Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 19 Apr, 2022 08:08 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Walter Hinteler wrote:
Can the global economy cope with this, one might ask.
Hundreds of ships are waiting outside the port of Shanghai, others are not even heading there. The Covid lockdown will have massive consequences - also for trading partners all over the world.


The strict corona lockdown in Shanghai is massively affecting the world's largest container port - and causing new distortions in global shipping traffic. According to the data provider VesselsValue, more than 300 cargo ships are stuck in traffic jams outside the port area of the Chinese economic metropolis in order to be loaded or unloaded.

"Waiting times range from three days to a week, depending on the terminal, sometimes even more," Peter Sand, chief analyst at Xeneta, an analysis firm specialising in shipping, told SPIEGEL. Handling in the port area is currently running at only about a quarter of normal capacity. "We will feel the consequences around the world for months."
bobsal u1553115
Reply Tue 19 Apr, 2022 08:17 am
@Walter Hinteler,
A shocking graphic, Walter! That is an incredible amount of gridlock potential there.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 19 Apr, 2022 08:56 am
The supreme court has allowed the US Department of Defense to take disciplinary action against an air force lieutenant colonel who refuses to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
A majority of the court sided with the Pentagon. Three justices in the conservative majority – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch – dissented.

0 Replies
Reply Wed 20 Apr, 2022 06:46 am
Since the other half works in the medical field we were both able to get our second booster shot on Monday, it kicked my A$$ for 17 straight hours!
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 21 Apr, 2022 10:26 pm
Doctors in the UK have called for urgent new treatments to clear persistent Covid infections after identifying the first person in the world known to have harboured the virus for more than a year.

First person to have Covid infection for more than a year identified in UK
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 21 Apr, 2022 10:33 pm
A BBC investigation has discovered that thousands of German nationals have migrated to Paraguay in the last 12 months - to escape Covid restrictions and vaccinations in Europe.

The German towns in Paraguay with a surge in European immigrants
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Fri 22 Apr, 2022 06:49 am
How Much Does Your Mask Protect You if Others Aren't Wearing One?
"If you're the only one with a mask on, are you still protected? Here's what experts say about mask effectiveness and COVID risk on public transit.


What the experts say
"The short answer is yes," says Dr. Reynold Panettieri, Jr, a critical care physician and Professor of Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School -- it is worth it. "The long answer is that it's not as effective as everyone else wearing a mask."

Wearing a cloth mask reduces your risk of catching COVID-19 by about two-fold, he says, whereas a disposable surgical mask is between "five- and seven-fold better." NIOSH-approved N95 respirators provide the most protection, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when they're worn properly and sealed snugly to your face.

Dr. Taylor Nelson is an osteopathic infectious disease physician at the University of Missouri Health Care. She said in an email to CNET that protection varies on the type of mask, but also how well it fits.

"Multilayer cloth masks can limit about 50 to 80% of small particles from escaping when someone coughs," Nelson says. "On the other hand, the same quality of mask may prevent up to about 50% of these particles when the exposed person is wearing a mask while the infected person is not."


What the research says
A CDC report from February 2021 on mask effectiveness using simulated respiratory droplets found that "double-masking" by layering a cloth mask over a surgical mask decreased a person's exposure in a no-mask/mask situation by 83%. For a person wearing a "knotted and tucked" medical mask, which tightens the seal around your nose and mouth, there was a 64.5% decrease in exposure. (Check out this CDC video on how to knot and tuck a surgical mask correctly.)

In the CDC's simulation study, a regular surgical mask provided only 7.5% protection for the wearer. Another simulation study from Japan found cloth masks offered a 20% to 40% reduction in virus uptake compared to no mask, with N95 masks providing the most protection for the wearer (80% to 90% reduction).

Broadly speaking, people who always wear masks indoors are less likely to test positive for COVID-19 than people who do not, according to a February report by the CDC. People who reported wearing cloth masks had 56% lower odds, people who wore surgical masks had 66% lower odds and those who reported wearing a KN95 or N95 had 83% lower odds. A big qualifier noted in this report, however, is that people who report wearing masks indoors might be more likely to take other protective measures that help prevent COVID-19 infection, such as avoiding crowded areas when possible."


I'm wearing mine and if there's a further booster, I'm getting it.
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2022 08:44 am
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2022 08:48 am
COVID claims record lives in Shanghai, partial restrictions begins in Beijing
Shanghai authorities have reported a record number of coronavirus deaths amid a strict lockdown.[

Officials say they confirmed on Sunday 19,455 new cases and the most-ever deaths, at 51.

The virus has also begun spreading in the capital Beijing. Authorities confirmed 47 infections between Friday and Sunday.

The largest number of new cases has been confirmed in the Chaoyang District of the capital. District authorities restricted outings in some areas, and asked residents to work from home in principle, starting Monday.

Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2022 09:01 am
@bobsal u1553115,
Pretty crazy in Shanghai. We have a manufacturing plant there and people are basically living in the plant because you can't go home.
bobsal u1553115
Reply Mon 25 Apr, 2022 11:08 am
It's a matter of time till we come to some version of this. Not trading my mask in, yet; not going to restaurants/bars or church, yet.
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Tue 26 Apr, 2022 07:10 am
What an Unvaccinated Sergeant Who Nearly Died of Covid Wants You to Know

Frank Talarico, a 47-year-old police sergeant, was hospitalized for 49 days with the coronavirus. “If I was vaccinated,” he said, “I wouldn’t have gotten as sick as I did.”


By Tracey Tully

April 26, 2022, 5:00 a.m. ET

CAMDEN, N.J. — No one thought Frank Talarico Jr. was going to live. Not his doctors, his nurses or his wife, a physician assistant who works part time at the Camden, N.J., hospital where he spent 49 days fighting to survive Covid-19.

A 47-year-old police sergeant, he was not vaccinated against the coronavirus. Unconvinced of the vaccine’s merits, he figured he was young and fit enough to handle whatever illness the virus might cause.

He was wrong.

“If it’s an eye opener for somebody — so be it,” Sergeant Talarico said recently at his home in Pennsauken, N.J., about five miles northeast of Camden. He plans to get the vaccine as soon as the doctors he credits with saving his life at Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital give him final medical clearance.

Though police work inherently carries with it the possibility of violent or lethal encounters, for the last two years Covid-19 has been the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers in the United States.

When Covid vaccines were first offered in December 2020, law enforcement officers — frontline workers who, like doctors and nurses, are required to interact closely with people in crisis — were prioritized for shots that have since been proven to significantly lower the risk of serious illness and death.

But over the next year, as some police unions tried to block vaccine mandates, at least 301 police, sheriff and correction officers died of complications from Covid-19, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, a nonprofit that tracks line-of-duty fatalities. Since January, Covid has continued to outpace other top causes of line-of-duty deaths.

“It’s not just a little bit above firearm fatalities and traffic fatalities,” said Troy Anderson, a retired Connecticut State Police sergeant who is now director of safety and wellness for the memorial. “It’s heads and shoulders above.”

“It’s unthinkable that we’re still in this place,” he added.

Sergeant Talarico’s ordeal began Christmas Eve, as Omicron infections were soaring across the country, inundating hospitals and stretching staffing levels nearly past breaking points.
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Before it was over, the patrol officer who was less than a year away from retirement after 24 years on the job was hospitalized twice.

After being rushed to the hospital the second time, he had a foot-long blood clot removed from his lung, a procedure that prevented certain death but caused his heart to nearly stop beating. He was placed on advanced life-support while still on the operating table. For two days a machine did the work of his heart and lungs.

It wasn’t long before his kidneys began to fail, requiring dialysis.

One of the many hard moments was the day his daughter, a 19-year-old college freshman, visited him for what they both feared could be a final goodbye. Conscious but hooked to a ventilator, Sergeant Talarico was unable to speak.

“He would try and mouth words around the breathing tube,” said Jackie Whitby, a cardiac care nurse who was also in the room. “He had tears in his eyes. She had tears in her eyes.”

Retelling the story more than two months later, Sergeant Talarico started to cry again.

About half of the 14 officers in his police department, in Merchantville, N.J., have been vaccinated, he said. The department’s chief of police did not returns calls.

Sergeant Talarico said he had tried to persuade reluctant colleagues to get vaccinated.

“I say, ‘Just look at me and look what I went through,’” he said.

Many of the nation’s largest police departments, including Los Angeles, New York and Newark, have required employees to be vaccinated. Correction officers in New Jersey also have been ordered to get shots or risk being fired.

In Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, nine police employees have died of Covid-19. But there have been no Covid fatalities since the city’s vaccination mandate was implemented in September after an unsuccessful legal challenge by the police and fire unions.

Roughly 96 percent of Newark’s public safety officers have now had at least two shots of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or one shot of Johnson & Johnson’s, said Brian O’Hara, Newark’s public safety director.

The last member of Newark’s Department of Public Safety to die from Covid was Richard T. McKnight, a 20-year employee who processed detainees. He was not vaccinated, said Mr. O’Hara, who spoke at the funeral.

Days after Mr. McKnight’s death in August, his wife, who was sick with Covid, also died, Mr. O’Hara said.

“Their 9-year-old daughter is left with no parents,” he said.

Mayor Baraka and Public Safety Director O'Hara Announce the Passing of Newark Police Aide Richard T. McKnight Due to Coronavirus Complications https://t.co/hU4rAhNFZY via @Nextdoor pic.twitter.com/08UtWnufo7
— Dept. Public Safety (@NewarkNJPolice) August 22, 2021

A 340-bed hospital, Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes was treating 26 patients for Covid the day Sergeant Talarico was first admitted. Within two weeks, 81 patients were hospitalized with the virus.

“January was the worst month of my career,” said Dr. Vivek Sailam, a cardiologist who has worked at Our Lady of Lourdes for 14 years.

As Sergeant Talarico began to slowly recover, against the odds, staff members started to rally around him, referring to him as their “miracle patient.”

“‘You get better, I’m taking you to dinner,’” Dr. Sailam told Sergeant Talarico when he came off a ventilator for the second time.

“January was the worst month of my career,” said Dr. Vivek Sailam, a cardiologist. The number of patients with Covid-19 tripled as the Omicron variant spread.

A nurse, Shawn McCullough, devised a system using a letter board that enabled Sergeant Talarico to communicate while intubated. A physical therapist, Wendy Hardesty, insisted that he be strong enough to climb the three steps into his home before he was discharged for the second time on Feb. 18

“The mental trauma that’s been on these nurses and what they’ve witnessed — the amount of death and agony. This is what everybody needed,” Dr. Sailam said. “Everybody needed this victory.”

After being hospitalized with pneumonia for three weeks at Christmastime, Sergeant Talarico was discharged, but was so weak that his wife, Christine Lynch, set up folding chairs throughout their house — “so he could make it from a chair in the living room and rest before he went to the bathroom.”

At 5 one morning, as he struggled to breathe, she called the ambulance again.

He was readmitted with the foot-long blood clot in his lungs. Known as a pulmonary embolism, it has become a common side effect of Covid-19 for hospitalized patients.

The device used to remove it has only been available since 2018, said Dr. Joseph Broudy, who said the new technology enabled him to extract the embolism largely intact.

Had that not been possible, Dr. Broudy said, “he probably would not have survived.”

Sergeant Talarico and Ms. Lynch, his second wife, had been married for less than a year when he was told in late December that he had been exposed to the virus by a colleague. Soon, the newlyweds were both sick.

Ms. Lynch, a physician assistant who was vaccinated, said she initially shared her husband’s reluctance to take the shot. Sergeant Talarico said he believed that the vaccine approval had been rushed, and he questioned its safety.

Looking back, he said he wished Ms. Lynch, 33, had “kicked his butt” to get vaccinated. Had he been older, with health risk factors other than high blood pressure, she said she would have.

Before getting sick, Sergeant Talarico said he worked out regularly, and for three years had participated in the Police Unity Tour, a three-day bicycle ride to Washington held each May to honor fallen officers as their names are added to a memorial in the capital.

“I’ve been healthy all my life,” he said. “I guess I just did have the mentality that if I do get it, I’ll be one of the ones to have it mild. And that sure wasn’t the case.”

Tom Buckley, a senior vice president at the hospital, estimated that the billable cost of treating someone as sick as Sergeant Talarico would be roughly $400,000 to $500,000; Sergeant Talarico said he had not gotten the final bill from his insurance company for the cost of his care.

About three weeks after being released from the hospital for good, Sergeant Talarico returned with bagels, pizza and a promise for the staff members who fought to keep him alive. “He told us he would get vaccinated,” said Correinne Newman, a nursing director.

The gesture brought Ms. Whitby, who had the day off but was contacted through FaceTime, to tears.

“Him being a cop and me being a nurse — we essentially put our lives on the line and put other people first,” she said.

“Having him say, ‘You know what? I’m going to get the vaccine as soon as I possibly can.’

“I feel like that’s him supporting us.”
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Tue 26 Apr, 2022 06:25 pm
The Coronavirus Has Infected More Than Half of Americans, the C.D.C. Reports

But prior infection does not guarantee protection from the virus, officials said, and Americans should still get vaccinated and boosted.

By Apoorva Mandavilli
April 26, 2022Updated 7:49 p.m. ET

Sixty percent of Americans, including 75 percent of children, had been infected with the coronavirus by February, federal health officials reported on Tuesday — another remarkable milestone in a pandemic that continues to confound expectations.

The highly contagious Omicron variant was responsible for much of the toll. In December 2021, as the variant began spreading, only half as many people had antibodies indicating prior infection, according to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the numbers came as a shock to many Americans, some scientists said they had expected the figures to be even higher, given the contagious variants that have marched through the nation over the past two years.

There may be good news in the data, some experts said. A gain in population-wide immunity may offer at least a partial bulwark against future waves. And the trend may explain why the surge that is now roaring through China and many countries in Europe has been muted in the United States.

A high percentage of previous infections may also mean that there are now fewer cases of life-threatening illness or death relative to infections. “We will see less and less severe disease, and more and more a shift toward clinically mild disease,” said Florian Krammer, an immunologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

“It will be more and more difficult for the virus to do serious damage,” he added.

Administration officials, too, believe that the data augur a new phase of the pandemic in which infections may be common at times but cause less harm.

At a news briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s new Covid coordinator, said that stopping infections was “not even a policy goal. The goal of our policy should be: obviously, minimize infections whenever possible, but to make sure people don’t get seriously ill.”

The average number of confirmed new cases a day in the United States — more than 49,000 as of Monday, according to a New York Times database — is comparable to levels last seen in late July, even as cases have risen by over 50 percent over the past two weeks, a trend infectious disease experts have attributed to new Omicron subvariants.

Dr. Jha and other officials warned against complacency, and urged Americans to continue receiving vaccinations and booster shots, saying that antibodies from prior infections did not guarantee protection from the virus.

During the Omicron surge, infections rose most sharply among children and adolescents, according to the new research. Prior infections increased least among adults aged 65 and older, who have the highest rates of vaccination and may be most likely to take precautions.

“Evidence of previous Covid-19 infections substantially increased among every age group,” Dr. Kristie Clarke, the agency researcher who led the new study, said at a news briefing on Tuesday.

Widespread infection raises a troubling prospect: a potential increase in cases of long Covid, a poorly understood constellation of lingering symptoms.

Up to 30 percent of people infected with the coronavirus may have persistent symptoms, including worrisome changes to the brain and heart. Vaccination is thought to lower the odds of long Covid, although it is unclear by how much.

“The long-term impacts on health care are not clear but certainly worth taking very seriously, as a fraction of people will be struggling for a long time with the consequences,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Even a very small percentage of infected or vaccinated people who develop Covid would translate to millions nationwide.

While the focus is often on preventing the health care system from buckling under a surge, “we should also be concerned that our health care system will be overwhelmed by the ongoing health care needs of a population with long Covid,” said Zoë McLaren, a health policy expert at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

There are still tens of millions of Americans with no immunity to the virus, and they remain vulnerable to both the short- and long-term consequences of infection, said Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Betting that you are in the 60 percent is a big gamble,” he said. “For anyone who’s not been vaccinated and boosted, I would take this new data as a direct message to get that done or expect that the virus is likely to catch up to you if it hasn’t already.”

Although cases are once again on the upswing, particularly in the Northeast, the rise in hospitalizations has been minimal, and deaths are still dropping. According to the agency’s most recent criteria, more than 98 percent of Americans live in communities with a low or medium level of risk.

Even among those who are hospitalized, “we’re seeing less oxygen use, less I.C.U. stays and we haven’t, fortunately, seen any increase in deaths associated with them,” said the C.D.C.’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “We are hopeful that positive trends will continue.”

The country has recorded about a five-fold drop in P.C.R. testing for the virus since the Omicron peak, and so tracking new cases has become difficult. But the reported count is far less, about 70-fold lower, said Dr. Walensky, reflecting “a true and reliable drop in our overall cases.”

New subvariants of Omicron, called BA.2 and BA.2.12.1, have supplanted the previous iteration, BA.1, which began circulating in the country in late November and sent cases soaring to record highs in a matter of weeks.

“Of course, even more have been infected now, because BA.2 will have infected some who avoided it thus far,” Dr. Hanage said.

By February, three of four children and adolescents in the country had already been infected with the virus, compared with one-third of older adults, according to the new study.

That so many children are carrying antibodies may offer comfort to parents of those aged 5 and under, who do not qualify for vaccination, since many may have acquired at least some immunity through infection.

But Dr. Clarke urged parents to immunize children who qualify as soon as regulators approve a vaccine for them, regardless of their prior infection. Among children who are hospitalized with the virus, up to 30 percent may need intensive care, she noted.

Although many of those children also have other medical conditions, about 70 percent of cases of multisystem inflammatory disease, a rare consequence of Covid-19 infection, occur in otherwise healthy children.

“As a pediatrician and a parent, I would absolutely endorse the children get vaccinated, even if they have been infected,” Dr. Clarke said.

Some experts said they were concerned about long-term consequences, even in children who have mild symptoms.

“Given the very high proportion of infection in kids and adults that happened earlier this year, I worry about the rise in long Covid cases as a result,” said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University who is studying the condition.

To measure the percentage of the population infected with the virus, the study relied on the presence of antibodies produced in response to an infection.

C.D.C. researchers began assessing antibody levels in people at 10 sites early in the pandemic, and have since expanded that effort to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The investigators used a test sensitive enough to identify previously infected people for at least one to two years after exposure.

The researchers analyzed blood samples collected from September 2021 to February 2022 for antibodies to the virus, and then parsed the data by age, sex and geographical location. The investigators looked specifically for a type of antibody produced after infection but not after vaccination.

Between September and December 2021, the prevalence of antibodies in the samples steadily increased by one to two percentage points every four weeks. But it jumped sharply after December, increasing by nearly 25 points by February 2022.

The percentage of samples with antibodies rose from about 45 percent among children aged 11 years and younger, and among adolescents aged 12 to 17 years, to about 75 percent in both age groups.

By February 2022, roughly 64 percent of adults aged 18 to 49 years, about 50 percent of those aged 50 to 64 years and about 33 percent of older adults had been infected, according to the study.

Despite the record high cases during the Omicron surge, the reported statistics may not have captured all infections, because some people have few to no symptoms, may not have opted for testing or may have tested themselves at home.

According to one upcoming C.D.C. study, there may be more than three infections for each reported case, Dr. Clarke said.

Noah Weiland contributed reporting from Washington.
0 Replies
Region Philbis
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2022 05:24 am

Moderna asks the FDA to authorize its vaccine for children under 6
0 Replies
bobsal u1553115
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2022 08:03 am
Covid hasn’t given up all its secrets. Here are 6 mysteries experts hope to unravel

By STAT Staff

April 19, 2022


For a formidable adversary with plenty of secrets up its sleeve, the coronavirus presented one bright bull’s-eye for the world’s response. Scientists, in record time, developed vaccines based on the virus’s spike protein that in turn have saved millions of lives.

Yet more than two years after SARS-CoV-2 appeared, as documented deaths in the U.S. near 1 million and estimated global deaths reach as high as 18 million, there are still many mysteries about the virus and the pandemic it caused. They range from the technical — what role do autoantibodies play in long Covid? Can a pan-coronavirus vaccine actually be developed? — to the philosophical, such as how can we rebuild trust in our institutions and each other? Debate still festers, too, over the virus’s origins, despite recent studies adding evidence that it spilled over from wildlife.

Some of these questions defy answers entirely or can only be resolved over time. Here, STAT examines six mysteries that scientists are beginning to unravel. The eventual answers will determine our relationship with Covid and and how we’ll fight a future pandemic.

1. How will the virus evolve next?
2. What will future waves look like?
3. If you’ve never had Covid, how worried should you be right now?
4. How, exactly, does the virus transmit from person to person?
5. Will we get a new, better generation of vaccines, therapeutics, and tests?
6. How long before we understand long Covid?

1. How will the virus evolve next?

It seems painfully naive now, the early thought that the SARS-CoV-2 virus would not mutate all that quickly. Instead, scientists have churned through more than half the letters of the Greek alphabet to label the unexpected array of mutation-laden variants that have emerged. The Delta variant was such an efficient spreader that some speculated that the virus was approaching its maximum transmissibility, and then along came Omicron — one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we’ve ever seen.

Which is to say, experts are humble about forecasting the evolution of the virus.

Any predictions rest on a guiding principle: All viruses want to do is replicate and spread, and strains will outcompete others by either becoming more inherently contagious or by managing to infect even people who have some level of protection, or both. Going from the Alpha variant to Delta to Omicron, we’ve witnessed the virus make leaps using both strategies. Now, given how many people have acquired immunity through vaccination or previous infection, it’s possible that the virus’ better strategy is through variants that can “escape” immunity to a degree. In face of such variants, we may need to update vaccine formulas.

As they accumulate mutations, viruses can pick up new traits but may have to sacrifice others. It’s possible, for example, that a variant could become even more adept at infecting the cells in our noses and throats, but not cause severe disease very often. There are also limits to how much a virus can change if it still wants to be able to hack into our cells and use them to churn out copies of itself.

But yet another SARS-2 surprise has been how much change the virus can “tolerate” in its spike protein, while still being able to infect our cells, proliferate, and make us sick.

“It opens the question of, well, if SARS-CoV-2 was able to tolerate so many mutations in Omicron, could it tolerate more?” said Jacob Lemieux, an infectious diseases physician at Massachusetts General Hospital who’s been tracking variants. “Could it tolerate mutations in other places? A completely different set of 30 to 50 mutations?”

SARS-2 also showed it can land a sucker punch. Both Alpha and Delta were so dominant globally that experts figured that the next “variant of concern” would be a descendant of theirs. But then, from somewhere rooted further back in the evolutionary family tree, came an entrant that surged ahead — first Delta to replace Alpha, and then Omicron to replace Delta.

“While we’re all watching Omicron and BA.2, there could very well be another curveball to come at us yet,” said Bronwyn MacInnis, the Broad Institute’s director of pathogen genomic surveillance. For now, scientists are tracking sublineages of BA.2 that have started cropping up around the world.

Another curveball would be the merging of two existing variants, which can occur when two viruses infect the same cell. There have already been documented cases of these “recombinant viruses” — including hybrids of Delta and Omicron, and of different Omicron sublineages — but they haven’t changed the course of the pandemic.

While the virus will almost certainly evolve to get better at spreading in a given setting, experts can’t predict whether it will get more or less dangerous on an individual level. “One of the most persistent myths surrounding pathogen evolution” is that viruses change over time to be less virulent, three experts wrote in a commentary last month. Omicron happened to be less virulent than Delta, but viruses can pick up random mutations that instead make them nastier. The possibility of a variant emerging, the experts warned, that features “the potentially disastrous combination of the ability to reinfect” along with “high virulence is unfortunately very real.”

— Andrew Joseph

2. What will future waves look like?

Many predictions have been made during the pandemic; many have turned out to be dead wrong. We’d like to avoid adding to that list. But here are some things we feel we can say with some certainty.

From the point of view of the virus, the pandemic isn’t over. But from the point of view of many humans, it is yesterday’s news.

People are bone weary of Covid-19 and the disruption it has inflicted on their lives. Many are done — done with not traveling, done with not socializing, done with the sense of powerlessness that permeated the earlier stages of the pandemic. Consequently, they are now determined to make their own calls, calibrating the concern they associate with a particular activity, like going to a concert or traveling for spring break, against their sense of vulnerability to the virus.

Political and public health leaders know that — especially the former. Even those who were slower to lift restrictions understand there is very little appetite for across-the-board measures that would be seen as concessions to the virus at this point.
Covid vaccines didn’t work for many cancer patients — but researchers are designing a new shot for them

There may still come a time (or times) when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or state or local authorities urge renewed caution — as the city of Philadelphia did this month by reinstating an indoor mask mandate that it had lifted just a month earlier. But it seems unlikely most jurisdictions will reach for big-hammer measures unless there is no other option. Even then, authorities in some states (think red) would probably object on philosophical grounds.

Will the SARS-CoV-2 virus put us in that spot?

What we’ve seen so far suggests that as people have acquired more immunity to SARS-2, through vaccination, infection or both, we’ve become less vulnerable to the virus. Yes, it can still infect us, even if we’re vaccinated. Yes, it will reinfect us. But rates of serious disease, hospitalization and deaths have dropped sharply. And at this point, the people who are dying are, in the main, people who have refused to be vaccinated.

Hopefully, that protection against serious diseases will hold up. If it does, we’ll still see waves of infections. We’ll also see hospitalizations and deaths. But not at the scale we saw before the vaccines were rolled out.

“I don’t think we’re going to get a clean ending, where suddenly the virus, in the immortal words of Donald Trump, vanishes,’’ said John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medical College. “But it may become a nuisance, rather than a crisis.”

Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, thinks it could be a bigger nuisance for us going forward than the annual flu season, even though Covid is now killing far fewer of the people it infects. Because of its high infectiousness, he thinks Covid-19 could cause about 60,000 deaths a year in the U.S., which is the equivalent of a very bad flu season. To put that in context, we’ve had more than 90,000 Covid deaths since early February.

Then there’s the question of the shape of future Covid curves. Some experts see SARS-2 eventually becoming like other respiratory viruses, which spike in the autumn and winter and then fall to very low levels for the rest of the year. Or it could be that seasonal patterns have geographic divides, with summertime surges in the South as in the past two summers, and more standard spikes in the northern part of the country when temperatures drop.

While the spread of viruses like flu falls to very low levels in the off season, it’s also possible that SARS-2 is so infectious that the country never sees waves truly bottom out. If there’s a floor of several thousand cases a day, that means “we’re going to kind of be dealing with this at some level at all times of the year,” with “substantial ebbs and flows in different places at different times,” said Stephen Kissler, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

A lot of the experts we’ve spoken to about Covid see this type of eventual move to a still-bad-but-manageable virus as the likeliest of scenarios. But in mid-February, STAT published a submitted commentary that gives us pause. In it Donald Burke, former dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, laid out several more troublesome paths the SARS-2 virus could take. They include evolving to attack other organs rather than the respiratory tract, or using the SARS-2 antibodies we have developed against us, triggering more severe disease on future exposures to the virus (or Covid vaccines), a phenomenon known as antibody dependent enhancement. Burke is someone other experts pay attention to and there were groans on Twitter as people absorbed his cautionary words. “I don’t like reading those,” said Marion Pepper, associate professor and interim chair of the department of immunology at the University of Washington.

“I think on top of just the layers of immunity, we know how to handle it better,” she said.

So: We’re in a better place. We hope we’re heading towards a detente with SARS-2. But future skirmishes or worse cannot be ruled out.

— Helen Branswell and Andrew Joseph
Covid test results
Jon Cherry/Getty Images

3. If you’ve never had Covid, how worried should you be right now?

Pepper, the University of Washington professor, caught Covid about seven weeks ago during the Omicron wave; her husband and two kids did too. Fully vaccinated and boosted, she experienced what she described as the equivalent of a head cold. As someone who thinks we’re all destined to catch Covid sooner or later, Pepper admitted she thought, “At least I’m getting this over with.” She acknowledged, though, that putting off Covid infection till even later might be a better idea. “Not being able to predict the future, maybe there would be an even milder strain that you could be exposed to that would give you even better immunity,” she said.

With the enormous back-to-back Delta and Omicron waves, many, many people are in Pepper’s position. They have so-called hybrid immunity, acquired through a combination of vaccination followed by breakthrough infection, or infection followed by vaccination. The thinking is that the arsenal of immune system weapons protecting these folks is broader than those protecting people who have only been infected or only been vaccinated.

Research by Pepper and her team has demonstrated this, at least in terms of people whose first exposure to SARS-2 was through infection. The paper, which has been accepted for publication by the journal Cell, showed that the infected-first people generate higher levels of a cytokine called interleukin 10, which dampens the damaging immune response that Covid infection can sometimes trigger. In effect, this positions people to better handle Covid infections, Pepper said. The work was done, though, before the Omicron wave, and it’s not clear that a first infection with Omicron would elicit the same response. Pepper said her group plans to study this, and will look to see if the same effect occurred in people who were vaccinated first, then had a breakthrough infection.

If people who have hybrid immunity are better armed than people who are only vaccinated, should the latter be worried at this point? Several experts STAT spoke to said they saw no reason for them to be.

“So much of this is personal attitudes,” said Moore, from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. “Common sense. Knowledge of your own health. I see no reason to go out and get infected to ‘boost your immunity.’ It’s not an efficient way of doing it and the side effects are going to be worse than any vaccine dose.”

John Wherry, director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Pennsylvania, said that Omicron as a first infection might not give people the immunity weapons that would be helpful later. “Omicron infection in previously unvaccinated, previously uninfected individuals seems to do quite poorly in inducing antibodies that can efficiently cross-neutralize other variants,” he said.

There’s also the SARS-2 wild card: long Covid. There is currently no way of knowing who among the people who contract the virus could go on to develop this perplexing condition. The only way not to risk developing long Covid is to avoid catching Covid in the first place.

While we’re talking about immunity, you may be wondering about how long it will last. This is among the unanswerable questions at the moment. It’s been clear for some time now that antibody levels decline pretty quickly after vaccination, especially with the messenger RNA vaccines. And those lower levels of antibodies can permit breakthrough infections. But for the most part, the other facets of the immune responses generated by vaccination — the protection generated by B cells and T cells — appear to be holding up against serious illness. As Moore put it, “I think preservation against the worst consequences of Covid is going to last quite a long time.”

— Helen Branswell

4. How, exactly, does the virus transmit from person to person?

Remember the pandemic’s early months of ceaseless surface-sanitizing and hand-scouring? It’s now clear that contaminated surfaces are rarely, if ever, the culprit. Rather, SARS-CoV-2 is primarily transmitted through the streams of mostly invisible respiratory particles that everyone emits when they’re talking, singing, sneezing, coughing, and breathing. It can survive in even the tiniest particles, called aerosols, which can linger in still indoor air for hours and be inhaled into the deepest recesses of one’s lungs.

But exactly how much Covid-19 is caused by these aerosols, versus larger particles that don’t float, so much as spray and splatter and get trapped on mucous membranes further up in the respiratory tract, is a question that continues to defy easy answers. “If two people are close to each other and one becomes infected, there’s no way of telling whether it was from touching each other, breathing in the aerosols, or getting sprayed by bigger droplets,” said Linsey Marr, an environmental engineer at Virginia Tech and one of the world’s leading scientists on airborne viruses.

Disentangling the various transmission routes requires experiments that are expensive, technologically daunting, and ethically complicated. But getting to the bottom of how the virus spreads is critically important for determining the most effective ways to curb it.

“A more profound understanding of the mechanisms driving transmission will be extraordinarily useful in trying to design better working countermeasures,” said Vincent Munster, chief of the virus ecology section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Rocky Mountain Laboratories. “Answering these questions not only has an impact on how we deal with SARS-CoV-2, but with any seasonal respiratory virus.”

In March 2020, Munster and his team provided some of the first evidence that SARS-CoV-2 could stay suspended in the air for hours. Later, they showed that these aerosols more easily infected hamsters and made them sicker than virus the animals picked up from surfaces. In a study published in January, his team proved for the first time that the smallest aerosols — those less than 5 microns — contain enough virus to infect other animals at distances up to 6 feet after just one hour.

It was time-consuming and meticulous work. One of the lab’s postdocs, Julia Port, had to design a novel caging system capable of filtering out all but the smallest aerosols. The equipment they use to generate, collect, and measure different sizes of aerosols costs millions of dollars. And they have to conduct their experiments in specialized, biosecure facilities.

Marr and her collaborators are among the few other labs with the means and expertise to do such work. In a study published last October, her team measured the different sizes of particles coming out of sick hamsters’ lungs. They found that SARS-CoV-2 congregated in the smallest aerosols; particles smaller than 5 microns contained the majority of airborne virus. “It’s a little counterintuitive because we think, ‘Oh, well, larger particles have a lot larger volume and should carry a lot more virus,’ but that doesn’t seem to be the case.”

Now, humans aren’t hamsters. But an aerobiologist at the University of Maryland, Don Milton, has been using a medieval-looking device he invented called the Gesundheit II to measure the amount of SARS-CoV-2 inside the breath of infected college students and staff. In a study published in September, his team found more virus inside smaller versus larger particles.

They also discovered that SARS-CoV-2 was evolving to be even better at getting into those smaller particles. People infected with the Alpha strain (previously known as B.1.1.7, which first emerged in the U.K.) shed 18 times more viral material into fine aerosols than people infected with older strains, after controlling for overall differences in viral load. Milton’s team is now looking at newer, even more contagious variants like Delta and Omicron.

Producing virus-laden particles is just the first step of transmission, though. Ultimately you want to know where those particles wind up and which ones caused any resulting infections. Not every place along your respiratory tract is equally vulnerable to serious infection, and different interventions are more effective against some sizes of particles than others.

Ventilation and air filtration clear out the smallest aerosols that can travel across rooms, but they have less of an impact on larger, heavier particles that are typically expelled over several feet by a person. Surgical masks block those larger particles, but aren’t as good at blocking aerosols. N95 and similarly rated masks (like KN95 and KF94 masks) block both, but are more expensive, and it’s not sustainable for everyone to wear them at all times.

However, that final step of transmission, deposition, is a much harder thing to study, especially with a virus that carries the risk of long Covid. So some of the best-equipped research teams are now turning their attention back to an older respiratory scourge — influenza.

Last month, Flu Lab announced it was funding an $8.8 million initiative led by Virginia Tech to try to find these answers for a virus that has plagued humankind for much longer than SARS-CoV-2. As part of the effort, Marr’s lab will be placing kid-friendly air-sampling robots around a day care center and measuring the germs that wind up inside and on their surfaces as the children interact with them.

Other teams will be using a molecular barcoding technology developed at Emory University to infect ferrets with clouds of artificially generated particles — with different-sized particles containing uniquely traceable versions of the virus. The idea is to be able to track which sizes of particles are best able to infect ferrets and capable of forward transmission, said Seema Lakdawala, a microbiologist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who is leading the project. “That’s just something you cannot do in humans,” she said.

But you can put a bunch of people who’ve been recently diagnosed with influenza into a quarantine hotel with healthy volunteers for two weeks and watch what happens. That’s something Milton’s team in Maryland is preparing to do, as part of a five-year randomized controlled trial supported by a $15 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

“The hope is that this will allow us to clearly identify to what extent the transmission among young adults is via inhalation of aerosols versus spray-borne transmission of drops versus touching contaminated surfaces,” said Milton. At least for flu. And better understanding how flu spreads and how to manage it will almost certainly benefit efforts to curb the coronavirus. Especially if it, as expected, evolves from a pandemic pathogen to a more seasonally active endemic virus.

“These studies will allow us to develop a framework to examine the efficiency of each mode of transmission for a respiratory virus,” said Lakdawala. Such a framework could also help the scientific community respond faster the next time a novel respiratory pathogen emerges and avoid the early confusion that still haunts our response to SARS-CoV-2.

— Megan Molteni

5. Will we get a new, better generation of vaccines, therapeutics, and tests?

What do you want first: the good news or the bad news?

The good news is that the state of emergency created by the pandemic allowed researchers to quickly develop multiple different types of vaccines, effective treatments for the virus, and new types of rapid tests. The bad news is that new alternatives to this first rush of technologies may be more difficult to bring to market — unless major changes are made to the way society funds research, or SARS-CoV-2 evolves so much that existing remedies no longer work.

Whether we’ll get much better tools differs, as you might expect, for each category. It’s hardest to imagine diagnostics being revolutionized further. Tests that use new technologies from CRISPR or nucleic acid amplification systems other than PCR were developed during the pandemic, but for most people the two options remained PCR, which is much slower in the U.S. than it needs to be, and the rapid antigen tests that flooded drugstore shelves. In order for there to be something better, someone would have to want to do better and spend a lot of money to change the way our testing system works. There is no sign that there is a market for that. Yes, there will be new technologies, such as the recent SARS-CoV-2 test that can detect the virus on someone’s breath. But the big issues with testing have to do with infrastructure, not technology.

For vaccines, the picture is more complicated, but the same basic idea applies. The currently available vaccine technologies are backed by gigantic clinical trials, and they have been injected into millions and millions of people, which gives doctors a good idea about their safety and side effects. Some entrants missed the first wave of vaccination, such as the Sanofi-Glaxo vaccine and the one from Novavax, which is currently awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration. But new vaccines will face an uphill climb in approval and demand. Would a drugmaker need to conduct a new, 30,000-patient trial comparing the new vaccine to the old one? Would enough people, or their insurance companies, pay a premium for the new shot?
The Covid-19 vaccine market is getting crowded — as demand begins to wane

Still, there is a big effort to develop other, better, more durable vaccines. At a recent meeting of the FDA’s advisory panel, Ofer Levy, director of the Precision Vaccines Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, made a plea for society to realize that the vaccines we have, miraculous as they are, should not be seen as the vaccines we will need in the end. He hoped for vaccines that would give much broader immunity against new Covid strains. The World Health Organization does track more than 150 different Covid vaccines in various stages of testing. But their path to market may not be quick or easy unless we reach a point where they are desperately needed.

The news is perhaps brightest when it comes to therapeutics. It’s true, the monoclonal antibodies that were the first effective medicines developed against SARS-CoV-2 have lost their efficacy as new strains have emerged. But companies like Eli Lilly and Regeneron are developing new monoclonals. More importantly, Pfizer’s oral treatment, Paxlovid, should become much more widely available in the second half of the year. So far, it’s effective against all the strains we’ve seen.

A number of medicines have been found to be effective at tamping down the overactive immune system that does damage in the worst Covid cases, including the steroid dexamethasone and the arthritis medicines Actemra and baricitinib. And there are new treatments that are gathering evidence, including a drug called peginterferon lambda and the antidepressant fluvoxamine. Molecular Partners and Novartis are developing a treatment that is somewhat similar to monoclonal antibodies, but that may be less likely to fail as new strains emerge.

So, simply: We’ll probably get more treatments. We might get more vaccines. But getting better testing is much more a question of societal and political will than of research and development.

— Matthew Herper

6. How long before we understand long Covid?

Almost everything about the mystery of long Covid remains opaque, but we’ve at last reached what one researcher calls breadcrumbs on the trail to its root cause.

Scientists from many disciplines are tackling the collection of symptoms that persist in as many as one-third of people after a Covid-19 infection. Virologists are turning their HIV expertise to this coronavirus, neurologists are trying to explain the cognitive and physical disruptions they see in rehab clinics, and immunologists are teasing out inflammatory and autoimmune responses.

“What’s encouraging is that we’re starting to see these breadcrumbs,” David Putrino, director of rehabilitation innovation at Mount Sinai Health System, told STAT. “What is challenging is that we need to rapidly accelerate research efforts to actually create actionable treatments for these breadcrumbs that we’re seeing. And the therapeutics pipeline takes a very long time.”

The trail has three main branches that may or may not converge. One underlying theory is autoimmunity, in which the body starts to attack itself after infection. People who study — or live with — myalgic encephalomyelitis or other post-viral syndromes see parallels in the symptoms long Covid people report. They hope the attention to long Covid will spill over into progress for their conditions.

Another likely suspect in the long Covid lineup is chronic inflammation, a persistent, over-the-top response to infection. Clotting abnormalities, microclots in particular, fall on the inflammation path. Doctors noticed unusual blood clots when the first wave swept hospitals in New York City and Italy, prompting them to start giving hospital patients anticoagulants upon arrival. Last August, a South African scientist, Etheresia Pretorius, documented persistent clotting problems in people with long Covid, based on an analysis of proteins in blood samples.

The third suspected cause is viral persistence, in which the coronavirus still lurks in hidden reservoirs after the body has fought off acute infection. In a few patients with Ebola, for example, viral particles were found years later in the central nervous system, the testis, or the eye.

“The extent to which it’s one of these theories or the other, or a mix of all three, we’re still not sure,” Putrino said. “That’s something that we’re testing.”

Blood specimens taken from patients dating back to the spring of 2020 are being queried for inflammatory cytokines and other clues about long Covid, more formally known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection, or PASC. At Yale, Akiko Iwasaki has identified specialized biomarkers of T-cell immunity and B-cell immunity that could illuminate immune function and autoantibody production. Yapeng Su of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center has taken a multi-omics approach to look at the development of autoantibodies dating to the initial viral load at the time of the acute infection, taking into account preexisting conditions like diabetes or the reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus.

“The T-cell responses were different in people who went on to develop these different PASC phenotypes,” Ingrid Bassett, an infectious diseases physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, said about Su’s work. Bassett is also a site principal investigator of the Recover trial, a national, 15-member effort sponsored by the NIH whose mission is to understand, prevent, and treat long Covid. “Those are tantalizing and I think that approach of trying to look deeply at the immune response from multiple different angles is compelling.”

Steven Deeks, an HIV expert at University of California, San Francisco, said he has freezers full of biomarkers from Covid patients.

“We’re at that point in the scientific adventure where we have these big cohorts of people who have long Covid or don’t,” he said. “There are studies coming out left and right with various different biomarkers. You have to figure out which ones are real and which ones are noise.”

With no agreed-on biomarkers, no imaging tests to order, there are only measurements of how people feel and function. Both Putrino and Deeks believe it’s time for drug companies to test their compounds against long Covid. Reuters first reported that GlaxoSmithKline, Vir Biotechnology, and Humanigen had discussed trials using their current treatments against long Covid with researchers. Pfizer and Roche said they were also interested.

“I’ve been trying to drag companies into this business,” Deeks said. “I believe we need to start doing experimental medicine. You do that because you hope the medications will help, but you also do it because it will untangle the biology.”

The Biden administration recently announced plans to ramp up long Covid research in the wake of criticism from patients and experts saying its pace was far too slow.

How long, then, before we understand long Covid?

“The pace of progress is pretty impressive compared to what we experienced for the study of HIV,” Deeks said. “People want an answer now in terms of how to make people feel better. We don’t have that, but we certainly are making more rapid progress now than I would have expected.”

— Elizabeth Cooney

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the antidepressant that has shown promise against Covid.
0 Replies
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2022 08:22 am
It's interesting to look back over this thread. While we have had a few bouts of misinformation, for the most part it's had a pretty good run with lots of decent health info and good discussions. Definitely a rarity, especially for threads that I start.
bobsal u1553115
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2022 08:26 am
Interestingly enough, the misinformers all seem to be on vacation.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2022 09:59 am
@bobsal u1553115,
bobsal u1553115 wrote:
Interestingly enough, the misinformers all seem to be on vacation.
Here in Germany they changed the subject: the "Querdenker" changed the subject.

Extremist actors who have previously called for protests around the Corona pandemic and the state measures are trying to occupy new issue areas. And Russia's attack on Ukraine does play a role in this: extremists are instrumentalising it for their own purposes.
In addition to the war against Ukraine, the rising energy costs and inflation associated with it are also the target of exploitation by extremist actors in the protest scene.
bobsal u1553115
Reply Thu 28 Apr, 2022 05:36 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
These are interesting times we live in. But I believe the tides have changed back in our favor.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Fri 29 Apr, 2022 05:28 am
Re-posted from another thread:

Documents offer new details about how the White House delivered on the priorities of religious communities that were key to the ex-president’s base.

Trump officials muzzled CDC on church covid guidance, emails show
Trump White House officials in May 2020 overrode public health advice urging churches to consider virtual religious services as the coronavirus spread, delivering a messaging change sought by the president’s supporters, according to emails from former top officials released by a House panel on Friday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent its planned public health guidance for religious communities to the White House on May 21, 2020, seeking approval to publish it. The agency had days earlier released reports saying that the virus had killed three and infected dozens at church events in Arkansas and infected 87 percent of attendees at a choir practice in Washington state, and health experts had warned that houses of worship had become hot spots for virus transmission.

But Trump officials wrote that they were frustrated by “problematic” advice the CDC had already posted, such as recommendations that houses of worship consider conducting virtual or drive-in religious services, according to emails released Friday by the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis. A White House lawyer rewrote the CDC’s guidance to remove “all the tele-church suggestions,” according to an email obtained by the panel. The guidance subsequently published by the agency did not include any recommendations about offering virtual or drive-in options for religious services, clergy visits, youth group meetings and other traditionally in-person gatherings.

The Trump officials also expressed frustration that the CDC’s planned guidance “seems to raise religious liberty concerns” and made a series of direct edits to the recommendations, proposing that the agency should be allowed to publish them “contingent on striking the offensive passages.” The emails released by the House panel do not specify which passages the Trump officials sought to remove.

Although the Trump administration’s efforts to alter the CDC’s guidance for religious groups have been reported before, the emails contain new details about the White House’s efforts to deliver on a priority for faith communities that represented key support for President Donald Trump. Multiple religious groups in early 2020 fought public health orders to limit mass gatherings and appealed to the White House for assistance, with some churches taking their legal challenges to the Supreme Court.

The behind-the-scenes frustrations over the CDC’s guidance for religious groups also spilled into White House briefings, as Trump urged states on May 22 to allow houses of worship to open immediately, as his advisers continued to exert pressure on the CDC’s guidance. The public health agency subsequently removed its warnings that singing in church choirs could spread the virus, despite its earlier findings.

House Democrats have spent months investigating reports of Trump officials interfering with the CDC and other health agencies in the earliest months of the coronavirus response. The House panel released the new documents ahead of a hearing Friday in which the head of the Government Accountability Office, an independent, nonpartisan agency, will testify on whether the reported political interference hindered health agencies’ efforts to respond to the pandemic.

House Democrats also released a portion of an interview with Robert Redfield, the former CDC director, who told the panel that the Trump administration refused to approve his agency’s requests to do briefings on the pandemic for six months, with a few exceptions, after Nancy Messonnier, who was then a senior CDC official, on Feb. 25, 2020, warned that the virus’s spread in the United States was inevitable. The warning angered Trump, who had been issuing a far more optimistic message, and sparked friction with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, which moved to sideline the agency.

“This is one of my great disappointments … they would not clear our briefings,” Redfield told the panel, arguing that the CDC’s lack of communication hampered public trust in the agency.

Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip who chairs the panel, said in a statement that the new documents illustrated a “disturbing” pattern.

“As today’s new evidence also makes clear, Trump White House officials worked under the direction of the former president to purposefully undercut public health officials’ recommendations and muzzle their ability to communicate clearly to the American public,” Clyburn said.

The House panel this morning is set to hear testimony from Gene L. Dodaro, who leads the GAO, which last week released a report concluding that health agencies need stronger protections against political interference.

“To maintain public trust and credibility, these agencies need to ensure that these decisions are evidence-based and free from political interference,” the GAO’s report concluded.
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