Tulane Outbreak – April 19, 2022

Featured Headlines

New CDC team: A weather service to forecast what’s next in pandemic – Washington Post

A new team of federal health scientists officially embarks Tuesday on a mission to provide what has often been absent from the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic: better, faster information about what’s likely to happen next in this public health emergency and in future outbreaks. “We think of ourselves like the National Weather Service, but for infectious diseases,” said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist and associate director for science at the initiative, run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

These airlines are dropping mask mandates after a federal judge’s ruling – NPR

U.S. airlines are lifting mask mandates, after a federal judge in Florida ruled against the Biden administration’s mandatory mask mandate for travelers on planes and other public forms of transportation. Monday’s ruling quickly reshaped U.S. air travel, as a cascade of carriers from Delta and United to Southwest and American said masks are now optional for travelers aboard their aircraft.

The dangerous thread connecting avian flu, COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine – Chicago Tribune

The last time highly pathogenic avian influenza struck the United States in 2015, our country detected infections in 21 states, spent $879 million to respond to the epidemic and depopulated more than 50 million birds on 232 farms. The total estimated cost to the U.S. economy was $3.3 billion. Seven years later, our country still seems unable to do much more than respond by culling large numbers of birds again, costing farmers dearly and driving up the cost of food at a time when inflation is already at a record high.

CDC Confirms 4 In Michigan Got Covid From Mink In First ‘Spillover’ Event – KHN

The cases occurred in late 2020; three were previously reported. However, documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request from National Geographic revealed a fourth case that wasn’t disclosed by the CDC.

Should you still wear a mask? – NYT

As coronavirus infections tick up across the United States, there’s a lot of confusion about if, and when, to wear a mask. “This is the hardest thing of all because it’s not just the risks and benefits to you,” said Dr. Robert Wachter, a professor and the chair of the medicine department at the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s the risks and benefits to the people around you.” One good way to frame the issue is to ask: Who is the most vulnerable person in your immediate circle?

Hunger and anger in Shanghai’s unending lockdown nightmare – CNN

When my 73-year-old father raised concern about his shrinking food supply late last week, the catastrophe brought by Shanghai’s citywide Covid lockdown suddenly hit home. “Will be running out in a few days if no government handout soon,” he messaged me Thursday.

Shanghai reports first deaths in its omicron wave – New Scientist

China’s biggest city has reported seven covid-19 deaths, the first official fatalities amid its ongoing omicron outbreak Shanghai is the epicentre of the largest covid-19 outbreak in China since the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged at the end of 2019, with its surge in cases driven by the more transmissible omicron variant. Despite relatively high case numbers, only seven people are known to have died with the infection amid the ongoing outbreak as of today, according to China’s health officials.

Top China Experts Insist No End to Covid Zero as Deaths Grow – Bloomberg

China’s top health officials indicated there’s no end in sight to the country’s increasingly costly Covid Zero approach, even as deaths inch up and the world’s second-largest economy becomes snarled in lockdowns, quarantine and testing rules.

Taiwan Faces Tough Choices as Covid Cases Hit Record Levels – Bloomberg

Last Tuesday, Taiwan’s health minister said the island could see 1,000 local Covid cases a day by the end of the month. It hit that level just three days later, and must now choose between living with the virus like New Zealand or sticking with elimination strategies like in Hong Kong.

South Africa Test Positivity, Wastewater Show Covid-19 Cases Rising – Bloomberg

A nine-week high in the positivity rates of Covid-19 tests in South Africa and the increasing incidence of virus fragments in wastewater indicate that there may be a resurgence of the virus in the country.

Powerful Maps Reflect Two Years of Covid Transformations – Bloomberg

In 2020, we asked readers to create homemade maps of how Covid-19 reshaped their worlds. Two years later, we asked them again. Here are 12 stories of personal navigation, from 2020 to now.

Vaccine Headlines

Moderna Announces Clinical Update on Bivalent COVID Booster Platform – Moderna

Moderna, Inc., (NASDAQ:MRNA) a biotechnology company pioneering messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics and vaccines today announced new clinical data on its bivalent COVID-19 booster platform including data on the Company’s first bivalent booster candidate, mRNA-1273.211, which includes mutations found in the Beta variant of concern, several of which have been persistent in more recent variants of concern including Omicron. A50 µg booster dose ofmRNA-1273.211 demonstrated superiority against Beta, Delta and Omicron variants of concern one month after administration. Superiority continued six months after administration for Beta and Omicron variants of concern as well. A50 µg booster dose ofmRNA-1273.211 was generally well tolerated with a reactogenicity profile comparable to a booster dose of mRNA-1273 at the 50 µg dose level

The troublesome U.S. booster gap – Washington Post

Eight months ago, President Biden unveiled a plan to deliver coronavirus booster shots to all vaccinated American adults. But today, booster shots are a significant shortcoming in the federal government’s coronavirus response — with no easy answers for why it has happened or what to do about it.

Older people who get covid are at increased risk of getting shingles – Washington Post

People 50 and older who have had a mild case of covid-19 are 15 percent more likely to develop shingles (herpes zoster) within six month than are those who have not been infected by the coronavirus, according to research published in the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases . The risk, however, was found to be even greater for older people who were hospitalized because of a more severe covid case, making them 21 percent more likely to develop shingles than those who did not have covid. The findings stem from data on roughly 2 million people — nearly 400,000 diagnosed with covid-19 and 1.6 million who had no coronavirus infection.

Extending time between mRNA COVID vaccine doses may boost efficacy – CIDRAP

COVID-19 mRNA vaccine effectiveness (VE) against infection was 5% to 7% higher when the two primary doses were given at least 7 weeks rather than 3 to 5 weeks apart, according to an observational study of hospital and community healthcare workers (HCWs) in British Columbia published late last week in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.

Clinical Considerations

She went to one doctor, then another and another – Washington Post

She’s only 28 years old and was the picture of health before her infections. Polega, who graduated from law school last year, is now suffering from chest pain, hypertensive spikes, hand numbness and numerous other symptoms.

Global data reveal half may have long COVID 4 months on – CIDRAP

Worldwide, 49% of COVID-19 survivors reported persistent symptoms 4 months after diagnosis, estimates a meta-analysis of 31 studies published late last week in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Official Reporting for April 15, 2022

World Health Organization

Weekly Epi Update April 12, 2022 (latest release)

New Cases: 404,271

Confirmed Cases: 500,186,525

Deaths: 6,202,109

Johns Hopkins

Confirmed Cases: 505,473,996
Deaths: 6,194,899

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Total cases: 80,476,479 (+35,212 New Cases)
Total deaths: 986,123 (+373 New Deaths)

Science and Tech

Rapid evolution of SARS-CoV-2 challenges human defenses – Nature

The race between pathogens and their hosts is a major evolutionary driver, where both reshuffle their genomes to overcome and reorganize the defenses for infection, respectively. Evolutionary theory helps formulate predictions on the future evolutionary dynamics of SARS-CoV-2, which can be monitored through unprecedented real-time tracking of SARS-CoV-2 population genomics at the global scale. Here we quantify the accelerating evolution of SARS-CoV-2 by tracking the SARS-CoV-2 mutation globally, with a focus on the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) of the spike protein determining infection success. We estimate that the > 820 million people that had been infected by October 5, 2021, produced up to 1021 copies of the virus, with 12 new effective RBD variants appearing, on average, daily. Doubling of the number of RBD variants every 89 days, followed by selection of the most infective variants challenges our defenses and calls for a shift to anticipatory, rather than reactive tactics involving collaborative global sequencing and vaccination.

Better ventilation would create a healthier workplace — but companies have to invest – NPR

Americans are abandoning their masks. They’re done with physical distancing. And, let’s face it, some people are just never going to get vaccinated. Yet a lot can still be done to prevent COVID-19 infections and curb the pandemic. A growing coalition of epidemiologists and aerosol scientists say that improved ventilation could be a powerful tool against the coronavirus — if businesses are willing to invest the money. “The science is airtight,” said Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The evidence is overwhelming.”

The First COVID-19 Breathalyzer Test Is Coming to the U.S. – Time

COVID-19 testing has become more convenient and accessible, but with the pandemic still causing more than 30,000 new infections in the U.S. on average each week, having more ways to detect SARS-CoV-2 can go a long way toward eventually containing COVID-19.

How Long Can I Keep Wearing the Same Respirator Mask? – NYT

Where do you typically keep your high-quality, medical-style masks?

A) In several brown paper bags marked with the days of the week, lined up on the window sill.

B) Hanging on hooks near the door.

C) Tucked in a plastic bag in my purse or backpack.

D) Sometimes I find one stuffed in my pocket or on the floor of my car.

If you answered “D,” don’t be embarrassed. I live with mask chaos at my house too. Masks are everywhere — on hooks and doorknobs, in drawers, stuffed in coat pockets and backpacks and yes, I confess, I have, on occasion, grabbed a mask from the floor of my car. (Please don’t do this. A study by Clorox found the germiest place in your car is the driver’s side floor mat. The front seat cup holder was not far behind.)

Psychological and Sociological Impact

Opinion: We need to talk about pandemic drinking – Washington Post

A new study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) finds that alcohol-related deaths in 2020 were so high that, for 16- to 64-year-olds, they exceeded the number of deaths from covid-19. Previously, the average annual increase was a little more than 2 percent; between 2019 and 2020, it skyrocketed to more than 25 percent. The largest rise in mortality occurred for people 35 to 44 years old, though rates of death associated with alcohol increased across all age groups.

Here’s how to handle some of the most irritating workplace habits when you return to the office – NYT

After two years of working from home during the pandemic, and plenty of false starts, employees are officially heading back to work as the R.T.O., or return to office, is in full swing. Roughly 60 percent of U.S. workers who could work from home were still signing in remotely as of January, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center, as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus set back R.T.O. plans. But now companies like Google are insisting that their workers return to the office on hybrid work schedules.

Workers are back in offices. Why does it feel so weird? – Washington Post

After two years of isolation, the return to offices has been a master class in awkwardness. Recently, Katherine, a consultant at an investment bank in New York, met a colleague for the first time. He went for a fist-bump four times in the same interaction. “He was like, ‘Hell yeah! That’s great, Katherine!’ Fist bump. ‘Yeah, I’ll see you later!” Fist bump. ‘Okay, I’m going to head out!’ Fist bump,” she said. “The fourth time, I looked up at him and was like, ‘Are you sure?’ and he just held it there.”

Published Research

Short-term Adverse Events After the Third Dose of the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine in Adults 60 Years or Older – JAMA

Misinformation, Disinformation, and Conspiracy Theories

Misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and fertility has propagated online despite the vaccines’ clear safety profile. Fortunately, those considering having kids can relax when it comes to these crucial shots. These claims lack any realistic basis. As a medical doctor and a COVID-19 genetics researcher, I’d like to discuss what the evidence says.

Coping with COVID

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