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!

U.S. Accused of Sterilizing Immigrants

[TW: Sterilization/reproductive freedom.] A whistleblower, Dawn Wooten, a Licensed Practical Nurse working at a detention center in Georgia, has come forward, stating that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center is performing unnecessary hysterectomies (surgical removal of the uterus) on Latinx immigrants. Without a uterus, pregnancy cannot occur - while the procedure is sometimes medically necessary (for example, in cases of uterine cancer), hysterectomies sterilize the patient, and have been used as an intentional way to sterilize people for many years. As a medical expert, she found the number of hysterectomies being performed alarming. She reports that many people given these surgeries were not provided appropriate information regarding the procedure beforehand or were misled, with many people who had received the procedure seemingly unsure of what had been done, and not having had appropriate translators to discuss it with them. Additionally, many of their symptoms did not match with diagnosis requiring hysterectomies. These acts are being condemned as an act of genocide and fit the definition for one act of genocide as stated by the UN: "imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group". Forced sterilizations have occurred across United States history. Starting in 1907, eugenics laws were used to justify sterilizations of those deemed "feeble-minded". Many people of color, black, indigenous, LGBTQ+ or disabled folks, especially people with a uterus, were given this label and sterilized, with racism and sexism used as justification. Forced sterilizations were deemed illegal in 1970 but cases have not stopped. Forced sterilizations within the California prison system have been uncovered within the last decade.

Wooten also alleges that the ICE detention center of unsanitary and unsafe conditions, insufficient COVID-19 precautions, and retaliation (including the use of solitary confinement) against immigrants who complained about unsafe conditions.

More Information

Eating at Restaurants is Riskier than Shopping and Other Activities

A new CDC report shows that people who dine out at restaurants are more likely to contract COVID-19 than those that participate in other activities (like shopping, using public transit, etc.). The data are unsurprising, as eating food is an activity that requires the removal of a mask, and masks are the best way to reduce the transmission of the virus for individuals who do not maintain adequate physical distance. Additionally, air circulation issues at restaurants may contribute, according to the report.

Positive COVID-19 test results were connected to “...going to locations that offer on-site eating and drinking options” and “Adults with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than were those with negative SARS-CoV-2 test results” (SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19). The report explains that “Masks cannot be effectively worn while eating and drinking, whereas shopping and numerous other indoor activities do not preclude mask use.” It goes on to state that “Reports of exposures in restaurants have been linked to air circulation” and air circulation “might affect virus transmission, even if social distancing measures and mask use are implemented according to current guidance.”

The report recommends that “Efforts to reduce possible exposures where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, such as when eating and drinking, should be considered to protect customers, employees, and communities.”

More Information

    • "Community and Close Contact Exposures Associated with COVID-19 Among Symptomatic Adults ≥18 Years in 11 Outpatient Health Care Facilities — United States, July 2020"

    • "CDC report: Dining out increases risk of contracting coronavirus more than other activities"

Conflicting Messages from the CDC and the White House on COVID-19 Vaccine Timeline

At a recent Senate hearing, Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stated that the U.S. should have enough doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to “return to ‘regular life’” by the third quarter of 2021 (i.e., July-September of next year). He stated that doses should be available and ready to be distributed by November or December of this year to those most in need, and that it would take “about 6 to 9 months” to vaccine the entire U.S. public. President Trump was quick to criticize, stating that Dr. Redfield was “confused” and had spoken incorrectly. Trump went on to say that a vaccine would be available as early as October or November (in time for the election), and that the vaccine would be widely available to the general public soon. Due to the pressure and criticism by President Trump, the CDC walked back Dr. Redfield’s statements and a spokesman stated that “He was not referring to the time period when COVID-19 vaccine doses would be made available to all Americans.”

This continues to be a theme between the CDC and other governmental healthcare and research bodies potentially being influenced by political pressures. As this pandemic continues, it is of utmost importance that the information and research being done and distributed is factual and not influenced by politicians. There is currently little to no chance that a vaccine can be made widely available to the general public in the next few months - testing of vaccines is still underway and producing millions of doses will take a considerable amount of time.

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Russian “Sputnik-V” COVID-19 Vaccine Update

Scientists from Italy have questioned the validity and plausibility of the Russion COVID-19 vaccine, named “Sputnik-V,” stating that some of the data seemed “unlikely.” Although conclusions on this were not made, there has been a request for more data to verify data validity. This comes as the vaccine is being prepared to be distributed well before completion of the clinical trial. Currently, it is in Phase 3 of clinical trials, aiming to be tested on about 40,000 people. The phase began on August 26th. Experts have been concerned that the Russian vaccine being rushed to distribution may be ineffective or unsafe, and falsified data could be used to justify its use.

The Gamaleya Institute, the Russian institute that is conducting this trial, rejected the critique, stating that their Phase I/II data was verified by multiple authors before being published in the Lancet. There was a report that Mikhail Murashko, the Russian health minister, stated that about 1 in 7 participants experienced side effects from the vaccine, ranging from weakness and muscle pain to mild fevers. This statement came after deals had been made to distribute the vaccine in India.

Whether or not the data is valid, this still brings up large concerns about a vaccine that is being prematurely distributed well before it has been fully tested for efficacy and safety, as is happening with the Sputnik-V vaccine (critical Phase 3 are being skipped). If other shortcuts were made, this could not only affect trust in any vaccine, but potentially put many people at risk of harm from those rushed to use.

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MSU Fraternities and Sororities Under Quarantine

The Ingham County Health Department has issued mandatory quarantine orders for 40 properties due to COVID-19 exposure. 25 of the properties are fraternity or sorority houses, and the remainder are primarily rental properties. The move comes as Ingham County has seen a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, with a significant percentage connected to Michigan State University. MSU fraternities failed to take responsibility for their role in spreading COVID-19: On September 9th, they voted against temporarily suspending large social events, in a move criticized for prioritizing parties over health. Ingham County's Emergency Order was initially issued on September 14th, and has since been revised to include additional properties. MSU is also reviewing 14 cases of students hosting parties or refusing to wear masks, which could result in suspensions, as MSU's Community Compact requires students to wear masks and practice social distancing. Ingham County instituted a ban on outdoor gatherings of over 25 people on August 18th.

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Unconstitutional Bail Set for Protestors

After Ricardo Munoz was fatally shot by the police in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, roughly 100 individuals gathered outside the police station to protest the shooting. Police have said that the gathering turned into a riot, which caused damage to the station and other businesses. This led to 12 adults and one juvenile being arrested. The judge set bail at $1 million for nine of those arrested. The ACLU and others in the state pushed against this amount, saying it is unconstitutional. Bail should not be used to deter citizens for speaking out and advocating for what's right. On Thursday, the judge reduced these bail amounts after individuals petitioned the court to lower the amount. It's clear that $1 million dollar bail for protestors is a punishment, and not about justice. Data shows that BIPOC individuals are more likely to have higher bail amounts than their White counterparts. This is based on stereotypes or bias that BIPOC individuals are more of a flight risk or a danger to their communities. This leads to many individuals being stuck in jail pre-trial because they cannot afford to make bail, while people whose bail is set lower and/or who have more money to pay bail are able to go free. Additionally, those in the LGBTQIA+ population can run up against the same barriers. Being jailed pre-trial greatly disrupts lives and causes unnecessary harm. Reform to the criminal justice system is crucial to interrupt systematic discrimination and harm of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ individuals.

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Face Masks May Contribute to COVID-19 Immunity

Face coverings have become a part of our daily lives and are now mandatory in most cities in the United States. Masks limit the spread of COVID-19 by filtering viral particles that could be in droplets released when we breathe, talk, cough, sing, or sneeze. A group of scientists proposed that universal masking might help reduce the severity of COVID-19 and ensure a greater number of infections are asymptomatic. The hypothesis is that although masks filter the majority of droplets we are exposed to, some viral particles could still reach a person. These viral particles may not be enough to cause disease, or might only cause mild symptoms. However, they could be important in helping the body produce an immune response that will eventually lead to the formation of antibodies and help us build immunity against COVID-19.

This is the concept behind variolation, which was a method used to immunize patients against smallpox by infecting them with a small dose of the disease. This method was later used as the basis for vaccines.

Research is still needed to determine whether this hypothesis regarding masks helping build COVID-19 immunity is correct, but in the meantime, it’s critical that we continue to wear our masks and practice physical distancing: Masks reduce COVID-19 transmission, so regardless of potentially contributing to immunity, they are the best defense we have.

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East Lansing Police Department Replacing Two Officers with Social Workers

The East Lansing Police Department is hiring two full-time social workers to fill two vacant officer positions. The department is also hiring four part-time Neighborhood Resource Specialists to mediate non-violent disputes, and provide directions or resources to people in need of assistance. The changes are part of a Police Realignment Plan from City Manager George Lahanas.

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Big Ten Football to Resume Despite COVID-19 Risks

While college and universities continue to play a significant role in the spread of COVID-19 and significant long-term health risks have been reported for athletes that contract COVID-19, the Big Ten Conference unanimously voted on September 16th to resume the college football season next month, which had been postponed due to COVID-19.

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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