Bits ‘n’ Pieces: May 14

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact, which COVID-19 has illustrated so well. A recent sampling:

As of early Monday, May 11, five children were dead from “a rare COVID-related illness,” according to NBC New York. They had experienced pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome, which affects organs and can put the body into shock. Further study may reveal why COVID-19 impacts adults more than children and show how the virus operates. The CDC reports 2% of COVID-19 cases are found in those under age 18.

Germany had cautiously reopened with the understanding that if any of its counties exceeded 50 new cases per 100,000 people, lockdown would resume. That “snap-back mechanism” was triggered in several German counties over the weekend, resulting in the resumption of closures. Similar resurgences of COVID-19 were reported elsewhere in the world, including China and South Korea, where previously officials felt confident enough to reopen portions of their economies, CNN reported. 

The U.S. ranks 39th for COVID-19 testing, according to To safely return to what resembles normal life, it’s likely daily COVID-19 testing will be required. The price will be “trivial compared with the economic pit into which the virus is driving this country and the world,” according to a director of medical ethics and a Yale adjunct biology professor, writing in Newsweek. The two advocate “immunity passports” showing a person’s COVID-19 status. With testing and documentation, they said — even without a vaccine or treatments — we could start to live in a world free of COVID-19 fears. 

Emergency physician and George Washington University public health professor Leana Wen wrote in The Washington Post that, since there’s still no vaccine or cure, reopening will cause COVID-19 to spread with “explosive speed.” Wen says family gatherings and shopping aren’t worth the risk — continue social distancing, wash hands frequently, limit human interactions at work, and be an advocate for employee and customer safety. Meanwhile, a UK-Hong Kong study shows that face masks do make a significant difference in reducing COVID-19 infection rates.

Illinois’ stay-at-home order is constitutional, U.S. District Court Judge John Z. Lee found in a 37-page ruling. A church had objected to the order. The judge said practicing religion freely “does not include liberty” to expose others to ill health or death. The church’s suit had argued it was unfair that people could grocery shop but not gather at church. Lee said grocery shopping under COVID-19 restraints means leaving as quickly as possible without social interactions, unlike church gatherings.

California adopted a stay-at-home policy early in the COVID-19 pandemic. With a population of 39.51 million, the state had recorded 2,770 COVID-19 deaths as of May 11. Canada, population 37.6 million, has experienced 5,240 deaths. The entire U.S., with a population of 329 million, has recorded 81,506 deaths. There have been more than 289,000 COVID-19 deaths among the world population of 7.8 billion. 

Business Insider compared the one-time $1,200 COVID-19 checks for U.S. citizens to stimulus plans in other countries, which range from one-time cash payments for low-income earners to the UK paying up to 80% of wages, plus free cash grants to small businesses. 

In a new study, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory reported that a newly identified strain of COVID-19 could be more contagious than the earliest strain. That strain came to the U.S. East Coast from Europe in February and is now the dominant strain since mid-March. It spreads faster and appears to make those who’ve already had it liable to acquire a second infection.

Priorities sought by U.S. doctors and nurses: access to personal protective equipment and diagnostic testing, says Dr. Bill Frist, a heart transplant surgeon and former U.S. senator. He told Newsweek there are two other important needs to meet: a National Response Portal that would analyze data and provide community monitoring that would lead to reopening schools and businesses; expansion of telehealth, which he says can safely replace more than 80% of routine visits; and cross-state physician licensing, which could increase physician capacity by up to 40%.

Big Blast from the past: Mount St. Helens erupted May 18, 1980, killing 57 people and creating a 15-mile high volcanic cloud. Trees downed by the blast still float in Spirit Lake. The volcano, on active status, went from 9,677 feet high to 8,365 feet, and can be climbed without technical experience.

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