Coronavirus Tidbits #273, November 26, 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.

New post:

CDC Advised To Weaken Infection Protections As Mysterious Pneumonia Brews Overseas


hospitalizations rose 8.6% compared to the previous week. More than 16,000 people were admitted to the hospital for COVID last week.

COVID-related deaths rose 9.1% over the same period, with COVID responsible for 2.4% of all deaths.

ED visits for COVID rose 7.1%

test positivity is at 8.4%, reflecting a 0.1 percentage-point rise,

Vaccine uptake: at 31.7%, followed by 14.8% in other adult age-groups, and 5.4% for children.

COVID-19 vaccination before infection strongly linked to reduced risk of developing long COVID

Receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before the first infection is strongly associated with a reduced risk of developing post-COVID-19 condition, commonly known as long COVID, finds a study published by The BMJ today (Nov. 22).

The first dose reduced the risk of post-COVID-19 condition by 21%, two doses by 59%, and three or more doses by 73%.

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Kids largely left out of US trials of COVID-19 treatments

Less than 10% of US interventional COVID-19 trials in the first 3 years of the pandemic included children, and only 1.6% enrolled them exclusively, despite this age-group accounting for 18% of infections, Harvard and Boston Children's Hospital researchers report today in JAMA Health Forum.

The team identified all COVID-19 trials registered on from January 2020 to December 2022. They noted that children have been underrepresented in clinical research owing to ethical, logistical, and financial reasons.

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HHS launches another round of free COVID tests

Heading into the winter holiday season, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today offered another round of free COVID-19 rapid tests delivered through the mail.

People can begin ordering four free tests today. The fresh round of tests is the government's sixth and follows a similar offer in September. People who didn't order tests earlier this fall are eligible to place two orders for a total of eight free tests.

HHS also urged people to check its list of extended COVID test expiration dates before throwing away tests that appear to be expired. The agency also said it would continue to make COVID tests available to uninsured people and underserved communities through existing outreach programs.

In September when it opened up the last round of free tests, HHS announced $600 million in funding to support 12 domestic test manufacturers, with a goal of producing 200 million tests for the US government to use as a way to strengthen preparedness die fall and winter.



Undiagnosed pneumonia outbreak in China puts pressure on pediatric hospitals, prompts questions

An undetermined pneumonia outbreak in China is hitting children hard, with media reports describing overwhelmed children's hospitals in multiple locations, according a post on ProMED Mail, the online reporting system of the International Society for Infectious Diseases. So far, there is no indication that the infections are deadly. But reports of a spike in pneumonia cases in China are eerily similar to early reports of a mystery pneumonia outbreak in late 2019 in Wuhan, which heralded the emergence of COVID-19.

Children's main symptoms are high fever, with some kids developing pulmonary nodules.

The media reports reference swamped pediatric hospitals in multiple locations, including Beijing and Liaoning, which is nearly 500 miles away. Reports also say the pneumonia outbreaks have led to school cancellations and some illnesses in teachers.

Some observers speculate the outbreak could be caused by Mycoplasma pneumoniae, commonly known as "walking pneumonia." FluTrackers, an infectious disease news message board, has been tracking reports of overwhelmed pediatric hospitals and clinics and Mycoplasma pneumonia since the beginning of summer.

More information needed

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) background information on Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection notes that the bacterium typically causes mild respiratory infections that can sometimes lead to serious illnesses that can require hospitalization. In children, the infection resembles a chest cold. The illness can spread in crowded settings, including schools and college residence halls.

On Twitter (X) today, Krutika Kuppalli, MD, an infectious disease physician who is with the WHO's Health Emergencies Program, said it's possible that China could be seeing a surge in respiratory infections as other countries did their first winter after lockdowns lifted.

The point is we need information.

She added that China has already reported a Mycoplasma pneumonia surge, but the current outbreaks could be anything. She also said respiratory syncytial virus, COVID-19, and flu could be contributing factors. "The point is we need information."

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Vaccine to prevent a dangerous tropical disease--Chikungunya-- receives approval

The chikungunya virus is widespread in tropical regions, where it is spread to humans by mosquitoes of the genus Aedes. Chikungunya is characterized by high fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, rash, and sometimes diarrhea. This viral disease has become a global health threat.

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Opinion | How to Not Kill Grandma This Thanksgiving and Holiday Season #RSV #COVID19 #flu

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What to Know About Ongoing Eye Drop Recalls

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STD leaders call for US to declare emergency over congenital syphilis

STD leaders this week called on the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency over congenital syphilis and dedicate $1 billion to addressing sexually transmitted infections in the United States.

The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) made the appeal a week after the CDC released new data showing that cases of congenital syphilis increased more than 10-fold between 2012 and 2022.

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Infant and maternal health in the U.S. at 'crisis level'

Preterm births and infant mortality are at alarming levels in the U.S., according to a new March of Dimes report published yesterday. In 2022, 10.4% of all babies were born premature (defined as before  37 weeks of gestation),  higher than the global average of 9.9%. The U.S. has the highest risk of preterm birth among its wealthy peers: In the U.K. the rate is 7.6%; in Italy, it’s 6.8%; in Japan, it was around 5%.

“This year’s report shows the state of infant and maternal health in the United States remains at crisis-level, with grave disparities that continue to widen the health equity gap,” said March of Dimes President and CEO Elizabeth Cherot, in a statement. There are significant racial and ethnic disparities: 14.6% of Black babies were born preterm, compared to 9.4% of white babies and 9% of Asian babies. STAT’s Annalisa Merelli has more.


still an incredible, negligent last of testing.

Drugs and Vaccines:

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1. Vaccination protection from Long Covid—1 dose 21%, 2 doses 59%, 3 doses 73% among ~590,000 people in Sweden (strong association)

Devices and Masks:

@JAMAHealthForum weighs in on clinicians refusing to mask upon patient request. Thoughtful. Well put. It needs to go much further because transmission remains very high, and not only the self-identified "vulnerable" are vulnerable.

Epidemiology/Infection control:

3-year prospective follow up of a cohort of ~1350 participants, hospitalized in China —Lung function restored back to baseline in most —Higher risk of reinfection that people w/o Long Covid —Half w/ persistent symptoms

Tips, general reading for public:






I was an NHS staff member until I got Covid early this year. I now have long covid. As I can prove I was infected at the hospital I've contacted several solicitors looking to sue. Those even willing to consider Covid cases (a minority) tell me they can't help me
They tell me I have to be able to identify who infected me or I don't have a case. This was easy in 2020/21 as staff were tested and isolating and infectious pts identified. Now, anyone in the hospital could've infected me. There's no masks and staff can work while ill.
It paradoxically seems that by removing infection control measures, hospitals are better at protecting themselves from infection liability claims.
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NEW: Two LIBERAL foundations gave BIG to an organization that’s funding the fascist Project 2025 for a Trump second term. The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation (big donors to @NPR @PPFA), and Omidyar.
Suggested read: Damning report
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I just published a lengthy profile of Mike Johnson for CNN. It includes: Johnson voicing support for revisiting the rulings legalizing contraception, gay sex, and same-sex marriage. Arguing anti-discrimination laws don't protect a "behavior" like homosexuality. Supporting bans on gay adoption. Calling abortion an "American holocaust," and supporting a law without rape or incest exceptions. Saying SCOTUS might reverse same-sex marriage. A look at his old local radio show from the 2000s.
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Alejandra Caraballo
Florida has introduced HB 599, a "Don't Say Gay" bill that applies to all non-profits. It would effectively ban all LGBTQ nonprofits in the state. They would not be able to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity at all. This is horrifying.
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Today, Black babies are more than 2x as likely to die in their 1st year than white babies, due to racism - a wider disparity now than 15 yrs b4 the end of slavery (white enslavers had a $$ interest in keeping Black babies alive!!!). These suits are sick and the intent is clear.
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Feel good du jour:

HINSDALE, N.H. (AP) — Geoffrey Holt was unassuming as the caretaker of a mobile home park in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, where he lived a simple, but curious life.

Residents would see Holt around town in threadbare clothes — riding his lawn mower, headed to the convenience store, parked along the main road reading a newspaper or watching cars pass.

He did odd jobs for others, but rarely left town. Despite having taught driver’s ed to high schoolers, Holt had given up driving a car. He opted for a bicycle instead and finally the mower. His mobile home in the park was mostly empty of furniture -- no TV and no computer, either. The legs of the bed went through the floor.

“He seemed to have what he wanted, but he didn’t want much,” said Edwin “Smokey” Smith, Holt’s best friend and former employer." New Hampshire man had no car and no furniture, but died with a big secret, leaving his community of 4,200 people with $3.4 million.

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Bits of beauty:

Harper's Ferry from train

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