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jimmy m
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26 Aug 2023, 11:33 am

ASPartOfMe passed on some information. I tend to agree with some of the status of where we are at with COVID.

ASPartOfMe wrote:
As of Aug. 12, no counties are listed as “high,” and fewer than 3% are “medium.”

Some Concern from New Variants, But No Expectation of a Return to 2020

Scientists and public health officials have been watching two newer coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, variants: EG.5 and BA.2.86.

EG.5, which the CDC estimates made up about a fifth of all coronavirus cases in the U.S. in the past couple of weeks, is a spinoff of XBB.1.9.2, another omicron variant. In this regard, it doesn’t appear to be that different from its immediate predecessors, although it may be a bit more transmissible and more readily able to evade immunity, which could explain its current rise. There isn’t evidence that the variant causes more severe disease.

Even if BA.2.86 does turn out to be the next big variant, it would not be the same as 2020, when the entire world was susceptible to the coronavirus, with no kind of prior immunity and no vaccine available.


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15 Sep 2023, 10:03 am

A few months ago, the U.S. Government decided that COVID was over. It essentially erased and negated all tracking on this subject. So it is very hard to understand if the threat is really gone or just being hidden.

But there is some information flowing around that perhaps the pandemic is still moving and has an element of danger. For example one article published on 7 September 2023 states:

Unfortunately, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, is not rational. It mutates randomly, and then is subject to the rules of Darwinian evolution; the fittest progeny survive and proliferate. A variant called EG.5 (dubbed “Eris”) is currently dominant, but two new ones, BA.2.86 (“Pirola”) and FL.1.5.1 (“Fornax”), have emerged. Laboratory studies of BA.2.86 have found that it is able to escape our neutralizing antibodies 2-3 times better than XBB, the most recent Omicron subvariant to sweep the U.S.

Together, they are driving yet another surge. COVID hospitalizations and deaths have recently increased about 20% week over week, wastewater concentrations of virus are trending up, and there has been a report of a superspreader event in Nashville, and a probable one at the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament in New York after the organizers foolishly dismantled all precautionary measures. Various schools, hospitals, clinics, and other institutions around the U.S. are again requiring people to wear masks.


Source: Mask Up Again? As COVID Cases Rise, Look to Science, Not Pundits

But another article links to an interesting podcast.

Podcast: New COVID Surge Coming?

I suspect that the Podcast has a fairly reliable perspective of the current state of COVID. As more people build up a defense against COVID either by having and surviving the virus or by gaining protection using COVID vaccines, the number of vulnerable people gets smaller and smaller until it reaches a point where the pandemic comes to an END.


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15 Sep 2023, 1:30 pm

Also, the latest updated vaccine became available this week. Anybody over six months can get it.

This is what I wrote last week in another thread.

"As mentioned the mandated mitigation measures have been dropped in most places a long time ago, the vast majority of people are not masking, and the rate of people getting boosters has plunged. A handful of hospitals and companies have reintroduced mask mandates on a short term basis(a week to 10 days). Same situation with schools and remote learning. Usually in response to an outbreak in their facility.

Opinion=mine:
No matter bad how this or another disease gets I do not expect a return to widespread long term mask mandates or lockdowns. I would expect that if the government tries to reimpose mitigation measures most people won’t abide by them. Besides the politicalticalization of the issue there are so many people still dealing with mental health issues and kids behind where they should be so there will be an extreme reluctance to do it again. Also, the natural inclination of most people is to not want to stand out.

The bottom line is we are on our own and operating somewhat blind. I would advise for now that if you are 65 or older, have a chronic condition, are the type of person who seems to catch everything, live or work with such people you should mask up in indoor public places especially crowded ones and keep up with boosters. Even if you are healthy I would still get a booster once a year during the late fall.

Personally I stopped masking for several months when the rates were minuscule but have been masking up for the last two months or so. I have kept up with my boosters every six months or so and plan on getting the RSV, Flu, and COVID booster shots because I am turning 66 this month and am a cancer survivor.

There is some sort of risk of getting harassed if you wear a mask, people looking at you funny, pointing at you, telling you to take that diaper off your face, calling you a wuss etc. I have read conflicting antidotal reports about this. This issue is so politicized it is impossible to guess how widespread this is. My guess is not so much but it is conceivable that in some “red” locales the risk is not negligible. I also think if you are noticeably older even the most virulent anti maskers will take into account your higher risk but that is a pure guess. I was very self conscious when I first started masking again but a lot of that has gone away."


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15 Sep 2023, 5:54 pm

No more lockdowns or mask mandates. The goverment reserve bank has a new way of harrasing people. Apparently the coronavirus caused inlfation. What's the cure for inflation? Punish the people!

Triple the interest rates so that people will spend less. Spending less reduces inflation. I would gladly spend less and save more. Maybe I'd save more by making greater contributions to my superannunation. Maybe I'd save more by aiming to get my mortgage paid off in half the normal time.

But they're not asking people to spend less. They're forcing people to spend less.

Triple the interest rates, that's their cure. So that when people are hurting from inflation and goods costing more, at the same time the money they have to live on is greatly reduced because their mortgage payments have gone up several fold.

I wouldn't mind paying 2.5 times as much per month for my mortgage if it meant I was paying it off faster. But now I'd be paying 2.5 times as much per month just to pay it off at the same speed.

While everything is costing more, they deliberately make it so that people have less money.

Isn't it a funny coincidence that the bank's cure for inflation is something that makes the banks more money without them having to do any extra work or previde additional services.

The reports have come back that people are spending less. That's not a side effect, that's the goal.


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17 Sep 2023, 8:14 am

COVID levels are so high, they’re hovering near 2020’s initial peak, as the WHO urges those at high risk to take any booster they can get their hands on

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U.S. COVID infections are hovering near levels of the pandemic’s first peak in 2020, and approaching the Delta peak of late 2021, according to wastewater surveillance and modeling by forecasters.

Viral wastewater levels are not far behind all of the pandemic’s 2020 peaks except for one—the initial peak of March 2020, which they've already surpassed. And they lag just slightly levels seen during the deadly Delta peak of late 2021, according to Biobot Analytics, which monitors such data for the federal government.

A forecast issued this week by Jay Weiland, a leading COVID modeler, came to the same conclusions. On Thursday, Weiland estimated that 650,000 Americans are becoming infected daily, with 1 in 51 Americans currently infected with COVID.

An additional 7% to 10% of the U.S. population will be infected over the next month and a half, Weiland predicted.

Both Biobot data and Wieland’s modeling show U.S. cases beginning to recede. But they may not fall much more, if any, before the anticipated fall and winter surge.

WHO flags concerning trend
Infections aside, COVID hospitalizations and deaths are continuing to rise, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitalizations rose nearly 9% from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2, the most recent period for which the federal health agency made data available. And deaths rose nearly 5% from Sept. 3-9.

The World Health Organization continues to receive reports on concerning COVID trends, including a growing number of countries reporting an increase in infections, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions, Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for COVID-19 response, said at a Thursday news conference.

Vaccination, in addition to early diagnosis and access to care, can prevent severe disease and death, she said. WHO officials encouraged those at high risk for poor outcomes from the virus, like the elderly and immunocompromised, to obtain a booster ASAP—even if it’s not the latest XBB formula being rolled out in some parts of the world.

U.S. approves updated XBB boosters
All Americans ages 6 months and older are eligible to receive an updated COVID booster tailored to the XBB Omicron strain, the CDC announced this week.

The agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13-1 Tuesday to approve updated jabs from Moderna, Pfizer, and Novavax for the vast majority of U.S. residents. Shortly thereafter, the federal health agency announced that it had accepted the committee’s recommendation, and that vaccines would be available later in the week.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve Novavax’s updated formula. But the agency authorized such boosters from Moderna and Pfizer on Monday.

The CDC anticipates having adequate booster supply and shouldn’t need to prioritize certain groups—like the elderly or immunocompromised—for first doses, federal health officials said at the Tuesday committee meeting.

All eligible should get the new booster when possible, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told Fortune on Tuesday.

In a statement provided to Fortune the American Medical Association on Tuesday said it welcomed the committee’s recommendations, contending that the updated jabs would prevent about 400,000 hospitalizations and 40,000 deaths over the next couple of years.

New booster, dying strain
Last year’s updated Omicron boosters, released around Labor Day, were bivalent, tailored to both Omicron and the initial strain of COVID. This year’s boosters are monovalent, meaning they’re tailored to just one strain of the virus: XBB.1.5 “Kraken,” which dominated in the U.S. and elsewhere late last year into early this year.

The strain is now nearly extinct. XBB.1.5 was estimated to be responsible for just 2.2% of U.S. infections Friday, according to the latest variant data the CDC has made available.

While the newest jabs are tailored to a dying strain of Omicron, they’re still expected to protect against severe disease and death from currently circulating strains, the vast majority of which are members of the XBB viral family.

The formula for the new vaccines “is highly similar to the EG.5-related variants circulating now,” Dr. Stuart Ray, vice chair of medicine for data integrity and analytics at Johns Hopkins’ Department of Medicine, told Fortune on Tuesday.

Recently released preliminary data shows that refreshed boosters should also offer decent protection against new, highly mutated Omicron spawn “Pirola” BA.2.86. It’s not a member of the XBB family, and is instead thought to have evolved from so-called “stealth Omicron” BA.2.

The updated vaccine’s protection against Pirola won’t be as good as the protection it offers against EG.5 and other XBB variants, Ray said. Still, there is more to immunity than antibodies, produced by B cells in response to infection and vaccination. The other, oft-forgotten half of the immune system, T cells, provides protection against severe disease. While T cells can’t prevent infection like B cells can, they still help soften the blow—of a BA.2.86 infection, EG.5 infection, or otherwise.

Rising concern for troublesome 'flip' mutations
While the United States’ “variant soup” remained largely unchanged Friday, according to new data released by the CDC, experts continued to sound alarm bells about a rising proportion of variants that share the same concerning mutations.

Around 93% of U.S. COVID sequences over the past month contain the mutation F486P, Raj Rajnarayanan—assistant dean of research and associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology campus in Jonesboro, Ark., and a top COVID-variant tracker—told Fortune on Friday. The mutation, located on the spike protein, increases the virus’s ability to effectively infect by binding more tightly with human cells. Rajnarayanan refers to it as this season's signature mutation.

About half of U.S. sequences in over the same period picked up the F456L mutation, also in the spike protein, he said. The mutation makes the virus better at evading immunity from vaccination and prior infection. All top U.S. lineages have this mutation, he added.

What's more, top lineages are also beginning to pick up the spike mutation L455F, which proffers further ease of infecting cells, Rajnarayanan added.

Variant trackers refer to the F456L and L455F mutations as “flip” mutations, for complex scientific reasons involving amino acid changes. The duo is becoming one of the most concerning trends of the season, experts say, with nearly 20% of wastewater samples tracked by Biobot containing such mutations.

Once again this fall and winter, no one variant may gain a major advantage over others, experts say. But variants with the “flip combo” likely to become dominant and pose this season’s largest issue.

What’s more, it’s likely that highly mutated variant “Pirola” BA.2.86 picks up "flip" at some point, Rajnarayanan said, making it more of an issue—and potentially granting it the ability to spread more effectively.

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com.


Sore throat, then congestion: Common Covid symptoms follow a pattern now, doctors say
Quote:
Doctors say they're finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish Covid from allergies or the common cold, even as hospitalizations tick up.

The illness' past hallmarks, such as a dry cough or the loss of sense of taste or smell, have become less common. Instead, doctors are observing milder disease, mostly concentrated in the upper respiratory tract.

"It isn’t the same typical symptoms that we were seeing before. It’s a lot of congestion, sometimes sneezing, usually a mild sore throat," said Dr. Erick Eiting, vice chair of operations for emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Downtown in New York City.

The sore throat usually arrives first, he said, then congestion.

The Zoe COVID Symptom Study, which collects data on self-reported symptoms in the U.K. through smartphone apps, has documented the same trend. Its findings suggest that a sore throat became more common after the omicron variant grew dominant in late 2021. Loss of smell, by contrast, became less widespread, and the rate of hospital admissions declined compared to summer and fall 2021.

Doctors now describe a clearer, more consistent pattern of symptoms.

"Just about everyone who I've seen has had really mild symptoms," Eiting said of his urgent care patients, adding, "The only way that we knew that it was Covid was because we happened to be testing them."

How do Covid symptoms progress?
Though three doctors interviewed said Covid commonly begins with a sore throat these days, they gave differing descriptions of the severity.

Dr. Grace McComsey, vice dean for clinical and translational research at Case Western University, said some patients have described "a burning sensation like they never had, even with strep in the past."

"Then, as soon as the congestion happens, it seems like the throat gets better," she said.

Along with congestion, doctors said, some patients experience a headache, fatigue, muscle aches, fever, chills or post-nasal drip that may lead to a cough — though coughing isn't a primary symptom.

McComsey said fatigue and muscle aches usually last a couple of days, whereas congestion can sometimes last a few weeks.

She estimated that only around 10-20% of her Covid patients lose their sense of taste or smell now, compared to around 60-70% early in the pandemic.

Eiting said he's not seeing a lot of diarrhea lately, either — a more common symptom in the past.

For the most part, the doctors said, few patients require hospitalization — even those who show up at emergency rooms — and many recover without needing the antiviral pill Paxlovid or other treatment.

Why Covid seems milder now
Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, attributed the mild symptoms that doctors are seeing to immunity from vaccines and previous infections.

"Overall, the severity of Covid is much lower than it was a year ago and two years ago. That’s not because the variants are less robust. It’s because the immune responses are higher," Barouch said.

Other doctors think that omicron itself also changed the presentation of Covid symptoms, since some studies have shown that early versions of it weren’t as good as previous variants at infecting the lungs.

Who is being hospitalized?
The U.S. is recording around 19,000 Covid hospitalizations per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The weekly average rose around 80% from early August to the beginning of September.

Hospitalization rates are highest among people ages 75 and up, followed by babies under 6 months and adults ages 65 to 74. Most people hospitalized for Covid since January had not received a bivalent booster, according to the CDC.

Older people in particular may have waning immunity if they haven’t been infected or vaccinated recently, Daignault said.

What does long Covid look like now?
A study published this month found that long Covid rates declined once omicron became the dominant variant. Researchers don’t know if milder disease contributed to that trend, or if population immunity was largely responsible.

But McComsey — a principal investigator for the National Institutes of Health’s RECOVER Initiative, which studies long Covid — said she's still seeing new cases of long Covid. Rapid heart rate and exercise intolerance are among the most common lingering symptoms, she said.

Each re-infection brings a risk of long Covid, McComsey added, so she doesn't think people should ignore the current rise in infections.

"What we’re seeing in long Covid clinics is not just the older strains that continue to be symptomatic and not getting better — we’re adding to that number with the new strain as well," McComsey said. "That’s why I’m not taking this new wave any less seriousl


Why officials aren't calling this year's new COVID shots "boosters"
Quote:
Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, as signs of waning immunity and changes in the virus prompted the rollout of additional doses of vaccine, health authorities took to urging Americans to seek out "booster" shots to improve their protection against the virus.

Now, with an updated vaccine formula rolling out for the fall, officials are changing that message to move away from the word "booster."

Instead, doctors and health departments are now working on getting used to calling this year's newly recommended shots the "2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine" or simply the "updated COVID-19 vaccine.

Bye bye, booster. We are no longer giving boosters, and it's going to be very difficult to stop using that word because that word has become pervasive," Dr. Keipp Talbot, a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's committee of vaccine advisers, said.

Talbot was speaking Thursday at a webinar hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America titled, in part, "COVID-19 New Booster Vaccine & Variants Update."

We are beginning to think of COVID like influenza. Influenza changes each year, and we give a new vaccine for each year. We don't 'boost' each year," said Talbot.

No more "primary series"
The change in terminology stems from a proposal, first backed by a panel of the Food and Drug Administration's outside advisers back in January, to dramatically simplify the schedule of authorized and approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Most Americans originally received a "primary series" of shots that were targeted at the original strain of the virus early in the pandemic. Then, a mix of "booster" doses were offered — some targeted at more recent variants — with varying guidelines depending on a person's age and what shots they previously received.

That made it difficult for some people and their doctors to figure out whether they were "up to date" on their shots. Meanwhile, still-unvaccinated Americans who wanted to get caught up faced a need to get through the "primary series" doses of the old formula of vaccines before they could qualify for the latest versions of the shots.

The FDA took steps towards simplifying the regimen in April, phasing out the original versions of the vaccine and removing the "primary series" versus "booster" distinction for most people.

Later, when the FDA announced it was authorizing and approving the latest formulation of the vaccines on Monday, targeted for the XBB.1.5 strain of the virus, the agency's press release made no mention of "booster" doses.

"To clarify, these vaccines would not be considered 'boosters' per se. These vaccines, as previously announced, would be updated with a new formulation for the 2023-2024 fall and winter seasons," an FDA spokesperson said Thursday in an email.

Other federal authorities have hewed closely to the new terminology.

But the word "booster" still remains on many other official pages, including the United Kingdom's "autumn vaccine booster" campaign overseas and press releases within the U.S. from some state and local health departments.

“It’s going to be difficult to start changing that terminology, but it is no longer a booster. It is now the current vaccine for the year," said Talbot.


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25 Sep 2023, 11:40 am

The small surge in COVID cases appears to be winding down.

Covid leveling off in some areas of the country, despite uptick in cases

Wastewater data suggest that the recent uptick in Covid cases may have peaked, at least in some areas.

Biobot Analytics, a company that tracks wastewater samples at 257 sites nationwide, said that the current average Covid levels across the United States are approximately 5% lower than they were last week.

"All fingers crossed," Cristin Young, a Biobot epidemiologist said, "this wave is plateauing and may be declining."

While data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a rise in Covid-related hospitalizations and deaths, wastewater may indicate what's to come.

--------------------------------------------
COVID struck beginning around 4 years ago. The initial variants were very deadly but not that contagious. As the virus progressed it became much more contagious but at the same time less deadly. At this point, most people in the U.S. have either had the virus or had COVID vaccines, in many cases several times. So in general most people at this stage, have some type of immunity. It may not be perfect immunity but it is something that the general public can tolerate.


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25 Sep 2023, 8:34 pm

jimmy m wrote:
So in general most people at this stage, have some type of immunity. It may not be perfect immunity but it is something that the general public can tolerate.

Studies have shown that Covid immunity does not last very long at all.


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26 Sep 2023, 7:59 am

SabbraCadabra wrote:
Studies have shown that Covid immunity does not last very long at all.


I would hazard a guess that THE STUDIES ARE WRONG. COVID is constantly on the move. It changes from one variant to the next to the next. So you get protected for a particular variant that was out there a half year earlier, it is not the same variant that is out there TODAY. COVID is constantly on the move.

Those who get COVID and survive have some degree of protection. Getting COVID vaccinations also provides some degree of protection. When you combine these two together, immunity within the world population is reaching the level where this pandemic is fading away.

It is not perfect protection but the world is willing to live with it.

If you are in the high danger zone, because you are elderly or have preexisting conditions that cause you to be more vulnerable to damage from COVID, then take extra precautions to keep yourself safe.


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26 Sep 2023, 11:35 am

People with Long COVID Have Distinct Hormonal and Immune Differences From Those Without This Condition Research conducted at Mount Sinai and Yale confirms long COVID is a biological disease by showing blood biomarkers that can predict who has it


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28 Sep 2023, 10:52 am

Covid drug causes mutations in virus

https://thebulletin.org/2023/09/mercks- ... st-heading

Except from the article.
“A drug used to treat patients at risk of severe COVID-19 infection may have led to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 viruses bearing a distinct pattern of mutations, researchers reported Monday in Nature. The new paper raises the stakes over concerns about whether molnupiravir use could lead to the emergence of new dangerous variants and extend the pandemic.”


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28 Sep 2023, 11:01 am

There are shortages of the updated vaccine. Privatization is being blamed. Nursing homes are having trouble getting the vaccines as mandates to protect the most vulnerable have expired.


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28 Sep 2023, 11:21 am

Time to mask back up.


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28 Sep 2023, 11:54 am

Misslizard wrote:
Time to mask back up.

Some of us never stopped =)


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28 Sep 2023, 1:03 pm

I don't go out much (I really am quite retired!) but when I do go out I wear a mask (unless I plan to stay in the car). I don't see many others wearing masks but I see some. We've resumed going to restaurants and we keep the masks on except when we are at our table.

I admit I regret having the mask on the few times I forgot to remove it before I tried to put food in my mouth. :oops:


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28 Sep 2023, 1:18 pm

SabbraCadabra wrote:
Misslizard wrote:
Time to mask back up.

Some of us never stopped =)

I did this summer for the first time.The few places I went were not crowded and well ventilated.But with fall , flu and Covid ,I will till start back up till next summer.Still haven’t caught it.
I have plenty of hand sanitizer and N95s left.
Never stopped hand sanitizing, carry a giant jug in truck and some in purse.


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