"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 8th Feb 2021

Isolation Tips
Nadhim Zahawi: Coronavirus vaccine refuseniks face visit from the persuaders
People who have not accepted vaccination offers could get knocks on the door from council staff in an attempt to convince sceptics “home by home”, the vaccines minister has suggested. Nadhim Zahawi said the NHS was already trying to “identify to individual level the people that we need to reach” to ensure that all over-70s had a chance to get a jab by February 15.
Hygiene Helpers
The U.S. needs a National Vaccine Day
Vaccines don’t save lives. Vaccinations do. That is an essential lesson we have learned from working at the forefront of vaccine development and health communication. One of us (S.P.) helped develop vaccines for rubella, rabies, and rotavirus, that have played an essential role in reducing preventable childhood deaths in the United States and around the world — but only because of public health campaigns that built trust in vaccination and made vaccines easily accessible to people from every walk of life. Now along comes Covid-19, a highly infectious disease caused by a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV2, that humans had never previously encountered. In an amazing feat of science and speed, we now have vaccines against this virus that are proving to be highly effective.
NFL Offers All 30 Stadiums For Use As Coronavirus Vaccine Sites
Every NFL team will offer their stadium as a possible mass vaccination site to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter to President Biden. The move would expand an effort that currently includes seven teams. Each team "will make its stadium available for mass vaccinations of the general public in coordination with local, state, and federal health officials," Goodell wrote in the letter, which was sent on Thursday. The effort would be helped, he said, by the experience the teams already have with transforming parts of their facilities into coronavirus testing sites. The NFL has 32 teams, but the offer comprises 30 stadiums, because pairs of teams share facilities in both New York and Los Angeles.
COVID-19: Rapid testing to be offered to workplaces with more than 50 employees
Rapid tests will be offered to workplaces with more than 50 employees in an effort to control the COVID-19 pandemic. The lateral flow tests can produce results in less then 30 minutes but were previously only available to firms with more than 250 staff. Officials said the move is an effort to "normalise" testing in the workplace and ensure the safety of those who cannot work from home.
Calls grow for US to rely on rapid tests to fight pandemic
When a Halloween party sparked a COVID-19 outbreak at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, school officials conducted rapid screening on more than 1,000 students in a week, including many who didn’t have symptoms. Although such asymptomatic screening isn’t approved by regulators and the 15-minute tests aren’t as sensitive as the genetic one that can take days to yield results, the testing director at the historically Black college credits the approach with quickly containing the infections and allowing the campus to remain open. “Within the span of a week, we had crushed the spread. If we had had to stick with the PCR test, we would have been dead in the water,” said Dr. Robert Doolittle, referring to the polymerase chain reaction test that is considered the gold standard by many doctors and Food and Drug Administration regulators.
Europe moves toward COVID-19 vaccine passports but not every country is on board
A few European Union countries have taken steps to distribute special passes to allow citizens inoculated against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to travel freely. Others countries, including the U.K., are considering such a measure.
Community Activities
Gardaí across Ireland respond to 'Jerusalema' dance challenge from Swiss police in bid to lift nation’s spirits
In Ireland, An Garda Síochána have stepped up to the challenge issued by Swiss Federal Police last month which saw Swiss forces performing a mass, socially distant dance routine set to 'Jerusalema' by Master KG. The dance routine was designed to lift spirits of the public during coronavirus restrictions across Europe. After publishing their video, Swiss police directly challenged gardaí to respond with their own version. The official Garda video shows a socially-distanced dance routine featuring members and locations spanning the island of Ireland.
Working Remotely
Nissan's 'office pod' imagines a new kind of remote working
Forget working from home -- this camper van is for those who want to "work from anywhere." Inspired by the new realities of the Covid-19 era, Nissan's concept vehicle features a retractable office for remote workers and digital nomads. Dubbed Office Pod Concept, the mobile workspace comes with a modified Cosm chair by US furniture-maker Herman Miller, and desk space big enough for a large computer monitor. With the tap of an app, the pod extends out the back in a matter of seconds and the trunk door becomes a cover for your al-fresco office.
How to deal with a bad boss while working from home
By this point in the pandemic, those of us working from home have figured out the big stuff. Maybe the kitchen table doubles as a desk now and a pet has become a frequent surprise guest in Zoom meetings but, nearly a year in, most of us are making it work. Nevertheless, there are certain things about communicating digitally that don’t always translate. And of those things is how we communicate with our bosses, say experts. If your boss wasn’t great before the age of working from home, the odds are he or she hasn’t improved. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope and as pandemic fatigue has fully set in, now may be the best time to salvage the relationship, according to Mollie West Duffy, co-author of No Hard Feelings, on how emotions affect our working lives.
Employees working from home are putting in longer hours than before the pandemic
Enjoying more free time while working from home? Maybe not. New research conducted during the pandemic shows that home-working employees in the United Kingdom, Austria, Canada and the United States are putting in more hours than before. Home working has led to a 2.5-hour increase in the average working day in those countries, said NordVPN Teams. The United Kingdom and the Netherlands stand out, with employees "working until 8pm, regularly logging off later than usual to wrap up an extended working day," it added. However, employees in Denmark, Belgium and Spain initially recorded a spike in working hours but have since returned to their pre-pandemic timetable
The 6 biggest mistakes you do while working from home
It’s been almost a year since the coronavirus pandemic hit us, forcing businesses and industries to shut down their offices and continue remote working for the time being. The experience of remote working is still quite new as many employees are yet to settle down with the idea. And so, many end up making mistakes while working remotely that unknowingly affects their work productivity. So, we bring to you some of the biggest don’ts while working remotely.
Virtual Classrooms
After nearly a year of virtual learning, school psychologists worry about the mental health effects
As students near a year of virtual learning, school psychologists are worried about the mental health effects. Julia Rutkowski, School Psychologist at Muskego High School in Racine, thought her students would love the idea of attending school without having to physically be in school. However, once it became unclear when the lockdown would be lifted, some students began to struggle with the lack of interaction that came with virtual learning. Student support staff try to connect with students that are struggling to suggest positive mental health activities. However, during winter months, there are not many suggestions to give students.
Pandemic learning takes another turn: Will teachers be in person in classrooms?
After nearly a year of online learning, parents in the Washington region were thrilled to hear announcements from public schools that in-person learning will resume next month for students who choose it. But families quickly discovered that in-person learning will not necessarily mean sitting in a classroom and being taught by a teacher. Instead, school officials in Maryland and Virginia have been hiring “classroom monitors” who will fill out school staffing — in some cases supervising classrooms as students continue to do online lessons. For some parents, it’s the latest disappointment in pandemic-era learning: more virtual learning, no teacher in the room. School officials across the region say the strategy is necessary to reopen in the near future, while accommodating legitimate requests from teachers who must continue working virtually for health reasons
Public Policies
UK eyes COVID-19 booster in autumn, then annual vaccinations, says minister
A COVID-19 booster in the autumn and then annual vaccinations are very probable, Britain’s vaccine deployment minister said on Sunday as countries race to administer injections in the face of new variants. Britain has already injected over 12 million first doses of COVID-19 vaccines and is on track to meet a target to vaccinate everyone in the top most vulnerable groups by mid-February. Among coronavirus variants currently most concerning for scientists and public health experts are the so-called British, South African and Brazilian variants, which appear to spread more swiftly than others.
Cambodia gets first COVID-19 vaccine from key ally China
Cambodia on Sunday received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine, a donation of 600,000 doses from China, the country’s biggest ally. Prime Minister Hun Sen, his senior Cabinet members and Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian were at Phnom Penh International Airport for a reception ceremony for the Sinopharm vaccine carried by a Chinese Air Force flight. Hun Sen had announced that he would be the first person to be vaccinated, but backtracked last week, saying the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine was effective only for people aged between 18 and 59, while he is 68. He said Sunday at the airport that he would urge younger members of his family, as well as top officials and generals under 60, to get vaccinated Wednesday as an example to the public.
Coronavirus in Scotland: Restrictions will not be scrapped when vaccine rollout complete, says Deputy First Minister
Covid-19 restrictions will not be scrapped in Scotland once the vaccination programme is complete, Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said.
China Approves Second Coronavirus Vaccine for Public Use
Sinovac Biotech Ltd. received regulatory approval from Chinese authorities for its coronavirus vaccine to be used by the general public in the country’s second such authorization. The conditional approval was announced by the National Medical Products Administration on Saturday. Sinovac earlier said the protective efficacy of its vaccine, CoronaVac, met World Health Organization and China regulatory standards 14 days after the completion of two shots. With the approval, the vaccine can be administered to the general population following one developed by state-owned China National Biotec Group Co. which got permission in December. The Chinese regulator had endorsed CoronaVac for emergency use in July.
Slovenia eases anti-coronavirus restrictions after criticism
Slovenia will reopen ski resorts and some shops and has eased restrictions on people entering the country imposed to help reduce the rate of COVID-19 infections, after coming under pressure over its handling of the pandemic. From Saturday, daily migrant workers and academics entering Slovenia from European Union countries that have lower 14-day incidences of COVID-19 will not have to present negative coronavirus tests, or be quarantined, the government said. Also, ski resorts as well as shops and service businesses not larger that 400 square meters will be allowed to reopen next week, with weekly mandatory testing of employees, Economy Minister Zdravko Pocivalsek said.
Governor Cuomo Announces List of Comorbidities and Underlying Conditions Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine Starting February 15
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today released the list of comorbidities and underlying conditions that New York State will use to determine eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine. New Yorkers who have one of the comorbidities on the list will be eligible for the vaccine beginning February 15. "New Yorkers with comorbidities and underlying conditions exist throughout the state's population—they're our teachers, lawyers and carpenters, in addition to the doctors who keep us safe every day, and they are a highly affected population," Governor Cuomo said. "We're committed to vaccinating vulnerable populations that have suffered the most as we distribute a strictly limited supply of vaccines, and people with comorbidities are 94 percent of the state's COVID deaths. That's why we'll open eligibility to people with comorbidities starting February 15 and give hospitals the ability to use extra doses they have to address that population. Local governments have a week to prepare for the new change—they need to get ready now."
Burundi says it doesn't need COVID-19 vaccines, at least yet
Burundi has become at least the second African country to say it doesn’t need COVID-19 vaccines, even as doses finally begin to arrive on the continent that’s seeing a deadly resurgence in cases. The health minister of the East African nation, Thaddee Ndikumana, told reporters on Thursday evening that prevention is more important, and “since more than 95% of patients are recovering, we estimate that the vaccines are not yet necessary.” The minister spoke while announcing new measures against the pandemic. The country closed its land and water borders last month. It now has well over 1,600 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Coronavirus in Tanzania: The country that's rejecting the vaccine
For months Tanzania's government has insisted the country was free from Covid-19 - so there are no plans for vaccination. The BBC's Dickens Olewe has spoken to one family mourning the death of a husband and father suspected of having had the disease. The fear is that amid the denial, there are many more unacknowledged victims of this highly contagious virus. A week after Peter - not his real name - arrived home from work with a dry cough and loss of taste, he was taken to hospital, where he died within hours. He had not been tested for Covid. But then, according to Tanzania's government, which has not published data on the coronavirus for months, the country is "Covid-19-free". There is little testing and no plans for a vaccination programme in the East African country.
Maintaining Services
Pfizer expects to cut COVID-19 vaccine production time by close to 50% as production ramps up, efficiencies increase
Pfizer expects to nearly cut in half the amount of time it takes to produce a batch of COVID-19 vaccine from 110 days to an average of 60 as it makes the process more efficient and production is built out, the company told USA TODAY. As the nation revs up its vaccination programs, the increase could help relieve bottlenecks caused by vaccine shortages. "We call this 'Project Light Speed,' and it's called that for a reason," said Chaz Calitri, Pfizer's vice president for operations for sterile injectables, who runs the company's plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. "Just in the last month we've doubled output."
Covid-19 Vaccine Promises Fall Short for Many Doctors, Elderly in Europe
Eugenio Del Rio, a 77-year-old writer, leaves his Madrid apartment only to shop for food and take an occasional stroll as he awaits his turn to get the coronavirus vaccine. The wait is getting longer and longer. So long, in fact, that he has come to realize a book he is writing, about the cultural factors that pushed some youth to oppose the Franco regime, might be published before the country is through the pandemic. “I hope to be vaccinated in April, but even if that happens it will be ages before we return to normal life because so many people will still need to be vaccinated,” said Mr. Del Rio.
Covid-19: Extra testing opens in Bristol and South Gloucestershire
Additional testing to track and suppress the spread of a Covid-19 variant has been rolled out in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. People who do not have symptoms but live in 24 postcode areas are "strongly encouraged" to get tested. Additional testing has been introduced in Worcestershire and Sefton after the South Africa variant was found. Bristol City Council's director of public health said people should follow existing health advice.
Scotland hits coronavirus vaccine milestone as more than three quarters of a million receive first dose
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has hailed the "enormous efforts" of coronavirus vaccinators as the number of Scots to have been given their first injection passed three quarters of a million. Figures published by the Scottish Government showed that by Saturday morning, 786,427 people had now had their first jab - with 10,332 having received both doses of the vaccine. The figures were revealed as it was announced there had been a further 48 deaths among those who had tested positive for the virus in the past 28 days - taking the total number of deaths under this measurement to 6,431. In addition, a further 895 cases of Covid-19 have been reported in the past 24 hours - 5.9% of all those tested.
The Latest: Sri Lankan officials say vaccinations advancing
Sri Lankan health officials said on Saturday that more than half of the health workers and frontline military and police officers have so far been vaccinated against COVID-19. Sri Lanka last week began inoculating it’s frontline health workers, military troops and police officers against COVID-19 amid warnings that the sector faces a collapse with a number of health staff being infected with the new coronavirus. The ministry had planned to first vaccinate 150,000 health workers and selected 115,000 military and police personnel. By Saturday, 156,310 had been given with COVISHIELD vaccine. India had donated 500,000 does of Oxford-AstraZenica vaccine also known as the COVISHIELD which is the only vaccine approved by the regulatory body in Sri Lanka. Health ministry says Sri Lanka has ordered 18 millions doses of COVISHIELD vaccines and also had asked to allocate 2 million doses of Pfizer-BioNtech. Besides, China has promised to provide 300,000 shots of Sinopharm vaccine this month.
Covid: All over-50s in UK to be offered vaccine by May
All adults aged 50 and over should have been offered a coronavirus vaccine by May, Downing Street has confirmed. Previously ministers had said it was their "ambition" to vaccinate the first nine priority groups by the spring.
Moderna sets sights on $200M vaccine factory in Seoul: report
With supply contracts for 50 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in Japan and 40 million in South Korea, Moderna has already made a push into the Asian market. Now, it's laying out plans for a factory all its own in the region. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based drugmaker is in talks with the South Korean government to invest $200 million into a vaccine production plant in the country, Park Young-sun, a former government minister involved in the plans, told the Asia Business Daily, Reuters reports. Moderna is eager to push into the region, she added.
‘Like going to war’: Life and death on a Covid intensive care ward
On the intensive care ward of Northwick Park Hospital in north London, physiotherapist Mirko Vracar stands among dozens of coronavirus patients, surrounded by a cacophony of beeping alarms and hissing machinery. The patients lie comatose, ventilators breathing for them, while doctors and nurses speak in urgent, hushed tones, their voices muffled behind masks. For Mirko, redeployed to help the overstretched staff, the work is difficult and the stakes could not be higher. Since Christmas he has spent five days a week on these wards, working in a team that “prones” these patients – moving them on to their fronts so their Covid-ravaged lungs can breathe a little easier. They do this as many as 25 times a shift.
Healthcare Innovations
South Africa Says AstraZeneca's Covid-19 Vaccine is Not Effective at Stopping Variant
South Africa halted use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine on Sunday after evidence emerged that the vaccine did not protect clinical-trial participants from mild or moderate illness caused by the more contagious virus variant that was first seen there. The findings were a devastating blow to the country’s efforts to combat the pandemic. Scientists in South Africa said on Sunday that a similar problem held among people who had been infected by earlier versions of the coronavirus: the immunity they acquired naturally did not appear to protect them from mild or moderate cases when reinfected by the variant, known as B.1.351.
Virus Variant First Found in Britain Now Spreading Rapidly in U.S.
A more contagious variant of the coronavirus first found in Britain is spreading rapidly in the United States, doubling roughly every 10 days, according to a new study. Analyzing half a million coronavirus tests and hundreds of genomes, a team of researchers predicted that in a month this variant could become predominant in the United States, potentially bringing a surge of new cases and increased risk of death. The new research offers the first nationwide look at the history of the variant, known as B.1.1.7, since it arrived in the United States in late 2020. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that B.1.1.7 could become predominant by March if it behaved the way it did in Britain. The new study confirms that projected path.
What's the risk of dying from a fast-spreading COVID-19 variant?
The news is sobering, but complicated. Scientists have released the data behind a British government warning last week that the fast-spreading SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 increases the risk of dying from COVID-19 compared with previous variants. But some scientists caution that the latest study — like the government warning — is preliminary and still does not indicate whether the variant is more deadly or is just spreading faster and so reaching greater numbers of vulnerable people. The latest findings are concerning, but to draw conclusions, “more work needs to be done”, says Muge Cevik, a public-health researcher at the University of St Andrews, who is based in Edinburgh, UK.
COVID-19: Vaccines against new variants should be ready by October
Vaccines specifically designed to tackle new variants of coronavirus should be ready to be rolled out by October, according to the team behind the Oxford University/AstraZeneca jab. Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford vaccine group, said work on designing a new jab could be a quick process. Studies have shown that variants of COVID-19 that have the E484K mutation could reduce the efficacy of vaccines, but they are still expected to provide good protection against illness and severe disease. The mutation is present in the variant first identified in South Africa, with more than 100 cases of that variant detected in the UK so far. E484K has also been found in Bristol in the variant first recorded in Kent, and in Liverpool in a new variant on the original strain of coronavirus that first came to the UK.
Putin's Once-Scorned Vaccine Is Now a Favorite in Pandemic Fight
President Vladimir Putin’s announcement in August that Russia had cleared the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine for use before it even completed safety trials sparked skepticism worldwide. Now he may reap diplomatic dividends as Russia basks in arguably its biggest scientific breakthrough since the Soviet era. Countries are lining up for supplies of Sputnik V after peer-reviewed results published in The Lancet medical journal this week showed the Russian vaccine protects against the deadly virus about as well as U.S. and European shots, and far more effectively than Chinese rivals.
Sinovac says COVID-19 vaccine effective in preventing hospitalization, death
China’s Sinovac Biotech on Friday said late-stage trial data of its COVID-19 vaccine from Brazil and Turkey showed it prevented hospitalization and death in COVID-19 patients, but had a much lower efficacy rate in blocking infections. The 12,396-person trial found the CoronaVac vaccine was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 sufferers from being hospitalized or dying and 83.7% effective in avoiding cases that required any medical treatment, but only 50.65% effective at keeping people from getting infected, according to a statement. The trials evaluated the efficacy of the two-shot vaccine candidate 14 days after inoculation of participants, including healthcare workers who treat COVID-19 patients.
COVID-19: Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has 'similar effect' against Kent variant, researchers find
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine remains effective against the coronavirus variant first detected in Kent and the South East, researchers have found. The researchers who developed the jab say it has a similar efficacy against the variant compared to the original COVID-19 strain it was tested against. Professor Andrew Pollard, a chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said the new data suggests "the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus, but also protects against the novel variant, B.1.1.7".
Could mixing COVID vaccines boost immune response?
Researchers in the United Kingdom have launched a study that will mix and match two COVID-19 vaccines in a bid to ease the daunting logistics of immunizing millions of people — and potentially boost immune responses in the process. Most coronavirus vaccines are given as two injections: an initial ‘prime’ dose followed by a ‘boost’ to stimulate the immune system’s memory cells and amplify the immune response. The clinical trial will test participants’ immune responses to receiving one shot of a coronavirus vaccine produced by Oxford and drug firm AstraZeneca — which uses a harmless virus to carry a key coronavirus gene into cells — and one shot of the vaccine produced by drug company Pfizer, which uses RNA instructions to trigger an immune response. The trial, which is run by investigators at the University of Oxford, aims to begin enrolment on 4 February.