The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Tennessee punishes teenagers with health mandate

The Tennessee Dept of Health will stop telling adolescents about vaccinesespecially about the HPV vaccine:

The Tennessee Department of Health will halt all adolescent vaccine outreach – not just for coronavirus, but all diseases – amid pressure from Republican state lawmakers, according to an internal report and agency emails obtained by the Tennessean. If the health department must issue any information about vaccines, staff are instructed to strip the agency logo off the documents.

The health department will also stop all COVID-19 vaccine events on school property, despite holding at least one such event this month. The decisions to end vaccine outreach and school events come directly from Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey, the internal report states.

After the health department's internal COVID-19 report was circulated on Friday, the rollback of vaccine outreach was further detailed in a Monday email from agency Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tim Jones.

Jones told staff they should conduct "no proactive outreach regarding routine vaccines" and "no outreach whatsoever regarding the HPV vaccine." 

Staff were also told not to do any "pre-planning" for flu shots events at schools. Any information released about back-to-school vaccinations should come from the Tennessee Department of Education, not the Tennessee Department of Health, Jones wrote.

Decisions to ratchet back outreach comes amid pressure from conservative lawmakers, who have embraced misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine, said Dr. Michelle Fiscus, Tennessee's former top vaccine official.

Despite being Cassie's birthplace, not to mention the state other close friends come from, we must remember that it also hosted the Scopes trial in 1925. The state government has a long history of anti-science legislation. This mandate seems particularly idiotic, but we also have to remember that with the modern Republican Party, the cruelty is the point.

Yeah, so, 10k steps isn't all that

The New York Times throws cold water on a health fad:

According to Dr. I-Min Lee, a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and an expert on step counts and health, the 10,000-steps target became popular in Japan in the 1960s. A clock maker, hoping to capitalize on interest in fitness after the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, mass-produced a pedometer with a name that, when written in Japanese characters, resembled a walking man. It also translated as “10,000-steps meter,” creating a walking aim that, through the decades, somehow became embedded in our global consciousness — and fitness trackers.

But today’s best science suggests we do not need to take 10,000 steps a day, which is about five miles, for the sake of our health or longevity.

A 2019 study by Dr. Lee and her colleagues found that women in their 70s who managed as few as 4,400 steps a day reduced their risk of premature death by about 40 percent, compared to women completing 2,700 or fewer steps a day. The risks for early death continued to drop among the women walking more than 5,000 steps a day, but benefits plateaued at about 7,500 daily steps. In other words, older women who completed fewer than half of the mythic 10,000 daily steps tended to live substantially longer than those who covered even less ground.

Another, more expansive study last year of almost 5,000 middle-aged men and women of various ethnicities likewise found that 10,000 steps a day are not a requirement for longevity. In that study, people who walked for about 8,000 steps a day were half as likely to die prematurely from heart disease or any other cause as those who accumulated 4,000 steps a day. The statistical benefits of additional steps were slight, meaning it did not hurt people to amass more daily steps, up to and beyond the 10,000-steps mark. But the extra steps did not provide much additional protection against dying young, either.

I've hit 10,000 steps 139 days in a row, but I have to keep that up through December 31st to tie my record of 312 days. In fact, in the last year, I've hit the goal 345 times, and since getting a Fitbit in October 2014, I've hit the goal 91.4% of the time. Will it kill me to stop after 9,000 steps? No. But it's an easy goal to understand and to work towards.

Canadians pretending to be American

We know our neighbor to the north has its own contingent of crazy. But usually they just behave in Canadian-crazy ways. Apparently now, a group of anti-vaxxers has blockaded the Trans-Canada Highway at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border near Aurac, N.B.:

The main border crossing between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick has been closed for more than 18 hours, blocked by dozens of protesters demonstrating against restrictions that require most travellers from New Brunswick to self-isolate upon arrival in Nova Scotia.

The protesters include a number with anti-vaccine views. At one point, some briefly tried to stop a tractor-trailer they believed had COVID-19 vaccine, but which RCMP officers at the scene said contained blood products, from being escorted by police across the border into Nova Scotia. 

The truck eventually passed through, as did some nurses and doctors trying to get to work at the hospital in Amherst, N.S.

The Nova Scotia government announced Tuesday afternoon that most travellers from New Brunswick will continue to have to self-isolate upon arrival, a decision that came less than 24 hours before Nova Scotia opened its borders with P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador without isolation or testing requirements.

Nova Scotia has for months required most travellers to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in the province after applying for entry online. People have had to present documentation at the border showing they've been approved for entry.

Note that the quarantine rules generally don't apply to people who have gotten vaccinated against Covid-19. So only the boneheads who refuse to get the jab would have to self-isolate. And note the irony of blocking a road to protest a restriction on free travel between the provinces.

This sort of thing happens in the US, because Americans produce more batshit than any other nation on the planet. It makes me sad to see it seeping into Canada, though. Especially in the Maritimes, which I always thought had more sense than that. Ontario? Alberta? Quebec? Sure. But New Brunswick?

It's over (mostly)

After 448 days, the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago have lifted all capacity limits and most other intrusive Covid-19 mitigation factors. We haven't gone completely back to normal, but it feels a lot more so than it did even a month ago.

The Tribune has a round-up of what rules remain in place and what has lifted. Mainly we still need masks on public transit and in places where owners or managers require them, and some "Covid theater" will continue where people demand it. But restaurants, movie theaters, and grocery stores can now go back to business as usual.

Even before today, some businesses had changed their signs to require masks only for unvaccinated customers. I will continue to mask up in those places, as well as in confined areas where I can't predict whether the people around me have gotten their jabs. If I'm in an airplane or a hospital, I'll even use a KN-95 instead of a decorative cloth mask.

Still, it's really (mostly) over. And we're all incredibly relieved.

Masking some fascinating statistics

NBC has a story this afternoon about people who have gotten full vaccinations against Covid-19 yet prefer to stay masked:

As mask mandates ease across the country, many people are finding that their affinity for face coverings extends beyond health reasons. Even with no requirement to wear their masks, some people are continuing to do so — having come to appreciate the reprieve they provide from stifling social expectations while out in public.

These mask-wearers say they see a multitude of benefits to covering up. No one can tell you to smile when you don’t feel like it. It gives you a break from putting on makeup. And it provides a degree of anonymity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines still recommend masking for those who have not been vaccinated. For those who are vaccinated, masks are required only in specific situations, such as on public transportation.

Those reasons aside, perhaps we should take a moment to goggle at the CDC's statistics on seasonal flu from last winter. In the period 27 September 2020 through 15 May 2021, the CDC counted 250 positive flu specimens out of 486,000 received. You read that right: the US had only 250 confirmed flu cases this past winter. In the parallel period two years ago (30 September 2018 through 18 May 2019), the CDC counted 177,000 positive results out of 1.14 million samples.

Masks significantly help prevent the spread of airborne disease. Everything we did to prevent the spread of Covid-19 also prevented the spread of influenza, likely saving hundreds of lives.

So, yeah, I'll wear a mask inside confined public spaces once the weather turns autumnal this year. You should too.

Unmasked!

The CDC has changed its guidance on Covid-19. People who are fully vaccinated (that's me, 2 weeks as of today!) no longer need to wear masks in most places:

The advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes as welcome news to Americans who have tired of restrictions and marks a watershed moment in the pandemic. Masks ignited controversy in communities across the United States, symbolizing a bitter partisan divide over approaches to the pandemic and a badge of political affiliation.

Permission to stop using them now offers an incentive to the many millions who are still holding out on vaccination. As of Wednesday, about 154 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but only about one-third of the nation, some 117.6 million people, have been fully vaccinated.

In deference to local authorities, the C.D.C. said vaccinated Americans must continue to abide by existing state, local, or tribal laws and regulations, and follow local rules for businesses and workplaces. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot or the second dose of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine series.

In related news, The Economist analyzed health records and now believes that between 7.1 and 12.7 million people have died from Covid-19, more than three times the official count. In some places, like Romania and Iran, "excess deaths are more than double the number officially put down to covid-19. In Egypt they are 13 times as big. In America the difference is 7.1%."

All vaxxed up

I got my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine today. So pfar, I haven't notices any pside epffects.

Actually, that's not true. I'm four hours in and I'm starting to feel a heaviness to the injection site that has spread up and down my arm. My immune system has decided it's this guy:

Day 400

Illinois issued its pandemic-related closure orders on Friday 20 March 2020, exactly 400 days ago. Yesterday the New York Times reported that the US had its highest-ever-above-normal annual death rate in 2020:

A surge in deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic created the largest gap between the actual and expected death rate in 2020 — what epidemiologists call “excess deaths,” or deaths above normal.

Aside from fatalities directly attributed to Covid-19, some excess deaths last year were most likely undercounts of the virus or misdiagnoses, or indirectly related to the pandemic otherwise. Preliminary federal data show that overdose deaths have also surged during the pandemic.

In the first half of the 20th century, deaths were mainly dominated by infectious diseases. As medical advancements increased life expectancy, death rates also started to smooth out in the 1950s, and the mortality rate in recent decades — driven largely by chronic diseases — had continued to decline.

In 2020, however, the United States saw the largest single-year surge in the death rate since federal statistics became available. The rate increased 16 percent from 2019, even more than the 12 percent jump during the 1918 flu pandemic.

In 2020, a record 3.4 million people died in the United States. Over the last century, the total number of deaths naturally rose as the population grew. Even amid this continual rise, however, the sharp uptick last year stands out.

And lest we forget who made the pandemic far, far worse than it needed to be, yesterday was also the anniversary of the now-XPOTUS making this extraordinary claim:

Just think of how many thousands of people he could have saved by following his own advice.

Unhappy doggy

Cassie went to the vet this morning for the wellness check required by (and paid for) by the shelter I adopted her from. The vet took a look at the incision site for her spay surgery, which Cassie has been licking frequently. You can see what's coming:

She is not taking it well:

She looks so sad, I can't stand it. But if her spay incision gets infected, she'll need a cone a lot longer than 10 days.

Poor dog. I'll make sure she gets extra cuddle time tonight.

When software bugs kill

The Daily WTF today takes us back to one of the worst software bugs in history, in terms of human lives ruined or lost:

The ETCC incident was not the first, and sadly was not the last malfunction of the Therac-25 system. Between June 1985 and July 1987, there were six accidents involving the Therac-25, manufactured by Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL). Each was a severe radiation overdose, which resulted in serious injuries, maimings, and deaths.

As the first incidents started to appear, no one was entirely certain what was happening. Radiation poisoning is hard to diagnose, especially if you don't expect it. As with the ETCC incident, the machine reported an underdose despite overdosing the patient. Hospital physicists even contacted AECL when they suspected an overdose, only to be told such a thing was impossible.

With AECL's continued failure to explain how to test their device, it should be clear that the problem was a systemic one. It doesn't matter how good your software developer is; software quality doesn't appear because you have good developers. It's the end result of a process, and that process informs both your software development practices, but also your testing. Your management. Even your sales and servicing.

While the incidents at the ETCC finally drove changes, they weren't the first incidents. Hospital physicists had already reported problems to AECL. At least one patient had already initiated a lawsuit. But that information didn't propagate through the organization; no one put those pieces together to recognize that the device was faulty.

On this site, we joke a lot at the expense of the Paula Beans and Roys of this world. But no matter how incompetent, no matter how reckless, no matter how ignorant the antagonist of a TDWTF article may be, they're part of a system, and that system put them in that position.

TDWTF's write-up includes a link to a far more thorough report. It's horrifying.