Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

 

 196. National COVID-19 Strategic Plan – 1 of 8

         Q:  What’s in the new United States strategic plan for controlling this pandemic?

         A: On January 21, 2021, just a day after assuming the presidency of the United States, Joe Biden released the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.  This 198-page document is the plan for managing the defined activity to eliminate the coronavirus-19 as a public health threat.  Few people will be able to read the entire plan with its scope of activity.  Starting here in this column, we will explore and summarize this plan to promote a basic understanding of what policies and procedures can be expected in the weeks and months ahead.

The first 27 pages of the plan (which starts with the cover being page 1) outlines its purpose and offers an introduction to the document.  In the Executive Summary, it is stated that “The National Strategy provides a roadmap to guide America out of the worst public Health crisis in a century.  It outlines an actionable plan across the federal government to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including twelve initial executive actions issued by president Biden on his first two days in office.”

The National strategy is organized around seven goals:

  1. Restore trust with the American people.
  2. Mount a safe, effective, and comprehensive vaccination campaign.
  3. Mitigate spread through expanding masking, testing, data, treatments, health care workforce, and clear public health standards.
  4. Immediately expand emergency relief and exercise the Defense Production Act.
  5. Safely reopen schools, businesses, and travel while protecting workers.
  6. Protect those most at risk and advance equity, including across racial, ethnic and rural/urban lines.
  7. Restore U.S. leadership globally and build better preparedness for future threats.

In next week’s column: details about goal 1 – restoring trust.

  1.  When, where and how to register to be vaccinated – as of January 25

        Q: Has anything changed since last week on how we can get vaccinated?

        A:  People aged 75 and older have now joined healthcare workers and long-term care residents as being eligible to make appointments for vaccinations.  The listed ways to make appointments are

  • The Connecticut Vaccine Line on the phone is: (877) 918-2224.
  • The most recent CT website is now located at:[1]

     https://ct.gov/covidvaccine

There have been several recent news articles citing confusion and lengthy delays in calling for appointments.  The federal government has not planned nor set up a program for vaccinations before January 20.  No relevant records were kept.  Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, the newly appointed CDC director stated on Sunday – 4 days after she was appointed – “I can’t tell you how much vaccine we have.”  The resulting lack of planning and guidance from the federal government allowed the states to organize their procedures separately from each other.  There was no planning to centrally control federal or state programs.  Connecticut has set up its state plan without realistically anticipating the huge volume of people that need to be vaccinated.  Absent is a matching of the eligibility of people to the availability of doses.  No plans exist to make the doses available closer to where they are needed.  Currently, there is no central coordination for matching doses to applicants.  Eligible people, even when calling the single state access phone line or website, have to pick from many vaccination points to make their appointment.  Many of these sites have prolonged waiting times on hold before the call is answered.  If a person calls a site with the next appointment weeks away, their neighbor could call a different site and get an appointment just days away!   It will take time for things to become organized.

How many of us who are eligible to receive the vaccine are finding it challenging to do so?  If you have been stymied in your effort to receive the vaccine, there are UUS:E members who may be able to help. Contact our minister, the Rev. Josh Pawelek (860) 652-8961 (home office), (617) 645-1131 (cell) or minister@uuse.org.

  1.   More implications from the emerging mutations or variant coronavirus-19

        Q:  How widely has the variant mutant of coronavirys-19 spread in the US?

        A:  Worldwide, there have been identified thousands of variants or mutations of Coronavirus-19.  Two of these have caused special scientific attention.  One is identified as variant B.1.1.7, and was first identified in the United Kingdom.  The variant B-1.351 originated in South Africa.  Each of these has a higher infection rate – greater contagion that spreads to more people than the original virus that began the pandemic.  America still lags in the research to identify the genetic variations in infected patients in the country.  It is known that the UK variant now exists in at least 20 states, but it is assumed that this B.1.1.7 variant is actually present in all states.  Research now shows that both variants are effectively controlled by the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but that the Moderna product has a somewhat lower effectiveness than over the original virus.  The B,1,352 South Africa variant is not only more infectious, but may also be more virulent, meaning that it may have an increased ability to cause more serious disease and fatalities.  Based on science, on Monday president Biden signed an executive order restricting travel for people arriving from South Africa.  Both Pfizer and Moderna are preparing to modify their vaccines for future use as “booster shots” to increase their effectiveness against these mutations.  Last Monday, Anthony Fauci, MD also predicted that by March, these variants of coronavirus-19 may become the primary source of COVID-19 in America.  This emphasizes the importance of the expanded vaccination program.  Research and expanding the knowledge of mutations are continuing,

  1.  Science goes to court in Connecticut – again. Do masks really have any value?

        Q:  Haven’t the courts already ruled that children in school can wear face masks?

        A:  On November 2, 2020, Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher of the Hartford District Court issued an 11-page ruling denying a requested injunction of requiring children to wear face masks while attending in-school classes.[2].  This ruling stated the plaintiff had not proven the claim that masks cause mental and physical harm to children.  It also concluded there is no emergency caused by the requirement that that children must wear masks when attending school.  The CT Freedom Alliance and a group of parents appealed that decision to the Appellate Court where a hearing on the case was denied.  Norm Peale, attorney for the Freedom Alliance has now filed papers for the case to be heard before the CT Supreme Court.  Attorney Peale continues to represent that masks actually present dangers to children, and that “masks do not serve the protective purposes that popular opinion predominantly conclude they do.  They are actually exacerbators of disease.”

This case reflects many issues from anti-vaccination activities, to the basic concepts of public health v. personal health.  If the case is heard, it will nationally have far-reaching impacts on the fight against COVID-19.

  1.   Call for volunteers to assist the state vaccination efforts.

        Q:  I hear there is a need for volunteers to help at vaccination centers.  How do I sign up?

        A:  Several recent news articles have called for volunteers to help out with phone banks, computer data entry, and managing paperwork supporting the efforts to reach the goal of vaccinating large numbers of people.  Those with clinical skills are also needed to assist in giving vaccinations.  This is not yet a state-level program.  Specific groups asking for volunteers to date have been local health districts covering cities or clusters of towns around the state.  If anyone is interested in helping out, they should contact their local health district agency identified in the statewide directory:[3]

https://www.naccho.org/membership/lhd-directory?searchType=standard&lhd-state=CT#card-filter

There is a recognized volunteer support group in Connecticut called the Medical Reserve Corps.  You may be asked to join this group for required training and orientation before you join other volunteers at clinics.3

https://portal.ct.gov/DPH/Public-Health-Preparedness/Main-Page/Medical-Reserve-Corps

You are encouraged to ask about this by calling.

[1] To open this website, copy the entire URL (underlined and in blue), and paste it in your internet browser.

[2] See FAQ #147 and FAQ #148

[3] To access this website, copy the entire URL (colored in blue and underlined) and paste it into your web browser.