- The CDC and the FDA are temporarily urging people to stop vaping after five deaths were potentially linked to the use of e-cigarettes.
- The CDC also said it received 450 cases suspected to be a result of vaping-related illnesses.
- Over recent months, some city and state governments have taken measures to ban either the sale of all e-cigarettes or the sale of flavored vaping products.
Vaping Illnesses and First Deaths
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are asking people to stop using e-cigarettes, at least temporarily, following reports of five deaths possibly tied to vaping-related illnesses.
Specifically, the FDA is warning people not to use cannabis vaping products following a statement from the New York State Department of Health last week. In the statement, the department said it potentially linked 34 cases of “severe” pulmonary illness to an oil found in cannabis vaping products.
The warnings come after the reported deaths an adult in Indiana, a 55-year-old adult in California, and a 65-year-old in Minnesota. So far, officials have only linked cannabis vaping use with the individual from Minnesota, who was already known to have a history of lung disease.
The reports also follow two deaths from Illinois and Oregon.
“When you think about it, these e-cigarette devices are really like chemistry sets,” Dr. Jonathan LaPook told CBS News. “You put in this liquid, you lick it, you heat it up – there’s some kind of chemical reaction. You’re creating all these different chemicals. You’re not entirely sure what these chemicals are, but we are sure of one thing: You are sucking a lot of them.”
Notably, the New York State Department of Health says it believes some of the products in its investigation may be counterfeits of the state’s medically-approved marijuana, though the person who died in Oregon appears to have purchased the product legally. Because of this, officials aren’t sure if this is a problem with legal vaping products, off-the-street vaping products, or both.
Federal health officials have also now logged 450 cases across 33 states suspected to be from vaping-related illnesses.
Monday morning, the FDA issued a warning letter to Juul for “engag[ing] in labeling, advertising, and/or other activities directed to consumers, in which JUUL explicitly and/or implicitly has represented that JUUL products are free of a substance, have a reduced level of or exposure to a substance, and/or that JUUL products present a lower risk of tobacco-related disease or are less harmful than one or more other commercially marketed tobacco products.”
A String of Illnesses
In April, health departments in Illinois and Wisconsin followed 53 patients who had vaped, with a third of those people ending up on respirators.
In August, the Washington Post reported that “Within days, [one man] had gone from being a 20-year-old hiking enthusiast to being kept alive by two machines forcing air into and out of his lungs and oxygenating his blood outside of his body.”
Around the same time, the CDC was reportedly investigating almost 200 vaping-related respiratory illnesses.
In the New York State Department of Health investigation, health officials believe some of the illnesses may result from vitamin E acetate, an oil derived from vitamin E and used in cannabis vaping products.
While the health department said patients in the case had used a variety of vaping products, all of them admitted to using cannabis-vaping products.
Vitamin E acetate is a product found in foods like canola oil and almonds. It is safe to eat and apply to the skin, but health officials fear it may be dangerous to inhale. Oils are naturally fatty substances, and the lungs are unable to process them, meaning that when the oil is breathed into the lungs as a vapor, it soon cools down and liquefies in the lungs.
Neighboring immune cells will then work to get rid of the fatty oil, potentially leading to inflammation and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.
As of yet, no agency has concluded that vitamin E acetate is responsible for the illnesses. The FDA is also investigating other possible contributing agents like TCH, nicotine, synthetic cannabinoids, pesticides, or opioids.
“No one substance, including vitamin E acetate, has been identified in all of the samples,” the FDA said in a statement.
E-cigarettes have raised the eyebrows of health officials since the product exploded onto the market without FDA approval.
Vaping companies like Juul have marketed their products as healthier than cigarettes and have promoted them as tracks to quit smoking altogether.
In June, San Francisco banned the sale of e-cigarettes.
Last week, the governor of Michigan used executive authority to ban flavored nicotine vaping products. That order will last six months, and it’s largely been seen as an attempt to keep e-cigarettes out of kids’ hands, with people arguing that fun flavors get kids addicted. Others, however, have argued that the flavors could help adults quit smoking tobacco cigarettes.
On Monday, reports surfaced of an Alabama school removing some of the stall doors from a boys’ restroom to stop teens from using e-cigarettes in school. Many people then called the move excessive, but the principal said he’d already found a student passed out after vaping too much.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (CNBC) (The independent)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.