Dec 12 2021

COVID on My Mind

by at 11:48 am under Uncategorized

COVID is not yet done with us. Our daughter-in-law Kelly, who has received her booster, developed cold symptoms, lost her taste of smell and tested positive this past week. So, now all the members of our sons’ families have contracted COVID-19 — nine people. Fortunately, Kelly is not terribly symptomatic. Ken and his family are fully recovered, back at work and school, and so decamped to the beach for the weekend. We decided to stay home out of an abundance of irrational caution. When our little granddaughter Isabelle heard we would not be joining them, she broke down and cried. However, when we FaceTimed them on Saturday, she told us not to come because “we have the coronavirus.” She is 3 1/2 years old, and this is her reality.

I fear that the combination of more infectious variants and the general relaxation of masking and social distancing by vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike portends a challenging winter. I would be surprised if we had to go back into a lockdown, but instead we may well have to deal with the pandemic equivalent of “rolling brownouts.” Our family’s experience is likely to be replicated — even if vaccinated, many people will get infected, and there will be work and school absences, fairly brief family quarantines, but no shutdowns, except in settings with high levels of unvaccinated people. Most hospitalizations will occur in the frail and elderly, especially in those who have not been vaccinated. It won’t be a lot of fun, but we will get through it. I just hope our region’s hospitals, already struggling with staff shortages, will be able to manage the higher caseloads. We will get through it more quickly if people have the good sense to get vaccinated and boosted. Maybe it can’t prevent infection, but vaccinations sure can keep folks out of hospitals and funeral homes.

Meanwhile, our important work continues. I had the honor of speaking at a virtual immunotherapy symposium at the Library of Congress on Monday with GUMC Neuroscience PhD graduate Dr. Danielle Carnival (White House science policy advisor), Dr. Ellen Sigal (Friends of Cancer Research), Dr. Giorgio Trinchieri (microbiome expert at NCI) and Dr. Jim Allison (Nobel Laureate from MD Anderson who discovered CTLA4, paving the way for immune checkpoint antibodies).

We also have many faculty achievements to recognize as well. Congratulations to the 2021 John Potter “Rising Star” awardees, Jinani Jayasekera and Chul Kim. They will be giving presentations at an upcoming Lombardi Grand Rounds. Irfan Khan, a PhD student in Anton Wellstein’s laboratory, published a very interesting study in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology, showing that stress and tissue damage initiated by angiotensin II, a molecule that is known to increase blood pressure and stiffening in the linings of blood vessels, leads to cellular senescence; when senescent cells were eliminated from the mice, tissues returned to a normal state in spite of a continued infusion of angiotensin II. Jill Smith was elected to the National Academy of Inventors. Finally, Bassem Haddad was appointed as the GUMC Ombudsperson. Congratulations to all of our colleagues who are making important scientific contributions and providing meaningful service to our university community.

I am looking forward to a busy week, even as the calendar year winds down and we begin to think about the coming winter break. Whatever you do, please be careful. Stay safe, and be well.



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