Sources and updates, March 13

A couple of data sources, and a few data-related news items:

  • COVID-19 vaccine data annotations: Yesterday, I updated my annotations page on U.S. vaccination data sources for the first time in a few weeks. The page lists both national dashboards and vaccine data pages from all 50 state public health agencies, including notes on what each source offers. Going through the dashboards yesterday, I was struck by how many states are now offering data on booster shots (43, by my count), as well as how counts of doses distributed in a state, once a major feature of these dashboards, have become less useful now that the U.S. has ample vaccine supplies.
  • Order more free rapid tests from the federal government: The site is now open for additional orders of free rapid at-home tests, as part of the federal program that launched in mid-January. Each household can now order two sets of four tests. I ordered a set of tests last Monday, and received them on Thursday—much faster than the initial round of this program!
  • Scientists are investigating combinations of Delta and Omicron: You might have seen some recent headlines about “Deltacron,” a portmanteau of the two variants of concern. When a very unlucky person gets infected with both Delta and Omicron at the same time, the variants can combine and form a new strain with genetic elements of both lineages. Scientists have recently identified a small number of “Deltacron” cases in France, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the U.S.; it’s not cause for major concern at this time, but is under study to determine if this combined strain might have any transmission or severity advantages. The Guardian has a good explainer on the subject.
  • New studies on masks, vaccines for kids: This week, the CDC MMWR published a new study on masking in K-12 schools; the researchers found that Arkansas school districts with a universal mask requirement in the fall 2021 semester had 23% lower cases than schools that did not have a requirement. The journal also published a new study on vaccinations in children ages 5 to 11; this study found that, within three months of COVID-19 vaccines becoming available for this age group, 92% of kids ages 5 to 11 lived within 5 miles of a vaccine provider. However, vaccination coverage in this age group is low, suggesting the need for more targeted communication to families with young kids.
  • NIH starts new trial on allergic reactions to vaccines: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced a new clinical trial to understand “rare but potentially serious systemic allergic reactions” to the COVID-19 vaccines. The trial will include up to 100 people between the ages of 16 and 69 who had allergic reactions to their first vaccine doses; the NIH will provide second doses under heavily monitored conditions and study how these patients respond.
  • How to better recruit for COVID-19 trials: Speaking of clinical trials, a new preprint posted this week to medRxiv outlines a potential strategy for better studying effectiveness and potential rare side effects of COVID-19 treatments. The preprint authors propose targeting recruitment to people who are high-risk for coronavirus infection, so that studies may collect data on a statistically significant number of cases more quickly.
  • COVID-19 at the Tokyo Olympics: Another study that caught my eye this week: researchers from Tokyo described the results of intensive surveillance testing for athletes who competed in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. In total, among over one million PCR tests conducted before and during the Olympic games, just 299 returned positive results—a positivity rate of 0.03%.
  • COVID-19 on Capitol Hill: Reporters at The Hill analyzed data on COVID-19 test results among House and Senate lawmakers, finding that more than one-quarter have tested positive since the pandemic began. The highest case numbers occurred in January 2022 during the Omicron wave, aligning with the U.S. overall. (Though I imagine many legislators travel and socialize indoors more than the average American.)

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