Thursday, April 7, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

Thursday, April 7, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

Covid Outbreak Hits DC Elites After Gridiron Dinner

Those who tested positive following the event — where high-profile government players and journalists mixed indoors, unmasked — include the U.S. attorney general, commerce secretary, the vice president’s communications director, congressional lawmakers, and others. President Joe Biden did not attend.

The Hill:
COVID-19 Cases Among Key DC Players Jump After Gridiron Dinner

At least five high-profile Washington players have tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the star-studded Gridiron Club dinner last weekend, one of whom is considered a close contact of Vice President Harris. Harris’ Communications Director Jamal Simmons, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, and Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) have all tested positive for breakthrough COVID-19 cases after attending Saturday night’s event. (Schnell, 4/6)

The Washington Post:
After Gridiron Dinner, A Covid Outbreak Among Washington A-List Guests 

A-list guests were asked to show proof of vaccination but not negative tests, and many mingled freely without masks at the dinner at the downtown Renaissance Washington Hotel. … The Washington Post has learned of about a half-dozen journalists as well as members of the White House and National Security Council staffs who said they tested positive after the event. Their names are being withheld because they have not announced their status publicly. Tom DeFrank, a contributing columnist for National Journal and president of the Gridiron Club, said that as of Wednesday afternoon, the group knew of 14 guests who had tested positive. (Farhi, Roberts and Abutaleb, 4/6)

Los Angeles Times:
Vice President’s Staffer, Others Test Positive For The Coronavirus

Vice President Kamala Harris’ communications director tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, the second close contact of the vice president to become infected in less than a month. Harris’ office did not announce test results for the vice president, but a statement from her press secretary, Kirsten Allen, said she was following official guidance and “plans to continue with her public schedule,” implying that she is not ill. Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, tested positive last month for the coronavirus. (Bierman, 4/6)

The New York Times:
An Invisible Party Crasher Has Washington Feeling Uneasy

President Biden did not attend the Gridiron, but he has appeared, mask-free, at several events this week, even as cases rise inside his administration, among lawmakers, in the news media and throughout the capital. His maskless appearance also calls into question the safety protocols that stand between a 79-year-old president and a wily virus that is adept at evading even stringent safety measures. (Rogers, 4/6)

Health Workers Experiencing Moral Trauma From War Against Covid

Many health care workers report trauma-like symptoms similar to combat veterans such as depression or a lower-quality of life, a study finds. NPR also reports on how people particularly vulnerable to covid are also traumatized.

COVID-19 Health Workers Suffer Combat-Type Moral Trauma

A Duke University study shows that, amid COVID-19, US healthcare workers (HCWs) had similar rates of potential moral injury (PMI)—a type of trauma-induced wound to the psyche—as military combat veterans. The study, published yesterday in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, surveyed 2,099 HCWs in 2020 and 2021 and 618 military veterans deployed to a combat zone after the Sep 11, 2001, US terrorist attacks about PMIs they may have experienced. (Van Beusekom, 4/6)

People Are Developing Trauma-Like Symptoms As The Pandemic Wears On

In February 2020, Jullie Hoggan picked up the phone to receive lifesaving news. She had been on the list for a kidney transplant and, to her relief, there was now finally a donor. But that reassurance was quickly overshadowed by the looming threat of the novel coronavirus. “I remember standing at my sink and thinking, what about this virus? Like, is this going to be a problem?” she said. It was a question that would completely restructure the next two years of her life. While the surgery was successful and Hoggan is now vaccinated and boosted, she is still severely immunocompromised and has to take significant safety measures. (Lonsdorf, 4/7)

In updates on the spread of covid —

COVID Cases Rise Again In Half The States

Half of the states are seeing COVID case numbers rise again while nationwide totals continue to fall. The Omicron subvariant known as BA.2 is the dominant strain circulating around the U.S., accounting for almost three out of every four cases. As in-person gatherings have begun again, COVID has sickened a number of Washington A-listers, reminding everyone — yet again — we’re not out of the woods with this pandemic. Overall, cases dropped 5% across the U.S. to an average of about 28,700 cases from an average of more than 30,000 cases two weeks ago. (Reed and Beheraj, 4/7)

Philadelphia Inquirer:
Mask Mandates Likely To Return For Philadelphia Indoor Spaces As COVID Cases Rise

Philadelphia is poised to reinstate its indoor mask mandate next week as COVID-19 cases climb again. An Inquirer analysis showed the most current COVID case counts and the percent increase of cases both meet the city’s benchmarks that would trigger the return of the mask mandate for public indoor spaces. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health agreed with the analysis. “What we see and know is cases are rising,” said James Garrow, a spokesperson for the department. “People should start taking precautions now.” (Gans Sobey, Duchneskie and Laughlin, 4/6)

Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Clark County Sees An Uptick In COVID-19 Cases

For the second week in a row, Clark County experienced a slight uptick in new daily COVID-19 cases, marking the first increases since January, according to weekly data released Wednesday. However, authorities said they don’t view the uptick as significant and that overall metrics suggest there won’t be a surge in cases anytime soon. “From everything we’re seeing, I don’t expect a surge,” said Andrew Gorzalski, molecular supervisor in the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory in Reno. This vantage point includes positive COVID-19 test results as well as wastewater analysis, the latter an early-warning system for disease trends. (Dylan and Hynes, 4/6)

Bay Area News Group:
California Reaches New Low For COVID Patients In ICU

California intensive care units are now treating fewer COVID patients than at any point since the state started tracking that number in March 2020. As of Monday, hospitals around the Golden State reported 231 patients in their ICUs were confirmed or suspected to have COVID, according to data from the California Department of Public Health. The previous low for hospitalized COVID patients in an ICU was 250, set on June 6, 2021, at the zenith of the summer 2021 COVID slump. The number of critically ill COVID patients requiring intensive care was consistently below 500 from early April through mid-July of 2021, but jumped to more than 2,000 during last fall’s delta surge and peaked at more than 2,500 in late January during omicron. (Blair Rowan, 4/6)

In other covid news —

Several COVID Deaths In WA Happened Before 1st Was Announced 

The Washington state Department of Health has confirmed at least four other Washingtonians died from COVID complications before or on Feb. 28, 2020 — the date the first known death in Washington and the U.S. was announced. In a recent review of the state’s earliest COVID-19 deaths, three people who died before the initial announcement were from long-term care facility Life Care Center of Kirkland, the site of the first known U.S. coronavirus outbreak, The Seattle Times reported. (4/6)

A Shortfall Of ECMO Treatment Cost Lives During The Delta Surge 

Speaking from his hospital bed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, James Perkinson’s voice was raspy. In February, he’d just been taken off ECMO, the last-ditch life support treatment in which a machine outside the body does the work of the heart and lungs. Full recovery is expected to take a year or more for Perkinson. “If it wasn’t for the ECMO and the doctors that were put in place at the right time with the right knowledge, I would not be here,” he said, with his wife, Kacie, by his side. (Farmer, 4/7)

San Francisco Chronicle:
S.F. Health Officials Return Thousands Of Life-Saving COVID Drugs, Plead With Public To Use Them

San Francisco has returned thousands of doses of life-saving COVID-19 drugs to the state because the people who could have used them didn’t know the treatment was available, public health officials said Wednesday. Now city officials are sounding an urgent alert to let people know about the antiviral drugs, which must be taken within five days after the onset of COVID symptoms. Although physicians typically write prescriptions, many patients never let their doctors know they’ve tested positive for COVID, or tell them when it’s already too late to benefit from the pills. (Asimov, 4/6)

KS Sen. Mark Steffen Sends Letters To Physicians On COVID-19 

A Kansas physician-legislator who has acknowledged that he is under investigation by the state medical board after supporting the deworming drug ivermectin is instructing doctors on COVID-19 treatment in a letter. The Wichita Eagle reports that Kansas Sen. Mark Steffen sent a letter on official Senate stationery to health care providers telling them that the way COVID-19 patients are treated has changed and that they will be shielded from Board of Healing Arts “interference.” (4/6)

2 New Studies Give Insight Into Covid’s Path Of Destruction In The Body

One study, published in Nature, offers details into the cytokine storms that overwhelm some covid patients. Another study, published in the journal BMJ, suggests that being infected with covid raises your risk of developing serious blood clots.

Covid-19 Infections Can Set Off Massive Inflammation In The Body

From the early days of the pandemic, doctors noticed that in severe cases of Covid-19 — the ones that landed people in the hospital on ventilators with shredded lungs — most of the internal wreckage wasn’t being directly inflicted by the virus itself but by a blizzard of immune reactions triggered by the body to fight the infection. Researchers knew that these so-called cytokine storms were damaging, but they didn’t know why the SARS-CoV-2 virus seemed to be so good at setting them off. A new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature is helping to explain how these immune overreactions happen to Covid-19 patients. (Goodman, 4/6)

In other pandemic research —

C-Sections, Inductions Dropped During First Months Of COVID-19

Fewer in-person prenatal visits during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a 6.5% drop in premature caesarian sections (C-sections) and inductions, according to a new study in Pediatrics. The research was conducted by a team at Georgia Tech’s School of Economics. This is the first major study to examine pandemic-era birth data at scale, the authors say, and it raises questions about how and if some medical interventions may unnecessarily result in preterm deliveries. (4/6)

COVID-19 Sped Up Adoption Of New Clinical Guidelines

A survey of 52 US hospitals—mostly academic medical centers—shows the COVID-19 pandemic drastically sped up the rate at which clinicians adopted new clinical treatment guidelines, shortening the duration from years to months. The study was published yesterday in JAMA Network Open. (4/5)

Fox News:
COVID-19 Home Tests Have More Shelf-Life Than You Think: Report

Don’t throw away your home COVID-19 tests just because it says it’s expired, according to a recent New York Times report. Even though the test kits use similar technology to detect pieces of the viral proteins called antigens, their expiration dates may differ because of how they are regulated – not because of inherent differences in the tests themselves, said Dr. Michael Mina, an expert in home-test technology and chief science officer for eMed, a healthcare company that provides home test kits. (Sudhakar, 4/6)

The New York Times:
Do Home Covid Tests Expire? 

Depending on which home test you buy, or receive for free from the government, you might see a range of expiration windows. One test might expire in six months, another in nine months, 11 months or even 15 months. The tests all use similar technology to detect antigens (pieces of viral proteins) from a swab sample — so why do the expiration dates stamped on the boxes vary so widely? The answer has to do with the quirks of the regulatory process rather than any meaningful differences in the stability of the various tests, said Dr. Michael Mina, a well-known expert in home-test technology and chief science officer for eMed, a company that helps rapid test users get treatment from home. (Parker-Pope, 4/5)

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