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.
Reminder, Resilience: One Family's Story... is increasingly pertinent, as some of our politicians shift rightward. All proceeds go to Holocaust education.
--a 2-part series on homelessness
“Rough Sleepers”— The Growing Problem Of Homelessness In America
What We Can Learn About Homelessness From ‘Rough Sleepers’
COVID-19 infection at any time during pregnancy boosts mother's risk of death
Pregnant women were nearly 8 times as likely to die as their uninfected peers.
They were also more than 23 times as likely to be diagnosed with pneumonia and more than 5 times as likely to have serious blood clots.
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Testing of plane wastewater showed 'failure' of COVID-era air travel measures
Almost all planes arriving at three UK airports during a period of COVID restrictions had the SARS CoV-2 virus in their wastewater, according to newly published research. The virus was also found in wastewater at arrival terminals.
Bangor University scientists, who pioneered the use of wastewater testing to track SARS-CoV2 in the UK, wanted to find out whether wastewater testing could be used as a way of monitoring the general health of passengers on flights coming into the country in future. The study was published in PLOS Global Public Health.
The team tested the toilet tank water taken from long haul and short haul flights entering the UK at Heathrow, Edinburgh and Bristol airports over a three-week period between 8-31 March 2022. Samples were also collected from sewers connected to the arrival halls in the airport terminals and at a wastewater treatment plant in the vicinity of each airport.
The COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in England on the 18th March 2022, removing the requirement for unvaccinated passengers to take a pre-departure test and a day 2 post arrival test to prove their COVID status. But the researchers found little difference in the concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater before and after that date...
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Are current mRNA vaccines effective against XBB.1.5?
XBB.1.5 and XBB.1 are the omicron subvariants with the greatest immune-evasive properties. Therefore, one of the most contentious issues surrounding XBB.1.5 relates to the degree of protection afforded by currently available mRNA vaccines, including the latest bivalent booster formulations.
Researchers from the University of Texas determined that first-generation and bivalent mRNA booster vaccines containing BA.5 result in lackluster neutralizing antibody responses against XBB.1.5. A report (yet to be peer reviewed) from investigators at the Cleveland Clinic found that bivalent vaccines demonstrate only modest (30 per cent) effectiveness in otherwise healthy non-elderly people when the variants in the vaccine match those circulating in the community.
In contrast, public health experts from Atlanta, Ga. and Stanford, Calif. reported that although the neutralizing antibody activity of bivalent booster vaccines against XBB.1.5 is 12 to 26 times less than antibody activity against the wild-type (original) SARS-CoV-2 virus, bivalent vaccines still perform better than monovalent vaccines against XBB.1.5.
However, investigators from Columbia University in New York found that neutralizing antibody levels following bivalent boosting were up to 155–fold lower against XBB.1.5 compared to levels against the wild-type virus following monovalent boosting.
This suggests that neither monovalent nor bivalent booster vaccines can be relied upon to provide adequate protection against XBB.1.5.
How can you protect yourself against XBB.1.5?
The rapid evolution of SARS-CoV-2 continues to pose a challenge for the management of COVID-19 illness using available preventive and therapeutic agents. Of note, all currently available monoclonal antibodies targeting the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 are deemed to be ineffective against XBB.1.5.
Antiviral medicines such as remdesivir and Paxlovid may be considered for the treatment of eligible infected patients at high risk of progressing to severe disease.
Standard infection control precautions including indoor masking, social distancing and frequent handwashing are effective measures that can be employed for personal and population protection against XBB.1.5 and other subvariants of concern.
Although bivalent boosters may be considered for elderly, immunocompromised and other risk-averse individuals, their effectiveness in preventing COVID-19 illness due to XBB.1.5 remains uncertain.
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Remember: You know what are variant-proof protections?
- N95 masks - HEPA filters - Ventilation of indoor spaces #COVIDIsAirborne
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How your first brush with COVID warps your immunity
The immune system responds more strongly to the strain of a virus that it first met, weakening response to other strains. Can this ‘imprinting’ be overcome?
Nature Rachel Brazil 18 January 2023
During the summer of 2022, with the Omicron coronavirus variant running rampant, friends and relatives of immunologist Bob Seder kept asking him if they should postpone their COVID-19 boosters and wait for the new Omicron-tailored vaccine to become available. He told them not to delay.
Seder, acting chief of the Vaccine Immunology Program at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, suspected that the effectiveness of a new booster would be blunted by a quirk of the immune system known as imprinting — the tendency for someone’s initial exposure to a virus to bias their immune response when they meet the same virus again.
Imprinting was first observed decades ago, in people with influenza. Their immune systems responded to a new circulating strain by producing antibodies tailored to their first flu encounter. In some cases, this led to a poorer ability to fight off the new strain.
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One year later, hybrid immunity offered strongest protection against Covid
If you’ve been wondering how well or how long immunity against Covid-19 lasts after infection, a new paper out in The Lancet Infectious Diseases yesterday offers some answers. A review of 26 studies looked at immunity from infection as well as hybrid immunity, from the combination of infection and vaccination. After one year, hybrid immunity was best, meaning a 95% lower chance of developing severe Covid or needing admission to a hospital, compared to unvaccinated and uninfected people.
Immunity only from an infection one year before gave unvaccinated people a 75% lower chance of severe illness or hospitalization. Protection against being reinfected with Covid wasn’t as strong: Hybrid immunity conferred a 42% lower chance of reinfection after one year and previous infection alone meant a 25% lower chance of reinfection after one year, compared to unvaccinated and uninfected people.
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COVID-19 patients retain elevated risk of death for at least 18 months after infection, finds large-scale study
COVID-19 is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular disease and death in the short- and long-term, according to a study in nearly 160,000 participants published today in Cardiovascular Research, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Compared to uninfected individuals, the likelihood of COVID-19 patients dying was up to 81 times higher in the first three weeks of infection and remained five times higher up to 18 months later...
This study compared the occurrence of cardiovascular conditions and death in infected versus uninfected individuals recruited before December 2020, when no vaccines were available in the UK.
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Survey results indicate nearly 19 million US adults may have long COVID
The results of a population-based survey suggest that nearly 19 million U.S. adults may have long COVID, with some reporting symptoms more than 12 months after their initial infection.
“Most studies of long COVID are in select samples of people, such as people hospitalized with COVID or people who seek health care for COVID symptoms or long COVID symptoms, but there were no studies that tried to get at what the true burden of long COVID is in the general population,” Denis Nash, PhD, MPH, executive director of City University of New York (CUNY) Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health and distinguished professor of epidemiology at the CUNY School of Public Health, told Healio.
“More than 2 years into the pandemic, after most people in the U.S. have had COVID at least once, we wanted to assess how many people had lingering symptoms and to assess risk factors for having long COVID in the general population of U.S. adults," Nash said.
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Covid and innate immunity:
The more severe the COVID-19 infection, the slower the recovery of immune cells, such as the dendritic cells, which are necessary for the activation of the immune system.
In this study, the researchers have taken a closer look at the innate immune system, which is necessary for the body to organize any specific immune defense at all. The first time the body encounters a new virus, such as SARS-CoV-2 at the outset of the pandemic, the immune system must detect it. A group of cells called dendritic cells are necessary for this to happen. These then activate T cells, which can kill cells infected with SARS-CoV-2, and which in their turn activate B cells, which can produce antibodies that neutralize the virus. The dendritic cells are therefore a critical link between the innate and the adaptive immune systems. In an earlier study of the same patient group, the research group found negative effects on T cells....
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Avian influenza aka Bird flu:
More Bears Infected with Bird Flu
The Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) recently confirmed three juvenile grizzly bears tested positive for the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus during the fall of 2022.
These were the first documented cases of HPAI in grizzly bears in Montana.
The three bears were observed to be in poor condition and exhibited disorientation and partial blindness, among other neurological issues. They were euthanized due to their sickness and poor condition.
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USDA data shows avian flu spread to red foxes, skunk in Minnesota
last year Minnesota recorded eight instances of avian flu found in red foxes. There was also a striped skunk in Itasca County that was infected in November. Wisconsin had 17 infected mammals, including in bobcats and a fisher.
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gonorrhea strain with 'reduced response' to antibiotics in Mass.
Health officials in Massachusetts say that they have detected a strain of gonorrhea in two individuals that has shown a reduced response to multiple antibiotics.
Officials said that this marks the first time that a strain of gonorrhea that shows a resistance or reduced response to antibiotics has been detected inside the United States.
The particular strain of gonorrhea detected by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's State Public Health Laboratory has been seen in Asia-Pacific countries as well as in the United Kingdom.
The state health agency says that "these cases are an important reminder that strains of gonorrhea in the US are becoming less responsive to a limited arsenal of antibiotics."
COVID's infectiousness, and at RAT's sensitivity curves, from @Wikisteff Dec 12
(a) infectiousness is very high on Day 1; (b) symptoms generally manifest on Days 2, 3, 4; and (c) RAT sensitivity doesn't pick up until Days 5, 6, 7, and you have to test correctly (mouth, cheeks, throat) and repeatedly.
Drugs and Vaccines:
Real-World Data Support Bivalent COVID-19 Boosters in Older Adults
the Israeli data really helps us understand that for 65-years-olds and over, getting a bivalent booster is going to protect against hospitalization. We don't know how long that's going to last, and that's the key...
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Intriguing anecdote re Long Covid:
from COVID-19 vaccination and prior infection offers the most durable protection against severe illness, according to a systematic review and meta-regression. (The Lancet Infectious Disease)
Unbelievable. The CDC website lists some of the actions that individuals can take to prevent #LongCOVID. They include vaccination, ventilation, testing, and even hand-washing... but they leave out, you guessed it, masks!https://t.co/VzkATOrj4o pic.twitter.com/9QkkgSC5U3— Dr. Lucky Tran (@luckytran) January 9, 2023
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Primer on efficacy of masking
Tips, general reading for public:
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Expiration dates on meds:
expiration date is only an assurance that the labeled potency will last at least until that time.1 Clinical situations may arise in which expired drugs might be considered owing to lack of viable alternatives2 or financial concerns.3 Ongoing studies show that many medications retain their potency years after their initially labeled expiration dates.4 We sought to characterize the potency of some prescription medications that had expired decades ago.
In our data set, 12 of 14 medications retained full potency for at least 336 months, and 8 of these for at least 480 months. The 3 drugs found with less than 90% of their labeled potency were amphetamine and aspirin in both samples tested and phenacetin in 1 of 2 samples tested. (pain meds, barbituates, amphetamine classes of drugs only were tested)
Billionaires at Davos Don’t Think COVID Is a Cold
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DeSantis lies [again] and falsely claims people who get the COVID-19 bivalent booster are “more likely to get infected.”
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COVID reduced the US workforce by 2.6% in 2022.
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[Arkansas gets 39.68% of their revenue from the federal government. pre
North Dakota weighs ban on 'sexually explicit' library books
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- Shatter Me series of 6 books by Tahereh Mafi (Defy Me, Ignite Me, Restore Me, Shatter Me, Imagine Me, Unravel Me)
- Tar Baby by Toni Morrison
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- Sula by Toni Morrison
- Love by Toni Morrison
- The Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice
- Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
- Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
- Empire of Storms by Sarah Maas
- Bag of Bones by Stephen King
- 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King
- It by Stephen King
- Furyborn by Claire Legrand
As always, any teenager in America can borrow a digital copy of any banned book from the Brooklyn Public Library as part of their Books Unbanned Project.
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New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern:
A signed copy of the transcript of the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, calling a minor opposition party leader an “arrogant prick” has been sold for more than $100,000 at an auction to raise money for prostate cancer.
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quote from Jacinda Ardern’s resignation: ‘Hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused...that you can be your own kind of leader, one who knows when it’s time to go’..
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Taliban ban on female NGO staff is deepening Afghanistan’s public health crisis
Many aid groups have suspended their work as United Nations is negotiating to reverse the decree.
Science BY LESLIE ROBERTS 16 JAN 2023
The Taliban’s 24 December 2022 decree barring women from working in national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is another devastating blow to women’s rights in Afghanistan. It also threatens to plunge a country beset by hunger and natural disasters even deeper into a public health crisis.
The United Nations (UN) and its humanitarian partners are engaged in intense negotiations to persuade the Taliban to reverse the edict. But for now, many NGOs, which depend heavily on female staff, have made the heart-wrenching decision to suspend their operations, which provide vital food, hygiene, and medicines. The decree also jeopardizes the global campaign to eradicate polio, in which women play crucial roles raising awareness and vaccinating children. Afghanistan and its neighbor Pakistan are the last two countries where the wild poliovirus is still endemic, and the campaign is going full bore to wipe it out by the end of 2023.
Since August 2021, when the extremists took over, Afghanistan’s economy has collapsed and the country has been hit with a punishing drought, an earthquake, floods, and a brutal winter. More than 28 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, such as food, shelter, clean water, hygiene, warm clothes, child protection, education, cash transfers, immunizations, and essential health services. Some 6 million are on the brink of famine.
Feel good du jour:
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And Wes Moore used Frederick Douglas's Bible for becoming Maryland's Governor.
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Jamaad, video of hijab-wearing basketball player trying to encourage other girls:
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This is "Zaouli" dance of Central Ivory Coast and is labelled as the most impossible dance in the world! pic.twitter.com/1F3SSzhF3O— Figen (@TheFigen_) January 12, 2023
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Bits of beauty: