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Don’t skip your second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, health experts warn – The Texas Tribune

Posted: May 4, 2021 at 8:12 pm

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On Friday, White House health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci had a vital message for Americans who have gotten their first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer coronavirus vaccine: Don't skip your second shot.

About 8% of people nationwide who have received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine have not returned for their second dose, Fauci said Friday. That's normal compared to what health experts have seen with other multidose vaccines. But skipping a second dose will not be as effective in preventing the spread and providing the complete protection needed against the virus that has killed more than 576,000 people in the U.S. and more than 49,000 people in Texas.

"Bottom line of my message: Get vaccinated. And if you're having a two-dose regimen, make sure you get that second dose, too," Fauci said.

A lower percentage of people vaccinated in Texas are skipping their second dose relative to the rest of the country. As of April 25, about 5% or 570,399 of Texans who had received the first dose were 43 days or more past due for their second dose, according to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Health experts say fears of side effects, an inability to take time off of work or incorrectly thinking that a single dose is enough all might be contributing factors to why some are skipping their second dose.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 64% effective at preventing hospitalizations in the elderly after the first dose. But they are 94% effective after two doses.

"Everything is showing us that you need two doses to get good protection against the virus," said Dr. John Carlo, CEO of Prism Health North Texas and a member of the state medical association's COVID-19 task force.

Carlo said another issue some Texans had earlier this year was finding a second dose, as the number of people eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine surpassed the number of vaccines available. However, he said, that's no longer an issue.

Texas is seeing its first dip in vaccine demand and a surplus in supplies since the states vaccinations began last winter, leading local and state officials to brainstorm ways to get people to their regional vaccination hub. Strategies have included trucks driving through small rural towns with LED signs, a $1.5 million TV and digital ad campaign and even possibly offering bobblehead or gift card incentives.

Since skipping second doses isn't unique to any part of Texas, both state and local officials are trying to spread the word of the second dose's importance, said DSHS spokesperson Douglas Loveday.

"DSHS has launched new TV, radio and digital ads about these important issues, but we're not the only ones carrying the message," Loveday said in an email. "The governor posted a new video ... on his Twitter account about the importance of getting a second vaccine dose, and our region and local partners continue to message about getting fully vaccinated."

Loveday said the second vaccine dose is also essential in preventing the creation and spread of new COVID-19 variants a mutation of the original virus.

While new variants have not yet been identified as deadlier than the original coronavirus strain, according to the CDC, they can be more contagious. This can lead to more cases, more hospitalizations and, potentially, more deaths.

Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist with UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston, said the first dose primes your immune system. The second dose cements the protection.

"The first dose of the vaccine may protect you from the original virus, but there are variants out there," Troisi said. "Because your immune response isn't as strong without your second dose, variants can replicate and spread. The second dose lowers the odds of that happening."

Health experts say Texans who have missed an appointment for a second dose shouldn't worry about having to start the process over again. While getting the second dose should happen within two to six weeks after the first one and not any sooner than that it's always better to get it late than never. If someone has missed their appointment for their second vaccine dose, they can contact their vaccine distributor to reschedule their appointment.

"There isn't going to be any shaming if you get the vaccine months later," said Dr. Diana Cervantes, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. "I know people might be hesitant if they missed their second dose. But it's never too late."

Disclosure: The University of North Texas and UTHealth School of Public Health have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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May 4: COVID-19 hospitalizations surge in Ohio, 204 reported in last 24 hours – News 5 Cleveland

Posted: at 8:12 pm

COLUMBUS, Ohio The Ohio Department of Health reported 1,285 new COVID-19 cases in the state today, bringing the total number of cases to 1,077,284.

Key Metrics

As of last Thursday, statewide, Ohio reported 155.6 cases per 100,000 residents over the preceding two weeks, the metric being used to determine when state health orders will be lifted.

The chart below shows the progress over time toward the 50 case-per-100,000-people threshold that must be met.

RELATED: Are we below 50 cases per 100,000? Heres how close Ohio is to lifting statewide health orders

The number of new cases today is lower than the rolling 21-day average of daily cases, which is 1,598. These numbers include both cases confirmed by a viral test and cases that meet the CDC's definition of probable. There have been 904,769 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date, which account for 84% of total cases.

To date, there have been 111,094 total coronavirus cases reported in Cuyahoga County.

There have now been 19,344 coronavirus-related deaths across the state; 60 new deaths were reported.

As other states do not send the death certificates for Ohioans who die out of state to ODH's Bureau of Vital Statistics on a regular schedule, the mortality data provided by Ohio will continue to fluctuate and those deaths will be assigned to their appropriate dates.

As of today, 1,026,498 Ohioans are presumed recovered from the disease, according to the ODH.

The median age of patients is 41 with the age range for infected patients from younger than 1 year old to 111 years old.

WEWS

Hospitalizations

The ODH reported 204 new hospitalizations today, with 20 ICU admissions, both of which were higher than the 21-day average. There are currently 1,157 COVID-19 patients in Ohio's hospitals, and 329 COVID-19 patients in the ICU.

Non-COVID patients are currently occupying 70% of the state's hospital beds, according to ODH. COVID-positive patients account for 4%, leaving 26% of beds currently available. COVID patients make up 7% of the state's ICU beds, non-COVID patients are occupying 65% of ICU beds, and 28% of ICU beds are currently open.

Vaccinations

Here's how Ohio's vaccination rate compares to other states:

To date, the COVID-19 vaccine has been started in 4,737,400 people in Ohio, which is 40.53% of the state's population. The vaccine has been started in 17,435 people in the last 24 hours.

ODH

The COVID-19 vaccination has been completed in a total of 3,892,823 people, which is 33.30% of the state's population. In the last 24 hours, the vaccine has been completed in 27,476 people.

ODH

This chart shows the vaccination rates of each Ohio county:

Testing

There were 15,868 tests done on May 3, the latest day this data from the ODH was available. Of those tests, 4.7% were positive, compared to the rolling 7-day average positivity rate, which is 3.8%. Click here for details on where to get a COVID-19 test in your area.

View more COVID-19 data visualizations from News 5 here.

View more data from the ODH on their COVID-19 dashboard here.

Note: The charts above are updated from a variety of sources, and may or may not reflect the latest COVID-19 data released by the state. These charts are regularly updated with new data and may not reflect the statistics in the text of this story at the time it was published.

Download the News 5 app for free to easily access local coronavirus coverage, and to receive timely and limited news alerts on major COVID-19 developments. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Vaccinating Ohio - Find the latest news on the COVID-19 vaccines, Ohio's phased vaccination process, a map of vaccination clinics around the state, and links to sign up for a vaccination appointment through Ohio's online portal.

See data visualizations showing the impact of coronavirus in Ohio, including county-by-county maps, charts showing the spread of the disease, and more.

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View a map of COVID-19 testing locations here.

Visit Ohio's Coronavirus website for the latest updates from the Ohio Department of Health.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

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May 4: COVID-19 hospitalizations surge in Ohio, 204 reported in last 24 hours - News 5 Cleveland

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New COVID-19 infections in France slow down further – Reuters

Posted: at 8:12 pm

A healthcare worker adjusts medical equipment in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Centre Cardiologique du Nord private hospital in Saint-Denis, near Paris, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in France, May 4, 2021. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The number of daily new COVID-19 infections in France slowed again on Tuesday, continuing a three-week trend, with the week-on-week increase in cases below 3% for the third day in a row.

The health ministry reported 24,371 new cases, taking the total to 5.68 million, an increase of 2.64% from last Tuesday and down from week-on-week increases of more than 6% before and during the third lockdown in April.

After the first strict lockdown in spring 2020, week-on-week increases fell below 2% in June and remained below 3% until the end of July.

But after the less strict second lockdown in November, the rate has stubbornly remained above 3% and new cases spiked, forcing President Emmanuel Macron to impose a third lockdown in April, this time including a three-week closure of the schools.

The government is now gradually unwinding lockdown and curfew measures by end June, hoping that a stepped-up vaccination drive and continued social distancing will bring the epidemic under control.

The seven-day moving average of new infections is now down to 20,866, less than half the more than 42,000 seen mid-April.

"20,000 is still a high level, but what matters is the momentum," Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday.

The number of people in hospitals with COVID-19 also fell again after two days of increases and was down by 523 to 28,427, health ministry data showed. The number of people in intensive care units with COVID-19 fell by 126 to 5,504 but remains close to a recent high over 6,000.

France also reported 257 new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, including 243 in hospitals - down from 311 on the previous day.

Following the vaccination of nearly 100% of care home residents, the weekly average of deaths there has dropped to six, from more than 100 around Christmas, when the vaccination campaign started.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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COVID-19 in Arkansas: Gov. Hutchinson sets goal to have 50% of Arkansans receive at least one shot in next 90 days – KARK

Posted: at 8:12 pm

Posted: May 4, 2021 / 12:56 PM CDT / Updated: May 4, 2021 / 02:28 PM CDT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday afternoon a new goal to have half of Arkansans that are eligible forCOVID-19 vaccinationsreceive at least one shot in the next 90 days.

The governor said there are currently1,038,556Arkansans that have received at least one shot.

According to state officials, 467,206 more Arkansans would need to receive a shot to reach the goal by the deadline of July 31.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration set a goal that 70% of American adults receive at least one shot by July 4.

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, therewereanadditional296 COVID-19 cases, 20 hospitalizationsand five COVID-19 related deaths reported in the last 24 hours.

Of the 296 cases announced Tuesday, 174 are confirmed cases and 122 are considered probable cases.

Of the five deaths announced Tuesday, four are among confirmed cases and one isconsidered a probable COVID-19 case.

Dr. Jos Romero said health officials are keeping an eye on the increases in active cases and hospitalizations.

State officials say as of Monday, there are 29 counties with reported COVID-19 variants. Arkansas has seen an increase in the number of UK variant cases, which makes up 75% of the variant cases in the state.

The State of Arkansas recommends anyone who travels to India quarantine for 14 days after they return.

State officials also noted there is an increase in coronavirus cases in children.

ADH officials noted 700 additional COVID-19 vaccine doses were received and 10,982 were given Tuesday.

According to officials with the department of health, 270,426 Arkansans are partially immunized and 768,130 are fully immunized.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 336,462 COVID-19 cases, 2,043 active casesand 5,752 COVID-19 related deaths in Arkansas.

Governor Hutchinson announced Tuesday this would be the last COVID-19 weekly update, but he will continue to have weekly media availability on a variety of topics.

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COVID-19 in Arkansas: Gov. Hutchinson sets goal to have 50% of Arkansans receive at least one shot in next 90 days - KARK

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What we know about DeSantis executive order suspending local COVID-19 restrictions – Tampa Bay Times

Posted: at 8:12 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday issued an executive order immediately suspending county- or city-ordered mask mandates and other pandemic-related restrictions.

The announcement left local officials scrambling and residents wondering exactly what would change as a result.

Executive order 21-102 says that all local COVID-19 restrictions and mandates on individuals and businesses are immediately suspended. It says that no county or municipality may renew or enact an emergency order or ordinance, using a local state of emergency ... that imposes restrictions or mandates upon businesses or individuals due to the COVID-19 emergency.

The order is intended to supersede any local orders requiring masks or limiting hours or capacity at bars and restaurants, said Andrea Zelman, deputy attorney for the city of Tampa.

A related executive order, also issued Monday, invalidates any remaining emergency orders still in place on July 1 that were issued by a political subdivision due to the COVID-19 emergency which restricts the rights or liberties of individuals or their businesses.

In general, the order does away with county and city governments emergency mask orders and other pandemic-related restrictions.

Pinellas County announced Tuesday that it was rescinding a county ordinance that required people to wear face coverings in most indoor public places except while eating and drinking. It also said it was rescinding an order requiring organizations to provide safety plans for large events.

Tampa interpreted the governors executive order to mean that, effective Monday, our local face covering order is no longer in effect, Zelman said.

DeSantis had previously waived pandemic-related fines against individuals and businesses from March 1, 2020, through March 10, 2021, effectively rendering some county and city restrictions toothless. DeSantis said Monday that, at the next state clemency board hearing, any outstanding fines on individuals or businesses will be waived, too.

Yes. DeSantis made clear Monday that the executive orders apply only to local government-mandated orders, not mask requirements or social distancing policies enforced by businesses.

That means a restaurant or store can still require patrons to wear face coverings or follow other safety procedures if it wants to do so.

In terms of what a supermarket or some of them choose to do, a Disney theme park, this does not deal with that one way or another, he said. Its simply emergency orders and emergency penalties on individual businesses.

Yes.

The Florida Department of Education issued a clarification late Monday following confusion from parents and school officials, saying DeSantis order only impacts city and county governments, and does NOT impact school districts and individual schools. It noted that the order only impacts orders or ordinances restricting individuals or businesses that were adopted through emergency enactment.

The Pinellas County School District said Tuesday it will rescind its mask mandate effective 5 p.m. June 9, which is the last day of school for students. Pascos school district also plans to rescind its mask order at the end of the school year. The Hillsborough district also sent a message to parents advising it would keep its protocols in place through the end of the school year, including the use of facial coverings for students and staff while on campus.

Its not yet clear whether the governors executive order impacts any limitations that government agencies can impose on visitors to their own buildings.

Zelman, with the city of Tampa, said her office was still looking into whether the city can require masks on its own premises.

We cant order anyone else to require masks, but its not crystal clear to us yet whether we could require them within certain parts of city buildings, Zelman said. She said she expects to have an answer soon.

A spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said Tuesday morning that her office would follow up soon about whether drivers license offices and others would continue to require masks. On Tuesday morning, the departments website still said customers must wear facial coverings and would have their temperature taken before entering the office, with people with a fever not permitted to enter; by the afternoon, that language appeared to have been removed.

The Florida Capitol, which had been largely closed to the public for more than a year including during this years legislative session will fully reopen ahead of a special session on gambling, Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, announced Monday at the same event where DeSantis announced the executive order.

The Capitol is expected to reopen Friday, according to a memo from Simpsons office. That memo said weekly coronavirus testing would no longer be required and masks would be optional.

The executive order doesnt impact local courthouses, which currently requires masks. Rules and procedures around the virus are set by the Florida Supreme Court and chief judges of the states 20 judicial circuits.

DeSantis has pushed for months to reopen the state and return to pre-pandemic normalcy. On Monday, he declared the states pandemic emergency to be over, citing the availability of coronavirus vaccines, and said ending pandemic-related restrictions was the evidence-based thing to do. (Florida is still under an emergency order; DeSantis last week extended the states emergency declaration for another 60 days.)

Mondays executive order points to DeSantis mindset, noting that Florida now has enough COVID-19 vaccines for any eligible resident who wants one and stating that a select number of local governments continue to impose mandates and business restrictions, without proper consideration of improving conditions and with no end in sight.

The signing of the executive order was also done at the same time DeSantis signed Senate Bill 2006 into law. That legislation, which goes into effect July 1, is intended to update the states emergency powers, including limiting local governments to extend most emergency orders only in seven-day increments for a total of 42 days and giving the governor the ability to override local emergency orders.

The legislation also makes permanent DeSantis ban on so-called vaccine passports by prohibiting businesses, schools and government agencies from requiring people to show documentation of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Florida has at least partially vaccinated nearly 9 million people, or roughly half of the eligible population, and has seen coronavirus cases and deaths drop among its older residents, who are more likely to have been vaccinated.

But experts have warned that coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths are continuing and the vaccination rate is slowing, while fewer people appear to be adhering to mask and social distancing recommendations. Worries about mutated strains of the virus add more pressure to the situation.

Florida is slightly below the nationwide average in percent of people vaccinated, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Monday, the state reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases and 41 more deaths.

Times staff writers Jeffrey S. Solochek and Kathryn Varn contributed to this report.

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Factbox: Reaction to suspension of IPL due to COVID-19 crisis – Reuters India

Posted: at 8:12 pm

Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan displays the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket trophy during a news conference at his residence in Mumbai May 30, 2012. Khan's Kolkata Knight Riders team won the 2012 IPL after defeating Chennai Super Kings on May 27. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash/File Photo

The Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket tournament has been indefinitely suspended with immediate effect due to the COVID-19 crisis in the country, organisers said on Tuesday. read more

Here is some reaction to the suspension:

RAJEEV SHUKLA, BCCI VICE PRESIDENT

"@BCCI has taken a good decision by suspending IPL for now. It will be decided later on when to resume it or reschedule it keeping in mind the COVID situation. It's in the interest of players and support staff."

IPL FRANCHISE ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE

"Royal Challengers Bangalore will work in consultation with BCCI to ensure that everyone has a safe passage back home."

CRICKET SOUTH AFRICA

"CSA supports the decision to put the health and safety interests of all involved in the tournament first and foremost and has made contact with all of the relevant franchises to ensure the expedited travel of all South African players and support staff back to our shores.

"CSA and the South African Cricketers Association (SACA) are in contact with all players and are assured of their safety and comfort in their respective locations."

CRICKET AUSTRALIA

"Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association understand the decision of the BCCI to indefinitely postpone the 2021 Indian Premier League for the safety and wellbeing of all participants.

"CA and the ACA respect the decision of the Australian Government to pause travel from India until at least May 15 and will not seek exemptions."

ENGLAND & WALES CRICKET BOARD

"The ECB understands the BCCI's decision to postpone the competition for the safety and wellbeing of those involved, and thanks the BCCI for its commitment to do everything in its powers to arrange for the secure and safe passage of all those taking part in the competition."

MICHAEL VAUGHAN, FORMER ENGLAND CAPTAIN

"Seems a very sensible decision to postpone the IPL .. Now cases have started to appear inside the bubble they had no other option. Hope everyone stays safe in India and all the overseas players can find a way back to there families."

DALE STEYN, SOUTH AFRICA FAST BOWLER

"Covid don't care. It has no favourites. Get well to those sick and hopefully everyone else will get home safe and in good health."

KEVIN PIETERSEN, FORMER ENGLAND BATSMAN

"India - it's heartbreaking to see a country I love so much suffering! You WILL get through this! You WILL be stronger coming out of this! Your kindness & generosity NEVER goes unnoticed even during this crisis!"

AZHAR MAHMOOD, FORMER PAKISTAN BOWLING COACH

"We are in a worldwide pandemic - faced with several challenges. It's sad to see another big tournament being affected - however it's the right decision taken at this point.

"It's important to understand nothing can be water tight and working against a pandemic is challenging itself."

HARSHA BHOGLE, CRICKET COMMENTATOR

"I guess it became inevitable in the last couple of days. Look forward to calling the action in happier times. The #IPL is a great event and I hope it returns stronger when the world is what we knew it to be."

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Europes Troubled Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Turns the Corner – The Wall Street Journal

Posted: at 8:12 pm

A spring surge in Covid-19 cases is beginning to recede in Europe as the continents vaccine rollout is finally gathering pace, boosting hopes of a broad reopening of the regions economy before the summer.

Unlike the U.S., the U.K. or Israel, which brought the coronavirus somewhat under control earlier this year thanks in part to an early and rapid vaccine rollout, continental Europe faced a late-winter rebound in infections as governments there struggled to get shots to people.

This is rapidly changing as rising vaccine deliveries to European Union member states and the lifting of bureaucratic and logistical hurdles that gummed up the effort early on are rapidly expanding access to vaccines.

Meanwhile, shutdowns, curfews and other restrictions put in place in March and April are beginning to push down case numbers, raising the prospect of a return to normalcy for businesses ahead of the summer tourism season that is crucial to the regions economy.

As of May 2, EU member states had administered 33.6 vaccine doses per 100 inhabitants, according to data compiled by Oxford Universityless than half the level in the U.K. and the U.S. but a big jump compared with just a month ago and far more than in most emerging and developing economies.

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New Efforts to Manage Indias Second Wave of COVID-19 Infections – JD Supra

Posted: at 8:12 pm

As has been well-documented over the past several weeks, India has experienced a significant second wave of COVID-19 infections. In light of the unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, at least 11 Indian states and union territories have imposed COVID-19 restrictions. This past weekend, the eastern state of Odisha and the northern industrial state of Haryana became the latest to announce new lockdowns, joining Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal, among others.

Although the Indian central government has been reluctant to impose a nationwide lockdown due to its potential impact on the economy, on April 29, 2021, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order and national directive (MHA Order) recommending that state governments follow the guidelines that have been issued by the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW Guidelines). The MoHFW Guidelines include the following key provisions:

Despite these restrictions, essential services and activities may continue to operate.

Specific to workplace safety recommendations, Indian state governments have been advised to follow additional practices and procedures:

Currently, the MHA Order will remain in force until May 31, 2021.

We continue to track how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting employeremployee relations in both US and non-US jurisdictions.

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Do COVID-19 tests exaggerate the number of positive cases? – Grand Forks Herald

Posted: at 8:12 pm

Beginning last summer and re-emerging in January, skeptics have asserted that COVID-19 testing uses too many rounds of so-called amplification cycles while searching for viruses.

They liken it to a process of scraping the barrel for signs of illness, over-scrutiny that can ultimately misidentify harmless remnant particles from previous illness or exposure as active infections.

The argument has been deployed to suggest fewer people are contracting COVID-19 than the public is told, that the official case counts are alarmist, and that the public is being given an exaggerated story about the pandemic.

The same message took on political overtones earlier this year when a World Health Organization letter concerning the need for careful adherence to PCR protocols was released, and subsequently misinterpreted in widely shared Facebook posts critical of so-called cycle threshold values.

Some postings implied the WHO letter was timed so that a new U.S. president might inherit fewer cases.

The standard lab method for determining COVID-19 infection does use up to 40 genetic amplification cycles, according to Dr. Matt Binnicker, director of Clinical Virology for Mayo Clinic Laboratories, who spoke to the media recently as part of a periodic update from Mayo Clinic Laboratories.

Binnicker was one of several experts consulted by factcheck.org earlier this year in refuting claims about PCR testing over-sensitivity.

Dr. Matthew Binnicker, Director of Clinical Virology for Mayo Clinic Laboratories. Submitted photo.

Binnicker says positive cases determined after higher numbers of cycles can indeed pick up only small amounts of virus, but that this process is needed to detect active infections regardless due to the effects of poorly collected samples and a host of other variables that degrade the virus.

"It's basically at what point during the test does it say this (specimen) is positive for the virus," Binnicker said in explaining cycle thresholds. "If the cycle threshold value is high, let's say 35 ... that would indicate there was a really low amount of virus in the sample."

"If the cycle threshold was low, like 10-15 cycles, that would mean there was a lot of virus present, and it didn't take very long before the instrument said 'there's something here.'"

Binnicker adds, however, that far from this being evidence of a false positive, a positive finding of COVID-19 following a high cycle threshold could simply reflect the timing of the collection, as opposed to weak or fragmentary levels of virus.

"For an individual who has just started to develop symptoms," he says, "... it might imply they are early in their disease course, and that if we tested them a day or two later" the sample would come back positive at a lower level of cycles.

Binnicker said other variables explaining a high cycle threshold include, whether the nurse or physician "did a really good job collecting the sample," how the sample was collected, and which among the ten tests used at Mayo was performed.

"We can't necessarily assume someone with a high cycle threshold is not infectious," echoed Dr. Bobbi Pritt, chairperson for the Division of Clinical Microbiology at Mayo Clinic.

Pritt said the cycle threshold needed to find infection could vary depending on whether a sample was collected from the throat, via a nasopharyngeal swab, as well as the transport media used, amount of specimen collected, and duration from time of collection.

Pritt described a paper she co authored last summer for the College of American Pathologists in which known amounts of identical viral specimens were sent to more than 700 different laboratories across the U.S., returning "a difference in cycle threshold values of more than 12 cycles," she said.

Dr. Bobbi Prittphoto courtesy of Mayo Clinic

"Some publications have proposed a cycle threshold should be used say, 31. But if that same specimen were sent to different labs, 31 could become 41, or it could come back 21."

A separate question relating to PCR cycles, Binnicker says, is whether a positive result triggered by a low number of cycles can be used to single out those who are more infectious than others. If so, that could be used to identify so-called "super-spreaders."

Binnicker says he opposes that use of the tests for the same reason high PCR cycle thresholds can't be considered determinative of over diagnosis the interference of other collection variables.

Since developing one of the first COVID-19 diagnostic tests following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention test in March of 2020, Mayo Clinic has run more than 560,000 diagnostic COVID-19 tests for patients in southeastern Minnesota, identifying over 35,000 cases in the process.

Areas of the Mayo Clinic Laboratories usually used for HIV and hepatitis testing were reassigned for COVID-19 testing during the early weeks of the pandemic, and "went from 22 to over 200 employees," virtually overnight, according to Pritt. A lab that previously ran during business hours only became one running tests on COVID-19 samples 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The clinic is currently developing an array of gene sequencing tests to determine the specific variant of COVID-19 contracted, for purposes of public health surveillance as well as patient care, although current tests can detect every variant. A testing issue that remains on the horizon is the potential for antibody tests to one day be utilized as proof of safety for travel.

Currently, proof of vaccination is the prevailing mechanism envisioned as a COVID-19 "passport." That said, serology tests can definitively show if a person is immune to the illness.

Binnicker says some serology tests can provide proof of vaccination, while other serology tests can provide proof of previous illness

"It's one layer of information some countries may require (for travel)," he says. "My own personal opinion is that the results of serology tests are sometimes difficult to interpret," he adds.

"If someone is negative for antibodies, that doesn't mean they aren't protected from COVID-19, as there are other immune responses besides antibodies that can mean someone is protected, like T cells."

That said, Binnicker believes negative PCR and molecular tests as well as vaccine status will all become more relevant as nations begin efforts to reopen travel.

Link:

Do COVID-19 tests exaggerate the number of positive cases? - Grand Forks Herald

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Study: First Wave COVID-19 Infection Rates in Health Care Workers Reflected General Population – Pharmacy Times

Posted: at 8:12 pm

COVID-19 infections in health care workers during the first wave of the pandemic provided an accurate sample of infection rates in the general population, according to a study published in PLOS ONE. The authors of the study said this finding suggests that data from health care workers could be used to estimate the severity of future viruses more quickly.

The researchers analyzed the infection data from health care workers and the progression of the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak using the reported daily infection numbers in Ireland. By using similar data from Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Iceland, computer models were able to show how the disease progressed in different countries relative to their approach to testing, tracing, and lockdown restrictions.

In Ireland, health care workers made up 31.6% of all test-confirmed infections while only consisting of 3% of the population. After using software to create a more accurate picture of how widespread the disease was, the researchers found that the health care worker data closely reflected the infection rate among the entire population.

As we have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing countermeasures early can save lives and reduce the spread of the disease, said Donal OShea, PhD, in a press release. However, wide-scale testing can take time to set up, delaying decisions and costing lives. While the healthcare population is no longer an accurate sample of the general population for COVID-19 due to different vaccination rates, governments could use data from their healthcare worker population to make informed decisions on what measures to implement earlier when future viruses emerge.

The study noted that very few nations were able to set up effective systems that tested the entire population, carried out contact tracing, and quarantined those infected with COVID-19.

Setting up wide-scale testing systems for healthcare workers is much easier than setting up a similar program for everyone since the infrastructure for testing for diseases is always in place in healthcare settings, said Dan Wu, PhD, in the release. A screening program that tested all healthcare workers would have the additional benefit of catching asymptomatic spread of the disease since all healthcare workers would be tested. If governments could catch highly infectious diseases and implement countermeasures early, this could possibly prevent new viruses from erupting into another epidemic/pandemic.

REFERENCE

Screening healthcare workers could serve as early warning system for future viruses [news release]. EurekAlert; May 3, 2021. Accessed May 3, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-05/r-shw043021.php

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Study: First Wave COVID-19 Infection Rates in Health Care Workers Reflected General Population - Pharmacy Times

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