COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Seoul announces plan to test pets for Covid-19
The South Korean capital of Seoul will start testing pet dogs and cats for Covid-19 if their owners test positive and the animals themselves are symptomatic, according to the city’s top health official Park Yoo-mi.

Park said the city’s animal sample collection team will visit the home of quarantined Covid-19 patient to test the pets.

The testing is being done out of an abundance of caution -- Covid-19 pet-to-human infection has not been reported since the pandemic began. Any dogs or cats testing positive will be required to quarantine for 14 days.
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Pandemic Lessons in Improving the Medical System
If there is a silver lining to the devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, it likely lies in the glaring inadequacies and inefficiencies it exposed that are inherent in traditional American medicine. At the same time, it suggests ways to improve medical practice that can ultimately give us more bang for our health care buck.

... Half a century of evidence has documented the health-saving, lifesaving and cost-saving benefits of preventive medicine, yet this country has retained a chaotic, penny-wise-and-pound-foolish medical system that too often puts the treatment cart before the health-promoting horse.

As many experts have told me during decades of medical reporting, we really don’t have health care in this country; we have sickness care. We’re not getting more, we’re simply paying more. The United States spends 25 percent more per person on medical care than any other highly developed country and gets less benefit from it. And the care we get leaves us shamefully behind other developed countries in important health metrics, like maternal and infant mortality and healthy longevity.

“Our system is set up to produce a lot of health care but not necessarily a lot of health,” said Dr. Amol S. Navathe, a health economist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Even the routine annual “wellness visits” covered by Medicare are of minimal value for healthy adults and often result in a cascade of follow-up tests that yield little but cost plenty.

Dr. William H. Shrank of Humana, a national health insurance company, and lead author of a report on waste in the current health care system, said, “We’ve just been through a natural experiment that we can learn from.” Our yearlong battle with a deadly virus suggests ways to improve how medicine is practiced and utilized in the United States to foster better health for its inhabitants.

One of the most dramatic examples was the abrupt substitution of telemedicine for in-person visits to the doctor’s office. Although telemedicine technology is decades old, the pandemic demonstrated how convenient and effective it can be for many routine medical problems, Dr. Navathe said.

Telemedicine is more efficient and often just as effective as an office visit. It saves time and effort for patients, especially those with limited mobility or who live in remote places. It lowers administrative costs for doctors and leaves more room in office schedules for patients whose care requires in-person visits.

Even more important, the pandemic could force a reckoning with the environmental and behavioral issues that result increasingly in prominent health risks in this country. We need to stop blaming genetics for every ailment and focus more on preventable causes of poor health like a bad diet and inactivity.

Consider, for example, the health status of those who have been most vulnerable to sickness and death from Covid-19. Aside from advanced age, about which we can do nothing, it’s been people with conditions that are often largely preventable: obesity, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease and smoking. Yet most physicians are unable to influence the behaviors that foster these health-robbing conditions.

... Individuals, too, have a role to play. The pandemic has fostered “an opportunity for patients to take on a more active role in their care,” Dr. Shrank said in an interview.

Covid-based limitations gave prospective patients a chance to consider what procedures they really needed. Most elective surgeries were put on hold when hospitals and medical personnel were overwhelmed with the challenges of caring for a tsunami of patients infected with a deadly virus.

Dr. Shrank suggested that people ask themselves, “How did you do without the procedure?” Maybe you didn’t really need it, at least not now. Maybe instead of costly surgery for a bad back or bum knee, physical therapy, home exercises or self-administered topical remedies could provide enough relief to permit desired activities.

Does every ache and pain require a doctor visit? Short of a catastrophic sign like crushing chest pain or unexplained bleeding, my approach is to wait a week or two to see if a new symptom resolves without medical intervention. I awoke one January morning with pain in my right wrist and forearm so intense I couldn’t brush my teeth. Perhaps I did too much crocheting or slept on it wrong. Ice didn’t help, but I applied an anti-inflammatory ointment, took two naproxen, wrapped my wrist in a brace from the local pharmacy and refrained from crocheting for two days, by which time the pain had resolved.
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Biden said Trump's handling of COVID-19 was 'even more dire than we thought' after finding insufficient vaccine supplies
  • President Biden said that Trump's pandemic response was even worse than he had expected.
  • He said that since taking office he found there was much less vaccine available than claimed.
  • Biden made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with CBS News.
Biden did not hold back in his criticism of his predecessor during the interview, also saying that Trump should not be receving intelligence briefings — as it customary for former presidents — because of "his erratic behavior unrelated to the insurrection."
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Facebook says it plans to remove posts with false vaccine claims.
Facebook said on Monday that it plans to remove posts with erroneous claims about vaccines from across its platform, including taking down assertions that vaccines cause autism or that it is safer for people to contract Covid-19 than to receive the vaccinations.

The social network has increasingly changed its content policies over the past year as the coronavirus has surged. In October, the social network prohibited people and companies from purchasing advertising that included false or misleading information about vaccines. In December, Facebook said it would remove posts with claims that had been debunked by the World Health Organization or government agencies.

Monday’s move goes further by targeting unpaid posts to the site and particularly Facebook pages and groups. Instead of targeting only misinformation around Covid vaccines, the update encompasses false claims around all vaccines. Facebook said it consulted with the World Health Organization and other leading health institutes to determine a list of false or misleading claims around Covid and vaccines in general.

In the past, Facebook had said it would only “downrank,” or push lower down in people’s News Feeds, misleading or false claims about vaccines, making it more difficult to find such groups or posts. Now posts, pages and groups containing such falsehoods will be removed from the platform entirely.

“Building trust and confidence in these vaccines is critical, so we’re launching the largest worldwide campaign to help public health organizations share accurate information about Covid-19 vaccines and encourage people to get vaccinated as vaccines become available to them,” Kang-Xing Jin, head of health at Facebook, said in a company blog post.

... Facebook also said it would give $120 million in advertising credits to health ministries, nongovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies to aid in spreading reliable Covid-19 vaccine and preventive health information. As vaccination centers roll out more widely, Facebook said it would help point people to locations where they can receive the vaccine.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive, has been proactive against false information related to the coronavirus. He has frequently hosted Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, on Facebook to give live video updates on the American response to Covid. In his private philanthropy, Mr. Zuckerberg has also vowed to “eradicate all disease,” pledging billions to fighting viruses and other sicknesses.
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Texas Rep. Ron Wright becomes first sitting member of Congress to die of COVID-19
  • Rep. Ron Wright has died from complications with COVID-19, his office said on Monday.
  • Wright, 67, was battling cancer and is the first sitting member of Congress to die of the disease.
  • He was hospitalized with coronavirus two weeks ago along with his wife, Susan.
Wright becomes the first sitting member of Congress to die of the illness. GOP Rep.-elect Luke Letlow died of COVID-19 mere days before he was set to be sworn into Congress on January 3 to represent Louisiana's Fifth Congressional District.
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House panel renews probe into Trump administration’s interference with covid-19 response
Top Democrat makes new allegations of political appointees muzzling scientists.

Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), chairman of the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, released emails from a Trump science adviser that he said showed how the administration worked to weaken guidance on who should be tested for the coronavirus. Clyburn also cited evidence that Trump appointees sought to boost access to unproven treatments for the coronavirus that were favored by the president.

... Clyburn said the Trump administration had blocked the subcommittee’s inquiries, noting that HHS officials “failed to fully comply with two subpoenas and at least 20 document requests.”

Clyburn’s latest allegations focus on emails sent last year by then-scientific adviser Paul Alexander, a Trump appointee who repeatedly clashed with career scientists — and called for deliberately infecting younger Americans with the virus, arguing that it would speed “herd immunity” — before being fired in September.
Alexander did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

In one of the newly released emails, Alexander defended a controversial decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to abruptly revise its guidance to reduce the number of people getting tested for coronavirus.

Under that revised guidance issued last August, the CDC said that Americans who had been in close contact with infected people but did not have symptoms “do not necessarily need a test.” According to Alexander, the White House supported the decision because the prior strategy was posing a risk to efforts to reopen the economy — a major priority for President Donald Trump in the run-up to last year’s election.

... The panel also released emails in which Alexander repeatedly appealed to health officials to increase access to hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug touted by Trump as a coronavirus treatment despite evidence it was ineffective. Amid White House pressure, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the drug in March 2020 to be used for patients hospitalized with the coronavirus, before revoking the authorization in June and subsequently warning about the drug’s risks. Trump complained about the FDA’s reversal, and appointees like Alexander urged the agency to reconsider.

... In another email sent Aug. 18, 2020, to colleagues in the health department’s press shop, Alexander critiqued Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s leading infectious-disease expert, for his public criticism of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.
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Maskless Fans in Tampa Celebrate the Super Bowl

After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, fans celebrated throughout the city while ignoring social distancing guidelines and mask protocols." target="_blank">After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, fans celebrated throughout the city while ignoring social distancing guidelines and mask protocols.

Thousands of maskless Tampa fans flooded the streets, celebrating the Super Bowl win while risking a superspreader event
Throughout Tampa this weekend, hordes of football fans crammed into bars, clogged streets and belted chants — many without masks, despite dire warnings from public health experts that the Super Bowl could become a superspreader event.

... There have been more than 1.7 million cases of the coronavirus in Florida and more than 28,000 deaths, according to The Washington Post’s coronavirus tracker. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has battled against many restrictions, and mask mandates or occupancy restrictions throughout the state have been difficult to enforce since the governor lifted all coronavirus restrictions in September.

A report posted on the preprint server medRxiv on Sunday found that a more contagious and possibly more deadly mutation of the virus first discovered in the United Kingdom is rapidly spreading in Florida. The study said that the state has the most cases of the variant in the country.

... Videos flooded social media on Sunday night showing fans whooping and chanting “Tampa Bay” and Brady’s name, all tightly packed outside the stadium and on bar-lined streets in Tampa’s SoHo and Ybor City neighborhoods, according to the Times. A Times reporter estimated that tens of thousands gathered in Ybor City on Sunday night.

Police patrolled the streets, but it is unclear whether they handed out any citations for people not wearing masks. The fine could be up to $500. It is also unclear how many people were arrested amid the celebrations or if any property was damaged.

Before the Super Bowl, maskless crowds were also a common sight around Tampa. News reports showed people without face coverings standing shoulder-to-shoulder in bars on Saturday despite mandates in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties requiring all patrons in businesses to wear masks.

... A party hosted by rapper 50 Cent at an airport hangar in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Friday night was crowded with barefaced concertgoers not social distancing.

The event attracted ire from St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman (D) on Twitter.

“This isn’t how we should be celebrating the Super Bowl,” Kriseman wrote. “It’s not safe or smart. It’s stupid. We’re going to take a very close look at this, and it may end up costing someone a lot more than 50 cent.”
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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