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WHO – New Study Suggests Face Masks Could Reduce Risk of COVID-19 by 85%

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The World Health Organization (WHO) recently approved a new review. The review emphasizes the importance of social distancing, face masks, and eye protection to decrease the spread of COVID-19. However, this applied to both health care settings and the general public. Furthermore, the review also mentioned that a safe distance of at least 3 feet (1 meter) between individuals would decrease the chances of infection by 82%. Moreover, the review has encourages a more effective distance of 6 feet (2m).

Why are face masks important?

Face Masks Covid-19

The New York Times

Face masks and cloth face coverings can potentially protect the general public and health care workers from COVID-19. However, the researchers emphasized that N-95 masks are more effective than other masks, especially in the health care industry. Due to the method of transmission, individuals are focusing on protecting their nose and mouth. However, the authors stated that eye protection might be just as beneficial as masks, and provide further protection.

However, the authors have acknowledged the limitations of the evidence regarding face masks and eye protection. Furthermore, none of the above ways are guaranteed 100% protection from COVID-19. Lead author and clinician-scientist in the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, and Department of Medicine at McMaster University Ontario, Dr. Derek Chu, had given a statement. He explained that while all measures were essential, none excluded the possibility of infection completely. He added that consequently, hand hygiene is essential to further reduce the risk of infection.

The review

A new review was published in the journal, The Lancet, on June 1. Chu and his team examined existing research on COVID-19 ad relevant conditions SARS and MERS. In totality, the researchers examined 7 studied on COVID-19, 26 on SARS, and 11 on MERS. This summed up to 44 pieces of research conducted on over 25,000 participants in 16 different nations.

The studies focused on the impact of social distancing, face masks, and eye protection on the spread of COVID-19. The researchers focused on each of them and their degree of protection separately. However, the examination of the impact of the span of potential exposure on the prospect of infection was unsuccessful.

With social distancing and quarantine, however, the risks of infection were decreased. The risks were reduced to 3% with a distance of 3 feet, and to 13% with a distance of fewer than 3 feet. Furthermore, the risk of infection decreased further with added distance.

Risk of transmission

The risk of transmission decreased with added distances and further safety protocols, such as

  • With a face mask – 3%
  • Without a face mask – 17%
  • With eye protection – 6%
  • Without eye protection – 16%
  • Social distancing of up to 3 feet – 3%
  • Social distancing of fewer than 3 feet – 13%

Every extra 3 feet of social distancing reduced the risk by half.

The study’s senior author, and a professor at McMaster University, Holger Schünemann, gave a statement. The author explained how their findings are the first to study direct knowledge of COVID-19, SARS, and MERS. Consequently, this resulted in the best obtainable proof of the optimal use of these safety measures in order to flatten the curve.

In terms of protection, further research in the health care industry has concluded a 96% effectiveness in N95 respirators. Meanwhile, other masks with the inclusion of surgical masks showed 77% efficiency.

However, the review had made its room for error and improvement. No randomized control trials were included in the review. Instead, the review focused on observational studies. In such studies, researchers assign no treatment to participants and merely observe them, to conclude results. However, there is a need for randomized controlled trials, particularly on the impact of face masks on the rate of transmission. Thankfully, the authors have stated that two trials are ongoing in Denmark and Canada.

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Cannabis

Patients Prescribed Cannabis In Georgia, USA, Can’t Legally Obtain It

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Georgia cannabis patients can't get theirs

The United States of America often astounds the rest of the world with just how ludicrous its laws seem. Take the example of recreational cannabis, which remains federally illegal since decades. However, a few select states, such as California, Colorado and Georgia, allow small quantities of legally purchased cannabis. Everywhere else, possession of cannabis remains a misdemeanor offense, and other disproportionately severe punitive measures.

In Georgia, in particular, the case of medicinal marijuana recently emerged as troubling. For many patients, medicinal weed simply is a lifesaver and experts agree that it packs unique therapeutic effects. However, in the state of Georgia in particular, it seems like a cruel joke that obtaining said weed becomes near impossible. And this is despite the fact that it’s been legal to possess since 2015.

Despite the usage of medicinal cannabis being legal in the state of Georgia, purchase or sale remains illegal

As far as ridiculous laws go, this one stands out as extremely cruel. With doctors able to prescribe doses of cannabis to ailing patients, the lack of any places to legally obtain it seems absurd. And no, buying cannabis from a shady back alley dealer is not a safe idea. Not just because of the chance of getting caught but because there’s no guarantee the product is what you pay for. Only a legal and regulated avenue available would help.

In 2019, at the behest of several concerned citizens, official government action started. The state governor set up the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission in 2019 to discuss this terrible issue. And yet, the problem still stands. This is because the panel only convened once, before the COVID-19 pandemic put the matter on hold indefinitely. Thus, millions of patients needing their drug have no one else to ask for help from.

For many patients with a variety of ailments, medicinal marijuana works wonders for their health

Medical science generally holds several consensuses on the health effects of different substances. No respectable doctor will ever claim that arsenic is good for your health. And when it comes to cannabis, the leading consensus after extensive studies and research holds opinions that cannabis may hold several cures. Weed, which consists primarily of CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), exerts effects on the body’s physiology. This leads to improvements in breathing, blood circulation, mood, and pain relief.

Various types of disorders that lead to seizures, such as West Syndrome, in all age groups exist. Fortunately, cannabis is also a known therapeutic agent for reducing the intensity of seizures. In many young individuals, such as a recent UK toddler, it offers marked improvements to health. Furthermore, cannabis offers health benefits to patients with PTSD, anxiety, extreme pain and even in certain cancers. However, there also exists evidence that in the smoked form, it can lead to cardiovascular issues in the long term. Hence, edibles or inhalables suit most users better, and offer better efficacy of the weed.

The United States sorely needs to fix its haphazard and primitive legislation regarding both recreational and medicinal cannabis use

Several conservative states, like Texas, where the most anti-cannabis attitudes prevail, reflect that in their legislation. From introducing ridiculous hemp regulation laws, to launching an entire War On Drugs, they’ve done it all. None of that changes the fact that cannabis stays, and will always do so.

The time comes now that lawmakers, urged by the people, reexamine the science. And then, hopefully change laws for the better. That remains to be seen, however.

 

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Protests Erupt In Madrid, Spain, District Over New Lockdown Due To COVID-19

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Spain city of Madrid facing partial lockdown

In Madrid, once a city of enchantment and tranquility, COVID-19 now strikes again. The city now grapples with emerging cases of the disease, as Spain reigns the country in Europe with the most cases. Alarmingly, the COVID-19 pandemic was not new in the country, with a previous spike having fallen. This ‘second wave‘ of the coronavirus prompted officials to impose lockdowns on the most effected districts. Unfortunately, this may have also triggered a class conflict in the process.

On Monday, September 21, 2020, the southern laying district of Vallecas in Madrid, went into lockdown. However, this official mandate has not made things any easier for the time being. Widespread protests over the news that Vallecas would face shuttering down emerged. Residents of the district took to the streets to voice their belief that the decision was based off socioeconomic status.

Madrid faces the worst peak of COVID-19 ever, and precautionary measures needed severely

The country’s regional health chief for Madrid, Enrique Ruiz Escudero, recently stated the severity of the pandemic in an interview. The nation, at the time of writing, bears over 640000 cases of infections and over 30400 deaths. These numbers come off as staggering, and few nations, like the United States, top it. Escudero even stated that should the necessity arise, a city-wide lockdown would follow. Conversely, the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, assured viewers that another nation-wide lockdown was not under plan.

Thus, the Mayor of the city of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, also spoke in favor of the lockdown. He urged residents of the city to unite and cooperate with government mandates. The rationale behind this policy, and towards shuttering Vallecas, reflects the highest COVID-19 cases concentrated there. The lockdown strategy, after all, does show proof of good results in most parts of the world.

Vallecas residents believe the lockdown restrictions mean to control only them, while leaving others unchecked

Peaceful protests, over the city’s controversial sudden stance, emerged immediately. Vallecas, being one of the lowest median income districts, generally sits on a low socioeconomic position. The residents, numbering over 850000 strong, also include high proportions of immigrants. Despite the conditions of economic poverty, many united on the streets to call out the perceived injustice. In addition, they also call for the removal of Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the Madrid regional leader. She had recently come under fire for blaming the rise in COVID-19 cases on immigrants, a racist stance.

The rationales behind the limited lockdown conflict on both sides. The city government maintains it only started due to the high concentration of cases in Vallecas. And that it is entirely unrelated to any socioeconomic discrimination. Meanwhile, protestors are far from convinced. Many simply dread the closure of schools, businesses and meetings in their neighborhoods. And they believe the sole cause for this is due to their income levels, while the richer areas are less restricted.

Spain seems the most at-risk nation in the continent, and should tread carefully

The coronavirus, established to have at least thrice the infectiousness influenza does, spreads quickly and silently. Often at times, with testing procedures rendered unavailable or slow, the virus spreads and infects faster than detected. Hence, Spain’s resurgence of cases after a drop-off in the first wave indicates the need for serious action. Regardless of where in Madrid one lives, masks and social distancing are paramount.

In other news, many nations have begun, or nearly completed work on a COVID-19 vaccine. Click here to read about one of them!

 

 

 

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Coronavirus measures may curb the impact of the flu season

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With the fast approaching flue season, will SOPs be enough to ward off the burden on the healthcare system?

The United States may not necessarily see a ‘double whammy’ this fall, says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Despite of fearing a setback to the healthcare system due to the concurrence of the flu season with the novel coronavirus, the scenarios observed in Australia are giving hopes to experts in the United States.

Australia usually experiences its flu season starting from April, with a peak arriving in August. This year however, due to numerous preemptive measures, the country was successful in curbing the impact of the flu season. According to the reports of WHO, flue cases in the country ‘virtually dropped off to baseline or negligible levels’.

CDC officials see vaccines as being mainly responsible for this major decline of flu cases in the country. The demand for flue vaccines in the region was at a record breaking high, resulting in about 18 million vaccinations.

Let’s take a look at what these results could mean for the United States.

Coronavirus and its preventative measures

The SOPs put in place for coronavirus might be also be warding of other diseases in the background. This trend was observed by researchers in March, whereby flu circulations got controlled after widespread social lock-downs. A similar tendency was seen in summers where the flu cases stood at historically low levels in the region.

In the opinion of a recent study, “If extensive community mitigation measures continue throughout the fall, influenza activity in the United States might remain low and the season might be blunted or delayed.”

These findings were published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This means that avoiding crowds, wearing masks and frequently washing hands can help take the edge off the flu season.

In addition to this, Dr. Anthony Fauci has also urged Americans to get vaccinated against the flu. This is mainly because the healthcare system is not in a position to deal with any escalations in patient numbers. Healthcare providers are wary of combating an unknown number of flu cases if the virus spirals out of control.

He is seeing the flu season as an opportunity to educate the masses about the importance of vaccines. This is specially important for those individuals who have certain misconceptions about COVID-19. According to a poll conducted by Kaiser Family Foundation, about one in five respondents believed wearing masks could harm them. In addition to this, it was found that 1 in 4 participants believed that hydroxychloroquine is helpful in treating COVID-19. Ironically, this drug has been praised by Donald Trump, who claims to have used it himself. There is no scientific evidence of its efficacy for coronavirus whatsoever.

All of these misconceptions have stressed the need of educating the public about important issues relating to virus protection measures.

COVID-19 Vaccine

The question of whether or not people will get themselves vaccinated if a coronavirus vaccine is made available soon is getting mixed responses. According to latest research findings, a majority of Americans now believe that an increased political pressure may rush its approval by the FDA.

The numbers of these dubious individuals has risen from what it was a few months ago. About 54% of respondents of a poll conducted by KFF said that they would not get the vaccine even if it was available for free before the November 3 elections.

“Public skepticism about the FDA and the process of approving a vaccine is eroding public confidence even before a vaccine gets to the starting gate,” says KFF president and CEO Drew Altman.

Anthony Fauci sees a huge risk in this type of mindset. He believes that if a lesser number of people get themselves vaccinated, it is not going to stop the spread of the virus. “If you have a vaccine that is highly effective and not enough people get vaccinated, you’re not going to realize the full, important effect of having a vaccine.”

Cases of outbreaks have still continued to happen during long-weekends or personal gatherings of people. A vaccine for COVID-19 might be the only viable solution, but politicizing it as an opportunity to win big in elections is raising skepticism among the public. This has created an environment where misinformation can be easily created and widely shared.

 

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