Michigan and US Shatter COVID-19 Case Records

Both Michigan and the United States overall shattered records for COVID-19 cases in the past week. According to CDC data, there were over 486,000 new cases on Wednesday, the most recent day for which data is available. Before this week, the prior record was set in January of 2021, with 294,016 cases in one day. Michigan reported 25,858 confirmed cases on Tuesday and Wednesday (combined). While part of the increase is due to delays in testing and reporting over Christmas, the trends have been increasing, and numbers are largely rising because people are ignoring safety precautions, and because a large proportion of people are still unvaccinated. Only 57.3% of people in Michigan are fully vaccinated, and only 62% of people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated. To make matters worse, both Michigan and the CDC primarily report the percentage of the population who have received at least one dose (63.4% in Michigan and 73.3% in the U.S.), which is a metric that is deceptive, because having only one dose of a two-dose vaccine does not provide adequate protection.

Please get fully vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible if you are medically above, wear a mask when indoors around people from outside your household, avoid large gatherings, get tested regularly (if you are around others), wash your hands, and follow other safety precautions. Exhausting and depressing as it may be, the pandemic is not over, and ignoring it and trying to go back to how we lived before it started will only make matters worse right now.

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Study Shows Trans People 3 Times More Likely to Experience Food Insufficiency During Pandemic

A new study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law found that transgender adults have experienced much greater food insufficiency than cisgender adults in the US during the pandemic. Food insufficiency is "defined as sometimes or often not having enough to eat in the last 7 days," and the data were collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in its Household Pulse Survey from July 21 - October 11, 2021. The findings not only show that trans people experience greater food insufficiency overall, but that trans people of color are more severely impacted, being were more than twice as likely to experience food insufficiency as White trans people, more than 2.8 times more likely than cisgender people of color, and nearly 6 times more likely to experience food insufficiency than cisgender White adults.

Among the findings:


Shortage of COVID-19 Antibody Treatments Continues

The monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19, sotrovimab, made by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology, is in very short supply, according to reports from Henry Ford Hospital. Along with Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, both of these health systems have switched to using sotrovimab to treat COVID-19, as it is the only antibody treatment that has been shown to be effective at treating COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant (the two other monoclonal antibody treatments that had been in use have now been paused by the federal government, due to their ineffectiveness against Omicron). It was reported that Henry Ford Hospital only had about 550 doses, with earlier reports stating that the entire state of Michigan only had about 4,000 doses. Other health systems across the state have stated that they have not restricted usage yet, as it is unclear how widespread the Omicron variant actually is in Michigan, as sequencing takes a while and not all cases of COVID-19 are sequenced. A federal announcement said that 300,000 doses of sotrovimab will be available for distribution starting January 3rd, and while there are other treatments for COVID-19 available now, such as the antiviral treatments Paxlovid and molnupiravir, most treatments continue to be rarely available. As an example, it was recently reported that in Texas, it is estimated that 90% of COVID-19 cases currently are due to the Omicron variant, however the state had run out of sotrovimab.

We wanted to note that while there may be treatments available, they are rare and demand greatly exceeds supply. If you trust the science that went into these treatments, then hopefully you also trust the science that went into creating the vaccines. Rather than go for a reactive approach that provides treatment after you’re already sick, we can continue to do our best to prevent infection proactively. This includes getting vaccinated and boosted if you are able to, continuing to wear masks, socially distancing, and continuing to follow other public health measures to protect yourself and others.

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CDC Reduces COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Periods to 5 Days

Earlier this week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that they were shortening the recommended COVID-19 isolation and quarantine periods for all people (an earlier change had applied only to health care workers). Quarantine is for anyone who is exposed to COVID-19 (i.e., if you were around someone with COVID-19, but don't yet know whether you got infected), while isolation is for people who have a confirmed infection (even if you don't have symptoms). Now, instead of 10 days of isolation, the CDC only recommends 5 days of isolation, and the quarantine period has also been reduced to 5 days. The State of Michigan announced on Friday that it would match the CDC's revised recommendations.

While the agency says that the change is motivated by science, many experts are skeptical. The CDC noted that their research showed that up to 90% of transmission of COVID-19 occurs within 5 days of being infected, which is what justified the change. Experts are pushing back, particularly because unvaccinated people can remain infectious for considerably longer, and having a single recommendation that is largely focused on vaccinated people will put the public at risk. Additionally, despite a push for widespread testing from President Biden, the new recommendations do not require that a person test negative before they stop isolating.

Many have noted that major corporations, including Delta Airlines, asked the CDC to reduce the isolation and quarantine periods to ease staff shortages. It is possible that these pressures did play a role, as corporate influence on government agencies and elected officials in the United States has long been a cause of significant policy changes that cause harm, frequently resulting in reduced equity, health, safety, well-being, and income for workers, as well as massive environmental destruction.

One additional reason for the change cited by the CDC has gotten far less attention:

CDC Director Rachel Walensky was quoted as saying that "We really want to make sure that we had guidance...that people were willing to adhere to." This is, unfortunately, a very valid concern for the CDC. People around the country have largely ignored public safety recommendations in recent months as they tire of the pandemic and want to go back to how things were before. Having a recommendation that is being widely ignored can undermine overall confidence in the organization that made the recommendation, and can result in people ignoring any future recommendations.

The new CDC Recommendations [source]:

If You Test Positive for COVID-19 (Isolate)

Everyone, regardless of vaccination status:

If You Were Exposed to Someone with COVID-19 (Quarantine)

If you have been boosted or Completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months or Completed the primary series of J&J vaccine within the last 2 months:

If you completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and are not boosted or Completed the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and are not boosted or Are unvaccinated:

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FDA Approves Two More COVID-19 At-Home Tests Under EUA

The FDA, under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), recently approved two more at-home COVID-19 tests: the “COVID-19 At-Home Test” by SD Biosensor Inc. and Roche, and “CLINITEST” from Siemens Healthineers. These tests were approved on 12/24/21 and 12/29/21, respectively. While these might not be widely available yet, we wanted to let folks know that these may soon be available. According to Siemens, their test will be available starting early this month. These approvals for emergency use come after the Biden Administration announced it would continue to push for more testing capacity amid a record-breaking surge of COVID-19 cases. It is important to note that at-home COVID-19 tests are not as accurate as PCR testing done at labs, however they can be an important tool to keep individuals informed and safe, especially since many individuals may have issues with access to PCR testing, whether it be transportation, time to get the test, time waiting in line, etc. Testing sites have been hitting capacity, making it harder for individuals to get tests in a timely manner as well. It is also important to note that many of the currently reported COVID-19 cases do not include at-home tests.

You can find our previous write up of some other at-home COVID-19 tests here

As a reminder, you can find FDA approved at-home COVID-19 tests here

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MSU Will Require Vaccine Proof or Negative COVID-19 Test for Admission to Events

On Saturday, MSU announced that proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from within the last 72 hours would be required for all athletics, music, art, and theater events on campus starting January 4th. The policy applies to "men’s and women’s basketball, hockey, wrestling and gymnastics home events" and "ticketed events at the MSU Broad Art Museum, Wharton Center, the Auditorium and College of Music performances, such as concerts and recitals, that take place at Fairchild Theatre, Alumni Memorial Chapel, Cook Recital Hall, Murray Hall or Hollander Hall." Anyone who cannot provide the required documentation will not be allowed in the venue. The existing indoor mask requirement (which applies regardless of vaccination status or negative COVID-19 test results) also remains in effect.

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Michigan K-12 Schools Asked to Cancel or Postpone Large Events

On Thursday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter to Superintendents and Public School Academy Directors across the state urging the cancellation or postponement of any large events or gatherings (defined as 100 or more people), including sports, concerts, conferences, and meetings, unless they are “essential.” The letter also continued to recommend universal indoor masking, as well as regular testing, and participation in the MI Backpack Program (which provides free at-home COVID-19 tests to students, their families, teachers, and school staff). The letter cites the rise in cases due to the Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 as the reason for recommending changes to changing planned events and gatherings.

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MSU and Lansing School District Move Classes Back Online

Earlier this week, Michigan State University announced that it would move most classes online for the first three weeks of the Spring semester. The University had planned to have most classes in person next semester, but rising COVID-19 cases caused a change in plans. On-campus housing will still be open at the start of the semester, despite the delay in in-person classes, but students will not be required to move back to campus until classes start. All students and employees on campus next semester are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and must wear a mask when indoors (with limited exemptions).

The Lansing School District has also announced that classes this week (January 3 through January 7) will be conducted virtually, due to the spike in COVID-19 cases. For the week of January 3, parents can pick up meals for Lansing School District students at all schools on Monday and Wednesday from noon to 2 pm. Two meals per student will be distributed on Monday and three on wednesday.

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This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):