"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 4th Sep 2020

Isolation Tips
Depression on the rise following coronavirus pandemic warns Warwickshire GP
Dr Alia Fahmy, from GP service Concierge Medical based in Warwick, fears the virus will spark a long-term mental health issue across the UK. Figures from the Office of National Statistics have revealed that one in five adults in the UK have experienced some form of depression since the outbreak of coronavirus, almost double the figures for last year. Following the news, Dr Fahmy has issued urgent advice and guidance. She said: “People’s lives have been changed beyond recognition in the fight against coronavirus and, even if we find a vaccine soon, there will still be a long-term knock-on effect on the nation’s mental health. “There’s a significant social aspect to the pandemic because Covid-19 has caused such widespread fear and anxiety and left a lot of people afraid to go out and put themselves at risk.
Air Canada to conduct study on COVID-19 quarantine periods
Air Canada said on Thursday it plans to conduct a study on international travelers arriving at the Toronto Pearson International Airport, to test the effectiveness of various COVID-19 quarantine periods.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid-19 tracing tool to be built into phones, Apple and Google announce
Future versions of Android and iOS operating systems are set to have a Covid-19 notification system built-in, Apple and Google have announced. The system will replace the need for users to install contact-tracing apps developed by public health bodies. The exposure notification system uses Bluetooth signals to measure time and distance between devices to determine a user’s risk of Covid-19. The system, dubbed exposure notification express, would still require a user to opt-in and does not collect location of identity information. Previously Apple and Google’s API required users to download a contact-tracing app to allow it to track time and distance between device and send push notifications to users who may have been exposed to the virus. Under the new system no app is required, meaning public health authorities would be able to send notifications to those considered at risk of Covid-19 without needing to develop and maintain an app. “As the next step in our work with public health authorities on exposure notifications, we are making it easier and faster for them to use the exposure notifications system without the need for them to build and maintain an app,” a joint statement from Apple and Google read.
Covid-19: Reusable face masks to be provided for school transport
Reusable face masks will be provided to approximately 80,000 pupils in Northern Ireland entitled to free home-to-school transport. Each pupil will get a pack that includes 10 reusable masks. Schools will also be provided with home testing kits to be distributed to parents of pupils with symptoms of Covid-19. Every school in Northern Ireland will receive 10 kits in the first instance as part of the scheme. Pupils in the vast majority of schools returned to class on Tuesday. Face coverings on dedicated school buses are not compulsory, but are strongly recommended by both the Department of Education (DE) and Translink.
Why COVID-19 vaccines need to prioritize 'superspreaders'
A committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine – at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health – has proposed an equitable way to allocate the vaccine. They recommend first responders and health care workers take top priority. Older adults in congregate living situations would also be part of a first vaccination phase, according to the plan. We are faculty at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Southern California who have spent decades studying health economics and epidemiology. One of us is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. Having seen firsthand the real risks of rapid, asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 among younger adults, we disagree with some of the recommendations. Asymptomatic spread is shutting down schools and universities nationwide and threatening surrounding communities. We argue that this pandemic requires a different model for making vaccination choices. After taking care of essential workers, vaccinations should be given to the biggest transmitters of the virus – mostly the young – and only then to the most vulnerable.
Community Activities
Coronavirus: Stay-at-home workers having 'devastating effect' on city centre footfall
City centre shops are still suffering from a slump in footfall as many workers continue to stay at home. The latest BRC ShopperTrak footfall monitor shows that footfall across the UK was down by 34.3% in August compared to the same month last year. This was a 7.3% point improvement compared to July.
Fighting Covid-19 on Africa's frontlines: CNN Heroes work to slow the pandemic
In Ethiopia -- where the number of active cases and deaths have been on the rise since mid-June -- 2019 CNN Hero of the Year Freweini Mebrahtu has shifted gears during the pandemic. Mebrahtu's factory normally manufactures reusable menstrual pads for girls in Ethiopia, allowing them to stay in school. Through partner organization Dignity Period, she helps distribute the pads and raise awareness on the issue. Since March, however, Mebrahtu has been working to manufacture masks and get them into the hands of those who need them most. "We have produced over 50,000 cloth masks to help out the most vulnerable women and children in our community," she said. She and her team distribute the masks along the main thoroughfare of Mekelle, a capital city in northern Ethiopia. Many women sell fruit and vegetables on this street and are in contact with people all day long, making masks essential for their safety.
Working Remotely
Why telling people to 'go back to work' is a step backwards
For months, many of us have been working from home in less than ideal conditions. We’ve been balancing our laptops on our knees on the sofa, working shoulder-to-shoulder with housemates and partners, and juggling the impossible task of looking after children too. Despite the odds, we’ve made it work. And now 53.6% of people do not want to return to the office, according to a global survey by Workvivo, a US software company that helps firms engage with their staff.
'Now is not the time for unnecessary trips to the office'
Home working is still a popular choice. Between 27 July and 9 August, 39% of the workforce of businesses still trading was working remotely, according to the Office for National Statistics. As well as reduced contact at work, home working reduces potential exposure to the virus while travelling to and from work. Last month Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, made the case that given the spread of the virus is dependent on contact, working from home remains an important option and there was no need to change the advice.
Britons slowly returning to workplaces, statistics office says
People in Britain continued to gradually return to their workplaces in late August, something Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to speed up in September to help the economy recover from its historic coronavirus slump. Fifty-seven percent of working adults traveled to work between Aug. 26 and Aug. 30, up from 55% two weeks earlier and 33% in May, the country’s statistics office said on Thursday. Those working exclusively from home slipped to 20% from 22%, the Office for National Statistics said. That figure stood at nearly 40% in June.
Remote working is here to stay – but that doesn't mean the end of offices or city centres
When coronavirus lockdowns were introduced, the shift to remote working was sudden and sweeping. Now the British government is hoping the return to the office will be just as swift– to help the economy “get back to normal”. But pushing everyone back to the office full time fails to recognise the many benefits that working from home has brought. It also fails to capitalise on this moment of change. The mass homeworking experiment in the middle of a pandemic presented some of the most challenging circumstances possible. Yet, coming out the other side of it, there’s likely to be considerable resistance to simply readopting old ways of working. This is already evident at the start of a new research project I’m leading at Southampton Business School into the effects of COVID-19 on the workplace, called Work After Lockdown, with partners the Institute for Employment Studies and work consultancy Half the Sky.
Remote-work visas will shape the future of work, travel and citizenship
During lockdown, travel was not only a distant dream, it was unlawful. Some even predicted that how we travel would change forever. Those in power that broke travel bans caused scandals. The empty skies and hopes that climate change could be tackled were a silver lining, of sorts. COVID-19 has certainly made travel morally divisive. Amid these anxieties, many countries eased lockdown restrictions at the exact time the summer holiday season traditionally began. Many avoided flying, opting for staycations, and in mid-August 2020, global flights were down 47% on the previous year. Even so, hundreds of thousands still holidayed abroad, only then to be caught out by sudden quarantine measures.
Nine in ten people want to keep working remotely
9 in 10 people in the UK who worked remotely during the Covid-19 outbreak want to continue to stay away from the office, according to research conducted by two UK universities. Working from home grew from a tiny 6% of people at the start of the pandemic to 43% in April says the report by Darja Reuschke (University of Southampton) and Alan Felstead (Cardiff University) called Homeworking in the UK: before and during the 2020 lockdown. The survey spoke to more than 6,000 UK residents. 88% said they would like to continue working remotely, with 46% expressing a desire to do it 'often' or 'all of the time'.
Avoiding burnout in the new normal
During a recent SocialChorus webinar Lucas Millar and Owain Service, experts in neuroscience and behavioural science respectively, discussed that it’s no good holding out for a return to normal because it simply won’t be happening any time soon, if ever. Lucas implored people to rethink and challenge everything we used to do, and by doing so we can start to create new routines and habits that will help us as businesses and individuals to evolve into this new hybrid way of life. Instead of thinking negatively about what has come to pass, we need to hit refresh and introduce new, positive practices for the wellbeing of all. What do those positive practices look like? One of the key things mentioned was a calendar cleanse where teams work together to reduce the number of meetings, which have notably increased since the start of coronavirus as people compensate for not being in the office by being on more calls.
Coronavirus and remote working: 40% of UK employees still shunning the office to work from home, poll shows
Majority of office workers believe they will still be working from home until at least 2021 in blow to Government efforts to get people back into the workplace
Virtual Classrooms
University of Arkansas reports 399 active COVID-19 cases; officials focusing on testing
The University of Arkansas has reported 434 coronavirus cases since welcoming students back to campus on Aug.10. Currently, they're reporting 399 active cases. Thursday, Washington County reported the highest number of new cases in the state, with 81% of the cases coming from the 18 to 24 age group. Mark Rushing, associate vice chancellor for university relations, said any positive case is a concern, but not a surprise. He said the campus community includes 32,600 people, and some transmission will be likely throughout the semester.
Coronavirus angst as Canadian schools start to open
Canadian children are trickling back into classrooms but the return is off to a rocky start with dozens of students in one province already in isolation amid Covid-19 scares and teacher and unions filing labour challenges.
Hamilton Southeastern to bring pupils back into classrooms after online-only instruction
One of the first schools in central Indiana to start the fall semester with online-only classes will soon open its classrooms to welcome students. Hamilton Southeastern School Board voted Thursday night to have prekindergarten through Grade 4 to return to the classrooms on Tuesday. Two weeks later, students in Grade 5 and higher will return to the physical school. Half of the students will go to school in person Monday and Tuesday, while the other half will go into the classrooms on Thursday and Friday. They will alternate Wednesdays. About 15% of students are expected to continue receiving virtual education.
San Diego State University Closes Classrooms Over COVID-19
San Diego State University on Wednesday halted in-person classes for a month after dozens of students were infected with the coronavirus. The 200 course offerings, including lab classes, that were taking place in-person will move to virtual learning. The decision will be reassessed after the four-week period. On-campus housing will remain open. “Before the end of the four weeks, we will reassess,” SDSU spokeswoman Cory Marshall said. The university, the third-largest in the state, has more than 35,000 students but only 2,600 students have been living on campus since the fall semester began Aug. 24. All of the students on campus were enrolled in the limited in-person classes. Most of the university’s classes were being held online.
Make virtual classrooms 'go the distance'
In the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, institutions of higher education around the country are grappling with instructional delivery for the fall 2020 semester and beyond. Many traditional, on-campus schools are transitioning to some form of distance-learning approach, where all or part of the learning is done remotely. As we think about moving into this new normal, there are several key issues to consider, including how to engage learners, creating a sense of community, using the online environment to expand opportunities, and ensuring student success.
Public Policies
Dr. Fauci says he has 'confidence and some faith' the coronavirus vaccine approval won't be political
The Food and Drug Administration has been “very explicit” that it is going to make a decision based on data from clinical trials, Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “We can have some confidence and some faith in what the FDA is saying,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said.
CDC warns daily COVID-19 cases are rising in some states
The United States, which has now surpassed 6.1 million infections, has been averaging about 41,000 new COVID-19 cases per day for the past week. Cases are now plateauing following an initial sharp decline in late July after surges in Sunbelt states saw average daily rates of 66,000. Deaths have slowly been declining and are currently averaging at about 860 fatalities per day - the lowest since late July. More than 185,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19 Despite cases continuing to decline across the country, the CDC warned on Tuesday that daily infections were starting to rise in some states, particularly in the Midwest and South. States where COVID-19 cases are currently rising include Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Minnesota
India logs record 83,883 Covid-19 cases in day
India reported a record daily rise of 83,883 coronavirus infections on Thursday, taking its total to 3.85 million cases, just as the country pushed ahead with attempting a return to normality and kickstarting its economy. India now has the fastest growing Covid-19 infection rate in the world, and is only 100,000 cases behind Brazil, the second worst-affected country in the world. Experts are predicting that the south Asian nation will soon overtake Brazil (4 million) and then the US (6.1 million) to hold the dubious title of having the highest number of cases globally. Shahid Jameel, a virologist and CEO of the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance, said that the situation in India did “not look pretty”, adding: “Of the three top countries only India is showing a rising curve. This is a matter of grave concern and there is an urgent need to reverse the trend.”
UK records highest weekly number of new coronavirus cases in three months
The Health Secretary has claimed the Government’s coronavirus testing system is working ‘well’, as the UK recorded its highest number of new cases since the week to June 3. Matt Hancock’s hopes that the country could be able to hug by Christmas comes despite reports that people are being directed to centres more than 100 miles away. A total of 6,732 new people tested positive for Covid-19 in England in the week to August 26 – a 6% rise on the previous week.
Slammed by virus, France unveils huge economic rescue plan
Facing resurgent virus infections, France’s government unveiled a 100 billion-euro ($118 billion) recovery plan Thursday aimed at creating jobs, saving struggling businesses and yanking the country out of its worst economic slump since World War II. The massive plan includes money to bring back manufacturing of medical supplies to French factories, develop hydrogen energy, help museums and the cinema industry, train young people for 21st century jobs and hire more staff at unemployment offices. “It’s an important step for our strategy in the fight against the economic and social consequences of the crisis that hit France,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said.
UK concern at rising Covid-19 hospital cases in France
The British government is “worried” about a rise in Covid-19 hospital admissions in France and Spain, concerned that young people could be infecting the more vulnerable. However, health secretary Matt Hancock argued that the implementation of a “package” of protective measures such as social distancing could prevent a similar surge in cases from occurring in the UK. “We are very worried about it,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday. “But what I am also saying to you is that we have the lines of defence in this country. Everyone has a part to play: the first line of defence, social distancing, the next line of defence test and trace and then if we have to, going into local lockdowns. And we have the quarantine which is working.”
COVID-19 cases spike in India as economy falters
India currently posting over 70,000 new COVID-19 cases daily. Already India has third highest caseload after the US and Brazil. GDP growth shrank by 24 per cent during lockdown period.
Vic lockdown will last longer than China, Italy lockdowns if extended
If Victoria extends its lockdown for another two weeks it will have lasted 82 days which is longer than both China and Italy’s lockdowns, according to Sky News host Paul Murray. Italy has had 35,497 deaths with lockdown running for 58 days, China has had 4,634 deaths with lockdown running for 77 days whilst Victoria has had 576 deaths with lockdown due to end on September 13 having run for 68 days. A recent leak revealed the Victorian government may be planning to extend Victoria’s lockdown for a further two weeks, which would end Victoria’s lockdown after 82 days, a longer period than both Italy and China. “This bloke has failed, he failed to have a system that meant that the virus didn’t get out of hotel quarantine, and he has failed to stop it the second time around,” Mr Murray said.
U.S. CDC Tells States to Prep for COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution as Soon as Late October
U.S. public health officials and Pfizer Inc said a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for distribution as soon as late October, just ahead of the November election in which the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be a major factor among voters deciding whether President Donald Trump wins a second term. Even though the stakes are high for Republican Trump, who is squaring off against former Vice President Joe Biden on Nov. 3, there is no political pressure on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to quickly approve a vaccine, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Thursday. "No one is pressuring the FDA to do anything," McEnany told a press briefing.
Israel announces partial national lockdown after coronavirus surge
Israel will impose a partial national lockdown next week to battle a coronavirus infection surge, the head of its pandemic task force said on Thursday, shouting his exasperation in an emotional television address, reported Reuters. The health official, Ronni Gamzu, said Israel was facing a “pivotal moment” in trying to contain the spread of COVID-19, with some 3,000 new cases now reported daily in a population of nine million. He put much of the blame on what he called apathy among the Arab minority to social distancing rules and high infection rates in close-knit ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. Other health experts have said political in-fighting among members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government has led to a slow response to a second wave of cases after a national lockdown flattened the infection curve in May
WHO aiming for 20% of Africa to get initial COVID jabs from access plan
“Testing vaccines on the continent ensures that sufficient data is generated on the safety and efficacy of the most promising vaccine candidates for the African population so they can be confidently rolled out in Africa,” he said. John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told an online news conference that talks with COVAX would supplement other negotiations with nations such as China, Canada and the United States over securing access to shots.
Maintaining Services
Coronavirus: How safe is it to travel by plane, train or cruise liner?
As restrictions on travel around the globe gradually start to lift, some passengers may understandably feel some trepidation about returning to their pre-pandemic globetrotting habits. We’ve looked at the risks involved in travel by train, plane and cruise liner – and the measures introduced by the industry to try and mitigate them.
In Spain, As Everywhere, The Question Is Whether Schools Can Reopen Safely. I Have Grave Doubts.
Over the next couple of weeks, as happens every year at this time, Spain will begin the return to academic activity. The problem is that this is a far-from normal year: let’s be honest, it’s been a deeply abnormal year; and nor is my country behaving like a normal nation. In short, it’s clear that Spain has managed the impact of Covid-19 badly. The term virus laggard, used recently by The Washington Post, is bang on target: Spain sits ninth in the world ranking of the number of infections, but only because those above it, with the exception of Peru, have much bigger populations. If we take a relative parameter, such as the number of deaths per million inhabitants, only Belgium and the aforementioned Peru surpass us, and it is very possible that the Belgian case is due to different accounting criteria.
Fears for US recovery grow as virtual schooling continues
Fears about the prospects for US economic recovery have grown in recent weeks as school districts across the country have decided to begin the academic year with remote learning in response to the coronavirus crisis. Large public school districts including Miami, Los Angeles and Washington DC have opted for online instruction amid concerns that reopening could trigger a new surge in infection among students and teachers. Economists say the decisions could cause hits to employment, productivity and consumption that would stunt the US recovery — and could lead to more lasting damage in the form of curtailed educational achievement and greater inequality.
Britons slowly returning to workplaces, statistics office says
People in Britain continued to gradually return to their workplaces in late August, something Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to speed up in September to help the economy recover from its historic coronavirus slump. Fifty-seven percent of working adults traveled to work between Aug. 26 and Aug. 30, up from 55% two weeks earlier and 33% in May, the country’s statistics office said on Thursday. Those working exclusively from home slipped to 20% from 22%, the Office for National Statistics said. That figure stood at nearly 40% in June.
Tesco angers staff over 'unfair' Covid-19 quarantine rules
Staff at Tesco’s UK headquarters are angry about new rules stipulating they must take unpaid or annual leave if they need to quarantine at home following an overseas trip. The new rules recently implemented by the supermarket giant are viewed as unfair given many office-based staff at the FTSE 100 company have been working from home since Britain entered lockdown in March. They say they would be able to carry out their jobs as normal if made to quarantine. The unrest comes as the UK Government is under pressure to implement quarantine restrictions for holidaymakers returning to England from Greece and as companies wrestle with the implementation of new employment rules as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Google tells employees to take Friday off as a 'collective wellbeing' holiday during pandemic
Google is giving employees an additional holiday ahead of Labor Day weekend to avoid employee burnout. The extra day comes as the company hopes to preserve “collective wellbeing” as the Covid-19 pandemic enters its seventh month. CEO Sundar Pichai and top execs are trying to find ways to show support to employees who are working remotely until at least mid-2021.
A glimpse of what N.J. schools will look like for kids when they return
As New Jersey schools move forward with their reopening during the lingering coronavirus crisis, children will be returning to a different kind of experience. NJ Advance Media recently visited several schools to see what the new normal will be for students as they make the transition from virtual instruction to a physical return to the classroom.
Healthcare Innovations
UNICEF says drugmakers can produce unprecedented vaccine quantities for COVID-19
Unprecedented quantities of vaccines could be produced by 28 manufacturers in 10 countries over the next two years to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said on Thursday, as it announced it would help lead efforts to procure and distribute them. UNICEF’s role is part of a COVID-19 vaccine allocation plan - known as COVAX and co-led by the World Health Organization - that aims to buy and provide equitable access to the shots. So far, 76 wealthy nations committed to joining the COVAX effort.
Novavax Gains Following Promising Covid-19 Vaccine Trials
Shares of biotechnology company Novavax (NVAX) - Get Report rose on Thursday after the company revealed that early stage clinical trial results of its Covid-19 vaccine were safe and elicit an immune response. According to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Novavax’s phase 1 clinical trial results showed that its Covid-19 vaccine candidate induced immune responses and was generally safe in people ages 18 to 59. “The rapid publication of Phase 1 results from our trial in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal reflects both the importance of the data and the urgent need for an effective vaccine to slow the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Gregory Glenn, Novavax president of research and development, in a statement. Based on the positive results, which were previously announced by the company in early August, Novavax said it plans to continue with broader phase 2 studies this month to see whether the vaccine protects against Covid-19, the company said.
GSK and Sanofi to start human trials of potential Covid-19 vaccine
GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi are to start testing their protein-based Covid-19 vaccine on humans for the first time, following promising results in earlier studies. GSK, the world’s largest vaccine maker, and the French drugmaker Sanofi joined forces in April to work on an effective treatment to halt the devastating pandemic. The vaccine being developed by London-headquartered GSK and Paris-based Sanofi combines existing technology used by Sanofi to make its flu vaccine, along with an add-on from GSK, known as an adjuvant, which can be mixed with a vaccine to trigger a stronger immune reaction.
Covid-19: India should abandon lockdown and refocus its testing policy, say public health specialists
Public health specialists in India have called on the government to adopt a more pragmatic approach to testing for covid-19, amid evidence of widespread prevalence of infection. Lockdown in India should be discontinued, said a joint statement from the Indian Public Health Association, the Indian Association of Epidemiologists, and the Indian Association of Social and Preventive Medicine.1 And local restrictions on movement and mingling should be imposed only where there is mild or limited spread of SARS-Cov-2 and only after the effects on the livelihood of target populations have been assessed, they advised. India imposed a nationwide lockdown in March that has been relaxed in phases, but several states and cities continue to impose local lockdowns, including closing all establishments at nights and weekends. The country’s current testing policy aims to track and test all contacts of at least 80% of new covid cases, which last week averaged 76 000 a day. The public health experts want the government to abandon its current approach, which they say is impractical and wasteful because it cannot detect most infections. Instead they recommend “targeted testing,” of people with symptoms and of high risk groups such as healthcare workers, elderly people, and surgical patients.
Pfizer Targets End of October for COVID-19 Vaccine Update
U.S. drugmaker Pfizer should know in October if a COVID-19 vaccine it is developing works, Chief Executive Albert Bourla said on Thursday, potentially placing it at the centre of bitter U.S. presidential politics ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Pfizer would submit the candidate for approval immediately if data shows the vaccine, developed with partner, Germany's BioNTech, proves safe and effective, Bourla said at an online briefing sponsored by drug industry group IFPMA. The race for vaccines with Moderna, AstraZeneca Plc, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and Chinese and Russian competitors comes as President Donald Trump seeks re-election, after committing billions of federal dollars to develop a vaccine to prevent COVID-19, which has killed more than 180,000 Americans.