"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 28th May 2021

Isolation Tips
Australian State Probes Pandemic’s Loneliness Impact
Containing Covid-19 has been Australia’s North-eastern state, Queensland’s priority during the pandemic, and now the state will investigate how lockdown and limits on visitors affected mental health. Social isolation and loneliness are the subjects of a parliamentary Inquiry amid a pandemic in which one of the most effective weapons has been limiting contact between family and friends. “In 2020, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that the personal stressor most experienced by Australians during the Covid-19 pandemic was loneliness,” Communities Minister Leeanne Enoch said on May 27.
Covid-19: Nova Scotia safe isolation program has put up hundreds of people throughout pandemic
Since the pandemic first began, Nova Scotia has provided accommodations to nearly 500 people to help them isolate safely away from other people after contracting COVID-19. “They’re primarily hotels, mostly used in the Central Zone,” said Health Minister Zach Churchill about the voluntary safe isolation sites. The province currently has 60 sites available and 44 people are using them right now to isolate. Self-isolation is a key tool in our toolbelt to fight back against the spread of COVID-19,” said Churchill.
Hygiene Helpers
Bad luck or bad management: why has Victoria had so many Covid outbreaks?
James McCaw, a professor of mathematical biology at the University of Melbourne, says chance is a dominant factor, because there is a huge amount of variability in how many people an individual infected with Covid-19 spreads the virus to. In the early stages of an outbreak, the virus has a distinct pattern of spread known as clustered transmission, which is highly unpredictable. An estimated 70% of infected individuals do not pass the virus on to anybody else, and research has shown that around 20% of people – so-called “super-spreaders” – are responsible for the vast majority of viral transmission. The pattern of spread was similar for Sars, and differs from other viruses such as those that cause the flu, which are transmitted more consistently
Get vaccinated, win cash as California offers $116.5 million in prizes
California will offer $116.5 million in cash and gift cards to residents who get COVID-19 vaccinations before June 15, the latest - and most lucrative - incentive by U.S. states desperate to persuade laggards and vaccine-skeptics to get the injection. The move by Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is part of an effort to boost vaccinations as the state prepares to fully reopen its economy on June 15. Ten Californians who become inoculated before that date stand to win lottery-style prizes of $1.5 million apiece, while another 30 people will each win $50,000.
Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory?
Can employers make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory? Yes, with some exceptions. Experts say U.S. employers can require employees to take safety measures, including vaccination. That doesn’t necessarily mean you would get fired if you refuse, but you might need to sign a waiver or agree to work under specific conditions to limit any risk you might pose to yourself or others. “Employers generally have wide scope” to make rules for the workplace, said Dorit Reiss, a law professor who specializes in vaccine policies at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. “It’s their business.”
Community Activities
How Native Americans launched successful coronavirus vaccination drives: ‘A story of resilience’
Native American tribes, among the hardest-hit by covid-19, are celebrating a pandemic success story. Navajo Nation, the largest of the 574 Indian tribes in the United States, is now about 70 percent fully vaccinated, according to Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. Other tribes are reporting similar numbers. By late March, Blackfeet Nation in Montana reported that 95 percent of its population had received its first vaccine dose. The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation’s vaccine drive went so well that leaders offered surplus doses to a neighboring school district. The Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi, with 70 percent of its eligible population fully vaccinated, is nearing herd immunity. Tribal leaders attribute this success to several factors, including tribal sovereignty, which gave tribes the flexibility to create their own methods of distributing the vaccine, and cultural values that prioritize elders and community.
Mobile clinics help get vaccine to homeless community
The Vermont Health Department is working with community groups around the state to help Vermonters experiencing homelessness get vaccinated against COVID-19. A team from Community Health Centers of Burlington is helping to distribute the vaccine in Chittenden County, Vermont Public Radio reported. On a recent day, the team arrived at the Committee On Temporary Shelter or COTS daystation around noon in an outreach van to give nine people their second Pfizer doses. They had a supply of Johnson & Johnson vaccines for walk-ins. They also go to motels housing people who are homeless during the pandemic.
Covid-19 vaccine booking opens for everyone over 18 in NI
Covid-19 vaccinations have been made available to everyone over the age of 18 in Northern Ireland. Appointments are available to book online on the Health and Social Care website and by telephone. More than one million people in Northern Ireland have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. The Department of Health said vaccine supplies had become limited and 20,000 slots would be available each week. The limit is to help manage the availability of the Pfizer vaccine after regulators said under 40s should be given an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine, the department said.
Age UK's Befriending Service's £31k National Lottery win will help combat loneliness and isolation among Bromsgrove's older people
A scheme aimed at eradicating loneliness, isolation and loss of confidence among older people caused by the pandemic has been given a £31,000 National Lottery funding boost. The cash was awarded to Age UK Bromsgrove, Redditch and Wyre Forest to support its Befriending service. The charity supports people aged 50 and over in North Worcestershire and will use the money to support members of the communities, helping them overcome some of the longer-term effects of Covid-19. Befriending is one of the charity’s core charitable services, providing local people with friendship and support through regular calls or visits from a volunteer.
Facebook won’t remove posts claiming Covid-19 is man-made
Facebook says it will no longer remove claims that COVID-19 is human-made or manufactured “in light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts.” There is rising pressure worldwide to investigate the origins of the pandemic, including the possibility that it came from a lab. Since the pandemic began, Facebook has been changing what it allows on the topic and what it bans. In February, it announced a host of new claims it would be prohibiting -- including that COVID-19 was created in a Chinese lab. Other claims it added at the time included the false notion that vaccines are not effective or that they are toxic.
Ohio announces 1st $1 million Vax-a-Million lottery winner
A southwestern Ohio woman won the state’s first $1 million Vax-a-Million vaccination incentive prize, while a Dayton-area teen was awarded the first full-ride college scholarship offered by the program, the state announced Wednesday night. The winners were selected in a random drawing Monday and had their information confirmed before the formal announcement at the end of the Ohio Lottery’s Cash Explosion TV show. The lottery announced that Abbigail Bugenske of Silverton near Cincinnati was the $1 million winner, while Joseph Costello of Englewood near Dayton was the college scholarship winner.
The CDC’s latest blunder is really about trust, not masks
The announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that fully vaccinated people do not have to wear face coverings indoors, unless specified by their states or local jurisdictions, triggered a backlash from public health experts. They called the new guidelines premature — rightly so — and said that the coordination and rollout should have been better planned with the states and the rest of the Biden administration. While the criticism is accurate, the guidelines reveal another deep problem that the CDC can’t fix on its own: Americans don’t trust each other, and around half don’t fully trust the CDC.
India’s Covid vaccine rollout favours the wealthy and tech-savvy
When all Indian adults became eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations on May 1, Postcard Hotels & Resorts, a boutique hotel chain, swung into action to get its staff inoculated. Managers scoured the country’s online jab-booking platform, Co-win, to secure appointments. Hotel cars ferried workers to clinics as far as two hours away. The company paid for the inoculations, some of which cost as much as Rs1,300 (£13) per dose. Within a week, 200 employees had received a first dose. “We ran it like an army operation,” said Kapil Chopra, the company’s founder and chief executive. “I did it for the safety of my team, which is in the line of fire.”
Working Remotely
Bosses putting a 'digital leash' on remote workers could be crossing a privacy line
With many companies working from home during the pandemic, managers and employers have found themselves in a difficult position with running scattered teams away from the office. Some have turned to technology to help, but they may be walking a dangerous path using tools like artificial intelligence and algorithms to track employees and their work throughout the day, or even facial recognition that can ensure that someone is at their desk. A recent report by the Institute for the Future of Work, a British research and development group, said that algorithmic systems typically used in monitoring the performance of warehouse workers or delivery riders have pervaded more and more industries.
63% of high-growth companies have hybrid work models
A Fortune and NewtonX’s new CFO poll found many financial leaders prefer working remotely with flexible onsite workdays post-COVID. That echoes what Accenture finds in a new research report based on a global survey of more than 9,000 workers across industries. About 83% of respondents said a hybrid model—sometimes remote, sometimes onsite—would be optimal. A quarter of respondents, in fields such as healthcare and retail, worked fully onsite throughout the coronavirus pandemic and are likely to remain onsite, despite their personal preferences, the report found.
Virtual Classrooms
Remote learning let some NJ kids log in from around the globe. Is that a sign of the future?
Hundreds of New Jersey students have logged in to classes on their laptops over the past year from the Dominican Republic, Portugal, Bangladesh, Egypt, Australia and elsewhere. The ultra-remote instruction was a concession to the illness and disruption of the pandemic. But after Gov. Phil Murphy announced this month that remote learning would end in the fall, many districts are pulling the plug on the option. With COVID-19 forcing education systems around the world to provide alternatives to in-person instruction, some students from immigrant families chose to go abroad due to family emergencies or because they had no one to take care of them while school buildings were closed, school officials said.
As schools reopen, some are keeping all-virtual options
Teaching to the middle has historically been the approach taken by many schools nationwide, where a one-size-fits-all model is the norm and students must figure out how to fit in or fail. When COVID-19 hit and schools quickly pivoted to distance learning, challenges and disparities—many already present but ignored—were revealed for teachers, parents, and students. Yet, as the pandemic raged on, some students actually thrived in this at-home learning environment. One lesson is that many students experience stress due to daily instances of racism. This occurs especially when they do not feel a strong sense of belonging in their school setting, which research shows can lead to reduced academic confidence and performance. Taking classes online eased some of the pressure that students, including Black, immigrant and indigenous kids, felt to assimilate in classrooms and schools.
Oxford students reveal preference for virtual learning
In Oxford, college students have expressed a desire to carry on with virtual learning after the pandemic. More than 500 Oxford Business College students were surveyed, revealing a preference for virtual or blended learning (a mixture of virtual and classroom learning). Results from the survey showed 83 per cent preferred virtual or blended options. The remaining 17 per cent would like to see a classroom return.
Public Policies
Africa needs 20m second AstraZeneca jabs in six weeks: WHO
Africa needs at least 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine within six weeks if those who have had their first shot are to get the second in time, the WHO said Thursday. “Africa needs vaccines now,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa, said in a statement.
Victoria to enter a COVID-19 lockdown as cases from Melbourne outbreak grow
The Victorian government has announced a seven-day lockdown in a bid to curb the state's growing coronavirus outbreak. The state's outbreak has now reached 26 cases, with 11 new cases recorded from Wednesday to Thursday. Around 14,000 Victorians are either required to quarantine for 14 days, or test and isolate until negative. One of the cases was in hospital on a ventilator, but it is understood they were moved out of intensive care on Thursday night.
Rich countries cornered COVID-19 vaccine doses. Four strategies to right a 'scandalous inequity'
In January, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, issued a blunt warning. The world was “on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure,” he said. Wealthy countries were buying up available COVID-19 vaccines, leaving tiny amounts for others—a replay of what happened during the 2009 influenza pandemic. “The price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries,” Tedros said. He was right. Today, some rich countries are vaccinating children as young as 12 years old, who are at extremely low risk of developing severe COVID-19, while poorer countries don’t even have enough shots for health care workers. Nearly 85% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to date have gone to people in high-income and upper middle–income countries. The countries with the lowest gross domestic product per capita only have 0.3%.
Mexico authorizes J&J vaccine against COVID-19 for emergency use
Mexico's health regulator COFEPRIS has granted emergency use authorization to Johnson & Johnson's vaccine against COVID-19, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said on Thursday. "This authorization for emergency use certifies that the vaccine meets the quality, safety and efficacy requirements necessary to be applied," COFEPRIS said in a separate statement.
Swedish PM sees "beginning of the end", eases COVID restrictions next week
Sweden will ease some of its COVID-19 restrictions from June 1 as new cases have fallen sharply in recent weeks, the government said on Thursday, as it presented a roadmap to open up society. Sweden has been an outlier in the fight against the pandemic and has opted against full lockdowns, instead relying on mostly voluntary measures. It has been hit by a severe third wave of the virus but fresh cases and the number of people being admitted to intensive care are declining quickly. "We are beginning to glimpse the beginning of the end," Prime Minister Lofven told a news conference.
Maintaining Services
Covid: Wales' mass vaccination centres 'safe and efficient'
Vaccine centres in Wales have provided a "safe and efficient" environment for the roll-out of Covid-19 jabs, an inspection report has found. Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) visited eight mass vaccination centres to check safety standards. It found "dedicated, hard-working staff" and only asked for minor improvements in some areas. The watchdog's report comes as the number of people to have had a dose of the jab in Wales surpassed two million. This month, Wales has also become the best in the world, for sizeable countries, for the percentage of first doses given to its total population.
Thai princess allows new vaccine imports as slow rollout prompts anger
The Thai king’s sister has approved coronavirus vaccine imports by an institution she sponsors, bypassing the government as it deals with surging infections and growing public anger over a slow and chaotic rollout. The secretary-general of the Chulabhorn Royal Academy wrote on Facebook that the “alternative vaccines” would supplement the government campaign until it could meet the country’s needs. The government has long insisted it must handle all vaccine imports and next month starts its mass immunisation drive, which relies heavily on AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured locally by a company owned by the king.
COVID-19: Another coronavirus vaccine set to enter production within weeks - and UK has 60m doses ordered
Production of the coronavirus vaccine developed by French firm Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will begin within weeks, the firms have said. The two companies are currently in Phase 3 of their trials, which will see 35,000 adult volunteers receive their coronavirus jab across the US, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. They will test for effectiveness against the original form of COVID-19 that swept across the world after emerging in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 - and also the variant first detected in South Africa. "Manufacturing will begin in the coming weeks to enable rapid access to the vaccine should it be approved," a joint statement from Sanofi and GSK said. The Sanofi-GSK vaccine could be given the green light by drugs regulators in the final three months of this year if the Phase 3 trials are successful.
India scraps local trials for COVID shots, says Pfizer vaccine could arrive by July
India scrapped local trials for “well-established” foreign coronavirus vaccines on Thursday as it tries to accelerate its vaccination rollout, with a government official saying Pfizer shots could arrive by July. India pledged last month to fast-track imports, but its insistence on local trials and a dispute over indemnity stalled discussions with Pfizer. “The provision has now been further amended to waive the trial requirement altogether for the well-established vaccines manufactured in other countries,” the government said in a statement.
Ten states reach 70% COVID-19 vaccination goal
So far ten states have reached President Biden's Jul 4 goal of vaccinating 70% of eligible residents against COVID-19, according to White House COVID-19 response coordinator Andy Slavitt. Pennsylvania joined Vermont, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New Mexico as the tenth state to reach the 70% goal of having citizens with at least one dose of vaccine. Slavitt tweeted that another 10 states are above 65% coverage. In total, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID Data Tracker shows 359,849,035 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered in the US, and 289,212,304 have been administered, with 131,850,089 Americans fully vaccinated.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid-19: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is “likely” responsible for deaths of some elderly patients, Norwegian review finds
The Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine is “likely” to have been responsible for at least 10 deaths of frail elderly people in nursing homes in Norway, an expert review commissioned by the Norwegian Medicines Agency has concluded. The expert group was established at the end of February 2021 to look into the cause of the first 100 reported deaths of nursing home residents who had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. At the time, around 30 000 elderly nursing home residents had been vaccinated. Although the mortality rate in nursing homes is generally very high and the deaths of some nursing home residents after vaccination was anticipated, the Norwegian Medicines Agency wanted to determine whether the vaccine had possibly hastened any deaths and to gain a clearer understanding of the risks and benefits of its use in frail elderly people.
Study: Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines appear safe, effective
Two vaccines made by China’s Sinopharm appear safe and effective against COVID-19, according to a study published in a medical journal. Scientists had been waiting for more details about the two vaccines, even though they already are being used in many countries, and one recently won the backing of the World Health Organization for emergency use. The report, published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded the two vaccines are about 73% and 78% effective, as Sinopharm has previously claimed.
Tens of thousands of lives could have have been saved - top scientists back Dominic Cummings
Dominic Cummings’ central charge against the Government - that delays over imposing lockdowns led to tens of thousands of people dying from Covid-19 unnecessarily - was today backed up by two of Britain’s leading coronavirus experts. Professor John Edmunds, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said a “very large number” of Covid-19 deaths could have been avoided in the second wave if the Government had taken more drastic action as being advised by scientists. In his damning evidence to a joint session of the Commons health and science committees, former No10 top adviser Mr Cummings said on Wednesday: “Tens of thousands of people died who did not need to die.”
Germans 'solve' Covid vaccine blood clot puzzle: Scientists say rare side effect from AstraZeneca jabs is caused by cold virus used to deliver the jab into the body - and can be fixed
Germans scientists say they have figured out why the Covid vaccines from. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are linked to rare blood clots. In a new pre-print, the team says the problem is with the adenovirus vector, a common cold virus used to get the body to induce an immune response. They claim the vaccine is sent into the cell nucleus instead of surrounding fluid, where parts of it break off and create mutated versions of themselves. The mutated versions then enter the body and trigger the rare blood clots. Scientists say they can genetically adapt the vaccine to prevent the virus's spike proteins, which it uses to enter cells, from splitting apart
GlaxoSmithKline, Vir snag FDA authorization for new COVID-19 antibody. But how will they sell it without a supply deal?
Following in the footsteps of Eli Lilly and Regeneron, a partnership between GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology has won an emergency FDA nod for a COVID-19 antibody drug. The difference? It doesn’t have a supply deal with the U.S. government. Wednesday, the FDA issued (PDF) an emergency use authorization to GSK and Vir’s sotrovimab for mild-to-moderate COVID-19. Same as the previous go-aheads for similar therapies from Lilly and Regeneron, the new nod is limited to patients who aren’t hospitalized but are at high risk of progressing to severe disease. The anti-coronavirus antibody proved its worth in a phase 3 trial. The Comet-Ice study stopped early after an interim analysis found sotrovimab reduced the number of patients who died or needed hospitalization by 85% over placebo.