Coronavirus Tidbits #61 6/26/20

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Announcements:

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.

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

News 

Insane week by folks politicizing public health:

Masks Could Become Illegal In North Carolina (Again) Under KKK-Inspired Law

Since the 1950s, North Carolina has banned mask-wearing in public, a law aimed at members of the Ku Klux Klan. That law ran up against guidelines to keep people safe from the coronavirus, and earlier this year, the state voted to exempt citizens from the law until Aug. 1. But when Democratic lawmakers attempted to extend that exemption, Republicans blocked the effort at around 2 a.m., despite an increased number of cases in the state.

If the exemption expires on Aug. 1, though, it would make mask-wearing illegal for people attempting to keep themselves safe from the virus, including the elderly, immunocompromised people, and Black people who are at both a higher risk of contracting it and also of being targeted by law enforcement.

Democrats say that North Carolina Republicans are invoking the law in an effort to undermine Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s face mask mandate, set to go into effect on Friday.

Republicans insisted they weren’t trying to force people to forgo masks to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus, but rather want to avoid them being mandated.

Still, lawmakers across the country who have instituted face mask mandates have encountered extreme hostility. A lawmaker in Arizona came under fire this week for repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe” ― the dying words of George Floyd and Eric Garner, two Black men killed by police ― at an anti-face mask rally in Scottsdale. In an off-the-rails public forum in Palm Beach County, Florida, residents told commissioners that they would be “punished by God” and are “obeying the devil’s laws” for requiring face masks. In Orange County, California, anti-mask protesters interrupted a press conference about the importance of wearing face coverings.

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E.U. to leave Americans off list of foreign travelers allowed into Europe when it reopens next week

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Mounting clues suggest the coronavirus might trigger diabetes

Evidence from tissue studies and some people with COVID-19 shows that the virus damages insulin-producing cells.

Diabetes is already known to be a key risk factor for developing severe COVID-191 and people with the condition are more likely to die2.

Dr. Zimmet is among a growing number of researchers who think that diabetes doesn’t just make people more vulnerable to the coronavirus, but that the virus might also trigger diabetes in some3. “Diabetes itself is a pandemic just like the COVID-19 pandemic. The two pandemics could be clashing,” he says.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01891-8

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Interesting overview: It’s not just the lungs: The Covid-19 virus attacks like no other ‘respiratory’ infection

https://www.statnews.com/2020/06/26/from-nose-to-toe-covid19-virus-attacks-like-no-other-respiratory-infection/?

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Fascinating: Can oral polio vaccine temporarily block Covid19?

People who got the oral polio vaccine did not become sick with other viral illnesses for a month or so afterward.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/24/world/europe/vaccine-repurposing-polio-coronavirus.html?

There was a chat between Chumakov and Vincent Racaniello a few months ago on this topic a few months ago if of interest. https://microbe.tv/twiv/twiv-604/

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In a disturbing parallel to H.I.V., the coronavirus can cause a depletion of important immune cells, recent studies found.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/health/coronavirus-immune-system.html

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American and United Airlines announced they will begin booking flights to full capacity — including filling the middle seat — as more travelers begin to fly.

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Nursing Homes Dump Residents

Nursing homes nationwide have been evicting residents to clear space for COVID-19 patients, the New York Times reports, in order to increase revenue and ease overcrowding at hospitals. In many cases, the residents have not received the legally required notice and still need nursing home care.

“You are looking to replace the poorest, least profitable patients with the highest paying ones,” said Michael Wasserman, MD, former CEO of Rockport, which manages California’s largest chain of for-profit homes.

That company has discharged residents; it was attempting to help the state manage its COVID-19 load, its current CEO said, adding: “This has absolutely nothing to do with money.”  [was last seen running down the street with smoke and flames coming frm his trousers]

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Postmortem COVID Investigations Limited

California’s Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the CDC are limiting examination of tissue from those suspected of dying from COVID-19, the Los Angeles Times reports, raising further questions about when the first cases hit the nation and possible bureaucratic interference in getting answers.

“A positive finding in any of the cases could dramatically rewrite the narrative of COVID-19 in the United States,” the newspaper concluded.

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MAGA Middleman Profits off PPE

A Trump campaign fundraiser operating as a middleman drove up the cost of N95 masks during the pandemic, CBS News reports.

Eric Beach portrayed Colt International as being connected to masks manufacturer 3M in reaching out to medical suppliers, according to documents from Colt’s partners. He launched the company 4 days after the Trump administration struck a deal with 3M to distribute more N95 masks, then charged up to $2.20 per mask — 93 cents more than 3M’s list price — and sought a 10% commission. Beach had no prior experience supplying medical goods.

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Nurses Sidelined for Speaking Out

Reuters reports that two nurses have been prevented from working by their employer, Life Care Centers of America, after speaking to the wire service about an investigation of “systemic staffing problems” at U.S. nursing homes, published June 10.

https://www.medpagetoday.com/publichealthpolicy/generalprofessionalissues/87229?

Diagnostics:

still an incredible, negligent lack of testing.

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Safer reopening will require millions more Covid-19 tests per day. One solution: ‘pool testing’ 

By ANDREW JOSEPH @DrewQJoseph

STAT

JUNE 26, 2020

If the country wants to crank up its Covid-19 testing capacity into the millions — the range that could be required for safer reopenings of businesses and universities — experts say it’s time to ramp up a technique known as “pool testing.”

It’s a simple construct: combine — or pool — samples from multiple people and test them as a group for the coronavirus. It’s a way to dramatically and efficiently increase volume, to churn through what you expect to be a lot of negative samples at a fast clip.

“Pooling would give us the capacity to go from a half a million tests a day to potentially 5 million individuals tested per day,” Deborah Birx, who is helping lead the White House’s coronavirus response, told an American Society for Microbiology virtual conference this week.

https://www.statnews.com/2020/06/26/pool-testing-covid-19/?

Drugs:

Hospitals see shortages of steroid Dexamethasone

After preliminary release of a study found that a cheap steroid reduced deaths by a third in hospitalized Covid-19 patients, hospitals across the U.S. saw a surge in demand for the drug, and there is a shortage of several injectable versions.

https://www.statnews.com/pharmalot/2020/06/25/covid19-coronavirus-dexamethasone-shortages/?

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COVID-19 demands intensify efforts to ease oxygen shortages

A steady, steep rise in COVID-19 activity has left many nations, especially lower-income countries, with shortages of medical oxygen, which plays a vital role in treating patients, and efforts are under way to boost supplies, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said today.

Rising cases push oxygen demand past supply

As an example of shortages, last week, the Washington Post reported that Peru’s oxygen plants have been out of service for years, producing a daily shortfall of 180 tons and forcing families to find overpriced oxygen on the black market for their sick loved ones.

Tedros said the WHO estimates that with a rate of 1 million new COVID-19 cases each week, the world needs 620,000 cubic meters of oxygen each day, the equivalent of 88,000 large cylinders. However, many countries are having problems getting oxygen concentrators, devices that extract oxygen from ambient air. He noted that 80% of the market is owned by a few providers, and demand is exceeding supply.

The WHO and its United Nations partners are working with manufacturers through private-sector networks to buy oxygen concentrators for countries that need them most. Development in recent weeks have allowed the WHO to buy 14,000 oxygen concentrators, which will be sent to 120 countries in the weeks ahead. It has also identified 170,000 more that will be available over the next 6 months at a cost of $100 million.

https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/06/covid-19-demands-intensify-efforts-ease-oxygen-shortages

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Statin therapy linked to lower death rate in hospitalized patients with COVID-19

The use of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins is associated with a lower death rate and a lower incidence of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized with Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), researchers report June 24 in Cell Metabolism. The large-scale retrospective study also showed that mortality risk and other negative outcomes were not increased by combination therapy consisting of statins and blood pressure-lowering drugs called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs).

https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200624/Statin-therapy-linked-to-lower-death-rate-in-hospitalized-patients-with-COVID-19.aspx

Devices:

Masks for Prevention of Respiratory Virus Infections, Including SARS-CoV-2, in Health Care and Community Settings

https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-3213

Literature review of all available studies. Free.

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Wearing masks and lockdown: it worked in Europe…

https://www.zmescience.com/medicine/coronavirus-disaster-us-25062020/

We are headed for disaster d/t incompetence and politicization of mask wearing.

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Crowdsourcing ideas for masks: Looks like we’re gonna need them, so what might be useful to print on covid facemasks to encourage their use?  Feel free to publicize, make, promote, share, use, or otherwise distribute the… “Help You  <==> Help Me ”                     MASK …graphic [copyright 2020, free for non-profit use] graphic on face masks and t-shirts.  T-shirts have room for “If you’re close enough to read this, please wear a mask!”  or… Maybe with a Yosemite Sam graphic, e.g. ~ ~ ~

Epidemiology/Infection control:

Pangolins and bats living together in underground burrows in Lopé National Park, Gabon

David Lehmann, et al., African Journal of Ecology

In light of recent publications (e.g. Lam et al., 2020; Shang et al., 2020) that indicate a link between pangolin and bat coronaviruses related to SARS‐CoV‐2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), we believe that recent observations of pangolins and bats sharing burrows in Lopé, Central Gabon, is of general interest. Our observations were made during an ecological and spatial movement study of the giant pangolin, Smutsia gigantea. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/aje.12759

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https://twitter.com/richdavisphd/status/1276629366789697536?s=20

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Patrons are asked to self-quarantine after 85 people (so far) who visited a Michigan bar get Covid-19

despite proper spacing, in a state with relatively low transmission. (East Lansing, MI)

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/27/us/michigan-coronavirus-bar-harpers/index.html

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Dr. Tom Frieden has a good thread on the updated epidemiology. Full thread: https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1276681496624070657.html

Tips, general reading for public:

StayAtHome

Wash your hands.

Rinse and repeat.

Politics:

In the middle of a pandemic, the Trump administration just filed with the Supreme Court its argument to end Obamacare and strip millions of Americans of their health insurance. Because there is no end to the awfulness.

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McConnell says if Trump loses in November, he’s going to block everything that the new president wants to accomplish.

https://politicaltribune.org/mitch-mcconnell-sent-out-a-warning-to-the-american-people-he-plans-to-block-everything-if-donald-trump-loses-in-2020/?

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New research explores how conservative media misinformation may have intensified the severity of the pandemic

The three studies paint a picture of a media ecosystem that entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking steps to protect themselves and others. infection and mortality rates are higher in places where one pundit who initially downplayed the severity of the pandemic — Fox News’s Sean Hannity — reaches the largest audiences. …

The authors used anonymous location data from millions of cellphones to explore how the popularity of Fox News in a given Zip code related to social distancing practices there. By March 15, they found, a 10 percent increase in Fox News viewership within a Zip code reduced its residents’ propensity to stay home, in compliance with public health guidelines, by about 1.3 percentage points.

Given total stay-at-home behavior increased by 20 percentage points during the study period, that effect size is “pretty large,” said Andrey Simonov, the study’s lead author. It’s comparable to Fox’s persuasive effect on voting behavior, as identified in a 2017 paper by a different team.

…also: They found that Hannity viewership was associated with changing pandemic-related behaviors (like hand-washing and canceling travel plans) four days later than other Fox News viewers, while Carlson viewership was associated with changing behaviors three days earlier…

“Our results indicate that a one standard deviation increase in relative viewership of Hannity relative to Tucker Carlson Tonight is associated with approximately 32 percent more COVID-19 cases on March 14 and approximately 23 percent more COVID-19 deaths on March 28,” the authors write. https://www.nber.org/papers/w27417

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/25/fox-news-hannity-coronavirus-misinformation/? ~ ~ ~

Death panels, anyone?

Andy Slavitt @ASlavitt Why can Arizona create a document to decide who gets intensive care treatment & who doesn’t and still not close their bars? Such a scoring system was challenged in Tennessee:

“The previous plan considered their long-term survival prospects as well. That provision was removed because it could disproportionately penalize those who are older or have disabilities.

Some critics argued that factoring in who might live the longest could also disadvantage members of racial minority groups that have higher rates of underlying health conditions. Many of the same groups — particularly African-Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics — have seen a higher incidence of illness and death from Covid-19.

And the new rules state that if age or disability may require longer treatment or more resources, patients should not be made a lower priority because of that.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/us/coronavirus-rationing-tennessee.html?action=click&module=Latest&pgtype=Homepage

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Feel good du jour:

This thread was pretty funny, so cont on down after you click on it.

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Isn’t Hilde a beauty? Looks like a painting:

Comic relief:

 

 

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https://twitter.com/shannonrwatts/status/1277055062313848832?s=20

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Perspective/Poem

“I think our mistake with the masks was asking the same people who are currently fighting tooth and nail to keep racist statues and a racist flag to wear them to show you care about others.”

– Josh Moon

Bits of beauty:

 

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