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“This Pandemic Still Has Legs”: Expert Q&A by COVID-19




Nov. 5, 2021 — There has been a lot of COVID-19 news this week, including the approval of vaccinations for children aged 5-11 years old and a Jan. 4, federal mandate for workers in any company employing at least 100 people to get vaccinated. We wanted to talk with Michael T. Osterholm PhD, director of University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy about the urgent COVID-19 issues that we are currently facing. WebMD: What is your concern about the eligibility of children aged 5-11 for the COVID-19 vaccine? Osterholm: Currently, about a third (33%) of parents indicate that they will get their children vaccinated as soon and as quickly as possible. There are three-quarters of parents who say, “Maybe, but I will wait and watch,” while the remaining third say, “No way.” We now need to find out how many parents in the middle will get their children vaccinated. This could decide the holiday season. WebMD: What do you think about the Biden administration’s mandate that workers get vaccinated and tested weekly by January 4th? Osterholm: Many people don’t realize the ongoing transmission that will continue in this country. You can see the trend in Southwest transmission. The number of cases is increasing rapidly. We still have 65 to 70 millions people who are at risk. This is the challenge we face. Take a look at the Four Corners. The case numbers in those four states (Arizona New Mexico, Utah, Colorado) are on the rise. Colorado’s governor recently announced that they will defer elective procedures. This all sets the scene for why this mandate matters so much. WebMD: Can we ever move from endemic to pandemic? Osterholm: In my podcast I discuss the challenges of vaccines. One thing I try is to emphasize that the euphoria experienced almost a year ago, when vaccines became available, was real. Data at the time showed 99% protection against illness, hospitalization and death. This was before we knew what it would look like six to eight months later. Add up the number of variants and the people who are not protected. We don’t know how long or how well it will last if we look at people who have evidence of protection. This pandemic is still going strong, so we need to be humble about it. WebMD: Some people are having antibody testing to determine if they require a booster. Is this a good idea? Osterholm: Antibody testing should not be used as a way to determine if you need a booster. We don’t yet know what antibody studies are. We don’t know what antibody studies mean. We don’t know enough about the correlation factors, such how T cells play a role in protection and how much. There are also studies that can correlate immune response with different types of antibodies. Until then, antibody testing can’t be used as a reason to get a booster. WebMD: What are your feelings right now about the current state of the pandemic? Osterholm: It’s a question I think a lot about. What did we think we knew? The vaccines are amazing, but they are not perfect. This is a crucial message. We would have spent 5-6 years studying long-term immunity if this were a typical vaccine. We would have submitted a detailed dossier to the FDA before we could go into the approval process. We couldn’t because we were in a panic. Once we had established that the vaccines were safe, we were able to study how best to use them. This included how much each person should get and what doses they should be given. We are all learning this and trying to understand it. Important: This isn’t indecision, or incomplete information. We are learning. It’s an evolving science. I am learning to be more humble about this virus. WebMD Health News Sources Michael T. Osterholm (Doctoral Candidate Researcher and Policy Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota).
(C) 2021 WebMD LLC. All rights reserved.

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New GR Pharmacy to Serve Spanish-speaking Patients




GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — By the end of the year, Grand Rapids’ Roosevelt Park neighborhood will have a new pharmacy.

Trinity Health Clinica Santa Maria began construction Monday morning on the $1.5 million project. The new pharmacy will include both walk-up and drive-thru services.

Trinity Health Clinica Santa Maria practice leader Kameron Selleck it will offer convenience in a neighborhood that doesn’t have a pharmacy close in proximity, making it challenging for patients to get their prescriptions in a timely manner.

“A lot of our patients do encounter a lot of social barriers in their lives,” Selleck said.

He added that a language barrier can make it difficult patients to get their prescriptions. He said nearly every employee at Clinica Santa Maria is bilingual in Spanish and the plan is for that trend to carry over to new pharmacy and pharmacy tech hires.

“I think this project was announced almost five years ago, so it’s here,” Selleck said. “I just really encourage the community to be as excited as we are.

The pharmacy is at 730 Cesar E. Chavez Ave. SW (formerly Grandville Avenue) at Martin Luther King Jr. Street (formerly Franklin Street) in Grand Rapids. It will be the seventh Trinity Health pharmacy in the Grand Rapids area, with the other locations being Cathedral Square, the Wege Building at Trinity Heath Saint Mary’s, Hudsonville, Rockford, Byron Center and Southeast Grand Rapids.

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Tulip Time Crowds Encouraging for Returning Festivals




HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Tulip Time saw big crowds this year as it returned to a more regular schedule.

The event was cancelled in 2020 and scaled back last year because of the pandemic.

Hot temperatures caused damage to some of Holland’s tulips, Tulip Time organizers say.

The heat caused challenges for the 2022 festival. The Tulip Immersion Garden, a new attraction, had to close early because the hot temperatures caused too much damage to the flowers, Tulip Time Executive Director Gwen Auwerda said.

“They don’t like 80 degree, 90 degree weather. Tulips prefer it to be about 40 at night, 60 to 70, maybe 80 during the day,” Auwerda said.

Heat closes down Tulip Time Immersion Garden early

The organization is working on final numbers but saw attendance return to pre-pandemic levels.

“I do know that the carnival exceeded 2019 by 25 to 30%, so that was fabulous for them and it was packed everywhere in town,” Auwerda said.

Kevin Knight, the owner of Market Zero, said the festival definitely provided a boost as they worked to keep up with demand. 

“It’s a huge kick off to your summer season,” Knight said. “Our fridges were completely full and got completely empty and completely full and completely empty, so it was about everything we could handle.”

Market Zero in downtown Holland on May 16, 2022. Inside Market Zero in downtown Holland on May 16, 2022.

The return of crowds could be good sign for other events coming back this summer, like the Festival of the Arts in Grand Rapids. Mark Azkoul, an organizer for the event that began in 1970, sees the success of Tulip Time as encouraging.

Tulip Time has record-breaking opening weekend

“We’ve been out for two years so this is a big thing for us and for the city to get Festival back up and going,” Azkoul said.

Organizers created the Plein Air event for 2021, which combined outdoor art and music.

The 2022 event runs June 3 through June 5. After taking a break because of the pandemic the festival needs extra help.    

“A lot of people still don’t know yet festival is coming back, so we really want to get the word out. We need more volunteers,” Azkoul said.

People interested in volunteering can sign up on the Festival of the Arts website.


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Mom Does ‘small Part’ to Help Parents Who Need Formula




HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Though there appears to an end of the baby formula shortage in sight, it’s still causing problems for parents, so a mother in Holland did what she could to help.

Abbott Nutrition has announced its entered into an agreement with the federal Food and Drug Administration to restart its Sturgis plant within two weeks. The closure of that plant has been a huge contributing factor to the shortage. The company expects its products to ship to stores eight weeks after production resumes.

But for now, many parents can’t find the formula they need. The low supply has some stores limiting the number of formulas customers can purchase, adding that they are in “extraordinary high” demand.

The baby formula shelves at a Meijer in Holland.

So Caitlin Dampier, a mother of two whose youngest is a 3-month-old girl, stepped up to help where she could.

“I really wish I could help out more, but this is just my small part,” Dampier said.

She got a box of Enfamil formulas that she’s not using because she’s breastfeeding.

“When you’re pregnant, you get free samples and so I thought I would just offer mine for free for mothers who need them,” Dampier said. “I kept it around in case I wasn’t able to breastfeed.”

5 things to know if you can’t find baby formula

Dampier made a post on Facebook this week directed at parents who can’t find formula. The box she received included three cans of Enfamil formulas and two ready-made formulas.

Two mothers reached out to her, including Kourtney Hann, another Holland resident. She’s one of thousands of mothers across the country who have had to go to great lengths to find food for their baby.

“I have had to go to stores maybe 45 minutes away just to even try to get formula,” she said. “It’s very hard to find them where I’m at right now. I went to Walmart yesterday and all they had was Similac and my daughter has a really bad reaction to Similac.”

Hann was able to connect with Dampier and picked up a can of Enfamil. Dampier left the box on her front porch with the message, “Please take only the formula you chose and tear out some coupons for yourself. My prayers are with you during this difficult time.”

The box of Enfamil products Caitlin Dampier left at her door for mothers to pick up.

Hann said she was down to her last can of baby formula which lasts her about five days. Now that she has received another can from Dampier, she’ll be able to feed her 9-month-old for the next two weeks.

“Being a mom is hard enough as it is. You have so many other struggles and to be afraid to know if you’re going to be able to feed your baby or not is a struggle,” Dampier said. “You want to do everything for your kids so when you’re not able to it’s hard. It’s just the worst feeling in the world.”


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