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Category: COVID-19

Viruses on Motorcycles

By ANISH KOKA

The most recent fiction dressed up as science about COVID comes to us courtesy of a viral Washington Post article.  “How the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have spread coronavirus across the Upper Midwest” screams the headline.   The charge made is that “within weeks” of the gathering that drew nearly half a million visitors the Dakota’s and adjacent states are experiencing a surge of COVID cases.  

The Sturgis Rally happens to be a popular motorcycle rally held in Sturgis, South Dakota every August that created much consternation this year because it wasn’t cancelled even as the country was in the throes of a pandemic.  While some of the week long event is held outdoors, attendees filled bars and tattoo parlors,(and that too without masks!), much to the shock and chagrin of the virtuous members of society successfully able to navigate life via zoom, amazon prime, and ubereats.

This particular Washington Post article’s sole source of data comes from a non-profit tech organization called The Center For New Data that attempted to use cellphone data to attempt to track spread of the virus from the Sturgis rally.  Unfortunately, tracking viral spread using cellphone mobility data is about as hard as it seems.  The post article references only 11,000 people that were able to be tracked out of a total of almost 500,000 visitors, and isn’t able to assess mask wearing, or attempts at social distancing. How many bars are there to stuff into in Sturgis anyway?? And so it isn’t surprising that even in an article designed to please a certain politic, this particular sentence appears:

“But precisely how that outbreak unfolded remains shrouded in uncertainty.”

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Will Trump, Congressional Infections Boost Innovations For Covid-19 Survivors?

By MICHAEL MILLENSON

When powerful politicians confront a life-threatening diagnosis, it can change policy priorities. 

In addition to President Trump and a slew of top aides, five U.S. senators and 15 members of the House of Representatives have now tested positive or been presumed positive in tests for Covid-19 as of Oct. 5, according to a running tally by National Public Radio (NPR).

In that light, the recent burst of coronavirus infections could accelerate three significant innovations affecting every Covid-19 survivor.

1) Post-Covid Clinics

Even seemingly mild encounters with the coronavirus can trigger a cascade of lingering health consequences. While “there is no consensus definition of post-acute Covid-19,” noted an Oct. 5 JAMA commentary, symptoms that have been reported include joint pain, chest pain, fatigue, labored breathing and organ dysfunction “involving primarily the heart, lungs and brain.”

A survey by Survivor Corps, a patient support group, and the Indiana University School of Medicine found that Covid “long haulers” often suffer from “painful symptoms…that some physicians are unable or unwilling to help patients manage.” A similar survey by the Body Politic Covid-19 Support Group concluded that Covid long-haulers face “stigma and lack of understanding [that] compromise access to health care and quality of support.”  

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If I Can Be Safe Working as An ER Doctor Caring for COVID Patients, We Can Make Schools Safe for Children, Teachers, and Families

By AMY CHO

We need to stop arguing about whether schools should reopen and instead do the work to reopen schools safely. Community prevalence of COVID-19 infection helps to quantify risk, but reopening decisions should not be predicated on this alone. Instead of deciding reopening has failed when an infected student or teacher comes to school, we should judge efforts by our success in breaking transmission chains between those who come to school infected and those who don’t. We should judge our success by when we prevent another outbreak. We should pursue risk and harm reduction by layering interventions to make overall risk of transmission in schools negligible. This CAN be done, as healthcare workers all over the United States have shown us. Unlike politics, we should avoid thinking this is a binary choice between two polarized options. At the heart of these decisions about tradeoffs should be the assumption that the education of our children is an essential, public good.

I advocated for school closures in March. We had little understanding of the risks and transmission of COVID-19 and faced massive shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE). The closures were a blunt force instrument but bought precious time to learn and prepare. Pandemic control, by flattening the curve and buying time for discovery of more effective therapeutics, care and a vaccine, remains a critical tool to save lives. But COVID-19 will not be eradicated. We must come to terms with the reality that COVID-19 will circulate among us, likely indefinitely. Shutdowns slow spread but at a great cost, disproportionately paid by vulnerable groups including children, women, minorities, and those with the least financial resources. Getting children safely back to in-person school should be among our highest priorities.

Hospitals never considered closing. As healthcare workers, we cannot physically distance from patients. We watched in horror as hot spots like Bergamo suffered high nosocomial and staff infection rates as they were quickly overwhelmed. In response, we worked tirelessly and collaboratively to protect one another while continuing to provide care.

The good news is that we seem to have learned how to prevent in-hospital transmission of COVID-19. A recent study showed that at a large US academic medical center, after implementation of a comprehensive infection control policy, 697 of 9,149 admitted patients were diagnosed with COVID-19. But only TWO hospital-acquired patient infections were detected. COVID-19 is not “just the flu,” but it isn’t Ebola either. I no longer worry that I will become infected with COVID while working in my emergency department. It is not easy, comfortable nor cheap, but a bundle of universal masking and eye protection, appropriate PPE use, sanitation, improved room ventilation, and protective policies have proven effective at preventing in-hospital outbreaks. 

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Doctors Urge Caution in Interpretation of Research in Times of COVID-19

September 9, 2020

To:      

American College of Cardiology

American College of Chest Physicians

American College of Physicians

American College of Radiology

American Heart Association

American Society of Echocardiography

American Thoracic Society

European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging

European Society of Cardiology

European Society of Radiology

Heart Rhythm Society

Infectious Disease Society of America

North American Society of Cardiovascular Imaging

Radiologic Society of North America

Society of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance

Society of Critical Care Medicine

Society of General Internal Medicine

Society of Hospital Medicine


Dear Society Leadership:

We are a group of clinicians, researchers and imaging specialists writing in response to recent publications and media coverage about myocarditis after COVID-19. We work in different areas such as public health, internal medicine, cardiology, and radiology, across the globe, but are similarly concerned about the presentation, interpretation and media coverage of the role of cardiac magnetic resonance imaging in the management of asymptomatic patients recovered from COVID-19.

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Will COVID-19 Force The South To Finally Confront Structural Racism Within Their Medicaid Programs?

By MIKE MAGEE

If you would like to visit the meeting place of America’s two great contemporary pandemics –COVID-19 and structural racism – you need only visit America’s Nursing Homes.

This should come as no surprise to Medical Historians familiar with our Medicaid program. Prejudice and bias were baked in well before the signing of Medicaid and Medicare on July 30, 1965.

President Kennedy’s efforting on behalf of health coverage expansion met stiff resistance from the American Medical Association and Southern states in 1960. Part of their strategic pushback was the endorsement of a state-run and voluntary offering for the poor and disadvantaged called Kerr-Mills. Predictably, Southern states feigned support, and enrollment was largely non-existent. Only 3.3% of participants nationwide came from the 10-state Deep South “Black Belt.”

Based on this experience, when President Johnson resurrected health care as a “martyr’s cause” after the Kennedy assassination, he carefully built into Medicaid “comprehensive care and services to substantially all individuals who meet the plan’s eligibility standards” by 1977. But by 1972, after seven years of skirmishes, the provision disappeared.

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#COVID19 Symptom Data Challenge

By FARZAD MOSTASHARI & INDU SUBAIYA

Applications for the #COVID19 Symptom Data Challenge close in three weeks! 

Amidst #COVID19, using analytic approaches to maximize available information and data is paramount. Hosted by Margolis Center, sponsored by Facebook Data for Good (@academics), and in partnership with the Joint Program in Survey Methodology, Carnegie Mellon University, and ResolveToSaveLives, the Challenge seeks to analytic approaches that utilize COVID-19 symptom data to develop insights into the trajectory of the novel coronavirus. 

Have a solution? Finalists can win up to $50k and the winning analytic approach will be featured on Facebook’s (@academics) Data For Good website!

Much, much more information is on the Challenge Website. Apply by 11:59:59 pm ET on September 29!

Much more about the Challenge Background in this interview or in this slack channel.

Official rules are here

Farzad Mostashari is CEO of Aledade, former National Coordinator for Health Information technology, and former Deputy Commissioner at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Indu Subaiya is the President at Catalyst @ Health 2.0

A New Kind of Labor Day

By KIM BELLARD

This is probably the strangest Labor Day in decades, perhaps ever.   Tens of millions of workers remain unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many of those who are still working are adapting to working from home.  Those who are back at their workplace, or never left, are coping with an array of new safety protocols. 

Those who work in the right industries – like the NBA – may get tested regularly but most workers have to figure out for themselves when to quarantine and when to get tested.  For many workers, such as health care workers, people of color, and workers with underlying health issues, going to work is literally a life-or-death calculation. 

No wonder that experts, like Dr. David B. Agus, are calling for companies to have Chief Health Officers. 

Labor Day was originally intended to celebrate the labor movement, but these days labor unions don’t have much to celebrate.  Only around 10% of U.S. workers belong to a labor union; both the number and the percent of unionized workers has been in steady decline over the past few decades. 

Now Labor Day is mainly an extra day off for most, the unofficial end to summer, and, this year, possibly the springboard to a new surge in COVID-19 cases, due to holiday celebrations.  Dr. Anthony Fauci warned:

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The COVID-19 Symptom Data Challenge Webinar

By INDU SUBAIYA & FARZAD MOSTASHARI

Following the launch of the COVID-19 Symptom Data Challenge on September 1st, we are excited to host a dedicated webinar providing further insights into the Challenge directly from key leaders representing our partner organizations at Facebook Data for Good, the Delphi Group at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), the Joint Program on Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland (UMD), the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, and Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies.

A stellar line up of speakers includes a raft of former government officials Mark McClellan (FDA & CMA), Tom Frieden (CDC), Farzad Mostashari (ONC) and many more, including Johns Hopkins’ Professor Caitlin Rivers, Carnegie Mellon’s Alex Reinhart & Facebook’s Head of Health Kang-Xing Jin.

If you are applying to the Challenge or would like to hear more about experts’ responses to COVID-19 and the importance of data during the pandemic, you do not want to miss this conversation! 

  • We will be discussing the following
    • Shortcomings of the existing tools for COVID-19 surveillance in the US
    • The case for better situational awareness of COVID activity
    • Overview of Symptom Data survey methodology
    • Preliminary analyses relating symptom trends to COVID intensity
    • Goals and operation of the Symptom Data Challenge

Tune in on Tuesday, September 8th at 1-2pm ET!

Event Registration Link: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/6102626394063911951

Indu Subaiya is President of Catalyst @ Health 2.0. Farzad Mostashari is CEO of Aledade and Chair of the COVID-19 Symptom Data Challenge

Announcing The COVID-19 Symptom Data Challenge

By FARZAD MOSTASHARI

In Partnership with the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, Resolve to Save Lives, Carnegie Mellon University, and University of Maryland, Catalyst @ Health 2.0 is excited to announce the launch of The COVID-19 Symptom Data Challenge. The COVID-19 Symptom Data Challenge is looking for novel analytic approaches that use COVID-19 Symptom Survey data to enable earlier detection and improved situational awareness of the outbreak by public health and the public. 

How the Challenge Works:

In Phase I, innovators submit a white paper (“digital poster”) summarizing the approach, methods, analysis, findings, relevant figures and graphs of their analytic approach using Symptom Survey public data (see challenge submission criteria for more). Judges will evaluate the entries based on Validity, Scientific Rigor, Impact, and User Experience and award five semi-finalists $5,000 each. Semi-finalists will present their analytic approaches to a judging panel and three semi-finalists will be selected to advance to Phase II. The semi-finalists will develop a prototype (simulation or visualization) using their analytic approach and present their prototype at a virtual unveiling event. Judges will select a grand prize winner and the runner up (2nd place). The grand prize winner will be awarded $50,000 and the runner up will be awarded $25,000.The winning analytic design will be featured on the Facebook Data For Good website and the winning team will have the opportunity to participate in a discussion forum with representatives from public health agencies. 

Phase I applications for the challenge are due Tuesday, September 29th, 2020 11:59:59 PM ET.

Learn more about the COVID-19 Symptom Data Challenge HERE.

Challenge participants will leverage aggregated data from the COVID-19 symptom surveys conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Maryland, in partnership with Facebook Data for Good. Approaches can integrate publicly available anonymized datasets to validate and extend predictive utility of symptom data and should assess the impact of the integration of symptom data on identifying inflection points in state, local, or regional COVID outbreaks as well guiding individual and policy decision-making. 

These are the largest and most detailed surveys ever conducted during a public health emergency, with over 25M responses recorded to date, across 200+ countries and territories and 55+ languages. Challenge partners look forward to seeing participant’s proposed approaches leveraging this data, as well as welcome feedback on the data’s usefulness in modeling efforts. 

Indu Subaiya, co-founder of Catalyst @ Health 2.0 (“Catalyst”) met with Farzad Mostashari, Challenge Chair, to discuss the launch of the COVID-19 Symptom Data Challenge. Indu and Farzad walked through the movement around open data as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the challenge goals, partners, evaluation criteria, and prizes.

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Thriving in COVID Times

By KIM BELLARD

These are, no question, hard times, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  In the U.S., we’re closing in on 180,000 deaths in the U.S.  Some 40 million workers lost their jobs, and over 30 million are still receiving unemployment benefits.  Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of small businesses are believed to have closed, and many big companies are declaring bankruptcy.  Malls, retailers, and restaurants have been among the hardest hit. 

Yes, these are hard times.  But not for everyone. 

Last week Target announced what CNBC called a “monster quarter.”  Sales for online and stores open at least a year jumped 24% for the quarter ending August 1 – peak COVID-19 days – and profits were up an astonishing 80%.  Its CEO specifically referenced the pandemic, as shoppers sought safe and convenient shopping options.

It is not just Target doing well.  No one should be surprised that Amazon is doing well, as more turn to online shopping and Amazon’s quick delivery, but The Wall Street Journal reports that Bog Box stores generally are doing well, including not just Target but also Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco, and Best Buy.  The efforts they were taking to compete with Amazon, such as increased online sales and curbside pickup, served to help them survive the pandemic’s effects. 

Similarly, if you’re a streaming service like Netflix or Disney+, the pandemic has been great for business.  Video conferencing services like Zoom are booming.  Car dealers are struggling, but not online car sales

And, of course, if you’re a cloud computing service supporting all these shifts to online, the world has become even more dependent on you.  “Many customers are scaling beyond their wildest projections,” Carrie Thorp of Google Cloud told WSJ

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