Sweet: Waffle Sticks of Don Waffly in San Francisco, USA

Common Pesticide to Be Banned Over Links to Problems in Children

The Biden Administration said Wednesday that a widely used pesticide will be banned because it’s been linked to neurological damage in children.

The new rule to block the use of chlorpyrifos on food will take effect in six months, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

“Today [the] EPA is taking an overdue step to protect public health,” EPA head Michael Regan said in an agency news release. “Ending the use of chlorpyrifos on food will help to ensure children, farmworkers, and all people are protected from the potentially dangerous consequences of this pesticide.”

Available since the mid-1960s and among the most widely used pesticides, chlorpyrifos is routinely applied to corn, soybeans, apples, broccoli, asparagus and other produce, The New York Times reported.

In April, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals told the EPA to stop agricultural use of the pesticide unless it could demonstrate its safety.

The court order gave the EPA a deadline of Aug. 20 to either prove that chlorpyrifos is harmless to children or to end its use on food crops.

“It is very unusual,” Michal Freedhoff, E.P.A. assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention, said of the court’s directive. “It speaks to the impatience and the frustration that the courts and environmental groups and farmworkers have with the agency.”

“The court basically said, ‘Enough is enough,'” Freedhoff told the Times. “Either tell us that it’s safe, and show your work, and if you can’t, then revoke all tolerances.”

Several states have already banned chlorpyrifos, the Times said.

Studies have linked exposure to the pesticide with lower birth weights, reduced IQs and other developmental problems in children, and a wide range of groups have long fought for a ban on chlorpyrifos, the Times reported.

“It took far too long, but children will no longer be eating food tainted with a pesticide that causes intellectual learning disabilities,” Patti Goldman, an attorney at EarthJustice, told the Times. “Chlorpyrifos will finally be out of our fruits and vegetables.”

Chlorpyrifos can still be used on golf courses, turf, utility poles and fence posts as well as in cockroach bait and ant treatments, the Times reported.

Source: HealthDay

Early Data Shows Rise in Breakthrough Infections Among the Vaccinated

Robin Foster and Ernie Mundell wrote . . . . . . . . .

Preliminary data from seven U.S. states show that the arrival of the Delta variant in July may be fueling a rise in breakthrough infections among the fully vaccinated.

At least 1 in every 5 new COVID-19 cases in six of these states have involved vaccinated people, with higher percentages of hospitalizations and deaths among these folks than had previously been seen in all seven states, The New York Times reported.

Still, the absolute numbers of vaccinated people made sick by COVID-19 remains very low, experts said, and the vaccines are still very potent weapons against severe disease.

If breakthrough infections are becoming more common, “it’s also going to demonstrate how well these vaccines are working and that they’re preventing hospitalization and death, which is really what we asked our vaccines to do,” said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Times.

Importantly, a vast majority of vaccinated people who are hospitalized for COVID-19 are likely to be older adults or those who have weakened immune systems. CDC data show that 74% of breakthrough cases are among adults aged 65 or older.

The numbers suggest that people who are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19, and anyone who lives with a high-risk person, “really needs to seriously consider the risks that they’re taking now,” Dr. Dean Sidelinger, a state epidemiologist and state health officer for Oregon, told the Times.

“Remember when the early vaccine studies came out, it was like nobody gets hospitalized, nobody dies,” Dr. Robert Wachter, chairman of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Times. “That clearly is not true.”

“If the chances of a breakthrough infection have gone up considerably, and I think the evidence is clear that they have, and the level of protection against severe illness is no longer as robust as it was, I think the case for boosters goes up pretty quickly,” Wachter added.

The seven states analyzed by the Times — California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Virginia — were chosen because they are keeping the most detailed data, the Times said. It is not certain whether the trends in these states would hold across the country.

The increases seen are largely due on the mathematics of mass vaccination: Scientists have always expected that as the number of vaccinated people exponentially grows, vaccinated people will show up more frequently than before in tallies of the severely ill and dead.

“We don’t want to dilute the message that the vaccine is tremendously successful and protective, more so than we ever hoped initially,” said Dr. Scott Dryden-Peterson, an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. “The fact that we’re seeing breakthrough cases and breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths doesn’t diminish that it still saves many people’s lives.”

The states’ data do confirm that vaccinated people are still far less likely to become severely ill or to die from COVID-19. In California, the 1,615 hospitalizations of people with breakthrough infections as of Aug. 8 represents just 0.007% of nearly 22 million fully immunized residents, and breakthrough deaths constitute an even smaller portion, the Times reported.

But in six of the states, breakthrough infections accounted for 18% to 28% of recorded cases in recent weeks, the newspaper said. These numbers are likely to be low, because most fully immunized people may not feel ill enough to seek a test.

Breakthrough infections accounted for 12% to 24% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the states, the Times found. The number of deaths was too small to arrive at a solid number, although it does appear to be higher than the CDC estimate of 0.5%.

The latest numbers make a good case for booster shots, and a recent survey showed that seniors can’t wait to get one: Among vaccinated Americans, 72 percent of those who are 65 or older already say they want a booster shot.

Source: HealthDay

New Pizza and Calzone Hybrid from Little Caesars in the U.S.

Crazy Calzony

The new treat is available for a limited time for US$8.49.

U.S. Provincetown Outbreak Shows Delta Can Spread Among Vaccinated, But Cases Are Mild

Ernie Mundell and Robin Foster wrote . . . . . . . . .

The Cape Cod resort town of Provincetown draws big crowds every summer. In July, those largely vaccinated crowds — packed into bars, restaurants and private homes — were the genesis of an outbreak of the Delta variant that could be a sobering model for the nation.

New data on the outbreak, released Friday, shows there were a known total of 469 COVID-19 cases “associated with multiple summer events” among Provincetown revelers. Three-quarters (74%) of those cases occurred among people who’d gotten their COVID vaccinations an average of almost three months before.

In 89% of those cases, the highly contagious Delta variant was implicated, concluded a team led by Dr. Catherine Brown of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

There was some good news, however: While many of the 346 cases among vaccinated individuals might have made them feel miserable for a time — coughs, headache, sore throat, aches and fever being the major symptoms — there were only four cases (1.2%) in this group that required hospital care.

In all four of those hospitalized cases, patients had underlying medical conditions that upped their odds for severe COVID-19, the researchers found.

A fifth case requiring hospitalization occurred in an unvaccinated patient, Brown’s team noted, and that case also involved an underlying medical condition.

There were no deaths linked to the outbreak.

The researchers noted that it’s not surprising that three-quarters of cases in the Provincetown outbreak occurred among the vaccinated, because a full 69% of the town’s vaccine-eligible residents have gotten their shots — a number that’s much higher than the national average.

Equal viral loads

However, given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, Brown’s team believe their findings “suggest that even jurisdictions with substantial or high COVID-19 transmission might consider expanding prevention strategies.”

Those strategies should include “masking in indoor settings regardless of vaccination status, given the potential risk of infection during attendance at large public gatherings,” they said.

The Provincetown findings also confirm that, unlike its predecessor, the Delta variant appears to produce high viral loads in people’s systems, upping transmission risks.

“Specimens from 127 vaccinated persons with breakthrough cases were similar to those from 84 persons who were unvaccinated,” the research team noted.

That finding helped drive the CDC’s decision this week to reverse course on its masking advisory. The agency now recommends that even the vaccinated once again don masks in many indoor settings, to lessen the odds they might transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others.

It also adds new energy to federal, state and local efforts to get more Americans vaccinated.

However, one leading infectious disease expert stressed that the one thing the Provincetown report should not do is lessen the average American’s faith in the power of vaccines to protect against what’s most important: Severe illness.

“The new data should not alarm anyone, but reinforce that vaccinations are the solution to the pandemic,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore.

A return to masking indoors

“That severe breakthrough infections were rare is testament to the vaccines, which limit the harm an infection can do in a fully vaccinated person,” he said. “It’s also important to remember the breakthroughs that occurred in this situation are likely not completely applicable to the everyday life of the vaccinated, as the intensity and nature of exposure was in the context of a large public gathering.”

Another expert said the implications of the findings are clear.

“At this time, even fully vaccinated people need to consider large gatherings as a potential place to contract the virus,” said Dr. Teresa Murray Amato, chair of emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, in Queens, N.Y. “This also means that for Americans that are not yet vaccinated,” they should strongly consider doing so.

Adding to the Provincetown findings, a new internal federal government document also finds the Delta variant can cause more severe illness than earlier coronavirus variants, especially among the unvaccinated, and spreads as easily as chickenpox.

In laying out the evidence that this variant looks like the most dangerous one yet, the document urges health officials to “acknowledge the war has changed,” the Washington Post reported.

The document mirrors the data in the Provincetown study, finding that vaccinated people infected with Delta have viral loads similar to those who are unvaccinated and infected with the variant, the Post reported.

CDC scientists were so alarmed that the agency changed masking guidance for vaccinated people earlier this week, even before making the new data public, the newspaper said.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement on Friday that the Provincetown investigation “is one of many CDC has been involved in across the country and data from those investigations will be rapidly shared with the public when available.”

The Provincetown study was published in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Source: HealthDay