Coronavirus Tidbits #127 3/7/21

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First, there is now a Resources Page here for the most commonly asked questions I’m getting.

Happy to continue to answer your questions/concerns as best I can, so don’t be shy about that.

Excited to have my opinion piece in MIT’s Undark science magazine about unintended consequences of hospitals’ visitation restrictions during Covid


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AF, atrial flutter in COVID-19 may be tied to inflammation

New-onset atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter are as common in hospitalized patients with influenza as with COVID-19, suggesting the connection between the arrhythmias and COVID-19 is related to the general inflammatory state.

Although COVID-19 was known to increase inflammatory markers associated with atrial arrhythmias, the relationship of the inflammation to COVID-19 was not known, so the researchers conducted a retrospective analysis comparing incidence, predictors and outcomes of AF or atrial flutter in patients with COVID-19 and patients with influenza, another viral disease that increases inflammatory markers.

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Respiratory symptoms persist 6 months after hospitalization for COVID-19: Survey

A survey of patients following hospitalization for COVID-19 revealed residual shortness of breath, fatigue and other changes in daily living activities in the 6 months after discharge.

The most common respiratory symptoms reported after discharge were fatigue (52.4%); changes in activities of daily living, such as the ability to walk, eat, dress and complete personal care, impacted by the ability to breathe (52.4%); shortness of breath or difficulty catching breath (47.6%); and change in smell/taste sensation (42.9%), according to data reported at the virtual American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting.

Other respiratory symptoms reported included increased mucus production (38.1%), rhinorrhea (28.6%), nasal congestion (28.6%), cough (26.2%), chest tightness (23.8%), sneezing (19%), wheezing (16.7%) and sinus pain or pressure (11.9%).

These reported symptoms persisted 5 to 6 months after hospital discharge, according to the researchers.

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NIH will invest $1.15 billion to investigate ‘long COVID’

over 4 years… to track people’s recovery, and will host a biospecimen bank.

Symptoms of long COVID are wide-ranging and include fatigue, fevers and shortness of breath, as well as neurological conditions such as anxiety and depression, and an inability to concentrate. They can appear weeks after a SARS-CoV-2 infection and linger for months. The NIH has begun referring to the collection of after-effects as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, or PASC.

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UN: 17% of all food available at consumer levels is wasted

Nairobi/Paris, 4 March 2021 – An estimated 931 million tonnes of food, or 17% of total food available to consumers in 2019, went into the waste bins of households, retailers, restaurants and other food services, according to new UN research conducted to support global efforts to halve food waste by 2030.

The weight roughly equals that of 23 million fully-loaded 40-tonne trucks — enough bumper-to-bumper to circle the Earth 7 times.

The Food Waste Index Report 2021… offers a methodology for countries to measure food waste. 152 food waste data points were identified in 54 countries.

The report finds that in nearly every country that has measured food waste, it was substantial, regardless of income level. It shows that most of this waste comes from households, which discard 11% of the total food available at the consumption stage of the supply chain. Food services and retail outlets waste 5% and 2% respectively.

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still an incredible, negligent lack of testing.

Drugs and Vaccines:

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Can Vaccinated People Still Spread the Coronavirus?

So you’ve gotten your coronavirus vaccine, waited the two weeks for your immune system to respond to the shot and are now fully vaccinated. Does this mean you can make your way through the world like the old days without fear of spreading the virus? Deborah Fuller is a microbiologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine working on coronavirus vaccines. She explains what the science shows about transmission post-vaccination – and whether new variants could change this equation.

Does Vaccination Completely Prevent Infection?

The short answer is no. You can still get infected after you’ve been vaccinated. But your chances of getting seriously ill are almost zero.

Many people think vaccines work like a shield, blocking a virus from infecting cells altogether. But in most cases, a person who gets vaccinated is protected from disease, not necessarily infection.

Every person’s immune system is a little different, so when a vaccine is 95% effective, that just means 95% of people who receive the vaccine won’t get sick. These people could be completely protected from infection, or they could be getting infected but remain asymptomatic because their immune system eliminates the virus very quickly. The remaining 5% of vaccinated people can become infected and get sick, but are extremely unlikely to be hospitalized.

Vaccination doesn’t 100% prevent you from getting infected, but in all cases it gives your immune system a huge leg up on the coronavirus. Whatever your outcome – whether complete protection from infection or some level of disease – you will be better off after encountering the virus than if you hadn’t been vaccinated.

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Russia’s Sputnik coronavirus vaccine is alluring for Eastern Europe, creating a potential rift for the EU

as it struggles to ramp up its rollout of coronavirus vaccines across the 27 member bloc.

The Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia have all expressed interest in procuring and deploying Russia’s “Sputnik V” vaccine, a move that could undermine an EU-wide approach to approving and administering coronavirus vaccines.

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Chinese vaccines

Amid a dearth of public data on China’s vaccines, hesitations over their efficacy and safety are still pervasive in the countries depending on them, along with concerns about what China might want in return for deliveries. Nonetheless, inoculations with Chinese vaccines already have begun in more than 25 countries, and the Chinese shots have been delivered to another 11, according to the AP tally, based on independent reporting in those countries along with government and company announcements.

It’s a potential face-saving coup for China, which has been determined to transform itself from an object of mistrust over its initial mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak to a savior. Like India and Russia, China is trying to build goodwill, and has pledged roughly 10 times more vaccines abroad than it has distributed at home.

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Delayed skin reactions to Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

These reactions should not discourage patients from getting the vaccine, say researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital

In a letter to the editor published online in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the authors note Phase 3 clinical data from the Moderna vaccine trial did show delayed skin hypersensitivity in a small number of the more than 30,000 trial participants. However, the authors say the large, red, sometimes raised, itchy or painful skin reactions were never fully characterized or explained, and they warn clinicians may not be prepared to recognize them and guide patients on treatment options and completion of the second dose of the vaccine.

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Why comparing Covid-19 vaccine efficacy numbers can be misleading

The best Covid-19 vaccine for you is most likely still the first one you can get.

That gap in efficacy numbers is fueling some people’s perception that the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine isn’t as good. However, scientists say that these numbers can’t be fairly compared to one another. The efficacy levels of the Covid-19 vaccines are specific to the clinical trials that produced them, and those trials were not conducted in the same ways. In addition, health officials have been emphasizing that the most important numbers — how well the vaccines prevent hospitalizations and deaths — are consistent across the board and are arguably more comparable. Even after these vaccines have begun distribution, researchers are finding that Covid-19 vaccines are doing a remarkable job of keeping people alive.

Note: The Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines were tested in areas with widespread B1.351 variant, which is much more infectious…so the results of “efficacy” are not entirely comparable.

ALL of the vaccines prevented death and serious illness.

Many favor the J&J vaccine because it is “1 and done.” This is particularly advantageous for students, homeless people



Epidemiology/Infection control:

Will Coronavirus Variants Drive a 3rd Wave of Infections?

Their research published on March 2, 2021, found the P.1 lineage of the SARS-CoV-2 variant first observed in Brazil has driven the second wave of infections.

The researchers estimate that the P.1 is up to 2.2 times more transmissible than earlier lineages. Also, they estimate that P.1 evades 25-61% of protective immunity arising from infection with previously circulating variants.

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Recent changes in COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy among Healthcare Workers

This article is a preprint 

In October, 54.2% of HCWs in clinical roles said they would take an EUA-approved vaccine, which increased to 76.2% in December.

The largest gain in vaccine willingness was observed among physicians, 64.0% of whom said they would take a vaccine in October, compared with 90.5% in December. Nurses were the least likely to report that they would take a vaccine in both October (46.6%) and December (66.9%).

We saw no statistically significant differences in age, race/ethnicity, gender, or medical role between time points.

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Study reveals frequency and characteristics of stroke in COVID-19 patients

Findings also show coronavirus patients with stroke face increased need for long-term care

A review of nearly 28,000 emergency department records shows less than 2% of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 suffered an ischemic stroke but those who did had an increased risk of requiring long-term care after hospital discharge.

…Qureshi said. “Patients with COVID-19 tend to have multisystem involvement and elevated markers of inflammation, which have been shown to increase the rate of death or disability.”

Qureshi said his findings are somewhat different from earlier studies that suggested patients with COVID-19 who developed stroke were younger and without preexisting cardiovascular risk factors.

Tips, general reading for public:


Wash your hands.

Rinse and repeat.


These Grocery Stores Are Ending Their Mask Mandates in Texas

Some chains are following the state’s lead, despite CDC recommendations. Albertsons (now waffling) Central Market H-E-B Those STILL REQUIRING MASKS include: Aldi Costco Kroger Sprouts Target Walmart (CVS and Walgreens: “out of concern for our employees’ safety, we do not stop these (maskless) customers from shopping,” ~ ~ ~

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One company — Curative, a barely year-old California startup that’s scaling testing across the country — was introduced to the state’s pandemic response team on Dec. 15 in an informal, three-sentence e-mail from a senior adviser at Partners in Health. Days later, CIC Health, a newly formed company working with the state on testing, expressed interest in quarterbacking a Massachusetts vaccination effort. And within weeks, those two private entities, along with a third, were awarded no-bid contracts to undertake perhaps one of the state’s most pressing, ambitious initiatives in modern times.

In issuing the contracts, the state sidestepped the planning infrastructure it built in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the anthrax-letter scare in 2001

Feel good du jour:

The sandwich, a banh mi named The Dr. Hotez One World, is a partnership that will raise money for Texas Children’s vaccine development. The center will receive 50 percent of proceeds.

Chef Alex Padilla created the Hotez banh mi with marinated beef, pickled carrots, cucumber, daikon radish and papaya, topped with roasted garlic sambal aioli and jalapeños, on a French bun.

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Comic relief:

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Bits of beauty:


You meet odd faces in the woods…
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