The Weather (according to Wastewater):
Wastewater levels remain largely unchanged from last week except for in the northeast where they appear to be rising again.
We continue to be frustrated by shortcomings of current monitoring and reporting strategies.
If you’re using wastewater to make decisions about precautions or gatherings, we encourage you to use local information as much as possible. Biobot has some local data. You may also find your local data through the SCAN dashboard.
We’ve been using Biobot data to track wastewater and appreciate their easy-to-use and easy-to understand dashboard. The CDC just announced that a new company, Verily, has been hired to do national wastewater surveillance going forward. Verily is owned by Alphabet – the parent company of Google – and has also pursued entering the insurance business. We are concerned about large tech conglomerates consolidating the healthcare industry, particularly those with a track record for handling privacy issues poorly. We repeat our calls for thorough, transparent COVID data gathering to help everyone make safe choices.
More and more hospitals are recognizing that we need to bring back masking as a universal infection prevention measure.
We celebrate Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman on being awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries that led to the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. We also celebrate clean air advocate Linsay Marr for being awarded the MacArthur Fellowship. We’ll also note that although Marr explains in this video that COVID spreads beyond 6 feet via airborne transmission, no one is masked. We recognize important contributions and yet hold firm that maskless PR opps work to erase visibility of virus protections in the public’s mind’s eye.
These individuals have made very specific contributions to science and medicine for which we are absolutely grateful. And we know they will continue to work towards creating a better, safer world. We also recognize that change requires more than awards from fancy organizations for a few Very Special People. Each of us is capable and worthy. Turning to our own humanity and to that of our neighbors and friends, we must organize for a better world. All of us. Together. Nameless. People.
The FDA authorized a third updated vaccine this week! Novavax has been authorized for anyone 12 and older regardless of previous vaccine status. Everyone 6 months and up should get an updated vaccine, and we recommend getting any of the options available to you, without delay: Pfizer, Moderna, or Novavax. Stay tuned to People’s CDC for a more robust vaccine explainer in the weeks ahead! We know this stuff can be confusing!
Of course, this vaccine rollout, the first since the lifting of the public health emergency, has been an absolute disaster. We want to remind everyone that you deserve and are entitled to good healthcare. To a certain extent, some programs, like the Bridge Access program, are trying to patch our broken, profit-driven healthcare system. We all deserve better.
On October 13, Rutgers School of Public Health is holding a public health webinar called Preventing Aerosol-Transmissible Diseases in Healthcare Settings: The Need for Protective Guidelines and Standards. All are welcome, and you can learn more about it and register here. This is the sort of event the CDC could be doing, but isn’t. We’re proud that a number of People’s CDC members are involved in this project. Attend the meeting and consider how you might replicate it in the spaces you’re in!
HHS is seeking comment on discrimination in care for people with disabilities under Section 504. Comments on access, safe health environments, and denial of care are welcome. These comments are open for the next 6 weeks, with a submission deadline of November 13th, 2023.
HICPAC, the committee that advises the CDC and DHHS on infection control practices in healthcare (or the lack thereof), will meet again on November 2 and 3. A work group from that committee recently shared meeting summaries with National Nurses United (NNU) in response to FOIA/FACA requests. You can read the summaries and NNU’s take here. Horrifyingly, they found the group prioritized employer costs and profits over health and used shoddy science and “expert opinion” shortcuts in order to move towards reducing instead of maintaining or advancing infection prevention efforts.
Join National Nurses United in demanding that, prior to voting in the November meeting, the HICPAC/CDC release a draft guidance, to hold public meetings, and to fully recognize the reality of aerosol transmission of infectious disease.
You can also request to submit oral comments during the November HICPAC meeting here. Requests are open until October 23rd, 2023.
Notes: 1) The numbers in this report were current as of 10/6/2023. 2) Changes in testing access as well as data reporting have led many federal data sources to become less reliable. 3) Wastewater data appears to be retroactively updated months after it is initially reported by Biobot. No official explanation for this has been given. 3) Check out the links throughout & see our website for more! https://peoplescdc.org