Opinion | Quarantine May Negatively Affect Kids’ Immune Systems – The New York Times

By Donna L. Farber and 

Dr. Farber is a professor of immunology and surgery at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, where Dr. Connors is an assistant professor of pediatrics.

Credit…Dave Woody for The New York Times

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is unwittingly conducting what amounts to the largest immunological experiment in history on our own children. We have been keeping children inside, relentlessly sanitizing their living spaces and their hands and largely isolating them. In doing so, we have prevented large numbers of them from becoming infected or transmitting the virus. But in the course of social distancing to mitigate the spread, we may also be unintentionally inhibiting the proper development of children’s immune systems.

Most children are born with a functioning immune system with the capacity to respond to diverse types of foreign substances, called antigens, encountered through exposure to microorganisms, food and the environment. The eradication of harmful pathogens, establishment of protective immunity and proper immune regulation depends on the immune cells known as T lymphocytes. With each new infection, pathogen-specific T cells multiply and orchestrate the clearance of the infectious organism from the body, after which some persist as memory T cells with enhanced immune functions.

Over time, children develop increasing numbers and types of memory T cells, which remain throughout the body as a record of past exposures and stand ready to provide lifelong protection. For other antigen exposures that are not infectious or dangerous, a type of healthy stalemate can result, called immune tolerance. Immunological memory and tolerance learned during childhood serves as the basis for immunity and health throughout adulthood.

Memory T cells begin to form during the first years of life and accumulate during childhood. However, for memory T cells to become functionally mature, multiple exposures may be necessary, particularly for cells residing in tissues such as the lung and intestines, where we encounter numerous pathogens. These exposures typically and naturally occur during the everyday experiences of childhood — such as interactions with friends, teachers, trips to the playground, sports — all of which have been curtailed or shut down entirely during efforts to mitigate viral spread. As a result, we are altering the frequency, breadth and degree of exposures that are crucial for immune memory development.”

The Risks of Another Epidemic: Teenage Vaping – The New York Times

“As in decades past, the nation’s regulatory agencies have been slow — some say negligent — to recognize this fast-growing threat to the health and development of young Americans. Dr. Rome, a pediatrician who heads the Center for Adolescent Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, explained that nicotine forms addictive pathways in the brain that can increase a youngster’s susceptibility to addiction throughout life. The adolescent brain is still developing, she told me, and e-cigarette use is often a gateway to vaping of marijuana, which can affect the brain centers responsible for attention, memory, learning, cognition, self-control and decision-making.”

Opinion | The Problem With Coronavirus School Closures – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

“Some things are true even though President Trump says them.

Trump has been demanding for months that schools reopen, and on that he seems to have been largely right. Schools, especially elementary schools, do not appear to have been major sources of coronavirus transmission, and remote learning is proving to be a catastrophe for many low-income children.

Yet America is shutting schools — New York City announced Wednesday that it was closing schools in the nation’s largest school district — even as it allows businesses like restaurants and bars to operate. What are our priorities?

“I have taught at the same low-income school for the last 25 years, and, truly, I can attest that remote schooling is failing our children,” said LaShondra Taylor, an English teacher in Broward County, Fla.

Some students don’t have a computer or don’t have Wi-Fi, Taylor said. Kids regularly miss classes because they have to babysit, or run errands, or earn money for their struggling families.

Covid Indoors: Scrubbing Surfaces Does Little to Mitigate Threat – The New York Times

“HONG KONG — At Hong Kong’s deserted airport, cleaning crews constantly spray baggage trolleys, elevator buttons and check-in counters with antimicrobial solutions. In New York City, workers continually disinfect surfaces on buses and subways. In London, many pubs spent lots of money on intensive surface cleaning to reopen after lockdown — before closing again in November.

All over the world, workers are soaping, wiping and fumigating surfaces with an urgent sense of purpose: to fight the coronavirus. But scientists increasingly say that there is little to no evidence that contaminated surfaces can spread the virus. In crowded indoor spaces like airports, they say, the virus that is exhaled by infected people and that lingers in the air is a much greater threat.

Hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds — or sanitizer in the absence of soap — is still encouraged to stop the virus’s spread. But scrubbing surfaces does little to mitigate the virus threat indoors, experts say, and health officials are being urged to focus instead on improving ventilation and filtration of indoor air.

“In my opinion, a lot of time, energy and money is being wasted on surface disinfection and, more importantly, diverting attention and resources away from preventing airborne transmission,” said Dr. Kevin P. Fennelly, a respiratory infection specialist with the United States National Institutes of Health.

Plexiglass Barriers Won’t Stop the Virus at the Debate, Experts Warn – By Apoorva Mandavilli – The New York Times

“A box fan, an air filter — and duct tape to attach them.

With four such cobbled together devices, at perhaps a total of $150, the vice-presidential debate on Wednesday night could be made much safer, according to experts in airborne viruses.

Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris were seated more than 12 feet apart on the podium, with plexiglass barriers between them. Mr. Pence and his aides had objected to the barriers, but relented on Tuesday night.

The barriers might make more sense if Mr. Pence and Ms. Harris were seated more closely together on the podium, scientists said. But the risk in this setting is airborne transmission of the coronavirus, and the barriers will do nothing to protect Ms. Harris and the moderator, Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of USA Today, if Mr. Pence were infected.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines confirming that the virus can be carried aloft by aerosols — tiny droplets — farther than six feet indoors. In one recent study, scientists isolated infectious virus some 16 feet from an infected patient in a hospital.

FAQ: How to get coronavirus exposure notifications on your phone – The Washington Post

November 18, 2020 at 7:00 a.m. EST
PLEASE NOTE

“The Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.

This demonstration shows a close-contact alert from the Bluetooth coronavirus exposure notification app made by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.

Here’s a phone alert you wouldn’t want to miss: “You have likely been exposed.”

The coronavirus surge is upon us, and your phone might be able to help. About 100 million Americans now have the ability to get pop-up notifications from local health authorities when they’ve personally spent time near someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus.

But exposure notifications only work if you and the people around you turn them on. Yes, you!

There’s early evidence this anonymous smartphone technology works — but so far isn’t helping very many Americans. In August, I wrote about the first of these state-sponsored alerts, Virginia’s Covidwise app. In the three months since, only 488 people have used the state’s app to send alerts about a positive diagnosis to others.”

Source: FAQ: How to get coronavirus exposure notifications on your phone – The Washington Post

Opinion | Living in Nova Scotia’s Covid-Free World – The New York Times

By 

Credit…Paul Atwood for The New York Times

HALIFAX, Canada — This morning, my children went to school — school, in an old brick building, where they lined up to go in the scuffed front doors. I went to work out at the gym, the real gym, where I huffed and puffed in a sweaty group class. And a few days ago, my partner and I hosted a dinner party, gathering eight friends around the dining room table for a boisterous night that went too late. Remember those?

Where I’m living, we gather without fear. Life is unfolding much as it did a year ago. This magical, virus-free world is just one long day’s drive away from the Empire State Building — in a parallel dimension called Nova Scotia.

This is one of the four Atlantic provinces that cling to the coast of Canada, north and east of Maine. In Canada, these are typically known as “have-not provinces,” economically depressed areas dependent on cash transfers from wealthier provinces to the West.

New Pfizer Results: Coronavirus Vaccine Is Safe and 95% Effective – By Katie Thomas – The New York Times

“The drug maker Pfizer said on Wednesday that its coronavirus vaccine was 95 percent effective and had no serious side effects — the first set of complete results from a late-stage vaccine trial as Covid-19 cases skyrocket around the globe.

The data showed that the vaccine prevented mild and severe forms of Covid-19, the company said. And it was 94 percent effective in older adults, who are more vulnerable to developing severe Covid-19 and who do not respond strongly to some types of vaccines.

Pfizer, which developed the vaccine with its partner BioNTech, said the companies planned to apply to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization “within days,” raising hopes that a working vaccine could soon become a reality.

The trial results — less than a year after researchers began working on the vaccine — shattered all speed records for vaccine development, a process that usually takes years.

“The study results mark an important step in this historic eight-month journey to bring forward a vaccine capable of helping to end this devastating pandemic,” Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive, said in a statement.

If the F.D.A. authorizes the two-dose vaccine, Pfizer has said that it could have up to 50 million doses available by the end of the year, and up to 1.3 billion by the end of next year.

However, only about half of its supply will go to the United States this year, or enough for about 12.5 million people — a sliver of the American population of 330 million. Americans will receive the vaccine for free, under a $1.95 billion deal the federal government reached with Pfizer for 100 million doses.”

Opinion | Why the 2020 Election Makes It Hard to Be Optimistic About the Future – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“The 2020 election is over. And the big winners were the coronavirus and, quite possibly, catastrophic climate change.

OK, democracy also won, at least for now. By defeating Donald Trump, Joe Biden pulled us back from the brink of authoritarian rule.

But Trump paid less of a penalty than expected for his deadly failure to deal with Covid-19, and few down-ballot Republicans seem to have paid any penalty at all. As a headline in The Washington Post put it, “With pandemic raging, Republicans say election results validate their approach.”

And their approach, in case you missed it, has been denial and a refusal to take even the most basic, low-cost precautions — like requiring that people wear masks in public.

The epidemiological consequences of this cynical irresponsibility will be ghastly. I’m not sure how many people realize just how terrible this winter is going to be.

Deaths from Covid-19 tend to run around three weeks behind new cases; given the exponential growth in cases since the early fall, which hasn’t slowed at all, this means that we may be looking at a daily death toll in the thousands by the end of the year. And remember, many of those who survive Covid-19 nonetheless suffer permanent health damage.

To be fair, the vaccine news has been very good, and it looks likely that we’ll finally bring the pandemic under control sometime next year. But we could suffer hundreds of thousands of American deaths, many of them avoidable, before the vaccine is widely distributed.

Awful as the pandemic outlook is, however, what worries me more is what our failed response says about prospects for dealing with a much bigger issue, one that poses an existential threat to civilization: climate change.

As many people have noted, climate change is an inherently difficult problem to tackle — not economically, but politically.

Right-wingers always claim that taking climate seriously would doom the economy, but the truth is that at this point the economics of climate action look remarkably benign. Spectacular progress in renewable energy technology makes it fairly easy to see how the economy can wean itself from fossil fuels. A recent analysis by the International Monetary Fund suggests that a “green infrastructure push” would, if anything, lead to faster economic growth over the next few decades.

But climate action remains very difficult politically given (a) the power of special interests and (b) the indirect link between costs and benefits.

Consider, for example, the problem posed by methane leaks from fracking wells. Better enforcement to limit these leaks would have huge benefits — but the benefits would be widely distributed across time and space. How do you get people in Texas to accept even a small rise in costs now when the payoff includes, say, a reduced probability of destructive storms a decade from now and half the world away?

This indirectness made many of us pessimistic about the prospects for climate action. But Covid-19 suggests that we weren’t pessimistic enough.

Continue reading

Coronavirus CT: Health Officials Issue New Guidance For Sports 11/6/20 | Across Connecticut, CT Patch

CT Patch, November 6th, 2020.

“In all cases, indoor activities should be limited to group sizes of 10 or less with appropriate, officials recommend. Masks should be worn, if practical, and social distancing should be practices.”

Source: Coronavirus CT: Health Officials Issue New Guidance For Sports | Across Connecticut, CT Patch

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