Coronavirus Tidbits #74 8/16/20

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.

News 

For some good news, see Diagnostics, below.

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Trace amounts of COVID-19 virus found by Chinese cities on packages of frozen foods

By Dan Flynn on August 14, 2020 Food Safety News

City food inspectors from Shenzhen and Xian, China report finding traces of the COVID-19 virus on the packaging for imported chicken wings and shrimp.

China in June stepped up its scrutiny of imported food, saying the possibility that it could spread infections could not be ruled out. Two months later, local testing claims to have found traces of the virus on the frozen packaging of chicken wings from Brazil and shrimp from Ecuador.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19.

“Unlike foodborne gastrointestinal (GI) viruses like norovirus and hepatitis A that often make people ill through contaminated food, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, is a virus that causes respiratory illness and not a gastrointestinal illness, and foodborne exposure to this virus is not known to be a route of transmission,” FDA says.
“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”

After finding the trace amounts of virus, Shenzhen authorities conducted contact tracing and tested everyone who came in contact with the frozen packing with all results turning out negative.

https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2020/08/trace-amounts-of-covid-19-virus-found-by-chinese-cities-on-packages-of-frozen-foods/

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Trump adds Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist and policy maker at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, to his Covid task force, to counter Dr. Fauci.

It's clear why--Atlas "decries the idea that schools cannot reopen this fall as "hysteria" and pushing for the resumption of college sports." Trump: "he thinks what we've done is really good."...When the President initially revived his daily briefings, he told aides he did not want the experts who had at times contradicted him to join him any longer.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/12/politics/scott-atlas-donald-trump-coronavirus/index.html

Laurie Garrett @Laurie_Garrett:

No sooner has #Trump named the Hoover Institute's Dr. Scott Atlas to the

@WhiteHouse #Coronavirus Task Force than BOOM, he calls for restarting college football.  American football
I always say if you need sound infectious diseases advice, call a retired radiologist.
Fox and Limbaugh are thrilled with the addition of someone who agrees w Trump.

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https://twitter.com/DeepaKattail/status/1293663674566156295?s=20

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Worth a read: What Covid-19-related loss of smell reveals about how the mind works

https://www.statnews.com/2020/08/14/covid-19-related-smell-loss-reveals-how-the-mind-works/

Diagnostics:

still an incredible, negligent lack of testing.

Very promising: Quick new saliva test for Covid gets FDA emergency use authorization

SalivaDirect was developed at Yale University and funded by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.

preliminary research indicating saliva tests conducted on coronavirus patients and health care workers were as accurate as nasal swab tests.

SalivaDirect does not require any special type of swab or collection device; a saliva sample can be collected in any sterile container. This test is also unique because it does not require a separate nucleic acid extraction step. This is significant because the extraction kits used for this step in other tests have been prone to shortages in the past. Being able to perform a test without these kits enhances the capacity for increased testing.

"The test, which also avoids a key step that has caused shortages of chemical reagents used in other tests, can test approximately 90 samples in fewer than three hours in a lab.

Moreover, Yale intends to provide its “open source” testing protocol to laboratories around the country. Other labs can now adopt the method while using a variety of commercially available testing components that can reduce costs, speed turnaround times and increase testing frequency, according to the FDA. And because the reagents for the test cost less than $5, the Yale researchers estimated labs should charge about $10 per sample, although that remains to be seen."

Yale’s saliva-based test also skirts a step that other Covid-19 tests require: extracting the virus’s genetic material. Extraction kits are one of many components of the existing diagnostic tests that have faced shortages. Supply issues have limited testing capacity overall, as well as slowed how quickly results can be returned.

https://www.statnews.com/2020/08/15/fda-clears-saliva-test-for-covid-19-opening-door-to-wider-testing/ also

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/29667299/fda-allowing-saliva-based-test-funded-nba

also Official data shows accuracy 88-94%. If you assume 90% sensitivity, this is the best accuracy (sensitivity) of any saliva test.

Yale and NBA are not looking to make any money from this test.

Drugs:

Preliminary study of 300+ COVID-19 patients suggests convalescent plasma therapy effective

American Journal of Pathology publishes efficacy results from Houston Methodist clinical trial

HOUSTON METHODIST

HOUSTON-(Aug. 12, 2020) - A preliminary analysis of an ongoing study of more than 300 COVID-19 patients treated with convalescent plasma therapy at Houston Methodist suggests the treatment is safe and effective. The results, which appear now in The American Journal of Pathology, represents one of the first peer-reviewed publications in the country assessing efficacy of convalescent plasma.

https://new.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-08/hm-pso081220.php

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More good news about convalescent plasma...BUT

The study, which enrolled more than 35,000 patients, found that quickly administering so-called convalescent plasma had a marked effect on mortality for patients with severe cases of Covid-19. Those who received transfusions within three days of diagnosis had a seven-day death rate of 8.7%, while patients who got plasma after four or more days had a mortality rate of 11.9%. The difference met the standard for statistical significance.

But without a placebo group for comparison, it’s unclear just how valuable the treatment might be

[Somewhat surprising that 35,000 were enrolled w no placebo group...desperate times, but => uninterpretable results. Some will likely say it is unethical to do a proper RCT (randomized controlled trial) now]

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Some scientists are taking a DIY coronavirus vaccine, and nobody knows if it’s legal or if it works

only five out of about 199 covid vaccines listed as in development use nasal delivery, as this does.

[Having researched mucosal immunity for an influenza vaccine during my fellowship, this is a pretty intriguing idea to me]

Article focuses on the ethical and legal questions surrounding self-experimentation.

https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/07/29/1005720/george-church-diy-coronavirus-vaccine/

Devices:

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How to decontaminate an N95 mask in an Instant Pot, rice cooker, or oven

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On ventilation: https://theconversation.com/how-to-use-ventilation-and-air-filtration-to-prevent-the-spread-of-coronavirus-indoors-143732?

Epidemiology/Infection control:

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CDC: People are unlikely to get reinfected in the first 3 months,

but should be rechecked if they get new symptoms.

people can continue to test positive for up to 3 months after diagnosis and not be infectious to others. 

A study published in Nature Medicine in June found that, in many people, antibodies from COVID-19 infection start to decline after two or three months, which supports the CDC's most recent claim.

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/s0814-updated-isolation-guidance.html

https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/the-cdc-just-made-a-major-reveal-with-this-new-covid-guideline/ar-BB17YJHC?ocid=msedgdhp

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14 States Make Contact Tracing Data Public. Here's What They're Learning

Interesting, too, in showing differences in approach and in how data is displayed--some of it much more user friendly or helpful than others--e.g., LA better than MD

New Jersey and Maryland: Nearly half of cases refuse to provide names of contacts

Louisiana: breaks down details on where transmission is happening-- bars, day cares and casinos, restaurants, food processing; Maryland does not

Delaware: Tracking down phone numbers is a challenge

North Dakota: Community spread surpasses household transmission

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/08/14/902271822/13-states-make-contact-tracing-data-public-heres-what-they-re-learning

Tips, general reading for public:

StayAtHome

Wash your hands.

Rinse and repeat.

Politics:

Trump acknowledges he's withholding money from the U.S. Postal Service so that people can't vote by mail.

https://www.npr.org/2020/08/13/902109991/trump-admits-to-opposing-funding-for-postal-service-to-block-more-voting-by-mail?

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https://twitter.com/XydexxUnicorn/status/1294409854854078465?s=20

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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson

(NBC): The 671 High-Speed Mail-Sorting Machines Trump Mega-Donor Louis DeJoy Has Removed From USPS Facilities Without Explanation Under 90 Days Before a Mail-in Election Sort 564 Million Pieces of Mail Daily (Not a Typo); Their Removal May Destroy the 2020 Election
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Feel good du jour:

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Sweet thread:

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Bald Eagle Sends Government Drone Into Lake Michigan https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/15/us/bald-eagle-attacks-drone.html?smid=tw-share

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https://twitter.com/enews/status/1293755184221433856?s=20

Comic relief:

Perspective/Poem

Opinion: The "abstinence only" approach to sex education doesn't work nearly as well as the "safe sex" approach. We need to apply similar logic to physical distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.

https://www.statnews.com/2020/08/13/teach-people-to-socialize-safely-during-time-of-coronavirus/?

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Bits of beauty:

 

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