Coronavirus Tidbits #145 6/20/21


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.


More than 70% of COVID-19 patients experience at least one persistent symptom

for at least 60 days, according to the results of a systematic review recently published in JAMA Network Open.

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Nearly one-fifth of asymptomatic COVID-19 patients went on to develop signs of long-haul COVID 30 days or more after diagnosis, according to a FAIR Health analysis of private insurance claims.

Speaking of long-haul COVID symptoms, many COVID patients are still struggling with parosmia -- an abnormal sense of smell, while others are developing completely new health problems. (New York Times)

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The Doctor Who Eliminated Smallpox Says COVID-19 Is Here to Stay

The Daily Beast  -- Harry Siegel

In some pockets of the United States, if you squint hard enough, the coronavirus pandemic might feel like it’s almost over. Larry Brilliant would beg to disagree. With U.S. COVID-19 deaths soon to surpass the domestic toll from the great influenza of a century ago even as widely available vaccines have worked wonders, Brilliant, the epidemiologist who worked with the WHO to help eradicate smallpox and was the science adviser for the eerily prescient film Contagion, thinks there’s still plenty left to worry about—but also lots of good news to appreciate.

In an hour-long interview that’s been edited for length and clarity, I asked him about why he thinks it’s too late to hope for herd immunity, and what he thinks we need to be doing now in what looks to be a long fight against what he describes as a Forever Virus. We also ended up talking about MERS, SARS, Ebola, the “Spanish flu,” anti-maskers, biological warfare and Yogi Berra.

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During the pandemic, the World Health Organization broke its own rules on hiring high-priced consultants, to the tune $11.7 million, all the while struggling to pay for vaccines and other life-saving equipment. (Vox)

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still an incredible, negligent lack of testing.

Drugs and Vaccines:

US pledges Pfizer vaccines to low-income economies, including North Korea

500 million vaccine doses to be procured for donation, though unclear whether North Korea will accept the overture

100 countries including 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries and economies defined by Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) mechanism will receive U.S.-donated vaccines.

This is a separate decision from an earlier U.S. pledge to share 80 million doses with other countries starting this month.

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Moreover, the U.S. VAERS had received reports of myocarditis or pericarditis among people ages 30 and younger who received a COVID-19 vaccine. Through follow-up, including medical record reviews, the CDC and FDA have confirmed 268 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis.

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Data and safety review board reports how it monitored the COVID-19 vaccine trials

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Clinical evaluation of three COVID-19 vaccine candidates in 2020-21 during a worldwide pandemic that killed or sickened millions was unprecedented in terms of urgency and scope. Responsibility for the safety, integrity and scientific validity of the trials in the United States fell to 12 experts of the federally appointed COVID-19 Vaccine Data and Safety Monitoring Board, or COVID-19 DSMB, who in turn report to an oversight group.

This COVID-19 DSMB team -- which included co-contributing author Richard Whitley, M.D., distinguished professor of pediatrics in the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine -- has now taken the unusual step of publishing details of their review process in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Their goal, they say, is to assure the public of the board's independence and lack of interference from external actors, while they operated under exceptional conditions. Challenges the board faced included:

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Is Old Vaccine Technology the Key to Hesitancy?

— Experts weigh whether Novavax's protein subunit strategy can convince some COVID vaccine holdouts

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Let's Recognize Childhood COVID as the Crisis It Is

— The calculus of risk is different for kids

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What did Emergent BioSolutions do with its $628 million in federal contracts to manufacture COVID-19 vaccine? Hint: some executive bonuses might have been involved. (New York Times)

The FDA also released another 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID shot from the troubled Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore. (Wall Street Journal)

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Regeneron antibody saves lives in some hospitalized Covid patients, study finds

Previous studies of monoclonal antibodies have shown that the treatments, given early in the course of the disease, can prevent patients from being hospitalized.

In the RECOVERY trial: In these so-called seronegative patients, who were infected but who had not mounted their own antibody response, the benefit was dramatic. The addition of the monoclonal antibody cocktail reduced the percentage of patients who died from 30% to 24%. That is a 20% relative reduction. It means that for every 100 patients who were treated with the antibody cocktail, six fewer died.

hospital stay was reduced from 17 days to 13 days

in the seropositive patients, there was no benefit from the antibody cocktail.

Previously, the RECOVERY trial failed to find a benefit from convalescent plasma.

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Epidemiology/Infection control:

First US COVID cases may date back to mid-December 2019

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Ongoing COVID surges in multiple regions


cases increased 36.3% over the previous week.

South Africa reported more than half of last week's cases, and other hot spots include Zambia, Uganda, Namibia, and Kenya. Twenty countries reported rises in cases, with increases of 50% or more in 10 of them.

of 2.2 billion doses that have been administered worldwide, less than 1% have been given in Africa.

Moscow officials are planning to offer cars in prize drawings to boost vaccination levels.

Pakistani officials are also worried about low vaccine uptake and are taking a tough stance by blocking people's cell phone service in two provinces and suspending the pay of some government employees who have not been immunized, according to the New York Times.

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The Delta variant is spreading. What does it mean for the US?

Covid-19 cases have fallen far below the winter peak, but the Delta variant has roughly doubled every two weeks in the US.

The doubling of cases has led some, such as the former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb, to predict that Delta may represent as much as 10% of US cases by mid-June.

The CDC officially elevated Delta to a “variant of concern” this week. A “variant of concern” designation puts Delta in the same category of increased surveillance as Alpha and Gamma (the variant first identified in Brazil)....a more transmissible virus can make social distancing less successful.

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Sewage sleuths helped an Arizona town beat back Covid-19. For wastewater epidemiology, that’s just the start

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Tips, general reading for public:


Wash your hands.

Rinse and repeat.

The FDA warned against breathing in hand sanitizer vapors, recommending application in well-ventilated areas--symptoms such as headache, nausea, and dizziness can occur after applying alcohol-based hand sanitizers to the skin.


Vaccine Diplomacy Boosts China’s Standing in Latin America

Beijing has increased its leverage in the region—but Washington can still stage a comeback.  Foreign Policy

By Oliver Stuenkel, an associate professor of international relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in São Paulo.

More than one year into the pandemic, it is hard to overstate how much China has improved its standing in Latin America in terms of both its reputation among the general public and its influence with leaders and policymakers. Beijing’s diplomatic triumph—as the provider of the majority of all vaccines administered in Latin America, where the pandemic is still raging and more than 1 million people have died of COVID-19 so far—is all the more remarkable given the obstacles China faced along the way.

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Feel good du jour:

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Comic relief:

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Bits of beauty:


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