Covid-19 Policy Update #633
CDC Recommends COVID-19 Vaccine in Routine Immunizations for Children 18 and Under: K12 Dive on the CDC Advisory released on Friday.
"While the recommendation does not mean vaccines will be required for school attendance — a requirement that is set by states — many states do look to the CDC for guidance on the issue and have routinely depended on the agency to set policy around COVID-19 precautions."
Fortifying Funding: How States Can Strengthen Education Finance Systems for the Future: Bellwether identifies four key insights about state education finance gleaned from the Great Recession and the COVID-19 Recession:
Education finance is contingent on the larger economy
State education funding cuts hit districts serving high-need students the hardest
Enrollment losses affect states and districts differently
Federal government intervention can lessen the impact of economic shocks
American Democracy and Pandemic Security: Strengthening the U.S. Pandemic Response in a Free Society: COVID Collaborative, the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, and the Brown School of Public Health released a new report.
"As a leading democracy, the United States possessed assets, such as highly sophisticated science and technology traditions, which should have enabled the nation to launch a rapid response and deploy interventions with laser-like focus on managing infectious disease outbreaks and biological events. But while the United States possessed many strengths, the pandemic placed excessive stress on its healthcare system, and the United States had a higher death rate than comparable countries because of leadership failings, because it had insufficient tools in its arsenal of public health measures, and because it used those tools too ineffectively"
"National crises have historically brought the country together. Yet, the United States was unable to organize cohesive leadership at the national, state, local, and tribal levels, and it failed to rapidly unify its citizens to act in solidarity to suppress the emerging pandemic and overcome preexisting health and other social inequities that exacerbated the toll of the pandemic. This was compounded by a lack of data and a dearth of public engagement to inform community responses to the virus, poor messaging, and the use of blunt tools that ultimately were not well adapted for community realities."
"More must be done to empower communities by providing a larger menu of options for responding to pandemics that can be tailored to their specific needs and values and that provide feedback loops from the public to adjust the response over time."
"As the pandemic progressed, it became clear that low-income communities and communities of color were disproportionately harmed by the virus. Lack of paid sick leave, adequate housing, and access to healthcare combined with systemic bias and low levels of trust contribute to these disproportionate impacts and undermine pandemic response efforts."
"Participants emphasized that state and local officials did not always have access to all of the data and information necessary to make decisions. The lack of data interoperability was flagged as the twenty-first-century equivalent of the nineteenth-century railroad gauge dilemma. This was compounded by a disjointed method of data collection, with multiple agencies collecting different sets of related data."
"One participant said the inquiry was ultimately “How do we most effectively influence the decisions of 300 million Americans in Covid-19 response?” Some participants felt that legitimate debate about the science, the virus, and the pandemic response was too quickly labeled as misinformation and that civil society did not always allow for enough dissent on scientific questions. Playing to U.S. strengths, including encouraging free and open debate, is important for community buy-in."
"Develop new, flexible tools and playbooks for pandemic response that empower communities and local leaders."
White House: President Biden has decided to name Federal Reserve Vice Chair Lael Brainard as his top economic adviser, with an announcement coming as soon as Tuesday, Bloomberg reports.
COVID Deaths 5-fold Lower After Bivalent vs Monovalent Booster: CIDRAP on a new CDC study.
"Recipients of the bivalent (two-strain) COVID-19 vaccine booster were 14 times less likely to die of Omicron BA.4/BA.5 infections than their unvaccinated peers and 5 times less likely to die than recipients of the monovalent (single-strain) booster, particularly among older people."
Paxlovid: A real-world effectiveness study documents 85% reduction of deaths and 55% reduction of hospitalizations for Paxlovid.
NYT: “Over the last few years, a new variant of H5N1 has spread widely through wild and domestic bird populations around the world. It has taken an unusually heavy toll on wild birds and repeatedly spilled over into mammals, such as foxes, raccoons and bears, that might feed on infected birds."
Stat: “Trying to predict what H5N1 will do in the human population absolutely requires a great deal of scientific humility,” cautioned Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. “I will never, ever, take H5N1 for granted,” he said.“I just don’t know what it’s going to do.”
We Still Don't Know How Best to Slow the Spread of COVID-19: Via Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz and Gavin Yamey in Time:
"When it comes to NPIs, every angry person online has a strong belief that if only we had spent more time promoting mask wearing, been more like Sweden with its government-sponsored healthcare and incredibly generous paid sick leave provisions, or done something, anything, better than we did, we could have averted the mass death, disability, and orphanhood that COVID-19 caused. However, given the lack of data, it’s remarkably hard to know exactly how we could have used NPIs more effectively."
"The most strident critics of government interventions and of public health measures during COVID-19 go so far as to say that the “cure was worse than the disease”—that is, they think NPIs killed more people than COVID-19 itself. Our research found no evidence for this assertion; we found that letting the virus rip through the population in an uncontrolled way was much deadlier, at least in the short term, than the most stringent NPIs, such as shelter-in-place orders."
"Nevertheless, as we previously argued, highly restrictive NPIs clearly caused harms. For example, prolonged shelter-in-place orders were linked with an increase in harmful alcohol use and domestic violence. However, there has been little in the way of research on the trade-offs—that is, on understanding the balance between the harms of uncontrolled viral transmission versus those of NPIs. And it can also be very difficult to distinguish the impacts of the pandemic itself from the harms of NPIs."
"There’s no doubt, for example, that prolonged school closures affected children’s mental health, but so did losing a parent or other caregiver to COVID-19."
"But the problem with all this complexity is that it is anathema to the tedious simplicity that surrounds most COVID-19 retrospection. It’s easy to argue that ill-defined “lockdowns” have caused unimaginable harm, or that even the most extreme, ongoing NPIs are a great idea. It is, however, far harder to ask difficult questions like “When is it reasonable to close schools due to infectious diseases?” or “Do stay-at-home orders have a marginal benefit or harm when coupled with a range of other NPIs?” or even “Could we have achieved the same reduction in cases with less damaging interventions?”
To Mask or Not to Mask: That Is (Somehow) Still a Question: Via Slate:
"Which brings us to the recent Cochrane Review, which considered whether physical interventions—including masks—reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. Cochrane Reviews are widely considered the gold standard of evidence-based medicine."
"Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference,” the review authors concluded of their work comparing masking with non-masking to prevent influenza or SARS‐CoV‐2. What’s more, even for health care workers providing routine care, “there were no clear differences” between medical or surgical masks versus N95s."
"But as the saying goes, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The review doesn’t show that masks definitely do not reduce the spread of COVID—only that studies to date have not proven that they do."
“The Cochrane Review tells us two important things. First, there have been very few high-quality studies examining the effectiveness of masks during the COVID pandemic, and second, from the little high-quality data we do have, we don’t see large impacts of masking in preventing viral infections on the population level,” Jennifer Nuzzo, director of the pandemic center at Brown University School of Public Health, told Slate. “This doesn’t necessarily mean masks don’t protect individuals. But it could mean that the way they’re used at the population level is not effective. We need more randomized trials to understand why.”
"Some mask proponents think the review should have included other kinds of evidence. Masks, they argue, are more like helmets than novel medications—there’s less potential harm. Indeed, observational, case-control, and mechanistic studies typically make masks look much better.”
“For example, a case-control study in California, published by the CDC, found that people who wore cloth masks, surgical masks, and N95 or KN95 respirators were 56 percent, 66 percent, and 83 percent less likely, respectively, to test positive for SARS-CoV-2. Unlike the Cochrane Review, several other systematic reviews that included evidence beyond RCTs have found that masks work well at the population level.”
Colorado: 9,000 children don’t show up in Colorado school data. Are they missing or in private school?
Maryland: "AfterFOX45’s Project Baltimore’s report uncovering 23 schools in Baltimore City had zero students who tested proficient in math, some leaders representing the city aren’t talking about the problem."
Babysitting Costs Skyrocket: Via Axios: "Babysitting rates rose 9.7% nationally in 2022 — a bit less than the 11% hike seen in 2021, but still outpacing inflation for the second year in a row."
Majority of Governors Highlight Child Care As Key to Workforce Growth: New report from the First Five Years Fund analyzed transcripts from 35 governor state-of-the-state addresses.
FFYF found that two-thirds of those governors devoted a portion of their remarks to the importance of investing in child care and early learning.
73% highlighted that investing in and expanding child care and pre-K is one of the best ways to introduce, or reintroduce, parents into the workforce and help the economy;
60% specifically cited the high cost of child care as a problem holding back working families or the economy;
One in four referenced the child care workforce, which is struggling to find, recruit, and retain new workers;
And one in three specifically mentioned tax credits as a way to help offset the cost for working parents.
Governors’ Priorities Align With Prepandemic Outlooks: Via K12 Dive, "The priorities governors outlined in their 2023 state-of-state speeches were nearly identical to those expressed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a K-12 Dive review of the most popular education-related topics compiled so far by the Education Commission of the States."
ESSER: Burbio on widely used terms in 5,300 ESSER III plans.
Teacher Shortages: Most of the US is dealing with a teaching shortage, but the data isn't so simple.
"Between October and the end of January, ABC News reached out by phone and email to the overarching education departments in all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands."
"For all 53, ABC News asked if they were experiencing any shortages or extreme staffing vacancies and, if so, what their greatest need was in terms of subject-matter position openings."
"As of Feb. 9, at least 39 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands -- 41 out of 53 surveyed -- reported ongoing shortages. Many also reported subject matter vacancies in areas such as physical and special education and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)."
Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent Taxation of Broadband Grants Reintroduced in the Senate, House
Coalition calls for multifamily properties in high-poverty areas to be automatically designated as unserved unless a broadband provider can prove otherwise.
Two-Thirds of Kids Struggle to Read, and We Know How to Fix It: Nicholas Kristof in the NYT.
“Too much reading instruction is not based on what the evidence says,” noted Nancy Madden, a professor at Johns Hopkins University who is an expert on early literacy. “That’s pretty clear. At least half of kids in the U.S. are not getting effective reading instruction.”
New Category of Personalized Learning AI Tools From Microsoft Education: Microsoft introduced "Learning Accelerators – a new category of learning tools that help support and streamline the creation, review, and analysis of student progress and development across academic subjects."
"Learning Accelerators include both Coach tools and Progress tools. The Coach tools provide students real-time coaching and opportunities for self-directed learning."
"The Progress tools are designed to help teachers personalize assignments as well as feedback and instruction assisted by actionable insights."
National Anthem: Chris Stapleton performed an amazing rendition for the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl Ad Shows How Pups 'Make Our Lives Better': Emotional ad by the Farmer's Dog. Also took the top slot in the Super Bowl ad meter.