News roundup for Tue, Sep 7, 2021

Another hurricane has formed in the Atlantic—this one is named Larry. It is currently a category 3 with winds over 70 miles per hour. It will swerve away from the East Coast of the US, but could cause larger than normal swells to hit the entire Eastern side of North America.

Employers are still hiring, but the hiring spree is slowing down. Leisure and hospitality industries are struggling again because of the impact of Delta:

In “feel good” news, neighbors ding-dong-ditch sick neighbors and leave behind a porch full of groceries and stuff to sooth what ails ‘em. The world needs more of this kind of kindness.

In “bittersweet news,” a man who once lost his family to a housefire was able to save his neighbor from one in Massachusetts.

I’m keeping my ears to the rail on rumors that materials necessary for the replacement of transformers (among other things) are difficult to come by right now. Should more hurricanes and tornadoes cause electric utilities damage, outages could last longer than anticipated…

When truckers strike, shelves will go bare FAST. Sadly, truckers Down Under are striking against imposed COVID mitigation measures. Here’s what the damage looks like after a trucker’s strike in Australia:

Nearly 9 million people will lose federal unemployment benefits this week as the COVID safety nets that were once in place get pulled back.

The world has over 221.9 million COVID cases. The world has gained 4.1 million cases in the last week. There have been nearly 4.6 million deaths in total. The US has a cumulative 40.9 million cases. The US gained 1 million cases in the last week. Over 666,000 Americans have died. The US gained over 44,000 new cases on Sunday, and over 36,000 by late afternoon Monday. The US appears to be over the most recent Delta peak in terms of new daily cases, but over 1,000 people are still dying per day based on a 7-day average. The US, India, Brazil, and Russia currently have the highest daily case gain in the world.

Work on oral treatment formulations for COVID is still ongoing—and as we’ve seen with the Ivermectin debacle, people seem to prefer a medication they can consume over more invasive shots:

The UK is not going to recommend COVID vaccines for healthy youth under age 15. This is maddening to me because the risks of the disease are still higher to children than the risks of getting the vaccines. I don’t agree with this choice, and am thankful that US policymakers don’t either.

Florida now has more daily deaths than previous peaks—a clear indication that policies actually matter. Speaking of which, 15 educators in the Miami-Dade area died in just 10 days:

The Mu variant is in Los Angeles County:

Sweden has banned travelers from the US, but since we seem to coming down from the most recent peak, this could be reversed soon.

Here’s a useful dashboard website that shows the acceleration/deceleration of COVID case growth in each state over time:

Long COVID is scary. People with 2 or more vaccines are at lower risk for Long COVID:

When accounting for underreporting and excess mortality, the actual estimate of global COVID mortality is more than three times the current official number:


  • 20 Comments

    • Bed

      I feel like the trucker protest/strike in Australia might be partially due to the new home-based quarantine app that South Australia is testing out. The article says the app, “uses geo-location and facial recognition software to track those in quarantine,” and that the users have to, at random, “provide proof of their location within 15 minutes.” It also says, “If a person cannot successfully verify their location or identity when requested, SA Health will notify SA Police who will conduct an in-person check on the person in quarantine.
      Regardless of how you feel about COVID restrictions (which probably got to this point over there due to (I very much assume) a ton of people not listening), this method is pretty yikes-y in my opinion.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Bed

        I saw that and was hoping it was hyperbole. That’s beyond the pale. I’d fight that, too. 

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      • I think there’s a bit more to it. There was a breakdown in union negotiations with highway toll authorities over rates (or something like that) and disagreements over pay and working conditions.

        IIRC, South Australia put a number of very strict measures in place and the police are aggressively enforcing them. Ideally, I want legal mandates that protect business owners (like you’re backed up if you remove someone who isn’t wearing a mask from your store) combined with widespread voluntary action to slow cases. I don’t agree with extensively using the police to make people comply, especially considering potential for bias and that police enforcement isn’t exactly perfect.

        I recall about 30% of Americans support a strong “National Security law enforcement” approach (where civil liberties like privacy don’t really matter) to threats like terrorism, down from 50% in 2001-2002. I feel like the pandemic is similar to some degree and those types of approaches don’t reliably work long-term. You need the general public taking collective responsibility for safety, not cops forcing everyone into compliance.

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    • Karl Winterling

      There’s some evidence that non-COVID coronaviruses cause minor symptoms because they aren’t a major threat to kids and repeated exposure means you have strong immunity to multiple variants once you’re older. It’s possible vaccines could accelerate that childhood process of developing immunity, but we just don’t know yet. Maybe it’s better if vaccinated people are exposed to variants, but the running theme is that we don’t really know. Doing everything we can to slow cases gives hospitals more time to prepare by increasing their staffing.

      Vaccine-hesitant people have a very negative response to the word “jab,” so they’d probably feel more comfortable taking an oral vaccine or a drug like Tamiflu that prevents you from getting a severe case.

      There’s a spectrum of vaccine hesitancy, like:

      1. Group A: People who think 5G towers cause COVID-19 and Bill Gates wants to use vaccines to reduce the population by killing people.
      2. Group B: People who are skeptical of public health experts and concerned about whether a cost-benefit analysis would show that getting the vaccine would personally benefit them.

      I feel like there’s a certain level of panic about vaccine-hesitant people that makes it harder to reach them. For instance, there were only about 500 cases of Ivermectin “overdoses” (= severe enough to require hospitalization?) in August compared to far more COVID hospitalizations, despite media framing that Ivermectin overdoses are a huge problem. Taking Ivermectin likely won’t help you against COVID, but the risk of getting COVID is far worse than your risk of an Ivermectin overdose.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Karl Winterling

        We’ve only got about 50% of people fully vaccinated in the US, and that’s simply not enough. What’s concerning to me is the revelation that we’ve got a huge proportion of the population with a staggeringly poor font of knowledge and a paucity of skills needed to discern fact from fiction. There are implications here that reach beyond the arena of pubic health.

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      • This comment is SPOT ON.  I wish I could give it more than one upvote. 

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      • Developing critical thinking skills has been sorely lacking in the American educational system (including at the university level) for decades.  What kids learn at home fills that void, for better or worse.  People who comprehend the scientific method, ask meaningful questions of scientists and policymakers, and  understand how to legitimately interpret statistics are few and far between.

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      • Believing in unverified conspiracy theories actually means people are more likely to believe what they’re told because they want an illegitimate degree of certainty about how the world works. You could say it’s “illegitimate religious certainty” (like believing your religion gives you special knowledge about the real world) and “illegitimate religious experience” (people like you are special because of shared identity, AKA what Olúfémi O. Táíwò calls “deference epistemology”). I think part of this is a response to genuine feelings of alienation and disenfranchisement combined with nefarious manipulation through deliberate disinformation.

        There are more cynical interpretations of why people think that way, like they’re ignoring epistemic reality because they only want “brownie points” or they really want to preserve aspects of the status quo. But I think lots of people are genuinely hurting and looking for ways to cope.

        If a relatively small group of people is heavily influencing this “non-reality” through disinformation campaigns, you have something more like a cult. A cult especially if some leader or leaders have severely disordered personalities.

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      • I think the main incentive for disinformation is financial.  Advertising money goes to the media content with traffic, and pushing the conspiracy theories generate it.  Once you start watching it, the online algorithms start feeding it to you nonstop. 

        I relative has gotten wrapped up in it and sent me a few links to look at.  They were complete garbage, but similar themes popped up in my “suggested” feeds for a few weeks.  I think it our problem cumulative effect of deliberate disinformation for profit, the victims/believers spreading it, and the algorithms amplifying it to a frightening degree. 

        6 |
    • UKSeb

      Hi,

      On the UK not recommending the jab for 12 to 15 year old: the situation is a bit more nuanced than the headline indicates. The JCVI (expert panel on vaccines) basically assessed that at an individual level, there was not enough evidence to recommend it (ie, risk of vaccine side effect vs risk of covid are balanced at that age). They however acknowledge that there is a collective benefit to vaccinating this cohort, but claim that it is not within their remit to recommend on that basis. They have therefore passed the buck to the government to decide. Final decision still has not been taken, although given past history it could go either way… I choose to stay optimistic here. 

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor UKSeb

        In the US, 1/100 infected kids is being hospitalized right now. The vaccine is orders of magnitude safer than getting Delta. I hope very much that the policymakers in the UK make the right choice. Letting the virus burn through that sector of the population as a means of approaching herd immunity is not a risk I would want for my child. The US is being so over-careful in its approach to vaccines for those under 12 that we’re essentially doing the same thing (I’m desperate to get my kids vaccinated but there’s no approval for their age group yet). 

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      • I echo your concerns Stephanie.  I will tell you that in my pediatric ICU I have teenagers dying of COVID – by and large coming from families where no one has been vaccinated.  It takes everything in my power to not take a large, heavy object and beat the parents to within an inch of their lives.  Clearly, at this point you can’t beat sense into them.  Every day I get closer to just throwing up my hands and retiring.  I wonder how many of my coworkers across the healthcare spectrum are at the same point.  We are a thin, scrub-wearing line that is dangerously close to breaking.  

        Is this how the current civilization comes to an end?  

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Greg P

        The best thing we can do for clinicians is reframe this as a war we’re fighting with these patients against a common enemy. These people are victims of an information war–very deliberate, crafted, weaponized misinformation. We’ve also got a reverse Opium War raging on our streets. The racial and political bloodsport in this country, the identity wars… It’s all being leveraged for maximum chaos and to turn us against each other. We win the war by coming together and loving each other even in the face of this chaos. I understand very fundamentally how hard this is to do.

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      • Do you have a link to those hospitalization numbers?  Also, please explain how that has any reflection on risk vs. vaccination.  If a child is hospitalized but comes out after a day or two with no lasting damage, that is still “less risk” than potential permanent damage to a young girl’s reproductive system or a young boy’s heart – these things are happening, and we have no long-term data as to what else can happen.  The only children typically having serious problems with the virus are those with pre-existing conditions.  

        This whole vaccine issue is approaching being moot anyway since the emerging variants like Mu are barely, if at all, affected by the vaccine, and the boosters are not yet true boosters but just another shot of the same thing you already had.  It’s rather time to stop demonizing people for their own medical choices, regardless of whether you agree with them.  You can lead a horse to water…

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor más picante

        “DHS tracks the number of children hospitalized in two age groups, age 0-9 and 10-19. There have been a combined 105,067 cases from newborns to people age 19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of those cases, 1,190, or about 1 percent, have resulted in hospitalization.”

        What is the basis for the assumption that there’s no lasting damage from infection requiring hospitalization? Look at the rates of myocarditis and kidney damage from infection. The rates are many orders of magnitude higher than from vaccines. 

        We DO have long-term data. We have a year’s worth of data on billions of people vaccinated. 

        Vaccines are not moot at all. They prevent organ damage, hospitalization, and death. 

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    • pnwsarah

      CBS LA: “Mu variant in LA and potentially able to evade vaccines.”

      My employer: “Everything in person by the end of September!”

      Me: ::signs up for booster and screams into the void::

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor pnwsarah

        That’s how I feel about kids being back in school in person with no vaccines available for the young ones. 

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      • UKSeb Stephanie Arnold

        I think the UK has for the moment been shielded from the worst because of the  summer school break. Unfortunately, it will probably take a severe increase in children cases in the coming weeks to force the government to take the right decision.

        Where it becomes ridiculous is that secondary school starts at 11 in the uk, not 12… So as a cohort 12-15 does not even cover all secondary students… And I share the concern about under 12s. For some reason, decision makers seem to think they are immune, and facts contradict that.

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      • TOTALLY. In fact, before I was worried about my own health and safety, I thought this was a bad idea because so many of the people I work with have kids under 12. I think the employer rationale is, “Well the kids are going back to school, and they aren’t even vaxxed,” but (1) what about people who have chosen to keep their kids out of school/daycare or have infants who have never had to go? We can’t just assume that everyone’s kids are over 5 and doing whatever the local public school district is doing. (2) Ummm… SHOULD the kids be back in school?

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