Posts

Outgoing National Institutes Of Health Director Tells Americans To Focus On Covid As The Real Enemy 

“I get upset because people point to anecdotes of somebody who got sick even though they had been vaccinated and say, ‘There, you see, it doesn’t work,’ That’s way too simplistic,” said Dr. Francis Collins on his last day as director of the National Institutes of Health. 

Around 50 million Americans still haven’t received even their first dose of Covid-19 inoculation, and with the omicron variant causing a major surge in new cases throughout the US, Collins made his frustration in those still refusing to get vaccinated evident. 

Embed from Getty Images

“How did that happen? How did we get all of this so mixed up with social media, misinformation, and political insertion into the discussion? This is the thing for me on my last day as NIH director that I find particularly frustrating.”

An investigation performed by NPR revealed that vaccination rates are substantially lower in US counties that were in support of former president Donald Trump. Individuals living in counties that had a 60% or higher approval rating for Trump are three times more likely to die from Covid-19 due to the lack of inoculations. 

“We’ve got to remember, Covid is the enemy. It’s not the other people in the other political party. It’s not the people on Facebook who are posting all sorts of crazy conspiracies. This is the enemy,” Collins exclaimed. 

“We in this country have somehow gotten all fractured into a hyper-polarized, politicized view that never should have been mixed with public health. It’s been ruinous and history will judge harshly those people who have continued to defocus the effort and focus on conspiracies and things that are demonstrably false.”

Embed from Getty Images

Collins also warned that with its dozens of mutations, “the omicron variant has the properties to potentially be evasive of the vaccines. I urge the 60% of Americans who are eligible for a booster shot but haven’t gotten one to take action.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to the media this week as well, explaining that the omicron variant is particularly concerning because of its “extraordinary transmissibility. It has a ‘doubling time’ of just 2-3 days. That’s the time it takes for the number of coronavirus cases to double.” 

Data from South Africa, where the omicron variant first emerged, shows that it leads to less severe symptoms and does require less hospitalization, but that could also be due to the fact that “South Africa’s population has so much experience with prior infections that it might be underlying immunity that’s making it look like it’s less severe.”

“And even if omicron does turn out to be less severe than delta, the sheer number of expected omicron infections is likely to overcome the “slight-to-moderate diminution in severity. U.S. hospitals are going to be very stressed with people,” Fauci said.

Australia And New Zealand Rethinking ‘Covid Zero Strategy’ Amid Spreading Of Delta Variant 

Australia and New Zealand are rethinking their current Covid-19 strategies due to a surge in new cases caused by the spreading of the Delta variant. Initially both countries had strategies implemented that would bring the total number of cases down to zero before any type of social gatherings would be allowed, however, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently claimed that he believes it’s unlikely his country will ever return to zero cases. 

“Australia’s focus needs to shift to hospitalization rates rather than case numbers. The highly infectious nature of delta raised some pretty big questions about New Zealand’s approach of eliminating the disease,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

Embed from Getty Images

In the beginning of the pandemic both Australia and New Zealand were advocates for the Covid Zero strategy. This meant that both nations closed their borders and implemented local guidelines to focus more on slowing down community-level transmission without having to worry about international visitors. 

This strategy was extremely successful, and prevented massive waves of new infections and deaths, like we saw here in the US. However, the spreading of the new delta variant has challenged this strategy greatly. In fact, Australia recently reported its highest number of daily infections for a second day straight. New Zealand is currently under the strictest lockdown measure that they’ve been in since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“With a virus that can be infectious within 24 hours of someone getting it, that does change the game a bit. With our Level Four lockdown, we are very well placed to be able to run it to ground, but we have to be prepared for the fact that we can’t do that every time there is one of these.”

Embed from Getty Images

Hipkins explained that the Covid Zero strategy had worked wonderfully pre-delta, but now it’s looking like a less adequate way to combat the new variant. The spreading of this variant also has to do with the vaccination rates in both nations. 

In both New Zealand and Australia less than 30% of the population is fully vaccinated. Australia’s Morrison claims vaccination rates need to reach 70-80% of the eligible population before restrictions are lifted again. 

Writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Morrison said rising cases “need not impact our plan to reopen, and reopen as soon as we can.”

“So while right now our national strategy is necessarily about suppressing the virus and vaccinating as many people as possible, a one-eyed focus on just case numbers overlooks the fact that less people are getting seriously ill, let alone dying.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently laid out a plan that would ease lockdown restrictions as the government speeds up its vaccination rollout. Their goal is to reopen their borders by 2022.

Australia’s Covid-19 Delta Outbreak Worsening Despite Lockdown Measures 

Sydney, Australia is already debating extending their current lockdown as Australian health officials continue to report a daily rise in Covid-19 cases. These daily rises are specifically fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus that’s been spreading around the world. 

New South Wales state reported 112 new cases of Covid-19 despite the fact that Sydney, the country’s largest city, is currently entering its third week of lockdown. Case numbers have been reaching record highs every day. New infections luckily dropped slightly this Sunday, from 45 to 34. 

Embed from Getty Images

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the “progress of that figure in coming days would determine whether Sydney’s lockdown would be extended. That’s the number we need to get as close to zero as possible. It is really up to us. The health expert advice will be based on what those numbers look like. I can’t be clearer than that.”

Total infections in this particular outbreak are reaching 700. 63 individuals are currently hospitalized while 18 are in intensive care. 

Lockdown measures in Sydney include school closures, stay-at-home orders, and of course mask mandates and social distancing procedures anywhere essential workers are present. Many small business owners are worried about the economic impact of another lockdown if the government doesn’t provide any economic assistance. 

Embed from Getty Images

Australia was able to previously contain their Covid-19 flare-ups with strict lockdowns, speedy contact tracing efforts, and social distancing rules. The nation has experienced 31,200 cases and 911 deaths since the pandemic began. 

Only 11% of Australia’s adult population of 20.5 million have been fully vaccinated. Critics believe a lack of communication with the public and vaccine shortages in general have led to the outbreak the nation is currently enduring. 

Federal health guidance in Australia currently recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine be restricted to individuals over the age of 60 while the Pfizer vaccine is limited to individuals between the age of 40 and 60. 

In New South Wales, vaccine centers and pharmacies will be able to give the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 40. The state government also claimed they would be opening a vaccination hub in western Sydney, which is the epicenter of the outbreak.