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The Executive Briefing - Tuesday, July 5th

Listeria🍦& BA.5 spreading fast

COVID & Health News:

  • Pfizer is testing a universal coronavirus vaccine that would protect against COVID and other common cold viruses. (Reuters)
  • The WHO chief is concerned about the monkeypox virus moving to additional high-risk groups due to sustained transmission. (Reuters)
  • Humans can catch COVID from cats, after the first recorded case of feline-human transmission in Thailand. (Nature)
  • Rich New Yorkers are getting botox and bladder surgery to curtail the need for bathroom breaks on the long drive to the Hamptons. (Insider)
  • Scientists at UNC have figured out how Hepatitis A (which has no cure) replicates and used it to stop replication in an animal model. (UNC Healthcare)
  • The Listeria outbreak now in 10 states has been linked to Big Olaf brand ice cream, which is only sold in Florida. (CDC)
  • Omicron’s ultra-contagious BA.4 and BA.5 variants are fueling new spread across California. (LA Times)
  • The governor of Illinois called gun violence “a uniquely American plague” when gun violence interrupted 4th of July celebrations in Highland Park, Illinois and Philadelphia. (The Hill)
  • A new report found Salmonella in a third of ground chicken. (CBS)
  • Updated Omicron-specific vaccines may not be available until October at the earliest. (NY Times)

Mental Health News:

  • More than half of HR professionals surveyed said they were considering changing benefits brokers for next year because of their inability to expand mental health benefits. (Benefits Pros)
  • Myths about abortion and people’s mental health are false, a new Univeristy of California study confirms. Having an abortion does NOT negatively impact mental health, and 99% of people who have an abortion do not experience regret. (CNN)
  • Mindbody’s annual report focused on the importance of leaders not just talking the talk re: mental health but also walking the walk - sharing personal experiences, expanding benefits and treating mental health without stigmas from the past. (Fast Company)
  • A new Australian study shows that travel and tourism may be an effective part of a comprehensive treatment regimen for some forms of dementia. (Science Daily)

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Best Questions:

Are vaccines made with the cells of aborted fetuses?

No. No COVID vaccines contain any aborted fetal cells. The claim is based on the fact that some fetal cell lines - which were grown in a lab based on cells collected over 30 years ago from elective abortions - were used in testing during research of the mRNA vaccines, and during production of the J&J vaccine. Lots of other drugs have used the same cell lines in research, including acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), and aspirin. They’re also used in researching diabetes, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s. The use of fetal cell lines in research isn’t unique or different, and it’s necessary because the alternative of using animal cells can (and has) led to the introduction of other animal viruses that could ruin the research or cause harm to humans. If someone uses Advil or Tylenol, they’re using drugs developed with the same fetal cell lines used in the research for COVID vaccines, and none of those drugs contain any actual cells from aborted fetuses.

How bad will the fall surge be?

It’s hard to predict just how bad it will be, but we do think there will be a surge in the fall and again in the winter after the holidays, as there have been the past few years. Hopefully, updated boosters will help flatten the curve, but we’re certainly prepared to handle increased cases. Even in the summer, when people are outdoors more and ventilation helps reduce case counts, we’re seeing surges based on the new BA.4 and BA.5 variants, which are incredibly infectious. Based on that, we’re expecting to see additional surges when we head back to school and spend more time indoors in the fall. The good news is that hospitalizations and deaths are down, but we do think that cases will continue to rise - and unfortunately, people will get re-infected more often - in the fall.

We’re hearing about flu cases in July?! What’s going on?

Flu, polio, monkeypox - there are lots of viruses acting strangely right now! We’ve also seen some lab-confirmed flu, which is odd in the summer. Some suggest it might be that people have weakened immune response after COVID and are susceptible to lower levels of virus that wouldn’t normally make them sick. But we also seem to have messed with the normal cycles for seasonal illnesses like flu - probably with our precautionary measures in the past few years, paired with their sudden lifting. Epidemiologists will study it, but for now we know that there are other things circulating out there. It’s another reason to stay home if you’re sick, even if your COVID test is negative!

I’m still testing positive after 10 days. When can I end isolation?

The CDC guidance is, at first glance, that someone can stop isolating after five days if they're fever-free for 24 hours and their symptoms are improving — as long as they wear a mask around others for another five days. But if you read the fine print on the CDC site, it also says that if you choose to test “toward the end” of your five days and are still testing positive, that you should extend your isolation to 10 days. Unfortunately, we still don’t know how much virus means that you’re infectious (and in fact, that might be changing with new variants). A positive test doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re infectious - some people will test positive for weeks or even months after COVID, even when they’re not contagious anymore. So, waiting for a negative test to end isolation isn’t always useful, since it could be weeks! A negative rapid antigen test, on the other hand, probably means you’re no longer contagious, so if you test negative before Day 10, you’re probably clear to re-enter the world as long as you continue to wear a mask around others until your 10th day.


Best Read:

Why UCSF's Bob Wachter says COVID variant BA.5 is 'a different beast'

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.