AURORA | Just like old times, top headlines over the past several days include famous people testing positive for COVID-19, including the First Lady and Colorado’s lieutenant governor.

And, as they have multiple times in the years since the novel coronavirus pandemic has descended on Colorado and the metroplex, cases and hospitalizations are going up.

But this is not our former pandemic, health officials say. At least not yet.

COVID-19 hospital admissions have been inching upward in Colorado and across the United States since early July. It’s a small-scale echo of the three previous summers. Just over 9,000 people were admitted to U.S. hospitals in early August, which was up by about 12% from the previous month.

Colorado Department of Health COVID infection statistics for last week.

Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment said in a statement that the state is monitoring the rise in cases using a variety of data sources, including wastewater testing, hospitalizations and other information.

“Colorado is experiencing an increase in COVID-19, similar to the country overall, as seen in our hospitalization and sentinel percent positivity data,” the statement said. “Thankfully, however, hospitalizations remain low overall.”

This week, Colorado hospitals reported about 100 cases of COVID in admitted patients, a shadow of the nearly 1,600 hospitalized cases that overwhelmed health care workers just two years ago.

For now, deaths appear to be stable. U.S. health officials say they’ll keep a close eye on wastewater levels as students go back to school. The amount of virus in wastewater across the nation has been rising since late June.

This is all a far cry from past national COVID peaks, like the 44,000 weekly hospital admissions in early January, the nearly 45,000 in late July 2022, or the 150,000 admissions during the omicron surge of January 2022, according to disease databases.

“It is ticking up a little bit, but it’s not something that we need to raise any alarm bells over,” said Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

It’s likely that infections are rising too, but the data is scant. Federal authorities ended the public health emergency in May, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many states no longer track the number of positive test results.

COVID-19 cases in Arapahoe County, as well in the state have been increasing. As of Aug. 28, 112 Coloradans were hospitalized for COVID-19. In August, 55 Arapahoe County residents were reportedly hospitalized, according to Jennifer Ludwig, the county’s public health director. 

“At this time, Arapahoe County Public Health does not anticipate any widespread county or school closures, public health orders or mandates. However, we do know that throughout the respiratory season, we may need to take actions to reduce the spread of illness,” Ludwig said in an email. 

Colorado Department of Health report on wastewater analysis of COVID, by wastewater district. Red indicates relatively large increases in COVID detection, Pink indicates a steady increase in COVID detection, and blue indicates a decrease.

Adams County Health Department medical officer Bernadette Albanese described the local bump in COVID-19 cases as a “mini-surge” and said coronavirus infections are expected to increase along with other respiratory infections such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus heading into the fall.

“It’s real, and it’s going to be real in Adams County,” she said. “People need to be very proactive. If you’re sick, test yourself for COVID. It’s the best way to know what’s going on and to know what your next steps might look like in terms of taking care of yourself and then protecting others around you.”

The reality has set in hard with recent news about First Lady Jill Biden testing positive for COVID-19 and Colorado Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera also announcing an infection.

Albanese said Adams County has not established benchmarks for when certain public health mandates, like rules around masking, would go into effect. The landscape of data collection has also changed since the height of the pandemic.

She said data collected from hospitals has become more important as at-home testing has become more common. A network of labs across the state and wastewater monitoring stations also help provide current information about positivity.

Albanese said the county does not expect that it will have to roll out such mandates, though she called masking rules in sensitive areas such as hospitals “common sense” and said the county will support institutions that enforce their own mask rules.

Promoting vaccines for COVID-19, RSV and the flu will be a major part of the county’s strategy, with the plan being that coronavirus vaccines will be covered by insurance, similar to flu shots, or otherwise offered through programs such as the federally-funded Vaccines for Children program. Masks and other items of personal protective equipment are available in stores.

She encouraged people who are concerned about the risk of illness to pick up a mask and said those who believe they may be sick should stay home for at least five days. People who believe they have been exposed to COVID should test themselves right away and then again after three to five days, and anyone showing symptoms should get tested.

“We don’t repeat these messages for nothing; we repeat them because they’re important,” Albanese said. “These are the personal things that you can do for yourself, loved ones and members of your family to try to get through this respiratory season as well as possible and hopefully without illness.”

The state health department  also recommends that residents stay home if sick; pick up tests from a health care provider, local pharmacy or community testing site; regularly wash their hands; consider wearing a mask; get vaccinated for COVID-19 yearly; and talk to their doctors about whether they might need medicine in the event of an infection. The state said in its statement that shots are expected to be available by the end of September. 

Spokespeople from Aurora Public School District and Cherry Creek School District said they would continue to follow county and state guidelines. 

If students or staff are feeling sick, they are encouraged to stay home. 

Corey Christiansen, public information officer for APS, said that students who test positive for COVID-19 should report their test results to the school nurse. Staff who test positive should report their test results to the school nurse as well as their supervisor. Students and staff must be isolated for five days. They may return to school after being fever free for 24 hours, but are encouraged to wear face masks. 

“Due to changes in federal funding and supplying  COVID-19 vaccines, accessing COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatment will look different this year. Primary care providers, medical offices and pharmacies should be the first stop for anyone with private insurance looking for vaccines, tests or treatment,” the Arapahoe County Public Health Department said. 

Arapahoe County residents without insurance, are underinsured or on Medicaid are encouraged to contact the Arapahoe County Public Health clinic at 303-734-5445. Information from the state about testing, treatments, vaccines and more is available at

— Maxy Levy and Kristin Oh, Sentinel staff writers

A sign announcing a face mask requirement. Recent increases are a small-scale echo of the three previous summers. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Covid Deaths continue without much fanfare

Since early June, about 500 to 600 people have died each week. The number of deaths appears to be stable this summer, although past increases in deaths have lagged behind hospitalizations.

The amount of the COVID-19 virus in sewage water has been rising since late June across the nation. In the coming weeks, health officials say they’ll keep a close eye on wastewater levels as people return from summer travel and students go back to school.

Higher levels of COVID-19 in wastewater concentrations are being found in the Northeast and South, said Cristin Young, an epidemiologist at Biobot Analytics, the CDC’s wastewater surveillance contractor.

“It’s important to remember right now the concentrations are still fairly low,” Young said, adding it’s about 2.5 times lower than last summer.

And while one version of omicron — EG.5 — is appearing more frequently, no particular variant of the virus is dominant. The variant has been dubbed “eris” but it’s an unofficial nickname and scientists aren’t using it.

“There are a couple that we’re watching, but we’re not seeing anything like delta or omicron,” Young said, referencing variants that fueled previous surges.

And mutations in the virus don’t necessarily make it more dangerous.

“Just because we have a new subvariant doesn’t mean that we are destined to have an increase in bad outcomes,” Dowdy said.

This fall, officials expect to see updated COVID-19 vaccines that contain one version of the omicron strain, called XBB.1.5. It’s an important change from today’s combination shots, which mix the original coronavirus strain with last year’s most common omicron variants.

It’s not clear exactly when people can start rolling up their sleeves for what officials hope is an annual fall COVID-19 shot. Pfizer, Moderna and smaller manufacturer Novavax all are brewing doses of the XBB update but the Food and Drug Administration will have to sign off on each, and the CDC must then issue recommendations for their use.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the new CDC director, said she expects people will get their COVID-19 shots where they get their flu shots — at pharmacies and at work — rather than at dedicated locations that were set up early in the pandemic as part of the emergency response.

“This is going to be our first fall and winter season coming out of the public health emergency, and I think we are all recognizing that we are living with COVID, flu, and RSV,” Cohen told The Associated Press last week. “But the good news is we have more tools than ever before.”

— AP Medical Writers Lauran Neergaard and Mike Stobbe contributed to this report.

COVID-19 took a toll on heart health and doctors are still grappling with how to help

Firefighter and paramedic Mike Camilleri once had no trouble hauling heavy gear up ladders. Now battling long COVID, he gingerly steps onto a treadmill to learn how his heart handles a simple walk.

“This is, like, not a tough-guy test so don’t fake it,” warned Beth Hughes, a physical therapist at Washington University in St. Louis.

Somehow, a mild case of COVID-19 set off a chain reaction that eventually left Camilleri with dangerous blood pressure spikes, a heartbeat that raced with slight exertion, and episodes of intense chest pain.

He’s far from alone. How profound a toll COVID-19 has taken on the nation’s heart health is only starting to emerge, years into the pandemic.

“We are seeing effects on the heart and the vascular system that really outnumber, unfortunately, effects on other organ systems,” said Dr. Susan Cheng, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

It’s not only an issue for long COVID patients like Camilleri. For up to a year after a case of COVID-19, people may be at increased risk of developing a new heart-related problem, anything from blood clots and irregular heartbeats to a heart attack –- even if they initially seem to recover just fine.

Among the unknowns: Who’s most likely to experience these aftereffects? Are they reversible — or a warning sign of more heart disease later in life?

“We’re about to exit this pandemic as even a sicker nation” because of virus-related heart trouble, said Washington University’s Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, who helped sound the alarm about lingering health problems. The consequences, he added, “will likely reverberate for generations.”

Heart disease has long been the top killer in the nation and the world. But in the U.S., heart-related death rates had fallen to record lows in 2019, just before the pandemic struck.

COVID-19 erased a decade of that progress, Cheng said.

Heart attack-caused deaths rose during every virus surge. Worse, young people aren’t supposed to have heart attacks but Cheng’s research documented a nearly 30% increase in heart attack deaths among 25- to 44-year-olds in the pandemic’s first two years.

An ominous sign the trouble may continue: High blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and “people’s blood pressure has actually measurably gone up over the course of the pandemic,” she said.

Cardiovascular symptoms are part of what’s known as long COVID, the catchall term for dozens of health issues including fatigue and brain fog. The National Institutes of Health is beginning small studies of a few possible treatments for certain long COVID symptoms, including a heartbeat problem.

But Cheng said patients and doctors alike need to know that sometimes, cardiovascular trouble is the first or main symptom of damage the coronavirus left behind.

“These are individuals who wouldn’t necessarily come to their doctor and say, ‘I have long COVID,’” she said.

In St. Louis, Camilleri first developed shortness of breath and later a string of heart-related and other symptoms after a late 2020 bout of COVID-19. He tried different treatments from multiple doctors to no avail, until winding up at Washington University’s long COVID clinic.

“Finally a turn in the right direction,” said the 43-year-old Camilleri.

There, he saw Dr. Amanda Verma for worsening trouble with his blood pressure and heart rate. Verma is part of a cardiology team that studied a small group of patients with perplexing heart symptoms like Camilleri’s, and found abnormalities in blood flow may be part of the problem.

How? Blood flow jumps when people move around and subsides during rest. But some long COVID patients don’t get enough of a drop during rest because the fight-or-flight system that controls stress reactions stays activated, Verma said.

Some also have trouble with the lining of their small blood vessels not dilating and constricting properly to move blood through, she added.

Hoping that helped explain some of Camilleri’s symptoms, Verma prescribed some heart medicines that dilate blood vessels and others to dampen that fight-or-flight response.

Back in the gym, Hughes, a physical therapist who works with long COVID patients, came up with a careful rehab plan after the treadmill test exposed erratic jumps in Camilleri’s heart rate.

“We’d see it worse if you were not on Dr. Verma’s meds,” Hughes said, showing Camilleri exercises to do while lying down and monitoring his heart rate. “We need to rewire your system” to normalize that fight-or-flight response.

Camilleri said he noticed some improvement as Verma mixed and matched prescriptions based on his reactions. But then a second bout with COVID-19 in the spring caused even more health problems, a disability that forced him to retire.

How big is the post-COVID heart risk? To find out, Al-Aly analyzed medical records from a massive Veterans Administration database. People who’d survived COVID-19 early in the pandemic were more likely to experience abnormal heartbeats, blood clots, chest pain and palpitations, even heart attacks and strokes up to a year later compared to the uninfected. That includes even middle-aged people without prior signs of heart disease

Based on those findings, Al-Aly estimated 4 of every 100 people need care for some kind of heart-related symptom in the year after recovering from COVID-19.

Per person, that’s a small risk. But he said the pandemic’s sheer enormity means it added up to millions left with at least some cardiovascular symptom. While a reinfection might still cause trouble, Al-Aly’s now studying whether that overall risk dropped thanks to vaccination and milder coronavirus strains.

More recent research confirms the need to better understand and address these cardiac aftershocks. An analysis this spring of a large U.S. insurance database found long COVID patients were about twice as likely to seek care for cardiovascular problems including blood clots, abnormal heartbeats or stroke in the year after infection, compared to similar patients who’d avoided COVID-19.

A post-infection link to heart damage isn’t that surprising, Verma noted. She pointed to rheumatic fever, an inflammatory reaction to untreated strep throat –- especially before antibiotics were common — that scars the heart’s valves.

“Is this going to become the next rheumatic heart disease? We don’t know,” she said.

But Al-Aly says there’s a simple take-home message: You can’t change your history of COVID-19 infections but if you’ve ignored other heart risks –- like high cholesterol or blood pressure, poorly controlled diabetes or smoking -– now’s the time to change that.

“These are the ones we can do something about. And I think they’re more important now than they were in 2019,” he said.


COVID-19 may be more likely to cause high blood pressure than the flu

COVID-19 may increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, even more so than the flu, new research suggests.

The analysis, published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, may be the first to examine the development of and risk factors for high blood pressure in people infected with COVID-19 versus the flu, a similar respiratory virus.

The findings are “alarming” and suggest more people could develop high blood pressure in the future, creating “a major public health burden,” the study’s senior author, Tim Q. Duong, said in a news release. Duong is a professor of radiology and vice chair for radiology research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System in New York.

“These findings should heighten awareness to screen at-risk patients for hypertension after COVID-19 illness to enable earlier identification and treatment for hypertension-related complications, such as cardiovascular and kidney disease,” he said.

Researchers analyzed health records from Montefiore Health System in New York City. The study included thousands of people with a COVID-19 infection between March 2020 and August 2022, and thousands more with influenza but not COVID-19 between January 2018 and into 2022. All the patients returned for a follow-up within three to nine months after testing positive for COVID-19 or influenza.

The analysis found that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were more than twice as likely to develop persistent hypertension than those in the hospital with the flu virus. People with COVID-19 who were not hospitalized were 1.5 times more likely to develop persistent hypertension than their flu counterparts.

People with COVID-19 at higher risk of developing high blood pressure were older, male, Black or had preexisting conditions such as coronary artery disease or chronic kidney disease. Persistent high blood pressure also was more common among people with COVID-19 who were treated with corticosteroid medications.

Other factors may have contributed to the development of high blood pressure, the authors said, including lower socioeconomic status, the effects of isolation, psychosocial stress, reduced physical activity, unhealthy diet and weight gain during the pandemic.

Because the findings were limited to people who returned to Montefiore during the follow-up period, it’s possible those people had more severe COVID-19, the authors said. Other limitations include the possibility that some patients had undiagnosed high blood pressure and uncertainty over their COVID-19 vaccine status, which might affect the severity of a COVID-19 infection.

Researchers said future studies should determine whether heart and blood pressure complications from COVID-19 resolve on their own, or if there are other long-term effects of COVID-19 on cardiovascular health.


Vials of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The Biden administration recently announced an increase in vaccine funding. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

More Funding for COVID-19 Vaccines Approved

The Biden Administration is touting $1.4 billion in funds to develop new COVID-19 vaccines as part of its Project NextGen initiative.

According to Reuters, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals will receive $326 million to develop a new monoclonal vaccine against the virus. An additional $1 billion will go to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to fund mid-stage clinical trials.

Other companies are benefiting from the funding, including $100 million going to the non-profit Global Health Investment Corp (GHIC). This organization manages the BARDA Ventures investment portfolio, and the award will expand investments in new technologies to accelerate vaccine development.

Medical giant Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JLABS) received $10 million for a competition through Blue Knight, a BARDA-JLABS partnership.

COVID-19 is still big business, as well. CNBC reports Novavax’s stock price jumped 13% after the company said its new vaccine provided a broad-spectrum response to the virus, including the EG.5 variant, referred to as Eris.

Although the vaccine was first targeted to combat the XBB.1.5 Omicron descendant, that variant is declining worldwide. Eris and another variant, XBB.1.16.6, are becoming dominant in the United States.

The COVID-19 virus is ever-changing, creating the need for updated vaccines.

Researchers are studying seasonal patterns and viral mutations and adapting vaccines to combat the virus’s changing face. Helen Branswell of the medical news site Stat, says scientists hope the virus will settle into a more seasonal pattern, like influenza, but that hasn’t happened yet and may not for several years to come.

Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, explains, “There just isn’t a definable pattern yet that would call this a seasonal virus. That’s not to suggest it might not be some day.”

The CDC is monitoring new COVID-19 strains all the time. One variant the organization is eyeing is the BA.2.86 variant.

Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at Fred Hutch Cancer Center, told NBC’s Aria Bendix, “We have not seen a new variant [in humans] with this many new spike mutations happening all at once since the emergence of the original Omicron.”

Scientists won’t know how transferable this variant is or if it’s capable of causing widespread infection for a few weeks.

Current vaccines don’t target newer strains, and researchers are scrambling to formulate vaccines that will be effective against new COVID mutations if it turns out these variants can spread worldwide. Updated booster shots are coming in the next few months, but these may or may not be effective against newer strains.

One of the worst after-effects of the COVID-19 virus, especially before vaccines were available, is what medical professionals call “long COVID.” This is a cluster of symptoms affecting those who have recovered from the disease itself but are left with a range of issues they didn’t have before contracting the virus.

Amy Goldstein, reporting for The Washington Post, says even those who had a mild case of COVID-19 may be left with symptoms including fatigue, brain fog, cardiac issues, diabetes, kidney and lung issues, blood clotting problems, and many others. These symptoms can range from mild to debilitating.

Allyson Mainor, of Milledgeville, Ga., and her husband, David, contracted the virus in April 2020. While both recovered, both are still feeling the effects of long Covid. Mrs. Mainor had a moderate case but had to have the stents in her heart replaced in November 2021.

Her cardiologist said her symptoms are consistent with patients who have had Covid. Mrs. Mainor said she’s still unable to work full-time because of the fatigue. Although she applied for disability, her application was denied. She is currently waiting on the results of her appeal of that decision.

Mr. Mainor had a severe case requiring hospitalization. He was airlifted from Milledgeville to University Hospital in Augusta, Ga. He was placed on a ventilator for 12 days, with a subsequent six-week stay in rehab. He has lingering kidney damage and balance issues, which resulted in him falling and breaking each hip. Mainor said the disease left him with medical problems he never had before and has “ruined his health.”

“Covid turned our lives upside down,” Mrs. Mainor says. “Due to us both contracting Covid, even though we’ve recovered, it’s impacted his health and mine. My blood pressure is harder to control, I’m experiencing more fatigue and brain fog, have phantom smells, hair loss, and had to stop working altogether for over a year to take care of my husband, since he’s a fall risk. He’s having ongoing physical therapy to improve his balance and mobility.”

They are not alone. While exact numbers of those with long Covid symptoms are hard to pin down, estimates indicate as many as 15 million Americans may be experiencing some form of the syndrome.

The Journal of Health Economics and Outcomes Research (JHEOR) reported in 2022 that Dr. David Cutler of Harvard University estimated the total cost of long Covid to be $3.6 trillion. Further estimates indicate that, as of 2022, the virus has left as many as 4 million Americans unable to work.

Dr. Cutler himself concluded the costs of addressing long COVID are a worthwhile investment, given the widespread, ongoing economic costs of this condition.

President Biden plans to urge Americans to get the new COVID-19 boosters when available, based on CDC reports of an increase in infections, although hospitalizations are still low. Prevention is still the most cost-effective option.

— Amy Pollick, The Associated Press

Patient Mike Camilleri works with physical therapist Beth Hughes in St. Louis, Mo., on March 1, 2023. Somehow, a mild case of COVID-19 set off a chain reaction that eventually left Camilleri with dangerous blood pressure spikes, a heartbeat that raced with slight exertion, and episodes of intense chest pain. (AP Photo/Angie Wang)

Understanding the link between long COVID and mental health conditions

Researchers have long understood that people with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, are at increased risk for depression. The same may be true for people with COVID-19 symptoms that linger for months and sometimes years.

An estimated 28% of U.S. adults who have had acute COVID-19 infections say they have experienced long COVID at some point, according to the latest survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Long COVID occurs when a constellation of symptoms persist following the initial illness. It’s more prevalent among people who are older, female, hospitalized and unvaccinated. Symptoms vary but may include fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, gut problems, heart palpitations, sexual problems, change in smell or taste, thirst, chronic cough, chest pain, muscle twitching and the worsening of symptoms after any type of physical or mental exertion.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in June issued an advisory warning that long COVID can have “devastating effects on the mental health of those who experience it, as well as their families,” stemming from the illness itself, social isolation, financial insecurity, caregiver burnout and grief. It has been linked to fatigue, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, cognitive impairment and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other conditions.

“Depression is the most prominent symptom we see,” said Dr. Jordan Anderson, a neuropsychiatrist and assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and neurology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

Diagnosing depression in someone with long COVID takes a more nuanced approach than diagnosing the condition in the general population, Anderson said. That’s because symptoms often associated with depression – such as sleep disturbances, fatigue, changes in appetite and concentration – also are associated with long COVID.

These symptoms alone “might not truly reflect how depressed someone is,” he said. Instead, he looks for signs a person is no longer deriving joy from things they used to enjoy and are still capable of enjoying. He also asks about feelings of hopelessness or suicidal thoughts.

Dr. Anna Dickerman, chief of consultation-liaison psychiatry and associate professor of clinical psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, said rates of depression and anxiety in people with long COVID appear to be higher than in the general population, just as they are among people with other chronic illnesses.

The virus that causes COVID-19 may be contributing to a person’s mental state in a variety of ways, she said. The person may have experienced prolonged isolation or they may be dealing with physical limitations directly related to their illness, such as being easily fatigued and unable to function normally. Such limitations may have even led them to lose their jobs.

“That can affect you in your day-to-day existence,” Dickerman said. “If a person has low energy, they may want to stay in bed all day. But doing that might make you feel even more depressed.”

Anderson said suicidal ideation is present in about half the long COVID patients he sees at his clinic. “I’m very specific in the questions I ask,” he said, which include whether the thoughts began after getting COVID or if they happened before.

Anderson said he sees two potential explanations for the high rate of suicidal thinking.

“On the one hand, it’s intuitive to think having a chronic illness that limits your capacity so greatly for such a long time – and also causes stigmatization from family and others – would be demoralizing. That is perhaps the most common explanation I get from my patients,” he said.

But some studies suggest COVID may affect the brain directly. This raises the question, Anderson said, that “if it’s getting into the brain, is it affecting the parts of the brain responsible for mood? We just don’t have those answers.”

People with additional stressors from social determinants of health – such as discrimination, lower incomes, limited access to health care and other resources – may experience even higher rates of depression, Dickerman said.

“If you have greater stress in general, if you have fewer social supports, all of these things will negatively impact you,” she said.

In addition to depression, Anderson said he sees a lot of anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD in the long COVID patients he treats.

PTSD occurs in patients who have had near-death experiences or hospitalizations related to their COVID infections, and in those who have lost loved ones to the virus and may have survivor’s guilt, Anderson said.

“Having long COVID itself is a prolonged trauma that occurs over a period of many months. Someone might be triggered by anything invalidating or by any indication they might be sick again, even if it’s a common cold. It’s a terrible feeling that they are going to get worse again or have a life-threatening experience again.”

Other long COVID symptoms, such as heart palpitations, can be confused with panic attacks, he said.

“A person’s heart rate will drastically increase randomly without any provoking factors,” he said. “That itself can be very unsettling and may be confused with or lead to a panic attack.”

When that happens, someone may be treated with an antidepressant when what they really need is medication to control their heart rate, or a referral to a cardiologist, Anderson said.

There’s no standardized treatment for mental health issues related to long COVID, Anderson said. Treatment could include medication or psychotherapy or both, based on an individual’s symptoms. Group therapy can help people who need validation for their illness from others going through a similar experience. “When people feel like they have a community, that’s worth its weight in gold,” he said.

Dickerman said that in addition to medication and psychotherapy, helpful techniques for anxiety include meditation, relaxation and breathing exercises, along with graded physical activity tailored to the person’s capabilities.

“Do exercise in a way that’s tolerable and gradual,” she said.

For those needing immediate help, a national mental health crisis line launched in July 2022. People can call or text 988 to talk with suicide prevention and mental health counselors. Chat is available on the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline website. Text and chat also are available in Spanish.

— Laura Williamson, The Associated Press

Activist Misuses Federal Data to Make False Claim That Covid Vaccines Killed 676,000

An Aug. 6 blog by a national conspiracy theorist shared on Facebook wrongly claimed that covid-19 vaccines have killed some 676,000 Americans.

The post was written by anti-vaccine activist Steve Kirsch, who has made other vaccine claims debunked by PolitiFact and other fact-checkers.

Kirsch’s post referred to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a federal database.

“VAERS data is crystal clear,” the headline read. “The COVID vaccines are killing an estimated 1 person per 1,000 doses (676,000 dead Americans).”

The blog post was shared on social media and flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. 

The data Kirsch used is from an anti-vaccine group’s alternative gateway to VAERS. VAERS, which includes unverified reports, cannot be used to factually determine whether a vaccine caused death. Kirsch did not reply to a request for information.

“Statements that imply that reports of deaths to VAERS following vaccination equate to deaths caused by vaccination are scientifically inaccurate, misleading and irresponsible,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which co-manages the database with the FDA, told PolitiFact.

The CDC added that it “has not detected any unusual or unexpected patterns for deaths following immunization that would indicate that COVID vaccines are causing or contributing to deaths, outside of the nine confirmed” thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS, deaths following the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine, which is no longer offered in the U.S.

TTS, which causes blood clots, has occurred in approximately four cases per million doses administered, according to the CDC.

VAERS helps researchers collect data on vaccine aftereffects and detect patterns that may warrant a closer look.

The CDC cautions that VAERS results, which come from unverified reports anyone can make, are not factual enough to determine whether a vaccine causes a particular adverse event.

For the covid vaccines, VAERS has received a flood of reports, and they have become especially potent fuel for misinformation.

Kirsch made his claim not by using VAERS directly, but with an alternative gateway to VAERS from the anti-vaccine National Vaccine Information Center. 

That website draws on raw and limited VAERS reports, which can include incomplete or inaccurate information. These reports do not provide enough information to determine whether a vaccine caused a particular adverse event.

— Tom Kertscher, PolitiFact  via KFF News

Source link