Coronavirus Briefing: Hocus pocus, face mask focus, fright vs. Fauci, science trumps superstition

This edition of Coronavirus Briefing is 1,436 words long and will take you seven minutes to read.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Watching this pandemic unfold, week after mind-bending week, is like watching a master illusionist, a Penn and Teller. You never know what’s coming next.

Penn and Teller have concocted haunted houses for Halloween Horror Nights at Universal theme parks in Orlando and Hollywood, but those events are canceled in this pandemic-spooked year.

You can talk about Frankenstein and Freddy Krueger all night long. Truth is, there’s nothing quite so frightful or phantasmagoric as a pandemic in full swing—8.7 million cases and 225,000 deaths (US); 43.6 million cases and 1.1 million deaths (planet Earth) as this week began. No illusions here; all too real.

As it happens, these last days of October also bring us National Magic Week, courtesy of the Society of American Magicians. Oh please: Can you make this virus disappear?

This edition of Coronavirus Briefing is 1,436 words long and will take you seven minutes to read.


The Wizards

We are relying on smart people and science to see us through this fraught experience.

  • The editors of PR Week and MM+M have unveiled the 2020 Health Influencer 50, their fifth annual list of healthcare industry heavyweights. The soon-to-be-80-year-old Anthony Fauci is a solid choice as valedictorian of this class, which includes communications professionals, cutting-edge clinicians and researchers, public officials—and, at #50, 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio, whose dance video encouraging young people to stay home and socially distance has been viewed 191 million times on TikTok. 
  • The pandemic has dramatically accelerated the pace of innovation in the healthcare industry in a way that is “going to change every single care pathway.” MM+M’s Ray Pelosi shares the research and insights of Fishawack Health.

The Takeaway:

Turning bad into good is the ultimate magic.


Antiviral drug remdesivir FDA approved for treatment of novel coronavirus covid-19
Source: Getty

The Potions

The race to develop vaccines and drugs for COVID-19 is the medical world’s version of pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

  • Remdesivir, the antiviral from Gilead Sciences, is the first drug to receive formal FDA approval as a treatment for COVID-19, reports Brian Park in MPR. It is indicated for patients 12 years and older who need acute hospital care.
  • Meanwhile, Park notes, 30,000 people are enrolled in the Phase 3 trial of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Saying they are “deeply troubled by the evident politicization” of the vaccine process, 3 unions representing 2 million health-care workers in the US say their members won’t give or receive a COVID-19 vaccine unless it is validated by independent third parties. Kimberly Bonvissuto provides details in McKnight’s Senior Living.
  • As it happens, an FDA advisory committee just held a day-long virtual meeting designed to reassure the public that any COVID-19 vaccine will be held to a high standard of safety and efficacy.
  • As for the critical question of when, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says all seniors, healthcare workers, and first responders could be vaccinated as soon as January, with the rest of the country following suit by April. Alicia Lasek of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News keeps us posted on the latest developments.

The Takeaway:

We love rabbits, truly—there’s one living upstairs in our daughter’s old bedroom—but a tip of the magician’s top hat goes to all the mice, monkeys, humans, and other animals who have turned themselves into guinea pigs for COVID-19 vaccine and medication trials, helping to make the world safer for all of us.


COVID-19 Testing
Source: Getty

The Commotion

Last Friday marked the first time that the single-day total of new coronavirus cases in the US topped 80,000. And then it happened again on Saturday. It’s not going away.

  • As if a pandemic itself were not enough to provide a daily serving of angst, folks in California, Oregon, Washington, and now Colorado have to worry that smoke from raging wildfires will heighten their risk of COVID-19. Job #1: staying the hell away from the fire itself.
  • If you have any lingering doubts about the frightful threats posed by COVID in combination with underlying conditions, check out Bill Kekevian’s report on COPD and Brandon May’s focus on diabetes, both in Pulmonology Advisor’s coverage of the CHEST 2020 conference.
  • High fatality rates (24% to 30%) are occurring in kidney transplant and dialysis patients who have COVID-19, Jody Charnow reports in Renal & Urology News.   
  • During a 3-month period of intense focus on the pandemic, up to half a million people worldwide may have missed out on routine risk assessment and treatment for osteoporosis. Alicia Lasek offers details in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.
  • People with an abnormally high RDW—that’s red cell distribution width, part of every Complete Blood Count—are at significantly higher risk of dying if hospitalized with COVID-19, Zahra Masoud reports in Infectious Disease Advisor.
  • Haymarket’s Clinical Content Hub offers helpful “rules of engagement” for ongoing treatment of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases in these disruptive pandemic times.
  • Employers need to support workers suffering from debilitating health problems, such as chronic fatigue and muscle pain, and help them cope with their conditions, whether related to “long” (ie, lingering) COVID or other illnesses, Sally Hemming writes in People Management.

The Takeaway:

Pre-existing conditions stack the deck against you. Don’t let the pandemic bamboozle your regular care.


coronavirus six feet
Source: Getty

The Motions

Abracadabra means, literally, “I will create as I speak.” You know, like the shape-shifting definitions of “close contacts.”

  • Old definition of close contact from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Spending more than 15 consecutive minutes within 6 feet of an infected person. New definition: spending more than 15 minutes, cumulatively, in a 24-hour period within a 6-foot distance.
  • The change in thinking came after a 20-year-old corrections officer in Vermont fell ill with COVID-19 a week after repeated intermittent contacts (a minute here, a minute there) with six asymptomatic prisoners on a day when their COVID-19 test results were pending. All tested positive.
  • As one epidemiologist explains, “there’s nothing magic about 6 feet” or 15 minutes—these are just rough estimates that remind us how easily the virus can be transmitted.  

The Takeaway:

Social distancing numbers should be easy to remember.


Spain to declare state of emergency, impose curfews
Source: Getty

Across the ocean

The latest surge in US cases is echoed overseas, with a few notable bright spots.

  • Spain, the first European country to total 1 million cases, just instituted a night-time curfew from 11 pm to 6 am.
  • Belgium, with the worst infection rate in western Europe, is bracing for a “tsunami of cases.”
  • In Germany, a number of cities have cancelled their traditional Christmas markets, including Frankfurt, which typically draws 2 million visitors.
  • Africa, on the other hand, has 17% of the world’s population but less than 4% of COVID-19 deaths.  How so? This continent-by-continent review offers pertinent public health lessons for the Western world.
  • Delta Airlines has put 460 people on its no-fly list for refusing to wear a mask. Previously, no-fly lists consisted mostly of known terrorists. A 7-hour flight to Ireland (airline not identified) has been linked to 59 cases of coronavirus infection.

The Takeaway:

The mounting coronavirus toll is a countdown clock in reverse: ticking and tocking away with no end yet in sight.


The rest

  • While nursing homes have captured headlines, 30% of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care have taken place in assisted living facilities, Kimberly Bonvissuto points out in McKnight’s Senior Living.  Also in MSL,

  • While nursing homes have captured headlines, 30% of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care have taken place in assisted living facilities, Kimberly Bonvissuto points out in McKnight’s Senior Living.  Also in MSL,

  • While nursing homes have captured headlines, 30% of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care have taken place in assisted living facilities, Kimberly Bonvissuto points out in McKnight’s Senior Living.  Also in MSL,

  • While nursing homes have captured headlines, 30% of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care have taken place in assisted living facilities, Kimberly Bonvissuto points out in McKnight’s Senior Living.  Also in MSL,

  • While nursing homes have captured headlines, 30% of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care have taken place in assisted living facilities, Kimberly Bonvissuto points out in McKnight’s Senior Living.  Also in MSL,


Stuff you can do …

  • Don’t forget that flu vaccine
  • … or that election ballot; 87% of registered voters are “extremely” or “very” motivated to cast their ballot this year.  
  • Go Bach to basics. Mixing science and politics might be a witch’s brew, but the combination of science and music can be positively enchanting.


… and some songs

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