20 March 2022 ⚡️Lack of Internet access in the US linked to Covid-19 deaths
White House request for additional Covid-19 funding stalls; European cases on the upswing; Pfizer and Moderna file for second booster; updates on long Covid.
Last week, the White House “beg[ged] Congress for more funds to help with Covid-19 surveillance, testing and treatments.” One of those treatments is Evusheld, which is targeted for the moderately to severely immunocompromised or those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons.
Reportedly we also need new contracts with Pfizer and Moderna (and J&J?) in two weeks “in order to have enough booster shots for most Americans this fall.” Without Congressional authorization, the White House cannot enter into those contracts. Both Pfizer and Moderna have filed paperwork for approval for a second booster.
Although daily cases in the U.S. have dropped dramatically, in Europe cases are on the upswing. Again. The omicron subvariant known as BA.2 is driving the increase abroad; this version of the virus appears to be more transmissible than the Omicron strain, BA.1. Currently BA.2 accounts for about 1-in-4 US cases; it should be the dominant variant next month.
Denmark was the earliest European country to experience a BA.2 surge:
Over the past two years, European upswings have been leading indicators for the U.S. In addition, China has reinstituted lockdowns.
Unlike Germany, the US hasn’t approached zero cases since the pandemic started:
But it’s not just the variant of the Omicron variant.
The World Health Organization has reported a new COVID-19 variant, a combination of the Delta and Omicron variants dubbed Deltacron. It is circulating in parts of Europe and the United States.
Another warning sign: some wastewater surveillance sites in the US have shown an increase in virus levels. Then there’s this astonishing graph about NY hospitals:
Finally, 1,000 people a day are still dying of Covid-19 in the United States. Sometime in April, the county will record its 1,000,000th death. Remember when The New York Times called 100,000 deaths an “incalculable loss”? That was 27 May 2020.
What does that make one million deaths?
Internet access during Covid-19 has been a challenge for more than work and homework.
Correlation is not causation, but this correlation should make all of us pause: lack of Internet access linked to Covid-19 deaths.
First, the research. Second, our abysmal lack of an inclusive broadband policy.
Researchers examined data (22 January 2020 to 18 February 2021) from 3,142 counties in the 50 US states plus the District of Columbia. They found that “social determinants of health and COVID-19 mortality varied across racial and ethnic groups.”
No surprise there, right?
When examining (1) Black or African American, (2) Hispanic or Latinx and (3) non-Hispanic White populations (all died at greater rates than White Americans), researchers identified 531 counties for in-depth investigation. All had “significantly higher COVID-19 mortality rates than other counties during the study period.”
If you are concerned…
… about lifting masking requirements, forgetting about distancing, the cavalier “we’re done” narrative …
Long (and medium) Covid updates
According to WHO, a rare adverse drug reaction occurs when between 1-in-1,000 and 1-in-10,000 people are affected. In the US, a “rare disease” is a condition affecting fewer than 200,000 people; this is a fraction of 1% of the population.
The US has had about 80,000,000 known Covid-19 cases with a population of 330,000,000. That’s 1-in-4 Americans with a reported case of Covid, about the same percentage as during the Great Influenza (1918-1920). And we aren’t close to being finished.
Long Covid is not rare, despite some news reports and many politicians who pooh-pooh both the illness and caution. One-in-three patients that University of Washington researchers followed for nine months reported persistent symptoms.
As many as 1-in-3 patients report symptoms at least one month after diagnosis. Is this normal, long or medium Covid?
“[I]t’s not always a quick bounce back right away after the initial infection," said Dr. Ben Abramoff, director of the Post-COVID Assessment and Recovery Clinic at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia. "This is still a very significant viral infection, and sometimes it's just a more gradual recovery process than people's previous viral illnesses."
Because long Covid is a novel and not yet official disease, there is no official date at which the diagnosis kicks in. Stuart Katz, a principal investigator on a $470 million long COVID-19 study, says his team “will classify symptoms lasting more than 30 days as long COVID-19.” His estimate is 25-30% will have long Covid using this cutoff.
But even a small percentage of infected people dealing with medium-range symptoms would mean millions of people: The U.S. has recorded nearly 80 million coronavirus infections to date. If about 9% of those individuals dealt with symptoms for roughly two months, that's 7 million people.
Some good news: long Covid is covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act.
At the University of Cambridge, researchers have published two peer-reviewed papers “on the baseline characteristics and cognitive test performance of 181 long COVID patients and 185 never-infected peers.” They found that 7-in-10 Covid-19 patients have neurological issues months after infection.
The implications for infections in youth is scary:
The cognitive implications are scary:
Among the 126 participants with long COVID, 77.8% reported problems with concentration, while 69% reported brain fog, 67.5% cited forgetfulness, 59.5% reported tip-of-the-tongue word-finding problems, and 43.7% said they struggled with saying or typing the correct word…
They added that accumulating evidence, including previous findings of a loss of gray matter in the temporal lobe of the brain and reduced memory performance in this study, suggests that COVID-19 survivors may be at increased risk for future neurodegeneration and dementia…
Senior author Lucy Cheke, PhD, said that long COVID has garnered little political or medical attention, which belies its potential long-term impact on the workforce. "When politicians talk about 'Living with COVID'—that is, unmitigated infection, this is something they ignore," she said. "The impact on the working population could be huge."
Denmark’s State Serum Institute (SSI) researchers surveyed 152,880 Danes (mostly adults). About half (53%) of participants reported COVID-19 symptoms six to 12 months after infection compared with about 1-in-9 (11.5%) of control participants (pre-print).
Nature published neurological research from the UK that identified “greater reduction in grey matter thickness” in patients who had Covid-19, greater reduction in global brain size, and changes in the part of the brain related to smell (“primary olfactory cortex”). The patients had brain scans prior to contracting Covid; on average, there was 141 days between diagnosis and their second scan.
Research published in the BMJ found that one-third of US COVID-19 patients in 2020 ≥65 experienced one or more new symptoms “that required medical attention in the months after initial infection.” This was 11% more with new symptoms compared to a 2020 comparison group.
Social media highlights matter. And news media leadership seems to be channeling the let-it-all-hang-out “conservative” movement. I have trouble labeling folks as conservative or liberal based on how they’ve approached Covid19 (given that it’s backwards compared with the political labels).
Failed WWII attempt to create rubber substitute yields Hall of Fame toy
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