Table of Contents
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!
No Police Officers Charged for Killing Breonna Taylor
On Wednesday, a grand jury decided not to bring charges against three officers for the killing of Breonna Taylor. One of the officers, Brett Hankison, the only one to be fired as a result of his actions, was indicted on three counts of "wanton endangerment in the first degree" for firing into neighboring apartments during the incident (one count for each resident of the neighboring apartment, none of whom were hit).
The announcement was met with widespread condemnation, and protests erupted in cities around the country, as the legal system continues to support the White supremacist system that allows Black people to be killed without consequence, and police officers continue to be largely unaccountable for their actions.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has been called out for his poor handling of the case, with politics alleged to be playing a role. Cameron, a Republican, is the state's first Black attorney general and is closely allied with Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell (Cameron is frequently referred to as McConnell's "protégé," and is reportedly on Trump's list to fill a future Supreme Court vacancy).
A day before the grand jury announcement, Jonathan Mattingly, one of the officers involved in Taylor’s killing, sent an email to colleagues claiming that "we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night" and that "good guys are demonized, and criminals are canonized." The day after the announcement, a lawyer representing Mattingly stated that he intends to file civil lawsuits against people who have referred to him as a murderer.
The FBI has not concluded its investigation into potential federal charges against the officers, but hope for any justice being served in the case is low, particularly from a federal agency that reports to Donald Trump.
"What We Know About Breonna Taylor’s Case and Death"
"What Is ‘Wanton Endangerment,’ the Charge in the Breonna Taylor Case?"
"Kentucky AG in spotlight over Breonna Taylor probe"
"A rising Black GOP star faces fury from African Americans over Taylor case"
"Louisville cop injured in Breonna Taylor shooting threatens lawsuits over being called 'murderer'"
Total COVID-19 Deaths in U.S. Now Over 200,000
On September 22, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the total COVID-19 deaths in the United States surpassed 200,000 people. The CDC has been tracking COVID-19 cases and deaths since January 21, 2020. 200,000 was a figure realized within nine months. Just four months ago, the United States surpassed 100,000. To help put this number into perspective, the CDC estimates that the number of deaths due to the 2016-2017 influenza season was about 38,000. Understandably, it can be challenging to derive significance from the 200,000 milestone. We see an unfeeling number. We don't see the faces of someone else's grandparent, parent, sibling, friend, or neighbor impacted. We can't appreciate the narratives of the brave frontline workers. We can't fathom the amount of hurt in our communities due to disruptive, but necessary, changes.
The significance of 200,000 comes from understanding what it represents. It represents the need to stay resilient to protect our communities from becoming part of this number. Continue to social distance, cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others, and wash your hands frequently. Although there isn't an effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine available at this time, the influenza vaccine (more commonly called a “flu shot”) is available. The influenza vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, but vaccinating yourself against influenza protects you and others around you from the flu, which is particularly important as our healthcare systems are already overburdened from COVID-19, and we might have to deal with a "twindemic" this year of COVID-19 and influenza.
As we’ve mentioned before, COVID-19 fatigue is real. Think about what brings you joy and energy. If service rejuvenates you, find clever and safe ways to help your community. If connection rejuvenates you, reach out to family and friends virtually. If creativity rejuvenates you, paint beautiful trees or find other artistic ways to express yourself.
Michigan Movie Theaters Allowed to Reopen October 9, 2020
This past Friday, Governor Whitmer announced that movie theaters, performance venues, bowling centers, ice rinks, and other indoor businesses in Michigan will be allowed to reopen on October 9, 2020. Their reopenings are contingent on respecting fixed capacity, social distancing, and requiring occupants to wear face coverings. Although this is seen as good news by many, nonetheless, COVID-19 infections are still occurring in our communities. It is essential to stay vigilant and safe to safeguard against losing these privileges.
Indoor venues will have a limit of 20 people per 1,000 square feet or 20% of original capacity. Outdoor events will have a limit of 30 people per 1,000 square feet, or 30% of original seating capacity, to a maximum of 1,000 people, instead of a 100-person limit.
Trump May Reject Tougher FDA Vaccine Standards
Earlier this week, the FDA stated that they planned to soon issue stricter guidelines for the emergency authorization of any new COVID-19 vaccine to ensure public health and safety. Emergency authorizations are expected to be used to bring COVID-19 vaccines to the public far sooner than would normally be possible, and the announced changes would apply to those seeking such an emergency authorization. The changes are intended to ensure that the fast-tracked vaccines are effective against COVID-19, so that the rushed process does not result in an ineffective and potentially dangerous vaccine being approved. One of these changes, for example, would require monitoring of those in a vaccine trial for at least 2 months after receiving their final dose of the experimental vaccine to better predict long-term immunity and if the vaccine is effective. The goal is to continue to take steps that are necessary to deploy a safe and effective vaccine in an unprecedented amount of time (i.e., extremely quickly) while hoping to build trust with the public. It is highly unlikely that a vaccine could be approved before Election Day with the rules in place. President Trump was quick to respond, stating “We’re looking at that and that has to be approved by the White House. We may or may not approve it,” also stating that it “sounds like a political move.” These statements are consistent with the position taken by President Trump and many within his administration, who have continuously undermined and contradicted scientists and public health experts throughout this pandemic.
A growing number of scientists and leaders in health and medicine continue to worry about the political pressures that have influenced public health initiatives and the vaccine development process throughout this election season. While those developing and monitoring vaccines in the U.S. pledge to uphold and maintain safety standards for vaccine development, there is concern that President Trump will push for a vaccine prematurely, so that it will be ready by Election Day (November 3rd). Some fear that President Trump will utilize the Department of Health and Human Services to push a vaccine to be distributed as it has had authority over the FDA in the past. Again, it is unfortunate to see politics continue to influence and affect public health, and efforts to undermine public health experts and scientists will only continue to harm others.
FDA poised to announce tougher standards for a covid-19 vaccine that make it unlikely one will be cleared by Election Day:
Trump May Reject Tougher F.D.A. Vaccine Standards, Calling Them ‘Political’:
Trump Accuses FDA Of Playing Politics With COVID-19 Vaccine Guidelines:
Signs of an ‘October Vaccine Surprise’ Alarm Career Scientists:
MSU Underreports COVID-19 Cases
Michigan State University was publicly called out for knowingly underreporting COVID-19 cases related to campus. While MSU's dashboard claimed that there were 548 known COVID-19 cases, the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD), which is responsible for official data, put the number at over 1,200. MSU apparently took a position that it needed to independently verify that each case was from an enrolled student or a current employee, but Linda Vail, Ingham County Health Director, made clear that HIPAA protections don't allow the Health Department to disclose medical data to the school, and that the Health Department is already doing its due diligence to determine whether people are students or employees. MSU was aware of the discrepancy in data, but published its data anyway, misrepresenting the actual scope of COVID-19 on campus. After reports hit the papers, the University finally started to work with the ICHD and is now reporting accurate data. The new figures on the MSU site are slightly below the ICHD reports (1,239 vs. 1,250) because MSU does not include secondary cases (roommates or family members of employees and students), which Linda Vail agreed can be excluded from the counts.
"Michigan State University, Ingham County work through issue in coronavirus data reporting" https://www.mlive.com/news/2020/09/michigan-state-university-ingham-county-work-through-issue-in-coronavirus-data-reporting.html
"MSU says it has 548 COVID-19 cases. The health department says it's actually 1,250." https://www.michiganradio.org/post/msu-says-it-has-548-covid-19-cases-health-department-says-its-actually-1250
MSU COVID-19 Testing and Reporting: https://msu.edu/together-we-will/testing-reporting/
MSU, UofM, and Wayne State Likely to Stay Online Until Fall 2021
On Thursday, the Presidents of Michigan's University Research Corridor schools, Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University, indicated that they do not expect to resume normal in-person classes until the fall of 2021, though they left open the possibility of a faster return if a vaccine becomes widely available sooner. The MSU and University of Michigan Presidents both noted that they hope to offer more in-person classes next semester, but don't anticipate a fully in-person semester until later.
Recent data shows that the number of COVID-19 cases associated with colleges and universities in Michigan rose by more than 60% in the prior week and that the number of cases associated with K-12 schools in the state tripled.
"Students not expected to return to in-person classes until fall 2021, college presidents say"
"MSU, U-M, Wayne State presidents: Don’t expect in-person classes until fall 2021"
"COVID triples in Michigan K-12 schools, rises 60% at colleges in a week"
Lansing City Council Votes Against Proposal to Defund Police by 10%
On Monday, the Lansing City Council voted against Council Member Brandon Betz's proposal to cut the Lansing Police Department budget by 10% ($4.6 million) and reinvest it into social workers, employment programs, education, and initiatives from the Council's Committee on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Betz, Kathie Dunbar, and Brian Jackson voted in favor of the proposal, but with five of the eight Council Members opposed, it failed to pass. Lansing's police budget is over 20% of the city's total budget (and over one-third of its general budget).
The Council did agree to hire four full-time social workers, allocating $500,000 for the positions, and also voted to create new positions including a city attorney to help Lansing residents fight eviction and foreclosures and a city grant writer to assist neighborhood groups to locate funding.
"City Council rejects call to cut 10% from Lansing police budget, agrees to hire more social workers"
CDC Issues, Then Retracts Information on Aerosol Transmission of COVID-19
The buzz around the CDC this week centered around a now-retracted CDC website update that listed aerosols (like those produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes) as a high-risk mode of transmission, in addition to respiratory droplets. Aerosols can travel much farther in the air than droplets. The six-foot social distancing rules are based on how far droplets are thought to travel, but if aerosols are a primary means of transmission, six feet of distance is unlikely to be sufficient. In mid-September, the New York Times had also reported that the CDC, against the advice of its scientists and healthcare professionals, made the decision to recommend only those with active symptoms get COVID-19 testing.
Droplets continue to be a known mode of transmission, but there is still a debate around aerosols. If aerosols are a mode of transmission, as many scientists have urged it is, then indoor activities pose a higher threat to public safety then what has been reported. Indoor dining is considered one of those activities that are high risk.
We continue to say this regularly because it continues to remain true: There is still much to learn about the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientists and medical professionals are still trying to make sense of the COVID-19 disease. Models of transmission are still being explored and studied. A simple search of PubMed (a database of medical journals) for “aerosol transmission of COVID-19” shows numerous studies and data analysis that have been released over the last few months that investigated this particular issue. It is important that those who are leading public health efforts are kept accountable, and the pressure to politicize the pandemic has caused large mistrust from the public. As Dr. Fauci has said in many of his interviews, wearing masks and participating in public health efforts to minimize the spread of the virus is not a political statement. Choosing to participate in a global effort to reduce the spread of the virus and minimize the number of deaths is a human duty.
What should people do in the meantime?
Wear a mask outdoors
Wear a mask when indoors and not in your own home
Wear a mask when you are around others not part of your quarantine pod (the people you live with or are seeing on a regular basis)
Wash your hands often
Use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands
Keep at least 6 feet away from others when in public (the farther the better!)
Do your best to minimize exposure/and transmission of the virus
Limit indoor activities as much as possible
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