Saturday, May 29, 2021

Stop the presses! — New variant in Vietnam? Just saw this on Twitter and I had to change my whole layout just when I was about to post. Two hours ago on Reuters, ten hours ago in The Washington Post — and I intended to write about the dearth of news on COVID in the general news media right now.

So here’s the point. Have you noticed that information about COVID is harder to find in many of the general news sources now? They tend to focus on immediate topics like politics, disasters, crime, and the economy. This confidence not only reinforces the feeling that we are getting back to normal, it ignores all the new information that comes out every day. In the meantime, the pandemic is still with us and significant research is underway on the impact of this virus on our world, our health, and our future. In an effort to keep up, I turn to subscription newsletters. In these you will find out about studies of COVID in children, long COVID, new treatments, variants, genomic testing, vaccine studies, and other information that may not hit the headlines.

Here are 8 newsletters I currently subscribe to with examples of the most recent stories:

  • CIDRAP : Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota. https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/
    • A daily report on recent studies, for example:
    • “Children have more complications with COVID than with flu, study finds,” An international study has found that children who have contracted COVID have more frequent and higher hospitalization rates that children who had influenza. There is a link to the study.
  • CNN Health
    • A general newsletter with nontechnical articles related to research and the pandemic. Subjects for this week included vaccines in teens, uneven vaccination rates in the United States, and how the CDC needs to win back trust.
    • Subscribe at https://www.cnn.com/specials/results-are-in
  • Gareth Vipers, WSJ
    • A briefing on news stories in the Wall Street Journal related to COVID, such as:
      1. Russia has developed an animal vaccine called Carnivac-Cov which has successfully produces an immune response in cats, dogs, mink, and foxes. It is based on inactivated virus and two shots are required. The animals haven’t been shown to spread the virus to humans, but the virus has been shown to affect a variety of animals in facilities such as zoos and mink farms. (See Pandemic Day 307: Lions and Tigers and More.)
Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2021.
  • Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, COVID-19 Situation Report
    • A weekly newsletter that updates statistics on cases and deaths worldwide, vaccination progress, vaccine releases, and summarizes recent studies, for example this week:
    • A new report on optimizing school ventilation and an update on Sinopharm (China) vaccine phase 3 clinical trials, SARS-COV-2 origin investigations, and breakthrough (post-vaccine) infections. All with links to relevant studies.
  • Medical News Today
    • Daily articles on recent research, such as this one today:
    • A study of 900 respondents in the UK shows that 57% experienced improvement to symptoms of long COVID following vaccination. 13.7% of people who test positive for COVID-19 still have symptoms 4 months later, including fatigue, muscle pain, brain fog, shortness of breath, and loss of taste of smell. People who received the Moderna vaccine reported the most improvement in this study.
  • MMWR: The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the CDC.
    • Focuses on one or two recent studies. For example:
    • “Patterns in COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage, by Social Vulnerability and Urbanicity — United States, December 14, 2020–May 1, 2021,” an important study with implications for improving health messaging and vaccination accessibility.
  • Nature Briefing
    • A variety of broad-based articles in the natural sciences which includes a COVID-19 update. Today’s includes:
    • The discovery of antibody-producing cells in the bone marrow of people who have recovered from COVID suggests that immunity produced from infection or even vaccines may last for decades. This may mean future vaccines will be directed to protecting us against variants. Another article discusses how our understanding of human immunity is expanding as we study the immune response to COVID.
  • Science News Coronavirus Update

There is it–some of the information that falls in my inbox every day showing the breadth of knowledge being accumulated about COVID every day. I want to share some other good sources of information that come in the forms of podcasts, but it will have to be another day. I will mention the BMJ Webinars which cover a topic in depth every few weeks. If you can’t wait, look here: https://www.bmj.com/covid-19-webinars. And of course I follow selected sources on Twitter.

News coverage does persist, however, and I want to give a shout-out to The Los Angeles Times (Friday, May 28, 2021) for yesterday’s worldwide perspective on the pandemic called: “The COVID-19 Pandemic in Five Graphs.” Clear graphs here, and no sugar-coating. The article highlights the unpredictability of this virus which has surprised us with its variants and has shown that countries like India that were thought to be success stories can suffer terrible setbacks. Even countries with high vaccination rates like Uruguay and Hungary have had high death rates. We have much to learn about the variables which affect infection and death rates even in the presence of vaccines.

Whether you see it in the headlines or not, COVID has stimulated an amazing breadth of research in fields such as psychology, sociology, international relations, physiology, biochemistry . . . and so many more. We will be putting the pieces of this puzzle together for a long time.

Where do you learn what’s going on with COVID? I would love to expand my sources.

Last time?

POSTSCRIPT: On a personal note:

Surprise milestone today! I asked my hairdresser if we would be taking our masks off after June 15, which is the official California unmasking date, and she said I could take it off today. She explained that she would leave hers on because she sees different people all day long. I usually do what the people around me are doing, out of consideration for their preferences, but today . . . well, it’s a one-person shop and we’re both vaccinated, so I took it off. It felt good.

Today’s Notable Headlines

“Vietnam detects hybrid of Indian and UK COVID-19 variants,” Reuters, May 29, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/vietnam-detects-hybrid-indian-uk-covid-19-variant-2021-05-29/

“Children have more complications with COVID than with flu, study finds,” CIDRAP, May 28, 2021. https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2021/05/covid-19-scan-may-28-2021

“Patterns in COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage, by Social Vulnerability and Urbanicity — United States, December 14, 2020–May 1, 2021,” MMWR, CDC, May 28, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7022e1.htm?s_cid=mm7022e1_e&ACSTrackingID=USCDC_921-DM58410&ACSTrackingLabel=MMWR%20Early%20Release%20-%20Vol.%2070%2C%20May%2028%2C%202021&deliveryName=USCDC_921-DM58410

“Vaccination may ease symptoms of long COVID,” Medical News Today, May 26, 2021. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/vaccination-may-ease-symptoms-of-long-covid?utm_source=Sailthru%20Email&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=newsAlerts&utm_term=coronavirus&utm_content=2021-05-28&apid=36911271&rvid=fa7c2c38d4d1e41b83e8016b052dc63c6d6ff4a940cbaa533edc93e1a81aab24

“Russia Rolls Out Covid-19 Vaccine for Animals,” The Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-rolls-out-covid-19-vaccine-for-animals-11622128581?mod=djemHL_t

“Had COVID? You’ll probably make antibodies for a lifetime,” Nature, May 26, 2021. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01442-9?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=6642113fdd-briefing-dy-20210527&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-6642113fdd-45876550

“The COVID-19 pandemic in five graphs,” The Los Angeles Times, May 25, 2021. https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-05-25/global-covid-19-pandemic-5-graphs-continents-cases-deaths-vaccines

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. I intend to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, as a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary world crisis.

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