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Friday, February 11, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

Covid Can Attack, Destroy Placenta During Pregnancy, Study Finds

A study in the journal Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine details the way that a covid infection can cause harm during pregnancy, in particular the way it can remove vital life support functions from a developing fetus.

USA Today:
Pregnant With COVID: How SARS-CoV-2 Can Cause Stillbirth, Study Finds

Although other viral infections have also been linked to stillbirths, a new study suggests the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may have a completely different way of impacting a developing fetus. A 44-member international research team studied 64 stillbirth cases and four early neonatal deaths from 12 countries to determine how COVID-19 caused perinatal deaths. All the expecting mothers were unvaccinated. Based on their findings, they concluded the COVID-19 infection destroyed the placenta, depriving the fetus of oxygen, according to the report published Thursday in Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. Researchers determined the virus reaches the placenta and causes it to fail by passing through the mother’s bloodstream, a process known as viremia. (Rodriguez, 2/10)

Coronavirus Can Destroy The Placenta And Lead To Stillbirths

Lead author Dr. David Schwartz, an Atlanta pathologist, said other infections can infiltrate the placenta and cause stillbirth, typically by infecting and damaging the fetus. A recent example is Zika virus. He and his colleagues wanted to see if that was the case with stillbirths in women with COVID-19. But what they found was almost the opposite: it was the placenta that was infected and extensively destroyed. “Many of these cases had over 90% of the placenta destroyed — very scary,” said Schwartz. (Tanner, 2/10)

Rural Covid Infection Rate Plummets

The Daily Yonder says the 40% decline in last week’s data likely indicates rural counties have passed the peak of the omicron surge. Separately, a new study says that delta covid actually infected twice as many people per capita in rural areas than urban ones, with low vax rates to blame.

Daily Yonder:
Rate Of New Covid Infections Falls 40% In Rural Counties 

The rate of new Covid-19 infections in rural America plunged last week, indicating that rural counties have passed the peak of the Omicron surge, a Daily Yonder analysis shows. Meanwhile, the rural death rate from Covid-19 climbed for the third consecutive week. The number of new infections in rural America fell by more than 40%, from 640,000 new cases two weeks ago to 378,000 last week. That’s the biggest single-week drop in cases (both as a percentage and in raw numbers) since the start of the pandemic. But even with the decline, new infections were more numerous last week in rural counties than they were at the previous peak of the pandemic in January 2021. (Marema, 2/11)

USA Today:
Delta Variant Infected Twice As Many Per Capita In Rural Areas, Study Says

Despite the wide expanses of rural America, the delta variant spread widely and quickly in those areas last summer. The reason? Low vaccination rates. In fact, rural counties registered 2.4 more infections per 100,000 residents than urban areas from July 1 to Aug. 31 of last year, according to a new study by the University of Cincinnati and Augusta University that was published Thursday in JAMA Network Open. The study cited CDC data indicating 82% of rural America had a vaccination rate below 30%, with 369 of 449 areas designated by the researchers under that threshold. (Ortiz, Miller and Tebor, 2/10)

In other news on the spread of the coronavirus —

NBC News:
Map: Covid-19 Deaths Have More Than Doubled In Five States

Omicron took a month and a half to match the death rate that the delta wave took nearly three months to reach. The omicron variant, which has spread disease to tens of millions in the U.S. since late December, is now fueling a wave of Covid-related deaths. Average deaths have plateaued at close to 2,600 a day, the highest level since February 2021, according to NBC News’ tally. (Murphy, 2/10)

Bangor Daily News:
Maine Hospitals Stretched To The Brink By COVID Surge See Relief As Cases Drop

The twin crises of COVID-induced staffing shortages and stressed capacity at Maine hospitals appear to be easing slightly as the number of COVID infections and hospitalizations have decreased. The number of people hospitalized for COVID has declined nearly 30 percent since setting a record high of 436 on Jan. 13, according to Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention data. Plus, preliminary data are also showing that the level of coronavirus being detected in wastewater is declining, Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah said this week. (Russell, 2/11)

New NC Advice Seeks To Keep More Virus-Exposed Kids In Class 

North Carolina health officials on Thursday eased guidance for K-12 schools that had directed students and staff to often stay home for five days if they were in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. The updated recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services, which take effect Feb. 21, state that children and school workers shouldn’t be required to stay home following a virus exposure unless they have coronavirus symptoms or test positive. (Robertson, 2/10)

Previous COVID Infection May Confer 56% Protection Against Reinfection

A study in Qatar estimates that previous COVID-19 infection imparts 56% protection against future symptomatic infection caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, down from about 90% for other SARS-CoV-2 strains. The study, published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), was led by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine–Qatar in Doha. (2/10)

Unlocking The Mystery Of The “Never COVID” Cohort 

Some people don’t get COVID despite being exposed to the virus — a mystery researchers are trying to unravel. Understanding the small cohort of “never COVID” people could lead to new vaccine targets or other protections as the world enters the third year of the pandemic. Various possibilities for how these people are protected are being tested: immune defenses stemming from other infections, human genetics, viral load or environmental factors. And then there’s simple luck. (O’Reilly, 2/10)

NCAA Athletics Not Linked To Increased COVID-19, Data Suggest 

A cross-sectional study of more than half a million National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 athletes and 3.5 million nonathletes suggests that participation in collegiate athletics was not tied to higher COVID-19 test positivity in the 2020-21 academic year. The research was published yesterday in JAMA Network Open. (Van Beusekom, 2/10)

North Carolina Health News:
What Is The Future Of COVID And Incarceration? 

From the Alpha variant to Delta to Omicron, the COVID-19 virus is changing, but it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Incarcerated people and their families wonder what the future of COVID means for them. Incarcerated people have been acutely impacted by the highs and lows of the pandemic. Not only must they cope with the fear of getting ill and dying, or suffering from long-term COVID symptoms, but the pandemic has meant periodically losing much of the few freedoms they still have, such as outdoor recreation time and family calls and visits. (Thompson, 2/10)

And on covid testing —

Miami Herald:
Florida Raps Contractors For Not Reporting 230,000 COVID Tests

The Florida Department of Health on Monday reprimanded two companies for failing to report more than 230,000 COVID-19 tests taken in December and January. The missing tests could mean that the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Florida was even higher than reported during the state’s omicron wave — the most widespread outbreak to date — which peaked at over 65,000 average daily cases on Jan. 11, according to federal health data. The state has received all of the missing test results and state employees are currently reviewing the data, Department of Health spokesperson Jeremy Redfern said in an email to the Herald/Times. (Hodgson and Wilson, 2/10)

The Washington Post:
D.C. Public Schools Required Weekly Covid Tests For Pre-K Students. How Has It Gone? 

The prekindergarten testing program is unique in the metro area and expands on the school system’s “test-to-return” initiative after winter break, which required all staff and students to test negative for the coronavirus before returning to school. With the weekly pre-K initiative, school leaders say parents are becoming more comfortable with the testing and hope it is a way to keep more students in school. (Asbury, 2/9)

What Are Taxpayers Spending For Those ‘Free’ Covid Tests? The Government Won’t Say.

The four free covid-19 rapid tests President Joe Biden promised in December for every American household have begun arriving in earnest in mailboxes and on doorsteps. A surge of covid infections spurred wide demand for over-the-counter antigen tests during the holidays: Clinics were overwhelmed with people seeking tests and the few off-the-shelf brands were nearly impossible to find at pharmacies or even online via Amazon. Prices for some test kits cracked the hundred-dollar mark. And the government vowed that its purchase could provide the tests faster and cheaper so people, by simply swabbing at home, could quell the spread of covid. (Spolar, 2/11)

The Washington Post:
The Best Covid Tests With Apps 

New start-ups and existing testing companies alike are hoping that tech elements will set them apart from traditional at-home tests, and their products run the gamut from quick and easy app-based antigen tests you can order on Amazon to $474 molecular-testing setups you plug into your wall. I tried out four popular at-home tests: an On/Go antigen test from Intrivo, a BD Veritor antigen test from Becton, Dickinson and Co. and molecular tests from Cue Health and Detect, paying close attention to their accuracy, price, speed, privacy and ease of use. (Hunger, 2/10)