Coronavirus Briefing: A pie in the face, a matter of trust, a chance to come together

This week’s Coronavirus Briefing is 1,488 words and will take you six minutes to read.

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

As we counted our Thanksgiving blessings, other counts were proceeding—ever-increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths and ever-decreasing numbers of hospital beds available to absorb what Dr. Anthony Fauci calls a possible “surge upon a surge” in coming weeks. The number hospitalized in the United States soared to more than 100,000 on December 2, a record and a quantum leap over the 60,000 of spring and summer.

As we noted in yesterday’s Special Edition of the Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing, vaccines represent a “cavalry,” in Dr. Fauci’s words, that can help lift us out of our despair. The cavalry may be coming, but who’ll ride the horse?

This week’s Coronavirus Briefing is 1,488 words and will take you six minutes to read.

Reality check #1

Where are we, exactly, on this long, strange journey? Taking stock at the end of the year, wondering and worrying what comes next.

The takeaway: The winter will test our resolve and our mettle. The darkest hour is just before dawn.

Source: Getty Images

Reality check #2

The pandemic has forced us to rethink how we do just about everything—work, go to school, conduct business, provide healthcare, communicate. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • The pandemic has revealed “the fragility of nursing homes’ business model and our underinvestment in high-quality long-term care,” notes David Grabowski, a Harvard professor of health policy. Another long-term care expert puts it more bluntly: The pandemic has been a “pie in our face,” forcing the industry to take a hard look in the mirror. Liza Berger of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News and Lois A. Bowers of McKnight’s Senior Living offer details and insights.
  • Meanwhile, 700 workers at 11 nursing homes in Illinois went on strike the Monday before Thanksgiving, seeking a $2-an-hour increase plus COVID hazard pay, Danielle Brown notes in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.
  • A bit of welcome news for the long-term care community: Staff and residents of LTC facilities are included in the recommended first priority group to receive COVID-19 vaccine, Kimberly Bonvisutto, Danielle Brown and Alicia Lasek report in McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. Also in the first priority group: all healthcare personnel, paid or unpaid, who work in settings where they have potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.
  • One in five employers in the UK are using or plan to use software to monitor employees working remotely, Jonathan Owen reports in People Management, “despite evidence that employees are now more engaged and loyal compared to the start of the pandemic.”
  • Clear-eyed communication is key to guiding us through the ups and downs of pandemic life. MM+M ‘s Larry Dobrow unpacks how Prevention magazine has handled its coverage by “choosing to err on the side of cautious, sober-minded reporting” and countering “alarmist and often erroneous reports that flourished on social media.” It’s called responsible journalism, folks.
  • Francesco Rocca, president of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, says that “to beat COVID-19, we also need to defeat the parallel pandemic of mistrust that has consistently hindered our collective response to this disease, and that could undermine our shared ability to vaccinate against it.” 

The takeaway: Learn as we go. Make course corrections. Find our way. Pull us through.

Source: Getty Images

Steps forward along the pathway

Vaccines might be in the vanguard but they only represent one flank of the much-anticipated COVID cavalry.

  • An antibody cocktail from Regeneron for treating mild to moderate COVID-19 has received emergency use authorization. MPR’s Diana Ernst notes that the IV infusion mixing casirivimab and imdevimab should be given as soon as possible after a positive test and within 10 days of symptom onset.
  • Baricitinib, an oral Janus kinase inhibitor approved for treating rheumatoid arthritis, may reduce inflammation and improve outcomes in severe cases of COVID-19, Amit Akirov reports in Rheumatology Advisor. The FDA last month approved emergency use of baricitinib in combination with remdesivir for hospitalized COVID-19 patients needing supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation.
  • The FDA is also fast-tracking its review of a tissue factor inhibitor from ARCA biopharma, previously studied for treatment of thrombosis. This could help address the potentially lethal clotting problems that arise in COVID-19, Brian Park notes in MPR.
  • An investigational cancer immunotherapy, CPI-006, may also be effective in treating COVID-19. Cancer Therapy Advisor’s Andrea S. Blevins Primeau notes that early results are promising and Phase 3 trials are planned.
  • Without fanfare, good works abound. Third Sector’s Emily Burt describes how the nonprofit UK-Med has reached out a humanitarian hand across Africa and Asia to aid in pandemic relief. The organization also helped local healthcare workers cope with a spike in COVID-19 cases following the massive industrial explosion in Beirut.

The takeaway: Add to the list of frontline heroes the researchers who have pulled out all the stops to develop new drugs or repurpose existing ones to do battle against the virus. And let’s not forget the relief workers who quietly perform acts of kindness and love.

The rest

  • Taiwan, with a population of more than 23 million, has had less than 700 cases of COVID-19 and just seven deaths. How did that happen?
  • The Onion: “Nation Can’t Believe They Spent So Long Overlooking Obvious Solution Of mRNA Instructions For Spike Protein Encapsulated In Lipid Nanoparticle.” 
  • The CDC has published a suggested framework for a “phased resumption” of cruise ship activity. Seriously?
  • One cruise line that never stopped operating is the U.S. Navy. An outbreak of COVID-19 on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt infected more than 25% of the crew of nearly 4,800. Nearly half of those testing positive never had symptoms; in all, 23 were hospitalized, four needed intensive care and one died. Transmission was sped by the large number of asymptomatic and presymptomatic sailors—and by close quarters.
  • Autocar’s Andrew Frankel explains why “your first post-lockdown drive should be a track day.” As he notes, driving a performance car around a track “is one sport you can pursue while guarding very effectively against the risk of coronavirus transmission.”
  • Bloomberg Businessweek explores why “America Just Can’t Get Enough Lysol.

Stuff you can do

…and some songs

Memories, Maroon 5; here’s to the ones that we lost on the way

Put On Your Mask, Gloria Estefan (to the tune of “Get On Your Feet”)

Do What You Can, Jon Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles (Pandemic Anthem)

Come Together, Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins presents a heavenly host of gospel singers

Take care and be safe, good people. We’ll see you back here next Wednesday with another edition of the Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing.

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