January 17, 2021: Roundup & Myth Busting
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Table of Contents
Armed Protests by White Supremacists Anticipated in Lansing and Capitols Around the U.S.
The FBI has warned that "armed protests" are planned at all 50 state capitols in the U.S., as well as in Washington, D.C. over the coming days (at least through Biden's inauguration on Wednesday).
In Lansing, Governor Whitmer has mobilized the National Guard and windows at office buildings near the State Capitol have been boarded up. The Michigan State Senate Majority Leader canceled meetings of the legislature for the coming week due to "credible threats regarding events scheduled to take place at and around the state Capitol."
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor issued a statement that "In light of expected demonstrations at the Capitol Building this Sunday, I urge everyone to avoid coming to the Capitol and surrounding area." and Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green also encouraged people to avoid downtown today (Sunday). Even militias have asked members to avoid Lansing, with one militia leader stating "We have additional intelligence that the Proud Boys intend to be there to cause 'maximum chaos.'" The Lansing Chapter of Black Lives Matter has asked people to stay home from the 15th through the 21st, and issued a list of Community Safety Suggestions for preparedness.
"FBI warns 'armed protests' being planned at all 50 state capitols and in Washington DC" https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/11/politics/fbi-bulletin-armed-protests-state-us-capitol/index.html
"Whitmer calls up National Guard, windows boarded ahead of possible violence Sunday" https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2021/01/15/whitmer-national-guard-riots-lansing-sunday/4172501001/
"Lansing mayor urges 'everyone to avoid coming to the Capitol and surrounding area'" https://www.fox47news.com/neighborhoods/downtown-old-town-reo-town/lansing-mayor-urges-everyone-to-avoid-coming-to-the-capitol-and-surrounding-area
"Militia directs members to avoid Lansing rally on Sunday"
BLM Lansing Facebook Post:
MLK Day Events Go Virtual Due to COVID-19
In recognition and celebration or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, virtual events are being hosted throughout Michigan that people can participate in safely, without leaving their homes.
MSU's MLK Event Schedule (with virtual events all week):
Virtual MLK Day events in Metro Detroit:
MDHHS Extends Mask Requirement and Gathering Limits
MDHHS has extended the emergency order restricting gatherings and requiring masks to be worn in Michigan through the end of January. The revised order allows indoor group exercise and non-contact sports to resume, in order to support the mental and physical health of residents. If cases continue to decrease in the state, indoor dining at restaurants could resume as soon as February 1st (with capacity limits and other restrictions). Some details of the updated Epidemic Order from the Fact Sheet:
Residential Gathering Limits
Indoors: Up to 10 persons from 2 households
Face masks required at all times, unless eating or drinking
Outdoors: Up to 25 persons from 3 households
Face masks required at all times, unless eating or drinking
Face masks are still required
Businesses, government offices, schools, child care organizations, operators of public transit, and all other gathering organizers must not allow indoor or outdoor gatherings of any kind unless they require individuals to wear a face mask. These entities may not assume that someone who enters the business without a face mask falls in one of the exceptions; but may accept an individual’s verbal representation that they are not wearing a face mask because they fall within a specified exception.
Indoor gatherings are not permitted at non-residential venues, except for a small number of specific exemptions, like workplaces, or when a customer and an employee are gathered so the customer can receive a service.
However, most venues are still open for individuals or single households.
Everyone must wear a face mask.
Venues must be set up to maintain 6 feet of physical distancing between households.
Specific capacity limits apply based on the venue.
Outdoor gatherings up to 25 persons occurring at non-residential venues are permitted as follows:
For Fixed Seating: limit attendance to 20% of seating capacity.
Without Fixed Seating: limit attendance to 20 persons per 1,000 square feet, including within any distinct area within the event space.
Everyone must wear a face mask.
Retail and personal services
Gatherings at a retail store, library or museum, may not exceed 30% of total occupancy limits. Spaces for indoor dining, including food courts, must be closed.
Gatherings to receive personal care services, including hair, nail, tanning, massage, spa, tattoo, body art, and piercing services are permitted by appointment, so long as the service does not require the removal of a face mask.
Indoor dining at restaurants and bars is not permitted. This includes dining inside most covered patios, balconies, tents, and other structures, unless they are mostly open to the air.
Food service for takeout and delivery is permitted.
Outdoor dining is permitted so long as no more than 6 persons are seated at each table and tables are spaced 6 feet apart.
Dining in an igloo, hut, or small tent is permitted so long as there is only one household inside.
"Gathering" means any occurrence where two or more persons from more than one household are present in a shared space. Incidental, temporary gatherings (such as at a store, airport, or food service establishment) are excepted.
COVID-19 Jan. 13 Order: Gathering Guidelines
Two-household gathering (high precautions)*
Small outdoor gatherings (25 people)
Preschool through 12th grade (local district choice)
Manufacturing, construction, other work that is impossible to do remotely, including technical education
Hair salons, barber shops, other personal services
Gyms, pools, roller and ice rinks
Restaurants and bars (outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery)
Parks and outdoor recreation
Funerals (25 people)
Theaters, movie theaters, stadiums, arenas
Bingo halls, casinos, arcades
Indoor group fitness classes
Workplaces, when work can be done from home
Restaurants and bars (indoor dining)
Contact sports, except professional sports
For more information about the order, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus. Questions or concerns can be emailed to COVID19@michigan.gov — Michigan Department of Health & Human Services
January 13, 2021 Gatherings and Face Mask Order: https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/0,9753,7-406-98178_98455-549437--,00.html
Jan. 13 Epidemic Order Infographic:https://www.michigan.gov/documents/coronavirus/1-13_COVID_Gathering_Guidelines_v1_712832_7.pdf
Jan. 13 Epidemic Order Capacity Limits Fact Sheet:https://www.michigan.gov/documents/coronavirus/1-13_Capacity_Limits_Fact_Sheet_v2_712831_7.pdf
"Gov. Gretchen Whitmer provides updates on COVID-19 restrictions, vaccine and unemployment"https://statenews.com/article/2021/01/governor-whitmer-provides-updates-on-covid-19-restrictions-vaccines-unemployment
Continue COVID-19 Precautions After Vaccinations
Even after being vaccinated, there are significant reasons as to why we must continue to wear masks, practice social distancing, wash our hands properly and regularly, and continue to follow other public health guidelines. For one, the vaccine is not 100% effective. While both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines show high efficacy, about 1 in 20 vaccinated people may still get sick. As more and more people get vaccinated, the percentage of people in the overall population that get sick will definitely decrease, and so far the data is promising, however it is still important to continue to partake in safe practices regarding COVID-19 until this data is available.
In addition, it is still not completely known whether somebody who is vaccinated can spread the virus or not. The main focus of the vaccine trials was to prevent the vaccinated individual from infection, not to test how infectious somebody is after vaccination, if at all. It still may be possible for somebody to asymptomatically transmit the disease, and scientists are still trying to figure out if this is possible in those who have been vaccinated. (It is not known whether a person who is vaccinated and does not become sick with COVID-19 may still act as a carrier of the virus between others, for example, by having contagious viral particles in their lungs that they breathe on others, without themselves becoming sick from them.) Since it has not been very long since people have received the full 2 doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, it may still be a while before this question is answered. Currently, only about 1.6 million people have received the full two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine here in the US.
It is also important to note that it takes time to build immunity once you’re vaccinated. In the initial trials of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, it took about 2 weeks after the first dose to be around 50% effective and at least 1-2 weeks after the second dose to reach the full 94-95% effectiveness that the vaccines are capable of. Until we reach herd immunity, it is not advisable to meet people in person even if both of you may be vaccinated, as the protection is not 100%.
Due to the many currently unanswered questions and pending data, we must continue to follow public health guidelines to protect each other and ourselves for the foreseeable future. It may be difficult for some but it will not be forever, and we must do our best to play our part in ending this pandemic.
Snyder and Other Top Officials Charged in Flint Water Crisis
The Michigan Attorney General’s office announced this week that former Governor Snyder, along with 8 other officials, are being charged with various crimes related to the Flint water crisis. This comes after Attorney General Nessel dropped previous charges against the former governor and other officials in 2019, claiming the previous charges did not include all available evidence. Snyder is only charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty, which are misdemeanors. Two health officials, Former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Nick Lyons and former Chief Medical Executive Eden Wells, are charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter each, along with other various charges.
In 2014, the governor-appointed emergency manager changed Flint’s water source from the City of Detroit water system to the Flint River in order to save money. Officials failed to take precautions against corrosion from the changed water source and thus, lead was leached from the pipes. This caused dangerous levels of lead to be consumed by Flint residents, including children. Dangerous levels of lead can cause permanent neurological issues, particularly when the exposure is in childhood. The change of water also led to an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease which caused 12 deaths. Citizens noticed health changes along with discolored water and brought their concerns to city officials. While in 2015, the City Council approved changing the water source back to the City of Detroit, the emergency manager refused to do so. Top officials continued to support the change to the Flint River even after being shown the negative and deadly health impacts of the water source. It was not until late 2015 that the water was switched back to the City of Detroit, but the damage was already done.
At the root of the Flint water crisis is systemic and environmental racism. Flint has suffered from decades of economic disenfranchisement and disinvestment because residents are primarily Black, something that has been seen across the country. With around 40% of the residents living below the poverty line, needed support and resources are not present. The move to a different water source was purely to save money without regard to the health impacts of the residents, something that would not have happened in a more affluent white neighborhood. Even after voicing concerns and showing clearly that this water was harmful, residents’ voices were not valued enough to be listened to. Again, something that is unlikely to have happened in a primarily white city. This country systemically values Black individuals less and that can be clearly seen in the Flint water crisis. The water source should have been addressed at the first sight of concerns, not two years down the road.
Outside Dining: Tents, Igloos, Yurts. Are They Safe?
Indoor dining at restaurants has been banned in Michigan since November. Though a needed measure to slow down the spread of COVID-19, this has inevitably taken a financial toll on many restaurants. Many owners have turned to creative measures to offer outdoor dining, and we have seen outdoor tents, igloos, and yurts popping up. The idea is that these would offer a safe outdoor dining experience and also protect customers from the cold winter. But how safe are these? Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer. According to health experts, any enclosed space poses a risk because there may not be adequate ventilation. Experts are still researching how long aerosol (tiny viral particles) stay in the air, which means that if a tent is not cleaned and aired out appropriately in between parties, the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 is higher. According to Aubree Gordon, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, tents should be left open for at least 20 minutes between parties. Another factor to consider is whether the tent is fully enclosed. A tent with four walls and a roof is not going to have ideal airflow. If the tent is not fully enclosed, it’s important to ensure that there is enough distance between tents. In addition, pay attention to the way the restaurant is handling their service. Are employees wearing their masks? Are they wearing them properly? There is still much to learn about tents, igloos, and yurts, and their safety, but health experts emphasize that the same recommendations still apply: Wear your mask when not eating and do not share tents with people outside of your household. If possible, get take out instead of dining on-location. You are still supporting the restaurant while staying safe at home!
“Yurts, Igloos And Pop-Up Domes: How Safe Is 'Outside' Restaurant Dining This Winter?"
“Should you dine in a restaurant tent this winter? It depends on 5 safety factors
Police Involvement in Insurrection
At least 32 police and law enforcement personnel from 15 states are reported to have attended the rally that turned into a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, “at least 13 off-duty law enforcement officials are suspected of taking part in the riot,” and multiple Capitol Police officers have been suspended and are under investigation for their actions during the coup attempt. This should come as no surprise, given the prevalence of White supremacists among police forces in the United States and racism built into the law enforcement system, with roots going all the way back to the origins of modern policing in slave patrols. One somewhat surprising new development is that some officers have begun alerting police chiefs and others that their colleagues took part in the Capitol attack, breaking the typical silence and protection they afford each other to cover up racism and police brutality.
"Hidden in Plain Sight: Racism, White Supremacy, and Far-Right Militancy in Law Enforcement"
"The Cops at the Capitol"
"SPLC Senior Fellow: Racial bias in U.S. policing is a national security threat"
"Capitol siege raises questions over extent of white supremacist infiltration of US police"
"‘A Fireable Offense.’ Law Enforcement Agencies Grapple With Police Officers’ Involvement in U.S. Capitol Riots
"Off-duty police were part of the Capitol mob. Now police are turning in their own."
Police Are 3 Times More Likely to Use Force Against Left-Wing Protesters
A new report from the U.S. Crisis Monitor (a collaboration between researchers at Princeton University and the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project) also found that police are three times more likely to use force against left-wing protesters than right-wing protesters. The analysis was conducted of over 13,000 protests in the US since April. Tear gas, rubber bullets, baton beatings, and other force were used against demonstrators at 511 left-wing protests and 33 right-wing protests. “The Guardian compared the percentage of all demonstrations organized by leftwing and rightwing groups that resulted in the use of force by law enforcement. For leftwing demonstrations, that was about 4.7% of protests, while for rightwing demonstrations, it was about 1.4%, meaning law enforcement was about three times more likely to use force against leftwing versus rightwing protests.” “Looking at the subset of protests in which demonstrators did not engage in any violence, vandalism, or looting, law enforcement officers were about 3.5 times more likely to use force against leftwing protests than rightwing protests, with about 1.8% of peaceful leftwing protests and only half a percent of peaceful rightwing protests met with teargas, rubber bullets or other force from law enforcement.”
"US police three times as likely to use force against leftwing protesters, data finds"
Two New Strains of SARS-CoV2 in Ohio
Over the last few weeks, scientists have been addressing the concerns of the changing nature of viruses. Specifically, variations to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have been spreading around the world, with new strains first observed in the UK and Africa. Most recently, Ohio researchers have discovered two new strains of SARS-CoV-2 that first appeared in the United States.
One of the two new strains identified has become the dominant strain in Columbus, Ohio. This dominant strain seems to spread more easily than the strain most commonly found in the rest of the US.
Given the proximity, the new Ohio strains may end up in Michigan in the near future.
According to Dr. Dan Jones of Ohio State University (lead author of a study on the new strains), “This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we’ve studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution.”
As seen in the UK and African strain, the U.S. variations appear to be more contagious but do not appear to impact the effectiveness of the vaccines, researchers said.
Research conducted by Ohio State University researchers has not yet been published in full.
The Centers for Disease Control is looking into this research and new development.
Researchers will continue to keep a watchful eye on multiple mutations
Researchers warn that as the virus continues to spread around the world, mutation and evolution are more likely to occur. The concern continues to be whether these changes will impact the efficacy of treatments and vaccines, which is not yet known.
"Ohio researchers say they’ve identified two new Covid strains likely originating in the U.S."
Herd Immunity Unlikely in 2021
In a recent announcement, the WHO’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, stated that herd immunity through COVID-19 vaccines would not be achieved by the end of 2021, even as vaccination efforts continue and ramp up. While many vulnerable populations may have significant numbers vaccinated within the year, it is unlikely that the herd immunity threshold, which is estimated to be around 70-80% of the world population, will be achieved by the end of 2021. In addition, with new strains of the virus showing increased ability to spread and infect people, that number of people needed to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity may be even higher. As such, until herd immunity is achieved, it is crucial to continue following what is proven to work: wear masks, socially distance, practice proper hand hygiene, and continue to follow public health guidelines, and get fully vaccinated as soon as a vaccine is available to you.
Federal Vaccine Distribution Issues
Confusion about the federal vaccine supply is causing logistical challenges for states working to expand their vaccination programs. Earlier this week, Trump Administration officials stated that the current stockpile of vaccines, previously kept in reserve to ensure that those who had already received their first vaccine dose would have access to a second dose, would be released to states in an effort to vaccinate more people immediately. The decision to release the doses was said to be made on the basis that current manufacturing rates are stable enough to ensure enough vaccine supplies for second doses without stockpiling. However, later in the week, according to multiple news agencies, it became clear that the federal government had already begun distributing the remaining doses formerly in reserve at the end of December. As a result of this confusion, officials in many states who had taken steps to begin expanding vaccinations to people 65 and older and other vulnerable populations, contingent on increased access to vaccines, have responded that they will no longer be able to do so. The confusion comes at a time when vaccination is already behind schedule, with the Associated Press reporting that as of Monday, January 11th, approximately 34% of vaccines distributed to states across the country had been administered.
Reporting of updated understanding:
Reporting of initial statement:
What You Need to Know About COVID-19 Variants
The information below is copied directly from the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 School of Public Health Expert Insights. This series of questions and answers help shed light on ongoing concerns we continue to hear folx express and ask about. While more data is being collected, these answers help provide context.
With new variants of COVID-19 emerging across the globe, what do you need to know? Immunology expert Andy Pekosz, PhD, answers some key questions.
Is this variant more transmissible and why? Could the increased numbers we’re seeing be associated with other behavioral or situational factors?
There are currently two theories about what, specifically, makes this strain more transmissible. One is that this variant virus is “stickier,” meaning it requires a smaller amount of virus to cause infection because it’s better at adhering to your cells. Another theory is that this variant causes people to harbor more virus particles in their noses and throats, which means more virus is expelled when people talk, cough, or sneeze.
Behavioral and situational factors could help a more transmissible variant spread even further, but wearing a mask, ensuring physical distance, and hand washing will still help.
Is there a difference between “more transmissible” and “more contagious”? Why have experts been using the first phrase to describe the variant?
Transmission is often used when we talk about populations, while contagious is more often used when we are talking about an individual. They are interchangeable to some degree.
Is there any change in guidance for how to protect yourself and others from this new variant?
Those same interventions—masks, social distancing, and hand washing—should work against the variant just as well. But higher transmission could mean more cases, which can increase risk for individuals and overwhelm hospital systems again, so it may be necessary to re-implement closures and restrictions to flatten the curve if it starts to rise.
How common is it for a virus to mutate? How quickly does it typically happen—in other words, is it unusual to see a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 take hold this soon?
All viruses mutate, and SARS-CoV-2 has been mutating at a pretty consistent rate since it entered the human population.
This new variant has accumulated an extremely large number of mutations compared to other lineages. Usually we can follow the evolution of a virus because we find related viruses with fewer mutations. But with this virus, it seems to have just appeared with a lot of mutations. It will be important to determine how this virus got so many mutations without being identified sooner.
Why do experts believe that the currently approved vaccines will work on the new variant? Why is this different with flu shots, which we have to get every year, for instance?
From looking at the mutations in the spike, or S, protein of this new variant, it seems the virus should still be susceptible to the antibodies induced by the vaccine.
Scientists are verifying this now. Influenza mutates at a faster rate than SARS-CoV-2, and it seems to handle more mutations in its genes, which makes it more likely to evolve resistance to preexisting antibodies. We don’t yet know how well the SARS-CoV-2 S protein can tolerate mutations, so it's difficult to predict if it will eventually behave like influenza and force us to update the COVID-19 vaccine. Fortunately, the technology used to make the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines is easy to update for a new lineage or strain of S protein.
It’s been said that when some viruses mutate to become more transmissible, they lose some of their potency—in other words, they become less likely to cause severe disease. Is that accurate, and, if so, is that reasonable to expect with SARS-CoV-2?
The initial data suggest that the new variant causes the same amount of disease as the other SARS-CoV-2 lineages. However, some viruses have to cause a certain amount of disease in order to spread—you have to cough or sneeze to effectively spread influenza, for example. In the end, it's all about transmission. The virus doesn’t care how much disease it causes; it just has to be transmitted.
Will the new variant eventually be more widespread than the current virus?
If the new variant is more transmissible than other SARS-CoV-2 lineages, it eventually could be the most commonly found lineage of SARS-CoV-2. However, while we still have so many people with no immunity to the virus, we should still see different lineages spreading in different parts of the world.
Is it possible that the virus could mutate to the point that it’s as transmissible as measles or another more contagious virus?
The good news is that even though measles virus is extremely transmissible, it doesn’t change to become resistant to the measles vaccine. We hope that will be the case with SARS-CoV-2, but we’ll need some more time to know that answer.
"What You Need to Know About COVID-19 Variants"
This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):
Vanessa Burnett (she/her/hers) M.P.H; Health Equity Consultant, Michigan Public Health Institute
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
Wilfredo Flores (he/him/his), fourth-year PhD candidate in Writing and Rhetoric, M.A. Technical Communication
Mauricio Franco (he/him/his), M.S.-Global Medicine, Fourth-year medical student
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
Francis Yang (he/him/his), M.S.-Global Medicine, Second-year medical student