Monday News: Fifteen thousand, six hundred fifteen


AS MANY AS 1,120 NC CITIZENS MAY DIE FROM COVID IN SEPTEMBER ALONE: At least 1,330,492 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at least 15,615 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Friday reported 7,905 new COVID-19 cases, up from 7,160 the day before. At least 3,573 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday, including 908 adult patients who were being treated in intensive care units, health officials said. As of Wednesday, the latest date for which data is available, 9.7% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Roughly 68% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and about 63% have been fully vaccinated. Well, we may have surpassed herd ignorance anyway.

IT SHOULDN'T TAKE A DEATH IN THE FAMILY TO CHANGE YOUR MIND ABOUT GETTING VACCINATED: Jason Lail was healthy before he got COVID-19. He loved to hunt and fish. He played with his children. He had no medical conditions. There was no sign that the virus would take his life. At 42, he left behind a wife, two daughters, a stepson and countless family members. “He was healthy,” said Jessica Lail, his wife of less than one year. “He had no underlying conditions.” “He told me he’s probably not going to come home, and if he comes home, you have to think about his quality of life,” Jessica said. “He’s going to be on a feeding tube, he’s going to be in rehab. … He’d be alive but not alive.” Kristen spoke with the doctor, as well. That same day, Jason’s lung collapsed. Two days later, on Sept. 2, they gathered the family around Jason’s bedside and made the decision to turn off life support. “It was hard, but he was only there because of (life support) — he was no longer there,” Kristen said. Before Jason got COVID-19, Kristen and her husband, Jason’s brother, were opposed to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Seeing what the virus did to Jason, who was also unvaccinated, changed their mind. Before Jason was placed on a ventilator, he said he wished he got the shot, Kristen said. They both got vaccinated, along with their 12-year-old daughter, while Jason was in the hospital. “For Jason to change our minds and a lot of other people’s minds is pretty incredible,” Kristen said.

UNC STUDENT TAKES COVID CONTACT TRACING INTO HER OWN HANDS: Over the past week, students may have noticed slips of paper taped to surfaces throughout campus, encouraging them to report possible COVID-19 exposures using a printed QR code. That QR code leads to the website of UNςTrace, an anonymous, non-University-affiliated COVID-19 contact tracing initiative. It was created by first-year Sophie van Duin nearly two weeks ago. She was inspired to start the website after a discussion in her English class about University COVID-19 policies and the need for community outreach. A classmate brought up UNC’s contact tracing procedures as an area that could use improvement. “We didn't know about people in our class that could potentially have COVID,” van Duin said. “The data isn't really reflecting the amount of people I see absent from my classes, and the amount of people that my teachers are like ‘Yeah, they're quarantining.’” As a result, van Duin said the data on the UNςTrace website specifically focuses on potential exposures from classes. The reporting form includes options for students to submit known exposure or positive test reports, including whether they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. There are also boxes to include information about specific classes and residence hall buildings. Good job.

DEATH PANELS FINALLY ARRIVE, THANKS TO MONUMENTALLY STUPID PEOPLE: Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, a physician on the coronavirus triage committee at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, found her team last weekend making one of the most agonizing decisions of their careers. With the delta variant surging, the hospital was overwhelmed, and the doctor-on-call had paged the group for guidance. Four patients needed continuous kidney dialysis, her colleague explained, but only two machines could be made available. How should I choose? “This is the worst it’s been for us,” Solana Walkinshaw said, and “it’s not over.” Rationing medical care, one of the most feared scenarios of the pandemic, is becoming a reality in a few parts of the United States as coronavirus infections remain at surge levels. On Thursday, Idaho officials announced the state was taking the extraordinary step of activating crisis standards of care statewide, giving hospitals the power to allocate — and potentially even deny — care based on the goal of who could benefit the most when faced with a shortage of resources such as ventilators, medications or staff. The decision will affect both covid and non-covid patients in a health-care system that is fraying. Crisis standards do not always result in rationing, but they give providers more flexibility in how they prioritize care as well as legal protection when they do. State and institution rationing plans are often based on a scoring system of how the brain, heart, kidneys, liver and other major organs are functioning to help make decisions, but they can differ enormously in their details. Many also take into account a patient’s “life stage” as a proxy for age, and some, usually as tiebreakers, look at their role in society — such as whether the patient is a health-care worker or a politician with an essential responsibility during the crisis. Last month, a critical care task force in Texas floated the idea of taking vaccination status into account — but the authors dismissed their own suggestion as a theoretical exercise following a public backlash. In other words, "Get away from me with that damn mask!" quickly morphed into "Give me that damn ventilator!"

REMEMBER WHAT I SAID ABOUT DAESH AND THE TALIBAN? The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan claimed responsibility Sunday for a series of blasts over the weekend in the country’s east that reportedly killed several people and injured tens more in another escalation of violence as the Taliban works to consolidate its control. The improvised explosive devices were set off Saturday and Sunday around the city of Jalalabad, capital of the eastern province of Nangahar and known as a stronghold for the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K). Though they are both Islamist groups, ISIS-K opposes the Taliban, which it accuses of not being extreme enough. The Islamic State group’s Amaq News Agency said on its Telegram channel that six attacks Saturday and Sunday killed or injured over 35 Taliban members, Reuters reported. Bilal Karimi, a Taliban spokesman, said a bombing Sunday in Jalalabad targeted a Taliban vehicle, killing one child and injuring two people, among them a Taliban member. “We have started investigations into the incident to reach the culprits,” Karimi said. But three residents, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they feared angering the Taliban, told The Washington Post that at least three civilians were killed, including a child, and scores more injured in the attack. Residents said the blast also knocked down a major power line, though it was restored later in the day. The violence followed a series of explosions Saturday. One resident said four people were killed and 22 injured in five incidents in the city. Karimi said that only “minor blasts” took place Saturday and “a number of casualties were reported,” without providing specifics. The Taliban are far from angels, but Daesh are truly evil. Raping and prostituting young girls is just one of many outrages they commonly perpetrate, and hopefully the Taliban will deal with them sooner rather than later.