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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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

 

Cancer2.1
Vehicle Accidents1.9
Suicide1.5
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.

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — June 16, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

 296.  If required, reclosing will also be scientifically decided.

          Q: If the COVID cases suddenly surge, will we have to close the church again?

          A:  Yes, but just as we used science to decide when to open, we will only reclose the church when science tells us it is becoming unsafe, The 4 mandatory metrics documented on the website Covid Act Now (www.covidatnow.org) will again be closely watched:

  • Mandatory metric 1. “Daily New Cases per 100,000 population” within the yellow -medium category at or below 5 new cases per 100,000 population (or 178 or fewer people)
  • Mandatory metric 2: “Infection Rate” within the green – low category at or below 0.9.
  • Mandatory metric 3: “Positive Test Rate” within the green – low.
  • Mandatory metric 4: “ICU Capacity Used within the green – low category at or below 70%.

The Policy Board is reviewing the following guidelines, which if approved will authorize them to decide to reclose the building if:

  • Any one metric is over the threshold for 7 consecutive days (one week); or
  • Any two metrics simultaneously are over their thresholds for 5 consecutive days; or
  • Any three metrics simultaneously are over their thresholds for 3 consecutive days; or
  • If the governor closes the state from holding indoor gatherings, the church will reclose immediately.

 297. Wearing masks will happen when the church reopens

          Q: Masks are not worn anywhere much anymore.  Why will we have to wear masks when we reopen?

          A: The answer is succinctly stated in a recently published article by the UUA, our national organization.

“Because our Unitarian Universalist faith is grounded in values that call us to care about one another, we must continue to make our decisions by centering the needs of the most vulnerable among us.”

“The UUA strongly recommends that congregations maintain a culture of indoor masking when they regather in person.  This is because of who we are, as a congregation, at our best.”

  • “We are all-ages communities, and not all ages have been able to get vaccinated yet.”
  • “We are all-abilities communities, and some of us have immune systems that do not mount strong protective response after the COVID vaccination and can suffer severe complications upon infection.”
  • “We are all-inclusive communities, and we want to express our UU values by being able to include all, regardless of vaccination status.”

298. World Health Organization switches to Greek names for COVID-19 variants

         Q:  I’m reading about the “Delta Covid variant.  What’s that?

         A:  On May 31, 2021, the World Health Organization announced a new common nomenclature for identifying the multiple mutations of COVID-19.  The scientific nomenclature used by epidemiologists to study and differentiate between the discernibly different variants will remain.  But the media and the public have always named pandemics and variations by the location where they were first observed.  Back in 1918, the major pandemic was named the “Spanish Flu.”  That name continues today, despite the disease probably originated in the United States – at an US Army camp in Kansas.  Naming disease variants by the location in which they were first observed can stigmatize the people or residents of that location.  Thus, the WHO has decided to provide identifiers that are neutral and easier to remember.

The original COVID-19 virus first observed in China is scientifically identified as H1N1.  It is the original virus, and thus has no Greek variant designation.  The classifications for the “Variants of Concern” are now as follows:

  • Alpha United Kingdom – September 2020         1.1.7
  • Beta South Africa – May 2020                            1.351
  • Gamma Brazil – November 2020                             1
  • Delta India – October 2020                                   617.2

WHO now discourages the use of location names associated with diseases.  No more reference to COVID-19 as being the “China Flu.”  One of the issues prompting this change was the diplomatic and political problems triggered by Trump’s and others’  constant referral to COVID that way.

299. A “joints for jabs” in Washington state

         Q:  What are some of the unusual incentives states are using to encourage people to get vaccinated?

         A:  We’ve all heard about many states” million-dollar lotteries and those for one-year full scholarships at state colleges or universities.  And the lottery for “custom rifles and shotguns” in West Virginia.  But one of the most intriguing is the giveaway announced by the State of Washington.  If anyone over age 21 gets vaccinated, they will be given a joint of marijuana!   Washington allows local sale of recreational cannabis, but in developing this project, concern emerged that anyone with a vaccination card could just go from store to different store and pick up a supply of joints.  So, the requirement was made that to receive a free joint, one had to be vaccinated in the store itself.  Setting up a physical vaccination site itself was not as much of a problem as finding the medical staff to be available to give the shots.  But apparently this system is now in place.  One wonders what would prevent the determined user from going to different stores and getting separate vaccinations to collect multiple joints?  How would a person be affected if they become “over-immunized?”  It can only be speculated that CDC might have to respond, “This hasn’t been studied yet. We have no data on that.”  But it would increase the number of vaccinations given!

300. The European Union has approved a virus travel certificate

         Q:  What do I need to prove I am vaccinated when I go to Europe?

         A:  The EU recently approved a uniform virus travel certificate that shows the holder is not infectious and capable of spreading COVID to others.  In addition to being fully vaccinated, this certificate is also issued if someone has recently tested negative or has recovered from the disease.  The impetus for doing this is to open up travel during the summer tourist season, which many European countries’ economy rely on heavily.  There were two separate votes taken approving this measure.  One was for EU citizens and the second for certificates to be given to people living outside the EU.

Are you planning on traveling to Europe this or next year?  These certificates should be available for any of us going there, but application details are not yet developed.  Ask your travel agent for how to obtain one.  Use of these certificates will start throughout Europe on July 1, and strict enforcement will be in place starting on January 1, 2022.

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — June 9, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.” 

291.  Update on reopening!

         Q: How close are we to reaching a decision to reopen?

         A:  All 4 mandatory metrics documented on the website Covid Act Now (www.covidactnow.org) were met on May 24th!   All 4 metrics must stay below their individual thresholds for a total of 21 consecutive days (3 weeks) – June 14.

Don’t forget: if any of the 4 metrics go above their thresholds before June 14 – even for one day – the count will go back to the beginning for a new 21-day count to start when all again become in place.  Caution: COVID-19 is known for its surges.

BUT WAIT!  We don’t actually reopen on that date after 21 consecutive days!  The Policy Board will only be informed that the community risk of COVID-19 will be at an acceptable level.  There are other teams at work evaluating and modifying the ventilation system, and a whole lot of other logistics are being worked out.  All of these will evaluated BEFORE THE POLICY BOARD DECIDES ON THE ACTUAL DATE WE REOPEN!

292. Many reasons are identified why people aren’t getting vaccinated

         Q: Why isn’t everyone getting vaccinated so we can all get back to normal?

         A: For many people, it’s quite frustrating that nearly half the people in Connecticut are not yet vaccinated (as of last Sunday, 46% have not received at least one shot and 36% were not fully vaccinated).  Many vaccinated people who are getting used to “returning to normal” are becoming frustrated by retail stores and indoor venues still requiring masks and other protective measures to protect the unvaccinated.  While CDC guidelines say those who are vaccinated can remove masks indoors, the unvaccinated people are not protected this way.  In effect, the CDC has given guidance that divides the public into two groups.  The unvaccinated are becoming “the others” in our divided culture, and they can become the object of anger and pressure to conform.  It is vital to understand that many people are not able to be vaccinated for valid reasons.  One study has found there are 8 major reasons why so many people have not or cannot become vaccinated:

  • Contraindications for medical reasons. Anyone receiving immunotherapy as part of their treatment (conditions including cancer, organ transplants, HIV, and other diseases) will have limited immunity gained from COVID vaccinations;
  • Children under age 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
  • The other reasons can be resolved with public education and altering the system of distribution and availability of the vaccines. These include lack of access to vaccination sites, COVID-19 is not seen as a threat, fear of vaccine side effects, lack of trust in the vaccines, lack of trust in institutions, and (unexpectedly) belief in one or more different conspiracy theories.  (In a recent YouGuv poll, at least half of the respondents cited one or more conspiracy theories determining their decision not to get the vaccine!)

The reality remains – not everyone in the community is able to be vaccinated. Shaming them and becoming angry becomes hurtful and not a bit helpful.

293. COVID-19 contact tracing is more valuable now than ever

         Q:  Will there still be contact tracing now that the pandemic is nearly over?

         A:  The pandemic is far from over.  Connecticut is in a region of the country with excellent progress in reducing the incidence and prevalence of COVID-19.  But the disease is still progressing among those not yet vaccinated just as before.  The number of vaccinated people is the reason the number of new infections overall has been reduced.  Even then, the infection rate over the last week has risen slightly in this state.  To further reduce the long-term effect of the disease, the need to identify new cases quickly, find the people each newly infected person has contacted, and isolate those who are able to infect others becomes easier and more important than earlier when the numbers were overwhelming.  But a paradox exists: as the number of cases starts to fall, it is easier to stop this mitigation step when it can be more effective.  This is what happened in Australia and New Zealand.  Their caseloads were reduced dramatically and contact tracing was reduced.  Within months, each country experienced surges that quickly reintroduced the pandemic in force.  Several states in the U.S. have introduced mobile testing vehicles to rapidly expand testing capability as hot spots are discovered.  Smartphone technology is also being used to make contact tracing a rapid capability where it is needed.  Nationally, it recognized that public health contact tracing workers can play an important role to rebuild local and state public health programs.  Contact tracing workers can stay on after the need for this activity has been reduced to help in this rebuilding.  This workforce can be the core to re-establish public health programs in preparation for the next infectious disease epidemic – or pandemic.  And that is surely just around the corner! 

294. The FDA warns against specific manufacturers’ COVID-19 virus test kits

         Q:  We have several home COVID test kits.  Are these safe to use?

         A:  Safety is not an issue.  Effectiveness is the important factor to consider.  The FDA recently issued a warning for the public to stop using the Lepu Medical Technology Antigen Rapid Test Kit and the Leccurate Antibody Rapid Test Kit.  Neither of these two kits has been approved nor authorized by the FDA for use and distribution within the U.S.  These kits have been distributed to pharmacies for retail sales, and are available for direct sales to consumers.  There is a reason to believe these kits produce an unreasonably high level of false results, and physician decisions should not be based on the results of these kits.  Those tested with these inaccurate tests within the last two weeks are urged to be retested with an authorized kit.

295. Post-vaccination infections are possible, and while rare they can be infectious

         Q:  What is meant by the term I am hearing about: “breakthrough infections?”

         A:  A breakthrough infection is someone who has been vaccinated, yet has contracted COVID-19.  These are very rare (as of April 30, with over 100 million people fully vaccinated, the percentage contracting COVID-19 was 0.01%).  Roughly 27% of the breakthrough infections have been asymptomatic, while in 2% of these cases the patient died.  Genetic samples of the virus taken from 555 breakthrough infections showed that 64% of that group were infected with a variant of the virus first seen in the UK and South Africa.  In another study, among 20 vaccinated healthcare workers, all of their breakthrough infections were with a variant of the original coronavirus-19.  These and other studies also indicate that breakthrough cases can transmit the disease to others, especially those not vaccinated.  It seems the more we learn about COVID, the more we find questions needing answers.

.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — June 2, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

286.  Update on reopening!

          Q: How close are we to reaching a decision to reopen?

          A:  All 4 mandatory metrics documented on the website Covid Act Now (www.covidactnow.org) were met on May 24th!  The countdown has begun.  All 4 metrics must stay below their individual thresholds for a total of 21 consecutive days (3 weeks).  That target is now June 14.

Don’t forget: if any of the 4 metrics go above their thresholds before June 14 – even for one day – the count will go back to the beginning for a new 21-day count to start when all are again in place.  Caution: COVID-19 is known for its surges.

BUT WAIT!  We don’t actually reopen on that date after 21 consecutive days!  The Policy Board will be informed that the community risk of COVID-19 will be at an acceptable level as of that date.  There are other teams at work evaluating and modifying the ventilation system, and a whole lot of logistics being worked out.  All of these will have to be evaluated before THE POLICY BOARD DECIDES ON THE ACTUAL DATE WE WILL REOPEN!

287. Confusion clarified over conflicting messages about booster vaccines

         Q:  Will there be a need to get a booster or refresher dose of the vaccine soon?

         A:  Politically, the Biden administration has faithfully followed the formula to base its decisions on science.  The CDC has cooperated without interference from politicians since the vaccines have been available   But other variables can get in the way.  Pfizer issued a press release several weeks ago announcing they have been developing a booster shot and this may be needed in the weeks or months ahead.  Scientists are still busy studying the need for this, but they are limited by the short time people who have been vaccinated can have the duration of their immunity evaluated.  Pfizer had been criticized earlier by releasing to the public their findings from the vaccine clinical trials by press releases before it was evaluated by the FDA or the CDC.  Pharmaceutical companies have much invested in and much to profit from their work.  Whether announcing their booster vaccine was advertising for future sales, or simply bragging about their progressive research and development, science still has yet to find if immunity will fade over time.  The need for booster shots is not at all certain.

According to researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine, basic immunity from the original novel coronavirus-19 could last a lifetime.  They studied 77 patients who had recovered from mild cases of COVID-19. Of these, 18 submitted to periodic bone marrow sampling over a 5-month period.  The bone marrow cells sampled continued to secrete antibodies capable of preventing COVID-19 infections for years to come.  More research is called for because of the small size of this study group and the need to determine variability with different mutations of the disease.  But this and other studies show the need for the public to be patient and accept that science is not a technique to learn immediate answers to complex questions.  And to recognize that pharmaceutical advertising is driven by competition and pricing.

288. Myocarditis (heart inflammation) after vaccinations present but rare

         Q: I read in the newspaper that teens have come down with a heart problem after getting vaccinated.  That’s why I won’t let my son get vaccinated!

         A: It’s true that last week one Connecticut newspaper reported there were 18 heart inflammation cases in the state after being vaccinated.   It went on to say that this condition is mostly found in teenagers and young people, but is extremely rare.  Only 18 cases have been reported, and all of these were resolved quickly with no lingering after-effects.  In fact, there is no evidence the vaccines actually caused the conditions.  There are many events that appear alongside each other, but a common maxim of logic states, “correlation does not prove causation.”  For example, many “anti-vaxers” of school children still believe that vaccines can cause autism.  Even though that assumption has been scientifically disproven, there really is a correlation between children who have been vaccinated and the display of early signs of autism.  Causation means that one comes first and directly leads to the other.  But perhaps there is an underlying common cause of both.  In fact, childhood vaccinations are usually given at the same age as autism first appears.  Thus, these events are correlated, but one does not necessarily cause the other.  For the recent news report, perhaps there is a factor of age, or hormone levels during and post puberty.  Or another “common cause” might exist.  Specific to mild myocarditis, or mild cardiac inflammation, scientists are studying the specifics in relation to the COVID-19 vaccines.  So far, there is no evidence that the vaccines trigger and cause this condition.  Yet another lesson can be found from this phenomenon: people have a difficult time perceiving, evaluating, and reacting to different levels of risks.  A few alcoholic drinks, or driving sober without using seat belts to many feel safe behind the wheel.  But information about a very rare incidence of a medical problem can cause paralysis and withdrawal.  As one pundit was quoted, “People are funny, aren’t we?!”

289. Long term effects of non-hospitalized COVID-19 studied for 8 months

         Q:  How do COVID-19 non-hospitalized patients fare in the long term?

         A:  In a research paper due to be published in July in The Lancet, a group of researchers in Europe have followed 958 patients who have had confirmed COVID-19 disease, but were not hospitalized.  Most other research to date has focused on the serious cases who were hospitalized.  This research was to explore what, if any, long-term health issues remain for those who had a milder disease.  These patients were observed from April 6 to December 2, 2020 – a period of 8 months.  The percentages of the group showing signs of the most common conditions that remained long-term were 12.4% anosmia (loss of smell), 11.1% ageusia (loss of taste), 9.7% fatigue, and 8.6% shortness of breath.  Overall, at least one of these symptoms was present in 34.8% of the group at 7 months from infection.

This study begins to define the need for a new category of long-term follow-up care identified as “post-COVID-syndrome (PCS)

290. Lawsuit dismissed against requirements for school children to wear masks

         Q:  Whatever happened to that lawsuit filed by parents demanding children be free of wearing masks while in school?

         A:  This lawsuit was filed last August by the CT Freedom Alliance after the State Education Commissioner ordered children in school to wear masks.  Many parents were upset about this and a series of legal actions were taken to reverse that order.  The legal basis of the claim was that a single department within the executive branch did not have the authority to issue such an order.  An initial court hearing was heard earlier where the decision was moved to a higher court.  In a filing last week, Superior Judge Thomas Moukawsher decided that the Connecticut constitution did allow Governor Lamont to issue emergency orders including the wearing of masks in school.  In addition, Judge Moukawsher cited the legislature had tightened the standards governing emergency powers and approved his previous acts.  His conclusion: This further demonstrates that the order was made in accordance with the state constitution.

It is noted that previously, the legislature authorized the elimination of the frequently used “religious waiver” for parents to avoid having their children vaccinated before enrolling in school.  Parents, acting under the “practice of medicine,” had assumed the authority to waive this practice as the guardians of their children’s health.  But in the “practice of public health,” many rules exist to force a person’s compliance to protect the health of others.   Quarantines, isolation, vaccinations, – and masks are part of the need to protect others.

Frequently Asked Questions about Covid-19, Week of June 1, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

 Update on reopening! 

Q: How close are we to reaching a decision to reopen?

 A:  All 4 mandatory metrics documented on the website Covid Act Now (www.covidactnow.org) were met on May 24th!  The countdown has begun.  All 4 metrics must stay below their individual thresholds for a total of 21 consecutive days (3 weeks).  That target is now June 14.

Don’t forget: if any of the 4 metrics go above their thresholds before June 14 – even for one day – the count will go back to the beginning for a new 21-day count to start when all are again in place.  Caution: COVID-19 is known for its surges.

BUT WAIT!  We don’t actually reopen on that date after 21 consecutive days!  The Policy Board will be informed that the community risk of COVID-19 will be at an acceptable level as of that date.  There are other teams at work evaluating and modifying the ventilation system, and a whole lot of logistics being worked out.  All of these will have to be evaluated before THE POLICY BOARD DECIDES ON THE ACTUAL DATE WE WILL REOPEN!

 

  1. Confusion clarified over conflicting messages about booster vaccines 

Q:  Will there be a need to get a booster of refresher dose of the vaccine soon? 

A:  Politically, the Biden administration has faithfully followed the formula to base its decisions on science.  The CDC has cooperated without interference from politicians since the vaccines have been available   But other variables can get in the way.  Pfizer issued a press release several weeks ago announcing they have been developing a booster shot and this may be needed in the weeks or months ahead.  Scientists are still busy studying the need for this, but they are limited by the short time people who have been vaccinated can have the duration of their immunity evaluated.  Pfizer had been criticized earlier by releasing to the public their findings from the vaccine clinical trials by press releases before it was evaluated by the FDA or the CDC.  Pharmaceutical companies have much invested in and much to profit from their work.  Whether announcing their booster vaccine was advertising for future sales, or simply bragging about their progressive research and development, Science still has yet to find if immunity will fade over time.  The need for booster shots is not at all certain.

According to researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine, basic immunity from the original novel coronavirus-19 could last a lifetime.  They studied 77 patients who had recovered from mild cases of COVID-19. Of these, 18 submitted to periodic bone marrow sampling over a 5-month period.  The bone marrow cells sampled continued to secrete antibodies capable of preventing COVID-19 infections for years to come.  More research is called for because of the small size of this study group and the need to determine variability with different mutations of the disease.  But this and other studies shows the need for the public to be patient and accept that science is not a technique to learn immediate answers to complex questions.  And to recognize that pharmaceutical advertising is driven by competition and pricing.

 

  1. Myocarditis (heart inflammation) after vaccinations present but rare 

Q: I read in the newspaper that teens have come down with a heart problem after getting vaccinated.  That’s why I won’t let my son get vaccinated!

A: It’s true that last week one Connecticut newspaper reported there were 18 heart inflammation cases in the state after being vaccinated.   It went on to say that this condition is mostly found in teenagers and young people, but is extremely rare.  Only 18 cases have been reported, and all of these were resolved quickly with no lingering after- effects.  In fact, there is no evidence the vaccines actually caused the conditions.  There are many events that appear alongside each other, but a common maxim of logic states, “correlation does not prove causation.”  For example, many “anti-vaxers” of school children still believe that vaccines can cause autism.  Even though that assumption has been scientifically disproven, there really is a correlation of children who have been vaccinated and the display of early signs of autism.  Causation means that one comes first and directly leads to the other.  But perhaps there is an underlying common cause of both.  In fact, childhood vaccinations are usually given at the same age as autism first appears.  Thus, these events are correlated, but one does not necessarily cause the other.  For the recent news report, perhaps there is a factor of age, or hormone levels during and post- puberty.  Or another “common cause” might exist.  Specific to the mild myocarditis, or mild cardiac inflammation, scientists are studying the specifics in relation to the COVID-19 vaccines.  So far, there is no evidence that the vaccines trigger and cause this condition.  Yet another lesson can be found from this phenomenon: people have a difficult time perceiving, evaluating and reacting to different levels of risks.  A few alcoholic drinks, or driving sober without using seat belts to many feel safe behind the wheel.  But information about a very rare incidence of a medical problem can cause paralysis and withdrawal.  As one pundit was quoted, “People are funny, aren’t we?!”

  1. Long term effects of non-hospitalized COVID-19 studied for 8 months

 Q:  How do COVID-19 non-hospitalized patients fare in the long term?

 A:  In a research paper due to be published in July in The Lancet, a group of researchers in Europe have followed 958 patients who have had confirmed COVID-19 disease, but were not hospitalized.  Most other research to date has focused on the serious cases who were hospitalized.  This research was to explore what, if any, long-term health issues remain for those who had milder disease.  These patients were observed from April 6 to December 2, 2020 – a period of 8 months.  The percentages of the group showing signs of the most common conditions that remained long-term were 12.4% anosmia (loss of smell), 11.1% ageusia (loss of taste), 9.7% fatigue, and 8.6% shortness of breath.  Overall, at least one of these symptoms was present in 34.8% of the group at 7 months from infection.

This study begins to define the need for a new category of long-term follow up care identified as “post-COVID-syndrome (PCS)

 

  1. Lawsuit dismissed against requirements for school children to wear masks

 Q:  Whatever happened to that lawsuit filed by parents demanding children be free of wearing masks while in school?

 A:  This lawsuit was filed last August by the CT Freedom Alliance after the State Education Commissioner ordered children in school to wear masks.  Many parents were upset about this and a series of legal actions were taken to reverse that order.  The legal basis of the claim was that a single department within the executive branch did not have the authority to issue such an order.  An initial court hearing was heard earlier where the decision was moved to a higher court.  In a filing last week, Superior Judge Thomas Moukawsher decided that the Connecticut constitution did allow Governor Lamont to issue the emergency orders including the wearing of masks in school.  In addition, Judge Moukawsher cited the legislature had tightened the standards governing emergency powers and approved his previous acts.  His conclusion: this further demonstrates that the order was made in accordance with the sate constitution.

It is noted that previously, the legislature authorized the elimination of the frequently used “religious waiver” for parents to avoid having their children vaccinated before enrolling in school.  Parents, acting under the “practice of medicine,” had assumed the authority to waive this practice as the guardians of their children’s health.  But in the “practice of public health,” many rules exist to force a person’s compliance to protect the health of others.   Quarantines, isolation, vaccinations, – and masks are part of the need to protect others.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19, May 26, 2021

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

281. Update on achieving the risk thresholds on the 4 “Mandatory Metrics”

         Q: How close are we to reaching the 4 mandatory metrics allowing a decision to be made to reopen?

         A:  We are monitoring the pandemic to identify when it will be safe to reopen.  Some modifications to the building and program may also be required, but we are continually viewing the five data metrics from the website Covid Act Now to identify when there is an acceptable risk for meeting inside.  www.covidactnow.org is the website to find this data.  Click on the Connecticut map on opening, and scroll down to view the 5 graphs.

The Policy Board has approved four mandatory metrics that must be reached for 21 consecutive days before the Policy Board will decide to reopen.  These mandates are:

     X   Daily new cases per 100,000 population: Threshold = at or below 5 / 100,000.

Status on May 21 = 5.4 /100,000.  This is only 0.4 / 100,000 over the threshold

  • Infection Rate: Threshold = .at or below 0,9%

Status on May 21 = 0.67%.  This remains under the threshold, and qualifies.

  • Positive Test Rate: Threshold = at or below 3%

Status on May 19 = 1.4%.  This remains under the threshold and qualifies.

  • ICU Capacity Used: Threshold = at or below 70%

Status on May 22 = 54%.  This remains under the threshold and qualifies

Once the daily new cases per 100,000 population reach the threshold of 5 or fewer per 100,000 population, all 4 metrics must remain below their thresholds for 3 weeks to allow a recommendation to be made to the board for reopening.  Unless there is a surge, this 21-day countdown should start sometime this week!

282.  A Covid Act Now metric could be adversely affected by CDC changes.

         Q:  The new CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people no longer requires testing.  Will this affect the mandatory metric we are using, the “Positive Test Rate?”

         A:  The traditional epidemiologic data used to evaluate infectious diseases is the “Positive Test Rate.”  This is based on a sample of the entire population, randomly selected, being tested with a resulting percentage being found positive.  This tool helps to find those infected with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic who are spreading the disease unaware they have the disease.  It also identifies those who are infected before their symptoms emerge allowing early isolation to reduce infection of others.

Recent changes to their May 13th CDC guidelines now state that for fully vaccinated people who have no COVID-19-like symptoms, there is no need to be tested even if they come in contact with someone who is known to be infected.  Nationally, this, in effect, reduces the population to be tested to just unvaccinated people.  No consideration is given to the possible bias people may have who are avoiding vaccinations might also avoid testing.  Data collected after this change needs to include only tests given to the unvaccinated group.  If others are included, the data may not accurately measure if the number of tests being given is sufficiently large enough for the State of Connecticut.  The Emergency Preparedness Task Force will review this at its next meeting to evaluate if any future Positive Test Rate data should remain a “mandatory metric.”

283. “Fully vaccinated people have greater and longer immunity than those who get only one Pfizer or Moderna shot – but even those people have some benefit

         Q: Do people who don’t get their second Pfizer or Moderna shots have any immunity?

         A: UUS:E has chosen “fully vaccinated” people as the metric to follow because these people have greater immunity than those who take only one of the Pfizer or Moderna shots.  They also have immunity that early evaluation showed lasts longer than those who took only one of the two required shots.  But that doesn’t mean they have no immunity.

The CDC reports that 8% of those who got the first jab did not return for their second.  This was not surprising, however.  An example of this phenomenon was the history of people getting the two-dose shingles vaccine between 2017 and 2019.  Only 70% to 80% of the people getting those shots finished the two-dose vaccine.  The precise reason why second doses are missed remains uncertain, and studies are continuing.  But studies of the protection provided by a single dose of Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is encouraging.

A study of 3,950 healthcare personnel found that one dose of either of the mRNA vaccine provided roughly 80% protection at least 14 days after the injection.  Another study in the United Kingdom, yet to be published, showed an effectiveness of 72% 21 days after injection.  Chise Broussard, a molecular scientist at Moderna answers the question: why bother to go back for a second shot if the first is that effective?  He stated, “Because each shot awakens different players in the immune system.”  The first dose activates what are known as helper T cells.  The second dose is a booster supercharging the defenses the first dose activated.  This boosts the effectiveness to more than 90%.  And this second shot makes that immunity last longer.  This recent research validates the UUS:E decision to focus on the metric of “full vaccinations.”

284. Pfizer vaccines can now be stored longer and at warmer temperatures.

         Q:  How come Pfizer vaccines are now used in more remote areas with delayed delivery?

         A: The initial FDA approval for Pfizer’s vaccine was based on early research that indicated once multi-dose vials were opened and thawed, they had to be used within 5 days or be destroyed.  Pfizer has continued its testing, and now finds it can remain viable after it is thawed for a period up to one month if stored in a refrigerator between 35°F and 46°F.  The FDA has issued a revised authority to permit this longer storage time using more readily available equipment.  “Making COVID-19 vaccines widely available is key to getting people vaccinated and bringing the pandemic to an end,” says Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics and Research.

285. “Covax” is off to a very slow start to help poorer nations become protected.

         Q:  What can we do to help other countries control COVID so it won’t spread to the U.S.?

         A:  “Covax” is a joint venture between the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI), Gavi – the Vaccine Alliance (founded by Bill and Melinda Gates), and UNICEF.  It was set up in August 2020, designed to channel COVID-19 vaccination doses, pre-purchased in very large quantities from major manufacturers, and to portion these out globally to ensure worldwide equity in protection against this disease.

Covax is funded from several sources, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, and UNICEF among them.   The bulk purchasing program would allow the smaller nations to get the vaccines at the same price as larger nations, and nearly 100 of the world’s poorest nations would get theirs free. Almost every country in the world has signed up.  After all, this is a global pandemic.  If any nation has controlled the disease within their borders, a surge from other countries could set off a resurgence.

The main premise and goal of the project are to ensure by the end of 2021 at least 20% of everyone in the world would be vaccinated.  But that target will probably not be met.  Peter Singer, the assistant director-general of the WHO stated recently, “Covax works. It’s an effective mechanism for distributing vaccines.  It has already distributed 65 million vaccines to more than 100 countries – and about a quarter of them wouldn’t have had any vaccines at all right now without Covax.”

The problem is a lack of supply.  Wealthy nations have bought up huge portions of the available supplies for the foreseeable future for their own use.  The Serum Institute of India, one of the largest producers of vaccines in the world, has not delivered any doses since March, diverting all their products to help curb the dramatic surge in cases within India.  “We’ve had a gap of over 150 million doses already up to May,” says Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor to the director-general of the WHO.  “And that could get greater still going into June.”

President Biden last week announced the U.S. will be releasing 1.5 million doses of vaccine to Covax.  That is a very important symbolic donation, but will require many other nations to respond in kind to have any effect in curtailing the pandemic for all the world’s citizens.