"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 25th Aug 2020

Isolation Tips
Pen Pals aim to ease isolation for older Australians
Senior Australians will be able to form new connections with Australia Post establishing a new Senior Pen Pal Club. The club will link together seniors' organisations to assist older Australians to find new friends and help relieve the issue of social isolation experienced by one-in-five Australians over the age of 75.
An epidemic of depression and anxiety among young adults
Of COVID-19’s many side effects, perhaps the least appreciated are psychological. Those who have had a bad case and survived, like people who’ve been in war or accidents, may suffer post-traumatic stress for years. And even people in the as-yet-healthy majority are hurting. Young adults, in particular, are getting more depressed and anxious as the pandemic uproots whatever budding life plans they had been nursing. It’s long been clear that COVID-19, like any major disaster, is causing an increase in mental health disorders and their accompanying evils. Those range from alcoholism and drug addiction to wife beating and child abuse. In the Americas, the world’s most afflicted region with hot spots from the the United States to Brazil, this psycho-social crisis has become its own epidemic, according to the World Health Organization’s regional branch.
Suicidal Ideation Is Increasing During COVID-19: How Best to Cope
Experts say mental health issues and suicidal ideation are rising as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. They say the mental strain of the pandemic is particularly difficult for people in marginalized groups. They note men and people who live in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to suicidal ideation. Experts recommend people avoid becoming isolated, stick to a regular schedule, and look for uplifting moments in their week.
Hygiene Helpers
'Clear direction' needed on face coverings in schools, union says | ITV News
"Clear direction" is needed from the government on whether pupils should wear face coverings in schools, a teaching union has said. Despite England's education secretary insisting the measure is not needed as schools in England prepare to reopen, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is calling for the issue to be kept under review. It comes as the Scottish Government is expected to state its decision on face coverings in schools in light of the latest guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that children aged 12 and over should wear a mask. The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said as evidence continues to emerge, Westminster should review its guidance.
Coronavirus: Nicola Sturgeon asks public to ‘bear with us’ over testing
Nicola Sturgeon has appealed for patience after Scots requesting Covid tests were misdirected to centres in England and Northern Ireland. The First Minister asked people to “bear with us” while “issues” at the system, which is run by the UK Government, were corrected after a weekend of high demand. It followed reports of multiple technical problems with the booking system, including people in Edinburgh being advised their nearest testing centre was in Newcastle. The BBC reported some Glasgow residents were being offered tests in Stranraer instead of Glasgow airport.
Coronavirus: Scottish high schools to introduce new face covering rules
The use of face coverings in corridors and communal areas of secondary schools is set to be introduced in Scotland. The government is in the "final stages" of consultations with teachers and councils about having pupils wear face coverings while moving between classes. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was acting in response to new guidance from the World Health Organization. Ministers are also considering whether to make masks mandatory on school transport - but not inside classrooms. The use of face coverings in schools is currently voluntary, although some schools have started advising staff and pupils to wear them to help combat the spread of Covid-19.
Silent Spreaders?
This article is part of Harvard Medical School’s continuing coverage of medicine, biomedical research, medical education and policy related to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and the disease COVID-19. In the most comprehensive study of COVID-19 pediatric patients to date, Harvard Medical School researchers based at Massachusetts General Hospital and Mass General Hospital for Children provide data showing that children may play a larger role in the community spread of COVID-19 than previously thought.
Community Activities
How coronavirus has led to a UK boom in community food growing
When Covid-19 and the lockdown struck, a two-acre stretch of a field on Barnwell Road just outside the centre of Cambridge, the most unequal city in the UK, was just bare soil. But thanks to 110 volunteers and donated fencing to prevent rabbits from nibbling on the crops, an organic market garden was created to help stock seven local community food hubs with an abundance of tomatoes, pumpkins, broccoli, aubergine and much more by the end of July.
Two Kenilworth sisters have been recognised once again for the role they have played in helping others during the coronavirus pandemic
At 17 and 20 we are flattered to be recognised by the Lions as they play such an important part in our town." They have already given bottles to foodbanks and other groups in need - and now they have set themselves another challenge. They added: "During the awards we discussed Waverley Day Centre and the important part it plays on our community - the importance of it to our elderly residents and their families too. "Their finances are stretched and sanitiser is a product that invariably costs money.
Katharine Lawrence: Digital empathy in the age of coronavirus
Digital empathy and compassion offer helpful constructs in thinking about virtual healthcare delivery, counteracting the tendencies of digital disinhibition and reinforcing caring social relationships between patients and providers. A strong foundation in digital empathy can help us acknowledge challenging moments in virtual encounters and partner with our patients to work through them. But more research is needed on how to conceptualize these constructs and operationalize them in virtual practice. Similarly, the impact of digital disinhibition on the patient-provider relationship must be better understood if we are to adequately build and scale virtual health services.
Customers urged to nominate their coronavirus High Street Heroes
Members of the public are being asked to nominate local businesses who have gone the extra mile to help communities for the High Street Heroes Awards. They can put forward a local person, business or organisation they feel has made a difference to keeping town centres going and ensuring customers are safe during coronavirus. The awards are part of the Scotland Loves Local campaign, led by Scotland’s Towns Partnership to encourage people to back businesses in their own area instead of online retail giants. Phil Prentice, chief officer of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, said: “For all that civic-minded citizens, business owners and local organisations in our town centres have done for us, now it’s time for us to do something for them. “These are people who are at the heart of our communities. They go to remarkable lengths to support those around them - never more so than in recent months.
Working Remotely
Why workers in some countries are more comfortable about returning to the office
The pandemic brought a huge shift to remote working and attitudes are diverging about what happens next...
CEOs speed up digital push and downsize offices, KPMG survey shows
Companies around the world have moved more of their operations online, plan to reduce office space and have made recruiting and retaining staff their top priority since the coronavirus pandemic struck, a survey showed on Tuesday. A survey from accounting firm KPMG showed 80% of business leaders had accelerated their digital expansion plans during the lockdown as they adjusted to staff working remotely and dealing with customers online. There was uncertainty about the eventual scale of the shift away from shared workspaces in favour of working from home but 69% were planning to cut their office space in the short term. “Maybe some kind of hybrid finds its way into the new everyday reality,” Bill Thomas, KPMG International’s global chairman and chief executive said.
Silent streets and residents in exile - inside New York's Covid state of mind
Across the former shopping mecca of Manhattan the outlook is bleak. The ordinarily bustling pavements of Fifth Avenue are deserted, the lights off in many of the biggest stores, including the Victoria’s Secret flagship, shut since March, which has not been paying its $937,000 monthly rent. Downtown, high-end SoHo department store Barneys has closed for good. Retailers are abandoning Manhattan in droves, deeming it unsustainable; rents remain colossal, while the city is a ghost town, empty of office workers and tourists.
One-Third of Companies Will Have Half of Workforce Remote Post-Pandemic, Study Finds
One third of companies anticipate having half or more of their employees work remotely after the coronavirus pandemic. A study published by human resources consulting firm Mercer found that the number of companies expecting to have half or more of their employees working remotely post the COVID-19 pandemic increased to 1 in 3, compared with 1 in 30 companies that had that many employees working remotely pre-pandemic.
You can apply to live and work in Anguilla for up to a year
If working from home for the past six months has made you desperate for a change of scenery, how do powdery white beaches and pristine blue waters sound? The Caribbean island of Anguilla is now accepting online applications for visitors to live and work there, as part of its plans to welcome back tourists following the coronavirus pandemic. The whole idea is to encourage people to come and stay on the island for a long period of time. This means that applicants who plan to stay on the island for up to a year will be prioritised over short-term travellers. According to the island’s application system, visitors can stay and work remotely on the island for up to 12 months. Anguilla’s tourist board is currently looking for people to come to stay before 31 October, those planning to arrive after 1 November can apply at the end of September.
How to Build an Emotionally Resilient and Productive Remote Workforce
The COVID-19 crisis accelerated many workplace trends, chief among them remote and distributed work. It was a necessary choice in the short term but it looks to be shaping into a long term trend. According to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management and Oxford Economics, 64% of salaried and 49% of hourly employees are now working remotely most of the time, compared to 3% and 2% in January 2020. A March 2020 Gallup survey revealed that 74% of CFOs plan to move more onsite employees to remote workspaces permanently once the COVID-19 crisis is over.
How Much Will Remote Work Continue After the Pandemic?
A new study of pandemic-induced remote workers and their employers suggests that at least 16 percent will remain at-home workers long after the COVID-19 crisis has receded. The survey of 1,800 people in both small and larger businesses also found: While overall levels of remote work are high, there is considerable variation across industries. Remote work is much more common in industries with better educated and better paid workers. Respondents in better educated and higher paid industries have also observed less productivity loss from the transition to remote work. More than one-third of firms that had employees switch to remote work believe that it will remain more common at their company even after the COVID-19 crisis ends.
No10 urges workers to tell bosses if they want to come back to the office amid home working surge
No10 said businesses had a obligation to offer staff 'Covid-secure workplaces' NatWest is among banks telling staff they will not return to offices this year The rise in home working sparked fears for ancillary service industries
Virtual Classrooms
Science teachers in UAE learn how to take experiments to virtual classrooms
Nearly 130 science and math teachers in Abu Dhabi learned innovative teaching techniques at a recent two-day webinar. Sessions with live demonstrations and experiments guided them on how important hands-on classroom activities can be translated into effective virtual seat works. The webinar, titled 'Milestone Lessons', were organised by the Abu Dhabi chapter of Science India Forum - UAE, a volunteer organisation. Among the speakers were experts from the Mumbai-based Association of Chemistry Teachers (ACT). Educators joining from India, Brijesh Pare, D.V. Prabhu and Anand Mandhian, elaborated on the challenges faced by teachers and how to adapt to changing circumstances.
Hawaii again postpones reopening because of coronavirus
Last week, Gov. David Ige postponed lifting entry rules until Oct. 1 at the earliest. The governor plans to replace the 14-day quarantine with COVID-19 testing for people entering the state. Initially, he was going to roll out the plan in August, and then September. The reopening kept getting pushed back as the number of cases increased. Mufi Hannemann, president of the Hawaii Tourism & Lodging Assn., an organization representing 800 hotels and related businesses, says winter visitors will have a less crowded island experience, one different from other years. “We’ll try our best to give you that quality spirit of aloha that we’ve always been known for,” he said. “Don’t take us off your list yet.”
In Mexico's televised 'return to classes,' parents turn to state schools
Millions of students returned to classes virtually in Mexico on Monday after a hiatus lasting months caused by the coronavirus pandemic that has sparked an exodus from private schools. Mexico has yet to publish official data, but private-school bodies consulted by Reuters said almost 2 million students at all levels were expected to quit private schools because of the crisis to join an already overcrowded public system. The lack of both in-person teaching and access to facilities has left many parents unwilling to shoulder private-school costs. “We’re facing a tremendous crisis,” said Alfredo Villar, head of the National Association of Private Schools. “Many schools are running out of people and will very likely have to close.”
Springfield sticking with plan for teachers to work remotely, despite state recommendation to instruct from c
The city’s superintendent of schools said Monday that Springfield will stick with plans for teachers to stay out of their classrooms this fall despite a state recommendation for educators to provide remote instruction from their schools. Superintendent Daniel Warwick said the remote learning system for students and teachers was approved by the School Committee and is the “more prudent” measure to protect students and staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
Public Policies
Coronavirus: Gaza in lockdown as community COVID-19 cases emerge
Gaza reported its first cases of COVID-19 in the general population on Monday, as authorities confirmed four infections at a refugee camp and security forces declared a full lockdown for 48 hours. The four cases were from a single family, according to a government statement. The closure would affect the entire Gaza Strip, according to an official from Hamas. Until Monday the 360 square-kilometre coastal strip, which is home to two million Palestinians living in densely packed cities, towns and refugee camps, had reported no infections outside quarantine centres set up for people returning home from abroad.
US braced for political row over who gets first Covid-19 vaccines
Poor and minority communities must be among the first to receive a Covid-19 vaccine once it is approved for use in the US, the head of the national vaccine distribution committee has said, ahead of what public health experts warn could become a politicised fight over who gets vaccinated. US president Donald Trump is keen to make a vaccine available before the election in November and is considering bypassing normal regulatory standards to fast-track an experimental shot, the Financial Times has reported. Mr Trump has faced widespread criticism over his handling of the pandemic, which has killed more than 170,000 Americans, and an active vaccination programme could help him claim to voters that he has turned the tide on the virus. But even if a vaccine were approved for use, there would not be enough doses immediately available for a national campaign, meaning certain groups would have to be selected to receive them first.
Local virus outbreak in Myanmar sparks fears for Rohingya camps
Rohingya in Myanmar's conflict-wracked Rakhine state expressed fears Sunday of a coronavirus outbreak reaching their overcrowded camps, after a spate of infections sent the state capital into lockdown. Nearly 130,000 Rohingya Muslims live in what Amnesty International describes as "apartheid" conditions in camps around Sittwe. The city has recorded 48 cases in the past week, making up more than 10 percent of the about 400 cases so far registered in Myanmar. "We are extremely worried about the virus because we are living in limbo and it won't be easy to control," said Rohingya Kyaw Kyaw. Authorities visited the Thae Chaung camp this week to talk about social distancing — an impossibility as 10 families typically squeeze into a single house — and gave out hand sanitizer and face masks.
Gran Canaria goes into voluntary lockdown with some events cancelled amidst coronavirus fears
New regions of Spain, including tourists destinations, are going into new "auto confinements" as coronavirus outbreaks continue to escalate across the country and in the holiday islands. Tielmes in Madrid, La Barquilla in Cáceres and Valleseco in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria are all back on voluntary lockdown and, within the next few hours, major new measures are to be announced for Catalonia. The tourist resort of Valleseco in Gran Canaria has only seen THREE positive cases of coronavirus but the local mayor says he doesn't want to take any chance given the high number of positives elsewhere on the island. He has asked 4,000 residents to confine themselves on a voluntary basis and not to leave their homes if possible to avoid outbreaks of coronavirus. Gran Canaria has registered the most coronavirus outbreaks of all the Canary Islands, mainly connected to nightlife
Weekend lockdown observed in many cities across India to control COVID-19 spread
In view of rising coronavirus cases, several state governments have imposed a weekend lockdown in cities. Weekend lockdown is being observed in Assam’s Guwahati on August 23. Fancy Bazaar was deserted as all shops were shut. Lockdown is also being observed in Chennai to control the spread of COVID-19. Restrictions are in place in Lucknow. Total cases in India surpassed 30-lakh mark today.
Maintaining Services
South Korea closes most schools in Seoul area to battle resurgent COVID-19
South Korea on Tuesday (Aug 25) ordered all schools and kindergartens in the greater Seoul region - home to half the country's 52 million population - to switch to online classes as they battle multiple coronavirus clusters. The country's "trace, test and treat" approach to curbing the virus has been held up as a global model, but it is now trying to contain several outbreaks, mostly linked to Protestant churches.
The best way to keep schools open? Stop coronavirus entering them in the first place
Schools are integral to local communities. If regional infection is suppressed, cases among teachers and pupils will also be low
Teachers 'more likely to get Covid on coffee break'
Teachers are more likely to get Covid-19 on their coffee break than in a classroom, England’s deputy chief medical officer has said. Jenny Harries said that the risk for teachers in schools was probably highest “between staff”. Dr Harries also said it would be “unlikely” that there would be a scenario where all schools across the country would be forced to close again. But in areas subject to a local lockdown there could be individual schools forced to close.
Coronavirus: Hospital staff prepare for possible second wave
Staff at a north Wales hospital have appealed to patients and visitors to "carry on listening and keeping to the the guidelines" as they prepare for a possible second wave of Covid-19. The latest figures show Betsi Cadwaladr health board has seen a spike in deaths compared to other health boards. But staff at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor said some people "seem to think the pandemic is over". The health board said it was slowly resuming normal services for patients. It has seen a high number of cases in Wrexham, which had the highest weekly number of coronavirus-related deaths. Interim chief executive Simon Dean said the health board was "well prepared for an increase in cases", having increased bed capacity in hospitals, recruiting staff and established the three Ysbyty Enfys field hospitals.
Healthcare Innovations
Astrazeneca rejects Trump shortcut for coronavirus vaccine
The British drugmaker Astrazeneca has given the White House notice that it will not take shortcuts in safety trials of a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University to boost President Trump’s re-election chances. The White House is said to have considered bypassing normal regulatory channels in an attempt to have the Oxford jab approved for use in the US before the presidential election on November 3.
Novavax starts enrollment for phase two of COVID-19 vaccine trial
Novavax Inc said on Monday it has begun enrolling volunteers for the second phase of an ongoing clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, with interim data expected in the fourth quarter of 2020. In the new phase, the age range has been expanded, with adults between 60 and 84 years accounting for nearly 50% of the trial’s population. Early-stage data from a small clinical trial of the vaccine has shown it produced high levels of virus-fighting antibodies, and the company aims to begin larger studies to obtain regulatory approvals as early as December. The vaccine candidate is one of nearly 30 being tested in human clinical trials globally and lags candidates from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna that are in late-stage studies.
Hong Kong scientists report 1st case of COVID-19 reinfection
- Researchers in Hong Kong said Monday they have confirmed the world's first documented case of a patient becoming reinfected with COVID-19 following recovery. Scientists at the University of Hong Kong said the coronavirus disease was found in a 33-year-old man who'd initially tested positive in April, and was subsequently cleared.
Covid-19 is becoming less deadly in Europe but we don't know why
Fresh data has made it increasingly clear people are less likely to die if they get covid-19 now compared to earlier in the pandemic, at least in Europe, but the reasons why are still shrouded in uncertainty
Looking at children as the silent spreaders of SARS-CoV-2
In the most comprehensive study of COVID-19 pediatric patients to date, researchers provide critical data showing that children play a larger role in the community spread of COVID-19 than previously thought. In a study of 192 children ages 0-22, 49 children tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and an additional 18 children had late-onset, COVID-19-related illness. The infected children were shown to have a significantly higher level of virus in their airways than hospitalized adults in ICUs for COVID-19 treatment, according to Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Mass General Hospital for Children (MGHfC).
COVID-19: unravelling the host immune response
Using next-generation sequencing tools, scientists are exploring how SARS-CoV-2 interacts with the immune system to better understand the disease, identify those at higher risk, and minimize its impact.
Why Businesses Must Help Build Trust in a Covid-19 Vaccine
We cannot establish the level of “herd immunity” needed to contain the Covid-19 pandemic unless enough people accept a vaccine. Leaders have advocated that advancing health literacy — the degree to which people have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions — is crucial to building and maintaining public confidence in vaccines. Recognizing the importance of this effort, some large employers — including Mastercard, Apple and Google — are communicating with their employees that the full reopening of their workplaces depends on the success of a vaccine for Covid-19. We urge other businesses to join such efforts to dispel fear, mistrust, misinformation, and disinformation about Covid-19 vaccines.