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The Filtrate: Second Waves, Trust Issues, and Electoral Dysfunction

Another week of 2020 has passed, so it’s time to open up the news filter and take a cautious look at what’s trickled through.

Catching the new wave

The big news this week, of course, is that COVID-19 case counts continue to rise all over the US. Even states that brought the pandemic under a modicum of control over the summer are now struggling against a second wave of infections. That’s leading to bizarre conflicts over inter-state travel, including restrictions within the closely interconnected Northeast. Driving down the street from my home in Massachusetts to visit Connecticut now starts a 24-hour timer; if I don’t leave the Nutmeg State within that time, I either have to quarantine myself or face a $500 fine.

The good news is that these conflicts will probably resolve themselves soon. The bad news is that the reason they’ll resolve themselves is that case counts are rising across the whole region, so it’s only a matter of weeks before we’re all just one big plague zone.

Who regulates the regulators?

Fortunately, there are several promising COVID-19 vaccines now in late stage clinical trials, offering hope that we could get ourselves out of this mess sometime soon. The stakes couldn’t be higher, as members of a key FDA advisory group recently discussed. While there’s immense pressure to get a vaccine approved fast, the advisors emphasized that it also has to be done right. Public trust in the US federal government is shaky at the moment (with good reason), and a vaccine that gets rushed to market only to fail later would crush what little faith people still have in the system.

That’s already happening with anti-SARS-CoV-2 drug development. In pushing Gilead’s remdesivir as a COVID-19 treatment, the FDA bypassed its usual processes and ignored substantial evidence that this therapy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

If you experience a prolonged election…

At least there’s a chance to change management at the top soon, right? While it’s great that we have the opportunity to shift control of the world’s most powerful nation back to responsible adults, the uncertainty of that outcome is stressful. That type of stress isn’t good for anyone, as a new report in PNAS shows. Looking at data on cardiovascular disease hospitalizations, the researchers found a significant uptick in heart trouble immediately after the 2016 election, compared to the incidence of the same conditions before the election. Please remember to vote, and please take care of yourself regardless of the outcome next week.

That’s all for this time. As always, if you have a story you think will fit through our filter, please let us know directly or post a comment below.