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December 4, 2021

Omicron Updates Week of 11.28

The Omicron variant is spreading more quickly in South Africa than the delta variant did.  Hospitalizations there are also greater than in previous waves.  The first case in the US was announced in San Francisco Wed. after travel to S. Africa. Thursday evening the NY Governor announced 5 cases in NY, one woman who was in S. Africa.  No more was known yet about the other 4.  There was also one case in Minneapolis which occurred after a man returned home from an ANIME Convention at the Javits Center in NYC from Nov 19-22nd.  There were 53,000 attendees and our Governor thinks all of them should be tested - wherever they returned to.  There are now more than a dozen cases in the US in a dozen states and as of Friday afternoon the variant was found in 36 countries.

The South Africans reported that reinfections are occurring in patients who had Covid more than 90 days ago.  This lack of immunity was not seen there previously when the beta and delta variants spread in their country.  The early anecdotes and scraps of data suggest that most of these cases are mild. However hospitalizations and deaths usually follow surges by 2 weeks, so those patients diagnosed during this early surge (from 3402 cases on 11/26 to 8561 on 12/1) will need to be assessed in several weeks for information about the severity of the Omicron infections.  See Below 


We can't build a wall around America, but our public health advisors have encouraged more people to get vaccinated now, or get boosters if they are already vaccinated, and curtail risky behavior until more is known about our vulnerability to Omicron. Those that only had one dose of the mRNA vaccines definitely need to get a 2nd dose now for any protection.  The booster shots substantially increase antibody titers and raise the level of B and T cells which may be enough to block or reduce the Omicron infection if you are exposed.  Data reported here Friday was encouraging with 2.2 million doses of vaccine given yesterday with more than 1 million of them being booster doses. The most common question I've heard asked or read is whether people should wait for a the new Covid vaccines to be made to get a booster and the answer is always "NO!!!  Get a booster now!"  We need testing for as many symptomatic people as possible and sequencing of their viruses to know whether Omicron can compete with the delta variant which currently accounts for 100% of infections here. 

November 27, 2021

A Really Happy Family Thanksgiving

Last year my husband and I made our favorite Tortilla Soup recipe (from Rick Bayliss - Chicago) for our "Thanksgiving dinner for 2" because there were no vaccines, Covid risk was high, and we just wanted something that we love but rarely make.  Each of our 3 children and their families had small Thanksgiving dinners in their own homes. This year everyone is vaccinated, and only two of our 8 grandchildren (9 year olds) are not fully vaccinated yet.  One had his 2nd dose Wed. and the other one will get his 2nd dose today.  Our son made sure we all had a negative rapid test and then we had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner for 17.  

This is a picture of our 8 grandchildren having a wonderful time all together before dinner.  The words on the wall say "Be Light Hearted."  We enjoyed every minute of the day! 



November 24, 2021

Covid Updates: Child Vaccine, Unvaccinated, and Federal Mandate

I was planning to review recent Covid topics today and then I read my physician son Jason's daily Covid review and he was happy for me to share it.  He has been my "guest contributor" several previous times.
• Pfizer released the longer-term results from its adolescent vaccine study this week, and it's amazing — there have been *ZERO* cases of COVID in the vaccinated 12–15-year-olds, compared with 30 in the placebo group, for an efficacy rate of 100%. This data will surely be submitted soon to request full approval for the vaccine for the 12+ population, which is the precursor to being able to give that group a third shot… all in all, this is pretty fantastic.

• The CDC released this month's data, breaking case and death rates down by vaccination status, and unsurprisingly, unvaccinated people remain MASSIVELY more likely to get COVID and die than those who've gotten their shots — 6x more likely to get infected, and 14x more likely to die.


 • 95% of federal employees have complied with the US government's vaccine mandate by the deadline, meaning millions of civil servants will be able to safely continue serving and representing America as the pandemic rages on. What a great example of how mandates just plain work, and how they strengthen us as a nation.



November 20, 2021

Run, Don't Walk, to Get a Booster Dose of Vaccine

Yesterday the FDA extended the guidelines for fully vaccinated people to get Pfizer or Moderna booster shots at least 6 months after their 2nd dose of vaccine.  Today the CDC Advisory Committee met and unanimously voted for booster doses, and  the CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, signed the Advisory Group recommendations.  Booster shots will be available starting this weekend.

The CDC advisory committee recommended that anyone 18 or older could get a booster, and anyone older than 65 "SHOULD" get a booster.  The vaccines are still very effective, and the majority of Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are occurring in the unvaccinated.   The safety data were reviewed at today's meeting and the side effects in general are slightly less than after vaccine dose 2.  Pfizer reported preliminary data on their randomized control trial of approximately 10,000 subjects.  The booster doses were given at a median of 10 months after dose 2 and subjects were followed for about 2.5 months before this report. No cases of myocarditis were seen.  There were 6 PCR positive Covid cases in the vaccinated group and 123 in the placebo group for a booster efficacy of 95.3% in patients who had never had a previous Covid-19 infection.                         See Below


Dr. Tony Fauci is in favor of boosters for all fully vaccinated people at 6 months.   He said that there are increasing numbers of ER visits among the 65+ group (vaccinated but not boosted) and an "inkling" of waning protection against severe disease. Many experts say that these mRNA vaccines probably were always 3 dose vaccines.  In addition, there is clear evidence that case numbers in the unvaccinated are rising quickly in the US in more than half of the states after weeks of falling numbers.  Dr. Michael Osterholm always says that there are still many unvaccinated people for this virus to "burn through."  More Good News:  1,970,000 children ages 5-11 years old were vaccinated through the end of this week!   

November 17, 2021

White Tailed Deer are a SARS-CoV-2 Reservoir

There is accumulating evidence that wild white tailed deer can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and are now spreading the virus among deer herds in the US.  Minks, dogs, cats, and various zoo animals have been infected, but most of these infections are due to human interactions during feeding and care.  It is assumed that the infection in deer had to come from contact with humans, or maybe waste water. The deer do not appear to develop symptoms or to infect humans, although this might be difficult to prove.  The deer have ACE-2 receptors on their cells, like humans, to which the virus binds to gain entry into nasopharyngeal cells.  624 blood samples, from pre and post pandemic were studied and Sars-CoV-2 antibodies were found in 152 of the 2021 samples  - from Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania.  Three samples from early 2020 were also positive.  How did the deer become infected? 

More Data:  (1) There are reports of the virus in 363 nasal swabs from free range white tailed deer in Ohio, pre-delta variant, and genomic sequencing demonstrated that these viruses were the same as those circulating in our human population.  (2) In Iowa lymph node samples were taken from the nasopharynx in approximately 300 deer to look for virus in the tissue and 1/3rd of the samples tested positive by PCR.  (3) Also in Iowa, 97 deer samples (11/23-1/10/2022) were collected and 80% of them were positive for Covid during hunting season.  They sequenced the viruses and the same genomes were present in the white tailed deer and current infections in humans.  See Below  


There are 30 million white tailed deer in the US and 6 million are supposedly killed by hunters each year.  The new data demonstrate that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is widely present in deer clusters - constituting a reservoir of the virus.  As the virus replicates in the reservoir there are many opportunities for the virus to mutate and at some point they may be able to jump back into the human population.  The mutations can increase transmissibility, increase the virus virulence, or block the effect of vaccine on the mutated virus. Deer are currently monitored for chronic wasting disease and bovine tuberculosis - and now SARS-CoV-2 virus will be followed as well.  Hunters are encouraged to do field dressing outside, wearing gloves.  The deer organs should be disposed of carefully and the meat cooked very carefully.