Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — August 18, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

341. Breakthrough Covid-19 cases in Connecticut are very rare.

         Q:  I’m vaccinated and worried about breakout infections.  What is my risk? 

         A:   The Connecticut Health Department has found that less than .01% of the fully vaccinated people in the state have later contracted Covid-19.  That’s less than 1 person in a group of 1,000 vaccinated people.  If you are vaccinated and do get infected, you have a 45% chance of remaining asymptomatic.  Asymptomatic patients are not contagious and aren’t a risk of spreading the disease to others.  And remember, if you become one of the very rare breakout patients who develop symptoms, you are quite safe from getting serious disease, becoming hospitalized, or dying!

342. Parents are more supportive of mandatory masks for schoolchildren than for mandatory vaccines.

         Q: How do parents feel about mandatory masks and mandatory vaccines for children?

         A:  A survey released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that on the opening of another challenging school year, more parents are supportive of mandatory mask-wearing by all school children than many political authorities are even allowing.  In fact, mandatory mask-wearing is supported more than mandatory vaccinations before children can enter school.  The survey was based on a nationally representative sample of 1,259 parents with a child under 18 in the household.  This conflict is taking place as the Delta variant is raging, sending more young people to the hospital.   The survey was conducted between July 15 and August 2.  It found that one in five parents of children aged from 12 to 17 would “definitely not” get vaccinated.  “Despite controversy around the country about masks in schools, most parents want their school to require masks of unvaccinated students and staff.” Drew Altman, the foundation’s chief executive stated.  With regard to vaccine hesitancy, the survey found that attitudes broke down along racial, ethnic, and partisan lines.  Hispanic and black parents were more likely than white parents to cite concerns that reflect inadequate access to vaccination sites.  This includes not finding a clinic that they could trust or thinking they had to pay for it.  About 66% of Democratic parents supported mandatory vaccines while more than 75% of Republican parents opposed then.

343. One solution to encourage more vaccinations: stop providing for free testing.

         Q:  What are other countries doing to encourage more people to get vaccinated?

         A:  Germany has introduced a new tactic: Chancellor Angela Merkel last week,  citing that the Delta variant has been rising throughout the European Union and that only 55% of Germans are fully vaccinated (62.5% have just had one shot), and that the vaccination rate has slowed down, the country will no longer pay for future testing of the unvaccinated.  The European Union has adopted a green pass that authenticates a person has been vaccinated.  Germany also requires that anyone participating in certain indoor activities such as eating in restaurants or going to hairdressers or gyms must present this proof of vaccination, a recent recovery, or a negative test result before they can participate.  The intent of this tactic is to force unvaccinated people to pay for each test out of pocket or get the free vaccination.  One overlooked outcome: all unvaccinated people who don’t want to participate in these indoor activities will remain untested.  Thus, they will not be identified for future contract tracing and isolation.  It is not known that if a person is identified as having Covid-19, would they have to pay for a test to confirm this before they can be quarantined?

344. For those who are vaccinated, a review of facts with the delta variant present.    

         Q:  My daughter wants to get pregnant, so is it safe for her to be vaccinated?

         A:  On August 11, the CDC released formal guidance from studies reinforcing what physicians have been counseling for months.  “Covid-19 vaccination is recommended for all people aged 12 years and older, including people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or who might become pregnant in the future.  Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people.  Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19.”  That is the exact wording of the CDC guidance.  It is noted in studies that the immunity offered by the vaccination is transferred to the fetus in utero, and continues to benefit the infant after birth.

345. Not all people who could be vaccinated but aren’t are “antivaxxers”

         Q:  Who are the eligible but vaccine-hesitant people not getting their shots?

         A:  Zeynep Tufekei is a sociologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  She is also an influential author for the New York Times and The Atlantic.  She recently published an article “The Lure of the Caricature” exploring the multiple factors influencing people’s decisions not to get vaccinated – at this time.  She describes a new story genre that defines the unrepentant anti-vaxxer.  This caricature is someone “who remains unvaccinated despite tragedy, or someone who makes absurd claims.”  The broad outline is repeated with multiple stories and posts in their many presentations.  These all easily find their way to becoming viral.  Social media rapidly spreads these postings and they enter the cybersphere as truth in their appearance but as “misinformation” by those hoping to focus on increasing the number of vaccinations.

With that caveat; I don’t doubt that some people will never be convinced of reality, Zeynep identifies multiple groups of people who are vaccine-hesitant.  In a survey given in June, the following were identified.

  • About 14% of the population who express “definitely not.”
  • Those who will wait and see.
  • Those who will wait until it is required.

It is evident that many of these people are getting vaccinated over time, indicating they are in a movable camp.

In the same survey, the following variables in decreasing importance (as a major reason) were identified as causing the individual’s vaccine hesitancy:

  • The vaccine is too new (53%)
  • Worried about side effects (53%)
  • Just don’t want to get the vaccine (43%)
  • Don’t trust the government (38%)
  • Don’t think they need this vaccine (38%)
  • Don’t believe the vaccine is safe (37%)
  • Don’t trust vaccines in general (26%)
  • Have a medical reason for not getting it now (14%)
  • Too busy, or haven’t had time to get it (12%)
  • Don’t like getting shots (12%)
  • Worried about missing work (7%)
  • Difficult to travel to vaccination site (6%)

The rest of her article explores the influences that create and reinforce hesitancy.  For example: “There’s long been an idea that a key problem with digital media has been the echo chamber it produces.”  That’s not false, but it’s incomplete – “if anything, we are more isolated offline in the United States.”

This discussion serves as a guide for those who want to do community service by meeting and discussing hesitancy with those not yet vaccinated.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — August 11, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

336. Booster shots are not available.

         Q:  The Delta variant really scares me.  Where can I get a booster shot?

         A:   You need to save time and effort; booster shots are not available in the US.  Some countries are using vaccines that are not as effective as the three we are using.  All our vaccinations are authorized by the FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) which requires it has to be given as authorized – J & J one shot, Pfizer and Moderna no more than two shots, several weeks apart.  A review is underway to grant full FDA approval to the Pfizer vaccine, hopefully by Labor Day.  Physicians, following expanded guidelines can then prescribe a medication be administered differently following yet-to-be approved guidelines.  The reason for developing booster shots is to allow immunosuppressed patients and others with medical conditions to increase the ability of their vaccinations to develop effective levels of immunity.  In Northern California, recently, vaccinated patients learned that pharmacies in Oregon were giving out shots to fully vaccinated patients.  That practice was stopped as soon as authorities learned this violated the law.  Even then, many continued to seek these booster shots by saying they had lost their vaccination cards, or had left them home.  Last Wednesday, the World Health Organization called for a moratorium on coronavirus-19 booster vaccinations until the end of September.  Given the scarcity of vaccine doses, and the global need for populations to become initially vaccinated, this moratorium was prompted to serve the greater good of public health world-wide.  In spite of the WHO moratorium, the FDA is continuing to approve booster shots to protect the estimated 3% of the population who are immunocompromised.

337. The costs of COVID testing are not a barrier to maintain good Positive Test Ratios.

         Q: Tests are very expensive.  Won’t the number of tests slow down to save money?

         A:  On Tuesday, August 3, the Hartford Courant reported that on that day, 12,253 COVID tests had been given resulting in 277 positive cases. The resulting positivity rate of under 3% showed the number of tests given that day was adequate to accurately identify all of actual cases that day.  Those tests were paid for by Connecticut to the 10 hospitals and independent laboratories that processed them.   The contracts signed with these laboratories included setting up various clinics, taking of samples and the following laboratory processing.  The costs for each test averaged nearly $91.00   Over 1.4 million tests have been administered for a total cost of about $130 million.  Nationally, FEMA is responsible for reimbursing states for all testing, and partial payment has already been received in Connecticut with the rest expected soon.  As long as FEMA is paying for tests, the number of tests we now offer should not remain adequate to locate, contract trace and isolate all infected patients avoiding a further increase in the surge from the Delta variant.

338. The FDA plans to fully approve the Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day

         Q:  When will the vaccine get full FDA approval so hesitant people can get their shots?

         A:  Nationally, many unvaccinated people say they feel the development of the vaccine was rushed, and it is not fully tested.  It is true that all currently approved vaccines in the US have “Emergency Use Authorization” (EUA).   Mandating vaccinations for groups, such as the military, universities and cities would also require full authorization.  The first vaccine to receive its EUA, Pfizer, filed its application for full approval on May 7.  Moderna filed for the same on June 1, but is still completing its required data submissions.  Spokespersons at the FDA have stated they are taking an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to process the information without adding bureaucratic delays.  The goal now is that Pfizer’s approval will come by Labor Day.  Deadlines for a patchwork of mandates will certainly raise objections by many, but existing public health legislation allows for fines and penalties for not complying with government-ordered mandates.  And we noted last week, the US Supreme Court has ruled that these laws mandating vaccinations are constitutional.

339. For those who are vaccinated, a review of facts with the delta variant present.    

         Q:  I get so confused over this Delta variant!  I am vaccinated so exactly what do I do? 

         A:  Katherine J. Wu, holds a Ph.D in microbiology and immunology from Harvard University.  She recently published an on-line article in the Atlantic attempting to clarify, with simplicity, the facts and factors by vaccinated people facing the Delta variant.

She clarifies that the tools already exist.  The bottom line are these tools now need to be revisited: The ultimate tool is vaccination of sufficient members of the population.  Other tools the individual can use include wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands. She offers three tenets to guide us through this next stretch managing the Delta variant:

  • Vaccinated people can spread the virus, but not as often as the unvaccinated people spread it. The Delta variant can build up the number of virus particles (the viral load) in the airways faster than previous strains, making the shedding of the virus more concentrated and infectious to others. The vaccinated person can actually become infected, but the immunity granted by the vaccination prevents it from spreading into the lower respiratory system and lungs.
  • We have the tools we need to fight Delta. Vaccinations fortify the body’s defenses.  Masks “reduce the amount of virus we each have to tussle with and send back into the world.”  And physical distancing, spending more time outdoors, and ventilation reduces the infectious virus from reaching us.
  • Vaccines are still the most sustainable solution for ending the pandemic. The more people that get them, the better off everyone is.

340.  It’s time to review when we need to go to  a hospital if we get sick.    

         Q: My husband refuses to get vaccinated, and my son is too young to get his shot. Do I get them to the hospital as soon as I think they might have COVID?

         A:The key decisions on how to treat COVID-19 occur between days 5 to 10 from first symptoms appearing.  Mark a calendar when the first suspicious symptoms emerge.  “While most patients recover in a about a week, a significant minority of patients enter a very nasty second wave of illness,” says Han Swartz, MD at the University of Alberta.  “After the initial symptoms, there is a secondary worsening.”  Days 5 through 10 are usually the most worrisome for respiratory complications from COVID-19.  Doctors warn not to get complacent.

Every home should have a pulse oximeter – the device that is clipped on a finger in a healthcare office.  If you don’t have one, order it soon.  They are in short supply and if you wait until symptoms appear, you may have to wait weeks for it to be delivered.  This unit measures the blood oxygen levels.  Without a pulse oximeter, the gradual reduction of oxygen may not be noticeable until the patient experiences sudden shortness of breath.  By that time, treatments that might have been helpful could be too late.  Normal blood saturation is between 96% to 99%.  If the level drops slowly over time, or reaches 92%, it’s time to call the doctor.  Having a portable oxygen supply at home can help if breathing difficulty emerges.

Generally speaking, it is not wise to run to the hospital when the first symptoms appear.  It will be too early for a diagnosis or treatment plan to be developed.  And you run the risk of spreading the disease to others – if it is COVID– or becoming infected if it isn’t.

“Small Miracles” – UUS:E Virtual Worship, August 1, 2021

Gathering Music (Mary Bopp) (Begins at 9:50)

Centering (Sheila Foran)

Introduction to the Service (Sheila Foran)

Prelude

“Perpetual Motion”
by Karl Bohm
performed by Margeaux Ford

Chalice Lighting & Opening Words

“To Remind Ourselves What Is Real”
by Elena Westbrook
Read by Sandy Karosi (member of the Sunday Services Committee)

In a world ravaged by violence, by hatred,
by conflicts that seem eternal and insoluble,
sometimes the only thing we can do
is be still for a moment
to remind ourselves what is real:
the sun that rose this morning,
the dirt under our feet,
the air whispering in and out of our lungs.
This hour, try just to be present in each moment as it unfolds.
Your simple attention is what makes these moments holy.

Opening Hymn

“Morning Has Broken”
Words: Eleanor Farjeon
Music: Gaelic Melody, 1931 Oxford University Press,
Harmony by David Evans
#38 in Singing the Living Tradition
led by Sandy Johnson

Morning has broken like the first morning,
blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them, springing fresh from the Word!

Sweet the rain’s new fall sunlit from heaven,
like the first dewfall on the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden,
sprung in completeness where God’s feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning
born of the one light Eden saw play!
Praise with elation, praise every morning,
God’s recreation of the new day!

Joys and Concerns (Sandy Karosi)

Musical Interlude (Mary Bopp)

First Speaker: Rob Sehi

Musical Interlude (Mary Bopp)

Offering

For the month of August, 2021, our weekly community outreach offering will be split between the MACC food pantry, the Hockanum Valley Food Pantry, and the East of the River Mutual Aid Society.

Offering Music (Mary Bopp)

“Gymnopédie No. 1”
by Erik Satie

Second Speaker: Anne Carr

Musical Interlude (Mary Bopp)

Reflection: Sandy Karosi

Closing Hymn

“‘Tis a Gift to be Simple”
Words: Joseph Bracket
Music: American Shaker tune
#16 in Singing the Living Tradition
led by Sandy Johnson

‘Tis a gift to be simple, ‘tis a gift to be free,
‘tis a gift to come down where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘till by turning, turning we come ‘round right.

Extinguishing the Chalice and Closing Words (Sandy Karosi)

“Go Forth in Simplicity”
by Samuel A. Trumbore

Go forth in simplicity.
Find and walk the path
that leads to compassion and wisdom,
that leads to happiness, peace and ease.
Welcome the stranger and
open your heart to a world in need of healing.
Be courageous before the forces of hate.
Hold and embody a vision of the common good that
serves the needs of all people.

Closing Circle

May faith in the spirit of life
And hope for the community of earth
And love of the light in each other
Be ours now and in all the days to come.

Postlude (Mary Bopp)

Virtual Coffee Hour with Breakout Rooms

 

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — July 21, 2021

“Shared expectations lead to predictability”

321. Unvaccinated children are more safe in school this fall when wearing masks. 

         Q. Why can’t everyone agree – when school opens, children shouldn’t have to wear masks?

         A.  Last Sunday’s front page headline in the Hartford Courant said, “Parent groups push against masks.” There is an increase in the number of advocates pushing for state officials to remove the CDC recommended restriction that children under age 12 who cannot yet be vaccinated, and older unvaccinated children should wear face masks while attending in-person classes. It is argued by parents that masks restrict respiration and create a barrier for social development. This is another manifestation of the often-cited (in this column) conflict between personal health and public health. Parents have a recognized control over the medical care their children receive. But when a person’s behavior places others in the community at risk, as by infecting people with a transmissible disease, public health measures must be imposed to protect others. The Delta variant of coronavirus-19 is highly infectious and more virulent. Unvaccinated children can pass the Delta variant onto others if they become infected. Wearing masks helps prevent this from happening. Parents also often cite the fact that infected children in the past have not had as serious disease as many adults, and the risk is greater from wearing masks than if they get the disease. Research has also debunked that presumption. On Monday this week, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all children returning to school this fall should wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Thomas Balcezak, MD, chief clinical officer for Yale New Haven Health recently stated, “The threat is not zero to kids and the threat to public health is substantial.” Masks worn by children in school is “the safer thing to do,” Dr. Balcezak concluded.

322. Covid-19 has become the pandemic of the unvaccinated.

         Q. Is the Delta variant really more infectious and deadly than the original virus? 

         A. The director of CDC, Rochelle Walensky, last week stated that COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been rising. Walensky said the data is sending a “clear message.” She said, “This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” That conclusion came after Walensky gave an overview of the CDC’s most recent data. “After weeks of declines,” Walensky said, “the seven-day average of daily deaths has increased by 26 percent to 211 per day.” the CDC reported more than 33,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday — an increase in the seven-day average of nearly 70 percent. And over the same time period, the average number of hospital admissions also rose by 36 percent compared to the previous week. Most of those cases are occurring in areas with low vaccination rates.

323.  A returning to wearing masks may be near, but for different reasons.

          Q:  Why has California reimposed pandemic restrictions for even vaccinated people?

          A:  By earlier setting different recommendations for fully vaccinated people vs. those not vaccinated, The CDC created, in effect, two separate programs for the country.  For those who became vaccinated, they have been rewarded by “getting back to normal.”  For those unvaccinated, people, many were encouraged to become vaccinated.  But for the majority who were not vaccinated, and who have decided not to get their shots, it led to their need to ignore the recommended action and give in to their urge to also return to normal by behaving the same as those who have had their shots.  Without a “vaccination passport” or other proof of vaccination, it has become easier for the unvaccinated to pretend they are protected and circulate among others without any protections.  This placed many unvaccinated people close together without masks at public events where the disease will spread more rapidly.  Last week, in Los Angeles County, this was found to be the cause of a significant rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.  In just one month this summer, the number of cases rose by 700%!  Officials imposed requirements for mask wearing and social distancing for everyone – including those who are fully vaccinated.  This may become an example followed elsewhere.  It is not to protect everyone, but to protect the public health until everyone can become vaccinated or COVID-19 is eradicated.

324. The metrics that allowed us to reopen are changing and are being monitored.

          Q:  Is the church going to close because the infection rate is going up?

          A:  UUS:E had adopted a policy to use science to base its decisions about opening and, if needed, for later re-closing the church due to the risks of COVID-19 in the community.   The Policy Board received a report that threshold metrics were met for an acceptable risk to open the building for inside activity, and on June 15, the decision was reached to open.  These metrics were monitored, and in a short period, the threshold of an unacceptable infection rate had been crossed.  A recommendation to re-close the church was then sent to the Policy Board.  At its meeting on July, 5, the board learned that the infection rate was fluctuating around the threshold, and that the other metrics indicated the threat to safety was not clear.  The Board voted to change the policy wording to “evaluate” the need for closing the church – this instead of simply deciding to close the facilities.  The church currently remains open while the metrics continue to be monitored.  There are many indications that the pandemic risk in Connecticut might be rising, but this has not yet been shown by the scientific data metrics.  The next influential factor that might emerge this and next week could be the July Fourth celebrations where unmasked, unvaccinated people may have gathered in crowds to celebrate concerts, festivals and fireworks displays.

325.  A “new” coronavirus variant named “Lambda” is being intensively studied.

         Q:  I heard a passing reference about a new Lambda variant.  Is this one a problem?

         A:  Scientists are scrambling, according to one report, to understand this new variant.  This is really not a new variant, having been first identified in Peru in August 2020.  It was not initially associated with an unusual infectious ability, or causing serious disease.   It has now been identified in 29 different countries including the U.S.  In January, in Peru, it accounted for only 0.5 cases, but in the last 6 months, it has risen to account for 90% of the cases.  In December, Peru suffered the world’s worst mortality due to COVID-19.  It has already killed .54% of its population.  In neighboring Chile, the Lambda variant is responsible for at least a third of its cases in the last 60 days.  Chile uses the vaccine from China, which has been given to 56.8% of its population.  That vaccine has a lower effectivity than the vaccines approved by the U.S. FDA.  Local scientists have identified several indications that the Lambda variant may have characteristics that help it evade the immune system and vaccines.  Based on these early findings, the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated it as a “Variant of Interest.”

Latin America has only 8% of the world’s population, but it has 20% of the world’s COVID cases and 32% of deaths world-wide.  Detailed studies of the Lambda variant are being conducted.  Significant changes in the spikes and amino acid compositions have been identified.  There are limited studies on Lambda of the effectiveness of the mRNA vaccines authorized for use in the U.S., but with many cases being identified here, these studies are now underway.  Herbert Virgin, an immunologist in Peru stated, “Lambda isn’t scarier than the Delta virus.  The key is they are both highly transmissible viruses.  The rate of infection with these viruses is going to go down in areas where people get the vaccine.”

326. Covid-19 is only spread by airborne contact through the respiratory system.

         Q:  Someone told me that you can be infected with COVID from mosquito bites.  This sounds logical – is it true?

         A:   No.  This is one of the many, many statements of misinformation that abounds throughout the country.  We all have a picture of what a coronavirus particle, called a virion looks like.  It is spherical in shape with multiple “spikes” projecting from it.  Each virion is so tiny (tens of millions exist in infected patients) that they easily float with fine droplets when someone sneezes, coughs, or even just exhales while breathing.  If any healthy person is breathing air where these virus particles are present, these particles come in contact with that healthy person’s mucous membranes in their mouth, nose and throat.  Everyone’s cells in these and other locations rely on nutrients being absorbed to stay alive.  The spikes on each virion triggers the human cell to open a portal letting it enter.  Once inside, the virion uses the cell contents to divide and replicate into a large number of duplicate virions.  This process kills the cell, allowing each replicated virion to escape and find entry to other healthy cells,  This is what creates an infection to cause COVID-19 as a disease.  This process is the same for all of its variants.  The Delta variant has mutations that make the spikes much easier to enter healthy cells – to be more contagious.

Mosquitoes transmit diseases such as malaria through the blood stream.  COVID-19 is an airborne disease, not a blood-borne disease.  Anyone hearing misinformation like this should immediately ask for the source of that “fact” and challenge its authenticity.  Did you hear the one going around that COVID vaccines inject microchips into people so the government can keep track of its citizens?  How about another popular disinformation statement: vaccinated people have their skin magnetized so that steel objects stick to them!  Learn, determine the truth, and speak up whenever you hear misinformation!

327. Vaccine mandates v. protected rights – commonality, not controversy

         Q: Hospital workers in Connecticut are being required to be vaccinated.  Why isn’t this a violation of their personal rights?

         A: The newspapers are filled with stories about public health mandates being ordered resulting in strong resistance and objections.  Current evidence of this problem is shown by many signs in local yards demanding that kids should not have to wear masks when schools reopen.  In France and Australia, police are using teargas and water cannons to quell the protests.  There appears to be a conflict between protesting against legislation requiring masks be worn indoors and the increase of cases from the more infectious Delta variant.  The key to this is the lack of understanding that while we have the right to decide our issues affecting our personal health, public health issues require actions to protect the whole community.  Without public health, smallpox would still be killing thousands of people with a severely disfiguring scarring for those who survive.  Polio would still be a concern for children returning to school, and baseball crowds would not exist,  In most public health emergencies, the public connects the inconvenience of getting vaccinated with the health of the community.  Experts now say that because of politics, large numbers of people strongly resisting COVID-19 vaccinations may result in COVID becoming endemic.  This means that we may never stamp it out, and it might remain with us for a very long time, requiring annual shots, like those for the common seasonal flu to remain alive and healthy.

328. Here’s two reasons why some Republicans are now promoting vaccinations.

          Q:  Why has some media broadcasters and others so suddenly changing from being anti-vaxers to supporting people getting vaccinations?

          A:  One reason is the connection to a section of the Consumer Protection Act that was enacted in December 2020.  This made it “unlawful” for a corporation or an individual “to engage in a deceptive act or process in or affecting commerce associated with the treatment, cure, prevention mitigation, or diagnosis of COVID-19.”  Dean Obeidallah, a commentator for MSNBC, felt this fit the actions taken by Fox News commentators and reporters, and he recently filed a lawsuit against this company.  Fox News is a profit-making company selling a product (information) to the public.  Almost immediately after filing this suit, Fox on-air staff began promoting vaccinations.  As if to provide a defense in court if the suit proceeds to trial.

Another reason cited in recent media reports is that Republican congressional leaders recently saw the future impact on their political futures by the cascading increase in COVID cases being blamed by people not being vaccinated.  To improve their chances of being elected in 2022, these Republicans have quickly reached a policy decision to support vaccinations, and have also rapidly convinced their supporters, including Fox News, to suddenly take positions opposite to their recent prolonged messaging.

329. Breakthrough infections are often needlessly seen as presenting a great risk.

         Q:  The number of  people getting infected with the Delta variant is increasing.  Are we in real trouble? 

         A:  We are all getting used to news about the pandemic in “all-or-nothing” terms.  We are either “open,” or we are “closed.”  It gets confusing to figure out the 5 places we visit where masks should be worn while there are others where it is not necessary.  But the issue of vaccinated people getting infected should not be causing fear or panic.  All approved vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious disease, hospitalizations or death.  Don’t forget that a vaccine that is 95% effective when initially taken means that 5 out of a hundred people will not be protected.  Most of the breakout cases are asymptomatic, or have very short-term and quite mild symptoms.  From the perspective following the metrics, the remaining challenge for UUS:E will be the number of vaccinated people who are regularly tested.  Remember, the only thing that positive test percentage or ratio measures determine is that the number of tests is sufficient to estimate the actual number of cases in the community.  As the ratio increases, it only shows the need for increased testing.  The resulting risk would be a forecast of future cases increasing in numbers.

330. Some parents are not informed of risks to children; how we all can take action.

         Q:  I manage a retail store.  We require mask wearing, and are surprised at the number of people coming in with children who haven’t heard that children are at risk.

         A:  Why haven’t parents heard the correct message?  It may be the constant presentation pf misinformation that exists everywhere.  Yard signs by parents demanding that when school opens in a few weeks, kids should not be required to wear masks.  “Experts” on TV repeating the broad reassurances from last year that children aren’t affected by COVID as much as adults. The news media following national priorities is heavily publicizing vaccinations.  This doesn’t leave much space to address the risks for children under age 12 who can’t be vaccinated yet.  To bring this message to parents on what risks are to children, perhaps as a store owner, you might print a few sentences from CDC guidance on slips of paper and post or hand them out to parents of unmasked children as the enter.  Maybe all of us can talk with family members and friends who have children to bring this issue to their attention.  Check out the following URL for “the CDC official word.” [1]

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/children/symptoms.html#children-teens

That brings to mind a “Food for Thought” idea.  What other actions could we take at UUS:E to promote and advance the mitigation of the current spread of COVID?

[1] To open this website, block this entire URL, hold down the Control key and hit “Enter.”  If this doesn’t work, copy the entire URL and paste in into your browser.  The first paragraph of full text describes the risks to children.  You can add “Please wear a mask when inside.” Or other wording as appropriate.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — July 14, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

 316. Drug research advances to hasten the development of vaccines for the future.

         Q:  How can research be better prepared with more rapid vaccine development?

         A:   David Ho, M.D, was named as Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” in 1996.  But that’s not why he’s now so important to all researchers studying the COVID-19 pandemic.  This world-famous virologist is the director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University. For many years, he has studied viral mutations.  His program examines many different disease-causing viruses, and places them under a variety of stresses, encouraging them to mutate.  As they replicate in the laboratory, he determines their attributes and identifies their genetic makeup.  It is through this process that the genetic codes of COVID-19 variants can be identified and used to create the mRNA vaccine formulations – even before these mutations show up in nature.   Dr. Ho’s work has led to an early ability to produce an even more effective vaccine for the highly infectious and more lethal Delta variation now spreading rapidly worldwide.

317. CDC has released new guidance for schools with an emphasis on full reopening.

         Q: Many parents want to let their kids go to school in September without wearing masks.  What does the CDC recommend?

         A: The CDC updated its guidance on school reopening this fall on July 9th.  Considering the delay and incomplete grade-level education most children have received over the last year and a half, The CDC recommends that full in-person classes be held in all schools this coming fall.  This recommendation is even if all the multiple mitigation steps have not yet been taken.  Each local community’s level of disease should be used as a guide.  For staff, teachers, and older students who have been vaccinated, there is no continuing recommendation that they wear masks.  (All unvaccinated personnel, including all students under age 12, are expected to continue to wear masks.)  This CDC ruling is seen favorably by those who are demanding that all children, regardless of age, should not have to wear masks in school.  For many parents, however, there is sharp criticism for the CDC leaving such a wide latitude for decision-making based on “local conditions.”  Throughout all this is the knowledge that the Delta variant is rapidly expanding.  The number of previously vaccinated people becoming infected with this variant is an emerging problem.  Also, few, if any, students under the age of 12 will be vaccinated when school opens.  These serve as risks that parents and school officials will be facing in just over two months.

318. A “bump” maybe not be a “surge” ahead in the expansion of COVID-19 cases.

         Q:  With such a high number of unvaccinated people still with us, aren’t we getting ready for another surge of cases?

         A:  Caroline Mimbs Nyce, senior associate editor of The Atlantic published an article that identified three factors at play at the present time:

  • COVID-19 in the U.S. is becoming more transmissible as the Delta variant expands;
  • Vaccinations are stalling; and
  • People are letting their guard down.

“Some kind of ‘bump’ is almost inevitable,” she writes.  A colleague indicated we should look to the southern states to see if there are prolonged or profound spikes of new cases, as these states have a higher percentage of unvaccinated people.

319. Data outlines how fast and how deeply the Delta variant is spreading.

         Q:  Is the Delta variant spreading throughout the U.S.?

         A:  In an online article published by National Geographic on July 10, the following was reported.  “There is a worrying uptick in cases as the Delta variant spreads swiftly across the country.  The most concerning trend is that hospitalizations and cases are rising in areas with low vaccinations.”   Delta is the most common variant responsible for more than 50 percent of new cases.  In the week ending June 19, Delta accounted for only 26% of the cases.  In regions of the Midwest and Mountain States, the Delta Variant was the cause of more than 80% of new cases.  Looking at the county level, of the roughly 170 counties with the highest case rates, less than 40% of the residents were vaccinated.  While all current vaccines are very effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalizations, and death, data from the past few months suggest that 99.5% of the people who died in the U.S. were not vaccinated.

320. Genetics may play a role in severe cases of COVID-10

         Q:  Does a person’s genetic makeup affect the severity of a COVID-19 infection?

         A:  It is well known that if a person has a chronic disease or condition such as diabetes or obesity, this can lead to a more serious outcome from COVID-19.  In an international study published last Thursday in the Journal Nature, certain genetic factors also were found to increase the chance that someone infected with coronavirus-19 will end up with a more serious disease.  The study has more than 3,300 coauthors and was partly led by researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University.

 

 

 

 

“How I Found Unitarian Universalism/UUS:E and Why I Stay” — UUS:E Virtual Worship, July 11, 2021

Gathering Music  (Mary Bopp) (starts at 9:50)

Welcome and Announcements  (Alan Ayers, member of the Sunday Services Committee)

Centering  (Marsha Howland, member of the Sunday Services Committee)

Prelude 

“Bridge Over Troubled Water”
by Paul Simon
performed by Alan and Kathy Ayers and Mary Bopp

Chalice Lighting and Opening Words

Opening Hymn 

“May Nothing Evil Cross this Door”
Words by Louis Untermeyer
Music by Robert N. Quaile
#1 in Singing the Living Tradition
led by Jeannine Westbrook

May nothing evil cross this door,
and may ill fortune never pry about
these windows; may the roar
and rain go by.

By faith made strong, the rafters will
withstand the battering of the storm.
This hearth, though all the world grow chill,
will keep you warm.

Peace shall walk softly through these rooms,
touching our lips with holy wine,
till every casual corner blooms
into a shrine.

With laughter drown the raucous shout,
and, though these sheltering walls are thin,
may they be strong to keep hate out
and hold love in.

Introduction to the Service

First Reading:

From “Constellations of our Lives”
by Karen G. Johnston
read by Marsha Howland

First Speaker: Maureen Flanagan

Musical Meditation

Joys and Concerns 

Musical Meditation

Offering  

The recipients of our July outreach offering are the three area food banks serving residents in towns including Manchester, East Hartford, Ellington, South Windsor, Tolland and Vernon. They are MACC Food Bank, Hockanum Valley Food Pantry, and CT Mutual Aid East of the River Food Pantry.

Offering Music

“I Believe”
by Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl and Al Stillman
performed by Alan Ayers

Second Speaker: Rob Stolzman

Musical Meditation

Third Speaker: Marsha Howland

Second Reading:

“I Want to Be with People”
by Dana E. Worsnop
read by Marsha Howland

Closing Hymn 

“Go Lifted Up”
by Mortimer B. Barron
#1057 in Singing the Journey
led by Jeannine Westbrook

Go lifted up,
Love bless your way,
moonlight, starlight
guide your journey
into peace
and the brightness of day.

Extinguishing the Chalice and Closing Words 

Closing Circle 

May faith in the spirit of life
And hope for the community of earth
And love of the light in each other
Be ours now, and in all the days to come.

Postlude

Breakout Rooms 

 

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — July 7, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

311. Drug companies not allowed to participate in vaccination promotions.

         Q:  Pharmaceutical companies advertise their products on TV.  Why don’t they help promote taking their vaccines?

         A:   All authorized vaccines have received Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA).  FDA regulations allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise or promote their drugs only when they have been fully authorized.  Those with EUA approvals are prohibited from this possibility.

312. Vaccines are being developed to use human immune systems to fight cancer.

         Q: What’s this I hear about vaccines being developed to fight cancer?

         A: The prolific research triggered by using memory ribonucleic acid (mRNA) technology to trigger human immune response to reduce foreign cell proliferation in the body is spilling over into cancer research.  Clinical trials are underway and different potential vaccines are being developed to research if mRNA products can be effective in spurring cancer patients’ immune systems to root out cancer cells preventing recurrences and fighting off advanced tumors.  It will be at least a year before the results will be known.

313. Nearly all current COVID-19 deaths are preventable.

         Q:  Why are so many people in the U.S. still dying from this pandemic?

         A:  CNN did a recent review of statistics and found that the overwhelming majority of new COVID deaths are occurring in unvaccinated people.  CDC director Rochelle Walensky stressed that the U.S. could now prevent these deaths if all eligible adults would be vaccinated.  This is especially true now that the more infectious and virulent Delta variant is becoming more dominate throughout the country.

314. California develops a state-issued identification verifying vaccinations.

         Q:  Will there ever be a vaccination passport available to prove someone’s status?

         A:  President Biden recently stated there are no plans to develop a national identification system to document a person’s vaccination status.  Most jurisdictions never planned in advance to provide a registration system from which such identification could be provided.  But the California Departments of Public Health and Technology recently announced the opening of its “Digital Covid-19 Vaccine Record portal.”  The intent is to provide a digital backup to the paper cards created by CDC given to those getting their vaccine shots.  A statewide data base has been created for all shots given in California, and the registry can be viewed, duplicate copies received and electronic copies loaded on cell phones to assist those needing such documentation.  These are not “passports,” however.  No personal photographs can be included when copies are issued.

315. Delta variant found to be significant cause of breakthrough infections.

         Q:  What do we know about vaccinated people testing positive for COVID-19?

         A:  An unpublished study just released looked at 100 fully vaccinated healthcare workers who had become infected.  This phenomenon is known as “breakthrough infections.”  Nearly all of these infections-after-vaccinations were caused by the Delta variant.  This study supports the general reporting that the Delta variant is highly infectious, and that the current vaccines being used offer protection from severe illness – but not necessarily from becoming infected.

 

“If Only There Are Stars” — UUS:E Virtual Worship, July 4, 2021

Gathering Music (Mary Bopp)

Welcome and Announcements (Martha Larson and Stacey Musulin, members of the Sunday Services Committee)

Introduction to Service  (Martha Larson)

Centering   (Stacey Musulin)

Prelude

“Starburst”
Improvisation by Mary Bopp

Chalice Lighting and Opening Words

“Out of the Stars”
by Robert T. Weston
#530 in Singing the Living Tradition

Out of the stars in their flight, out of the dust of eternity, here have we come,
Stardust and sunlight, mingling through time and through space

Out of the stars have we come, up from time;
Out of stars have we come

Time out of time before time in the vastness of space, earth spun to orbit the sun,
Earth with the thunder of mountains newborn, the boiling of seas.

Earth warmed by sun, lit by sunlight:
This is our home.
Out of stars we have come.

Mystery hidden in mystery, back through all time;
Mystery rising from rocks in the storm and the sea.

Out of the stars, rising from rocks and the sea,
kindled by sunlight on earth, arose life.

Ponder this thing in your heart; ponder with awe:
Out of the sea to the land, out of the shallows came ferns.

Out of the sea to the land, up from darkness to light,
Rising to walk and to fly, out the sea trembled life.

Ponder this thing in your heart, life up from sea:
Eyes to behold, throats to sing, mates to love.

Life from the sea, warmed by sun, washed by rain,
Life from within, giving birth, rose to love. 

This is the wonder of time; this is the marvel of space;
Out of the stars swing the earth; life upon earth rose to love.

This is the marvel of life, rising to see and to know;
Out of your heart, cry wonder: sing that we live. 

Opening Hymn

“For the Beauty of the Earth”
#21 in Singing the Living Tradition
led by Sandy Johnson
words by Folliott Sandford Pierpoint
music by Conrad Kocher

For the beauty of the earth, for the splendor of the skies,
for the love which from our birth over and around us lies:
Source of all, to thee we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye, for the heart and mind’s delight,
for the mystic harmony linking sense to sound and sight:
Source of all, to thee we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour of the day and of the night,
hill and vale and tree and flower, sun and moon and stars of light:
Source of all, to thee we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human care, sister, brother, parent, child,
for the kinship we all share, for all gentle thoughts and mild:
Source of all, to thee we raise this, our hymn of grateful praise.

Prayer

“A Prayer”
by Toyohiko Kagawa
from Songs of the Slums
Translated from the Japanese by Lois Erickson. c.Cokesbury, 1935
read by Martha Larson

Star Drawing Meditation (Stacey Musulin with music by Mary Bopp)

Joys and Concerns and Visitors  (Martha Larson)

Musical Response

“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”
Words by Jane Taylor, verses 1, 2 and 5
Music French melody “Ah! Vous dirai-je, maman,” published in 1761
sung by Vera Elzerman

Offering ( Stacey Musulin)

Offering Music

“When You Wish Upon a Star”
Leigh Harline and Ned Washington
sung by Sandy Johnson

Reflections on Toyohiko Kagawa (Martha Larson)

Reading

“If Only There Are Stars”
by Toyohiko Kagawa
Translated by Lois J. Erickson
read by Martha Larson

Musical Interlude (Mary Bopp)

Reading
By Alan Lightman
Read by Stacey Musulin

Homily – The Meaning and Metaphor of Stars (Stacey Musulin)

Closing Hymn

“This Little Light of Mine”
#118 in Singing the Living Tradition
words by Emmon Bach
music by Janet McLoud McGaughey
led by Sandy Johnson

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Ev’rywhere I go, I’m gonna let it shine…

Building up a world, I’m gonna let it shine…

Extinguishing the Chalice  (Stacey Musulin)

Closing Circle

May faith in the spirit of life
And hope for the community of earth
And love of the light in each other
Be ours now, and in all the days to come.

Postlude

Break out Rooms

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — June 30, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

 306. Vaccination during pregnancy

         Q:  Are pregnant women getting vaccinated?

         A:   A CDC report dated June 18 identified that 16.3% of pregnant women in the U.S. who were identified in the CDC Vaccine Safety Datalink had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine during their pregnancy.  All authorized vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant women.  The data showed that vaccination was lowest among Hispanic (11.9%), non-Hispanic Black women (6.0%), and women aged 16-24 (5.5%).  Vaccination was highest for non-Hispanic Asian women (24.7%) and women aged 36-49 (22.7%).  Pregnant women are at increased risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19.  These data show the need for increased outreach by healthcare workers to access those groups who are at risk.

307. Long duration of symptoms common for many non-hospitalized COVID patients

        Q: How long do symptoms linger for COVID patients treated as outpatients?

        A: Long-term, chronic conditions have been studied for seriously ill hospitalized COVID patients.  But little is known about the milder cases that were treated with patients being treated at home and in isolation.  An article published June 23 in Nature Medicine identified a cohort or group of 312 patients in Norway after 6 months following their diagnosis.  Of this group, 247 (85%) were not hospitalized.  Of both groups, 61% had persistent symptoms.  Over half (52%) of those with persistent problems were treated as outpatients, with milder disease.  The conditions remaining after recovery from treatment at home included loss of taste or smell (28%), fatigue (21%), shortness of breath (13%), impaired concentration (13%), and memory problems (11%).  This study highlights the impact even mild cases of COVID can leave behind.

308. COVID infections can occur in the hospital between patients in shared rooms

         Q:  Can untested asymptomatic COVID patients infect others in hospital rooms?

         A:  A study recently accepted for publication by the Oxford University Press for the Infectious Diseases Society of America explores COVID transmission between hospitalized patients in shared rooms at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.  Among exposed roommates of patients who had undiagnosed COVID, 39% tested positive within 14 days.  Many of them tested positive after leaving the hospital, so it is possible other transmissions were missed.  The researchers stressed the importance of adequate testing and isolation of hospitalized patients.

309. Should school children this fall wear masks or not?

         Q:  What’s all the controversy about children wearing masks in school next fall?

         A:  Schools are making plans now for the opening of school next fall.  September is just three months away.  CDC has not reacted to requests for guidance this far in advance because the data is not yet available.  Will vaccine authority be given in time for children to get their shots in time?  Will COVID cases be further contained by more people getting vaccinated?  Will the more infectious Delta variant be more dominant by then?  CDC wants to wait before they give guidance.  In this vacuum, an increasing demand is emerging to “return to normal” by just eliminating masks as a requirement.  Lawsuits are being filed to “ban the mask.”  TV stations are asking viewers to call in to respond to instant polls usually showing “no masks” the preferred choice.  No one is explaining the threat to unvaccinated children from more aggressive variants.  At least so far…

310. Birthday parties studied for risk of COVID transmission among children

         Q:  Can play dates and birthday parties be a current risk for children?

         A:  An original investigation was published June 21 online by JAMA Int Med assessing the association between small social gatherings such as birthday celebrations and the risk of COVID-19.  Using nationwide data from January 1 to November 8, 2020 from 2.9 million households with private insurance to compare COVID-19 infections between households with and without a birthday in the preceding two weeks, stratified according to county-level COVID-19 prevalence in that week.  The findings showed that in counties with a birthday, there was an increase of 8.6 cases per 10,000 individuals over households without a birthday.  The study separated this into two groups by counties for adult birthdays (5.8 per 10,000 persons) and child birthdays (15.8 per 10,000).  This suggests that small social gatherings are a potentially important source of COVID transmission among children.  This is especially important now as the more infectious Delta variant is spreading throughout the U.S. while vaccinations for children under age 12 are not available.

(Covid Act Now provided valuable resources for much of the information on these FAQs)

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — June 23, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

301. Vaccines protect against new Delta variant

         Q:  Do the existing vaccines have any effect on the new aggressive Delta COVID?

         A:  The COVID Delta variant (from India) has been found to be up to 70% more infectious than the original coronavirus-19.  And it is also 50% more lethal.  The good news is that all the authorized vaccines are effective to contain this mutation.  Thus, the risk to those unvaccinated is even greater than before, adding incentives for more people to receive their shots.

302. The risk of children being infected with COVID this summer is rare

         Q: How safe is it to let my unvaccinated 10-year-old go swimming this summer?

         A: Many parents are frantic in their worry about how much their unvaccinated children are at risk of contracting the Delta variant of COVID-19.  The reality is more reassuring.  Jennifer Nuzzo, a John Hopkins epidemiologist recently stated, “I haven’t seen data to make me particularly worried about Delta in kids.”  Data shows serious outcomes will continue to be rare in children, she reported.  The New York Times published the following graph using data from the CDC showing the relative risks unvaccinated children ages 5 to 14have for getting COVID.

Deaths per 100,000 population of US children by different causes

 

Cancer 2.1
Vehicle Accidents 1.9
Suicide 1.5
Homicide .07
Cardiovascular Disease .06
Drowning .05
Flu / Pneumonia .03
COVID .02
 
Suffocation .02

A child is 100 times more likely to die from a vehicle crash than from COVID-19.

Drowning is more than twice as risky as the pandemic.  Managing risk is always encouraged.  If your child always wears a seatbelt when in a car, wearing a mask when indoors and avoiding packed crowds helps reduce the already very low risk of COVID-19.

303. All school children might be vaccinated before the next school year

         Q:  Can children be vaccinated before school opens in September?

          A:  Among the people unable to be vaccinated in the U.S. are children under age 12.  Anticipating that the Delta variant may become dominant in this country in the next month or two, the FDA anticipates that clinical trials may be completed and approval can be granted for the proper dosage for at least one of the mRNA vaccines as early as August.  This would allow grade school children to be fully vaccinated before school opens.

304. Coronavirus is not mutating more rapidly but is being given more opportunity

         Q:  Is it true that the COVID variants are emerging more rapidly?

         A:  Investigator Kimberly Mas of Vox publications recently pointed out the cause of an increasing number of mutations of the coronavirus is the globally expanding number of people that have become infected.  Mutations have regularly happened since the pandemic began.  As most of these variants die out because they don’t change their ability to replicate.  But the small percentage of mutations that cause it to be more infective increases as the population carrying the virus increases.  This places greater emphasis on countries that produce vaccines to share them with others that cannot.  This will reduce the number of infected people to reduce the new mutations that otherwise would emerge,

305. Bee population reduction countered by a special vaccine

         Q:  Can vaccination help nature restore balance from bee populations that are declining?

         A:  Honeybees have been dying off over the past few years.  This has affected pollination and commercial honey harvesting.  A common pesticide, malathion, was found to be a major cause of this population decline.  James Webb, a student at Cornell developed a pollen-sized chemical that breaks down malathion in the bee’s digestive tract, neutralizing it before it reaches the brain.  The chemical has been named “Beemunity.”  A “clinical trial” was conducted and 100% of the bees exposed to Beemunity and malathion survived.  Of the bees exposed to malathion alone, none survived.  Science can have many applications for vaccines beyond just answering the specific questions it set out to resolve.