COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
House GOP lawmakers fined after defying mask mandate
Reps. Brian Mast of Florida, Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa and Beth Van Duyne of Texas all received $500 fines for second offenses of the mask mandate, the official said. Additional offenses of the mandate would result in $2,500 fines.

Additional Republican lawmakers received first offense warnings, the official told CNN, including Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Chip Roy of Texas, Bob Good of Virginia, Mary Miller of Illinois and Louie Gohmert of Texas.

Current House rules state that members can remove their masks on the floor only when they are recognized by the chair to speak. The chair may also remove their mask when speaking from the dais.


Tuesday's protest -- which Massie took the lead in organizing, according to a source with knowledge of the planning -- saw the lawmakers maskless without being recognized in open defiance of the mandate.

The demonstration came after a group of GOP members sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier Tuesday urging her to rescind a decision to extend proxy voting in the House through July 3 and requesting the resumption of full in-person committee hearings. The letter also called for an end to virtual committee hearings, claiming that "Ineffective remote procedures have hindered Congressional operations for too long and should not continue."

Massie had told CNN as he walked through the metal detectors without a mask to "stay tuned" when asked if he would wear one on the House floor. Greene, meanwhile, posted a picture of herself smiling and standing alongside several other members on Twitter with a caption deriding face masks as "oppressive."
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/18/politics/house-gop-mask-fines/index.html

Fauci says the public is ‘misinterpreting’ the CDC’s latest mask guidance
The updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guide to masks wasn't meant to end mask mandates, though some have interpreted the recommendations that way. Infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci spoke to Axios Wednesday to dispel confusion: The new masking advice is supposed to reassure those who are vaccinated they can feel safe, inside or outdoors he said.

“I think people are misinterpreting, thinking that this is a removal of a mask mandate for everyone. It’s not,” he said. At a Senate hearing, Republicans grilled CDC director Rochelle Walensky on the topic. She responded that some places in the United States need to keep up their guard – especially the “counties that aren’t vaccinated.”

Fauci emphasized that the health agency did not explicitly tell unvaccinated people to go without masks but instead communicated to vaccinated individuals that they will not get infected indoors or outdoors.

“People either read them quickly, or listen and hear half of it. They are feeling that we’re saying: ‘You don’t need the mask anymore.’ That’s not what the CDC said,” he told the news outlet.
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/05/19/coronavirus-covid-live-updates-us/

What Can and Can’t Be Learned From a Doctor in China Who Pioneered Masks
In late 1910, a deadly plague started spreading in the northeast reaches of China, reaching the large city of Harbin. Tens of thousands of people coughed up blood; their skin pruned and turned purple. They all died.

This outbreak sent the Qing government into a tailspin: They didn’t know what illness was causing these deaths, let alone how to control it. So they brought in one of the best trained doctors in Asia at the time, Dr. Wu Lien-Teh. After performing autopsies, Dr. Wu found Yersinia pestis, a bacterium similar to the one that had caused bubonic plague in the West. He recognized Manchuria’s plague as a respiratory disease and urged everyone, especially health care professionals and law enforcement, to wear masks.

Chinese authorities, heeding his call, coupled masking with stringent lockdowns enforced by the police. Four months after the doctor was summoned, the plague ended. Although often overlooked in Western countries, Dr. Wu is recognized in world history as a pioneer of public health, helping to change the course of a respiratory disease spread by droplets that could have devastated China in the early 20th century, and perhaps spread far beyond its borders.

While the Chinese of that era complied with these strategies, public health professionals in the United States and other Western countries have struggled to get people to listen to them during the Covid-19 pandemic. China, too, ran into challenges early on, but the country’s institutional memory from previous viral outbreaks helped turn the tide. And as many Americans abandon masking, push to restore normality in places where risks of infection remain high and hesitate to get vaccinated, some public health experts have looked to Dr. Wu’s success, seeking lessons on handling not only Covid, but also future epidemics.

But some scholars who have studied Dr. Wu believe the wrong lesson is being drawn from his legacy: A single individual can’t save a nation. “We can’t always wait for historic figures,” said Alexandre White, a medical sociologist and historian at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Instead, he and other experts say countries like the United States need to reckon with their inequitable and fraught public health systems so they can better contend with health threats.


... Dr. Wu is often heralded as the “man behind the mask,” an inventor of using face coverings to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses. Much of this narrative was by his own design in his autobiography, said Marta Hanson, a historian of medicine also at Johns Hopkins. Previous iterations of the mask existed in other countries, and some Chinese were already donning Japanese-style respirators before Dr. Wu arrived in Harbin.

What is true is that Dr. Wu introduced and encouraged an idea born in the West to the Chinese public. The mask he designed was based on ventilators from the Victorian era: padding layers of cotton and gauze, with strings so that the user could secure it to their head. The mask was cheap and easy to manufacture.

In addition to masks, officials enforced a strict cordon sanitaire, another method that dates back at least to the 1800s when French officials sought to contain the spread of Yellow Fever. Travel was restricted, government officers were instructed to shoot anyone trying to escape, and police officers went door to door, looking for anyone who had died from plague. In an echo of some of these techniques last year during the fight against Covid, China strictly curtailed transportation around Wuhan, and people needed permission from authorities to leave their homes.

The spring after the plague was brought under control in China, Dr. Wu hosted the International Plague Conference. Respirators and masks were a focal point of conversation, and many Western scholars believed that they could effectively prevent plague.

... Medical historians and public health experts have a few theories to explain Dr. Wu’s success in persuading Chinese authorities to control the plague.

A factor that likely helped Dr. Wu, medical historians say, is that he made masks affordable and accessible. A similar approach was used during the coronavirus pandemic in Hong Kong, which offered every resident a free, reusable mask and put kiosks in public to distribute them.

Countries that have provided significant support to their citizens to comply with public health mandates during this pandemic have generally fared better than places that left the same measures up to individuals, Dr. White of Johns Hopkins said.

And the more affordable and accessible public health measures are to adopt, the more likely they are to be adopted, said Kyle Legleiter, the senior director of policy advocacy at The Colorado Health Foundation.


Another factor that might have contributed to Dr. Wu’s success in China would be the reverence residents and officials had for him as a figure of authority, Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said.

In some ways, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser on Covid to President Biden and a prominent public health figure since the 1980s, served in a role similar to the one Dr. Wu played in China, Dr. Huang said. But, his message perhaps didn’t always get through because Americans are more polarized in their political identities and beliefs.

Dr. Legleiter added that public health messaging only penetrates if the public identifies with or trusts that figure of authority.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/19/health/wu-lien-teh-china-masks.html

New Covid-19 Cases Dramatically Fell in Nursing Homes After Vaccination
The nursing home population has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic; residents faced significant threat because of the ease of spread in close quarters among people with weakened immune systems. Since the pandemic began in the United States, more than 132,000 residents have died, representing about one-third of all the country’s deaths from Covid-19.

The study published Wednesday drew from more than 20,000 residents of 280 nursing homes in 21 states. Of those, almost 4,000 were unvaccinated and the rest received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. About 70 percent had received two doses.

The study looked at residents of nursing home that had received at least one dose as of Feb. 15 and anyone at the facilities present on the first day of their vaccination clinic who had not yet been vaccinated as of March 31.

After receiving a first dose, 4.5 percent of residents still contracted the virus, although most cases were asymptomatic, researchers wrote. Of those receiving the second dose, only 0.3 percent got the virus after 14 days.

The benefit carried over to those in the same nursing homes who did not get vaccinated. Their rate of infection dropped to 0.3 percent from 4.3 percent. For all groups, most infections were asymptomatic; and the rate of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections decreased over time.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/19/health/nursing-home-vaccine-nejm.html

Democrats Quash GOP Bid to End House's Mask Mandate
House Democrats defeated a Republican-led effort on Wednesday to urge the attending physician to update the chamber’s mask mandate, panning the attempt and seizing the opportunity to point out the minority party’s paltry vaccination rates.

Republicans, led by Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, and a slate of doctors who now serve as lawmakers, tried to turn the tables on Democrats and paint them as being opposed to science after leadership decided to abide by an existing rule requiring lawmakers to wear masks on the House floor.

They introduced a bill directing the attending physician to “take timely action to provide updated mask-wearing guidance” consistent with new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks indoors.

“The continued House mask mandate sends the erroneous message that the efficacy of the vaccines cannot be trusted,” Mr. McCarthy’s resolution read, adding, “Those who have not yet received the vaccine pose no real threat to those who have been vaccinated.”

But the resolution, which was defeated in a party-line vote, 218 to 210, did not mention that several Republican lawmakers have publicly refused to take the Covid vaccine, and that dozens more have refused to disclose whether they have been vaccinated.

... In guidelines issued by his office on Wednesday, the attending physician, Dr. Brian P. Monahan, argued that the uncertainty around how many members of Congress had been vaccinated — as well as the sheer number of lawmakers gathering in one location — justified continuing the mask mandate.

“Extra precautions are necessary given the substantial number of partially vaccinated, unvaccinated and vaccine-indeterminate individuals,” Dr. Monahan wrote. “Additional medical safeguards are required to reduce the risk of coronavirus outbreak in this vital group.”

... “If Minority Leader McCarthy wants to be maskless on the floor of the House of Representatives, he should get to work vaccinating his members,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement, saying the resolution had “zero basis in science or reality.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/19/us/politics/democrats-republicans-mask-wearing.html

Oregon to Require Businesses Verify Vaccination Status
Oregon has lifted its mask mandate for people who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, but is requiring businesses, workplaces and houses of worship to verify the vaccination status of individuals before they enter buildings without a mask.

This statewide mandate, one of the first of its kind in the country, raised concerns that the procedure of verifying vaccinations could be too cumbersome for workers.


... The notion of relying on the honor system, which some states and businesses have adopted, has raised its own questions. And business groups in Oregon expressed concerns that a mandate to check vaccination status could become — like mask enforcement — a difficult and potentially dangerous proposition for workers.

... The Oregon Health Authority said in new guidance on Tuesday that effective immediately, businesses would be required to continue to enforce mask requirements unless they had established a policy to confirm proof of vaccination using a card or photo of one before individuals can enter the building without a mask.

Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said last week that Oregonians who were fully vaccinated no longer needed to wear masks in most public settings, except in places like schools, public transit and health care settings.

But she quickly noted that businesses would have “the option” of lifting mask requirements only if they instituted verification procedures. “Some businesses may prefer to simply continue operating under the current guidance for now rather than worrying about vaccination status, and that’s fine,” she said.

... Charles Boyle, a spokesman for Gov. Brown, said that “businesses that do not want to implement vaccine verification can keep current health and safety measures in place, which includes masks and physical distancing for all individuals.”


Asked if businesses would face penalties for allowing customers to go maskless without checking their vaccination status, Mr. Boyle said that “in the past year state agencies have issued fines for businesses that are out of compliance with health and safety guidance.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/19/world/vaccine-status-mask-requirement-oregon.html

Pfizer Vaccine Can Stay Longer At Lower Temperatures Before Being Discarded
The Food and Drug Administration says it's now OK to store the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at normal refrigerator temperatures for up to a month. This is much longer than was previously allowed under the FDA's emergency authorization and will make storage and distribution of the vaccine easier.

The FDA says the change should make the vaccine more widely available by making it easier for doctors' offices to receive, store and administer the vaccine.


"Making COVID-19 vaccines widely available is key to getting people vaccinated and bringing the pandemic to an end," says Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics and Research.

Based on a review of recent data submitted by Pfizer Inc, the FDA is authorizing undiluted, thawed Pfizer-BionTech COVID-19 vaccine vials to be stored in the refrigerator at 2°C to 8°C (35°F to 46°F) for up to 1 month.

Previously, thawed, undiluted vaccine vials could be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Read the full article: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/05/19/998420256/pfizer-vaccine-can-stay-longer-at-lower-temperatures-before-being-discarded

Only half of rural voters know that Democrats voted to send them stimulus checks, new poll finds
  • A poll conducted by a rural super PAC found only half of rural voters credit Democrats with stimulus checks.
  • This is notable given that not a single Republican voted for Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus.
  • A persistent feature of American politics is voters' failure to understand government's role in their lives.
Americans have so far received three stimulus checks. The first two were distributed under President Donald Trump's watch and not a single Republican voted for the third round, and yet, only half of rural voters are giving Democrats the credit.

A poll conducted by Rural Objective PAC — a super PAC that works to build support for Democrats in rural areas — found that 50% of voters in rural areas associate providing COVID-19 stimulus checks directly to American families with the Democratic Party, while 32% associated the payments with Republicans, 11% with neither party, and 7% weren't sure.

"We're not connecting with these voters, even if we have great policy," JD Scholten, the executive director of the Rural Objective PAC, told Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman of The Washington Post, which previously reported on the poll's findings.

The poll surveyed 2,149 voters in nine battleground states — Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin — and while 68% of those voters support stimulus checks, it's clear that Democrats aren't getting credit for a cornerstone of President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan.
Read the full article: https://www.businessinsider.com/stimulus-checks-rural-voters-democratic-party-biden-poll-2021-5

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