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License-Plate Scans Aid Crime-Solving but Spur Little Privacy Debate

March 11, 2021

(Wall Street Journal) – License-plate readers are feeding immense databases with details on Americans’ driving habits, helping solve crimes despite little public awareness about the breadth of the data collected or how it is used. The vast network of automated license-plate scanners, which has been growing for decades, makes it nearly impossible to drive anywhere in the U.S. without being observed. The scanners first appeared on telephone poles and police cars, then on toll plazas and bridges, and in parking lots. Today, scanners are routinely placed on tow trucks and municipal garbage trucks, gathering images of plates on cars they pass while making their rounds.

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‘Reassuring’ Data on COVID-19 Vaccines in Pregnancy

March 11, 2021

(Medscape) – Pregnant women can safely get vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for COVID-19, surveillance data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest. More than 30,000 women who received these vaccines have reported pregnancies through the CDC’s V-Safe voluntary reporting system, and their rates of complications are not significantly different from those of unvaccinated pregnant women, said Tom Shimabukuro, MD, MPH, MBA, deputy director of the CDC Immunization Safety Office.

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MIS-C Follow-Up Proves Challenging Across Pediatric Hospitals

March 11, 2021

(Medscape) – The discovery of any novel disease or condition means a steep learning curve as physicians must develop protocols for diagnosis, management, and follow-up on the fly in the midst of admitting and treating patients. Medical society task forces and committees often release interim guidance during the learning process, but each institution ultimately has to determine what works for them based on their resources, clinical experience, and patient population. But when the novel condition demands the involvement of multiple different specialties, the challenge of management grows even more complex — as does follow-up after patients are discharged. Such has been the story with multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a complication of COVID-19 that shares some features with Kawasaki disease.

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Health Officials Debate Vaccine Priority for People with Pre-Existing Conditions

March 10, 2021

(Axios) – Most states are making people with underlying conditions eligible for coronavirus vaccines, but which conditions differ by state and sometimes even by county, the New York Times reports.  The big picture: With health care workers and the oldest Americans increasingly vaccinated, public health officials are grappling with who should be next in line — a decision that could have life-or-death consequences.

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Nursing Home Residents Can Get Hugs Again, Feds Say

March 10, 2021

(Associated Press) – Nursing home residents vaccinated against COVID-19 can get hugs again from their loved ones, and all residents may enjoy more indoor visits, the government said Wednesday in a step toward pre-pandemic normalcy. The policy guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, comes as coronavirus cases and deaths among nursing home residents have plummeted in recent weeks at the same time that vaccination accelerated. People living in long-term care facilities have borne a cruel toll from the pandemic. They represent about 1% of the U.S. population, but account for 1 in 3 deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

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Drugmaker Lilly Says Covid Treatment Slashed Hospitalization and Deaths

March 10, 2021

(Medical Xpress) – US drugmaker Eli Lilly’s combination of two synthetic antibodies reduced hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19 by 87 percent in trials, the company said Wednesday. The results come from a Phase 3 clinical trial of 769 people aged 12 and over with mild-to-moderate COVID-19, who were considered high-risk because of their age or underlying conditions.

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Two Variants May Account for Half of New York City’s Virus Cases, Health Officials Said.

March 10, 2021

(New York Times) – Genetic analysis suggests that roughly half of coronavirus cases in New York City now are caused by two new forms of the coronavirus, city officials reported on Wednesday. One of the so-called variants, first detected in the city, now accounts for nearly 40 percent of all cases analyzed in local laboratories. The increase in the variant, B.1.526, was so striking that officials said they believed it was more infectious than the original form of the coronavirus.

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What Childhood Vaccine Rates Can, and Can’t, Teach Us About Covid Vaccines

March 10, 2021

(Kaiser Health News) – Polls show Americans are increasingly interested in getting vaccinated against covid-19, but such surveys are largely national, leaving a big question: When the vaccines become available to the general public, will enough people get it in your county, city or neighborhood to keep your community safe? Data on childhood vaccines, such as the one that protects against measles, mumps and rubella, provide hints. They show that the collective protection known as herd immunity can break down in pockets where not enough people choose to be immunized. Experts say at least 92% of the population must be vaccinated against measles to prevent it from spreading.

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Five-Day Course of Oral Antiviral Appears to Stop SARS-CoV-2 in Its Tracks

March 10, 2021

(Medscape) – A single pill of the investigational drug molnupiravir taken twice a day for 5 days eliminated SARS-CoV-2 from the nasopharynx of 49 participants. That led Carlos del Rio, MD, distinguished professor of medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, to suggest a future in which a drug like molnupiravir could be taken in the first few days of symptoms to prevent severe disease, similar to Tamiflu for influenza.

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Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Neutralizes Brazil Variant in Lab Study

March 10, 2021

(Medscape) – The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE was able to neutralize a new variant of the coronavirus spreading rapidly in Brazil, according to a laboratory study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Monday. Blood taken from people who had been given the vaccine neutralized an engineered version of the virus that contained the same mutations carried on the spike portion of the highly contagious P.1 variant first identified in Brazil, the study conducted by scientists from the companies and the University of Texas Medical Branch found.

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Paris Hospitals Near Full Capacity as Severe COVID Cases Surge

March 9, 2021

(Medical Xpress) – Intensive care units at hospitals in the Paris region are nearly saturated with COVID-19 patients, health authorities warned Tuesday, with doctors now putting off non-urgent operations in order to free up more beds. The surge in cases comes ahead of a government crisis meeting Wednesday, with officials hoping to avoid a new lockdown for the capital as the fast-spreading “British” variant of the coronavirus hits France.

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Africa CDC Director on the Continent’s Outlook for Vaccinations

March 9, 2021

(NPR) – Dr. John Nkengasong, the director for the African Union’s Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, says one reason for the low number of deaths so far is Africa’s young population — the median age there is about 20 years old, and the recovery rate is high. But a year into the pandemic, African countries are met with newer, more complex challenges — like navigating inequities surrounding the vaccine, critical shortages in oxygen and staving off a variant that emerged in South Africa that has already managed to creep into dozens of other countries.

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‘War Doesn’t Even Compare’: A Year in the Life of a Traveling Nurse

March 9, 2021

(NPR) – The American Association of Colleges of Nurses says that several factors are contributing to the shortage in nurses, including insufficient enrollment and faculty at nursing schools to meet the demand, a significant number of nurses reaching retirement age, and high stress levels that are driving nurses to leave the profession. And on top of that, health care workers are also falling ill and dying from the virus.

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The Pandemic Can’t End While Wealthy Nations Hoard Shots

March 9, 2021

(Wired) – The first year of the pandemic was an emergency. The arrival of vaccines that might end the emergency relaxes the pressure a bit—and in the pause, problems that got submerged in last year’s chaos are now bubbling up. Even though vaccines are still scarce—in the US, most people who want a shot still can’t get one—the rich nations of the world have promised manufacturers to buy many times more doses than they need. That is threatening to choke off vaccine supply needed by the global south. 

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CDC Data Strengthens Link Between Obesity and Severe COVID

March 9, 2021

(Medscape) – Officials have previously linked being overweight or obese to a greater risk for more severe COVID-19. A report today from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adds numbers and some nuance to the association. Data from nearly 150,000 US adults hospitalized with COVID-19 nationwide indicate that risk for more severe disease outcomes increases along with body mass index (BMI). The risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization and death associated with obesity was particularly high among people younger than 65.

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FDA Warns Against Using Ivermectin to Treat COVID-19

March 9, 2021

(Medscape) – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued guidance warning consumers against using the antiparasitic drug ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19. The agency says it issued the guidance on Friday in light of growing interest in the drug as a COVID-19 treatment and multiple reports of patients hospitalized or needing medical support “after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for horses. “Ivermectin, which is not an antiviral, has not been approved by the FDA for treating or preventing COVID-19, the guidance emphasized.

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Russia’s Covid-19 Vaccine Is Embraced Abroad, Snubbed at Home

March 9, 2021

(The Wall Street Journal) – Last summer, Russia was the first nation to announce its approval of a Covid-19 vaccine. Dozens of countries from Mexico to Iran have since ordered millions of doses of the shot, known as Sputnik V. But at home, Russia’s vaccination campaign has sputtered in the midst of one of the world’s highest levels of vaccine hesitancy. While the vaccine is free and widely available, only 3.5% of Russians have received at least one shot, compared with 17.1% in the U.S. and 32.1% in the U.K., according to Our World in Data, a project based at Oxford University that tracks the global vaccine rollout. Recent surveys show that less than a third of Russians are willing to get the Sputnik V vaccine.

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Fully Vaccinated People Can Gather Without Masks, CDC Says

March 8, 2021

(Associated Press) – Fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing, according to long-awaited guidance from federal health officials. The recommendations also say that vaccinated people can come together in the same way — in a single household — with people considered at low-risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren.

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Push Is on for States to Ban Organ Transplant Discrimination

March 8, 2021

(Kaiser Health News) – Denying organ transplants to people with intellectual and neurodevelopmental disabilities like Down syndrome or autism is common in the United States, even though it is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to one widely cited 2008 study, 44% of organ transplant centers said they would not add a child with some level of neurodevelopmental disability to the organ transplant list. Eighty-five percent might consider the disability as a factor in deciding whether to list the person.

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The Lost Year: What the Pandemic Cost Teenagers

March 8, 2021

(ProPublica) – In Hobbs, New Mexico, the high school closed and football was cancelled, while just across the state line in Texas, students seemed to be living nearly normal lives. Here’s how the pandemic school closures exact their emotional toll on young people.

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