Sources and updates, March 26

  • Paxlovid may lower risk of Long COVID: Taking paxlovid in the acute phase of a COVID-19 case may lower a patient’s risk of long-term symptoms by about 25%, according to a paper published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine. The paper, which summarizes an analysis of health records in the Veterans Affairs database, was originally posted as a preprint in the fall; lead author Ziyad Al-Aly and his colleagues at the St. Louis VA did more number-crunching during the peer review process. Several clinical trials (including one just announced at Yale this week) will test paxlovid as a potential treatment for Long COVID, with a longer course than people typically take during the acute disease.
  • Estimating true vaccination rates in the U.S.: A new report from the COVID States Project, a group of academic researchers focused on connections between social behaviors and COVID-19 spread, provides estimates of vaccination rates by state in the U.S. The researchers compared vaccination data from the CDC to polling sources, including the Kaiser Family Foundation and original polling conducted by the COVID States Project. They found that CDC data often diverged from survey data, suggesting that the public health agency’s information has errors due to the CDC’s inability to connect disparate immunization records from different states. (In other words, if someone got their primary series in one state and a booster in another, they might show up twice in the CDC’s data.)
  • Comparing COVID-19 outcomes by state: Another report looking at state-by-state data: researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation compared COVID-19 death rates to state actions on COVID-19. The researchers found that states with higher poverty, more income inequality, higher Black and Hispanic/Latino populations, and less access to healthcare faced higher COVID-19 rates. States where more people voted for Trump in 2020 also saw more COVID-19. These patterns “seem to reflect the release of public health mandates” in more Republican states, journalist Amy Maxmen wrote in a Twitter thread summarizing the study.
  • COVID-19 origins docs, raccoon dog analysis: Federal intelligence documents about investigations into the coronavirus’ origins will be declassified in the coming months, as required by a new law that President Biden signed this week. The law specifically requires that the Director of National Intelligence release “all information relating to potential links between China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology and COVID-19.” This information will first go to Congress, and then may become public. Meanwhile, there’s been some controversy about a recent analysis of viral samples at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan: news about this analysis was shared in the media before a scientific report was completed, and some researchers who worked on the analysis had their access to sequence repository GISAID revoked. This article in Science Magazine has more details on the situation.
  • Increased Candida auris spread during the pandemic: C. auris is a pathogenic fungus that has developed resistance to multiple common drugs, and that can pose a serious threat to human health. (Yes, a fungus similar to the one that causes a pandemic in “The Last of Us”—though C. auris doesn’t turn people into zombies.) The fungus has spread more widely during the pandemic according to a recent CDC report, with a 44% increase in cases from 2019 to 2021. Other types of anti-microbial resistance have been on the rise as well, as COVID-19 led to less rigorous monitoring and heightened antibiotic use in many hospitals. More recent CDC data on the fungus are available here.

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