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Doctors Begin to Crack Covid’s Mysterious Long-Term Effects

December 2, 2020

(Wall Street Journal) – Nearly a year into the global coronavirus pandemic, scientists, doctors and patients are beginning to unlock a puzzling phenomenon: For many patients, including young ones who never required hospitalization, Covid-19 has a devastating second act. Many are dealing with symptoms weeks or months after they were expected to recover, often with puzzling new complications that can affect the entire body—severe fatigue, cognitive issues and memory lapses, digestive problems, erratic heart rates, headaches, dizziness, fluctuating blood pressure, even hair loss.

Why the U.K. Approved a Coronavirus Vaccine First

December 2, 2020

(New York Times) – The first rigorously tested coronavirus vaccine was given a green light for use on Wednesday in Britain. Doses of the vaccine, made by the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and a small German company, BioNTech, will be injected starting next week, the government said. In leaping ahead of the United States to allow mass inoculations, Britain added to the pressure on American drug regulators, who were summoned to the White House on Tuesday by President Trump’s chief of staff to explain why they were not ready to do the same.

The Covid-19 Vaccines Are a Marvel of Science. Here’s How We Can Make the Best Use of Them

December 2, 2020

(STAT News) – It appears science may have found the Covid-19 pandemic’s off-ramp. Two vaccines developed with stunning speed — and showing remarkable initial efficacy — are poised to be approved for emergency use in the United States in December. A number of other vaccines are expected to follow. Vaccines that prevent symptomatic Covid infection in roughly 95% of people vaccinated — as the data from clinical trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines suggest — should, over time, help the country and the world return to a life where we can travel without quarantining; where sporting events can be played before live audiences, not cardboard cutouts; and where snowstorms are the only reasons school gets canceled.

Warp Speed’s Slaoui Says COVID Spread Speeding Vaccine Development

December 2, 2020

(Medscape) – The rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 is helping speed the development of vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19 by increasing the number of infected candidates needed for trials, said Moncef Slaoui, PhD, the chief science adviser for the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed program. Two additional vaccine candidates that are part of Operation Warp Speed are deep into phase 3 trials, Slaoui said at a livestream event sponsored by the Washington Post

Long-Term-Care Residents and Health Workers Should Get Vaccine First, C.D.C. Panel Says

December 2, 2020

(New York Times) – An independent panel advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Tuesday to recommend that residents and employees of nursing homes and similar facilities be the first people in the United States to receive coronavirus vaccines, along with health care workers who are especially at risk of being exposed to the virus. The panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, voted 13 to 1 during an emergency meeting to make the recommendation. The director of the C.D.C., Dr. Robert R. Redfield, is expected to decide by Wednesday whether to accept it as the agency’s formal guidance to states as they prepare to start giving people the shots as soon as two weeks from now.

EU Plans Vaccines as Regulator Sets Approval Deadline

December 1, 2020

(Medical Xpress) – European countries were given a clear timeframe for the start of their vaccination programmes on Tuesday after the bloc’s medicines regulator said it will decide by December 29 whether to grant emergency approval for the first COVID-19 jabs.  France plans to begin by targeting the most fragile and exposed groups in early 2021, followed by a second campaign for the rest of the population between April and June, President Emmanuel Macron announced.

How a Bidding War for Covid-19 Nurses Hurts the Pandemic Response

December 1, 2020

(Undark) – Early in the pandemic, hospitals were competing for ventilators, Covid tests and personal protective equipment. Now, sites across the country are competing for nurses. The fall surge in Covid cases has turned hospital staffing into a sort of national bidding war, with hospitals willing to pay exorbitant wages to secure the nurses they need. That threatens to shift the supply of nurses toward more affluent areas, leaving rural and urban public hospitals short-staffed as the pandemic worsens, and some hospitals unable to care for critically ill patients.

“We Don’t Even Know Who Is Dead or Alive”: Trapped Inside an Assisted Living Facility During the Pandemic

December 1, 2020

(ProPublica) – When someone in the building died, a notice was often taped to a window in the lobby: “WE REGRET TO ANNOUNCE THE PASSING OF OUR FRIEND….” The signs did not say how or where the friend had died, and because they were eventually removed, they could be easy to miss. In March, as these names began to appear more frequently at Bronxwood, an assisted living facility in New York, Varahn Chamblee tried to keep track. Varahn, who had lived at Bronxwood for almost a year, was president of its resident council. Her neighbors admired her poise and quiet confidence. She spoke regularly with management, but as the coronavirus swept through the five-story building, they told her as little about its progress as they told anyone else.

The Long Haul of Vaccine Results Is Just Beginning

December 1, 2020

(The Atlantic) – he half dose actually began as a manufacturing mistake, and the volunteers who received it were all younger than 55, and younger people often have better responses to vaccines. Plus, the 90 percent efficacy is based on a small number of cases—possibly small enough to create a statistical fluke. The workings of the human immune system are especially un-intuitive, and scientists have offered plausible biological reasons why a half dose might be superior. But given the data available so far, “it’s basically uninterpretable at this point,” Shane Crotty, an immunologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, says. Several scientists said they were glad that these muddled and confusing results from AstraZeneca/Oxford were not the first COVID-19 vaccine data to be released.

Who Will Get the Coronavirus Vaccine First?

December 1, 2020

(New York Times) – After months of deliberation and debate, a panel of independent experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to decide on Tuesday which Americans it will recommend to get the coronavirus vaccine first, while supply is still short. The panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, will vote in a public meeting on Tuesday afternoon, and it is expected to advise that health care workers be first in line, along with residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. If the C.D.C. director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, approves the recommendations, they will be shared with states, which are preparing to receive their first vaccine shipments as soon as mid-December, if the Food and Drug Administration approves an application for emergency use of a vaccine developed by Pfizer.

Coronavirus Was in U.S. Weeks Earlier Than Previously Known, Study Says

December 1, 2020

(NPR) – The coronavirus was present in the U.S. weeks earlier than scientists and public health officials previously thought, and before cases in China were publicly identified, according to a new government study published Monday. The virus and the illness that it causes, COVID-19, were first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, but it wasn’t until about Jan. 20 that the first confirmed COVID-19 case, from a traveler returning from China, was found in the U.S.

How COVID-19 Highlights the Uncertainty of Medical Testing

December 1, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – National COVID test shortages have emphasized testing’s critical role in containing and mitigating the pandemic, but these inconvenient truths remain: A test result is rarely a definitive answer, but instead a single clue at one point in time, to be appraised alongside other clues like symptoms and exposure to those with confirmed cases. The result itself may be falsely positive or negative, or may show an abnormality that doesn’t matter. And even an accurate, meaningful test result is useless (or worse) unless it’s acted on appropriately. These lessons are not unique to COVID-19.

Federal System for Tracking Hospital Beds and COVID-19 Patients Provides Questionable Data

November 30, 2020

(Science) – Yet a different federal COVID-19 data system painted a much more dire picture for the same day, reporting 91% of Wisconsin’s hospital beds were filled. That day was no outlier. A Science examination of HHS Protect and confidential federal documents found the HHS data for three important values in Wisconsin hospitals—beds filled, intensive care unit (ICU) beds filled, and inpatients with COVID-19—often diverge dramatically from those collected by the other federal source, from state-supplied data, and from the apparent reality on the ground.

‘Absolutely Remarkable’: No One Who Got Moderna’s Vaccine in Trial Developed Severe COVID-19

November 30, 2020

(Science) – Continuing the spate of stunning news about COVID-19 vaccines, the biotech company Moderna announced the final results of the 30,000-person efficacy trial for its candidate in a press release today: Only 11 people who received two doses of the vaccine developed COVID-19 symptoms after being infected with the pandemic coronavirus, versus 185 symptomatic cases in a placebo group. That is an efficacy of 94.1%, the company says, far above what many vaccine scientists were expecting just a few weeks ago. More impressive still, Moderna’s candidate had 100% efficacy against severe disease. There were zero such COVID-19 cases among those vaccinated, but 30 in the placebo group.

As Hospitals Fill with COVID-19 Patients, Medical Reinforcements Are Hard to Find

November 30, 2020

(NPR) – Hospitals in much of the country are trying to cope with unprecedented numbers of COVID-19 patients. As of Sunday, 93,238 were hospitalized, an alarming record that far exceeds the two previous peaks in April and July, of just under 60,000 inpatients. But beds and space aren’t the main concern. It’s the work force. Hospitals are worried that staffing levels won’t be able to keep up with demand as doctors, nurses and specialists such as respiratory therapists become exhausted or, worse, become infected or sick themselves.

More Good News for Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate

November 30, 2020

(NPR) – The biotech company Moderna released new data Monday morning that strengthens the case for its COVID-19 vaccine. It concludes the vaccine is 94 percent effective – and strongly protects against serious illness. Based on these latest findings, the company plans to submit an application for emergency use authorization to the Food and Drug Administration today. They build on Moderna’s previously reported findings, based on a smaller number of cases detected in its study of some 30,000 volunteers.

Chinese Doctors Harvested Organs of Car Crash Victims and Patients with Severe Brain Damage

November 27, 2020

(Newsweek) – Six people including several doctors have been imprisoned in southeast China for illegally harvesting organs from traffic accident victims. Local media reports the group removed the livers and kidneys from 11 people at a hospital in Anhui province between 2017 and 2018. The trafficking ring deceived the families of the deceased into believing they had made official organ donations.

Covid Overload: U.S. Hospitals Are Stretched Way Too Thin

November 27, 2020

(New York Times) – From New Mexico to Minnesota to Florida, hospitals are teeming with record numbers of Covid patients. Staff members at smaller hospitals have had to beg larger medical centers repeatedly to take one more, just one more patient, but many of the bigger hospitals have sharply limited the transfers they will accept, their own halls and wards overflowing.

Britain Set to Leap Ahead in Approving Vaccines

November 27, 2020

(New York Times) – Britain asked its drug regulator on Friday to consider AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency approval, forging ahead in the face of considerable uncertainty about the vaccine’s effectiveness as the government tries to corral a pandemic that has killed more than 66,000 people in the country. The request was one of a series of steps that Britain has taken to put itself near the front of the pack of countries hurrying to assess coronavirus vaccine candidates.

For Nurses Feeling the Strain of the Pandemic, Virus Resurgence Is ‘Paralyzing’

November 27, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – Adding to that stress is that nurses are caught betwixt caring for the bedside needs of their patients and implementing policies set by others, such as physician-ordered treatment plans and strict hospital rules to ward off the coronavirus. The push-pull of those forces, amid a fight against a deadly disease, is straining this vital backbone of health providers nationwide, and that could accumulate to unstainable levels if the virus’s surge is not contained this winter, advocates and researchers warn.

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