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UC Berkeley’s Public Health Offers Volunteer Opportunity for Covid-19 Research Study

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A team of investigators and researchers at the University of California Berkeley’s School of Public Health have launched a new study to better understand the current spread of SARS-CoV-2 (the Novel Coronavirus) in the Bay Area, and the effects of social and physical distancing strategies. SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that causes COVID-19.

Lisa F. Barcellos, a professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at BSPH is leading the team with Eva Harris, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at BSPH, and chair of the Infectious Diseases and Immunity Graduate Group at UC Berkeley. Barcellos noted that the study “is designed to understand the prevalence of undetected coronavirus infections among adults in the Bay Area without symptoms.”

“Our goal is to determine how many people may have been previously infected with the virus without knowing it because they had a mild illness or did not have access to testing while they were sick,” said Barcellos.

“The results will help demonstrate the extent to which the novel coronavirus has spread undetected in the Bay Area and provide insights into which communities and populations are most affected,” she said. “This critical data will help us measure the impact of the current public health efforts such as shelter-in-place and will help guide the COVID-19 response moving forward.”

In the initial phase of this study, all households in the East Bay communities of Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Albany, El Cerrito, Richmond, San Pablo, El Sobrante, Pinole, Kensington and Hercules are invited to participate. Recently, every home address within the study sampling region was mailed a postcard inviting one volunteer per household of 18 years or older to participate in the study.

Volunteers are asked to consent to enrollment for initial screening, which only takes 10 minutes. After enrollment, study participants will be emailed a link to complete a health assessment questionnaire and provide contact information, basic demographic information (including age, race, ethnicity, sex, occupation), and other information about their immediate household members.

The investigators will randomly select 5,000 to 6,000 individuals from the study participants who provided screening information to participate in the study for an at-home swab, saliva, and finger-prick blood sample collection and completion of further questionnaires.

Each study participant will receive an at-home sample collection test kit with detailed instructions on collecting samples (including an instructional video link) and returning the kit to UC Berkeley for further analysis in the laboratory.

Barcellos noted that the at-home sample collection kits are safe and easy-to-use. “By providing these samples, study participants can help researchers fight COVID-19 from the privacy of their homes,” said Barcellos.

“Investigators will test oral and nasal swab and saliva samples for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (active infection) and blood samples for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, which are proteins produced by the immune system in response to a specific infectious agent and indicate a previous infection.”

Barcellos added that privacy is very important to the study. “Any personal contact information you provide for the screening questionnaire will be stored securely, used only for secure research-related communication with you, and not shared with anyone outside of the study investigators at UC Berkeley,” said Barcellos.

For more information on this study, visit covic19survey.berkeley.edu.  To learn more about the U.S. government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.coronavirus.gov.

 

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Civil Rights Before the Loving Decision

Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights case in 1967 that recognized marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

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Not so recently in the United States, same sex marriages were illegal. In the last century, there were laws on the books that prohibited folks from different races marrying.  

Loving v. Virginia was a landmark civil rights case in 1967 that recognized marriage as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which includes the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause.

In 1958, Mildred Loving, a Black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were convicted and sentenced to a year in prison for violating the state of Virginia’s laws prohibiting their marriage.

That conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1968, ending discrimination in marriage based on race.

The Loving decision was a catalyst in 2015 to help abolish discrimination in marriage in same-sex marriages, which allowed for equality in the LGBTQ communities of all races including this author.

Before the Loving decision, Joan Steinau, a white woman, married Julius Lester, who at the time was a singer and a photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  Julius later became a writer.  

Joan and Julius were divorced in 1970.

Next month, Joan’s memoir, “Loving before Loving:  A Marriage in Black and White,” will be released. In the book, she recounts her marriage to Julius Lester before the Loving decision in the midst of the civil rights era as a wife, mother, and activist. 

In an interview with the Post, she said,   “Given both the erasure and distortion of Black lives as presented in the white-led media, the existence of a robust Black press . . .has been essential to the survival and thriving of Black community.”

Quoting the Chicago Daily Defender in her memoir, she said, “When one of its reporters asked President Truman, after he said school integration might lead to intermarriage, ‘Would you want your daughter to marry a Black man if she loved him?’ The president responded with a typical segregationist attitude of the time, ‘She won’t love anybody that’s not her color.’   It was important for the Black reporter to be there, because of course he assumed the possibility that naturally she could love anyone and pointed that out with his question.”

She added,  “That’s just one example of a long history of significant advocacy and reportage by hundreds of Black newspapers over the last 150 years. The Post News Group has jumped into the gap regionally to fill this important space, and I’m grateful for it. Until we have true representation of all experiences/perspectives at major media outlets, we will continue to need media targeted to excluded groups.

“My own history with Oakland/Berkeley dates to the 1980s when I began to visit from the East Coast and plot a way to move here. In 1991, my wife and I did settle in Berkeley. We immediately joined a predominantly Black church in Oakland and began creating a friendship circle. The diverse culture here was high on our list of reasons to move from our predominantly white area in New England. And it has been everything we hoped for.”

Joan Lester dedicates this memoir to her wife, Carole.  In addition to this memoir, she is a commentator, columnist and book author.

“Loving before Loving A Marriage in Black and White” by Joan Steinau Lester is available for pre-order now and on sale on May 18 on Amazon and at local bookstores.

For more information log onto JoanLester.com.

Wikipedia was a source for this story.

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Bay Area

At Least 4 Bay Area Counties Pause Use Of J&J Vaccines Amid Blood Clot Concerns

Public health officials in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Marin counties announced that they would temporarily halt use of the vaccine, which was developed by J&J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen.

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     At least four Bay Area counties paused administrations Tuesday of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after a handful of people across the country developed blood clots less than two weeks after the shot.

     Public health officials in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Marin counties announced that they would temporarily halt the use of the vaccine, which was developed by J&J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary Janssen.
The state’s Department of Public Health also issued a statement Tuesday urging a temporary pause on the vaccine’s administration while state and federal officials determine whether the clotting incidents are significant.

    More than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the country.
Health officials have confirmed cases of rare and severe blood clots in just six women between the ages of 18 and 48 who received the J&J vaccine, with symptoms appearing between six and 13 days post-vaccination.

   Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have also advised states to pause administration of the Janssen vaccine to allow for an investigation of the clots and whether a causal link with the vaccine can even be established.

     In a joint statement, FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Dr. Peter Marks and CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat said the two agencies will review the cases of clotting this week to determine whether they are statistically significant. “Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” Marks and Schuchat said. “This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.”

     State epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said the state will also follow the recommendation by the FDA and CDC and order a statewide pause of administrations of the Janssen vaccine.
“Additionally, the state will convene the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup to review the information provided by the federal government on this issue,” Pan said.

     California joined the states of Nevada, Oregon, and Washington to establish the workgroup last year to conduct independent review and analysis of each vaccine as they are approved for emergency use by the FDA.
Officials in the four Bay Area counties noted that Janssen vaccines represent 4 percent or less of the doses administered in each county to date, with the majority being the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Health officials have lauded the Janssen vaccine’s utility in reaching demographics like unhoused residents and people who are homebound, who may have difficulty returning for a second vaccine dose.

     Officials in the four counties said they did not expect the Janssen vaccine pause to force the widespread cancellation of vaccination appointments or significantly affect their ability to continue vaccinating their respective populations.

    Janssen vaccine recipients who got vaccinated more than a month ago are not deemed at risk for developing blood clots, according to local, state, and federal health officials.

   People who received the vaccine more recently are encouraged to contact a health care provider if they begin noticing symptoms like severe headaches, leg pain, and shortness of breath, which may be associated with clotting.

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