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Take a Free Course on COVID-19 From MIT

Illustration for article titled Take a Free Course on COVID-19 From MIT

Graphic: Andrii Vodolazhskyi (Shutterstock)

Beginning September 1 at 11:30 a.m. ET (8:30 a.m. PT), MIT is offering a course on “COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 and the Pandemic.” The course’s lectures will be livestreamed every Tuesday and are free to the public. (Only enrolled students can ask questions, but everyone can watch.)

The lineup of instructors looks great, including Anthony Fauci leading one of the sessions. You can see the schedule here. The topics are mainly about the biology of the virus and how the human body responds to it; there are lectures on vaccines, antibodies, and more. And if you miss a class, the videos will be available to watch later.

If that’s too in-depth for you, or if you’d like to flesh out your understanding with a broader multidisciplinary course, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is also offering a COVID-19 course open to the public. This one covers topics like testing, health inequities, the effect of the pandemic on mental health, and other broad implications of this pandemic’s effect on the world. Lectures are on Sunday evenings, starting 8 p.m. CT (that’s 9 p.m. ET and 6 p.m. PT).

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Hundreds to isolate after Banham Poultry factory Covid-19 outbreak – BBC News

Workers taking a break at Banham Poultry

Image caption

The Banham Poultry factory in Attleborough has been partially closed

Hundreds of poultry workers and their households have been urged to self-isolate following a Covid-19 outbreak at a factory, officials say.

Ninety-six staff at Banham Poultry in Norfolk have tested positive for Covid-19, a rise of 21 since Thursday.

So far 477 of the workforce of about 800 people have had tests.

But Norfolk public health director Dr Louise Smith said all staff must self-isolate for 14 days “if they have not tested positive or not been tested”.

“Staff and their households, including children, must self-isolate for 14 days, if they have not tested positive or not been tested,” she said.

“Staff must isolate for 10 days if they have had a positive test result, and their households, including children, need to isolate for 14 days.

“Anyone who has not been tested is urged to apply for a test and more mobile units are being brought in to support this.

“As the relevant regulatory agencies have confirmed the building has been deep cleaned, the company is bringing in a new group of 45 people to continue to staff the slaughterhouse.

“This will ensure that the euthanasing of birds can continue, in accordance with the usual regulations.”

Image caption

Banham Poultry has been in business in Attleborough since 1965

Dr Smith said there was no evidence of a spread of this outbreak to the wider community after previously announcing that “precautionary” coronavirus testing had been extended to all staff.

Blaine van Rensburg, managing director of Banham Poultry said last week that the “safety of our employees remains our number one priority”.

“We continue to ensure that PPE is used appropriately by all employees and have teams in place to encourage and monitor social distancing measures,” he added.

Find BBC News: East of England on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you have a story suggestion email eastofenglandnews@bbc.co.uk

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Coronavirus update: FDA sparks new debate over following Russia, China in vaccine push – Yahoo Finance

The rapid push toward a coronavirus vaccine is feeding concerns among health experts, who fear the COVID-19 crisis response will be further polarized and undermined by political pressures.

Over the weekend, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn alarmed experts when, in an interview with the Financial Times, he suggested the regulatory body could approve a vaccine before Phase 3 trials are complete.

President Donald Trump, who is locked in a fierce reelection battle, has placed a high priority on a vaccine candidate being deployed by year’s end.

“It is up to the sponsor [vaccine developer] to apply for authorization or approval, and we make an adjudication of their application. If they do that before the end of Phase Three, we may find that appropriate. We may find that inappropriate, we will make a determination,” Hahn told FT.

A discussion about such a move, as well as in general vaccine approval, will be discussed with an outside advisory committee on Oct. 22, the FDA recently announced.

Hahn’s comments, following what some called a “premature” emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma last week, adds to the wariness and sensitivities of the administration playing politics with public health.

Dr. Dara Kass, a Yahoo medical contributor, said Monday that Hahn’s statement is the opposite of reassurances he and his team have been providing that “only a safe vaccine” will get approval.

“The idea of actually approving a vaccine before Phase 3 trials are complete is unprecedented, but it’s also potentially unsafe,” Kass told Yahoo Finance on Monday.

Experts have warned that third phase is often the longest. The process cannot be condensed because of the length of time needed to observe the effects of the inoculation’s safety and durability, which are governed by regulation.

The Dakotas are seeing an uptick in cases. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)The Dakotas are seeing an uptick in cases. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

The Dakotas are seeing an uptick in cases. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

Similar concerns have risen from both Russia and China claiming to have effective vaccines. Those are being used by their militaries and other high-risk individuals in the population — all before completing, or in some cases even starting, Phase 3 trials.

“I just can’t imagine a scenario by which we would choose to follow Russia and China on anything else,” Kass said.

Dr. Howard Forman, a Yale University professor and health expert, told Yahoo Finance that it would be just like China and Russia if the U.S. were to authorize the use of a vaccine before human trials are complete.

“We have a vaccine now. In fact, we have many vaccines now. We just don’t know if they are safe and effective,” Forman said, adding that the standards of the FDA are what distinguish the U.S. from other countries.

If a vaccine were to be authorized — which, like plasma, could be revoked if adverse events are seen—it could undermine trust in vaccines, which is already a polarizing issue. Hahn himself acknowledged that last week in a series of Twitter posts.

Still, mounting political pressure has stoked concerns among experts over the past several weeks.

“The CDC and the FDA, in the past week, have both had to go back and walk back comments they have made about safety recommendations on testing or therapeutics based on political pressures they’ve had, where they’ve had to correct themselves,” Kass said. “That doesn’t help any public confidence in a vaccine when it comes out.”

Cases are down in the U.S. week over week. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)Cases are down in the U.S. week over week. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

Cases are down in the U.S. week over week. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

The frontrunners in the U.S., Moderna (MRNA) and Pfizer (PFE), have said the earliest they will get some sort of indication of the effectiveness of their candidates will be by September, with Pfizer expecting regulatory review by October.

Meanwhile, companies in the race are working on distribution deals as soon as a vaccine is authorized or approved.

The latest deal in the works is from Novavax (NVAX), which received the largest federal funding award for vaccine development. Novavax has reached an agreement in principle with Canada to supply up to 76 million doses, according to a statement.

In the treatments space, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has announced its partnership with Vir Biotechnology (VIR) for— also a vaccine contender— began late-stage trials of their monoclonal antibody candidate. The duo are the latest to progress in their pursuit of an antibody treatment, which is seen as both a treatment and defense for the virus in the absence of a vaccine.

Anjalee Khemlani is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @AnjKhem

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A Zoom Thanksgiving? Summer could give way to a bleaker fall – The Associated Press

As the Summer of COVID draws to a close, many experts fear an even bleaker fall and suggest that American families should start planning for Thanksgiving by Zoom.

Because of the many uncertainties, public health scientists say it’s easier to forecast the weather on Thanksgiving Day than to predict how the U.S. coronavirus crisis will play out this autumn. But school reopenings, holiday travel and more indoor activity because of colder weather could all separately increase transmission of the virus and combine in ways that could multiply the threat, they say.

Here’s one way it could go: As more schools open for in-person instruction and more college students return to campuses, small clusters of cases could widen into outbreaks in late September. Public fatigue over mask rules and other restrictions could stymie efforts to slow these infections.

A few weeks later, widening outbreaks could start to strain hospitals. If a bad flu season peaks in October, as happened in 2009, the pressure on the health care system could result in higher daily death tolls from the coronavirus. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said that scenario is his biggest fear.

One certainty is that the virus will still be around, said Jarad Niemi, a disease-modeling expert at Iowa State University.

“We will not have a vaccine yet and we will not have enough infected individuals for herd immunity to be helpful,” Niemi said.

Fall may feel like a roller coaster of stop-and-start restrictions, as communities react to climbing hospital cases, said University of Texas disease modeler Lauren Ancel Meyers. Everyone should get a flu shot, she said, because if flu spreads widely, hospitals will begin to buckle and “that will compound the threat of COVID.”

“The decisions we make today will fundamentally impact the safety and feasibility of what we can do next month and by Thanksgiving,” Meyers said.

The virus is blamed for over 180,000 deaths and 6 million confirmed infections in the U.S. Worldwide, the death toll is put at almost 850,000, with over 25 million cases.

The U.S. is recording on average about 900 deaths a day from COVID-19, and newly confirmed infections per day are running at about 42,000, down from their peak in mid-July, when cases were topping out at over 70,000.

Around the country, a chicken processing plant in California will close this week for deep cleaning after nearly 400 workers got sick, including eight who died. And college campuses have been hit by outbreaks involving hundreds of students, blamed in some cases on too much partying. Schools including the University of North Carolina, Michigan State and Notre Dame have moved instruction online because of clusters on their campuses.

Several vaccines are in advanced testing, and researchers hope to have results later this year. But even if a vaccine is declared safe and effective by year’s end, as some expect, there won’t be enough for everyone who wants it right away.

Several companies are developing rapid, at-home tests, which conceivably could be used by families before a Thanksgiving gathering, but none has yet won approval.

More than 90 million adults are over 65 or have health problems, putting them in higher danger of severe consequences if they get sick with the coronavirus. Many of them and their families are starting to decide whether to book holiday flights.

Cassie Docking, 44, an urgent care nurse in Seattle, is telling her parents — both cancer survivors — that Thanksgiving will be by FaceTime only.

“We all want to get to 2021,” she said, “and if that’s what it takes, that’s what we’ll do.”

Caitlin Joyce’s family is forging ahead with a holiday feast. They plan to set up plywood tables on sawhorses in a large garage so they can sit 6 feet apart.

“We’ll be in our coats and our sweaters,” said Joyce, 30, of Edmonds, Washington, who plans to travel to her grandparents’ home in Virginia. “It will be almost like camping.”

One widely cited disease model projects 2,086 U.S. deaths per day by Thanksgiving, more than double compared with today.

“In our family we will not have our extended family get-together. We will stick to the nuclear family,” said Dr. Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, one of the few models making a prediction for November.

Uncertainty is huge in Murray’s model: Daily deaths could be as low as 1,500 by Thanksgiving or as high as 3,100. In a more optimistic scenario, daily deaths could range from 510 to 1,200 if nearly everyone wears masks. A more pessimistic scenario? From 2,700 to 6,500 daily deaths if social distancing rules continue to be lifted and are not reimposed.

With all the uncertainty, most disease modelers aren’t looking that far ahead — at least officially.

Jeffrey Shaman, a public health expert at Columbia University, thinks the virus will spread more easily as the weather forces people indoors: “But what level of a bump? That’s hard to say.”

At Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, computer scientist Roni Rosenfeld’s team uses machine learning to project COVID-19 deaths. The team’s computer algorithm learns from patterns it finds in state and county data to improve its forecasts.

A five-time winner of a CDC competition for predicting flu season activity, Rosenfeld thinks his model’s COVID-19 projections aren’t very useful beyond four weeks because of the wild card of human behavior, including that of government officials.

“What happens very much depends on us,” he said. “People, myself included, don’t always behave rationally.” Presented with the same facts, “the same person might behave differently depending on how sick and tired they are of the situation.”

Like other disease modelers, Rosenfeld said the virus will still be with us at Thanksgiving, readily spreading at family gatherings. While his plans may yet change, he said he is going to travel with his wife to visit their adult children. They will wear masks and keep a safe distance during the visit.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Bad News for Those of Us Who Are Loud As Hell – The Cut

The time to stop screaming all our thoughts is nigh.

The time to stop screaming all our thoughts is nigh.
Photo: Getty Images

We may soon witness the death of yet another beloved American pastime to coronavirus: sharing all our passing thoughts at an unnecessarily loud and obnoxious volume. According to new research, speaking quietly — as opposed to screaming all our thoughts — significantly lowers the rate of virus transmission. Someone alert Kimberly Guilfoyle.

The findings, as reported by The Atlantic, build on existing knowledge surrounding coronavirus transmission: that the virus mainly spreads through respiratory droplets and aerosols, and that standing in close proximity to an infected person significantly increases your chances of contracting the virus.

But according to multiple studies, reported by Atlantic writer Derek Thompson, our proclivity for screaming in each other’s faces could prove to be an obstacle in our fight to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. One study shows that talking quietly — as opposed to yelling — reduces virus transmission by 80 percent, and staying silent curtails the production of infected respiratory droplets by 98 percent. One scientist told Thompson that speaking quietly could be as effective at reducing transmission as properly wearing a mask.

“Every route of viral transmission would go down if we talked less, or talked less loudly, in public spaces,” Jose L. Jimenez, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder who has studied the subject, told The Atlantic. (That said, there does seem to be some evidence that talking loudly while wearing a mask isn’t a problem. Amid the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, studies found zero evidence that the demonstrations — where people loudly chanted, but in most cases, wore masks — caused spikes in coronavirus cases.)

But clearly, it would benefit us all to lower the decibel of our voices, or better yet, shut up altogether. For inspiration, let us look to Japanese theme parks, which have been doling out poetic advice to roller-coaster riders. Instead of shrieking out loud, the parks have urged guests to “scream inside your heart.” No one has to give up screaming altogether; you simply have to keep it within.

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West Nile virus detected in Cache County mosquitoes – KSL.com

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What you should know about colon cancer – MSN Money

Could you be at risk of developing colon cancer? Despite efforts to raise awareness of the disease, it is still the second-leading cause of cancer death. Here’s what you need to know about colon cancer, and what you can do to prevent it from affecting your life or the lives of your loved ones.

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Did COVID-19 cause only 6% of coronavirus deaths? Viral posts misrepresent CDC report – Miami Herald

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Dr. Fauci: Its conceivable well know by November if a safe, effective vaccine is coming – MSN Money

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an expert in infectious diseases for the last four decades, said this weekend: “The way the pace of the enrollment is going on and the level of the infections that are going on in the United States, it is likely that we’ll get an answer by the end of the year.”


‘The way the pace of the enrollment is going on and the level of the infections that are going on in the United States, it is likely that we’ll get an answer by the end of the year. It is conceivable that we would get an answer before that.


— Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

He added: “It is conceivable that we would get an answer before that.” In the meantime, cases keep rising in the U.S. with California becoming the first state in the country to surpass 700,000 confirmed cases; infections there hit 705,951 as of Monday with 12,937 COVID-related deaths. New York has recorded 434,100 infections and the highest number of deaths in the U.S. (32,951). COVID has killed 183,258 people in the U.S.

“I would say a safe bet is at least knowing that you have a safe and effective vaccine by November, December,” he told the Times newspaper in the U.K. He declined to comment on what vaccine could be a front-runner, but added, “I would not be satisfied until a vaccine was proven to be safe and effective, before it was actually approved for general use.”

But Fauci cautioned against rushing a vaccine for political purposes without first knowing it was safe. At the mostly online Republican National Convention, President Donald Trump said, “We are delivering lifesaving therapies, and will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner. We will defeat the virus, end the pandemic, and emerge stronger than ever before.”

The president’s convention address appeared to somewhat accelerate the timeline laid out by “Operation Warp Speed,” his administration’s effort to financially support the rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. Under that program, the administration says it aims to have initial vaccine doses available by January 2021.

As of Monday, COVID-19 has infected over 25 million people worldwide, which mostly does not account for asymptomatic cases, and killed 847,400. The U.S. still has the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases (6,009,899), followed by Brazil (3,862,311), India (3,621,245) and Russia (992,402), according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

AstraZeneca
AZN,
+0.55%
,
in combination with Oxford University; BioNTech SE
BNTX,
-4.29%

and partner Pfizer
PFE,
-0.31%

; GlaxoSmithKline
GSK,

Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
-0.15%

; Merck & Co.
MERK,
-1.84%

; Moderna
MRNA,
-3.85%

; and Sanofi
SAN,
-3.87%

are among those currently working toward COVID-19 vaccines.

Also see:Sweden embraced herd immunity, while the U.K. abandoned the idea — so why do they both have high COVID-19 fatality rates?

In a separate interview with the “Colors” podcast on Friday, Fauci said it was imperative to enroll a diverse number of people in a vaccine to ensure that it is safe and effective for everyone, and said that coronavirus has shed “very bright light” on the disparities in the U.S. health-care system. Even post-vaccine, he said something needed to be done about those disparities.


‘The likelihood that African Americans will get infected versus whites or others and — when and if they do get infected — the likelihood of their getting a serious outcome more so than whites. The answer is unfortunately, ‘Yes,’ to both.’


— Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

“There are two elements that need to be clarified,” Fauci told the podcast’s hosts J.J. Green and Chris Core. “One: The likelihood that African Americans will get infected versus whites or others and — when and if they do get infected — the likelihood of their getting a serious outcome more so than whites. The answer is unfortunately, ‘Yes,’ to both.”

He said, “You want to show that it is safe and effective in all elements of society. If we don’t get African Americans and Latinx and Asian Americans and Native Americans, if we don’t get them properly represented in the proportion of those that are in the trial, we will not know for sure — although you can assume it, but you want to prove it — that it is safe and effective in that group.”

But experts caution that a vaccine is unlikely to provide 100% immunity to the population. Aside from social distancing and masks, Fauci previously said that aiming for 100% herd immunity — as Sweden attempted — instead of closing schools and businesses to flatten the curve of new cases of COVID-19, would have dire consequences for the American people.

Anders Tegnell, the Swedish epidemiologist who masterminded the plan, admitted the country made a mistake. “If we were to encounter the same illness with the same knowledge that we have today, I think our response would land somewhere in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” he said in June when the country hit the highest death rate in Europe.

Countries like South Korea, New Zealand and China — where the virus is believed to have originated in a food market in Wuhan late last year — appear to have had more success in beating back COVID-19. Earlier this week, for example, New Zealand moved fast to lock down Auckland after the return of COVID after 102 days of reporting no new infections.

The Dow Jones Industrial Index
DJIA,
-0.78%
,
S&P 500
SPX,
-0.21%

and Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
+0.68%

were lower Monday. A speech from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell last week will, analysts say, likely help usher in an era of looser monetary policy after the central bank dropped its longstanding practice of preemptively lifting rates to head off higher inflation.


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Is There an Optimal Time to Get Your Flu Shot This Year? – Lifehacker

Illustration for article titled Is There an Optimal Time to Get Your Flu Shot This Year?

Photo: pixelaway (Shutterstock)

Flu shots are already available in many places, and as we’ve noted, it’s especially important to get your flu shot this year. (You don’t want to have COVID and the flu, nor do you want to catch the flu and seek testing and care because you don’t know whether it might be COVID.) So is it time? Go for it now if you like—although if you want to wait, that’s fine, but get it by October.

You can’t predict the exact best time to get the flu shot except in hindsight. Some people prefer not to get the shot too early because it’s possible that the protection of a flu shot fades as the season wears on. But if you wait too long, you won’t be protected if flu season happens to start early.

While these tradeoffs suggest that there might be an optimal window to get the shot, public health scientists have studied the question and found that there isn’t really a clear answer. The best advice they have: Any time is better than putting it off and not getting one at all.

The CDC’s 2020 update on flu shot recommendations includes a brief discussion of the question, in which they conclude that the optimal time to get the shot depends on a bunch of factors we can’t control or predict. For example, if you knew the date the flu would arrive in your town, you could get your shot two weeks ahead of time—perfect. But since you can’t know, it’s best to get one whenever you can.

If you want a recommendation, the CDC’s committee stands by the advice to get your shot by the end of October. Anytime before that is fine. The flu can arrive in your area as early as October, but more often doesn’t start to peak until January, so if you get your shot in October chances are you’re prepared for whatever comes.

Personally, I get mine in September. There are plenty of flu shot clinics around that time, and usually the pharmacies have deals for walk-ins. Also—this is my real reason—I take my kids for their annual check-ups in September. The kids get theirs, I get mine, and we’re all set for the season.

But if you’re passing by the pharmacy each day and wondering if it’s too early? Just go ahead and get the shot now, if you think you might forget by putting it off. Any time is better than never.