March 3, 2021

Dr. Stuart Weiss: COVID-19 Update Tuesday 19-Jan-2021

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Rapid Test Center of New York
Dr. Stuart Weiss, FACEP, FAAP, CBCP

January 19, 2021

CoViD-19 News and Information you can trust.Welcome new readers from the Rapid Test Center.

Topics: So Where Are We in the CoViD-19 battle?
So Where Are We in the CoViD-19 Battle?

Every week or two, I like to take a moment to review where we are in the pandemic battle. So let’s take a moment to look at a few key areas:

First and foremost, Wednesday ends the most unorganized and ineffective response to a pandemic that I can imagine when our next President is sworn in. President Biden has appointed smart people, some of whom I know, to run a science based response. We won’t be hearing about drinking cleaning solution, taking hydroxychloroquine or shining a bright light in places where lights usually don’t shine in our bodies. It won’t be fixed quickly as the outgoing administration was not transparent with the incoming administration on pandemic responses and the Biden team doesn’t even know what they don’t know. But it will be science based and driven by good medical decision making. Fixing the pandmeic mess is Biden’s number one job. Infact, in a poll today from the Washington Post-ABC, 62% of Americans say trying to control the pandemic is more important than restarting the economy. More than half think that the pandmeic is out of control and they are right.

Today, exactly one year since the first case of SARS-CoV-2 was reported in the US, we crossed the grim milestone of losing more than 400,000 Americans to CoViD-19. That is roughly the same number of deaths as in World War Two. Over 400,000 grandmothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, children, friends and family have needlessly died. Our number of dead is drastically higher than it would have been if standard public health control measures were promoted by President Trump and a scientifically sound plan had been implemented. It’s time for smart, data driven people to take over and run our response and luckily, President Biden has put good people into place.

On the vaccine front, only 3% of American have been vaccinated so far. That is disappointingly small. We are getting close to 1 million vaccinations a day and hopefully, we will make the 100 million vaccinations within the first 100 days promise that has been made by the Biden administration. There are disparities in vaccination numbers. Americans of Color are getting vaccinated less than white Americans. In 16 states where rac data is available, whites are vaccinated 2-3 times more than people of color. So far, we have two approved vaccines. Both vaccines, one by Pfizer and one by Moderna, are messenger RNA vaccines and require two doses. While reactions after the first dose seem to be mostly mild, some folks are having a slightly more severe reaction after the second dose. There have been some deaths and hospitalizations caused by vaccination in very old frail people who may not be able to tolerate even mild side effects. There has also been one cluster of 10 people with allergic reactions in one location in California which has caused the State to not use one lot of Moderna vaccine but many other location have use the same lot without side effects so we are not sure what is going on there.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is on track to be reviewed for approval in late February/early March. It is a different type of vaccine based on a weakened adenovirus, It only requires one dose instead of two doses.

On the variant front, a new report from the University of Arizona published in the journal Genomic Epidemiology reports that the B.1.1.7 variant first reported in United Kingdom in December was probably circulating in California and Florida since mid-November, a full six weeks before being reported in the U.K..

Another new strain, reported by the California Department of Public Health and UCSF is circulating in Northern California. This variant, called the L452R variant, is linked to several large outbreaks in Santa Clara County but it is not known if it is more contagious like the B.1.1.7 strain.

It is important to remember that the virus is continuing to mutate as it adapts to its environment. It is trying to get stronger and spread more easily. So far, these two strains seem to be protected by the current vaccines. This may not be the case with the new South African variant. That variant has a mutation in the spike protein which is the area that the vaccines target. People are studying that variant right now.

One thing that people must remember is that you don’t become immune immediately or at all. The vaccine reduces your chance of getting a severe case and dying in 95% of the people. There are still 5% of people that are not protected. In addition, you could still catch a very mild or asymptomatic case and spread it to others so you must continue to wear a mask even after you get the vaccine until enough of us are vaccinated. You must wait at least two weeks after the second dose to feel secure that you are protected.

Lastly, with shortages of vaccine in many places, people have been asking about the second dose. While there is guidance not to give the second dose earlier than recommended, if you are late on the second dose, it should still be okay. So don’t get crazy if you miss your second dose by a week or two. Try to get it at the right time but don’t get panicked if you are a little late due to shortages in your area.

Finally, in a newsletter back in late May when things were slowing down a bit, I wrote that we were not at the end of the pandemic but perhaps we were at the end of the very beginning of the difficult times. Now I finally have a different feeling. While we have some very difficult times ahead, with increasing daily case numbers for quite some time ahead of us, it feels like we are now entering the very beginning of the end of the pandemic. If the virus does not throw us a curveball and mutate into something much worse, and if we and the world can get the vaccine rollout to proceed forward at a faster rate as we have 3-4 more vaccine candidates approved and if we can figure out how to vaccine the entire world and not just the rich countries (there is a huge discrepancy between first world and third world countries and vaccination numbers according to the WHO) then we can bring this nightmare to a close. Lots of “if’s” in that statement but I finally feel a bit optimistic about all of this.

Take care of yourself so we can get through this together.

Dr. Stu Weiss

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Coronavirus update for January 19, 2021
World Wide Updates

Woman who lived through 1918 flu pandemic gets Covid-19 vaccine on 108th birthday
Scotland extends its lockdown until at least mid-February
Head of Italian Medicines Agency expresses “grave concern” over Pfizer vaccine delays
Nepal bans passengers from UK after variant cases emerge
Storm grows around Australian Open as tennis authority refutes claims players are infected with Covid-19
Covid-19 vaccines might not be as effective against variant first identified in South Africa, researchers say
No evidence that Pfizer/BioNTech shot increased risk of patients’ deaths, says Norwegian health authority
London’s ICU workers reveal the grim reality of the UK’s devastating second wave
French health minister warns against use of fabric face masks
Portuguese soccer giant Benfica confirm mass outbreak
Israel hits new record in virus cases, as government mulls closure extension
UK minister self-isolating after coming into “close contact” with Covid-19 case
China defends Covid-19 response after criticism from pandemic review panel
Australian Open turmoil raises questions for Tokyo Games
Germany’s Angela Merkel will meet state leaders today to discuss further pandemic restrictions
Two more tennis players test positive ahead of Australian Open
China is hitting back at criticism of its vaccines with a dangerous disinformation campaign
Singapore Airlines hopes to be world’s first fully-vaccinated airline
China and WHO acted too slowly on Covid-19, pandemic response panel says
Germany’s partial lockdown extended until February 14th
Disneyland Paris to delay reopening by nearly 2 months due to ongoing COVID problems in Europe
Ireland reports record daily death toll
Outcry in Italy after regional health chief says richer areas should get more vaccine
Total Cases Worldwide: 96,503,213Total Deaths Worldwide: 2,062,160Total Recovered: 69,128,437

US Updates

US should stay focused on preventing Covid-19 cases, not changing travel restrictions, Biden adviser says 
Covid-19 vaccine coverage among Black and Hispanic populations is half that of white population
36 additional states received doses from Moderna vaccine batch under investigation in California
US surpasses 400,000 total deaths from Covid-19
New Orleans Jazz Fest pushed to October due to Covid-19
About 2.5 million US children have tested positive for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic
At least 79% of first doses of the vaccine have been administered to New Yorkers
The Americas reported more than 2.5 million new Covid-19 cases last week
Pennsylvania widens Covid-19 vaccine eligibility
New York City expected to run out of vaccines by Thursday, Mayor says
Biden adviser says variants could turn the pandemic into a situation “unlike anything we’ve seen yet”
Widespread mask use can help stop virus outbreaks, study shows
Don’t expect travel restrictions to be lifted — expect them to be tightened, incoming CDC head says
New virus variant may have been circulating in the US before it was identified in UK, researchers say
Los Angeles County residents over 65 can receive Covid-19 vaccine starting Thursday
Trump moves to lift some Covid-19-related travel restrictions, but Biden plans to block the order
Biden speaks at vigil for nation’s 400,000 COVID victims on eve of his inauguration 
NYC Test & Trace Corps struggles with COVID rapid test shortage
COVID sinks Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade for 2nd year
Starbucks and Microsoft partner with Washington state to speed up COVID vaccine distribution
Progress against COVID-19 threatened by mutations amid slow vaccine rollout
Thousands of Florida residents overdue for second dose of COVID vaccine, officials say
Georgia teen jailed on Cayman Islands for ditching COVID quarantine back home after months behind bars
Detroit pot dispensary giving free joints to people who receive COVID vaccine
Total US cases: 24,757,653
Total US deaths: 410,750
Total Recovered: 14,709,230
Total Tested in US: 281,142,160
Total cases in CA: 3,038,221
Total deaths in CA: 33,949
Total cases in TX: 2,152,246
Total deaths in TX: 33,222
Total cases in FL: 1,589,097
Total deaths in FL: 24,436
Total cases in NY: 1,298,232
Total deaths in NY: 41,324
Total cases in IL: 1,076,532
Total deaths in IL: 20,153
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