learn about COVID-19, its impact, and what you can do about it.
Optimistic results were reported from initial findings of Pfizer’s phase III clinical trial on November 9th as well as Moderna’s phase III 30,000 person clinical trial. Pfizer is a company based in New York City that co-developed this vaccine along with a company in Germany called BioNTech. Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccine are a mRNA vaccine, and Pfizer’s would be taken in two doses. They are currently running the vaccine through the last phase of human testing. The interim results from these trials provide hope that an effective prevention of COVID-19 is on the horizon. So what exactly are these vaccines?
This vaccine is based on mRNA, a form of genetic information, and teaches the immune system to recognize the Sars-CoV-2 virus. When this specific mRNA sequence is inserted into the immune system, spike proteins are produced causing an immune response. By causing an immune response, when the immune cells are facing the SARS-CoV-2 virus molecules they will be able to defend against the virus more effectively.
Beginning in mid-March of 2020, the Pfizer clinical trial for the COVID-19 vaccine reached Phase 3 in mid-July, and recent data has revealed that the vaccine is 90% effective. The Moderna clinical trial, which began phase 3 around the same time as Pfizer, has also revealed the results of their trial so far. Their vaccine has been shown to be 94.5% effective. Clinical trials, which can take up to 10 years, are series of medical tests that help determine the effectiveness of a drug in question involving large groups of people. Clinical trials are made up of three total phases, and each successive phase involves an increasing number of test subjects. Before COVID-19 vaccine trials began, scientists quickly developed vaccine candidates that were ready to be tested with the help of previous research knowledge on ebola and vaccines other pathogens. In each phase of the trial, around half of the participants receive the actual vaccine and the remainder receive a placebo. Phase I of most clinical trials involves a group of less than 100 healthy adults, and lasts several months to a year. However, with the issue of Operation Warp Speed, phases I and II were combined in COVID-19 trials to save time, and scientists started working with over 1,000 individuals. This phase I/II, which began around the end of May for both Moderna and Pfizer, focused on finding the correct dosage and observing symptoms and side effects. When phase 3 began for both companies, they began to involve tens of thousands of volunteers around the US and Europe. Usually lasting years, phase 3 of COVID-19 clinical trials lasted short of 3 months, leaving many questioning the longer-term safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
Like many other vaccines, the Pfizer vaccine includes some minor side effects that patient Glenn Deshields describes in a “Fox and Friends” interview. Deshields is one of the 43,000 volunteers who received Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. He received two injections to complete the vaccination experiment and developed antibodies to the virus just after the second injection. After the first injection, Deshields states that he had headaches, fatigue, and pain around the injection location. After the second injection, the side effects were not as severe and over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil quickly diminished these symptoms. After developing the antibodies and representing a fairly successful experiment, Deshields urges the public to receive the vaccine. He recognizes that although there are some side effects, he has not contracted the coronavirus and that is what is most important.
The Pfizer vaccine is an mRNA based vaccine. It is referred to as the BNT162b2 vaccine to researchers and scientists. This vaccine utilizes a specific mRNA for the spike proteins that cover the virus. By thorough research from scientists, they were able to find the exact mRNA that codes for the spike proteins. When this mRNA is injected into the body, human cells evaluate this mRNA and create spike proteins. Most importantly, there are only spike proteins created, no other COVID-19 virus particles. Human cells don’t normally create spike proteins so when the mRNA is introduced to the system, the immune system springs into action and annihilates the spike proteins. The immune system creates antibodies against these spike proteins, so if the real COVID-19 was to enter the body, the antibodies could quickly remove the virus. This mRNA vaccine has to be stored in a -80 degree Celsius freezer. In addition, each person who wishes to be vaccinated must take two doses, leading to many issues.
The first clinical trial to test the safety and effectiveness of Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine tested 45 people, all of whom received two doses of the vaccine between March and April. The second dose was given 28 days after the first, different people getting different amounts of the vaccine. All participants exhibited anti–SARS-CoV-2 immune responses and no trial-limiting safety concerns were identified. Some participants after receiving the second vaccination experienced adverse side effects, such as fatigue, chills, headache, myalgia, and pain at the injection site. These adverse events occurred more in the participants with higher doses, although the antibody responses were also higher.
Additionally, CanSino Biologics, a Biotech company based in Shanghai, China, is currently in phase 1 Clinical Trial. Along with Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, they have developed a recombinant novel coronavirus vaccine which is an adenovirus type 5 vector (Ad5-nCov). Preclinical animal studies show that this vaccine candidate induces successful immune system responses in these animals.
After FDA approval, Pfizer is working to get the first doses available by December.(for emergencies), although the safety portion of trials will go on for another 2 years
“The Moderna vaccine reduced the risk of COVID-19 infection by 94.5%. There were 95 cases of infection among patients in the company’s 30,000-patient study. Only five of them occurred in patients who developed COVID-19 after receiving Moderna’s vaccine, mRNA-1273.”
The United States has a 1.525 billion dollar contract with Moderna given through Operation Warp Speed in order to provide the United States with 100 million doses of the vaccine.
According to the Los Angeles Times, state and federal health officials have largely agreed that frontline healthcare workers who are in contact with COVID-19 patients daily should have accessibility to the vaccinated first. There is also an opinion that nursing home residents and the elderly at other long-term care facilities should be targeted in the initial immunization push. This is due to a majority of COVID-19 deaths being people 85 years of age or older.
Written by Jennifer D, Sarah W, Lian H, Daniel S, Soultana T, and Jake M
Viral Life Cycle
There are 8 main stages that a standard virus goes through. Depending on what type of virus it is (DNA, RNA, retro, etc.), some steps may take place differently. The steps discussed are representative of the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Once in proximity of host cells, the virus can commence the first phase: attachment. Surface proteins on the virus (spike proteins) bind to other surface proteins on the membrane of the host cell (See Section 2.). Understanding this initial phase of the life cycle is crucial when developing vaccines as it is the easiest phase to interfere.
Once bound to the host cell, the virus undergoes penetration. During this phase, the viral contents are released from the virus into the host cell. This can happen in one of two ways: Receptor Mediated Endocytosis or Direct Membrane Fusion. The former occurs when a sub-vesicle is created from membrane material surrounding the contents as it flows to its destination. The latter occurs when the membrane of the virus and that of the host cell fuse into one and the contents are transported through coated vesicles.
When the virion particle is in the infected cell, uncoating and targeting occur. The contents (mRNA, DNA, etc) are released from the sort of vesicle that it traveled in and are delivered to their end location; mRNA gets released in the cytoplasm to be translated to proteins and DNA gets delivered to the nucleus.
Subsequently, gene expression along with genome replication occurs. In the case of RNA viruses, like SARS-CoV-2, gene expression occurs in the cytoplasm through the natural ribosomes. Later, the replication of the genome is performed ready to be reformed into new viruses.
Finally, viral assembly and release is the last step. The replicated viral contents are reassembled into new virion particles, transported outbond of the cell in vesicles, and released from the host to infect other cells.
The angiotensin converting enzyme’s (ACE) principle function is to convert a molecule called angiotensin, a molecule essential to regulating blood pressure, from its angiotensin II form to its angiotensin 1-7 form. Angiotensin II promotes high blood pressure while angiotensin 1-7 lowers it. For this reason, it’s existence and functionality in organs like the heart, kidney, lungs, and other arteries is essential to cardiovascular homeostasis. The gene that codes this protein (ACE2) is located on chromosome X, read on the negative strange, and has a genomic location of ~ 15,576,221 - 15,602,966. The protein is known to interact with nine other proteins, one of which is the Spike protein on SARS-CoV/SARS-CoV-2. In terms of these viruses, there are three positions (peptides 30-41, 82-84, and 353-357) in which they physically interact. See red sections in image.
The Spike protein has a receptor binding domain on the tip of it which is able to bind to the three positions listed above. When this occurs, the virus is granted access into the cell. Because of its vital role in maintaining proper cardiovascular function, ACE2 itself should not be blocked to inhibit coronavirus infection, rather the spike protein. Since research about the novel virus is very time sensitive, it is important that research is done on the ACE2 protein to understand how the Spike protein infects cells to learn how to stop it.
There are two other forms of the ACE2 protein: testis-specific (tACE) and Drosophila homolog (AnCE) which have 43% and 35% identities and 61% and 55% similarities to ACE2. For background, a certain percent of identity quantifies how much of two sequences (DNA or peptide) are exactly the same and percent of similarity quantifies how much of two sequences are the same or share very similar characteristics with one another; these numbers are calculated through a computational method called dynamic programming. Researchers were able to study the similarities between the three proteins to create a more accurate representation of ACE2 itself.
A main difference between SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 are small differences in the Spike protein. The two spike proteins are very similar to one another but one main difference is in the RBD where a Valine amino acid turned into a Lysine amino acid which significantly strengthens the binding between the two proteins.
TMPRSS2 is the shorthand for transmembrane serine protease 2. It is also called serine protease 10. It is a protein on the surface of the cell membrane with 492 amino acids. Most of these amino acids are used in the extracellular part of the protein. The TMPRSS2 gene encodes a protein in the serine protease family. The main parts of the TMPRSS2 protein are its protease domain, a type II transmembrane domain, a receptor class A domain, and a scavenger receptor cysteine-rich domain. The protease domain is the spot on the protein that allows it to cleave other proteins, the type II transmembrane domain is the anchor on the cell membrane, the receptor class A domain has a promoting effect on zymogen activation (inactive precursors to enzymes) while also having a role in immunosuppression, and the scavenger receptor cysteine-rich domain subserves innate immune defense functions (among other homeostatic functions). Its principle function is assisting in the normal function of the prostate, yet there is still much to learn about the protein’s distinct functions. When induced by androgens, it can lead to the activation of several substrates that can lead to the spread of prostate cancer cells to other parts of the body. The protein’s involvement in the virus life cycle revolves around cleaving the spike proteins (S proteins) of several coronaviruses, most notably the SARS-CoV-1 and the SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks which started in 2003 and 2019, respectively.
By inhibiting TMPRSS2 proteins using the clinically proven compound camostat mesylate, researchers have been able to prevent SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 from entering the tested cells. However, this treatment was not 100% effective, and was in fact more effective on SARS-CoV-1 than SARS-CoV-2. However, since there are not many known functions of TMPRSS2 (other than the ones mentioned in this report) inhibiting it is a possible avenue for preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) is the newest coronavirus to impact humans. It first appeared in the Wuhan District of China in December, 2019, and has since spread globally, causing a global pandemic. While it is not the first coronavirus outbreak of the 21st century, it is the most deadly and widespread, having caused over 100,000 deaths in the United States alone as of the time of writing.
SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 have very similar methods of infection. SARS-CoV-1 has been shown to utilise several proteins to enter the cell. These include, but are not limited to, ACE2, TMPRSS2, and CAT L/B proteins. The SARS-CoV-1 spike protein (S protein) binds to the ACE2 protein, while the TMPRSS2 and CAT L/B proteins cleave the S protein into two parts, the S1/S2 part and the S2’ part. Since the TMPRSS2 and the CAT L/B proteins perform similar functions in the case of viral transmission, studies were conducted to determine which protein was more necessary for the cleavage of the S protein. These studies showed that while inhibiting the CAT L/B proteins would sometimes stop the viral transmission of the SARS-CoV-1 virus, the virus would still usually enter the cell. It was only after they inhibited TMPRSS2 that SARS-CoV-1 stopped entering the cells. This yielded almost foolproof results.
SARS-CoV-2 shares very similar traits to SARS-CoV-1 in this case, as its virality has been shown to be caused by its S protein. Similarly to SARS-CoV-1’s S protein, it interacts with the ACE2 and TMPRSS2 proteins in order to enter the cell. TMPRSS2 cleaves the S protein into two parts, the S1/S2 part and the S2’. ACE2 binds to the S protein, granting the virus entry into the cell. Alongside this, scientists have noted the apparent interaction between CAT L/B proteins and the SARS-CoV-2 S protein, yet there is still not enough research surrounding it to make many distinct conclusions.
To initially determine whether or not SARS-CoV-2 would bind to the ACE2 protein, the receptor bonding domains of SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 were compared, alongside other coronaviruses that were found in bats. Some of these viruses were known to attach to ACE2, like SARS-CoV-1, while others were known to use other proteins to enter into the cell. After comparing the RBD of SARS-CoV-2 to the others, it was determined through use of an identity matrix and set gap penalties that the SARS-CoV-2 RBD was highly similar to the RBD of SARS-CoV-1 and other coronaviruses that made use of ACE2, while it was dissimilar from those that did not use ACE2.
Another similarity between the two coronaviruses is the placement of the disulfide bonds in each of the S proteins. Not only do both coronavirus S proteins have six disulfide bonds, but they are in very similar locations.
Finally, antibodies from SARS-CoV-1 have been shown to be effective against SARS-CoV-2. However, these antibodies are not necessarily applicable to many situations, as they only last in the body for around two months, and considering how long ago the SARS-CoV-1 outbreak was, very few people are likely to have them naturally. However, they could be gathered through lab work. The bigger issue is that while they do assist with blocking the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the antibodies are not foolproof, and they will not completely stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
In conclusion, SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 are very similar, with very similar cellular entry functions and methods and a similar spike protein. However, the differences between them do mean that treatments and therapies that worked before will often not work nearly as well on SARS-CoV-2 as they did on SARS-CoV-1.
Written by Jonathan F & Oliver T
One of the major challenges that face defeating COVID-19 is that being a novel coronavirus (meaning it is a strain that has not been identified in humans before) there is yet to be any vaccine against COVID-19. Time is of the essence with hundreds of research teams across the globe searching for a virus. With the necessity of a vaccine to return to ‘normal,’ what would normally be a 10-year process must be significantly shortened. Currently (as of August 17, 2020), 138 vaccines are in the pre-clinical stage (have not been tested in humans), 25 are in phase one trials (smallest human trials testing safety), 15 are in phase two trials (slightly larger trials focusing on the efficacy of the vaccine), 7 are in phase three trials (largest trials studying safety, efficacy, and dosing) with none approved yet.
One vaccine currently in phase III of testing was made by Moderna, Inc., a company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their vaccine is known as mRNA-1273. Moderna moved quickly; just two days after the Chinese authorities shared the Sars-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) genetic sequence, Moderna and the NIH finalized mRNA-1273’s genetic sequencing and started preparations for manufacturing the vaccine (Moderna).
First, scientists isolated the sequence in the Sars-CoV-2 sequence that coded for the spike protein (a protein on the surface of Sars-CoV-2 which binds to human cell receptors). By binding to a receptor, the virus’ membrane fuses with the membrane of the human cell and the virus is able to enter it. Due to the crucial role that the spike protein plays in causing coronavirus, it has been identified as a possible vaccine candidate.
Scientists then encoded the genetic code containing the instructions to produce the spike protein in an mRNA (messenger RNA) molecule. This mRNA could be used as a vaccine. The mRNA molecule can be injected like a flu vaccine. Once injected, the mRNA is taken to immune cells in the lymph nodes. Cells receive the instructions to code for the spike protein, simulating exposure to the coronavirus. Immune cells exposed the virus would learn how to gain immunity and protect the body against COVID-19 (active acquired immunity). Therefore, should the body contract COVID-19, the immune cells would know how to fight it off due to the immune response generated from the vaccine.
Phase one of testing began on March 16 after FDA approval on March 4 (Moderna). On March 23 Moderna announced that their vaccine could be used in emergencies starting the fall of 2020, even though the official vaccine would not be released for another probable 12-18 months. On May 12, Moderna received an FDA Fast Track designation which increases communication with the FDA and speeds up the testing process so that a vaccine can be produced more quickly. Moderna announced positive interim data from Phase 1 trials on May 18, and shortly after on May 29 phase two began. Phase III of trials began on Jul 27 in partnership with the NIH and BARDA. These trials are occurring in 89 sites across the United States, 24 of which are part of the CoVPN (INIH Coronavirus Prevention Network) (Moderna). Half of the participants will receive two 100 microgram injections of the vaccine, while the other half will receive two injections of a saline placebo. The two injections will be given 28 days apart. This trial is a double-blind trial, the gold standard for research meaning that both researchers and patients do not know which participants are receiving the vaccine, thus eliminating potential bias.
While this virus is still in clinical trials, the results thus far are promising and the US government has purchased 100 million doses of the vaccine. Hopefully this virus will continue to show its efficacy and safety in phase III, so it will be available to the public soon.
Written by Jennifer Do-Dai
“Fast Track.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/patients/fast-track-breakthrough-therapy-accelerated-approval-priority-review/fast-track.
Kommenda, Niko, and Frank Hulley-Jones. “COVID Vaccine Tracker: When Will We Have a Coronavirus Vaccine?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 17 Aug. 2020, www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2020/aug/17/covid-vaccine-tracker-when-will-we-have-a-coronavirus-vaccine.
“Moderna's Work on a COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate.” Moderna, Inc., 2020, www.modernatx.com/modernas-work-potential-vaccine-against-covid-19.
I’m sure a lot of you are returning to school right now, perhaps before you’re comfortable doing so; I know that’s certainly the case for me. My school gave us the option to go online, but to speak candidly, it was a really bad option run through a really bad homeschool program. So, like 87% of the people in my district, I chose to go to school in person. Surely they’ll have us start remote with the number of cases in my county, right? Wrong. The cases per capita is less than 1 in 100, almost all the other school districts in my county are starting remote, yet here we are in person. Granted, they split the school into mornings and afternoons, but it’s still really scary stuff. If you’re in a similar boat, hopefully this post will help you!
The most important thing might seem pretty obvious: wear your mask! Wearing it can protect you, but it mostly protects other people (including your teachers who have to be there to keep their jobs!). If your classmates aren’t wearing theirs, or wearing theirs incorrectly, nicely remind them (that means keep the mask over the mouth and nose). It might seem scary at first, but at the end of the day, it’s more important to keep yourself (and others) safe than to have one person be annoyed because you asked them to wear their mask correctly. Furthermore, many states have mandatory mask mandates, which means your classmates may be required to (check if your state does at https://masks4all.co/what-states-require-masks/ ).
The other important thing is to keep a six-foot distance; this means in classrooms, hallways, bathrooms, anywhere! If someone is getting too close to you, either kindly remind them to distance or just move away. If you feel too crowded in a class, consider asking your teacher to sit somewhere else or to move the desks so they’re more spaced out.
The next piece might also seem pretty obvious: wash your hands! Wash your hands (with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds), or use hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available (with at least 60% alcohol), often and always before you touch your face or eat. When I get home from school, I take a shower and change clothes so I’m not worried about touching other things for the rest of the day.
Similar to the latter, clean surfaces often! Clean countertops, doorknobs, etc. in your house (especially after you entered from school and your family members entered from work). It’s also important to clean phones, laptops, tablets, calculators, etc. I also try not to use the same pencils/pens at home as I do at school; even though you should still wipe down these no matter what, it decreases the risk of cross-contamination.
Make smart decisions about the activities you participate in. Even if your state is allowing sports to go on, the truth is it’s not a good idea right now (especially contact sports like football). If you’re in a club, make sure you’re following social distancing guidelines at meetings. Follow social distancing guidelines if you’re hanging out with your friends (maybe it’s not the best idea to right now anyways); make sure social distancing doesn’t stop as soon as you leave the school building.
Last but certainly not least, isolate if you need to. If you feel sick at all, stay home. If you know you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms, stay home. If one of your family members is feeling sick, stay home. Take your temperature before going to school! At the end of the day, you’re better safe than sorry; cautiousness is how we’ll get through this together. Remember: your actions affect everyone you’re around.
Written by Clara Leach
As we all know, COVID-19 has not only impacted our schools, jobs, and traveling abilities, it has also impacted our social lives. Not interacting with other people for extended periods can be difficult in terms of mental health, but luckily, there are many ways to fraternize with friends while remaining safe. Let's start with some low-risk activities that you can enjoy with your companions.
Now that you have some ideas for fun and safe activities to participate in, here are some that you should avoid:
Written by Lucy Snow
Hokkaido, una isla Japonés, terminaron su cierre de emergencias que duró tres semanas demasiado temprano después que vieron una estabilización en el medio de marzo. Lo que pasó después de eso fue una catástrofe. En el primer día que estaban abiertos otra vez, llegaron a un máximo de casos nuevos. Un mes después que abrieron había un aumento de 80% en casos nuevos. Ahora Hokkaido va tener que estar en un cierre de emergencias por aún más tiempo del que habrían tenido que tener antes, condenando muchos negocios pequeños.
Comenzando el 24 de Abril el estado de Georgia ha estado en el proceso de reabrir. Ellos, como la pequeña isla japonesa, han estado viendo un aumento de casos bastante grande. Antes el estado estaba reportando unos 200 a 700 casos nuevos por día. En solo 24 horas, más de 1,000 nuevos casos fueron reportados. En el 1 de Mayo tuvieron 1,232 casos nuevos.
El gobierno de los Estados Unidos están dejando a estados abrir cuando ellos sienten que está seguro. Este sistema dividido causa problemas: por ejemplo, personas están cruzando a diferentes estados para recibir servicios cómo cortes de pelo. Para poder reabrir y parar COVID-19 lo más pronto posible nuestro país necesita presentarse unido porque nuestro país es una masa de tierra, no islas separadas cómo Japón.
La administración de Trump ha anunciado fases que describen cómo debemos reabrir el país pero no hay nada diciendo que es obligatorio. Muchos estados si van a seguir estas sugerencias, algunos estados no los van a seguir y van a causar una segunda ola que pone a todo el país en peligro.
Una segunda ola puede parar nuestra economía aún más y hacer reabriendo en el otoño cuando escuelas por todo el país están planeando reabrir mucho más difícil. Las personas ya están teniendo dificultades poniendo comida en sus mesas, pagando deuda o manteniendo sus negocios. Los líderes de nuestros países tienen que tener cuidado y usar el precedente de otros países que están reabriendo.
Translated by Cecilia Friedman
Original Post: https://www.covid19atf.org/blog/reopening-our-country
Muchas organizaciones de noticias han estado notando un nuevo efecto de COVID-19 possible exclusivamente en niños: nuevo síndrome inflamatorio con síntomas gastrointestinales e inflamación del corazón.
Hasta este punto, nuestro conocimiento de este nuevo síndrome es muy poco porque no es muy común en niños. De los casos que hemos visto, el Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health crearon una definición del caso de esta enfermedad misteriosa que ha sido adoptada por Heart Council del AHA y otras organizaciones. Para tener esta enfermedad tienes que tener una fiebre persistente, niveles elevados de CRP (conteo de glóbulos blancos), y evidencia de disfunción de múltiples órganos. Esta definición del caso excluye a las personas con síntomas causadas por otros microbianos. Teniendo una prueba positiva de COVID-19 no es necesario para una diagnosis aún que hay sospecha que tiene relación a COVID-19 porque los síntomas normalmente se presentan días o semanas después entonces los niños no tendrán una prueba positiva para la virus sin un examen de anticuerpos.
Cuando comparamos estas simptomas nuevas a los que hemos visto en adultos hay algunas semejanzas con efectos de larga plaza. Por ejemplo, un estudio en Wuhan vio que 27% de los pacientes de COVID-19 tuvieron insuficiencia renal. Otro estudio en Wuhan vio que 20% de todos los pacientes tuvieron alguna forma de daño al corazón mientras 44% de los pacientes en el UCI tuvieron daño al corazón. Adicionalmente algunas personas con COVID-19 reportaron síntomas gastrointestinales. Ninguno de estos estudios encontró una conexión directa entre las síntomas que están estudiando y COVID-19 los porcentajes enseñan una correlación.
COVID-19 daña más que solo los pulmones: el corazón y los riñones también pueden estar afectados, y algunas personas pueden tener síntomas gastrointestinales. Combinados, estos estudios de las síntomas menos comunes y los efectos de larga plaza de COVID-19 señalan a una correlación entre el aumento de casos del nuevo síndrome inflamatoria en niños y la pandemia del presente.
Translated by Cecilia Friedman
Original Post: https://www.covid19atf.org/blog/novel-inflammatory-syndrome-in-children-possible-link-to-covid-19
La información falsa es peligrosa porque fomenta miedo y ansiedad en el público. Es nuestra misión fomentar el conocimiento de la situación presente y disponer recursos para los que lo necesitan más. Nosotros somos un grupo de adolescentes motivados, que tienen una pasión por la ciencia y una dedicación a educar a gente sobre COVID-19 y ayudando a los que necesitan ayuda.
COVID-19 es una enfermedad causada por el virus SARS-CoV-2, o SRAS-CoV-2 en español, que significa, el Síndrome Respiratorio Agudo Severo (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome en inglés). COVID-19 es un virus nuevo, entonces creando una vacuna para crear inmunidad es territorio desconocido. A los científicos todavía les queda mucha investigación en una vacuna. Un poco que sí conocemos es que hay tres antígenos (básicamente moléculas tóxicas que causan una respuesta inmunológica): la proteína de pico, la proteína de membrana, y la proteína nucleocápside. Estos antígenos se unen a una proteína receptora llamada ACE 2 en células humanas. Después el virus usa la información escrita en su materia genética para reproducirse. Las copias de este virus infectan otras células llevando el virus por todo el cuerpo.
Mientras los científicos intentan encontrar y experimentar una vacuna efectiva, es nuestro trabajo cómo una sociedad tomar precauciones para minimizar el virus pasando a más personas haciendo cosas cómo el distanciamiento social y poniendo máscaras cuando estamos afuera. También tenemos que ayudarnos uno al otro lo más que podemos porque es un tiempo difícil para todos.
Cómo un grupo hemos creado diferentes iniciativas para hacer nuestra parte. Algunos de nuestros proyectos incluyen: crear recursos educacionales para ayudar estudiantes de la escuela primaria e intermedia y ofrecer tutoría entre iguales, informar al público sobre temas de salud mental que gente tiene especialmente los que están causados por la situación del presente, además de producir y distribuir máscaras para los que no tienen acceso.
Para poder hacer estos proyectos necesitamos su ayuda. Para ayudar pueden suscribir a nuestro boletín informativo, seguirnos en instagram (@COVID19aft), y si tienes dinero de sobra, donar a nuestro venmo para que podamos apoyar nuestro fondo de auxilio de coronavirus. Gracias por tu apoyo.
Jennifer y Maddie
Translated by Cecilia Friedman
Original Post: https://www.covid19atf.org/blog/flatten-the-curve-with-us
As COVID-19 cases begin to peak in many states across the country, the government is looking for an efficient way to develop a vaccine to prevent cases from increasing and to contain the virus as much as possible. Usually, it would take up to 13 years for scientists to develop a vaccine, commence 3 phases of clinical trials, construct factories and facilities, get approval, and finally distribute the vaccine to the public. Since the number of cases are rising extremely every day, scientists are hoping that the vaccine will take 12-18 months before the public will have access to it.
Researchers from Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca would be the first licensed candidates to test their type of vaccines on chimpanzees if they get approval. Their vaccine works by causing a cold, but not sickening people. Causing a cold “delivers key elements of the vaccine into the patient’s body.” researchers from Oxford state. The vaccine from Oxford University hopes to “stimulate the immune system which causes antibodies and immune cells to recognize and neutralize the protein in the virus, protecting people from the disease from spreading.” Other companies such as Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna are developing vaccines using genetic material called mRNA to combat the disease.
Vaccine testing has gone into full effect, with the US going into phase 3 of clinical trials, which intends to test a bigger group of people to further test a safe vaccine. On July 27th, 1,290 people were being tested randomly with either the Moderna vaccine or a “dummy shot” serving as a placebo to see how their immune system will react to the vaccine. Moderna hopes to enroll 30,000 more people at 89 sites to be tested as well. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, states, "We hope within a period of a few months, a couple of months, that we'll be able to enroll hopefully by the end of the summer so that we can start getting some results."
Despite the development of the COVID-19 vaccine commencing at a rapid pace, preventing the number of cases from increasing is very important. Make sure to maintain good health and hygiene, so we can access the vaccine as soon as possible. Hospitals and other medical facilities hope to obtain access to this vaccine so we can stop the spread and prevent people from getting sick. By maintaining good hygiene, hospitals will be relieved of taking care of harsh cases and will be able to give people the vaccine they need to flatten the curve.
Written by Lily McDonough
As September approaches, students and parents are left to decide whether or not it is safe for kids and teachers to return to the classroom. With dwindling admission numbers, U.S. colleges and universities are left struggling to come up with a safe way to keep students on campus while simultaneously trying to resolve the issues of dorms, parties, large class sizes, and sports events that students crave from the more traditional college experience. Many schools, such as Syracuse, Bates, and UC Berkeley, who plan to reopen with all of their students on campus, are requiring students to sign codes of conduct with penalties for violating COVID-19 rules that are more severe than their punishments for smoking marijuana. The University of Texas-Austin and UC Berkeley have specifically banned overnight guests in dorm rooms and warned students that they can be disciplined for “purposefully invading the personal space of others,” without a face mask on. These big universities believe with access to their large campus health centers and medical schools they can ensure that the COVID-19 tests that are required among entry, as well as twice a month, can be returned within 24 to 48 hours to limit possible transmissions if there is a positive case. Then, there are other universities, like the University of Kentucky and West Virginia University that are presenting a more lenient approach, adopting existing honor codes that urge students to “promote personal responsibility and peer accountability” since they are adults and can consent to putting themselves at risk. Even with smaller class sizes, the prestigious universities of Harvard, Yale, and Stanford will keep all classes online, but allow freshmen to stay on campus for the fall so those high school seniors can at least enjoy some aspects of a “normal” freshman year. Then in the spring, seniors will get to come back for events like graduation.
On the other side of the spectrum lies schools such as the University of Georgia, University of Alabama, and Penn State, where over 30,000 students are being allowed to return to campus while pushing for football to return. Students may be eager to return to school, but an at risk-faculty is not. 37% of tenure-track professors are 55 or older and are twice as likely as other workers to stay on the job past 65. More than 850 members of the Georgia Tech faculty and 1,000 of the Penn State faculty have signed a letter opposing the school’s reopening plans for the fall, demanding that faculty be given autonomy in the decision process for reopening the large universities. Some believe they should have the choice to hold classes either fully remote, in person, or a hybrid of the two without having to disclose a reason, whether that be due to an underlying health condition or the need to take care of a family member at home. The University of Florida, located in the country’s current epicenter, is not requiring students to be tested before they arrive on campus for in-person learning unless they are an athlete or show symptoms.
These decisions have left many students wondering, is it worth it? Princeton University, a school that has gone fully remote for the fall semester, has discounted its tuition by 10% whereas Harvard has increased their tuition by close to 3% from last year. In the spring, 16% of high school seniors had already decided they were going to take a gap year due to the pandemic, and with many colleges closed until January, that number continues to rise. As the school year fast approaches, those once optimistic plans for the fall that universities advertised in the spring have been rolled back to reveal the grim reality that the coronavirus will continue to rear its ugly head for many months to come. Unfortunately, no one knows if these egregious testing models will work or how profoundly learning online will affect the academic and emotional side of a student’s mind. Colleges are changing decisions by the week so we can only hope that all students alike will continue to be vigilant about the dangers of coronavirus no matter what environment they are in.
Written by Margot Galligan
Even within our polarized environment, many believe that masks should be worn. A majority of Democrats support it, and more Republicans support wearing masks than Republicans who don’t. But it seems that on the news, we keep getting information about, “Trump’s dumbfounding refusal to encourage wearing masks,” as the Washington Post put it. Vice President Mike Pence infamously visited a hospital without a mask on. It is undeniable that masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19, so why can’t we just step up and wear a mask?
While a majority of Republicans believe people should wear masks while in public, three in five also said that, “the worst is behind us.” So what is the main reason for some vocal conservatives refusing to wear masks?
The first reason is President Trump. He has, to say the least, flip-flopped on the subject of masks. He has said of them, “Masks are a double-edged sword”, “I won’t be [wearing] it, personally,” and, “It is patriotic to wear a face mask.” Even though he has since called it patriotic, at first he did not support them, and many of his outspoken supporters oppose wearing masks. *
The second reason is how divisive America’s news networks are. Trump and FOX News originally downplayed the threat of the virus, pointing out the parallels between the flu and coronavirus. Because of this, some conservatives heard only that the virus wasn’t harmful, and believed it was identical to the seasonal flu. They took this as a reason not to wear masks.
The third reason is the CDC and WHO not originally suggesting masks. The United States were lulled into a false sense of security as they couldn’t test enough. Without testing, it seemed as though COVID-19 wouldn’t hit America hard. Other factors were cultural norms and a shortage of masks. Had the CDC or WHO suggested masks, we might be in a better place today.
The fourth reason pertains to younger populations. They believe they’re untouchable, and don’t understand the consequences of getting the virus, even if they don’t die.
In a poll conducted by Pew Research, 52% of Republicans said masks should be worn most/all of the time, while only 23% say rarely/never worn. So clearly, Republicans favor wearing masks. Arguably, the GOP has simultaneously softened their position on masks. GOP governors of Mississippi and Alabama implored people to wear masks, stating, “It does no one any good for you to shame someone because they’re wearing a mask.” Republican governors of Texas and Arizona now, after becoming hot spots for the virus, have put in place mask mandates. And Trump has changed his stance from questioning the usefulness of masks to praising mask wearers as patriotic.
Some governors still are trying to prevent mask mandates by blocking local businesses and local governments from requiring masks. Brian Kemp, governor of Georgia, filed a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, for putting in place a mask mandate.
In the end, it is beyond doubt that Republicans have started to approach masks in a more positive light. As cases and deaths soar, the partisanship of masks is in decline. Everyone, Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike have realized that wearing masks is a small price to pay. A CNN ad puts it best. “A mask can say a lot about the person who wears it, but even more about the person who doesn’t.”
Written by Jacob Hertz and Alan Long
Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine (R), took immediate action after the first three people tested positive for COVID-19 in his state on March 9th. After declaring a state of emergency, Gov. DeWine called for all k-12 schools to close for at least three weeks (starting March 17th), which was later extended through the end of the semester. In the following weeks, Gov. DeWine shut down more and more amenities (bars, nursing home visits, restaurants, etc.) until March 22nd, when he announced a stay-at-home order. By all accounts, Gov. DeWine and the director of the Ohio department of health, Dr. Amy Acton, were doing very well. In contrast, Louisiana, which shared the date of the first confirmed cases with Ohio, had more than double the number of confirmed cases by April.
However, during May, things started going downhill. Businesses and restaurants started to reopen, and, on May 29th, the stay-at-home order expired. For all intents and purposes, Ohioans went back to normal. A few businesses required masks, but most did not and many Ohioans didn’t see the reason to suspend their comfort to wear one. For a few weeks of June, cases actually went down, but on June 14 (notably 2 weeks after the stay-at-home order expired) cases started to go up very quickly. Around the same time, Dr. Amy Acton resigned.
Gov. DeWine did not reverse the reopening plan in Ohio; rather, he asked people to limit their gatherings, and said things would be decided on a county-by-county basis. Many counties and cities started to enforce mask orders. Gov. DeWine issued a state-wide mask order on July 23rd for any public exposure. For the most part, this has been effective. In terms of newly reported cases per day, the numbers have started to decrease. Whether the mask order is enforced or not depends greatly on where you are. In some places, everyone wears masks and everyone enforces it. However, when driving into more rural areas especially, it is not uncommon to see crowds of people in bars not wearing masks.
Most recently, Gov. DeWine tested positive for COVID-19, right before he was supposed to meet with President Trump. Thankfully, a few hours later, he tested negative after taking on a more sensitive test. Many Ohioans worry for Gov. DeWine as he has said that he has asthma. Furthermore, having Ohio’s governor, the second governor to test positive for COVID-19, (after Oklahoma) shows the dire place that Ohio is likely headed towards. In the last few weeks, the number of new cases in Ohio has held steady with about 8,000 every week. The total number of cases in Ohio is 101,731 (as of 8/11), putting it in the top 20 states with the most cases.
Ohio continues to push schools to reopen in just a few weeks. This has been met with some concession and some disapproval. Montgomery County, among other counties, has officially recommended schools to start the year virtually and to suspend all high-risk activities from band to contact sports. Many schools, unfortunately including my own, have chosen not to follow these guidelines, and continue to hold band and sports practices with every intention to start the year with in-person learning.
Hopefully, Ohio will regain the momentum from the beginning of the pandemic in order to keep Ohioans everywhere safe.
Written by Clara Leach
Laura A. Bischoff, Kristen Spicker. “Coronavirus Timeline: A Look at the Orders Changing Life in Ohio.” Dayton, Dayton Daily News, 13 May 2020.
The New York Times. “Ohio Coronavirus Map and Case Count.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Apr. 2020,
Testing for the novel coronavirus pandemic has been extremely difficult and problematic. An important and unique feature of COVID-19 is its ability to infect a host cell without the person presenting symptoms for a timespan of up to 14 days: the incubation period. The infectious period is the time during which an infected person can pass the virus to other people. Usually, this period begins 1 to 3 days before the incubation period. This means that someone may not know that the virus has infected them but be able to infect others for up to 13 days. There is also a high possibility for asymptomatic infection, meaning those who are infected may not know it, may not get tested, and therefore may not take proper precautions to prevent infecting others. For these reasons, testing plays a crucial role in making sure everyone is informed about, and preventing, the spread.
There are several different types of test kits; each comes with its own cost and accuracy. The most reliable test kits consist of a six-inch cotton swab and a type of culture, a substance lined in the container which acts like food to particles, to keep potential viral particles alive. Though there are few materials needed to make a kit, the public demand has been so great that manufacturers were not (and are still not) able to keep up. It is only recently that they have been able to produce enough testing kits that proper data is able to be measured.
Ensuring that the population is informed regarding who is and is not currently infected with the virus has many benefits that testing availability provides. One of these benefits is having more capability to do contact tracing. To effectively contact trace, if one person tests positive, everyone who that person has been in contact with during the recent past also needs to be tested, and whoever tests positive from that group continues the process. This means that the number of tests needed sourcing from a single positive result has the potential to grow exponentially, and to effectively follow through with the contact tracing method, many test kits must be available. Another benefit that may result from an abundance of test kits is that scientists and analysts would have a better understanding of where society is relating to its herd immunity. While there are some concerns that this particular novel virus is an exception to this, traditionally, once a person gets the virus and recovers once, they won’t have to worry about getting it again. Assuming this is true with the novel coronavirus, once a certain percent of the population has gone through the infection and recovery process, an effect called herd immunity takes place. Herd immunity occurs when there are enough people with immunity (via vaccine or natural antibodies) that if the virus has an outbreak, there is a small possibility that it will reach someone without immunity. An extensive record of test results would prove useful for data analysts who are trying to decide whether this effect has taken place or not, thus properly informing and advising politicians the best reopening strategies. Similarly, once a certain degree of normality is obtained, regular testing will be helpful to inhibit further outbreaks. If a person tests positive during a regular, not-symptom-triggered test, contact tracing could be used to stop further spread much earlier than if only non-regular testing were being performed.
While all of these benefits would be great, none of them are possible without sufficient testing caliber. Tests are being produced at a greater rate now than ever, therefore expanding the capability of these possibilities. It is just a matter of time before these new methods of combating the virus can be put into effect and the curve can be flattened, saving many lives.
Written by Jonathan Fascetti
After Arizona's governor, Doug Ducey, let the stay-at-home order expire on May 15th, COVID-19 cases skyrocketed in the Grand Canyon State. There have been 178,000 cases confirmed and over 3,000 deaths in Arizona, many of which coming after the stay-at-home order expired in the middle of May. June 30th marked the highest number of daily cases so far, with 4,797 cases. After the stay-at-home order had been lifted, most businesses were able to reopen. Because of the recent surge in cases, Ducey decided to begin reversing the state's economic reopening, making Arizona one of seven states starting to undo their reopening plans. As part of his reversing, Ducey closed bars, gyms, movie theaters, water parks, etc., saying that his goal is to reopen these establishments after 30 days. Ducey has also prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people and cut restaurant capacity by half. Ducey has not required that Arizona residents wear masks, which is likely a contribution to the soaring case numbers. Many mayors have expressed concern with how Ducey has handled the steep increase in coronavirus cases, saying that they don't think he is doing enough to protect the Arizonans.
Arizona schools have delayed their in-person reopenings until at least August 17, rather than their usual start date of early August. However, many Arizona school board members feel that mid-August is still too early to restart in-person learning, urging for Ducey to delay it until October. Some Arizona schools have announced that they will not start their in-person learning right away, like Phoenix Union High School District, who issued a statement saying that their first quarter will consist solely of remote learning. The Arizona Department of Education created a guideline for Arizona schools, but they are not required to utilize any of the suggestions.
Written By Sarah Lessig
In the face of the global pandemic, the South Korean Government has provided unique ways to overcome COVID-19 that have been in recent news worldwide. On July 15th, South Korea had a total of 13,612 of confirmed cases and there were 61 cases on the day. The number of confirmed cases increased drastically in March and April, but since April cases have been steadily declining due to the way South Korea has handled the pandemic using their experiences with the MERS pandemic years earlier.
The first unique process South Korea started is the drive-through testing system. Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention built the drive-through testing stations in the big cities such as Seoul and Daegu. Anyone who has symptoms of the virus can drive to the station and get tested. The test only takes 10 minutes and the patient stays in the car. Through this convenient system, more people were able to get tested safely and fast.
Another policy is to upload the route of confirmed people to the local service center website. When one gets confirmed positive with COVID19, they inform the health care center about the places they visited. Then, the health care center posts the places on the local website, without revealing any other personal information, encouraging people who were in the same place with the patient to get tested. This policy aided the country to gather information and warn people.
The South Korean Government also provided a disaster assistance fund to every citizen. A one person family acquires 400,000 won ($331.95), two person family gets 600,000 won ($497.93), three person family receives 800,000 won ($663.90), and more than four person family gains 1,000,000 won ($829.88). This disaster assistance fund aids people who received severe economic damage, for instance, restaurant owners. It also encourages others to spend more money, which leads to economic recovery.
The Ministry of Education announced every school to open on May 20th. Every school has to have separate desks and tables for social distancing. Wearing a mask is mandatory, and students have to check their temperature often. Not every student goes to school at the moment. Only ⅔ of schools attend in-person classes, and others participate in online classes. Students are able to continue their education while showing up to school.
The government strengthened policies for people who enter South Korea from foreign countries. When travelers arrive at the Incheon International Airport, they check their temperature. If they are confirmed to be above the normal temperature, they get the guidelines for the self-quarantine and COVID-19 testing which is free. People are required to download a self-diagnosis application on their phone in order to check the physical symptoms of the Coronavirus and make sure the government knows they are in two weeks’ compulsory quarantine.
To reopen the United States, it would be useful to consider these policies. It could help the decrease of the confirmed cases and support the economy.
Written by Jaehong Kim and Min Park
The state of New York is known for being the first major epicenter of COVID-19 in the US. At the peak of the virus’ spread in New York, there were about 9,000 to 10,000 new cases daily. However, New York has done very well to flatten the curve of the virus and it is one of the very few states that have not seen an increase in cases over the last two weeks. As of July 10, 2020, it has only 790 new COVID-19 cases.
New York’s success is largely dependent on the state’s persistent and strategic effort to control the spread of the disease, and their cooperation with other states and with the federal government.
To control the spread of the disease, New York went all-out. They took a multi-pronged approach to this: they expanded their treatment facilities, increased their staffing, went the extra mile to get funding from organizations, effectively managed their supply of PPE and ventilators, and started research programs to discover treatment strategies for COVID as it was a novel disease to ensure that they were able to treat the disease and manage its spread. They also took strict measures to control the disease through social distancing, a two-month lockdown, wearing masks in public, a careful four-phased reopening, and firm requirements for people entering the state. Furthermore, they cooperated with many other states and the federal government to ensure funding and a successful reopening.
New York took quick action to ensure success in fighting COVID-19. They expanded their treatment facilities by building new ICU beds in existing hospitals and creating field hospitals, such as the 2500 bed Javits Center. They even set up a treatment facility in Central Park. New York’s two main hospital systems, NYC Health and Hospitals (H+H) and Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), joined forces to share COVID patients and equipment to have a more effective response to the crisis. This union of the hospitals enabled New York to effectively manage their supply of PPE and equipment; Governor Cuomo termed this the “surge and flex” system. To increase their healthcare staffing, New York asked for volunteers within the state and out of state. 90,000 volunteers from across the country answered the call and went into action. New York also needed more contact tracers to reach out to people who may have been exposed. They recruited 22,000 more contact tracers to boost their workforce. They also sought help from the federal government to boost their supply of PPE and ventilators, and Governor Cuomo even procured masks from China because the supply was scarce. They also cooperated with six other states in the region to buy PPE. This method of going the extra mile and this dogged persistence in fighting the disease was one reason New York was so successful against COVID-19. Moreover, many hospitals in New York contributed to the research on potential treatment strategies for COVID, which included remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, steroids, IL1 and IL6 inhibitors, and more. Finally, New York did a lot of testing. As of July 6, 2020, New York has the fourth-most COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people, just behind Alaska, Connecticut, and Louisiana. In addition, New York has consistently been one of the states with the highest testing rates, enabling it to find and isolate new cases rapidly.
Additionally, New York quickly took action to put strict COVID measures in place. On March 7, Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency. On March 12, he banned gatherings of more than 500 people, and stated that gatherings with less than 500 people had to cut their capacity by half. He started “New York PAUSE” on March 22. This was a full statewide lockdown, lasting 78 days in total. Multiple major events were cancelled, including the New York Democratic Primary and the Regents Examinations, and schools were eventually closed until the end of the school year. On April 15, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order ordering all New York State residents to wear face masks in public. In addition, there were very strict social distancing guidelines, and violating social distancing could have resulted in a $1,000 fine. On May 7, New York PAUSE was extended to June 6, but counties would be allowed to start Phase 1 of reopening on May 15 if they qualified for it. The reopening was broken into four phases, and counties had to meet all of the requirements, which were very strict. Phase 1 reopened construction, manufacturing, and wholesale supply-chain businesses, as well as many retailers for curbside pickup, in-store pickup, or drop-off. Agriculture, fishing, hunting, and forestry businesses were also allowed to reopen. It began on May 15 for most counties, and June 8 for New York City. Phase 2 reopened offices, outdoor dining, places of worship (at 25% capacity), storefront retailers and businesses, finance and insurance, administrative support, and real-estate and rental-leasing industries. Salons and barbershops also reopened at limited capacity, as were car dealerships. Malls remained closed. Phase 2 began on June 8 for the earliest counties and June 22 for New York City. Phase 3 reopened restaurants and other food-service businesses for dine-in service at 50% capacity; however, this does not apply to New York City. Diners must be separated by at least six feet or by a barrier, and must wear masks until they sit down. Gatherings of up to 25 people are now allowed. Phase 3 started on June 16 for the earliest counties and July 6 for New York City. Phase 4 reopened schools and low-risk arts, entertainment and recreation businesses - all with social distancing required - but did not reopen movie theaters, shopping malls, or gyms. Gatherings of up to 50 people are also now allowed. Phase 4 began on June 26 for the earliest counties.
To prevent new cases from other states, on June 25, Governor Cuomo issued a travel ban to prevent people from states with high COVID infection rates from entering New York, unless they self-quarantine for 14 days and don’t show symptoms. The list of states currently includes Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. Each traveler must submit a form to the airport; if they do not do so, there will be an immediate summons and a $2000 fine.
As shown above, New York’s COVID-19 success has largely been because of their relentless effort to control the spread of the disease, and their cooperation with other states and with the federal government. They have gone above and beyond to make sure that they can control the virus, to ensure that they can stop the spread of the virus, and to guarantee that they can prevent a second wave of the virus. This has paid dividends, as they are one of the few states who have not experienced a second wave of the virus.
- Written by Aberam Sriganesh
The road to reopening from the devastating blow of COVID-19 has not been easy for the state of New Jersey. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranks New Jersey at 2nd for the highest number of deaths in the state. Seeing as the death count is so high, New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy, has created a “multi-stage approach” that is “guided by six principles and key metrics” (New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub). According to an infographic titled The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health, on nj.gov, the state’s official website, “maximum restrictions” was the first stage of COVID-19 restrictions, and was executed in the early months of the pandemic (in March and April). Some of the guidelines for this stage of reopening included strict social distancing measures, the closing of non-essential businesses, restriction of socialization to family members, and moving students to distance learning. Residents of New Jersey were instructed to stay at home as much as possible, and to wear masks whenever out in public. They were encouraged to stay away from essential businesses (grocery stores, pharmacies, medical facilities, etc.) unless absolutely necessary. Most New Jerseyans obeyed the new rules and regulations, due to the rapidly escalating number of COVID-19 cases in the state at the time.
On May 2, 2020, Governor Murphy proceeded to Stage 1 of the reopening strategy. The infographic on nj.gov states that “restrictions [were] relaxed on low-risk activities that [were] easier to safeguard.” Low-risk activities are activities that still allow for social distancing and sometimes mask-wearing. They include camping, hiking, going to the beach, golfing, playing tennis in private clubs, horse-back riding, and more. There were also relaxed restrictions on low-risk areas, such as state parks, forests, golf courses, beaches, boardwalks, lakes, lakeshores, campgrounds, batting cages, shooting and archery ranges, stables, private tennis clubs, community gardens, and horse racetracks. Additionally, outdoor gatherings increased from 10 people to 25 people. Furthermore, outdoor recreational and entertainment businesses reopened, although the reopening of amusement parks, water parks, and arcades were halted, due to the increase in cases that was seen at the end of Stage 1. Those who are clinically high-risk were told to continue to stay at home as much as possible. Childcare was allowed to open, but with firm capacity restrictions. Public transit was reopened with enhanced safety and cleaning measures, and only those who were unable to work at home were encouraged to use public transit. Elective surgeries also opened as well, giving people access to elective healthcare. All New Jerseyans were to continue maintaining social distancing, wearing masks in public, washing hands regularly, and disinfecting workplaces regularly.
As of July 17, 2020, New Jersey is currently in Stage 2, the next stage of the reopening plan. Stage 2 began on June 15, 2020. The infographic says that Stage 2 has “moderate-risk activities [could be] restarted with safeguarding.” During this stage, childcare was opened to all of their clients, not just those who could not work from home. Outdoor dining was also opened. Places such as non-essential retail stores, personal care businesses (nail salons, hairdressers), swimming pools (both outdoor and indoor), shopping malls, playgrounds, amusement parks, water parks, museums, libraries, aquariums, indoor recreational facilities, casinos, gyms and fitness centers, and Motor Vehicle Commission agencies were all reopened (with social distancing and capacity restrictions, of course). Youth day camps and summer programs were also able to reopen at the beginning of July. The limit on outdoor gatherings was raised to 500 people, and outdoor graduation ceremonies were allowed to occur. In addition, the NJ Transit rail, light rail services, private-carrier buses, and Access Link vehicles all returned to their full weekday schedule, and their seating capacity restrictions were lifted as well. Furthermore, there is a travel mandate that says that people traveling from the following states must self-quarantine for 14 days: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. New Jerseyans must continue to wear masks, social distance as much as possible, and wash their hands frequently.
So what’s next for New Jersey? So far, things seem to be holding up in the state. The average new cases per day is around 390-400, which is a significant improvement from the 3,000-4,000 new cases that New Jersey had seen in April. Once Stage 2 is finished, Stage 3 will commence, and include expanded dining, limited entertainment, expanded personal care, and bars (with limited capacity). There are some growing concerns about a potential rise in COVID-19 cases due to the large crowds that are flocking to the shore, but the governor said that he is working closely with the Jersey Shore officials to ensure that people are safe at the beach. There has also been a surprisingly large amount of backlash on social media because of the governor’s mask mandate. Both the New Jersey government and Governor Murphy are very vocal about mask-wearing on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram. A lot of New Jerseyans responded to the government’s encouragement of mask-wearing on Twitter with statements such as “Nope! This is not a legal order!” and “Corona is a HOAX! Impeach Murphy!” Unfortunately for them, masks are required in nearly all public places in New Jersey, and businesses have the right to refuse entry to customers that are not wearing masks. According to the COVID-19 Health Data website, if masks were to be universally worn in New Jersey, the daily death rate would drop from 35.82 (as of July 11, 2020) to 4.01 by the time November rolls around. Furthermore, COVID Act Now says that New Jersey is “New Jersey is on track to contain COVID. Cases are steadily decreasing and New Jersey’s COVID preparedness meets or exceeds international standards.” We have seen that through social distancing, regular mask-wearing, and a well-thought-out reopening plan, New Jersey has been able to get itself on track to recovery from the devastation that this virus has caused. If other states take after New Jersey and ease their way into reopening, the United States, as a whole, may be able to get on track to recovery as well.
Written by Anokhi Matta
On July 13th, Tennessee saw their largest number of daily coronavirus cases, 4,268, since the pandemic began in March. This prompted the decision by Adrienne Battle, the director of the Metro Nashville Public Schools, to begin school on August 4th remotely at least until Labor Day. Battle noted that in the last week alone the area has seen "some of the worst daily numbers" since the crisis began in March. Though Tennessee's numbers are not nearly as high as some other states, record daily highs, even if low compared to other states, are still a cause for concern. As seen in states such as Florida, California, and Arizona, cases can surge quickly and officials must pause reopening plans and work to stop the spread until cases are not increasing daily. This news to close the city’s public school system comes in tandem with announcements from other major school districts across the nation. The public school systems of Los Angeles, San Diego, New York City, Miami, Detroit, and Dallas all have announced plans to incorporate some form of remote learning for the fall. Like Nashville, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, and Atlanta plan to start the school year completely online until it is safe to return to in-person learning whereas New York City, Detroit, and Dallas want to incorporate a mix of in-person instruction and virtual instruction for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. As a result of the increase in cases, Nashville will remain in Phase 2 for the "foreseeable future” with bars set to remain closed until July 31st. Mayor John Cooper attributed part of the increase in cases to bar activities where people are in close contact to share respiratory droplets. Restaurants, gyms, barbershops, and other "high-touch businesses" will remain operating at 50% of their normal capacity. Retail stores are limited to 75% capacity and gatherings are capped at 25 people. As the positivity rate reaches 18%, Cooper said they are ramping up testing and hiring more contact tracers to hopefully help keep this surge in cases to a minimum. Research from George Washington University estimates Nashville needs about 1,600 contact tracers to meet its population. Like Tennessee, states must make strategic decisions in adjusting their reopening plans based on daily numbers so that they don't have to revert to a stay at home order and damage the economy even further.
Written by Margot Galligan
At a time when states such as New York and Massachusetts experienced spikes in cases during April and May, Florida’s cases stayed stable, with daily cases rarely surpassing 1,000. Even with a record-setting 15,300 cases reported on July 12th, Governor Ron DeSantis stated that he still wants to move forward with reopening other tourist attractions in central Florida and schools in August. He cited that a possible reason for such a large jump in positive cases is due to increased testing, because the NBA and MLS are holding their seasons at Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and require a player who tests positive for coronavirus to continue to be tested every two days until they test negative two times in a row before returning to play. The death toll in Florida has surpassed 4,000, though DeSantis has yet to implement a mask mandate or updated guidelines for public places like California governor Gavin Newsom and Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Like Florida, Texas and California have seen a surge in cases, but both governors have paused reopening in their state and admitted to their mistakes on reopening too soon. Despite the governor’s trust that his citizens will make “good decisions” on wearing a mask and social distancing, Dr. Lilian Abbo, an infectious disease expert at the University of Miami, warned that, "Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic. What we were seeing in Wuhan [in China] ... five months ago, now we are there.” Miami-Dade County recently imposed a curfew and ordered all restaurants closed for indoor dining as daily tests reached 143,000 with a positivity rate of 18%. Abbo concluded that this surge can be attributed to young people hanging out in large groups and then passing it on to older, more vulnerable family members. As Florida becomes the new nationwide epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak health officials warn that without mandatory guidelines and rules for citizens, Florida could experience this level of the outbreak in multiple cities, such as Orlando and Tampa.
Despite the spike in infections, Disney World reopened the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom on July 11. After nearly four months of the park being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, visitors were welcomed back into the parks on Saturday. The parks have opened with limited capacity and have implemented rules like practicing social distancing, wearing masks and requiring reservations ahead of time. Dr. Pamela Hymel, the chief medical officer for Disney Parks explained that “From increased cleaning and disinfecting across our parks and resorts, to updated health and safety policies, we have reimagined the Disney experience so we can all enjoy the magic responsibly.” However, despite these measures to safely reopen, there are many risks especially as the coronavirus cases in Florida have been continuing to rise. As many out-of-state visitors are traveling to the world’s epicenter for COVID-19 to visit the park, there has been rising concern from many experts that the reopening of Disney World will cause a ripple effect of coronavirus cases to the rest of the nation. According to Dr. Saskia, an infection prevention epidemiologist at George Mason University, “There’s always a concern when people visit a place with high community transmission that they’ll be exposed and potentially take the infection back with them to their home state or county.” Especially now that Florida has seen a spike in coronavirus cases, the reopening of the Disney World parks evoke the concern that the threat of transmission can continue to spread to other states as well.
Written by Megan Yee and Margot Galligan
The Illinois reopening plan, “Restore Illinois,” consists of five broad phases, ranging from strict stay at home and social distancing guidelines in Phase 1 to a completely reopened economy and a widespread vaccine/treatment plan as the defining characteristics of Phase 5. The plan splits Illinois into four different regions — Northeast, North-Central, Central, and South — and allows each region to move independently along the designated plan.
As of June 26, all four regions of Illinois have moved on to Phase 4 of the plan, characterized by “gatherings of up to 50 people [...] restaurants and bars reopen[ed], travel [...], child care and schools reopen[ed ...] under guidance from the IDPH, and face coverings and social distancing [as] the norm.” It is possible that a region will move back a phase based on four factors, namely “sustained rise in positivity rate, sustained increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19 like illness, reduction in hospital capacity threatening surge capabilities, [or a] significant outbreak in the region that threatens the health of the region.” Although many non-essential services have reopened, they are still subject to safety guidelines from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). These guidelines include:
While President Trump has impelled school districts to reopen, Governor J.B. Pritzker has suggested that Illinois schools should not feel compelled to do so. The IDPH has not prescribed an overall guideline on the state of school reopening, but some individual school districts are considering doing so. District 211, one of the state’s largest school districts, has envisioned three possible reopening scenarios: an online scenario, an in-person scenario, and a possible “hybrid” scenario in which half the student population takes weekly turns physically attending school while the other half attends remotely. The Archdiocese of Chicago announced its intention to reopen its schools with safety measures, like masks and temperature checks, in place. District 201 has also announced plans to reopen its schools but faces budget deficits due to falling revenue and state aid combined with potentially increased expenditures for disease prevention. While many schools have announced their intention to return to the classroom, it is very likely that they will switch back to virtual learning if a second wave occurs.
The IDPH guidelines set forth have proven broadly successful so far, albeit with some uncertainty. The number of cases confirmed per day have experienced an uptick recently, with July 11 being the third day of over 1000 confirmed cases. While the seven-day positivity rate has continued to increase in recent weeks, jumping to 3.03%, July 11 saw a slight decline in its daily positivity rate. The pandemic has eased a bit, but it is necessary that we remain in keeping with the official guidelines so that we can continue to make steady progress towards reopening the economy.
Written by Mathew Illimoottil
During the recent Black Lives Matter Protests, the use of tear gas and rubber bullets as riot control has become extremely publicized due to controversy over excessive use of force on peaceful protests as well as backlash faced by police all over the country that has been amplified by this anti-racism movement currently sweeping the United States. According to the New York Times, tear gas has been fired at crowds by riot control officers in over 100 cities, leaving an alarming amount of protesters with serious injuries ranging from a protester who lost an eye to another who had a leg injury. Although recent media coverage of the ongoing protests is not quite as extensive as it was a few weeks ago, the use of tear gas and other controversial riot control methods is still prevalent, and the ethics of the use of these methods have been debated about for over a century.
The use of tear gas began during World War I, first used in 1914 by the French military to gain an advantage against German soldiers and drive them out of their trenches. Canisters of tear gas were used as an alternative to poison gas in warfare in a similar manner throughout the rest of the war, and was continually used despite militaries being unable to understand the biological effects of the chemicals that caused the effects of the gas. Tear gas quickly switched from a military weapon to a riot control chemical in the United States during this time as well. Because of the detrimental effects of its use and the inhumaneness of the weapon itself, the use of tear gas during warfare was banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1925 during the Geneva Convention. However, tear gas was and still is widely used across the world domestically by law enforcement agencies to clear out armed suspects from buildings and control large crowds and riots to avoid major casualties and fatalities.
Contrary to popular belief, tear gases (also known as lacrimators), are not actually gases: they are powders that float through the air in a fine mist and directly activate either TRPA1 or TRPV1 pain receptors in order to cause the trademark intense burning pain associated with these agents. A chemical commonly used in tear gases, 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile (more commonly known as CS gas) is part of a category of TRPA1-activating agents that are often used for riot control. CS gas contains chlorine, and the particles can persist on skin and clothing while also directly reacting with the human body at a molecular level. However, according to Scientific American, a newer form of tear gas, called CS2, or CX, has been developed and is becoming more and more popular as a riot control agent. The particles in CS2 include silicon which allows the burning sensation to last much longer on the victims and linger in the air near where a canister of the “gas” was fired. Pepper spray is another category of tear gas that uses a much milder capsaicin-based powder to activate TRPV-1 pain receptors as opposed to more potent TRPA-1 receptor activators. These more dangerous TRPV-1 receptor activators include CN gas (commonly used in mace) and CR gas (which, according to the same Scientific American article, were used alongside CS gas and caused extreme psychological and physical trauma during their use to control riots during the Arab Spring a few years ago).
Not only are lacrimator-filled canisters potentially fatal because of the way they are fired (any fast flying projectile such as one of these canisters/grenades is dangerous, as was seen when a man lost his eye during a protest in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on May 31st) and due to psychological trauma combined with the effects of being hit with the harmful chemicals inside of them, but because they irritate the eyes and the upper respiratory system the use of these agents during the ongoing protests is highly likely to cause a COVID-19 spike. Directly after being hit with tear gas, victims experience symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, and choking, and when coughing as a result of this respiratory irritation, protesters and civilians release a large number of respiratory droplets. If respiratory droplets from an infected individual come into contact with others, COVID-19 will spread exponentially more than it would normally in these often crowded protests, whether or not people are wearing masks (which, due to the pandemic, they should be wearing regardless).
Tear gas may also prevent victims from fighting off COVID-19 due to its effect on the entire human body as a whole, especially due to the fact that its effect on the respiratory system may exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms and do more damage overall. According to an article by the New York Times, a study conducted on US Army soldiers who had been exposed to CS gas shows that people have a higher risk of respiratory illness following an experience with tear gas due to this damage to the body’s systems as well as due to an increase in respiratory secretions into the air. Although the long term effects of tear gas are not entirely clear, as most experiences are sporadic and quite varied, some have reported rashes, difficulty breathing, and overall pain as symptoms of exposure aside from intense pain.
Being hit with tear gas also has been known to cause intense shock and stress and is quite overwhelming, especially in large crowds and among the chaos of avoiding being hit by flying canisters, trampled, or affected by another riot control method. Long and short term emotional trauma can ensue after being hit with tear gas as a result of the panic, anxiety, and disorientation that tear gas causes. Overall, the use of tear gas as a way to control these mostly completely peaceful protests as well as riots is excessive because it is overall quite damaging for not only those directly hit, but those around them, and is a recipe for disaster during this pandemic.
When attending a protest or another large gathering of civilians, it can be difficult to predict the use of tear gas, but, there are precautions and safety measures one can take to be better prepared in the face of this kind of riot control. If possible, avoiding a protest or gathering where you know or think that tear gas will be used is the absolute best way to not be affected, but if you go to a protest it is important to make sure that you prepare yourself to help others and yourself if you get hit with lacrimator and avoid severe bodily harm and the spread of disease.
Avoid wearing contact lenses, as these will burn and adhere to your eyes when sprayed with tear gas.
If hit with any form of tear gas, wash out your eyes with water immediately, and do not rub them, as that will spread the powder you’ve been hit with. A hose would be ideal to rinse out your eyes, but any kind of water will do as long as it’s sanitary. Milk is not sterile (pasteurization makes milk suitable for drinking, but milk still contains a lot of bacteria), and although it may relieve pain (especially if you are hit by pepper spray), you can get an infection.
Also, wash your hands and body to scrub off particles of tear gas, and, when it is safe to do so, try to remove as much clothing as is reasonable that has been covered in tear gas to avoid spreading it around your body.
Whether or not you are directly hit or in the close vicinity of tear gas, try to move to a higher elevation as the tear gas particles will stay lower to the ground.
Lastly, if the effects of tear gas last for over 90 minutes, make your way to an emergency room for further assistance in order to avoid long term damage.
Wear a face covering (a surgical mask/N95 mask is ideal, but the more you layer your cloth face covering the more you can protect yourself and others), and if you can, wear a face shield along with your mask. Make sure to stay as socially distant as possible, as large crowds full of people are already a threat due to the potential to spread disease, and also can prove to be quite chaotic and dangerous in the event of the use of tear gas. Please be safe, and remember that the pandemic has the potential to get worse and continues to worsen in the United States.
Written by Mia Magliari and Hana Prokop
The Surprising History and Science of Tear Gas
Tear Gas Used in George Floyd Protests Could Lead to New Coronavirus Wave
Rubber bullets, flash-bangs, and tear gas: The dangers of riot control weapons, explained
tear gas | Definition, Effects, & Facts
How tear gas and pepper spray affect the body, and what to do if you've been hit
Racism is an important aspect of our social environment that is increasingly discussed at both national and international levels. The effects of systemic racism are even felt today and appear to be an insidious part of the fabric of our society. In American History, voting bans on black people and denying them citizenship was deemed essential to the formation of the original union. However, hundreds of years later, though we claim to be anti-racist, we need to watch out for racism, especially its impact on health. Racial health disparity or health inequity is a term used to describe the differences and gaps in the quality of health and healthcare across racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups. Analysis conducted by Institute of Medicine (IOM) showed objective evidence of significant differences and raised the specter of bias and discrimination regarding black populations having access to healthcare. It underscored the challenges experienced by them concerning access to quality health care and the role of bias that leads to health disparity. For instance, six medical conditions were studied. They showed that mortality due to these conditions was 86% more in blacks than whites. Further, what is disturbing is that up to 45% of deaths in the black population would have been avoidable if they had better evaluation, detection, and treatment had been available. The six conditions were: cancer (3.8%), heart disease and stroke (14.4%), diabetes (1.0%), infant mortality (26.9%), cirrhosis (4.9%), and homicide and accidents (35.1%).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, racial disparity has been brought into the spotlight. Nationwide, black people are dying of COVID-19 at a rate 2.5 times higher than white people. There are 40 more deaths in black people compared to white people per 100,000 people. This data highlights the racial differences and showed a higher number of cases and deaths in the black population, showing the difference in the care of patients based on their race. What steps can we take as a society to achieve racial equality in healthcare throughout our nation?
It is well known from previous epidemics that socially marginalized populations suffer disproportionately. As a society, our goal should be to eliminate such health inequalities, making it crucial to collect more data along these lines. In early media reports, COVID-19 data from cities of Milwaukee, Chicago, New Orleans, and Detroit showed evidence of racial disparity in healthcare. The data pointed towards resource-deprived neighborhoods that are composed essentially of lower income people, minorities and foreigners, and marginalized by the broader society. Additionally, there were also news reports about racial disparities in COVID related deaths in Washington, D.C. For example, neighborhoods in Queens and the Bronx were thought to have more deaths due to their density and racial composition.
Many factors have been implicated, including a biological explanation that genetics are specific to racial minorities and predispose them to higher disease rates. Other reasons are grounded on racial stereotyping about specific behavioral patterns that influenced a particular racial minority to a disease. For example, racialized characterization that blacks are more obese is common. In fact, obese patients are at higher risk for developing COVID. Broadly, racial health disparities are caused in black populations at three levels. At the first level, there are differences in exposures and life opportunities that create different levels of health and disease in this population. For instance, there is an uneven geographic concentration of respiratory hazards and toxic sites in black or minority-heavy populated areas. There is also disparity in educational opportunities leading to low socioeconomic status ultimately leading to difficulty in affording health care. Second, differences in access to health care leads to different health outcomes. For instance, there is an uneven distribution of preventive health care services in some geographic locations. Finally, at the third level, there is differential care within the healthcare system leading to these disparities in black populations. Analysis by the American College of Cardiology and other studies have affirmed that there are differences in treatment that blacks and whites receive having a heart attack or acute myocardial infarction. African Americans were less likely than whites to receive cardiac diagnostic and revascularization procedures to remove blockage which are essential to save lives even when patients presented with similar symptoms.
Actions need to be taken at each level to mitigate the disparities by race. To address the differences in exposure and life opportunity by race, we all need to continue to raise awareness of these existing disparities. Researchers, journalists, public health officials, and policymakers need to take essential steps to discuss and address racial inequalities, especially in the public sphere. In order to target the differences in access to health care, we need to explore a better system of universal health care coverage, institute training of a more racially diverse health workforce at all levels and more importantly have a mechanism for assuring that there is an appropriate distribution of physicians geographically. To tackle the differential care received within the healthcare system, there should be a process for monitoring physician practices and seeing if they are adhering to treatment protocols. Besides, all health providers should have training on “ cultural competency” or anti-racism. Finally, as one draws attention to COVID racial disparities, we need to collect data on socioeconomic status (SES). The Harvard Public Health Disparities Geocoding Project uses publicly available Census data on poverty, level of household crowding, racial composition, and segregation to analyze COVID-19 data along multiple axes of inequality, down to the level of the ZIP Code tabulation area. Complementary SES information will clarify how racial and class forces are intertwined in the case of COVID-19 By highlighting connections between racial disparities and upstream effects such as economic inequality, which carry widespread societal consequences, we can tackle the problem of racism affecting health outcomes.
In summary, the ways we can solve the problems on these three levels are by monitoring physician practice and adherence to protocol, have universal health care coverage and training of a more racially and linguistically more diverse health workforce, and lead national campaigns to raise awareness on this facet of racism.
Written by Akash Raman
Jones, Camara Phyllis. (2002). Confronting Institutionalized Racism. Phylon, 50(1/2), 7-22.
Reopening the United States after Coronavirus will have to be gradual and restricted in many ways in order to be successful. Countries, such as India and Iran, that rushed reopening in an effort to salvage their economies, have faced second waves of the virus. Unfortunately, the United States has put itself into a difficult situation by not enforcing restrictions soon enough. Denmark, Germany, and New Zealand are some of the countries that have been able to slowly reopen successfully, and they all have one thing in common: they were some of the first to implement lockdowns or strict social distancing. Germany also implemented widespread testing at a remarkable rate when the virus hit. With a careful and gradual reopening, the United States will eventually return to a more normal state; however, if there is anything we can learn from the countries successful in combating this pandemic, it is that the Coronavirus needed to be met head-on in order to prevent the catastrophe that ensued.
Written by Eliza Bernene
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