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We need to know how Covid-19 emerged so we can stop it happening again

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Especially not because the public, hard-tested evidence is mounting the faster the pace.

Instead, the theory seems to be largely due to several massive coincidences.

First, Wuhan, where the disease almost certainly began in China, is home to China’s largest level 4 biosecurity laboratory, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). It and two other laboratories in Wuhan were doing research on coronaviruses, some of it in bats. The WIV sequenced the genetic code of the best-known ancestor in bats with SARS-CoV-2, a virus called RatG13. It’s 96.2% identical to the novel coronavirus that caused the pandemic. One of the WIV’s leading researchers, Shi Zhengli, is called “Bat Lady”.

Second, three WIV employees fell ill in November 2019, just before the well-known outbreak began. They needed hospitalization, the coverage said. (But we don’t know for which disease. We also don’t have access to samples taken from them when they were sick or to the results of SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests after they were sick.) World Health The The Organization (WHO) report on the matter, based on data provided by the Chinese government, presented a different conclusion. The staff health monitoring program at the three laboratories in Wuhan showed no positive antibody tests or records of Covid-19 diseases in the weeks leading up to December 2019.

Finally, there is a third coincidence. The Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the key to virus prevention and detection, relocated its laboratory in Wuhan on December 2, 2019. It is also noted that the lab has been relocated to a location near the Huanan Seafood Market, the exotic animal trading hub that is believed to have played an important role in the early spread of the virus. The move took place just six days before the first patient began to develop symptoms of Covid-19, according to China’s report. (He is, according to the WHO report, an accountant who works for a family business without being known to have attended crowded events, contact with animals in the “wet market,” or exotic trips to the wild. These facts suggest that he may have it in town, maybe from someone else).

These three pretty big coincidences advance laboratory leak theory and mean it is not gone yet. CNN has said of Western intelligence officials that they cannot “disprove” or prove the idea. These coincidences are perhaps why it is in this hinterland – never permanently exposed, never proven. Your solution is like “Occam’s razor” – the idea that the simplest explanation is the most likely.

But none of this is solid or even convincing evidence that a laboratory leak has occurred. This evidence can exist and be over-classified within the government that owns it. However, since it is not public, we cannot assume that it exists to confirm a tendency that China is hiding something terrible.

Why scientists are suddenly more interested in the laboratory leak theory of Covid's origin

But the likelihood that China is hiding something doesn’t help either. (Even the WHO team, whose report Chinese officials helped the author, admits they want access to more material and better information – hospital blood bank samples from the time of the outbreak and raw data in Hubei on possible cases in October and October November Although they made this clear months ago, they have yet to receive it.

So what about the other main theory: the disease originated in animals and was transmitted to humans through a natural process?

This “spillover idea” is more chaotic and also difficult to definitively prove. WHO investigators share the conclusion of most specialists in the field: the disease most likely originated from bats via another species known as an “intermediate animal” and then infected humans.

Why bats? One theory is that they have a high average body temperature because they flap their wings very quickly to fly. When we humans get a virus, we get a fever. This is the body that slightly raises our temperature to kill the invader. Viruses in bats learn to deal with a higher temperature by default. So when they pass into humans, our basic defense of raising our temperature is not working. It also means that bats are a reservoir of robust viruses that have learned to survive.

Some scientists believe it is possible that SARS-CoV-2 passed directly from bats into humans. Most experts – and the WHO report – conclude that it is an “intermediate animal,” another species that was infected before the virus was passed on to humans.

China counters Biden's Covid-origin laboratory probe ... by demanding a US laboratory probe

In this “intermediate animal” things could have got more complicated. The bat virus that comes closest to the novel coronavirus in humans is the RatG13 virus, which the WIV found. Scientists believe one way to become SARS-CoV-2 is through a “recombination event”.

This is where a virus takes something from another virus it encounters: a bit like putting better wheels on a car. It can improve the effectiveness of the virus. Figuring out where and when this happened is a task of nightmarish complexity. China regularly screened 69 animal species for rare viruses, informed the WHO in 2019 and likely earlier. Any of them – or many other species that weren’t tested – could have been the location where a recombination event formed SARS-CoV-2.

The lab leak theory has a spin-off conspiracy here. It suggests that the RatG13 virus could have been converted into SARS-CoV-2 through targeted manipulation by humans, known as “gain in function” research. Scientists do this by modifying viruses in a laboratory to find out more about how viruses infect and affect people. It can be dangerous and was briefly interrupted in the US under the Obama administration. Some scientists say that mapping virus changes to “gain in function” research is a simple explanation that is often misused to explain changes in a virus that could have occurred through natural, complex processes. These scientists reject its role in the formation of SARS-CoV-2.

Security guards stand in front of the Huanan Fish Market in Wuhan on January 11, 2020. The final step in animal theory, known as “zoonotic transfer,” is for the infected animal to come into contact with Patient Zero – the first human known to be infected. Suspicions were directed at China’s extensive, unregulated trade in exotic wildlife. Some glaring examples of the animal trade were photographed at the Huanan Seafood market, which has been regularly linked to the virus outbreak. However, the WHO report concluded that many of the known first human cases in Wuhan had no contact with Huanan at all.

In an open, permissible environment, it is extremely difficult to trace the virus back to the animal on which it was first created. It is even more difficult in China, where the Chinese government has not given the WHO team a lot of useful data.

These issues complicate the 90-day intelligence review ordered by US President Joe Biden. On one side of the argument there are a lot of circumstantial evidence and coincidences that indicate a laboratory leak. (US investigators need hard evidence of a leak and to assess whether China even knew it happened). On the other side of the argument that supports the transmission or spread of the virus in nature, there is the overwhelming preponderance of previous scientific research on this topic. But that too is annoying and inconclusive.

With all the blame, counter-allegations, suspicions and cover-ups, we humans as a species remain a problem. We really need to know how and why this virus came about so we can prevent it from happening again.

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Pandemic

Opinion: The good news about J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine

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Put yourself back to the February 2021 mindset. We had a desperate shortage of vaccines, and I and other medical and public health officials were encouraging people to “get the first vaccine you are offered”. At this point, J&J felt like a game changer.

It could dramatically increase capacity and reduce supply chain challenges. Its reported effectiveness was slightly less than that of the Moderna or Pfizer mRNA vaccines, but was still strong; Clinical studies showed it to be 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe illness, 85% effective in serious illness, and 100% effective in preventing death.

As a “one and done” shot, it would also help the needle phobes, the mRNA hesitation, or just people who would never return for a second visit to protect themselves.

But then the floor fell out. For a combination of reasons, J&J was viewed by some as the third stage vaccine.

An extremely rare but severe blood clotting syndrome was identified as a possible side effect in mid-April. And just a few weeks earlier, millions of J&J cans had to be thrown away due to a production mix-up. Some vaccination centers across the country even started phasing out vaccination. The number of new people vaccinated with this vaccine slowed to a trickle.Many of the roughly 14.8 million Americans who received J&J probably and rightly felt like the forgotten. It was becoming increasingly rare for J&J to be the subject of major news updates while Pfizer and Moderna drew attention to the possibility of booster shots. My own guide for friends and neighbors evolved into that of New York Times writers David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick: Proceed at your own risk. J&J recipients began to feel that instead of getting the first choice, they had received the scum. Then finally, this week, we got some good news about J&J. After a disappointing summer wave from Delta it was exactly what we needed. On September 16, a preprint study reported that the J&J vaccine maintained its effectiveness against both symptomatic disease and hospitalization between March and late July – despite the rise of the Delta variant.

This finding suggests that J&J is potent against this novel variant. In other words, J & J’s vaccine has staying power.

In a moment of tremendous uncertainty, this analysis enables J&J receivers to sleep more easily after receiving only a single shot.

Then, on September 21, a press release from Johnson and Johnson shared more promising data suggesting that protection against all forms of Covid-19 with a J&J booster shot is just superb. After an eight-week refresher, the vaccine’s effectiveness against severe or critical Covid-19 was almost 100% (albeit with large estimates: the confidence interval ranged from 33% to 100%) and protection against moderate to severe Covid-19 disease was in the USA at 94% (the confidence interval in this case was 58% – 100%). In a pandemic for which nothing is guaranteed, 100% sounds pretty good.

A six month booster dose showed preliminary signs that they were even better based on antibody measurements, although actual clinical results were not reported. The safety metrics for both the eight-week and six-month boosters are reportedly excellent.

What the Arizona sham audit really taught us

This press release gives hope for the future to our 14.8 million J&J recipients: if the second dose of J&J is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, they won’t be left behind when and when boosters hit the market.

I have to make the usual reservations, of course. This data was published in preprints and press releases. They haven’t been reviewed by the FDA. There are still many questions to answer about age, gender, race, and ethnicity. And most importantly, I want to see the data for security. While there is a slim chance of getting a very unusual type of blood clot from the J&J vaccine, there is also the possibility of developing a blood clot if you are hospitalized with a diagnosis of Covid-19. But we also need to see data on what happens after a second shot – the same caution I gave to boosters for Pfizer and Moderna.

Despite these warnings, the findings are positive.

For those who have already received J&J, I am now confident to tell you that you are just as protected as I am (having completed my Pfizer vaccine series more than eight months ago). Hold on for a booster. Feel better with your choice.

Equally important, if you have not yet been vaccinated, J&J is clearly a very good choice. In fact, I will now be suggesting this vaccine a little more strongly to my emergency room patients who have not yet been vaccinated and who often face barriers to initial two-shot treatment.

I also hope that this vaccine, which is easier to transport and administer, can help us meet the immense global need for vaccination – without making citizens feel like they are receiving a second-class choice.

The big picture? After all, with those stats in hand, J&J no longer looks like it’s a minor choice.

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Alaska reports nearly 1,800 new COVID-19 cases and 44 deaths, in part due to backlog

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Alaska broke multiple daily records for COVID-19 case numbers, hospital admissions and deaths on Friday, but public health officials said the high numbers were at least partially due to a lack of data.

Due to backlogs in data entry, the roughly 1,800 new cases reported Friday have been bloated by several hundred older cases, health officials said.

“That doesn’t detract from the fact that we continue to see the tremendous spread of COVID in our communities,” said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska Chief Medical Officer, on a call to the news media.

The 41 Alaskan deaths from COVID-19 reported on Friday occurred mostly in the past month, officials said. Some even took place earlier this year and hadn’t been added to the list due to a cyberattack that hampered the state’s system of recording deaths.

However, a record of 217 hospital admissions reported on Friday was not part of the backlog and represents the growing number of people suffering from COVID-19 in need of hospital treatment in Alaska.

Last month the state had its “highest incidence of cases we have ever seen, weighing on our public health infrastructure, our hospitals, our businesses and our economy,” said Zink.

The majority of the 44 deaths reported Friday – including 41 residents and three non-residents – were deaths that occurred in August and identified through a standard death certificate check, officials said Friday.

[Alaska health workers face anger and threats from COVID patients and public, chief medical officer says]

Government agencies rely on death certificates to report COVID-19 deaths. If a doctor believes that COVID-19 infection contributed to a person’s death, it will be included on the death certificate and eventually counted in the state’s official toll, according to the DHSS.

Some deaths are reported directly to the state, while other deaths are less clear-cut than others and take longer to review, said epidemiologist Dr. Louisa Castrodale.

“Hospitals will call us and say, ‘Hey, we had this unfortunate death, we really think it’s COVID and we’re going to report it to you,'” she explained.

“Hospitals will also call us and say, ‘Hey, we have this person who died. There is a lot going on with this person, we are not sure what the provider will ultimately write on the death certificate. ‘ So that’s what we’re waiting for, ”she said.

Ultimately, every single COVID-19 death that the state reports has a death certificate listing COVID-19 as a contributing cause of death, and each one goes through a rigorous review process, Castrodale said.

[How do COVID-19 deaths in Alaska get counted?]

About a dozen of the deaths reported on Friday occurred in the spring; for these, reporting was delayed by a cyber attack in May that targeted the state health department and left many of its systems offline for months, officials said.

The continued high number of COVID-19 patients continues to overwhelm healthcare facilities across the state.

Record hospital stays – and long waiting times in the emergency room

As of Friday, a state dashboard reported a new record of 217 people hospitalized across the state with COVID-19 – higher than at any point in the pandemic and well above last winter’s high.

Hospitals say their numbers likely haven’t counted the true effects of COVID-19 enough, as they don’t include some long-term COVID-19 patients who have stopped testing positive but are still in need of hospital treatment.

Earlier this week, state officials announced that they would implement crisis standards for care nationwide, a worst-case scenario that forces hospitals to ration supplies due to resource and staffing constraints.

Hospitals across the state continue to report long emergency room waits, late procedures and limited transfers, and in at least one case, the death of a patient who was unable to receive timely care.

The vast majority of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in Alaska have been in people who have not been vaccinated.

In August in Alaska, state data showed residents were 8.3 times less likely to be hospitalized if they were vaccinated than if they were unvaccinated, Zink said Friday.

The new record of 1,793 new virus cases on Friday – including 1,735 residents and 58 non-residents – followed Thursday’s previous record of 1,330 cases plus seven deaths.

Fall residue

A few hundred of the cases reported on Friday were from positive test results from the last week and the week before, and some even before that, Castrodale said. She estimated that once the state clears its backlog, it will expect around 1,000 cases a day.

Since the state found ways to automate newer cases, they have been able to examine and catch up on older case reports, Castrodale said.

The delays in data reporting make it difficult to compare daily numbers, and Zink said it may be more helpful to look at the overall trend each week. She stressed that throughout September, the state had the highest number of cases ever.

The delays are also coming from a variety of locations, officials said, including certain overwhelmed testing facilities all of which are sending their results for several days at a time, as well as a limited number of staff amid a host of new cases.

“We only have a limited number of people on the team, so we’re doing our best to get it,” said Zink.

Alaska’s per capita fall rate remains the highest in the country – and about three times the national average, according to a New York Times tracker.

Nationwide, 9.23% of the tests carried out last week gave positive results.

Among eligible Alaskans 12 and older, 62.8% had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 58.5% were considered fully vaccinated by Thursday.

The deaths involved residents from across the state, including 11 from Anchorage, six from Wasilla, four from Fairbanks, three from Ketchikan, three from Juneau, two from Soldotna, two from Bethel, one from Homer, one from North Pole, one from Tok, one from Big Lake, one from Petersburg, one from Palmer, one from Kenai, one from Willow, one from a small community in the northwest of the Arctic, and one from Sitka.

Fairbanks also recorded three deaths from non-residents.

Almost half of the deceased were over 70 years old. Fourteen were in their 50s or 60s, two were in their 40s, two were in their 30s, and two were in their 20s.

A total of 514 residents and 18 non-residents in the state have died of COVID since the pandemic began.

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Booster shot or not? Mixed messaging creates distrust during COVID-19 pandemic

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – Don’t wear masks; wear them. Masks protect you; Masks protect others. The only thing that was consistent about the masking of health professionals at the start of the pandemic was the inconsistency that left many Americans confused and skeptical.

Now the public is experiencing a similar whiplash injury from having the COVID-19 vaccine booster. First, President Joe Biden released a plan to bring Pfizer boosters to everyone. An advisory body to the US Food and Drug Administration rejected the plan.

Then an advisory panel from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the game again on Thursday, recommending boosters for people 65 and over, people with pre-existing conditions and residents of nursing homes. And late at night, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky prompted the committee’s decision to exclude frontline workers at increased risk of exposure.

What are the implications of all of the rapidly changing health policies and conflicting messages? Another type of pandemic – an increase in conspiracy theories, disinformation and a lack of confidence in the system that was created to protect us.

“The uncoordinated news that has occurred may be the biggest public health failure we’ve seen with COVID-19,” said Scott Frank, director of the public health program at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “In public health, the first rule of a pandemic is always to present a single message.”

Frank said the idea that the booster was ready for a widespread release is premature and a good example of what he calls “news drift”.

Frank said it was important to come up with a coordinated response. Advances in science have helped the medical community fight COVID-19 in unprecedented ways, but it’s not without its consequences.

“Before, we wouldn’t have had the science that would have allowed us to change course in the middle of the stream. We would have stayed with our original plan and had a consistent message, ”said Frank. “But it would have been the wrong message. The fact that we had a change in science doesn’t mean scientists are upset; it means we are discovering new information that will enable us to take a more effective course in fighting the virus. “

Raed Dweik, a Cleveland Clinic doctor and a member of the hospital’s COVID-19 response team, said one of the most troubling aspects of the pandemic had been uncertainty.

“This uncertainty has been tough for a lot of people not only in the community but also in the medical field because we have to understand it ourselves so we can convey it to the public,” said Dweik. “I know it is awkward for people not to have definitive answers, but this is a sign of the times.”

For ethnic and ethnic minority populations, the insecurity and fear caused by inconsistent messaging are compounded by a lack of trust stemming from years of public health inequalities while being disproportionately affected by COVID-19, Frank said .

And since the early days of the pandemic, the interface between politics and medicine created a power dynamic that led to contradicting messages. Around the world, each country set its own safety plan, while here in the US, states advanced with different approaches, each backed by unique scientific research working with a variety of medical experts.

“The push-and-pull between science and politics has contributed most to the distrust,” said Frank. “Scientists have been asked to justify or rationalize some policy decisions that were not based on rational science.”

As this decision and scientific information evolves, the Internet provides a breeding ground for misinformation and disinformation – arguably more damaging as it is shared with the intent to deceive. Although the problem plagued online platforms long before the pandemic, COVID-19 exacerbated the problem as disinformation was turned into weapons to serve individual agendas rather than serve the health of the community.

“It can land on ears that may have a basic distrust of vaccines, healthcare, government, or science,” Frank said. “These messages are amplified by people on social media who have a tendency to believe these messages and convey them to others. It is quite painful to see people you know and trust spread messages that actually harm their neighbors and the people we care about. “

The challenge for the public health system is to maintain the public’s beliefs while mixed messages increase suspicion. For Frank and Dweik the answer is simple: create trust through coordinated and systematic communication.

The Cleveland Clinic has developed a strategy of communicating quickly and frequently while their experts share their knowledge of COVID-19 – and most importantly, what they don’t know – based on the latest data.

“A lot of things come out that are speculation or guesswork,” said Dweik. “It is not easy for us as doctors to say that we do not know. But it’s better … than saying something that isn’t backed up or supported by science and evidence. “

Cuyahoga County Health Department will decide its recommendations and the timing of their release based on the best possible way to prevent hospitalizations and death. However, these decisions can be at the expense of public opinion, according to Terry Allan, health commissioner for Cuyahoga County.

“Information comes out quickly, and a fog can build up when people try to understand the steps,” Allan said. “Sometimes it’s not popular. That comes with every emergency and we have to live with it. “

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