Sources and updates, October 16

  • New paper outlines the CDC’s COVID-19 data failures: A new study by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Stanford, published this week in PLOS One, outlines missing and poor-quality epidemiological data that hindered the U.S.’s response to COVID-19. The researchers reviewed hundreds of reports by the CDC and other health agencies, finding that public data couldn’t answer key questions ranging from how long immune system protection lasts after an infection to which occupations and settings face the highest COVID-19 risk. (H/t Amy Maxmen.)
  • White House pushes for improvements to indoor air quality: This week, the White House hosted a summit event on indoor air quality while launching new resources to help building owners improve their air. The summit featured talks by government officials and leading experts, discussing why indoor air quality is important—especially in public facilities like schools—and providing recommendations. (For more details, see this Twitter thread by Jon Levy.) Biden officials are calling on building owners to participate in the “Clean Air in Buildings Challenge,” which includes bringing in more clean outdoor air and enhancing filtration. While these are important steps for health improvements, some experts would like to see the federal government go further by mandating clean air.
  • Voters do actually support safety measures, poll shows: New polling data from the left-wing think tank Data for Progress suggests that, contrary to popular narratives, a majority of Americans understand that COVID-19 still poses risks and support safety measures. For example, 74% of likely voters support the federal government requiring schools and workplaces to improve indoor air quality, and 70% of likely voters understand that certain groups (disabled people, seniors, etc.) remain at high risk from COVID-19.
  • New study demonstrates long-term risks of infection: Another notable new paper from this week: researchers in Scotland used health records and surveys to follow about 33,000 people who tested positive for COVID-19, compared to 63,000 who did not. The patients were all surveyed at six, 12, and 18 months post-infection; between the six- and 18-month surveys, about 6% of the cohort had not recovered while 42% reported only partial recovery. As one of the biggest studies to date that doesn’t rely solely on health records, this paper shows how Long COVID can be devastating long-term for patients.
  • Further research backs up testing out of isolation: And one more study I wanted to highlight this week: researchers at the University of California San Francisco examined how long people remained contagious after a coronavirus infection. The study included over 60,000 people who were tested at community sites in San Francisco. Five days after symptoms started, the researchers found, about 80% of patients infected during the Omicron BA.1 period were still positive on rapid tests—suggesting that, as other studies have found in the past, five days is an inadequate isolation period. Rapid testing out of isolation is the way to go.

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