoi.

    […]

    The Laos study offers insight into the origins of the pandemic, but there are still missing links, say researchers. For example, the Laos viruses don’t contain the so-called furin cleavage site on the spike protein that further aids the entry of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses into human cells.

    The study also doesn’t clarify how a progenitor of the virus could have travelled to Wuhan, in central China, where the first known cases of COVID-19 were identified — or whether the virus hitched a ride on an intermediate animal.

    9 votes
  3. Omnicrola
    Link
    Rural Hospitals Worry They Will Lose Staff Because Of Biden's New Vaccine Mandate ... This is so stupid. The CDC has recommended that healthcare workers have a battery of vaccines for various...

    Rural Hospitals Worry They Will Lose Staff Because Of Biden's New Vaccine Mandate

    Willmann has been pushing hard to get all of his 250 employees to take one of the COVID-19 vaccines, but staff vaccination has topped out at around 70%. That's well above the rate in the surrounding community, but still not enough.

    ...

    "It's a scene that you're going to see repeated throughout the United States," said Mee. "I've been in health care for 34 years, and I've never seen anything like this before."

    This is so stupid. The CDC has recommended that healthcare workers have a battery of vaccines for various diseases for years. I can't find the policy on a specific hospital, but this 2017 MDHHS survey shows that 77% of the 165 hospitals in Michigan had a mandatory flu and TDAP vaccine policy in place for their employees. This isn't new, or unusual, at all.

    9 votes
  4. [3]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    Alberta asks Ottawa for immediate help to airlift COVID-19 patients out of the province The request conveniently timed for after the election, of course. ಠ_ಠ

    Alberta asks Ottawa for immediate help to airlift COVID-19 patients out of the province

    Alberta's UCP government is asking Ottawa for immediate help to lessen pressure on the province's health-care system, which is overburdened with COVID-19 patients.

    Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver formally requested aid and an immediate meeting with federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair in a Tuesday letter.

    He asked for the federal government to provide aero-medical evacuation capability to relocate patients out of Alberta, and intensive care unit (ICU) registered nurses and respiratory therapists to assist in Alberta's critical care response.

    Alberta's ICU capacity is currently at 87 per cent, but without added surge beds — which health-care workers have said are not adequately staffed — the province would be at 169 per cent of its baseline capacity.

    There are 222 COVID-19 patients in the province's ICUs. There are nearly 1,000 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, and the province has identified more than 20,900 active cases.

    Surgeries have been cancelled across the province to free up health-care workers to deal with the crisis.

    The request conveniently timed for after the election, of course. ಠ_ಠ

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      Deimos
      Link Parent
      Yeah, it's bad here right now. Here's the current graph of hospitalizations in Alberta, we're now at our highest point ever for both ICU and non-ICU hospitalizations, with over 1000 people...

      Yeah, it's bad here right now. Here's the current graph of hospitalizations in Alberta, we're now at our highest point ever for both ICU and non-ICU hospitalizations, with over 1000 people hospitalized for the first time.

      Calgary city council just passed a bylaw requiring a lot of businesses to check vaccination status starting tomorrow, since the province keeps refusing to do anything decisive.

      10 votes
      1. kfwyre
        Link Parent
        It is astounding to me that your ICU and hospitalization rates are at their highest right now. Stay safe, Deimos.

        It is astounding to me that your ICU and hospitalization rates are at their highest right now.

        Stay safe, Deimos.

        8 votes
  5. [6]
    skybrian
    Link
    India to resume vaccine exports next month as covid pressure eases [...] [...]

    India to resume vaccine exports next month as covid pressure eases

    Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told reporters that vaccine production is likely to increase in the coming weeks. After fulfilling the country’s domestic requirements, excess supplies will be exported next month under the Vaccine Maitri or Friendship program, Mandaviya said. “We will help the world and fulfill our responsibility to Covax,” he said.

    [...]

    The minister said that the country’s vaccine production has more than doubled since April and was likely to quadruple to reach 300 million doses next month, reported New Delhi Television. It is not clear yet how many doses will be exported at first.

    [...]

    While India’s vaccine drive had sputtered in earlier stages, it has gathered pace in recent months. The Indian government has said it plans to immunize all adults by December, a tall order for the country of nearly 1.4 billion people. This week, to mark Modi’s birthday, a record 25 million shots were administered in a day, according to the Health Ministry.

    More than 60 percent of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine so far and around 20 percent are fully vaccinated.

    5 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      India won't buy Pfizer, Moderna Covid doses amid jump in local output: Report [. . .] (Back in June, the Biden administration announced that they were sending 25 million doses to India. It seems...

      India won't buy Pfizer, Moderna Covid doses amid jump in local output: Report

      India's government will not buy COVID-19 shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, three government sources told Reuters, mainly because domestic output of more affordable and easier-to-store vaccines has jumped.

      [. . .]

      The Indian government has also declined to meet the U.S. companies' requests for legal protection over any side-effects from the use of their shots, which are currently made only in the United States or Europe, two of the sources said.

      No company has received such protection in India.

      (Back in June, the Biden administration announced that they were sending 25 million doses to India. It seems they couldn’t come to an agreement.)

      3 votes
    2. [4]
      HotPants
      Link Parent
      Mansukh Mandaviya sounds amazingly competent, the way he turned Indias manufacturing capacity around.

      Mansukh Mandaviya sounds amazingly competent, the way he turned Indias manufacturing capacity around.

      3 votes
      1. [3]
        skybrian
        Link Parent
        Well, something is working. I don’t think we know enough to give credit to specific people.

        Well, something is working. I don’t think we know enough to give credit to specific people.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          HotPants
          Link Parent
          I read that he held daily calls to unblock manufacturers. It's incredibly simple, but incredibly effective. Nobody wants to be in the hot seat....

          I read that he held daily calls to unblock manufacturers.

          It's incredibly simple, but incredibly effective.

          Nobody wants to be in the hot seat.

          https://news.yahoo.com/india-flipped-vaccine-fortunes-104314807.html

          5 votes
          1. skybrian
            Link Parent
            Nice, I hadn't seen that one!

            Nice, I hadn't seen that one!

            1 vote
  6. skybrian
    Link
    Can we live with COVID-19? Singapore tries to blaze a path […]

    Can we live with COVID-19? Singapore tries to blaze a path

    Only 60 people in Singapore have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic first emerged, and some 82 percent of its population is now fully vaccinated against the disease.

    In June, the government announced it would move towards a “living with COVID-19” strategy, focusing on tracking and treating outbreak clusters with vaccinations and hospital admissions – but without the strict lockdowns, border closures, and work-from-home orders that have been the defining feature of much of the pandemic across the world.

    […]

    After months of relatively low numbers of daily new cases, over the weekend Singapore reported crossed the 1,000 mark for new daily cases, the highest since April last year.

    Health officials found 1,012 new cases on Sunday, up from 1,009 new cases on Saturday. There were 873 patients in the hospital on Sunday (up from 863 on Saturday), with 118 serious cases requiring oxygen support (up from 105 on Saturday), and 21 in critical condition in the intensive care unit (up from 18 on Saturday).

    The government has called the increase a “rite of passage” as the island nation adapts and adjusts its hoped-for model of living with – as opposed to eradicating – the virus and its variants.

    5 votes
  7. [2]
    spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    'Vigilante treatments': Anti-vaccine groups push people to leave ICUs the newest "miracle cure the doctors don't want you to know about" is apparently inhaling hydrogen peroxide. beautifully...

    'Vigilante treatments': Anti-vaccine groups push people to leave ICUs

    Some people in groups that formed recently to promote the false cure ivermectin, an anti-parasite treatment, have claimed extracting Covid patients from hospitals is pivotal so that they can self-medicate at home with ivermectin. But as the patients begin to realize that ivermectin by itself is not effective, the groups have begun recommending a series of increasingly hazardous at-home treatments, such as gargling with iodine, and nebulizing and inhaling hydrogen peroxide, calling it part of a “protocol.”

    the newest "miracle cure the doctors don't want you to know about" is apparently inhaling hydrogen peroxide.

    As Facebook has cracked down on groups and content with explicit anti-vaccine names and messages, groups with names like “Ivermectin MD Team” have popped up in their place, garnering tens of thousands of followers. In these pro-ivermectin spaces, endorsements of the vaccine are roundly mocked or viewed as a government plot, while unproven drugs are touted almost exclusively as alternatives.

    A Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement: "We remove content that attempts to buy, sell, or donate for Ivermectin. We also enforce against any account or group that violates our COVID-19 and vaccine policies, including claims that Ivermectin is a guaranteed cure or guaranteed prevention, and we don’t allow ads promoting Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19."

    beautifully word-crafted statement. really makes it sound like they're actually doing something.

    they say they don't allow claims that ivermection is a guaranteed cure or prevention...so presumably you can still recommend it as a treatment, right? just don't make any explicit promises about it and you'll be fine.

    fun time to bring up a totally unrelated fact, Peter Thiel and Mark Zuckerberg had dinner with Trump in 2019 and agreed that Facebook wouldn't fact-check Trump's lies in exchange for hands-off regulation of Facebook from the Trump administration.

    5 votes
    1. vord
      Link Parent
      This part kills me. Anti-vaccination activists also falsely believe that the risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits. As such, I'd practically consider this article itself propaganda giving...

      Anti-vaccination activists falsely believe that ivermectin is a secret miracle cure for Covid.

      This part kills me. Anti-vaccination activists also falsely believe that the risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits. As such, I'd practically consider this article itself propaganda giving legitimacy to anti-vaxxers.

      2 votes
  8. skybrian
    Link
    Efficient and targeted COVID-19 border testing via reinforcement learning From the abstract: A related article explains the context: A machine-learning algorithm to target COVID testing of travellers

    Efficient and targeted COVID-19 border testing via reinforcement learning

    From the abstract:

    Here we report the design and performance of a reinforcement learning system, nicknamed ‘Eva’. In the summer of 2020, Eva was deployed across all Greek borders to limit the influx of asymptomatic travellers infected with SARS-CoV-2, and to inform border policies through real-time estimates of COVID-19 prevalence. In contrast to country-wide protocols, Eva allocated Greece’s limited testing resources based upon incoming travellers’ demographic information and testing results from previous travellers. By comparing Eva’s performance against modelled counterfactual scenarios, we show that Eva identified 1.85 times as many asymptomatic, infected travellers as random surveillance testing, with up to 2-4 times as many during peak travel, and 1.25-1.45 times as many asymptomatic, infected travellers as testing policies that only utilize epidemiological metrics.

    A related article explains the context:
    A machine-learning algorithm to target COVID testing of travellers

    4 votes
  9. spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    Billings, Montana - Postcard from an overrun ICU: 'The problem is we are running out of hallways'

    Billings, Montana - Postcard from an overrun ICU: 'The problem is we are running out of hallways'

    In the lobby of the emergency department, rooms roughly 6 feet by 6 feet have been fashioned with makeshift plastic walls. Ten members of the Montana Army National Guard arrived last week to help however they can. Hospital staffers volunteer to sit with dying patients. Beds line hallways.

    “The problem is,” said Brad Von Bergen, the hospital’s ER manager, “we are running out of hallways.”

    Intensifying that, he said, are patients or their loved ones mistreating doctors and nurses. Threats have on occasion required a police response. Screaming, profanity-laden insults are a daily occurrence. One patient threw his own feces at a doctor. Some, even in the face of an intubation tube, question the need to be vaccinated or the effectiveness of the medicine being prescribed.

    Dr. Sara Nyquist, an emergency medicine physician, said she has been asked by a patient if she is a Republican or a Democrat.

    “We are still seeing growing numbers in community cases,” he said. “And we know hospitalizations lag behind new diagnoses. Unfortunately, it can absolutely get worse than where it is at.”

    3 votes
  10. skybrian
    Link
    The Biden administration announced they’re buying another 500 million doses to donate to other countries, on top of 500 million previous announced. In a Washington Post op-ed, they say they’ve...

    The Biden administration announced they’re buying another 500 million doses to donate to other countries, on top of 500 million previous announced. In a Washington Post op-ed, they say they’ve delivered 160 million so far to more than 100 countries. (Notably not mentioning India, though it does include Pakistan.)

    Opinion: There is no choice between vaccinating Americans and vaccinating the world. We must do both

    The full list of countries is on this page.

    3 votes
  11. skybrian
    Link
    UK Travel rule change delayed by lateral flow test shortage

    UK Travel rule change delayed by lateral flow test shortage

    When questioned by MP Ben Bradshaw about why this was an issue, since many test providers also offer lateral flow tests, Mr Shapps said it was a question of scale.

    "We go from a situation where they are providing a low number of thousands [of tests], to probably millions of tests very quickly and need a few weeks to scale up on it," he said.

    3 votes
  12. skybrian
    Link
    Rapid tests should play a larger role in Biden’s Covid-19 plan [...] [...] [...]

    Rapid tests should play a larger role in Biden’s Covid-19 plan

    Beginning in January 2020, just weeks after a novel coronavirus had begun to wreak havoc in Wuhan, China, public health experts in the U.S. were advocating for the development of rapid tests. Within a few months, effective ones began appearing on the market. Germany and other countries approved a large number of rapid tests and widely deployed them. In the U.S., bureaucratic and political obstacles delayed their arrival. With a new administration in Washington in January 2021, it seemed that rapid tests would at last get the attention and support they deserved. But the Biden team ultimately continued with the vaccine-centric strategy pursued by its predecessor.

    [...]

    PCR tests are poorly suited for identifying and containing presymptomatic spread of the virus, which has been estimated to account for about half of all new infections. And because PCR tests are so sensitive, they often yield positive results after infected individuals are no longer contagious.

    In contrast, rapid tests are ideally suited for spotting infectious individuals. Considering the growing number of breakthrough infections during the Delta wave, widespread use of rapid tests could be a powerful tactic for breaking viral transmission chains and quelling outbreaks.

    [...]

    Biden’s new Covid-19 plan does acknowledge a role for rapid tests. But it proposes to purchase only 280 million of them at a cost of around $7 each — about six times more than what they cost in European retail stores. This is far too few for far too much.

    Instead, the U.S. should plan for a several-month surge of rapid testing, aiming to test a substantial proportion of the population at least twice a week. That would require around one billion tests a month. And the goal should be to get the price per test much closer to one dollar.

    [...]

    A key obstacle to achieving these goals is the onerous — and we believe inappropriate — criteria the FDA has set for authorizing rapid tests. Because the agency requires that rapid tests return results that are comparable to PCR tests, only a handful are now available for home use. In our opinion, the FDA is mistaken in classifying rapid tests as medical diagnostic devices. Instead, they should be deemed to be public health screening tools and evaluated solely on their ability to identify and isolate infectious individuals on a timely basis.

    The European Union has recognized more than 135 rapid tests that provide accurate results. We urge President Biden to consider issuing an executive order that would break the FDA logjam and immediately make available in the U.S. suitable rapid tests developed here and around the world.

    2 votes