Coronavirus Tidbits #230 1/29/23


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.

Available here.






In its weekly situation report, WHO said Covid cases have declined 25% over last 4 weeks. However, deaths rose 13%. #Covid deaths have been rising since early Dec, even without adding the more than 72,000 hospital deaths reported from China's recent surge

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A very important thread on #LongCovid from Hannah Davis:

I've debated for a long time about being public with this, bc it's heavy & I still haven't come to terms with it. But I have a rare pre-COVID datapoint so will do it, hoping it helps people: Right before I got COVID, I did neuro testing to see if I had ADHD. 1/ #LongCovid
My processing speed was in the 96th percentile (meaning it was higher than 96% of people who took the test). After I got COVID and my brain issues started, I did the same testing with the same provider, and my processing speed had dropped to the 14th percentile. #LongCovid
Having low processing speed affects everything. It impacts basic communication with people, like texting & talking. Not only how long it takes to actually communicate, but how much you ingest about what you are reading/hearing. Relationships become hard to maintain.
Things like driving - where you *have* to make fast decisions - are much scarier & often not possible at all. Common sense decision-making - like putting on potholders to take something out of the oven - are related to processing speed too, & are scary to find suddenly absent.
Processing speed impacts memory, because it impacts how fast you can register memories. It impacts emotional awareness & how fast it takes to know how you're feeling. The downstream impacts of having suddenly lower processing speed affect identity in a serious way.
Processing speed impacts how much you can hold in your head, how you weave the world together and make sense of it, the thoughts that come up when you think about the people, places, ideas that you love. It turns those processes into just a void, a blank wall
Intelligence tests aren't ideal & are rooted in problematic ideas, so I'm not suggesting they are key. But these processing speed drops are substantial & happening to many with #LongCovid, esp those with new ME/CFS, which has processing speed deficits as part of the illness.
This is still happening to so many people, despite vaccination, despite pretending like the pandemic is over. The public deserves to know the actual risks of what can be lost.
My tangible ask of people reading this: please continue to mask, or start again if you've stopped, & please implement ventilation protocols where you have power to do so (including your own homes), & please stay home when you're sick, even if you test negative for COVID.
One thing I’ll add to this: these were full neurological evaluations, and both tests showed no anxiety or depression./ END
She just coauthored a major paper w Eric Topol and others: free access w this link:
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Protein decoys for viruses may battle COVID-19 and more

Drugs designed to resemble pathogen’s cellular targets could prevent infection

Science 26 JAN 2023

As the fight against COVID-19 wears on and the virus continues to mutate, vaccines and several monoclonal antibody drugs are losing some of their punch. That’s added urgency to a strategy for preventing and treating the disease that, in theory, could stop all variants of SARS-CoV-2. The idea is to flood the body with proteins that mimic the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, the cell-surface protein that SARS-CoV-2 uses to gain entry into cells. These decoys would bind to the virus’ spike protein, disarming it. The molecules might both protect people from getting infected and help COVID-19 patients clear the virus from the body.

One ACE2 decoy recently completed initial safety trials in humans, and trials of other decoy designs are expected to launch soon. A new preprint also shows that giving mice a gene coding for a decoy can provide long-term protection, a strategy that might help millions of immune-compromised patients who are unable to mount a robust immune response to vaccines. Success against COVID-19 might also boost efforts to develop decoys against other infectious diseases ranging from influenza to Ebola.

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Covid and Diabetes:

Acute and post-acute COVID-19 (i.e., long COVID) were associated with new DM only among hospitalized patients, with the highest risk among those hospitalized with severe disease. Those patients should be followed and monitored post-discharge for new DM. Patients who were not hospitalized did not have higher risk of new-onset DM.

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What doctors wish patients knew about COVID-19 reinfection

While many people assumed that getting infected meant higher protection from future encounters with the virus, the latest wave of COVID-19 cases shows that reinfections are becoming more common with newer variants—such as the XBB.1.5 subvariant of Omicron—contributing to second or even third infections...

“It can be problematic if you are reinfected,”   “We know from a pretty elegant study that was recently published in Nature Medicine that each subsequent COVID infection will increase your risk of developing chronic health issues like diabetes, kidney disease, organ failure and even mental health problems.”

Such evidence “dispels the myth that repeated brushes with the virus are mild and you don’t have to worry about it,” he added, noting that “it is akin to playing Russian roulette.”

“There are some studies that have suggested that the more times you get reinfected, the more likely you're going to develop long COVID,” said Dr. Crum, noting “there was a recent study out of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis that looked at this question. They studied over 5 million veterans and dependents through a VA system.

“The bottom line is, if you get vaccinated, you are less likely to get sick, less likely to wind up in the hospital.” Only ~11% have gotten the bivalent vax in the US.

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@EricTopol   Jan 19
Brain fog and other symptoms of #LongCovid appear to be correlated with delayed clearance of the virus from the upper respiratory tract, via 9 serial PCR assessments out to 42 days in 73 participants
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@EricTopol   Jan 21
More evidence of residual virus after initial recovery as a culprit for #LongCovid in some people
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@ahandvanish   Jan 20
Study looking at #LongCovid 2 years after infection: Despite exercise, respiratory & olfactory rehab, cognition/speech therapy & psychological support, the main symptoms (fatigue, neurocognition, muscle) did not resolve. Only 9% of patients recovered. 1/
At 2 years, only 40% were able to work full time. 36% were not able to work at all. 24% worked part-time. #LongCovid 2/
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Risks of autoimmune disease post-Covid:
The COVID-19 cohort exhibited significantly higher risks of:
- ankylosing spondylitis (adjusted hazard ratio:3.21);
- systemic lupus erythematosus (2.99);
- rheumatoid arthritis (2.98);
- psoriasis (2.91);
- polymyalgia rheumatica (2.90); - etc.
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is not gone: see this case of a woman with no risk factors who contracted the disease, the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases reports. That’s in contrast to last year’s global outbreak: About 95% of cases were attributed to close physical contact and more than 98% were among men.

The woman in question, in her 20s and living alone, had no sexual or close physical contact with anyone suspected of having mpox during the two months before a rash developed on her face and mpox was confirmed. She had two massages in the two weeks before the rash developed, each time lying face down on a massage table, on top of a circular pillow covered by thin linen or a towel. The researchers suspect she caught it from contaminated linen and urge doctors not to rule out mpox too quickly in cases like hers.

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Avian flu (aka Bird flu, H5N1)

Mink-farm outbreak shows bird flu can spread between mammals

A new variant of H5N1 influenza could pose an increased risk to people and wild animals.

Nature   Saima May Sidik  24 January 2023

An outbreak of avian influenza on a mink farm in Spain provides the strongest evidence so far that the H5N1 strain of flu can spread from one infected mammal to another.

The outbreak of H5N1 flu, described in a report in Eurosurveillance on 19 January1, occurred on an American mink (Neovison vison) farm in Carral in October 2022. Genetic sequencing showed that the animals were infected with a new variant of H5N1, which includes genetic material from a strain found in gulls, as well as a genetic change known to increase the ability of some animal-flu viruses to reproduce in mammals.

In the United States, infections have been found in about a dozen species, including raccoons, foxes, seals and grizzly bears.

Until this particular outbreak, all mammalian infections could be attributed to direct contact with virus-contaminated material, says Hualan Chen, a virologist at the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in China. For example, animals that ingest wild-bird droppings, or that prey on infected animals, can develop the disease. But its spread between mammals “implies that this H5N1 virus may pose a higher risk to public health”, Chen says.


Study: Home COVID tests lead to vast undercount of cases, positivity rates

With over 80% of US COVID-19 tests now being conducted at home, official case counts underreport the number of positive results and greatly underestimate the number of true infections, suggests a research letter published yesterday in JAMA Network Open.

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Some troubleshooting for people who think they have COVID but are testing negative on rapid tests.

how to increase your chances of accuracy next time:

Rapid tests are best used as an indicator of when you’re contagious with Covid-19 rather than when you’re infected with it,

You need to test again: A large meta-analysis of over 150 independent studies of rapid tests reported that, on average, the tests correctly detect a Covid-19 infection 73 percent of the time when a person is symptomatic. For asymptomatic infections, the accuracy drops to 55 percent...The accuracy of rapid tests improves a few days into an infection. A large study released as a preprint paper last year showed that rapid tests were only 60 percent accurate on the first day of a person’s infection if they had symptoms. Doing a second test 48 hours later improved rapid test accuracy to 92 percent for people with symptoms and 51 percent for asymptomatic infections. A third test after another 48 hours improved accuracy to 75 percent for people without symptoms.

the FDA now recommends so-called serial testing: If you think you’ve been infected with the coronavirus but test negative, test again in 48 hours, after the virus has had more time to replicate. If you’re still negative, take one more test in another two days.

Drugs and Vaccines:

Study shows updated bivalent boosters are more effective at preventing hospitalization and death from Omicron

In a peer-reviewed study on the real-world effectiveness of updated bivalent mRNA vaccines, researchers at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health found that bivalent boosters are more effective than original monovalent boosters at preventing COVID-19 hospitalization and death. The study was published today in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The study analyzed vaccination and infection data of more than six million North Carolina residents from May to December of 2022, during which the Omicron variant's BA.4.6/BA.5 and BQ.1/BQ.1.1 strains were predominant in the United States. Both the Pfizer and Moderna bivalent vaccines were included in the study, which also considered different age groups, previous infection status, and the number of booster doses already received.

Booster effectiveness peaked at approximately four weeks after receipt of booster and waned afterward. Average effectiveness against severe infection resulting in hospitalization or death over a three-month period was 25% for one monovalent booster dose and 62% for one bivalent booster dose.

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Bivalent COVID Vaccines Stop Illness From XBB.1.5

Currently authorized bivalent COVID-19 boosters demonstrated similar protection against symptomatic illness from the XBB/XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariants as from BA.5-related subvariants, according to a CDC study.

From December 2022 to January 2023, the bivalent boosters' vaccine effectiveness (VE) against symptomatic infection was a similar 48% versus XBB/XBB.1.5-related strains and 52% versus BA.5-related sublineages-- in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reportopens in a new tab or window (MMWR).

In another CDC study: protection against symptomatic illness from BA.5- and XBB/XBB.1.5-related sublineages tended to be higher among younger individuals:

  • 18-49 years: 52% and 49%, respectively
  • 50-64 years: 43% and 40%
  • 65 and older: 37% and 43%

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Researchers find immune response to COVID strengthens over time

Immunity from COVID-19 appears to gather strength with more time between vaccination and infection, a new laboratory study from researchers at Oregon Health & Science University suggests. The findings carry implications for vaccine recommendations as the pandemic transitions to an endemic state.

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'Annual COVID Boosters for All' Is All About Convenience

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Reading about "imprinting" and confused?

So am I. Three articles to help:

Katherine Wu's "Are Our Immune Systems Stuck in 2020?" in The Atlantic

and Ed Nirenberg's blog, in which he says, just get the vaccine.


A @nature  feature by

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@EricTopol   Jan 18

The benefit of vaccination after Covid to prevent #LongCovid, a ~40% reduction, across multiple organ systems (including lung, neurologic, diabetes)

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@HelenBranswell   Jan 25
There've been lots of questions about the value of the bivalent #Covid booster, based on studies that look at the levels of neutralizing antibodies they generate. Two new studies looking at real world data paint a more flattering picture.
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@EricTopol   Jan 11
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@HelenBranswell   Jan 26
In a surprisingly conflict-free #VRBPAC meeting, the committee voted 21-0 to support FDA's plan to move towards a simplified #Covid vaccination program with a single composition for primary series & boosters.


*New resource* for advocates for Masks in Schools

We have created a FAQ page and a downloadable, customizable template summarizing arguments for mask requirements in schools:

Mask mandates in schools reduce student and teacher absences

via Catherine Clase

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Interesting post on Ventilation:  @PatrickHeizer   

Pandemic Lesson #3: We Need an Air-Quality Revolution A simple intervention that will profoundly change society for the better is right in front of our noses.

Epidemiology/Infection control:

A new study suggests the prevalence of long COVID was 36%

among George Washington University students, faculty, staff and other members of the campus community who had tested positive for COVID-19 between July 2021 and March 2022

Tips, general reading for public:






Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) falsely said the bivalent COVID booster vaccine increases chances of SARS-CoV infection, according to a fact-checking report. (Tampa Bay Times)

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A California law targeting COVID misinformation was halted by a U.S. district court. (San Francisco Chronicle)

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New Randy Rainbow: Speaker of the House... Cunning little chap...

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@BeschlossDC  Jan 23
@nytimesin 2018.
Director of FBI when McGonigal was named to head counterintelligence task force in 2010 was Robert Mueller.
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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been vacationing in Costa Rica during one of the most consequential legislative weeks of the year

She missed

  • major government spending bill that she's dubbed the "omnimonster."
  • She also did not attend an address at the Capitol by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday.


@drandrewb   Jan 23
Moderna wants to charge $130 for its Covid vaccine in 2023. It costs $3 to produce. And its development was funded almost entirely by the public.
A reminder that in 1923, Drs. Banting and Best sold their patent for insulin to the University of Toronto for $1 dollar.

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Abortion, Reproductive rights:

Companies like Amazon, Chevron, Boeing, and Walmart all pledged support for abortion access and LGBTQ rights while giving political donations to the Alabama AG who has hinted at prosecuting medication abortions and banning gender-affirming care.

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Oregon launches abortion hotline offering free legal advice

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There are two Americas': Pregnancy-related deaths up to three times more likely in states with abortion bans

the Commonwealth Fund, an independent health care research foundation, that found maternal death rates in 2020 were 62% higher in states with abortion bans or restrictions compared to states where abortion is accessible.

  • Babies born in states with abortion bans after the overturn of Roe v. Wade were 30% more likely to die in their first month of life.
  • Twice as many  were uninsured in banned states, compared to supportive states.
  • Teen birth rates were twice as high in banned states.
  • While fewer than 1 in 10 people live in Texas, 1 in 7 of all  took place in the state, which has among the most limited abortion access in the country.

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A big step for W. MD: Letter to the Editor from The Mountain Maryland Alliance for Reproductive Freedom — A new organization in Mountain Maryland

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@RBReich   Jan 22
The next time you hear conservatives claim that overturning Roe was a win for the “pro-life” movement, remember that many of the same people wouldn’t lift a finger for universal health care.
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@Public_Citizen   Jan 22
Corporations that donated to anti-abortion lawmakers since 2020: Chevron: $21,500,000 Anthem: $9,100,000 Comcast: $8,800,000 AT&T: $8,700,000 Duke Energy: $6,300,000 Nextera Energy: $6,200.000 UnitedHealth Group: $5,900,000 Corporate activism is a sham.
The same Republicans railing against abortion in the name of being "pro-life" oppose:
—A living wage
—Climate action
—Gun safety
—Mask mandates
—Universal health care
—Home-care for the elderly
—Food stamps
—Ending the death penalty The GOP is not pro-life.
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@HeartlandSignal   Jan 24
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK): "It's not just about making abortion illegal in the country. I would tell you I'm working to make abortion unthinkable in our country."
Book banning:
@JuddLegum   Jan 23
1. Florida teachers are being told to remove all books from their classroom libraries OR FACE FELONY PROSECUTION The new policy is based on the premise that teachers are using books to "groom" students or indoctrinate them with leftist ideologies.
5. The new policy in Manatee, which is likely to be duplicated across Florida, was issued in response to HB 1467, which was signed into law by DeSantis last March. That law established that teachers could not be trusted to select books appropriate for their students.
6. Instead, all books in libraries or used in classroom instruction must be selected by a "media specialist" (aka, a librarian). This means that classroom libraries that are curated by teachers, not librarians, are now illegal.
11. Librarians in Manatee County are now expected to review thousands of books in classroom libraries to ensure compliance with the new law. Any mistake could result in criminal charges. Manatee has 64 public schools and 3,000 teachers, many of whom maintain classroom libraries.
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@SDonziger   Jan 21
The mother of the first climate activist killed by US police says her son actually was murdered in cold blood. Georgia police have produced zero evidence to justify their self-defense claim. Need independent prosecutor with no ties to police.
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@drandrewb   Jan 23
Moderna wants to charge $130 for its Covid vaccine in 2023. It costs $3 to produce. And its development was funded almost entirely by the public. A reminder that in 1923, Drs. Banting and Best sold their patent for insulin to the University of Toronto for $1 dollar.
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U.S. local newspapers are dying at a rate of 2 per week. By 2025, a third of them will be gone. If you’re not convinced that’s a doomsday-level threat to democracy, read this state-by-state list of what local reporters uncovered in 2022. It’s a sample of what we stand to lose.
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@mikarv   Jan 20
Airline in the US leaks terrorist screening database of over 1m people from unsecured server, along with employee details. Not the first time it’s leaked it seems, but pretty noteworthy nonetheless. via on birdsite
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@JohnArchibald   Jan 25
Imagine this: “YOU ARE THEREFORE ORDERED to arrest the person named or described above and bring that person before a judge or magistrate of this court to answer the charges…” Because you missed payments. Totaling $104.92.
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@JessPish   Jan 23
Ron DeSantis is speaking to Florida sheriffs. He just said that people should be executed when "8 out of 12" agree because requiring "everyone is just too much."
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@CarlosGSmith   Jan 14
The GOP Florida legislature is now compiling a list of names and titles of university educators and staff who do work related to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Ron DeSantis wants them rooted out of higher education. That's how things are going in “free” Florida.
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Florida High School Athletic Association panel  recommends making menstrual cycle questions mandatory
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UPDATE: Iowa lawmakers passed a massive private school bill overnight. It will divert at least $345 million in taxpayer dollars every year to private or for-profit schools. Funding for public schools is expected to be cut by $79 million.
The bill does not require private schools that take public funds to adopt public school standards, like public audits or records. Private schools can reject students who have special needs, who identify as LGBTQ, or who don’t practice a specific religion.
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@SamRamani2   Jan 23
Estonia will provide Ukraine with all of its 155mm howitzers
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US and Germany have now agreed to supply tanks, though it may be months.
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via @michael_brodsk  
The Ukrainian Army choir singing Eli Eli at #BabynJar on the #HolocaustMemorialDay

Feel good du jour:

Labor protections for migrant workers:

@TheTinaVasquez   Jan 25
On January 13, DHS announced a new process that would allow some undocumented workers involved in labor disputes to obtain deferred action and a work permit. This is a HUGE development, one that migrant workers have spent years fighting for.

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@Dispatchbizbuzz   Jan 26
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"The problem is that we are looking for someone to grow old with. And we really have to find someone, with whom we can remain children."

---Charles Bukowski

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David Crosby on how to live your twilight years:

"“If you spend that time doing everything you can to be happy, to help other people, to create, to make new things — to make anything better for anybody — if you spend your time doing positive stuff like that, then the time that you have left — whatever amount it is — will be well-spent. And that, I think, is the key.”"
---David Crosby

Bits of beauty:


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