Opinion | Long Covid is a Looming Health Crisis – The New York Times

Fiona Lowenstein is a journalist and the founder of the health justice organization Body Politic. Hannah Davis is an artist, researcher and founding member of Body Politic’s research partner, the Patient-Led Research Collaborative.

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CreditCredit…Illustration By Arsh Raziuddin/the New York Times; Photograph By Getty Images

“Both of us developed Covid-19 last March in New York. We didn’t know each other at the time, but we had much in common: We didn’t imagine our symptoms would last for more than a couple of weeks. We were young and otherwise healthy, and were told we should recover easily.

But after Fiona’s shortness of breath subsided and she was discharged from the hospital, she developed new symptoms ranging from gastrointestinal problems to rashes and hives to migraines. A few weeks later, Hannah began experiencing fevers, headaches, memory lapses and a debilitating brain fog that made her unable to work.

By April two truths had become evident: We were not getting better, and we were not alone in our experience of lingering symptoms.” . . .

Thomas L. Friedman | One Year Later, We Still Have No Plan to Prevent the Next Pandemic – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Imagine that in December 2019 country X had a nuclear accident — a missile test gone awry. It resulted in a small nuclear explosion that sent a cloud of radioactivity around the world, causing 2.66 million deaths, plus trillions of dollars in health care costs and lost commerce that nearly triggered a global depression. What do you think we’d be talking about today?

We’d be discussing a new global regime of nuclear weapons safety protocols to try to make sure it never happened again.

Well, we just had the natural world equivalent of such a nuclear accident. It is widely suspected that a pathogen in a bat jumped to another animal to a human in China and then hopped onto the globalization express, causing extraordinary suffering and trillions of dollars in damage. And this happened after several decades of other pandemics set off by unhealthy human interactions with wildlife — with bats or civets in the case of Ebola and SARS-CoV-1 and most likely chimps in the case of H.I.V.

As we have just hit the one-year mark since the World Health Organization declared SARS-CoV-2 — the pathogen that causes Covid-19 — a pandemic, it’s appropriate to ask what smart collective action are we pursuing to prevent this from ever happening again.” . . .

Friedman talks about many aspects of the problem, but especially the need to ban wet markets like those in China, that were the probable source of this pandemic. We also have to ban the buying and selling of wild animals for restaurant food. Deforestation is a major cause for the bringing of wild animal viruses into proximity with humans, and might kill us off.
He ends with:

“As Russ Mittermeier, chief conservation officer for Global Wildlife Conservation, remarked to me: “We marvel when a spacecraft lands on Mars to search for minute traces of life that may or may not exist.” At the same time here on earth, “we continue to destroy and degrade amazingly diverse ecosystems, like tropical forests and coral reefs,” that sustain and enrich us.

Halting that practice is the only truly sustainable vaccine against the next pandemic. In other words, it’s time that we stop looking for intelligent life on Mars and start manifesting it here on planet earth.”   -30-

Opinion | The Coronavirus Killed the Gospel of Small Government – The New York Times

“. . . This is the story of so much of what went wrong last year. Doctors and nurses were left without basic protective equipment because the United States lacked the manufacturing capacity to produce it. Efforts to track and contain the virus were delayed by bottlenecks in test production and shortages of supplementary equipment like swabs. Once tests could be administered, a nationwide scarcity of test-processing equipment prolonged the delivery of test results.

The reason: More than a decade into a hospital-closure crisis, the United States faced a shortage of beds and medical facilities necessary to manage an emergency. Hospitals overrun with Covid-19 patients turned away ambulances. Vaccine distribution, while steadily improving, has been hampered by shortages of both staffing and supplies. The poverty of local government infrastructure has disgraced the rollout further. Websites crash, phone lines are busy, parking lots are full.

These are not only public health failures but also economic failures — an inability to marshal resources to solve a problem. And the often-toxic incompetence of American political leadership has obscured the structural causes of this failure.

The United States once maintained a robust commitment to public investment in things like spaceflight, medical research, the interstate highway system and the development of the internet, backed by Republican and Democratic administrations alike. Staying at the cutting edge is expensive: Between 1965 and 1980, federal expenditures on scientific research, physical capital and education regularly amounted to about 2.5 percent of G.D.P., more than $500 billion today.

But that number plummeted in the 1980s. By Mr. Trump’s first year in office, Washington was spending less than 1.5 percent of G.D.P. on public investment, according to an analysis of Office of Management and Budget data from the Progressive Policy Institute, a center-left think tank. Before the pandemic, this plunge meant bridge collapses, Amtrak derailments and other disasters that Americans had come to see as inevitabilities. During the pandemic, that same chronic underinvestment invited mass death. Even the typically conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent years lobbying unsuccessfully for major increases in federal infrastructure spending.” . . .

David Lindsay

This op-ed might be optimistic, but is my kind of optimism.

Black and Hispanic Communities Grapple With Vaccine Misinformation – The New York Times

“SAN JOSE, Calif. — On an unseasonably warm day in February, two men working with a local community group went door to door in an ethnically diverse neighborhood to persuade people to sign up for Covid-19 vaccinations.

It was just after 11 a.m. when they encountered the first person reluctant to get a shot. Two doors down and 30 minutes later, it happened again. For nearly an hour, they stood on a front lawn with George Rodriguez, 67, chatting about the neighborhood, the pandemic and the available vaccines.

“I see all this stuff online, about how it’s going to change my DNA. It does something to your DNA, right?” asked Mr. Rodriguez, who is Hispanic. “There is just too much stuff out, too much conflicting information. And then I hear that even if you get the vaccine you can still get sick. Why would I get it, then?”

Black and Hispanic communities, which were hit harder by the pandemic and whose vaccination rates are lagging that for white people, are confronting vaccine conspiracy theories, rumors and misleading news reports on social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter and in private online messaging, health authorities and misinformation researchers said.”

Nicholas Kristof | America Is Not Made for People Who Pee – The New York Times

    Opinion Columnist

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Credit…Jan Buchczik

“PORTLAND, Ore. — Here’s a populist slogan for President Biden’s infrastructure plan: Pee for Free!

Sure, we need investments to rebuild bridges, highways and, yes, electrical grids, but perhaps America’s most disgraceful infrastructure failing is its lack of public toilets.

Greeks and Romans had public toilets more than 2,000 years ago, with people sitting on benches with holes to do their business. There were no partitions, and Romans wiped with sponges on sticks that were dipped in water and shared by all users.

I’m not endorsing that arrangement, but at least the ancient Romans operated large numbers of public latrines, which is more than can be said of the United States today.

The humorist Art Buchwald once recounted an increasingly desperate search for a toilet in Manhattan. He was turned down at an office building, a bookstore and a hotel, so he finally rushed into a bar and asked for a drink.

“What kind of drink?” the bartender replied.

“Who cares?” Buchwald answered. “Where’s the men’s room?”

America should be better than that. Japan manages what may be the world’s most civilized public toilets — ubiquitous, clean and reliably equipped with paper — and almost every industrialized country is more bladder-friendly than America. Even poorer countries like China and India manage networks of public latrines. But the United States is simply not made for people who pee.” . . .

“. . .  The White House can work with cities to experiment with various approaches to expand restroom access. We can work with corporate sponsors. We can use advertising to help underwrite the expense. We can give tax breaks to businesses that make restrooms open to all. There are models all over the world, such as India turning old buses into clean public toilets.

If the Romans could figure this out two millenniums ago, surely we can, even if we’ll want to skip those shared sponges.

So come on, President Biden! Let’s see an infrastructure plan that addresses not only bridges and electrical grids, but also bladders and bowels.”    -30-

Cuomo Aides Rewrote Nursing Home Report to Hide Higher Death Toll – The New York Times

“Top aides to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo were alarmed: A report written by state health officials had just landed, and it included a count of how many nursing home residents in New York had died in the pandemic.

The number — more than 9,000 by that point in June — was not public, and the governor’s most senior aides wanted to keep it that way. They rewrote the report to take it out, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The extraordinary intervention, which came just as Mr. Cuomo was starting to write a book on his pandemic achievements, was the earliest act yet known in what critics have called a monthslong effort by the governor and his aides to obscure the full scope of nursing home deaths.

After the state attorney general revealed earlier this year that thousands of deaths of nursing home residents had been undercounted, Mr. Cuomo finally released the complete data, saying he had withheld it out of concern that the Trump administration might pursue a politically motivated inquiry into the state’s handling of the outbreak in nursing homes.” . . .

This problem is more serious than I realized, since I had missed this report, which I find damning. I will never respect Cuomo again, because he is a crooked liar. It is telling, if true, that senior NY health officials quit over this hideous betrayal of the truth.

Brazil’s Covid Crisis Is a Warning to the Whole World, Scientists Say – The New York Times

Manuela Andreoni, Ernesto Londoño and 

“RIO DE JANEIRO — Covid-19 has already left a trail of death and despair in Brazil, one of the worst in the world. Now, a year into the pandemic, the country is setting another wrenching record.

No other nation that experienced such a major outbreak is still grappling with record-setting death tolls and a health care system on the brink of collapse. Many other hard-hit nations are, instead, taking tentative steps toward a semblance of normalcy.

But Brazil is battling a more contagious variant that has trampled one major city and is spreading to others, even as Brazilians toss away precautionary measures that could keep them safe.

On Tuesday, Brazil recorded more than 1,700 Covid-19 deaths, the highest single-day toll of the pandemic.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Reply to : @Ed Watters
Not a necessarily a good idea to suspend the vaccine patents. Your motives sound pure, but who will work to create the next vaccines, when the next pandemic hits, after you expropriate all their patent rights? Your idea might be biting the hand that feeds you. With the Defense Production Act, the Biden team can force many things, but is expected to be reasonable in the demands it places on companies and workers. Your point of helping the world is a strong one. It will probably be in our interest, to expand production and distribution to help cover the world’s population, because of the threat of variants from mutations.

Opinion | Inside a Covid I.C.U., Through a Nurse’s Eyes – The New York Times

“The short film above allows you to experience the brutality of the pandemic from the perspective of nurses inside a Covid-19 intensive care unit.

Opinion Video producer Alexander Stockton spent several days reporting at the Valleywise Medical Center in Phoenix. Two I.C.U. nurses wore cameras to show what it’s like to care for the sickest Covid patients a year into the pandemic.

So many Americans have died in hospitals without family by their side, but they were not alone. Nurses brush patients’ teeth, change their catheters and hold their hands in their final moments.” . . .

Double-Masking: Why Two Masks Are the New Masks – The New York Times

“. . . The bottom line is that you should keep taking the same pandemic precautions you always have, but do a little better. The new variant spreading in the United States appears to latch onto our cells more efficiently. (You can find a detailed look inside the variant here.) The mutation in the virus may mean it could take less virus and less time in the same room with an infected person for someone to become ill. People infected with the variant may also shed larger quantities of virus, which increases the risk to people around them.

That’s why the quality of your mask is more important than ever. You can read about the latest research urging a well-fitted two- or three-layer mask. Or you can keep the masks you’ve been using and just double-mask when you go to the store or find yourself spending time with people from outside your household. You can read more about double-masking here.

One big advantage of double-masking that I’ve found is that it creates a better fit and closes the gaps around the edge of your mask. I like layering my masks. When I walk the dog or exercise outdoors, I wear a regular mask to comply with area mask rules. When I want more protection for short errands, I wear a better mask. When I’m in a taxi or on a train, I double-mask.”

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I’ve just bought a new set of masks called KF94s that I really like. They fit well, have added flaps to close gaps around the face and include a moldable band to tighten the fit around the bridge of the nose. Now I wear a KF94, a type of mask made in South Korea that can be purchased easily online, covered by a cloth mask. I recently learned about the KF94 from Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Dr. Jha notes that the gold-standard N95 masks are still hard to find, and we should save them for health workers. The KF94 mask resembles an N95, with some differences. It’s made of a similar nonwoven material that blocks 94 percent of the hardest-to-trap viral particles. But the KF94 has ear loops, instead of elastic head bands, so it won’t fit as snugly as an N95 — although double-masking can help close any gaps.

The KF94 is also disposable — you can buy a pack of 20 for about $40 on Amazon. While you can let a KF94 mask air dry and reuse it several times, it can’t be laundered and won’t last as long as a cloth mask. One solution is to save your KF94 mask for higher-risk situations — like riding a subway, spending time in a store or going to a doctor’s appointment.

In Trump’s Final Chapter, a Failure to Rise to the Covid-19 Moment – The New York Times

“Throughout late summer and fall, in the heat of a re-election campaign that he would go on to lose, and in the face of mounting evidence of a surge in infections and deaths far worse than in the spring, Mr. Trump’s management of the crisis — unsteady, unscientific and colored by politics all year — was in effect reduced to a single question: What would it mean for him?

The result, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former administration officials and others in contact with the White House, was a lose-lose situation. Mr. Trump not only ended up soundly defeated by Joseph R. Biden Jr., but missed his chance to show that he could rise to the moment in the final chapter of his presidency and meet the defining challenge of his tenure.

Efforts by his aides to persuade him to promote mask wearing, among the simplest and most effective ways to curb the spread of the disease, were derailed by his conviction that his political base would rebel against anything that would smack of limiting their personal freedom. Even his own campaign’s polling data to the contrary could not sway him.

His explicit demand for a vaccine by Election Day — a push that came to a head in a contentious Oval Office meeting with top health aides in late September — became a misguided substitute for warning the nation that failure to adhere to social distancing and other mitigation efforts would contribute to a slow-rolling disaster this winter.”