The nicest thing that you can call me is ”overly cautious.”
March 8 (Reuters) – The BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron was estimated to be 11.6% of the coronavirus variants circulating in the United States as of March 5, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Tuesday…Scientists are tracking a rise in cases caused by BA.2, the dominant variant in South Africa, which is spreading rapidly in parts of Asia and Europe….The World Health Organization said last month that the BA.2 variant appears to be more transmissible than the original BA.1 sub-variant, based on initial data. Africa’s top public health body last month said BA.2 does not cause more severe disease than BA. 1…Other Omicron sub-variants that have been circulating since December – called BA.1.1 and B.1.1.529 – now make up around 73.7% and 14.7% of circulating variants, respectively…”
”…Germany reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Wednesday — the first time the authorities there said they had registered more than a quarter-million new daily cases — the same day that Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s cabinet discussed plans to drop most masking and social distancing rules and vaccine requirements when the law covering such measures expires this month…The contrast reflects the nature of the Omicron variant, which is behind the current coronavirus wave in Germany, and which studies have shown more often results in mild illness than earlier variants….Experts says that Germany’s second peak in an Omicron-variant-driven wave is due to both the spread of BA.2, a subvariant of Omicron that scientists believe is even more contagious, and the loosening of vigorous social distancing rules.”
FROM THE WASHINGTON POST:
”…School districts that required masks this fall saw significantly fewer coronavirus cases than those where masks were optional, according to a large study of Arkansas schools by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention….The CDC looked at 233 school districts and found those with mask requirements saw a 23 percent lower incidence of coronavirus cases. Rates in districts with partial requirements — for instance, places that required them in hallways but not classrooms — were in between…”
2. THE WASHINGTON POST ANSWERS THE QUESTION: SHOULD OLDER PEOPLE CONTINUE TO WEAR MASKS
(J. Harris: What a good answer!)
”…Being over 65 on its own doesn’t make you immunocompromised. This term typically refers to people living with chronic health conditions or taking certain medications that prevent their bodies from mounting a proper immune response — for example, people with untreated HIV or organ transplant patients who take immunosuppressant drugs…That said, age is a risk factor for severe covid-19. The older you are, the higher your risk.
”As we grow older, it gets harder for our bodies to fight off infections and build up a robust response to vaccines. Dietary, emotional, environmental and physical stressors accumulate over the years and “eventually lead to chronic illnesses and overburdening of the immune and other detoxification systems of the body,” said Alicia Arbaje, a Johns Hopkins doctor specializing in senior health, told me. There’s no one age or cutoff after which the immune system weakens, Arbaje noted; people under 65 can experience this as well…Eighty percent of adults 65 and older have at least one chronic health condition such as hypertension, diabetes or heart disease that puts them at higher risk for severe illness, according to the National Council on Aging, an advocacy group for older Americans. Sixty-eight percent have two or more chronic conditions.
”Vaccines and boosters go a long way in protecting against severe illness, hospitalization and death, even in these high-risk patients. But breakthrough infections happen, and evidence shows they’re harder on seniors than younger people. A Kaiser Family Foundation review of hospital data from last year found that 69 percent of breakthrough infections that required hospitalization occurred in people ages 65 and older. That’s a disproportionately large share compared to the rest of the vaccinated population, the review found… “It makes sense to keep it simple: Masks are a good idea when being indoors in crowded spaces or when being in close contact with people outside of your household,… “This applies to folks of any age, because again, it is not about age, but rather about the person’s individual accumulation of stressors that makes one more or less vulnerable to illness……. Everyone’s risk tolerance will vary, …, but those who want to mask up need not feel self-conscious if others around them aren’t covering up…It’s personal preference, it’s your comfort level,” …You shouldn’t feel ashamed or different if you’re wearing a mask in a place where others aren’t wearing masks. You need to protect yourself and do what’s right in your own personal situation.
”If you’re on the fence about whether to wear a mask, Cameron suggested checking the CDC website for information on what virus transmission is like in your county. For areas with low transmission, the CDC recommends wearing a mask based on your personal preference. Seniors in places [LIKE EAST TEXAS] where transmission is medium or high should mask up and take other health precautions…It’s important to note, too, that masking is just one of many steps seniors can take to keep themselves safe and healthy. Vaccines, as always, offer the best protection… also recommended [is] staying active, eating well, managing chronic health conditions, and staying connected to the community.
FROM JOHNS HOPKINS SELECTIONS:
1. One-Year Trajectory of Cognitive Changes in Older Survivors of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China (JAMA Neurology) In this cohort study of 1438 COVID-19 survivors 60 years and older who were discharged from COVID-19–designated hospitals in Wuhan, China, the incidence of cognitive impairment was higher in COVID-19 survivors, especially those with severe cases, compared with uninfected participants during a 1-year follow-up period.The findings suggest that long-term cognitive decline is common after SARS-CoV-2 infection, indicating the necessity of evaluating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the future dementia burden worldwide.
2. WHO Reverses Stances on COVID Boosters, Now ‘Strongly Supports’ Extra Doses (PBS) An expert group convened by the World Health Organization said Tuesday it “strongly supports urgent and broad access” to booster doses amid the global spread of omicron, in a reversal of the U.N. agency’s insistence last year that boosters weren’t necessary and contributed to vaccine inequity.
3. Austria Abandons Its Sweeping Vaccine Mandate, Citing Milder Omicron Symptoms. (New York Times) Four months after becoming the first Western democracy to announce a general coronavirus vaccination mandate — one that was set to result in fines of up to 3,600 euros (about $4,000) for any adult who refused to be inoculated — Austria is turning its back on the law. Karoline Edtstadler, the minister responsible for Austria’s constitutional affairs, said on Wednesday that the law, which was passed in January and has been in force since early February, was “not proportionate” given the relatively mild symptoms experienced by most people who contract the Omicron variant.
AND LASTLY A LATE SEASON GROUND HOG DAY:
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