U.S. Calls for Pause on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine After Clotting Cases

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/13/us/politics/johnson-johnson-vaccine-blood-clots-fda-cdc.html

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Federal health agencies on Tuesday called for an immediate pause in use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine after six recipients in the United States developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within about two weeks of vaccination.

All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition.

Nearly seven million people in the United States have received Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and roughly nine million more doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Author(s): Noah Weiland, Sharon LaFraniere, Carl Zimmer

Publication Date: 13 April 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

NYTimes Map How-to

Link: https://livefreeordichotomize.com/2021/04/07/nytimes-map-how-to/

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There was a recent email thread in the IsoStat listserv about a cool visualization that recently came out in the New York Times showing COVID-19 cases over time. This sparked a discussion about whether this was possible to recreate in R with ggplot, so of course I gave it a try!

Author(s): Lucy D’Agostino McGowan

Publication Date: 7 April 2021

Publication Site: Live Free or Dichotomize

Maggots, Rape and Yet Five Stars: How U.S. Ratings of Nursing Homes Mislead the Public

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/13/business/nursing-homes-ratings-medicare-covid.html

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Much of the information submitted to C.M.S. is wrong. Almost always, that incorrect information makes the homes seem cleaner and safer than they are.

Some nursing homes inflate their staffing levels by, for example, including employees who are on vacation. The number of patients on dangerous antipsychotic medications is frequently understated. Residents’ accidents and health problems often go unreported.

In one sign of the problems with the self-reported data, nursing homes that earn five stars for their quality of care are nearly as likely to flunk in-person inspections as to ace them. But the government rarely audits the nursing homes’ data.

Data suggest that at least some nursing homes know in advance about what are supposed to be surprise inspections. Health inspectors still routinely found problems with abuse and neglect at five-star facilities, yet they rarely deemed the infractions serious enough to merit lower ratings.

At homes whose five stars masked serious problems, residents developed bed sores so severe that their bones were exposed. Others lost the ability to move.

Author(s): Silver-Greenberg, Jessica; Gebeloff, Robert.

Publication Date: 13 March 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

F.B.I. Investigating Whether Cuomo Aides Gave False Data on Nursing Homes

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/19/nyregion/cuomo-nursing-homes-covid.html

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The state revealed the full count — which added thousands of additional deaths — only in January, after a report by the state attorney general suggested an undercount, and after a state court ordered the data be made public in response to a lawsuit filed by the Empire Center, a conservative think tank. As of this month, New York has recorded the deaths of more than 15,000 nursing home residents with Covid-19.

Melissa DeRosa, Mr. Cuomo’s top aide, tried to explain why the administration had withheld the data last year to state lawmakers in a conference call, saying she and others “froze” because of the federal request for data, which came in late August as the governor faced criticism over nursing homes.

But more than two months earlier, in June, Ms. DeRosa and other aides removed such data from a report prepared by the Health Department, an investigation by The New York Times found.

Author(s): J. David Goodman, Nicole Hong and Luis Ferré-Sadurní

Publication Date: 19 March 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

Federal probe into nursing home COVID-19 death coverup circles closer to Cuomo

Link: https://nypost.com/2021/03/19/federal-probe-into-nursing-home-covid-death-coverup-gets-closer-to-cuomo/

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Investigators have contacted lawyers for Cuomo’s aides, interviewed senior state Health Department officials and subpoenaed the governor’s office for documents relating to the alleged data coverup, the sources said.

The New York Times first reported the probe earlier Friday, citing four unnamed sources with knowledge of the investigation.

Health officials are being grilled about nursing home-related COVID-19 case and death data the state submitted last year to the Justice Department, sources told The Post.

Author(s): Larry Celona

Publication Date: 19 March 2021

Publication Site: NY Post

Rescue Package Includes $86 Billion Bailout for Failing Pensions

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/07/business/dealbook/bailout-pensions-stimulus.html

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Both the House and Senate stimulus measures would give the weakest plans enough money to pay hundreds of thousands of retirees — a number that will grow in the future — their full pensions for the next 30 years. The provision does not require the plans to pay back the bailout, freeze accruals or to end the practices that led to their current distress, which means their troubles could recur. Nor does it explain what will happen when the taxpayer money runs out 30 years from now.

Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio who has been leading the charge to rescue the ailing pension plans, said that including the provision in the relief bill is a “really big deal” for both the retirees who depend on the money and the employers now being crushed by promises they cannot afford to keep.

Author(s): Mary Williams Walsh and Alan Rappeport

Publication Date: 7 March 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

Pandemic’s Racial Disparities Persist in Vaccine Rollout

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/03/05/us/vaccine-racial-disparities.html

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As of March 3, 38 states publicly shared race and ethnicity data for vaccinated people. The jurisdictions define race and ethnicity categories in slightly different ways, and with different levels of completeness — in some states as much as a third of vaccinations are missing race and ethnicity data.

Public health experts have said that despite these data limitations, the patterns emerging across states are clear.

“People of color are getting vaccinated at rates below their representation of the general population,” Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, the chair of President Biden’s coronavirus equity task force, said at a recent forum on the vaccine. “This narrative can be changed. It must be changed.”

Author(s): Amy Schoenfeld Walker, Anjali Singhvi, Josh Holder, Robert Gebeloff, Yuriria Avila

Publication Date: 5 March 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

Too Many Smart People Are Being Too Dismissive of Inflation

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/05/opinion/fed-inflation-markets.html

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That assistance should also be more concentrated on where the need exists. According to Bloomberg, California’s revenues for this fiscal year are roughly 10 percent greater than expected (partly a result of soaring technology company valuations), while general-fund revenue in New York is estimated to be 11.7 percent lower than prepandemic forecasts.

And we should take a fine-toothed comb to lesser-known wasteful provisions, like giveaways to the airlines and an indirect bailout (added by the House) of multiemployer pension funds. Some of the money that we save by trimming the American Rescue Plan Act can be reallocated to one of our most pressing needs: infrastructure. Those funds get spent more slowly (and because of that put less immediate pressure on prices) and have the critical effect of helping to improve our unimpressive productivity growth rate.

Wasting precious dollars that could be better spent can’t possibly be worth the risk of igniting high inflation again.

Author(s): Steven Rattner

Publication Date: 5 March 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

What Do Vaccine Efficacy Numbers Actually Mean?

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/03/03/science/vaccine-efficacy-coronavirus.html

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Efficacy depends on the details of a trial, such as where it took place. Johnson & Johnson ran trials at three sites: in the United States, Latin America and South Africa. The overall efficacy was lower than that in the United States alone. One reason for that appears to be that the South Africa trial took place after a new variant had swept across that country. Called B.1.351, the variant has mutations that enable it to evade some of the antibodies produced by vaccination. The variant didn’t make the vaccine useless, however. Far from it: In South Africa, Johnson & Johnson’s efficacy was 64 percent.

Efficacy can also change when scientists look at different outcomes. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine had an 85 percent efficacy rate against severe cases of Covid-19, for example. That’s important to know, because it means that the vaccine will prevent a lot of hospitalizations and deaths.

Author(s): Carl Zimmer, Keith Collins

Publication Date: 3 March 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

New COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents fell 80 percent in a month

Link: https://thehill.com/homenews/news/540614-new-covid-19-cases-among-nursing-home-residents-fell-80-percent-in-a-month?rl=1

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New coronavirus cases among nursing home residents have plummeted by nearly 80 percent from late December to early February, according to The New York Times.

In an analysis of federal data, the news outlet found that outbreaks at long-term care facilities have dropped at a rate almost double that of the general population.

“I’m almost at a loss for words at how amazing it is and how exciting,” David Gifford, the chief medical officer for the American Health Care Association, told the Times. “If we are seeing a robust response with this vaccine with the elderly with a highly contagious disease, I think that’s a great sign for the rest of the population.”

Author(s): Cameron Jenkins

Publication Date: 25 February 2021

Publication Site: The Hill

Virus Did Not Bring Financial Rout That Many States Feared

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/01/business/covid-state-tax-revenue.html

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Throughout the debate over stimulus measures, one question has repeatedly brought gridlock in Washington: Should the states get no-strings federal aid?

Republicans have mostly said no, casting it as a bailout for spendthrift blue states. Democrats have argued the opposite, saying that states face dire fiscal consequences without aid, and included $350 billion in relief for state and local governments in President Biden’s $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill, which narrowly passed the House this past weekend. It faces a much tougher fight in the Senate.

As it turns out, new data shows that a year after the pandemic wrought economic devastation around the country, forcing states to revise their revenue forecasts and prepare for the worst, for many the worst didn’t come. One big reason: $600-a-week federal supplements that allowed people to keep spending — and states to keep collecting sales tax revenue — even when they were jobless, along with the usual state unemployment benefits.

Author(s): Mary Williams Walsh, Karl Russell

Publication Date: 1 March 2021

Publication Site: New York Times

7 Virus Variants Found in U.S. Carrying the Same Mutation

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/14/health/coronavirus-variants-evolution.html

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As Americans anxiously watch variants first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa spread in the United States, scientists are finding a number of new variants that originated here. More concerning, many of these variants seem to be evolving in the same direction — potentially becoming contagious threats of their own.

In a study posted on Sunday, a team of researchers reported seven growing lineages of the novel coronavirus, spotted in states across the country. All of them have evolved a mutation in the same genetic letter.

“There’s clearly something going on with this mutation,” said Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveportand a co-author of the new study.

Author(s): Carl Zimmer

Publication Date: 14 February 2021, updated 25 February 2021

Publication Site: NY Times