Coronavirus Tidbits #269 Oct 29, 2023


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.


Study highlights potential role of statin drug in critical COVID-19 cases

Simvastatin (Zocor), the widely available statin drug used to treat high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, has a 96% probability of improving outcomes for critically ill COVID-19 patients and a 92% chance of improving survival at 3 months, according to new results from the ongoing Randomized Embedded Multifactorial Adaptive Platform for Community Acquired Pneumonia (REMAP-CAP) trial.

The global trial began in March 2020 and is ongoing. The goal of the multicenter, international trial is to see how and if different known treatments, including essential medicines, could aid COVID-19 patients.

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Covid shots may slightly increase risk of stroke in older adults, particularly when administered with certain flu vaccines

Vaccines for Covid-19 and influenza may slightly increase the risk of strokes caused by blood clots in the brains of seniors, particularly when the two vaccines are given at the same time and when they are given to adults who are age 85 and older, according to a new study.

The safety signal was detected by experts at the US Food and Drug Administration who analyzed data from Medicare claims.

It is the second study to find an elevated risk of stroke for seniors after Covid-19 and flu vaccinations given together. The US CDC and FDA issued a public communication in January explaining that one of their near real-time vaccine safety monitoring studies—called the Vaccine Safety Datalink–had picked up a small and uncertain risk of stroke for older adults who received a dose of Pfizer’s bivalent Covid-19 vaccine and a high-dose or adjuvanted flu shot on the same day. That study triggered the FDA’s broader look at strokes after vaccination noted in the medical records of seniors on Medicare.

That said, the risk identified in the FDA’s study appears to be very small—roughly 3 strokes or transient ischemic attacks for every 100,000 doses given–and the study found it may be primarily driven by the high-dose or adjuvanted flu vaccines, which are specially designed to rev up the immune system so it mounts a stronger response to the shot.

In additional analysis of the Medicare claims data, the FDA researchers found a very slightly increased risk of stroke in adults ages 65 and older who’d only gotten a high dose flu shot. In absolute terms, the extra risk from high-dose flu shots amounted to 1-2 strokes for every 100,000 doses.

“The absolute risk is miniscule,” said Dr. Steve Nissen, a cardiologist and researcher at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “I mean it is trivial in comparison to the risk for people over 85 of dying from Covid.”

At least five other recent studies—many launched to try to tease out this link, have not found any additional risk of stroke after vaccination for Covid-19, influenza or both.

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Anti-#SARSCoV2 spike antibodies are inversely related to severe adverse outcomes from Covid A prospective study of 1152 people, confirming higher risk in people with diabetes. Yet another reason to boost your antibodies
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The #SARSCoV2 virus is accumulating mutations with amino acid substitutions faster than other endemic viruses, including 2.5 fold more rapidly than influenza (A/H3N2 HA1), the prototype of rapid antigen evolution
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Israel-Hamas war sends shock waves through scientific community

Conflict has left many labs empty or in ruins

(excerpt) At Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, most of its 242 international postdoctoral students have departed, often at the insistence of their home countries, said President Daniel Chamovitz. The university is located just 41 kilometers from the Gaza border and within reach of rockets fired by Hamas and its allies. At least 50 Ben-Gurion students, staff, and faculty were killed in the Hamas attack, university officials say, including theoretical physicist Sergey Gredeskul and mathematician Viktoria Gredeskul, who were married. Others are being held hostage by Hamas.

much of Gaza’s limited scientific infrastructure is in ruins, Awartani says. Two major institutions–the Islamic University of Gaza and Al-Azhar University–have suffered extensive damage from Israeli air strikes. “It is clear that many students and faculty are dead or wounded,” Awartani says.

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Research shows small reduction in long COVID with antiviral use

in JAMA Internal Medicine researchers from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health describe a small reduction in post-COVID condition (PCC or long COVID) among US adults ages 65 and older who were treated with either the antiviral drug nirmatrelvir (Paxlovid) or molnupiravir (Lagevrio)...

Antivirals less protective in women

In a cohort of 313,262 participants, 51,658 took nirmatrelvir during acute infection, and 8,089 took molnupiravir. PCC incidence was 11.8% among patients receiving nirmatrelvir, 13.7% for molnupiravir, and 14.5% for neither. The absolute risk reduction was 2.7% for nirmatrelvir and 0.8% for molnupiravir.

The effect was smaller among females, Asian, Black, and Hispanic race, and patients with lower incomes. The hazard ratio for females compared to males was 0.89 compared to 0.84 for nirmatrelvir, and 0.95 compared to 0.88 for molnupiravir.

[note: Metformin seems more effective in reducing risk of LongCovid:

Outpatient treatment with metformin reduced long COVID incidence by about 41%, with an absolute reduction of 4·1%, compared with placebo. - Carolyn Bramante et. al.]

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Researchers identify amino acid that may play a key role for predicting and treating long COVID

University of Alberta researchers have identified an amino acid--taurine--that may play a key role in predicting poor clinical outcomes and the treatment of long COVID.

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Rationale in this case can be applied in other contexts with similar labor protections and anti-discrimination laws. It helps when a country’s high court respects international legal standards. “An employment section of the Lima High Court court declared COVID-19 as an occupational disease applicable to all types of workers, not just healthcare professionals. The case relates to a worker’s estate which filed a lawsuit against their former employer, claiming that the worker contracted COVID-19 during their employment and died from it. The court ruled in favor of the worker’s estate and based its decision on recommendations and conventions from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).”


Biobot Wastewater Testing vs Verily

A quarter of the nation’s wastewater testing sites — one of the most dependable ways of tracking Covid surges — are shut down indefinitely over a contract dispute.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to replace the firm it has worked with since 2020 to test wastewater for Covid in order to better direct public health resources. But that firm, Massachusetts-based Biobot, has filed a protest, stymieing the transition.


Half of US states had antiviral shortages in 2022-23 flu season

Over half of US state and territorial public health preparedness directors (PHPDs) surveyed said they experienced shortages of flu antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) during the 2022-23 respiratory virus season, forcing many to turn to national or state stockpiles, according to a research letter published late last week in JAMA.

Devices and Masks:

Epidemiology/Infection control:

Risk of viral airborne transmission peaks within five seconds of face-to-face encounters, study finds

The main transmission routes identified initially for the novel coronavirus infection were droplet and contact transmission. Airborne transmission by aerosol particles was eventually identified as one of the most likely transmission routes. Especially with the relaxation of behavioral restrictions, infections continued to prevail, making prevention and risk reduction during public transportation a major challenge.

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Childcare centers and Covid

17% of household infections resulted from children who got COVID-19 at their child care centers. - Authors call this low transmission

SARS-CoV-2 transmission rates within child care centers was low, about 2% to 3%, indicating that neither children nor caregivers were often spreading COVID-19 to others in the centers

once someone in a household had COVID-19, transmission to other household members was high, at 50% for children and 67% for adults.

[Authors minimize risk of child care centers]

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Estimated numbers of healthcare professionals with COVID-19, week ending Oct 14/23: CAN 60,477
About 9% of ICU beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients (average epidemic to date: 12%)
About 21% of hospital beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients (average epidemic to date: 7%)
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Half of all healthcare workers (HCWs) with symptomatic COVID-19 continued to go to work, even if they were involved with direct patient care, according to the results of a study on presenteeism among HCWs in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.
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Hearing loss related to Covid:

  • In most cases, sudden sensorineural hearing loss is not the first sign of COVID-19 infection.
  • Hearing tests are vital for early diagnosis.
  • Treatment is typically glucocorticoids (steroids), and it has the greatest potential success if the treatment is given within 2 weeks of the onset of hearing loss.
  • Hyperbaric oxygen or oral mesoglycan should be considered for treatment in some cases.
  • Bilateral sudden sensorineural hearing loss is relatively rare. This is usually a one-sided disease process.

Tips, general reading for public:







the Senate just passed a reckless amendment to ban mask mandates on public transportation for the next fiscal year. Shamefully, 10 Democrats voted in favor of a ban:

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COVID is still the third leading cause of death in America and yet whenever many of us say we’re worried about catching it, we just get told we’re paranoid. It’s the third leading cause of death and it’s “just a cold.”
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Many people go into hospitals for serious injuries or illness, acquire #COVID19 there, and die instead of going home. These deaths are EASILY PREVENTABLE. It is no different than delivering babies after tending to a MRSA infection and skipping disinfection. This is murder.


Medical exceptions to abortion bans often exclude mental health conditions

More than a dozen states now have near-total abortion bans following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, with limited medical exceptions meant to protect the patient's health or life.

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Lubbock County becomes latest to approve “abortion travel ban” while Amarillo City Council balks

 which would punish people through civil lawsuits for aiding pregnant women seeking abortions outside of Texas.

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It is a Handmaiden’s Tale level nightmare now in Texas, where Lubbock has become the largest county where it is illegal to travel through the county to receive abortion services in another state. This is what predictably happens when you throw a fundamental question of human rights “back to the states” to decide. We need Roe v. Wade and its legal protections codified.

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During a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Mike Johnson attacks Roe v. Wade, insisting that if only women were compelled to bring more "able-bodied workers" into the world, Republicans wouldn’t need to slash Social Security and Medicare.

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@VABVOX   Oct 25
So Mike Johnson is the likable election denier, anti-abortion activist, anti-LGBTQ activist, climate denialist and COVID denialist from one of the reddest states. In case you were wondering why he's getting votes no one else did.
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Mike Johnson blames mass shootings on “no-fault divorce laws,” “feminism,” and Roe v. Wade. Video at
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@MaxKennerly   Oct 26
"There's just no way to effectively regulate gun sales," I say as I hand my driver's license to the pharmacist so I can buy decongestant.
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Never forget that the GOP wants to make it harder to vote and easier to cheat. "Republican officials in Alabama are supporting a bill to make it a crime to provide an absentee ballot application for another voter." 
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North Carolina:
She won by campaigning as a fervently pro-choice Democrat, switched parties mid-term to give Republicans the veto-proof supermajority they needed to jam an abortion ban through, and now they're protecting her through gerrymandering. The plan becomes clear
Tricia Cotham will receive a 25-point swing in her favor because of Republican gerrymandering.
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Feel good du jour:

14-year old invents soap to treat skin cancer, earns award

Fourteen-year-old Heman Bekele, a ninth grader from Annandale, Virginia, has been crowned "America's Top Young Scientist" after inventing a medicated soap that has the potential to treat skin cancer.

According to coverage in USA Today, Herman said he intends to establish a nonprofit organization to distribute his skin cancer-treating soap to communities in need.

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First malaria vaccine slashes early childhood mortality

Huge analysis of RTS,S in Africa shows it decreased toddler deaths by 13% over 4 years. It also showed a 22% reduction in severe malaria in kids young enough to receive a three-shot series.

Comic relief:

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Bits of beauty:


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