The Daily Dose: Reopening cities too soon may facilitate second wave; Squatting > Sitting

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Much of the world is attempting to return to work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Nobody knows how efforts will end up once most countries complete their moves to reopen. A team of researchers looked for clues by studying the effects of social distancing. They used synthetic location-specific contact patterns in Wuhan and adapted these in the presence of school closures, extended workplace closures, and a reduction in mixing in the general community. According to the Lancet paper, “Restrictions on activities in Wuhan, if maintained until April, would probably help to delay the epidemic peak. Our projections suggest that premature and sudden lifting of interventions could lead to an earlier secondary peak, which could be flattened by relaxing the interventions gradually. However, there are limitations to our analysis, including large uncertainties around estimates of R0 and the duration of infectiousness.”

A running theme during the coronavirus pandemic has been the disproportionate suffering experienced by disenfranchised communities around the world. Even before the outbreak, the six-year (and still on-going) civil war made the country ripe for disease. Cholera plagued communities, causing over 400 deaths. COVID-19 may be the lethal blow. As per Science, “After staging massive aid operations in Yemen over the past few years, the United Nations is running out of cash as donations from member countries—busy battling COVID-19 on their own turf—dry up. ‘Tragically, we do not have enough money to continue’ the relief work, the heads of the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and other U.N. agencies write in an urgent call to donors issued today.”

Anti-quarantine voices have used herd immunity as a rallying cry for months. It’s the scientific bedrock that is used to support their socio-political assertions, e.g. life, liberty, and the American way. A series of visualizations exposes near-term COVID-19 herd immunity as a pipe dream. As per the New York Times, “In new studies that test the population more broadly, the percentage of people who have been infected so far is still in the single digits. The numbers are a fraction of the threshold known as herd immunity, at which the virus can no longer spread widely. The precise herd immunity threshold for the novel coronavirus is not yet clear; but several experts said they believed it would be higher than 60 percent.” The images really do communicate how much more is needed to reach the herd immunity finish line. We’re not even on the straightaway.

Chickens have long been believed to have dominated the winged-animal domestication game. However, new evidence indicates that it had company in Neolithic factory farms. As per Scientific American, “New research suggests that another species was once a strong contender to become the world’s favorite poultry: ancient bird remains in China have turned out to be not from the first domesticated chickens, as researchers long assumed, but from pheasants. The study further indicates that wild pheasants lived side by side with people, shedding light on the early domestication process.”

We’ve always looked at so-called brain foods with more than a little suspicion. Turns out, food may play a role in the development of dementia. It comes down to energy, ie. the reliance on glucose vs ketones. As per a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, “Together, our results suggest that brain network destabilization may reflect early signs of hypometabolism, associated with dementia. Dietary interventions resulting in ketone utilization increase available energy and thus may show potential in protecting the aging brain.”

Believe it or not, it’s the weekend. Yes, we know, lockdown has turned the entire week into a messy blur. If you can, set some time aside to do some squatting. Turns out even inactive squats do wonders for your muscles. A group of researchers studied sedentary behavior among Hunter-Gatherers. Their findings, published in PNAS, are surprising. “We show that hunter-gatherers have high levels of total nonambulatory time (mean ± SD = 9.90 ± 2.36 h/d), similar to those found in industrialized populations. However, nonambulatory time in Hadza adults often occurs in postures like squatting, and we show that these “active rest” postures require higher levels of lower limb muscle activity than chair sitting.“ The researchers tie their discoveries together in what they call the Inactivity Mismatch Hypothesis. According to the authors, human physiology is likely adapted to more consistently active muscles derived from both physical activity and from nonambulatory postures with higher levels of muscle contraction.

Thanks for reading. Be kind to someone. As always, let’s be careful out there.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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