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WeHo’s virus numbers not unique; Duran on sex in a pandemic

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West Hollywood’s name has been mentioned frequently when discussing the COVID-19 crisis, and not necessarily for the best of reasons. The city was widely publicized as being a kind of epicenter for the Los Angeles County outbreak after it appeared to have the highest number of reported cases outside of LA proper. Add to that the publicity around the COVID-19 illness of the city’s Mayor, John D’Amico.

But the numbers to support that narrative did not hold and the numbers have been changing for a variety of reasons.

As of Tuesday afternoon, March 31, of the cities within LA County, West Hollywood – which has its own coronavirus webpage — had the third highest number of reported cases, 56, behind Glendale at 76. Other cites also reported high numbers: Torrance reported 53 cases; Santa Monica 49, and Santa Clarita 48.

But not unexpectedly, the City of Los Angeles itself reported 1,386 cases. Within those city limits and close to West Hollywood, Melrose reported 100 cases, Hollywood reported 61.

That other cities and unincorporated areas report far fewer or zero cases is widely believed a result of having less access to healthcare and testing sites.

West Hollywood Mayor Pro-Tem Lindsey Horvath concurs, telling the Los Angeles Blade that the numbers are nothing unusual within the whole of LA County.

“We have not gotten any indication that there’s anything ‘unique’ to West Hollywood that accounts for our numbers, as they are comparable to neighborhoods that mirror our size and density,” said Horvath.

“What I personally think is that more people have access to good healthcare resources and testing in this area, and so we have more people that have had the good fortune of being tested. I am concerned for areas that are not reporting higher numbers, especially due to a lack of access to testing. We need to work hard to make more testing facilities available as quickly as possible so we know who has it and can treat them accordingly. I’d rather see higher numbers here because we’re getting people tested and getting them care than not testing and not knowing.”

D’Amico, who is also HIV positive, is reportedly on the mend from his case of coronavirus, telling friends on Facebook that he passed the necessary days of quarantine post-symptoms and is now feeling physically better. He displayed his progress by posting a video of him walking his dogs.

Since West Hollywood is also known as a bastion for LGBTQ rights and sexual freedom, questions about the role sexual culture might play in the outbreak of COVID-19 have logically arisen. For instance: how and when might the sexually active among us be able to resume normal sexual activity, which for many, involves anonymous hookups?

It’s a question West Hollywood Councilmember John Duran — who is also HIV positive — tackled forthrightly on March 28 in one of his daily coronavirus update Facebook posts, which set off a firestorm of comments amongst its readers.

“Push for hookup apps to be shut down during these days,” read one comment. “I know close people that are actually on [the apps]. It’s really counter active.”

“The apps,” as they are called colloquially, refer to Grindr, Scruff and other such dating apps gay men use to meet hookups. Both of these apps have issued warnings to users at various points in the last weeks, encouraging chatting versus meeting up and reiterating public health guidelines.

“It would take something from the federal government,” Duran said, to shut down operation of hookup apps. “Don’t have the power.”

“From my personal interactions, people are just chatting,” he continued. “For the most part people are self-quarantining. They just want to interact. People are suddenly being forced to engage in conversation.”

Duran pointed out that while sexual intercourse itself is not necessarily an effective means of transmitting the virus, COVID-19 is casually transmitted so touching and kissing can spread the coronavirus.

“We are all trying to avoid close contact with others right now to starve the virus of host,” Duran said. “That is the whole point of isolating. So you should have as few contacts on the outside as possible. By definition, this means as few sexual partners as possible also. This is not forever. This is just for this moment. It will pass.”

Duran recommended other methods of intimacy.

“This doesn’t preclude phone sex, video sex on FaceTime or other apps and masturbation,” he wrote. “If you need human contact, it is still available through modern technology. I know it’s not the same. But this is not forever. This is just for now so we stay alive.” (See Duran’s Facebook post below)

Every day brings new numbers and new recommendations.

Check the LA County website for constant updates and resources.

Locally, Duran provides daily updates and shares fears, hopes and inspiration on his Facebook page.

One suggestion on how to beat the boredom of staying safer at home is to be creative. For instance, someone posted a video in which one can image Beyonce singing about putting a ring on it as a game involving a dildo and a robot vacuum.

Here’s John Duran’s honest and useful sex post:

John Jude Duran

March 28 at 2:53 PM ·

 

Not the usual daily update BUT WHAT ABOUT SEX DURING A PANDEMIC?

 

If you are sensitive about sexual information or discussions, do not read the rest of this post.

 

One of the things we did during the AIDS epidemic is we created SAFER SEX practices. My friend Seth Browning pointed out that it is listed on Abraham Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy. It’s right above the need for safety: friendship, family and sexual intimacy. He also suggested that I post this information since we are all in the same THIRST for human intimacy and contact.

 

IS IT EVEN APPROPRIATE TO HAVE THIS DISCUSSION DURING A CRISIS? A crisis that lasts one week or two – probably not. We can all abstain if need be. But a crisis that continues for weeks and possibly months (and maybe annually) – ok – now we need to think this through a bit.

 

Because denying sexual intimacy for long periods of time will lead to human misery. Is sex worth risking your life over? No. But is it possible to develop guidelines for safer sexual practices to minimize risk? Yes. I think so.

 

How do we do that during COVID? It’s not going to be the same as HIV/AIDS. Some similarities. Some differences.

 

Let’s start with some facts:

 

*. COVID is spread by droplets in the air when someone sneezes or coughs.

*COVID is spread by saliva and mucous.

*COVID HAS been found in feces of persons infected.

COVID HAS NOT been found in semen or vaginal fluids.

 

*So unlike HIV or other STI’s – COVID is not spread effectively through intercourse. However, some caveats to consider:

 

During sexual play COVID can be spread through

* Kissing. It’s the most effective way to transmit actually. With HIV, we told everyone that KISSING is 100% safe. IT was and still is. That is NOT the Case with COVID!

*Rimming. Definitely a means of transmission and to be avoided. While ok with HIV – not OK with COVID.

 

So, what’s the most effective strategy from here?

 

*Let’s start with the obvious. WE ARE ON LOCKDOWN AND QUARANTINE. So, the best method is to stay and home and avoid contact with others for all reasons – including sex! For the most part, we are all doing this. But if this goes on for weeks/months, it is going to get more difficult as time goes on.

 

This doesn’t preclude phone sex, video sex on FaceTime or other apps and masturbation. If you need human contact, it is still available through modern technology. I know it’s not the same. But this is not forever. This is just for now so we stay alive.

 

And for the record – goes without saying – but intimacy is possible without any sex at all! We know that. But for the sake of discussion, let’s continue.

 

*If you have a partner (and you’re still speaking LOL) and you live together and are sexually monogamous – you have hours to play (if you wish). If you have been together for over 20 years – there’s always TIGER KING! (LOL)

 

*If you have a partner and you do not LIVE together – this is a limited contact. Just understand that anyone that you came in contact with while shopping for groceries or other trips around town that were necessary – places you and your partner to some risk with those contacts. It is the same level of risk that we take when we leave our homes on that rare occasion for food and other necessities.

 

* We are all trying to avoid close contact with others right now to starve the virus of hosts. That is the whole point of isolating. So you should have as few contacts on the outside as possible. By definition, this means as few sexual partners as possible also. This is not forever. This is just for this moment. It will pass.

 

*Condoms and dental dams can reduce the risk of COVID transmission. Especially during oral sex. This time it IS the SALIVA that you are trying to avoid contact with rather than other bodily fluids. THIS IS A BIG DIFFERENCE between HIV and COVID. With HIV – it was semen or blood. With COVID – it is saliva.

 

*Drug use impairs judgment. Generally a bad idea anyways. An EXTREMELY bad idea during an epidemic.

 

Now, don’t judge me too harshly. I am not writing this to encourage people to break quarantine. I am writing this as a pragmatist realizing that this isolation may continue for weeks or longer. And if that occurs, we are going to be seeking information and scientific facts to create safer sex practices during an epidemic. I write this – because it is responsible to have adult conversations about this topic.

 

Consider this the “SATURDAY NIGHT” update for Conoronavirus “AFTER DARK”.

 

Thanks for letting me address a topic that needed to be placed on the table.

Karen Ocamb contributed to this story.

 

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LA County requiring vax proof for indoor bars & nightclubs by Oct. 7

Participants and workers at outdoor “mega events” with more than 10,000 attendees must provide proof of vax or show a recent negative test

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that it will begin requiring verification of vaccination in select high-risk settings by October 7.

During a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday, L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the supervisors that vaccine verification will be required for customers and employees at indoor portions of bars, wineries, breweries, night clubs, and lounges.

The modified Health Officer Order would require customers and employees at bars, breweries, wineries, night clubs and lounges to have at least one dose of the vaccine by October 7 and both doses by November 4.

Public Health will require vaccination verification or a negative test within 72 hours prior to attending outdoor mega events. Participants and workers at outdoor “mega events” with more than 10,000 attendees must provide proof of vax or show a recent negative test.

Attendees at indoor mega events are already required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result prior to entry. 

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials are prepared to move forward with the updated order later this week, Ferrer said.

“This modified health officer order aligns with the continued need to reduce risk for transmission and increase vaccination coverage,” Ferrer said. “This is a reasonable path forward that can position us to be better able to break the cycle of surges.”

She noted that while the health order won’t require it, Public Health will recommend that restaurants also begin verifying vaccination status for indoor dining.

“As evidence mounts affirming the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, vaccination mandates are an increasingly important tool to prevent future COVID surges that cause widespread suffering. The modified Health Officer Order aligns with the continued need to reduce risk for transmission and increase vaccination coverage; this is a reasonable path forward that can position us to be better able to break the cycle of surges,” Ferrer added.

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LAUSD to require vaccines- Biden lays out new plan to require vaccines

“The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective & requiring students to be vaccinated is the strongest way to protect our school community.”

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Photo Credit: Los Angeles Unified School District

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Unified School District announced Thursday that it will require for students 12 and older who are attending class in person to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The LAUSD Board of Education voted, 6-0, to pass the measure making it the first major school system, the second largest in the United States to require its more than 460,000 students, including some enrolled at independent charter schools located in LAUSD owned buildings, to be vaccinated.

Interim superintendent, Megan Reilly, said at Thursday’s board meeting that student vaccination was one way to ensure that the district’s classrooms would be able to remain open. Los Angeles had some of the country’s most extended school closures last year. All students ages 12 and up will be required to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 10, 2022, unless they have a “medical or other exemption,” Reilly noted.

The science is clear — vaccinations are an essential part of protection against COVID-19,” Reilly said in a statement following the vote. “The COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and requiring eligible students to be vaccinated is the strongest way to protect our school community.”

New York Times educational journalist Dana Goldstein tweeted:

As the Delta variant brought another wave of COVID-19 infections this summer, in California the number of unvaccinated young people being hospitalized has increased in certain areas of the state.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health noted that while case rates increased among children in all age groups between mid-July and mid-August, cases have declined by about 30% in all age groups among children (0-4, 5-11, and 12-17 years old) over the past two weeks.

The decrease is similar to the decreases we are seeing in cases among adult residents and occurred as many schools reopened with testing, masking, infection control and outbreak management protocols in place.  Over the past week, children under 18 comprised, on average, 27% of all cases seen in L.A. County.

Among L.A. County teens 12 to 17 years old, more than half of whom are vaccinated, we see just how powerfully protective the vaccines really are. As of August 28, the case rate among unvaccinated 12 to 17-year-olds was 424 cases among every 100,000 unvaccinated children in this age group compared with 51 cases among 100,000 of those vaccinated.

Among groups ineligible for vaccination, the case rate was 130 per 100,000 children aged 0 to 4, and 230 per 100,000 children aged 5 to 11.

As of September 5, 62% of L.A. County residents 12 to 15 years old received at least one dose of vaccine, while 51% were fully vaccinated. Sixty-nine percent of residents 16 to 17 years old received at least one dose, and 59% were fully vaccinated.

In K-12 school settings countywide, between August 15 and September 7, 7,784 student cases and 1,250 staff cases were reported, with the vast majority occurring at LAUSD, which tests everyone weekly.

The second highest number of cases came from other K-12 schools in L.A. County. With more than 1.5 million students and 175,000 staff countywide (by last year’s counts), 0.5% of the student body and 0.7% of staff have become infected since school districts reopened.  This is slightly higher than the 0.4% rate of infection experienced overall in the County.

“We support the actions taken by the Los Angeles Unified School District and other schools and school districts to add an additional layer of protection at schools through a sensible school vaccine requirement for eligible students,” said Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“Vaccination remains one of the quickest and most powerful ways to decrease community transmission and prevent serious illness, which helps keep students, teachers, and staff in school, and the COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be safe and effective. Public Health will continue to work closely with school districts as they take critical actions to protect students and staff from a dangerous and highly infectious virus,” said Ferrer.

Battle over vaccinations and mask wearing has become so acrimonious in some parts of the country it is not unusual to see fistfights breaking out at school board meetings and law enforcement agencies effecting arrests as those who are adamantly opposed to coronavirus safety protocols protest, sometime violently, measures designed to protect the risk of infection by the COVID-19 virus.

As school boards weigh their options in implementation, in one highly publicized and now viral moment, anti-maskers in Rutherford County Schools in Tennessee at a school board meeting attacked a teen student who had lost a grandparent to the pandemic.

At the White House Thursday, President Joe Biden addressed the nation on his plans to implement plans to address the shortfall in the number of Americans who are vaccinated.

Many of us are frustrated with the nearly 80 million Americans who are still not vaccinated, even though the vaccine is safe, effective, and free,” the President acknowledged. 

This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.  And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot

And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19.  Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities.  This is totally unacceptable,” Biden argued. 

The President then took direct aim at officials and others who in his eyes who have blocked progress saying; “These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die.” 

President Joe Biden (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)

Biden laid out the steps he was going to order to combat the lack of vaccinations in the nation.

I’m announcing that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees, that together employ over 80 million workers, to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week. Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this: United Airlines, Disney, Tysons Food, and even Fox News,” he said.

He announced vaccination requirements for all nursing home workers who treat patients on Medicare and Medicaid and then expanded those requirements to include those who work in hospitals, home healthcare facilities, or other medical facilities –- a total of 17 million healthcare workers.

The President then said he would sign an executive order requiring all executive branch federal employees to be vaccinated as well as another executive order that will require federal contractors to do the same.

As part of his plan Biden said that the Department of Labor will require employers with 100 or more workers to give those workers paid time off to get vaccinated.  “No one should lose pay in order to get vaccinated or take a loved one to get vaccinated,” he said.

The President then noted; “And my message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for?  What more do you need to see?  We’ve made vaccinations free, safe, and convenient. The vaccine has FDA approval.  Over 200 million Americans have gotten at least one shot.”

We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.  And your refusal has cost all of us.  So, please, do the right thing.  But just don’t take it from me; listen to the voices of unvaccinated Americans who are lying in hospital beds, taking their final breaths, saying, “If only I had gotten vaccinated.”  “If only,” he said. 

Biden also addressed the future availability of vaccines for children under 12 and schools.

Now, if you’re a parent of a young child, you’re wondering when will it be — when will it be — the vaccine available for them.  I strongly support an independent scientific review for vaccine uses for children under 12.  We can’t take shortcuts with that scientific work

Now to the schools.  We know that if schools follow the science and implement the safety measures — like testing, masking, adequate ventilation systems that we provided the money for, social distancing, and vaccinations — then children can be safe from COVID-19 in schools.

Today, about 90 percent of school staff and teachers are vaccinated.  We should get that to 100 percent.  […] And tonight, I’m calling on all governors to require vaccination for all teachers and staff.  Some already have done so, but we need more to step up,” Biden said.

The President castigated local and state officials he viewed as an impedimentg to winning the fight against the virus;

Let me be blunt.  My plan also takes on elected officials and states that are undermining you and these lifesaving actions.  Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs.  Talk about bullying in schools.  If they’ll not help — if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as President to get them out of the way. 

The Department of Education has already begun to take legal action against states undermining protection that local school officials have ordered.  Any teacher or school official whose pay is withheld for doing the right thing, we will have that pay restored by the federal government 100 percent.  I promise you I will have your back,” he stated.

Addressing the increasing violence against mask wearing and other simple measures Biden noted;

In addition to testing, we know masking helps stop the spread of COVID-19.  That’s why when I came into office, I required masks for all federal buildings and on federal lands, on airlines, and other modes of transportation,” he said.

Today — tonight, I’m announcing that the Transportation Safety Administration — the TSA — will double the fines on travelers that refuse to mask.  If you break the rules, be prepared to pay.  And, by the way, show some respect.  The anger you see on television toward flight attendants and others doing their job is wrong; it’s ugly,” he added.

 







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Coronavirus

Breakthru Delta Variant on rise in LA County as Pfizer gets full FDA okay

Last week Los Angeles County surpassed the grim milestone of losing more than 25,000 residents to COVID-19

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FDA Headquarters (Blade file photo)

LOS ANGELES – Numbers of fully vaccinated people being affected by breakthrough infections of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus are rising in Los Angeles County according to L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

The latest data “reflect the reality that the vaccines do not provide 100% protection, and that with these high rates of community transmission, more fully vaccinated people are getting post-vaccination infections,” Ferrer said. “However, this very same information also makes it clear how much protection vaccinated people still have. Most of us that are fully vaccinated don’t get infected.”

Among the 5.1 million L.A. County residents who are fully vaccinated, 0.53% have tested positive, 0.014% have been hospitalized and 0.0013% — or 68 people — have died.

On Monday the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 7 new deaths and 2,331 new cases of COVID-19. There are 1,722 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. Testing results are available for nearly 7,940,000 individuals with 16% of people testing positive. The test positivity rate is 2.8%, (Monday) a slight decrease from last week’s same-day rate of 3.4%

It was announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the license for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA) for those 12 through 15 years old and for a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals. The licensing approval was announced after another thorough evaluation of safety and effectiveness data by a panel of scientific and medical experts. FDA-approved vaccines undergo the agency’s standard process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products.

Last week Los Angeles County surpassed the grim milestone of losing more than 25,000 residents to COVID-19. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is one of the leading causes of death – surpassing stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Between July 11 and August 11, hospitalizations rose by 333% to an average of 1,622 beds filled with people testing positive for COVID-19 on any given day, and deaths rose 275% to an average of 15 deaths per day

As the FDA granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, Federal officials announced changes to vaccination strategies aimed at increasing the protection afforded to people by vaccines. With emerging data indicating that certain populations will need more support to be protected, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on August 13 recommended a third dose of mRNA vaccines for immunocompromised people, including transplant recipients, people with advanced or untreated HIV infection, people actively receiving cancer treatment, and people taking immunosuppressive medications. 

Third doses have been available to eligible individuals at vaccination sites across LA County since Saturday.  Additionally, following yesterday’s announcement by the CDC that booster doses of mRNA vaccines will be offered to all vaccinated people, Public Health is continuing to work with staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities to prioritize these most vulnerable residents for booster doses to be prepared for administering these as soon as the Food and Drug Administration gives their approval.

Public Health notes the difference between third doses and booster doses is more than just language. Third doses are meant to elicit an antibody response where there was an inadequate antibody response before, while booster doses are meant to increase antibody levels that have waned after a robust increase in the months after vaccination.

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