COVID Convos #36

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Journal Club is to doctors what Book Club is to you normal people who lead interesting non-medical lives. Sure, journal club usually involves food and drink but instead of reading interesting fiction, we doctors “read” boring research papers. I put “read” in quotes because just like your book club, not everyone bothers to read the material but all attendees enjoy the food, drink, and camaraderie.

I don’t expect you to really read any of these research papers or news stories I’ve selected. But perhaps you’ll grab some cheese and crackers — or a refreshing beverage — and peruse my summaries? Next thing you know, you’ll be up to date on what’s happening not just in the COVID world but in schools, on the highway, and at Amazon.

The Study: Could Pollen be Driving COVID19?

TL;DR: In some areas COVID infections went up during pollen season.

Thoughts: Is this causation or association? Just because some scientists found that COVID counts were up when pollen was up doesn’t mean allergy season causes pandemics. In fact, other research has shown that infections decrease during allergy season. We still don’t know why some places have outbreaks and others don’t, but it’s probably not pollen’s fault.

The Study: CDC Misinterpreted Our Research On Opening Schools

TL;DR: Not so much a research article but rather an opinion piece that questions whether the CDC is using the best science related to opening schools.

Thoughts: The “6 foot rule” was designed in an era when we weren’t wearing masks. How many feet of space is required when we are wearing masks? If it is 3 feet, as these authors suggest, then we wouldn’t have to rearrange schools into these tiny cohorts. (Personally, I don’t trust kids to wear masks correctly, so maybe more space is better.)

The Study: Portland Parents Rally Around Opposing Views on School Reopening

TL;DR: Some parents want schools open because kids need/want to be back in school. Some parents want schools to stay closed because of safety and equity concerns.

Thoughts: We talked about this last week in CC, and then this article came out discussing both sides. Based on what I’m seeing in parent groups, 80% of parents want to reopen, 20% of parents want to stay closed, and the teacher’s union also wants to stay closed. Shame on KATU for not disclosing that the “stay closed parent” they interviewed, Yolanda McKinney, is also a teacher and union member. Nevertheless, Ms. McKinney makes a good point that opening right after spring break is a setup for exposures; PPS has now moved opening back 1 week to account for this.

The Study: Traffic Death Rate Higher During COVID

TL;DR: According to the NSC, total traffic fatalities were up 8%, despite a 13% decrease in miles driven.

Thoughts: When adjusted for miles driven, this is a shocking 24% increase in auto deaths. With fewer cars on the road, people are driving faster which results in higher mechanism wrecks. Said another way, traffic jams keep you slow and safe. Said yet another way, maybe I should thank the Prius going 39 mph in a 55 zone for keeping me safe from myself.

The Study: Assessment of Protection Against Reinfection

TL;DR: This study looked at a large cohort of the Danish population and found that reinfection with COVID was rare. Younger folks were better protected than the elderly.

Thoughts: Much like vaccinations, prior infection confers a large degree of protection against a secondary infection. Also similar to vaccines: the protection is better for the healthy and young rather than elderly. Neither infection nor immunization are perfect, which is why we are immunizing folks even if they already had the disease.

The Study: Recurrent COVID-19 Infections in a Brazilian Population

TL;DR: The authors document a series of COVID reinfections, showing that most were in health care workers, and that blood type A+ (followed by O+) were risk factors.

Thoughts: The previous study told us that reinfection is rare, but we know that patients can get reinfected. Being on the frontline of healthcare seems like an understandable risk factor. But what does A+ blood type have to do with it (42% of reinfections)? And how nervous should I be as a HCW with O+ (30% of reinfections)?

The Study: mRNA Vaccines Nationwide Data

TL;DR: In Israel, researchers looked at 596,618 people who got the vaccine vs. 596,618 people who didn’t. This research published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms that the vaccine really does work.

Thoughts: For those skeptical of Pfizer and Moderna’s initial smaller trials, this population study that included nearly 1.2 million people should be reassuring. 92% efficacy was achieved 1 week after the second dose of vaccine.

The Study: Amazon Care is going nationwide

TL;DR: Not a research paper but rather just a news story, but Amazon is expanding their healthcare offering to all 50 states

Thoughts: This has absolutely nothing to do with COVID, but you knew this was coming from Amazon, right? The real meat of this story is that Amazon Care isn’t going straight retail, they’re marketing to other businesses. So just like AWS is the backbone that runs much of the internet, AC is aiming to underpin employer’s healthcare offerings.

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