WESTCHESTER COVID CONTAINED FOR THIRD STRAIGHT WEEK. NEW CASES DECLINE 34%

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WPCNR CORONAVIRUS SURVEILLANCE. Statistics from New York State Covid Tracker. Observation and Analysis by John F. Bailey. January 23, 2023:

Westchester completed its third straight week of preventing covid from spreading saturday.

The county reported 1,441 new covid cases for the 7 days Sunday January 15 through Saturday January 21. The county is reported  as having an infection rate of 10% on 14,809 lab verified tests for 1,441 new cases for the week.

Considering it takes two weeks to measure how persons are catching the disease from new positives and given the fast infection rate of the new XBB.1.5 variant (2 days) the 1,896 infections at the end the week January 8, infected 1,441 new persons, meaning one new case infected 1.5 persons the last two weeks.

Or if you want to be more positive about the infection rate, figure  that the XBB.1.5. variant  you could take heart that 1 person was only infecting 1 to ½ a person over the two weeks ended Saturday night.   The  XBB.1.5 variant was just starting to the New York area big time two weeks ago. 

Last week’s stat of 1,520 (Jan 8 to 14) divided by new infections two weeks ago (1,896) would mean that the XBB.1.5. variant emerging on the New York area roughly January 8 to 14, saw 1 new infection only infect 1.2 people.

Now two weeks later the new infection is rate is 1.5% or one person is infecting just ½ a person.

If the state, and Westchester County Health Departments give us their accurate infection rate figured by the data they have (in more detail), we might know whether the XBB.1.5. variant is being contained as it appears the last three weeks.

You have only yours truly who is trying to keep track of this and of course, YOUR LOCAL EPIDEMIOLOGIST, Dr. Katelyn Jetelina.

Why this silence from the state? From the County? From the School Districts?

The best I can figure for you is that you, Westchester County residents are doing better, practicing safer socializing, because so far covid cases are being contained for three weeks now, despite the nasty XBB.1.5 variant.

But frankly I’m puzzled.

What is the daily new case count in Westchester (given every day)? Could it be lagging behind substantially do to absence of honest reporting  positive by covid positive persons? Or is the state just behind keeping up with the inflow of positive tests?

Westchester the last 7 days has a daily new case rate of 13.6 new cases a day per 100,000 population.

Westchester has 1,004,457 persons according to the completed census of 2022.  Persons reading my analyses which I do from time to time, KNOW the number of 100,000 increments making up the 1,004,457 is 10.04.

To get the number new cases a day the last 7 days you multiply 13.6 cases per one day by 10.04 which gives us 136 new cases daily, multiply that by 7 and you get 952 new cases a week.

Multiply 952 new infections a week by 4 weeks  and Westchester is growing cases by 3,808 a month according to the covid tracker Saturday.

But, here’s what I don’t understand.

 Even with the containment of covid for three weeks now, we are on target for6,000 infections this month if you go by the daily reported  average new case rate OF 13.6

So how come the state reports we only got lab-tested results of 1,441 the week ended Saturday?

An explanation be could  that persons are not getting lab tested when they discover they are positive for covid. Their cases may not be as serious, and we are told people are not getting as sick. Either the average new cases daily statistic is lagging behind or cases are not being reported by people walking positive.

However if people are covering up they are positive so they can continue to go to work, then the state’s only daily case rate for Westchester  County shows we are either lagging in case reporting, or worse not getting straight data from the population.

 Medical facilities and caregivers, school districts, parents or the state is (for the purpose of morale and “getting back to normal” and keeping the economy going) is underreporting,or behind in counting new cases or people are not reporting positives and seeing doctors.

Last week the state said we had  1,441 new cases. If we were getting 13.6 cases average new  cases daily  the last 7 days we should have had about 955  last week, not 1,441 as reported for the week, which would be fantastic.

I think this means there are either delays in reporting daily cases or God forbid, many more are being treated in the county and the reporting is really backlogged. Last time the County Executive reported hospitalizations for covid it was 285 and that was a week ago.

The state reports 4,862 cases the first 3 weeks of January.

Another week of 1,500 new cases would give us over 6,000 for the month in the county for January, compared to 9,103 in December.

The takeaway despite what appears to be a data delay  on daily new cases,   we have contained covid in January, cases are down 34%

A word of caution: Westchester County positive testing percentage of those tested was 10% for the week on lab-verified tests of 2,115 average per day (14,809 lab verified results for the week).

If 10% of all people tested test positive for every 2,000 tests there could very well be far more people positive out there. Say we test 6,000  that is 600 new positives. Nassau and Suffolk County have hitting those kind of positives most days for weeks now. If Westchester tested 10,000 you might find 1,000 positives a day.

Given a 10% positive rate in Westchester, it seems we have fewer infections reported than we should be seeing reported.

You need to continue to be wary: Winter Recess is coming up for a full week in February generating new opportunities for socialization and infection.

The relaxation of  reporting protocols of new covid case reporting by state, the State Education Department does not appear to be telling an accurate story how daily average new cases for Westchester County, in my opinion.

It would be in the best interests of the public to return to reporting all cases in the county and in the school districts to see the movement of covid infections, as well as individual communities in Westchester County as it used to do.

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WHITE PLAINS CITIZENETREPORTER  2,016,153 VISITORS IN 365 DAYS. EXCELSIOR!

WHITE PLAINS WEEK THE JANUARY 20 REPORT TONIGHT 7:30 PM CH 45 FIOS COUNTYWIDE, CH 76 OPTIMUM WHITE PLAINS & www.wpcommunitymedia.org TONIGHT

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HONORED BY WESTCHESTER COUNTY
COUNTY EXECUTIVE GEORGE LATIMER ON HIS PRIORITIES FOR HIS 5TH YEAR IN OFFICE
NY SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE REJECTS GOVERNOR HOCHUL CHIEF JUSTICE NOMINEE. DIRECT CHALLENGE TO GOVERNOR’S AUTHORITY
COVID CONTAINED THIRD CONSECUTIVE WEEK — MAYBE
SHOCKER
JOHN BAILEY AND THE NEWS

THIS WEEK EVERY WEEK ON WHITE PLAINS WEEK

SINCE 2001. 22ND YEAR ON THE AIR

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THE SCIENCE (AND BUSINESS) BEHIND COVID-19 DISINFORMATION. AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT.

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Katelyn Jetelina (Reprinted with permission. January 20, 2023)

Rumors around COVID-19 vaccines and death, like the Died Suddenly video we highlighted earlier this week, aren’t random. Disinformation campaigns are deliberate, often orchestrated, and highly effective in confusing people enough to change behaviors, like not getting the COVID-19 vaccine. And it’s a very lucrative business. Malicious rumors continue to be a massive challenge in public health, but we aren’t hopeless. There are things that can be done.

Note: Disinformation is different than misinformation. Disinformation is false information which is deliberately intended to mislead. Misinformation is misleading information without malicious intent. Both are different than healthy scientific debate.

Landscape

Rumors, stigma, and conspiracy theories related to the pandemic are everywhere. One study found that in the infancy of the pandemic (April 2020), they were present in 85 countries and in 25 different languages. The countries with the highest levels? India followed by the U.S. and China.

Analyses have found that 12 people—coined the “disinformation dozen”—are responsible for 65% of misleading claims, rumors, and lies about COVID-19 vaccines on social media. Their impact is most effective on Facebook (account for up to 73% of Facebook rumors), but also bleed into Instagram and Twitter. A scientific study published in Nature found that 1 in 4 anti-COVID-19 vaccine tweets originated from the so-called Children’s Health Defense—which is controlled by one man.

Top low-credibility sources. We considered tweets shared by users geolocated in the U.S. that link to a low-credibility source. Sources are ranked by percentage of the tweets considered

Bots — or automated accounts on social media used to spread online disinformation— have been successfully used to manipulate democracies. They are starting to be used for public health topics, too, like e-cigarettes and medications.

During the pandemic, research found accounts linking to coronavirus information from less reliable sites were more likely to be bots. Another study found that bot activity the weeks before and after the original COVID-19 vaccine roll-out were present for pro- and anti-vaccine content. However, it was particularly high for anti-COVID-19 vaccines and highest leading up to the roll-out.

Percentage of bots by stance by time period. Source: Blane et al., 2022, J Med Internet Res

As Georgetown’s Center for Security reported, amplification of disinformation campaigns will get worse with the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Why does it work so well?

False information goes farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth. One study (published in 2018—before the pandemic) found false news was 6 times faster at spreading than the truth, reached far more people, and was more broadly diffused.

Slide made by Katelyn Jetelina; Data source from Voshoughi et al., 2018

Why does false news spread so quickly? There are specific tactics used to ensure that information goes viral:

  1. Leverage social media. Our information ecosystem is very different than it used to be. We have social media. It’s a huge part of how people get their news and the greatest source of health information worldwide.
  2. Exploit information gaps quickly. “A lie can go around the world before the truth gets its pants on.” It takes an order or magnitude more effort to refute rumors than to invent them (This is called Brandolini’s Law). Filling the information void quickly is key. We saw this with the NFL injury, for example.
  3. Fail to provide contextVaccine rumors are intentionally vague. Specifics are not narrowed down; conditions that may seem the same to an untrained person, but to a medical professional are entirely distinct. (Myocarditis is not caused by a blood clot.) Different hypotheses are blended together allowing proponents to shift from one to the other when the data doesn’t turn out like they expected.
  4. Kernel of truth. Almost all vaccine rumors have a kernel of truth–something that is true but then distorted, taken out of context, or exaggerated. For example, VAERS does say that more than 18,000 people have died after the vaccine. However, this is taken out of context given the surveillance system and post hoc fallacy.
  5. Sowing doubts about scientific consensus. This was famously done in the 1960’s from big tobacco: companies funding sham studies. Researchers found this tactic was intentionally used with vaccines during the pandemic.
  6. Exaggerate partisan grievances. Harvard identified the most common narratives of COVID-19 disinformation were “corrupt elites,” “freedom under siege,” and “health freedom.”
  7. Presenting fringe views as mainstream. This was dangerously on display last Friday when the BBC invited a prominent anti-vaxxer on TV to talk about statins, but instead hijacked the conversation and pivoted to mRNA vaccines leading to death. This was dangerous because using airtime from a “legitimate” mainstream media source gives the rumors credibility. He knew it too, as he continues to tote the fact that he made it on BBC getting tens of thousands of likes.

Effective

Social media is a domain for manipulating beliefs and ideas. The danger is that it ultimately leads to real-world actions, such as not to vaccinate.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found that between June 2021 and March 2022, 234,000 deaths could have been prevented with the primary series of vaccinations.

The impact of these rumors will bleed into other vaccines. A recent MMWR paper found only 14 states have ≥95% coverage of the MMR vaccine among kindergarteners; 13 states have <90% coverage.

The danger is that infectious diseases violate the assumption of independence. One person’s actions directly impact the person next to them. We are seeing this in the Ohio measles outbreak, where some children hospitalized are only partially vaccinated because they weren’t old enough for the complete series.

Why spread rumors?

Why would people intentionally push a rumor? It’s simple: To turn a profit. Disinformation campaigns, like COVID-19 vaccines, turns out to be incredibly lucrative business model. The Center for Countering Digital Hate outlined this clearly. Some examples include:

  • Joseph Mercola uses health disinformation to promote the sale of supplements, books and food. During the height of the pandemic, he promoted a new website designed to prevent or treat COVID-19 with alternative remedies. His business has a net worth of $100 million.
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr is the leading anti-vaxxer of the pandemic, as he owns the Children’s Health Defense. He gained more than 1 million followers in 2020 and traffic to his website rose sharply in March 2021 with 2.35 million visits.

What to do about disinformation?

Treat it like the public health problem it is: Investment, surveillance, prevention, intervention. Establish public-private partnerships. Integrate education into schools, like Finland, who has started educating their youth about disinformation.

On an individual-level, combating every rumor that pops up will be a game of whack-a-mole. Researchers have found that education about disinformation tactics makes people more likely to reject disinformation. Some examples include:

  • Games, like the GoViral, teaches people how information is manipulated.
  • Creative videos, like by Truth Labs for Education, educating on different tactics, like scapegoating:https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/BdlBHh0FOtw?start=39s&rel=0&autoplay=0&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=0

Bottom line

Twelve people are responsible for 65% of disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines on social media. It’s coordinated, effective, lucrative, and costs lives. This is true during the pandemic and it will be true for other public health problems. It’s a public health and biosecurity threat. And we need to treat it like one.

Love, YLE


“Your Local Epidemiologist (YLE)” is written by Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, MPH PhD—an epidemiologist, data scientist, wife, and mom of two little girls. During the day she works at a nonpartisan health policy think tank and is a senior scientific consultant to a number of organizations, including the CDC. At night she writes this newsletter. Her main goal is to “translate” the ever-evolving public health science so that people will be well equipped to make evidence-based decisions. This newsletter is free thanks to the generous support of fellow YLE community members.

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COUNCILPERSON NADINE HUNT-ROBINSON WILL NOT RUN FOR REELECTION

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WPCNR CAMPAIGN 2023. January 19, 2023:

Democratic City Committee Chair, Tim James, announced in a communication to District Leaders that Councilperson Nadine Hunt-Robinson has announced she will not run for reelection in the fall.

Ms. Hunt-Robinson was the first African-American Woman elected to the Common Council in 2014 when Benjamin Boykin was elected to the Westchester County Legislature. In January of 2020 she became the first African-American woman to be elected Council President.

Nominations for the Common Council seats were requested to be sent to the nominating committee by January 23.

Jenn Puja and Vicki Presser will run for reelection

Councilwoman Nadine Hunt-Robinson of the White Plains Common Council.
Vicki Presser, left and Jenn Puja,
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BASEBALL’S BACK TONIGHT SPRING TRAINING AT 8 ON WPTV FIOS CH 45 AND OPTIMUM CH 76 & www.wpcommunitymedia.org PEOPLE TO BE HEARD WITH THE IMMORTAL BULL ALLEN AND BEYOND THE GAME VETERAN SPORTS INSIDER, JOHN VORPERIAN FROM LEGENDARY AL LANG FIELD IN ST. PETERSBURG FLORIDA

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“HELLO THERE EVERYBODYTONIGHT FROM SUNNY FLORIDA OF MEMORY: BASEBALL IMMORTAL BULL ALLEN AND BEYOND THE GAME INTREPID INTERVIEWER, JOHN VORPERIAN OFFICIALLY OPEN THE HOT STOVE LEAGUE ACROSS THE COUNTRY. PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT IN 5 WEEKS! BULL AND JOHN PREVIEW THE 2023 SEASON THE METS THE BOMBERS. THE NEW RULES. HOW WILL THE CLOCK, THE NEW BASES, THE NO SHIFT RULES AFFECT THE GAME? CAN MANAGERS GO BACK TO INSIDE BASEBALL? EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO GET READY FOR BASEBALL OPENING DAY MARCH 30

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NIGHT FLASH! FOUNDER MAJORITY OWNER OF BITZLATO (CHINA-BASED) CRYPTO EXCHANGE CHARGED WITH PROCESSING $700 MILLION OF “ILLICIT” FUNDS, $15 MILLION IN RANSOMWARE FUNDS, RUSSIAN CRIMINALS USED THE SERVICE. BITZLATO ASSETS SEIZED.

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WPCNR FBI WIRE. Special to WPCNR from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. January 18, 2023:

The founder and majority owner of a cryptocurrency exchange, Bitzlato Ltd. (Bitzlato), was arrested last night in Miami for his alleged operation of a money transmitting business that transported and transmitted illicit funds and that failed to meet U.S. regulatory safeguards, including anti-money laundering requirements. 

Anatoly Legkodymov, 40, a Russian national who resides in Shenzhen, People’s Republic of China, was scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. French authorities and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) are taking concurrent enforcement actions.

“Today the Department of Justice dealt a significant blow to the cryptocrime ecosystem,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “Overnight, the Department worked with key partners here and abroad to disrupt Bitzlato, the China-based money laundering engine that fueled a high-tech axis of cryptocrime, and to arrest its founder, Russian national Anatoly Legkodymov. Today’s actions send the clear message: whether you break our laws from China or Europe – or abuse our financial system from a tropical island – you can expect to answer for your crimes inside a United States courtroom.”

“As alleged, the defendant helped operate a cryptocurrency exchange that failed to implement required anti-money laundering safeguards and enabled criminals to profit from their wrongdoing, including ransomware and drug trafficking,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team’s tremendous efforts to disrupt Bitzlato and arrest the defendant demonstrate that we will continue to work with our partners – both foreign and domestic – to combat cryptocurrency-fueled crimes, even if they transcend international borders.”

According to court documents, Legkodymov is a senior executive and the majority shareholder of Bitzlato, a Hong Kong-registered cryptocurrency exchange that operates globally.

Bitzlato has marketed itself as requiring minimal identification from its users, specifying that “neither selfies nor passports [are] required.”

On occasions when Bitzlato did direct users to submit identifying information, it repeatedly allowed them to provide information belonging to “straw man” registrants.

“Institutions that trade in cryptocurrency are not above the law and their owners are not beyond our reach,” said U.S. Attorney Breon Peace for the Eastern District of New York.

“As alleged, Bitzlato sold itself to criminals as a no-questions-asked cryptocurrency exchange, and reaped hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of deposits as a result. The defendant is now paying the price for the malign role that his company played in the cryptocurrency ecosystem.”

As a result of these deficient know-your-customer (KYC) procedures, Bitzlato allegedly became a haven for criminal proceeds and funds intended for use in criminal activity.

Bitzlato’s largest counterparty in cryptocurrency transactions was Hydra Market (Hydra)an anonymous, illicit online marketplace for narcotics, stolen financial information, fraudulent identification documents, and money laundering services that was the largest and longest running darknet market in the world.

Hydra users exchanged more than $700 million in cryptocurrency with Bitzlato, either directly or through intermediaries, until Hydra was shuttered by U.S. and German law enforcement in April 2022.

Bitzlato also received more than $15 million in ransomware proceeds.

“The FBI will continue to pursue actors who attempt to mask their criminal activity behind keyboards and use means such as cryptocurrency to evade law enforcement,” said Associate Deputy Director Brian Turner of the FBI.

“We, along with our federal and international partners, will work relentlessly to disrupt and dismantle these types of criminal enterprises. Today’s arrest should serve as a reminder the FBI will impose risk and consequences upon those who engage in these activities.”

“As alleged today, Legkodymov knowingly allowed Bitzlato to become a perceived safe haven for funds used for and resulting from a variety of criminal activities,” said Assistant Director in Charge Michael J. Driscoll of the FBI New York Field Office. “The FBI and our partners remain steadfast in our commitment to keeping cryptocurrency markets – as with any financial market – free from illicit activity.  Today’s action should serve as an example of this commitment as Legkodymov will now face the consequences of his actions in our criminal justice system.”

As alleged in the complaint, Bitzlato’s customers routinely used the company’s customer service portal to request support for transactions with Hydra, which Bitzlato often provided, and admitted in chats with Bitzlato personnel that they were trading under assumed identities.

Moreover, Legkodymov and Bitzlato’s other managers were aware that Bitzlato’s accounts were rife with illicit activity and that many of its users were registered under others’ identities.

For instance, on May 29, 2019, Legkodymov used Bitzlato’s internal chat system to write to a colleague that Bitzlato’s users were “known to be crooks,” using others’ identity documents to register their accounts.

Legkodymov was repeatedly warned by colleagues that Bitzlato’s customer base consisted of “addicts who buy drugs at [] Hydra” and “drug traffickers,” with one senior executive even stressing that Bitzlato should combat drug dealers only “nominally,” to avoid hurting the company’s bottom line.

An internal spreadsheet saved in Bitzlato’s shared management folder encapsulated the company’s view of itself: “Positives: No KYC. . . . Negatives: Dirty money. . . .”

As alleged in the complaint, although Bitzlato claimed not to accept users from the United States, it did substantial business with U.S.-based customers, and its customer service representatives repeatedly advised users that they could transfer funds from U.S. financial institutions.

Moreover, Legkodymov – who himself administered Bitzlato from Miami in 2022 and 2023 – received reports reflecting substantial traffic to Bitzlato’s website from U.S.-based Internet Protocol addresses, including over 250 million such visits in July 2022.

Legkodymov is charged with conducting an unlicensed money transmitting business. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Concurrent with the arrest announced today, French authorities, working with Europol and partners in Spain, Portugal, and Cyprus, dismantled Bitzlato’s digital infrastructure, seized Bitzlato’s cryptocurrency, and took other enforcement actions.

In addition, the Treasury Department’s FinCEN announced an Order pursuant to section 9714(a) of the Combating Russian Money Laundering Act, as amended, identifying Bitzlato as a “primary money laundering concern” in connection to Russian illicit finance.

The order imposes a special measure prohibiting certain transmittals of funds involving Bitzlato by any covered financial institution.

National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) Trial Attorneys Alexander Mindlin, Scott Meisler, and Matthew Blackwood of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Artie McConnell for the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Mary Clare McMahon.

The Justice Department investigated this case in close coordination with French law enforcement authorities and the Treasury Department’s FinCEN, both of which took separate enforcement actions today under their respective authorities.

The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the FBI’s Legal Attaché in France provided critical assistance in this case, with significant support from the department’s Cyber Operations International Liaison.

The NCET and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York also extend their appreciation to the Cyber Division of the Paris Prosecution Office and to France’s Gendarmerie Nationale Cyberspace Command (Cyber Crime Investigation Unit / C3N).

Assistance was also provided by the Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Safety Administration, and the New York City Police Department. EUROPOL and Dutch and Belgian authorities have contributed to the overall investigation with respect to operational expertise, coordination, and information-sharing.

The NCET was established to combat the growing illicit use of cryptocurrencies and digital assets. Under the Criminal Division, the NCET conducts and supports investigations into individuals and entities that enable the use of digital assets to commit and facilitate a variety of crimes, with a particular focus on virtual currency exchanges, mixing and tumbling services, and infrastructure providers. The NCET also sets strategic priorities regarding digital asset technologies, identifies areas for increased investigative and prosecutorial focus, and leads the department’s efforts to collaborate with domestic and foreign government agencies as well as the private sector to aggressively investigate and prosecute crimes involving cryptocurrency and digital assets. 

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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NURSES HONORED BY COUNTY EXECUTIVE LATIMER FOR SAVING STUDENT’S LIFE WITH APPLICATION OF NARCAN NASAL SPRAY. SEE COMPLETE CEREMONY AND NEWS CONFERENCE BELOW

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This is the complete, informative news conference held Tuesday at the County Office Building honoring 5 New Rochelle High School nurses who found a student they judged to be having trouble breathing and used a Narcan nasal spray to stop the seizure and save her life. Dr. Sherlita Amler, center and Dr. Brooke Balchan, Director of Nursing spoke about the dangers of fentanyl in street drugs and the importance of being trained to use the NARCAN treatment that saved the New Rochelle student. (Westchester County video)

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COUNTY SALES TAX ON HEATING COSTS NOW IN EFFECT.

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County remindS residents to check their bill for the suspension

Email the New York State Tax Department at: https://nystax.custhelp.com/app/ask or call the Department’s Sales Tax Information Center at 518-485-2889.

(White Plains, NY) – Westchester County Executive George Latimer is reminding residents to check their heating bill to ensure County sales tax collection on home energy costs from December 1-February 28 has been suspended from your bill. The sales tax suspension covers home heating oil, propane, natural gas, electric, coal and wood for residential heating purposes and covers homeowners as well as rental units.

The County is reminding residents to email the New York State Tax Department at: https://nystax.custhelp.com/app/ask or call the Department’s Sales Tax Information Center at 518-485-2889 with any issues on their bill.

Latimer said: “Westchester County Government is constantly looking to find ways to make the lives of residents a little easier. This winter, heating your home has cost you a little less and we want to make sure you are getting the full impact of this sales tax suspension. As we all face rising costs in our daily lives, this suspension of certain sales tax will add extra dollars to the wallets of those who call Westchester home.”  

The County portion is 4% however, residents of Mount Vernon, New Rochelle, White Plains and Yonkers will see a reduction of 1.5% as these cities have their own sales tax.

Landlords and renters will be eligible depending on the structure of the unit’s heat and electric use. The initiative is administered by the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance; the vendors will not be assessing sales tax as directed by the State. The sales tax will automatically be taken off the bill. 

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“NOTHING SHORT OF A MIRACLE” HEROINE CORPS HONORED FOR THEIR LIFE-SAVING EFFORT

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NEW ROCHELLE’S “HEROINE CORPS” AT THE COUNTY OFFICE BUILDING THIS AFTERNOON THEIR ACTIONS WERE PRAISED BY THE COUNTY LATIMER–AND COMMISSIONER OF HEALTH DR. SHERLITA AMLER. THE COUNTY EXECUTIVE PRAISED THEM FOR ACTING ON THEIR TRAINING IN TIMELY FASHION, AND SAVING A STUDENT SUFFERING FROM AN APPARENT OVERDOSE, THOUGHT TO CONTAIN AN OPIOID, BELIEVED TO BE FENTANYL.

County Executive George Latimer said:

“We would like to recognize these nurses from the New Rochelle City School District, for their heroic actions that ultimately saved this teen’s life. We recognize that fentanyl is present in our communities and among young people, and we want our communities to be saturated with Narcan.

Our school districts, communities, residents and families should know that our Health Department offers free Narcan training

Because of these nurses this student was given the gift of continued life, and they are all deserving of our most esteemed praise.”

The Westchester County Health Department is also taking this opportunity to remind residents of its free, life-saving Naloxone (Narcan) Training Program.

The training program can be taken by anyone 18 years of age or older who live or work in Westchester County, and educates people on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose.

Naloxone is a prescription medication that is used to reverse an opioid overdose, and the drug is provided for free to anyone who attends a training session. When administered correctly, Narcan nasal spray restores breathing that has been dangerously slowed by an overdose of heroin or prescription painkillers. If used quickly and effectively, Narcan has the potential to save lives.

The Health Department provides school trainings as well as community trainings, and residents who participate will receive a free Narcan kit. To learn more about Narcan or register for an upcoming Community Opioid Overdose Training Session, visit the Health Department’s Website.

Westchester County Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD said:

“The dangerous part of fentanyl is that most of the time users don’t know what they’re taking, and it does not take much fentanyl to create an overdose situation. Narcan can work within a minute or two, giving emergency responders extra time to arrive and transport the person to a hospital before it’s too late.”

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COVID-19 VACCINES AND SUDDEN DEATHS: SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION FROM YOUR LOCAL EPIDEMIOLOGIST

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BY Katelyn Jetelina and 

Kristen Panthagani, MD, PhD

Vaccine rumors continue to swirl, and distrust in vaccines remains. The latest onslaught comes from blogs and social media around heart problems and sudden deaths following COVID-19 vaccination, particularly among young adults. 

This rumor has been a constant theme since vaccine roll-out, but has recently bubbled to the surface due to a constellation of events: external medical review in Florida on vaccines, videos released (called Died Suddenly), the death of a young prominent soccer reporter, the NFL cardiac arrest incident, the death of Lisa Marie Presley. In fact, every week “sudden deaths” that aren’t remotely related to vaccines go viral.

To be very clear:

We have more evidence than for any other vaccine or disease in the history of humans that the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines greatly outweigh the risks. 

I partnered with Dr. Kristen Panthagani, physician-scientist and author of You Can Know Things, to tackle this topic. This post is long, but we hope it’s a comprehensive, one stop shop to address the majority of rumors spreading now and in the future. 

Here we go. 

Deaths by vaccination status: It’s not even close

Underlying all these rumors is the belief that COVID-19 vaccines are seriously harmful, with some postulating that they are intended to depopulate the planet. If this fanciful rumor had any merit, we would expect those who are vaccinated for COVID to be more likely to die than those who are unvaccinated.

In fact, we see the opposite.

The U.K. Health Security Agency recently released data evaluating all deaths (COVID-19, car accidents, strokes, etc.) in the U.K. by vaccination status, after adjusting for age. This is powerful data because it allows us to remove noise from the debate—it doesn’t matter if the death was “with” or “from” COVID or how the person died.

Below is the data visually displayed. And, the story is clear: vaccines save lives. (The impact has changed over time thanks to survivor bias, an increase in vaccination rates, and infection-induced immunity.)

What about excess deaths among young adults?

One of the first rumors that gained a foothold was from an observation by insurance companies: in the third quarter of 2021, deaths increased by 40% in working-aged individuals. Some latched onto this information as evidence that COVID-19 vaccines, which were rolled out earlier that year, were the cause of increased deaths. 

This assumption leaves out one key detail — a pandemic. The Delta variant slammed the U.S. during the third quarter of 2021, killing people of all ages.

A new study assessed patterns of excess deaths and COVID-19 specific deaths across time, by state, region, and age. Scientists found that excess deaths increased starting in spring 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, well before vaccines were introduced into the population. Furthermore, excess deaths tightly mirror COVID deaths, even for working-age adults.

(If you’re wondering why there’s a gap between COVID deaths and excess deaths — according to the study’s lead author, Dr. Jeremy Faust, it’s likely “a combination of non-medical deaths like accidental overdose and also, we strongly believe, things like heart attacks that were actually instigated by COVID.”)

The tight link between COVID and excess deaths was seen even in Florida (see red arrow below), which has recently stopped recommending mRNA vaccines for men aged 18-39 based on a deeply flawed analysis.

We can also look at specific deaths, like those classified under “diseases of the circulatory system”— which includes things like heart attacks and blood clots in the lung. Circulatory system deaths in 18-39 year-olds were decreasing before the pandemic, but then spiked sharply during the pre-vaccination period. Vaccination roll-outs correlated with a stunning reversal of this trend, as seen in the graph below. 

Original graph from JM Pienaar here; Annotations by us.

What about young athletes?

Then there was the tragic injury in the NFL—Hamlin’s heart stopped after a hit to the chest. Within minutes, rumors flooded an information void to make the conversation about vaccines and death.

In particular, one incorrect statistic was quickly circulated on social media: more athletes died in the last year than have died in the last 38 years. 

Where did this statistic come from? After digging, it surfaced that this came from a published letter by Peter McCullough in which he compared sudden cardiac deaths (SCD) in athletes from two data sets from two time periods. This study design can work in epidemiology; however, it has to be done very carefully to make sure we compare apples to apples.

McCullough did not do it carefully and compared oranges to apples: compared young vs. old, compared different definitions of SCD, included people who didn’t even die from SCD in the first place, included some people who weren’t athletes, and included some people who didn’t even die. 

It was a mess of an analysis. But that didn’t matter because the seed was sown. The rumor filled an information void, and it went viral. 

What about blood clots?

Then there is the Died Suddenly video. This video flashes through dozens of upsetting news headlines and videos of people collapsing to paint an alarming picture of deaths after the COVID-19 vaccine. 

We could write a whole post refuting this video (you can read this one). But a few quick things to take away: 

  • If you simply Google the sudden death headlines in the video, it’s clear they weren’t from the vaccine. One person died in a car accident. Another died before the COVID-19 vaccines were even available. Another collapsed during a basketball game (before COVID-19 vaccines), but never died. 
  • The video ultimately alleged mRNA vaccines are killing people via blood clots. As “evidence” it showed images of blood clots being removed from the blood vessels of cadavers. However, it fails to mention that it is totally normal for blood to clot after death.
  • The video also showed images of a huge blood clot being surgically removed from a vessel in the lung (a pulmonary embolism), suggesting this clot was caused by a vaccine. However, the footage they used was stolen from a 2019 medical education video—showing not only that this clot was not caused by a COVID vaccine (COVID vaccines didn’t exist in 2019), but also that major blood clots, even in young people, are a well known phenomenon that pre-dated COVID vaccination.

What about all the personal stories of death after vaccination? 

If you have spent much time on the internet, you’ve likely encountered stories of people saying a loved one died or was injured from the vaccine – their father got vaccinated and had a heart attack just a few days later.

As humans, we are wired to find cause and effect in our lived experiences, and the occurrence of a serious health event within days of vaccination appears to be fool-proof evidence of the negative effects of vaccination to many. But as painful as these stories are to hear, and even more so to experience, the reality is even if everyone had gotten a placebo, these stories are statistically bound to happen. Even if everyone had gotten a placebo shot, there still would be deaths after the shot. In order for there to be no deaths after vaccination, that vaccine would have to not only be safe, but actually prevent all deaths, from every cause. 

To understand why, here’s a brief explanation of the post hoc fallacy and why it confuses many when it comes to vaccines: 

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/Qnu8NvnRmFY?rel=0&autoplay=0&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=0

What about the VAERS data rumors? 

Then there are rumors of a possible cover-up after a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request from CDC’s VAERS database erroneously claimed clear safety signals for death after vaccinations. 

In addition to the important nuances outlined in the video above, it’s important to take VAERS with a grain of salt. VAERS is a type of surveillance called “passive.” It’s run on an honor system that is dependent on people providing accurate data, which people knowingly (or unknowingly) don’t do. Because of this, the CDC has several disclaimers plastered throughout their site: “The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable.”

VAERS is imperfect, so we also have “active” vaccine safety surveillance called V-Safe. VAERS coupled with V-safe is incredibly powerful. Monitoring systems aren’t perfect, but they are pretty darn good. In fact, they were able to find some rare, but serious, side effects quickly during the vaccine roll-out.

What are the (validated) serious side effects from the COVID-19 vaccines?

When doctors say the COVID vaccines are “safe,” they don’t mean the risk of side effects is zero (no medical intervention can meet that standard)—they mean the risks of serious side effects are extremely small, and the benefits of the vaccine outweigh those risks. 

There are true safety signals that have been legitimately linked to COVID-19 vaccines:

  • Serious allergic reactions (called anaphylaxis) occurred in 5 out of 1 million vaccine doses. This is readily treatable, but can be life-threatening if not immediately treated.
  • The J&J vaccine (not an mRNA vaccine) was linked with a 4 in 1 million chance of a specific type of serious, sometimes fatal blood clot (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome). The J&J vaccine was also associated with a small elevation in risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disease that can occur after both infections and vaccination.
    • Because of these rare risks that are specific to the J&J vaccine, mRNA vaccines are now recommended instead of the J&J vaccine.
  • Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) among young males has been linked to the vaccine. About 100 in 1 million doses result in it, particularly after the second shot. Vaccine-induced myocarditis is less severe than myocarditis from the virus itself, which is helpful context.
  • Last week, the FDA and CDC announced they are investigating a possible (but not confirmed) link between the Pfizer bivalent booster vaccine and increased risk of stroke in people older than 65 based on results from one of the surveillance databases. So far, at least four other sources of data have shown no link.

Not all of these vaccine-induced events were linked to death, but some were after intense investigations. For example, nine deaths have been causally linked to the clot complications from the J&J vaccine. In 2021, one study reported eight deaths from vaccine-induced myocarditis.

Weigh risk of vaccines with risk of infection

No one denies COVID-19 vaccines can have rare but severe effects. The question is how severe they are and how often they occur compared to infection. 

COVID-19 vaccines have always been safer than infection. One study compared the immediate risks of a COVID-19 vaccine to an infection. With the exception of swollen lymph nodes, infections were far more predictive of heart arrhythmias, heart attacks, myocarditis, and blood clots.

Absolute Excess Risk of Various Adverse Events after Vaccination or SARS-CoV-2 Infection. From Barda et al., 2021. New England Journal of Medicine. Source here.

The impact of COVID-19 infection on long-term problems is being uncovered more and more. Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of time for this to play out. But there are already several studies with concerning findings: 

  • study in Italy and Spain found excess all-cause mortality related to cardiovascular complications in patients after COVID-19 infection.
  • study in the Lancet found that people infected with SARS-CoV-2 had 3 times the risk of dying over the following year compared with those who remained uninfected. For those aged 60+ years, increased mortality persisted until the end of the first year after infection. It was related to increased risk for heart and/or respiratory causes of death.
  • report from Singapore also found an increase in excess mortality after infection (people with no recent infections had no additional excess deaths). However, it was not linked to cardiovascular events.

Across the globe, COVID-19 vaccines saved more than 20 million lives in the first year.

Figure from Watson et al., (2022) Global impact of the first year of COVID-19 vaccination: a mathematical modelling study. Source here.

In the United States specifically, COVID-19 vaccines prevented 18.5 million additional hospitalizations and 3.2 million additional deaths.  

Bottom line

Safety in vaccines is incredibly important to monitor. Unfortunately, no vaccine is risk free. There are rare vaccine tragedies, and they need to be taken seriously. But do not confound these rare tragedies with thinking they are common occurrences. And certainly don’t forget that COVID-19 vaccines saved millions of lives across the globe and will continue to do so.

Love, YLE and Dr. Panthagani 


Kristen Panthagani, MD, PhD is an emergency medicine physician at Yale. In her free time, she is the creator of the medical blog You Can Know Things. You can subscribe to her newsletter here

“Your Local Epidemiologist (YLE)” is written by Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, MPH PhD—an epidemiologist, data scientist, wife, and mom of two little girls. During the day she works at a nonpartisan health policy think tank and is a senior scientific consultant to a number of organizations, including the CDC. At night she writes this newsletter. Her main goal is to “translate” the ever-evolving public health science so that people will be well equipped to make evidence-based decisions. This newsletter is free thanks to the generous support of fellow YLE community members.

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