bobsal u1553115
Reply Sat 2 Apr, 2022 06:34 am
Outbreak at Shanghai Hospital Exposes Covid’s Risks to China’s Seniors

Coronavirus infections have spread at an elder care facility in Shanghai. Workers said deaths are increasing and resources dwindling.


By John Liu, Amy Chang Chien and Paul Mozur
April 1, 2022

A coronavirus outbreak is ravaging a hospital in Shanghai for older adults, underscoring the difficulties officials have had in containing infections even as the city imposed a 10-day staggered lockdown.

Two orderlies at the Shanghai Donghai Elderly Care Hospital said in interviews that the coronavirus was spreading widely among the mostly older patients in the facility, and that people had died on each of the past three days. The two, who declined to be named for fear of losing their jobs, said that on a recent night they had been asked to carry a body into a room where other bodies were being stored.

The two said they did not know how the people had died, but said that many had been infected with Covid, and that there was a shortage of tests and other resources. The New York Times also spoke with a Shanghai resident, Chen Jielei, who said her 81-year-old mother tested positive for Covid-19 in the hospital.

The situation points to an unfolding health care crisis in China’s largest city, and exposes a vulnerable group in the country’s otherwise highly effective Covid-19 strategy: the elderly.

China’s efforts to eliminate infections with lockdowns, travel restrictions, mass testing and surveillance had largely kept Covid out since it first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan two years ago. But with the rise of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, China has in recent months struggled to quash outbreaks. Lockdowns were imposed in major cities like Xi’an and Shenzhen, as well as the entire northern province of Jilin.

In Shanghai, officials have argued the city plays too crucial an economic role to be completely closed down. But the surge in cases prompted officials last week to impose a staggered shutdown. First the eastern and then the western halves of the city were to close businesses, suspend public transportation and confine residents in their buildings so that mass testing could be carried out.

The rollout has been messy. Grocery store shelves have been emptied as residents went on panic buying sprees. People with life-threatening conditions posted calls for help online when they could not get to hospitals for help. Quarantine facilities and hospitals have overflowed with people who tested positive, who must be confined in such facilities even if asymptomatic.

But the crisis in the Donghai hospital exposes a deeper challenge: how to protect older Chinese, who are already more vulnerable to the virus, particularly if they live in facilities besieged by it. Making matters worse, just over half of people 80 and older have had two shots, and less than 20 percent of people in that age group have received a booster, Zeng Yixin, a vice minister of the National Health Commission, said recently.

Officials have pointed to the outbreak in Hong Kong, where deaths spiked in recent weeks, particularly among unvaccinated older adults, as a sign of concern.

It is not clear how many people have died at the Donghai hospital, and whether the deaths are directly linked to the Covid outbreak there, which was previously reported by The Wall Street Journal. A woman who picked up the phone at the Donghai Elderly Care Hospital confirmed an outbreak of Covid there, but declined to say how many cases there were or to provide other details. Bloggers shared photos and descriptions of the outbreak in the Donghai facility on Chinese social media, but it went unreported by official Chinese media. Shanghai has not yet officially reported any deaths from Covid. Calls to the Shanghai Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention went unanswered on Friday.

The two orderlies, who shared proof of their work at the facility, said they had been recruited recently to work at the hospital without being told about the situation. They were shocked to find when they arrived that they would be working in a ward filled with patients who had Covid. They said that because they had come into contact with sick patients, they were being confined to the hospital and could not leave.

One night, around 3 a.m., they were woken up by hospital staff and given a duty they said they were not hired to perform: carrying a body away to a makeshift morgue. They said that five of them took the body to a room where a large number of bodies were being stored.

In a different wing of the hospital, Zhang Meizhen, the mother of Ms. Chen, the Shanghai resident, tested positive for Covid-19 in the hospital last week. Ms. Zhang’s symptoms were mild, Ms. Chen said in a phone interview. But she was still worried because there had been no doctors or nurses attending to her, and her mother was not vaccinated.

“The management of their hospital is a mess, and there is no food. They only had their meal at 9:30 last night,” Ms. Chen said. “My mother’s feet and hands hurt, but no one has given her any medicine.”

With much of the city under lockdown, Ms. Chen said she was unable to get to the hospital to visit her mother.

“We are absolutely worried,” she said. “Our family is desperate, we can’t go to see her, and we can’t bring her back, either.”

In another hospital in the eastern part of the city, Shen Li, a 45-year-old businessman, said that his 77-year-old father, Shen Ruigen, had died two days after testing positive. Mr. Shen said that he had not been allowed access to his father’s body or to see his 83-year-old mother, who has been confined in a residential building alone since mid-March.
Empty shelves at a Shanghai supermarket on Wednesday.

According to Mr. Shen, his father, who had been suffering from diabetes and kidney failure and needed to take various prescription medicines on a daily basis, tested positive at a hospital in Shanghai on March 26. He went to the Fudan University Affiliated Pudong Medical Center for treatment but was told that he needed to wait for seven to eight hours, because there were more than 400 people in line.

While waiting in line, Mr. Shen ran out of medication. He couldn’t get emergency hemodialysis, a treatment that helps filter his blood. On March 28, his father was transferred to two other hospitals, but his condition deteriorated quickly, and he died of heart failure.

“I haven’t been able to live with the fact that my father died alone,” said Mr. Shen in a telephone interview on Friday. “I could do nothing to stop his death.”

Qin Xianfeng, a local health official in the district of Pudong who Mr. Shen said had been in touch with him about his father’s death this week, declined to comment when reached by telephone on Friday.

Mr. Shen added that he was especially worried about his mother, who was confined at home alone and relied on the daily supply of food from the volunteers at her neighborhood. “We haven’t told her about my father’s death,” Mr. Shen said.

“She couldn’t take it alone,” he said. “There is no one else by her side.”
0 Replies
Reply Sun 3 Apr, 2022 05:36 am
The Latest Covid Misinformation Star Says He Invented the Vaccines

Dr. Robert Malone says he helped invent mRNA vaccines and has been wronged for decades. Now he’s spreading unfounded claims about the vaccines and the virus.

MADISON, Va. — “I haven’t been able to ride a horse in months,” Dr. Robert Malone said from his 50-acre horse farm about two hours southwest of Washington. “It’s just a constant barrage of requests for assistance.”

Dr. Malone, 62, was sitting barefoot at his kitchen table, wearing a navy tie decorated with dark red spikes of the coronavirus, in the middle of another busy day of appearances on conservative television shows and podcasts. Just that week, he had appeared on “Hannity,” a hit on Fox News that averages over three million viewers, and on One America News. He joined “Candace,” an online talk show hosted by the right-wing media personality Candace Owens. And he was a guest on the podcasts “America First With Sebastian Gorka” and “The Joe Pags Show.”

Dr. Malone spent decades working in academic centers and with start-ups seeking to bring new medical treatments to market and to combat the Zika and Ebola outbreaks. But in recent months, as the coronavirus pandemic has persisted, he has taken up an entirely different role: spreading misinformation about the virus and vaccines on conservative programs.

In many of his appearances, Dr. Malone questions the severity of the coronavirus, which has now killed nearly one million people in the United States, and the safety of the coronavirus vaccines, which have been widely found to be safe and effective at preventing serious illness and death. His statements in late December on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” one of the most popular podcasts in the country, with 11 million listeners per episode on average, were at the center of the uproar over Mr. Rogan’s role in spreading bad information about the virus.

Dr. Malone also routinely sells himself on the shows as the inventor of mRNA vaccines, the technology used by Pfizer and Moderna for their Covid-19 shots, and says he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for their development. While he was involved in some early research into the technology, his role in its creation was minimal at best, say half a dozen Covid experts and researchers, including three who worked closely with Dr. Malone.

In spreading these exaggerations and unfounded claims, Dr. Malone joins medical professionals and scientists, like Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Judy Mikovits, whose profiles have grown during the pandemic as they spread misinformation about mask-wearing and convoluted conspiracy theories about virus experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci.

But unlike many of them, Dr. Malone is quite new to the right-wing media world, first appearing regularly on podcasts last June. Even two years into the pandemic, new misinformation stars are being minted. And in today’s media echo chamber — powered by social media algorithms and a tightknit network of politicians and influencers promoting debunked claims — they can quickly catapult to stardom.

In addition to his regular appearances on conservative shows, Dr. Malone has more than 134,000 subscribers to his Substack newsletter. About 8,000 pay the $5 monthly cost, he said, which would amount to at least $31,200 in monthly revenue. And mentions of him on social media, on cable television and in print and online news outlets have soared — to more than 300,000 so far this year, according to Zignal, a media research firm.

The coronavirus pandemic has “given rise to a class of influencers who build conspiracy theories and recruit as many people into them as possible,” said Emerson T. Brooking, a resident senior fellow for the Atlantic Council who studies digital platforms. “These influencers usually have a special claim to expertise and a veneer of credibility.”

“And almost without exception, these influencers feel that they have been wronged by mainstream society in some way,” Mr. Brooking added.

Dr. Malone earned a medical degree from Northwestern University in 1991, and for the next decade taught pathology at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Maryland. He then turned to biotech start-ups and consulting. His résumé says he was “instrumental” in securing early-stage approval for research on the Ebola vaccine by the pharmaceutical company Merck in the mid-2010s. He also worked on repurposing drugs to treat Zika.

In extended interviews at his home over two days, Dr. Malone said he was repeatedly not recognized for his contributions over the course of his career, his voice low and grave as he recounted perceived slights by the institutions he had worked for. His wife, Dr. Jill Glasspool Malone, paced the room and pulled up articles on her laptop that she said supported his complaints.

The example he points to more frequently is from his time at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego. While there, he performed experiments that showed how human cells could absorb an mRNA cocktail and produce proteins from it. Those experiments, he says, make him the inventor of mRNA vaccine technology.

“I was there,” Dr. Malone said. “I wrote all the invention.”

What the mainstream media did instead, he said, was give credit for the mRNA vaccines to the scientists Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman, because there “is a concerted campaign to get them the Nobel Prize” by both Pfizer BioNTech, where Dr. Kariko is a senior vice president, and the University of Pennsylvania, where Dr. Weissman leads a laboratory researching vaccines and infectious diseases.

But at the time he was conducting those experiments, it was not known how to protect the fragile RNA from the immune system’s attack, scientists say. Former colleagues said they had watched in astonishment as Dr. Malone began posting on social media about why he deserved to win the Nobel Prize.

The idea that he is the inventor of mRNA vaccines is “a totally false claim,” said Dr. Gyula Acsadi, a pediatrician in Connecticut who along with Dr. Malone and five others wrote a widely cited paper in 1990 showing that injecting RNA into muscle could produce proteins. (The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work by injecting RNA into arm muscles that produce copies of the “spike protein” found on the outside of the coronavirus. The human immune system identifies that protein, attacks it and then remembers how to defeat it.)

But Dr. Malone was not the lead author on the paper and, according to Dr. Acsadi, did not make a significant contribution to the research. While the paper stated that the technology could “provide alternative approaches to vaccine development,” Dr. Acsadi said none of the other authors would claim that they invented the vaccine.

“Some of his work was important,” said Dr. Alastair McAlpine, a pediatric infectious disease doctor based in Vancouver, British Columbia, “but that’s a long way away from claiming to have invented the technology that underpins the vaccines as we use them today.”

The vaccines “are the result of hundreds of scientists all over the world, all combining to come together to form this vaccine,” Dr. McAlpine said. “It was not one individual or the pioneering work of an individual person.”

A spokeswoman for Penn Medicine said, “We have been excited to witness the deployment of the vaccines in the global fight against the virus and the well-deserved global recognition for Drs. Kariko and Weissman’s decades of visionary basic science research.”

Dr. Malone pushes back against the criticism directed at him by scientists, researchers and journalists, and dismisses the dozens of fact-checks disputing his statements as “attacks.”

He also continues to repeat his claims, with the help of his wife, Dr. Glasspool Malone, who is trained in biotechnology and public policy. She writes, he said, more than half of the articles posted onto his Substack newsletter — which is awash in conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 vaccines. Recent articles include “The illusion of evidence-based medicine” and “How does it feel to be vindicated?”

Dr. Malone said he did not align himself with any particular political party. But in recent months, he and his wife have made numerous stops at popular conservative conferences, like Hereticon, the Peter Thiel-backed conference in Miami for Silicon Valley’s self-proclaimed contrarians, and the “Defeat the Mandates” march in Washington.

Dr. Malone says much of the pushback he receives is because anything that questions the guidance from organizations like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is automatically labeled misinformation by the medical establishment, as well as the technology platforms.

Many well-meaning public figures and donors committed themselves to the wrong ideas, just to be able to tell themselves that they are indeed playing a role helping to solve the crisis, he said.

“It is really easy to get caught up in it, and obsess, and lose perspective — and kind of lose yourself,” Dr. Malone said of them.

Many scientists and researchers say there is good-faith disagreement about how to translate fast-moving science into policy, and acknowledge that health agencies have adjusted guidelines over time, as new information is collected.

Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan, said such guidance was “only as reliable as the evidence behind it, and thus it should change when new evidence is obtained.”

But they say Dr. Malone has twisted legitimate policy debates to use them as cover for continuing to spread misinformation and to advance claims about the pandemic that are demonstrably incorrect.

Months ago, he was promoting the drugs hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin for treatment of Covid-19, despite several studies and scientific trials showing a lack of evidence that the drugs improved the conditions of Covid patients. Dr. Malone said that early on in the pandemic, he believed that what he could contribute was bringing repurposed drugs to market.

“All the big boys came in for the vaccines,” Dr. Malone said. “We weren’t needed for that.”

The Food and Drug Administration continues to caution against the use of hydroxychloroquine “due to risk of heart rhythm problems,” and a large study published in March found that ivermectin does not reduce the risk of Covid hospitalization. The F.D.A. has also said taking large doses of the drug is dangerous.

“Robert Malone is exploiting the fact that data-driven course correction is inherent to the scientific process to peddle disinformation,” Dr. Rasmussen said. “It’s extraordinarily dishonest and morally bankrupt.”

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2022 12:26 am
"Laissez-faire" and "ignorance" - a recent report clearly criticizes Sweden's pandemic policy.

Evaluation of science advice during the COVID-19 pandemic in Sweden
Sweden was well equipped to prevent the pandemic of COVID-19 from becoming serious. Over 280 years of collaboration between political bodies, authorities, and the scientific community had yielded many successes in preventive medicine. Sweden’s population is literate and has a high level of trust in authorities and those in power. During 2020, however, Sweden had ten times higher COVID-19 death rates compared with neighbouring Norway. In this report, we try to understand why, using a narrative approach to evaluate the Swedish COVID-19 policy and the role of scientific evidence and integrity. We argue that that scientific methodology was not followed by the major figures in the acting authorities—or the responsible politicians—with alternative narratives being considered as valid, resulting in arbitrary policy decisions. In 2014, the Public Health Agency merged with the Institute for Infectious Disease Control; the first decision by its new head (Johan Carlson) was to dismiss and move the authority’s six professors to Karolinska Institute. With this setup, the authority lacked expertise and could disregard scientific facts. The Swedish pandemic strategy seemed targeted towards “natural” herd-immunity and avoiding a societal shutdown. The Public Health Agency labelled advice from national scientists and international authorities as extreme positions, resulting in media and political bodies to accept their own policy instead. The Swedish people were kept in ignorance of basic facts such as the airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission, that asymptomatic individuals can be contagious and that face masks protect both the carrier and others. Mandatory legislation was seldom used; recommendations relying upon personal responsibility and without any sanctions were the norm. Many elderly people were administered morphine instead of oxygen despite available supplies, effectively ending their lives. If Sweden wants to do better in future pandemics, the scientific method must be re-established, not least within the Public Health Agency. It would likely make a large difference if a separate, independent Institute for Infectious Disease Control is recreated. We recommend Sweden begins a self-critical process about its political culture and the lack of accountability of decision-makers to avoid future failures, as occurred with the COVID-19 pandemic.
bobsal u1553115
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2022 06:09 am
@Walter Hinteler,
That pandemic-strategy amnesia was very, very strong and very,very deadly in the US, too, Walter.

Like we forgot everything, and decided to fight it allowing a huge portion of the nation to fight it with disinformation and a cracked notion of what freedom of speech is.
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2022 09:34 am
Senate Agrees To $10 Billion In Extra COVID $$$, After GOP A Bunch Of Dicks About It

Link to tweet


The US Senate agreed yesterday on a $10 billion plan to fund coronavirus treatments, vaccinations, and vaccine research, heading off the possibility that the US might have to cut back on ongoing treatment and free vaccines in the next few months. The funding will also cover additional testing capacity in case a new wave of infections arrives.

The White House has been warning that a cutoff of COVID funding could be catastrophic for programs that have provided COVID vaccinations and treatment to Americans at no cost. Without the additional funds, the government would have had to stop reimbursing providers for testing and treatment, retroactive to March 22, and would have been unable to reimburse for vaccines starting today.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said yesterday that the White House will keep pushing Congress for additional funding, because the US and the world need every dollar of President Joe Biden's original $22.5 billion request, especially to help people get the second booster shots that were approved last week. But, yes, for Crom's sake, pass this deal now to make sure existing programs continue. Deals are good!

“We urge Congress to move promptly on this $10 billion package because it can begin to fund the most immediate needs, as we currently run the risk of not having some critical tools like treatments and tests starting in May and June,” Psaki said.

The funding deal, negotiated by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), is a bit less than half the $22.5 billion the White House had requested, and doesn't include any funding for one of President Joe Biden's top priorities, increased vaccinations in developing countries.

0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Wed 6 Apr, 2022 07:21 am
Why Ba.2 Covid cases haven't surged in the U.S.
From this morning's NY Times newsletter The Morning:

4. Another mystery
Throughout the pandemic, Osterholm — the Minnesota epidemiologist — has lamented that many scientists, journalists and laypeople exaggerate how much we actually know about Covid. His favorite example: The Alpha variant swept through Michigan and Minnesota last year and then largely died out, without causing case increases in other parts of the U.S. Another example: BA.2 has recently become the dominant variant in India, South Africa and some other countries without causing a spike in cases.

When I called Osterholm yesterday to ask why cases had not surged over the past few weeks, he simply said: “I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody really knows.”

Of all the variants, only the original Omicron was so contagious that it spread around the world in predictable ways, he said. Other versions of the virus have surged and receded in mysterious ways, much as a forest fire can die out without burning down an entire forest.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 6 Apr, 2022 08:15 am
Israel was the first country to recommend a second booster vaccination for people over 60. A study shows that it significantly reduces the risk of severe Covid 19 disease, but only briefly protects people from infection.

Protection by a Fourth Dose of BNT162b2 against Omicron in Israel

[BNT162b2 (recommended international non-proprietary name (INN): Tozinameran; known in the U.S. as Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine; trade name in EEA countries,Switzerland and the U.S.: Comirnaty]
bobsal u1553115
Reply Wed 6 Apr, 2022 09:28 am
@Walter Hinteler,
I'll take it, no problem. Survival until the cure.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 6 Apr, 2022 10:10 am
@bobsal u1553115,
I'll get my second booster on Friday.
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Thu 7 Apr, 2022 06:59 am
How Republicans Failed the Unvaccinated
April 6, 2022
Credit...Elijah Baylis for The New York Times

Ross Douthat

By Ross Douthat


Last fall, a group of researchers conducted a vaccine promotion experiment: They showed an advertisement to millions of U.S. YouTube users highlighting Donald Trump’s support for Covid-19 vaccines, using news footage in which the former president urged people to get vaccinated. This was a randomized controlled trial, comparing counties that were exposed to the ads to counties that weren’t, and in a new paper, the researchers claim the ads worked: Over the course of the two-and-a-half-week experiment, the 1,014 counties that were part of the campaign saw an estimated 104,036 additional vaccinations overall.

Like all studies, these results should be handled with care, but they speak to a key question as the United States emerges — hopefully — from the worst of the Covid era but also nears one million deaths: How much more could have been done to combat vaccine hesitancy, and how much more could Republican vaccine hesitancy, especially, have been overcome?

This question is sharpest for conservatives, and we’ll get to the right’s responsibility in a moment. But it’s an important question for liberals, too, because a liberal administration has been governing the country throughout most of the vaccination era, and a heavily liberal public health establishment has been responsible for figuring out how to get through to the unvaccinated. Communicating through a polarized environment is a hard task, and some degree of failure was inevitable. But once it became clear that Republican vaccine resistance was going to be a problem, it felt as if the liberal authorities had only two responses: mandates and scolding, trying to force people to get shots and complaining about misinformation when they didn’t.

My view last summer was that more creative options were available, including simply paying wavering Americans to get vaccinated — not the small sums or lottery tickets offered by some states and localities, but a sum more commensurate with the risks that healthy people felt they were taking with newly developed shots and the time that they might fear losing to any side effects.

But the advertisement experiment, the apparent effectiveness of just highlighting Trump’s pro-vaccine rhetoric to receptive audiences, is an example of a different kind of creativity. Republican vaccine skepticism was hardly monolithic: Most Republicans got the vaccines, many prominent conservatives — politicians, Fox News figures, more — urged people to take them, and plenty of figures on the right insisted they were pro-vaccine, anti-mandate. All this could have been material for more Republican-friendly and therefore more persuasive forms of advertisement and outreach than what the Biden administration, with its mandates-and-misinformation focus, ultimately delivered.

Or so I tend to think. But in the end, it’s Republicans themselves — officeholders, media personalities, Trump — who had the best opportunity to do outreach to their own vaccine-hesitant supporters, to cut the ads and hold the events and otherwise break down the more understandable and sincerely motivated forms of skepticism. And so it’s within conservatism that the failure of the past year was the clearest.

The best way to understand that failure is to connect it to the things that conservatives got right, or partly right, during the course of 2020 and 2021. In particular, as we look back over the pandemic era, the right-wing doubts about the various mitigation strategies — mask mandates, school closures, lockdowns, social distancing — now have a certain amount of data to support them.

For instance, there was a lot of talk throughout 2020 about how quick-to-reopen red states were killing their residents while blue states were protecting them. But as my colleague David Leonhardt has pointed out, “by the end of Covid’s first year in the U.S., the virus had swept across the country, and there was no significant partisan divide in deaths.” More recently, as Omicron swept through the country, he noted that it was hard to discern a clear difference in infection rates between liberal and conservative counties, even though liberal areas were still implementing more mitigation measures. Or to step outside the United States: A study published last month in The Lancet looking at excess death rates worldwide in the Covid era found that two European countries often critiqued for being too lax relative to their neighbors, Sweden and the Britain, didn’t have notably worse outcomes relative to their peers.

These trends are suggestive; they don’t mean that all nonpharmaceutical interventions were in vain. But they do imply that they were often oversold, their capital-S Scientific basis emphasized at the expense of reasonable doubts. Combine this reality with the manifest harms of some interventions, school shutdowns especially, and you get the fact pattern that made a figure like Ron DeSantis into a conservative folk hero for resisting many of these measures.

But then out of that fact pattern, the right drew erroneous conclusions for the vaccine phase of the Covid era. The more sweepingly erroneous conclusion was the one drawn by outright anti-vaxxers — which was that if public health authorities had exaggerated benefits and played down costs when promoting nonpharmaceutical interventions, you should assume that they were wildly exaggerating the benefits and hiding some even greater cost when promoting the vaccines.

But even the conservatives who didn’t go all the way to vaccine opposition often seemed to take vaccine uptake somewhat for granted, treating it as a purely individual decision and training most of their fire on the perils of the next round of public health overreach. Those perils existed, in blue America especially — but the vaccines were so much more effective at preventing deaths than the most common nonpharmaceutical interventions, the stakes of their uptake so much higher, that a lot of conservative leaders ended up imbalanced, saving their enthusiasm for opposition to whatever the liberals were up to next, when what was needed first was just some over-the-top Republican enthusiasm for the vaccines.

A figure like DeSantis exemplified this problem. He made a big initial push for vaccination in Florida, but he was clearly much more comfortable pushing back against mandates than he was being a permanent salesman for vaccines that part of his core constituency resisted. And this was a problem because he, precisely because of the credibility he’d built up resisting prior public health overreach, was the best possible salesman available in Florida — and not only in Florida — not named Donald Trump. The fact that he wasn’t anti-vaxx was not enough: Precisely because red America was more resistant than blue America, it needed its leaders to be vaccine salespeople not only at the outset but through the Delta and Omicron waves as well.

As with my sentiments about the Biden administration’s failings, I can’t prove to you that DeSantis didn’t do enough selling or that the red-over-blue gap in Covid death rates that opened after vaccines arrived would have been narrower with more zeal and enthusiastic P.R. among officially pro-vaccine Republicans. Confounding factors remain, and everyone in these debates would benefit from one degree more humility.

But a study that used clips of Trump to sell over 100,000 more Americans on vaccination fits, at least, with what I think we observed in 2021. A lot of vaccine resistance, and not just on the right, was more contingent and malleable than narratives about lock-step anti-vaxxers often suggested. And it could have been more amenable to old-fashioned persuasion, if only the right persuasion had been used.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 7 Apr, 2022 10:31 pm
Omicron variant does cause different symptoms from Delta, study finds
Data from UK’s Zoe Covid study confirms reports Omicron patients recover more quickly and are less likely to lose sense of smell or taste

People who have the Omicron Covid variant tend to have symptoms for a shorter period, a lower risk of being admitted to hospital and a different set of symptoms from those who have Delta, research has suggested.

As the highly transmissible Omicron variant shot to dominance towards the end of last year, it emerged that, while it is better at dodging the body’s immune responses than Delta, it also produces less severe disease.

Now a large study has not only backed up the findings, but confirmed reports Omicron is linked to a shorter duration of illness and a different collection of symptoms.
The team found participants’ symptoms lasted on average 6.9 days during the period when Omicron dominated, compared with 8.9 days when Delta dominated, with infections during the Omicron period linked to a 25% lower likelihood of admission to hospital.

The results suggested only 17% of people who had Covid when Omicron dominated lost their sense of smell, compared with 53% when Delta dominated. However, a sore throat and going hoarse were both more common among the former.
Dr David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, who was not involved in the study, said the findings chime with what hospitals experienced at the start of the year when the BA.1 Omicron variant dominated. But the Omicron variant BA.2 has since taken over – and, in his experience, the picture has changed again.

“People in hospital are staying in hospital for longer and staff are testing positive for longer, so it is longer before they can return to work,” he said.

The research came as the React-1 study revealed the average prevalence of Covid across England was at the highest level ever recorded. Meanwhile, the UK Health Security Agency reported on Thursday that 15.3% of people aged 75 and over have received their spring booster Covid jab so far.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 8 Apr, 2022 10:18 am
Why a Coronavirus-Flu ‘Twindemic’ May Never Happen
Scientists are exploring a theory suggesting that exposure to one respiratory virus helps the body fend off competing pathogens.

An intriguing theory may help explain why the flu and Covid-19 never gripped the nation simultaneously — the so-called twindemic that many public health experts had feared.

The idea is that it wasn’t just masks, social distancing or other pandemic restrictions that caused flu and other respiratory viruses to fade while the coronavirus reigned, and to resurge as it receded.

Rather, exposure to one respiratory virus may put the body’s immune defenses on high alert, barring other intruders from gaining entry into the airways. This biological phenomenon, called viral interference, may cap the amount of respiratory virus circulating in a region at any given time.

“My gut feeling, and my feeling based on our recent research, is that viral interference is real,” said Dr. Ellen Foxman, an immunologist at the Yale School of Medicine. “I don’t think we’re going to see the flu and the coronavirus peak at the same time.”

At an individual level, she said, there may be some people who end up infected with two or even three viruses at the same time. But at a population level, according to this theory, one virus tends to edge out the others.

Still, she cautioned, “The health care system can become overburdened well before the upper limit of circulation is reached, as the Omicron wave has shown.”

Viral interference may help explain patterns of infection seen in large populations, including those that may arise as the coronavirus becomes endemic. But the research is in its early days, and scientists are still struggling to understand how it works.

Before the coronavirus became a global threat, influenza was the among the most common severe respiratory infections each year. In the 2018-2019 season, for example, the flu was responsible for 13 million medical visits, 380,000 hospitalizations and 28,000 deaths.

The 2019-2020 flu season was winding down before the coronavirus began to rage through the world, so it was unclear how the two viruses might be influencing each other. Many experts feared that the viruses would collide the next year in a twindemic, swamping hospitals.

Those worries were not realized. Despite a weak effort to ramp up flu vaccinations, cases remained unusually low throughout the 2020-2021 flu season, as the coronavirus continued to circulate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only 0.2 percent of samples tested positive for influenza from September to May, compared with about 30 percent in recent seasons, and hospitalizations for flu were the lowest on record since the agency began collecting this data in 2005.

Many experts attributed the flu-free season to masks, social distancing and restricted movement, especially of young children and older adults, both of whom are at the highest risk for severe flu. Flu numbers did tick upward a year later, in the 2021-2022 season, when many states had dispensed with restrictions, but the figures were still lower than the prepandemic average.

So far this year, the nation has recorded about five million cases, two million medical visits, and fewer than 65,000 hospitalizations and 5,800 deaths related to the flu.

Instead, the coronavirus has continued to dominate the winters, much more common than the flu, respiratory syncytial virus, rhinovirus and common cold viruses.

The respiratory syncytial virus, or R.S.V., usually surfaces in September and peaks in late December to February, but the pandemic distorted its seasonal pattern. It lay low through all of 2020 and peaked in the summer of 2021 — when the coronavirus had plummeted to its lowest levels since the pandemic’s beginning.

The notion of that there is a sort of interplay between viruses first emerged in the 1960s, when vaccinations for polio, which contain weakened poliovirus, significantly cut the number of respiratory infections. The idea gained new ground in 2009: Europe seemed poised for a surge in swine flu cases late that summer, but when schools reopened, rhinovirus colds seemed somehow to interrupt the flu epidemic.

“That prompted a lot of people at that time to speculate about this idea of viral interference,” Dr. Foxman said. Even in a typical year, the rhinovirus peaks in October or November and then again in March, on either end of the influenza season.

Last year, one team of researchers set out to study the role of an existing immune response in fending off the flu virus. Because it would be unethical to deliberately infect children with the flu, they gave children in Gambia a vaccine with a weakened strain of the virus.

Infection with viruses sets off a complex cascade of immune responses, but the very first defense comes from a set of nonspecific defenders called interferons. Children who already had high levels of interferon ended up with much less flu virus in their bodies than those with lower levels of interferon, the team found.

The findings suggested that previous viral infections primed the children’s immune systems to fight the flu virus. “Most of the viruses that we saw in these kids before giving the vaccine were rhinoviruses,” said Dr. Thushan de Silva, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Sheffield in England, who led the study.

This dynamic may partly explain why children, who tend to have more respiratory infections than adults, seem less likely to become infected with the coronavirus. The flu may also prevent coronavirus infections in adults, said Dr. Guy Boivin, a virologist and infectious disease specialist at Laval University in Canada.

Recent studies have shown that co-infections of flu and the coronavirus are rare, and those with an active influenza infection were nearly 60 percent less likely to test positive for the coronavirus, he noted.

“Now we see a rise in flu activity in Europe and North America, and it will be interesting to see if it leads to a decreased in SARS-COV-2 circulation in the next few weeks,” he said.

Advances in technology over the past decade have made it feasible to show the biological basis of this interference. Dr. Foxman’s team used a model of human airway tissue to show that rhinovirus infection stimulates interferons that can then fend off the coronavirus.

“The protection is transient for a certain period of time while you have that interferon response triggered by rhinovirus,” said Pablo Murcia, a virologist at the MRC Center for Virus Research at the University of Glasgow, whose team found similar results.

But Dr. Murcia also discovered a kink in the viral interference theory: A bout with the coronavirus did not seem to prevent infection with other viruses. That may have something to do with how adept the coronavirus is at evading the immune system’s initial defenses, he said.

“Compared to influenza, it tends to activate these antiviral interferons less,” Dr. de Silva said of the coronavirus. That finding suggests that in a given population, it may matter which virus appears first.

Dr. de Silva and his colleagues have gathered additional data from Gambia — which had no pandemic-related restrictions that might have affected the viral patterns they were observing — indicating that rhinovirus, influenza and the coronavirus all peaked at different times between April 2020 and June 2021.

That data has “made me a bit more convinced that interference could play a role,” he said.

Still, the behavior of viruses can be greatly influenced by their rapid evolution, and by societal restrictions and vaccination patterns. So the potential impact of viral interference is unlikely to become apparent till the coronavirus settles into a predictable endemic pattern, experts said.

R.S.V., rhinovirus and flu have coexisted for years, noted Dr. Nasia Safdar, an expert on health-care-associated infections at the University of Wisconsin—Madison.

“Eventually that’s what will happen with this one, too — it will become one of many that circulate,” Dr. Safdar said of the coronavirus. Some viruses may attenuate the effects of others, she said, but the patterns may not be readily apparent.

Looking at common-cold coronaviruses, some researchers have predicted that SARS-CoV-2 will become a seasonal winter infection that may well coincide the flu. But the pandemic coronavirus has already shown itself to be different from its cousins.

For example, it is rarely seen in co-infections, while one of the four common-cold coronaviruses is frequently seen as a co-infection with the other three.

“That’s the kind of interesting example that makes one sort of hesitate to make generalizations across multiple viruses,” said Jeffrey Townsend, a biostatistician at the Yale School of Public Health who has studied the coronavirus and its seasonality. “It seems to be somewhat virus-specific how these things occur.”
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Fri 8 Apr, 2022 08:32 pm
Gridiron president says 53 people contracted COVID-19 after dinner
Gridiron President Tom DeFrank said on Friday that 53 individuals who attended the annual Gridiron Club dinner last Saturday had told the organization they tested positive for COVID-19. The announcement comes a week after several high profile figures who attended the dinner said they tested positive for the virus.

Among those who tested positive include Vice President Harris’s Communications Director Jamal Simmons, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas).

Other staffers and journalists who attended the dinner have also tested positive for the coronavirus.
“All guests at the Gridiron Club dinner were required to show proof of vaccination. We understand that some of our guests have reported positive tests since the dinner. We wish them a speedy recovery,” DeFrank previously told The Hill in a statement.

Most individuals who have tested positive have had the COVID-19 vaccine and are experiencing mild or no symptoms.

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 9 Apr, 2022 07:46 am
Because of Omikron, all residents of the Shanghai metropolis are in lockdown for an indefinite period. This means that the world's largest port is paralyzed, as are many corporate headquarters and China's financial centre.

Can the global economy cope with this, one might ask.
Region Philbis
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2022 05:02 am

Study: COVID-19 vaccinations averted 2.2 million deaths in US
0 Replies
Reply Wed 13 Apr, 2022 09:32 am
@Walter Hinteler,
The point is, vaccinated people can get and transmit Covid. Most who get it now do not die of it. People can get it more than once, and it can present differently each time.

One of my sisters was picking up another sister at the airport last Wed. She had a tickle in her throat. She told my incoming sister and was told, "That's okay, just pick me up." The next day, taxi sister tested positive. Later that day, the other sister did, too, by was asymptomatic. In the meantime, Wed night, they visited other family, so alerted all of them. Taxi sister and her partner had what they called "a very bad cold with sore throat", which she is now over. A week of cold symptoms if you're healthy. Nothing for incoming sister.

I say there is too much brouhaha about it. Our numbers are going up, but not necessarily in hospital and ICU. So what? I treat it like the annual flu, where some die of it, but most don't.

If you're like my sisters, just continue being careful and learn to live with it. If you're immune-comproimised, be vigilant and learn to live with it.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2022 08:34 am
Prosecutors here had detained four people suspected of plotting to kidnap the Federal Health Minister and to destroy power facilities to cause a nationwide power outage.
This foiled plot to kidnap him shows that there are forces at play that are using protests against COVID-19 restrictions to destabilise the state and our country's democratic system - a small minority but they are highly dangerous.
bobsal u1553115
Reply Thu 14 Apr, 2022 07:21 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
In Nov 2019, I had Covid. The week+ I was in the hosptal was hell.

I was told I had some unknown "rhinovirus".

I was the first one on the ward with "mysterious rhinovirus". When I left, they had a whole ward of "bio hazard" suites. The first time I've left a hospital masked and gloved.

I vaccinated as soon as I could, boosted twice, and it's possible I have 'long Covid' now. One of the sickest weeks I've ever had that didn't include surgery, and it mimicked my "unknown rhinovirus" to a tee.

I finally got my slot for my cataract surgery. It's been delayed to Covid filled hospitals, there are free beds and now MY Covid is threatening it.

I don't blame 45 for my case, but I blame him for the havoc and death that followed by January recognition of coveid he chose to ignore and perhaps tried to monetize.
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Fri 15 Apr, 2022 07:06 am
The Final Pandemic Betrayal


Millions of people are still mourning loved ones lost to COVID, their grief intensified, prolonged, and even denied by the politics of the pandemic.
By Ed Yong
Photo Illustrations by Aaron Turner
a woman's portrait peeling off a white wall
Viola Faria loved “Elvis, violets, any kind of colorful birds,” her daughter Christina said. “Motown music was a constant in her life and always turned her moods around.”

April 13, 2022

Lucy Esparza-Casarez thinks she caught the coronavirus while working the polls during California’s 2020 primary election, before bringing it home to her husband, David, her sister-in-law Yolanda, and her mother-in-law, Balvina. Though Lucy herself developed what she calls “the worst flu times 100,” David fared worse. Lucy took him to the hospital on March 20, the last time she saw him in the flesh. He died on April 3, nine days before their wedding anniversary, at the age of 69. Lucy said goodbye over Skype. During that time, Yolanda fell ill too; after two months in the hospital, she died on June 1. Balvina, meanwhile, recovered from her bout with COVID-19, but, distraught after losing two children in as many months, she died on June 16. Lucy found herself alone in her home for the first time in 23 years. Because the hospital never returned David’s belongings, she didn’t even have his wedding ring.

Lucy had coped with the losses of her father, sister, and mother in the two decades before the pandemic. But she told me that what she feels now is fundamentally different. She never got to comfort David before he died, never got to mourn him in the company of friends, and never escaped the constant reminders of the disease that killed him. Every news story twisted the knife. Every surge salted the wound. Two years later, she is still inundated by her grief. “And now people are saying we can get back to normal,” she told me. “What’s normal?”

The number of people who have died of COVID-19 in the United States has always been undercounted because such counts rely on often-inaccurate death certificates. But the total, as the CDC and other official sources suggest, will soon surpass 1 million. That number—the sum of a million individual tragedies—is almost too large to grasp, and only a few professions have borne visceral witness to the pandemic’s immense scale. Alanna Badgley has been an EMT since 2010, “and the number of people I’ve pronounced dead in the last two years has eclipsed that of the first 10,” she told me. Hari Close, a funeral director in Baltimore, told me that he cared for families who “were burying three or four people weeks apart.” Maureen O’Donnell, an obituary writer at the Chicago Sun-Times, told me that she usually writes “about people who had a beautiful arc to their life,” but during the pandemic, she has found herself writing about lives that were “cut short, like trees being cut down.” On average, each person who has died of COVID has done so roughly a decade before their time.

In just two years, COVID has become the third most common cause of death in the U.S., which means that it is also the third leading cause of grief in the U.S. Each American who has died of COVID has left an average of nine close relatives bereaved, creating a community of grievers larger than the population of all but 11 states. Under normal circumstances, 10 percent of bereaved people would be expected to develop prolonged grief, which is unusually intense, incapacitating, and persistent. But for COVID grievers, that proportion may be even higher, because the pandemic has ticked off many risk factors.

Deaths from COVID have been unexpected, untimely, particularly painful, and, in many cases, preventable. The pandemic has replaced community with isolation, empathy with judgment, and opportunities for healing with relentless triggers. Some of these features accompany other causes of death, but COVID has woven them together and inflicted them at scale. In 1 million instants, the disease has torn wounds in 9 million worlds, while creating the perfect conditions for those wounds to fester. It has opened up private grief to public scrutiny, all while depriving grievers of the collective support they need to recover. The U.S. seems intent on brushing aside its losses in its desire to move past the crisis. But the grief of millions of people is not going away. “There’s no end to the grief,” Lucy Esparza-Casarez told me. “It changes. It morphs into something different. But it’s ongoing.”

By upending the entire world, COVID could have created a shared experience that countered the loneliness of grief. But most of the people I’ve been speaking with feel profoundly lonely—detached from society, from their support network, and especially from their loved ones at the moment of their death.

Sabila Khan’s dad, Shafqat, had an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease, and she knew their time together was limited. “But every time I imagined him dying, I imagined us being with him,” she told me. In her mind, the family would encircle his bed, filling his final moments with tributes of love and gratitude. Instead, none of them saw him for a full month before his death. The rehab facility where he was temporarily staying closed its doors to visitors in March 2020. The family kept in touch with him through daily calls, but after COVID hit the facility and took Shafqat’s voice, he stopped answering. On April 6, he was rushed to a hospital just three blocks away from the family’s house, but when he died 8 days later, “he might as well have been on a different planet,” Sabila told me.

Donovan James Jones loved WWE and church. “He made his own decision to be baptized,” his mother, Teresita Horne, said. “He was so proud.”

Most of the grievers I interviewed had similar experiences, especially during the early pandemic. From the last time they saw their loved one in person to the moment they said goodbye on a grainy screen, their separation was absolute. They weren’t allowed to visit. Communication was impossible once ventilators became necessary. Updates were scarce because hospitals were overwhelmed. There was just the waiting. Some waited while fighting for their own life. Teresita Horne had spent more than a week on a breathing machine when her 13-year-old son, Donovan, died in a different hospital; she watched him die on her phone. “I remember screaming,” she told me. “When your kids are sick, they need you, but I couldn’t be there to comfort him. I couldn’t hold his hand one last time.”

These experiences share qualities with other devastating crises. Sarah Wagner, an anthropologist at George Washington University who researches death and mourning, sees similarities between the experiences of COVID grievers and people whose loved ones went missing during wars. “Families didn’t know what happened and are left to imagine those horrible last moments” in a way that “still troubles their grief years later,” she told me. Sabila Khan, for example, knows little about her father’s final days, except that he likely spent them “in a warzone of an ER,” she told me. “What was he thinking? How do I even come to terms with that?” Many grievers know that dying from COVID is long and grueling. Sherry Congrave Wilson was tearful but unflinching when she told me that Felicia Ledon Crow, her best friend of 30 years, died suffering and alone. “I just hope and pray that she had a loving nurse, someone around who was kind to her,” Congrave Wilson said.

The aftermath of a COVID death is lonely too. Social rituals can help people cope with guilt and uncertainty, but during much of the pandemic, funerals, wakes, and shivas haven’t happened. Kristin Urquiza, a co-founder of the nonprofit Marked by COVID, lost her father in June 2020; aside from a bizarre virtual funeral where the connection kept glitching, she still hasn’t been able to mourn and celebrate him with the hundreds of people who loved him. And without outlets for collective expression, grief can stew. Hari Close, the funeral director, told me that some people felt they had failed their loved ones twice over, first by not being with them at the end and again by not being able to celebrate their life.

After death, routine and social connection can help mourners cope. But grievers have been deprived of both because of America’s continued failure to control the pandemic. “In addition to mourning my dad, there was that extra layer of mourning my life,” Sabila said. Several people told me that friends or family members who once would have been supportive pillars became distant or unhelpful, either because they began to swallow pandemic misinformation or because they were simply exhausted. When Rekha, a family friend of mine who lives in Seattle, lost her dad in 2013, “everyone I knew showed up and took care of me,” she told me. That didn’t happen when her mother died of COVID this January because “everyone’s depleted,” she said. (The Atlantic is identifying Rekha by only her first name to protect her extended family’s desire for privacy.)
Khan picture on dark background

Shafqat Khan loved activism, sports, and books—American, British, South Asian classics and serials, and, “when he was especially desperate,” his daughter Sabila’s young-adult novels, she said.

While support has vanished, reminders of loss have proliferated. Many people have found themselves isolating in now-emptier homes. The phones on which they watched their loved ones die sit in their hands every day. The disease that has caused them so much pain has been perpetually on the news and on people’s lips—a miasma of triggers that has kept their grief raw. “To have to confront on an almost hourly basis everyone’s feelings about this situation that we’re in made it so much worse,” Kristin Urquiza told me.

Many of the people I interviewed felt that their loved ones immediately became statistics—that their individual tragedy was subsumed by the pandemic’s enormity, and that people were constantly discussing every aspect of the crisis except for grief. “In American culture, grief is already a very isolating experience, but it has been even more isolating this time around—which is weird because we’re all supposed to be in this collective experience together,” Rekha said. The pandemic’s circumstances have left her and millions of others in an almost paradoxical state of mass isolation. They’ve all shared in the same tragedy but feel so very alone.

When COVID grievers tell others about their loss, they tend to get the same responses. Do you know how they were exposed? Did they have a preexisting condition? Were they vaccinated? Every griever I interviewed has faced these questions, from online trolls and close friends alike, and with shocking immediacy. People regularly ask Rekha if her dead mother was vaccinated before they offer condolences or sympathies. “It’s not just one time; it’s all the time,” she said. “It’s all the time,” Kristin Urquiza echoed. “Pretty much from every person,” says Christina Faria, who lost her mother, Viola, late last year.

In 1989, the grief expert Kenneth Doka coined the term disenfranchised grief to describe situations where people struggle to cope with losses that aren’t “socially sanctioned, openly acknowledged, or publicly mourned.” That’s exactly what many Americans who have lost someone to COVID are experiencing. The words we normally use to console grievers honor the relationships that death disrupts: I’m sorry for your loss. But the questions that COVID grievers get “reduce the person to the disease,” Rebecca Morse, who studies death and loss at Divine Mercy University and is a former president of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, told me. And they cast judgment upon the circumstances around their infection, “which makes these deaths stigmatized and shameful,” Morse said. If the deceased was unvaccinated, went to a bar, or had preexisting health problems, their life becomes devalued, and their death becomes less tragic. When hearing about Viola’s death, “everyone is like, ‘Oh, she was 76’ or ‘She had heart surgery’ or ‘She was overweight. What did you expect? Of course she was going to be the one to die,’” Christina told me. Especially after vaccines became available, COVID became lumped with causes of death such as lung cancer, liver disease, and AIDS, which society classifies as self-inflicted and therefore worthy of blame rather than sympathy. Instead of getting support, many COVID grievers have been forced to defend their loved ones and justify their grief.

“Everyone is having a fear response,” Rekha told me. They’re grasping for signs that their choices, or their lack of preexisting conditions, make them safe. But that instinct easily turns data into stigma. If someone’s death fits with population-wide trends—if they were older, chronically ill, or unvaccinated—their loss is explicable, and therefore dismissible. The compulsion to explain away a death is so strong that although Rekha’s mother was thriving, beyond having high blood pressure, even people who knew her were quick to retrofit poor health onto their memories. They’ll claim she was frail, as if “COVID was the last little bit of her dying anyway,” Rekha told me. “And, like, You were around her, and she was fine!”

At the other extreme, people whose deaths don’t fit with population-wide trends are also dismissed as statistical outliers who inconveniently complicate accepted notions of safety. Teresita Horne keeps hearing that kids aren’t at risk from COVID, even though she knows many parents who have lost children of Donovan’s age. “You don’t hear about them,” she told me. The odds that a child will die of COVID are incredibly low, but if your child is part of the numerator, it doesn’t matter how large the denominator is. Similarly, vaccines are extremely effective at preventing COVID deaths—but some vaccinated people still die, Christina’s mother among them. “Everyone assumes she wasn’t vaccinated,” she told me. “They want to believe that people didn’t do all the things they needed to do to be safe—and that’s not true for a lot of people.” When Cleavon Gilman, an ER doctor, honors such folks on Twitter, he gets accused of undermining confidence in vaccines, or even being an anti-vaxxer. “It’s gotten to the point where if someone was vaccinated and died from COVID, people think you shouldn’t talk about it,” he told me.

Grievers must also deal with lies and mocking. On the day that Esparza-Casarez’s husband died in April 2020, she watched a press conference in which Donald Trump stated that the virus “is going away.” Zach, an artist who lives in St. Louis, saw a clip of Ted Cruz mocking masks at the Conservative Political Action Conference while his father lay dying in a hospital. (The Atlantic has agreed to identify him by only his first name to avoid heightening tensions in his family that have already been exacerbated by the pandemic.) “It was just a punch in the gut … the mania, the cheering, the applause,” he told me. “Imagine if you lost someone to cancer and half the country was making fun of cancer all the time,” he said. “Imagine that it’s just everywhere, every day, and it doesn’t go away.”
mirror reflection of man's picture on white

Mark Urquiza loved karaoke, the Dallas Cowboys, hunting, NASCAR, and people; he was the life of the party and “never met a stranger,” his daughter, Kristin, said.

These dynamics have silenced many grievers, deepening their already intense isolation. Martha Greenwald, a writer in Kentucky, runs a site called Who We Lost where people can post stories of their loved ones; many do so because the site doesn’t allow comments, making it a rare space where they can share their grief without risking judgment.

Sympathy is even scarcer for people whose loved ones bought into COVID disinformation. Kristin Urquiza’s father, Mark, took COVID seriously at first but let his guard down in May 2020. Trump had said it was time to reopen society, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey lifted restrictions, and Mark, a lifelong Republican, said, “Why would they say it’s safe if it’s not safe?” Kristin recalled. “That’s when I lost the battle with my dad.” Later, after he caught COVID, most likely at a bar, and before he went into the hospital for the last time, she asked him if he felt betrayed. “My dad never, ever hesitated with his words, but there was just this long pause, and he quietly said yes,” she told me. People have told her that Mark deserved what he got. But Kristin sees him as yet another victim of the disinformation that ran rampant among his social circles, his media universe, and the elected leaders he trusted. “That shouldn’t result in a death sentence,” she said.

For more than two years, COVID has tested America’s institutions—its political apparatus, its information networks, its public-health system, its hospitals—and found them all wanting. Several grievers told me stories in which many failing systems crashed down upon their loved ones. A refugee with a family to feed isn’t eligible for financial assistance and so carries on working at an oil change station throughout a COVID surge, and gets infected. Local hospitals are overwhelmed, so a mother moves in with her daughter elsewhere in the country and catches COVID from her grandkids. An immunosuppressed organ-transplant recipient dies of COVID after their child brings it home from school. The employees at a doctor’s office don’t learn that they’re COVID-positive for days, because the holidays have created a backlog of tests, so a mother who turns up for an appointment in the intervening time gets COVID from them.

These complicated chains of events mean that “if you lost someone to COVID, you don’t even know where to begin to find accountability,” Alex Goldstein, who runs a memorial Twitter account called @FacesofCovid, told me. Do you blame Trump or Joe Biden? Your governor or your mayor? The person who infected your loved one or the person who infected that person? Those who sow misinformation or those who buy into it? The entire world? “Blame has been placed all over, and responsibility is so diffuse,” Wagner, the anthropologist at George Washington University, told me. “It’s harder to create clear narratives,” which makes the tragedy feel that much more senseless.

Many grievers end up blaming themselves. Should I have pulled them out of that nursing home? Should I have pushed them harder to get vaccinated? And worst of all: Did I give them COVID? “There are so many little pivot points where things could have gone a different way,” Rebecca Morse, the death-and-loss expert, told me. “Imagining what could or should have been done can increase both your anger and your guilt.” Rekha told me that her anger comes in waves, “and I don’t even know what to be angry at,” she said. “I feel like we’re all culpable to different degrees.”

Many grievers are finding the current phase of the pandemic especially hard. For the families of the first 100,000 Americans to die of COVID, “there was at least a sense that the world had stopped,” Sabila Khan told me. Now, grieving families are told that we must learn to live with the virus that only just tore a hole in their lives. Jeannina Smith, a doctor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, cares for organ-transplant recipients, who are on immunosuppressive drugs and are therefore particularly vulnerable to disease; she told me that she lost more patients in the Omicron surge than at any previous point in the pandemic. “They did everything right—they got vaccinated and boosted and were so careful,” Smith said, and their loved ones must now mourn them “while society is saying that COVID is over.”
Woman in a hat picture on black

Felicia Ledon Crow loved orchids, tulips, DIY, reggae, and walks. She and her friend Sherry Congrave Wilson talked about “getting old together” and being “these crazy hip old ladies,” Congrave Wilson told me.

After Christina Faria’s mother died on December 29, 2021, her friends said it was a harsh reminder that the pandemic wasn’t over. “But here we are, not even three months later, and no one talks about her anymore,” Christina told me in March. She has several disabilities that make her vulnerable to respiratory infections, and Viola was her primary caregiver; she’s now struggling to pay her bills, keep her home, and protect her health. And yet, she told me, her friends are getting annoyed that she still wants to wear a mask when she isn’t required to.

Many grievers are starved for sympathy and patience because our popular understanding of grief is wrong. An influential but misleading model suggests that it progresses through five stages—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But in fact, it doesn’t involve discrete stages, doesn’t proceed along a predictable linear path, and might not end in acceptance. “Closure” is a simplistic myth. Grief, as it actually unfolds, is erratic, and in many cases slow. Rekha remembers feeling pressured to move past her dad’s death in 2013; she now feels an extreme version of the same compulsion, as if society is insisting that this is the moment for everyone to move past their pandemic grief together. In mid-March, after an especially tough week, she told her husband that she didn’t know why she was having a bad flare-up of grief. He reminded her that her mother died a month ago. “I had internalized this feeling that it’s time to be done with it,” she said, “and I have to remind myself that it just happened.”

Even people who lost their loved ones at the start of the pandemic are still hurting. “Time itself heals nothing,” Morse told me. Time simply gives people chances to learn ways of coping. But those chances have been stripped away by two years of social isolation and upended daily routines. And “without grappling with the daily reality of the loss, the mind doesn’t fully process what happened,” Natalia Skritskaya, an expert in prolonged grief at Columbia University, told me.

Instead, many people “created a time capsule,” Morse said, locking their grief away without ever learning how to live with it. When society reopens, the capsule does too, and the grievers reemerge, still raging and sorrowful while everyone else has moved on. “You’re repeating the same parts of grief all over again and not able to get past it,” Keyerra Snype, a health-care worker, told me. She lost her grandmother Shirley during the first COVID surge, and more than two years later, “it’s difficult all over again,” she said.
a man's picture scene in many mirrors

David Casarez loved sci-fi, golf, California’s Moonstone Beach, and gardening. “I called him the ‘orchid whisperer,’” his wife, Lucy, said.

Others are trapped in a pandemic time capsule, too, including those whom we rely on to witness death, prevent it, or deal with its aftermath. Hari Close, the funeral director, told me that “even though people think we are used to death, it’s been overwhelming trying to comfort families in their loss,” especially while losing family members and colleagues himself. Cleavon Gilman, the ER doctor, told me that many health-care workers are traumatized after two years of repeatedly telling families that their loved one has died, “hearing that shrill cry on the phone over and over, and then going outside to see a world that’s acting like we’re lying about the numbers.” (Gilman also lost three colleagues to the pandemic: two nurses who died of COVID and a mentor who died of suicide after witnessing the first surge.) Alanna Badgley, the EMT, felt like something broke after Omicron arrived. In February, “at one point, I just started crying and couldn’t stop,” she told me. “I’m just so sad, and I don’t know how to feel better. It’s not like depression. It feels like grief.”

Some of the grievers I talked with feel kinship with COVID long-haulers, whose lives have been flattened by months or years of relentless symptoms and who similarly feel dismissed, ignored, and isolated. They didn’t die of COVID, but many nonetheless lost much of their former life. After getting infected in October 2020, Alexis Misko can no longer muster enough energy to stand for more than 10 minutes or sit upright for more than an hour. She was once an occupational therapist and an avid hiker, and “I grieve constantly for that person,” she wrote in 2021. Nick Güthe told me that after getting long COVID, his wife, Heidi Ferrer, went from being “one of the healthiest people I knew” to living with extreme fatigue and excruciating pain. “In the last weeks of her life, she couldn’t walk, eat most foods she enjoyed, or read a book,” Nick said. “It felt like bees were stinging her ankles all day long.” Heidi died of suicide last May. The doctor who treated her at the hospital and confirmed her death to Nick had never heard of long COVID.

In her book The Myth of Closure, Pauline Boss, a therapist and pioneer in the study of ambiguous loss, offers some advice for pandemic grievers: “It is not closure you need but certainty that your loved one is gone, that they understood why you could not be there to comfort them, that they loved you and forgave you in their last moments of life,” she wrote. Instead of waiting for a clean but mythical endpoint to one’s loss, it is better to search for “meaning and purpose in our lives after this horrific time in history,” she said.

Nick Güthe now pours his energy into raising awareness of long COVID, in part to honor one of Heidi’s last requests to him. “I’ve had to talk a lot of people with long COVID off the same ledge that my wife was on, and it’s been hard to turn away from that,” he said. “I’ve saved quite a few people at this point.” Alex Goldstein also feels compelled to continue posting tributes to the deceased on his @FacesofCOVID account, because it’s all the recognition that some grievers get. “A lot of folks tell me that when it’s late at night and they’re thinking about their loved one, they’ll go to the tweet and look at replies from strangers around the world,” he told me. Four days after her dad died, Sabila Khan started a Facebook group for COVID grievers, which now has 14,000 members. Shafqat was an activist who spent years advocating for Pakistani immigrants, and “this has become a way for me to keep his memory and good work alive,” Sabila told me. “It gives me purpose in my grief.”

In contrast to these grassroots efforts, national moments of mourning and remembrance have been rare and fleeting. A few art projects have powerfully commemorated the losses, but briefly. After collective tragedies, “the rites and rituals of mourning are meant to bring groups back together,” Wagner, the anthropologist, told me. “We’re seeing a process that’s almost antithetical to that, because mourning has been so fragmented and suspended.” Sabila told me that even as a Muslim, she felt more solidarity among fellow Americans after 9/11 than over the past two years. “We didn’t have that rallying moment with COVID,” she told me.

Shirley Snype loved butterflies, the Investigation Discovery channel, the color purple, and “her kitten, Cici,” her granddaughter Keyerra said.

Some of the people I interviewed felt relieved when Biden presided over a lighting ceremony in February 2021, when the COVID death toll was just half what it currently is. But Kristin Urquiza told me that such gestures are “insignificant in comparison to the massive amount of death and suffering that we’ve had.” The nonprofit that she co-founded, Marked by COVID, is pushing the U.S. toward actions more fitting in scale. It wants the first Monday of March to be marked as a national COVID Memorial Day, and for permanent memorials to be erected around the country. “Putting my grief into a physical thing would take off some of the emotional heaviness,” Keyerra Snype told me. And having a solid, lasting memorial would go some way to assuring grievers that their loss is real, and that their loved ones mattered. Urquiza said that she’s striving for the country not just to remember her dad but to remember everything that cost him his life. “We can’t just put this in a memory hole, or we’ll forget,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to ever feel what I’ve had to feel.”

Wagner has seen similar dynamics after past atrocities, in which bereaved family members found themselves having to fight for recognition and reconciliation. “Why on earth should someone who lost multiple members of their family not be allowed to be with their grief, instead of bearing the responsibility for repairing society?” she said. “When it isn’t politically expedient for those in positions of power to commemorate the deaths and extend forms of reparation, it falls on the families.”

If there’s one thing Teresita Horne wants the world to know about Donovan, it’s that “he was one of the kindest souls anyone would have met,” she told me. Kindness is also the thing she most wants from everyone else, no matter their politics or their positions on the pandemic’s numerous controversies. One million people died in just over two years. It should be incontestable that they are gone, that they mattered, and that the millions more who loved them should get the grace and space to grieve and mourn.

All portraits featured here are courtesy of family and friends of the people pictured.

The Atlantic’s COVID-19 coverage is supported by grants from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 15 Apr, 2022 12:56 pm
Possible coronavirus connection: an unusually large number of children in the UK - as well as some in Ireland and Spain - are currently coming down with hepatitis - of unclear origin, Hepatitis viruses A, B, C, E and D have been ruled out after laboratory tests.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring these growing cases of hepatitis. (WHO's "Situation at a glance")
Already, six children had to undergo liver transplants in the UK.

Dr Meera Chand, the director of clinical and emerging infections at the UK Health Security Agency, said officials were working across the four nations to “investigate a wide range of possible factors which may be causing children to be admitted to hospital with liver inflammation known as hepatitis”.

“One of the possible causes that we are investigating is that this is linked to adenovirus infection,” she said. “However, we are thoroughly investigating other potential causes.”

Other explanations being investigated include whether or not Covid-19 could have played a role in the unusual spate of cases.

Officials stressed there was “no link” between the cases and the Covid-19 vaccine, as none of the children affected by hepatitis had received a jab.

According to the WHO, lab tests have excluded the usual viruses that cause hepatitis. The organisation awaits the results of further tests for infections, chemicals and toxins.
The Guardian
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