Latest COVID Updates and Health News: October 14, 2021


Hi, hello, and how do you do? That was part of a cheer I remembered from middle school. And I’m somewhat cheery because COVID-19 case counts are going down, and vaccinations are going up. More on that, plus other positive things to discuss in this installment of The Download. I guess this is the good news edition. Woot! Oh wait, I do have a snippet of bad news, but we will cross that bridge…

Yep, you read that right. We can be cautiously optimistic for October because the 7-day moving average of daily case counts is going down again. But before I go any further, we need to remain vigilant because community transmission is still high, or substantial, basically everywhere in the United States.

The 7-day average of new daily cases now hovers at about 100,000 new cases per day. It has been declining slightly from about 150,000 since about mid-September. I built a table so you can pull up a chair and eat a plate of data on where we’ve been during the pandemic and the Delta surge (shown in gray).

Experts don’t know for certain why cases are going down. But they say the increase in vaccination is likely the reason — as well as, sadly, an increase in natural infection. Both produce antibodies and help to lessen the chain of viral transmission.

Late September and early October saw an increase in COVID-19 jabs. Of course, this slight surge can also be attributed to the more than 6 million peeps who’ve now received a booster dose. You want U.S. vax stats? I’ve got ’em.

We’re getting closer to knowing what’s up with a potential Moderna booster or Johnson & Johnson booster dose. The FDA’s advisory panel will convene this week to review data on both the J&J booster and the Moderna booster. If both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) give the go-ahead, then boosters for these vaccines could become available potentially even later this month. So hang tight, y’all!

Word on the street, well actually from J&J, is that a booster dose about 2 months after the first dose provides 94 percent protection against symptomatic COVID-19 and 100 percent protection from severe illness (2 weeks out from the boost). The booster provides a 4-fold increase in antibodies when given 2 months after the first dose and a 12-fold increase when given 6 months out.

Now for some bad news. COVID is killing rural folks at more than twice the rate of those in cities. Experts say lower vaccination rates, disparities in access to care, and increased rates of chronic health conditions that put people at risk for severe COVID-19 are all part of the dire picture. Plus, many healthcare systems have been overburdened with severely ill COVID-19 patients, worsening the situation. I grew up rural, and I 💕 many rural peeps. This section is only intended to inform, not slam.

I took a look at the states considered to be the most rural. Of those states, several currently have either a higher case rate per 100,000 people or a higher death count per 100,000 people when compared to the rest of the nation, or both. Those include Alabama, West Virginia, Montana, and where I grew up: North Dakota. FYI: West Virginia meets both criteria.

Incidentally, all these states are on the top 10 list for states with the least vaccination coverage. West Virginia is the state in first place with only 40 percent of people fully vaxxed. Alabama comes in fourth at 43 percent. North Dakota (tsk, tsk) is in sixth place at 44 percent. And Montana is in tenth at a little more than 48 percent. If you have questions about COVID-19 vaccines, I urge you to talk with your doctor.

NLAAD occurs every fall on October 15. HIV is disproportionately affecting Latinx populations, and that’s why awareness is crucial. In 2019, Latinx individuals made up about 18 percent of people in the U.S., yet they accounted for 30 percent of the confirmed 36,801 new HIV diagnoses.

Experts say systemic racism and racial bias in the medical field can create mistrust in the healthcare system, creating barriers for Hispanic and Latinx communities. Affordability can also be a barrier for anyone. Free resources are available for HIV care and prevention, however.

Fear regarding immigration or citizenship status is another barrier of concern. About 80 percent of Latinx people in the U.S. are U.S. citizens. Please know that federally funded programs do exist to provide support to people with HIV, regardless of immigration or citizenship status. You do not need a social security number. You can read more about resources in this article.

And not just because it’s 4:20. LOL, just a little herb humor for you. But for reals, a “proof-of-concept” study found that smartphone data gleaned from various sensors can predict when you’ve been consuming cannabis, with up to 90 percent accuracy.

The 57 subjects in the study consented to have their data analyzed, and they also completed surveys about their cannabis usage and how they felt. Researchers compared the survey info with phone data to pinpoint likely indicators of intoxication points. What’s the point? I dunno. It’s all a bit hazy… DeVonne Goode, Greatist’s lifestyle editor, has more info about this.

Scotland now requires the incorporation of LGBTQ+ history curriculum in schools. It’s the first country in the world to make this amazing move. Let’s hope other countries (and states) follow suit. (Hint, hint, U.S.)

In the U.S., some states do have curriculum standards that include affirming LGBTQ+ identities. Those include Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Other states have laws in place that prohibit doing so. Those include Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. (You know, in case you needed another reason to fume at Texas lawmakers.)



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