The Best Discussion of COVID and Vaccines

Today, we are all thinking the same thing. Where are these vaccines? And are they safe? In this podcast, Dr. Peter Attia (Stanford Med, NIH, Johns Hopkins) interviews Dr. Paul Offitt (CHOP, vaccine expert, on the FDA committee that will approve any COVID vaccine). This is the best discussion I’ve heard on the topic.

Some things I got out of this episode:

  • Vaccines are coming soon
  • Many vaccines have good safety profiles
  • There are numerous vaccine candidates, with a variety of approaches. Our bets are spread, which gives me confidence something will work.

I listened to this episode at 0.7x speed, given the technical nature of the topic and the speed at which the guest speaks. Enjoy!

The FDA Approved Mask I Wear

With evidence indicating that cloth masks may be less effective than surgical/N95/KN95 masks, what type of mask should we choose? And how do we know that the one we’ve chosen is safe?

I’ve been wearing these KN95 masks for several weeks and have come to love them. They only touch your face at the edges, which I find more comfortable. The earloops are thick and cushioned, providing better comfort. And as someone who wears glasses, I find that these fog my glasses less than anything else I’ve tried, provided I fit the adjustable nose piece carefully.

I’ve done yoga classes in this mask and walked all over town in it, and I actually forget I’m wearing it sometimes. I never thought that would happen. I find myself handing these out to friends and family in the hopes it will protect them as well.

This mask is on the FDA approved list. Go to Appendix A: Authorized Imported, Non-NIOSH Approved Respirators Manufactured in China (Updated: October 15, 2020). Then, see the manufacturer name, Guangzhou Nan Qi Xing Non-Woven Co., Ltd. This gives me greater peace of mind that it will work as advertised.

If you’re ready to dive in and buy a box of 50 at a lower price, the link is here.

Stay safe and stay strong everyone!

How I Think About COVID Risk: Calculate the Risk of Any Activity

There is no such thing as perfect safety. If you live in an apartment, even if you stayed home 100% of the time, viral particles could potentially make it through a faulty ventilation system. (This may have been the cause of numerous SARS infections in 2003 at a Hong Kong apartment building called Amoy Gardens Block E…see p. 137 of SARS in China: Prelude to Pandemic?).

So how do we know what is reasonably safe to do and what isn’t? Enter the microCOVID Project, a research-based calculator that can estimate the risk of contracting COVID from virtually any activity.

The calculator uses your location (and its COVID prevalence) along with other assumptions (who is near you during an activity, what mask they’re wearing, etc.) to calculate how likely you are to get COVID in a given situation. For example, going to the grocery store for 60 minutes in my area is 200 microCOVIDs. This means that if I went to the grocery for 60 minutes once a week every week for a year, I’d have a 1% cumulative chance of getting COVID from that activity.

Play around with the assumptions. For example, the grocery scenario assumes I’m wearing a cotton mask. I don’t do that. Instead, I wear a KN95 mask from the FDA approved list, which cuts the risk in half, to 100 microCOVIDs.

Is this calculator perfect? I’m sure it’s not. But it provides a useful way to estimate risk and decide if an activity is worth it to you or not. In a time when we are forced to think about risk more than usual, it is a valuable tool!

The Best Place to Get a COVID Test in NYC

I recently had a possible COVID-19 exposure when a close friend tested positive. I needed to know right away whether I was infected so I could avoid exposing my wife. With multi-hour waits at many test sites and long turnaround times for results, I knew the usual test sites weren’t an option.

Instead, I went to Formation Health in Midtown Manhattan. I had no appointment and showed up at 7:30pm. I was the only patient (there were 2 medical staff) and they saw me immediately. I was in an out of their office in 10 minutes and had my (negative!) result in 15 minutes. My wife did the same and got her negative results right before I did (kudos to her for finding the place!). This clinic has extensive hours, 7 days a week.

This rapid test-and-isolate model is what can defeat this virus. You get the result quickly and you don’t take the chance of exposing yourself to COVID at the test site itself.

The test is the BD Veritor antigen test. It has a high degree of accuracy, though not quite as high as a PCR test. But it is readily available with quick results you can act on immediately. The physician I spoke to through my own insurance (not Formation) assured me that with no symptoms and a negative test result, I was negative with no need to isolate.

If a person had a negative test but had typical COVID symptoms, or if they had a positive test but no symptoms, they could also get a confirmatory PCR test, which is the most accurate test available.

The cost was $195. Your insurance may cover it. For me, the extra cost was well worth it for the extraordinary service, safety of the test site, and fast, actionable results. That said, unfortunately, the cost could be a barrier for some.

Stay well everyone!