COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Why Oxford's Covid-19 vaccine could do more for the world than other shots
The UK today became the first country in the world to approve Oxford University/AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, the first step on the road for a shot that is cheaper and easier to transport than other vaccines and is expected to help wider areas of the globe emerge from the pandemic.

The green light also shores up Britain’s race to vaccinate more people against the spread of the virus in the country, which on Tuesday broke its daily record of cases for a second consecutive day. Previously, the team developing the vaccine said that two doses of the shot had an "an average efficacy of 70%," with one regimen (a half-dose followed by a full dose) showing an efficacy of 90%. On Wednesday, the UK government announced that the first dose will be given to as many people as possible. Clinicians have also been advised to wait as long as 12 weeks to give the second dose.

According to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, regulators found that the first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offers “very effective protection” from coronavirus, allowing for people to be protected for a longer period of time before receiving a second dose. This contrasts with Pfizer/BioNTech’s two-dose shot, which has to be administered three weeks apart but which has an efficacy of nearly 95%.

Most importantly, AstraZeneca has promised to supply hundreds of millions of doses to low- and middle-income countries on a not-for-profit basis. This vaccine is also much easier to administer than its rivals since it does not need to be stored at very low temperatures. “Approval of this vaccine is a turning point for the pandemic because it has been deliberately developed to have global impact; that includes people living in the most fragile and poorest regions of the world,”
Helen Fletcher, Professor of Immunology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a statement.

They did everything right. But after one at-home haircut, a husband and wife died of Covid-19
But a simple family visit to get a haircut claimed both of their lives.

The Brunos were married nearly six decades before they passed away from the virus, their son Joseph Bruno told CNN. The Chicago couple, who died 10 days apart, are now among the more than 337,000 people who have died from coronavirus in the US.

Bruno hopes his family's grief serves as an important reminder of how easy it can be to contract Covid-19, no matter how safe you are.

"Even when we thought we did everything right, we still got it,"
Bruno told CNN.

In late November, Bruno's mother, Carol Bruno, came over to his apartment with his sister so his sister could give him a haircut. Prior to the visit, his sister, who works in a salon, had taken a Covid-19 test which had come back negative. She had also quarantined for three to four days — a sign the family took to mean that it was safe to be around her.

His mother, on the other hand, hadn't been out much during the pandemic at all.

Throughout the visit, which lasted about 40 minutes, the Brunos wore masks and avoided hugs, Bruno explained. They also made sure their mother sat next to the windows which they had opened as an extra precaution.

A day after the visit, Bruno's sister started displaying symptoms of Covid-19. Mother and son started feeling unwell soon after.

Oxygen supply issues forced five Los Angeles-area hospitals to declare an 'internal disaster'
There are multiple issues involving oxygen delivery to patients, but generally the problem is not an absolute shortage of oxygen, according to Dr. Christina Ghaly, Los Angeles County Health Services director.

Instead, at some area hospitals, aging infrastructure that pumps oxygen to patient rooms is unable to keep up with the high number of patients needing oxygen.

"They're not able to maintain the pressure in the pipe to maintain oxygen delivery at that high level of pressure that's required to be delivered through the high-flow oxygen delivery vehicles," Ghaly said. "Because of that high flow through the pipes, sometimes it's freezing in the pipes, and obviously if it freezes then you can't have good flow of oxygen."

The oxygen issues come as Los Angeles County sees a near-overwhelming surge of Covid-19 patients taking nearly every hospital to capacity. Nearly 7,000 patients are currently hospitalized, with about 20% of those in intensive care units.

To solve the oxygen supply issue, some hospitals are moving Covid-19 patients down to lower floors within the medical center, which makes it easier to pump the oxygen through pipes without it freezing.

Another challenge, Ghaly said, is that several supply companies have a shortage of the actual oxygen canisters that patients can take home once discharged from the hospital. Without the canisters, patients who might otherwise be able to go home -- and free up a bed and health care workers' time -- have to stay in the hospital.

... One aspect of the issue was just the sheer amount of oxygen needed to treat severe Covid-19, which primarily affects the lungs.

"First, high levels of oxygen are necessary to treat patients with COVID-19, and that level may be up to 10 times more than normal usage," the deparmtent said in a statement. "Hospitals in general are running out of oxygen sooner than under their normal conditions, and the oxygen suppliers are changing their processes to respond to the hospitals' needs." ... "If you don't have respirators, you don't have nurses to care for patients, you don't have ICU beds, we will have to have these terrible discussions with families, which is why people need to stay home, and when they go out, they need to wear a mask," Reiner said.

Top presidential historian on Trump's legacy: 'He was largely responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans who did not need to die'
  • Presidential historian Michael Beschloss told MSNBC that President Donald Trump's legacy will always be tied to the catastrophic COVID-19 death toll in the US.
  • "Donald Trump is not going to change the record. He was largely responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans who did not need to die," Beschloss said.
  • As of Wednesday, nearly 339,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 under Trump's watch. It's the highest reported COVID-19 death toll in the world.
Michael Beschloss, a prominent presidential historian, in an interview with MSNBC this week said that historians will need time to fully assess President Donald Trump's legacy but that he'll never be able to escape the COVID-19 death toll.

"Donald Trump is not going to change the record. He was largely responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans who did not need to die," Beschloss said. "Millions of others who suffered from covid did not need to suffer…This is really Nero's fiddling while Rome burns."

The US has the highest numbers of reported COVID-19 cases and fatalities in the world.

As of Wednesday morning, there have been over 19.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 339,000 reported deaths from the virus in the US, according to Johns Hopkins. Public health experts have consistently criticized Trump's handling of the pandemic, contending that a more coherent response from the president could've prevented tens of thousands of deaths.

... Beschloss said that top-ranked presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln, were known for their compassion and empathy. But Trump does not qualify in this regard, he said.

"Donald Trump is the kind of person that we have never ever seen before in the presidency, and I hope we never ever see again," Beschloss said. "When you've got a president who has no empathy, who has no compassion, you see a spectacle like what we've seen this week."