Steroids Produce Big Results
September 3, 2020
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“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.” – Stephen Hawking
Steroids Produce Big Results
(John Phillips via Getty Images)
New studies confirm that deaths among seriously ill COVID-19 patients are reduced by a third when the patients are treated with common, widely-available, and inexpensive corticosteroids in the first month. The findings, published Wednesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), were gleaned from an analysis of the pooled results of seven studies led by the World Health Organization (WHO). The trials were conducted by researchers in Britain, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Spain, and the United States. The consistent message throughout was that the drugs were beneficial in the sickest patients regardless of age or sex or how long patients had been ill.
One of the trials led by the University of Oxford found the steroid called dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to 35 percent in hospitalized COVID-19 patients who needed treatment with breathing machines, and by 20 percent in those only needing extra oxygen. The steroid didn’t help less sick patients. Similar results occurred with the use of other low dose corticosteroids like hydrocortisone, dexamethasone, and methylprednisolone.
In a statement, researchers said: “This is equivalent to around 68 percent of (the sickest COVID-19) patients surviving after treatment with corticosteroids, compared to around 60 percent surviving in the absence of corticosteroids.” Janet Diaz, the WHO’s clinical care lead, was even more optimistic. “The evidence shows that if you give corticosteroids …(there are) 87 fewer deaths per 1,000 patients,” she told a WHO social media live event. “Those are lives … saved.”
An expert who worked on the dexamethasone trial said the results mean doctors in hospitals across the world can safely switch to using the drugs to save lives. “These results are clear, and instantly usable in clinical practice,” he told reporters. “Among critically ill patients with COVID-19, low-dose corticosteroids … significantly reduce the risk of death.”
- CDC documents say states should prepare to distribute COVID-19 vaccines as soon as late October (CNN)
- U.S. Won’t Join WHO-Led Coronavirus Vaccine Effort, White House Says (NPR)
- Novavax coronavirus vaccine is safe, elicits immune response (CNN)
Salt in the Himalayas
(Yawar Nazir via Getty Images)
- India is strengthening its troops and infrastructure along the disputed Himalayan border after renewed clashes between Chinese and Indian troops. Reports coming in over the weekend said hundreds of China’s People’s Liberation Army soldiers had attempted to move forward to strategic points on the southern banks of Pangong Lake in eastern Ladakh.
- One Indian soldier, a member of the elite army unit that patrols the Himalayan border, was said to have died in a mine blast on Sunday near the disputed area of Pangong Lake. India condemned what officials described as “provocative military movements” that violated the ongoing consensus to disengage.
- China countered, claiming India had “grossly violated” its territorial integrity and “illegally trespassed” across the disputed border, known as the Line of Actual Control. China also denied that any Indian soldier had died. Months of diplomatic and military-level talks between the two nuclear-armed powers have failed to defuse the confrontations in Ladakh, which began in May. (Guardian)
1 Test, 2 Reactions
- A Beijing-led mass COVID-19 testing effort began Tuesday in Hong Kong. Residents who sign up can get free nasal and throat combination tests for at least a week at more than 140 testing centers throughout the city. Beijing will assist in the testing with a temporary lab and a team of at least 60 specialists.
- Hong Kong’s pro-democracy union of health care workers and some pro-democracy activists called for a boycott of the mass testing, claiming it’s not the most efficient way to contain the virus, and that DNA samples could be sent to mainland China.
- Hong Kong’s government denied the claim and said no personal data will be taken out of the city. So far some 650,000 residents have signed up to be tested, out of a population of 7.5 million. The city’s leader Carrie Lam, who was tested Tuesday, told reporters the purpose of the program is to identify hidden carriers as soon as possible to stop the spread of the virus. She blamed the relatively small number to have signed up on a failure to understand the details of the program, and on those who want to sow distrust. (NBC News)
Additional World News
- U.S. to require approvals on work of Chinese diplomats in America (Reuters)
- The souring of a success story: New COVID-19 Outbreaks Test South Korea’s Strategy (NYT, $)
- How Trump and Modi Refashioned the Relationship Between America and India (Foreign Affairs). A real geopolitical bromance.
- Kashmir’s Moderates Are Targeted by India and Separatists Alike (NYT, $)
- What the Iraq disaster can teach us about Trump (Vox)
- Putin’s got a lot of nerve for this one: Navalny Was Poisoned With Novichok Nerve Agent, Germany Says (Bloomberg).
- In Mexico, crime, problems resist president’s solutions (AP)
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- Grab yourself something that celebrates our public lands and support parks by using code “PARKPNUT” to save 15% off your first order today.
Meddling in Mental Health
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed that it withheld publication of a July intelligence bulletin to law enforcement agencies warning that Russia may try to undermine Joe Biden’s candidacy by denigrating his mental and physical health. The draft bulletin by DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) raised concerns that “Russian malign influence actors” would promote allegations about candidates’ health “to influence the outcome of the 2020 election.”
- The report cites posts by Russian state media outlets RT and Sputnik about Biden’s mental health between September 2019 and May 2020. There is clear evidence that President Trump and his campaign are following the Russian script. In July, a Trump interview by Chris Wallace aired on “Fox News Sunday.” Wallace had asked Trump if he thought Joe Biden was senile.
- Trump responded: ” I’d say he’s not competent to be president. Joe doesn’t know he’s alive, OK? He doesn’t know he’s alive.” Later on, Trump said “He’s shot, he’s mentally shot.” In August, a new Trump campaign ad painting Biden as senile ran at the top of YouTube’s homepage; it also got lots of play on Fox News during the Democratic Convention. (CBS News, LA Times, Business Insider)
A Vicious Cycle
- The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally ran from August 7th to August 16th, drawing over 400,000 people from across the nation to one small town in South Dakota. During the 10-day event the mostly-unmasked horde crowded into bars, restaurants, tattoo shops, and other businesses. After the rally, everyone went home, many to places that had seen relatively limited transmission of COVID-19 cases. Even so, a subsequent analysis of anonymized cellphone data found that 61 percent of all US counties had been visited by a rallygoer.
- Not quite three weeks later, the first COVID-19 death linked to the rally has been reported in Minnesota — a biker in his 60s, with underlying health conditions — a member of the precise group most cautioned to be cautious about the virus. The man’s case is among at least 260 others in 11 states tied directly to the Sturgis event.
- Epidemiologists believe that figure is a significant undercount, due to the resistance of some rallygoers to testing and the limited contact tracing in some states. The Midwest, and the Dakotas in particular are seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases, even as infections decline or plateau in the rest of the country. Health officials attribute much of the increase to people not following public health guidelines, not wearing masks, and attending social gatherings such as weddings and funerals. (WaPo)
Additional USA Reads
- CDC Issues Sweeping Temporary Halt On Evictions Nationwide Amid Pandemic (NPR). Curbing the kick rather than getting kicked to the curb.
- Federal Government Relaxes Rules on Feeding Low-Income Students (NYT, $)
- US Debt Set to Surge to All-Time High (NPR). For the first time in 75 years, the US is projected to owe more than the size of its economy.
- Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison has shut down his foundation (Vox)
- Big name, little success: The Unlikely Kennedy Who Ended the Kennedy Dynasty (Politico)
- Here’s why you should be very cautious about proclaiming a winner on Election Day (WaPo, $)
- The Little Cards That Tell Police ‘Let’s Forget This Ever Happened’ (Vice). A physical metaphor for American policing.
- Can a mining corporation ever truly be a good neighbor? (Guardian)
The Times They Are a-Changin’
- We’ve all been saying it for years. Years of confusion and sleep deprivation have given us anecdotal evidence. Now, finally, our collective musings are backed by scientific confirmation: daylight saving time is a scourge to society.
- After accumulating an abundance of sleep data, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has officially announced its anti-daylight saving platform. In the October edition of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the group of scientists pronounces that “the acute transition from standard time to daylight saving time incurs significant public health and safety risks.”
- The journal cites the risk of adverse cardiovascular events, mood disorders, and car crashes as reasons for the proposed elimination of this peculiar American pastime. A recent study from the Mayo Clinic even found that — in the week following daylight savings time — problematic medical events caused by human error increased by 18 percent.
- The exact origins of the biannual time jump vary depending on who you ask. Some accredit the idea to Benjamin Franklin as a method to increase productivity. However, records show it was likely not implemented until World War I, as a means of preserving fuel. While its background may be convoluted, this new stance from sleep experts isn’t: daylight savings is bad for public health. (Vice)
- Washed out: Your Beloved Blue Jeans Are Polluting the Ocean—Big Time (Wired)
- Whatever floats your boat? Scientists defy gravity with levitating liquid (Guardian)
- The nudists spreading coronavirus in a French resort (BBC). Talk about exposing the community.
- Life coaching is unregulated and growing rapidly. Should it be reined in? (Psyche)
- Conserving laughter: Rightwing comedians not funny enough for BBC shows, says insider (BBC)
- Social media and social justice: How to vet online awareness campaigns before jumping in (Cnet)
- David Blaine successfully flies over the Arizona desert holding onto helium balloons (CNN). A real-life Pixar reenactment.
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