"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 16th Aug 2021

Isolation Tips
Postcard initiative aims to send ‘message of love and thanks’
Postcards embedded with seeds are being delivered to people who did neighbours a good turn during the pandemic in an attempt to combat loneliness caused by Covid-19. The biodegradable cards, administered free of charge by the Great Care Co-op in Dalkey, south Dublin, can be planted in pots or directly into the soil and are emblazoned with the message: “Just to say I care”. Danielle Neilson, a carer with the Great Care Co-op, said the initiative was about reaching out to the many people – particularly among older age groups – feeling lonely and isolated as a result of the pandemic. “The intention is to send a message of gratitude to a loved one or neighbour that has been helpful or kind to you throughout the pandemic,” she said
Hygiene Helpers
How to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in San Francisco or anywhere in California
The state of California keeps a record of your coronavirus vaccination - that's how they know how many people have gotten their shots statewide. You can check your personal vaccine record by going to the California Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record on your mobile phone or computer.
First to vaccinate and first to party, Israel now mulls lockdowns
Naftali Bennett was honest with Israelis when he announced the measure on Wednesday: the government was trying to cushion the blow. On August 1, it had started offering people over 60 a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine, embarking on its own public health experiment as it tumbled into an unpredictable fourth wave. “We have to raise hospital capacity to buy time until the vaccination campaign goes into effect and starts to stem the outbreak,” Bennett said.
IBM to allow only fully vaccinated to return to U.S. offices from Sept. 7
International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N) said on Friday that it would allow only fully vaccinated U.S. employees to return to offices, which are set to open from Sept. 7, given the rapid spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19. "We will still open many of our U.S. sites, where local clinical conditions allow, the week of Sept. 7. However, the reopenings will only be for fully vaccinated employees who choose to come into the office," Chief Human Resources Officer Nickle LaMoreaux said in a memo sent to employees.
Canada Will Require All Air Travelers To Be Vaccinated In A Broad New Policy
All passengers and workers on commercial air flights in Canada will soon have to prove they've been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Canada's government will also require all federal workers to be vaccinated, citing a "dynamic public health situation" due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new travel vaccination policy will apply to passengers and workers in the federally regulated air, rail and cruise ship sectors. It will be enacted "as soon as possible in the fall and no later than the end of October," the Canadian Treasury Board said on Friday.
Evening Standard Comment: Stop the PCR rip-off
Travellers are well-acquainted with being ripped off. From £3.50 miniature bottles of water at train stations to sun cream at airports costing more than printer ink. But the great PCR test swindle takes some beating. Many companies are charging more than £200 per test, threatening to render international travel a luxury only for the well-off. While the average test costs around £75, that it still significantly more than France, where it is about €50 (£42). Indeed, in many circumstances, tests are costing several times more the price of a flight.
We Studied One Million Students. This Is What We Learned About Masking.
For more than a year, we’ve worked with North Carolina school districts and charter schools, studying the rate of new Covid cases, the efficacy of mitigation measures such as masking and the increased risks of participating in school-sponsored sports. We have learned a few things for certain: Although vaccination is the best way to prevent Covid-19, universal masking is a close second, and with masking in place, in-school learning is safe and more effective than remote instruction, regardless of community rates of infection.
Community Activities
Misinformation at public forums vexes local boards, big tech
There are plenty of places to turn for accurate information about COVID-19. Your physician. Local health departments. The U.S. CDC. But not, perhaps, your local government’s public comment session. During a meeting of the St. Louis County Council earlier this month, opponents of a possible mask mandate made so many misleading comments about masks, vaccines and COVID-19 that YouTube removed the video for violating its policies against false claims about the virus. “I hope no one is making any medical decisions based on what they hear at our public forums,” said County Councilwoman Lisa Clancy, who supports mask wearing and said she believes most of her constituents do too. The video was restored, but Clancy’s worries about the impact of that misinformation remain.
Covid US: Vaccine card black market emerges as New York and other cities bring in mandates
Most are being sold on Telegram, an encrypted site that is favored among people who don't trust typical Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Twitter The blank cardboard cards are being sold for anything between $24 and $400 The Attorney Generals of multiple states wrote to Twitter, Shopify and eBay asking them to crackdown A California father and son were arrested trying to vacation in Hawaii with fake cards A California bar owner who was selling them was also arrested earlier this year NYC will start requiring vaccine status in restaurants and gyms will start requiring them from August 16 New Orleans , Los Angeles and San Francisco are also bringing them in Businesses will have a grace period before having to enforce them on September 13
Back of the line: Charity only goes so far in world vaccines
An international system to share coronavirus vaccines was supposed to guarantee that low and middle-income countries could get doses without being last in line and at the mercy of unreliable donations. It hasn’t worked out that way. In late June alone, the initiative known as COVAX sent some 530,000 doses to Britain – more than double the amount sent that month to the entire continent of Africa. Under COVAX, countries were supposed to give money so vaccines could be set aside, both as donations to poor countries and as an insurance policy for richer ones to buy doses if theirs fell through. Some rich countries, including those in the European Union, calculated that they had more than enough doses available through bilateral deals and ceded their allocated COVAX doses to poorer count
Victoria police investigate threats against SPC after company mandates Covid-19 vaccines
Police in regional Victoria are investigating social media threats against canned food producer SPC, after the company mandated Covid-19 vaccines for its workers. The company, which runs a major cannery in Shepparton, set a precedent for corporate Australia by mandating vaccination for workers and contractors earlier this month. The anonymous online posts suggest defacing SPC products on supermarket shelves and asked what might happen if a needle was found in a can of SPC food, according to reports.
Covid stifled US mental health therapy. Online forums provided a safe haven
Over the course of the pandemic, many people with mental health problems have turned to online communities for support. In March 2020, when the pandemic forced Americans to stay indoors, many turned to the online universe as a way of reaching out and making contact to recreate the supportive communities they were now physically cut off from. People joined Facebook groups, subreddits, Discord channels and online forums so they could gather virtually without the worry of catching or spreading the virus. In August 2020, a Facebook survey of 15,000 people found that 91% of respondents “have given some form of support to others through a group or community during the pandemic. 86% have said they received some form of support from others.” As of January, Reddit had over 100,000 active communities.
Facebook and YouTube execs say removing Covid-19 misinformation isn’t enough
New falsehoods have emerged to match every stage of pandemic response. Unquestionably, that misinformation has been amplified on social media platforms, as the world locked down in waves and citizens looked online for answers. On Thursday, leaders from Facebook and YouTube joined a panel at the global conference of the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) to discuss the threat misleading information poses to the pandemic response. But even as vaccine misinformation continues to hamper vaccination efforts in the United States, the conversation failed to address the impact of falsehoods on these platforms head-on — instead, focusing on platforms’ efforts to proactively share accurate, trusted Covid-19 information.
27 on board Carnival cruise test positive for COVID-19
A Carnival Cruise Line ship that arrived in Belize on Wednesday after departing from Texas recorded 27 positive COVID-19 tests, all among people who are fully vaccinated. The Belize Tourism Board said in a press release that the Carnival Vista ship, which left from Galveston, Texas, arrived in Belize City with a total of 2,895 guests and 1,441 crew members. "As per the normal protocol, upon submission of the Maritime Declaration by the ship in anticipation of its call to Belize the ship reported that it had on board 27 positive cases, 26 of which were crew members and 1 passenger,” the statement said.
‘Everybody I Know Is Pissed Off’
The vaccinated, across party lines, have kind of had it with the unvaccinated, an array of new polls suggests. While most state and national GOP leaders are focused on defending the rights of unvaccinated Americans, new polling shows that the large majority of vaccinated adults—including a substantial portion of Republicans—support tougher measures against those who have refused COVID-19 shots.
Working Remotely
Working from home gives women route back into paid jobs
Women with children are emerging as among the big winners of remote working as fewer are dropping out of the labour market because of caring responsibilities. In a sign that greater flexibility is boosting participation, the number of women who say they are unable to work because of domestic and caring responsibilities has fallen by 200,000. Before the pandemic struck, there were 1.6 million women in Britain who were not actively seeking a job because of domestic or caring responsibilities. In less than a year and a half that number has fallen to 1.4 million. That represents 27.4 per cent of the economically inactive, down from 32 per cent in November to January 2020.
Remote tech workers are likely saving their companies money -- so why are some of them facing pay cuts?
Google staffers could see pay cuts if they choose to work remotely and live in areas with lower costs of living than their former offices. The company has released an internal calculator for staff which was seen by Reuters, showing the pay cuts employees can expect based on where they live. Other tech companies have also reduced the salaries of employees working from home in more affordable areas, according to the report. For example, a Google employee working remotely in Lake Tahoe would, according to Reuters, take a 25% pay cut for not working in San Francisco, even though the cost of living in some places in Tahoe are nearly as expensive. The Reuters article also points out that a staffer working remotely from Stamford, Connecticut, would take a 15% pay cut for not working in the New York City office.
These People Who Work From Home Have a Secret: They Have Two Jobs
A small, dedicated group of white-collar workers, in industries from tech to banking to insurance, say they have found a way to double their pay: Work two full-time remote jobs, don’t tell anyone and, for the most part, don’t do too much work, either. Alone in their home offices, they toggle between two laptops. They play “Tetris” with their calendars, trying to dodge endless meetings. Sometimes they log on to two meetings at once. They use paid time off—in some cases, unlimited—to juggle the occasional big project or ramp up at a new gig. Many say they don’t work more than 40 hours a week for both jobs combined. They don’t apologize for taking advantage of a system they feel has taken advantage of them.
Research Shows Working From Home Doesn’t Work. Here’s How Employers Should Tackle the Problem
The pandemic will not be ‘the death of the office,’ as some have suggested, but working from home also won’t become entirely a thing of the past. Many workers wouldn’t want it that way because they enjoy the freedom and flexibility it gives them. The solution for the future is a structured hybrid model, acknowledging that working from home doesn’t work long-term for most jobs, while still giving workers flexibility. One way to do that would be to allocate time slots—perhaps specific days—of in-office working for all employees to maintain workplace productivity and collaboration, while also allowing working from home to continue outside those hours.
Virtual Classrooms
Exploring World Language Classes with Educational Technology
Spanish and STEAM teacher Rachelle Dene Poth shares how she uses invigorating tech lessons to immerse students in language and culture. Using the technology at their disposal to choose the way they want to engage with the class materials during virtual and in-person classes creates a meaningful learning environment for students. They are able to process and retain the material in a way that makes sense to them, making it easier to apply it later.
Pandemic spurs boom in virtual offerings for US schools
Despite the challenges of distance learning during the pandemic, public school systems across the U.S. are setting up virtual academies in growing numbers to accommodate families who feel remote instruction works best for their children. A majority of the 38 state education departments that responded to an Associated Press survey this summer indicated additional permanent virtual schools and programs will be in place in the coming school year. Parent demand is driven in some measure by concern about the virus, but also a preference for the flexibility and independence that comes with remote instruction. And school districts are eager to maintain enrollment after seeing students leave for virtual charters, home schooling, private schools and other options -- declines that could lead to less funding.
Public Policies
U.S. Homeland Security warns fresh COVID-19 restrictions could spark violent attacks
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in a new terrorism warning bulletin, said violent extremists could view the reimposition of COVID-19-related restrictions following the spread of coronavirus variants as a rationale to conduct attacks. The new DHS bulletin also warned of the risk of "targeted violence" around the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington and around religious holidays.
Covid-19 Australia: Queensland records new cases as it clamps down on NSW workers entering state
The state announced six new cases of Covid at Saturday morning's update. Youngest positive case is the sibling of another child in hospital with Covid. A 4yo from Cambodia tested positive for Covid-19 while in hotel quarantine. On Friday Queensland Premier imposed stricter border travel for NSW workers
Iran orders travel ban and shutdown amid COVID surge
Iran is to impose a one-week lockdown and a ban on road travel amid a fifth COVID-19 surge in the worst-hit country in the Middle East, state television reported on Saturday. All non-essential businesses and offices will have to close under the nationwide lockdown from Monday to Aug. 21, in an effort to curb the highly contagious Delta variant. Authorities are also imposing a driving ban from Sunday until Aug. 27, except for essential vehicles.
The Latest: Alabama gov issues state of emergency amid surge
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday issued a state of emergency as state hospitals face a surge in COVID-19 cases, an order that came the same day the state tied a record low for available intensive care unit beds. Ivey issued a limited state of emergency aimed at giving medical providers flexibility on staffing and capacity decisions and easier shipment of emergency equipment and supplies. The Republican governor stressed she would not be issuing any closure orders or mask mandates.
Staff at UK medicines regulator express alarm at plan for budget cuts
Senior personnel at the UK regulator responsible for medicines have expressed “deep concern” over outline plans to make up to 25 per cent of staff redundant as it is forced to embark on budget cuts. The proposals by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to restructure because of financial pressures come despite it being lauded by the government for its “phenomenal contribution” to tackling Covid-19. It also has a central role in Boris Johnson’s plans to put life sciences at the core of his “build back better” agenda for economic growth and innovation.
No need for fully-jabbed Covid contacts to isolate from Monday, confirms Javid
Fully vaccinated people in England will no longer be legally required to self-isolate upon contact with a positive Covid case from Monday, and will instead be advised to take a PCR test – in a marked shift from rules that have led to more than 14m instructions to stay at home. Ministers have confirmed that the legal requirement to isolate will be replaced with non-binding advice to take a test for the double-jabbed, as well as those 18 and under. And those who do come into contact with the infected will not be told to isolate while waiting for their results. For people who do test positive, isolation will continue.
Australia secures 1 million more Pfizer vaccine doses from Poland
Australia has secured about 1 million additional doses of Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 vaccine that will start arriving on Sunday night, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. The doses, provided by the Polish government, will be targeted for Australians ages 20 to 39 years old, particularly in Sydney where transmission numbers have spiked to record highs. Australia previously contracted for 14 million Pfizer doses, Morrison said.
US allows extra COVID vaccine doses for some. Now what?
Americans at high risk from COVID-19 because of severely weakened immune systems are now allowed to get a third vaccination in hopes of better protection, a policy change endorsed Friday by influential government advisers. The Food and Drug Administration ruled that transplant recipients and other similarly immune-compromised patients can get a third dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. But the decision offers an extra dose only to those high-risk groups — not the general public.
Maintaining Services
Florida Hospitals Are “Stacking Patients In Hallways” As The Delta Variant Surges
The calls came fast, first with a cardiac arrest case, next with multiple patients who were having trouble breathing, and all were suspected to have COVID. Usually, Stew Eubanks, a paramedic in Sumter County, Florida, deals with lots of minor emergencies, but now it’s mainly life-threatening cases. After a nonstop 24 hours, his Wednesday shift ended with another cardiac arrest. “It’s bad right now,” Eubanks, 39, told BuzzFeed News. “We’re stacking patients in the hallways, stacking patients in the waiting room.”
NHS summer crisis: Hospital suspends all inpatient surgery for three weeks over bed shortages
All routine inpatient surgery at a hospital in Yorkshire is to be suspended from Monday to help the hospital trust cope with overcrowding in A&E caused by a lack of beds. Bosses at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust told staff in an email, shared with The Independent, that they had been forced to make the decision because of the lack of beds for waiting patients, which they said ad been a “critical issue for too long.” Martin Barkley, chief executive of the trust, told staff that he had been forced to act because of serious overcrowding in A&E, which was having an impact on patient care.
COVID-19 resurgence puts Philippine health workers under strain
The Philippines’s already stretched healthcare system is under more strain as the country reports its second-largest daily increase in COVID-19 infections since the pandemic, providing more evidence of how the virulent Delta variant may be spreading. Hundreds of hospitals in the country were again nearing full capacity as of Saturday, with some facilities reporting they had run out of intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 patients, leaving healthcare workers, who are forced to work longer hours, exhausted.
COVID hits hard in rural Mississippi after big county fair
A community in rural east central Mississippi is overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, two weeks after it hosted the Neshoba County Fair that brought thousands of people who lived in cabins, attended shoulder-to-shoulder outdoor concerts and horseraces and listened to political speeches — including one by Republican Gov.
Oregon Gov. Brown Deploys National Guard to Hospitals to Help With Covid Surge
Oregon’s governor said Friday she will send up to 1,500 National Guard troops to hospitals around the state to assist healthcare workers who are being pushed to the brink by a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant. Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said the first group of 500 Guard members will be deployed next Friday to serve as material and equipment runners in the most stricken hospitals and to help with COVID-19 testing, among other things. Troops will be sent to 20 hospitals around Oregon. There are 733 people hospitalized with the virus in Oregon as of Friday, including 185 people in intensive care units — more than 60 people more than just a day before and nearly double what the number was two weeks ago.
North Texas runs out of pediatric ICU beds amid Covid surge
"If you’re not vaccinated, you’re playing Russian roulette," Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council's CEO said. "Please get vaccinated. Just about all of the patients in our hospitals are unvaccinated."
Healthcare Innovations
India's Chronic Disease Burden Helped Fuel Covid's Brutal Waves
High levels of chronic disease in India, such as diabetes and hypertension, helped stoke the brutal coronavirus waves that hit world’s second-most populous nation during the pandemic, researchers said. The findings from one of the few large-scale studies of Covid-19 in India showed patients from the southern district of Madurai had a higher risk of dying than those in China, Europe, South Korea and the U.S., even though 63% of those tested were asymptomatic. Chronic health conditions in the community may have played a role, according to the report published in The Lancet.
Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine protects against Delta variant, study finds
Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine protects people for at least six months and likely longer -- even against new variants, researchers reported Thursday. Protection against the Delta variant, now dominant across the US, barely waned, the National Institutes of Health-led team found. The team will continue to look for evidence of protection beyond six months. "High levels of binding antibodies recognizing all tested variants, including B.1.351 (Beta) and B.1.617.2 (Delta), were maintained in all subjects over this time period," immunologist Nicole Doria-Rose and colleagues at the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases wrote in their report, published in the journal Science.
Covid-19 third wave projections revised down by Sage following last month’s fall in cases
Scientists dramatically revised down their projections for the third wave of Covid-19 hospital admissions for August after cases began to fall last month, new papers have revealed. Modelling for the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) shows a stark difference in how the third wave might pan out for this month, in projections made just one week apart. While this shift is to be expected as the UK epidemic changes, it underlines how scientists believe the outlook for the rest of the summer is brighter than they thought a month ago.
Iceland has been a vaccination success. Why is it seeing a coronavirus surge?
What happened to Iceland? The island nation that has been praised for its coronavirus response and its world-leading vaccination rate is now seeing its highest levels of infection since the start of the pandemic. Just one month after the government scrapped all covid-19 restrictions, masks, social distancing and capacity limits have returned. And U.S. authorities last week warned Americans to stay away. Vaccine opponents have gleefully pointed to Iceland as proof that the shots are a “failure.” But contrary to online misinformation and conspiratorial social media posts, infectious-disease experts say Iceland’s outbreak actually illustrates how effective the vaccines are at preventing the virus’s most severe impacts.
11% of early COVID-19 was acquired in-hospital, study says
More than 1 in 10 COVID-19 patients from 314 UK hospitals acquired their infection from the hospital early in the pandemic, according to a research letter in The Lancet. "There are likely to be a number of reasons why many patients were infected in these care settings," said study author Chris A. Green, MBBS, DPhil, in a Lancaster University press release. "These include the large numbers of patients admitted to hospitals with limited facilities for case isolation, limited access to rapid and reliable diagnostic testing in the early stages of the outbreak, the challenges around access to and best use of [personal protective equipment], our understanding of when patients are most infectious in their illness, some misclassification of cases due to presentation with atypical symptoms, and an under-appreciation of the role of airborne transmission."
Moderna COVID-19 vaccine found to be still effective after six months
A team of researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, working with colleagues from Emory University School of Medicine, Emmes Company, Moderna, Inc. and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, has found via testing, that the Moderna vaccine is still effective against COVID-19 six months after people are fully vaccinated. Their paper has been published in the journal Science.