Pandemic Roundup: September 3, 2020

Welcome to Pandemic Roundup: an inclusive, curated selection of new information and fresh perspectives on COVID-19 published. Get inbox delivery of this Thursday roundup for as little as $1.

Before we get to the links, here are some COVID-19 tools I use:

COVID-19 Trends for US Counties (ArcGIS Online)
COVID-19 Tracker | United States (Microsoft)
COVID-19 Vaccine Trials Tracker (Microsoft)
The American Association for the Advancement of Science Newsroom (AAAS)
COVID-19 Self-Assessment tool (Mayo Clinic)
COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool (biosci.gatech.edu)
Test Finder: Baseline COVID-19 Testing Program (Project Baseline)


Important items:

– This analysis answers a lot of questions about exactly what the virus is doing in the human body and how the hell all of COVID-19’s bizarre symptoms are connected. “A Covid-19 infection generally begins when the virus enters the body through ACE2 receptors in the nose … [then] it actively hijacks the body’s own systems … In short, it makes your blood vessels leaky … When [increased HLA] combines with fluid leaking into the lungs, the results are disastrous: It forms a hydrogel, which can fill the lungs in some patients.”
A Supercomputer’s Covid-19 Analysis Yields a New Way to Understand the Virus (Elemental | Medium)

– Horny always finds a way. “The Canadian B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the New York City Department of Health, and others have recommended, in one way or another, the use of glory holes for sex … researchers have detected the virus in semen, but haven’t established if it can be transmitted by seminal fluid.”
Glory holes during the pandemic: Men are returning to them, on the advice of public health officials. (Slate)

– The US Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis just dropped a bombshell report. Someday this will be key evidence for a criminal tribunal, because what is described here is within the law of crimes against humanity. “The White House has known since June that coronavirus cases were surging across the country and many states were becoming dangerous ‘red zones’... the President and his enablers kept these alarming reports private while publicly downplaying the threat to millions of Americans. As a result of the President’s failures, more than 58,000 additional Americans have died since the Task Force first started issuing private warnings…”
Select Subcommittee Releases Eight Weeks of Coronavirus Task Force Reports Kept Secret by the White House (House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis)

– Sturgis was a superspreader event and we’re starting to see the harm it is causing. “A Minnesota biker who attended the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has died of covid-19 —- the first fatality from the virus traced to the 10-day event that drew more than 400,000 to South Dakota … The case is among at least 260 cases in 11 states tied directly to the event … An analysis of anonymized cellphone data, conducted by a firm called Camber Systems, found that 61 percent of all U.S. counties had been visited by a rallygoer.”
First coronavirus death linked to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally reported in Minnesota (Washington Post)

– Stay home please. This article tracks painfully for me re: friends who are front line workers and are getting yelled at by customers and tourists. Yes, I am worried for their safety every day. “At my company, we’ve pretty much dropped the ‘customer is always right’ line and are doing our best to keep ourselves safe in the current environment. I hope that COVID brings forth a larger movement of workers’ rights and benefits.”
Young Service Workers Are Going Through Hell (Teen Vogue)

– The fact that this comes with a data-gathering app from the US government absolutely bothers me and not just from a data security standpoint. “The Trump administration will begin to send low-cost antigen tests to states starting in mid-September … It is authorized to be used on people doctors or nurses suspect may have Covid-19 within the first seven days that the person shows symptoms.”
$5 rapid Covid-19 tests will be sent to states starting in mid-September, Giroir said (CNN)

– Not a silver bullet, but good-ish news for people who end up in intensive care. “A new international study published today [02 September] has shown that treating critically ill patients with COVID-19 with the steroid hydrocortisone improves their chances of recovery.”
Steroid found to improve survival of critically ill COVID-19 patients (EurekAlert! Science News)

– Here’s a faux magic bullet with no silver lining. On the 23rd the Trump-controlled FDA issued an emergency authorization for convalescent plasma as a COVID-19 treatment. Since then, there has been nothing but fallout and the NIH issued a statement saying “Convalescent plasma should not be considered standard of care for the treatment of patients with COVID-19.”
FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization for Convalescent Plasma for COVID-19 Seems To Be Fooling No One (NJEM Journal Watch, thanks for the tip RR!)
See also: Alarm as FDA willing to issue Covid-19 vaccine before stringent safety testing (Guardian)

– New York State reached an all-time high in testing while achieving the 26th straight day that New York State’s COVID-19 infection rate has remained below 1 percent. “Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that 100,022 test results were reported to New York State yesterday—a new record high.”
Governor Cuomo Announces 26th Straight Day with COVID-19 Infection Rate Below 1 Percent (governor.ny.gov)

– Things are starting to feel very “best episode of Buffy.“ “Every route of viral transmission would go down if we talked less, or talked less loudly, in public spaces,” Jose L. Jimenez, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, who studies disease transmission, told me. “This is just a very clear fact. It’s not controversial.”
Wear Your Mask and Stop Talking (The Atlantic)


(Image: this week's Castro Farmer's Market)

Topic of the week: Covid conspiracies vs. community safety

I get to meet strangers from all over the US in online games. Also, many of my IRL friends are scattered across the country. I always ask what the pandemic is like where they are.

I’m surprised at how differently cities and communities are responding (or not) to the pandemic. In rural areas and small towns people who take the disease seriously are in the minority; also, their cities and townships don’t have unified messaging of any kind. That’s the opposite of San Francisco, where we have signage, cautions, and ads about COVID-19 practically every ten feet. Apparently small towns and counties ranging from the Northwest to townships in New Jersey do not.

In casual conversation I’ve gotten descriptions of day-to-day life where some people are (only now) starting to wear masks. I’ve learned that a significant number of the people in my friends' local communities honestly believe “plandemic” conspiracy theories and strongly feel that wearing a mask violates their rights. “People are worried about… you know, the tracking chip,” one gamer said to me when the topic of a vaccine came up in game chat. I always ask where the conspiracy believers get their new beliefs. The answer is always Facebook.

The Jim Jones cult and Jonestown Massacre happened in San Francisco before my time. But I’ve often wondered how that could’ve happened, how people fell for it. Jim Jones was accepted in high-level political circles; he dined with Jerry Brown, helped elect George Moscone, Harvey Milk was an unwitting advocate, and Jones met with vice presidential candidate Walter Mondale and First Lady Rosalynn Carter. I wonder if, at the time, friends and family members of victims pulled into his cult experienced the same disbelief and horror we are, watching loved ones and friends embrace a death cult in slo-mo.

Mind you, we have people walking around San Francisco ignoring the outdoor mask requirements too. And they may be conspiracy nuts, or not, or are just walking Darwin Awards. But I know we have a lot less of them than other places. That, I believe, is because our public COVID-19 awareness and fact-based public messaging (signage, ads, viral campaigns) saturates the city.

A while back, city workers walked every neighborhood and plastered signs about masks, covid, and distancing on every streetpole they could find.

Our bus shelters have a minimal amount of normal advertising and instead feature COVID-19 prevention messaging, mask reminders, and celebrations of healthcare workers who are fighting the virus on the front lines.

Every business has requirement signs, both from the city and their own versions. There’s more, like our fun drag queen Meals on Heels program, we are doing Shared Spaces, local MaskTheSFUP and SafeSix awareness campaigns, hip-hop videos, but you get the idea.

It seems to be working. I actually have some good news here: Mercury News reported yesterday that California is about halfway to crushing its summer Coronavirus spike — our case rates are half what they were in June. In addition, “San Francisco and Napa are the only counties in the Bay Area to meet the tier-three threshold, which requires seven or fewer cases per 100,000 residents per day and a test-positivity rate below 8% for two weeks.”

Stay apart, stand together. Be safe and take care of each other -- I'll see you on Twitter or right here next week.


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All post photos except "Wear a mask/Safe Six" are by me, taken here in San Francisco.

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