Lessons From A Pandemic That Never Materialized: Tests, Protective Gear For Health Workers And Social Distancing Crucial
Joseph Califano was the new secretary of health, education and welfare in President Jimmy Carter’s administration following a swine flu scare in the 1970s. He offers tips about what America needs to do to "crush the curve." In other public health news: vulnerable populations may fall through cracks, experts debunk any conspiracy theories about virus' origin, lawmakers call on FDA to loosen blood donor restrictions, and more.
'Our Goal Should Be To Crush The Curve'
In January 1976, flu broke out among Army recruits training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Most of the flu, tests revealed, was of a common strain, A-Victoria, but four cases (one of them fatal) proved to be swine flu, similar to the strain that caused the 1918 pandemic that killed half a million people in this country and 50 million worldwide. Swine flu had, in 1976, not been seen in humans for more than a half century, so immunity was almost nonexistent. Further testing at Fort Dix turned up some alarming results — an additional nine cases with as many as 500 recruits who had been exposed to the virus but were asymptomatic. While a vaccine had been developed for A-Victoria and many other flu strains, none existed for swine flu. Public health authorities, led by the Centers for Disease Control, quickly became alarmed. (Tofel, 3/26)
The Wall Street Journal:
What Does It Mean To Flatten The Curve To Fight Coronavirus?
By now you’ve heard the phrase “flatten the curve.” It refers to the quest to slow transmissions of Covid-19 so the accumulating number of infections looks like a gentle slope instead of a vertiginous spike. The matter is urgent, according to infectious-disease experts who’ve modeled strategies to curb the spread. (McGinty, 3/27)
Arizona Daily Star:
People With Intellectual Disabilities May Be Denied Lifesaving Care Under These Plans As Coronavirus Spreads
Advocates for people with intellectual disabilities are concerned that those with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other such conditions will be denied access to lifesaving medical treatment as the COVID-19 outbreak spreads across the country. Several disability advocacy organizations filed complaints this week with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asking the federal government to clarify provisions of the disaster preparedness plans for the states of Washington and Alabama. (Silverman, 3/27)
The New York Times:
With Meetings Banned, Millions Struggle To Stay Sober On Their Own
On March 13, a dozen people gathered at a Cleveland outpatient clinic for their daily therapy group. They represented a patchwork of addictions: to alcohol, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin. They were freshly out of jail, out of marriages, out of work. The newest member had enrolled just a week earlier. The three-hour morning session that Friday, reinforced with continually brewing coffee and snacks everyone brought to share (mini doughnuts, chips, cookies, pretzels) began with lights dimmed and a meditation. Shortly after noon, they locked arms, recited the Serenity Prayer, and said: “Be well, be safe, see you Monday.” (Hoffman, 3/26)
Sorry, Conspiracy Theorists. Study Concludes COVID-19 'Is Not A Laboratory Construct'
Conspiracy theories claiming COVID-19 was engineered in a lab as part of a biological attack on the United States have been gaining traction online in recent weeks, but a new study on the origins of the virus has concluded that the pandemic-causing strain developed naturally. An analysis of the evidence, according to the findings first published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine, shows that the novel coronavirus "is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus," with the researchers concluding "we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible." (Holland, 3/27)
COVID-19 Has Been Compared To The Flu. Experts Say That's Wrong.
Even with businesses closed, travel restricted and shelter-in-place orders issued around the world, many still wonder if such extremes are needed to battle the novel coronavirus. Some people, including the president of the United States, have said COVID-19 isn't too different from the common flu. But, according to experts, is COVID-19 actually worse? The short answer? Yes. (Kumar, 3/27)
Democratic Senators Call On FDA To Drop Restrictions On Blood Donations From Men Who Have Sex With Men
More than a a dozen Democratic senators signed a letter Thursday urging Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn to ease restrictions on blood donations by men who have recently had sex with men, as the coronavirus outbreak has led to a dire shortage of blood. The current rule, which the senators describe as "discriminatory" in their letter, prohibits men who who have had sex with other men in the past 12 months from donating. (Johnson, 3/26)
As Coronavirus Alters Our World You May Be Grieving. Take Care Of Yourself
On weekday evenings, sisters Lesley Laine and Lisa Ingle stage online happy hours from the Southern California home they share. It's something they've been enjoying with local and faraway friends during this period of social distancing and self-isolation. And on a recent evening, I shared a toast with them. We laughed and had fun during our half-hour Facetime meetup. But unlike our pre-pandemic visits, we now worried out loud about a lot of things – like our millennial-aged kids: their health and jobs. (O'Neill, 3/26)
The New York Times:
Significance Of Pangolin Viruses In Human Pandemic Remains Murky
Pangolins, once suspected as the missing link from bats to humans in the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, may not have played that role, some scientists say, although the animals do host viruses that are similar to the new human coronavirus. Peter Daszak, the president of EcoHealth Alliance, an organization that works on animal-to-human spillover diseases, said that accumulating evidence on pangolins made it “doubtful that this species played a role in the outbreak.” “We need to keep looking for the original reservoir” — likely a bat,” he said, adding that the potential intermediate host would likely be another mammal species that’s more widely traded in the Yunnan-to-Wuhan corridor of China. (Gorman, 3/26)
The New York Times:
A.I. Versus The Coronavirus
Advanced computers have defeated chess masters and learned how to pick through mountains of data to recognize faces and voices. Now, a billionaire developer of software and artificial intelligence is teaming up with top universities and companies to see if A.I. can help curb the current and future pandemics. Thomas M. Siebel, founder and chief executive of C3.ai, an artificial intelligence company in Redwood City, Calif., said the public-private consortium would spend $367 million in its initial five years, aiming its first awards at finding ways to slow the new coronavirus that is sweeping the globe. (Broad, 3/26)