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Coca-Cola’s work with scientists was a ‘low point in history of public health’

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coca colas work with scientists was a low point in history of public health

Coca-Cola’s work with scientists to downplay the role sugar plays in contributing to obesity has been called a ‘low point in this history of public health.’

The beverage company donated millions of dollars to a team of researchers  at a non-profit claiming to look into causes of excess weight gain in the US.

However, the team ended up being a ‘front group’ for Coca-Cola and promoted the idea that it was a lack of exercise, not a bad diet, that was the primary driver of the US obesity epidemic.

What’s more, the group tried to downplay the fact that Coca-Cola was a donor of its research, and how much money the company gifted.  

Researchers now say the non-profit GEBN was 'front group' for Coca-Cola to promote that a lack of exercise, not a bad diet or sugar, is driving the US obesity epidemic (file image)

Researchers now say the non-profit GEBN was 'front group' for Coca-Cola to promote that a lack of exercise, not a bad diet or sugar, is driving the US obesity epidemic (file image)

Researchers now say the non-profit GEBN was ‘front group’ for Coca-Cola to promote that a lack of exercise, not a bad diet or sugar, is driving the US obesity epidemic (file image) 

For the analysis, published in Public Health Nutrition, researchers from the University of Oxford; the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; the University of Bocconi in Milan, Italy; and US Right to Know teamed up.

They looked at more than 18,000 pages of emails between the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, West Virginia University, and the University of Colorado.

Both universities were part of Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), claiming to be a non-profit organization studying obesity, which ran from 2014 to 2015.

But academics now say the group was created by Coke to minimize links between obesity and sugary drinks.

Coca-Cola directly funded GEBN, contributing at least $1.5 million by 2015, and distributed millions more to GEBN-affiliated academics to conduct research.   

‘Coke used public health academics to carry out classic tobacco tactics to protect its profits,’ said Gary Ruskin, the executive director of US Right to Know

‘It’s a low point in the history of public health and a warning about the perils of accepting corporate funding for public health work.’

There were two main strategies, with the first being information and messaging.

This included obscuring Coca-Cola as the funding source and shaping the evidence based on diet and public health-related issues.

For example, in one email chain, the researchers tried to inflate the numbers of partners and donors so it wouldn’t seem like Coca-Cola was the primary donor.

‘We are certainly going to have to disclose this [Coca-Cola funding] at some point. Our preference would be to have other funders on board first… Right now, we have two funders. Coca Cola and an anonymous individual donor… Does including the Universities as funders/supporters pass the red face test?’ one email read.

They also asked if universities had policies about disclosing the amount of any gift so they wouldn’t have to reveal how much Coca-Cola gave. 

‘We are managing some GEBN inquiries and while we disclose Coke as a sponsor we don’t want to disclose how much they gave,’ another email read.

The second strategy was coalition building, which included establishing Coca-Cola’s network of researchers and establishing relationships with policymakers.

This included researchers meeting members oft he West Virginia Legislature and Coca-Cola supporting a small group of scientists called the ’email family’ by then-vice president of Coca-Cola Rhona Applebaum. 

‘Coke’s ’email family’ is just the latest example of the appalling commercialization of the university and public health work,’ said Ruskin.

‘Public health academics in an ’email family’ with Coke is like having criminologists in an email family with Al Capone.’ 

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At least 1,600 could have spread COVID-19 on planes, CDC data show

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at least 1600 could have spread covid 19 on planes cdc data show

At least 1,600 Americans have flown while at-risk for coronavirus, potentially exposing nearly 11,000 people on their planes, according to a Washington Post report of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. 

The CDC investigated at the passengers who may have been infectious while traveling, and the thousands of people they shared a cabin with.  

Some of their fellow travelers did develop coronavirus after the flights, but the health investigators could not pin down whether they caught the virus while in the air, or elsewhere.

‘An absence of cases identified or reported is not evidence that there were no cases,’ said Caitlin Shockey, a spokeswoman for the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine told the Washington Post. 

‘CDC is not able to definitively determine that potential cases were associated (or not) with exposure in the air cabin or through air travel given the numerous opportunities for potential exposure associated with the entire travel journey and widespread global distribution of the virus,’ she wrote in a statement emailed to the Post. 

It is both a worrying signal of the potential for coronavirus to spread on planes, and a distressing insight into the imperfections of contact tracing efforts to determine how, where, and to whom coronavirus spreads.  

Health officials investigated 1,6000 people who boarded airplanes while at risk for spreading coronavirus. While some of the nearly 11,000 people the shared plane cabins with did develop COVID-19, CDC officials could never confirm whether they contracted it on board (file)

Health officials investigated 1,6000 people who boarded airplanes while at risk for spreading coronavirus. While some of the nearly 11,000 people the shared plane cabins with did develop COVID-19, CDC officials could never confirm whether they contracted it on board (file)

Health officials investigated 1,6000 people who boarded airplanes while at risk for spreading coronavirus. While some of the nearly 11,000 people the shared plane cabins with did develop COVID-19, CDC officials could never confirm whether they contracted it on board (file) 

The crowded, enclosed cabins of airplane make them anxious places to be amid the pandemic, but they boast highly efficient ventilation systems. The air in a plane’s passenger cabin is replaced about 15 times every hour.  

And a recent CDC study of one particular flight found that, even on a 10-hour journey, the virus spread from one passenger to 15 other people (including one crew member), all but three of whom were seated in business class in the immediate vicinity of the index case. 

It was evidence that the virus certainly can spread in close quarters on a flight, but was also somewhat reassuring that infectious particles did not spread like wildfire throughout the entire airplane.  

The CDC’s travel guidance says that flights do not pose a major risk for contraction coronavirus, but also advises that the the safest thing to do is stay home. 

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Data revealed by the Post seems to suggest that health officials just don’t know for certain whether people who have developed coronavirus after traveling got it en route, or somewhere else. 

What is well-known is the ability of masks to reduce the risks of both spreading and catching coronavirus.  

Several agencies have called for a mask mandate during air travel, but the US Department of Transportation has declined to issue one. 

Most airlines do require masks on-board of their own volition. Delta this month said it had banned 270 passengers from its planes for refusing to wear masks. 

Both Delta and JetBlue have been leaving the middle seats open on their respective flights, in an effort to maintain some semblance of social distancing and reduce the risks of any potentially infected passengers spreading it to others. 

Other major airliners, including American Airlines and United, have not followed suit, filling their entire planes as they try to salvage plummeting revenues and shares. 

They do, however, require masks on board.  

And so long as tracking the presence or spread of coronavirus continues to prove so difficult, wearing a mask may be the best prevention measure people can take, since the possibility of an undetected case of coronavirus seems very real. 

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Scientists develop model to determine which US states are in a second wave of coronavirus

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scientists develop model to determine which us states are in a second wave of coronavirus

Scientists have developed a mathematical model to determine whether or not US states are in a ‘second surge period’ of coronavirus infections.

Researchers from the University of Sydney, in Australia, looked at data and determined any state with a ‘second spike’ that is less than one-fifth of the first is not a true second wave because it is too small.

Using this methodology, they established that, by the end of July, at least 31 states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania were in their second surges.

About 13 states, including California, Texas and Georgia, had seen infection rates merely flatten for a bit, and not track downward, so they were still in their first waves.

Meanwhile, New York and New Jersey had completely managed to flatten their respective curves, and their first surge was ‘completely over’ with no second surge in sight.

The team says the findings can help local and state lawmakers determine when to ease restrictions by spotting the difference between stable or insufficiently declining infection rates and rates on a downward trajectory.

Scientists have developed a mathematical model to determine whether or not US states are in a 'second surge period' of coronavirus infections. Pictured: Bodies are moved to a refrigerator truck serving as a temporary morgue outside of Wyckoff Hospital during the coronavirus pandemic in Brooklyn, New York, April 4

Scientists have developed a mathematical model to determine whether or not US states are in a 'second surge period' of coronavirus infections. Pictured: Bodies are moved to a refrigerator truck serving as a temporary morgue outside of Wyckoff Hospital during the coronavirus pandemic in Brooklyn, New York, April 4

Scientists have developed a mathematical model to determine whether or not US states are in a ‘second surge period’ of coronavirus infections. Pictured: Bodies are moved to a refrigerator truck serving as a temporary morgue outside of Wyckoff Hospital during the coronavirus pandemic in Brooklyn, New York, April 4

STILL IN FIRST WAVE, GEORGIA: Thirteen states, such as Georgia and California, were found be in their first waves

STILL IN FIRST WAVE, GEORGIA: Thirteen states, such as Georgia and California, were found be in their first waves

STILL IN FIRST WAVE, CALIFORNIA: This is because these states had rising case numbers from January to July with no significant downward trajectories

STILL IN FIRST WAVE, CALIFORNIA: This is because these states had rising case numbers from January to July with no significant downward trajectories

STILL IN FIRST WAVE: Thirteen states, such as Georgia (left) and California (right), were found be in their first waves. This is because these states had rising case numbers from January to July with no significant downward trajectories

NOW IN SECOND WAVE, FLORIDA: At least 31 states, including Florida and Ohio were found to be their second surges

NOW IN SECOND WAVE, FLORIDA: At least 31 states, including Florida and Ohio were found to be their second surges

NOW IN SECOND WAVE, OHIO: These states had an initial surge followed by declining infections and then a second surge

NOW IN SECOND WAVE, OHIO: These states had an initial surge followed by declining infections and then a second surge

NOW IN SECOND WAVE: At least 31 states, including Florida (left) and Ohio (right) were found to be their second surges. These states had an initial surge followed by declining infections and then a second surge

‘In some of the worst performing states, it seems that policymakers have looked for plateauing or slightly declining infection rates,’ said co-author Dr Nick James, a PhD student in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sydney.

‘Instead, health officials should look for identifiable local maxima and minima, showing when surges reach their peak and when they are demonstrably over.’

For the study, published in the journal Chaos, the team looked at data from all 50 US states and the District of Columbia from January 21, 2020 to July 31, 2020.

Researchers adjusted raw daily case totals to account for low totals that typically occur over weekends and negative counts on day that counties are correcting errors.

After the data is smoothed, the mathematical model looks for peaks and troughs, and identifies a turning point. 

A turning point was identified as the trajectory of rising curves suddenly dropping or downward curves spiking.

Peak highs and trough lows have to vary by a certain amount as well. 

For example, a second wave with less than one-fifth the number of cases in the first does not qualify as a second wave because it is simply too small, the researchers say

Thirteen states, including California, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas, had rising case numbers throughout the entire seven-month period. 

Because of this, they are considered to be still in their first wave with a single increasing infection surge.

WAVE OVER, NEW YORK: New York and New Jersey had managed to flatten their curves after their first wave and were found to not be in any surge

WAVE OVER, NEW YORK: New York and New Jersey had managed to flatten their curves after their first wave and were found to not be in any surge

WAVE OVER, NEW JERSEY: New York and New Jersey had managed to flatten their curves after their first wave and were found to not be in any surge

WAVE OVER, NEW JERSEY: New York and New Jersey had managed to flatten their curves after their first wave and were found to not be in any surge

WAVE OVER: New York (left) and New Jersey (right) had managed to flatten their curves after their first wave and were found to not be in any surge

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Researchers assigned 31 states, including Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the sequence TPTP, meaning zero cases to a first peak, then another trough and peak. 

This means these states are currently in their second waves, which is an initial surge followed by declining infections and then a second surge.

Meanwhile, New York and New Jersey flattened their respective curves by the end of July, and therefore experienced just one wave each.

The remaining four states, Arizona, Utah, Maine and Vermont, are still coming down from their first surges (the former two states) and second (the latter two states) surges.  

‘This is not a predictive model,’ said James. 

‘It is an analytical tool that should assist policymakers determining demonstrable turning points in COVID infections.’ 

Co-author Dr Max Menzies, from the Yau Mathematical Sciences Center at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said the analysis shows how reducing restrictions when curves have merely flattened, and not gone down, can lead to a deadly second surge.

”The real moral of this paper is that COVID-19 is highly infectious and very difficult to control,’ he said.

‘A true turning point, where new cases are legitimately in downturn and not just exhibiting stable fluctuations, should be observed before relaxing any restrictions

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CDC committee delays vote on who should get coronavirus vaccines first in nationwide rollout

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cdc committee delays vote on who should get coronavirus vaccines first in nationwide rollout

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) committee is delaying a vote on who should get the coronavirus vaccine first in a nationwide rollout.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which develops guidelines for vaccine administration as well as schedules, was expected to vote virtually on Tuesday. 

A plan would be drafted on which groups would be allocated the initial doses of the initial shot – or shots – that are proven safe and effective. 

However, members say they want to wait and learn more about which inoculations have the best chance of being approved, The Wall Street Journal reported.  

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices was expected to vote on who gets initial coronavirus vaccine doses on Tuesday. Pictured: Volunteers are given the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Detroit, Michigan, October 5

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices was expected to vote on who gets initial coronavirus vaccine doses on Tuesday. Pictured: Volunteers are given the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Detroit, Michigan, October 5

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices was expected to vote on who gets initial coronavirus vaccine doses on Tuesday. Pictured: Volunteers are given the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Detroit, Michigan, October 5

There are more than 170 coronavirus vaccine candidates in various stages of development around the globe, according to the World Health Organization.

At least nine are currently in large-scale trials in humans to prove the jabs are both safe and effective. 

Two-US based companies, Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc, are in late-stage trials and say they expect to know if their vaccines work by October or November.

UK-based AstraZeneca, partnered with the University of Oxford, has resumed its trials in Britain but not in the US after two volunteers developed rare complications.  

The Journal reported that the ACIP may not draft recommendations until the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes a specific vaccine.

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Members were allegedly uncomfortable with making guidelines for a vaccine that hasn’t been approved by regulators yet. 

The CDC websites states that the committee’s next meeting is scheduled to take place from October 28 to October 29. 

The ACIP’s proposed groups for early vaccination include healthcare personnel, essential workers, those with high risk medical conditions and adults aged 65 and older, according to a presentation from a meeting last month. 

While most experts agree frontline healthcare workers should get initial doses, it’s unclear which group should be next.

Additionally, members are waiting to see if emerging data from clinical trials reveal how effective the vaccine is in the elderly population.

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Older adults are among the groups at highest-risk of developing severe cases of COVID-19, which could result in hospitalization and death.

Because the immune system weakens with age, it is often hard for vaccines to induce a sufficient immune response, which has made some experts worry that any experimental vaccine for the coronavirus might not be as effective in the elderly. 

The Journal also notes that storage can vary from one jab to another and may affect how easily they can be distributed in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Dr William Schaffner told the newspaper that individual states are looking to the ACIP to develop a prioritization plan to come up with their own guidelines, and a delay only makes this process more complicated.

‘The states are eager for that and I would hope the ACIP would move expeditiously,’ said Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 

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