Wednesday CoronaBuzz, September 22, 2021: 34 pointers to updates, health information, research news, and more.

Please get vaccinated. Please wear a mask when you’re inside with a bunch of people. Much love.


Duke Today: How A DGHI Vaccine Database Pushed Policymakers On Global Vaccinations. “The Launch and Scale Speedometer, a project of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, tracks the advance purchase and manufacture of COVID vaccines globally, as well as pledges and donations of vaccines around the world. The evidence provided by the speedometer’s comprehensive and real-time data, presented in an easy-to-read dashboard and translated to clear policy recommendations, helped bring about the virtual summit, which takes place Wednesday, Sept. 22, to address vaccine inequity.”


RNZ: Covid-19 infections continue to rise in Fiji’s remote communities. “Five remote islands in Fiji have recorded over 700 Covid-19 cases since the virus spread to the maritime zone, health authorities said.”

Denver Post: Odds you’ll run into someone contagious with COVID in Colorado are at their highest point this year. “With the state now experiencing its fifth wave of the virus, about one in every 99 people was estimated to be contagious as of last Wednesday, according to a new report from the Colorado School of Public Health’s COVID-19 modeling team. During the fall surge last year, about one in every 40 people was contagious.”

AP: California now has nation’s lowest virus transmission rate. “The nation’s most populous state is the only one experiencing ‘substantial’ coronavirus transmission, the second-highest level on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s color-coded map. So is Puerto Rico. In all other U.S. states, virus transmission is labeled as ‘high,’ defined as 100 or more cases per 100,000 people in the last week. California’s rate is 94 cases per 100,000. By comparison, Texas is 386 and Florida is 296.”


Wired: A Flawed, Strange Covid-19 Origin Theory Is Gaining Traction. “To get their data, the researchers amplified tiny amounts of RNA or DNA in a sample. But the approach is highly susceptible to contamination and notorious for generating false positives.”

Mother Jones: A Wildly Popular App for Churches Is Now an Anti-Vax Hotbed. “In its promotional materials, Subsplash promises to give individual churches full control over their content. Indeed, what is available on Subsplash-hosted platforms varies widely, as it reflects the diversity in spiritual and political beliefs of the vast array of congregations in the United States. “With no ads or censorship, auto-updated content, and a fully-customizable media player, keeping gospel-centered content in front of your community has never been easier,” the company boasts. But there’s a dark side to the company’s hands-off approach. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Subsplash has given voice to and amplified messages from many religiously affiliated anti-vaccine activists.”

The Guardian: Dangerous transmissions: anti-vax radio shows reach millions in US while stars die of Covid. “Fox News and even more extreme rightwing television channels like Newsmax and One America News draw the headlines, and Facebook is often noted as a source for conspiracy theories, but behind the scenes thousands of small radio stations make up a patchwork of conservative media across the US that is enjoyed by millions. In terms of the spread of misinformation, talk radio’s impact is unappreciated, Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog, said.”

BBC: German cashier shooting linked to Covid-19 conspiracies. “A man suspected of shooting dead a cashier at a German petrol station has been linked to Covid-19 conspiracy theorists and the far right. The 20-year-old student employee was shot after a row over face masks, in what is thought to be the first killing linked to German Covid rules. Researchers believe the suspect, named only as Mario N, was a far-right supporter and Covid-denier.”


Nature Medicine: The lesson of ivermectin: meta-analyses based on summary data alone are inherently unreliable. “Recently, we described flaws in one randomized control trial of ivermectin, the results of which represented more than 10% of the overall effect in at least two major meta-analyses. We described several irregularities in the data that could not be consistent with them being experimentally derived4. That study has now been withdrawn by the preprint server on which it was hosted. We also raised concerns about unexpected stratification across baseline variables in another randomized controlled trial for ivermectin6, which were highly suggestive of randomization failure.”


Phys .org: Nearly half of adults have experienced discrimination during COVID-19 pandemic. “Nearly half of adults (44 percent) reported having experienced some kind of discrimination since the start of the pandemic, find UCL researchers as part of the COVID-19 Social Study. Having been treated with less courtesy or respect than others was the most common type of discrimination (28 percent), followed by having been threatened or harassed (14 percent), having had people act as if they were afraid of them (13 percent), and having received poorer service for deliveries/in stores (12 percent) or in a medical setting (11 percent).”

Vox: America’s car crash epidemic. “Even as Americans have been driving less in the past year or so, car crash deaths (including both occupants of vehicles and pedestrians) have surged. Cars killed 42,060 people in 2020, up from 39,107 in 2019, according to a preliminary estimate from the National Safety Council (NSC), a nonprofit that focuses on eliminating preventable deaths. (NSC’s numbers are typically higher than those reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) because the NSC includes car deaths in private spaces like driveways and parking lots, and it counts deaths that occur up to a year after a crash.)”

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Alcohol and Marijuana Use and Motivations Among Young Adults During the Pandemic. “Stay-at-home and physical distancing orders during the COVID-19 pandemic have led to increased stress, anxiety, depression, and boredom, and reports suggest that some people may be consuming more alcohol as a coping mechanism. A recent study supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism now reveals changes in patterns of alcohol and marijuana use during the pandemic, as well as changes in motives for use among young adults.”


New York Times: Where Are the Tests?. “In Britain, France and Germany, rapid testing is widely available and inexpensive, thanks to government subsidies. People can visit testing sites, like tents outside pharmacies in France or abandoned nightclubs in Germany, and get tested at no charge…. In the U.S., by contrast, people usually take a different kind of test — known as a P.C.R. test — which must be processed by a laboratory and sometimes does not return results for more than 24 hours.”

Maine Beacon: Few health workers actually quitting over vaccine mandate despite ongoing protests. “Employment data shows that very few Maine health care workers have quit their jobs over the recent statewide COVID vaccine mandate, despite a number of lawsuits and ongoing protests organized by anti-vaccine activists, suggesting that opponents of the mandate represent a vocal minority in Maine.”

WRAL: Dozens of UNC Health workers quit over vaccine mandate. “Sixty UNC Health employees have resigned rather than get vaccinated against coronavirus, health system officials said Tuesday…. Duke Health officials said 98 percent of employees have either been vaccinated or received a medical or religious exemption, leaving about 350 employees who haven’t yet come into compliance with the mandate. But officials said many of them are new employees or people on leave, who will be given more time.”


Atlanta Journal-Constitution: A rural hospital fights to save the school principal’s life. “Dr. Jason Laney sat at a desk in his 25-bed hospital in South Georgia, on the phone to a doctor at one of metro Atlanta’s powerhouse health systems 200 miles away. They were both crying. Laney needed the Atlanta doctor to accept his COVID-19 patient for a bed with an artificial lung machine called ECMO. He and nurses at Jeff Davis Hospital in Hazlehurst had already called scores of other hospitals and medevac companies across the Southeast for that patient, the county’s high school principal. But the Atlanta doctor had scanned the situation at her own packed ICU and said she was sorry. She couldn’t.”

WBIR: ‘It’s just overwhelmed everything’ | COVID-19 patients reach “crisis” levels at East TN hospitals. “An East Tennessee hospital faces rapidly-approaching crisis care levels as COVID-19 patients overwhelm the facility, forcing some to receive ICU-level care in a packed emergency room and, once, in an ambulance parked outside, hospital leaders said Monday.”

WRAL: NC’s COVID-19 hospitalization rate is declining, but there still aren’t enough rooms. “Dr. David Wohl with UNC Health told WRAL News the vaccine is the best tool to fight the virus, saying hospitals will continue to face capacity problems until more people get vaccinated. According to Wohl, beds are still nearly full in many local hospitals, and ICU capacity is maxing out, with over 90% of those patients unvaccinated.”


New York Times: Pressure Grows on U.S. Companies to Share Covid Vaccine Technology. “Moderna accepted $2.5 billion in taxpayer money to develop its Covid-19 vaccine. But officials in the U.S. and overseas are having trouble persuading the company to license its technology.”


AP: Biden to double US global donation of COVID-19 vaccine shots. “President Joe Biden is set to announce that the United States is doubling its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shots to share with the world to 1 billion doses as he embraces the goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population within the next year.”


CNN: Texas couple asked to leave restaurant for wearing face masks to protect their immunocompromised infant. “A Texas couple who landed themselves a rare night out with friends says it was cut short when the restaurant kicked them out for wearing face masks, which they say they wore to protect their immunocompromised 4-month-old son.”


Washington Post: Kentucky schools overwhelmingly keep mask mandates after Republicans scrapped state requirement. “Mark Dougherty, an infectious-disease physician in Lexington, Ky., sees the toll the state’s most severe coronavirus wave is inflicting on communities with the school year back in session: The teacher placed on a ventilator, the bus driver nearing intubation, the critically ill custodian. He feared their cases would be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ after the mostly Republican state legislature during a special session earlier this month repealed a statewide school mask mandate unilaterally put in place by the Democratic governor. But most Kentucky school districts made a different choice: They kept mask mandates in place.”

Michigan Advance: Kent Co. health director tells commissioners after almost being run off the road: ‘I need help’. “After a woman attempted to run Kent County Health Department director Adam London off the road just hours after he issued a mask mandate for some schools last month, the health officer issued a plea to the Kent County Board of Commissioners.”


HuffPost: COVID Cases, Deaths Notably Worse In Red States Than Blue States: Report. “By the looks of it, Republican attacks on masks and COVID-19 vaccines don’t seem to be particularly healthy for people living in red states. In several instances in recent months, both COVID-19 cases and deaths are notably higher in Republican states than in Democratic blue states, according to an analysis of data by The Washington Post.”

ScienceBlog: Want Less Pandemic Stress? Consider Getting Vaccinated. “A new Understanding Coronavirus in America Study found that those who received a COVID-19 vaccine when the shots were first made available experienced reduced anxiety after just one dose. While the vaccine’s expected physical benefits — including protection from infection, life-threatening symptoms and hospitalization — are obvious, the resulting mental health benefits have received less consideration until now.”

Roll Call: Breakthrough COVID-19 cases expected to become more common in coming months. “COVID-19 cases are up to five times more common in unvaccinated individuals compared with the vaccinated, according to the CDC. But state-level data shows that milder breakthrough cases that do not result in hospitalization are on the rise among the fully vaccinated as virus transmission increases and vaccine efficacy decreases. And they’re expected to keep increasing.”


The Conversation: Evidence shows that, yes, masks prevent COVID-19 – and surgical masks are the way to go. “I’m an assistant professor of environmental health sciences. I, too, have wondered about the answers to these questions, and earlier this year I led a study that examined the research about which materials are best. Recently, I was part of the largest randomized controlled trial to date testing the effectiveness of mask-wearing. The study has yet to be peer reviewed but has been well received by the medical community. What we found provides gold-standard evidence that confirms previous research: Wearing masks, particularly surgical masks, prevents COVID-19.” I have mentioned this study before but this article goes deep into it.

CNN: Two dose version of Johnson & Johnson shot 94% effective against Covid-19, study finds. “A two-dose version of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine provides 94% protection against symptomatic infection, the company said Tuesday — making a two-dose regimen of J&J’s Janssen vaccine comparable to a two-dose regimen of Moderna’s or Pfizer’s.”

BBC: Covid: Immune therapy from llamas shows promise. “A Covid therapy derived from a llama named Fifi has shown ‘significant potential’ in early trials. It is a treatment made of ‘nanobodies’, small, simpler versions of antibodies, which llamas and camels produce naturally in response to infection.”


SF Gate: San Francisco prank artist turns ‘ghost town’ Google office into a Spirit Halloween store. “Like many other San Francisco tech companies, Google has yet to return to its offices. With its campus on Embarcadero going largely unused, conceptual artist Danielle Baskin got to thinking about what type of business might swoop in on that kind of vacant real estate. Given that Oct. 31 is just a little over a month away, the answer was obvious: Spirit Halloween, the costume store that moves into strip malls every year in the months proceeding the holiday.”


The Guardian: Petrol station worker killed in Germany after face mask row. “Politicians in Germany have expressed concern over the radicalisation of those who disagree with Covid restrictions, after a 49-year-old German citizen was arrested on suspicion of shooting dead a petrol station worker who refused to serve him while he was not wearing a mask.”

The Tribune: Grover Beach bank manager beaten, called racist slur after asking man to wear a mask. “A Grover Beach bank manager and Army veteran says he was called a racist slur and then attacked and beaten in the parking lot — all because he asked a customer to wear a mask. Police have confirmed they are investigating a report of a hate crime and battery that occurred in the city last week, but they declined to disclose further details.”

BBC: New Zealand Covid: Men caught smuggling KFC into lockdown-hit Auckland. “NZ police have made a bizarre arrest after a pair of alleged gang associates were caught trying to enter Auckland with a boot full of KFC chicken and tens of thousands of dollars.”


USA Today: Anti-Trump Lincoln Project targets Texas governor with ad showing wall of COVID-19 coffins. “A Republican group known for speaking out against former President Donald Trump is calling out Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after a television ad was pulled blasting his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The Lincoln Project, an American political action committee formed in 2019 made up of former and current Republicans, issued a statement questioning why the TV ad that it funded for $25,000 on ESPN during the nationally televised Texas vs. Rice college football game didn’t air. The group said the ad was pulled 10 minutes before it was expected to run, despite ESPN’s legal team clearing it beforehand. ”

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