The change in CDC guidance recommending all Americans wear a mask indoors in areas with high COVID-19 transmission is a sign of the change the Delta variant has carved into the pandemic landscape, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN.
“We’re not changing the science,” the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “The virus changed, and the science evolved with the changing virus.”
Before Tuesday, the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention advised only unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors. But with the spread of the Delta variant — believed to be at least twice as transmissible as the Alpha variant, which was dominate in the U.S. in the spring — and vaccination rates remaining low while infection rates on the rise, the CDC updated its guidance to advise that everyone in high transmission areas wear a mask when indoors.
Currently, only 49.2% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC.
Some experts point to unvaccinated Americans as an important factor in the mask guidance change, saying the measure had to be implemented to get them to mask up.
“Eighty million American adults have made a choice. They made a choice not to get the vaccine, and those same people are not masking and that is the force that is propagating this virus around this country,” CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner told CNN.
But others, including the CDC, said the decision had more to do with new data showing that, unlike with other strains, vaccinated people who are infected with the Delta variant can still get high viral loads, making it more likely they could spread the virus.
“Unlike the Alpha variant that we had back in May, where we didn’t believe that if you were vaccinated you could transmit further, this is different now with a Delta variant,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, citing information investigators found when looking at outbreak clusters.
With nearly all 50 states undergoing a surge of new cases averaging at least 10% more than the week before, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said the U.S. is seeing just how dangerous the variant is in real time.
“This is actually what you want to happen with science. You want science to be dynamic, you want recommendations to reflect the latest science, and that’s what you see in the recommendations that were issued today,” Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday.
But one thing hasn’t changed, Murthy added, saying data is still showing current vaccines are highly protective against infection, severe illness and death from the Delta variant.
Vaccinations are still the ‘bedrock’ of ending the pandemic
While masking up will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., getting vaccinated is still “the bedrock” to ending the pandemic, Murthy said.
“Vaccines still work. They still save lives. They still prevent hospitalizations at a remarkably high rate,” he added.
Vaccination rates are still not where they need to be to get enough of the U.S. inoculated against the virus to slow or stop its spread, experts have said. Many experts have advocated for vaccine requirements as one way to increase vaccination rates in the U.S.
Los Angeles officials announced Tuesday that the city will require all of its employees to show proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing.
“The fourth wave is here, and the choice for Angelenos couldn’t be clearer — get vaccinated or get COVID-19,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement. “We’re committed to pursuing a full vaccine mandate. I urge employers across Los Angeles to follow this example,” he added.
The move comes after the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in Los Angeles County nearly doubled in the past two weeks. There are currently 745 people hospitalized with the virus, compared to 372 people two weeks ago, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Such requirements by local entities are “very reasonable,” Murthy said Tuesday.
Some U.S. hospitals and federal agencies are mandating that employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing. Murthy noted that many private institutions are considering following suit.
“Those are decisions the federal government is not going to make,” Murthy told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “It’s going to be institutions that make them, but I do think that they are very reasonable, because this is a time when we’ve got to take all steps possible to protect not just ourselves, but the people around us, from COVID-19.”
Officials call for more vaccinations as hospitals are overwhelmed
The impact of the Delta variant and increasing cases can be seen in the data and in the strain on hospitals.
After decreases over the past couple of months, cases of COVID-19 among children and teens are on the rise again, with more than 38,600 infected last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Tuesday.
More than 4.13 million kids have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Kids represent more than 14% of the weekly reported cases.
In Springfield-Greene County in Missouri, the CoxHealth hospital system is having to expand its morgue capacity due to an increase in COVID-19 related deaths, President and CEO Steve Edwards said Tuesday.
“Last year we did expand it and we are expanding it further. We’ve actually brought in a portable piece of technology that allows bodies to be cooled and placed outside the morgue. We have had to expand that because the mortality has gone up so much lately,” Edwards said during an update in the county on behalf of CoxHealth.
In explaining what he called the “severity of the disease”, Edwards said, “We’ve had over 4,000 admissions for COVID. And with 549 deaths that means thirteen and a half percent of our admissions have died. And when we look in our ICUs, about 40% of patients that are in the ICU don’t make it out of the ICU.”
In New Orleans, as cases have gone up, hospitals have become strapped for resources and started turning people away, Communications Director for the City of New Orleans Beau Tidwell said Tuesday.
“For God’s sake, get your vaccine,” he added.
The CDC called on doctors and public health officials to act urgently to get more Americans vaccinated.
“COVID-19 cases have increased over 300% nationally from June 19 to July 23, 2021, along with parallel increases in hospitalizations and deaths driven by the highly transmissible B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant,” the CDC said in Tuesday’s health alert.
Without more vaccinations, the U.S. could see increased morbidity and mortality related to COVID-19, which could continue to overwhelm healthcare facilities, the CDC said.
Rare Cases of Monkeypox Diagnosed in Britain | Health | thesuburban.com – The Suburban Newspaper
TUESDAY, May 17, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Four men in England have been infected with a “rare and unusual” monkeypox virus.
Investigators from the U.K. Health Security Agency are investigating the cases and whether there is any connection between the men, according to the Associated Press. None of the individuals had traveled to the African countries where the virus is endemic. Three of the men are in London, and one is in Northeast England.
Three earlier cases were announced last week. In those cases, two of the patients lived in the same household. The third person had previously traveled to Nigeria, one of the countries where the virus is endemic in animals. Most people who get monkeypox recover quickly, within several weeks. The virus has symptoms that include fever, muscle ache, chills, and fatigue. A rash similar to that found in chickenpox and smallpox can form on the face and genitals in more severe cases.
The latest four cases all happen to be in men who identify as gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men. However, monkeypox does not easily spread between people, and it is not known to be transmitted sexually. In Western and Central Africa, the virus is typically spread by touching or being bitten by an infected wild animal. However, it could be spread among people with extremely close contact, the British health officials said.
“The evidence suggests that there may be transmission of the monkeypox virus in the community, spread by close contact,” said Susan Hopkins, M.D., chief medical advisor for the U.K. Health Security Agency, the AP reported. “We are particularly urging men who are gay or bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay.”
Public health officials consider the risk to the general population to be low. They are working with hospitals and international partners to determine if there is a similar rise in cases in other places. This includes tracing people who had contacts with the monkeypox cases, including airline passengers, the AP said. Doctors who see patients with unexplained rashes should seek advice from a specialist, public health officials said.
Long COVID: Half of patients hospitalised have at least one symptom two years on – Australian Hospital + Healthcare Bulletin
Two years on, half of a group of patients hospitalised with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, still have at least one lingering symptom, according to a study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. The study followed 1192 participants in Wuhan infected with SARS-CoV-2 during the first phase of the pandemic in 2020.
While physical and mental health generally improved over time, the study found that COVID-19 patients still tend to have poorer health and quality of life than the general population. This is especially the case for participants with long COVID, who typically still have at least one symptom including fatigue, shortness of breath and sleep difficulties two years after initially falling ill.1
The long-term health impacts of COVID-19 have remained largely unknown, as the longest follow-up studies to date have spanned around one year.2 The lack of pre-COVID-19 health status baselines and comparisons with the general population in most studies has also made it difficult to determine how well patients with COVID-19 have recovered.
Lead author Professor Bin Cao, of the China-Japan Friendship Hospital, China, said, “Our findings indicate that for a certain proportion of hospitalised COVID-19 survivors, while they may have cleared the initial infection, more than two years is needed to recover fully from COVID-19. Ongoing follow-up of COVID-19 survivors, particularly those with symptoms of long COVID, is essential to understand the longer course of the illness, as is further exploration of the benefits of rehabilitation programs for recovery. There is a clear need to provide continued support to a significant proportion of people who’ve had COVID-19, and to understand how vaccines, emerging treatments and variants affect long-term health outcomes.”3
The authors of the new study sought to analyse the long-term health outcomes of hospitalised COVID-19 survivors, as well as specific health impacts of long COVID. They evaluated the health of 1192 participants with acute COVID-19 treated at Jin Yin-tan Hospital in Wuhan, China, between 7 January and 29 May 2020, at six months, 12 months and two years.
Assessments involved a six-minute walking test, laboratory tests and questionnaires on symptoms, mental health, health-related quality of life, if they had returned to work and healthcare use after discharge. The negative effects of long COVID on quality of life, exercise capacity, mental health and healthcare use were determined by comparing participants with and without long COVID symptoms. Health outcomes at two years were determined using an age-, sex- and comorbidities-matched control group of people in the general population with no history of COVID-19 infection.
Two years after initially falling ill, patients with COVID-19 are generally in poorer health than the general population, with 31% reporting fatigue or muscle weakness and 31% reporting sleep difficulties. The proportion of non-COVID-19 participants reporting these symptoms was 5% and 14%, respectively.
COVID-19 patients were also more likely to report a number of other symptoms including joint pain, palpitations, dizziness and headaches. In quality of life questionnaires, COVID-19 patients also more often reported pain or discomfort (23%) and anxiety or depression (12%) than non-COVID-19 participants (5% and 5%, respectively).
Around half of study participants had symptoms of long COVID at two years, and reported lower quality of life than those without long COVID. In mental health questionnaires, 35% reported pain or discomfort and 19% reported anxiety or depression. The proportion of COVID-19 patients without long COVID reporting these symptoms was 10% and 4% at two years, respectively. Long COVID participants also more often reported problems with their mobility (5%) or activity levels (4%) than those without long COVID (1% and 2%, respectively).
The authors acknowledged limitations to their study, such as moderate response rate; slightly increased proportion of participants who received oxygen; it was a single centre study from early in the pandemic.
1. – National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network – Royal College of General Practitioners. COVID-19 rapid guideline: managing the long-term effects of COVID-19. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng188
2. – Soriano – JB Murthy – S Marshall – JC Relan – P Diaz JV – on behalf of the WHO Clinical Case Definition Working Group on Post-COVID-19 Condition. A clinical case definition of post-COVID-19 condition by a Delphi consensus. Lancet Infect Dis. 2021; 22: e102-e107
3. – Huang L – Yao Q – Gu X – et al. 1-year outcomes in hospital survivors with COVID-19: a longitudinal cohort study. Lancet. 2021; 398: 747-758
Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/ink drop
2SLGBTQ+ lobby group head speaks on the trauma of conversion therapy
Although conversion therapy has now been outlawed in Canada, many are still victims causing them to go through a lot of trauma in the process.
According to Jordan Sullivan, Project Coordinator of Conversion Therapy Survivors Support and Survivors of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression Change Efforts (SOGIECE), survivors of conversion therapy identify the need for a variety of supports including education and increased awareness about SOGIECE and conversion practices.
Also needed is access to affirming therapists experienced with SOGIECE, trauma (including religious trauma), safe spaces and networks, and access to affirming healthcare practitioners who are aware of conversion therapy or SOGIECE and equipped to support survivors.
“In January of 2021 when I was asked to be the project coordinator, I was hesitant because I wasn’t sure that my experience could be classified as SOGIECE or conversion therapy. I never attended a formalized conversion therapy program or camp run by a religious organization. Healthcare practitioners misdiagnosed me or refused me access to care.
In reality, I spent 27 years internalizing conversion therapy practices through prayer, the study of religious texts, disassociation from my body, and suppression or denial of my sexual and gender identities. I spent six years in counselling and change attempts using conversion therapy practices. I came out as a lesbian at age 33, and as a Trans man at age 51. I am now 61 and Queerly Heterosexual, but I spent decades of my life hiding in shame and fear and struggled with suicidal ideation until my mid-30s.
At times I wanted to crawl away and hide, be distracted by anything that silenced the emptiness, the pain, the wounds deep inside. I realized that in some ways, I am still more comfortable in shame, silence, and disassociation, than in any other way of being and living, but I was also filled with wonderment at the resiliency and courage of every single one of the participants.
However, many of us did not survive, choosing to end the pain and shame through suicide. Many of us are still victims in one way or another, still silenced by the shame, still afraid of being seen as we are. Still, many of us are survivors, and while it has not been an easy road, many of us are thrivers too,” said Jordan.
In addition, Jordan said conversion practices and programs are not easily defined or identified, and often capture only a fragment of pressures and messages that could be considered SOGIECE.
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