COVID19 mini-update, February 6, 2021: two promising new Israeli drugs; Dr. Seheult on the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine; Israel’s former COVID19 czar says time to end lockdowns, let people get back to work

(1) Dr. Seheult has a video about the new one-shot vaccine developed in Belgium by Janssen Farmaceutica, now a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson

(2) Israel crossed the grim milestone of 5,000 dead, all of them “of” rather than just “with” COVID as our reporting rules are fairly stringent.

Yet there are signs of a change. For one, analysis of mortality by age bracket (by regularly monitoring this page of the Clalit HMO) reveals a significant decrease in mortality in the over-60 group (where over 80% have gotten the first Pfizer shot and a substantial portion have gotten the 2nd shot). Severe patients are slowly trending down, with (sources tell me) fewer older patients and an increase in young patients. The UK mutation appears to account for 70-80% of cases here now; the South African and Brazilian mutations are set to have been contained through an airport shutdown (just extended by two weeks).

The Maccabi HMO released further data on the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine. If anything, they look even better than the first batch.

As of Thursday, only 254 individuals out of the 416,900 who were already a week after the second Pfizer shot – the time where the immunity is considered to kick in – got infected with the virus, the organization reported. Moreover, those who were found to be positive only had light symptoms, with just four of them being hospitalized, all of them in light [read: “mild”] condition. Over the same period of time, some 12,944 new cases of COVID-19 emerged in the control group of some 778,000 people having a diverse health profile.

[…] From a segmentation of the infections that did occur, it appears that the immunity increases as the days go by. Among the 254 people who contracted the virus, 76 of them were infected after seven days, 44 on the eight day, and 24 on the ninth day. Between day 22 and 24 – when the test period ended – no one was infected.

Meanwhile, some very good news about two new experimental Israeli drugs, both originally developed as immunomodulators, achieving very good results with severe COVID19 patients.

EXO-CD24, developed by Prof. Nadir Arber at Sourasky Medical Center (still popularly known as Ichilov Hospital, the largest hospital in Tel-Aviv), was applied in a Phase 1 trial to 30 moderate to severe COVID19 patients, and 29 of them could be discharged from the hospital in 3 to 5 days. (H/t: Jeff Duntemann)

Allocetra by Enlivex (a macrophage modulator) achieved hospital discharges in 19 out of 21 critically ill COVID19 patients, average time to discharge 5.6 days. (The two remaining patients are alive but still in hospital.)

(3) Prof. Ronny Gamzu, CEO of Ichilov Hospital and former national “COVID19 czar”, says lockdowns have outlived any usefulness that might justify the economic damage they wreak. As the most vulnerable groups have reached high vaccination levels, it is time to let people get back to work.

Note that Gamzu (an economics professor at Tel Aviv U. as well as an obstetrician by training) fought tooth and nail against the 2nd national lockdown all summer until hospitals cried “Uncle!” as their ICUs (normally at an ebb that time of year) were packed to the rafters.

UPDATE: US Supreme Court, in 6-3 ruling: CA (mis)governor Gavin Newsom’s forced closures of places of worship is unconstitutional.

Last night, the Supreme Court ordered California to allow churches to resume indoor worship services. However, California is permitted to limit attendance to 25 percent capacity. In addition, the state’s ban on singing and chanting at religious services can remain in place for now.

The Court fractured over these matters. Justices Thomas and Gorsuch would have enjoined [=confusing legalese for prohibit, restrain] the entire set of restrictions imposed by California.

Justice Alito would have done so too after 30 days, unless California could “demonstrate[] clearly that nothing short of [its] measures will reduce the community spread of COVID–19 at indoor religious gatherings to the same extent as do the restrictions the State enforces with respect to other activities it classifies as essential.”

Like Thomas and Gorsuch, Justices Barrett and Kavanaugh would have have [barred] the state from limiting attendance at religious services. However, they would have kept the ban on singing and chanting in place for now.

[…] Chief Justice Roberts […] stated: “The State’s present determination — that the maximum number of adherents who can safely worship in the most cavernous cathedral is zero — appears to reflect not expertise or discretion, but instead insufficient appreciation or consideration of the interests at stake.”

But it’s Neil Gorsuch who’s really giving it with both barrels:

Meanwhile, the State allows most retail operations to proceed indoors with 25% occupancy, and other businesses to operate at 50% occupancy or more. Apparently, California is the only State in the country that has gone so far as to ban all indoor religious services. . . . The State tells us that worshippers are sure to seek close physical interactions. . . Yet, California is not as concerned with the close physical proximity of hairstylists or manicurists to their customers, whom they touch and remain near for extended periods. The State does not force them or retailers to do all their business in parking lots and parks. And California allows people to sit in relatively close proximity inside buses too. Nor, again, does California explain why the narrower options it thinks adequate in many secular settings— such as social distancing requirements, masks, cleaning, plexiglass barriers, and the like—cannot suffice here. Especially when those measures are in routine use in religious services across the country today.

California worries that worship brings people together for too much time. Yet, California does not limit its citizens to running in and out of other establishments; no one is barred from lingering in shopping malls, salons, or bus terminals. Nor, yet again, has California explained why more narrowly tailored options, like a reasonable limit on the length of indoor religious gatherings, would fail to meet its concerns.

I have my suspicions why not. And I am vicariously ashamed for my nominal coreligionists Breyer and Kagan for siding with Governor Noisome and taking the name of ‘science’ in vain.

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