COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Hydroxychloroquine should not be used to prevent Covid-19, WHO says
A panel of World Health Organization experts has strongly advised against using hydroxychloroquine to prevent Covid-19 after reviewing all existing studies on the subject.

Trump's claims: Hydroxychloroquine is typically used to treat autoimmune diseases and to prevent malaria, but early in the pandemic it was touted by former US President Donald Trump as a “game-changer,” prompting a flurry of clinical trials and a bump in sales of the pills. But many studies later showed the drug was not helpful in treating coronavirus patients and also did nothing to prevent infection.

... Emergency use: The US Food and Drug Administration revoked its emergency use authorization for use of the drug against coronavirus last year, and the National Institutes of Health stopped its research.
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Emergency crews rescued Covid-19 vaccines by boat after heavy rain caused flooding in Kentucky
The doses were rescued from the Lee County Health Department in Beattyville and moved to Wolfe County, Beshear said during a press conference Monday.

Not a single dose was lost, he said.

Heavy rains on top of snow melt which saturated the soil have caused major flooding in Kentucky, which set over a dozen record for rainfall totals on Sunday, according to CNN Meteorologist Michael Guy.

Much of the state saw two to four inches within 72 hours as some pockets received four to six inches and others saw up to ten, Guy said.
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A California doctor performed surgery during a Zoom court appearance
A California doctor's trial was delayed after he appeared for a virtual court hearing while simultaneously conducting surgery.

But after he confirmed he was operating on a patient, Judge Gary Link, the court commissioner, rescheduled the trial.

"So unless I'm mistaken, I'm seeing a defendant that's in the middle of an operating room appearing to be actively engaged in providing services to a patient," Link said during the virtual hearing. "I do not feel comfortable for the welfare of a patient if you're in the process of operating that I would put on a trial."

... The incident follows other virtual courtroom mishaps this year -- including when a lawyer appeared as a sad kitten on screen during a Texas court proceeding last month.
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Biden must balance the horror of Covid-19 with the hope to come
It may not feel like it right now after a horrific winter, but America has never experienced a moment this hopeful since the pandemic began.

The tantalizing promise borne by the quickening rollout of new vaccines, however, is tempered by warnings from President Joe Biden's team that a new cycle of sickness, death and isolation may loom if the country tries to grab its freedom too fast.

On Monday, it emerged publicly that three companies -- Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson -- will deliver sufficient doses to fully vaccinate 130 million people -- one-third of the population -- by the end of March. And the news gets better. The firms told a key House committee last week that they expect to provide enough vaccine for more than 400 million people -- way more than the US population -- by the end of July.

On Tuesday, Biden is expected to announce that Merck & Co. will partner with Johnson & Johnson to help manufacture J&J's coronavirus vaccine, administration officials familiar with the matter said, increasing production capacity as the third authorized shot begins going into arms.

The arrangement between two competitors is unusual and underscores the urgency in manufacturing and distributing enough vaccine doses to inoculate as many Americans as possible.

... Tension between an understandable desire of citizens to break out of the grim and grueling purgatory of social distancing and the grave concern of public health professionals that relaxing restrictions will fuel variants of Covid-19 that could make vaccines less effective will define the coming weeks.

Human nature and dire economic need may well drown out yet more warnings from scientists and health professionals. Yet tens of thousands more deaths from Covid-19, when the end seems to be within sight, would be even more poignant than the loss of half a million Americans so far.

This duality between hope and fear is shaping the politics of the pandemic, potentially forcing Biden to call on state and local leaders to slow down to buy time for vaccines to drive down rates of new infection and protect hundreds of millions of people.

... And a return of many lost freedoms in the summer does not rule out a resurgence of Covid-19 when the colder months return and more people gather inside. Scientists predict outbreaks of infection even when the worst of the pandemic has passed. And no one knows yet -- because there has not been the time for peer-tested studies -- on how long immunity from vaccines will last.

There is also the question of whether at some point, as odd as it seems now, whether the capacity to manufacture vaccines will outstrip the willingness of all Americans to take them. Recent polling has shown that more and more people are willing to get the dose but still short of numbers that would theoretically trigger herd immunity -- the moment at which the virus will find it impossible to multiply.
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Texas is ending its mask mandate and will allow all businesses to fully reopen.
Texas’ governor ended a statewide mask mandate and said businesses could fully reopen, despite federal warnings that states should not ease restrictions yet.

“To be clear, Covid has not, like, suddenly disappeared,” Gov. Greg Abbott said. “Covid still exists in Texas and the United States and across the globe.” Even so, he said, “state mandates are no longer needed” because of the availability of advanced treatments, increased testing and vaccines.

... Target and Macy’s said on Tuesday that they would continue requiring customers and employees to wear masks, Reuters reported. General Motors and Toyota said their employees in the state would also still be required to wear masks.

Democratic leaders in the state reacted swiftly and harshly to the announcement. “What Abbott is doing is extraordinarily dangerous,” Gilberto Hinojosa, the state party chairman, said in a statement, adding, “This will kill Texans. Our country’s infectious disease specialists have warned that we should not put our guard down, even as we make progress towards vaccinations. Abbott doesn’t care.”

... The Biden administration has warned states not to relax restrictions too soon, despite the recent decline in cases. “We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” the director of the C.D.C., Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said at a White House virus briefing on Monday.
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New report says failures at OSHA under Trump could have put more workers at risk during pandemic
A new federal report casts a harsh light on safety enforcement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under President Donald Trump during the pandemic, concluding that the agency had risked not “providing the level of protection that workers need at various job sites.”

OSHA, which is charged with upholding the safety of workplaces across the country, received more safety complaints during the pandemic than the same period in 2019 yet performed significantly fewer inspections.

And its decision not to issue any rules about coronavirus safety that companies would have been required to follow also left workers unsafe, the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General concluded. The reduction in on-site inspections may have resulted in more accidents, illnesses and deaths, the report noted.

“We are concerned that since most OSHA inspections were done remotely during the pandemic, hazards may go unidentified and unabated longer, with employees being more vulnerable to hazardous risk exposure while working,” the inspector general wrote.

The United States has not studied the issue nationally, but workplace transmission has made for a significant portion of the infections across the country. Hundreds of thousands of essential workers in industries such as health care, groceries, warehouses and meatpacking have been infected with the virus, and tens of thousands have died.

... “The inspector general documented OSHA’s failure under President Trump to mount a strong effort to protect millions of front line workers doing essential work,” said David Michaels, who led OSHA during the Obama presidency and has been a critic of its lax enforcement during the pandemic. “Thousands of virus-exposed workers complained to OSHA, but the agency did little to help them. As a result, many workers were sickened or killed."

... “Despite overwhelming pressure from Congress, workers and public health experts, the previous administration refused to take any meaningful action to protect workers,” said Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.) chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor. Scott has been calling for the implementation of an emergency standard since last year. “Now, the inspector general’s report reveals the consequences of the Trump administration’s inaction."
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Health care workers across the world faced violence as the pandemic raged.
Health care workers — already at risk of coronavirus infection in the pandemic — also faced widespread violence in which some were beaten, scalded, stoned, kidnapped or even shot, a global study of attacks on medical workers found.

Researchers recorded 1,172 attacks on medical personnel in 2020, most of them in areas of conflict, with about 400 violent incidents linked directly to the coronavirus pandemic. And they acknowledged that the figure may barely scratch the surface.

“It was certainly more than 400,” said Christina Wille, director of the Switzerland-based nonprofit Insecurity Insight, which carried out the study. The research, released this week, drew on official accounts, episodes documented by nongovernmental organizations, and news reports, she said. But she acknowledged that many more cases were most likely never recorded.

Most assaults on health workers were by community members, coronavirus patients or their family members, the research showed. Ms. Wille recalled the case of doctors in India attending the funeral of a colleague who had died from the virus; they were attacked by members of the community who threw stones. The locals did not want the deceased health care workers buried in the community graveyard, she said. And in Nigeria, two nurses were attacked by the family of a coronavirus patient who had died.

But other medical workers were targeted by forces from the government, militias or the police, Ms. Wille said. Researchers recorded a number of assaults in India and found that the police featured in many of them. In one case, Ms. Wille noted, two doctors returning from a hospital shift were beaten with sticks by officers who accused them of spreading the virus.

Health teams tackling the pandemic were not spared in areas of conflict. A World Health Organization driver was killed and another worker wounded in Myanmar when their vehicle, carrying coronavirus testing kits, came under fire. In Yemen, armed men stormed a health center, carrying off cleaning supplies.

Much of the violence identified in the study occurred in the early months of the pandemic, as fear and anxiety grew over the virus and measures to contain it. The monitoring group said it would continue looking out for violence this year as vaccines are introduced.
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5 Medical Appointments You Should Stop Putting Off
As the medical community unearths troubling consequences for people who put off routine or emergency health care during the coronavirus pandemic, an urgent message is going out to patients: There are some medical appointments you just shouldn't put off any longer, even if you're nervous about venturing into a clinic or emergency room.

... "There was a time, early in the pandemic, when we didn't know much about this virus. So at that time, I think hospitals and clinics closing — that made sense," Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute, tells NPR. "But that time is over. We can have patients come in and get these tests and see their doctors in person in a way that is both safe for the caregiver and safe for the patient, and the risk of transmission is low."

Emerging evidence tells us that the health threats from postponing some tests and exams — including those for cancer and heart disease, but other crucial appointments too — outweigh the risk of running into the coronavirus at a doctor's visit, even if the virus is prevalent in your community.

Five key types of in-person medical appointments you should be sure not to skip right now:
  • Cancer screenings
  • Prompt checkups for new red-flag symptoms
  • Follow-ups for chronic disease
  • Mental health management
  • Sexual health maintenance
... We're in the fight of our lives against the spread of COVID-19, but other health risks haven't gone away. If anything, they've gripped us even tighter during our distraction. That means now is the time to, at a minimum, check in with your health care provider about any appointments you might need.

Be honest with your provider about your symptoms and fears. It's perfectly acceptable to ask how they're keeping patients safe from the coronavirus in their facilities or mention that you're still really scared to come in. Either way, don't let another day pass without letting a professional help you decide which symptoms can or shouldn't wait to be evaluated: That conversation could save your life.
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Biden: Enough Vaccines for All Adults by End of May

President Biden announced Tuesday that with the partnership of Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson, the United States will have enough coronavirus vaccine supply for every adult by the end of May. Among the things I learned when I came into office was that Johnson & Johnson was behind in manufacturing and production, while we had — had the potential of another highly effective vaccine to accompany the two existing vaccines, it simply wasn’t coming fast enough. And today, we’re announcing a major step forward. Two of the largest health care and pharmaceutical companies in the world that are usually competitors are working together on the vaccine. Johnson & Johnson and Merck will work together to expand the production of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. We also invoked the Defense Production Act to equip two Merck facilities to the standards necessary to safely manufacture the J&J vaccine. And with the urging and assistance of my administration, Johnson & Johnson is also taking additional new actions to safely accelerate vaccine production. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine manufacturing facilities will now begin to operate 24/7. I’m pleased to announce today, as a consequence of the stepped-up process that I’ve ordered and just outlined, this country will have enough vaccine supply — I’ll say it again — for every adult in America by the end of May. By the end of May, that’s progress.
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Dolly Parton, who helped fund the Moderna vaccine, gets a ‘dose of her own medicine.’

The country music star Dolly Parton has another new gig: Singing the praises of coronavirus shots and getting vaccinated on camera.

Last year, Ms. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which worked with the drug maker Moderna to develop one of the first coronavirus vaccines to be authorized in the United States. The federal government eventually invested $1 billion in the creation and testing of the vaccine, but the leader of the research effort, Dr. Mark Denison, said that the singer’s donation had funded its critical early stages.

On Tuesday, Ms. Parton, 75, received a Moderna shot at Vanderbilt Health in Tennessee. “Dolly gets a dose of her own medicine,” she wrote on Twitter.
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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