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!
Thanksgiving and COVID-19
Thanksgiving is in a few days, and it's important to celebrate safely, given the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The safest way to celebrate is virtually (for example, using video chat software or phones), even though that means being physically apart from family. COVID-19 cases are hitting record highs, and gatherings like what many families traditionally do for Thanksgiving pose a significant risk, and that risk is much higher if precautions aren’t taken. Family gatherings also frequently include people who are older or higher risk from COVID-19, making them even more dangerous for many people. If you do choose to travel or attend a Thanksgiving gathering, the CDC offers some recommendations to make the experience safer:
Wear a mask
Wear a mask with two or more layers to help protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
Make sure the mask fits snugly against the sides of your face.
Stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you
Remember that people without symptoms may be able to spread COVID-19 or flu.
Keeping 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths) from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Wash your hands
Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Keep hand sanitizer with you and use it when you are unable to wash your hands.
Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Attending a Gathering
Celebrating virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice this Thanksgiving.
If you choose to attend a gathering, make your celebration safer. In addition to following the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer, take these additional steps if attending a Thanksgiving gathering:
Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
Wear a mask and safely store your mask while eating and drinking.
Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates, and utensils.
Hosting a Thanksgiving Gathering
Celebrating virtually or with the people you live with is the safest choice this Thanksgiving.
If having guests to your home, be sure that people follow the steps that everyone can take to make Thanksgiving safer. These steps include:
Have a small outdoor meal with family and friends who live in your community.
Limit the number of guests.
Have conversations with guests ahead of time to set expectations for celebrating together.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items between use.
If celebrating indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible. You can use a window fan in one of the open windows to blow air out of the window. This will pull fresh air in through the other open windows.
Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
Have guests bring their own food and drink.
If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils.
If you do travel
Check travel restrictions before you go.
Get your flu shot before you travel.
Always wear a mask in public settings, when using public transportation, and when around people who you don’t live with.
Stay at least 6 feet apart from anyone who does not live with you.
Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose, and mouth.
Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.
Know when to delay your travel.
CDC: "Celebrating Thanksgiving" https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/thanksgiving.html
Trans Day of Remembrance
Friday was Trans Day of Remembrance, when we reflect on the lives lost in the past year due to anti-trans violence. In 2020, there was an average of one trans or non-binary person murdered per day around the world. That statistic is only based on the cases we know about - the real total is likely much higher, as trans people are frequently misgendered in news reports (including obituaries), many were not publicly out, and not all places recognize or keep records of anti-trans violence in connection with crimes.
The overwhelming majority of trans and nonibinary people murdered are people of color, and most are trans women. Intersectionality is critical in understanding identities and experiences, and Black trans women in the U.S. are at much higher risk of being murdered for who they are.
"Remembrance, Resilience, and Response: Addressing An Epidemic of Violence Against Trans and Non-Binary People"
"At Least 350 Transgender People Have Been Killed Globally in 2020"
"Fatal Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2020"
"Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2020: Murdered, Suffocated And Burned Alive – 350 Transgender People Killed In 2020"
President-Elect Biden Plans to Tackle COVID-19
President-elect Joe Biden has announced his plan for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and announced his Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, which includes 13 health experts from around the country. The advisory board will lend its expertise to help Biden tackle the current pandemic.
Biden has committed to "Listen to science," "Ensure public health decisions are informed by public health professionals", and "Restore trust, transparency, common purpose, and accountability to our government." His seven-point COVID-19 plan includes:
Ensure that everyone has access to regular, reliable, and free COVID-19 testing.
Use the Defense Production Act to increase production of masks, face shields, ant other PPE, and work to ensure that the U.S. is not dependent on other countries for PPE in times of crisis.
"Provide clear, consistent, evidence-based national guidance for how communities should navigate the pandemic — and the resources for schools, small businesses, and families to make it through."
"Plan for the effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines," including investing "$25 billion in a vaccine manufacturing and distribution plan that will guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free," putting scientists in charge of all vaccine safety decisions, and publicly releasing clinical data for approved vaccines.
"Establish a COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force" and a "Nationwide Pandemic Dashboard" to help "all individuals, but especially older Americans and others at high risk, understand what level of precaution to take."
"Rebuild and expand the defenses that Trump has dismantled to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, including those coming from China."
"Implement mask mandates nationwide by working with governors and mayors and by asking the American people to do what they do best: step up in a time of crisis."
This week alone, the United States saw an increase of over 1 million cases which brings the total case rate since March to over 12 million. The Biden administration recognizes the importance and need to bring the pandemic under control starting on day one of his presidency. President-elect Biden made plans of controlling the pandemic central to his campaign, calling for a more coordinated federal response plan. Biden’s plans call for significant investment in public health to expand and increase testing, contract tracing, and eventual vaccine distribution. Biden has encouraged Americans to wear masks and would encourage governors and local officials to implement mask mandates. President Trump has not conceded the election yet and that is delaying the transition between administrations. This could potentially delay the new administration’s pandemic response because they have not been able to see crucial COVID-19 data, use funds to plan the transition, or have conversations with top health experts. Biden tweeted on Friday asking for donations to fund the transition between administrations. The time we are in is unprecedented - an ongoing global pandemic and a sitting U.S. President refusing to accept the results of the elections. While the situation is dire, President-elect Biden continues to onboard staff and work towards a smooth transition between administrations, regardless of President Trump’s actions.
"Joe and Kamala’s Plan to Beat COVID-19" https://joebiden.com/covid19/
About a week after Pfizer made their COVID-19 announcement touting a 90% effectiveness of their vaccine candidate, Moderna, another biotechnology company, released a statement announcing that preliminary analysis of their late-stage COVID-19 vaccine trial showed that their vaccine was 94.5% effective.
Moderna has estimated that they will be able to make about 20 million doses by the end of 2020, enough to vaccinate 10 million people at two doses each. In addition, the Moderna vaccine can be refrigerated for a month or frozen for 6 months, not requiring the extremely cold temperatures required for storing and transporting Pfizer’s vaccine.
The CEO of Moderna stated that their COVID-19 vaccine will cost governments about $25-37 per dose, meaning the total per-person cost for a vaccination would be $50-74. He was also quoted as saying that the cost would be similar to the cost of flu shots (around $10-50), however the amount governments pay for flu shots is somewhat difficult to accurately determine.
Pfizer recently concluded their Phase III trial for their COVID-19 vaccine as well, stating that their vaccine turned out to be 95% effective. As Phase III is typically the last phase before submission of approval to the FDA, the FDA now will have to evaluate the data. In addition, the FDA will require an additional 2 months worth of follow-up data for the volunteers.
The news of an effective vaccine is promising, however it may be a while before enough people are able to receive it. It is imperative that even with a vaccine, public health measures will still need to be followed (mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing, etc.) for us to beat the pandemic.
CDC Mask Recommendation Update
In a recent brief, the CDC updated information on masks, citing evidence that masks not only protect those around you, but masks also protect the wearer. To quote the brief, “individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use,” indicating synergistic benefits of mask wearing on an individual and community level. This is an important update, emphasizing the benefits of effective masks and proper mask wearing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The brief also cites economic benefits of masks, stating that masks may “help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation.”
The evidence has been clear and only continues to grow in support of mask wearing. There are benefits at an individual, community, and national level if proper mask wearing increases and is consistent. The messaging is clearer than ever, and hopefully the messaging from governmental bodies such as the CDC will continue in this direction, promoting proper mask usage so that we can continue to protect ourselves and each other.
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