Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — April 20, 2022

“Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

521.   The mortality rate for diabetics infected by Covid-19 is staggering.

         QWhat is the impact when someone with diabetes catches Covid-19?

         A:  After older people and nursing home residents, no other group seems to have been hit harder by Covid than people with diabetes. They account for a staggering 30 to 40 percent of all U.S. Covid deaths, several studies suggest.  In a recent New York Times article, the issue was discussed.

Diabetes patients who are hospitalized with Covid spend more time in intensive care, are likelier to be intubated and are less likely to survive. One study found that 20 percent of such patients died within a month of admission.  Diabetes is a chronic disease that hobbles the ability to regulate blood sugar and inexorably wreaks havoc on circulation, kidney function and vital organs.  Though researchers are still trying to understand the dynamics between diabetes and Covid, most agree on one thing: Diabetes often impairs the immune system and decreases a patient’s ability to withstand a coronavirus infection.  Diabetics often struggle with hypertension, obesity and other medical issues, which can fuel chronic inflammation inside the body.

Like the pandemic, which has had an outsize toll on communities of color, the burden of diabetes falls more heavily on Latino and Black Americans, highlighting systemic failures in health care that have also made the coronavirus far deadlier for the poor.  “It’s not that diabetes itself makes Covid inherently worse but rather uncontrolled diabetes, which is really a proxy for other markers of disadvantage,” said Nadia Islam, a medical sociologist at NYU Langone Health.

About 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year, according to the C.D.C., and roughly 96 million, about one in three adults, are at high risk for developing the disease. The disease claims 100,000 lives annually but draws less funding or notice than illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.  Experts say addressing the nation’s diabetes crisis will require well-funded public education campaigns that drive home the importance of exercise and healthy eating. That would require seismic changes to a food system geared to cheap, processed food.  “The only way to move the needle is to reform a system that prioritizes cures and new drugs over prevention,” said Dr. Sudip Bajpeyi, a researcher at the University of Texas at El Paso.

522.  There were more deaths in the U.S. in 2021 than in any other year in its history.

         Q:  How does the number of people who died from Covid affect the national death rate?  

         A:  The Associated Press recently released a report that 2021 was the deadliest year in U.S. history.  The main reason for this was Covid-19 said Robert Anderson, who oversees the CDC work in death statistics.  His tabulations show there were 3,465,000 deaths last year, which is about 80,000 more than 2020’s record-setting total.  It is noted that 2021 was the year that vaccinations became available, which should have led to a lower number of deaths.  “We were wrong, unfortunately,” said Noreen Goldman, a Princeton University researcher.  Covid-19 deaths rose in 2021, to more than 415,000, up from 351,000 the year before.  The reason was the emergence of new variants and an unexpectedly large number of Americans who were reluctant to get vaccinated or to wear masks.  In addition to the Covid-19 deaths, other diseases showed increases in the number of deaths.  Cancer rates rose slightly and rates continued to rise for diabetes, chronic liver disease, and strokes.  It is expected that deaths from drug overdoses especially in adolescents,  will also be shown to increase once that data review is completed.

523.  China is imposing severe restrictions in an attempt to eliminate Covid-19.

         Q:  Is acceptance of Covid-19 as an endemic disease accepted everywhere?

         A:   The New York Times has reported that China’s largest outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic is now gripping Shanghai, its largest city and a global financial center.  The city of 26 million recently reported more than 2,600 Covid infections daily for several days, from just a handful in early March.  Hospitals and medical staff are stretched thin. The government has ordered 3,000 military medics and 10,000 medical workers to Shanghai.

The Chinese government has reacted by introducing steps focusing on eliminating this disease entirely.  This approach is contrary to that of other countries which have relaxed many of their restrictions and are treating Covid-19 as an endemic disease.  The Chinese government has introduced a two-step lockdown and plans to test all 26 million residents.

  • Infections in a neighborhood will require that everyone living in it to remain there – the entire neighborhood will be locked down.
  • Offices and businesses not considered essential will be closed and public transportation suspended.
  • Deliveries will be left at special checkpoints.

One of the more controversial moves has been to remove children from families where adults have tested positive to protect the kids from contracting the disease.  This forced disruption of family structure has caused widespread frustration and anger.

524.  The national travel mask-wearing requirement has been extended until May 3.

         Q: Are masks still required on planes and trains because of the BA.2 subvarient?

         A:  Yes.  The Biden administration announced on Wednesday, April 13 that it is extending the nationwide mask requirement for airplanes and public transportation for 15 days as it monitors an uptick in Covid-19 cases.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said it was extending the order, which was set to expire on April 18, until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 Omicron subvariant that is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S.

“In order to assess the potential impact the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity, the CDC order will remain in place at this time,” the agency said in a statement.

525.  White-tailed deer found to have Covid-19 years ago, before human infections.

         Q:  Is it true that wild populations of deer had Covid-19 long before the human pandemic?

         A:  Last month, National Geographic reported that a white-tailed deer in Canada likely infected a human with coronavirus, according to new research.  Previous work has shown that the virus is circulating widely in U.S. white-tailed deer populations.  Before this latest report, however, the virus appeared to be very similar to that found in nearby humans, suggesting that the deer likely were sickened by us—not the other way around.  A team of 32 government and academic researchers in Canada has concluded in a new study in late 2021, that more than a dozen white-tailed deer in Canada had been infected with coronavirus that had a constellation of “mutations that had not been previously observed among SARS-CoV-2 lineages.”  What’s more, further analysis revealed that a person who had close contact with white-tailed deer in Ontario was infected with the same variant of coronavirus.

For the research, scientists took nose and tissue samples from 300 dead white-tailed deer in southwestern and eastern Ontario between November and December 2021. All the animals had been killed by hunters and were already being tested as part of an annual surveillance program for chronic wasting disease, which kills deer and their relatives. A few samples tested weren’t usable, but the researchers found that 17 of 298 deer—6 percent of the animals—tested positive for a “new and highly divergent lineage” of the coronavirus.  Their results also showed that the variant is an older version of COVID, one that predated Delta and Omicron, suggesting that coronavirus has been circulating among deer for a long time.  After discovering the coronavirus cases, the study authors analyzed whether the deer virus would likely be able to evade an existing COVID vaccine and concluded the vaccine would likely still provide robust coverage.