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How Many People Has the Coronavirus Killed?

September 1, 2020

(Science) – Experts worry that simple reports of excess deaths have led to premature or faulty comparisons of countries’ pandemic responses, and have largely ignored the situation in low- and middle-income countries owing to a lack of data. There are more sophisticated ways to categorize mortality to find out how many people were killed as a direct result of infection with SARS-CoV-2, and how many deaths happened because of other factors associated with the pandemic

In China’s Xinjiang, Forced Medication Accompanies Lockdown

September 1, 2020

(NBC) – The government in China’s far northwest Xinjiang region is resorting to draconian measures to combat the coronavirus, including spraying detainees with acidic disinfectant, physically locking residents in homes, imposing strict quarantines of more than 40 days and arresting those who do not comply. Furthermore, in what experts call a breach of medical ethics, some residents are being coerced into swallowing traditional Chinese medicine despite a lack of rigorous clinical data proving it works, according to government notices, social media posts, and interviews with three people in quarantine in Xinjiang.

First U.S. COVID-19 Reinfection Case Identified in Nevada Study

September 1, 2020

(Medscape) – Researchers for the first time have identified someone in the United States who was reinfected with the novel coronavirus, according to a study that has not yet been reviewed by outside experts.

America Is Running Low on a Crucial Resource for COVID-19 Vaccines

August 31, 2020

(The Atlantic) – In the past seven months, more than 100 COVID-19 vaccines, therapies, and drugs have been pushed into development. But for any of these treatments to make it to humans, they usually have to face another animal first: a monkey. And here, scientists in the United States say they are facing a bottleneck. There just aren’t enough monkeys to go around.

Plan to Expand Global Access to Covid-19 Vaccines Nears Fish-or-Cut Bait Moment

August 31, 2020

(STAT News) – The coming few weeks represent a crucial moment for an ambitious plan to try to secure Covid-19 vaccines for roughly 170 countries around the world without the deep pockets to compete for what will be scarce initial supplies. Under the plan, countries that want to pool resources to buy vaccines must notify the World Health Organization and other organizers — Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, as well as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations — of their intentions by Monday. That means it’s fish-or-cut-bait time for the so-called COVAX facility.

Dermatology Has a Problem with Skin Color

August 31, 2020

(New York Times) – The problem isn’t unique to Covid toes or to social media. Dermatology, the medical specialty devoted to treating diseases of the skin, has a problem with brown and black skin. Though progress has been made in recent years, most textbooks that serve as road maps for diagnosing skin disorders often don’t include images of skin conditions as they appear on people of color. That’s a glaring omission that can lead to misdiagnoses and unnecessary suffering, because many key characteristics of skin disorders — like red patches and purple blotches — may appear differently on people with different complexions, experts say.

Med Students ‘Feel Very Behind’ Because of COVID-Induced Disruptions in Training

August 31, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – COVID-19 is disrupting just about every student’s 2020 education, but medical students have it particularly hard right now. “It’s a nightmare scenario for the class of 2021,” said Jake Berg, a fourth-year student at the Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pikeville. In March, students were abruptly pulled out of hospitals and medical offices, where they normally work with professionals to learn about treating patients. Over the space of less than two weeks, he said, medical students in “pretty much the entire country” transitioned from seeing patients in person to learning online.

Your Coronavirus Test Is Positive. Maybe It Shouldn’t Be.

August 31, 2020

(New York Times) – Some of the nation’s leading public health experts are raising a new concern in the endless debate over coronavirus testing in the United States: The standard tests are diagnosing huge numbers of people who may be carrying relatively insignificant amounts of the virus. Most of these people are not likely to be contagious, and identifying them may contribute to bottlenecks that prevent those who are contagious from being found in time. But researchers say the solution is not to test less, or to skip testing people without symptoms, as recently suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

China Needs to Train More Doctors

August 31, 2020

(The Economist) – Distrust of local medicine is well founded. In 2016 just 0.2% of rural doctors in village clinics held at least a bachelor of science degree in medicine. Even in township-level health centres, only just under half of doctors in general practice (known as family medicine in America) are university graduates. China’s best medical colleges are trying to set eight years of training as a norm. But despite schemes offering tuition-free medical education to those willing to work in rural areas, most graduates want jobs in large cities.

The Coronavirus Is Most Deadly if You Are Older and Male–New Data Reveals the Risks

August 28, 2020

(Nature) – For every 1,000 people infected with the coronavirus who are under the age of 50, almost none will die. For people in their fifties and early sixties, about five will die — more men than women. The risk then climbs steeply as the years accrue. For every 1,000 people in their mid-seventies or older who are infected, around 116 will die. These are the stark statistics obtained by some of the first detailed studies into the mortality risk for COVID-19.

Google Offer to Help Others With the Tricky Ethics of AI

August 28, 2020

(Wired) – Companies pay cloud computing providers like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google big money to avoid operating their own digital infrastructure. Google’s cloud division will soon invite customers to outsource something less tangible than CPUs and disk drives—the rights and wrongs of using artificial intelligence. The company plans to launch new AI ethics services before the end of the year. Initially, Google will offer others advice on tasks such as spotting racial bias in computer vision systems, or developing ethical guidelines that govern AI projects. Longer term, the company may offer to audit customers’ AI systems for ethical integrity, and charge for ethics advice.

Coronavirus: ‘Reassuring’ Study of Children’s ‘Tiny’ Risk

August 28, 2020

(BBC) – Parents should be “reassured” Covid-19 has not caused the deaths of any otherwise healthy schoolchildren in the UK, researchers say. Children’s risk of needing hospital treatment for coronavirus is “tiny” and critical care “even tinier”, they say. However, black children, those who are obese and very young babies have a slightly higher risk.

Fear, Dread, and Panic: Some Covid-19 Survivors Feel Stalked by Possibility of Reinfection

August 28, 2020

(STAT News) – Anxiety about the coronavirus is widespread, and not just among older adults and those with weakened immune systems. But that fear is especially strong among people who have already experienced the severe symptoms of Covid-19, and are desperate to avoid getting reinfected. Those worries were inflamed this week by news of three confirmed cases of reinfection in Hong Kong, Belgium, and the Netherlands. While the Hong Kong man’s second illness was much milder than the first — something many scientists think will likely be the case for most people who get infected again — we still know very little about the likelihood and risks of reinfection.

COVID-19 Could Permanently Increase the Amount of Illness the Health Care System Handles

August 28, 2020

(The Verge) – After the first nine months battling COVID-19, it’s clear that we’ll probably be dealing with COVID-19 forever. That means the public health system in the US will have to change to accommodate it and permanently incorporate COVID-19 into doctors’ offices, virus surveillance, and hospital planning.

China Secretly Built a Vast Infrastructure to Imprison Muslims

August 28, 2020

(BuzzFeed) – China has secretly built scores of massive new prison and internment camps in the past three years, dramatically escalating its campaign against Muslim minorities even as it publicly claimed the detainees had all been set free. The construction of these purpose-built, high-security camps — some capable of housing tens of thousands of people — signals a radical shift away from the country’s previous makeshift use of public buildings, like schools and retirement homes, to a vast and permanent infrastructure for mass detention.

Anti-Covid-19 Medicines Are Being Approved Too Easily

August 27, 2020

(The Economist) – That regulators move fast in emergencies is to be applauded. But these three examples have raised worries that sometimes they are moving too fast, and possibly for the wrong reasons. In one instance, indeed, things have gone full circle. Hydroxychloroquine’s approval was rescinded on June 15th, after a series of well-conducted trials showed that it had no effect on covid-19. The worry is that the other two approaches may prove similarly futile—diverting attention and effort from more promising avenues or, worse, causing actual harm.

Immigration Status, Housing, and Food-Service Work Explain Covid-19’s Burden on Latinos

August 27, 2020

(STAT News) – A new analysis of one state’s Covid-19 data lays bare some of the reasons behind the disproportionate burden of Covid-19 infections on people of color, pinpointing in particular factors that heightened risks for Latino residents. Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health tallied confirmed Covid-19 cases in all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns and determined that the biggest predictor of infection was being a recent immigrant to the U.S., followed by living in a household with a large number of people and working in the food-service industry. But that was true only for Latinos, not Black people.

Another COVID Mystery: Patients Survive Ventilator, But Linger in a Coma

August 27, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – After the removal, it typically takes hours, maybe a day, for the patient to return to consciousness. The body needs that time to clear the drugs that keep the patient sedated and comfortable — able to tolerate intubation and mechanical ventilation. But doctors across the U.S. and in other countries have noted a troubling phenomenon associated with some COVID cases: Even after extubation, some patients remain unconscious for days, weeks or longer. There’s no official term for the problem, but it’s being called a “prolonged” or “persistent” coma or unresponsiveness.

They Cared for Some of New York’s Most Vulnerable Communities. Then 12 Died.

August 27, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – The U.S. relies on immigrant labor — from doctors to nurses to health aides — to keep its health system afloat. And now immigrant health workers are dying at high rates during the pandemic. Lost on the Frontline, a joint project by KHN and The Guardian, has found that nearly one-third of health care workers who were confirmed to have died of COVID-19 were born outside the U.S. However, immigrants account for just 14% of the U.S. population and 18% of its health care force.

What if the First Coronavirus Vaccines Aren’t the Best?

August 27, 2020

(New York Times) – The New York Times has confirmed that at least 88 candidates are under active preclinical investigation in laboratories across the world, with 67 of them slated to begin clinical trials before the end of 2021. Those trials may begin after millions of people have already received the first wave of vaccines. It will take months to see if any of them are safe and effective. Nevertheless, the scientists developing them say their designs may be able to prompt more powerful immune responses, or be much cheaper to produce, or both — making them the slow and steady winners of the race against the coronavirus.

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