Coronavirus Tidbits #259, August 20, 2023

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 

Critically important HICPAC meeting Tues, Aug 22 - Pls take action

Excerpts from my letter to my Senators and Reps, as well as John Sarbanes, because he serves on the Health Oversight committee, which provides CDC's funding:

HICPAC (Healthcare Infection Control Advisory Committee) advises the CDC on guidelines for infection control in healthcare settings. They met in June and published slides summarizing their draft guidelines here.

The planned HICPAC revisions will water down infection control protections, particularly for aerosol transmission and MDRO (multiply drug-resistant organisms).

Most immediately worrisome is their conclusion that plain surgical masks (aka “baggy blues”) are equivalent to N95s and provide adequate protection to healthcare workers  (and patients). There has been abundant evidence to the contrary. You can read more about the issue here.

HICPAC’s proposal also fails to include ventilation, UV disinfection, and HEPA filtration, all essential for an airborne pathogen, nor enhanced protection from elastomeric masks or PAPRs.

The group did not include experts in aerosol transmission, ventilation, or worker protections, nor representatives of healthcare workers in its meetings.

to ask the HICPAC and CDC to make the process transparent, to hold public meetings, provide transcripts and references, and seek public comment. They are allotting 35” to next week’s meeting, and plan to vote at this meeting, per their agenda.

While they just invited public participation, they do not provide meeting notes, minutes, transcripts, or a draft policy beyond their slides.

In fact, Jane Thomason, Lead Industrial Hygienist at National Nurses United, told me that they had submitted a FOIA request for the committee’s evidence review in its entirety and the minutes from the last nine months of working group meetings. These were denied.

Please do not allow HICPAC to rush through these drastic changes to infection control, as they will put nurses and patients at increased risk of acquiring COVID, MDROs, or new emerging pathogens.

You can submit written comments by August 25, 2023 to hicpac@cdc.gov. Written comments, not to exceed one page, should contain:

  •  the submitter’s name
  • address
  • organizational affiliation (or just public)
  • topic being addressed.

It is appropriate to communicate personal experiences in engaging with the healthcare system and the risk of infection to point to the need for high levels of safety and that those who are at risk should be participating in the policy making process.

NNU has put together some important talking points https://docs.google.com/document/d/1GVvo0a3qru_1IcpO56Nj4VW3waNdwXapjFTAopwNjxY/edit

I'll be writing a post for Forbes, hopefully for tomorrow, on this.

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@JPWeiland   Aug 17
August 17th update (Biobot): US community spread is back up to "high" with an estimated 610,000 daily new infections. Similar levels in all 4 US regions
610,000 new infections/day
1 in every 550 new people were infected today
1 in every 55 people currently infected
This rise is still due to EG.5.1, FL.5.1, and XBB.1.16.6 along with some immune waning. It is not due to the new, heavily mutated variant BA.2.86.

Image

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@luckytran   
Many people don't understand what a high level of community spread means, so it's very helpful to translate wastewater data into estimated infections like this. 1 in 55 works out to roughly 2-4 people with an active COVID infection in every crowded subway car. Wear a mask.
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New variant BA.2.86:

Don't lose sleep yet...
follow @jbloom_lab if you are into details of mutations.
As has been noted already, this variant has lots of amino-acid mutations in spike: 33 relative to its putative ancestor BA.2. It is also very different from XBB.1.5. This makes it an evolutionary jump comparable in size to that which originally gave rise to Omicron.
It is too soon to know whether BA.2.86 will cause more-severe illness. Most of the recent rise in cases is d/t "Eris,"  the EG.5 subvariant.

Updated COVID booster shots now being developed have been designed to target the Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5.

Moderna said preliminary trial data suggest its latest version of the vaccine shows promise against Eris and a related variant called Fornax, which has begun to circulate in the U.S.

Pfizer Inc has said its updated COVID-19 shot showed neutralizing activity against the Eris subvariant in a study conducted on mice.  (Reuters)

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Promising development re a nasal vaccine--not yet ready for prime time, though

@EricTopol   Aug 16
A nasally inhaled vaccine vs #SARSCoV2 induced potent antibody and cellular immunity in the experimental model
science.org/doi/10.1126/sc@ScienceTM featuring a polymer nanoparticle system to efficiently deliver mRNA @Yale @YaleIBIO
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@EricTopol   
Just published When a nasal vaccine provides superior immune response compared with a shot (2 doses of each). Results from a randomized clinical trial, including vs Omicron, and with less local and systemic adverse effects
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@ahandvanish   Jul 8
New data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor: The number of people with a disability dramatically increased & hit a new record of 34 million in June 2023. #LongCovid is a mass disabling event.
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Hannah Davis
@ahandvanish   
New study shows white Americans who learn about Covid's racial disparities have: 1) reduced fear about Covid 2) reduced empathy for those vulnerable to Covid 3) reduced support for Covid protections White supremacy directly increases Covid's harms.
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@EricTopol  
Among over 4.2 million people, Covid was associated with a significant increased risk of developing multiple types of autoimmune diseases compared with uninfected, and vaccination provided protection thelancet.com/journals/eclin
This is the 4th cohort and paper to confirm the link between Covid and autoimmune diseases
The vaccine protection from autoimmune diseases adds to the recent report of protection from diabetes among 15 million people medrxiv.org/content/10.110 These findings reinforce infection-induced immunity ≠ vaccine-induced immunity
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@EricTopol   
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Secret hazardous bioengineered lab in S Cal

'Fairly shocking': Secret medical lab in California stored bioengineered mice laden with COVID usatoday.com/story/news/nat via @usatoday Instead of pointless irresolvable debate about #wuhan how about publicly investigating this???  via @ArthurCaplan
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Pharma Greed:

Covid vaccine manufacturers are going to charge more than $110/dose for the new XBB.1.5 boosters when available in mid-September. The US government previously paid ~$25/dose, supplied free of charge, and subsidized these companies with untold $ billions.

<45% got the bivalent booster free of charge. (Max 43% for >65 yo. Otherwise 18-20%) This will clearly worsen inequities with high risk people, who can't afford it, but would derive the most benefit.

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Other:

Locally-acquired Malaria in Maryland!

Specifically, P falciparum, the nastier strain of malaria. DOH says the patient had no travel. They suspect a mosquito bit a returning traveler who had malaria, and then this person. Lucky it was picked up!

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RSV:

American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants, especially those at high risk, receive the new preventative antibody nirsevimab to protect against severe disease caused by RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)

https://www.aap.org/en/news-room/news-releases/aap/2023/american-academy-of-pediatrics-recommends-medication-to-prevent-rsv-be-given-to-all-infants-and-urges-equitable-access/

 

Diagnostics:

People with positive #COVID19 results from home tests were 29% less likely to isolate Those with positive home test results had significantly lower odds of isolating for any length of time than those with provider results

Drugs:

Prostate cancer drug shows promise against COVID

At the outset of the COVID pandemic, men appeared to suffer higher rates of severe illness and death, leading researchers to suspect a link between androgen receptors—which bind to hormones like testosterone—and SARS-CoV-2 viral infection.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-08-prostate-cancer-drug-covid.html?

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COVID shots in same arm may elicit better immune response

Sequential vaccines, like those used for #COVID19, may elicit a greater immune response if the recipient has the same arm injected cidrap.umn.edu/covid-19/covid

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Long-term high-dose immunoglobulin successfully treats Long COVID patients with pulmonary, neurologic, and cardiologic symptoms

The patients’ ages ranged from 34 to 79 years—with five male and four female patients, respectively. All nine patients exhibited significant immune perturbations prior to treatment. One patient declined this treatment, and insurance support was not approved for two others. The other six have been treated, and all have had a significant to remarkable clinical benefit.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9932260/

Devices:

Intro to Air Filtration:

https://itsairborne.com/introduction-to-air-filtration-172704a73dd4

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Corsi-Rosenthal boxes:

@CorsIAQ  Aug 16
This single CR-Box reduces fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations in a shared office suite by greater than 98%. It will likely retain its effectiveness for 14 to 18 months based on its predecessor's results at a total cost of $0.90 to $1.16 per month per suite occupant.

Epidemiology/Infection control:

DOUBLING HOSPITALIZATIONS & ICU for #COVID19 surging in NYC & NY state. This official data, up to Aug 10th, is worrisome. HHS data also showing pediatric hospitalizations also increasing. The new #EG5 variant concurrently rapidly rising.

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Share of NYC tests that are positive was 13.4% Aug 15.

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@michael_hoerger
PMC C0VID-19 Tracker, Aug 16, 2023 U.S. #wastewater levels are higher than during the majority (61.5%) of the pandemic:
The PMC model estimates over 5.5 million U.S. C0VID cases per week, leading to >275,000 weekly #LongCOVID cases.
the office and classroom risks are presently quite bad. In a group of 10 people (daycare, team meeting, etc.), there’s a 15% chance someone will have infectious COVID.
In a group of 20-25 people (e.g., K-12 classroom, department meeting, busy hospital waiting room, etc.), there’s about a 34% chance someone would have infectious COVID. In a university classroom of 40-50 people, it should be assumed someone has infectious COVID. This is quite troubling for instructors or students who mix time with multiple groups of classmates each week. 1.64% (1 in 61 people) are infectious, 786,000 new daily COVID-19 cases, Causing 39,000 to 157,000 new #LongCOVID cases per day

Tips, general reading for public:

Ventilate.

Mask.

Vax.

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Resource for talking about air quality in schools (or elsewhere):

https://lieslmcconchie.com/clean_air_advocates Slides and video.

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Resource: Covid-19 Litigation Project

An open access database: https://www.covid19litigation.org/

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Politics:

Covid:

@jljcolorado   Aug 23, 2022
1/ What were the historical reasons for the resistance to recognizing airborne transmission during the COVID-19 pandemic? Our peer-reviewed open-access paper is now published: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/in

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#AirCanada and Air Alaska have quietly banned #airpurifiers on board.

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GOP/War on Woke/TFG

@maddow:

On the possibility that Trump and 18 other Georgia RICO defendants might be tried together, I have a thing that might help! Here’s a free link to Ep6 (transcript & audio) of my podcast Ultra, about a previous mega-trial... (Peep the title: “Bedlam”)

https://www.msnbc.com/msnbc-podcast/rachel-maddow-presents-ultra/transcript-bedlam-n1300516

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@Phil_Lewis_   Aug 13
A last minute phone call on Friday informed teachers that the Arkansas Department of Education will not recognize AP African American Studies for course credit by the state. School starts in 2 days. AP European History continues to be offered for full credit.…
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Many Republicans have called the Bipartisan Infrastructure program “socialist.” Then, they asked for money from it.
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Fulton county sheriff is referring anyone who made threats against the grand jury to the FBI. Threatening a juror in GA carries a max penalty of 20 years.
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@lindyli  
FBI’s Charles McGonigal—who got Comey to reopen the investigation into Clinton—pleaded GUILTY to working for a Putin ally McConnell aide was convicted of funneling Russian $ to Trump Trump’s bank Deutsche was fined for laundering Russian money ALL GOP roads lead back to Russia
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Supremes:
see Abortion
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Abortion:
@harrylitman  Aug 18
This is a cesspool, and it's getting deeper: 5th circuit mifepristone judge James Ho (who just found that doctors have standing based on "aesthetic injury" of viewing an aborted fetus) sworn in in Harlan Crow’s private library, and flight records indicate Thomas flew there in Crow's private jet. Judge Set to Hear Abortion Pill Case Was Sworn in at Billionaire Harlan Crow’s Library jezebel.com/judge-set-to-h
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@NoLieWithBTC
Thanks to Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)’s blockade, 3 of the 8 seats on the military’s joint chiefs of staff are now empty for the first time EVER in history. He is doing this because he wants to block women in the military from having reproductive rights.
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Voting:
@DemocracyDocket   Aug 18  Good news!
Federal court blocks part of Georgia's omnibus voter suppression law #SB202 that bans handing out food and water to voters who are further than 150 feet of a polling place. More to come. democracydocket.com/cases/georgia-
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@QasimRashid
Today is the 103rd anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Remember—it only gave white women voting rights. BIPOC women waited decades more: •1920: White Women •1952: Asian Women •1962: Native Women •1965: Black Women •1975: Latino Women We must continue to protect voting rights
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@GeorgeTakei
Young people: The GOP is floating an amendment to raise the voting age from 18 to 25. Vivek Ramaswamy is openly promoting it. They’re scared of your votes and want to silence you. Act appropriately in 2024.
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Alabama:

Kyle Whitmire: Alabama’s poisonous plan to get back to the Supreme Court and gut the Voting Rights Act

https://www.al.com/news/2023/08/whitmire-alabamas-poisonous-plan-to-get-back-before-the-supreme-court-and-gut-the-voting-rights-act.html

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Alabama U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville, whose only qualifications for public office were his role as a football coach, just disclosed that he recently traded $250,000 in stock futures dealing with wheat, soy, corn and cattle. So why is this such a big deal? He just happens to also sit on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. He is literally influencing the agricultural futures he is trading on with legislation he has private information on.

(see also his holding up military appointments)

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Arkansas:
@JuddLegum   Aug 14
The Arkansas Department of Education tells Popular Information that it will not count AP African American Studies for graduation credit and teachers/schools that offer the course anyway risk violating Arkansas law on “prohibited topics”
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Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Black history course is banned in the state because it spreads “hate” against the U.S.
Kansas:
@TheRealHoarse
The judge, Laura Viar, who approved the transparently illegal search warrant which enabled the fascist attack on a Kansas newspaper once drunk drove into the side of a school while her license was suspended for a prior DUI.
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Louisiana

AG hopeful Liz Murrill randomly claims abortion pill mifepristone may be laced with fentanyl. Murrill is also a member of the right wing extremist group the Federalist Society.

https://www.nola.com/gambit/news/the_latest/louisiana-ag-hopeful-liz-murrill-randomly-claims-abortion-pills-may-be-laced-with-fentanyl-spoiler/article_749214bc-3dfa-11ee-bbb3-9bec28bfb9a6.html

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Missouri GOP Governor Mike Parson sent back over 42 million in federal aid to feed hungry children.

Feel good du jour:

She was a felon who was addicted to drugs. Then she became a lawyer. wapo.st/47zWtzt Second chances. #addiction

Comic relief:

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https://twitter.com/buitengebieden/status/1691697725824229431?s=20

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https://twitter.com/buitengebieden/status/1692651632146727054?s=20

 

Perspective/Poem

Bits of beauty:

 

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