Coronavirus Tidbits #192 5/15/22

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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.

News 

North Korea reports first COVID deaths, explosive outbreak spread

News reports, citing North Korea’s state media, said the country has reported six COVID-19 deaths, including at least one linked to the Omicron variant, amid explosive spread that has led to about 350,000 people being treated for fevers.

Yesterday, 18,000 more people with fever symptoms were reported, with 187,800 under isolation, according to the Associated Press (AP).

It’s not clear how many cases are COVID-19, due to lack of information on North Korea’s testing capacity. Global health officials are concerned about the country’s widening health crisis, due to a lack of vaccines and treatments, alongside a weak medical infrastructure.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un was seen wearing a mask for the first time yesterday. He criticized officials for failing to prevent the disease and said the outbreak is centered around Pyongyang. The country held a large military parade in the city on Apr 25.

It’s unclear if North Korea has experienced earlier COVID-19 activity. Last June, Kim Jong Un lashed out at party officials for failing to implement measures to battle the threat, though the country had earlier imposed border closures and travel curbs.

North Korea did not accept its allotted COVAX vaccine from the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners, and in October, the head of the WHO said North Korea was among three countries that hadn’t started vaccinating yet.

South Korea and China have both offered assistance, but North Korea apparently hasn’t asked for help, according to the AP story.

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2022/05/north-korea-reports-first-covid-deaths-explosive-outbreak-spread

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‘A pretty big deal’: U.S. makes COVID-19 technologies available for use in developing countries

The U.S. government has agreed to put licenses for 11 medical technologies developed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) into a so-called patent pool, a move that promises to make it easier for low- and middle-income countries to gain access to vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics for COVID-19. President Joe Biden made the announcement yesterday at the Global COVID-19 Summit.

The government cut a deal to provide the federally funded inventions with the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, organized by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO then turns over the licenses to a nonprofit, the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), which negotiates with manufacturers interested in using the technologies to make products that can be sold worldwide. “It’s a pretty big deal,” says James Love, who directs Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit that advocates for sharing intellectual property to benefit the public.

The scheme is part of a broader push to make medicines developed in rich countries more broadly accessible that Love helped spark 2 decades ago by campaigning for the availability of HIV drugs in poor countries.

https://newsopener.com/science/a-pretty-big-deal-u-s-makes-covid-19-technologies-available-for-use-in-developing-countries/

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New Study Finds Persistent Viral Shedding of COVID-19 Is Associated with Delirium and Six-Month Mortality in Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients

Chicago, IL – A new Northwestern Medicine study published in GeroScience sought to determine the prevalence, risk factors and significance of persistent viral shedding in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The Northwestern Medicine Neuro COVID-19 research team discovered patients who continued to test positive more than 14 days after their initial positive test were more likely to experience delirium, longer hospital stays, were less likely to be discharged home, and had a greater six-month mortality than those without persistent viral shedding of COVID-19.

The study included all patients who required hospitalization for COVID-19 throughout the Northwestern Medicine health system between March and August 2020. Of the 2,518 patients hospitalized during that time, 959 underwent repeat COVID-19 testing at least 14 days from initial testing, and 405 of those patients (42%) were found to have persistent viral shedding.

https://www.newswise.com/coronavirus/new-study-finds-persistent-viral-shedding-of-covid-19-is-associated-with-delirium-and-six-month-mortality-in-hospitalized-covid-19-patients/?article_id=770774&sc=mwhr&xy=10048578

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Want to prevent pandemics? Stop spillovers

Nature  Neil M. Vora , et al.  COMMENT

Spillover events, in which a pathogen that originates in animals jumps into people, have probably triggered every viral pandemic that’s occurred since the start of the twentieth century1. What’s more, an August 2021 analysis of disease outbreaks over the past four centuries indicates that the yearly probability of pandemics could increase several-fold in the coming decades, largely because of human-induced environmental changes2.

Fortunately, for around US$20 billion per year, the likelihood of spillover could be greatly reduced3. This is the amount needed to halve global deforestation in hotspots for emerging infectious diseases; drastically curtail and regulate trade in wildlife; and greatly improve the ability to detect and control infectious diseases in farmed animals.

That is a small investment compared with the millions of lives lost and trillions of dollars spent in the COVID-19 pandemic. The cost is also one-twentieth of the statistical value of the lives lost each year to viral diseases that have spilled over from animals since 1918 (see ‘Spillovers: a growing threat’), and less than one-tenth of the economic productivity erased per year1.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-01312-y

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Study finds the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not viable on cash banknotes

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many businesses stopped accepting cash payments in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus. While neither the CDC nor WHO ever banned the use of paper money, many businesses still only accept payment by card more than two years later.

Turns out that this decision, though well-intentioned, was misguided.

A new study published in PLOS ONE from BYU scientists finds that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is almost immediately nonviable if deposited on a cash banknote. The virus actually shows greater stability on plastic money cards, with the live virus still being detected 48 hours after initial deposition, but no viable virus was detected on either cash or card that was randomly sampled in the study…

The researchers found that SARS-CoV-2 was difficult to detect on the dollar bills even just 30 minutes after being placed there. The study find the virus was reduced by 99.9993% at the 30 minute mark. They tested again after 24 and 48 hours and found no live virus on the banknotes.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-05-sars-cov-virus-viable-cash-banknotes.html

In contrast, the virus only reduced 90% on money cards at the 30-minute mark. While this reduction rate increased to 99.6% by four hours, and 99.96% by 24 hours, the live virus was still detectable on the money cards 48 hours later. The coins performed similarly to the plastic cards, with a strong initial reduction in virus presence, yet still testing positive for the live virus after 24 and 48 hours.

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Covid shutdowns in China are delaying medical scans in the U.S.

Doctors in the United States are prioritizing only the most critical patients and hospitals are rationing supplies of a crucial drug after a covid lockdown in China temporarily closed a GE Healthcare factory that is a vital source for a key ingredient in medical imaging.

The shutdown of the facility in Shanghai in April halted production of contrast media, an iodine solution that medical staff inject into blood vessels to allow a device such as a CT scanner or fluoroscope to see inside the body. Contrast media, also known as dye, is used virtually every hour in hospitals across the country to help measure arterial blockages around the heart, guide placement of stents in catheter labs, diagnose and treat strokes, and more. Oncologists use contrast to monitor cancerous tumors.

But with contrast supplies dwindling because of the manufacturing shutdown halfway around the world – part of stringent Chinese covid policies that kept workers at home and forced factory closures – doctors at many U.S. health systems are scrambling. They are prioritizing the most seriously ill patients and postponing more routine tests for those who can safely wait until contrast stocks are replenished.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/05/11/medical-scans-dye-shortage/?

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Smell, taste loss less likely with newer COVID variants: Study

Since the early days of the pandemic, loss of smell and taste have been tied to COVID-19 infection. But a new study shows those telltale traits are much less likely with the Omicron variant than the earlier Alpha and Delta versions of the coronavirus.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-05-loss-covid-variants.html?

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EU lifts mask recommendation for air travel as pandemic ebbs

The European Union will no longer recommend medical masks be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, though member states can still require them, officials said Wednesday.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-05-eu-mask-requirement-air-pandemic.html?

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3/ Some women just *can’t.* The baby won’t learn to latch, and many many women receive, still, little help to increase odds. Or the suck response isn’t sufficient. Or the baby isn’t otherwise receiving enough nutrition.

4/ Women who’ve tried and failed and are bullied into keeping trying and discouraged or shamed for using formula put their baby’s life in danger. And face prosecution for neglect.

5/ For many, many, many women, there’s no ability to only breastfeed for economic reasons. IE: their jobs or duties simply makes incompatible. You work two part-time jobs to support your child(ren) AND you spend hours a day nursing? Come on.

6/ Breast pumps are expensive! Workplaces that support pumping with both privacy and schedule allowances are still far too rare. Do you think there’s a nursing room in the back of every McDonalds?

7/ Breast pumps are heavy and bulky. Try taking it to work on a bus, or if you have to walk long distances. Do you think most women can afford to have two and leave one at work? That they have a secure space to lock it up? No.

8/ Women who have to/want to work can find pumping pretty impossible. This is obviously especially true for low-wage workers. You know, the ones most impacted by dismantling abortion rights.

9/ All the “breast milk is free” remarks I see far too many ignorant men (and some women) make on here just hammer home how pitiful and/or indifferent you are. It’s pathetic.

10/ Congress itself only had lactation rooms in its office buildings in 2004. Starting with one. Some 10,000 people work there.

11/ Conservatives think abortion can be solved with adoption. WELL GUESS WHAT, ADOPTED KIDS CAN’T BE BREASTFED. Ditto kids born to surrogates. Or raised by dad(s). Etc.

12/ Pumping is…painful. Somewhat for everyone, and for some people it’s real torture. Each pumping session requires a) privacy b) careful sterilization of various parts. So like, not ideally done in a public restroom!

13/ Bottle feeding allows your partner to help and bond with baby. And it allows for others to help, also, b/c maybe there is no partner!

14/ Pumping also requires that your job has a fridge that you’re allowed to use and store breast milk in. MANY jobs don’t have this.

15/ Maybe you’re on medication that precludes giving breast milk to an infant. Anyway there are myriad barriers for even privileged women in a supportive workplace to be able to pump at all/enough.

16/ So lets call this for what it is: The way women are punished and shamed no matter their reproductive choices.

17/ And breastfeeding is only “free” because the value of our time is set at zero.

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Diagnostics:

still an incredible, negligent last of testing.

Drugs and Vaccines:

Moderna vaccine up to 88% effective against COVID in kids 6 to 11 years

Estimated effectiveness of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine against infection in children 6 to 11 years old was 88% at least 14 days after the first dose amid the Delta variant surge, before the emergence of Omicron, finds an interim analysis from a phase 2/3 clinical trial.”These results…provide support for the use of this vaccine to prevent Covid-19 in children,” the authors wrote….

On Oct 29, 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include 5- to 11-year-olds. Moderna has asked the FDA to authorize its vaccine for kids aged 6 to 11 years and 6 months to 5 years.
May 11 NEJM study

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2022/05/covid-19-scan-may-12-2022

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Mix-and-match mRNA COVID vaccines may offer more Omicron protection

Researchers in Singapore discovered that a Moderna COVID booster following a two-dose Pfizer vaccine series induced a stronger neutralizing antibody response against the Omicron variant in adults compared with an all-Pfizer series, according to a study today in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

More significantly, the group with a Moderna booster had higher antibodies against variants of concern, including Omicron. The median surrogate neutralizing antibody level against Omicron in the all-Pfizer group was 72.8%, compared with 84.3% in the mixed-vaccine group.

Participants ages 60 and older showed a more robust immune response to mixing than younger participants, the authors said; in that group, three Pfizer doses offered 64.6% protection against Omicron, compared to 89.2% for older adults who received a Moderna third dose.

“For the vulnerable older age group in particular, a heterologous booster COVID-19 vaccine regimen induces a higher anti-spike antibody titer and a stronger neutralizing antibody response against the highly infectious Omicron variant (~20% higher neutralization) than a homologous booster regimen,” the authors concluded.
May 11 Clin Infect Dis 
study

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2022/05/covid-19-scan-may-11-2022

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Devices:

Epidemiology/Infection control:

Interesting thread from Bob Wachter–this is midway through:

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Thread:

Tips, general reading for public:

Ventilate.

Mask.

Vax.

Politics:

Covid:

Report criticizes meat industry, USDA response to pandemic

At the height of the pandemic, the meat processing industry worked closely with political appointees in the Trump administration to stave off health restrictions and keep slaughterhouses open even as COVID-19 spread rapidly among workers, according to a Congressional report released Thursday.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-05-criticizes-meat-industry-usda-response.html?

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Elections:

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2018, but was this fixed?

Privacy/surveillance:

Prices/inflation:

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Florida/DeSantis:

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Georgia:

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Idaho:

Michigan:

Missouri:

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Ohio:

Pennsylvania – Oz

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Texas:

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West Virginia:

Adoption

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LGBTQ:

SCOTUS home protests:

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Roe/Abortion:

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https://twitter.com/JuddLegum/status/1522563650724282368?s=20&t=XJWagFtGvBA-ucpn94BDPw

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https://twitter.com/VegasVisions/status/1522600081987301376?s=20&t=XJWagFtGvBA-ucpn94BDPw

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Louisiana:

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Arkansas:

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Georgia:

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Maine:

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Mississippi:

Signs:

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Ukraine/Russia:

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fun at Russian Embassy:

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Feel good du jour:

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Comic relief:

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Perspective/Poem

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Bits of beauty:

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