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K: The Overlooked Variable That's Driving the Pandemic - The Atlantic

The reason for backward tracing’s importance is similar to what the sociologist Scott L. Feld called the friendship paradox: Your friends are, on average, going to have more friends than you. (Sorry!) It’s straightforward once you take the network-level view. Friendships are not distributed equally; some people have a lot of friends, and your friend circle is more likely to include those social butterflies, because how could it not? They friended you and others. And those social butterflies will drive up the average number of friends that your friends have compared with you, a regular person. (Of course, this will not hold for the social butterflies themselves, but overdispersion means that there are much fewer of them.) Similarly, the infectious person who is transmitting the disease is like the pandemic social butterfly: The average number of people they infect will be much higher than most of the population, who will transmit the disease much less frequently. Indeed, as Kucharski and his co-authors show mathematically, overdispersion means that “forward tracing alone can, on average, identify at most the mean number of secondary infections (i.e. R)”; in contrast, “backward tracing increases this maximum number of traceable individuals by a factor of 2-3, as index cases are more likely to come from clusters than a case is to generate a cluster.”

Covid-19 Test: How Long Do They Take? New Device Returns Result in 15 Minutes - Bloomberg

Becton Dickinson said its antigen assay is 93.5% sensitive, a measure of how often it correctly identifies infections, and 99.3% specific, the rate of correct negative tests. The data, which differ from the U.S. label’s 84% sensitivity and 100% specificity, come from a new clinical study that was recently submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, spokesman Troy Kirkpatrick said.

Michigan College Will Digitally Track Students' Movements At All Times - Washington Free Beacon

"The school wants my daughter to sign a form consenting to specimen collection and lab testing," he told the Washington Free Beacon on condition of anonymity. "I have a ton of concern with that…. Why is the state of Michigan's contact tracing not enough?" Though students are required to remain on campus, professors and administrators are not. When asked about this potential loophole in its "COVID-bubble," the school declined to comment. Rising senior Andrew Arszulowicz said that he is upset with both the mandatory use of the app and the manner in which students are being treated. "I feel like I am being treated like a five-year-old that cannot be trusted to follow rules," Arszulowicz told the Free Beacon. "If the school believes masks work … why are we not allowed to leave if they work? It does not make sense to me."

Does high blood sugar worsen COVID-19 outcomes? -- ScienceDaily

"Improving blood sugar control was important in reducing the amount of secondary infections and kidney issues this cohort of patients are susceptible to," Gianchandani says. "This might help shorten ICU stays and lessen the amount of patients that need a ventilator." It's important to note this algorithm wasn't developed as a result of a clinical trial, but is based solely on preliminary observations in the patients the team followed. A larger, randomized and controlled study is necessary to determine how this algorithm impacts mortality, time to recovery, the length of ICU stays and rate of severe complications.

Covid-19 Vaccines With ‘Minor Side Effects’ Could Still Be Pretty Bad | WIRED

The press release for Monday’s publication of results from the Oxford vaccine trials described an increased frequency of “minor side effects” among participants. A look at the actual paper, though, reveals this to be a marketing spin that has since been parroted in media reports. (The phrases “minor side effects” or “only minor side effects” appeared in writeups from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, among other outlets.) Yes, mild reactions were far more common than worse ones. But moderate or severe harms—defined as being bad enough to interfere with daily life or needing medical care—were common too. Around one-third of people vaccinated with the Covid-19 vaccine without acetaminophen experienced moderate or severe chills, fatigue, headache, malaise, and/or feverishness. Close to 10 percent had a fever of at least 100.4 degrees, and just over one-fourth developed moderate or severe muscle aches. That’s a lot, in a young and healthy group of people—and the acetaminophen didn’t help much for most of those problems.

Researchers identify genetic factors that may influence COVID-19 susceptibility -- ScienceDaily

These findings demonstrate a possible association between ACE2 and TMPRSS2 polymorphisms and COVID-19 susceptibility, and indicate that a systematic investigation of the functional polymorphisms these variants among different populations could pave the way for precision medicine and personalized treatment strategies for COVID-19. However, all investigations in this study were performed in general populations, not with COVID-19 patient genetic data. Therefore, Dr. Cheng calls for a human genome initiative to validate his findings and to identify new clinically actionable variants to accelerate precision medicine for COVID-19.

Warning of serious brain disorders in people with mild coronavirus symptoms | Coronavirus outbreak | The Guardian

One concern is that the virus could leave a minority of the population with subtle brain damage that only becomes apparent in years to come. This may have happened in the wake of the 1918 flu pandemic, when up to a million people appeared to develop brain disease. “It’s a concern if some hidden epidemic could occur after Covid where you’re going to see delayed effects on the brain, because there could be subtle effects on the brain and slowly things happen over the coming years, but it’s far too early for us to judge now,” Zandi said. “We hope, obviously, that that’s not going to happen, but when you’ve got such a big pandemic affecting such a vast proportion of the population it’s something we need to be alert to.”

Clinical-grade wearables offer continuous monitoring for COVID-19: Sticker-like medical device streams symptom data to physicians -- ScienceDaily

More recently, Rogers' team added a wearable, flexible pulse oximeter to pair with the suprasternal-mounted device. This allows physicians to continuously monitor for silent hypoxia, an often asymptomatic feature marked by alarmingly low blood oxygen levels. Adding this feature will help the device, and accompanying algorithms, give a fuller picture of the disease's onset, progression and response to treatment. "The device measures very tiny vibrations on the skin and has an embedded temperature sensor for fever," Rogers said. "As you cough and breathe, it counts coughs, monitors the intensity of cough and senses labored breathing. The location on the throat also is close enough to the carotid artery that it can measure mechanical signatures of blood flow, monitoring heart rate."

Bogus Racism Charge Melts Down Elite Progressive LISTSERV

When anybody defending the accused is automatically accused of the same crime, and any demand for evidence of the charge is seen as an extension of the original crime, you are following the logic of a witch hunt.

Rupert Beale · Short Cuts: How to Block Spike · LRB 21 May 2020

There are four ‘seasonal’ coronaviruses – 229E, OC43, NL63 and HKU1 – that cause mild disease in nearly everyone, only occasionally causing pneumonia. They can be given to healthy volunteers to study the immune response. They cause the ‘common cold’, and in experimentally infected humans they give rise to an antibody response. That response wanes after a few months, and the same people can be experimentally reinfected, though they tend to get milder symptoms the second time round. It is thought that adults get reinfected on average about once every five years. Sars-CoV-2 causes mild disease in most cases, and gives rise to antibody responses in nearly all cases. We don’t know how long these responses will last, but it is likely that people who suffer only mild disease will be susceptible to reinfection after a few months or years. Humanity has never developed ‘herd immunity’ to any coronavirus, and it’s unlikely that Sars-CoV-2 infection will be any different. If we did nothing, a likely possibility is that Covid-19 would become a recurring plague. We don’t know yet. It may have seemed like an aeon, but we have been aware of this virus for only a few months.

Wearables like Fitbit and Oura can detect coronavirus symptoms, new research shows - The Washington Post

On Thursday, researchers at WVU’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute reported that Oura ring data, combined with an app to measure cognition and other symptoms, can predict up to three days in advance when people will register a fever, coughing or shortness of breath. It can even predict someone’s exact temperature, like a weather forecast for the body.

Unsold book returns in coming weeks could be another blow for publishers | The Star

“If we just look at physical bookstores, so not online retailers, but mostly physical bookstores, they’re down almost 63 per cent year over year for the period,” Genner said from Toronto. “So 63 per cent in unit sales. That is hugely significant.”

Strong Social Distancing Measures In The United States Reduced The COVID-19 Growth Rate | Health Affairs

State and local governments imposed social distancing measures in March and April of 2020 to contain the spread of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). These included large event bans, school closures, closures of entertainment venues, gyms, bars, and restaurant dining areas, and shelter-in-place orders (SIPOs). We evaluated the impact of these measures on the growth rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases across US counties between March 1, 2020 and April 27, 2020. An event-study design allowed each policy’s impact on COVID-19 case growth to evolve over time. Adoption of government-imposed social distancing measures reduced the daily growth rate by 5.4 percentage points after 1–5 days, 6.8 after 6–10 days, 8.2 after 11–15 days, and 9.1 after 16–20 days. Holding the amount of voluntary social distancing constant, these results imply 10 times greater spread by April 27 without SIPOs (10 million cases) and more than 35 times greater spread without any of the four measures (35 million). Our paper illustrates the potential danger of exponential spread in the absence of interventions, providing relevant information to strategies for restarting economic activity.

The Answer to a COVID-19 Vaccine May Lie in Our Genes, But ... - Scientific American Blog Network

While 37 percent were unwilling to provide their DNA data to a technology company (like 23andMe), about the same percent were unwilling to provide it to a hospital (40 percent), a government health institute (37 percent), a pharmaceutical firm (40 percent) or a university (35 percent).

Wearing a mask is for smug liberals. Refusing to is for reckless Republicans. - POLITICO

Visiting the White House, it's striking how many people don’t wear masks. Very few Secret Service agents have them on. Some days, even the staff member performing temperature checks on reporters doesn’t wear one. In contrast, most, though certainly not all, members of the media wear some kind of face covering while in the press workspace or waiting to cover a presidential event. But very few keep them on during the televised briefings. Inside the building it is a relatively mask-free zone. At one meeting this week that included chief of staff Mark Meadows and some 20 other White House officials, including Secret Service agents, nobody from the White House was wearing a mask or other face covering.

San Francisco, California and the 1918-1919 Influenza Epidemic | The American Influenza Epidemic of 1918: A Digital Encyclopedia

Mayor Rolph postpones a decision on mask wearing until Monday (12/16). Businessmen say the public are skeptical about the mask’s effectiveness. Health Officer Hassler and the Board of Health insist the masks work. There are 176 new cases reported today.

Concerns with that Stanford study of coronavirus prevalence « Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science

The authors of this article put in a lot of work because they are concerned about public health and want to contribute to useful decision making. The study got attention and credibility in part because of the reputation of Stanford. Fair enough: Stanford’s a great institution. Amazing things are done at Stanford. But Stanford has also paid a small price for publicizing this work, because people will remember that “the Stanford study” was hyped but it had issues. So there is a cost here. The next study out of Stanford will have a little less of that credibility bank to borrow from. If I were a Stanford professor, I’d be kind of annoyed. So I think the authors of the study owe an apology not just to us, but to Stanford. Not to single out Stanford, though. There’s also Cornell, which is known as that place with the ESP professor and that goofy soup-bowl guy who faked his data. And I teach at Columbia; our most famous professor is . . . Dr. Oz.

Hospitals Race to Secure Big Credit Lifelines From Wall Street - Bloomberg

“We’ve never seen something where we’re simultaneously fighting a health care crisis at the same time that we’re fighting a financial crisis that’s directly affecting health care,” said Mike Allen, chief financial officer of OSF HealthCare System, which runs acute care centers in Illinois. His company is looking to increase its credit line from the $30 million it typically carries to as much as $250 million to contend with what could be a $330 million hit over the next six months.

Many Small Firms Expect to Fail If Crisis Lasts 6 Months

A National Bureau of Economic Research survey of small businesses finds that when firms are told to expect a one-month crisis, the expectation of remaining open by the end of the year hovers around 70% across all industries with the exception of Arts and Entertainment, and Personal Services. In those industries, the expectation of remaining open drops to 65% and 57% respectively. When firms are told to expect a six-month crisis, the average expectation of remaining open falls to 38%, and there is significant heterogeneity between sectors. The expected survival probability for firms in Arts and Entertainment drops precipitously to 35% if the crisis lasts 6 months. The expected probability of being open for Personal Services firms fall to 22% if the crisis lasts six months. The restaurant industry seems particularly vulnerable to a long crisis. Restaurateurs believe that they have a 72% chance of survival if the crisis lasts one month, but if the crisis lasts six months, then they expect to survive with only a 15% probability. Likewise, the chance of survival for firms in tourism and lodging drops to 27% by the 6-month mark.

Coronavirus: DeWine criticizes those defying orders, including churches; cases reach 2,547 as Ohio designates hospital zones - News - The Daily Record - Wooster, OH

Coronavirus continues its relentless rise in Ohio — advancing toward a projected peak later this month — as 348 more infected Ohioans and 10 more deaths were reported Wednesday. In his daily briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine hinted that extended or new restrictions on residents and businesses were coming as soon as Thursday. He also outlined efforts to expand hospital capacity, including use of convention centers for patients without COVID-19. With limited testing concealing the true extent of the pandemic, total cases rose 16% to at least 2,547 and deaths increased by 18% to 65 total since the virus first was confirmed in Ohio on March 9, state figures show.

Opinion | High-Dose Coronavirus Infections Should Worry Us More - The New York Times

Virus experts know that viral dose affects illness severity. In the lab, mice receiving a low dose of virus clear it and recover, while the same virus at a higher dose kills them. Dose sensitivity has been observed for every common acute viral infection that has been studied in lab animals, including coronaviruses. Humans also exhibit sensitivity to viral dose. Volunteers have allowed themselves to be exposed to low or high doses of relatively benign viruses causing colds or diarrhea. Those receiving the low doses have rarely developed visible signs of infection, while high doses have typically led to infections and more severe symptoms.

The Mathematics of Predicting the Course of the Coronavirus | WIRED

According to IHME’s models, 41 states will need more hospital beds than they currently have. Twelve states will need to boost their numbers of ICU beds by 50 percent or more. The models predict that over the next four months, these shortfalls will contribute to the deaths of 81,000 Americans, with the number of deaths per day peaking as soon as mid-April.

Doc Searls Weblog · Zoom needs to clean up its privacy act

What they mean by that is adtech. What they’re also saying here is that Zoom is in the advertising business, and in the worst end of it: the one that lives off harvested personal data. What makes this extra creepy is that Zoom is in a position to gather plenty of personal data, some of it very intimate (for example with a shrink talking to a patient) without anyone in the conversation knowing about it. (Unless, of course, they see an ad somewhere that looks like it was informed by a private conversation on Zoom.) A person whose personal data is being shed on Zoom doesn’t know that’s happening because Zoom doesn’t tell them. There’s no red light, like the one you see when a session is being recorded. If you were in a browser instead of an app, an extension such as Privacy Badger could tell you there are trackers sniffing your ass. And, if your browser is one that cares about privacy, such as Brave, Firefox or Safari, there’s a good chance it would be blocking trackers as well. But in the Zoom app, you can’t tell if or how your personal data is being harvested.

The Eerie Parallels Between Coronavirus and the Bubonic Plague - Rolling Stone

Crises like these — whether it’s a crisis of political legitimacy, or a pandemic that demands response, or some kind of major external war that crops up out of nowhere — the chances are good that whatever snaps under the pressure of that crisis was probably straining already, was probably barely chugging along already. There’s some kind of deep problem that a crisis is going to expose, bring to the fore, and then break very dramatically for everybody to see. We see the crisis and we see the break — and we equate the two. We’re narrative creatures. That’s how we understand the world. We understand things as a story with a climax, and the break has to be the climax. It’s very hard for us to turn a more analytical eye and see the collection of very small things that lead up to a systemic break. It’s just difficult. But these disasters don’t create these trends so much as they supercharge them.

BuzzFeed Slashing Employee Pay Amid the Coronavirus Crisis

Staffers in the lowest bracket—which includes anyone making under $65,000 annually—would experience a five-percent reduction, while those making between $65,000-$90,000 would experience a seven-percent cut. Other staff would take nearly a 10-percent pay cut, while executives would take between 14-to-25-percent in pay reduction.  CEO Jonah Peretti confirmed in a note to staff that “I will not be taking a salary until we are on the other side of this crisis.”

Yuval Noah Harari: the world after coronavirus | Free to read

You could, of course, make the case for biometric surveillance as a temporary measure taken during a state of emergency. It would go away once the emergency is over. But temporary measures have a nasty habit of outlasting emergencies, especially as there is always a new emergency lurking on the horizon. My home country of Israel, for example, declared a state of emergency during its 1948 War of Independence, which justified a range of temporary measures from press censorship and land confiscation to special regulations for making pudding (I kid you not). The War of Independence has long been won, but Israel never declared the emergency over, and has failed to abolish many of the “temporary” measures of 1948 (the emergency pudding decree was mercifully abolished in 2011).