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!

COVID-19 Cases Surge in Michigan 

We last provided an update that across the country, the number of COVID-19 cases was on the rise. As with most things, it is important to also pay close attention to local and statewide data. Michigan saw its highest-ever number of cases in one day earlier this week, and has experienced an 80% rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the past week.

"It is very possible that this is the beginning of a second wave," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Outbreaks on sports teams, in work settings, in assisted living facilities, in schools, and on college campuses are driving the spread of the virus, Khaldun said. The concern is that as the weather gets colder and people move indoors, it could drive an even bigger increase in cases, hospitalizations, and soon after, deaths - especially as flu season approaches. 

Although numbers are rising, reports show that Michigan is not in a capacity crisis at this time (i.e., there is still room in hospitals, but that may not continue to be the case for much longer). 

Key highlights from various health officials quoted in the article:


Virus that Causes COVID-19 Can Survive Far Longer on Surfaces Than Previously Thought

New research published in Virology Journal by a team from CSIRO, a government research agency in Australia, tested the survival rate of viable, infectious SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) on a variety of common surface types. The tests were conducted in ideal conditions (e.g., no light, to prevent UV exposure from breaking the virus down), so under real-world conditions, the virus may not last as long, but the experiment may provide a new upper-limit on how long it can last at certain temperatures. Unlike prior information, which suggested only a 3-day maximum viability of the virus, the new experiments showed that it can be infectious for up to 28 days on surfaces like glass, stainless steel, vinyl, and paper money, and 14 days for cotton cloth at temperatures of 68°F (20°C). At 86°F (30°C), viable virus was found to last on paper money for 21 days, stainless steel and glass for 7 days, and on vinyl and cotton cloth for 3 days. At 104°F (40°C), the virus lasted only 24 hours on cotton cloth and 48 hours on all other surfaces tested. Cold temperatures were not tested, but the trend clearly shows an increase in duration as temperature drops, so the onset of winter weather may increase risk, particularly for outdoor or poorly heated areas.

Avoid touching your face and wash your hands frequently when coming into contact with surfaces touched by others!

More information:

Masks and Social Distancing Still Required in Michigan, Despite Supreme Court Rulings

This week, the Michigan Supreme Court denied the Governor's request to delay implementing their ruling last week that declared her Executive Orders regarding COVID-19 unconstitutional. Despite the ending of those orders, most mask mandates, social distancing rules, and restrictions on businesses and gatherings are still in effect, due to orders quickly put in place by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services after the ruling under a different authority that was not impacted by the ruling. The MDHHS orders currently expire on October 30th but can be extended. For details of the MDHHS orders, see our story from last week.

Locally, Ingham County issued a series of public health orders that maintain mask requirements and limit gatherings in the wake of the Michigan Supreme Court ruling, and the East Lansing City Council passed a resolution this week requiring compliance with the health orders, which is intended to make it easier to deal with parties or gatherings, particularly with MSU starting to play football again.

More information:

Michigan Man Charged with Hate Crime for Attack on Black Teen in June

A White man in Monroe, Michigan was charged with a federal hate crime earlier this week for attacking a Black teenager in Sterling State Park on June 6 (less than two weeks after the death of George Floyd). He reportedly yelled "Black lives don't matter," called the teen and his friends racial slurs, and made various other racist comments before striking the teen in the face with a bike lock. The 18-year-old victim suffered "facial fracture, facial lacerations and the loss of several teeth." The federal charges are in addition to existing state charges of felony assault and ethnic intimidation.

More information:

Michigan to Expunge Many Nonviolent Crimes in "Clean Slate" Reform

On Monday, Governor Whitmer signed a series of six "clean slate" bills that reform Michigan's laws regarding criminal convictions. The process is expected to take around two years to implement, so relief will not be immediate but will automatically clear most nonviolent misdemeanors seven years after sentencing and most nonviolent felonies ten years after the conclusion of prison term or sentencing (whichever is last), so long as the felony sentence was less than 10 years. Assaultive crimes, forgery and counterfeiting crimes, crimes involving minors or vulnerable adults, human trafficking, and crimes involving injury or death are not eligible. Misdemeanor marijuana offenses that would not have been crimes after the state legalized recreational use of the drug will have a streamlined process intended to take 60 days from the time an expungement application is received. Expungement removes the conviction from the public record so that it does not appear in background checks and does not have to be disclosed in job applications, but the conviction will still exist in law enforcement records.

On October 1st, Michigan ended a ban that prevented people with multiple felony drug convictions from receiving food stamps. Originally in effect in 2011, drug offenses were the only type of convictions that impacted food stamp eligibility. The change is part of the budget, and a bill has been introduced in the state legislature to make it law.

Given the disproportionate rate of arrests and convictions of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color the changes are a small step towards lessening racial injustice in the state.

More information:

Executive Orders Ban Talks on Race or Sex 

On September 22nd, the President issued an executive order banning trainings, workshops, or conversations that include critical race theory or talking about racial or sex privilege within federal agengies or federal contractors and subcontractors. Days later, the President expanded the executive order to include grantees that are receiving federal funds. The moves are seen as part of a broader effort to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as other efforts aimed at equity for marginalized groups. The positioning of any discussions about White privilege as being inherently racist is a core component to the continuation of systemic racism: By refusing to acknowledge the presence of White privilege, White privilege cannot be challenged or deconstructed. Organizations who receive federal funding and continue with these types of conversations are at risk of being barred from receiving funds. The order’s goal is "to combat offensive and anti-American race and sex stereotyping and scapegoating.” The administration has vilified trainings as being divisive and misaligned from the country’s history and values. This executive order has created problems from training contractors to universities. For example, the University of Iowa paused diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in fear of losing federal funding. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has paused or cancelled trainings for employees regarding systemic racism, privilege, and intersectionality - all targeted by the executive order. The Department of Justice has opened up a tip line to report non-compliance with the executive order. There has been pushback from civil right’s groups including NAACP and the ACLU, but the impacts of the order are still being felt. This order will have repercussions across the board, and these trainings and conversations are key to start acknowledging this country’s history and oppression that many experience. Without continuing to have transparency and honesty regarding dominant narratives in this country and working to dismantle the oppressive systems, we will not be able to make this a place where everyone is valued and treated equally.

More information:

Reinfection and Herd Immunity Update: Scientists Confirm Nevada Man Was Infected Twice With Coronavirus

Earlier this week, scientists reported that they confirmed the first case of known COVID-19 reinfection in the US, which is also the 5th known reinfection case worldwide. The Nevada man who was reinfected was 25 years old, and reportedly, the second infection presented with more severe symptoms than the first infection. The two infections were about 2 months apart and separated by two negative tests.

While reinfection currently seems to be rare, it has been confirmed to be possible. As we learn more about what may determine the severity of infection as well as how long immunity and antibodies last in the body, it is becoming clearer than ever that COVID-19 is not going away any time soon.

What is even more concerning in recent news is the continued push for a “herd immunity” approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, a small group of scientists, epidemiologists, and public health workers signed and put out what is called “the Great Barrington Declaration,” which pushes for a herd immunity approach. They want the virus to spread rapidly through young, healthy populations who seem to not experience as severe symptoms and be less likely to die of it and protect those vulnerable. To clarify, this is not a scientific document, and there is no data in the declaration. The declaration, however, aligns with President Trump and the White House’s desire to reopen business and schools while pushing for herd immunity instead, and there seems to be renewed energy in this approach. 

Most scientists, healthcare workers, and public health experts have swiftly pushed back against this declaration. Many continue to note that the approach to herd immunity would lead to the deaths of millions of people, and with evidence of reinfection, it may not even lead to herd immunity. The economic cost of millions of additional deaths is expected to exceed any potential economic benefits of reopening early, thereby negating arguments that the approach would be economically beneficial. In addition, the practicality of separating young, healthy populations from vulnerable populations is suspect. There have already been several countries that have shown that a robust, public health approach and adhering to public health measures like masks and physical distancing can work to reduce the spread of the virus without the death toll that herd immunity approach would entail. While most of the leaders in the U.S that are not tied to the White House and the current administration continue to show data and state that herd immunity would end up killing more Americans and would not have economic benefits, the battle to maintain public health measures that have worked will continue. 

Until there is a vaccine or more effective treatment options, the virus will remain a threat. We must continue to follow social distancing measures, wear masks, wash our hands, and follow other public health guidelines if we hope to continue protecting each other and overcoming this pandemic.

More information:

COVID-19 Vaccine Trials Paused

Within the last week, two major COVID-19 vaccine trials were paused. The first was Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, in which a clinical trial participant experienced an “unexplained illness” halting the trial. This vaccine trial was the fourth in President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed program to enter Phase 3 clinical trials and was noted for being a potential vaccine that did not need to be frozen and could be given in one dose. The second trial that was paused was Eli Lilly’s vaccine, an antibody vaccine similar to the trial vaccine given to President Trump. Details on why the trial was paused have not yet been released, but there was a noted “health difference between the group that received the drug and those who received a placebo.” These trials that have been paused come about a month after the AstraZeneca vaccine trial was paused. That trial is still paused in the US, although it has resumed in other countries, such as the UK.

Paused trials demonstrate that certain safety measures are in effect. It takes time after a volunteer has some negative experience or falls ill, or experiences another type of adverse event, for researchers to determine whether it was from the drug, treatment, or vaccine being studied, and how serious a risk it is. These pauses occurred during Phase 3 of clinical trials, a phase in clinical trials that greatly increases the number of volunteers who may get the vaccine or drug being tested, and again highlights the importance of this phase and following the established clinical trials process. Without sufficient testing and research, many potentially harmful effects may not be uncovered or known until after thousands or millions of people have been exposed to whatever is being studied.

More information:

Remdesivir Update 

A recently published study has reaffirmed results from earlier clinical trials that suggest the drug remdesivir is most helpful to patients who are administered it early and who are experiencing a more mild COVID-19 disease course. As with the initial study, the follow-up study does not show a significant improvement in death rates in patients critically ill with COVID-19. The follow-up study saw that those patients who were less sick and who were able to be diagnosed and administered remdesivir earlier experienced earlier discharge from the hospital and fewer serious complications or developments, referred to as “adverse events,” in the course of their care. A thorough analysis of the research, as reported by Brief 19, suggests that it is possible the data might have shown more improvement in death rate in critically ill patients, but likely not by a substantial amount, had the researchers involved a larger patient population and/or longer follow-up. Additionally, it will be important to thoroughly assess any racial disparities within patient outcomes. An initial look at the follow-up study suggests that BIPOC patients may not benefit from remdesivir as much as White patients. However, since the study design did not focus on this question, further study would be needed to understand whether BIPOC patients experience different outcomes from this treatment and the reasons behind any potential differences.


COVID-19 is Real and Has Serious Impacts on our Communities

All around us, we have had community members experience significant loss. We want to hold space for folks who are feeling the burden and loss caused by COVID-19. Social distancing has left many of us isolated. It has not been easy, and none of this is normal. We personally know people who have died of COVID-19, people who are at high risk of worse outcomes if they become ill, people who have tested positive, people who have become ill, and people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Delivering information about the pandemic is how we uplift our community. While there are many people who may not believe the pandemic is real, we know all too well that it is, and the impacts it has on ourselves, our families, our friends, our neighbors, our communities, and our world.

QM Public Health Crisis Round-Up Team (in no particular order):