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Italian Study Links Mysterious Children’s Illness to COVID-19

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  • A study in Italy has provided the first cases of clear evidence linking a mysterious inflammatory illness impacting children to the coronavirus.
  • Cases have popped up throughout the United States and Europe, where doctors believed the disease was potentially related to COVID-19.
  • The disease is similar to Kawasaki disease, and the study noted a significant increase in patients with Kawasaki-like symptoms since the COVID-19 outbreak started. Most patients with this illness tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. 
  • The study stated that “SARS-CoV-2 might cause a severe form of Kawasaki-like disease.”

What is the Illness?

Doctors have been puzzled by a mysterious inflammatory illness amongst children that could potentially be related to COVID-19, and now, a study in Italy has provided the first pieces of strong evidence linking the two.

The findings were published in a medical journal called The Lancet. There have been cases of this illness in Europe and several states in America. New York alone has seen over 100 cases, as well as three deaths. 

“This is a truly disturbing situation,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a briefing on Tuesday.

“And I know parents around the state and around the country are very concerned about this, and they should be.”

Symptoms include a persistent fever, abdominal pain, organ failure, bloodshot eyes, and more. In the United States, officials are referring to the disease as pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention intends to issue an alert telling doctors to report how many children they see experiencing it.

Ties to COVID-19

The Lancet’s study compared this new illness to prior cases of Kawasaki disease at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Italy. Kawasaki is a rare disease that impacts children and has symptoms consistent with the new inflammatory disease. 

“Our study provides the first clear evidence of a link between SARS-CoV-2 infection and this inflammatory condition,” Dr. Lorenzo D’Antigo, an author of the study said in a statement, “and we hope it will help doctors around the world as we try to get to grips with this unknown virus.” 

The study followed two groups of patients, the first of which was comprised of 19 children who were diagnosed with Kawasaki over the course of five years, between January 2015 and February 17, 2020. The second group consisted of 10 patients with Kawasaki-like symptoms admitted over the course of two months, between February 18, 2020 and April 20, 2020. 

Eight of the 10 patients in group two tested positive for COVID antibodies. Doctors believe it is possible that the others could be positive as well and that the negative results may have been a result of medical treatments muddling results or faulty tests. The patients in the second group also experienced more severe symptoms and required more types of treatment to recover.

Another factor of note to doctors was the increased rate of infection among group two. Group one saw a Kawasaki patient on average once every three months. Group two saw 10 patients with Kawasaki-like symptoms in just two months. 

What Does This Mean?

As the study notes, the timing of these increased rates of illness coincides with when the virus began to spread in Italy. Since it hit the region that  Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital is located in, the hospital “found a 30-fold increased incidence of Kawasaki disease.”

“Children diagnosed after the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic began showed evidence of immune response to the virus, were older, had a higher rate of cardiac involvement, and features of MAS,” the study stated. “We therefore showed that SARS-CoV-2 might cause a severe form of Kawasaki-like disease.”

The ages of those affected with the new disease in this study line up with the ages of children with reported cases in New York, where most patients are between 5 and 14-years-old. While the Kawasaki disease patients in group one averaged at three-years-old, the patients with the new illness in group two averaged at 7 and a half. 

Doctors all over have been looking into this infection and trying to analyze its potential ties to the coronavirus. 

“If you look at the curves, COVID-19 has plateaued, but there’s an exponential rise in this secondary type of shock syndrome,” Jane Newburger, a cardiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital said in a statement. “It is even possible that the antibodies that children are making to SARS-CoV2 are creating an immune reaction in the body. Nobody knows.”

Boston Children’s Hospital is calling for more research to be done on the subject and is urging clinicians to enroll children in research protocols. It is also calling government agencies to invest in trials and data integration so medical leaders can learn more.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Axios) (The Guardian)

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Wealthy Canadian Couple Posed as Motel Workers To Jump Vaccine Queue

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  • Rodney Baker, the CEO of a Canadian casino company, resigned this week after he and his wife were caught traveling to a remote area in Yukon that is home to many indigenous people to jump the coronavirus vaccine queue.
  • The two allegedly posed as motel workers and were given the first dose of the vaccine but raised suspicions when they asked to be taken straight to the airport immediately afterward. 
  • Both individuals received two fines, one for failing to self-isolate and a second for failing to follow their signed declarations, adding up to $1,150 each.
  • The White River First Nation is calling for stiffer penalties, saying the small fine would be meaningless to the wealthy duo. For reference, the former CEO was paid a salary of more than $10.6 million in 2019.  

Couple Dupes Local Healthcare Workers

Like many other countries, officials in Canada have been working hard to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations. In the Yukon territory specifically, health workers have been giving priority to remote communities with elderly and high-risk populations, as well as limited access to healthcare.

One of those areas is Beaver Creek, which is home to many members of the White River First Nation. However, Beaver Creek is now making headlines after two wealthy Vancouver residents traveled there to jump ahead in the vaccine queue.

The two culprits were identified as 55-year-old Rodney Baker, president and CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Corp, and his wife, 32-year-old actress Ekaterina Baker.

They reportedly flew from Vancouver to Whitehouse, then chartered a private plane to the remote community. Afterward, they went to a mobile clinic where they were able to receive the Moderna vaccine after saying they were new hires at a nearby motel.

Their presence raised suspicions given how small the population is in Beaver Creek, but the two raised even more eyebrows when they asked to be taken straight to the airport after receiving their doses.

Workers from the vaccination clinic checked with the motel and alerted law enforcement when they learned that the Bakers had lied about working there.

The couple was stopped just as they were preparing to fly back to their luxury condo in downtown Vancouver. According to CBC, both individuals received two fines, one for failing to self-isolate and a second for failing to follow their signed declaration, adding up to $1,150 each.

Indigenous Community Responds

“We are deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our Elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes,” the White River First Nation’s Chief Angela Demit said in a Facebook statement addressing the situation.

She also told The Washington Post that she wants to see stiffer penalties for the couple because the relatively small fines would be “essentially meaningless” for such wealthy individuals. For reference, Mr. Baker’s annual compensation in 2019 was reported to be more than $10.6 million.

Janet Vander Meer, the head of the White River First Nation’s coronavirus response team, also called the incident, “another example of ongoing acts of oppression against Indigenous communities by wealthy individuals that thought they would get away with it.”

“Our oldest resident of Beaver Creek, who is 88 years old, was in the same room as this couple. My mom, who’s palliative, was in the same room as this couple,” she told Globalnews.ca. “That’s got to be jail time. I can’t see anything less. For what our community has been through the last few days. The exhaustion. It’s just mind-boggling.”

To prevent situations like this in the future, a spokesman for the Yukon government said it would implement new requirements for proving residency in the territory.

As far as the Bakers, Rodney resigned from his role at Great Canadian this week. A spokesperson for the company, which is currently the subject of a separate money-laundering probe, says it “has no tolerance for actions that run counter to the company’s objectives and values.”

See what others are saying: (CBC) (The Washington Post) (Yukon News)

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Protests Erupt Across the Netherlands Over COVID-19 Curfew

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  • For the third night in a row, Dutch police clashed with protesters and rioters in ten cities across the Netherlands.
  • The protests are a result of frustrations over the 9:00 p.m. – 4:30 a.m. curfew the country imposed to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
  • Rioters looted across major cities and even burned down a coronavirus testing site. So far, 184 people have been arrested and thousands have received fines for their participation.
  • The Prime Minister has said that when possible, the curfew would be the first safety measure to go, but he also made it clear that those rioting over it were criminals and will be treated as such.

Violence Over Coronavirus Curfew

The Netherlands faced riots and protests over coronavirus curfews and lockdown measures for the third night in a row.

The protests raged across ten cities, including major ones such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague. Authorities say that 184 people have been arrested so far, and thousands have received fines for their participation.

Protesters are particularly upset with an ongoing curfew in the country that puts restrictions on travel between 9:00 p.m.- 4:30 a.m.. It’s meant to slow the spread of the virus by preventing nightlife activities; however, critics have questioned just how effective those measures actually are.

Beyond the skepticism, the Netherlands is also facing a spread of misinformation about COVID-19, leading many to downplay how dangerous it is.

Last night’s protests led to violence with police, as well as a COVID-19 testing site being burnt to the ground. Wider Dutch society has been shocked by the violence since protests of this nature are relatively rare in the nation.

Mayors across the country vowed to introduce emergency measures that are intended to help deal with the protests.

Coping With the Virus

Regarding the curfew itself, the government has refused to budge on the issue. When responding to last night’s violence, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that when possible, the curfew would be the first safety measure to go. Still, he also made it clear that those rioting over it were criminals and will be treated as such.

The Netherlands had managed to maintain the virus relatively successfully, six months ago, it had among the lowest new daily cases in Europe, with around 42 daily new cases in July. That all changed in September when cases began to rise dramatically, peaking of 11,499 daily new cases on Dec. 24.

Source: Google Coronavirus Statistics

Due to the imposed restrictions, cases began to fall again, although they are still far higher than they were in the summer of 2020.

See What Others Are Saying: (The Guardian) (BBC) (NPR)

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Thousands Protest in Russia Demanding Release of Putin Foe Alexei Navalny

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  • Russia faced some of the largest protests it has seen in recent years after thousands took to the streets Saturday demanding the government release opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
  • Russian authorities declared the protests illegal and detained more than 3,500 people from more than 100 cities, including Navalny’s wife.
  • The government also released a statement addressing Navalny by name for the first time, attempting to discredit claims he has made, including the idea that President Vladimir Putin has a billion-dollar villa on the Black Sea coast.

Largest Russian Protests in Recent History

Russia experienced some of its largest protests in years Saturday after opposition figure Alexei Navalny called for demonstrations to be held following his arrest.

Supporters demanded Navalny’s release but also called for an end to perceived rampant corruption in the Russian state.

Tens of thousands took to the streets and clashed with police in more than 100 cities, with independent monitors claiming that 3,500 people were detained by police. Among those detained was Yulia Navalnaya, Navalny’s wife, who was targeted by authorities during the protests. She is reported to have been released by Russian media agencies such as TASS.

Despite Russian authorities declaring the protests illegal and warning of repercussions for those who attend, the protests managed to reach a wide range of people. According to the New York Times, over ⅓ of protesters in Moscow said they had never protested before.

Despite the movements current popularity, it may be difficult to turn the popular, anti-Putin movement into something more.The protesters span a broad range of the political spectrum, from far-left communist and anarchist groups to nationalists and libertarians, meaning that while they dislike Putin and the corruption in the Russian government, they agree on little else.

Changing the Message

The protests unveiled a new shift in how Russian authorities deal with Navalny. In the past, authorities and state-backed media never mentioned him by name in order to downplay him; however, that changed this weekend.

Newscasters aired multiple programs to discredit him and paint him as a tool of the West, while Putin denied Navalny’s claims that he has a secret, billion-dollar villa on the coast of the Black Sea. Based on his salary of $133,000 a year, Putin would only be able to afford a single home in Russia. However, there is speculation that due to corruption and embezzling, Putin is likely the actual richest person alive.

Regarding Navalny himself, he’s still in jail pending court proceedings on Feb. 2. If those go poorly for Navalny, he could be in prison until the mid-2020s, but he is more concerned about his immediate future.

In a video to supporters prior to the protests, he made it clear that he has no intention of committing suicide. That statement was likely made due to the fact that many Russian dissidents seem to die via suicide, with much speculation about whether or not that was actually the case.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Business Insider) (Associated Press)

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