"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 8th Sep 2020

Isolation Tips
Talking robots could be used in UK care homes to ease loneliness and improve mental health
Robots could be used in care homes after a study found they can improve mental health and have the potential to reduce loneliness in vulnerable older people. A robot called Pepper was tested in care homes in the UK and researchers found adults who used the robot for up to 18 hours across two weeks saw a significant improvement in their mental health. After two weeks, there was also a small but positive impact on people's feelings of loneliness, the study by the University of Bedfordshire, Middlesex University and Advinia Health Care found. Pepper is able to engage in and keep up a conversation, and can also learn about people's habits and tastes.
To work or stay home with kids? Question faces parents during coronavirus
Some local day care centers and community centers are creating ways for students to take virtual classes while their parents work. This became an issue after some Butler County school districts switched from in-person teaching to virtual classes at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Those decisions by school districts, some made late in the summer, gave families as little as two weeks to find a caregiver, leaving some working parents scrambling as many child care centers are already full.
Hygiene Helpers
Rapid Covid-19 testing system 'quite some way' from being reality, says Sturgeon
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh on Monday, Ms Sturgeon said her administration is in discussions with the UK Government about a rapid testing system. She said pilot work is under way. “We are as keen as anybody to see these kinds of scientific developments give us more solutions to Covid than we have right now,” the First Minister said. “But we have to be realistic, we are still quite some way from that being a reality on a mass scale across the country.” Discussing a vaccine, she said: “We all hope there will be an effective vaccine as quickly as possible. “But we cannot right now bank on it, just as we can’t bank on some of these other scientific developments.”
Test and trace could be overwhelmed if 'dramatic' rise in Covid-19 cases
The nation’s test-and-trace system will be overwhelmed if there is a “dramatic” rise in Covid-19 cases, ministers were warned today after the biggest daily leap since May. Concerns are rising after some people were being asked to travel hundreds of miles to get tested because there were no slots available at their local testing centre.
Health experts welcome Melbourne lockdown extension but question curfew
Public health experts have backed the Victorian government’s decision to extend Melbourne’s stage four lockdown and only lift all restrictions once there is no community transmission of Covid-19, but have questioned the effectiveness of the overnight curfew. The stage four lockdown has been extended for two weeks with some allowances made for single people living alone and a doubling of the time permitted for exercise. After that, from 28 September, the harshest measures of stage four will continue – including the curfew – but people will be able to meet in larger groups outdoors and some students will return to school.
Latest Covid-19 trend suggests younger people could avoid future lockdowns while elderly shield themselves
Older people appear to be voluntarily shielding from the spread of Covid-19 with figures showing new infections are mainly confined to younger adults. Experts are now suggesting more mature citizens should be covered by any future restrictions while younger people continue to work - avoiding the threat of strict new lockdown rules. There has been a steady rise in coronavirus infections but no significant rise in the number of patients hospitalised, the Express reports. New data suggests the peak age range for new coronavirus cases covers people under 40.
Community Activities
Sumter YMCA helps students, their parents adjust to virtual learning
Pandemic-induced adjustments can be seen in full force at the family health and wellness center on weekdays, where students are taking part in its new Y Virtual Learning Academy. "A lot of parents have to work, so they can't stay home, or they're single parents," said Fannie Lockett, youth development director at the Y. Lockett usually runs the Y's after-school and summer programs, and they realized they could fill a need for families when Sumter School District announced it would begin the school year this fall in an all-virtual capacity. Currently, 37 students spend their day at the Y, getting help from counselors during school and getting their daily dose of physical activity in the afternoon. Parents who can't work from home don't have to worry about leaving their young children home alone and can rest assured they are not falling behind in school.
Exhausted Indian doctors battle surging COVID-19 cases
Doctors at one of the largest private COVID-19 facilities in the Indian capital say they are exhausted and facing staff shortages after nearly six months of relentless work. India's total cases of the novel coronavirus crossed 4.2 million on Monday, overtaking Brazil as the second worst-hit country after the United States.
Health tech pins hope on Africa's pandemic shift to online care
Across the globe, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated changes in the way medicine is practised as medical care increasingly begins with an online consultation rather than a face-to-face meeting. In this story, the clinic, run by Nigerian health technology firm eHealth Africa, sent a patient a web browser link to hold a video chat with a doctor who diagnosed her son with a mild illness and prescribed medicine to avoid dehydration.
Return to work is too late to save city centres, says British Retail Consortium
The slow return of UK workers to their normal place of work will come too late to save hard-pressed city centre stores from going under, the body that represents retailers has said. Despite a pick-up in spending in August, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said sales were still below their pre-pandemic level and the lack of people was having a devastating impact on shops operating in places once thronged with workers. The latest health check of high street and online spending from the BRC warned that September would see more job losses, a gloomy view backed up by the latest survey of employment trends from the consultancy group Manpower.
Good news for travel enthusiasts as Cuba finally welcomes tourists after months of COVID-19 lockdown
The countries have finally started lifting the nationwide lockdowns amid COVID-19 pandemic to boost the tourism industry and the latest to join the bandwagon is Cuba as it now welcomes travellers. Rolling out its red carpet for tourists post the COVID-19 lockdown, the news came as a ray of hope not just for travel enthusiasts but also for several laid-off leisure industry employees residing in the Communist-run island. Similar to the rest of the world, Cuba had too closed its airports in March courtesy COVID-19 and decided to open from September 4. On Friday, an Air Canada plane arrived at the Cayo-Coco airport on the northcentral coast and is now expected to fly weekly to Cuba and biweekly from next month.
PR blitz: China tries to flip the pandemic script, starring a 'reborn' Wuhan
China is recasting Wuhan as a heroic coronavirus victim and trying to throw doubt on the pandemic's origin story as it aims to seize the narrative at a time of growing global distrust of Beijing. China is recasting Wuhan as a heroic coronavirus victim and trying to throw doubt on the pandemic's origin story as it aims to seize the narrative at a time of growing global distrust of Beijing. The PR blitz plays out daily in comments by Chinese officials and lavish state media coverage of a "reborn" Wuhan that trumpets China's epidemic-control efforts and economic recovery while the United States struggles. The drive peaked in the past week as Chinese primary schools welcomed back students with considerable fanfare and Wuhan hosted executives from dozens of multinationals, from Panasonic to Dow and Nokia, on a highly choreographed tour of the central Chinese city
Working Remotely
Remote workers swap commute for productivity
More than half (60%) of small business employees who are working from home due to the pandemic are using the time they would be spending on their commute as work time, a new study by Vodafone has found. According to the research, which was conducted by Atomik Research and surveyed 1,003 UK adults from SME companies, 40% of employees who are working from home have put in an average of 642 additional hours, equal to 26 extra days, since lockdown began back in March. A quarter (25%) of the surveyed homeworkers are also contributing to their local economy on a daily basis by swapping major coffee retailers such as Starbucks or Pret a Manger for smaller cafes and coffee shops.
Will the future of work be remote or in the office?
Before the coronavirus pandemic, working from home was a luxury afforded to only 30% of white-collar workers, according to the Office for National Statistics. By mid-lockdown in April, it was estimated that nearly half of people in employment were working from home in some way. Offices could be a space for convening and group thinking, while homes become the site of undisturbed, productive work.
Netflix boss: Remote working has negative effects
Netflix's chairman has said working from home has no positive effects and makes debating ideas harder. But Reed Hastings, who founded the platform, also said its 8,600 employees would not have to return to the office until most of them had received an approved coronavirus vaccine. And he predicted most people would continue to work from home on one day a week even after the pandemic was over. A new UK government ad campaign is now asking workers to return to workplaces.
Summer's not over yet: Remote workers extend their vacations — to the delight of resort owners
Dana Bates and her husband, both biotech workers, and their 7-year-old daughter were already working and learning remotely from their home in Cloverdale, California. Then, smoke conditions from the California wildfires sent them in search of another venue. They landed in a two-bedroom cabin at the Brasada Ranch resort near Bend, Oregon, where the self-contained units and attention to health and safety were reassuring during an especially stressful time. "It was one level, with rooms on separate sides of the cabin and a desk in each room. Cleaning staff did not come every day, but you could leave bedding and towels out for pick-up and request fresh linens," Bates said. "It was comfortable. We made friends. And I felt very safe from COVID-19."
How far would you go for a more socially distanced life?
Social distancing has become a big part of all our lives, but whether it’s with Covid-19 in mind or just escaping the “rat race” for a better work-life balance, how does life on an isolated island sound? While restrictions imposed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have been tough for some people, especially those unused to relative solitude, others have embraced it. Working from home has allowed some people to recalibrate their outlook on life, escape the commute, and spend more time with loved ones. But one family has taken an even bigger step, uprooting themselves from Cambridge in England and moving to one of Northern Ireland’s most isolated locations – Rathlin Island, off the North Coast
43% of remote workers anxious about returning to work due to Covid-19
43% of remote workers say they are anxious about the risk of exposure to Covid-19 upon returning to the workplace, with two-thirds concerned about the lack of additional mental health supports being offered by their employers. The Return To Work survey, undertaken by Matrix Recruitment, tracked the views of almost 900 adults in Ireland and found that 65% of those in employment have returned to the workplace, while 35% are still working from home. Only a third of those still working from home believe they will be back in the workplace before Christmas. Six per cent have been told that they will continue to work from home on a permanent basis.
Virtual Classrooms
Refugee Families Face Unique Struggles With Online School
Samuel Lavi knew he'd have to find unique ways to stay connected to refugee families when the coronavirus pandemic shut down Valencia Newcomer School. Parents and students speak more than a dozen languages, and they'd need help navigating the technology around remote learning. So the gregarious teaching assistant, himself a Congolese refugee, created group chats on the WhatsApp messaging app in Swahili and some of the other six languages he knows. To ensure parents who can't read or write could participate, Lavi taught them to record and share small audio clips. With remote classes now underway at the K-8 school for refugee children in Phoenix, Lavi helps students connect from home with loaned iPads so they can learn English before transferring to mainstream schools.
More than 19,000 Columbia Public Schools students begin virtual classes on Tuesday
More than 19,000 Columbia Public Schools students begin virtual classes on Tuesday. The Columbia Public Schools Board last week made the decision to have the district go virtual rather than start the year with students attending class in-person. Board members said they approved their all-virtual learning plan because there were too many coronavirus cases throughout the school district. This method of learning is tricky for all involved. Administrators, staff, faculty, students, and families are all preparing for the start of school in an entirely new way.
UCA online learning professor gives advice for teacher, student success
As Arkansas begins it’s third week of school, some districts have already switched over to online learning due to coronavirus. Last week the Searcy County School District, Cross County School District, Pulaski County Special School District and Earle School District had campuses temporarily transition to online learning due to multiple employees being quarantined for potential coronavirus exposure.
How one Nashville charter school is navigating virtual school for the whole semester
Intrepid College Prep decided early that instead of figuring out when students will return to classrooms this fall, they simply wouldn't come back. Students who attend the middle and high schools that make up the charter network in Antioch will learn from home virtually through the entire semester. This plan, school officials say, leaves room for teachers to hone their craft and put their all into virtual learning — all while keeping students and staff safe in a part of Nashville with some of the highest concentrations of COVID-19 cases. For virtual learning to be successful this semester, the school has to be intentional about building relationships and connecting with students, school officials say. Otherwise, students might get behind — or worse, students might get lost altogether.
Pandemic preschool: How to navigate sending your kid into an unfamiliar building with masked strangers
To keep kids, families and staff safe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that child care programs implement an array of new safety measures amid the pandemic, such as reducing class sizes, intensifying cleaning protocols, taking children’s temperatures each morning, requiring kids and staff to wear face masks, staggering drop-off and pick-up times, spreading nap mats out six feet apart, ending family-style mealtimes and more. Many states and counties have additional guidance. "For so many of the parents I talk to, it’s a scary time. The uncertainty is stressful," said Dr. Erica Lee, a psychiatrist at Boston Children’s Hospital. "Kids are really resilient, and they follow their parents' and teachers' cues. The more calm and predictability we can create for them at home and at school, the better kids will do."
Colleges and universities trying to manage COVID-19 on campuses
With a rise in COVID-19 cases on college campuses around the country, some people suggest shutting things down and sending students home. Local health experts say that may do more harm than good. The University of Alabama system reports between August 28th and September 3, 846 UA students tested positive for the virus in Tuscaloosa. The university says it’s seeing a decline in daily averages since its last report. On September 3, UA reports student positives had dropped to 65 for the day. University officials say nothing has gone wrong with its approach to combating the virus and spread. Some have asked should campuses close to try slow the spread further? UAB’s Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo and others caution against that.
Districts adapt to virtual learning during COVID-19 situation
As area school districts have begun the 2020-21 school year in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of students in the Amarillo area are back in the school building for in-person instruction. But for the students who are learning remotely, either by choice or because they are in quarantine, districts are having to adjust on how to approach virtual learning in a more in-depth way than in the spring. According to respective district officials, Canyon Independent School District currently has eight percent of its students participating in virtual learning, River Road ISD has 18 percent virtual students and Amarillo ISD has 20 percent virtual students.
Public Policies
How much did the Covid-19 lockdown really cost the UK?
Cancer treatments cancelled. Children deprived of schooling. More cases of domestic abuse. Continued restrictions on personal freedom. Over and above the direct damage caused to the economy, the collateral damage from the Covid-19 pandemic has been colossal. And the crisis is not over by any means. Travel restrictions come and go with mind-boggling frequency. Local quarantining has replaced national lockdowns. Every leading policymaker in the UK, from the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, downwards, knows that the job losses to come threaten to leave permanent scars. An obvious question, therefore, is was it worth it? Have the costs of shutting down a great chunk of Britain for three months and leaving many restrictions in place after six months been outweighed by the benefits?
Coronavirus latest: UK to shift to regional quarantine system
Yvonne Doyle, medical director for Public Health England, echoed Mr Hancock’s warnings to young people, saying that “the vast majority” of new cases were in people in their late teens and early 20s. “What we don’t want to see is a continuing increase of cases in this age group because it could lead to them infecting their parents and grandparents who are much more at risk of poor outcomes from the virus,” added Dr Doyle. Separately, Mr Hancock said the “best-case scenario” for a Covid-19 vaccine to be approved in the UK was later this year, but it was most likely to happen in the “first few months of next year”.
France expects more severe COVID cases in next 15 days
France must stay vigilant as more people will be hospitalised in intensive care units in the next two weeks, reflecting a flare-up in COVID-19 infections in recent days, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Saturday.
Coronavirus spikes in Spain, France and U.K. raise specter of second wave
Cases of the coronavirus are spiking in France, Spain and the United Kingdom even as social distancing restrictions ease, stoking concerns among doctors and policymakers about a “second wave” in countries still reeling from the pandemic’s first wave. France set a record Friday after health authorities reported 8,975 new cases, far higher than the previous record of 7,578, which the was set March 31 at the height of the pandemic. In the U.K., new infections soared to nearly 3,000 in one day — the country’s biggest jump since May. And Spain had nearly 9,000 new cases Thursday.
Maintaining Services
Primark: UK city centres 'not dead' despite Covid crisis
City centres are “not remotely dead” according to Primark, even though sales at its four largest stores in central London, Birmingham and Manchester have slumped to half last year’s level since they reopened. The budget clothing chain said customers had flocked back to its shops in retail parks since the high street lockdown ended in July, with trading better than expected, and that it had taken market share from rival retailers. However, the shift to working from home and lack of tourists has affected trading at its four largest UK stores.
S.Africa consumer confidence improves in third quarter as lockdown eases
South African consumers regained some confidence in the economy in the third quarter after consumer confidence hit a 35-year low in the previous quarter, a survey showed on Monday, as the country reopened its borders and businesses from the lockdown.
Coronavirus: Schools face disruption over positive Covid-19 cases
Pupils and teachers have been asked to self isolate with schools across Wales affected by positive Covid-19 cases. Areas affected include Bridgend, Cardiff, Caerphilly, Carmarthen, Gwynedd, Neath, Rhondda, and Wrexham. More than 200 pupils at Bryntirion comprehensive in Bridgend have been asked to isolate after a confirmed case. And 30 pupils in Year 7 class at Ysgol Bro Edern, Llanedeyrn, Cardiff, must self-isolate for 14 days after a case. At Bryntirion, all Year 7 pupils have been asked to stay away as they have been identified as having had potential contact with a person who has tested positive, along with three staff members.
Coronavirus: Online boom push retail sales up but high street still suffering
Consumers working and shopping from home helped retail sales to their best growth since the start of the pandemic last month but there was little cheer for the high street, new figures show. Total sales rose by 3.9% in August compared to the same period last year, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC). It was the third month in a row of growth, following the reopening of stores in June, but the sector has still yet to make up for trade lost during lockdown and it is online rather than bricks-and-mortar shops that have led the way.
Coronavirus: Sheffield sixth formers self-isolating
A private school has told its sixth form students to stay at home after one student tested positive for Covid-19. Birkdale School in Sheffield said sixth form pupils were in a bubble so all of them would be required to self-isolate at home for 14 days. The school said it had taken a pupil testing positive into account when reopening and it was following Public Health England guidelines. The affected students will learn remotely while self-isolating.
Coronavirus: Schools face disruption over positive Covid-19 cases
Pupils and teachers have been asked to self isolate with schools across Wales affected by positive Covid-19 cases. Areas affected include Bridgend, Cardiff, Caerphilly, Carmarthen, Gwynedd, Neath, Rhondda, and Wrexham. Thirty pupils in Year 7 class at Ysgol Bro Edern, Llanedeyrn, Cardiff, have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days after a confirmed case. Head teacher Iwan Pritchard said the school had acted "as quickly as possible" to contact those affected. They were identified as close contacts of a confirmed case at the school.
Winter wave of Covid-19 'could overwhelm 87% of NHS hospitals' as they struggle to cope with normal seasonal pressures as well as the pandemic, analysis warns
As many as 115 trusts of 132 surveyed could be over capacity this winter. Figure was found by comparing winter demand and April Covid-19 demand. Four out of five trusts that could be most over-capacity are based in the capital
Viewpoint: Why remote consultations could strengthen the GP-patient relationship
Telephone, online and video consultations can still enable GPs to have strong relationships with their patients and will ensure general practice is fit for the 21st century, argues Dr Katie Barnett.
Delhi metro: India's largest subway reopens with masks and distancing
The metro in the Indian capital, Delhi, has reopened more than five months after it was shut down to prevent the spread of coronavirus. It's India's largest rapid transport system - it carried 2.7 million passengers a day before the lockdown. Masks, social distancing and temperature checks are mandatory according to the new rules. The move comes as case numbers continue to climb in India, with daily tallies of more than 80,000. The country has so far reported more than 4.1 million cases, and 70,000 deaths. Despite the risks, India continues to reopen because the economy is still reeling from the effects of a prolonged lockdown.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid-19 vaccine developers prepare joint safety pledge: Wall Street Journal
Several Covid-19 vaccine developers, including Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna Inc, plan to issue a public pledge not to seek government approval until their vaccine candidates are proven to be safe and effective, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday (Sept 4). The companies would pledge to adhere to high scientific and ethical standards in the conduct of clinical studies and in their manufacturing processes, the Journal report said, citing the draft of a joint statement that is still being finalised. The companies might issue the pledge as soon as early next week, the report added, citing two people familiar with the matter
60,000 may have 'long Covid' for more than three months – UK study
Up to 60,000 people in the UK may have been suffering from “long Covid” for more than three months, unable to get the care they need to recover from prolonged and debilitating symptoms. Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London who runs the app-based Covid symptom study, said around 300,000 people had reported symptoms lasting for more than a month. A minority have been suffering for longer; up to 60,000 people have reported having symptoms for more than three months. Some cases are mild, but others are seriously debilitating, with breathlessness and fatigue. Some people have had to use wheelchairs. Others say attempting to carry out everyday tasks such as shopping or even climbing the stairs can leave them bedridden for days.
Fatigue and headache most common Covid symptoms in children – study
Fatigue, headache and fever are the most common symptoms of coronavirus in children, with few developing a cough or losing their sense of taste or smell, researchers have found, adding to calls for age-specific symptom checklists. The NHS lists three symptoms as signs of Covid-19 in adults and children: a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, and a loss or change in the sense of smell or taste. However, the team behind the Covid symptom study app say new data shows that the disease presents differently in children compared with adults. “We need to start to telling people what are the key symptoms at different ages rather than this blanket obsession with fever, cough and lack of smell,” said Prof Tim Spector, of King’s College London, who led the work.
Let’s get real. No vaccine will work as if by magic, returning us to ‘normal’
Urgency must not be misunderstood; accelerating vaccine development must not mean compromising safety. Transparent, rigorous assessment by independent regulatory bodies without political interference is non-negotiable. Trust is our most important tool in public health and we must do everything we can to avoid putting that in doubt. It cannot be bought on short-term promises. Already, there are worrying signs of diminishing trust in potential Covid-19 vaccines. Polls suggest that in countries with some of the highest global case numbers, such as the United States, there could be low uptake of any Covid-19 vaccine, no matter how effective. This must not become a polarised political issue; public health is too important.
HK study finds COVID-19 stool tests may be more effective for infants
Stool tests may be more effective than respiratory tests in identifying COVID-19 infections in children and infants since they carry a higher viral load in their stool than adults, researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) said. Sttol samples carry the virus even after it has cleared from a patient's respiratory tract and that could lead to better identification of asymptomatic cases, particularly in infants and others who have difficulty providing nasal or throat swabs, CUHK researchers said in a press release
Australia expects to receive AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine within months
Australia expects to receive its first batches of a potential COVID-19 vaccine in January, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday, as the number of new daily infections in the country's virus hotspot fell to a 10-week low
The first Covid-19 vaccine may not be the magic bullet that returns life to 'normal'
The 'first' vaccine, or even the first generation of vaccines, will most likely not be perfect; we need to be pragmatic and transparent on that front. The reality is that with these vaccines, we will be taking small steps to return to a sense of normality. Plenty is attached to the word vaccine. When we hear it, we think of one of the greatest advances in human health, one that eliminates smallpox and saves millions every year from polio and tetanus, from HPV and the flu. However, the first generation of Covid-19 vaccines will probably be only partially effective. They might not be completely effective in all ages or appropriate in all health systems. It is very possible that they might provide immunity only for a limited period, even as short as 12 to 18 months. This might not be what we are used to from a vaccine, but there is no doubt that the first effective vaccines, even imperfect ones, can have a major impact and be a precious commodity.
China shows off its COVID-19 vaccine candidates that could 'hit the market by the end of this year'
China showcased two potential coronavirus vaccines at a trade fair in Beijing. They are expected to be approved and ready to be produced as early as year-end. Nearly 10 COVID-19 vaccine candidates worldwide have entered phase 3 trials. Russia is the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine
Australia expects to receive AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine in January
Morrison said his government has struck a deal with CSL Ltd to manufacture two vaccines - one developed by rival AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and another developed in CSL's own labs with the University of Queensland. "Australia needs some hope," Morrison told reporters in Canberra. "Today, we take another significant step to protect the health of Australians against the coronavirus pandemic." Health Minister Greg Hunt said scientists leading the development of both vaccines have advised that recent evidence suggests both will offer "multi-year protection". Morrison said CSL is expected to deliver 3.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is currently undergoing late-stage clinical trials in Britain, Brazil and South Africa, in January and February next year. AstraZeneca's candidate, AZD1222, is viewed as a frontrunner in the global race to deliver an effective vaccine to combat the virus.