PUBLIC SOURCE - How might we come out of extreme social distancing? Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab, thinks the most interesting option might be relaxing social distancing behaviors based on the ability to know whether the person is immune to the disease or not. We could test and say you are immune and can go back to work. That would be the most accurate way of doing it.
ALLEGHENY FRONT - There’s plenty of biological evidence, said Sally Wenzel, EOH chair. Pollution can damage cells that line breathing passageways, which form the lung’s natural defense from foreign agents. “When they’re damaged, they don’t function nearly as well as a barrier. And so things like viruses can get through that barrier and into the body, into the deeper spaces of the body.”
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE – EOH Chair Sally Wenzel says, “The easiest way to make sure that you aren’t bringing the virus in with your packages is to treat the package as though a COVID-19 positive person last handled it: Wipe off all items before putting them away, throw out your packaging and wash your hands.” Another tip: Plastic gloves might be hard to come by these days, but sandwich bags can protect in a pinch.
90.5 WESA - “If nobody ever went out and nobody ever touched anybody else, this disease could not pass at all,” said HPM's Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Laboratory. He thinks the current restrictions on daily life need to continue for the time being. “If people went about their lives as normal, there would be tens of thousands of cases requiring hospitalization in western Pennsylvania alone.”
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER/SPOTLIGHT PA - At Prevention Point Pittsburgh, staff have been trying to raise awareness of COVID-19 for weeks. “If someone shows symptoms, they’re given gloves, a face mask, and extra harm reduction supplies so they can self-quarantine,” said executive director Aaron Arnold (BCHS '13). If the person wants medical help, the staff can arrange that, too. Since early March, they've been including a tip sheet in supply bags tha...
MEDSCAPE - In an editorial issued just days after these new guidelines, Pitt Med's Derek C. Angus (BCHS '92), who is also an HPM distinguished professor and associate editor with JAMA, and Lamontagne of Canada say these "represent an excellent first step toward optimal, evidence-informed care for patients with COVID-19.”
KDKA – When will we see a COVID-19 peak? Health Secretary Rachel Levine said they’re working with Pitt’s FRED researchers to update information. Modeling infectious diseases is complex, and there are several impacting factors like how the disease is spread, the effects of social distancing, and the percent of people hospitalized. Because hospitalization rates are lower here than in China, this new data changes how the models are interpreted.
BLOOMBERG QUINT - Sally Wenzel, EOH professor and director of Pitt Medical Center's Asthma Institute, says that “The only way to answer the question” as to whether sugarcane burning is the direct cause of the respiratory issues that residents experience “is with a better level of granularity—to do a person-based study, as opposed to a population-based study” such as the ones published so far.
PUBLICSOURCE - Gov. Wolf said the state is ramping up efforts to expand capacity in the state’s healthcare system in anticipation of a spike in COVID-19 cases. He added that the state has enough capacity to handle all of its COVID-19 cases if the state’s efforts to socially isolate individuals are successful. All of the models they have looked at, including one from Pitt Public Health' FRED program, depend on effective social distancing.
PITTSBURGH BUSINESS TIMES - Health Secretary Rachel Levine specifically singled out Pitt's Framework for Epidemiological Dynamics (FRED) for help with complex population-health modeling. The program was developed to model outbreaks of communicable diseases like influenza, dengue fever, and measles, and help local and state decision makers know what interventions to take. Pennsylvania's Department of Health doesn't do that type of modeling.
NEW YORK TIMES - “If you’re 70 or older and healthy, without evidence of cardiovascular disease, it’s very difficult to improve on your success. The relatively low risk of dementia in this study was not further lowered with aspirin,” said Anne Newman, study co-author. Nor did they find an effect in various subgroups either—people with hypertension or diabetes, smokers, people with high cholesterol, or those who were overweight or obese.
NEURO NEWS – To minimize disruption and preserve integrity while still ensuring participant health and safety, EPI chair Anne Newman tells JAMA that sustaining ongoing trials could help millions of people realize substantial, durable health benefits that will be important post-pandemic. Therefore, efforts and resources should be dedicated to support continuing randomized trials using creative and thoughtful methods and proactive planning.
DISCOVER - As COVID-19 blasts across the globe, viral wellness videos and posts are springing up in its wake. But so far, says John Mellors, IDM professor and chief of infectious diseases at Pitt, no randomized clinical trials have shown vitamins or natural remedies to be effective in treating or preventing COVID-19. He adds, if you're already eating a balanced diet, suppliments probably aren’t going to juice your COVID-19 immunity.
PENN LIVE - “There’s a substantial likelihood we are going to see a surge that might reflect the worst-case scenario,” said HPM's Jeremy Kahn, also professor of critical care medicine. “I’d be hard-pressed to think of anything as too extreme.... I'm a little skeptical this is the most efficient solution." It would be best to move less severe cases before putting critically ill patients “in an ad-hoc ICU at a dorm or hotel.”
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - FRED offers frightening predictions about what Pennsylvania residents could face with COVID-19. “These are very scary numbers, and one thing I hope to impress upon people is that this is serious,” said Mark Roberts, director of the Public Health Dynamics Lab and chair of health policy and management. “Social distancing is seriously important…. There’s hope that further action can drive that prediction downward.”
MEDRXIV (2/29/20) - Pitt Biostats' Lu Tang and collaborators from Michigan develop a health informatics toolbox that enables public health workers to timely analyze and evaluate the time-course dynamics of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection using the publicly available data from the China CDC. This toolbox is built upon a hierarchical epidemiological model in which two observed time series of daily proportions of infected and removed ca...
90.5 WESA – Inmaculada Hernandez (HPM ’16) said what’s concerning is that discounts are often paid directly to insurers. This means people who are un- or under-insured generally don’t benefit from the markdowns. “This is probably increasing disparities in health care access…. We are not doing a good job of protecting patients against increases in co-pays, out-of-pocket costs and certainly those that don’t have insurance.”
LIVE SCIENCE – Epidemiologists are disease detectives who save lives by studying and preventing the spread of the worst diseases. EPI’s professor emeritus Lewis Kuller was asked to clarify: “Epidemiology is a tool to understand the distribution of disease in populations, and the factors that lead to higher or lower rates of disease and ways of effectively preventing disease.”
Many of the 300 MIDAS members are conducting modeling research on COVID-19 and are contributing to an extraordinary international collection of data and information regarding the outbreak. “It’s exciting and gratifying to be able to do something useful to help with this pandemic,” said EPI's Wilbert van Panhuis. “We’re playing a crucial role in bringing the infectious disease modeling research community together to efficiently share information....
NEWSWEEK - Donald Burke, professor of health science and policy, said he was concerned that the reproduction number (RO) may be higher than originally estimated. The U.S. case count has been increasing exponentially. If the time between successive cases in the chain of transmission is four days, then the RO would have to be 3 to 4 to sustain this rate. “But the case count is confounded because case testing and reporting are increasing, and that ...