Covid-19 Thread: 2023 Breaking News

Since we have a new year, perhaps a new Covid-19 Breaking News edition. Previous editions were started by Snowboarder_Bo, but he seems to have left Straight Dope.

A new variant [XBB.1.5] rapidly increasing:

China is about to drop all their COVID-related border controls, limitations on flight, ship, and passenger counts, mandatory quarantines, etc.

The Chinese economy will have been heavily separated from the world for 1,019 days when this change takes full effect next week.

It will be interesting to see what that does to the economy / supply chain problems we all know about.

It will also be verrry interestingggg to see what it does to both Chinese and non-Chinese COVID numbers as the two populations mix in significant quantity for the first time in almost 3 years.

IIRC a stat was published just before the border slammed shut in 2020 that roughly 15,000 people traveled between just the US and China every single day. That volume isn’t going to ramp back up overnight, but IMO it’ll still rise pretty rapidly to a bunch. And even half that number will afford a lot of mixing. Given that travelers in both directions are overwhelming likely to be urban dwellers going to urban places in the other country, it’s lighting quite a thick fuze attached to quite a lot of fuel. We shall see.

This is a free article:

Thanks for starting this. May we have less news to put in it than in the previous ones.

It found that 1.9% of the study participants who received the original booster became infected. Among those who got the updated bivalent vaccine – the one that scientists hoped would work better – a higher percentage, 3.2%, became infected. Both versions of the shot were found to be safe.

This infection data was far from complete. The number of study subjects who became infected was very small, and both the patients and the researchers were aware of who was getting the original shot and who was getting the new booster.


Moderna has not settled on a price yet, but Bancel has said that a range of $110 to $130 a dose for the vaccine once the United States moves to a commercial market for the shots is reasonable given the value they create.

This is about 4 times current price.

Well here’s the latest “we told you so” coming from the anti-mask and anti-vaccine Republicans. You all might remember this doctor Leana Wen who was a regular contributor to CNN throughout at least most of 2020. Turns out that now she’s written a column where she hypothesizes that perhaps we are overcounting the number of deaths directly related to Covid.

Let’s go straight to Dr. Wen’s original op/ed in the Washington Post:

(No paywall, but page requires either an email entry or a non-cookie-collecting browser window for free reading)

Dr. Wen is not doing a 180, or now claiming that “It was all lies from the get-go! Lies!” Succinctly – she’s instead saying that new data requires new guidance and planning. Y’know … just doin’ science.

USA has been overcounting since hospitals get funding from counting a death as a Covid death.

China is likely undercounting.

Cite for this often argued point? What funding specifically?

A friend who works in a hospital specifically mentioned they were to record people dying who happened to have Covid as Covid deaths for funding purposes. That’s all I know.

It’s a big nuanced, but no, hospitals aren’t getting paid more if they report a death from COVID-19.

Unless this friend is the one doing the reporting and has been explicitly told by a supervisor to do this (i.e. first-hand information) then they are just as likely to be subject to rumor as anybody else on this matter.

My mother died of covid. But it’s one of 4 causes of death listed on her death certificate, because she had other health issues that were contributing factors. This is normal, and standard practice, and has been for years prior to the covid pandemic. Someone told me the average number of causes of death listed is about 2. If covid is a contributing factor in a death, it ought to be listed, even if some other issue was more important.

My gf’s 94 year old aunt was in a personal care home, with death imminent. They were testing everyone weekly and she had a positive test, without any clinical signs. We were unable to visit her and she died the day after the test.

I’ve never seen the death certificate.

FDA Outlines a Plan for Annual COVID Boosters

The reason I only quoted critical comments above is that they are in the paywalled New York Times story, but omitted but non-pay-walled articles like this:

This is a real challenge, because the public does not understand the process of science.
If a scientist changes their mind because new data comes in, this is a feature, not a bug. This is rather the whole point.

But many members of the public are confused by this. They want black and white thinking. They want certainty. They want unchanging dogma. Altering one’s opinion or thinking is an anathema to them. They distrust anyone who changes their minds in the face of conflicting data.

They want someone who doubles down on being wrong, and stands firm in the face of facts.

But i have to wonder when the number that gets the emphasis is 10%, (fraction of people who have covid whose primary reason for being hospitalized is covid) but the data says that it’s about 30%, and “on some days as low as 10%”. That suggests that on other days it’s more like 70%.

And the article points out that the 30% is an undercount, because it misses the people whose primary issue is something else, but for whom covid exacerbated that and sent them to the hospital. It mentions people with kidney disease pushed into kidney failure. It doesn’t mention that heart attacks and strokes are also more common in people “with covid”.

So yes, the total number of people who test positive for covid shortly before dying is an overcount. But 30% is an undercount, and the 10% is just clickbait.

(The 30% comes from Massachusetts, which tracks what fraction of hospitalized people who have covid are being treated with steroids for covid pneumonia, and published that number as a proxy for those who are hospitalized primarily for covid.)

Lol @ “asked.” Would make more sense to figure out the vaccine, start manufacturing it and tell Moderna they have ONE chance to drop the price or they get undercut. Same with the other manufacturers. Dunno about anyone else but I’m very tired of pharma companies producing something for a dollar and charging a thousand for it. I have no problems with a reasonable profit, but the way they use publicly funded research to generate privately held profits is shameful and needs to be broken once and for all. If Moderna wants to sue the US government well, good luck with that.

Winding down the public emergency in the US, which mostly seems to revolve around financial impacts right now. (It’s projected that far out, apparently, because of commitments to give certain notice before stopping some programs.)