Pandemic Reading: TIS Starts Vaccination of faculty!

My wife Nadia and I in the lobby of TIC relieved to be vaccinated with our first dose of Covishield!

This week we were able to secure through the World Health Organization (WHO) COVAX program, COVID vaccinations for all 170 of our employees. 95% of the expatriate faculty took advantage of the opportunity but 5% of the Uzbek faculty/staff did. There was a lot of skepticism about the Oxford – AstraZeneca vaccine here in Uzbekistan because of the reports of very rare blood clots and lots of informal information going through social media channels here. Many locals are taking a wait-and-see approach or waiting for the more trusted (in this region) Sputnik V. I was disappointed as the only way I see TIS getting back to offering our full range of educational opportunities is through 100% vaccination of employees, parents and eventually students. Our sister organization the Tashkent International Clinic really came through for the school and supported procuring the vaccines and making sure it was done safely. Thank you TIC!!!

Despite the locals at this time not wanting the vaccine, we will eventually reach the situation where the adults in our society are vaccinated but children are not vaccinated. In my family, my wife and I were vaccinated as well as our 18-year-old son. My 16-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter are not vaccinated. 16-year old people and above are eligible right now for the Pfizer vaccine and in several weeks, 12-year-olds to 15-year-olds will be eligible. It will take a long time for everyone age 12 and above to be vaccinated and we’ll be in this stage of children unprotected. This will be the next unprecedented situation that we’ll have to deal with. What happens when adults are vaccinated and children are not vaccinated?

It makes sense to start vaccinated the elderly. Children are 8,700 times less at risk to die from COVID than people over 85 years old. And when the number of COVID cases is low in the community, the risk of dying from COVID is comparable to the risk of dying from influenza for children.

All of these concerns could come to a head in schools, which are one of the main places where unvaccinated people—e.g., kids—will congregate. As the U.S. is already seeing, school outbreaks do happen, but they can be contained with precautions in place. This means younger kids, who likely won’t get vaccinated before the fall, may have to continue to wear masks indoors. But the benefits of in-person schooling are significant enough, experts told me, that schools should open even if kids can’t get shots yet.

Zhang, Sarah “We Are Turning COVID-19 into a Young Person’s Disease” The Atlantic April 21, 2021

What makes next school year even more uncertain is how much the virus will be circulating in the community. If there is a high percentage of the people vaccinated combined with many former cases with immunity, how much will COVID be able to be transmitted? The situation here in Tashkent will depend on how much Uzbeks buy into the idea of vaccination. I sense they fear side effects from the vaccine more than contracting COVID-19. How to convince large numbers of people to take the vaccine? The other factor to reach herd immunity is how many people here have already had COVID? I’ve heard up to 30% of Uzbekistan has been infected, but difficult to prove without good data. And how long will their immunity last?

The pandemic has taught me that people have a wide range of risk tolerance. I naturally side on being risk tolerant because I look at the statistics. We were lucky that this particular virus was not like previous viruses (MERS, SARS) and had a very low mortality rate. Howver, other cultures and individuals look at it differently and can be extremely risk-adverse. In our TIS community, this broad spectrum of risk tolerance plays itself out all the time. I receive pleas from families from both sides, urging me to close school and move to virtual and others preferring us to stay face-to-face no matter the number of cases. The New York Times has an online Risk Calculator to help people think about what activities they are comfortable doing.

The most thought-provoking article from my weekend reading is David Leonhart’s opinion piece in the New York Times. He challenges parents to weigh the risks of keeping children isolated versus sending them to school. Their mental/emotional/physical health is greatly improved by attending school daily versus keeping them from catching the coronavirus. The risk from COVID is much less in a world where the adults are mostly vaccinated. There is no doubt that the pandemic has been bad for people over 50 years old and especially for those over age 65. However, COVID kills fewer children than seasonal influenza. Bigger risks to children are vehicle accidents (5x) and drowning (2x). Water and cars are more dangerous to children than COVID. The share of 3 million COVID deaths worldwide of among people under 25 is 0.1%. This tells me that keeping children at home in a mostly vaccinated community doesn’t make sense. In looking at the rates of risk, I think schools should keep the morning temperature checks and screen for flu-like symptoms, especially during the cold and flu season. The statistics also tell me that learning how to swim and drive safely are important for young people.

But Covid’s effect on children has been fundamentally different from its effect on adults. For children, Covid looks much more like the kind of risk that society has long tolerated, without upending daily life. “For the average kid, Covid is a negligible risk,” Dr. Aaron Richterman, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, told me. Dr. Richterman added that he would not upend his family’s life to avoid every possible exposure to children

Leonhardt, David “What to do When the Kids are Still Unvaccinated?” New York Times April 22, 2021

Regarding the local pandemic situation, as you can see below, cases are climbing in Uzbekistan. Six of the past seven days in Tashkent over 200 cases were officially registered. Numbers are nearing what we had when we first re-opened the campus in early October. I am concerned that we’ll reach the spikes we had in September and July 2020.

Uzbekistan Situation Report – April 22, 2021 World Health Organization

To end this post, I see universities in America are requiring all employees and teachers to be vaccinated. This makes sense when they are living together in close proximity. I can see K-12 schools, especially international schools moving to this policy. As I wrote earlier, the only way for schools to get back to normal is for full vaccination coverage. The path out of this pandemic is quite clear.

Vaccination Reading for April 18, 2021

An artist’s rendition of a potential pan-coronavirus vaccine

I read Jon Cohen’s article, “Vaccines that can protect against many coronaviruses could prevent another pandemic” on the American Association for the Advancement of Science website. The article gets into the nitty-gritty of vaccine development. It focuses on the work of the international nonprofit Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop a vaccine that would protect against a wide range of coronaviruses. The image above shows a gray nanoparticle carrier with different spike proteins that educate human immune systems against different kinds of coronaviruses, including the beta family of coronaviruses that included COVID (SARS-CoV-2) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

In looking at per capita vaccination rates on the website Our World in Data, some countries are far ahead of others. As we’ve been reading in the news, Israel is the world leader with 119 doses administered per 100 people. I guess that means that everyone received one dose and now they are moving to the second dose for all citizens. The UK and US are in the next tier with 61 and 59 respectively. Other countries of interest to TIS are Canada and the EU (24), Turkey (23) China (13) Russia (10) India (8) and Australia (5). The site has data on Uzbekistan, coming in at 0.77 doses administered per 100 inhabitants.

The international vaccine available in Uzbekistan is AstraZeneca-Oxford. Insightful articles I found on this vaccine are as follows:

Which vaccine should I take? The answer according to experts is the one available to me. The vaccine most likely to be available to TIS will be the AstraZeneca vaccine. Is AstraZeneca effective? Is AstraZeneca safe? My opinion on it is that it will keep me out of the hospital and alive if I am one of the unlucky people to contract COVID. The chances of serious side effects like blood clotting are “very rare” and according to the data, the chances of me dying from COVID greatly outweigh the chances of me dying from the side effects of the vaccine. Each individual will have to decide for themselves what to do and everyone has their unique personal circumstances. For me as the director of the school, the conversation in the international school world is about developing COVID vaccination policies. It will be fascinating to see the different approaches schools take on the subject. The big questions are balancing individual rights versus community protection, access to vaccines in a diverse community, vaccination databases, etc.

My Latest COvid reading: April 10, 2021

New Yorker Daily Cartoon – April 9, 2021

The Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit organization focusing on American health issues and the US role in global health issues. They have a vaccine spotter with information on how people can get vaccinated in the different US states. The US government is doing a remarkable job in national vaccine distribution and I sense the market will soon be flooded. It even looks like non-residents and tourists can get vaccinated in many states. STAT reports on the progress of developing the “tamiflu” for the coronavirus. Many researchers and companies are working on it but it still remains a dream. France and UK are giving opposite advice regarding young people and the AstraZeneca vaccine. France is recommending a second dose with a different vaccine. The UK is recommending the second dose be the same AstraZeneca vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech are requesting the US Federal Drug Agency to approve their vaccines for use in people ages 12 to 15 years old.

Bloomberg reports wealthy nations are getting vaccinated 25x faster than low income nations. This is understandable because governments are responsible for their own citizens. Uzbekistan is one of the low income nations and as of mid-April, only has 600,000 doses of AstraZeneca. Hopefully companies can continue to up production and distribute around the world. One of the concerns is the rise of dangerous variants when COVID is burning through unvaccinated countries. The world’s biggest vaccine producer in India, Serum Institute is very stressed, trying to keep up with the recent sharp spike in cases in India and has stopped exporting vaccines. This is bad news for the COVAX program. The WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan in the podcast, G-Zero World with Ian Bremmer argues that vaccination nationalism will only prolong the pandemic.

My Pandemic Reading – April 4, 2021

Vaccines are on my mind a lot these days. The first vaccines were released to the public in Uzbekistan on Thursday. Everyday I am reaching out to our network of contacts lobbying for our faculty and staff to get vaccinated. I am reading everything I can about vaccines. The CDC has given permission for fully vaccinated people to travel. This Scientific American article (If You Don’t Have COVID Vaccine Side Effects, Are You Still Protected?discussed the side effects after receiving the vaccine – April 1, 2021 by Stephanie Sutherland) has some insight:

  • About 50% of people get some kind of systemic reaction to the vaccine. More side effects come with the second dose of a 2-dose vaccine.
  • Women and the young experience more side effects than men and the elderly.
  • All subjects are equally protected regardless of reaction to the vaccine. Reaction of the immune system to the vaccine depends on many factors.

The US FDA (Food & Drug Administration) recently approved Abbot Laboratories’ BinaxNOW test (above). It is simple to use at home, results are ready in 15 minutes and retails for less than $10, some places less than $5. It might be a good idea to have loads of these available for TIS next school year so we can host more events with parents and visitors attending.

WHO Uzbekistan Situation Report – April 1, 2021

We should all feel fortunate to be in Uzbekistan during the pandemic. Schools around the world have gone back to Virtual Learning and country lockdowns. This includes Brazil, most of Europe and India to name a few locations. The numbers of cases in Tashkent are still rising however with an average of 132 cases/day last week. It has me concerned because you can see on the graph above, we are getting back into the same levels we had in November. I have a feeling more vaccines will be available here after the government gave permission for private companies to offer paid vaccinations.

Yesterday, the CDC released real-life data showing that, just two weeks after even a single dose, the two mRNA vaccines were 80 percent effective in preventing infection. The effectiveness rose to 90 percent after the second, booster dose. People in the study were routinely tested regardless of whether they had symptoms, so we know that vaccines prevented not just symptomatic illness—the vaccine-efficacy rate reported in the trials—but any infection. People who are not infected by a virus cannot transmit it at all, and even people who have a breakthrough case despite vaccination have been shown to have lower viral loads compared with unvaccinated people, and so are likely much less contagious.

Tufekci, Zeynep “The Fourth Surge Is Upon Us. This Time, It’s Different“,The Atlantic, March 31, 2021


This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, USA published its latest Safe School Operations Guidelines on March 19, 2021. Reading the report confirms the effectiveness of our layered approach to reducing transmission of the coronavirus. These layers, which we all know now include everyone wearing proper masks consistently, physically distancing, hand washing and respiratory etiquette, cleaning of facilities and contact tracing when an outbreak occurs. I am proud that our school has been open since early October and remained open this school year using much of the protocols and concepts in the report. Below is a list of ideas in the report that came to my attention.

  • Masks are primary in reducing the spread. The most effective masks fit well on the face, have 2-3 tightly woven cloth or other fabric layers.
  • The CDC lowered the recommended physical distance between students to 3 feet (0.9144 meter) for elementary schools and middle and high schools in times of low to substantial community transmission. They recommend going back to the 6 feet (1.83 meters) in times of high community transmission. They recommend always maintaining 6 feet between adults and between adults and children in schools.
  • Approximately 30% of the participants in high school wrestling tournament in Florida, USA were infected from an outbreak on one of the teams.
  • More resources for schools provided by the CDC can be found here. The CDC also collected research on transmissions in school here.
  • Table 1 (above) gives guidelines to determine the level of community transmission. Using the official data from the March 25 World Health Organization Uzbekistan Situation Report, I calculated Tashkent currently has a “low” or blue level of transmission.With a 7-day average of approximately 100 cases per day in a city of 3 million people, that equals 3 cases per 100,000 people. Today, March 27, we had 143 cases in Tashkent, a high daily total for 2021. That raises it to 5 cases per 100,000 people, which is getting closer to the yellow or moderate transmission category.
“Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention” CDC Report March 19, 2021

We are currently debating on loosening our protocols in phases. One of the areas is mixing cohorts in sports and extracurricular activities. We are currently experiencing a slight rise in cases and this has delayed any actions as we wait and see what the trends will be over the next month. Below is the confirmed new cases averages from WHO Uzbekistan office. We are hoping that the latest increases in cases does not go to the heights of July and October.

World Health Organization Uzbekistan – Situation Report – March 24, 2021

The next challenge for TIS is vaccinations. Besides just getting access to vaccines for both foreign and host country nationals here in Uzbekistan, we have the additional challenge of timing and travel restrictions. We have 11 weeks of school before summer break when most of the foreign staff travels to their home countries. Our Summer Break is about 8 weeks before teachers are expected back to prepare for the school year start. The time between doses ranges from 3 weeks (Pfizer-BioNTech) to 1 month (Moderna) to 6/12 weeks (Astra-Zeneca). The Johnson & Johnson would be best because it requires only one dose. I am concerned that this will cause travel delays for our foreign employees if they are not able to schedule a second dose in time for traveling back to school. The CDC provides some resources for schools regarding vaccines including posters to promote vaccinations.

Pandemic Journal: My Latest reading

A grade 8 student gives her pitch for our new community development hub.

It was so nice to listen to the grade 8 students’ presentations on Friday. The proposals were focused on a name, logo, slogan and color design for our new community development container. We recently installed a 40-foot container near the soccer field to house industrial projects to aid community development. Already, students are recycling plastic and glass and producing honey. The time spent with the students also reminds me that you cannot replace face-to-face teaching and learning. The post-presentation discussions we had between the judges, classmates, grade 12 student observers was so valuable to the grade 8 students. You just can’t replicate that on Zoom.

Sherry Turkle, a psychology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has studied computer and digital technology’s impact on humans. In an interview with Dave Davies on NPR’s “Fresh Air” she reminded me that the value that schools really do give to students are strong and caring relationships with teachers that mentor students to be better human beings. Curriculum, ideas, knowledge, skills, attitudes, etc. are important to teach, but most importantly, it is what students learn in the relationships with each other and teachers.

Well, we’ve missed each other. We’ve missed that full embrace of the human because we’ve spent so much time on Zoom. When you’re on Zoom, you give the other person the impression of eye contact by staring at a green light when you’re really not seeing anything at all. So to give somebody the impression of empathy, you end up looking at nothing, and that’s pretend empathy and that’s not where real empathy is born. So I think we’ve missed – we’ve had an experience where we’ve really missed each other in a very profound way. And I think we can’t wait to get back to each other.

National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” March 11, 2021

The Association for the Advancement of International Education each week suggests COVID/Pandemic readings and they always stimulate my thinking. From the MIT Technology Review, Mia Sato reports on the challenges schools are facing in the USA “Why Reopening Schools in the US is so Complicated“. I read with interest about a school in Sharon, Massachusetts used pooled antigen testing. They combine between 5 and 25 students/teachers nose swabs into one sample. If the test comes back negative, all of them are cleared to enter school. The article also mentioned the B.1.1.7 variant that caused schools to close all over Europe, including many fellow member schools of our Central and Eastern European Schools Association. I am concerned about the variant reaching Tashkent and forcing us to close.

Carolyn Barber’s March 10, 2021 article “So What Can People Actually Do After Being Vaccinated?” is a comprehensive review of all of the questions researchers are looking at. My takeaway is the vaccines are amazing and they prevent vaccinated people from hospitalization and death. They also will dramatically reduce transmission. I think we will still be required to wear masks and be careful with large indoor gatherings, but we will be almost back to normal next school year, and probably earlier than later. I hope I am right.

My Latest Thinking About the Pandemic – March 8, 2021

“It’s sort of like getting into a cold pool,” said virologist Angela Rasmussen of the Georgetown Center for Global Health Science and Security. “You go in and you get a little deeper, and you get a little deeper, and finally you’re in the pool and it feels normal.”

“The Short-term, middle-term, and long-term future of the coronavirus” March 4, 2021 Stat

Reporters Andrew Joseph and Helen Branswell discuss the future of the pandemic in an excellent piece in Stat, a media conmpany that focuses on health and medicine (The Short-term, middle-terms and long-term future of the coronavirus) in a March 4, 2021 article. It brings up the key points in predicting the course of coronavirus transmission. Because it is a global pandemic, the huge range of severity and timing of spikes in cases in different regions amazes me. I listened during an AAIE Zoom meeting last week to an international school director in Brazil say that his school is back to Virtual Learning and the country is in lockdown with the P1 variant transmitting like wildfire in his school community (10 staff members are currently in isolation). Here in Tashkent as you can see on the chart below, we had our big spike in July/August and a second spike in October and since then it has been quiet. Our last cases recorded in our faculty and staff are November 9 and December 9 with one case each instance.

World Health Organization Uzbekistan COVID-19 Situation Report 4 March 2021

Although I am concerned about the impact of variants when/if they reach Uzbekistan, my biggest current preoccupation is access to vaccines. There is no word yet from international authorities (embassies, WHO, TIC, etc.) of when foreign faculty and staff will be able to get one of the COVID vaccines. I fear that our employees will be delayed in returning to Tashkent next school year, awaiting a first or second vaccine inoculation. I would prefer to get everyone vaccinated before we leave for school holidays in June.

Experts are predicting a surge in cases next autumn but not the severe symptoms that were typical of previous waves. I think we will definitely have to continue wearing masks during the 2021-2022 school year, especially since adolescents and children will not likely to be vaccinated next year. This also will eliminate international student travel. What school will risk sending an unvaccinated soccer team or Model United Nations delegation to another country? I predict we will be able to hold larger, public gatherings (full faculty meetings, community events like UN Day, theatre and music productions) and hopefully, interscholastic sport matches with other schools from Tashkent. I also imagine that we would keep a database of who is vaccinated and when we do get a case, we’ll react less drastically if a large portion of the population is vaccinated. Vaccines are proving almost 100% effective against hospitalization and death, which is what we are trying to avoid.

How serious future outbreaks will be in terms of disease will be influenced by whether vaccines can continue to prevent severe outcomes, as well how many people are vaccinated, how long vaccine-derived immunity lasts, and how the virus evolves. Those factors will also shape how often people need vaccine booster shots and whether vaccines need to be adapted to better match a changing virus, a possibility that vaccine makers are already exploring.

“The Short-term, middle-term, and long-term future of the coronavirus” March 4, 2021 Stat

Media reports that there will be two vaccines widely available in Uzbekistan, the Russian Sputnik V and the Chinese/Uzbek joint produced ZF-UZ-VAC 2001. The Uzbek government claims the Chinese/Uzbek vaccine is 6x more effective than the Moderna vaccine against the new strains of COVID. Close to 7,000 people participated in the first trial of the ZF-UZ-VAC 2001 vaccine. I am not sure expatriates in Uzbekistan will have access to these vaccines and how many would volunteer to take them. As always, unpredictability is the theme of the future of the pandemic.

The Wonderful World of Owls

This screen shot is from the course. It shows the unique talons of an owls. Owls differ from other birds in having two talons face forward and two face backwards. Owls spread the back talons to enhance their grip on the unfortunate prey.

I am excited to learn about Owls through the Cornell University’s Wonderful World of Owls online course. I am joined by several grade 11 biology students and two science teachers. We are completing the course because our school’s sport mascot is the owl. The student council chose that name years ago when there were many owls roosting near the school. Today, sadly, they are no longer around and so we trying to see if we can lure them back and provide good habitat for them. I will be using this blog to highlight my learning and our group’s work.

Variety of Owls: The first two lessons were engaging. There are over 200 different species of owls. They are special birds in that their large, round eyes, small bill, thickly-feathered heads give them a human appearance. They also are the ultimate nocturnal aerial predators because of their exceptional hearing and sight and silent flight. The 234 species of owls show much variety in size, diet and behavior. My favorite owl is Blakiston’s Fish Owl, that is found in Japan and Russia. It is one of the largest owls and hunts exclusively fish and aquatic prey.

Anatomical Features: Owls have large eyes with a huge, rod-filled retina that makes them twice as sensitive to low light as other birds. The facial disk found on many owls helps their hearing by acting as a sound collector. Their ears are slightly off-set to give them precise, location hearing. Owls cannot turn their heads 360 degrees as some people think. Like other birds, they have 14-neck vertebrae that allow them to turn 270 degrees. This is similar to other birds, but with the thick feathers covering the neck, it looks like their head is on a swivel. Many owls have sensitive whiskers that allow them to “see” objects up close, because their vision is designed for long-distance, low-light conditions.

Latest Pandemic Reading through The lense of School Leadership

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published yesterday a comprehensive guide for reopening of school campuses. “Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Mitigation” lays out in detail a plan for schools to reopen. We opened in early October and I am pleased that all of what we implemented is in the report. The major areas are layered mitigation efforts aka “Swiss Cheese” such as mandatory masks, temperature checks, increasing air ventilation, separating students into “pods”, prioritizing in-class instruction over extracurricular activities, contact tracing and testing, etc.

One challenge for TIS is monitoring rates of community transmission as the CDC recommends. As you can see from the chart below, we had two large spikes that peaked in early August and again in late September. However, the actual numbers of cases is unknown because many people do not go in for testing among many factors. We use not only the official reports from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization, but we also reach out to local doctors, other international schools and embassies to get a clearer picture of transmission, hospital occupancy rates, positive test percentages, etc.

The World Health Organization Tashkent Office report from February 11 shows a 7-day average of 31 new COVID cases per day in the city of Tashkent. With a population of roughly 3 million, that would be 1.03 cases per 100,000. The government reports officially, 79,303 total cases and 622 deaths in a country of approximately 30 million people.

The two areas our COVID Response Team is focusing on are obtaining vaccines for faculty and staff and developing rapid-antigen testing protocols. Of course, the only sure way out of the pandemic is widespread vaccine inoculation. I am concerned, especially for our foreign employees that they will fall through the cracks of the system because they are not Uzbek citizens and maybe not eligible for vaccines here, and they are not living in their passport countries and would not be prioritized for vaccination there. Rapid antigen testing can be utilized around break-outs to quickly identify cases and isolate them. This will come in handy if we experience another spike, especially with the more contagious variant.

In this week’s AAIE (Association for the Advancement of International Education) newsletter, they ask school leaders to read two Harvard Business Review articles. The first “Beyond Burned Out” by Jennifer Moss details how the pandemic caused widespread emotional fatigue. She gives instructions on how leaders can combat burnout of themselves and colleagues.

  • Unsustainable workload
  • Perceived lack of control
  • Insufficient rewards for effort
  • Lack of a supportive community
  • Lack of fairness
  • Mismatched values and skills

Moss and her colleagues did extensive surveys measuring burnout and had the following results:

  • 89% of respondents said their work life was getting worse.
  • 85% said their well-being had declined.
  • 56% said their job demands had increased.
  • 62% of the people who were struggling to manage their workloads had experienced burnout “often” or “extremely often” in the previous three months.
  • 57% of employees felt that the pandemic had a “large effect on” or “completely dominated” their work.
  • 55% of all respondents didn’t feel that they had been able to balance their home and work life — with 53% specifically citing homeschooling.
  • 25% felt unable to maintain a strong connection with family, 39% with colleagues, and 50% with friends.
  • Only 21% rated their well-being as “good,” and a mere 2% rated it as “excellent.”

Moss prescribes the following ways to combat burnout:

  • Feeling a sense of purpose.
  • Having a manageable workload. (focusing on eliminating unnecessary meetings)
  • Feeling that you can discuss mental health at work.
  • Having an empathetic manager.
  • Having a strong sense of connection to family and friends.

The second article is from 2006 and warns organizations to prepare for future pandemics. “Preparing for a Pandemic” was written during the Avian Flu crisis.

The final article I read, “Do the math: Vaccines along won’t get us out of the pandemic” by Lain McLeod is about the challenges reaching herd immunity through vaccination. It was interesting to note that the Pfizer vaccine can be administered to people ages 16 and up. That would help cover much of our high school, who are the biggest asymptomatic spreaders.

COVID Reading: January 31, 2021

Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention published an opinion piece in the online medical journal JAMA on January 26, 2021. They argue that the risk mitigation measures some PK-12 schools are implementing around the world are working and schools do not significantly contribute to community transmission. “Data and Policy to Guide Opening Schools Safely to Limit the Spread of SARS-CoV-2 Infection” cites many studies in schools that demonstrate schools can safely offer on-campus teaching and learning, especially Early Childhood and Elementary School programs. Sadly for someone like me that loves interscholastic sports competitions, they do not recommend holding events with other schools. Atlantic writer Derek Thompson comments on CDC report in the article, “The Truth about Kids, School, and COVID-19“.

The German weekly news magazine, Der Spiegel interviewed virologist Christian Drosten “I Am Quite Apprehensive about What Might Otherwise Happen in Spring and Summer“. Dr. Drosten’s concern about the spring stems from the fact that with many elderly being vaccinated, pressure will mount to open daily life and the number of cases will rise again, causing pressure on the health system. Drosten confirms the lethality of COVID, stating that the mortality rate is 1.1% in Germany, which is 10x greater than influenza.

For subscribers, The Economist article “How fast can vaccination against covid-19 make a difference?” demonstrates that in Israel where abundant vaccination has already taken place, the number of elderly COVID patients seeking critically ill care dropped significantly.

Finally, the Uzbekistan news outlet, Gazeta, reported yesterday that the British COVID variant was detected on January 23. I have lots of questions about the report and will be looking into it with local experts.