Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
The casualties of misinformation.
Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
The casualties of misinformation.
This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.
Credit…The New York Times
Pfizer and BioNTech submitted data showing that Covid shots are safe in 5- to 11-year-olds.
Health care workers in New York rushed to get vaccinated, averting a staffing crisis.
A C.D.C. study found that side effects from a third vaccine dose are similar to those from the second.
When misinformation harms horses
For more than a year, misinformation about ivermectin — a drug used to kill parasites in dogs, chickens and other patients — has run rampant across social media, podcasts and talk radio. Proponents claim it’s a treatment for the coronavirus, even as the F.D.A. has warned against its use.
The inaccuracies have had real-world consequences. Some people have overdosed on certain formulations of the drug. Now, as my colleague Erin Woo reports, a run on the drug is straining the supply for veterinarians, ranchers and farmers who rely on it to treat animals.
Jeffers, a national retailer of animal supplies, recently raised the price of ivermectin paste to $6.99 a tube from $2.99. Overwhelmed by orders, one farm supply store in Las Vegas started selling the medicine only to customers who could prove they had a horse. In California, a rancher was told the backlog of orders was so large that she was 600th in line for the next batch.
These experiences underscore the concrete effects of misinformation and how far the fallout can spread, said Kolina Koltai, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies online conspiracy theories.
“It doesn’t just affect the communities that believe in misinformation,” she said. “This is something that’s affecting even people who don’t have a stake in the vaccine — it’s affecting horses.”
Misinformation about ivermectin as a potential Covid cure began proliferating just weeks after the pandemic hit, based on preliminary findings in studies that found that it could kill the virus. Other studies showed beneficial effects, but at least one of those was later retracted.
Inaccurate information has since flourished on social media sites like Reddit and Facebook, which is a popular platform for people discussing how to acquire the drug, and how to calculate doses.
“Ivermectin paste do you take orally or rub into skin?” read one recent post in a Facebook group. A commenter responded: “Put it on a cracker with a dab of peanut butter.”
Facebook said it prohibited the sale of prescription products, including drugs and pharmaceuticals, across its platforms, including in ads. But the groups on the site also funnel members into alternative platforms where content moderation policies are more lax.
Dr. Karen Emerson, a veterinarian who owns the Emerson Animal Hospital in West Point, Miss., has watched as her supply of the drug dwindles.
“If I have another flock of chickens with leg mites, I’m not going to be able to help them,” she said. “And then I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
A week that could shape the pandemic response
It’s a pivotal week in Washington as the Democrats in Congress work to advance President Biden’s domestic agenda, while scrambling to fund the government and raise the debt limit. To understand how these political battles could affect the government’s response to the pandemic, I checked in with Abby Goodnough, the domestic policy editor in The Times’s Washington bureau.
On the Democrats’ docket is an ambitious social policy bill, which would be the most significant expansion of the nation’s safety net since the war on poverty in the 1960s.
Under one piece of the plan, some four million poor adults in about 12 states would gain health insurance coverage. Most of these people are in the South, where political leaders have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This is an alternative way to cover those people, through a federal program, Abby said.
Earlier in the pandemic, Congress provided temporary insurance subsidies for middle-class people, and the Democrats’ plan would extend those subsidies.
“As long as this pandemic lasts, it’s important for people to have health coverage in case they should contract the coronavirus, or suffer from long Covid, or any other ill effects from the virus,” Abby said. “Especially as more and more virus-related care is no longer free, as it was early on in the pandemic.”
At the same time as Democrats are working on their social safety net bill (and an infrastructure plan that is coming up for a vote on Thursday), they’re also locked in a budget fight with Republicans.
Congress has until midnight Thursday to fund the government. If it doesn’t meet that deadline, then agencies will begin to furlough federal workers or force others, like those at the T.S.A., to work without pay. So far, Republicans have blocked Democratic measures to fund the government because it would require raising the debt limit, which they say they are not willing to do.
When asked whether a shutdown would affect the country’s pandemic response, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that many public health officials would be exempt from the shutdown, and continue to work.
Even so, Abby said, “the optics look worse than usual.”
“It’s never ideal to be in an emergency situation — racing to keep the government from running out of money and fighting over it,” she said. “But it’s even less ideal for Congress to be wrangling over these things at a time when we’re still fighting a pandemic that shows few signs of going away.”
Are you dealing with social anxiety?
As we head into fall, some of us will look back fondly on our “post-vax” summer as a time of outings with friends, family reunions, or a return to dating from the isolation of Covid-19 restrictions. But the last few months have come with an unexpected downside: social anxiety.
Getting back into the old routines of life has been surprisingly unsettling for some — even for those who have never struggled in social settings. Previously effortless friendships may feel strained. Small events or brief social interactions may leave you stressed, or drained. And then, there might be unease about a return to the office.
If you’ve recently found it difficult to navigate certain social activities, especially when you might not have in prepandemic days, we’d love to hear from you.
We’d also like to know about ways you may have found to cope with social anxiety.
If you’d like to share your experiences, you can fill out this form here. We may use your response in an upcoming newsletter.
What else we’re following
The F.D.A. may not decide on authorizing the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 until November, a month later than anticipated, The Wall Street Journal reports.
A survey found that the fear of Delta, more than rewards or mandates, is motivating Americans to get shots.
Incentives in the U.S. for getting Covid shots won’t apply to boosters, except in some places.
War-battered Syria is facing its worst surge yet in infections.
Japan will lift its state of emergency as inoculations rise and cases drop.
The wife of Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, got vaccinated on their trip to New York for the U.N. General Assembly last week.
In Opinion, a writer argues that post-pandemic, the future of work should mean working less.
What you’re doing
I live in Vermont and work in a popular restaurant. We’ve been adapting for the pandemic since we reopened in June of 2020. The most recent adaptation is to require Covid-19 vaccination cards at the door, and require all of our employees to be vaccinated. Needless to say it’s been a controversial policy. We’ve been really beat up on social media but mostly applauded by the folks coming in. We’ve had a number of people who hadn’t been out in months, but told us they feel safe enough at the restaurant to relax and enjoy themselves. Although I don’t like being in the middle of the controversy, I like that we can do that for people. I personally feel a whole lot safer at work, and worry less about bringing the virus home to my young grandson.
— April Paulsen Curtis, Brattleboro, Vt.
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