September 19, 2021: Roundup & Myth Busting
To view a PDF version, click here
Click here to return to main round-up page
Table of Contents
Betadine Not Proven to Treat or Prevent COVID-19, Is Toxic If Ingested
The Internet this week was filled with misinformation about Betadine, the brand name of povidone iodine, as a potential cure and preventative measure for COVID-19. Povidone iodine is a widely used antiseptic in hospitals. It can also be purchased over-the-counter to clean simple cuts and scrapes. The brand Betadine also makes a version meant for gargling to temporarily alleviate symptoms of sore throat.
The claim that Betadine prevents and treats COVID-19 originated from a clip from a Thai television show that featured an interview with a person who claimed to be a physician, although whether or not the guest was really a physician is unclear. In the interview, the audience was told that gargling with Betadine can prevent infection with COVID-19. Since then, the myth has been debunked by health experts in Thailand as well as internationally, but that has not stopped people around the world from believing the false claim and going as far as ingesting (i.e., swallowing) Betadine.
Ingesting Betadine is dangerous. It can cause nausea, vomiting, thyroid dysfunction, kidney failure, and other serious health problems. The Betadine website Q&A has been updated to warn consumers that there is no evidence the product treats or prevents COVID-19, and the company has clarified that not all products are meant for gargling. Additionally, those products that are meant for gargling should not be swallowed and are only intended to help with symptoms of sore throat, not disease prevention.
Some people promoting the use of Betadine are referencing numerous articles that found that Betadine and a handful of mouthwashes can disrupt the virus in laboratory conditions. Laboratory conditions are very different from real-life conditions, and these findings cannot directly address safety in humans. For example, one study found that although Betadine disrupted the virus in tissues, it also damaged skin cells in the process. Researchers are in the process of exploring whether or not oral rinses can help decrease viral loads and prevent transmission of the virus by people who are infected, but these studies are still ongoing and are too small to be able to make statements about their effectiveness and safety.
COVID-19 Vaccination Does Not Result in Infertility
Earlier this week, rapper Nicki Minaj tweeted that she did not go to the Met gala because of the vaccination requirement for attendees. Minaj elaborated to say that she would eventually get vaccinated for her tour but is not yet ready and is still doing her own research. [Note that researchers, scientists, and public health officials around the world have firmly concluded that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and information is widely available to support those facts. There is no reason for anyone who is not medically unable to be vaccinated to avoid COVID-19 vaccines, and if you have concerns about the vaccine, please reach out to a healthcare provider or to Queering Medicine.]
Minaj also shared a story in which she claimed that a family friend in Trinidad allegedly became impotent after getting vaccinated. This claim is false. There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination has any impact on fertility, and Dr. Fauci has gone so far as to say there is no mechanism through which that could even happen. In fact, there have been studies that show COVID-19 infection (which vaccines protect against) can cause erectile dysfunction, and, in rare cases, infertility. Vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself from the various impacts COVID-19 can have on your body. The Health Minister of Trinidad and Tobago held a press conference in which he made clear that Minaj's claim was false, and that there have been no reports of the types of side effects that Minaj claimed occurred.
For more information about COVID-19 infection and its potential impact on fertility (which vaccines protect against), click here for our previous post.
U.S. Passes Milestone: 1 in 500 People in the U.S. Has Died of COVID-19
The United States crossed a major, and tragic, milestone this week. As of this week, 1 in every 500 people in the U.S. has died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. As of Saturday, the total number of COVID-19 deaths reported by the CDC in the U.S. was 668,442. The U.S. Census Bureau's estimate of the total U.S. population is approximately 332,758,675, putting COVID-19 deaths at just over 0.2% of the overall population, or 1 in 500 people.
Another shocking statistic came out this week: The number of deaths in the state of Alabama was greater than the number of births last year. The state had 57,641 births and 64,714 deaths. According to CDC data, 7,181 people in Alabama died of COVID-19 in 2020, meaning that the number of births would have been greater than the number of deaths if not for COVID-19. The Alabama State Health Officer, Dr. Scott Harris, stated that he believes that it's the first time in the last hundred years that the state has had more deaths than births, and that the same thing could happen in 2021. There have already been 5,675 COVID-19 deaths in Alabama this year.
"1 in every 500 US residents have died of Covid-19"
"Harris: Alabama Recorded More Deaths Than Births in 2020"
CDC: "Trends in Number of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in the US Reported to CDC, by State/Territory"
COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness Update
In a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the CDC, individuals who were not vaccinated against COVID-19 were found to be 11 times more likely to die than those who were fully vaccinated. The study looked at the data of about 600,000 people in the United States across 13 states from April 4 to July 17, 2021. The study also found that individuals are 5 times less likely to get infected and about 11 times less likely to end up hospitalized due to severe COVID-19 if they are fully vaccinated. The data does include the earlier part of the surge in cases due to the Delta variant and the study does suggest that immunity wanes over time and that the Delta variant is more likely to cause infection, however it is clear and in line with research and data thus far: the vaccines are safe and effective.
Another paper was recently published that also showed that COVID-19 vaccines were very effective, especially in preventing hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and emergency room visits, in line with the CDC MMWR report. This paper was also printed with correspondence published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that showed vaccines were also effective in decreasing transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus by looking at households with healthcare workers who were vaccinated.
Data continues to strongly support getting vaccinations. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about vaccines, please reach out to your primary health care providers or to us, and please get vaccinated if and when you can!
MSU Announces Plan to Hide COVID-19 Cases From Faculty
Michigan State University has once again decided to jeopardize the lives and health of students, faculty, and staff, in a stunning follow-up to last week's story. Last week, we covered a story from the State News that found that many faculty who had students in their in-person classes test positive for COVID-19 had subsequently requested permission to move their class online temporarily for safety reasons, and that MSU was denying those requests and forcing them to remain in-person, despite the clear risk to them and their students. The obvious and appropriate response after the story came to light would have been for the University to correct its mistake and announce that MSU would always allow instructors to move their classes online temporarily when COVID-19 was detected in a person who had been present in their classroom. That is not the approach MSU took, however. Instead, the University informed faculty on Wednesday that they would no longer be told when people in their in-person classes test positive for COVID-19. MSU will now only let an instructor know if there was a positive test from a student in their class if that student was known to be within 6 feet of the instructor for 15 minutes (a "close contact"). The change means that faculty can no longer take measures to protect the rest of the class in most situations. Additionally, they will not be able to make an informed decision regarding their own health: The University’s definition of “close contact” is apparently based on an assumption that being 7 feet away from a person with COVID-19 for an hour or being 1 foot away from a person with COVID-19 for 14 minutes in an enclosed space does not put someone at risk. MSU defended its position by citing upgrades to HVAC and air filtration units on campus, despite the fact that that does not eliminate the risk of viral transmission in enclosed spaces, and despite the fact that many classrooms in older buildings are not large and are not air conditioned at all. The State News reported that the MSU Graduate Employees Union and Union of Non-Tenure Track Faculty quickly made statements against the policy change after it was announced. There is also a “Petition for Better MSU Covid Policy” now circulating on social media.
The move is consistent with repeated and tragic past failures of the institution on other matters, including sexual assault: When MSU is caught making bad decisions behind closed doors that put the health, safety, and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and members of the public at risk, rather than trying to correct the problems and provide more information to University members and the public so that they are better informed and are empowered to protect themselves from known threats, MSU instead hides or covers up any further information from being released that could be damaging to the University's reputation. Instead of prioritizing people, the University continues to prioritize its brand and budget.
"MSU to no longer inform professors of all positive COVID-19 cases in the classroom"
Ingham County Sheriff Gathers Signatures to Fight Prosecutor’s Policy Changes
Last month, Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon announced a new policy to reduce racial disparities in the local justice system: She would no longer bring a charge for possessing a firearm while committing a felony if the firearm was not used, unless under extreme circumstances. Siemon has been changing policies and procedures to lessen the racial disparities within the criminal justice system that result in Black individuals being disproportionately arrested and charged for crimes and serving longer sentences than white people. This policy change was based on research and local data showing the inequities in felony firearm charges. Unfortunately, there has been major pushback from Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wrigglesworth and other law enforcement agents. While Siemon has based her decisions on data (which is available to the public) showing racial disparities resulting from prior policies and that the policy change is both likely to decrease racial disparities and is unlikely to decrease community safety, Wriggelsworth has never cited any data or evidence to support his assertions in defense of existing systems that disproportionately target and harm people of color in our communities. Wrigglesworth set up one-on-one meetings with all 23 municipal heads in the county regarding the new policy. This includes 5 mayors, 16 township supervisors, and 2 village presidents. Out of the 23 leaders, 21 signed his statement denouncing the policy and calling for Siemon to reconsider it. The only leaders who did not sign were Mayor Jessy Greg of East Lansing and Williamstown Township Supervisor Wanda Bloomquist. Wrigglesworth spoke to the East Lansing City Council earlier this week to attempt to persuade the Mayor and City Council to sign on, but they were not comfortable with signing the statement. East Lansing Mayor Pro Tem Dana Watson pressed Wriggelsworth for information on what his office was doing to address racial disparities in policing and prosecution, but he could not provide any examples, and instead continued to attack Siemon’s policy changes. Siemon has released a statement saying that she will not be changing the policy, even after receiving the statement from the Sheriff and municipal heads, but will keep a close eye on data to see if there is any increase in gun violence.
List of municipal heads who signed Sheriff Wriggelsworth’s statement rebuking the new policy:
Andy Schor of Lansing
Mayor Pro Tem Pam Beegle of Leslie
Russ Whipple of Mason
Tammy Gilroy of Williamston
Dorwin Marshall of White Oak
Wayne Myer of Wheatfield
John Lazet of Vevay
C.G. Lantis of Stockbridge
Phil Hutchinson of Onondaga
Ron Styka of Meridian
Dorothy Hart of Locke
Todd Eldred of Leslie
Earl Griffes of Leroy
Bruce Harris of Ingham
John Hayhoe of Delhi
Gene Ulrey of Bunker Hill
Larry Silsby of Aurelius
Steve Lott of Alaiedon
Diontrae Hayes of Lansing
Brad Hitchcock of Webberville
Molly Howlett of Stockbridge
Justice Department Imposing Strict Limitations On Chokeholds and No-Knock Entries
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would be imposing strict limitations on when federal officers could use chokeholds and no-knock entries. Under the new policy, officers are prohibited from using chokeholds unless they have reasonable belief that the person will cause serious injury or death. Officers are also required to only use no-knock entries when they believe there is a threat to physical safety and officers must receive approval from a federal prosecutor and their law enforcement agency. If officers are on a scene and a no-knock entry ends up being used, the officer must notify their supervisor immediately and provide written notice to federal prosecutors. These changes come after a review from Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, where it was found that the Justice Department did not have consistent policies on the use of chokeholds or no-knock entries. Many law enforcement agencies are re-evaluating chokehold and no-knock entries after increased publicity and protests over the killings of unarmed Black individuals in the past few years by law enforcement officers. The changes in the Justice Department are the latest in a series of changes that are being made to increase law enforcement accountability.
Patients at Risk as Michigan Nurses Association and University of Michigan Nurses Fight Vaccine Mandates
There is clear and unambiguous evidence that vaccines are an essential component to reducing the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, and it is critical that direct health care workers be vaccinated, given that they come into close contact with patients, including patients who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or who are immunocompromised and are therefore less protected by vaccines. Despite these facts, the Michigan Nurses Association is opposing vaccine mandates for nurses it represents and has stated that vaccination decisions for health care workers are "best decided democratically by health care workers themselves" and "need to be subject to collective bargaining." A health care worker who does not want to be vaccinated does not need to be — they can instead leave the healthcare field during the pandemic, so that they do not unnecessarily jeopardize the health of others (the primary responsibility of their field). No healthcare patient should have their life risked by a healthcare worker’s ignorant and anti-science beliefs. While unions can be a critical force to protect workers, collective bargaining should not be used by a healthcare union to allow its members to put the lives of their patients at direct risk. The real-world results of the MNA position are already being felt: Nurses working at the University of Michigan's health care services, Michigan Medicine, are currently exempt from the University's vaccine mandate, specifically as a result of their collective bargaining agreement, which is negotiated with the Michigan Nurses Association. As a result of the situation, those in need of healthcare in the University of Michigan community may want to avoid Michigan Medicine if possible, and instead seek out safer healthcare providers until all healthcare staff at Michigan Medicine are subject to COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
"Vaccinations not required for Michigan Medicine nurses due to union contract"
"Michigan COVID nurses reach their limit: ‘I know I can’t do this forever’"
This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):
Vanessa Burnett (she/they) M.P.H; Health Equity Consultant, Michigan Public Health Institute
Alessandra Daskalakis (she/her/hers), third-year medical student
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