COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise In Michigan, While Falling in Most of the U.S.

According to recent data, while COVID-19 cases are on the decline in most of the United States, Michigan is one of ten states where case rates are increasing. Daily case rates have risen nearly every week in the state since mid-July, and are now at their highest levels since April.

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First Antiviral COVID-19 Treatment May Be Good News, But With Caveats

On Friday October 1, Merck and Ridgeback announced that their experimental antiviral treatment reduced hospitalizations or deaths due to COVID-19 by almost 50%. In the Phase 3 study, Merck stated that for those who were on the antiviral pill, named molnupiravir, and had mild to moderate COVID-19, 28 out of 385 people were either hospitalized or died after Day 29 of their COVID-19 disease course. In contrast, for those in the placebo group of the trial (those who did not receive molnupiravir), 53 out of 377 people were either hospitalized or died. A WHO official recently stated that this was definitely “good news,” as this could be the first oral pill and treatment for COVID-19, if approved. In their announcement, Merck also stated that they would submit their data to the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization approval.

While additional tools are always helpful and worthy of celebration, there are still some issues that have and may continue to arise from this news. For one, there is still a largely accessible, affordable vaccine that is effective and can prevent infection or reduce chances of severe disease if you are infected. Notably, Dr. Fauci noted that this is still a preventable disease and while a treatment would be great to have for those who end up getting COVID-19, prevention is still key as a majority of recent deaths due to COVID-19 have still been in the unvaccinated. Not only are COVID-19 vaccines safe, effective, and free to those in the U.S., but early information suggests that molnupiravir will be sold to the US for 40 times more than what it costs to make ($700 for a five-day course of the drug). While this has yet to be confirmed, this is unfortunately a very common story with regards to the US healthcare system, especially with newer therapeutic agents such as this antiviral. This is a highly troublesome aspect of pharmaceutical companies profiting off of the US healthcare system, and it is important to remind others that COVID-19 is preventable with a much more accessible and safe vaccine. If you have any questions regarding vaccines or this COVID-19 treatment, please feel free to reach out

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New Study Shows Killings by Law Enforcement are Undercounted

Researchers at the University of Washington compared data released from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), which collects birth and death information, to three open-source police violence databases: Fatal Encounters, Mapping Police Violence, and The Counted. The data showed that there is extensive misclassification in the NVSS of police brutality. From 1980-2018, NVSS data did not report 17,100 out of the 30,800 deaths from police violence found in the other databases, which is a 55.5% undercounting. In 2018, it is estimated that the NVSS misclassified 51.8% of police violence deaths. The discrepancies were also apparent when data was disaggregated by race and ethnicity. The greatest undercounting of police violence deaths occurred in non-Hispanic Black men. It is estimated that 59.5% of those deaths were misclassified. With this, the data showed from 1980-2018 that non-Hispanic Black people were 3.5 times more likely to be killed by police than non-Hispanic white people. Hispanic people of any race were 1.8 times more likely to be killed than non-Hispanic white people. These trends persisted from year to year: Black people were consistently more likely to be killed by police than white people. Misclassification of deaths varied across the states, with Oklahoma, Wyoming, Alabama, Louisiana, and Nebraska having the highest rates of under-reporting. This data is further information that systemic racism is deep-rooted in this country, especially in law enforcement, but misclassification underscores just how deeply rooted racism is and the impacts it has on health and wellbeing. While having a central national repository for police violence is necessary, it presents a predicament of the state having to admit to the violence it is causing and perpetuating. Although there has been an increase in funding for training law enforcement officers on implicit bias and other ways to mitigate police violence, it is clear that it is not enough. Across the country we see government budgets that continue to place law enforcement as priority even when it's harming and killing residents at disproportionate rates. This data is not surprising. It just further shows the need to defund the police and shift resources to programs that actually support the health and well-being of residents.

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Indigenous Peoples’ Day is October 11th

Tomorrow, October 11th, is Indigenous Peoples' Day in the United States. Indigenous Peoples' Day is a counter-celebration that is hoped will eventually replace Columbus Day, and celebrates the people, history, culture, and traditions of Indigenous people. What is typically taught to children in the U.S. about Christopher Columbus is a sanitized, racist version of history that presents false information and leaves out the atrocities committed by Columbus and the horrific legacy he left.

Columbus did not discover North America (the land was already inhabited by millions of people) and did not prove the Earth was round (that claim comes from a work of fiction written in 1828; Europeans had already known the Earth was round for thousands of years). Columbus only happened upon the Americas because he misunderstood basic measurements from earlier scholars and falsely believed that the Earth was much smaller than it is. Other explorers, who knew the size and shape of the planet, had already determined that ships of the time could not travel all the way to Asia, and they were correct. Columbus' inadequate scholarship resulted in him embarking on an expedition that could not and did not succeed in its objective - he was merely lucky that a continent that he and his European contemporaries were totally unaware of was in his path, and he falsely believed that he had reached Asia for the rest of his life.

His legacy includes the genocide and slavery of Indigenous people and the attempted genocide of their cultures. For those who do not want to fault him personally for his legacy (i.e., the actions of other people), his own actions provide ample reason to consider him a villain, rather than a hero who should be honored with a holiday. Columbus himself ordered the murder, dismemberment, torture, and enslavement of thousands of Indigenous people. He was brutal to his own people as well, dismembering, torturing, and executing Spanish colonists for minor crimes.

On Friday, President Biden signed a Proclamation formally acknowledging the day and calling "upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities." The proclamation explains that "On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, our Nation celebrates the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples, recognizes their inherent sovereignty, and commits to honoring the Federal Government’s trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations." This is the first time that the U.S. has officially commemorated the day.

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More People in U.S. Have Died of COVID-19 in 2021 Than 2020

As of this week, more people in the U.S. have now died of COVID-19 this year than did last year. According to CDC data, 371,920 people in the U.S. died of COVID-19 in 2020, and the total this year is now at 339,100, with nearly a quarter of the year remaining. The total number of people in the U.S. who have died of the disease is 711,020 as of yesterday, and that total will continue to grow daily.

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Grand Rapids Declares Racism to be a Public Health Crisis

On September 28th, the Grand Rapids City Commission adopted a resolution that "Publicly declares racism as a public health crisis in the city of Grand Rapids" and "Urges local organizations, businesses, units of government and individuals to leverage their influence to dismantle racism and apply a public health framework to those efforts." The resolution states that "Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) face economic injustice, social deprivation, and health inequities as a result of systemic racism embedded in policies, regulations, and laws that have created and maintain opportunity for some and barriers for others." After providing additional information, it goes on to state that "local data at the city and county level also demonstrate clear racialized inequities" and lists a variety of specific examples from the city of Grand Rapids and Kent County. The resolution does not mention specific actions that will be taken to work towards change, but instead points to the City’s Strategic Plan, adopted in 2019, which includes language regarding racial equity.

The move comes more than a year after Governor Whitmer declared racism to be a public health crisis in Michigan (in August, 2020). Other localities, like Ingham County and Kalamazoo County, declared racism to be a public health crisis in June of 2020, even before the state did. The Grand Rapids resolution notes that "as of December of 2020, over 170 cities, counties, state legislatures, and other governmental leaders have passed resolutions declaring racism a public health crisis and have committed to specific actions to dismantle racism."

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

    • Vanessa Burnett (she/they) 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; Chair, Power of We Consortium

    • Francis Yang (he/him/his), M.S.-Global Medicine, Third-year medical student