By Dr. Anthony Policastro

We continue to deal with dementia in older individuals. It is no surprise that scientific studies into memory skills are plentiful. There are two recent examples.

One of them was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It looked at what appears to be a regulator of memory activity in the brain.

There is an area of the brain called the hippocampus. It sends out electrical signals. For years the thought was that the signals were either sent or not sent. It was kind of like an on/off switch.

However, the recent research shows that the signals being sent are variable in nature. This suggests that there is actually a deeper meaning to the pattern.

The signals are electrical in nature. They are interpreted by brain cells. The brain cells then release chemicals to transmit the information that was originally electrical in nature. The result is stimulation of cells that allow us to learn and remember.

The researchers describe the process as sort of a volume control knob. It turns the volume up when certain learning is required. It turns the volume down when that is not the case. Since this is a new discovery, it will take time before the results can be studied further.

Another study was published in the journal Psychological Science. It followed a group of middle aged individuals from 1995 until 2014. It looked at their memory skills at the beginning, middle and end of the study.

They found that memory did indeed decline with age. This was not a surprise.

What was a surprise was the fact that attitude appeared to be related to memory decline. Individuals with a positive attitude about life in general had less memory decline.

Actually at the end of the study, their memory was like that of someone 10 years younger than those with a negative attitude.

That is very relevant at this present point in time. There are some individuals who are more pessimistic about the outlook for the resolution of the COVID crisis than others. Perhaps that is good. They are less likely to remember how bad things were.

We often look at memory as a skill where we remember something or we don’t. Like most processes in the human brain, it is a lot more complicated than that.


At least 2,000 celebrated their last Thanksgiving because they gathered for this one

My Thanksgiving article mentioned that big Thanksgiving gatherings were the equivalent of a poor horror movie decision. If that was a correct assumption, there would be a predictable outcome.

The virus has an incubation period of 5 – 8 days. Once symptoms develop, the individual would need to be tested and wait for the test results.

Therefore, the expectation would be that about 6 days after Thanksgiving to about 10 days after Thanksgiving, there would be a surge in cases.

Three days after Thanksgiving had 156,000 new cases. Four days had 141,000 cases. Five days had 168,000 cases. This is similar to what had been happening the entire month of November.

However, on day 6 the number was up to 192,000 new cases. On day 7 it was a new high of 205,000 cases. On day 8 there were 224,000 cases. On day 9 it was 237,000 cases. On day 10 it was down to 207,000 cases. On day 11 it was down to the previous level of 180,000 cases.

The excess was more than 100,000 cases over that period. The current mortality rate is just under 2 percent.

That means that at least 2,000 additional individuals celebrated their last Thanksgiving because they gathered for this one.

This should teach us an important lesson about the Christmas season. No one should celebrate their last Christmas with a vaccine just weeks away.

20,000 deaths in individuals under 54 years of age

We still think that COVID-19 deaths only occur in older individuals. That is not entirely true.

We are approaching 20,000 deaths in individuals under 54 years of age. Of those about 500 are in people under 25 years of age. There are some who are still delusional about being safe because of their age. They are “safer” but they are not “safe”.

We get closer to having an effective vaccine every day. Unfortunately, there are a lot of anti-vaccine people spreading false rumors. I will continue to provide true scientific vaccine data as it becomes available.

The surge in cases over the last month has overwhelmed hospitals nationwide. What that means for the average person is that there may be no room at the hospital if they get sick.

It is kind of ironic that there may be no room at the [inn] at Christmas season.

The highest mortality rate in the United States belongs to New Jersey. Vermont is the lowest. Delaware sits at 21st, so we are about in the middle of the pack.

Delaware’s COVID-19 Vaccination Playbook

Delaware has developed what is called a COVID-19 Vaccination Playbook. It was published on October 16th.

As its name suggests it outlines plans for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine in the state. It is a 44-page document that can be found online for those interested in reading the full version.

One section addresses phases of vaccine administration. Initially, demand will exceed supply. That will be followed by a phase where supply will meet demand. The last phase will be where supply exceeds demand. The approach will need to be different in all three phases.

They have divided recipients into priority groups. Key workforce groups include healthcare workers, as expected. They also include key infrastructure workers like the food supply chain.

The next group are those in specific population groups. These include nursing home residents. They include high-risk individuals.

A key issue is the ability to properly identify those individuals.

They have plans to recruit providers to administer the vaccine. There is a plan for tracking the recipients via a computer system.

The plan includes reminders for second doses. There is a system for monitoring adverse effects.

The CDC looked at blood bank specimens from December 2019. They found antibodies to COVID-19 in blood bank donations from individuals in 9 different states.

Most of the positive results were in California, Oregon and Washington. This suggests that the infection had already started in the U.S. in December.

You might remember a study I reported on a few months ago.

A West Coast health system looked at patients with respiratory disease and found it higher in December 2019 than in other years.

It is entirely possible that the Wuhan market cluster represented a super spreader event rather than the origin of the virus.