Long COVID Is Keeping Significant Numbers of People Out of Work, Study Finds

Link: https://www.yahoo.com/news/long-covid-keeping-significant-numbers-125618654.html

Source of study: https://ww3.nysif.com/

Link to study (will download): https://ww3.nysif.com/~/media/Files/NYSIF_Publications/PDF/NYSIFLongCOVIDStudy2023.ashx

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Long COVID is having a significant effect on America’s workforce, preventing substantial numbers of people from going back to work while others continue needing medical care long after returning to their jobs, according to a new analysis of workers’ compensation claims in New York state.

The study, published Tuesday by New York’s largest workers’ compensation insurer, found that during the first two years of the pandemic, about 71% of people the fund classified as experiencing long COVID either required continuing medical treatment or were unable to work for six months or more. More than a year after contracting the coronavirus, 18% of long COVID patients had still not returned to work, more than three-fourths of them younger than 60, the analysis found.

“Long Covid has harmed the work force,” said the report, by the New York State Insurance Fund, a state agency financed by employer-paid premiums. The findings, it added, “highlight long Covid as an underappreciated yet important reason for the many unfilled jobs and declining labor participation rate in the economy, and they presage a possible reduction in productivity as employers feel the strains of an increasingly sick work force.”

Author(s): Pam Belluck

Publication Date: 24 Jan 2023

Publication Site: Yahoo (originally published at NYT)

Incidence of COVID-19 Among Persons Experiencing Homelessness in the US From January 2020 to November 2021

Link: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2795298

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JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(8):e2227248. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.27248

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Question  How many cases of COVID-19 in the US have occurred among people experiencing homelessness?

Findings  In this cross-sectional study of 64 US jurisdictional health departments, 26 349 cases of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness were reported at the state level and 20 487 at the local level. The annual incidence rate of COVID-19 was lower among people experiencing homelessness than in the general population at state and local levels.

Meaning  The findings suggest that incorporating housing and homelessness status in infectious disease surveillance may improve understanding of the burden of infectious diseases among disproportionately affected groups and aid public health decision-making.

Author(s): Ashley A. Meehan, MPH1; Isabel Thomas, MPH1,2; Libby Horter, MPH1,3; et al

Publication Date: August 18, 2022

Publication Site: JAMA Open Network

Public Health Agencies Try to Restore Trust as They Fight Misinformation

Link: https://khn.org/news/article/public-health-agencies-try-to-restore-trust-as-they-fight-misinformation/

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Across the country, health officials have been trying to combat misinformation and restore trust within their communities these past few years, a period when many people haven’t put full faith in their state and local health departments. Agencies are using Twitter, for example, to appeal to niche audiences, such as NFL fans in Kansas City and Star Wars enthusiasts in Alabama. They’re collaborating with influencers and celebrities such as Stephen Colbert and Akbar Gbajabiamila to extend their reach.

Some of these efforts have paid off. By now, more than 80% of U.S. residents have received at least one shot of a covid vaccine.

But data suggests that the skepticism and misinformation surrounding covid vaccines now threatens other public health priorities. Flu vaccine coverage among children in mid-December was about the same as December 2021, but it was 3.7 percentage points lower compared with late 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The decrease in flu vaccination coverage among pregnant women was even more dramatic over the last two years: 18 percentage points lower.

Other common childhood vaccination rates are down, too, compared with pre-pandemic levels. Nationally, 35% of all American parents oppose requiring children to be vaccinated for measles, mumps, and rubella before entering school, up from 23% in 2019, according to a KFF survey released Dec. 16. Suspicion swirling around once-trusted vaccines, as well as fatigue from so many shots, is likely to blame.

Author(s): Laurie Sausser

Publication Date: 3 Jan 2023

Publication Site: Kaiser Health News

Under Government Pressure, Twitter Suppressed Truthful Speech About COVID-19

Link: https://reason.com/2023/01/02/under-government-pressure-twitter-suppressed-truthful-speech-about-covid-19/?utm_medium=email

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Twitter’s ban on “COVID-19 misinformation,” which Elon Musk rescinded after taking over the platform in late October, mirrored the Biden administration’s broad definition of that category in two important respects: It disfavored perspectives that dissented from official advice, and it encompassed not just demonstrably false statements but also speech that was deemed “misleading” even when it was arguably or verifiably true. In a recent Free Press article, science writer David Zweig shows what that meant in practice, citing several striking examples of government-encouraged speech suppression gleaned from the internal communications that Musk has been disclosing to handpicked journalists.

Twitter’s moderation of pandemic-related content was intertwined with government policy from the beginning. Even before Joe Biden was elected president and his administration began publicly and privately demanding that social media companies suppress speech it viewed as a threat to public health, the company’s guidelines deferred to the positions taken by government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And those rules explicitly covered “misleading information” as well as “demonstrably false” statements.

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That July, Twitter sought to clarify “our rules against potentially misleading information about COVID-19″ (emphasis added). “For a Tweet to qualify as a misleading claim,” the company said, “it must be an assertion of fact (not an opinion), expressed definitively, and intended to influence others’ behavior.” Possible topics included “the origin, nature, and characteristics of the virus”; “preventative measures, treatments/cures, and other precautions”; “the prevalence of viral spread, or the current state of the crisis”; and “official health advisories, restrictions, regulations, and public-service announcements.”

That was a very wide net, potentially encompassing anyone who questioned the CDC’s ever-shifting guidance or criticized government policies, such as lockdowns and mask mandates, aimed at reducing virus transmission. While the intent requirement ostensibly allowed dissent as long as it was not aimed at influencing behavior, that limitation did not mean much in practice, since moderators were apt to infer the requisite intent when they encountered tweets that implicitly or explicitly deviated from the recommendations of “public health authorities and governments.”

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Another example that Zweig cites: Last August, @KelleyKga, a self-described “public health fact checker,” responded to another Twitter user’s claim that “COVID has been the leading cause of death from disease in children” since December 2021. “What an excellent example of cherry picking!” @KelleyKga wrote. “If you narrow it down to only the specific months you specify, which include the largest Covid wave (seen across the world), AND you ignore all non-disease deaths, AND you ignore cancer, heart disease, SIDS, then COVID is ‘leading.'”

Author(s): Jacob Sullum

Publication Date: 2 Jan 2023

Publication Site: Reason

23 Tidbits About the Human Operating System

Link: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/23-tidbits-human-operating-system-nate-worrell/

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1- We Aren’t Totally Human – Almost half of the cells in our body don’t come from us. We have a universe of microorganisms, each of which brings their own DNA into the mix. From a BBC report:

“The human genome – the full set of genetic instructions for a human being – is made up of 20,000 instructions called genes.

But add all the genes in our microbiome together and the figure comes out between two and 20 million microbial genes.

Prof Sarkis Mazmanian, a microbiologist from Caltech, argues: “We don’t have just one genome, the genes of our microbiome present essentially a second genome which augment the activity of our own.

“What makes us human is, in my opinion, the combination of our own DNA, plus the DNA of our gut microbes.”

2- We share DNA with Bananas and Copied Viral DNA: Our closest genetic relative is the chimp, but we are connected to dogs and cats and even fruit flies and yes, bananas.

Author(s): Nate Worrell

Publication Date: 1 Jan 2023

Publication Site: Longevity Assistant at LinkedIn

Social Security denies disability benefits based on list with jobs from 1977

Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/12/27/social-security-job-titles-disabled-applicants-obsolete/

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Every year, thousands of claimants like Heard find themselves blocked at this crucial last step in the arduous process of applying for disability benefits, thanks to labor market data that was last updated 45 years ago.

The jobs are spelled out in an exhaustive publication known as the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. The vast majority of the 12,700 entries were last updated in 1977. The Department of Labor, which originally compiled the index, abandoned it 31 years ago in a sign of the economy’s shift from blue-collar manufacturing to information and services.

Social Security, though, still relies on it at the final stage when a claim is reviewed. The government, using strict vocational rules, assesses someone’s capacity to work and if jobs exist “in significant numbers” that they could still do. The dictionary remains the backbone of a $200 billion disability system that provides benefits to 15 million people.

It lists 137 unskilled, sedentary jobs — jobs that most closely match the skills and limitations of those who apply for disability benefits. But in reality, most of these occupations were offshored, outsourced, and shifted to skilled work decades ago. Many have disappeared altogether.

Author(s): Lisa Rein

Publication Date: 27 Dec 2022

Publication Site: Washington Post

Death of an Elder Raises Uncomfortable Questions About Adequacy of Care

Link: https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2022/12/death-of-an-elder-raises-uncomfortable-questions-about-adequacy-of-care.html

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Yves here. I’ve taken the liberty of changing the title of this Kaiser Health New from A Family Death During the Holidays Prompts Questions and Reflection. The piece pulls its punches, perhaps because the health care journalist author Judith Graham, who regularly writes about aging, is hesitant to come off as an advocate and/or potentially alienate future sources. But you can see she is clearly not happy with the caliber of care her father-in-law received in his final days.

I’ve heard similar stories from readers and I saw it first hand with my mother, who like Graham’s father died at 94. I would be curious if practices are better or worse with the moderately and very old in other countries, particularly in Asia. The two times my mother was hospitalized in her final year, the care was horrid. And it wasn’t as if the staff was overburdened due to Covid. My mother’s aides would call for help, and after >10 minutes of getting no answer, would then go to the nurses’ station to find them doing their nails and watching TV. They also failed to keep her well hydrated and bruised her horribly.

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But more broadly, an anti-aged attitude was evident. No one seemed willing to work that hard to save an old woman, or even help her have a more dignified death, particularly since she didn’t look that swell. Thanks to Covid, her hair and nails hadn’t been done for over a year and she came to the hospital in flannel pajamas. Notice the photos of the father in law below. Despite the upscale sweater, watch and glass frames, I suspect his very aged skin was held against him.

BTW, according to the Social Security life expectancy table, an average women my mother’s age typically would have lived another 3.8 years. So to hell with the bigots on staff.

And this sorry picture is set to get worse with Covid, with repeat infections reducing health baselines generally and resulting in more demands on doctors, nurses and hospitals that have no ability to increase capacity in less than many years. A sicker population will also produce more prejudice against older patients, even if they are robust and have managed to stay Covid-free.

Author(s): Yves Smith, Judith Graham

Publication Date: 9 December 2022

Publication Site: naked capitalism

As the Monkeypox Spread Recedes, There Are Lessons To Learn

Link: https://reason.com/2022/12/01/as-the-monkeypox-spread-recedes-there-are-lessons-to-learn/

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After close to 30,000 infections, 15 reported deaths, and more than one million doses of vaccine, it appears as though the widespread nature of the U.S. monkeypox outbreak may be nearing an end.

The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show a seven-day average of seven new monkeypox cases per dayThis is a massive decline from the more than 400 cases per day reported during the height of the outbreak in late July and early August. Though, to be clear, it may be some time before we have no cases of monkeypox in the U.S. at all.

There are several explanations for this success, some more obvious than others. The most obvious: This strain of monkeypox was overwhelmingly spread between men who have sex with other men. While monkeypox is technically not a sexually transmitted infection—it can be spread through physical contact with rashes and sores of an infected person—this particular strain seemed stubbornly resistant to nonsexual spread. Los Angeles County data, for example, shows that only 43 of the 2,388 confirmed cases were in women. So, the number of demographic groups at risk of infection was much lower than the number at risk of catching COVID-19.

Author(s): SCOTT SHACKFORD

Publication Date: 1 Dec 2022

Publication Site: Reason

Why Do Vaccinated People Represent Most COVID-19 Deaths Right Now?

Link: https://www.kff.org/policy-watch/why-do-vaccinated-people-represent-most-covid-19-deaths-right-now/

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The waning protection from vaccines is why CDC recommends recent booster shots, and why it’s especially important for people at higher risk to stay up-to-date on boosters. Per current recommendations, most adults should have received at least 2-3 booster doses by now (including the new bivalent booster), in addition to their primary series. However, only 14% of adults overall and 31% of older adults (65 years and older) have received the latest bivalent boosters. The CDC data show that about 95% of adults who died from COVID-19 in 2022 in these jurisdictions were over age 50, and about 8 in 10 were age 65 or older, underscoring the need for older adults to stay up-to-date on recommended booster shots.

The fall in the share of deaths that are among unvaccinated people could also be explained by changes in the unvaccinated population. By this far into the pandemic, it is estimated that many unvaccinated people have had COVID-19 at least once and while hundreds of thousands of unvaccinated people have needlessly died from COVID, those who survived may have gained some immune protection against the virus that can help protect them against severe outcomes when they have subsequent infections. However, this protection from a past infection can also diminish over time, which is why it is still recommended that unvaccinated people with prior COVID-19 infections get vaccinated and stay up-to-date on boosters.

Author(s): Cynthia Cox Follow @cynthiaccox on Twitter , Krutika Amin Follow @KrutikaAmin on Twitter , Jennifer Kates Follow @jenkatesdc on Twitter , and Josh Michaud Follow @joshmich on Twitter

Publication Date: 30 Nov 2022

Publication Site: KFF

Europe faces ‘cancer epidemic’ after estimated 1m cases missed during Covid

Link: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/nov/15/europe-faces-cancer-epidemic-after-estimated-1m-cases-missed-during-covid

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Experts have warned that Europe faces a “cancer epidemic” unless urgent action is taken to boost treatment and research, after an estimated 1m diagnoses were missed during the pandemic.

The impact of Covid-19 and the focus on it has exposed “weaknesses” in cancer health systems and in the cancer research landscape across the continent, which, if not addressed as a matter of urgency, will set back cancer outcomes by almost a decade, leading healthcare and scientific experts say.

A report, European Groundshot – Addressing Europe’s Cancer Research Challenges: a Lancet Oncology Commission, brought together a wide range of patient, scientific, and healthcare experts with detailed knowledge of cancer across Europe.

One unintended consequence of the pandemic was the adverse effects that the rapid repurposing of health services and national lockdowns, and their continuing legacy, have had on cancer services, on cancer research, and on patients with cancer, the experts said.

“To emphasise the scale of this problem, we estimate that about 1m cancer diagnoses might have been missed across Europe during the Covid-19 pandemic,” they wrote in The Lancet Oncology. “There is emerging evidence that a higher proportion of patients are diagnosed with later cancer stages compared with pre-pandemic rates as a result of substantial delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment. This cancer stage shift will continue to stress European cancer systems for years to come.

Author(s): Andrew Gregory

Publication Date: 15 Nov 2022

Publication Site: The Guardian UK

Covid’s Drag on the Workforce Proves Persistent. ‘It Sets Us Back.’

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-workforce-absenteeism-productivity-economy-labor-11667831493

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Two-and-a-half years after Covid-19 emerged, reported infections are way down, pandemic restrictions are practically gone and life in many respects is approaching normal. The labor force, however, is not.

Researchers say the virus is having a persistent effect, keeping millions out of work and reducing the productivity and hours of millions more, disrupting business operations and raising costs.

In the average month this year, nearly 630,000 more workers missed at least a week of work because of illness than in the years before the pandemic, according to Labor Department data. That is a reduction in workers equal to about 0.4 percent of the labor force, a significant amount in a tight labor market. That share is up about 0.1 percentage point from the same period last year, the data show.

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Another half a million workers have dropped out of the labor force due to lingering effects from previous Covid infections, according to research by economists Gopi Shah Goda of Stanford University and Evan J. Soltas at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a Census Bureau survey in October, 1.1 million people said they hadn’t worked the week before because they were concerned about contracting or spreading the virus.

The resulting labor shortages are contributing to upward pressure on wages and inflation, one reason the Fed delivered its fourth consecutive 0.75 percentage point interest rate increase last Wednesday. On Friday, the Labor Department reported brisk job growth in October, but health-related absences remained elevated and the labor force contracted slightly.

Author(s): Gwynn Guilford and Lauren Weber

Publication Date: 7 Nov 2022

Publication Site: WSJ

GE to End $2.5B Long-Term Care Insurance Reinsurance Arrangement

Link: https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2022/10/26/ge-to-end-2-5b-long-term-care-insurance-reinsurance-arrangement

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General Electric has agreed to end a long-term care insurance reinsurance relationship backed by $2.5 billion in assets.

The Boston-based company said Tuesday that it hopes to get the assets back by the end of the year.

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For GE, the end of the reinsurance arrangement means that the company will face less worry about whether it can collect on reinsurance claims.

“This reduces counterparty risk,” Happe said.

GE will also have $2.5 billion in extra cash to reinvest.

Author(s): Allison Bell

Publication Date: 26 Oct 2022

Publication Site: Think Advisor