California Comes to Its Senses

On Monday, Californian officials announced that regional coronavirus stay-at-home orders across the state will be lifted, allowing restaurants to immediately resume outdoor dining.

According to a new United Nations report, four times as many jobs were lost last year due to the coronavirus pandemic as during the worst part of the global financial crisis in 2009. As fears over new COVID strains mount, Moderna stated its vaccine remains effective against the new variants, but it’s also making a version that could be used as a booster.

In other news:

  • The Rational Grounds team is hosting a free webinar on Thursday, February 4th at 9:30 pm ET/6:30 PT. We will share the tools and tactics you need to take back your school Register here.
  • Approximately 260,000 people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia died last year, a 16% increase.
  • Johns Hopkins professor Marty Makary says it’s time to take natural immunity seriously and prioritize our limited vaccine supply to those who have never had COVID.
  • Our friends at AIER have a new series of poignant videos featuring individual New Yorkers who had their lives impacted by the lockdown.
  • Zachary Yost explains why Rachel Levine, the new assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services, is bad news.

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Additionally, we just released an update on how COVID-19 is playing out on university campuses.

COVID News

California eases lockdowns as state’s COVID-19 crisis ebbs

https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-usa/california-eases-lockdowns-as-states-covid-19-crisis-ebbs-idUSL1N2K025F

LOS ANGELES, Jan 25 (Reuters) – California eased strict COVID-19 stay-at-home orders on Monday, allowing restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining and greater social mixing as state public health officials cited slowing rates of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

The announcement marked the most tangible sign yet that California, which emerged in recent months as a leading U.S. hotspot of the COVID-19 pandemic, has moved beyond the worst days of a crisis that pushed much of its healthcare system to the breaking point.

The improved outlook in California, the most populous U.S. state with 40 million residents, came as the country as a whole surpassed the alarming milestone of 25 million known infections, with nearly 419,000 lives lost during the pandemic.

Job losses from virus 4 times as bad as ’09 financial crisis

https://apnews.com/article/financial-markets-financial-crisis-coronavirus-pandemic-united-nations-b2aec77662857af746583b071f339486

GENEVA (AP) — Four times as many jobs were lost last year due to the coronavirus pandemic as during the worst part of the global financial crisis in 2009, a U.N. report said Monday.

The International Labor Organization estimated that the restrictions on businesses and public life destroyed 8.8% of all work hours around the world last year. That is equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs – quadruple the impact of the financial crisis over a decade ago.

“This has been the most severe crisis for the world of work since The Great Depression of the 1930s. Its impact is far greater than that of the global financial crisis of 2009,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. The fallout was almost equally split between reduced work hours and “unprecedented” job losses, he said.

The United Nations agency noted that most people who lost work stopped looking for a job altogether, likely because of restrictions on businesses that hire in big numbers like restaurants, bars, stores, hotels and other services that depend on face-to-face interactions.

Moderna Says Vaccine Still Protects Against Virus Variants

Moderna’s vaccine is effective against new variants of the coronavirus that have emerged in Britain and South Africa, the company announced on Monday. But it appears to be less protective against the variant discovered in South Africa, and so the company is developing a new form of the vaccine that could be used as a booster shot against that virus.

“We’re doing it today to be ahead of the curve should we need to,” Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, said in an interview. “I think of it as an insurance policy.”

He added, “I don’t know if we need it, and I hope we don’t.”

Moderna reported findings from a study that used blood samples from eight people who had received two doses of the vaccine, and two monkeys that had also been immunized.

The British variant had no impact on the levels of neutralizing antibodies — the type that can disable the virus — produced after vaccination. But with the South African form, there was a sixfold reduction in those levels.

Even so, the company said, those antibodies “remain above levels that are expected to be protective.”

Alzheimer’s deaths skyrocket as patients’ lives ‘upended’ by pandemic

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2021/01/21/alzheimers-patients-dying-during-covid-19-pandemic/4218661001/

DETROIT – George Pitchford knew his wife, Bettie, a retired educator whose lively mind was lost in the fog that is Alzheimer’s, was going to get worse. But he hadn’t expected her to die, at least not so soon.

Bettie’s ramped up decline started with the coronavirus pandemic. 

The nursing center where she lived closed to visitors, and everything changed. George and a legion of family friends were no longer allowed to take Bettie on the walks she so greatly enjoyed.

Within months, she was in a wheelchair. They saw her only through window visits or via FaceTime calls, neither of which were especially productive. 

Bettie seldom spoke. After awhile, the glimmer of recognition that appeared in her eyes when she heard George’s voice disappeared. She didn’t want to eat. “All these things just sort of fed on each other,” George Pitchford said.

Commentary/Analysis

Faces of Lockdowns

While data, statistics, historical allusions, and appeals to morality all demonstrate the disastrous nature of lockdowns, none show the devastation as vividly as personal stories from those suffering the most. 

Since March 2020, New York City has faced a constant back and forth of new and revised Covid-19 regulations. Although these policies initially appear helpful in Covid mitigation, they are not only ineffective but extremely harmful to people and their livelihoods. We spoke to a few working New Yorkers and found the situation to be just as suspected: businesses on the brink of shutting down for good, students struggling to learn, and unmatched frustration. The anecdotal videos below provide a glimpse into the lives of many people in New York City.

While the individuals interviewed are understandably frustrated, they all exude perseverance, strength, and – above all – hope.

People who previously had covid-19 should go to the back of the vaccine line

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/01/22/people-who-previously-had-covid-19-should-go-back-vaccine-line/

As thousands of Americans perish daily due to covid-19 and the nation scrambles to ration a scarce vaccine supply, many Americans are appropriately asking: “Should I get the vaccine if I already had covid-19?” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says yes, with a narrow exception for those who have been infected in the past 90 days and received convalescent plasma or antibody therapy.

But this is outdated and fails to take natural immunity seriously. As a result of this flawed guidance, Americans with natural immunity — including many who are low-risk — are inappropriately getting the vaccine instead of high-risk seniors.

Many medical experts have been dismissive of natural immunity due to prior infection, but there is overwhelming data showing that covid-19 reinfections are rare, and when they do occur, the infection is often mild. A Public Health England study released last week found that less than 1 percent of 6,614 people who tested positive for covid-19 antibodies developed a reinfection within the five months studied.

Biden Nominee Rachel Levine Was a Disaster in Pennsylvania. Now She’s Headed to Washington

https://mises.org/wire/biden-nominee-rachel-levine-was-disaster-pennsylvania-now-shes-headed-washington

On January 19 it was announced that Joe Biden planned to nominate Rachel Levine, the Pennsylvania (PA) secretary of health, for the position of assistant secretary of health in the Department of Health and Human Services. This is potentially good news for Pennsylvanians, who will finally be rid of her after having had to endure her disastrous covid lockdowns and restrictions for nearly a year, but is likely bad news for the rest of the country.

News coverage of Levine’s nomination is focused almost entirely on the fact that if she is confirmed she will be the first transgender official to be confirmed by the Senate and barely mentions or completely glosses over her handling of the pandemic in PA. NPR doesn’t mention her track record at all other than noting that she, unsurprisingly, called for more federal funding to deal with the virus. The Morning Call at least reported that Levine has faced criticism over her handling of the virus response but failed to mention that under Levine PA nursing homes were forced to accept covid-positive patients.

Research

SARS-CoV-2-Associated T-Cell Responses in the Presence of Humoral Immunodeficiency

https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/514193

Abstract:

We report perhaps the most comprehensive study of subsets of CD4+ and CD8+ and subsets of B cells in a mild symptomatic SARS-CoV-2+ immunocompetent patient and a common variable immunodeficiency disease (CVID) patient who had normal absolute lymphocyte counts and remained negative for SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies. Naïve (TN), central memory (TCM), effector memory (TEM), and terminally differentiated effector memory (TEMRA) subsets of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, subsets of T follicular helper cells (cTFH, TFH1, TFH2, TFH17, TFH1/TFH17, and TFR), CD4 Treg, CD8 Treg, mature B cells, transitional B cells, marginal zone B cells, germinal center (GC) B cells, CD21low B cells, antibody-secreting cells (plasmablasts), and Breg cells were examined in patients and age-matched controls with appropriate monoclonal antibodies and isotype controls using multicolor flow cytometry. Different patterns of abnormalities (often contrasting) were observed in the subsets of CD4+ T, CD8+ T, B-cell subsets, and regulatory lymphocytes among the immunocompetent patient and CVID patient as compared to corresponding healthy controls. Furthermore, when data were analyzed between the 2 patients, the immunocompetent patient demonstrated greater changes in various subsets as compared to the CVID patient. These data demonstrate different immunological responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection in an immunocompetent patient and the CVID patient. A marked decrease in GC B cells and plasmablasts may be responsible for failure to make SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The lack of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies with mild clinical disease suggests an important role of T-cell response in defense against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Charts and Graphics

The ability to telework is tied directly to your income. Lockdowns impact poorer families.

ER visits with coronavirus-like illnesses (CLIs) are falling rapidly.

International News

Lockdown has destroyed the private sphere

https://www.spiked-online.com/2021/01/21/lockdown-has-destroyed-the-private-sphere/

‘You must stay at home.’ With this directive, issued by Boris Johnson on 23 March last year, our homes became more central to our lives than ever before. One of the first revelations of lockdown, at least to those who lead very sheltered lives, was that not all homes are equal. Zoom calls exposed the chasm between company executives in spacious home offices overlooking large gardens and junior employees with the laptop at the kitchen table if they were lucky, or propped up on one corner of the bed if they weren’t. And no, we did not feel sympathy for celebs emoting from their mansions.

Since last March, the purpose – and the very meaning – of our homes has changed. Home used to be the place we would return to at the end of the day; it meant a retreat into the private sphere and away from the glare of the public realm. Home allowed us to recharge and face the world anew the next day.

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