I am at a business meeting in Florida, first time this group has been together in person for over a year. The relief on people’s faces was palpable. Crowded together in a hotel bar, talking, laughing. People can say what they want about working from home and virtual meetings, humans were meant for social interactions in person. And I walked to a convenience store that had a masks required sign. I got inside and not one person had a mask on so I took mine off. I noticed a lesser but similar thing in outstate Minnesota where a number of people were not masked in gas stations. Now a lot of these people were younger and probably not vaccinated, so my only worry is that if case counts stay the least bit elevated it becomes an excuse for the powers that be to keep restrictions in place. But it is good to see signs of rationality returning. How many times have I said we just have to learn to live with this virus.
Interesting to see what happened with some causes of death relating to the lockdowns. This study shows that drug overdose deaths, as they have elsewhere, have risen significantly in San Francisco during the epidemic. (JAMA Article)
On the other hand, somewhat surprisingly, suicide deaths don’t generally appear to have risen, although they are up in younger groups. Minnesota released a report on suicide and other preventable deaths. Suicide is the 8th leading cause of death in Minnesota and supposedly declined during the epidemic. But I wonder if some of the drug overdose deaths aren’t actually suicides. Obviously, families would rather have a death of a member called accidental than intentional. (Mn. Report) What is clear is that alcohol and drug-related deaths are increased. Suicides were decreased in younger groups, and especially in those middle-aged, but rose among the elderly.
More vaccine-related research. This study found that the Pfizer vaccine did work against variants. (NEJM Article) All current variants of concern were tested and all were neutralized by the antibodies raised by vaccination, although at some varying levels. And, as the authors note, they did not look at T cell response, which likely is also highly protective.
And another study indicating that adaptive immune responses raised by infection are in some respects as good as those raised by vaccination. (Medrxiv Paper) The researchers examined vaccination responses in regard to T cells among previously infected persons and uninfected ones. For people with prior infections, one dose appeared to provide as much response as there is going to be–the second dose was irrelevant. Those who hadn’t been infected required two doses. But those vaccinated appeared to have superior T cell responses in regard to persistence.
India is having a bad wave. It is slow in vaccinating and has its own vaccine. This study looked at whether that vaccine worked against the variants prevalent in that country and found that it was, although with some reduction in strength. (Medrxiv Paper)
The research on the prior effects of seasonal coronavirus infection continues. This study finds that persons who had antibodies to one of the seasonal coronaviruses most similar to CV-19 were less likely to have serious disease. (Medrxiv Paper)
This research suggests that antibodies raised by mild infection remain effective in saliva for at least 9 months following infection. (JID Article)
Scientists try to find a lab-based method for effectively studying the response of human cells to infection attempts and potential therapeutics. (Medrxiv Paper) They created a lab-maintained cell line that they used for this purpose. They also compared infection dynamics and responses of CV-19 and influenza.
Kind of interesting finding in this study of seroprevalence in Germany. While about 90% of infections were missed in the spring of 2020, by the fall only about 30% were. (Medrxiv Paper)