Philip Sharp: Senior with cancer chooses between medicine and food – Entertainment – Austin American-Statesman

Philip Sharp is battling a case of the sniffles, but, beyond that, he says he’s feeling good.

He’s got his cat of 13 years, Sweetheart. He’s talked to his daughter, Jessica, recently, and the PBS signal is still coming in strong.

You’d never know that days earlier the soft-spoken Sharp had finished his most recent round of chemotherapy treatment.

Sharp is not prone to self-pity or asking for much help. On the day in question, as he stands in his modest apartment talking to me via a Zoom connection facilitated by his case manager with Family Eldercare, Sharp expresses gratitude for the assistance he’s received and the minimal side effects of the treatments for a cancerous lesion recently removed from his bladder. He also is slated to undergo gallbladder removal surgery in the spring.

While his polite demeanor and tender nature serve as no sign for concern, the truth is that recently the 65-year-old, who lives alone with Sweetheart, was dangerously close to having to make this choice: paying for medicine or paying for food.

On lean days like those, Sharp turned to a simple diet of canned beans. You’d be hard-pressed to get him to complain about it. He will talk about food, however. The things he loves. Like a pizza loaded with meat. Tacos. And the Hungry Man meals that Jessica delivered to him recently.

Sharp has lived in Austin since 1998, and while he’s had a long tenure in town, his social circle remains limited. He turns to online chat rooms to make friends with folks his age and talk about their lifestyles, and finds joy in watching PBS shows about American history and science.

“I’m not a real socialite,” Sharp says.

Sharp, who successfully manages schizoaffective disorder through a medication regimen, studied chemistry in college. The jazz flutist also studied music, forestry and computer science but eventually cut short a college education that included stints at Stephen F. Austin University and what is now Texas State University.

“It was all so boring; I couldn’t take it anymore,” Sharp says dryly.

After a period of homelessness following a divorce and car accident, Sharp received assistance from Family Eldercare, the organization that nominated him for Season for Caring, which helped stabilize his living situation.

The nonprofit has assisted Sharp, who lives off of disability benefits, with the stress of managing his finances and staying on top of his medical appointments and mounting bills. For that, Sharp is very grateful.

“It makes me feel very comforted to know somebody is going to be there,” Sharp says.

More Season for Caring.

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U.K study finds sharp drop in COVID-19 antibodies just months after infection

One of the vexing things about coronaviruses like the common cold is that the immune response they induce is often short-lived. You catch a cold, recover and then catch it again six months later.

New research published Tuesday indicates fading immunity might also occur with the much more serious coronavirus, SARS CoV-2. Imperial College London scientists found that in a random sample of 365,000 adults in the United Kingdom, the presence of COVID-19 antibodies declined in all age groups by 26% from June to September.

The subjects in the REACT2 study, which has not been peer-reviewed, were given finger-prick tests in three rounds over the summer. After the first round, which ended in July, about 60 of 1,000 people in the sample, or 6%, had positive antibodies. By the end of September, that number had fallen to 44 per 1,000 (4.4%).

Age appeared to affect antibody duration. Younger people had higher levels than those over 65, and their antibodies lasted longer.


A faster decline in antibodies was observed in asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases than in those with full-blown symptoms, said Professor Wendy Barclay, head of the college’s infectious disease department, in a video call with journalists. Health care workers showed no change in antibody levels, possibly due to continuous on-the-job exposure to the virus.

“On the balance of evidence, I would say, with what we know for other coronaviruses, it would look as if immunity declines away at the same rate as antibodies decline away, and that this is an indication of waning immunity at the population level,” Barclay added.

“We don’t yet know what level of antibody is needed in a person’s blood to prevent reinfection,” she added.

Just a handful of cases of people getting COVID-19 twice have been confirmed. But immunity from the first wave of infections in March and April may only now be starting to dissipate, raising the prospect of more repeat cases, according to epidemiologists.

The findings suggest that those expecting increased infections to result in so-called herd immunity over time could be disappointed.

Herd immunity occurs when enough of a population is immune to a disease, making it unlikely to spread and protecting the rest of the community.

If no vaccine is developed, the portion of the population that would have to recover from COVID-19 in order to achieve herd immunity is estimated at about 70%, or more than 200 million people in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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Sharp decrease in reported COVID-19 exposures after NBISD changes ‘close contact’ definition

After changing its definition of a “close contact,” New Braunfels ISD reported a sharp decrease in the number of students and faculty exposed to COVID-19.

When NBISD began reopening, the school district northeast of San Antonio used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “close contact” guidelines.

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By that definition, anyone exposed to COVID-19 cases — through a cough or being within 6 feet of the person for 15 minutes — had to quarantine for 14 days, even if they were wearing a mask.


That policy led to 689 students and employees across multiple campuses having to quarantine. But administrators found that only five people out of that number contracted the virus from exposure at school.

Four of the five individuals had “close contact” in athletics, where masks were not being worn, NBISD Superintendent Randy Moczygemba wrote in a letter to parents on Oct. 13. The fifth person had “close contact” while at lunch without a mask.

“Our data indicates that when all students are wearing a mask, students have not contracted COVID-19 while at school,” Moczygemba wrote.

That data led school officials to change how they defined close contacts.

The new policy, which went into effect Monday, considers a person a “close contact” if they are coughed on or within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of at least 15 minutes. But if both individuals were properly masked, the exposed individual will not be considered a “close contact.”

Thus, they would not have to quarantine for 14 days. The district also barred neck gaiters as part of the adjustment.

“We feel confident about the change, but if the change results in students contracting COVID-19 while wearing a mask, we will come back and address that again,” Moczygemba told Community Impact Newspaper.

Since the beginning of the NBISD school year, 39 students and 13 staff members have tested positive for the virus.

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