Coronavirus Tidbits #55 6/6/20

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First, there is now a Resources Page here for the most commonly asked questions I’m getting.

Tidbits will likely be a bit shorter and a little less frequent for the next little bit. I have been immersed in it and I need to spend a little more time on self-care, which for me means seeing the spring flowers emerge and digging in the dirt. Pesach is always a bit rough anyway, so I will turn to more nature.

Happy to continue to answer your questions/concerns as best I can, so don’t be shy about that.

My latest post:

ICE Is Fueling Coronavirus Outbreaks, Ignoring CDC Guidelines


Meat processors are hard hit by COVID-19–this will make things so much worse.

Tyson Foods Inc., the biggest U.S. meat processor, will return to its pre-Covid-19 absentee policy, which includes punishing workers for missing work due to illness, the company confirmed in a statement to @business

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Why coronavirus hits men harder: sex hormones offer clues

infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, relies in part on TMPRSS2, a membrane-bound enzyme. The enzyme cleaves the “spike” protein on the coronavirus’ surface, allowing the virus to fuse with the host cell’s membrane and get inside the cell.

patients on androgen-deprivation therapy (ADT)—drugs that slash levels of testosterone—were only one-quarter as likely to contract COVID-19 as men with prostate cancer not on ADT,

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On Public Health vs. Protests:

The Pandemic Is a Threat. The President Is Worse.

Going to demonstrations isn’t risk-free, but we have a duty to resist.

by Dr. Gregg Gonsalves

“First, what most if not all of the articles linking protests to the pandemic fail to mention are the major events and situations that present a far greater ongoing risk of amplifying SARS-COV-2 transmission in the United States.”

“Foremost among these are the decisions by many governors to reopen their states without their seeing case numbers in decline or having sufficient testing in place.” 3/

We “know that prisons and jails, ICE detention facilities, meatpacking plants, and Amazon warehouses are sites for super-spreader events[…] Instead of being invoked to put the protests in context, these larger drivers of infection have just been erased from the discussion.” 4/

“Another fact absent from many of these stories is that police violence is itself a public health issue.” 5/

“Another fact absent from many of these stories is that police violence is itself a public health issue. In 2019, there were only 27 days when police didn’t kill someone in the United States.” 6/

“Beyond police violence, homicide & suicide among young African Americans, particularly young men, are off the charts. Furthermore, each year in this country there are between 75,000-100,000 excess premature deaths for African Americans compared with their white counterparts.” 7/

“As scientists who have studied the issue have said, ‘Race-based differences in health and longevity remain large and race remains a predominant social factor in American life.’ In other words, racism and white supremacy kill.” 8/

“The recent protests against police violence, despite the risks of transmission of SARSARS-COV-2 involved, can be thought of as pro–public health in some ways: ending police violence and confronting racism require political action.” 9/

“What is also different about these marches are the ways that protesters are trying to take care of themselves and others. Look at the photos. Many are wearing masks and telling police to put them on as well.” 10/

“Harm reduction guidelines—from epidemiologists and even the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene—are circulating for how to more safely protest in an epidemic,” 11/

“by wearing masks and goggles or other eye protection; hanging out with a small group of friends rather than moving in and out of the crowd alone; using drums or noisemakers rather than shouting,” 12/

“…which spreads droplets that could carry SARS-COV-2; trying to maintain separation between yourself and others if possible; using hand sanitizer regularly,; and staying hydrated.” 13/

“In addition, these informal guidelines urge people who feel sick to stay home, and suggest that those who do protest consider self-isolation afterwards, and seek SARS-COV-2 testing.” 14/

“But the recommendations for harm reduction go further here too by addressing the dangers that police are adding to the protests. Rubber bullets, which have been commonly used over the past week to disperse crowds, can maim, blind, or kill…” 15/

“—thus recommendations to “wear thick clothing, like denim or even leather, that doesn’t leave much skin exposed,” “layer clothes, wear protective pads made for athletes,” “wear goggles made with ‘ballistic grade glassware.’” 16/

“Tear gas, which has been banned in warfare since 1925, and which can cause asthma-like conditions and other kinds of chemical lung injury, has been used frequently by police and other law enforcement on American citizens over the past few days as well.” 17/

“…the best way to reduce harm from tear gas is to leave the area, flush your eyes well with cold water, and when you can, get out of your clothes and shower with cool water.” 18/

“What is going on right now is that communities are confronting what epidemiologists call ‘competing risks,’ where someone is exposed to more than one mutually exclusive hazard, the prospect of death from different causes.” 19/

“Covid-19 is a pandemic ravaging communities of color, but the virus of racism in America has been with us since 1619. We can and must fight both.” 20/

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COVID-19 Can Last for Several Months by Ed Yong

The disease’s “long-haulers” have endured relentless waves of debilitating symptoms—and disbelief from doctors and friends.

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Does Blood Type Make a Difference?

2 articles: NYT, below, is more complete and readable

suggestions that blood group O is associated with lower risk compared with non-O blood groups whereas blood group A is associated with higher risk of acquiring Covid-19 compared with non-A blood groups,”

“A lead SNP was also identified on chromosome 9 at the ABO blood group locus, and further analysis showed that A-positive participants were at a 45% increased for respiratory failure, while individuals with blood group O were at a 35% decreased risk for respiratory failure.” ~ ~ ~

More on Genetics and Covid: 

by Carl Zimmer

Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator…

The study was equally striking for the genes that failed to turn up. The coronavirus attaches to a protein called ACE2 on the surface of human cells in order to enter them, for example. But genetic variants in ACE2 did not appear to make a difference in the risk of severe Covid-19.



still an incredible, negligent lack of testing.


Top U.S. scientists left out of White House selection of COVID-19 vaccine short list

by Jon Cohen @sciencejon)

Damning but unsurprising assessment of Operation “Warp Speed” for vaccine development.

Initial plan was doing comparative studies of 14 vaccines  said last month that it had singled out

“It’s typical Operation Warp Speed, where everything is sort of cryptic and it’s unclear what they’re actually saying,” complains Peter Hotez, who is on the vaccine committee of a public-private partnership organized by the NIH.

Warp Speed did not ask for the input of (vaccine experts on the panel) in the selection. “We’re sort of like two parallel universes,” Hotez says.

Paul Offitt says Warp Speed appears to have selected vaccines based on manufacturing concerns, not because they stand out as the most promising scientific approaches. Offit also questions the lack of diversity in the five selected vaccines, which rely on just three different technologies. Two candidates exploit messenger RNA to produce the surface protein for SARS-CoV-2, the viral cause of COVID-19. Two engineer theoretically harmless adenovirus vectors, which can infect cells but do not copy themselves, to hold the gene for that same protein, known as a spike. One relies on a replicating vector, vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), to do the same thing. “We don’t really know anything about the safety or efficacy of these vaccines yet,” Offit says. “Shouldn’t we broaden our chances?” (The 133 vaccines on the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 vaccine list use eight different platforms.)

Hotez notes that only one of the three technologies reportedly chosen by Warp Speed has led to a vaccine now on the market: a VSV-based Ebola vaccine approved 6 months ago. “If I were in charge, I would focus, one, mostly on candidates that have a proven track record of making it to licensure, and two, candidates that are going to achieve high titers of virus neutralizing antibodies.”

Biotech entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong also wonders why Warp Speed isn’t looking at an inactivated virus preparation, a tried-and-true platform that is the basis of many marketed vaccines. “That is a big question,” he says.

Inactivated, whole SARS-CoV-2 is the basis of four of the 10 vaccines that have advanced to human trials around the world, including one that worked well in a monkey study. But all four are made in China. As Science revealed earlier, Warp Speed explicitly would not consider any vaccines made in China.


Epidemiology/Infection control:

How to fuel an epidemic: law enforcement officials have seized thousands of cloth masks

that were mailed to four different cities to protect Black Lives Matter protesters from COVID-19: Worth thousands of dollars.

Also: The U.S. Postal Inspection Service won’t say why cardboard boxes of cloth masks were flagged for seizure. “Specific investigative methods used by Inspectors are sensitive and must remain confidential…” [spying on BLM]

DOJ has previously used possession of a mask as evidence in a (failed) felony rioting trial:

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Incarceration And Its Disseminations: COVID-19 Pandemic Lessons From Chicago’s Cook County Jail

The data suggest that cycling through Cook County Jail alone is associated with 15.7 percent of all documented novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in Illinois and 15.9 percent in Chicago as of April 19, 2020.

Note: NYC is now keeping protestors in jail overnight just to hassle them, endangering their health.

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CDC: Some Americans are misusing cleaning products — including drinking them — in effort to kill coronavirus

Tips, general reading for public:


Wash your hands.

Rinse and repeat.

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The First Aid You Might Need To Know At A Protest | Lifehacker Australia

Lots of useful tips and links.



In honor of Trump’s unwelcome visit to Maine today (6/5): Portland Press Herald had a remarkable Op-Ed:

Our View: To President Trump: You should resign now

He lacks the character, maturity and judgment to lead the country in a perilous time.

President Trump: We’re sorry that you decided to come to Maine, but since you are here, could you do us a favor? Resign.

You have never been a good president, but today your shortcomings are unleashing historic levels of suffering on the American people…

Read the whole editorial–it is a work of art.

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Speaking of trolling…Mayor Muriel Bowser did a fine job today on 16th St to the White House:


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Feel good du jour:

Sri Lankan cafe owner feeds and shelters tourists stranded by Covid-19

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Comic relief:


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Powerful read:

“Protesting in the streets might kill me. But if you ask America, we were never meant to live anyway.”

by Jacqueline Dyre…

Bits of beauty:


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