Coronavirus Tidbits #177 1/30/22

Announcements:

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.

New post:

My latest: I'm excited about this new #saliva based #rapidtest for #Covid in part because it is #OpenAccess. No patent, inexpensive, free technology as "a gift to the world" fr @UCSB researchers

Smartphone And Spit: A Game-Changing Test For Covid And Flu

https://www.forbes.com/sites/judystone/2022/01/28/smartphone-and-spit-a-game-changing-test-for-covid-and-flu/?sh=2f087ea49961

News 

Omicron:

What to know about BA.2, the newest Covid omicron variant

(Thus far, no evidence that BA.2 is more severe. It is likely more infectious).

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/what-to-know-about-ba-2-the-newest-covid-omicron-variant/ar-AATdEPL?

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(via ECDC, Europe's CDC) Denmark's Statens Serum Institute said yesterday that early calculations suggest BA.2 is 1.5 times more infectious than the original Omicron variant and that so far, there's no sign of a difference in hospitalizations.

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2022/01/ecdc-details-covid-vaccine-payoffs-plan-post-peak-phase

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China’s zero-COVID strategy: what happens next?

With Omicron or Delta outbreaks already in multiple provinces, scientists say next week’s Winter Olympics will present a major test of China’s zero-tolerance approach.

Near-impossible to keep out

Researchers say that vaccines based on inactivated-virus technology — such as China’s widely used CoronaVac and Sinopharm vaccines — offer some protection against severe disease with Omicron, but will prevent few Omicron infections. “It is not the right time to reopen,” says Chen Tianmu, an epidemiologist at Xiamen University.

But other researchers argue that it will be near-impossible for China to keep the variant out. “You can’t stop the wind with your hand,” says Rafael Araos, a physician and epidemiologist at the University for Development in Santiago. The costs of shutting borders outweigh the benefits, now that vaccines can reduce hospitalizations and deaths, he says. “It is getting harder and harder to justify the zero-COVID approach.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00191-7

 

Other news:

Government watchdog says HHS is at ‘high risk’ of botching a future crisis

GAO criticizes the response to emergencies over four administrations, including coronavirus, Ebola and Zika, as well as extreme weather events. Investigators “found persistent deficiencies” in how the agency has led the response to the coronavirus pandemic and past public health emergencies dating to 2007, the Government Accountability Office concluded, citing continued problems coordinating among public health agencies, collecting infectious-disease surveillance data and securing appropriate testing and medical supplies, among areas it said are unresolved.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2022/01/27/gao-hhs-mismanaged-pandemic-response/

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New dangers? Computers uncover 100,000 novel viruses in old genetic data

World NewsEra Poultney Carducci January 26, 2022

It took just one virus to cripple the world’s economy and kill millions of people; yet virologists estimate that trillions of still-unknown viruses exist, many of which might be lethal or have the potential to spark the next pandemic. Now, they have a new—and very long—list of possible suspects to interrogate. By sifting through unprecedented amounts of existing genomic data, scientists have uncovered more than 100,000 novel viruses, including nine coronaviruses and more than 300 related to the hepatitis Delta virus, which can cause liver failure.

“It’s a foundational piece of work,” says J. Rodney Brister, a bioinformatician at the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s National Library of Medicine who was not involved in the new study. The work expands the number of known viruses that use RNA instead of DNA for their genes by an order of magnitude. It also “demonstrates our outrageous lack of knowledge about this group of organisms,” says disease ecologist Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit research group in New York City that is raising money to launch a global survey of viruses. The work will also help launch so-called petabyte genomics—the analyses of previously unfathomable quantities of DNA and RNA data. (One petabyte is 1015 bytes.)

That wasn’t exactly what computational biologist Artem Babaian had in mind when he was in between jobs in early 2020. Instead, he was simply curious about how many coronaviruses—aside from the virus that had just launched the COVID-19 pandemic—could be found in sequences in existing genomic databases.

https://worldnewsera.com/news/career-jobs/new-dangers-computers-uncover-100000-novel-viruses-in-old-genetic-data/

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Germany overtakes US as largest WHO donor

By EUOBSERVER  January 25, 2022

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday said Germany has become its largest donor, a position previously held by the United States. "As you all know, Germany has been an important friend and longstanding partner to WHO and in fact it is now WHO's largest donor," said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

https://euobserver.com/tickers/154182?

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Opinion: Doctors were complicit in Holocaust atrocities. Current and future health care workers need to know that

It wasn't a few "bad apple" physicians who harmed thousands of people during the Holocaust. Health care workers need to know that history.

https://www.statnews.com/2022/01/27/doctors-complicit-holocaust-atrocities/?

Diagnostics:

still an incredible, negligent lack of testing.

False Negatives Still Common With COVID PCR Testing

— Pathologist says one in five people get negative result even if they have COVID

https://www.medpagetoday.com/special-reports/exclusives/96789?

Drugs and Vaccines:

Lost your Vax Card? Now what?

You could be lucky enough to live in one of the states that let people access their vaccination records from their smartphones. Those states include ArizonaCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutDelawareHawaiiIllinoisIndianaLouisianaMarylandMassachusettsMississippiNew JerseyNew YorkNorth DakotaRhode IslandUtah and Washington.

Other states have websites where vaccination information can be requested, usually as a PDF or email. Those states include MichiganMinnesotaNew MexicoNorth CarolinaOklahoma, and Wisconsin.

https://www.nytimes.com/article/vaccine-card-replacement.html

 

CDC to pharmacies: Allow 4th dose for immunocompromised people

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reached out to major retail pharmacies  on a conference call yesterday, reaffirming that immunocompromised patients are eligible for a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to Kaiser Health News.

The CDC currently recommends a fourth shot of COVID-19 vaccine for roughly 7 million Americans, including those with suppressed immune systems due to organ transplants, cancer treatments, or autoimmune diseases.

The recommendation has been in place since October, but yesterday Kaiser Health News published a story reporting that many patients were being turned away at commercial pharmacies.

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2022/01/covid-19-hospital-cases-drop-northeast-midwest

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COVID-19 Vaccine Before or After Infection? For Super Immunity, It Makes No Difference

January 26, 2022  Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

At this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, two years in, people have reached varying levels of immunity to SARS-CoV-2. And, they have taken different paths to get there. Whether the path includes vaccination, a natural infection, an infection after vaccination, or vice versa, many people are left wondering what their level of immunity is. Now, a new study finds that there are two routes to enhanced immune protection—breakthrough infections following vaccination or vaccination after natural infection—both of which provide roughly equal levels of enhanced immune protection.

This study is published in Science Immunology in the paper, “Vaccination before or after SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to robust humoral response and antibodies that effectively neutralize variants.

https://www.genengnews.com/topics/drug-discovery/covid-19-vaccine-before-or-after-infection-for-super-immunity-it-makes-no-difference/

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Mix-and-match trial finds additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine safe, immunogenic

In adults who had previously received a full regimen of any of three COVID-19 vaccines granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an additional booster dose of any of these vaccines was safe and prompted an immune response, according to preliminary clinical trial results reported in The New England Journal of Medicine.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-01-mix-and-match-trial-additional-dose-covid-.html?

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Africa CDC: Continent on course to vaccinate 70% this year

The African continent is on course to reach its target of vaccinating at least 70% of its population against COVID-19 by the end of 2022, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters on Thursday.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-01-africa-cdc-continent-vaccinate-year.html?

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Evushield

Patchwork system for rationing a Covid drug sends immunocompromised patients on a ‘Hunger Games Hunt"

https://www.statnews.com/2022/01/27/patchwork-system-for-rationing-covid-drug-sends-patients-on-hunger-games-hunt/

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Antivax profit

Five anti-vaccine writers are together making at least $2.5 million a year from their Substack newsletters. (The Guardian)

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Real-world data showed that COVID-19 boosters demonstrate about 95% vaccine effectiveness against death from Omicron for people ages 50 and up, the U.K. Health Security Agency announced.

Devices:

Free N95 masks are arriving at pharmacies and grocery stores. Here's how to get yours

https://www.npr.org/2022/01/25/1075640873/free-n95-masks-covid

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https://twitter.com/Dr_FarrisD/status/1486788332172492810?s=20&t=ug9Nro_tJUHMb3_O2tGzBw

 

Epidemiology/Infection control:

More than 1.1 million pediatric cases

According to the latest update from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), nearly 1,151,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported from Jan 13 to 20, a 17% increase over the previous week.

"Over 10.6 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic; Over 2 million of these cases have been added in the past 2 weeks," the AAP said in its report. This is the 24th week in a row with child cases totaling 100,000 or more.

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2022/01/cdc-confirms-omicron-less-severe-other-variants

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Long-COVID symptoms less likely in vaccinated people, Israeli data say

People who’ve both been vaccinated and had COVID-19 are less likely to report fatigue and other health problems than unvaccinated people.

Nature Freda Kreier 25 January 2022

Data from people infected with SARS-CoV-2 early in the pandemic add to growing evidence suggesting that vaccination can help to reduce the risk of long COVID1.

Researchers in Israel report that people who have had both SARS-CoV-2 infection and doses of Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine were much less likely to report any of a range of common long-COVID symptoms than were people who were unvaccinated when infected. In fact, vaccinated people were no more likely to report symptoms than people who’d never caught SARS-CoV-2. The study has not yet been peer reviewed.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00177-5

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COVID-19: endemic doesn’t mean harmless

Rosy assumptions endanger public health — policymakers must act now to shape the years to come.

Nature Aris Katzourakis 24 January 2022

The word ‘endemic’ has become one of the most misused of the pandemic. And many of the errant assumptions made encourage a misplaced complacency. It doesn’t mean that COVID-19 will come to a natural end.

To an epidemiologist, an endemic infection is one in which overall rates are static — not rising, not falling. More precisely, it means that the proportion of people who can get sick balances out the ‘basic reproduction number’ of the virus, the number of individuals that an infected individual would infect, assuming a population in which everyone could get sick. Yes, common colds are endemic. So are Lassa fever, malaria and polio. So was smallpox, until vaccines stamped it out.

In other words, a disease can be endemic and both widespread and deadly. Malaria killed more than 600,000 people in 2020. Ten million fell ill with tuberculosis that same year and 1.5 million died. Endemic certainly does not mean that evolution has somehow tamed a pathogen so that life simply returns to ‘normal’.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-00155-x

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Tips, general reading for public:

StayAtHome

Wash your hands.

Rinse and repeat.

Politics:

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Note, Joni Mitchell also had polio as a child.

"I always think that polio was a rehearsal for the rest of my life," she said during her brief remarks. "I've had to come back several times from things. And this last one was a real whopper. But, you know, I'm hobbling along but I'm doing all right."

https://q1043.iheart.com/content/2021-12-06-joni-mitchell-says-childhood-fight-with-polio-prepared-her-for-aneurysm/

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The Biden administration used billions in hospital Covid-19 funds to pay drugmakers

STAT By Rachel Cohrs Jan. 26, 2022

 WASHINGTON — The Biden administration quietly took nearly $7 billion from a fund meant to help hospitals and clinics affected by the pandemic and used it to buy Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics, according to a document obtained by STAT.

The move is similar to the Trump administration’s decision to divert $10 billion from the same fund to Operation Warp Speed, which STAT reported exclusively in March.

Now, the hospital money, known as the Provider Relief Fund, has run dry, and has no new money left to allocate, according to the agency that administers it. Providers have only been able to submit requests for expenses incurred through March 2021 — before both the Delta and Omicron surges battered the health care system.

With the new $7 billion shift, which has not been previously reported, the diversion to drugmakers totals nearly $17 billion, or roughly 10% of the overall money Congress allotted for the fund for hospitals and physician practices. Congress set aside that money to help health care providers pay for pandemic-related expenses including staffing, personal protective equipment, care for uninsured patients, and vaccine distribution.

The new details about the Biden administration’s spending decision come as hospitals across the country are struggling with a crushing surge of Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths due to the Omicron variant. And their representatives in Washington are furious.

https://www.statnews.com/2022/01/26/the-biden-administration-used-billions-in-hospital-covid-19-funds-to-pay-drugmakers/

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Trump Created A Program To Privatize Medicare Without Patients' Consent. Biden Is Keeping It Going.

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/paulmcleod/medicare-biden-trump-progressives-privatization

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https://twitter.com/HuffmanForNC/status/1484890966720921603?s=20&t=ug9Nro_tJUHMb3_O2tGzBw

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Feel good du jour:

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Comic relief:

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Perspective/Poem

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Inflation and Food Prices

This time last year, the cheapest rice at the same supermarket was 45p for a kilogram bag. Today it’s £1 for 500g. That’s a 344% price increase as it hits the poorest and most vulnerable households.

Baked beans: were 22p, now 32p. A 45% price increase year on year.

Canned spaghetti. Was 13p, now 35p. A price increase of 169%.

Bread. Was 45p, now 58p. A price increase of 29%.

Curry sauce. Was 30p, now 89p. A price increase of 196%.

A bag of small apples. Was 59p, now 89p (and the apples are even smaller!) A price increase of 51%.

Mushrooms were 59p for 400g. They’re now 57p for 250g. A price increase of 56%. (This practise, of making products smaller while keeping them the same price, is known in the retail industry as ‘shrinkflation’ and its insidious as hell because it’s harder to immediately spot.)

Peanut butter. Was 62p, now £1.50. A price increase of 142%.

These are just the ones that I know off the top of my head - there will be many many more examples! When I started writing my recipe blog ten years ago, I could feed myself and my son on £10 a week. (I’ll find the original shopping list later and price it up for today’s prices.)

The system by which we measure the impact of inflation is fundamentally flawed - it completely ignores the reality and the REAL price rises for people on minimum wages, zero hour contracts, food bank clients, and millions more.

Entire thread at https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1483778776697909252.html

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Bits of beauty:

Glacier National Park - 2009

 

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