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!

Lawsuits over Protests in Detroit

On Friday, a U.S. District Court granted a temporary restraining order (in effect for at least two weeks) that bars police from using force without probable cause. The ban covers use of "batons, shields, gas, rubber bullets, chokeholds or sound cannons against Black Lives Matter protesters" and "arresting any demonstrators en masse without probable cause." The Detroit Police Chief responded by saying that police have only used force against protesters who weren't peaceful, and the police will therefore not change their tactics. The District Court judge indicated that, based on video evidence and testimony, "at least some Plaintiffs have a likelihood of success on their claims that the DPD used excessive force against them."

On Monday, after violent crackdowns by police against largely peaceful protesters in Detroit, protesters had filed the lawsuit against the city. In response, the City's top attorney announced that they were "pleased" by the lawsuit, because it would provide the "opportunity to counter with our own suit." Lawrence Garcia, the City of Detroit's Corporation Counsel, further claimed that the protests are "not about raising awareness around legitimate racial justice concerns" and that "what is going on nowadays is more about provocation and public nuisance than bringing power to the people." Garcia's statements have come as a shock to many, even those now used to politicians trying to delegitimize their positions and supporting White supremacy and police brutality. Statements and actions by non-Black people to undermine Black Lives Matter and anti-police-brutality protests and declare them illegitimate are a symptom of White supremacy, and serve to uphold racist systems.

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Protections for Journalists and Legal Observers in Portland Halted

On August 28th, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over the west coast of the U.S., temporarily halted protections for legal observers and journalists in Portland covering the protests. A prior ruling had determined that federal agents could not arrest or use physical force against anyone they should "reasonably know" is a journalist or legal observer unless they had probable cause to believe they had committed a crime, but the new decision undoes those protections. Legal observers and journalists documenting police abuse and unconstitutional suppression of protests are critical to informing people about what is going on and holding government officials accountable for illegal acts. Silencing those there to observe and report on protests (but who are not themselves protesting) only benefits those looking to abuse power. Police and federal agents have been known to target these observers for arrest and use of force in order to keep them away, and legal protections are critical to stopping this practice.

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Dijon Kizzee Killed by Sheriff’s Deputies in Los Angeles

On Monday in Los Angeles, Dijon Kizzee, a 29-year-old Black man, was killed by LA County Sheriff's deputies. Kizzee had been riding a bicycle when deputies attempted to arrest him for a "violation of vehicle codes." He got off the bike and ran when they approached, and when caught, reportedly dropped the clothes he was carrying and punched a deputy in the face. According to a Sheriff's Department representative, the two deputies "noticed that inside the clothing items he dropped was a black semiautomatic handgun" and that he "made a motion toward the firearm," at which point they opened fire on him. An attorney for Kizzee's family stated that he was shot in the back 20 times. None of the deputies were wearing body cameras at the time of the incident. The Sheriff's Department, assisted by the District Attorney’s Office and Office of the Inspector General, are investigating.

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U.S. COVID-19 Rates among Children are Increasing 

The debate over whether or not allowing children and young people to return to in-person instruction continues to be a stressful point for many families. An assertion that continues to be thrown around by many people is that children are not contracting the virus, and they do not become ill. This is simply not true. The number of cases among children was 5% of the total number of cases in the United States back in May. Fast-forward to August, and the number had risen to 9%. Children are not immune to the virus that causes COVID-19. One example of this is a  sleepaway camp in Georgia, at which 76% of the individuals tested for the virus that causes COVID-19 tested positive. Rhetoric that says otherwise is irresponsible and harmful to the safety of our communities, and the false sense of child immunity poses a threat to overall community health. We have said this before, and we continue to stand by the following: Data is still being analyzed. As we continue to understand the pathology we urge families to keep their children and loved ones safe by adhering to social distancing guidelines. A reminder to our QM community, we are about to enter the fall and winter season, which also means cold and flu season in pediatric populations. We know that it will be difficult to distinguish between a child that has COVID-19 and a child that is ill with another virus. COVID-19 seems to mimic other common viral illnesses and has variable presentation among pediatric patients.

Concerns include: 


6 Feet May Not be Enough to Stop COVID-19 Transmission

New studies are showing that the six-foot recommendation for social distancing to protect against COVID-19 transmission is not enough for all spaces. Researchers from the University of Florida found tiny respiratory droplets - called aerosols - 16 feet away from a patient infected with COVID-19 in the hospital. This means that the original recommendation for six feet between people may not be enough to reduce the spread of the virus. In conditions that are high risk, such as indoor spaces with low ventilation, no masks, and large amounts of people, there should be consideration distancing of more than six feet. Researchers from Oxford University are proposing graded recommendations based on multiple factors to calculate how much physical space should be enforced and to determine risk. Currently, the CDC still recommends at least a six foot distance between anybody that doesn’t live in the same household and mask wearing. 

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CDC Update On COVID-19 Death Estimates Not 6%

Recent articles and social media posts, including retweets from President Trump, have been circulating stating that only 6% of people who died with COVID-19 had died due to COVID-19, or put another way, that 94% of deaths associated with COVID-19 have not been due to COVID-19. This comes after the CDC posted that “for 6% of the (COVID-19) deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.” This information has been misleading and has led to the spread of false information and conclusions. Not only are cause of death and mechanism of death different, but often these are all put into the death certificate. For example, COVID-19 can cause pneumonia, which can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). In such a case, COVID-19, pneumonia, and ARDS would all be on the death certificate. This does not mean that COVID-19 did not cause or contribute to the death of the person (in this example, it is the causal factor), but this would not have necessarily been included in the “6%” figure stated. We could ask ourselves the following question: Would the person with underlying medical conditions, such as hypertension or COPD, have died otherwise at that time if they did not get COVID-19? If not, then COVID-19 was one of the causes of death. Again, none of those would have been included in the 6% figure. Since very early on in this pandemic, it has been made clear by experts that those with underlying health conditions are much more susceptible to poorer outcomes or death due to COVID-19. The “6%” means that 6% of COVID-19 deaths were either caused solely by COVID-19, or other causes of death were simply not noted on the certificate of death. While there have been a few mistakes with reporting COVID-19 deaths, most evidence suggests that we are understating the mortality rate of COVID-19. One way this has been shown has been to look at the “excess deaths” this year thus far compared to other years (e.g., how many more people died in May of 2020 in the U.S. compared to May of 2019, 2018, 2017, etc.), which shows a larger number than the number of deaths with “COVID-19” written on the death certificate or reported to health agencies as being caused by COVID-19. Efforts to downplay the severity of this pandemic by misinterpreting and spreading false information will only put more people at risk.   


Vaccine Update

The CDC recently notified states and cities to begin preparing for the possibility of distributing a COVID-19 vaccine to health care workers and high-risk folks starting late October to early November. While a plan is clearly needed and there has been a lot of discussion on how everybody will be vaccinated if or once a vaccine is made and proven to be effective, there has been skepticism around vaccine development and deployment. Not only are people worried about the fast-tracking of vaccine development (which has significant risks), but people are also skeptical due to the timing of this notice, particularly since it coincides with the upcoming Presidential election.

In an attempt to solidify trust with the vaccine development process, some vaccine developers, including  Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer, companies who are further along in the process to develop a vaccine, have pledged to ensure safety and not sacrifice their standards for testing and safety. This comes in the wake of the CDC’s announcement, and shortly after Russia had begun to deploy their fast-tracked vaccine, against the advice of experts. There are also reports from China that several companies have filed for vaccine patents as well.

While vaccine development and deployment is important, it is difficult to separate potential conflicts of interest. It is still too early to tell, but political and/or financial gain should not be involved with vaccine development or access: public health and safety must come first. If or when a vaccine becomes available, it is critical that it is thoroughly tested and vetted by experts. Fast-tracking and skipping steps will not only hurt those who get an ineffective and potentially dangerous vaccine, but will also deteriorate trust in public health and vaccine effectiveness as a whole, leading to even further harm.


The CDC and Political Pressure

Last week, we had written about changes to the testing guidelines, specifically for asymptomatic people with COVID-19, that the CDC had announced. This reportedly came after pressure from the Trump administration. This week, we also shared the issues with the 6% of COVID-19 deaths noted on the CDC’s website due solely to COVID-19. Not only has the CDC been putting out confusing information that has been used to downplay efforts to manage the pandemic, but it has also changed guidelines to the detriment of public health efforts.

While the CDC may still put out valuable information, these changes are troubling and are a sign that the CDC is not immune to political pressures, especially when it has changed information to go against expert opinion from other governmental bodies such as the NIH or even from the CDC’s own prior evidence. As we enter into crucial times in this pandemic, including the upcoming flu season and the election, trusted sources of information will be crucial. Thus, it will be even more important to check other trusted sources, listen to experts, and keep each other informed and safe.


California to Track LGBTQ+ Status in COVID Cases

LGBTQ+ individuals (particularly trans folks) often have less access to medical care and health insurance and have worse health outcomes than others, and it is believed that LGBTQ+ communities may be at higher risk of COVID-19 infection and death. There has been little systematic effort in the U.S. to collect data to determine whether this is the case, however, which has been of concern to many who know how critical it is to have data showing disparities in order to make changes to increase equity. Last week, the California State Legislature unanimously passed a bill to require LGBTQ+ data collection for COVID-19 and other communicable diseases, which is expected to be signed by the Governor. This would make it the first state to have a law to that effect, and the second state to track LGBTQ+ status of COVID cases (Pennsylvania's Governor announced an executive order to collect LGBTQ+ data with COVID testing in May). It is critical that Michigan join in these efforts, and it is hoped that if other states pave the way, Michigan may be more likely to adopt such laws. Critically, while medical practitioners and those conducting testing will be required to ask about LGBTQ+ status, no one is required to answer the questions (i.e., they are optional), allowing those who do not wish to share that information to keep it private.

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