12 Signs You Have a Fake N95, KN95, or KF94 Mask | Wirecutter

“The highly contagious Omicron variant has sent us on a mad dash for more-protective masks, such as N95s, KN95s, and KF94s. And along with that comes the nagging concern over being duped by counterfeiters. At best, fake respirator masks are just a waste of money. At worst, they give those who need protection most a potentially dangerous false sense of security.

 

Whether it’s an imposter mask claiming to be from an established brand or a newcomer purporting to be highly protective, the problem is a matter of consistency. In September 2020, ECRI (a nonprofit that advises hospitals and health-care agencies on product safety) reported that 60% to 70% of KN95s it tested did not filter the 95% of particles that they promised to. Federal agencies seized a total of 21.2 million fake N95s that year, and the problem carried over well into 2021. Last May, investigators confiscated 2 million fake masks purchased and used by unsuspecting hospitals in Portland, Maine.”

The Soldiers Came Home Sick. The Government Denied It Was Responsible. – The New York Times

“The soldiers with inexplicable breathing complaints started appearing in Dr. Robert F. Miller’s pulmonology clinic in 2004, the year after Baghdad fell to invading United States forces. These new patients were active-duty troops from nearby Fort Campbell, men and women who came home from war with mysterious respiratory ailments. The base asked Miller, an unassuming and soft-spoken lung specialist at Vanderbilt University, to take a look.

Miller was baffled to see formerly healthy soldiers gasping for air after mild exertion. Some of them had been close to the fire at the Mishraq sulfur mine outside Mosul, thought to be the largest release of sulfur dioxide ever caused by humans. But others had never gone anywhere near the burning mine. Some of them could no longer run or climb stairs, and yet their X-rays and pulmonary-function tests looked normal.

Confounded, Miller decided to try something radical: He began ordering lung biopsies under general anesthesia to look for more subtle damage known as small-airways disease. Sure enough, the tissue revealed toxic lung injury, which Miller diagnosed as constrictive bronchiolitis. To the doctor, this meant two things: First, the soldiers were not exaggerating their symptoms. And more important, noninvasive screenings couldn’t be trusted to detect these new post-deployment ailments.

Eager to share his discovery, Miller contacted doctors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. This led, at first, to what Miller recalls as an enthusiastic collaboration. Army doctors flew to Tennessee to review Miller’s biopsies, and together they went to Fort Campbell to develop a protocol for evaluating patients.”

DL: Excellent article. The end is surprising. Jon Stewart takes up the cause, and the congress and military decide finally to help these people. It took a star with the power of gigantic publicity coverage.

Paul Krugman | The Viral Lies About Covid That Keep Killing Us – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“A year ago it seemed reasonable to hope that by early 2022 we’d mainly be talking about Covid — or at least Covid as a major health and quality-of-life issue — in the past tense. Effective vaccines had been developed with miraculous speed; surely a sophisticated nation like the United States would find a way to get those vaccines quickly and widely distributed.

So why didn’t we get past the pandemic? Part of the problem has been the creativity of viral evolution. The Delta variant shocked us with its lethality; now Omicron is shocking us with its transmissibility. Still, we could and should have done far better. And the main reason we didn’t was the power of politically motivated lies.

Before I get to the specifics of those lies and the damage they’ve done, let’s be clear: Yes, this is about politics.

I know I’m not the only commentator who has faced a lot of pushback against emphasizing the partisan nature of vaccine resistance. We’re constantly reminded that many unvaccinated Americans aren’t Republican loyalists, that there are multiple reasons people won’t get or at least haven’t gotten their shots. All this is true; but politics has nonetheless played a crucial — and growing — role.

Look, for example, at a KFF survey from October, which found that 60 percent of the unvaccinated identified as Republicans, compared with only 17 percent who identified as Democrats. Or look at the invaluable Charles Gaba’s analysis of county-level data, which finds that on average a one percentage point higher Trump share of the 2020 vote corresponds to about a half-point reduction in a county’s current vaccination rate.”

“. . . . .  So none of this makes any sense — not, that is, unless you realize that Republican vaccine obstructionism isn’t about serving a coherent ideology, it was and is about the pursuit of power. A successful vaccination campaign would have been a win for the Biden administration, so it had to be undermined using any and every argument available.

Sure enough, the anti-vaccine strategy has worked politically. The persistence of Covid has helped keep the nation’s mood dark, which inevitably hurts the party that holds the White House — so Republicans who have done all they can to prevent an effective response to Covid have not hesitated, even for a moment, in blaming Biden for failing to end the pandemic.

And the success of destructive vaccine politics is itself deeply horrifying. It seems that utter cynicism, pursued even at the cost of your supporters’ lives, pays.”  -30-

Aaron Carroll | Here’s What the CDC Got Wrong With its New Covid-19 Guidelines – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/28/opinion/covid-isolation-guidelines.html

“. . . The recommendations also changed for quarantine, which is what uninfected people do if they are exposed. If they are boostered appropriately, they need only be careful for the next 10 days (i.e., wear a mask when around others). If they are unvaccinated, or in need of a booster, they now need only quarantine for five days if they never become symptomatic, and then be careful the next five. The recommendations also say that if for such people — even if unvaccinated — a quarantine “is not feasible,” they can just mask for 10 days. (The C.D.C. also recommends if possible getting tested five days after the exposure, whether or not you are vaccinated and boostered.)

These numbers are mostly averages — sometimes best guesses — as to how people respond when exposed or infected. They’re also pretty much equally applied to the fully vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, as if those two populations are the same.

This is puzzling. Covid itself hasn’t changed that much for those who are unvaccinated. If they get infected, there’s no reason to believe they shouldn’t still follow the original guidelines and isolate for 10 days. This is a very infectious disease, and they are at risk not only to themselves, but also to those around them. Hospitals are still full of unvaccinated people, and nothing had led us to believe that the danger is gone for them.

On the other hand, vaccinated people, especially boostered people, are at very low risk for bad outcomes, less likely to get infected if exposed and less likely to be infectious for longer periods of time.

It seems as if even at this late date, the C.D.C. is trying to appease everyone, and therefore pleasing no one.”  . . .

Opinion | How to Grieve Everything We Lost to Covid – The New York Times

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
The covid pandemic was at least as positive as negative for me, and I suspect, for some others too. I didn’t lose any close relatives or friends to covid yet, but the big changes, cancelling my dance and singing and martial arts groups, made me aware for the first time in years, that I had been way too busy, and the reset was useful, since I was slowing down almost unnoticing, as I turned 68, then 69. Being in a beautiful, new relationship, and being able to play tennis almost daily, made all the difference. If I had just gotten divorced, and was single during this pandemic, it would have been a different story. One of misery and depression, and I would have fit into the narrative of this video, which I must point out, is almost all negative, and misses the positive. As a climate hawk who writes and performs about climate change and the sixth extinction, I worry daily that 7.9 billion humans is endangering life as we know it, and extermination other species by the hundreds. The fact is that the pandemic slowed our economic activity, and it also briefly reduced our carbon footprint. But, from a cerebral, analytical point of view, it didn’t terminate nearly enough humans, to ensure that humans will survive going forward. One way or the other, we need to get the human pupulation way down, to stop the sixth extinction.
David blogs at InconvenietNews.net

Opinion | In Russia, the Pandemic Is Beating Putin – The New York Times

Mr. Kovalev is the investigations editor at Meduza, an independent Russian news outlet.

“A deadly virus can’t be ignored, jailed, exiled or co-opted — nor can it be locked down without great economic cost. That puts President Vladimir Putin of Russia in a bind. The pandemic, perhaps his hardiest foe to date, has starkly revealed the limits of his power.

The past several weeks have been especially painful. Daily infections in the country have hovered around 35,000 — while the official figures, probably undercounted, record over a thousand deaths each day. (And that’s before the Omicron variant, newly found in Russia, circulates widely.) The misery is largely due to the low vaccination rate in the country: After a nearly yearlong campaign, only 41 percent of the country’s people are fully vaccinated, a lower number than in Laos or Cape Verde.

The Kremlin has itself to blame. Given Russia’s intellectual, administrative and technological capacities, a successful vaccine rollout should have been possible. Instead, the authorities fatally eroded the public’s trust with conflicting messaging — oscillating between triumphalism and scaremongering — and haphazardly applied containment measures.

The result is a mistrustful, skeptical public — the latest poll from the Levada Center, an independent polling company, puts vaccine hesitancy at 36 percent — and a growing anti-vaccine movement that, headed by previously regime-friendly figures, is stirring up trouble. It’s not clear that Mr. Putin, usually adept at quashing sentiments not to his liking, can do much about it.

quashing sentiments not to his liking, can do much about it.”

How Chemours and DuPont Avoid Paying for PFAS Pollution – The New York Times

“FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — One humid day this summer, Brian Long, a senior executive at the chemical company Chemours, took a reporter on a tour of the Fayetteville Works factory.

Mr. Long showed off the plant’s new antipollution technologies, designed to stop a chemical called GenX from pouring into the Cape Fear River, escaping into the air and seeping into the ground water.

There was a new high-tech filtration system. And a new thermal oxidizer, which heats waste to 2,000 degrees. And an underground wall — still under construction — to keep the chemicals out of the river. And more.

“They’re not Band-Aids,” Mr. Long said. “They’re long-term, robust solutions.”

Credit…Ed Kashi for The New York Times

Yet weeks later, North Carolina officials announced that Chemours had exceeded limits on how much GenX its Fayetteville factory was emitting. This month, the state fined the company $300,000 for the violations — the second time this year the company has been penalized by the state’s environmental regulator.

GenX is part of a family of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. They allow everyday items — frying pans, rain jackets, face masks, pizza boxes — to repel water, grease and stains. Exposure to the chemicals has been linked to cancer and other serious health problems.

To avoid responsibility for what many experts believe is a public health crisis, leading chemical companies like Chemours, DuPont and 3M have deployed a potent mix of tactics.

They have used public charm offensives to persuade regulators and lawmakers to back off. They have engineered complex corporate transactions to shield themselves from legal liability. And they have rolled out a conveyor belt of scantly tested substitute chemicals that sometimes turn out to be just as dangerous as their predecessors.”

Margaret Renkl | When Medical Ethics Collide With Basic Fairness – The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — It’s hard for me to describe the utter rage that filled me when I opened my local newspaper last Tuesday and saw The Tennessean’s lead article: “Vaccinated Lose Access to Treatment,” the headline read. What new through-the-looking-glass madness was afoot in this Covid-beleaguered leadership vacuum?

“The Tennessee state government now recommends nearly all vaccinated residents be denied access to monoclonal antibody treatment in a new effort to preserve a limited supply of antibody drugs for those who remain most vulnerable to the virus, largely by their own choice,” wrote the reporter, Brett Kelman.”

Margaret Renkl | Republicans Have Gone Too Far in the Region Hit Hardest by Covid – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — In case you’re wondering how things are going here in the Delta Rising region of the United States, I regret to report that things are going badly. Very, very badly.

Our intensive care units are full. Our children are getting sick in record numbers. Nevertheless, a small subset of unmasked, unvaccinated humanity has taken to yelling during school board meetings, and the most extreme protesters have issued threats against nurses and physicians who dared to speak publicly on behalf of such reasonable pandemic mitigation measures as masks and vaccines.

It’s so bad that the Tennessee Medical Association had to issue a statement in support of the exhausted heroes who for the past 18 months have been risking their own lives to care for strangers. “The enemy is the virus, not health care workers,” the statement read.

This is what some of us have become here in the American South: people who need to be reminded that our doctors are not our enemies.”

Paul Krugman | Climate Denial, Covid Denial and the Right’s Descent – The New York Times

Opinion columnist

“Before the right embraced Covid denial, there was climate denial. Many of the attitudes that have characterized the right-wing response to the coronavirus pandemic — refusal to acknowledge facts, accusations that scientists are part of a vast liberal conspiracy, refusal to address the crisis — were foreshadowed in the climate debate.

Yet from the response to Covid-19 among Republican officials — especially the opposition to lifesaving vaccines — it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the paranoid, anti-rational streak in American politics isn’t as bad as we thought; it’s much, much worse.

On Monday the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report. The conclusions won’t surprise anyone who has been following the issue, but they were terrifying all the same.

Major damage from climate change, the panel tells us, is already locked in. In fact, it’s already happening, as the world experiences extreme weather events, like heat waves in the Pacific Northwest and floods in Europe, that have been made far more likely by rising global temperatures. And unless we take drastic action very soon, catastrophe looms.”

Here is the most popular comment, which I endorsed:

Yuriasian
Bay Area Aug. 10
Times Pick

The most pernicious word in any language is freedom. Pernicious because it has no meaning beyond subverting any notion of personal or collective responsibility. Gov DeSantis says Florida is a free state — folks can decide for themselves if they want to contract Covid or infect others (but businesses aren’t free to do business only with vaccinated customers because that would be a violation of freedom). Abbott in Texas says freedom is carrying a concealed weapon with absolutely no restriction. Sen Josh Hawley believes a mob attack on The Capitol is an exercise in freedom. GOP state legislators say they defend freedom by making it impossible for some to vote. A majority of Supreme Court Justices define freedom as telling woman they have no reproductive choices. For decades driving a Chevrolet (or more likely a 300 horsepower pickup) to see the USA was freedom at its gas guzzling best. America is the land of the free. Responsibility, consequences, that’s socialist talk. The want to take away our guns, monster trucks, smokes, even our burgers and steaks. What’s not free? Education, healthcare, equality, childcare, the right to vote, decent housing, livable wages. Covid, Climate Change are just socialist conspiracies against American freedom. Republicans love to say vigilance is the price of freedom. That’s a lie. The real price of freedom is responsibility, personal and collective. Most Americans have yet to earn their “freedom.”

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