Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — September 29, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

371. Authentic pandemic forms and accountability for forgeries

         Q:  I heard that someone bought a forged CDC vaccine card.  Is this legal?

         A:   The lack of a national data system documenting records of vaccine shots being given prevents the creation of a national “vaccine passport.”  The CDC has printed 3” x 4” copies of its “COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card.” Quantities were given to each group of vaccinators to hand out to people receiving their shots.  This is the only federally issued form one can use to prove they are vaccinated.  It has no photograph to identify the person showing the card is the person who received the vaccine.  It is easy to make a forgery.

Initially, the FBI warned the public against making and selling blank cards.  In April 2021, 40 state attorneys general warned online shopping platforms and social media against selling blank or fraudulently completed forms.  It has since been determined that making or using fake CDC vaccinated cards is a violation of the law prohibiting the wrongful use of government seals.  The cards have the CDC and DHHS government seals on them.  The penalty is up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine.  Arrests and prosecutions have followed and effective accountability has been established.

What about the falsely documented medical or religious exemption forms?  In a similar manner, as above, completion of the required forms can lead to legal consequences.  On February 16, 2021, the Medical Board of California revoked the medical license of Ken Stoller, MD for writing medical exemptions from school vaccinations for 10 students without first examining the students – and charging each $100.  Just last week in Connecticut, the State Medical Examining Board suspended the medical license of retired doctor Sue McIntosh of Durham.  The Department of Public Health said McIntosh signed and mailed out blank vaccine and mask exemption forms without examining the patient.  The statement of charges goes on to say in some cases, McIntosh didn’t even know the patients.

The issue of religious exemptions is more difficult.  The problem is differentiating between the use of the exception based on formal teachings from an established faith leader and that caused by an ad hoc blend of online conspiracies and misinformation, conservative media, and conversations with like-minded other people.  The conflict is between preserving the well-established “freedom of religion” against “maintaining the public good.”  There are no national standards for individuals to follow to claim this exemption.  Many conservative groups are posting their services to appeal any religious exemptions that are issued.  Many court cases are expected to adjudicate this matter.  Meanwhile, many groups mandating vaccinations are not accepting religious exemptions.  United Airlines recently told workers that those who state a religious exemption will be placed on unpaid leave until Covid safety and testing procedures can be developed.

372. The pandemic is morphing into a new disease: “Post-Vax Covid.”

         Q: How are the new variants and increasing vaccinations changing the pandemic?

         A:  Katherine J. Wu, Ph.D., co-authored an electronically published article last week Tuesday that recognizes that the current vaccine diminishes the seriousness and fatality of new cases that are currently identified as “breakout” cases.  “If this virus becomes as inescapable as the culprits behind the common colds and flu,” Katherine states. “we would all have to grapple with one of these infections.”  As Covid-19 continues as an endemic – constantly present but briefer, milder, and less contagious as the pandemic has been for the past 18 months, it will be like the current flu – requiring annual vaccinations but only making people feel ill for few days of sick leave and, except for a small percentage who become hospitalized and may die, recovering without lasting after-effects.  A new situation she refers to as “post-vax covid.”

373. Central Massachusetts is running out of ICU beds

         Q:  Are the only hospitals considering crisis standards of care in Alaska and Idaho?

         A:  One nearby example emerged last week.  The largest hospital network in Central Massachusetts is the UMass Memorial Health Care System.  Last Wednesday, the multiple hospital mid-state group ran out of ICU beds.  “The situation is dire,” said Eric Dickson, MD, president and chief executive of the system.  “I’ve been an emergency physician in (Worcester) for three decades, and I’ve never seen it this bad,” he said.

374. A new CDC report verifies that wearing masks in schools reduces outbreaks.

         Q:  Masks work, people say.  Where’s the scientific proof?

         A:  On September 24, the CDC released a formal report.  In the first month of schools universally reopening, 1,800 schools had to close and go back to remote learning because of the increased number of students who had to stay home because of contact with other(s) who were tested positive.  But this new study also showed that schools that required universal masking were much less likely to see the widespread infection.  Researchers examined two separate studies analyzing overall coronavirus infections in 520 counties with different school masking policies, as well as specific outbreaks in schools in the two largest Arizona districts.  These closures reduced in-person learning hours for more than 933,000          K through 12 students.  Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas each had more than 259 schools closed in August due to outbreaks.  Tennessee closed more than 250 schools.  Both Tennessee and Texas ban school districts from wearing masks, while Georgia and Kentucky allow school districts to decide on their own mask mandates.  In Pima and Maricopa counties in Arizona, Megan John of Arizona State University examined schools that required masks from the first day of school compared to those where mandates were put in place late or not at all.  Of about 1,000 schools in the study, about 48% never required masks, 21% required masks from day one, and 32% required masks after a few days.  The schools requiring everyone (regardless of being vaccinated or not) to wear masks from the first day of school were 3.5 times less likely to have an outbreak than the other schools.  The superintendent of public education in the Arizona Board of Education, Kathy Hoffman said, “It is irresponsible for the state government to stand in the way of local leaders making decisions that protect the health and safety of their students and staff.    …universal masking will continue to be a critical tool in limiting the spread of the virus in our schools.”

375. Updates on Russia’s management of Covid-19

         Q:  How well is Putin managing this disease in Russia?

         ALast week Monday, Russian president, Vladimir Putin attended several in-person meetings including one with president Bashar al-Assad of Syria, a close ally of Russia.  After consultations with medical experts following knowledge that several people at these meetings were infected with coronavirus-19, Putin was advised and he agreed to remain in isolation for a period of time.  The pandemic in Russia is continuing in its severity.  Many citizens are hesitant to take the Russian vaccine, named “Sputnik V.”  This vaccine is recognized as being less effective than any of the approved vaccines used in America.  Russia’s official reported mortality from the coronavirus has been essentially flat at just below 800 deaths per day since July.  The “remarkable stability” of this metric has led to many speculations it is a manufactured number, though officials insist it is accurate.