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Concern about COVID-19 spike looms over Fourth of July celebrations



KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WDAF) – As America celebrates Independence Day, doctors warn we are not free from the threat of COVID-19 or its variants.

While some aspects of the July 4th weekend between 2020 and 2021 are different, others are pretty much the same. In 2021 swimming pools will be opened, large gatherings will be organized and public fireworks will be planned. But in 2021, just like in 2020, doctors are warning of the risk of spreading COVID-19 cases across the country.

“Yes, it is a concern. July 4th, “said Dr. Raghu Adiga, chief medical officer at Liberty Hospital, during an update with the University of Kansas healthcare system. “Most of the time, these gatherings are outside rather than inside. That is a plus, but not always here either. ”

Delta variant: what if I am vaccinated?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said people can celebrate this July 4th, but the nature of that celebration should depend heavily on vaccination status.

But at some point you have to ask yourself, is it really safer not to get vaccinated when over 2 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide and people haven’t died from the vaccine? It’s just unheard of. Do you know what is not unknown? Dying of COVID-19. “

Dr. Steve Stites, Chief Medical Officer, University of Kansas Health System

“… If you have been vaccinated, you have a high level of protection. If not, then you should wear a mask and think very seriously about getting vaccinated, ”said Fauci. “So in many ways nothing has really changed. At the same time, as a country, we celebrate that we are in a serious situation for those who have not been vaccinated. And the message is: get vaccinated. “

According to CDC director Rochelle Walensky, the country’s seven-day case average rose 10 percent from June 23-29.

“If you are not vaccinated, you are not sure,” said Dr. Steve Stites, Chief Medical Officer, University of Kansas Health System.

On these July 4th holidays, please remember that a new, more contagious strain of COVID is spreading rapidly. The best way to stay healthy is to get a vaccination. If you choose not to be vaccinated, please take responsibility to others. Our PPE with @RepDavids:

– Governor Laura Kelly (@GovLauraKelly) June 30, 2021

During an update on Facebook Thursday morning, the University of Kansas Health System warned that hospitals on the Kansas City subway are already full due to illnesses other than COVID-19. They warn that a big spike after the holiday weekend will be dangerous.

“One of the things we should be scared of is that the hospitals are full and they are full in our entire community,” said Stites. “That’s because all the normal stuff is out there again. Since the masks have been taken off, we see that people are getting sick.

“Routine colds, heart failure, all the things that would normally happen to us are happening now. And just to say we are usually not that full in June but we are really full. And everyone is really full. So if we have an ascent, problems will arise much sooner this time than last time. “

Health experts warn that the Delta variant is much more transmissible than other coronavirus strains. They say the best protection against COVID-19 and the Delta variant is to get vaccinated, something health officials in many states struggle to convince people of.

“There’s just not much protection against not getting vaccinated unless, I tell you, paranoia,” said Stites.

“I understand fear, everyone has the right to make this decision for themselves, I firmly believe in that. But at some point you have to ask yourself, is it really safer not to get vaccinated when over 2 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide and people haven’t died from the vaccine? It’s just unheard of. Do you know what is not unknown? Dying of COVID-19. “

Something else that is not unknown is cities and countries going backwards and reintroducing restrictions due to a worrying surge in COVID-19 cases. Los Angeles County, the UK and Israel have taken steps to halt further increases in cases.

“It’s all about the people who aren’t vaccinated,” said Stites. “I think we really need to worry and I am not saying it is time to do this in Kansas City, but I am saying we can get into it safely and remember the rules of infection control, whether or not required or not, are the rules that protect you and if you are not vaccinated then the hell you have to wear a mask. If you don’t wear a mask, you roll the dice. “

Many pharmacies, grocery stores and health authorities offer vaccination times that can be walked through, so no appointment is required. Check with yours for availability if you need to be vaccinated.

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Rapid COVID-19 Tests Will Soon Be Covered by Insurance



Updated at 4:40 pm, Wednesday, December 2, 2021.

December 2, 2021 – Private insurers will shortly be required to reimburse people enrolled in their plans for home costs, COVID-19 rapid tests and masking requirements for air, rail and bus travelers via at. extended by mid-March at the latest.

The measures are part of a series of measures announced by President Joe Biden on Thursday following the arrival of the Omicron variant in the United States.

“My plan, which I am announcing today, is not working in the fight against COVID-19,” said Biden.

“Now that we are moving into winter and facing the challenge of this new twist, this is a moment when we can leave the division behind, I hope,” he said.

Biden added that he hoped the nation would finally come together and unite on a common goal: fighting the virus.

One of the biggest changes Biden announced was that it will make rapid COVID-19 tests available to Americans at no net cost.

At around $ 24 a box, rapid COVID-19 tests remain unaffordable for many, even after promises to bring the tests to Americans at wholesale costs.

Other countries offer free rapid tests, or around $ 1 per test, and many experts say that using rapid tests more frequently could help stop the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

Approximately 150 million Americans would be eligible for rapid test coverage under their insurance plans.

While many public health experts praised the goal of increasing the availability and use of rapid tests in the U.S., some said they weren’t sure if asking people to claim reimbursement was the best way to do it reach.

“Rapid access to rapid testing will be critical for this next phase of the pandemic,” said Nirav Shah, MD, JD, who directs the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

Shah said faster testing could help the US deal with potential spikes from new variants like Omicron, and it will also be critical in helping people get timely access to new antiviral pills that work best when they are inside be taken the first few days after infection.

Then there are the new federal vaccination rules for workers – some of which are being delayed in court – which allow people who cannot or will not be vaccinated to get to work as long as they pass a COVID-19 test, one Accommodation that will almost certainly increase demand for the tests in the coming months.

There will also be new test-to-stay guidelines in schools that will allow exposed students to stay in class as long as they wear a mask and continue to test negative.

“We have to make sure that the supply is there to meet the demand ahead,” said Shah.

He said some states are still struggling to get enough rapid tests and said the delivery issues would need to be resolved for the tests to work.

Others had questions about how over-the-counter test coverage would work. Government officials said Americans would be reimbursed for their expenses on rapid tests, which many considered less than ideal.

“The reimbursement plan isn’t helping a McDonald’s employee, Uber driver, or meat-packing factory employee with quick test access, and what these people need most are easy ways to monitor their COVID status,” said Ellie Murray, ScD, an epidemiologist at Boston University School of Public Health.

“Refunding requires people to pay the cost for a while, and that can be a major obstacle, too,” Murray said.

To help people who are not privately insured, Biden pledged to distribute 50 million free tests to community health centers and rural clinics to reach some of the poorest and most severely affected areas in the country.

In addition to these steps, international travelers flying to the US will soon need to demonstrate a negative COVID-19 test within 24 hours of their departure, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not.

Carlos del Rio, MD, president-elect of the board of directors of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said he was pleased with the testing requirements for travelers but hopes the travel bans will be lifted soon.

“I think travel restrictions don’t work with respiratory viruses. They have never worked, ”he said. “They’re not science-based, but tests are science-based,” added del Rio.

“Personally, I test myself as an individual when I travel on an airplane, 24 to 48 hours before my trip, and I test myself up to 3 days after I land. It’s a very effective way of knowing if you’ve been exposed and then, you know, preventing transmission to others, “he said.

In line with the six-part plan to fight COVID-19 the government outlined in August, the president’s new winter plan will focus on vaccinations for all eligible Americans, including booster doses for the estimated 100 million adults now at least 6 months old are your second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 2 months after a Johnson & Johnson vaccination.

These plans, which for most workers were based on vaccination requirements, have been hampered by recent court rulings blocking the implementation of these requirements.

While the issue goes to court, Biden is expected to continue urging companies to voluntarily introduce vaccination regulations for their workers, which he believes will help close vaccination gaps.

On Thursday, Biden promised a new push to provide booster shots to all adults, with an emphasis on reaching seniors at greatest risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

He also promised to set up vaccination clinics for families so parents and children can get their vaccinations at the same time.

And crucial for states suffering from a lack of work, Biden promised to send federal teams to the states to alleviate some of this pain.

“Staffing at the state level is still a challenge. We are pleased that the President is releasing additional government assets that can help, ”said Shah.

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Scientists identify biomarker to predict mortality risk



Share on PinterestMedical staff at the Korsakov Central District Hospital in Russia on November 30, 2021. Sergei Krasnoukhov TASS via Getty Images

  • A new study identifies viral RNA as a blood biomarker that could help predict which patients with COVID-19 are at greatest risk of death.
  • The team found the biomarker in blood samples from people hospitalized with COVID-19 and later confirmed it in two other hospitalized patient groups.
  • The scientists believe their discovery could help medical professionals identify patients at greatest risk of death.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in December 2019, health professionals have been struggling to pinpoint which groups are at the highest risk of death.

Early research revealed several common factors, including average age and underlying chronic conditions. However, much remains unknown.

Now, a new study from the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center (CRCHUM) has found that a blood biomarker of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can help doctors determine which patients are most likely to receive it sickness dies sickness.

The researchers believe this finding will enable health professionals to treat patients at highest risk of death more quickly.

The study appears in the journal Science Advances.

Previous research on COVID-19 and its relationship to human blood has explored why the disease causes blood clots, how blood thinners can protect against complications, and how five protein blood biomarkers can predict which patients will become seriously ill.

The lead author of the new study, Dr. Daniel Kaufmann, Senior Scientist at CRCHUM and Professor of Medicine at Université de Montréal, spoke to Medical News Today. He stated that the purpose of this study was to identify a simple, reliable blood marker that could locate patients at greatest risk for a fatal disease.

“The course of COVID-19 is extremely variable in the patients,” explained Dr. Merchant. “From a clinical care perspective, it is important to be able to quickly identify the individuals who are at greatest risk of developing critical illness and death.”

“Many different blood measurements have been linked to serious illness,” he continued, “but it is really impractical to work with a plethora of parameters and some will be more reliable than others.”

In this study, Dr. Kaufmann and his team found that a blood biomarker – viral RNA – helped predict which patients were at greatest risk of dying from COVID-19.

SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus, which means that RNA, not DNA, is its genetic material. Once inside a human cell, the virus takes over our cellular machinery to build the proteins encoded by its RNA. Some of this viral RNA (vRNA) can be found in the blood of people with an infection.

For their study, Dr. Kaufmann and his team took blood samples from 279 patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

The severity of the disease was sufficient; some patients did not need oxygen assistance while others needed mechanical ventilation. The researchers took blood samples from each person 11 days after their symptoms appeared.

They also tracked participants for 60 days after their symptoms appeared. Of the 279 patients, 13 died. Almost half of them died between 30 and 60 days after symptoms first appeared. Most belonged to the “critical” patient group.

The researchers first measured three main biomarkers in the participants’ blood: inflammatory proteins, vRNA and the level of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

They found that the amount of vRNA in a patient’s blood was the best predictor of risk of death – non-critical patients had less vRNA than critical patients. Additionally, those who died had high levels of vRNA in their blood compared to the surviving participants.

Importantly, the researchers reported that the other biomarkers did not help predict mortality rates.

To further explore their theory, the authors tested two additional COVID-19 patient groups – one from the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal and another from CRCHUM. Again, they found that their predictive model worked.

Dr. Kaufmann noted that the measurements of immunological and virological parameters used in the study are currently not part of the standard clinical trial.

For some other infections, such as HIV, measuring the vRNA in the blood is routine. So if more research data supports a clinical application, doctors could quickly implement this type of test.

“To determine whether measuring SARS-CoV-2 vRNA in plasma could have a direct impact on clinical care, a crucial step in research is to determine how this indicator – and other parameters we measured in this study – Varies with the new therapies that are now available to patients with severe COVID-19, ”explained Dr. Merchant.

“The progress that has been made has reduced the risk of a fatal infection. A key question is, can blood vRNA monitoring be used to track the effects of these new treatments on patients? “

MNT also spoke to Dr. Fady Youssef, a pulmonologist, internist, and critical care specialist at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in California. He said:

“I often had two patients next to each other, [of] similar age, ethnicity, similar symptoms, and one of them is fine and goes home and the other gets worse and goes to the [intensive care unit] and sometimes dies. ”

“We don’t know how to tell which of these patients will get worse and which will get better. Having a tool to help us figure this piece of the puzzle can help us find targeted therapies, especially when we are short of some of the therapies we use. ”

Regarding the next steps, Dr. Youssef that he would like to apply these results in an outpatient setting where most of the COVID-19 treatment takes place.

“If we had better outpatient care and better ways to prevent patient progression, it would minimize the demands on the inpatient environment,” he said.

“If I had my wish, I would say that if someone was diagnosed with COVID-19, they would get a lab paper that tells them how high their risk is of developing severe COVID-19. And then some protocols that are done on an outpatient basis [setting]where patients are treated early and help prevent progression. ”

According to Dr. Kaufmann’s next step for his team is to investigate how new therapies to fight excessive inflammation in COVID-19 could also affect the immune response to the virus.

“In a new study,” he told MNT, “we are therefore currently investigating how these treatments that are administered to patients with severe COVID-19 change these readings and whether they retain their ability to predict disease progression.”

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Anchorage’s busiest COVID-19 testing site, at Loussac Library, closes with no notice as city switches contractor



Anchorage’s busiest COVID-19 testing site at the Loussac Library was abruptly closed Wednesday and replaced in a new location operated by a different company on a nearby vacant lot belonging to the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center.

The sudden shutdown came as city health officials announced changes in the way the community is handling COVID-19 testing.

Long-time test entrepreneur Visit Healthcare is being replaced by Capstone Family Medicine, a Wasilla-based company that operates medical clinics but also operates numerous COVID-19 test sites across the state, including at airports and in local communities.

“Capstone is now in charge of the testing as it is the more efficient and cost-effective option,” Anchorage Department of Health spokesman Robert McNeily said in an email on Wednesday afternoon.

The tests remain free, city officials said.

“The tests are not going away,” said Joe Gerace, director of the Anchorage Department of Health, during a meeting on Wednesday, pointing out that the city is adding a testing site in West Anchorage. “… there are no costs yet.”

A primary reason for the move is that Capstone can charge health insurance for testing, which Visit Healthcare doesn’t, according to Anchorage Congregation member Kameron Perez-Verdia, co-chair of the Health Policy Committee, who spoke with Gerace after the To meet.

“Visit isn’t really geared towards doing the same type of billing as Capstone, and that’s the main problem,” said Perez-Verdia. “You want to switch to an organization that can bill insurance companies.”

People without insurance will continue to be offered free tests, he said.

“They are still being tested, but now they also have the option to charge this,” said Perez-Verdia.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office confirmed that free tests are still available and that the city has switched providers to settle the insurance.

Visit Healthcare learned Tuesday that the Loussac site will be closing the next day, according to Chris Koone, the company’s operations manager. Local officials told him traffic problems and lack of funding went into the decision, Koone said.

The Loussac site, which ran 5,600 tests last month, is more than twice as busy as any other urban test site, he said.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the transition was so abrupt.

According to McNeily, Capstone now “technically” operates seven test locations in the city. The company already operates state test sites at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Four sites currently operated by Visit Healthcare will be “phased out” for five Capstone sites, he said: an Eagle River site that was converted last week; the new Loussac replacement in 4810 C St .; a popular website for the Changepoint Church; a test site in the Muldoon area; and a new location in Alaska Park near the airport.

The sites will be in the hands of Capstone by mid-December, McNeily said.

A Capstone representative didn’t respond to questions on Wednesday.

The test change was announced on the same day that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was first discovered in the United States. There’s no sign of Omicron arriving in Alaska, where the number of daily new cases and hospital admissions are declining after rising so much in the fall that the state released crisis standards for care in early October to ease the pressure to reduce overwhelmed hospitals.

[Impossible choices inside Alaska’s inundated hospitals]

Now two out of three hospitals in Anchorage – Providence Alaska Medical Center and Alaska Regional Hospital – are out of crisis mode.

In an interview on Wednesday, McNeily, spokesman for the city’s health department, said the community might consider reducing test levels if COVID-19 transmission rates continue to drop. The virus is now reproducing below one, meaning less than one person is infected at a time.

That trend could change, he continued, “but the rate has continued to fall in recent weeks. AHD continues to be cautiously optimistic about the future, as the local hospitals are outside the standards of crisis care. “

In general, health professionals say wide access to testing is important regardless of hospital admissions, which are delayed markers of the presence of the virus. Tests track the spread of the virus – particularly with the possibility of a new variant floating around – but also prompt early treatment, which will help slow new cases that could eventually lead to hospitalizations.

In addition to the urban locations, free trials are also available at the Walgreens Pharmacy locations in Anchorage.

Tests for people without symptoms are also possible at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, although this location was moved behind security as of Wednesday, only for passengers with tickets and staff with ID.

Gerace also announced on Wednesday that the municipality is moving from an urban funding model to a federal model.

Local officials say they want to contain the cost of the testing program. At Visit Healthcare, each test costs about $ 100. The tests are reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the city will have to pay for up to a year, Gerace said.

The city cited brief funding in October as a reason to cut free testing during the summer and fall of the COVID-19 surge. The convention later approved a $ 2.65 million motion from the Bronson administration that fully restored test levels by November.

Meg Zaletel, member of the Anchorage Congregation, vice chair of the health policy committee, said the health department’s announcement came as a surprise and she is still trying to get more information.

“I don’t know much yet. The (health) description was not very informative, ”said Zaletel on Wednesday morning. “They had a preview to find a more cost-effective model for treatment. I don’t know what they switched to, but the fact that they made a change to try to cut costs is not surprising. “

It wasn’t immediately clear why the city switched testing in Midtown from the well-known, popular Loussac Library website to an empty lot on C Street.

Corey Allen Young, mayor’s spokesman, said the decision to move the site between Capstone and the city was made for “better access.”

“There is a kind of traffic jam at Loussac. I’ve seen it every time I’ve come to congregation meetings, ”said Young. The new location next to the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center “just offers a little more space,” he said.

Young did not comment on why the website was moved without widespread public announcement, and referred the Daily News to the health department.

The change to a new location and provider was “really disruptive,” said Perez-Verdia.

“That’s one of the problems … from your point of view, this could be more efficient. And certainly being able to bill (insurance) is good in my opinion, ”he said. “But we have to be able to communicate this really well so that people know what’s going on and why.”

At least one Anchorage resident took to Twitter Wednesday to share their issues with the test transition.

Q / 🧵: Why did #ANCgov change the Covid testing system that worked well?

I got double vaccinated and got what felt like a cold – I need a Covid test to diagnose whether or not this is a breakthrough case so I can avoid exposing others.

– Jenny-Marie Stryker (@StrykerJenny) December 1, 2021

Jenny-Marie Stryker, who is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, decided to get tested after noticing a stuffy nose and headache. Stryker checked the city testing website and found that the Loussac was closed for testing. She drove to the University of Alaska test site in Anchorage, which was also closed.

At the construction site on C Street, it took 5 or 10 minutes for anyone to get out, just to tell her that a defective generator was delaying testing. The Stryker was eventually tested, even though it took nearly an hour.

“Long enough to write this Twitter thread,” she said.

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