Coronavirus news – November 2022

For the Harvard Chan community: Find the latest updates, guidance, useful information, and resources about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) here.

In the wake of an outbreak of coronavirus that began in China in 2019, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health experts have been speaking to a variety of media outlets and writing articles about the pandemic. We’ll be updating this article on a regular basis. Here’s a selection of stories in which they offer comments and context:

November 22: A new coronavirus variant has taken over, sparking concerns of a winter surge (Boston Globe)

The BQ.1.1 variant—an offshoot of Omicron that appears to be among the best coronavirus variants yet at evading antibody immunity—is now the predominant version circulating in Massachusetts. Although the new variant could be dangerous for immunocompromised people and those who develop severe infections, it is unlikely to pose a serious health threat to most, experts said. “The huge majority of vaccinated people have no particular reason to be anxious about BQ.1.1,” said William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology.

November 21: Coronavirus variants are dodging antibody treatments. New lab-made options may help. (Washington Post)

As COVID-19 has mutated, monoclonal antibodies—which millions of Americans have been relying on to fight the virus—have become largely ineffective. “I would say it’s a big problem,” said Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management.

November 21: How infectious disease experts are responding to Covid nearly three years in (STAT News)

Even though many people appear to have given up trying to avoid COVID, most of the 34 experts quoted in this article said they are still taking precautions. William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology, was among those quoted.

November 17: Ten lessons from COVID: A round-up of experts (PLOS Blogs)

If there’s another pandemic, we should emphasize sharing vaccines across the globe, boosting wastewater monitoring and genomic surveillance, and paying more attention to social determinants of health, according to experts quoted in this article. Among those quoted were experts from Harvard Chan School who spoke at a recent panel on preventing the next pandemic: Sikhulile Moyo, laboratory director of the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership and a research associate in the Harvard Chan School Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases; and Satchit Balsari, assistant professor of global health and population.

November 11: New omicron variants now dominant in the U.S., raising fears of a winter surge (NPR)

Two new subvariants of Omicron—called BQ.1 and BQ.1.1—appear to be the most adept yet at evading immunity from COVID-19 conferred by vaccines and previous infections. “The U.S. is going to see a winter surge in COVID infections,” predicted William Hanage, associate professor of epidemiology. “And I think that if nothing else changes BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are likely to be very significant players.”

November 10: Masks Cut Covid Spread in Schools, Study Finds (New York Times)

A Harvard Chan School study found that masking mandates were linked with significantly reduced numbers of COVID cases in schools. “We saw sustained, increased rates of COVID incidence consistently in schools that lifted the mask requirement,” said Tori Cowger, first author of the study and Health and Human Rights Fellow in the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights.

November 4: African scientists say Western aid to fight pandemic is backfiring. Here’s their plan (NPR)

Developing community-based disease surveillance; building capacity to produce protective gear, vaccines, and other pandemic-fighting tools; and investing in healthcare workers are all key ideas for boosting Africa’s capacity to contain infectious diseases, according to experts quoted in this article. Among those quoted was Christian Happi, director of the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in Nigeria and a visiting scientist in Harvard Chan School’s Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.

November 3: Koch-funded legal group fights to protect online Covid misinformation (CMD News)

A litigation group funded by billionaire Charles Koch is helping support several scientists, who are known for promoting COVID-19 misinformation, in a lawsuit against the Biden administration that is claiming “censorship” regarding their social media posts. Justin Feldman, research associate at the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center of Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, said that right-wing organizations, like the group funded by Koch, “want their policies to seem legitimate to the public, so they find scientists who have opinions that are viewed as fringe or discredited by mainstream science.”

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