MDHHS Issues Face Mask Advisory

In response to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan, as well as a sharp rise in flu and other respiratory illnesses, the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services issued a Public Health Advisory on Friday recommending that “All Michiganders, regardless of vaccination status, should wear a mask in indoor public settings.” The Public Health Advisory includes three specific recommendations [Source]:

Additional recommendations include:

The advisory takes effect immediately and will remain in effect until MDHHS advises otherwise.

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Michigan Worst in U.S. for COVID-19 Cases

The COVID-19 surge in Michigan is the worst in the U.S. Michigan has the highest case rate in the U.S. over the past week (616.3 per 100,000), and has the highest number of COVID-19 cases over the past week (61,551), nearly 50% higher than the second-highest state. Nearly 1 in 10 COVID-19 cases (9.47%) in the country were in Michigan over the past week. Michigan had more new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Monday (7,904) than at any other time during the entire pandemic.

Hospitals and health systems in the state are overwhelmed, and both Sparrow and McLaren in Lansing are at or above 97% capacity as of Saturday. Most of the people in hospitals are unvaccinated.

Please get vaccinated as soon as possible if you are medically able to do so, wear a mask when you are around people from outside your household, and follow other public health recommendations!

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COVID-19 Holiday Safety

While the safest option this holiday season is to only celebrate with those in your household, the CDC has issued updated guidance on celebrating holidays safely for those who will be visiting family and friends.

Recommendations include:

For those traveling, recommendations include:

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Processing the Rittenhouse Verdict

Many people around the country are experiencing anger, grief, frustration, sadness, and outrage at the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case, in which he was found not guilty, and will not face legal consequences for killing two people and wounding another in Kenosha, Wisconsin. These feelings and reactions are justified: There is a long history of White supremacists (including many police officers) facing little to no consequences for killing BIPOC and their allies, while BIPOC are routinely killed or jailed for taking actions that White supremacists find intimidating or for simply existing. This is not a just system, and while the Rittenhouse decision is unfortunately not a surprise to most people, feeling angry, depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or even feeling numb are all reasonable responses to the verdict. We encourage you to take time out for your mental health and well-being and to reach out to others, if you feel able to. It's important to take time to process our feelings, to find positive outlets for energy, to find time to relax and decompress, and to have social support and people we can talk to. Peer support groups and therapists can play a key role in this process. Above all, remember that regardless of what White supremacists and their enablers think, you matter and are loved.

Trans Day of Remembrance

Yesterday was Trans Day of Remembrance, a day on which we mourn and honor the lives of trans people who have died due to anti-trans violence in the past year. 2021 is once again the deadliest year on record for trans people: On average, one trans person per week has been killed in the U.S. and more than one per day has been killed worldwide due to anti-trans violence, and those are only the cases we know about (the real number is likely much higher).

Of the 53 known trans deaths in the U.S. in the past year, 89% were people of color. Worldwide and historically, the majority of trans people murdered have been people of color, most have been trans women, and the majority this year were sex workers. Gender, race, and being trans are not independent parts of people's identities, and those at certain intersections are particularly at risk - Black trans women consistently make up the majority of known deaths due to anti-trans violence in the U.S.

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White House Tribal Summit

Earlier this week, the White House held a tribal nations summit, which invited tribal leaders from the 574 federally recognized tribes to participate. This was the first summit in five years. Some notable announcements included:

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COVID-19 Vaccine Update

Following the FDA’s announcement on Friday, November 19, 2021, approving the use of COVID-19 booster shots under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for all adults, the CDC followed suit the same day. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced the expansion of booster shot recommendations to “include all adults ages 18 years and older who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least six months after their second dose.” This move simplifies earlier booster shot recommendations which factored an individual’s risks to now include all adults. 

It is also important to note the continued evolution guidelines and recommendations. While this is not the case yet, due to evidence of vaccine efficacy waning over time, it may soon be that a booster shot will be required to be considered “fully vaccinated.” For example, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont stated in a recent press conference that, in his view, “if you were vaccinated more than six months ago, you’re not fully vaccinated.” While this is not currently the official recommendation or guidance, it would not be surprising if this becomes the case, especially as COVID-19 cases continue to surge going into the holiday season and beyond. Remember to continue practicing proper hand hygiene, wearing masks, and socially distancing when possible, and get vaccinated and get your booster shot as soon as you are able, to best protect yourself and others. Reach out if you have any other questions, comments, or concerns!

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Two Innocent Men Finally Exonerated for Killing of Malcolm X

On Thursday, Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam were finally exonerated after being wrongly convicted of killing Malcolm X in 1965. No evidence was ever found that directly linked either of the men to Mujahid Abdul Halim, who confessed to the killing, and both men had alibis. Based on affidavits from Halim stating that neither of the men were involved in the killing, Muhammed and Khalil moved to have their convictions vacated in 1977, but were denied. Experts have long known that the two men were innocent, and new evidence shows that the FBI withheld evidence from the courts during their trial that showed that the two men were not guilty.

"What was widely known 55 years ago is now being formally acknowledged: that Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam are innocent, and that they should have never been arrested, charged, or convicted for a murder they did not commit," said Deborah Francois, an attorney with Shanies Law. "Muhammad's and Khalil's convictions were the product of gross official misconduct and a criminal justice system weighed against people of color. Their exoneration was decades in the making and is proof that we need—and are able—to do better." [Source] 

Khalil died in 2009 and Muhammed is now 83 years old, and they served a combined 42 years in prison for a crime they did not commit.

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COVID-19 At-Home Testing

We noticed a few questions about at home testing and wanted to give a quick breakdown and roundup on at-home COVID-19 testing!

In general, at-home testing has not been shown to be as accurate as testing done through health care facilities or testing sites, however, they are an important tool in maximizing access to testing which is still key in tracking and surviving this pandemic. As cases surge, long lines and travel to certain sites may not always be feasible, and an at-home COVID-19 test may be more accessible. It is also important to note that at-home COVID-19 tests tend to be more accurate if you’re exhibiting symptoms and if they are used properly, and thus, if you are concerned about an exposure and have started to have symptoms such as a fever and/or a sore throat, they may be an important and accessible first step if you aren’t able to get to a healthcare facility or testing site.

The first thing you do if you are considering an at-home COVID-19 test is to check and make sure that it is at least FDA approved for emergency use, which you can check for here.

The CDC has also released some generic steps that can help you make sure that you are testing yourself properly for the most accurate results. That link can be found here.

Some commonly available at-home tests are the Abbott BinaxNOW, the Ellume Covid-19 Home Test, and the Quidel QuickVue At-Home COVID-19 Test. While many of these tests have similar procedures, there are slight differences in how the tests are done and you should follow the instructions of each individual test. For example, the BinaxNOW test requires two tests three days apart, called serial testing. 

Thus far, essentially every at-home test available is an antigen test. That is, the test detects a protein that the SARS-CoV-2 virus makes. This is in comparison to a PCR test that is done at a testing site, where if there is any virus at all, the genetic material of that virus is amplified until it is detectable, thus making testing site tests better at catching any virus.

In terms of accuracy, here are some of the numbers for available at-home tests:

Overall, if you are concerned and are able to make it to an official testing site, this is ideal for the most accurate test possible. PCR tests are typically able to detect even the slightest amount of virus. In addition, while it can be uncomfortable, as many folks are aware of, the deeper in the nose a swab goes, the more likely it is able to find virus that your body may be harboring. At-home tests, however, can still be a useful tool if they are more accessible. They do tend to cost more, however, and those costs can quickly add up as repeated testing is done. If you have more specific questions or any other questions, feel free to reach out to us or to your healthcare providers!

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