"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 26th Aug 2021

Isolation Tips
From ‘quarantine academies’ to virtual substitutes, how schools are teaching students in isolation because of COVID-19
As Illinois schools welcome students back to fully reopened classrooms this month amid another coronavirus surge, educators face a thorny question: How do you teach students who are quarantined by COVID-19? The dismantling of pandemic-era remote and hybrid instruction programs across the U.S. this fall arrives by state proclamation and on the urging of U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. Remote instruction can be offered to students while they are under quarantine, Illinois State Board of Education Superintendent Carmen Ayala said earlier this summer. But despite pleas from some parents who want a full-time e-learning option to continue, districts including Chicago Public Schools are reserving their virtual programs for students who qualify as medically fragile and have documented health conditions.
Hygiene Helpers
India rushes teacher vaccinations as some physical classes resume
India will supply millions of additional COVID-19 vaccine doses to its states to try to inoculate all school teachers by early next month, the health minister says, as the country gradually resumes physical classes. The pandemic has hit the country of 1.35 billion people particularly hard and hundreds of millions of its students have been stuck at home for months, with little or no access to online education for a majority of the poor.
Massachusetts issues mandate requiring masks in schools
Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeff Riley issued new regulations Wednesday requiring all public school students ages 5 and above, and all staffers, to wear masks indoors while at school. All visitors are also expected to wear masks in school buildings. Masks are not required when outdoors. The regulations take effect immediately and come a day after the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education gave Riley the authority to issue a mask mandate for K-12 public schools. The requirement will remain in place until at least Oct. 1 and could be revised in light of new public health data.
UPS mandates COVID-19 vaccination for employees in some U.S. locations
United Parcel Service Inc said on Tuesday it would require employees in certain U.S. locations to be vaccinated when they return to the office, as COVID-19 cases rise across the United States due to the fast-spreading Delta variant. The decision comes after the U.S. drug regulator on Monday granted full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, a move that is expected to spur a string of similar mandates from corporate employers.
Goldman Sachs to mandate COVID vaccine for staff, visitors at U.S. offices -memo
Goldman Sachs Group Inc told employees on Tuesday that anyone entering the investment bank's U.S. offices, including clients, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 starting immediately, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
Lufthansa to demand COVID-19 shots for crew
Germany's Lufthansa will require the crew on its planes to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, the airline said on Wednesday.
Air Canada mandates COVID-19 vaccination for all employees
Air Canada said on Wednesday it would require all employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as the fast-spreading Delta variant drives an increase in infections. The move by Canada's largest carrier was in line with a government mandate that workers in the transportation sector be vaccinated by the end of October and follows similar moves by other major companies, including United Airlines
Delta Air Lines to add $200 monthly health insurance charge for unvaccinated staff
Move aimed at pushing employees to get COVID vaccines. United Airlines mandated shots for its employees. Comes amid surge in Delta variant infections
COVID-19: PCR test providers warned by competitions watchdog not to break law in crackdown on 'rip-off prices and bad service'
The government announced earlier this week that it would be warning 82 companies that they face being removed from the verified test providers list if they advertise misleading prices.
Goldman Sachs to require all people entering its offices to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19
Goldman said the new policy starts Sept. 7 and applies to everybody, including employees and clients, according to a memo sent Tuesday to U.S. workers. Those who aren’t fully vaccinated by then will have to work from home, according to a person with direct knowledge of the memo.
Community Activities
Pentagon: US troops must get their COVID-19 vaccines ASAP
Military troops must immediately begin to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo Wednesday, ordering service leaders to “impose ambitious timelines for implementation.” More than 800,000 service members have yet to get their shots, according to Pentagon data. And now that the Pfizer vaccine has received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the Defense Department is adding it to the list of required shots troops must get as part of their military service.
Not Everyone Can Afford to ‘Learn to Live With’ COVID-19
COVID-19 now appears to be falling along these familiar lines. The effort to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control has really become two distinct battles. Within America’s borders, where vaccine doses are abundant, it’s a fight against misinformation and hesitancy. Globally, it is a race between vaccine delivery and virus transmission.
Working Remotely
Some People Worked From Home During Covid. These People Moved to a Tropical Island.
Throughout the darkest days of the pandemic, resorts in Tahiti, Bora Bora, the Maldives and other islands sought to attract visitors for extended stays with “Work From Paradise” marketing campaigns, showing beach scenes from a parallel universe. Some islands, hit hard by the plunge in tourism, went even further, offering new “digital nomad visas” for visitors to work remotely for up to a year or more, much longer than typical tourist visas, in places like Barbados, Bermuda and Anguilla. (Most of these visas require a hefty fee plus proof of income or a healthy bank account.) But how many people actually flew to remote islands and worked from thatched huts in the midst of the pandemic? And as the world starts to open back up, are they returning to their offices—or are they staying in paradise? How do bosses react when they figure out the Bora Bora background in a Zoom call is real?
Workers would retire later if allowed to work from home, boosting UK growth
Older Britons will delay their retirement and give the economy a boost if they are allowed to continue working from home after the pandemic, according to the Office for National Statistics. An ONS survey last summer found that 11 per cent of those aged over 50 working entirely from home were planning to retire later compared with 5 per cent of those not working from home. A similar result was found for older workers with long-term illness or disability.
Remote work can put commuters back into the community
Perhaps one of the most unexpected highlights of the pandemic has been how much those who are able to avail of working from home enjoy doing so. Even when office workers were unceremoniously chucked into remote work in early 2020, bereft of home office or childcare facilities, high numbers reported satisfaction with the new arrangements. Depending on the country, between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of workers said they wanted to continue working remotely at least part-time after the pandemic. In Ireland, according to one large university study, this number increased from 83 per cent in early 2020 to 95 per cent as of mid-2021, with over 30 per cent of respondents stating that they would prefer to work fully remote.
Could working from home hurt your career? Here's how to decide whether it's worth the risk
Many people have been working remotely since March of 2020. But at this point in the pandemic, some companies are finally starting to call their employees back to the office. If your employer decides to reopen, you may be asked to show up to work in person, but you may also get the opportunity to continue working from home. Some companies recognize that remote setups work reasonably well and are allowing employees to stay home even with office buildings reopening. But working from home on a long-term basis could do some damage to your career. Before you make that call, make sure to consider the drawbacks involved
Two-thirds of employers do not trust their staff to work remotely, survey finds
Two-thirds of employers do not trust their staff when it comes to working remotely, according to new research. The survey by Ricoh Europe, which polled 1,500 business decision makers across Europe, found that 65 per cent did not fully trust their staff to do their jobs from home. Additionally, nearly two-fifths (39 per cent) said they believed their staff do not work as hard or effectively at home. This was despite just one in five (19 per cent) reporting a decrease in productivity since moving to remote working. “The challenge for business leaders is to remain mindful that remote and hybrid working are two different things,” said David Mills, CEO of Ricoh Europe. “It stands to reason that less commuting, a greater sense of flexibility, and having the trust of your manager are significant contributing factors to a more empowered and inspired workforce.”
Virtual Classrooms
Virtual Learning Campus launched for Higher Students across Dumfries and Galloway
Secondary schools in the southwest of Scotland, led by Dumfries and Galloway, are working together to provide a more equitable curriculum for pupils in the senior phase through a virtual learning campus. 140 senior pupils, including 63 from Dumfries and Galloway, have started to study for their Advanced Highers through remote learning. Courses are being delivered through @South-West Connect, e-Sgoil and Glasgow Caledonian University Advanced Higher Hub. They will will mainly be delivered digitally but face-to-face or lab time will be built into the course plans when needed.
Public Policies
PM backs businesses rejecting unvaccinated customers as vaccine passport plans firm
Scott Morrison has backed businesses to reject customers or guests who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19, giving the clearest picture on how so-called ‘vaccine passports’ could be used in Australia. The Prime Minister has gradually been preparing the ground for such a scheme, but his latest position risks a backbench revolt and raising the ire of a growing movement of many thousands of people opposing vaccine passports. “A business under property law has the ability to say ‘No, you can’t come in’, and they can ask for that,” Mr Morrison told 2GB radio on Wednesday, when asked if people may need to show vaccination proof during their daily business.
Japan withdraws 1.6 mln Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses over contamination
Around 1.6 million doses of Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine has been withdrawn from use in Japan due to contamination, the Nikkei said, citing a health ministry announcement on Thursday. Several vaccination centres reported vials contained "foreign matter", the report said, adding that the ministry will look to minimise the impact of the withdrawal on Japan's vaccination drive.
WHO recommends vaccination of kids with comorbidities but elderly should be priority
The World Health Organization in the Western Pacific on Wednesday recommended that children with comorbidities living in areas with high virus transmission can be vaccinated against COVID-19. The regional office of the UN health agency, however, emphasized that the elderly must still be prioritized for inoculation. “WHO is recommending to countries where children have comorbidities, and if these children are in places where there is ongoing community transmission as well as formation of clusters, then children could be vaccinated,” said Dr. Socorro Escalante, WHO Western Pacific coordinator for essential medicines and health technologies.
Afghanistan: COVID-19 vaccines drop by 80% since the Taliban took control as UN warns jabs will expire soon
Latest figures show only 1.2 million vaccinations had been administered in the country, which has a population of 40 million. About four million doses have been sent to Afghanistan in total.
Swiss agree deal with Pfizer for 14 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses
Switzerland has signed an agreement with Pfizer to supply 14 million more doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to cover 2022 and 2023, Health Minister Alain Berset said on Wednesday. "The Swiss government has completed a further contract with Pfizer, which will supply 7 million vaccine doses (in both) 2022 and 2023," Berset told a press conference in Bern.
US vice president pledges Vietnam COVID jabs; says China bullies
US Vice President Kamala Harris has pledged to provide Vietnam with additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines during a regional visit aimed at countering China’s growing influence. Harris, speaking at the top of a bilateral meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on Wednesday, said that the one million doses would begin to arrive within the next 24 hours.
Maintaining Services
NSW hospitals warning: nurses and staff ‘flat out’ and ‘exhausted’ as Covid numbers soar
The nurses union has rubbished New South Wales health minister Brad Hazzard’s claims that Sydney’s hospitals are coping with the city’s Covid outbreak, warning multiple facilities are under “enormous pressure” and have “very little capacity” in their emergency departments. NSW set a new daily record on Wednesday with 919 local Covid cases. There were 645 Covid patients in hospital, with 113 people in intensive care, but transmission and exposure at multiple hospitals has sidelined significant numbers of health staff due to isolation requirements.
Kroger plans for 1 million Covid-19 booster shots a week, including in nursing homes
U.S. grocery chain Kroger Co (KR.N) is gearing up to administer 1 million COVID-19 booster shots a week once they are available to the general public, and plans to offer vaccines in nursing homes for those who cannot go to its stores. The U.S. government is planning to make COVID-19 vaccine booster shots widely available from Sept. 20 to Americans if U.S. health regulators give the go-ahead. Only people who are immunocompromised have been eligible for booster shots since early this month.
Vietnam to pay recovered COVID-19 patients to help in hospitals
Vietnam is offering patients who have recovered from the coronavirus a monthly allowance if they agree to stay on at stretched hospitals to help health workers struggling to cope with an influx of infected people. After successfully containing COVID-19 for much of the pandemic, Vietnam is facing its worst outbreak to date driven by the virulent Delta variant, with a surge in cases and deaths ramping up pressure on health authorities
Healthcare Innovations
Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters increase antibodies: Data
The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) company is saying that a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine sharply increased levels of antibodies, according to interim data from two early-stage trials. A second dose of the United States company’s single-dose vaccine resulted in binding antibody levels nine times higher than the levels 28 days after people received their first dose, the company said in a news release on Wednesday.
COVID vaccine protection wanes within six months - UK researchers
Protection against COVID-19 offered by two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines begins to fade within six months, underscoring the need for booster shots, according to researchers in Britain. After five to six months, the effectiveness of the Pfizer jab at preventing COVID-19 infection in the month after the second dose fell from 88% to 74%, an analysis of data collected in Britain's ZOE COVID study showed.
U.S. data show rising 'breakthrough' infections among fully vaccinated
Some 25% of SARS-CoV-2 infections among Los Angeles County residents occurred in fully vaccinated residents from May through July 25, a period that includes the impact of the highly transmissible Delta variant, U.S. officials reported on Tuesday. The data, published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly report on death and disease, shows an increase in so-called "breakthrough" infections among fully vaccinated individuals.
Thailand develops robotic system to up Covid vaccine doses
Researchers in Thailand have developed a machine to draw out Covid-19 vaccine doses more efficiently and optimise lower-than-expected supplies as the country struggles with its worst coronavirus outbreak yet. Using a robotic arm, the “AutoVacc” system can draw 12 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in four minutes from a vial, according to researchers at Chulalongkorn University, who made the machine that has been used at the university’s vaccination centre since Monday. That is up 20% than from the standard 10 doses drawn manually, they said. The machine works only on AstraZeneca multi-dose vials currently and labels show each vial can provide 10 to 11 doses.