Longer Looks: Interesting Reads You Might Have Missed
Each week, KHN finds longer stories for you to sit back and enjoy. This week's selections include stories on covid, the secrets of sewage, Alzheimer's and fitness drones.
Herd Immunity Hard To Achieve As Covid Variants Grow, Experts Say
Long before herd immunity became humanity’s shared obsession, the phrase referred to sick cows. More than a century ago, veterinarians observed that outbreaks of a highly contagious bacterial infection menacing cattle died down once they’d burned through a certain percentage of a herd, so long as new animals weren’t introduced. Soon the concept was extended to a variety of human outbreaks, where it became a staple of epidemiology. Since the beginning of the pandemic, exactly when the U.S. might reach herd immunity for Covid-19 has been furiously debated in congressional hearings, on TV shows, and among the many armchair epidemiologists on Twitter. In the popular imagination, the phrase has become shorthand for the end of the pandemic—a finish line that will suddenly cause the virus to subside and allow maskless normalcy to resume. (Langreth and Court, 4/22)
Sewage Has Stories. Can The U.S. Learn To Listen?
In early March 2020, as Covid-19 cases were accelerating across the globe, the American aircraft carrier U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt made its way to Da Nang, Vietnam for a scheduled stop to celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the nations. Nearly 100,000 cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed worldwide, and more than 3,000 people had died from it, when thousands of sailors poured off the ship for five days to mingle with locals, posing shoulder to shoulder for photos, overnighting in local hotels, and shooting hoops with Vietnamese kids.Less than two weeks after pulling anchor, three crew members tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. In the ensuing weeks, the illness zipped through the vessel, eventually infecting 1,271 of the nearly 5,000 sailors, along with the ship’s captain. Twenty-three sailors were hospitalized, with four admitted into intensive care. One died. The acting secretary of the Navy fired the captain for skirting the chain of command when he begged for help with the crisis, before the acting secretary himself resigned. (Weiss, 4/21)
The New York Times:
A New Bird Flu Jumps To Humans. So Far, It's Not A Problem
When a bird flu virus struck a major poultry farm in Russia earlier this year, it was a reminder that the coronavirus causing the pandemic was not the only dangerous virus out there. The authorities quickly tested the birds and moved into high gear, killing 800,000 chickens, disposing of the carcasses and cleaning the farm to stop the potential spread to other chicken farms. But they were also concerned for humans. (Gorman, 4/21)
The Washington Post:
Many Veterans Don’t Trust Coronavirus Vaccines. For A VA Crew In The Rural West, That Means Changing Minds, One By One.
On the morning he was scheduled to get his first shot of coronavirus vaccine, Mike Jellesed woke in a fury and wheeled his pickup out of his trailer park, headed for the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in town. A giant star-spangled bus that had crossed 160 miles of the Rocky Mountains from Spokane, Wash., was waiting for him in the parking lot. Inside were three Department of Veterans Affairs workers and 26 Moderna syringes ready to go. Jellesed, a 61-year-old Air Force veteran with scarred lungs that left him vulnerable to covid-19, had driven there with his 11-year-old son to tell the VA crew all the reasons — despite his scheduled appointment — he didn’t believe in the vaccine. He felt like a lab rat: “That’s what I am,” he said. “I don’t like being told what to do.” (Rein, 4/17)
The Wall Street Journal:
The Importance Of Friendship For Alzheimer’s Patients
Abbe Smerling and Judy Roeder, close friends for 30 years, raised their children, vacationed and celebrated holidays together. Abbe hosted the wedding rehearsal dinner for Judy’s daughter. “It was one of the best parties we ever had at our house,” Abbe says. Now, after sharing many milestones in their lives, the two, who both live in the Boston area, have entered a new chapter in their friendship. About eight years ago, Judy, 75 years old and a former psychotherapist, was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, which progressed to Alzheimer’s. Abbe, 70, has remained at her side, taking her on road trips, on weekend retreats, and to events at their temple. (Ansberry, 4/19)
The Washington Post:
Fitness Drones Are Coming, If Inventors Can Get All The Kinks Out Of Them
In the past 20 years, drones have become a fixture of modern life. From photography and journalism to package delivery and crop monitoring, companies of all kinds are increasingly turning to unmanned flying devices to cut costs, increase efficiency, decrease workload or simply do what humans cannot. Where the world hasn’t seen drones play a prominent role, however, is in the world of health and fitness. But that may be changing. (Debusmann Jr., 4/18)