COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Vitamin D's effect on Covid-19 may be exaggerated. Here's what we know
And just like hydroxychloroquine, it's leading some to ask, "What can it hurt if I take vitamin D supplements?"

Actually, it can hurt a lot. In the case of hydroxychloroquine, the World Health Organization stopped a clinical trial after finding that seriously ill Covid-19 patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were more likely to die.

And taking too much vitamin D can lead to a toxic buildup of calcium in your blood, causing confusion, disorientation and problems with heart rhythm, as well as bone pain, kidney damage and painful kidney stones.

According to the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies' Food and Nutrition Board, the recommended daily dose of vitamin D for anyone over age 4 is 600 IU/day in the US. For anyone over 70 years of age in the US, the dose goes up to 800 IU/day. In the UK, the recommended daily amount is 400 IU/day.

Levels in other parts of the world are country-specific to reflect environmental and dietary differences, but typically also range between 400 and 800 IU/day.

For ages nine and up, the maximum upper limit that can be tolerated is 4,000 IU/day in both in the US and UK, with research suggesting that long term use might be associated with increases in all-cause mortality, greater risk of cancer, cardiovascular events and more falls and fractures among the elderly.

Yet recent Google searches find people asking about the intake of much higher levels, even up to 60,000 IU per week.

"To date, there is no evidence that very high vitamin D levels are protective against COVID-19 and consequently medical guidance is that people should not be supplementing their vitamin D levels beyond those which are currently recommended by published medical advice," said Robin May, who directs the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham in the UK, via email.

That warning was echoed by another group of scientists from the UK, Europe and the US. They published a vitamin D consensus paper warning against high doses of vitamin D supplementation and debunking the connection to the novel coronavirus.

"The continued spread of ... the disease COVID-19 that is caused by SARS-CoV-2, has led to calls for widespread high-dose vitamin D supplementation," the group wrote. "These calls are without support from pertinent studies in humans at this time, but rather based on speculations about presumed mechanisms."

... "As a key micronutrient, vitamin D should be given particular focus -- not as a 'magic bullet' to beat Covid-19, as the scientific evidence base is severely lacking at this time — but rather as part of a healthy lifestyle strategy to ensure that populations are nutritionally in the best possible place."
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/26/health/vitamin-d-coronavirus-wellness/index.html

Salma Hayek says she battled a near-fatal case of Covid-19
In a recent interview with Variety, the actress said she contracted the virus early on in the pandemic and almost ended up in the hospital.

"My doctor begged me to go to the hospital because it was so bad," Hayek told the publication. "I said, 'No, thank you. I'd rather die at home.'"

Hayek said she went on to spend seven weeks in self isolation at her home and that she was even put on oxygen.

Although she is back to work on Ridley Scott's "House of Gucci," she said she still doesn't have the energy she once had.


Hayek is among the celebrities who has publicly shared their experiences with contracting Covid-19 in the last year.
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/05/19/entertainment/salma-hayek-coronavirus/index.html

Covid Vaccines Are Now on Wheels
Mobile Covid-19 vaccine clinics in vans and buses are rolling up to neighborhoods in Delaware, Minnesota and Washington State to reach people who have been unable to travel to vaccination centers.

Many Americans haven’t gone for their Covid-19 shot yet. So shots are coming to them.

Teaming up with community leaders, mobile vaccine units are traveling across the country to find America’s unvaccinated stragglers, many of whom are struggling with poverty and are encumbered by jobs or the responsibility of child care.

From the East Coast to the West, health officials are taking the Covid-19 vaccines on the road.

Across the country, nurses, technicians, emergency medical workers and community partners are rolling up to the doorsteps, streets and churches of people who are homeless, who live in areas without reliable transportation or who have no internet access.

Their goal: to reach the unvaccinated stragglers in overlooked neighborhoods, plugging a vulnerable gap in the nationwide effort to outmaneuver death. Some people are encumbered by jobs or the responsibility of child care. Others struggle with dire poverty. Many are adrift, out of reach or uninformed.

“We are showing up in communities and telling people: ‘You do matter. We are not just going to leave you out of the greater process,’” said Emily Smoak of the Minnesota Department of Health.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/20/us/mobile-vaccine-covid.html

They’re Reluctant to Get Vaccinated. Will a Knock on the Door Help?
As demand shrinks, the city is turning to door-to-door outreach to overcome vaccine skepticism. “Nobody I know took the shot,” one man said.

In New York City, where 59 percent of people have received at least one dose, officials are turning to door-to-door outreach to win over those who are reluctant.

New York City’s vaccination campaign has been successful by many measures. The city’s second wave is receding fast. Pandemic restrictions are loosening. About 59 percent of the city’s adults have received at least one dose.

But Black and Hispanic New Yorkers are getting vaccinated at significantly lower rates than other groups. Citywide, only about 33 percent of Black adults have gotten a vaccine dose. For Hispanic adults, the rate is 42 percent. And demand for the vaccine is dwindling.

The racial disparities are partly the result of access, with more robust health care and vaccine distribution in some neighborhoods than others. But resistance to the vaccine, which has been well documented in conservative rural areas, also runs strong in major cities, including New York, the epicenter of the pandemic just a year ago.

New York City public health officials are now trying to reach out to unvaccinated New Yorkers individually. They are urging community groups to start knocking on doors to persuade people to get vaccinated, as Mr. Ramos’s organization, the Bronx Rising Initiative, has been doing for months. Those who agree get appointments for vaccine shots in a temporary clinic nearby.


And the city has also hired companies to do door-to-door outreach and talk up the vaccine on street corners, largely in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/20/nyregion/vaccine-hesitancy-outreach.html

What are Americans making for dinner? Reservations.
In states including Texas, Florida and Arizona, restaurant crowds are blowing past pre-pandemic numbers

With nearly half of all Americans at least partially vaccinated and 100 percent of Americans tired of their own cooking, restaurant traffic is rocketing back.

Restaurant reservations, including diners who placed themselves on waiting lists, were up 46 percent in April compared with April 2019, according to the review site Yelp (and up 23,000 percent compared with April 2020, when most Americans began staying at home during the pandemic). Yelp’s competitor OpenTable paints a similarly rosy picture.

In some states, restaurant traffic has blown by pre-pandemic levels, prompting industry experts to draw parallels between now and the Roaring ‘20s, which followed the 1918 influenza pandemic, bringing boom times for restaurants and other parts of the hospitality industry.

The weather is getting better, vaccination numbers are rising and dining restrictions are slowly being lifted, all of which has helped to push the industry toward a surprising resurgence. The demand is also playing a role in shortages of restaurant workers across the country.


... This surge in consumer spending has been partially responsible for the well-documented staffing crisis in the hospitality industry. Restaurants have not been able to hire workers at the rate needed to meet the consumer demand.

... Another contributor to worker shortages could be the number of new restaurants opening across the country — 6,000 in April alone, according to Wright. Even more surprising, Yelp tracked 18,000 restaurant reopenings in April.

... One reason that restaurant numbers could be booming is that many restaurants can now seat more people, said Lilly Jan, a lecturer on food and beverage management at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. Restaurants that had no outdoor space before the pandemic built elaborate and expansive patios and sheltered outdoor dining rooms this past year by annexing sidewalks and parking lots to provide socially distanced seating. As restrictions on indoor dining are lifted, many restaurants’ total seating is dramatically expanded.

And then there’s how long diners spend eating.

“There’s a little bit of people not wanting to linger, so turn times have changed. It depends on the average check: The higher the check, the longer people will stay,” Jan said. The quicker the tables turn, the more people can be accommodated each day.

Jan says many restaurant deals fell through during the pandemic, and with rents low and spaces available, entrepreneurs have chosen this time to jump into the industry — thus the uptick in the number of new restaurants. And as for why diner enthusiasm has surged, she likens it to the spike in business that new restaurants enjoy. It is novelty and buzz.
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/05/20/restaurants-dining-out-pandemic/

Colorado bans doxing of public health workers amid rise in online harassment
Seeking to address the mounting online harassment endured by health workers across the state during the pandemic, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a bill Tuesday making it illegal to post personal information about health workers, officials and their families that threatens their safety.

“What they have been through this last year is absolutely extraordinary,” Polis said before he signed the bill. “The work that’s been called upon them, the way they have risen to the occasion and the piece that this bill addresses, which is some of the doxing and the targeting.”

He added, “You are doing your job as public health officials, and you should not be subject to this kind of online targeting at home, at work.”

The law, which took effect immediately, makes doxing — or sharing a person’s private information such as an address or phone number — a misdemeanor. Violators could face up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine.


Across the country, workers on the front lines of the pandemic have reported receiving threatening calls and vandalism at their workplaces and homes for being the messengers about masking and other public health precautions. Despite a marked rise in bullying of health-care workers globally, officials acknowledge rampant reports are only the “tip of the iceberg.”

At a time when the health-care workforce is most critically needed, some have lost their jobs or quit over intensifying pressure compounded by the politicization of some measures. Theresa Anselmo, former executive director of the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials, previously told The Post that 80 percent of the coalition’s members had reported being threatened and more than that were at risk of termination or lost funding.

“It’s exhausting to be contradicted and argued with and devalued and demoralized all the time, and I think that’s what you’re seeing around the country,” Anselmo said. “We’ve seen from the top down the federal government is pitting public health against freedom, and to set up that false dichotomy is really a disservice to the men and women who have dedicated their lives … to helping people.”

Some public health officials testified before lawmakers considering the legislation to share their experiences, including demonstrators picketing homes and vandals damaging offices, said Sarah Lampe, the coalition’s interim executive director. Despite conversations with the state’s attorney general, little could be done to prosecute people who shared their private information online, Lampe said.

Doxing is deployed as a concerted effort by a small number of aggressors to intimidate reporters, doctors and pro-vaccine advocates and make them believe a virtual mob is rallying against them, Center for Countering Digital Hate CEO Imran Ahmed said. Trolling groups that the center monitors like those who subscribe to debunked anti-vaccine theories have increasingly coordinated doxing attacks on social media and through blog posts.

“It’s designed to silence voices,” Ahmed said. “It’s designed to terrorize.”

However, with laws such as the Colorado one and greater scrutiny — especially as lawmakers have doubled down on fringe groups since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot — individuals who hide behind screens could face graver consequences, Ahmed said.

“People’s anonymity is actually a false shroud that gives them confidence that they shouldn’t have,” he said. “They should not think that using the silly name is going to prevent them from facing criminal justice actions.”

... Six in 10 health-care workers said their mental health has suffered from coronavirus-related worries, including fears that they would become infected themselves, according to a nationwide Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted earlier this year.

Colorado’s protection against doxing already extends to law enforcement officers or welfare workers.


Although there is no federal law explicitly criminalizing doxing, some states have considered legislation this year, as the dissemination of personal information has become increasingly weaponized by people hiding behind anonymous online accounts.
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/05/20/colorado-health-worker-doxing-bill/

Maryland launches lottery for vaccinated residents, with a $400,000 top prize
With vaccine demand dropping, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is launching a $2 million lottery that will hand out dozens of $40,000 cash prizes to state residents who have received coronavirus vaccinations — along with a grand prize of $400,000.

Hogan (R) said daily drawings for a $40,000 prize will be held from Tuesday to July 3. On July 4, the $400,000 grand prize will be awarded via a random drawing.

All state residents 18 and older who received coronavirus vaccinations in Maryland will be eligible — regardless of when the shots were administered. No registration or entry is necessary.


“That’s 40 drawings over 40 days for the chance to win $40,000 each day,” Hogan said. “Entry is very simple. . . . Get your shot for a shot to win.”

The VaxCash lottery is the latest effort by Maryland to boost vaccination as the state tries to return to pre-pandemic normalcy. It is one of the largest cash incentives a state government has offered. This month, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that he would offer five $1 million prizes to vaccinated state residents, along with four-year college scholarships for five vaccinated Ohioans younger than 18.

“Those of you who are still on the fence, there is no better time than now,” Hogan said outside the governor’s mansion in Annapolis, standing next to state lottery and health officials and a man in a Maryland lottery ball costume.

Each vaccinated Maryland resident will be randomly assigned a number in a system that will be maintained by the state Health Department, officials said. The state lottery agency will select a number each day during the promotion.

Winners will be contacted and have to provide written consent to accept the prize. They can remain anonymous but will be encouraged to share their stories.

State Lottery and Gaming Control Director Gordon Medenica called the effort “one of the most creative lottery promotions” his agency has ever done. He said officials are scrambling “on relatively short notice” to pull it together.

“This promotion is going to be good for the lottery, but much more importantly it is going to be good for the state of Maryland, because everybody is a winner if you get vaccinated,” Medenica said.

The funds for the drawing are being provided by the state lottery’s marketing fund, Hogan said.

Also on Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said each person in New York who gets vaccinated will receive a ticket for a state lottery drawing where the top prize is $5 million.
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/maryland-lottery-vaccine-coronavirus/2021/05/20/d08f74ec-b988-11eb-a5fe-bb49dc89a248_story.html

Severe Covid Is More Often Fatal in Africa Than in Other Regions
People in Africa who become critically ill from Covid-19 are more likely to die than patients in other parts of the world, according to a report published on Thursday in the medical journal The Lancet.

The report, based on data from 64 hospitals in 10 countries, is the first broad look at what happens to critically ill Covid patients in Africa, the authors say.

The increased risk of death applies only to those who become severely ill, not to everyone who catches the disease. Over all, the rates of illness and death from Covid in Africa appear lower than in the rest of the world. But if the virus begins to spread more rapidly in Africa, as it has in other regions, these findings suggest that the death toll could worsen.

Among 3,077 critically ill patients admitted to the African hospitals, 48.2 percent died within 30 days, compared with a global average of 31.5 percent, the Lancet study found.

The study was observational, meaning that the researchers followed the patients’ progress, but did not experiment with treatments. The work was done by a large team called The African Covid-19 Critical Care Outcomes Study Investigators.

For Africa as a whole, the death rate among severely ill Covid patients may be even higher than it was in the study, the researchers said, because much of their information came from relatively well-equipped hospitals, and 36 percent of those facilities were in South Africa and Egypt, which have better resources than many other African countries. In addition, the patients in the study, with an average age of 56, were younger than many other critically ill Covid patients, indicating that death rates outside the study could be higher.


The other eight countries in the study were Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Nigeria. Leaders of 16 other African nations had also agreed to participate, but ultimately did not.

Reasons for the higher death rates include a lack of resources such as surge capacity in intensive care units, equipment to measure patients’ oxygen levels, dialysis machines and so-called ECMO devices to pump oxygen into the bloodstream of patients whose lungs become so impaired that even a ventilator is not enough to keep them alive.

But there was also an apparent failure to use resources that were available, the authors of the study suggested. Proning — turning patients onto their stomachs to help them breathe — was underused, performed for only about a sixth of the patients who needed it.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/20/health/severe-covid-africa-lancet.html

The Latest Coronavirus Comes From Dogs
Scientists have discovered a new canine coronavirus in a child who was hospitalized with pneumonia in Malaysia in 2018. If the virus is confirmed to be a human pathogen, it would be the eighth coronavirus, and the first canine coronavirus, known to cause disease in humans.

It is not yet clear whether this specific virus poses a serious threat to humans, the researchers stress. The study does not prove that the pneumonia was caused by the virus, which may not be capable of spreading between people. But the finding, which was published on Thursday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, highlights the need to more proactively search for viruses that could jump from animals into humans, the scientists said.

“I think the key message here is that these things are probably happening all over the world, where people come in contact with animals, especially intense contact, and we’re not picking them up,” said Dr. Gregory Gray, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Duke University who is one of the study’s authors. “We should be looking for these things. If we can catch them early and find out that these viruses are successful in the human host, then we can mitigate them before they become a pandemic virus.”

Seven coronaviruses are currently known to infect humans. In addition to SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes Covid-19, there are coronaviruses that cause SARS, MERS and the common cold. Many of these viruses are believed to have originated in bats, but can jump from bats to humans, either directly or after a stopover in another animal host.

Scientists have known for decades that coronaviruses can cause disease in dogs, but until now there has been no evidence that canine coronaviruses can infect people.

Scientists still cannot be certain whether it was a dog that transmitted the new virus to the patient; it likely was a dog, Dr. Gray said, but another, intermediate animal host, including a cat, may have been responsible.


(There is also no evidence that dogs transmit SARS-CoV-2 to humans, although both cats and dogs can catch it.)

... The scientists plan to conduct further research, including studies to see how prevalent the virus may be and whether it is also present in healthy people, Dr. Gray said.

In the meantime, there is no need to fear the family pet, Dr. Lednicky said. “Humans and dogs have been together for a long time,” he said. “We’ve probably been exchanging these viruses; they just weren’t recognized.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/20/health/dogs-coronavirus-infections.html

U.S. will keep Covid travel restrictions at Canada, Mexico land borders through June 21
The U.S. will continue to enforce coronavirus-related restrictions on nonessential travel across U.S. land borders through June 21, the Biden administration announced on Thursday.

"We're working closely with Canada & Mexico to safely ease restrictions as conditions improve," the Department of Homeland Security said on Twitter.

Essential trade and travel will still be permitted, the DHS tweeted.

It was unclear from the DHS tweet if the agency anticipated easing those restrictions immediately after June 21, or if it would merely reassess the need for those limits at that time. DHS did not immediately respond to requests for clarification.

DHS initially put cross-border travel restrictions in place on April 20, 2020, under then-President Donald Trump, more than a month after the World Health Organization declared the virus had grown into a pandemic.

... President Joe Biden and his health officials still warn that the nation has not yet rid itself of the pandemic, especially as highly transmissible Covid variants that are proliferating in other countries show up in the U.S.
Read the full article: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/20/us-continues-covid-travel-restrictions-at-canada-mexico-land-borders.html

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