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US Statue of Liberty with Mask

US Hits Another Record High For New Covid-19 Cases This Week 

The United States reported 87,164 new Covid-19 cases as of Thursday night, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, which has been recording data on the pandemic since it first began. This marks the most new cases recorded in a given day in the US, however, breaking this record is unfortunately nothing new for a country that has remained relatively relaxed in terms of Covid-19 health and safety restrictions. In fact, the previous record in America was set less than a week ago when 83,731 new cases were reported. 

The US is about to hit 9 million total coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Across the country 41 states have reported a 10% increase in new Covid-19 cases, and all 50 states have been reporting a steady rise in cases in general. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), spoke with the press recently and claimed he won’t be surprised when the US starts seeing 100,000 new cases appear everyday at the rate we’re going currently. 

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“We’ll cross 100,000 infections at some point in the next couple of weeks, probably. We might do it this week, if all the states report on time.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also predicted that by Thanksgiving the US could see 243,000 Covid-19 related deaths. At least 229,000 individuals have already died in America and there have been 8,940,000 cases. 

Ohio, specifically, has set a new high for most new Covid-19 cases to appear in one day twice within the past week, and this trend is proving to be pretty common throughout the nation. North Dakota also broke its record for daily new case numbers with 1,222 new infections reported; currently only 13% of staffed hospital beds remain open in the state. 

According to Johns Hopkins, the average number of daily new coronavirus cases is up by 24% in America. However, testing has also increased by 9% during the same time period that those increases were measured, meaning these high rates of infections have always existed, the general public and healthcare professionals of the nation just didn’t have all the proper data, and still likely don’t.

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The Covid Tracking Project has been monitoring the nation’s hospital bed occupancy rates throughout the past nine months, and this week the group reported that 13 states are struggling to cope with high hospitalization rates. Dr. Wendy Long is the president and CEO of the Tennessee Hospital Association, and recently spoke on these struggles to the press. 

“Hospitals are doing all that they can do to increase capacity, but their ability to do that is not limitless. That is especially true as we see more and more health care providers who are becoming ill from the virus and having to quarantine at home.”

The nation’s leading healthcare experts have claimed that the data shows mask mandates are a key strategy in lowering new infection/hospitalization rates. In hospitals where more than 75% of the patients came from counties that required masks in public settings, hospitalization rates began declining between the months of July and October after the initial wave of the pandemic calmed down. On the opposite end, hospitals that were treating fewer than 25% of patients from those counties saw hospitalization increases that reached 200%!

Areas of the nation that require masks to be worn in public settings are also likely to have all the other standard health and safety procedures we’ve seen put into play as well, meaning there are areas of the nation that are able to get the virus under control, however, if America as a whole doesn’t begin to get on the same page in terms of a Covid-19 plan, cases will continue to grow and citizens will continue to die.

Two Positive Covid Tests

New Study Shows Covid-19 Immunity Wearing Off In Patients Who Were Positive

A study of hundreds of thousands of individuals in the United Kingdom suggests that immunity to the coronavirus is gradually wearing off in some individuals. Researchers sent out finger-prick tests to more than 365,000 randomly selected households in England and found that over the course of three months, Covid-19 antibody presence in the UK decreased by more than 26%. 

The research team behind the study recently spoke to the press about the findings that were taken after three-rounds of national surveillance. They sent out the tests 12, 18, and 24 weeks after the first peak of infections in England and observed a significant decline in detectable antibodies as time progressed. 

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“This is consistent with evidence that immunity to seasonal coronaviruses declines over 6 to 12 months after infection and emerging data that also detected a decrease over time in antibody levels in individuals followed in longitudinal studies.”

The study was published on Monday by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, a market research company. The initial data in the study was recorded in June, and found that 6% of individuals who took the tests had an antibody response to the coronavirus. By September that percentage had dropped down to 4.4%.

Antibodies are the proteins in your body that are created to fight infection. The type of test the group used to find these antibodies is called an IgG test, and they’re specially designed to only detect one kind of antibody; the coronavirus. This way if the test detects one of the other antibodies your body just naturally produces it won’t flag it for the study. 

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The results also confirm that asymptomatic individuals are likely to lose their detectable antibodies sooner when compared to symptomatic individuals who had more severe infections. Younger people who have recovered from the virus had a slower loss of antibodies compared to individuals aged 75 or older. 

It’s important to note also that even if an individual has Covid-19 antibodies in their system, it’s still unknown how immune an individual will be from potential reinfection and how long that immunity will last. The study also had its limits as well, as the samples weren’t taken from the same individuals every time, but instead just focused on the UK population in general. 

“This very large study has shown that the proportion of people with detectable antibodies is falling over time. It is essential that everyone continues to follow guidance to reduce the risk to themselves and others.”

Immune responses are being heavily studied as well throughout the world. This study is showing that the virus acts like a cold, in the sense that once an individual is infected they’re not immune from getting a cold again, however, they’re body will have a stronger immune response the next time they’re infected. Also like a cold, individuals with more robust immune systems will likely have a quicker response time and are more likely to carry antibodies after the fact. 

If anything, the researchers behind this study want the world to realize that if you get the virus and survive, you are not in the clear yet, and we all must remain diligent in the way we protect ourselves and our loved ones from potential infection.

US Fights Covid-19

US Hits Highest Weekly Average Of Covid-19 Cases Since Beginning Of Pandemic 

The new seven-day average of coronavirus cases in the US hit 68,767 on Sunday, topping the previous peak average of 67,293 reported back in July, and setting the record for highest number of new cases appearing within seven-days. This past Friday and Saturday marked the two highest single days of new cases, with more than 83,000 cases being added each day. 

Health experts claim that this is the resurgence of cases that they were warning about in the summer that would spike in the fall and winter. They also warn that this will likely be the worst wave of infection the US has seen so far. The US has already seen more than 8.6 million cases of Covid-19 and 225,230 deaths; putting us in one of the most dangerous and vulnerable positions in the world in terms of this virus.  US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb spoke with the press this past weekend about the new surges in cases.

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“We’re entering what’s going to be the steep slope of the curve. If we don’t implement some forceful policy intervention that could curb the spread this is going to continue to accelerate, and it’s going to be more difficult to get under control.”

Gottlieb claims the best way to get these outbreaks under control is a national mask mandate. “A mandate can be expressly limited to the next two months, it’s easier to wear a mask in the winter than the summer. The inconvenience would allow the country to preserve health-care capacity and keep more schools and businesses open.” Deaths are already projected to increase based on these new weekly spikes anyway, and the best way to prevent that from continuing to happen would be a mask-mandate; especially since the reinstatement of a nation-wide lockdown has seemed out of the question for months now. 

According to data released by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, if 95% of Americans wore masks in public, more than 100,000 lives could be saved in the US through February. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, claims that since so many Americans are adamant about not wearing a mask in public, a mandate would be the only way to really curb the spread entirely. 

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More than two-thirds of states have reported an increase in new Covid-19 cases this past week. No state is reporting above a 10% in terms of  improvement and case numbers going down. In El Paso County, Texas, residents are seeing one of the biggest spikes in the country, and have reported that all intensive care units in their hospitals are at 100% capacity. Because of this the county has implemented a curfew for the next two weeks. 

While researchers around the world are racing to develop a vaccine, it’s naive to think one will be ready, safe, and effective enough to be distributed in time to combat this second wave that we’re currently enduring. Gottlieb claims the next two to three months will just have to be dealt with as we’ve been. Fauci, however, is still confident that a vaccine will be available sooner rather than later. 

“We will know whether a vaccine is safe and effective by the end of November, beginning of December. The amount of doses that will be available in December will not certainly be enough to vaccinate everybody — you’ll have to wait several months into 2021.”

For now, the most imperative thing citizens in the US can do is listen to their healthcare providers and take all the necessary safety precautions to protect you and your loved ones from these spikes in cases. Also, make sure in the next week you either get out to vote early, or mail in your absentee ballot so that you vote for the candidate you want assisting you and your community/state/country through the rest of this global health crisis.

Elder Woman Wearing Mask

Who’s At The Greatest Risk Of Experiencing ‘Long Covid’?

A recent study linked age and number of Covid-19 symptoms in a positive individual to longer-lasting health problems brought on by the virus. What they found specifically is that women aged 50-60 are at the greatest risk of developing “long Covid,” which is when positive Covid patients experience ongoing symptoms for weeks, or months, after they’ve already beat the virus and are considered to be negative. 

Dr Claire Steves and Professor Tim Spector at King’s College London led the study which analyzed data from 4,182 Covid Symptom Study App users who had been consistently logging their health status after testing positive for the virus. 

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In general, based on the App data, women were twice as likely to suffer from Covid-19 symptoms that lasted longer than a month when compared to men in the same age bracket, however, after the age of 60 everyone’s risk level is relatively the same; under the assumption that they don’t have any other underlying health conditions. 

Increased age was a general association that came along with the heightened risk levels for long Covid. 22% of people aged over 70 in the study reported suffering from symptoms for four or more weeks after their initial diagnosis. For comparison only 10% of individuals aged between 18 and 30-years-old reported the same experience. 

Gender differences only appeared for individuals aged between 50 and 60-years-old, where the data suggested a women’s risk was nearly double that of a man in the same age range. Professor Spector claims these results aren’t entirely surprising, as the same trend exists for autoimmune diseases in general in relation to how they impact men versus women of that age. 

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“Things like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are two to three times more common in women until just before menopause, and then it becomes more similar. My guess is that gender differences in the way the immune system responds to coronavirus may account for this difference in risk.”

The study has also not been peer reviewed yet but it is available for viewing in preprint. The results also showed that individuals who experience five or more Covid-19 symptoms within their first week of developing the virus are at a heightened risk for experiencing long Covid symptoms as well. 

 “There’s certainly a group of long Covid sufferers that have this multi-system immune–like disease, where they get gastrointestinal problems, skin rashes, nerve problems and brain fog – so the whole body is involved rather than just one bit,” claimed Spector, who went on to explain that the immune system is likely working differently in individuals who experience these multiple body system symptoms. Those individual’s immune systems have to work a lot harder and for a lot longer to get the entire body back on track when compared to patients who contract the virus but only experience minimal to no symptoms. 

The study also suggested that individuals who have preexisting health conditions such as being medically overweight or having asthma and other respiratory diseases could increase ones risk to long Covid.

Airport Security

How Covid-19 Has Changed The Way We Go Through Airport Security

The Covid-19 pandemic has truly changed the entire world and the multitude of industries that run it. One of the biggest industries that has been impacted internationally by the virus has been the travel/tourism industry. Obviously a virus that spreads through close contact in public spaces would disrupt the businesses that make their money from hundreds of strangers coming in close proximity with one another, however, now that the world has been enduring this pandemic for eight months, the industry has adjusted to better accommodate for the new normal we’re all living in. 

Specifically the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in airports have taken on a whole list of health and safety procedure protocols to protect themselves and passengers from contracting the virus as they pass through airport security checkpoints. 

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Obviously travelling seems like it should be out of the question for anyone in the middle of a global health crisis involving a virus that spreads easily, however, as America has proven if there’s an opportunity to do things normally, people are going to jump on that opportunity, especially when flights are the cheapest they’ve been in years. 

When travelers first enter the airport they’ll notice a difference in experience almost immediately. Individuals are prompted to scan their own boarding passes when they first enter the TSA area of the airport. They’re prompted to do this at every checkpoint throughout the airport, this way TSA workers don’t have to be handed thousands of passes during a given day and can reduce the risk of cross-contamination. 

In a pre-pandemic context, one of the biggest discrepancies all airport travelers could agree on was the limited amount of liquids you’re able to take with you on a plane. However, now that we’re living in a time where hand sanitizer is everyone’s best friend, airlines are allowing travelers to pack sanitizer in containers up to 12 ounces. The hand sanitizer just needs to be removed from the luggage so that it can pass through a separate X-ray screening; this is to ensure the liquid is actually sanitizer. 

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Other liquids still must be less than 3.4 fluid ounces and passengers need to be adamant about checking to make sure all liquids and aerosols meet those requirements. If not, the passengers themselves will need to remove the item to prevent cross-contamination which will just take up even more time, so be extra careful when packing any liquids or aerosols that aren’t hand sanitizer. 

Since many individuals are opting not to buy any food or drinks at the airports, TSA is allowing for any meals or snacks that one wants to take through security to go through as long as it’s removed from the luggage and in a clear plastic bag placed in a separate tray. This small measure has already been thought to decrease the possibility of cross-contamination greatly. 

TSA agents have also been installing acrylic barriers in all major airports around the country. These barriers are specifically designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 between travelers and TSA agents. They’re being placed at all TSA podiums, X-Ray areas, secondary search areas, and checked baggage drop-off locations. 

The TSA has also begun testing out self-service facial recognition technology that can immediately verify a passengers identity. The technology is currently being tested at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport where passengers are prompted to scan their own ID’s so that the machine can verify their identity and boarding information. If the technology proves to be successful in the coming weeks it will likely be implemented in all major airports throughout the country.

US To Hit 8 Million Covid-19 Cases As Daily Rates Of Infection Surpass 50,000

Experts are warning for a tough and long winter in the US as daily Covid-19 infections surpass 50,000 and the death toll nears 220,000.

Vaccine Covid

Two Potential Covid-19 Vaccines Could Meet The FDA’s Authorization Guidelines By 2021

Over 190 countries have joined the effort to create some sort of Covid-19 vaccine or drug treatment. According to the World Health Organization, of those trials 42 are being evaluated in clinical studies and 10 have already reached the late-stage of clinical testing. 

For America, however, there are only two coronavirus vaccines that could potentially meet the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization guidelines by the end of 2020. In normal circumstances, new vaccines have to undergo a very long process to secure FDA approval for public use, however, in emergent situations the FDA can approve of a vaccine to be used; such as during a global pandemic that’s killing hundreds of thousands. 

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The Covid-19 pandemic qualifies as a “biological threat” under FDA guidelines, meaning the administration can grant emergency use authorization. Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), doesn’t mean that the FDA will just approve of the first vaccine to appear, but instead means they won’t be as stringent as they normally are when working to approve of a vaccine. 

The FDA recently claimed that it “does not expect to be able to make a favorable benefit-risk determination that would support an EUA without phase 3 data that included, among other factors, a high proportion of enrolled subjects (numbering well over 3,000 vaccine recipients) followed for serious adverse events and adverse events of special interest for at least one month after completion of the full vaccination regimen.”

The FDA would also want to see late-stage clinical data on the subjects who received the vaccine at least two months after they completed the full vaccine regimen. What will happen now is an advisory committee that consists of infectious disease experts not working for the FDA will review the two vaccine options and determine if it’s eligible for EUA. 

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Drug-makers would need to file for EUA of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of November in order for it to have any chance at receiving FDA approval by the end of 2020. So far, Pfizer and BioNTech’s joint vaccine and Moderna’s RNA vaccine are the only two viable options to potentially receive EUA. 

Moderna’s CEO claimed in September that her company would have enough data to submit a request for EUA by November 25th, while Pfizer and BioNTech claim they’ll be receiving initial data from their Phase 3 trial this month. The only other vaccines that had a chance at receiving EUA by the end of 2020 were AstraZeneca’s and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidates, however, both vaccine trials were recently put on pause in the US due to unexplained illnesses appearing in some of the volunteers. 

Of course, the number one priority for the FDA is how safe and effective a vaccine is, this is why there’s such an emphasis on late-stage data when it comes to vaccine development. A vaccine could completely eradicate the virus it was meant to kill but still have adverse side effects months down the line that are completely unrelated to the virus. 

As of right now, however, it’s most imperative that you as an individual are making conscious choices every day to best protect yourself, and those who you are quarantined with, by always wearing a mask in public, social distancing whenever you can, washing your hands frequently, and staying home unless absolutely necessary. 

United States Covid Cases

US Covid-19 Cases Surging As Indoor Gatherings And Travel Increases Throughout Country

Small gatherings and interstate travel is leading to a massive surge in Covid-19 cases in the US as 36 states are now reporting increases in hospitalizations and deaths nationwide.

Girl in Face Mask in the Winter

How To Start Planning For The Long, Cold, Covid-19 Winter Now 

While the Covid-19 pandemic has truly turned all of our lives upside-down, the one slight perk has been the fact that the weather has been so nice for the past eight months, allowing us to still see our loved ones and do certain activities in outdoor socially distanced settings. Now that it’s officially fall many of us are remembering that in a month the clocks go back and the cold months of winter will begin. 

Instead of sitting around and dreading the inevitable until it gets here, start planning out things that you and your quarantine families can do together when the weather gets colder. Seasonal depression, or seasonal effective disorder, can add a whole other layer of stress to our already busy and frantic lives in the middle of an apocalyptic year, but it doesn’t have to be scary.

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Start by asking yourself what you personally need to get through the next few months as happily and healthily as possible. Do you need to make some plans ahead of time? Will you need to gather supplies of some sort for certain snow day activities? Think of some general things that will make the upcoming winter more bearable and work from there. 

For example, if I knew that I would need to be able to see my friends every other week or so to still feel like a real social person, I would then begin to think of certain winter group activities that can be done outdoors. Going for winter hikes during the day is a great way to stay connected to your loved ones while remaining distanced. Enjoy the winter scenery during the day while the sun reflects the beautiful landscapes that come with the colder months.

Another way to see your friends without putting your health at risk is committing to weekly Zoom or Google Hangout happy hour type events. Regardless of if you drink or not, having a scheduled day of the week and time to talk to your friends is necessary for all of us. Try scheduling it for the end of the work week so that you all can unwind, and enjoy each other’s virtual company. 

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Throughout the entire pandemic people have been using their time in lockdown to learn a new skill, practice a new hobby, and work on any other passions they’ve been procrastinating due to the stresses of everyday life. Well, now that winter will really be forcing us all to stay indoors in the coming months, there’s never been a better time to learn something new and keep your mind stimulated. 

Learning a new language, or how to to cook, bake, knit, write poetry, etc. are all amazing stimulants for the mind, body, and soul, and will leave you with an overall accomplished feeling. Watching yourself go from beginner to expert at something even as simple as learning to bake a cake, is rewarding, and I think we all could use some of that positivity right now. 

While travelling is pretty much the last thing on most of our minds, there are still loopholes in working out how to vacation during a pandemic. For example, AirBnb has implemented a whole slew of new health and safety procedures for all participants involved to ensure that guests can still travel during the pandemic without any major risks. Hotels have also implemented these policies, so if you find yourself needing a break from your home, book something today for a few months into the future when you’ll really need a break.

Finally, it’s important to remember that winter also equates to another holiday season. Regardless of what you celebrate, you can’t deny there’s a positive, cheerful, and giving attitude in the air during the holidays. Don’t let Covid-19 stop you and your loved ones from celebrating at home and getting into the spirit of the season. Decorate, watch cheesy Lifetime movies, bake traditional desserts, make some snowmen, and just take a breath to enjoy the fact that you’re with the people you love.

Vaccine Development

Johnson & Johnson Pause Covid-19 Vaccine Trial Due To Unexplained Illness Appearing 

Johnson & Johnson have become the latest to put their Covid-19 vaccine trial on pause due to an unexplained illness appearing in one of the participants. AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford also made headlines recently when they had to pause their trial for the same reason. The AstraZeneca trial, however, has resumed in Canada and Europe, just not the US. 

For Johnson & Johnson, however, a document was recently sent out to outside researchers who were running the clinical trial – which involved 60,000 patients – that claimed a “pausing rule” had been met and the trial was to stop immediately until a proper investigation into the sick individual has been performed. 

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The online system that’s been used to enroll patients in the study has been officially closed and all data that’s already been collected from various committees would be collected and analyzed together. Johnson & Johnson recently spoke with the media about putting their trial on pause but provided little information based on the fact that they themselves are still working on the investigation. 

“We must respect this participant’s privacy. We’re also learning more about this participant’s illness, and it’s important to have all the facts before we share additional information.”

Johnson & Johnson did emphasize in their statement that adverse events like this happening during a clinical study for a vaccine made for a virus the world knows so little about, is normal. In fact, the AstraZeneca trial has had to pause a few times now due to unexplained illnesses appearing in certain participants. These issues that cause the trials to come to a halt are typically isolated incidents and have to do with the individuals personal health over anything else. 

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They also emphasized the difference between a “study pause” and a “clinical hold” when it comes to vaccine trials. A clinical hold is a formal regulatory action that can cause a vaccine trial to stop for a long-time. This incident, however, falls more under the study pause category, as the company is projecting to restart the trial this week. 

Late Monday evening the data and safety monitoring board, or DSMB, for the Johnson & Johnson trial met to review the case involving this sick participant. When it comes to these illnesses it’s not always immediately clear what the cause is, but the first thing the first thing the DSMB needs to determine is if the patient received a version of the vaccine, or a placebo. 

The fact that this trial is one of the biggest in the world also means that these pauses are likely to occur more than once. Again, AstraZeneca has had to take multiple pauses and their trial involves about half the participants as Johnson & Johnson. A source recently spoke with the media about how common these pauses are.

“If we do a study of 60,000 people, that is a small village. In a small village there are a lot of medical events that happen.” 

Johnson & Johnson initially began enrolling volunteers for Phase 3 of their clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine on September 23rd. Researchers initially planned on enrolling 60,000 participants from all over the world and are planning to still hit that number as well.