Coronavirus Tidbits 281, February 11, 2024

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.

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News 

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Review of Long Covid in Children:

https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/doi/10.1542/peds.2023-062570/196606/Postacute-Sequelae-of-SARS-CoV-2-in-Children?

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'An estimated 5.8 million children have had symptoms of long COVID, study shows' 'The Columbia study indicates that fatigue and malaise are the most common manifestations of pediatric long COVID..'

https://www.newsday.com/news/health/coronavirus/long-covid-children-study-columbia-i88fc0ev

New analysis reveals many excess deaths attributed to natural causes are actually uncounted COVID-19 deaths

Published in the journal PNAS, the study compared reported COVID-19 deaths to excess deaths due to non-COVID natural causes, such as diseases and chronic illnesses, and found that increases in non-COVID excess deaths occurred at the same time or in the month prior to increases in reported COVID-19 deaths in most US counties.

Focusing on excess deaths by natural causes rather than all-cause excess death estimates provides a more accurate understanding of the true number of deaths attributable to COVID-19,

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-02-analysis-reveals-excess-deaths-attributed.html

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COVID-19 behind thousands of excess US deaths, analysis shows A total of 162,886 of these excess natural-cause deaths (90% PI, 14,276 to 308,480) were not reported as COVID-19.

cidrap.umn.edu/covid-19/covid

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COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy was not associated with any increased risks in newborn infants.

On the contrary, the study of nearly 200,000 newborns in Sweden and Norway showed that babies born by women who chose to be vaccinated were less likely to suffer serious complications, including death. The mortality rate was only half as high in babies whose mothers had been vaccinated.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-02-covid-vaccine-pregnant-women-safe.html

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Supreme Court to weigh whether Covid misinformation is protected speech

[This could be a nightmare with the next outbreak and no ability to combat misinformation]

https://www.statnews.com/2024/02/06/supreme-court-covid-misinformation-public-health-free-speech/?

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Covid Challenge Study - 

Direct intranasal challenge of #SARSCoV2 in young, healthy volunteers spotlights the importance of early mucosal IgA immune response and T cells (CD8+) for virus clearance science.org/doi/10.1126/sc

[Raises question to me of ethics and adequacy of the informed consent]

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“We found global deficits across cognition. The cognitive & memory problems that patients complained of were assoc w/ neuroanatomical changes to the brain” & “equivalent to 20 yrs of brain aging.” #LongCovid #MedTwitter medscape.com/viewarticle/ne - @tmprowell   
Using brain scans, researchers also found that certain regions of the brain associated with attention were reduced in volume.

There's also a fear that even with treatment, the aging of the brain caused by the virus might have long-term repercussions and that this enduring injury may cause the early onset of dementia and Alzheimer's disease in those who were already vulnerable to it. One study, from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), found that in those infected with COVID-19 who already had dementia, the virus "rapidly accelerated structural and functional brain deterioration."

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New Onset Dementia after Covid (NOD):

"Patients w/severe COVID-19...were signif'ly much more prone (17.6Xs) to developing NOD than those w/non-severe infections. Cognitive impairment was nearly 2X as likely in COVID-19 survivors..." papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cf

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Also Monitor COVID-19 patients for Parkinson’s symptoms, scientists say. Virus infects dopaminergic neurons in brain, study finds, stopping cell division.

https://parkinsonsnewstoday.com/news/covid-19-dopaminergic-neurons-parkinsons-link-possible/

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Vaccine advisory committee in shambles

eight vacancies on what in recent years has been a 15-person panel. 4 of the remaining have terms expiring in June.

Read more about the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) here.

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Immune response, not acute viral infections, responsible for neurological damage

For years, there has been a long-held belief that acute viral infections like Zika or COVID-19 are directly responsible for neurological damage, but researchers from McMaster University have now discovered that it's the immune system's response that is behind it.

The research, published on Feb. 5, 2024, in Nature Communications, was led by Elizabeth Balint, a Ph.D. student at McMaster, and Ali Ashkar, a professor with the Department of Medicine and the Canada Research Chair in Natural Immunity and NK Cell Function.

"We were interested in trying to understand why so many viral infections are associated with neurological diseases," says Balint. "Our evidence suggests that it's not the virus itself that causes the damage, but a unique population of T cells, which are part of the immune system, that are actually responsible for the damage."

"What was interesting in our study is that although we did find some T cells specific for Zika, we identified cells that weren't functioning like a normal T cell and were killing lots of cells that weren't infected with Zika."

These cells are called NKG2D+CD8+ T cells and researchers say their aggressive response is responsible for neurological damage suffered from infections beyond just Zika, like COVID-19 and even septic shock.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-02-immune-response-acute-viral-infections.html

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Good news re Census Bureau!

Another advocacy win! After pushback from disability and Long COVID advocates, the Census Bureau halted survey changes that would artificially reduce disability numbers by 40%, and limit access to resources for housing, schools, program benefits etc.

https://apnews.com/article/census-disabilities-american-community-survey-27ef3422add65df9d6b1ad8798fefede

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@TogetherWeMask
Refillable kiosks in WA will soon offer free C19 rapid antigen tests, multiplex rapid antigen tests & self-swab PCR tests, @KING5Seattlereports. bit.ly/49bt0fB We hope all states will follow and provide life-saving diagnostic & mitigation tools incl. KN95 & N95 masks.
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Other:

Maryland and Ohio confirm new measles cases

Two states—Maryland and Ohio—reported more measles cases, part of an ongoing rise in detections related to an overall increase in global activity.

The Maryland Department of Health reported an infection in a Montgomery County resident who had recently traveled internationally. In a statement, officials warned the public about possible exposures at Washington's Dulles International Airport, an apartment complex in Silver Springs, and a hospital emergency department.

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CDC: Acute flaccid myelitis cases low since 2018, for reasons unknown

In 2014, 2016, and 2018, the United States saw an uptick in enterovirus-D68 (EV-D68) infections and a subsequent rise in acute flaccid myelitis (AFM) cases, a severe neurologic condition that can result in paralysis.

The pandemic likely disrupted the biannual pattern of infection in 2020, but an uptick in EV-D68 respiratory illnesses in 2022 did not lead to a matching increase in AFM cases, according to findings in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. AFM cases have remained low since 2018, for reasons unknown,

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/acute-flaccid-myelitis/cdc-acute-flaccid-myelitis-cases-low-2018-reasons-unknown

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Vending machines help Brits self-test for STIs

...are an effective and acceptable means of reaching people who rarely or never get tested, find the results of a year-long pilot, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections. The machines dispensed rapid HIV tests and self sampling kits for other STIs.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-02-vending-machines-brits-stis.html

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xylazine, a veterinary medication, is adulterating the illicit opioid supply.

The drug is reported to increase euphoria and can cause sedation, low blood pressure, and slower than normal heart rate. These symptoms can persist after treatment with naloxone. There is no antidote to the effects of xylazine.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-02-veterinary-drug-newly-illicit-opioid.html#google_vignette

Diagnostics:

still an incredible, negligent last of testing.

Drugs:

Devices:

Good explainers about masks:

The Astounding Physics of N95 Masks youtu.be/eAdanPfQdCA

Why Masks Work BETTER Than You'd Think youtu.be/Y47t9qLc9I4

The Multiplicative Power of Masks

An Explorable Essay on How Masks Can End COVID-19

by Aatish Bhatia ⨉ Minute Physics

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Intro to CO2 Monitoring by Joey Fox

https://itsairborne.com/intro-to-monitoring-co2-20f191dd8f60

Epidemiology/Infection control:

A rather damning, though unsurprising thread:

Tips, general reading for public:

Ventilate

Vax

Mask

For victims of domestic violence, a warning:

@Brett_Shavers
Just peer-reviewed a forensic analysis in a case. The suspect mailed a package with a hidden Apple AirTag in it to a victim's old home address. The package was forwarded to her new (and formerly safe) address.... Might be good to warn DV victims of unexpected mail.

Politics:

Covid:

"The virus is rampant. We’re still in a pandemic. There’s a lot of complacency at the individual level, and...at the government level...using masks for respiratory pathogens that transmit through the air is a no-brainer..." Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/rampant-covid-poses-new-challenges-in-the-fifth-year-of-the-pandemic/

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Abortion:

@MoSenDems   Feb 7
Republicans in Missouri have drafted an amendment to ban women for life from accessing Medicaid if that woman has ever had an abortion. #moleg
This is from the same senator (Moon) who advocated for children as young as 12 to marry in Missouri. per Jess Piper
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Censorship:

Kids Online Safety Act is still brewing, with warnings about censorship of information about abortion, #LGBTQ issues, sex ed, and more.

"a blank check” for Republican AGs to "intimidate any way they can," per Jezebel

https://jezebel.com/22-democrats-sponsor-a-bill-that-could-censor-abortion-1850923128

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2023/05/kids-online-safety-act-still-huge-danger-our-rights-online

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Missouri Republican candidate torches LGBTQ-inclusive books in viral video

https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/missouri-republican-candidate-torches-lgbtq-inclusive-books-viral-vide-rcna137715

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GOP and immigrants

photo by Blink O'Fanaye on Flickr
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@mehdirhasan
Undocumented immigrants, per @iteptweets, pay $11.6 billion a year in taxes. Elon Musk in 2018, according to @propublica, “paid no federal income taxes.” propublica.org/article/the-se
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Florida: 
@JuddLegum
Publix is the largest political donor in Florida Between 2016 and 2022, Publix has doled out $10.6 million to Florida politicians. Last year, Publix donated $3.2 million...
@Publixsold about twice as much oxycodone as Walmart in Florida But Moody never sued them and there has been no settlement
Georgia:

GEORGIA PASSES BILL THAT JAILS MORE PEOPLE PRETRIAL AND ATTACKS BAIL FUNDS

The bill requires people be held on bail for dozens of new, small-time charges—and virtually eliminates charitable bail funds after nonprofits posted bonds for many anti-Cop City protesters last year. Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign the measure into law.

https://theappeal.org/georgia-bail-bill-jails-more-people-pretrial-and-attacks-bail-funds/

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Prisoners:
Prisoners in the US are part of a hidden workforce linked to hundreds of popular food brands

"...Enshrined in the Constitution by the 13th Amendment, slavery and involuntary servitude are banned – except as punishment for a crimeThat clause is currently being challenged on the federal level, and efforts to remove similar language from state constitutions are expected to reach the ballot in about a dozen states this year.

Some prisoners work on the same plantation soil where slaves harvested cotton, tobacco and sugarcane more than 150 years ago,..."

https://apnews.com/article/prison-to-plate-inmate-labor-investigation-c6f0eb4747963283316e494eadf08c4e?

Voting:

Great idea! How an ‘Ice Cream Truck’ for Voting Could Stop #Pennsylvania Ballots from Being Tossed boltsmag.org/mobile-ballot- Mobile BallotCuring

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Boston:

@DanielStrTowns   
Is YOUR city plagued by an epidemic of *checks notes* children playing in parks?
@BrePWBZ
The Parks & Rec Dept. in #Arlington says residents are complaining about daycare children constantly using the parks. They're proposing daycares/preschools in town pay anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 in fees to use them (money will be used to maintain parks)
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Texas:
"The Texas Republican — infamously photographed by a gawker while en route to Cancún in 2021 — is proposing a bill amendment that would offer lawmakers a dedicated security escort at airports, along with expedited screening outside of public view. That could make it much less likely that the politicians’ comings and goings would become fodder for embarrassing news reports and late-night comedy mockery."
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West Virginia
@drvolts  Feb 1
"US conservatives want to block immigration and compensate for the resulting labor shortage by putting children to work"
wants to reduce "onerous process" to hire 14-15 yo per Statehouse Spotlight
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Minnesota - Good news!
@MorePerfectUS
Ever since Minnesota implemented universal free school meals, more kids are getting fed. Kids eating school lunch is up 11%, and breakfast is up 26%. Plus, with better funding the meals are healthier. Funding universal free meals works. tiktok.com/t/ZT8cfCLqp/
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Also good news from Hawaii:
The Hawaii Supreme Court hits back at the Second Amendment with epic ruling:
“The history of the Hawaiian Islands does not include a society where armed people move about the community to possibly combat the deadly aims of others. The Government’s interest in reducing firearms violence through reasonable weapons regulations has preserved peace and tranquility in Hawai’i. A free-wheeling right to carry guns in public degrades other constitutional rights. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, encompasses a right to freely and safely move in peace and tranquility. Laws regulating firearms in public preserve ordered liberty and advance these rights. There is no individual right to keep and bear arms under Article I, Section 17. So there is no constitutional right to carry a firearm in public for possible self-defense.”
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UK
@luckytran
Police in the UK will be given the power to arrest people if they are wearing face coverings at specific demonstrations, the Home Office has said. Protesters who wear masks could face arrest, up to a month in jail, and a £1,000 fine.

Feel good du jour:

Comic relief:

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Perspective/Poem

Bits of beauty:

February 10, 2024 blooming...

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