"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 11th Aug 2021

Isolation Tips
Australia expands Covid-19 lockdown as Sydney records its highest daily case count
Australia's most populous state has expanded its Covid-19 lockdown to include a rural town and the coastal region of Byron Bay, as the city of Sydney recorded its highest daily case count since the beginning of the pandemic. There were four deaths and 356 locally transmitted Covid-19 infections confirmed in New South Wales on Monday, almost all of which were in Sydney, state premier Gladys Berejiklian said during a press conference on Tuesday morning.
France's Martinique island imposes tougher COVID-19 lockdown
France’s overseas territory of Martinique will enter a tougher lockdown for three weeks from Tuesday to tackle a COVID-19 outbreak on the West Indian island, a local government official said on Twitter. Authorities in Martinique also advised tourists to leave the island. Martinique had already imposed an evening curfew but the tougher lockdown, set to start from 7 p.m., will shutter shops selling items that are not essential, close beaches and clamp down on people’s movements.
Hygiene Helpers
High trust in doctors, nurses in US, AP-NORC poll finds
Most Americans have high trust in doctors, nurses and pharmacists, a new poll finds. Researchers say that trust could become important in the push to increase COVID-19 vaccinations, as long as unvaccinated people have care providers they know and are open to hearing new information about the vaccines. At least 7 in 10 Americans trust doctors, nurses and pharmacists to do what’s right for them and their families either most or all of the time, according to the poll from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Don’t let children under 12 slip through the cracks in the fight against Covid
In the latest evolution, new guidance from the CDC recommends that all children attending K-12 schools wear masks — even those who are vaccinated. This shift was aimed at protecting children under 12, who cannot yet be vaccinated. As public health professionals and parents of children under 12 ourselves, we welcome this change, which recognizes that guidelines need to take into account the situation of people who are not protected by vaccination. Policies must continue to ensure the safety of vulnerable people in our communities. It is not just a moral imperative: If we fail to protect all individuals in our communities, efforts to control the pandemic will always fall short.
Florida, Texas schools defy governors' bans on mask mandates as COVID cases soar
School districts in Florida and Texas are bucking their Republican governors' bans on requiring masks for children and teachers as coronavirus cases soar in conservative areas with low vaccination rates. The Broward County school board in Florida on Tuesday became the latest major district to flout an order by Republican Governor Rick DeSantis outlawing mask requirements in that state, prompting the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, to say it was considering supporting the school districts financially if DeSantis retaliates against them by withholding funds from officials' salaries.
Germany to end free COVID tests from Oct. 11 - sources
The German government will stop offering free coronavirus tests from Oct. 11 in a bid to encourage more people to get vaccinated amid concerns about a rise in new cases, sources close to talks with the federal states said on Tuesday.
Bangladesh vaccinating Rohingya refugees amid virus surge
Bangladesh’s government and aid agencies started vaccinating Rohingya refugees Tuesday as a virus surge raises health risks in the sprawling, cramped camps where more than 1 million people who fled Myanmar are sheltering. The highly transmissible delta variant is driving an infection surge across Bangladesh, with around 20,000 infections and 200 deaths recorded so far in Cox’s Bazar district, the southern region bordering Myanmar where the refugee camps are located. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said a national positivity rate of around 30% indicates the spread of COVID-19 is much higher, especially with cramped conditions and the risks faced by many people living in the refugee camps.
Pentagon plans to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for US troops
The Pentagon plans to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for US troops by mid-September, as the country grapples with a rise in cases caused by the spread of the contagious Delta variant. “To defend this nation, we need a healthy and ready force,” wrote Lloyd Austin, defence secretary, in a memo to US forces released on Monday. Some vaccines against other diseases are already mandatory.
Community Activities
Oxford researcher urges Britain to donate vaccines rather than give boosters
Booster shots for COVID-19 vaccines are not currently needed and the doses should be given to other countries, Oxford vaccine chief Andrew Pollard said on Tuesday in contrast to the position taken by Britain's health minister.
Facebook shuts down vaccine disinformation 'laundromat'
Facebook has said it has shut down a disinformation operation which sought to spread Covid-19 vaccine hoaxes by duping social network influencers into backing false claims. The leading social network labeled the operation a "disinformation laundromat" which sought to legitimise false claims by pushing them through people with clean reputations. Influencers who caught onto the sham turned out to be the undoing of a deceitful influence campaign orchestrated by British marketing firm Fazze and operated out of Russia, according to Facebook.
Long delays as Canada opens border to fully vaccinated American tourists after 16 months
Long delays were reported at the border on Monday as Canada finally opened to fully vaccinated American tourists for the first time in 16 months, causing a rush of travelers during the busy summer season - and bottlenecks for a desperate tourism industry. Government data showed a seven-hour wait for the Fort Frances, Ontario, and International Falls, Minnesota, crossing. Fort Frances advertises itself online as "rarely experiencing delays."
'We are not the virus': Two-tier Delta lockdowns divide Sydney
On the sands of Bondi Beach, one of Sydney's wealthiest suburbs, surfers and seaside walkers jostle for space, while joggers clog the nearby promenade and fitness buffs huddle around public exercise equipment. To the west, where COVID-19 infections are greatest, stores sit shuttered on empty streets as some of Australia's most migrant-heavy neighbourhoods endure heightened lockdowns, enforced by high-visibility policing backed up by the military.
US turns to social media influencers to boost vaccine rates
As a police sergeant in a rural town, Carlos Cornejo isn’t the prototypical social media influencer. But his Spanish-language Facebook page with 650,000 followers was exactly what Colorado leaders were looking for as they recruited residents to try to persuade the most vaccine-hesitant. Cornejo, 32, is one of dozens of influencers, ranging from busy moms and fashion bloggers to African refugee advocates and religious leaders, getting paid by the state to post vaccine information on a local level in hopes of stunting a troubling summer surge of COVID-19. Colorado’s #PowertheComeback target audience is especially tailored to Latino, Black, Native American, Asian and other communities of color that historically have been underserved when it comes to health care and are the focus of agencies trying to raise vaccination rates.
If we’re not careful, booster vaccines could end up giving the coronavirus a boost
The sooner we start using booster jabs, the more likely it is that we will need them. In the eight months since Covid-19 vaccines first became available, nearly four billion doses have been administered, and yet the number of cases and deaths continues to rise. Why? For the simple reason that we are not making the most efficient global use of the doses available. Now, as evidence is emerging about the potential benefits of booster shots in the face of the continued spread of Delta variant, offering fully vaccinated people a third dose before it is absolutely necessary is in danger of becoming the latest example of this.
Working Remotely
Google considers cutting pay to staff working from home permanently
Google is considering cutting pay for US-based staff who opt to work permanently from home after the pandemic, in a move that raises the stakes in the global debate over the future of the office. Two staff who worked in the same office before Covid-19 but now intend to work remotely are set to face significant changes in remuneration, according to an internal calculator. The tool, developed by the technology giant, suggests that those based further afield could be hit harder should they choose to work from home instead of return to the office.
Ocado staff can work remotely anywhere in world for a month each year
Employees of online grocer Ocado are being given a month to work wherever they want in the world every year. The option allows them a potentially more glamorous makeshift office than a typical ‘work from home’ set up provides. Staff requests to work internationally became a ‘top question’ over the pandemic and the offer of remote working for a month is in response to that, Ocado’s chief people officer Claire Ainscough said. She hopes the offer will prove popular with staff who want to spent time with their families overseas but without using their annual leave
Remote work made life easier for many people with disabilities. They want the option to stay
In the United States, 26% of adults have some kind of disability, according to the CDC. For many, remote work has been more accessible as offices often lack situation-specific accommodations. These can include wheelchair ramps and certain types of accommodating furniture, safety from allergens, and easy access to medications and bathrooms. The National Organization on Disability supports flexible work policies above all, said Charles Catherine, associate director of special projects for the organization. "There will be companies where people will have very little choice, and there will be a lot of peer pressure," Catherine said. "And there will be other companies for which work culture is a top priority, where there will be more leeway. And so the question is, do you want to be an employer of choice?"
Half of professionals working longer hours at home, poll finds
More than half of Brits worked longer hours when working from home than before the pandemic, a poll has found. The survey of 8,301 professionals and employers conducted by Hays found that 52 per cent reported working longer hours when working remotely than before Covid. Of these, a quarter (25 per cent) reported working more than 10 extra hours a week, while another two in five (41 per cent) said they put in between five and 10 extra hours a week.
Virtual Classrooms
After mixed experiences with distance learning, disabled California college students want flexibility
The 2020-21 academic year, featuring mostly distance learning, was a mixed bag for disabled students. Taking courses online was a struggle for some, such as students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, many of whom missed the structure of in-person classes. But there were also positive elements of distance learning for some students, including many with physical disabilities. With most classes held on Zoom, students said they appreciated that lectures were often recorded, allowing them to re-watch and catch up if they missed some or all of a class.
Pandemic prompts changes in how future teachers are trained
Changes to standards and curricula happen slowly, but the pandemic is already leaving its fingerprints on the education of future teachers. Many U.S. educator preparation programs are incorporating more about digital tools, online instruction and mental and emotional wellness in their courses to reflect takeaways from the pandemic. While school system leaders are hoping to offer in-person instruction as widely as possible this year, experts say the emphasis on technology will have benefits regardless of the pandemic’s course. Across the country, teaching programs are giving more emphasis on how to plan and implement quality virtual learning.
Public Policies
Elimination possible after borders open, Govt told
An expert panel says elimination is still the best approach even after the borders open – in a trio of reports that contain few other details. New Zealanders eager to know when and how the country will at last reopen to the rest of the world are bound to be disappointed with the sparse advice issued by an expert panel tasked with answering exactly those questions. The first three reports from the Strategic Covid-19 Public Health Advisory Group, chaired by epidemiologist Sir David Skegg, were released by the Government on Wednesday morning. They deal with the possibility of a phased reopening of the borders to vaccinated travellers, what proportion of the population might need to be vaccinated to reach herd immunity and whether the elimination strategy will continue to be a viable approach in the next stage of the pandemic.
S. Korea approves Phase III trial of SK Bioscience's COVID-19 vaccine
South Korea gave vaccine developer SK Bioscience the green light on Tuesday for a Phase III study of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate at a time of vaccine shortages, when a spurt in infections is fuelling demand. The clinical trial of GBP510, the candidate for the first domestic vaccine, will weigh its immunogenicity and safety against AstraZeneca Plc's vaccine, drug safety minister Kim Gang-lip told a news conference.
Austria plans to start COVID-19 booster shots in October
Austria plans to start COVID-19 vaccine booster shots on Oct. 17, nine months after the first group of people to get the jabs received their second dose, the country’s health minister said on Tuesday. The first wave included vulnerable people in nursing homes and medical personnel, Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein told broadcaster ORF in an interview. “There are certain groups, for example immunosuppressed people, where it may be possible to vaccinate even earlier after consultation with the doctor,” Mueckstein said.
UK to relax Covid-19 restrictions for Cop26 climate conference
The government is planning to relax key Covid-19 restrictions for delegates to the UN Cop26 climate conference to be held in Glasgow for two weeks this November. Delegates from 196 countries are expected to attend the talks, viewed as one of the last chances for the world to agree limits on greenhouse gas emissions that would avoid the worst ravages of climate breakdown. The government has offered vaccines to countries coming to the talks, to enable all delegates to be fully vaccinated before the event. However, officials were unable to say how many had taken up the offer.
Sri Lanka rejects lockdown to beat Covid 'bomb'
Sri Lanka's government rejected on Tuesday mounting calls for an immediate lockdown to contain a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths that is severely stretching hospitals and crematoriums. Government spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the country had not reached a critical stage even as the island nation suffers more than 100 deaths per day on average. "Curfews or a lockdown is the last resort, but we are not there yet," Rambukwella told reporters. "Our target is to get everyone over the age of 18 vaccinated by September and thereafter it is in the hands of the gods." His comments came despite the Sri Lanka Medical Association (SLMA) issuing what it called a "final warning" to the government to restrict the movement of people immediately or risk a bigger catastrophe
Portugal recommends COVID vaccinations for 12 to 15-year-olds
Portugal on Tuesday recommended that 12 to 15-years-old kids be vaccinated against COVID-19, ideally before the start of the academic year, as the Delta variant has led to a surge of cases in the country.
US to send more COVID-19 vaccines to Mexico amid Delta surge
The United States will send up to an additional 8.5 million coronavirus vaccine doses to Mexico, as both countries continue to grapple with a spike in infections fuelled by the highly contagious Delta variant. Speaking on Tuesday, a day after holding a phone call with US Vice President Kamala Harris, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he expected most adults living along the border with the US will have received their second dose of the vaccine within a month.
CDC adds Israel to highest-risk countries for catching Covid-19
The US Centers for Disease Control is advising Americans to stop traveling to Israel after giving the country its highest risk warning for Covid-19. On Monday, the CDC raised Israel’s Covid-19 risk for travellers to level 4, its highest risk level. The CDC recommends that US travellers avoid visiting Israel, and if they must go, to ensure they are fully vaccinated before they leave the US.
Maintaining Services
Hospitals run low on nurses as they get swamped with COVID
The rapidly escalating surge in COVID-19 infections across the U.S. has caused a shortage of nurses and other front-line staff in virus hot spots that can no longer keep up with the flood of unvaccinated patients and are losing workers to burnout and lucrative out-of-state temporary gigs. Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana all have more people hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic, and nursing staffs are badly strained. In Florida, virus cases have filled so many hospital beds that ambulance services and fire departments are straining to respond to emergencies. Some patients wait inside ambulances for up to an hour before hospitals in St. Petersburg, Florida, can admit them — a process that usually takes about 15 minutes, Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton said.
Schools start again in-person despite growing concern about variants
The big fear lingering: a repeat of last year, when many students were forced to learn from home all or part of the time and students were regularly shuttled into quarantine after exposures to the virus. The current surge, driven by the delta variant, has elevated case counts and hospitalizations across the country. There are about twice as many cases today as there were when schools began a year ago, when the country was coming off a case surge.
Some children's hospitals in Covid-19 hotspots are especially busy
It was far from a quiet Monday for infectious disease specialist Dr. Adriana Cadilla who had to meet with patients, many of them just out of the hospital after being treated for Covid-19 at Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando. "Clinics were packed," Cadilla said. Her hospital has seen a significant increase in the number of children with Covid-19. They're also managing an earlier than usual surge in other respiratory illnesses. Kids aren't sicker with Covid-19, necessarily, there are just more of them, Cadilla said. "We know how to treat a lot of these things, including Covid," Cadilla said. "But this is a public health crisis because when you overload the system, we can't do a lot of things well."
Pandemic prompts changes in how future teachers are trained
Before last year, a one-credit technology course for students pursuing master’s degrees in education at the University of Washington wasn’t seen as the program’s most relevant. Then COVID-19 hit, schools plunged into remote learning, and suddenly material from that course was being infused into others. “It’s become so relevant, and it’s staying that way,” said Anne Beitlers, who directs Washington’s master’s program for secondary education. “And nobody’s going to question that now.” Changes to standards and curricula happen slowly, but the pandemic is already leaving its fingerprints on the education of future teachers. Many U.S. educator preparation programs are incorporating more about digital tools, online instruction and mental and emotional wellness in their courses to reflect takeaways from the pandemic.
China's Sinovac to invest $60 million in vaccine facility in Chile
Chinese pharmaceutical Sinovac Biotech Ltd on Wednesday said it will build a fill-and-finish vaccine plant in Chile with an investment of $60 million, consolidating its presence in the Latin American nation that has used its COVID-19 shot the most. Chile has run one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns, so far fully vaccinating more than 60% of its population, including with 19.6 million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac already delivered.
Healthcare Innovations
TWO-THIRDS of moderately ill coronavirus patients suffer from 'long Covid,' study suggests
A new study looked at 303 COVID-19 patients with mild or moderate symptoms who did not end up hospitalized. In total, 208 participants, or 68.7%, reported experiencing at least one symptom after 30 days, known as 'long Covid.' The most common symptoms were fatigue, shortness of breath, confusion/brain fog and stress/anxiety. Researchers say the findings provide more evidence that long Covid does not just affect those who fall seriously ill with the virus
MyMD Pharma's Unit Oravax Medical Preparing To Commence Clinical Trials For Oral COVID-19 Vaccine
MyMD Pharmaceuticals Inc said that its subsidiary Oravax Medical Inc., partially owned with its majority partner Oramed Pharmaceuticals Inc. (ORMP), is preparing to commence clinical trials for its oral COVID-19 vaccine, first in Israel, then in additional clinical sites internationally.
INDICAID(TM) COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test Receives Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
PHASE Scientific International LTD (PHASE Scientific), a high-growth biotech company founded by bioengineers from UCLA, today announced that its INDICAID™ COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test (INDICAID) received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on July 29, 2021. The FDA authorized the test for professional use in point of care CLIA-waived settings in the U.S. The test is intended for the qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 antigen in individuals suspected of contracting the virus within five days of symptom onset
‘This Is Really Scary’: Kids Struggle With Long Covid
Studies estimate long Covid may affect between 10 percent and 30 percent of adults infected with the coronavirus. Estimates from the handful of studies of children so far range widely. At an April congressional hearing, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, cited one study suggesting that between 11 percent and 15 percent of infected youths might “end up with this long-term consequence, which can be pretty devastating in terms of things like school performance.” The challenges facing young patients come as pediatric Covid-19 cases rise sharply, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant and the fact that well under half of 12-to-17-year-olds are fully vaccinated and children under 12 are still ineligible for vaccines.
Herd immunity ‘not a possibility’ with Delta variant
The director of the Oxford Vaccine Group has said that herd immunity is “not a possibility” with the current Delta variant. Professor Sir Andrew Pollard referred to the idea as “mythical” and warned that a vaccine programme should not be built around the idea of achieving it. Speaking to the All-Party Group on Coronavirus, he said that it was clear the Delta variant will still infect people who have been vaccinated. He explained that this meant “anyone who’s still unvaccinated, at some point, will meet the virus.
Studies look at clotting, myocarditis tied to COVID-19 vaccines
Two studies published by JAMA Cardiology discuss adverse effects associated with COVID-19 vaccines. The first describes vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia with cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (VITT with CVST) linked to the AstraZeneca/Oxford and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The second is a case series looking at 15 adolescents who experienced myocarditis after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Despite these risks, both research teams continue to advocate for COVID-19 vaccines as the health risks from the virus are far greater than those linked to the vaccine. For instance, the VITT study researchers say that CVST risk from COVID-19 infection is 60- to 230-fold higher than the risk derived from COVID-19 vaccination.