13 votes

Weekly coronavirus-related chat, questions, and minor updates - week of December 13

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!

31 comments

  1. [4]
    kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    If anyone's read my most recent rant you'll know I'm not in a great place right now. The background for that is that my mom met up with a small group of friends this past weekend. They assumed...

    If anyone's read my most recent rant you'll know I'm not in a great place right now.

    The background for that is that my mom met up with a small group of friends this past weekend. They assumed they were fine and didn't take any COVID precautions. On Monday she got a text that one of her friends not only tested positive but was unvaccinated as well. My mom had no idea.

    My mom took a rapid test yesterday which was negative. She has one more test and is planning on doing that tomorrow. She hasn't had any symptoms outside of fatigue, but it's possible that's from anxiety. PCR tests are booked days out in her area, so I'm hoping some rapid tests come back in stock near her soon.

    I'm worried about her -- even though she's boostered, she's approaching 70. My husband's coworker of the same age just got out of a multi-week hospital stay for COVID, and the coworker, too, was fully vaccinated. I've been kind of a wreck this week and haven't been sleeping. I'm also viscerally angry at her friend. This is someone who she has known for decades and considers a close personal friend.

    I asked my mom about how she felt about her friend putting her in harm's way, and her response was telling:

    It is easier to be compassionate when I have a negative test.

    I also asked her if her friend had reached out to apologize to her:

    I don't think that she would even think that there is a need for her to apologize.

    If I'm a little pissed off at this shit, well, this is why. I'm not going to be alright for a while.

    17 votes
    1. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Update: My mom took another rapid test today which was negative, and she was able to get a PCR test today through her doctor. Still no symptoms, which is a good sign. The group that hung out was...

      Update: My mom took another rapid test today which was negative, and she was able to get a PCR test today through her doctor. Still no symptoms, which is a good sign.

      The group that hung out was four people: the unvaccinated friend, two fully vaccinated but non-boostered friends, and my mom who is boostered. The unvaccinated friend was the original positive, and now the two fully vaccinated friends have since tested positive as well. My mom should be getting her results back tomorrow, but it seems the likelihood of a positive is quite high. Either that, or the booster did its job and we get a negative. I'm, of course, hoping for the latter.

      12 votes
      1. kfwyre
        Link Parent
        Update: Her PCR test was negative. Huge sigh of relief. I feel like I can relax for the first time all week.

        Update: Her PCR test was negative. Huge sigh of relief. I feel like I can relax for the first time all week.

        14 votes
    2. MimicSquid
      Link Parent
      Oh my god, how enraging. My mom's around the same age as yours and even the idea of someone willfully exposing her to COVID just gives me cold sweats. I'm hoping for the very best for you and yours.

      Oh my god, how enraging. My mom's around the same age as yours and even the idea of someone willfully exposing her to COVID just gives me cold sweats. I'm hoping for the very best for you and yours.

      7 votes
  2. Omnicrola
    Link
    Some personal info, I'm traveling home next week to see family for the first time in 2+ years. I got an email from one of my brothers that he and his wife and 2 daughters all caught COVID last...

    Some personal info, I'm traveling home next week to see family for the first time in 2+ years. I got an email from one of my brothers that he and his wife and 2 daughters all caught COVID last week. Which after calling my mom to talk about how it would affect my visit, is how I found out that my brother is also not vaccinated.

    So now, as the oldest brother, I feel obligated to go punch him for being a moron. Hopefully I calm down a bit before I see him at Christmas, cuz right now I'd love to really chew him out. My family is pretty conflict-avoidant, which is something I'm personally working on, and this is giving me all the wrong kind of motivation to engage in some confrontation.

    8 votes
  3. [4]
    skybrian
    Link
    Cornell shuts down its Ithaca campus after significant signs of omicron variant found […] […]

    Cornell shuts down its Ithaca campus after significant signs of omicron variant found

    As of Tuesday afternoon, the campus reported 469 active student cases of the coronavirus and that, for the week of Dec. 6, about 3% of tests were positive among the students tested, according to Cornell's online COVID-19 dashboard.

    […]

    Because of the closures across campus, Pollack said all final exams for the fall semester will be moved online and all campus activities, including campus athletics, are canceled. The school's libraries are also closed for students.

    In addition, the school's recognition ceremony for fall graduates, scheduled for Dec. 18, is canceled.

    […]

    "Virtually every case of the Omicron variant to date has been found in fully vaccinated students, a portion of whom had also received a booster shot. We have not seen evidence of significant disease in our students to date.”

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      teaearlgraycold
      Link Parent
      Wouldn’t most students have gotten the vaccine? Pointing this out sounds like fear mongering. It’s not news that breakthrough infections happen and many of the vaccinated students have waned...

      Virtually every case of the Omicron variant to date has been found in fully vaccinated students, a portion of whom had also received a booster shot.

      Wouldn’t most students have gotten the vaccine? Pointing this out sounds like fear mongering. It’s not news that breakthrough infections happen and many of the vaccinated students have waned antibody counts.

      6 votes
      1. skybrian
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Yes, it looks like Cornell requires vaccinations (with some exemptions), so this is all about breakthrough infections and doesn’t tell us anything about the unvaccinated. I think they could have...

        Yes, it looks like Cornell requires vaccinations (with some exemptions), so this is all about breakthrough infections and doesn’t tell us anything about the unvaccinated. I think they could have pointed that out since it’s useful context.

        But this still seems like important news to me. It’s a big outbreak among young, fully vaccinated people, and until now it looked like Cornell was doing well with their pandemic rules.

        Another bit of context that might be important is that it looks like Cornell tests all their undergrads once a week even if vaccinated. (Vaccinated grad students can opt in, it seems.) They found this because they’re looking, unlike most of us in the US.

        7 votes
    2. skybrian
      Link Parent
      George Washington University cancels in-person events and moves exams online following more than 400 COVID-19 cases

      George Washington University cancels in-person events and moves exams online following more than 400 COVID-19 cases

      Effective immediately, all in-person social gatherings and events are canceled, and final exams scheduled for Friday, Dec. 17 and through the end of the semester will be held online, university officials wrote in a statement posted on Wednesday afternoon.

      The health advisory added that faculty have the option to begin offering virtual exams before Friday.

      3 votes
  4. [6]
    suspended
    Link
    As U.S. Nears 800,000 Virus Deaths, 1 of Every 100 Older Americans Has Perished
    6 votes
    1. [5]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      Paywalled for me. I'm wondering if they put "1 in 100" into perspective by comparing to other causes of death for older people? One in a hundred is 10k micromorts. You might compares to around 8k...

      Paywalled for me. I'm wondering if they put "1 in 100" into perspective by comparing to other causes of death for older people?

      One in a hundred is 10k micromorts. You might compares to around 8k for one year for all causes, using data from pre-pandemic years. (All age groups.)

      2 votes
      1. [4]
        suspended
        Link Parent
        Here's an archive link.

        Here's an archive link.

        3 votes
        1. [3]
          skybrian
          Link Parent
          Thanks! To answer my question, here is where they contextualize it:

          Thanks! To answer my question, here is where they contextualize it:

          By now, Covid-19 has become the third leading cause of death among Americans 65 and older, after heart disease and cancer. It is responsible for about 13 percent of all deaths in that age group since the beginning of 2020, more than diabetes, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

          The virus deaths of older people have sometimes been dismissed as losses that might have occurred anyway, from other causes, but analyses of “excess deaths” challenge that suggestion. Eighteen percent more older people died of all causes in 2020 than would have died in an ordinary year, according to data from the C.D.C.

          9 votes
          1. [2]
            suspended
            Link Parent
            Wow! That is frightening and thank you for pointing this out. This f@#$ing GOP brainwashing here, in the US, is responsible for most of the Covid deaths. It's incredibly sickening to witness.

            Wow! That is frightening and thank you for pointing this out. This f@#$ing GOP brainwashing here, in the US, is responsible for most of the Covid deaths. It's incredibly sickening to witness.

            5 votes
            1. skybrian
              Link Parent
              Excess deaths in 2020 were really high, but that was before vaccines. I'm wondering what 2021 numbers will look like? Older people are the most likely to be vaccinated, even among Republicans.

              Excess deaths in 2020 were really high, but that was before vaccines. I'm wondering what 2021 numbers will look like? Older people are the most likely to be vaccinated, even among Republicans.

              2 votes
  5. Omnicrola
    Link
    From blood clots to infected neurons, how COVID threatens the brain

    From blood clots to infected neurons, how COVID threatens the brain

    COVID-19 can also damage the brain by causing blood clots or bleeding that result in a stroke. It can damage the protective cells that create what's known as the blood-brain barrier, allowing entry to harmful substances, including viruses. And the disease can impair a person's lungs so severely that their brain is no longer getting enough oxygen.

    These indirect effects appear to be a much bigger problem than any direct infection of neurons, Frontera says.

    "People have seen the virus inside of brain tissue," she says. "However, the viral particles in the brain tissue are not next to where there is injury or damage," she says

    5 votes
  6. [2]
    skybrian
    Link
    Children exposed to covid can safely stay in class with in-school testing, CDC says

    Children exposed to covid can safely stay in class with in-school testing, CDC says

    The CDC released two studies that show the effectiveness of what’s known as “test-to-stay.” School districts across the country have tried this strategy, though it is not widely used.

    5 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      Biden administration unveils push for 'test-to-stay' policy to keep kids in school (NBC News) This is extremely late and we'd be in much better shape if they'd ramped up test manufacturing...

      Biden administration unveils push for 'test-to-stay' policy to keep kids in school (NBC News)

      This is extremely late and we'd be in much better shape if they'd ramped up test manufacturing earlier, but nice to see the Biden administration pushing a good policy.

      I hope California policymakers follow their lead for workplace requirements.

      2 votes
  7. [4]
    skybrian
    Link
    Omicron spreading rapidly in U.S. and could bring punishing wave as soon as January, CDC warns [...]

    Omicron spreading rapidly in U.S. and could bring punishing wave as soon as January, CDC warns

    The prevalence of omicron jumped sevenfold in a single week, according to the CDC, and at such a pace, the highly mutated variant of the coronavirus could ratchet up pressure on a health system already strained in many places as the delta variant continues its own surge.

    [...]

    The signs of omicron’s transmissibility in this country are mounting: From Dec. 4 to Dec. 11, the variant likely jumped from a mere 0.4 percent of new infections in the U.S. to 2.9 percent, according to the new CDC data. In New York and New Jersey, omicron already accounts for 13 percent of new cases, Walensky said.

    In the Houston Methodist hospital system, omicron accounted for 13 percent of new cases in a four-day period leading up to Dec. 8, according to James Musser, chair of pathology and genomic medicine. He expects that percentage to approach 20 percent when new numbers are published Wednesday. The omicron variant was first detected in Houston on Nov. 29.

    4 votes
    1. skybrian
      Link Parent
      NYC Sees Offices Empty, Shows Canceled as Covid Wave Sweeps In […]

      NYC Sees Offices Empty, Shows Canceled as Covid Wave Sweeps In

      New cases of the virus are at the highest since January. Businesses are asking workers to stay home, schoolrooms are shutting and testing sites have long lines snaking around city blocks. And Broadway shows and restaurants are closing down as staff shortages and pockets of Covid outbreaks sprout up around the city at the busiest time of the year for tourism.

      “We’ve never seen this before in NYC,” Jay Varma, public health adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio, said Thursday on Twitter. “Test positivity doubling in three days.”

      Indeed, 7.8% of the city’s cases were positive on Dec. 12, up from 3.9% on Dec. 9, according to city data. Many of those cases are mild and hospitalizations and deaths are nowhere near the level seen in the early days of the pandemic. But city data show hospitalizations are also rising at a fast clip and have more than doubled since the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

      Just weeks ago, delta made up nearly all of the sequenced cases in the New York area. But omicron, which appears to be far more transmissible than earlier variants, has quickly grown to make up 13% of the region’s cases, according to modeling from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state and city don’t appear to sequence enough cases to be able to immediately confirm the variant’s spread.

      […]

      Between the start of school and the end of November, there were three full school shutdowns and roughly 2,500 classroom closings, according to city Department of Education data. The city has now closed six entire schools and 4,200 classrooms.

      5 votes
    2. skybrian
      Link Parent
      Omicron variant suddenly dominant in Orange County Florida wastewater […]

      Omicron variant suddenly dominant in Orange County Florida wastewater

      [Officials] said Wednesday the county’s regular tests of wastewater for presence of various COVID-19 variants went from finding no presence of omicron last week, to being first detected Monday, to becoming the most prevalent variant found in the most recent samples taken from each of the county’s three regional wastewater treatment plants.

      The emergence is far faster than what was seen when the delta variant first appeared in June.

      […]

      Dr. Raul Pino, Orange County health officer with the Florida Department of Health, said it does not mean omicron is not as serious as delta. He predicted omicron patients likely will start appearing as soon as next week.

      “I don’t think that we should read much into ‘we haven’t found it yet,'” Pino said. “Normally what happened in the other cases is about two weeks prior to the cases being detected it is detected in the water.”

      2 votes
    3. skybrian
      Link Parent
      COVID-19 hospitalizations jump in Southern California as Omicron alarms grow […]

      COVID-19 hospitalizations jump in Southern California as Omicron alarms grow

      The increase has been dramatic across Southern California. Since Nov. 23, COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen by 49% in Ventura County, 47% in San Diego County, 39% in Los Angeles County, 36% in Riverside County, 26% in San Bernardino County and 15% in Orange County.

      […]

      High-profile coronavirus infections are being reported across the sports and entertainment industries. A number of Broadway performances have been canceled due to breakthrough coronavirus infections among vaccinated people, and the NFL, NBA and NHL have had to deal with coronavirus infections.

      2 votes
  8. spit-evil-olive-tips
    Link
    Wednesday: Two major airline CEOs question the need for masks on planes Friday: Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Gary Kelly tested positive for COVID-19 after appearing at a U.S. Senate hearing...

    Wednesday: Two major airline CEOs question the need for masks on planes

    The comments from American Airlines CEO Doug Parker — the nation's largest carrier — and Southwest CEO Gary Kelly came during a hearing about the financial support that airlines received from the federal government in 2020 and 2021. But the topic of masks arose via a question from Sen. Roger Wicker, the ranking Republican on the Senate committee holding the hearing.

    After the hearing, American Airlines tried to walk back Parker's remarks. It issued a statement claiming that his concurrence with Kelly was on the point about the quality of the air in the aircraft cabin, not mask requirements.

    Friday: Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Gary Kelly tested positive for COVID-19 after appearing at a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday

    here's a video of him coughing, maskless, during the hearing.

    4 votes
  9. cfabbro
    Link
    Some more COVID related satire from The Beaverton: Local man who hasn’t started Christmas shopping betting it all on Omicron lockdown “Sure Omicron may be 100% more infectious, but it’s 15% less...
    4 votes
  10. skybrian
    Link
    Netherlands to go into strict Christmas lockdown […] […]

    Netherlands to go into strict Christmas lockdown

    All non-essential shops and services, including restaurants, hairdressers, museums and gyms will be closed from Sunday until Jan. 14. All schools will be shut until at least Jan. 9.

    […]

    Other measures include a recommendation that households receive no more than two visitors and that gatherings outside are also limited to a maximum of two people.

    A failure to act now would likely lead to "an unmanageable situation in hospitals", which have already scaled back regular care to make space for COVID-19 patients, Rutte said.

    […]

    Cases of the variant have surged since it was first found in the Netherlands three weeks ago, while hospitals are struggling with the large numbers of COVID-19 patients in their wards, near the highest levels this year.

    3 votes
  11. skybrian
    Link
    Most of the World’s Vaccines Likely Won’t Prevent Infection From Omicron (NY Times) […]

    Most of the World’s Vaccines Likely Won’t Prevent Infection From Omicron (NY Times)

    A growing body of preliminary research suggests the Covid vaccines used in most of the world offer almost no defense against becoming infected by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

    All vaccines still seem to provide a significant degree of protection against serious illness from Omicron, which is the most crucial goal. But only the Pfizer and Moderna shots, when reinforced by a booster, appear to have initial success at stopping infections, and these vaccines are unavailable in most of the world.

    The other shots — including those from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and vaccines manufactured in China and Russia — do little to nothing to stop the spread of Omicron, early research shows. And because most countries have built their inoculation programs around these vaccines, the gap could have a profound impact on the course of the pandemic.

    […]

    Antibodies are the first line of defense induced by vaccines. But the shots also stimulate the growth of T cells, and preliminary studies suggest that these T cells still recognize the Omicron variant, which is important in preventing severe disease.

    3 votes
  12. skybrian
    (edited )
    Link
    Mainland China reports first case of Omicron coronavirus variant (Edit: switched link to The Guardian) [...]

    Mainland China reports first case of Omicron coronavirus variant (Edit: switched link to The Guardian)

    Mainland China has reported its first case of the highly transmissible Omicron variant in the northern city of Tianjin, posing what could be the biggest threat to date to the country’s zero-Covid strategy.

    The Chinese authorities reported on Monday that the Omicron case was detected on 9 December from an overseas returnee, who showed no symptoms on arrival. The patient is being quarantined and treated in a designated hospital.

    At the same time, the eastern province of Zhejiang has been battling a rise in new infections of the Delta variant in recent weeks.

    [...]

    The outbreak n Zhejiang, a manufacturing hub and home to the e-commerce company Alibaba, led more than a dozen publicly listed companies to halt production on Monday. Their shares fell sharply as a result.

    2 votes
  13. skybrian
    Link
    From The Guardian Other UK news: MPs back all ‘plan B’ measures amid large Tory rebellion on Covid passes and mandatory vaccines

    From The Guardian

    The UK Health Security Agency has been in touch to offer final confirmation as to what Sajid Javid meant when he told MPs earlier that “the current number of daily infections are around 200,000”. He did mean that it is estimated that 200,000 people are getting infected with the Omicron variant every day. That is what we thought originally, but we took down the headline on the post (see 4.19pm) after it was suggested he meant something else, and it has taken a while to get clarity from officials. A UKHSA spokesperson said Javid was “referring to the number of new infections today [13 December] based on modelling, not the number who are currently infected”. I have amended the wording in the summary as a result.

    Other UK news:

    MPs back all ‘plan B’ measures amid large Tory rebellion on Covid passes and mandatory vaccines

    Nearly 100 Conservative MPs voted against plans for Covid vaccine certificates for some large venues in England – marking the largest rebellion of Boris Johnson’s premiership. The number of rebels far exceeds Johnson’s parliamentary majority of 79 – and the 56 MPs needed to trigger a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

    In a separate vote, 63 Tories voted against mandatory vaccinations for NHS and social care staff in England. Labour supported the measure but Keir Starmer suffered his own rebellion, with 22 Labour MPs voting against

    2 votes
  14. skybrian
    Link
    New California workplace COVID rules to end distinction for vaccinated workers […] […]

    New California workplace COVID rules to end distinction for vaccinated workers

    The revised temporary rules would require that exposed, vaccinated but asymptomatic workers stay home for 14 days even if they test negative or, if they return to work, to wear masks and stay 6 feet (1.8 meters) from others for two weeks.

    […]

    The Motion Picture Association said the safeguards are not feasible for those filming movies, television shows or commercials because “employees who work in front of the camera cannot be expected to wear a face covering” and those doing hair and makeup “cannot perform their job duties while maintaining six feet of distance from other employees.”

    […]

    Labor interests generally haven’t objected to the latest changes, which would be in effect from Jan. 14 through April 14.

    But they are upset that other proposed rules to be considered in March would eliminate employer-paid sick leave for employees who are exposed to or contract the virus.

    2 votes
  15. skybrian
    Link
    I’ve shared articles promoting rapid testing. Here is a more skeptical take: Lateral flow devices are a key part of the [UK] government’s strategy against coronavirus but their efficacy is...

    I’ve shared articles promoting rapid testing. Here is a more skeptical take:

    Lateral flow devices are a key part of the [UK] government’s strategy against coronavirus but their efficacy is questionable

    The Omicron variant of coronavirus surprised many Britons in recent weeks by turning up at parties undetected by rapid Covid-19 tests, prompting questions about whether the devices provide true confidence for people to live without fear of infection.

    The UK Health Security Agency has said initial investigations show the rapid tests work just as well against Omicron as against Delta, the previously dominant strain. Experts believe the UK tests are likely to continue to work because they detect a different protein from the much-mutated spike — and the variant’s potentially far higher viral load means they could even be more effective.

    But rapid lateral flow tests have always been imperfect, detecting an average of 72 per cent of symptomatic cases, and 58 per cent of asymptomatic ones, according to a meta-analysis of studies by the medical database the Cochrane Library.

    […]

    The tests are most useful if taken just before attending an event or visiting a vulnerable person. Catherine Moore, a consultant clinical scientist at Public Health Wales, said she had seen people post on social media that they were shocked when a test taken in the morning was negative and one in the afternoon was positive.

    “That’s just showing you that the viral load increases over the day, which you would expect to see,” she said.

    Viral loads increase in bursts, often about 48 to 72 hours later than the initial infection, she said. “The big downside of lateral flow devices is probably their sensitivity in the early parts of the infection when you may not have lots of virus on board straightaway. It could be six to eight hours later there’s another surge in virus that makes the test positive,” she said.

    Repeating tests can make the results more robust, so many experts endorse the government recommendation for vaccinated people exposed to the virus to test for seven days straight.

    1 vote