Coronavirus News Roundup, April 24–April 30

The items below are highlights from the free newsletter, “Smart, useful, science stuff about COVID-19.” To receive newsletter issues daily in your inbox, sign up here.

Don’t skip that second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine, advises a 4/29/21 story by Tara Parker-Pope at The New York Times, even if you already have had COVID-19. With new variants evolving and spreading globally, as well as to get all the protection possible from your vaccination, it does matter whether you get your second dose, the story states. And down the road, “missing the second shot could create problems…if workplaces, college campuses, airlines and border patrol agents require proof of full vaccination,” Parker-Pope writes. The story cites a 4/28/21 report in The New England Journal of Medicine of a survey which found that 20 percent of respondents thought they were strongly protected from SARS-CoV-2 after just one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna two-dose vaccines. Countries such as the UK and Canada that are delaying administration of the second doses of these vaccines are adding to the confusion, the story states. “The second dose of mRNA vaccines [Pfizer’s and Moderna’s] induces a level of virus neutralizing antibodies about 10-fold greater than the first dose,” Dr. Paul Offit of the University of Pennsylvania is quoted saying. And Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases suggested recently that some of the more contagious variants could “partially evade” antibodies formed in response to just one dose, the story states. It is never too late to get your second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the story states. Try going back to the place where you got your first shot, and bring along the white vaccination record card you got with your first shot, Parker-Pope writes.

On 4/27/21, Katelyn Jetelina published her most recently updated COVID-19 comparisons table at her site Your Local Epidemiologist. Highlights include the latest data on how long each vaccine protects you and the effectiveness of the various vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 variants. Regarding anticipated COVID-19 vaccines for teens, Jetelina, who works at the University of Texas Health Science Center, writes: “My best guess is we should have a [data] update [from Pfizer’s study of its vaccine in teens] by mid-May? Then the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] meeting [to asssess the Pfizer study results] needs to be scheduled, they have to meet, and then it has to be authorized by the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control].

“Public bathrooms may present a higher COVID-19 risk than some other public spaces,” write the “Nerdy Girls” at Dear Pandemic (4/23/21), mainly due to poor ventilation and the confined, small spaces allocated for most restrooms. Safety tips in the post include: 1) look for restrooms with fewer people in them, 2) visit restrooms at uncrowded times of the day, 3) wait outside if there’s a line or the room is busy, 4) “wear a well-fitted mask (or two) as you enter the restroom, and don’t touch your mask or take it off until you are in a low-risk environment,” 5) “keep your visit short.” Of course, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, before leaving, and use paper towels to dry your hands, not hot-air blowers, the post advises.

On 4/27/21, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new guidance on mask-wearing outdoors for both fully vaccinated people and unvaccinated people. The guidance is illustrated with a graphic. Whether you’re vaccinated or not, it’s now considered safe by the CDC to “walk, run, roll or bike outdoors” unmasked alone or with members of your household. Same goes for attending a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated family and friends — no mask needed. But in small gatherings that include non-family or non-friends, who could be vaccinated or not, the CDC advises people who haven’t got their COVID-19 shot(s) yet to stay masked. And in crowded outdoor settings, such as a parade, live show, or sporting event, the CDC advises us to wear a mask whether we are vaccinated or not. And these gatherings are not very safe for people who are unvaccinated, even wearing a mask, the guidance indicates.

Reporting by Tanya Lewis at Scientific American shows, however, that this new outdoors mask-wearing guidance is still confusing (4/28/21). There is general agreement among experts that the risk of getting infected with SARS-CoV-2 outdoors is “a lot lower outdoors than indoors. Vaccination reduces that risk even more,” Lewis writes. But the story quotes Virginia Tech aerosols expert Linsey Marr who suggests that the guidance is confusing for people who are unvaccinated, which is currently the majority of the U.S. Marr recommends, even for vaccinated people, that we should wear a mask if we have a face-to-face conversation outdoors that is longer than a quick greeting, the story states. The story explains Marr’s “two-out-of-three rule,” which means adhering to two out of three of the following: 1) being outdoors, 2) masking, and 3) physically distancing from others. The rule applies equally to people who are unvaccinated, people who are partially vaccinated, and vaccinated people who are “in a vulnerable group,” the story states. So, if you’re outdoors and distanced from others, no mask is needed, for example. But if you are indoors, both wear a mask and keep distant from others, Marr’s rule would dictate.

A 4/19/21 essay by Jason Diamond for The New York Times underscores the importance of setting and maintaining routines during times of uncertainty, like a pandemic. Routines help us remain calm and give us a feeling of control. His tips include not only setting a schedule for waking, eating, going to bed, and working out. He also advises “writing down the next day’s schedule” — I find this helps me too — and rewards for having carried out your routine, such as pizza after a week of workouts or a cold beverage after cleaning the house. The writer states that the pandemic and working from home initially destroyed his routines, but he eventually was prompted to restore them when he listened to Brian Eno’s “Ambient 1/Music for Airports.” (yes, give this a listen). His routines even helped him quickly cope with the shock of being laid off last fall, Diamond writes.

You might enjoy, “The Self-Checkout Machine at CVS Gaslights You,” by McKayley Gourley for McSweeney’s (4/29/21).

This is an opinion an analysis article.

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