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In today's edition:

  • Cases anywhere are a concern everywhere
  • The AIDS pandemic is far from over—but it has a lot to teach us
  • Vaccines versus Skittles production
New Hot Spots Are a National Concern
This year, ‘hot spots’ aren’t must-visit summer vacation destinations, but the locations where COVID-19 cases are peaking in the US.
 
What’s to blame? Progress in vaccination campaigns have slowed and the delta variant is spreading fast. An analysis conducted by Johns Hopkins and NPR suggests hot spots are emerging in the South, the Midwest, and the West, due to “dangerously low vaccination rates.”
 
Key takeaways:
  • 18 states have greater numbers of new infections compared to last month. 
    • Daily cases have doubled in Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
  • County-level trends are helping researchers understand what’s driving the rise in cases at the state and national level.
  • Dramatic case rises are being seen in rural areas and small towns.
    • Newton County, Mo., has seen a 182% increase in new infections; Nacogdoches County, Texas, has seen a 632% increase. Ottawa County, Okla., has seen infections soar 828%.
  • While the national vaccination rate is 47.6%, it’s substantially lower in many hot-spot counties:
    • Ottawa County, Okla.: 24% 
    • Utah County, Utah: 32% 
    • Newton County, Mo.: 17%  
The delta factor: A fall surge was inevitable, but the delta variant was a “game changer,” pushing that projected surge into the summer, says Ali Mokdad, a researcher with the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. 
 
This means deaths could rise from their current rate of about 200 per day to over 1,000 by fall. 
 
“Localized flare-ups in unvaccinated areas could spread regionally,” says Jeniffer Nuzzo. “As long as we keep seeing case increases in any part of the country, it remains a national crisis.”
 
Experts are hoping that hot-spot communities will see these numbers as a wake-up call to get vaccinated. 
 
READ THE NPR ARTICLE
Related: Will There be a Resurgence of COVID-19 in the Fall?
The 40th Anniversary of AIDS and Lessons For the COVID-19 Pandemic
On June 5, 1981, the CDC identified a cluster of five cases of a rare pneumonia occurring in previously healthy young, homosexual men in the US. Forty years later, despite great advances in therapies for prevention and extending life expectancy and quality of life, the AIDS pandemic is still growing in some places and killing millions around the world. Epidemiologist Chris Beyrer, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Center for AIDS research, talks with Stephanie Desmon about the work that still needs to be done, what we’ve learned from the AIDS pandemic, and how we need to apply these lessons to the global COVID-19 response. 
 
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST
TOMORROW ON THE PODCAST:
How COVID-19 May Change Our Culture For Good
The COVID-19 pandemic will change our culture in all kinds of ways, both concrete and conceptual. Coming to work if you’re sick, for example, may hopefully be a thing of the past, while normalizing mask use during COVID surges may become part of our new future. Conceptually, our culture is changing as more people become aware of how social determinants of health like housing, employment, and education are directly tied to people’s well-being. Former New York City health commissioner Oxiris Barbot talks with Josh Sharfstein about these and other cultural changes we may see in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Say It With Flowers
Hopkins physician Panagis Galiatsatos received a touching letter—and a beautiful watercolor of an iris—from a retired nurse. She read in The Washington Post how he routinely gave out his personal email address at virtual town halls to answer pandemic-related questions, hoping his responses might trickle out to a wider audience. 
 
“I have chosen ‘Iris’ which symbolizes ‘message,’” she wrote. “... This painting is my way of saying thank you.” 
Knowing everyone’s vaccination status helps reduce potential risk during activities. Our experts outline guidance on how and when you should inquire about someone’s vaccination status. Click here to learn more.
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What's larger: the number of Skittles produced in a single day, or the number of people with at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose in the U.S.?
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What To Know About The Johnson & Johnson COVID Vaccine And Guillain-Barre Syndrome (The Huffington Post)
The U.S. FDA has added a new warning for the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus shot, after a handful of people developed Guillain-Barre syndrome following vaccination. The link appears to be an “extremely rare occurrence and one in which the risk-benefit ratio still strongly favors the vaccine,” says Amesh Adalja
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