Weekly coronavirus-related chat, questions, and minor updates - week of January 10
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!
My bile rises as I’m asked to move my dying cancer patient out of ICU to make room for an unvaccinated man with Covid
"Hospitals Are in Serious Trouble: Omicron is inundating a health-care system that was already buckling under the cumulative toll of every previous surge."
Somewhat related, this week I have to decide between going to an appointment on Friday or waiting until the next available one in mid-March. Numbers are very high at the moment, so maybe waiting is better - but who knows what COVID will be like in March. And who knows if waiting will negatively impact my health.
I ended up postponing my appointment. But now of course I'm experiencing new symptoms so... I guess we'll see if I become part of the "bad outcomes due to delayed care" statistics. I'm so bitter that people went on vacations during the holidays when Omicron was ramping up, while I end up sobbing in the bathroom because I'm forced to choose between risking COVID and risking other health issues.
Although I haven't done the numbers, it doesn't seem like it would be mathematically possible that the current wave could last that long at current levels? Waves come to an end as they run out of people to infect.
Yeah, I think March is more likely to be a lull; after all, some models say we're currently at the peak or will be soon. But I've almost always been wrong so far when predicting how things will go - I never see new variants coming. So I don't know if I trust my intuition anymore.
California Issues New Guidance on Quarantine and Isolation for Healthcare Workers
This actually blows my mind and it shows how bad the pandemic truly is right now. So many people are out there pretending everything is normal, but many hospitals are on the precipice of failure. Cancel that ski trip and leave those Christmas lights up on the house for a while. Anything you can do to avoid injury and accident. You can't count on the hospital being able to help you.
It's happening in Arizona, too.
Arizona health care provider OKs virus-positive hospital workers
Ah yes, I’m sure sending positive asymptomatic healthcare workers back to work won’t contribute to the staff shortage.
What a farce
It will make some difference, but I don't think we know how much given that hospitals are full of infected patients?
For sure -- it may be a drop in an already overflowing bucket.
It's a terrible situation: "Not having enough staff available to keep a hospital open" is clearly awful. But also, good lord, healthcare workers have been having to deal with so much already, can you imagine having to go back to work with the possibility of infecting others, developing symptoms later, not resting while having a serious illness, etc.
I can't imagine a world where this helps burn-out... :/
We don't even pay lip-service to "supporting our first-responder heros" anymore... it's really laid bare how much the system is taking advantage of them
Ooph, I'm not just worried for patients - I'm worried for the healthcare workers. Not resting during the acute phase of an illness may increase the risk of post-viral symptoms/illness.
Australia has reached a benchmark: 95% of people aged 16 and over have received their first dose of a COVID vaccine.
And we're rapidly vaccinating the 12-15 years (commenced Sep 2021) and 5-11 years (commenced Jan 2022) age groups as well.
Vaccinating 95% of a population is referred to as "full vaccination". We're on track to achieve that.
Just wanted to share some positive news.
(We're also in the midst of a significant outbreak of the Omicron variant, which is dwarfing all previous outbreaks we've had, and we're going through this outbreak without any significant restrictions, relying only on vaccines & masks.)
State of Affairs: Jan 10 (Your Local Epidemiologist)
A good US-centric overview of current stats. If you're interested in following this you should probably just subscribe. (Substack supports email and RSS subscriptions.)
Pfizer plans to manufacture up to 100 million doses of omicron-specific vaccine by spring
U.S. reports 1.35 million COVID-19 cases in a day, shattering global record
United Airlines says 3,000 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus
Supreme Court blocks Biden Covid vaccine mandate for businesses, allows health-care worker rule
A couple articles from The Atlantic:
Personally, this feel like an overreach by the Supreme Court. Passing legislation is hard – it requires the cooperation of two houses of Congress and the President (or a supermajority of each). Creating rules (via executive agencies) is also hard – it requires (typically) years of work by some agency (not to mention countless civil servants), and if poorly timed, can be expeditiously overturned by Congress.
Yet the Supreme Court can just waltz in, second guess the opinion of experts, and essentially rewrite the law (Congress empowered OSHA to regulate "substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful", which last I checked, aptly describes COVID). Why are nine Justices, none of which have a scientific background, the de facto policy makers for our coronavirus response?
It’s kind of odd to imply that the Supreme Court shouldn’t have the authority to interpret the law. In particular, what authority did Congress, when passing OSHA, give the Executive branch? This seems pretty straightforwardly a legal question (not a scientific one) of the sort that the Supreme Court deals with all the time?
It’s true that passing legislation is hard, but this isn’t supposed to be a reason to give powers to the Executive branch that Congress didn’t pass a law saying they should have. Executive orders often do overreach and without the Supreme Court, a president could do many things that Congress didn’t intend.
Of course in this particular case you could argue that OSHA did give the Executive branch this power, as you did, but that’s different from saying that Supreme Court shouldn’t be able to make this call.
I agree that there should be a check to the executive branch, but it's clear that the judiciary is not a co-equal branch of government – it has much greater power than the other two.
Consider self-defense laws pre-Heller. If the US government decided that people should have the right to keep handguns for self defense, you would need the majority of the House, 60% of the Senate, and the signature of the President.
Or alternatively, as we learned from Heller, the Supreme Court – with the consensus of just five people – can radically change gun laws across the country.
Moreover, although this is a bit of a tangent, I'd be remiss not to mention the role the Supreme Court plays in conferring a structural advantage to conservatives. Consider the (now dead) Build Back Better (BBB) bill. In order for that bill to become law, we need the support of the majority of the Senate, the majority of the House, the signature of the President (or a supermajority of both houses), and the blessing of the Supreme Court. If any of those bodies oppose the legislation, the bill cannot survive. There is no Republican alternative to BBB (queue jokes about "infrastructure week" under the Trump administration), as the Republican perspective is that the we should increase spending (taxes) under almost no circumstances. Thus getting things done requires the cooperation of the House, the Senate, the President, and the Supreme Court, whereas leaving things as-is only requires the opposition of one of them.
If BBB had passed, the law most certainly would've been challenged and likely would've ended up before the Supreme Court. I don't know who would've brought the suit or on what grounds. However, our laws and Constitution are sufficiently broad that someone could've mustered an argument against BBB. The only question, then, would be whether the Supreme Court could divorce their political biases from their legal judgements. Frankly, I doubt it.
Returning to the vaccine mandate case, it's not as though OSHA doesn't have lawyers – they cleared the rule, after all. The Supreme Court simply disagreed with OSHA's lawyers. So what should happen when an agency and the Supreme Court disagree? Obviously we should consider the perspective from all branches, but why is it that the Supreme Court's opinions are ultimately the only ones that matter?
I don't have the answers to these questions.
The lawyers working for the administration aren’t unbiased. Their job is in to make a case for executive power. Deciding who is right is what a court does. That’s the whole point - to get an outside opinion.
The problem is that nobody trusts the Supreme Court to give an unbiased opinion anymore - except when the Court happens to agree with them.
This kind of situation is why we put humans in charge of these kind of questions instead of algorithms. It also shows the fallibility of this strategy.
Smart, compassionate human justices
Could have delayed an examination of the issue until a global emergency is over and let scientific experts carry the day. Instead, they put dedication to some kind of purism come out in front. Certainly that dedication has played second chair in past times of emergency. Japanese internment camps and various immigration policies come to mind.
If, as seems scientifically likely, there are no substantial adverse health effects to vaccination, history may rightly place responsibility for excess covid deaths on this Court.
I’m not sure that the timing is all that bad. It seems like the companies that wanted to require their employees to be vaccinated already did it? The ones that didn’t probably would keep delaying it until it’s no longer relevant.
The Supreme Court decision probably will have more impact on what happens next pandemic, whenever that is.
With Omicron likely to rip through America in the next few weeks, I wonder if this matters any more?
I think it provided cover for large companies that wanted to vaccinate their workforce. I haven't heard about anything about it being enforced.
It seems like if they changed the rule to only require vaccinations of people who are at high risk of infecting others in the workplace (that is, not working outdoors or remotely), it might have been a better case?
The "vaccine mandate" was a bit of a misnomer; the rule already exempted the cases you mentioned. The requirement to vaccinate (or test!) only applied if workers couldn't otherwise socially distance.
I was hoping out loud that with Omicron, we might be up and over the final major wave.
1 million expired COVID tests sitting in Florida warehouse OK to use after FDA grants extension
Meanwhile, the expiration date for at-home Binax tests has been extended to 15 months.
I'm not really feeling it, but for the record:
We're very lucky - It could be far, far worse (Erik Topol)
Has omicron crested in the Bay Area? Sewage samples seem to suggest so