9 votes

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

11 comments

  1. [5]
    skybrian
    Link
    White House to buy, ship 500 million rapid tests for free beginning in January […]

    White House to buy, ship 500 million rapid tests for free beginning in January

    The first shipment of tests will arrive at some point in January, the White House said. Americans will be able to request that rapid tests be shipped to their home, free of charge, via a new government website. The new policy of handing out free tests mirrors that of many other wealthy nations, like Germany and the United Kingdom. Few countries, however, have taken the step of mailing tests to individual homes, instead requiring that people request the kits at a pharmacy, doctor’s office, or testing site.

    […]

    The administration also announced it would stand up new federal testing sites, beginning in New York City, where new Covid cases are at an all-time high.

    8 votes
    1. [2]
      spit-evil-olive-tips
      Link Parent
      neat system we have set up where cyberbullying the White House Press Secretary is the only way to get the federal government to do something. my thoughts and prayers are with the workers at US...

      neat system we have set up where cyberbullying the White House Press Secretary is the only way to get the federal government to do something.

      my thoughts and prayers are with the workers at US Digital Service (or maybe some federal contractor) who just had "your holidays are cancelled, we need a website and we need it by early January" dropped in their laps. especially when the usefulness of a federal "enter address, get covid tests delivered" website has been apparent for months. there's no reason this needed to be a "I know it's the week of christmas but drop everything" project.

      3 votes
      1. skybrian
        Link Parent
        Have you read somewhere about how the Biden administration made this decision?

        Have you read somewhere about how the Biden administration made this decision?

        2 votes
    2. skybrian
      Link Parent
      The Biden Administration Rejected an October Proposal for “Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays” (Vanity Fair) […] […] […] […]

      The Biden Administration Rejected an October Proposal for “Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays” (Vanity Fair)

      On October 22, a group of COVID-19 testing experts joined a Zoom call with officials from the Biden administration and presented a strategy for overhauling America’s approach to testing.

      The 10-page plan, which Vanity Fair has obtained, would enable the U.S. to finally do what many other countries had already done: Put rapid at-home COVID-19 testing into the hands of average citizens, allowing them to screen themselves in real time and thereby help reduce transmission. The plan called for an estimated 732 million tests per month, a number that would require a major ramp-up of manufacturing capacity. It also recommended, right on the first page, a nationwide “Testing Surge to Prevent Holiday COVID Surge.”

      […]

      An administration official who attended the meeting told Vanity Fair that, while everyone present shared the same goal of expanding rapid testing as soon as possible, the plan could not be implemented at that time: “We did not have capacity to manufacture over-the-counter tests at that scale.” The problem, in essence, was twofold: The FDA had authorized only a handful of different home tests, and those it had authorized could not increase manufacturing fast enough.

      […]

      Three experts who interacted with the White House came to believe that the Biden administration had deprioritized rapid testing, partly out of concern that people would opt for that instead of getting vaccinated. As one expert put it, “It was clear they felt that people who didn’t want to get vaccinated might like no-strings-attached rapid testing.” The White House’s Tom Inglesby said the administration was always committed to both: “In our analysis, they are not competing with each other. They are not zero sum.”

      […]

      [Michael Mina’s] journey began as early as January 2020, when he saw clearly that Boston was going to need COVID tests it didn’t have. He sought funding from Brigham and Women’s Hospital to build a test. “They thought it was a joke,” he said of some of the hospital’s pathology officials.

      So he went to the Broad Institute, got approval to use its sequencing platform, and helped establish what became a prodigious testing laboratory there. From the Broad, he went back to top Boston hospitals, including Brigham and Women’s, Tufts Medical Center, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, to offer the Broad’s new testing capacity as an additional resource. “The pushback I got was amazing and swift,” he said. There were “pissing contests everywhere,” as the physicians worked to protect their turf running hospital-based tests.

      Once Mina began to advocate for rapid home tests, he encountered the same mindset: doctors “trying to guard their domain.” Some doctors had long opposed home testing, even for pregnancy and HIV, arguing that patients who learned on their own about a given condition would not be able to act on the information effectively. Testing, in this view, should be used only by doctors as a diagnostic instrument, not by individuals as a public-health tool for influencing decisions.

      A similar view prevailed within the FDA. The agency had approved PCR tests with perfect sensitivity that could tell people for certain whether they were infected with SARS-CoV-2. Those tests, while crucial, were expensive, hard to access, and tended to take days to yield results, meaning that they had little mitigating effect on spread. By contrast, low-cost antigen tests, which patients could administer themselves at home, were less sensitive. And sensitivity is what mattered inside the agency. As one FDA medical device reviewer told Vanity Fair, “We review data. If the data we’re presented with aren’t great, we’re not going to want the public to use that device.”

      […]

      Speaking for the administration, Inglesby said of Mina’s idea, “There is a strong scientific consensus in the administration that there should not be a second, lower public health standard for some tests. Not only would this be confusing, but members of the public will use these tests to make very serious decisions for themselves and their families and so they need to meet the same standard.”

      3 votes
  2. [3]
    skybrian
    Link
    Omicron is now the dominant COVID strain in the U.S., making up 73% of new infections […] It seems to be reported on this page with bar graphs on the middle left. At the bottom there is a table...

    Omicron is now the dominant COVID strain in the U.S., making up 73% of new infections

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in omicron's share of infections in only one week.

    In much of the country, omicron's prevalence is even higher. It's responsible for an estimated 90% of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest.

    […]

    In the week that ended Dec. 11, omicron's share of new infections in the U.S. increased to 2.9% from 0.4% the week before, the CDC previously reported.

    But CDC on Tuesday said they are revising some of the earlier numbers, after analyzing more specimens. The new numbers indicate that about 13% of the infections the week of Dec. 11 were omicron, and not 3%, CDC officials said.

    It seems to be reported on this page with bar graphs on the middle left. At the bottom there is a table showing how many sequences they’re getting from each state.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      It seems this number was badly wrong. Revised from 73% to 22%. Now it’s 59% but should we trust it?

      It seems this number was badly wrong. Revised from 73% to 22%.

      Now it’s 59% but should we trust it?

      1 vote
      1. skybrian
        Link Parent
        CDC sharply drops estimate of Omicron prevalence in U.S. [...] That's still a very wide range. The graph should probably show it.

        CDC sharply drops estimate of Omicron prevalence in U.S.

        The public health agency’s previous estimate that the rapidly spreading variant accounted for 73.2 percent of cases nationwide on Dec. 18 is now revised down to 22.5 percent — a significant drop that falls outside the agency's earlier 95 percent prediction interval, or likely range where future analysis will fall, of 34 to 94.9 percent of all cases.

        [...]

        The CDC’s revised Dec. 25 model includes a narrower confidence range of Omicron's prevalence: 41.5 to 74 percent. The agency’s current model suggests that the Delta variant still represents 41.1 percent of U.S. infections. CDC updates the model weekly.

        That's still a very wide range. The graph should probably show it.

        2 votes
  3. [2]
    skybrian
    Link
    US Army Creates Single Vaccine Against All COVID & SARS Variants, Researchers Say Finishing Phase 1 is actually not very far through the approval process, so it seems like it will be a while?

    US Army Creates Single Vaccine Against All COVID & SARS Variants, Researchers Say

    Walter Reed’s Spike Ferritin Nanoparticle COVID-19 vaccine, or SpFN, completed animal trials earlier this year with positive results. Phase 1 of human trials, which tested the vaccine against Omicron and the other variants, wrapped up this month, again with positive results that are undergoing final review, Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Walter Reed’s infectious diseases branch, said in an exclusive interview with Defense One.

    Finishing Phase 1 is actually not very far through the approval process, so it seems like it will be a while?

    3 votes
    1. Thra11
      Link Parent
      Assuming the usual phases of a clinical trial, phase 1 is just safety screening. Successfully passing phase 1 just means it is considered safe to administer to humans. You could get something like...

      Assuming the usual phases of a clinical trial, phase 1 is just safety screening. Successfully passing phase 1 just means it is considered safe to administer to humans. You could get something like saline solution through phase 1 of a covid vaccine trial if you really wanted to: it's only the later phases (2b/3) which look at efficacity.

      I think this particular sentence is either badly written or deliberately trying to mislead:

      Phase 1 of human trials, which tested the vaccine against Omicron and the other variants, wrapped up this month, again with positive results that are undergoing final review

      Am I supposed to read that as
      a. Phase 1 tested [the vaccine] against [Omicron and the other variants]
      or
      b. Phase 1 tested [the vaccine against Omicron and the other variants]

      a. suggests that they were testing the vaccine 'against' different variants (unlikely in phase 1)
      b. just refers to it as "a vaccine against Omicron and other variants" (bit weird at that point in the article) and says they tested it.

      5 votes