Lunchtime Pandemic Reading, 9-June-2021

Delta delta delta

Lunchtime pandemic reading.

Standard disclaimer: this is a roundup of informative pieces I've read that interest me on the severity of the crisis and how to manage it. I am not a qualified medical expert in ANY sense; at best I am reasonably well-read laity. ALWAYS prioritize advice from qualified healthcare experts over some person on Facebook.

This is also available as an email newsletter at https://lunchtimepandemic.substack.com if you prefer the update in your inbox.

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Delta is the concern. "Rapid growth of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.617.2 has been observed in many countries. The factors driving the recent rapid growth of COVID-19 cases could be attributed to shorten generation intervals or higher transmissibility (effective reproduction number, R), or both. Establishing the reasons for the observed rapid growth is key for outbreak control. In this study, we analysed the serial interval of household transmission pairs infected with SARS-CoV-2 B.1.617.2 variant and compared with those who were infected prior to the occurrence of the major global SARS-CoV-2 variants. After controlling for confounding factors, our findings suggest no significant changes in the serial intervals for SARS-CoV-2 cases infected with the B.1.617.2 variant. This, in turn, lends support for the hypothesis of a higher R in B.1.617.2 cases."

Source: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.06.04.21258205v1

Commentary: This pre-print paper examines the Delta variant, B.1.617.2, and demonstrates it has a likely higher infectivity rate. Of the different variants of concern, Delta is showing the fastest growth. It's much more contagious, it would appear.

Source: https://outbreak.info/location-reports?loc=USA&selected=B.1.1.7&selected=B.1.617.2

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Side effects of vaccine in kids' hearts is transitory. "A couple of weeks ago, rumors were flying. In several hospitals around the United States, there were stories of multiple adolescents being hospitalized after receiving the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine because they had developed a condition known as myocarditis. Myocarditis is a condition that causes inflammation to the tissue in the heart. It is commonly caused by a slew of viruses and most frequently occurs in young people. In fact, covid-19 itself has been proposed to cause myocarditis, though a compelling statistical link has not yet materialized.

Nevertheless, the question on everyone's mind was simple: could the cure, vaccines, somehow be worse than the disease, covid-19, for young people? The answer would ultimately depend on the rates of the complication—if indeed, myocarditis is being caused by the vaccines at all—and the severity of the outcomes.

A new case series out of Oregon Health Sciences University appearing in the influential journal Pediatrics provides important and ultimately reassuring data. The researchers described 7 cases of post-vaccine myocarditis. In each case, the affected adolescents improved rapidly. No serious outcomes were reported. All 7 cases were males, 6 White and one Latino. The age range was 14 to 19 years of age. All of the patients were previously healthy. Each of them developed chest pain and some other symptoms, including fever in 5 causes (two measured, three subjectively reported but not measured), and body aches, in others. A handful of other complaints were noted in individual cases. All of the patients had short-lived elevations in the cardiac troponin levels in their blood; cardiac troponin is a heart protein that can indicate stress or damage to the heart. The patients' electrocardiograms (ECGs) were a bit of a mixed bag, but some were consistent with what we usually see with myocarditis—which, it bears mentioning, is markedly different from the pattern and implication from a true heart attack, a different disease altogether. None of the patients required medications to help maintain their blood pressure, none required oxygen, and only one had any abnormal findings on echocardiography (an ultrasound which checks on the ability of the heart pump blood efficiently; the findings were mild).

The key here is to compare this all to the outcomes of pediatric hospitalizations for covid-19. A new study in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released last week found 204 adolescents ages 12-17 had been hospitalized for covid-19 among a cohort of people in 14 US states over a 3-month period this winter and early spring (note: there were actually 376 hospitalizations, but in 172 cases, covid-19 was deemed not to have been the clear-cut reason for the hospitalization). Of the 204 adolescents in this cohort hospitalized primarily for covid-19, nearly one in three required intensive care unit admission, and 5 percent required mechanical ventilation. Fortunately, no deaths occurred. However, the long-term effects of illnesses this severe are as-yet unknown."

Source: https://brief19.com/2021/06/08/brief

Commentary: The very few rare cares of myocarditis that occurred in kids has resolved itself fully and were mild in nature. COVID-19 is much more dangerous than any vaccine.

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Take down the plexiglas. "Sales of plexiglass tripled to roughly $750 million in the U.S. after the pandemic hit, as offices, schools, restaurants and retail stores sought protection from the droplets that health authorities suspected were spreading the coronavirus.

There was just one hitch. Not a single study has shown that the clear plastic barriers actually control the virus, said Joseph Allen of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“We spent a lot of time and money focused on hygiene theater,” said Allen, an indoor-air researcher. “The danger is that we didn’t deploy the resources to address the real threat, which was airborne transmission -- both real dollars, but also time and attention.”

“The tide has turned,” he said. “The problem is, it took a year.”

For the first months of Covid-19, top health authorities pointed to larger droplets as the key transmission culprits, despite a chorus of protests from researchers like Allen. Tinier floating droplets can also spread the virus, they warned, meaning plastic shields can’t stop them. Not until last month did the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fully affirm airborne transmission.

That meant plastic shielding had created “a false sense of security,” said building scientist Marwa Zaatari, a pandemic task force member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

“Especially when we use it in offices or in schools specifically, plexiglass does not help,” Zaatari said. “If you have plexiglass, you’re still breathing the same shared air of another person.”"

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-06-08/fortunes-spent-on-plastic-shields-with-no-proof-they-stop-covid

Commentary: It is now beyond reasonable doubt that vaccines, masks, and ventilation are the correct ways to get COVID-19 under control. We should be looking at improving ventilation in all our private and public spaces anyway; good ventilation confers a host of benefits besides controlling COVID-19, just as wearing masks controls more diseases than just COVID-19.

Take the habits you developed over the last 16 months and continue them; wear masks around large gatherings. Wash things more often. Ventilate. And get vaccines as they're available, for COVID-19, flu, and anything else that presents a serious threat to your good health. Use the pandemic as the launching point for better health.

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A reminder of the simple daily habits we should all be taking.

1. Wear the best mask available to you when you'll be around other people, even after you've been vaccinated. Respirators are back in stock at online retailers, too. Wear an N95/FFP2/KN95 that's NIOSH-approved or better mask if you can obtain it. If you can't get an N95 mask, wear a surgical mask with a cloth mask over it.

2. Get vaccinated as soon as you're able to, and fulfill the full vaccine regimen. Remember that you are not vaccinated until everyone you live with is vaccinated.

3. Wash/sanitize your hands every time you are in or out of your home.

4. Stay home as much as practical. Minimize your contact with others and avoid indoor places as much as you can; indoor spaces spread the disease through aerosols and distance is less effective at mitigating your risks.

5. Get your personal finances in order now. Cut all unnecessary costs.

6. Replenish your supplies as you use them. Avoid reducing your stores to pre-pandemic levels in case an outbreak causes unexpected supply chain disruptions.

7. Ventilate your home as frequently as weather and circumstances permit, except when you share close airspaces with other residences (like a window less than a meter away from a neighboring window).

8. Masks must fit properly to work. Here's how to properly fit a mask:

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Common misinformation debunked!

There is no basis in fact that COVID-19 vaccines can shed or otherwise harm people around you.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-covid19vaccine-reproductivepro-idUSL1N2MG256

There is no mercury or other heavy metals in the Pfizer mRNA vaccine.

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/12/09/1013538/what-are-the-ingredients-of-pfizers-covid-19-vaccine/

There is no basis in fact that COVID-19 vaccines pose additional risks to pregnant women.

Source: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2104983

There is no genomic evidence at all that COVID-19 arrived before 2020 in the United States and therefore no hidden herd immunity:

Source:

There is no evidence SARS-CoV-2 was engineered, nor that it escaped a lab somewhere.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/29/experts-debunk-fringe-theory-linking-chinas-coronavirus-weapons-research/

Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9

Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/05/anthony-fauci-no-scientific-evidence-the-coronavirus-was-made-in-a-chinese-lab-cvd/

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/national/are-we-ignoring-the-hard-truths-about-the-most-likely-cause-of-covid-19-20210601-p57x4r.html

There is no evidence a flu shot increases your COVID-19 risk.

Source: https://www.factcheck.org/2020/04/no-evidence-that-flu-shot-increases-risk-of-covid-19/

Source: https://academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciaa626/5842161

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Disclosures and Disclaimers

I declare no competing interests on anything I share related to COVID-19. I am employed by and am a co-owner in TrustInsights.ai, an analytics and management consulting firm. I have no clients and no business interests in anything related to COVID-19, nor do I financially benefit in any way from sharing information about COVID-19.

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A common request I'm asked is who I follow. Here's a public Twitter list of many of the sources I read.

https://twitter.com/i/lists/1260956929205112834

This list is biased by design. It is limited to authors who predominantly post in the English language. It is heavily biased towards individual researchers and away from institutions. It is biased towards those who publish or share research, data, papers, etc. I have made an attempt to follow researchers from different countries, and also to make the list reasonably gender-balanced, because multiple, diverse perspectives on research data are essential.

This is also available as an email newsletter at https://lunchtimepandemic.substack.com if you prefer the update in your inbox.