COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Trump's record number of executions last year led to rise in COVID-19 cases on death row
  • Trump's administration conducted 13 executions in the final six months of his term.
  • The executions were likely super-spreader COVID-19 events, an Associated Press analysis found.
  • By the end, 70% of death row inmates had contracted the virus.
Last July, after a 17-year hiatus, the Bureau of Prisons began executing thirteen inmates on death row including five during Trump's lame-duck period at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

... Colorado-based attorney Madeline Cohen told the AP that between Dec. 16 and Dec. 20 of last year, 33 of the 47 people on death row tested positive for the coronavirus. The positive cases came just days after the execution of Brandon Bernard on December 10 and Alfred Bourgeois on December 11.

In the weeks after both executions, at least a dozen other people tested positive for the virus.

Cohen compiled the data by speaking to federal death row lawyers.

The AP added that prison staff were able to refuse testing and opt-out of contact tracing but were still able to work, so it is impossible to know the extent of the spread. Two sources who spoke to the AP anonymously also said that prison staff told coworkers that they should travel home and then take a coronavirus test so they wouldn't be stuck quarantining in Terre Haute if their results came back positive.

... Last month, the AP reported that two reporters who witnessed executions in January also tested positive for the virus, but The Bureau of Prisons withheld that information from other media personnel who witnessed executions.

BoP did not reply to Insider's email request for comment at the time of publication. They told the AP that they took "extensive" measures to quell the spread and conducted contact training in accordance with federal guidelines.

Additionally, the AP reported that witnesses in many cases were transported to death chambers in vans where there was no room for social distancing, or were placed in rooms where it was hard to stay six feet apart or with little ventilation.

President Joe Biden has said he's against the federal death penalty and has pledged to abolish it and incentivize states to abolish theirs.
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Coronavirus Variant First Found in Britain Now Spreading Rapidly in US
A more contagious variant of the coronavirus first found in Britain is spreading rapidly in the United States, doubling roughly every 10 days, according to a new study.

Analyzing half a million coronavirus tests and hundreds of genomes, a team of researchers predicted that in a month this variant could become predominant in the United States, potentially bringing a surge of new cases and increased risk of death.

The new research offers the first nationwide look at the history of the variant, known as B.1.1.7, since it arrived in the United States in late 2020. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that B.1.1.7 could become predominant by March if it behaved the way it did in Britain. The new study confirms that projected path.

“Nothing in this paper is surprising, but people need to see it,” said Kristian Andersen, a co-author of the study and a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. “We should probably prepare for this being the predominant lineage in most places in the United States by March.”

Dr. Andersen’s team estimated that the transmission rate of B.1.1.7 in the United States is 30 percent to 40 percent higher than that of more common variants, although those figures may rise as more data comes in, he said. The variant has already been implicated in surges in other countries, including Ireland, Portugal and Jordan.

“There could indeed be a very serious situation developing in a matter of months or weeks,” said Nicholas Davies, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who was not involved in the study. “These may be early signals warranting urgent investigation by public health authorities.”

Dr. Davies cautioned that U.S. data is patchier than that in Britain and other countries that have national variant monitoring systems. Still, he found results from some parts of the United States especially worrisome. In Florida, where the new study indicates the variant is spreading particularly quickly, Dr. Davies fears that a new surge may hit even sooner than the rest of the country.
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. Symptoms begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). At least a third of the people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop noticeable symptoms at any point in time, but can spread the disease. Some patients continue to experience a range of effects—known as long COVID—for months after recovery and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long term effects of the disease.

Source: Coronavirus disease 2019 - Wikipedia