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February 17, 2021

A Question: Why are Covid-19 Cases Decreasing?

At a time when at least 3 variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are being recorded in the US, why are the the number of Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the US decreasing, although they still remain higher than the peaks in the Spring and Summer of 2020?  Is it the time for the seasonal ebb of respiratory viruses?  Or are the mitigation measures working - masking, social distancing, avoiding congregant activities?  It is too soon to stop mandatory masks, yet Wyoming and Iowa have discontinued mandatory masking while CDC recommends double masking.

Vaccination has picked up, but no more than 10% of the population are protected.  It is estimated that as many as 80,000,000 people had Covid-19, based on antibody studies, but case numbers and plus the vaccinations are insufficient to reach herd immunity.  And while numbers are improving, there are a least 3 variant SARS-CoV-2 viruses that have reached the US.  As of Feb. 14 there were 1173 cases of the UK variant (B.1.1.7) reported in 40 states, 17 cases of the S.African variant (B.1.351) in 8 states, and 3 cases of the Brazilian variant (P1) in 2 states.  Some scientists are warning us that the next 4-12 weeks are going to be the darkest days of the pandemic due to the increased transmission of the UK variant which doubles every 10 days (2000 to 4000 to 8000, to 16,000, etc).  Read below. 


In early January the US was doing genomic studies on about 250 virus samples per day.  Since then they have increased to 4000/day, as they continue to ramp up, to follow the spread of the variants and see if new ones arise.  One of the biggest questions will be do our current vaccines protect us against infection with the variants?  Plasma from infected patients can be collected and tested against the variants in the lab to see if the variant viruses are killed by the plasma antibodies.  In addition studies can be done to determine if fully vaccinated patients who develop Covid-19 are infected with one of the variant viruses. 

All RNA viruses mutate and when viral replication increase, due to an out of control surge, so do the mutations. It is time for us to double down and prevent that from happening.  Double mask especially if indoors, socially distance at all times, limit group activities, stay in well-ventilated areas, and get vaccinated.  The best scientific minds are trying to get us to prevent another huge surge of Covid-19 cases.


February 13, 2021

CDC Mask Recommendations and a Few Tests of Protection

Mask Confusion?  The CDC issued new mask recommendations this week, in part due to the rapid spread of the UK variant in the US.  We know that this variant is very transmissible, and it is already spreading quickly and could be a big surge in the next 4-6 weeks.  Masks are not being worn, or worn properly (not covering nose or pulled down below the chin,) ,or not fitting properly.  Results from a study in which 10 states were surveyed before and after a mask mandate was put into effect, demonstrated a significant decrease in the infection rate.  In order to avoid the spread of the UK variant B.1.1.7, the CDC is now recommending wearing double masks to further decrease exposure. 

N95 masks are still in short supply and should be reserved for health care workers.  Surgical masks rarely fit properly and there are air leaks because of gaps on the sides, or because the metal strip across the bridge of the nose is not shaped to prevent leaks.  Cloth masks that fit tightly, worn over the surgical mask reduce transmission and improve fit.  More below.  


You should not be able to see light through cloth masks.  To test transmission through the mask you can try to blow out a candle.  You should not be able to do this.  To test air leaks around the nose look for steaming of a pair of glasses.  If you see any, your mask doesn't fit properly around your nose.  You can also expire forcefully in front of a mirror and see if you blink.  If you do, you have an air leak. 

Masks that have an elastic that goes around your neck and another around your head (like the N95 masks) fit better than those with ear loops.  I regularly see people who are wearing butterfly masks (far right in the collage above) and they are pulling their mask back up over their nose every few minutes while they are talking.  And unfortunately tightening the ear loops just increases ear pain. 

February 10, 2021

Mission Accomplished. Second Vaccine Dose in Arm

As an old person, I was in Group 1b for vaccine distribution.  Almost 3 weeks ago I received Dose 1 and today I received Dose 2.  It feels good to have this behind me, and my husband will receive his second dose at the end of the week.   Read Below.



I hope that everyone will get vaccinated.  It was almost a year ago that I was learning about how vaccines could be made isolating the coronavirus spike protein genetic code, coat it with lipids, and inject it as a vaccine.  When my cells use the code to make the spike protein, my immune system will recognize it as a foreign protein and produce an immune response.  I will go to bed tonight wondering how fast the spike protein will be made in my sore muscle.  What an amazing scientific accomplishment. 

February 6, 2021

Fever, Chills, Myalgias

Where is influenza this year?  It normally peaks between December and February, and this year the incidence is way down in the US and around the world.  Normally 20-30% of the Influenza tests would be positive.  Most people don't get tested when they have flu symptoms, but this year the positive tests were 0.2% during the 3rd week in January, and hospital cases are also reduced. 

Possible factors include:

Flu was significantly decreased in the Southern Hemisphere this past summer (their winter) - which usually predates our peak flu season - and there was less spread from there. 

The public health measures that are in place for Covid-19 also protect us from other respiratory viruses:  masks, social distancing, and hand washing.  Cleaning surfaces does protect against influenza. 

Children are a major carrier for flu and they are also congregating less.

A "twindemic", of Covid-19 and influenza was feared this winter, and influenza vaccination was strongly recommended.

There was reduced travel.                  See Below 



The reduced incidence of flu this year may affect next year's flu shots.  Each year the flu strains that are circulating here this winter helps scientists make up the multivalent flu shots for next year.  Sometimes they are very well matched, other times not as well.  Next year's vaccine development may be challenging.    


February 3, 2021

Listening to Dr. Fauci

I listened to an interview with Dr. Fauci and David Ignatius of the Washington Post yesterday and wanted to share some of the discussion.

1.  Virus mutations will occur unless we stop replication.  The more cases we have the faster the viruses will mutate.  Many of the mutations do not change the virus behavior, others do causing: increased transmission of disease, more serious infection, and/or a change in the response of the virus to vaccines or monoclonal antibody treatments.  Right now the virus, which is out of control, will accumulate more mutations and we need increased genomic testing for surveillance and preparations to upgrade the vaccines.  We have the scientific skills to modify the vaccines and need to stay ahead of the changes.  The current goal is to push ahead with vaccinations as quickly as possible.

2.  The CDC is trying to study masks in order to determine the best way to prevent transmission, but won't have any new recommendations until they have the science to back them up.  Until then Dr. Fauci says if one mask is good, two are probably better (double masking).  It can't hurt and might help.  Read Below



3.  The US gets an A+++ for vaccine development, but now needs to concentrate on distribution.  In order to beat the virus, we need to vaccinate as quickly as we can.  The federal government is working on the supply chain and developing outreach programs in communities to get the available vaccines equitably  "into arms" as quickly as possible.  They are also developing many programs to combat vaccine hesitancy because our control of the virus will depend on having 70-85% of the population vaccinated to reach herd immunity, which is the only way we can return to our prepandemic lives.  Everyone needs to be patient....