The 2020 U.S. presidential election is over… but as of this writing, a winner has not been called. With everything focused on the election, we’ve enjoyed a short panic break from COVID19.
The courts continue to rule against governors who abuse their powers in the name of public health.
New research continue to discover the importance of vitamin D in mitigating respiratory infections and are finally examining the collateral damage from lockdowns.
Overseas, the British government has gone back into lockdown. This time however, their actions have received strong pushback including from science writer Matt Ridley, the Tory party itself, and distinguished jurist Lord Sumption.
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Additionally, we just released an update on how COVID-19 is playing out on university campuses.
California Assemblymen Kevin Kiley and James Gallagher sued to stop California Governor Gavin Newsom’s “one man rule,” as California Globe has reported over several months. They were in Sutter County Superior Court October 21st, arguing that Gov. Gavin Newsom has exceeded his emergency powers in issuing Executive Orders having nothing to do with the coronavirus pandemic crisis.
Monday, State Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman tentatively ruled in favor of Gallagher (R-Yuba City) and Kiley (R-Rocklin) in their abuse of power lawsuit against Governor Newsom.
In the tentative ruling, Judge Heckman declared the Governor’s recent Executive Order N-67-20 unconstitutional. More importantly, Judge Heckman’s tentative ruling places a permanent injunction against the Governor which prevents him from unilaterally making or changing state law moving forward.
On one side of the Covid-19 debate are the anti-maskers, self-styled freedom fighters versed in the ideals of free market libertarianism and the defence of personal liberties. On the other, are the militant pro-lockdowners – curtain-twitching vigilantes obsessed with rising case numbers to the exclusion of every other metric.
These caricatures have dogged popular culture since the coronavirus crisis began. Six months since the first peak in April, the debate is still highly politicised.
A number of scientists say a climate of fear has taken hold where academics are afraid to speak out for fear of being vilified. The replacement of nuanced debate with hyper-polarisation and insult-trading has prompted many to despair over the erosion of healthy scientific discussion and a potential breakdown of public trust.
EdWeek asked Dr. Ashish K. Jha to offer some guidance for schools. In his previous role as director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, and now, as dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, Jha has been a leading voice on the importance of using science and data to guide decisions about the pandemic. This interview has been edited for length and clarity
In some cases, we see districts sticking with remote learning even when the two key metrics they watch most closely—the percent of positive tests and new cases per 100,000 residents—would suggest a relatively low risk of reopening for in-person instruction. Is there such a thing as being overly cautious right now? Should K-12 schools take a bolder step toward reopening?
There’s no doubt in my mind that schools need to be bolder than they’re being. There is a large mental health cost to children. And we know this is going to very substantially widen the achievement gap between wealthier/white students and poorer/students of color. The effect is going to be felt for a very long time. You always have to weigh those very large costs against the cost of going back to in-person education. Obviously, if going back to in-person education was going to lead to a lot of infections and deaths, you’d say OK, that’s a cost we can’t bear. But districts that are being too cautious are doing enormous harm to children and families in their communities.
Over 80 percent of 200 COVID-19 patients in a hospital in Spain have vitamin D deficiency.
There are several lines of evidence that might support a role for vitamin D status in SARS-CoV-2 infection. Firstly, vitamin D deficiency is a common condition all around the world, and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) levels follow a well-known seasonal and geographical pattern. Thus, Spain located in temperate zones of the Northern hemisphere, but with a higher prevalence of vitamin D deficiency (1) has reached very high rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection and lethality (2). Secondly, vitamin D is a steroid hormone involved in the modulation of the innate and acquired immune system and also in the production of antimicrobial peptides, such as cathelicidin and human -defensin-2, as well as in the expression of genes involved in the intracellular destruction of pathogens (3-5). Thirdly, low serum 25OHDlevels are frequently found in elderly individuals or in those with chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular diseases, which have also been reported as poor prognostic factors for COVID-19 (6-11). Finally, the downregulation of ACE2 by SARS-CoV-2 leads to a dysregulation of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) that contributes to the “cytokine storm” that precedes the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) characteristic of the severe form of COVID-19. In this sense, vitamin D can inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokine production in human monocytes/macrophages (12), and chronic vitamin D deficiency may induce RAS activation, leading to the production of fibrotic factors and therefore, lung damage (13).
Taking into account the above considerations, we aimed to assess the serum 25OHD levels in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 compared to population-based controls. Besides, the possible association between serum 25OHD concentrations and COVID-19 severity and mortality was also analyzed.
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has posed an unprecedented challenge for governments. Questions regarding the most effective interventions to reduce the spread of the virus—for example, more testing, requirements to wear face masks, and stricter and longer lockdowns—become widely discussed in the popular and scientific press, informed largely by models that aimed to predict the health benefits of proposed interventions. Central to all these studies is recognition that inaction, or delayed action, will put millions of people unnecessarily at risk of serious illness or death.
However, interventions to limit the spread of the coronavirus also carry negative health effects, which have yet to be considered systematically. Despite increasing evidence on the unintended, adverse effects of public health interventions such as social distancing and lockdown measures, there are few signs that policy decisions are being informed by a serious assessment and weighing of their harms on health. Instead, much of the discussion has become politicised, especially in the US, where President Trump’s provocative statements sparked debates along party lines about the necessity for policies to control covid-19. This politicisation, often fuelled by misinformation, has distracted from a much needed dispassionate discussion on the harms and benefits of potential public health measures against covid-19.
England will enter a second national lockdown in the coming days, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced. The decision came hours after the UK passed the grim milestone of one million coronavirus cases.
The month-long shutdown will come into effect from Thursday after a parliamentary vote early next week, Johnson said during a news conference on Saturday evening.
“We must act now to contain the autumn surge,” he said.
Johnson was forced to make the announcement on Saturday after the government’s plans were leaked to numerous national newspapers the previous evening. The plan had been initially to announce the measures on Monday.
The strict lockdown will see the closure of pubs, restaurants and non-essential businesses, including hair salons and gyms. Schools, universities and playgrounds will stay open.
I was in favour of a national lockdown in the spring. I am not now, for six main reasons.
Covid is not a very dangerous disease for most people. The death rate is probably around 0.2 per cent of those infected, and most who die are elderly and suffering from other medical conditions. The mortality of those in hospital with Covid has almost halved for the over 80s since the start of the epidemic as treatment has improved.
Lockdowns are lethal. They cause more deaths from cancer, heart disease and suicide as well as job losses, bankruptcies, social disintegration and mental illness especially among the young, who are at least risk from the virus. In April sunshine, many people and firms could cope for a short period – once. Today, in November rain, the pain will be far worse. I will be all right, living in a rural area and able to work online, but what of those who started restaurants or live alone in small flats?
The very essence of what we are as a nation is being destroyed. From the pub to the Union to the principle of free speech. Our native sense of irreverence and good-humoured scepticism has been replaced by a dead-handed fear of saying the wrong thing for fear of cancellation – the equivalent of having your party membership revoked, meaning no job and no access to the GUM store.
I make one simple plea. Reclaim. Reclaim your freedom. Reclaim what it used to mean when people said, ‘It’s a free country!’. And reclaim it before it’s too late.
We all know this has gone too far. All know that somewhere this rollercoaster ride has to stop and that the country needs to get off. In terms of liberty, in terms of economy, in terms of our way of life, in terms of wider health, both physical and mental, screaming towards catastrophe.
As a great man once said: ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.’
On 27 October 2020, Lord Sumption delivered the 2020 Cambridge Freshfields Lecture entitled “Government by decree – Covid-19 and the Constitution”.
The disputes over Brexit last year saw an attempt to make the executive, not Parliament, the prime source of authority in the Constitution. The coronavirus crisis has provoked another attempt to marginalise Parliament, this time with the willing acquiescence of the House of Commons. Is this to be our future?
Lord Sumption is an author, historian and lawyer of note. He was appointed directly from the practising Bar to the Supreme Court, and served as a Supreme Court Justice from 2012-18. In 2019, he delivered the BBC Reith Lectures, “Law and the Decline of Politics”, and is now a regular commentator in the media. He continues to sit as a Non-Permanent Judge of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. Alongside his career as a lawyer, he has also produced a substantial and highly-regarded narrative history of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France (with volume V still to come).
During the Covid-19 pandemic,the British state has exercised coercive powers over its citizens on a scale never previously attempted. It has taken effective legal control, enforced by the police,over the personal lives of the entire population: where they could go, whom they could meet, what they could do even within their own homes. For three months it placed everybody under a form of house arrest, qualified only by their right to do a limited number of things approved by ministers. All of this has been authorised by ministerial decree with minimal Parliamentary involvement. It has been the most significant interference with personal freedom in the history of our country. We have never sought to do such a thing before, even in wartime and even when faced with health crises far more serious than this one.
ONE OF THE most pressing questions about covid-19 is how achievable “herd immunity” may be. Holding other factors constant, the more people have protective antibodies, the slower the virus spreads. If enough people become and remain immune, further outbreaks are prevented.
Some experts have advised letting the young and healthy get covid-19, in order to approach such herd immunity. European data suggest this goal remains distant: within countries, the regions with the most cases in the spring also tend to have the biggest outbreaks now. Yet broad averages can obscure local variation. And new Italian data show that the worst-hit places do now enjoy some degree of immunity.