Michigan Encourages Vaccinations with $5 Million in Prizes

In order to help entice vaccine-hesitant people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Michigan announced the "MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes." The sweepstakes is open to anyone age 18 and up residing in Michigan who has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The lottery will have a $1 million drawing, a $2 million drawing, daily $50,000 drawings, and multiple scholarship drawings for those aged 12-17 (to be entered by parents and legal guardians). On its first day, nearly half a million Michiganders entered the sweepstakes. To enter, visit https://www.mishottowin.com

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Delta Variant Update 

In recent news, local officials have shared concerns about the increase in COVID-19 cases, largely due to the Delta variant and in unvaccinated populations. According to CDC data, about 26% of current COVID-19 cases are due to the Delta variant, up from around 20% of cases last week. Los Angeles County, which had its highest number of daily cases since April, recently had their public health department put out a statement recommending that individuals continue to wear masks indoors due to Delta variant concerns. Other states that have seen recent surges in COVID-19 cases are Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, and Nevada, to name a few. While cases are on the rise, early data strongly suggests the currently available vaccines are protective against the Delta variant, but less so than against the original strain of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Early data out of the U.K. also suggests that while cases have risen due to the Delta variant, there has not been a similar increase in hospitalizations amongst vaccinated individuals, further supporting effectiveness against the Delta variant and serious illness if you are fully vaccinated. Israel, however, is dealing with its highest daily infection rate in 3 months. Israel has one of the highest proportions of its population fully vaccinated, and while the vaccines are effective against the Delta variant, they are not 100% effective. 

That being said, vaccination is the best form of protection against COVID-19 that we currently have. In addition, we recommend that individuals still wear masks, socially distance, practice proper hand hygiene, and follow other public health guidelines to mitigate transmission, especially if you are unsure if those you are around are vaccinated or not. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to us or to your primary health care providers.  

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MSU Puts Employees and Students at Risk by Discarding All COVID-19 Precautions

Michigan State University doubled-down on its poor decision-making about COVID-19 on Monday. Just days after announcing that vaccines would not be mandatory for those on campus, but that unvaccinated people would be required to wear masks, the University announced that it was immediately lifting all COVID-19 restrictions outside of health care settings. As of Monday, "Face masks are no longer required indoors, regardless of vaccination status," all buildings "can operate without limitations" and will return to typical hours on August 1st, those coming to campus no longer have to complete health screenings, and the "COVID-19 Early Detection Program" is no longer mandatory for undergraduates. The decisions both to not mandate vaccinations and to not require masks for anyone directly puts people on campus at risk, particularly those who  cannot be vaccinated due to medical conditions and those who are immunocompromised. For these decisions to be made in June, months away from the start of the semester and at a time when few people are on campus, particularly as the Delta variant is rapidly spreading and causing countries around the world to put restrictions back in place, is troubling. These decisions are not made at the behest of faculty, staff, or students, and, in fact, are directly in opposition to what those on campus have asked for - the University Council voted in favor of mandatory vaccines just over a month ago, but the resolution was disregarded by the University’s administration. MSU's well-documented historic lack of concern for the safety and well-being of students and employees, which has had indescribably tragic impacts on so many lives over the years, appears to be at work in new ways, this time putting lives at risk to avoid basic COVID-19 precautions.

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More Bodies Found at Former Indian Residential Schools in Canada

The remains of another 182 human bodies were found at yet another former Indian Residential School in Canada this week, bringing the total found since the end of May to over 1,000. Hundreds of remains have now been found at multiple separate former Catholic residential schools where Indigenous children who were forcibly separated from their families and subjected to abuse in an attempt to "assimilate" them. After the initial discovery of bodies at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, systematic investigations are being made at other such facilities across Canada, and there seems to be no end to what is being unearthed.

In the wake of these findings in Canada, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative on June 22nd that would begin "a comprehensive review of the troubled legacy of federal boarding school policies" in the United States.

The institutions were part of a system of boarding schools in the U.S. and Canada that forcibly separated indigenous children from their parents, families, and communities in an attempt to “assimilate” them and eliminate indigenous cultures. This system is not a relic of the distant past: It wasn't until 1978 that Native American parents gained the legal right to refuse having their children taken from them and being forcibly being put into boarding schools in the U.S., and the Canadian Indian residential school system continued until 1996. Schools were established largely by Christian churches and missionaries intent on converting children to Christianity and indoctrinating them into rejecting their indigenous identity and culture and turning them away from traditional practices, beliefs, cultures, and languages. They were founded on the racist belief that indigenous cultures were fundamentally inferior to that of the colonizers (i.e., White, European, Christian cisheteropatriarchy), that they were inherently sinful against Christian views, and that the only way to "save" the children was to keep them away from their family and community, deny them access to their traditional and ancestral culture, history, language, and beliefs, "civilize" them by making them fit into the White, Christian cisheteropatriarchy, and having them reject their family, ancestral culture, and indigenous identity. The schools were also rife with continuous and systematic physical, mental, and sexual abuse of children.

Despite the claims that this was done in order to "civilize" Indigenous people, it was itself among the most inhumane policies in the history of either country. It amounted to nothing less than attempted cultural genocide, and it was largely successful in many of its goals. There is no way to estimate the amount of traditional knowledge and culture that was lost and cannot be regained (particularly as many aspects of indigenous cultures are passed down orally, and with no children to pass the information down to, it died with the elders), nor is there any way to reverse the impact on the lives of those forced into the boarding schools, their families, or their descendents. The trauma is generational.

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Moderna Vaccine Update 

In a recent press release, Moderna stated that their vaccine was effective at preventing COVID-19 infections due to the Delta variant. This is in line with current data suggesting that two-dose regimens of COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing disease from the Delta variant. Details have not been provided, but it is likely that it is less effective against the Delta variant than the original strain (the Pfizer vaccine, for example, is 95% effective against the original strain, but 88% effective against the Delta variant).

This is especially important as a majority of vaccinations here in the U.S. have been either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine. In addition, vaccination rates have unfortunately leveled off, with one report stating that the number of vaccination doses administered has decreased by around 300,000 a day.  Currently, about 157 million people have been fully vaccinated in the U.S., about 47.3% of the population. 

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