Table of Contents
Intro and Disclaimer
QM would like to help you make sense of information being circulated by: 1. Translating data into digestible language, 2. Dispelling misconceptions and linking to evidence, and 3. Curating relevant data, and articles on a weekly basis. Our Round Up/ Mythbusting projects are intended to help our QM family make sense of information being circulated. Taking control of our health as a queer community includes making institutional knowledge accessible to the public.
Disclaimer: Although this information has been evaluated and determined to be accurate by Queering Medicine (QM), we at QM do not want to give the impression that we are the sole gatekeepers of medical knowledge. As a collective, QM members bring professional and personal qualifications that allow us to research and share credible knowledge. Our goals for this weekly round up and myth busting is to translate data into digestible information, dispel misinformation, and curate relevant data for the Lansing queer community. We encourage the community to question knowledge found outside of reputable sources, however, Queering Medicine will gladly help facilitate this process. If evidence or recommendations change, or any inaccuracies are found, we will correct them and explain the changes. If you have any questions about our methodology and sources, or you would like to point out any inaccuracies, please let us know!
U.S. Passes 300,000 COVID-19 Deaths, BIPOC Dying at Higher Rates
On Friday, the FDA approved the Moderna vaccine for emergency authorization use in the US. This comes one week after Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine approval, which so far has been given to at least 128,000 people in its first week, according to the New York Times.
Three Alaska Health workers reportedly had anaphylactic reactions to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, similar to 2 UK cases that happened earlier this year. All have recovered, and so far, these severe allergic reactions have been rare.
Both vaccines are similar in terms of how they work: They each need a series of two injections to be effective and were found to have similar efficacy at preventing COVID-19 in trials (95% efficacy for Pfizer/BioNTech’s and 94.1% efficacy for Moderna’s vaccine). There are a few additional similarities and differences below:
Pfizer/BioNTech’s two doses are 21 days apart, while Moderna’s doses are separated by 28 days.
Side effect profiles of both vaccines in the trials were similar. However the anaphylaxis reaction to the Pfizer vaccines that have been reported did not come up in the Pfizer trial.
Moderna’s vaccine can be shipped at -4 degrees Fahrenheit, is stable at refrigerator temperature for 30 days, and stable at room temperature for 12 hours, meaning logistically it is far easier to distribute and store than Pfizer’s vaccine.
Moderna’s minimum purchase order currently is 100, much less than Pfizer’s 975 minimum dose purchase, meaning that smaller hospitals who can’t purchase or store as much or those working with smaller populations may find the Moderna option more convenient.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine is authorized for people aged 16 and older, while Moderna’s is authorized for people aged 18 and older. However Moderna has begun trials for the vaccine in 12-17-year-olds.
It is still too early to tell how long the vaccines provide protection for. Data from the clinical trials show that protection should last for at least two months. Those who continue to volunteer will be monitored to see whether immunity is maintained for longer. In addition, after getting the vaccine, it does take time for the body to build an immune response as intended. It may take 3-4 weeks for this process to occur, one of the reasons why two doses are needed 3-4 weeks apart, but many factors such as age or whether an individual is immunocompromised may cause that amount of time to vary.
It is not yet known whether the vaccine prevents you from transmitting the virus even if you show no symptoms or if the vaccine prevents you from transmitting the virus if you happen to get infected but show no symptoms. While this is still being researched, this is one of the main reasons why people must continue to wear masks, wash their hands properly, socially distance, and follow public health guidelines while more and more people get vaccinated, or more data comes out.
Michigan COVID-19 Restrictions Extended
Michigan's restrictions related to COVID-19 (limitations on public gatherings and businesses, mask requirements, etc.) have been extended by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The increased restrictions went into effect on November 18th and were initially set to expire on December 8th, but the ongoing surge in cases has made an extension necessary. The rules are now set to remain in effect through at least December 20th, but will likely need to be continued beyond that date, as the surge is expected to continue and will likely worsen due to people traveling and socializing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other winter holidays.
Indoor dining at restaurants and bars is prohibited
High-school and college classes must be conducted remotely
Theaters, arenas, casinos, bowling alleys, and other indoor entertainment and amusement venues are closed
Retail stores are limited to 30% of capacity and must set up lines for entry and checkout to maintain 6 feet of distance between patron
Group fitness classes are prohibited
Organized sports are prohibited unless all participants and venues comply with MDHHS athletic testing requirements, and spectators are not permitted
Indoor gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people and they must come from no more than two households
Indoor gatherings at non-residential venues are prohibited
Outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than 25 people and they must come from no more than three households
Businesses that provide certain services (e.g., hair styling, massage, exercise facilities, etc.) must keep records of all patrons to facilitate contact tracing
Face masks must be worn at all gatherings, including social settings and businesses, and businesses must deny entry to patrons refusing to wear masks while gathered
"Gretchen Whitmer says Michigan COVID ‘pause’ will go at least 12 more days"
MDHHS "Gatherings and Face Mask Order"
"Michigan Gov. Whitmer extends COVID-19 pause through Dec. 20"
New COVID-19 Strain in the UK
A new strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 has reportedly infected over 1,000 people in the United Kingdom as of December 15th. Health officials are concerned that the new strain is more infectious and that vaccines currently being used may not offer as much protection from it
It is still too early to tell how large an impact this can have on existing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Claims that this mutation is nothing to worry about are premature and potentially harmful to being prepared for changes in the virus.
It is important to remember viruses frequently undergo mutations. This is common and expected. The point of concern is whether the virus changes so much that it is no longer recognized by the body’s immune system, has changed to become more infectious, and the rate at which those changes are occurring. The virus has no control over whether the mutations or “good” or “bad.” Mutations happen and those changes by chance can make a virus more virulent and other changes can lead to it becoming weaker. We previously shared some key concepts in understanding viral mutations:
Antigenic drift: Minor changes over time, not drastic enough to evade existing vaccines.
Antigenic shift: Major changes that lead to a new strain that can evade existing vaccines.
Studies are underway to better understand how this impacts current public health efforts. Special interest is being given to the spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19. If there are major mutations to this protein, it could possibly impact vaccine development. Reports of a new strain linked to minks was also reported in Denmark. This has reportedly been controlled, but scientists and health officials are monitoring for further developments.
The key thing to remember is that it is too early to make any conclusions. Scientists are working hard to understand what this means to the global pandemic and public health officials across the globe are monitoring for similar events. Wearing masks, physically distancing, and washing hands are still the most effective ways to stop the spread of the virus, even if these new mutations impact vaccine development.
Links to articles:
Mask Up, Mask Right
“The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is launching an initiative to not only get Michiganders to mask up, but to mask right. ‘The science is now settled: Masks protect others from COVID – and they protect the wearer,’ said Robert Gordon, MDHHS director. ‘It’s important to wear the right mask and wear it the right way. We want all Michiganders to Mask Up, Mask Right as we continue to battle the virus in our state.’”
Right: What to wear
Three-layered washable cloth mask
Three-layered medical-grade disposable mask
Right: How to wear
Secured over the nose and mouth
Tightly fitting without gaping
Neck gaiter or loosely tied bandana
Masks with vents
N95 masks intended for healthcare workers
Face shield worn without a mask (except for individuals who cannot medically tolerate a face covering)
Noticeable gaps, holes, or vents
Need help getting a mask?
Residents can pick up a free mask from partner sites across the state, including most local DHHS offices and Community Action Agencies. Find a distribution site at Michigan.gov/MaskUpMichigan or call the COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136.
MDHHS asks Michiganders to "Mask Up, Mask Right”
Los Angeles District Attorney Plans to Eliminate Cash Bail
On December 7th, the new district attorney for Los Angeles county, George Gascón, was sworn in. Within hours, he tweeted out the significant changes he was making within the prosecutor’s office. Starting January 1st, Gascón and his office will no longer seek cash bail for any misdemeanor, non-serious, or non-violent offense. Los Angeles County is the most populated county in the United States, so this would be the largest DA’s office to stop cash bail. Additionally, other changes include: ending the death penalty, reviewing cases for individuals serving excessive prison terms or had sentencing enhancements, enacting a use-of-force review board that will examine cases back to 2012, and ending sentencing enhancements such as “three strikes.” These changes have the power to transform the criminal justice system in LA county, particularly the elimination of cash bail.
Cash bail is used to ensure that individuals will return for trial or hearings. The money is given back after all necessary court appearances, but forfeited to the government if those are not met. If a person is unable to meet bail, they must sit in jail until they can come up with the money or until their case goes to trial. This leads to almost 70% of those individuals in jail just awaiting trial. While people are presumed innocent in the eyes of the law, they still end up incarcerated because of the cash bail system. The use of cash bail is inherently classist and racist. Black and Brown individuals are more likely to be stopped by the police and arrested because of racial bias. Black and Brown individuals are also less likely to have the resources to meet cash bail because of economic disenfranchisement due to systemic racism. Not meeting cash bail can wreak havoc on a person’s life through the loss of jobs, homes, and social support. Research shows that individuals who were detained pretrial were four times more likely to be sentenced to prison than those who met cash bail and were released prior to trial. Also, those detained pretrial are more likely to plead guilty to a lesser crime even if they are innocent, in order to spend less time in jail and avoid a potential higher charge and longer sentence at trial. Black men have cash bail set 35% higher than White men for similar crimes. These practices, among structural racism across all aspects of the criminal justice system, have devastated entire communities and have led to mass incarceration across the United States, including many people who have not been convicted of any crime. The incarcerated population has exploded over the last 40 years. In 1980, the number of individuals in prison or jail in the U.S. was 474,368, and now in 2020, that number is a despicable 2,300,000. This number has continued to grow despite crime rates not increasing. The changes suggested by George Gascón have the opportunity to redirect funds to support efforts instead of criminalizing poverty, race, and mental health issues. This could have drastic effects on Black and Brown individuals in LA county. While there is still much to be done to address systemic racism in criminal justice systems, this is a necessary step.
Minneapolis Cuts Police Budget
On December 10th, the Minneapolis City Council approved a budget that cuts $8 million from the Police Department. The money will instead go to mental health crisis services, including dedicated response teams and training for 911 dispatchers, and to funding non-police staff to deal with property damage and theft reports, homelessness, and parking complaints. At the same time, money was put into a reserve fund that could be used to offset cuts to the police budget, and the Council maintained plans to increase Police Department hiring. Minneapolis has faced an increase in crime in the past year, with more than 500 shootings in the city, and the Mayor, City Council members, and Police Chief have been divided in how to respond, with the Mayor threatening to veto an earlier proposal that included larger cuts to the Police Department Budget and cuts to the number of police officers.
"Divided Minneapolis City Council votes to cut $8 million from police budget"
"Minneapolis city leaders set on transforming public safety lay out the path forward"
Respiratory Droplets Containing COVID-19 May Form Trails Behind Walkers
New research on the flow of cough particles and how they follow behind people while walking suggests that it is difficult to determine a safe following distance for people in narrow, indoor corridors to limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
According to the study, there are two ways that respiratory droplets follow behind people when they cough. The first pattern is described as “detached,” and this is the most common pattern of respiratory droplet flow. In the detached model, a distinct cloud of respiratory droplets follows behind the coughing person over time, falling further behind them with each second that they walk. For example, in the study, it was estimated that after walking a little more than 23 feet in five seconds (just over 3 miles per hour; a typical walking speed), the cough cloud was found to be about 6.5 feet in length and a little more than 9.5 feet behind the person walking. In the seconds prior, the respiratory droplets were found to be in a shorter, more concentrated cloud and were closer to the person’s body.
The second pattern of respiratory droplet flow is described as “attached.” In this pattern, rather than a distinct cloud of respiratory particles, the respiratory droplets are found in a long trail that remains close to the cougher’s body and extends far behind them as they walk. For example, the study estimated that after walking a little more than 23 feet in five seconds (typical walking speed), the respiratory particles were not consolidated in a distinct cloud, but rather in a less-concentrated stream that extended from the cougher’s body as far back as 16 feet. The attached pattern of respiratory droplet flow is more likely to happen in narrow, indoor corridors in which the cougher is walking quickly.
The results of this study show that it is difficult to determine safe following distances in narrow, indoor spaces. It also highlights the importance of wearing a mask, especially indoors, as this would reduce respiratory droplets’ ability to go into the air and form a cloud or trail that follows behind you. It is important to note that in both the detached and attached models, the respiratory droplets fell to below waist height for the average standing adult once they were farther than 6.5 feet from the cougher — this height still puts children, people who use wheelchairs, and people in other circumstances that reduce height while moving in these spaces at risk for coming into contact with infectious respiratory particles, even when their following distance is six feet.
New Drug May Prevent the Spread of COVID-19
Researchers at Georgia State University have been developing and testing a drug that may prevent people with COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. The drug, called Molnupiravir, would be taken orally and could potentially make patients not infectious within 24 hours. However, more research needs to be done to determine the effectiveness of the drug in humans. Initially, Molnupiravir was tested in ferrets, because ferrets, like many young adults with COVID-19, can infect others without experiencing severe illness themselves (for ethical reasons, drugs are generally not tested on humans until they have been found to be safe in animal models). In addition to preventing ferrets with COVID-19 from spreading the virus to other ferrets, it was shown that the drug might have also prevented infected ferrets from developing severe illness. The drug is currently in human trials, and updates will be provided as we know more. If the drug is found to be effective in humans, it would not take the place of a vaccine (which is intended to make a person immune to the virus) but would serve as a tool in preventing community spread of the virus.
Ingham County Releases Draft Vaccination Schedule
“The Ingham County Health Department (ICHD) and other local healthcare providers will receive a limited supply of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and will start giving the vaccine to healthcare workers during the week of December 14.”
“Vaccine supply is limited. It will be several weeks or months before the vaccine becomes available to the general public.
“In the first phase of vaccine distribution, health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities will receive the vaccine. Next priority will be critical/essential workers followed by people at high risk for severe COVID-19 complications. Finally, the vaccine will be available to the general public age 16 and up. This prioritization was set by the State of Michigan in accordance with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).”
COVID-19 Vaccine: When will it be available to you?
ICHD is working to quickly vaccinate all who want the COVID-19 vaccine, following prioritization guidelines set by ACIP and the state. We do not have exact dates when the vaccine will be available to each group, but this is our current estimate and is subject to change.
December 17 through late January: Phase 1, Group A (Healthcare workers and people in nursing homes)
Mid-January through late February: Phase 1, Group B (Workers in essential or critical infrastructure- includes school & child care staff, people working in shelters and correctional facilities
Mid-February through late April: Phase 1, Group C (People over age 65 years and people 16-64 years with a health condition that puts them at high risk for serious COVID-19 complications
Starting early April: Phase 2 (Anyone age 16 or older)
Ingham County, Coronavirous (COVID-19): I want to know more about the COVID-19 vaccine:
QM Public Health Crisis Round-Up Team (in no particular order):
Mauricio Franco (he/him/his), M.S.- Global Medicine, Fourth-year medical student.
Andrew-Huy Dang (he/him/his), B.S. Microbiology, Fourth-year medical student
Wyatt Shoemaker (he/him/his), Fourth-year medical student.
Antonio Flores (he/him/his), Third-year medical student, B.S. Public Health Sciences.
Daniel Pfau (they/them/theirs), Neuroscience PhD, Biological Sciences MS, Homeschool Teacher.
Francis Yang (he/him/his), M.S.-Global Medicine, Second-year medical student.
Kryssia Campos (she/her/hers), Second-year medical student.
Alessandra Daskalakis (she/her/hers): Second-year medical student, B.S. Biology, B.A. Comparative Literature
Vanessa Burnett (she/her/hers) M.P.H; Health Equity Consultant, Michigan Public Health Institute
Wilfredo Flores (he/him/his), fourth-year PhD candidate in Writing and Rhetoric, M.A. Technical Communication
Grey L. Pierce (they/them); M.A., Cognitive Psychology; Assistant Director, Michigan State University (MSU) Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting; Project Manager, State of the State Survey, MSU Institute for Public Policy and Social Research