Daily Dose: Wave of European lockdowns continues; Novel healthcare approach adopts elements of video games.

Things look to be getting worse before they get better in the Western world’s struggle to control their COVID-19 pandemics. The much dreaded winter second wave has claimed new victims. Over the weekend, the United Kingdom announced an extensive lockdown. Now, the largest European economy is joining the wave of shutdowns. “Germany began a month-long partial lockdown on Monday as part of efforts to curb the momentum of the coronavirus that has infected half a million people across the country. As the new so-called “lockdown light” came into force, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases announced a drop in cases, with just over 12,000 new infections, though the figure is often lower on the first day of the week as not all health authorities report on the weekend.” Schools remain open in most of the European shutdowns. https://bit.ly/2TLu5Wr

In case anyone in the United States was unaware about what is at stake in the upcoming election, STAT outlines what is at stake for America’s once revered scientific institutions. “It’s impossible to overstate the impact of Tuesday’s presidential election on the health and science landscape… The divergent positions of President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on these issues may be central to the outcome of the election and will likely impact every element of the American medical and scientific worlds.” Four more years of undercutting science will undoubtedly cripple America’s scientific community along with its standing in the world. https://bit.ly/383SRcH

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a broad and growing acceptance of digital healthcare products. Health-tech companies are taking advantage and making their move. In the process, alternative approaches are being tried out. In one case, this entails including video game aspects. Per Fierce Biotech, “With plans to use video game elements to build care programs for multiple chronic diseases and conditions, SidekickHealth has raised $20 million in venture capital to support its projects… Sidekick combines artificial intelligence and behavioral economics—along with gamification measures to reward lifestyle changes—to help users digitally manage their nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress and adherence to medications.” Innovation isn’t always guaranteed to work, but is always welcome. https://bit.ly/3mJih3f

Why have governments that have returned to lockdown decided to keep schools open? An article in Nature explains the data, analysis, and reasoning behind those decisions. “Data gathered worldwide are increasingly suggesting that schools are not hot spots for coronavirus infections. Despite fears, COVID-19 infections did not surge when schools and day-care centres reopened after pandemic lockdowns eased. And when outbreaks do occur, they mostly result in only a small number of people becoming ill. However, research also shows that children can catch the virus and shed viral particles, and older children are more likely than very young kids to pass it on to others. Scientists say that the reasons for these trends are unclear, but they have policy implications for older children and teachers.” https://go.nature.com/385b1uM

As countries try to adopt a more environmentally conscious stance, it’s becoming clear that all they’re really not doing too well. Plastic pollution in the United States is actually much worse than previous studies have indicated, thanks to an accounting problem. Per the Associated Press, “Previous studies hadn’t put the United States among the 10 worst offending nations for plastic waste in oceans. That’s because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only tracks what goes into official parts of the waste stream such as landfills and recycling centers, and its data doesn’t capture the dirtier aspects of plastic trash disposal, study authors said.” Plastics are turning up on roads, rivers, and oceans with no signs of letting up. https://bit.ly/3mIQDUb

With the loud shouts coming from the anti-vax communities, it’s natural to come to the conclusion that an increasing number of people are forgoing routine vaccines. However, a new study based in the U.S. makes the case that it isn’t all doom and gloom. According to the study’s authors, “We found an overall change of at least 30% in proportion willing to vaccinate as risk of infection increases. When considering morbidity information, the proportion willing to vaccinate went from 0.476 (0.449–0.503) at 0 local cases of disease to 0.871 (0.852–0.888) at 100 local cases (upper and lower 95% confidence intervals). When considering mortality information, the proportion went from 0.526 (0.494–0.557) at 0 local cases of disease to 0.916 (0.897–0.931) at 100 local cases. In addition, we found that the risk of mortality invokes a larger proportion willing to vaccinate than mere morbidity (P = 0.0002), that older populations are more willing than younger (P<0.0001), that the highest income bracket (>$90,000) is more willing than all others (P = 0.0001), that men are more willing than women (P = 0.0011), and that the proportion willing to vaccinate is related to both ideology and the level of risk (P = 0.004).” While it is a bit of promising news, public health workers must remain vigilant against anti-vax propaganda. https://bit.ly/3oXpe2X

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