"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 6th Sep 2021

Isolation Tips
Schools grapple with thousands in isolation or quarantine as delta variant rages
In the U.S., schools that have opened their doors to students amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus already are grappling with how to best continue teaching students when hundreds and sometimes thousands of them are in quarantine. Some schools have sent students home with packets of self-guided work to submit at the end of each day or when on-campus classes resume. Others have temporarily switched to virtual learning. And in some cases, schools have canceled classes altogether while campuses are closed or kids are in quarantine.
Hygiene Helpers
What Vaccinated People Need to Know About Breakthrough Infections
If you’re vaccinated, you should think about a number of variables, including your overall health, where you live and the risks you take.
England's schools must be made safe: An open letter to the education secretary
We write as researchers, parents, and educators concerned about the impact of the pandemic on children’s education. Like you, and in agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO), we recognise the importance of schools staying open over the autumn and in the longer term. However, as the WHO also notes, schools must be made safe by adopting measures to minimise transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We are therefore writing to express our concerns about the lack of mitigations for children and educational staff, and the subsequent risk to children from covid-19 as schools reopen in England this September. We offer nine evidence based recommendations to reduce new infections in children.
New Zealand sees success in curbing Delta outbreak as new cases plunge
New Zealand reported 28 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, a big drop compared to the last few days, as authorities said the country was breaking the chain of transmission of the highly infectious Delta variant of coronavirus. Authorities said 27 new cases were in Auckland and one was in Wellington. Friday's numbers were lower than 49 new cases reported on Thursday and 75 the day before.
As COVID surges, more Florida school districts revolt against governor's mask rules
In a scene replayed across the United States, angry parents and activists streamed into a meeting of the Florida's Lake County school board on Thursday where it considered whether to mandate mask-wearing for students and staff due to COVID. Some opponents of the mask proposal brandished signs that read “Let Our Children Breathe.” Even with Florida seeing a record number of coronavirus cases, one attendee called the pandemic "overblown." Another was escorted out by deputies after yelling at board members. The proposal would require staff and students to wear masks for 14 days at schools with COVID positivity rates at or above 5%. But Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, effectively banned similar mandates in July.
Ex-UK PM Brown accuses West of 'moral outrage' over COVID vaccine stockpiling
Former British prime minister Gordon Brown accused rich countries of committing a "moral outrage" by stockpiling COVID-19 doses while poor countries are struggling to get supplies. Brown, who is a United Nations special envoy, called on U.S. President Joe Biden and other Group of Seven leaders to urgently ship vaccines from warehouses in America and Europe to Africa. Western countries are hoarding nearly 300 million shots while only 70 million people in Africa have so far been vaccinated, Brown said in an opinion piece published in the Sunday Mirror newspaper, citing research by data firm Airfinity.
More Companies Weigh Penalizing Employees Without Covid-19 Vaccinations
Companies unwilling to require employees to get vaccinations are increasingly considering healthcare-benefit surcharges and other more aggressive measures to make their workplaces safer from Covid-19, employment and benefit experts say. What started as a campaign of encouragement and lobbying by many employers is now turning into a more forceful effort, with businesses considering measures that penalize employees who remain unvaccinated.
Opinion | Doctors should be allowed to give priority to vaccinated patients when resources are scarce
I’m going to come right out and say it: In situations where hospitals are overwhelmed and resources such as intensive care beds or ventilators are scarce, vaccinated patients should be given priority over those who have refused vaccination without a legitimate medical or religious reason.
Community Activities
Anti-vaccine protesters try to storm London offices of medical regulator
Police have prevented anti-vaccine protesters from storming the headquarters of Britain’s medical regulator during violent clashes in east London. At least four officers were injured and arrests were made during a confrontation as hundreds of people gathered outside the offices of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in Canary Wharf. Police drew batons and called for reinforcements as protesters attempted to force open the door of the regulator’s offices, with security guards looking on from inside.
American Airlines to end pandemic leave for unvaccinated staff
American Airlines said it would not provide special leave from next month to unvaccinated employees who have to quarantine due to COVID-19. Unvaccinated workers will have to use their sick time or medical leave if they miss work due to the disease, it said. "Given there is an FDA-approved vaccine, pandemic leave will only be offered to team members who are fully vaccinated and who provide their vaccination card to us," the carrier said in a memo to staff seen by Reuters.
Crowded U.S. Jails Drove Millions Of COVID-19 Cases, A New Study Says
If the U.S. had done more to reduce its incarceration rate, it could have prevented millions of COVID-19 cases. That's the conclusion of researchers who conducted what they say is the first study to link mass incarceration rates to pandemic vulnerability. Many of those preventable cases, they add, occurred in communities of color. The U.S. jail and prison system acts as an epidemic engine, according to the study from researchers at Northwestern University and the World Bank. That engine is driven by a massive number of people who, despite some counties' efforts to trim jail populations, have been cycling between cramped detention facilities and their home communities.
Tyson Foods Offers Vaccinated Workers More Paid Time Off
Tyson Foods said it would provide 20 hours of paid sick time a year to fully vaccinated employees to enhance benefits for workers willing to receive coronavirus vaccinations. The new benefit, announced on Friday, followed discussions with the United Food & Commercial Workers, which represents several thousand Tyson workers, over the company’s requirement that all its U.S. workers be vaccinated “as a condition of employment” by Nov. 1. The paid sick leave policy takes effect on Jan. 1, and also applies to all nonunion employees.
Working Remotely
"Allo bureau bobo": Documenting remote working from Bali to Europe
Loungers, sun, shorts, T-shirts and tropical plants ... another day at the office for some workers who have reconfigured their lifestyles to fit a world hit by the coronavirus pandemic. French photojournalist Jérôme Gence captured such changes in office mores in "Allo bureau bobo" or "Telework". His panorama of employees working from island paradises for companies around the world - the digital nomads - is on show in Perpignan in southern France as part of the Visa pour l'image festival.
Employers preparing responses to staff's remote work requests
Employers need to have plans in place to respond in a timely and effective manner to employee requests to work remotely, says Moira Grassick, managing director at Peninsula Ireland. A specialist employment law consultancy, Peninsula Ireland is advising employers to have a written policy in place to ensure that employees understand their position on remote working. This advice follows the recent publication by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) of its findings from a public consultation to discuss the key points of the bill allowing employees to work remotely.
Virtual Classrooms
For many Michigan colleges, virtual learning is here to stay. That's dividing students
In Michigan, more than a year after colleges and universities were forced to offer nearly all classes online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some schools are continuing to offer significant numbers of hybrid and online courses as an alternative to in-person classes. Officials say offering fewer in-person courses is part of the future for some higher education institutions, a change that is being driven not just by the pandemic but by student demand. "We have always wanted to offer courses online," said Ora Pescovitz, president of Oakland University, where nearly a third, or 29%, of classes are being offered virtually this semester. "One of the things we learned from the COVID year was that (online) was a good modality for the courses themselves, and it was the preferred way of learning and teaching (for some courses)."
Public Policies
Italy to Decide on Compulsory Vaccine This Month, Minister Says
Italy will decide by the end of September whether Covid-19 vaccines will become mandatory for all people aged 12 and over, according to a minister in Mario Draghi’s coalition. “If we will not have reached a vaccination level between 80% and 90% we will pass a law to impose the Covid-19 vaccine to all people against it,” Public Administration Minister Renato Brunetta said Sunday in an interview at the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio, Italy. “We will decide by the end of the month.”
Israel is planning to administer fourth Covid shot which could be adjusted to fight new variants as country battles wave of infections despite hugely successful vaccine roll-out
Israel is set to begin preparations to administer fourth doses of the coronavirus vaccines as the country deals with soaring cases despite its trail-blazing roll-out of jabs. The country's national coronavirus czar Salman Zarka said the country needs to prepare for a fourth injection, which could be modified to better protect against new variants of the virus. 'Given that that the virus is here and will continue to be here, we also need to prepare for a fourth injection,' he told Kan public radio. 'This is our life from now on, in waves.'
COVID-19: Ministers face difficult decision on whether to defy JCVI's finding on vaccinating children
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has resisted intense pressure from ministers by refusing to recommend coronavirus vaccines for 12 to 15-year-olds. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said parents would find it "deeply reassuring" if children were given jabs, and leaks from Whitehall insiders suggested the JCVI was ready to sign off on vaccines for teenagers as schools return in England. Yet although the vaccination programme has been expanded to cover more children with underlying health conditions, the JCVI has not approved vaccination for the entire age cohort
White House Unveils $65 Billion Plan to Combat New Pandemics
The Biden administration unveiled a $65.3 billion plan to prepare for future pandemics threats, likening the ambitious proposal to the Apollo mission to the moon. The proposal announced Friday by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and National Security Council focuses on protecting the U.S. against potentially catastrophic biological threats, including those that are naturally occurring, accidental or deliberately set in motion by bad actors.
Australian PM seeks quicker reopening after COVID-19 vaccine swap with Britain
Australia will receive an additional 4 million doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine this month after agreeing a swap deal with Britain, to help accelerate its vaccination programme amid a record surge in infections. The deal, announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, will double the availability of Pfizer vaccines this month, with the first shipment of vaccines from Britain expected to arrive over the weekend. Australia on Friday recorded its biggest one-day rise in COVID-19 infections, with 1,657 new cases and 13 deaths reported in the past 24 hours.
Brazil's Bolsonaro signs law that could break COVID-19 vaccine patents
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday signed off on a law allowing for vaccine and medication patents to be broken in a public emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. But the right-wing leader vetoed the provisions that patent holders would need to transfer the knowledge and supply the raw materials needed to duplicate the vaccines and medications.
Amid vaccine hoarding criticism, Biden admin plots $2.7 billion manufacturing push
It didn’t take long for the Biden administration to answer criticism that the United States wasn’t doing enough to ease the world’s COVID-19 vaccination shortfall. On Thursday, White House COVID response coordinator Jeff Zients revealed that the government has earmarked $2.7 billion to beef up vaccine manufacturing. Zients did not discuss details of the plan—such as which companies would receive the aid—but he did say that the funds will boost production of key supplies to produce the shots. Some of those materials include bioreactor bags, tubing, lipids, vials, needles and syringes, Bloomberg and The New York Times report, citing officials familiar with the plan.
AstraZeneca reaches settlement with EU on COVID-19 vaccine delivery
Settlement brings doses delivered to 300 million as agreed. Agreement will also end pending litigation in Brussels. Capped rebates on vaccine will apply if doses are delayed. Doses will go to EU-laggards in uptake ranking, COVAX facility
Australia approves highly effective Moderna Covid-19 jab for children aged 12 to 17
Australia's medical regulator approves American Moderna jab for all over 12s Medical regulator boss said the jab was 98% effective against severe disease One million doses will arrive in September and 10million by the end of the year In 2022 Australia will receive 15 million of Moderna's 'updated' variant boosters The move helps nation reach 70 per cent vaccination rate to end lockdowns
Moderna seeks EU authorization for COVID-19 vaccine booster dose
Moderna Inc said on Friday it had asked the EU drugs regulator for conditional approval of a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine at a 50 microgram dose.
Maintaining Services
Child Covid-19 Cases Rise in States Where Schools Opened Earliest
The recent spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has thrown back-to-school plans into disarray, temporarily driving tens of thousands of students back to virtual learning or pausing instruction altogether. Since the school year kicked off in late July, at least 1,000 schools across 31 states have closed because of Covid-19, according to Burbio, a Pelham, N.Y., data service that is monitoring school closures at 1,200 districts nationwide, including the 200 largest. The shutdowns are hitting classrooms especially hard in the Deep South, where most schools were among the first to open, a possible warning of what’s to come as the rest of the nation’s students start school this month.
Maduro says Venezuela to receive first COVAX vaccines this week
Venezuela this week will receive the first coronavirus vaccines obtained via COVAX, President Nicolas Maduro said, following months of stalled attempts to obtain inoculations through the global vaccine program. The South American nation has been inoculating its population with doses acquired directly from China and Russia, following months of delays in making payments to COVAX that Maduro has attributed to U.S. sanctions. "This week, the first vaccines from the COVAX mechanism will arrive," Maduro said in an interview with state television. "We hope the COVAX mechanism accelerates, such that in October they deliver the vaccines for an estimated 6 million Venezuelans."
Nearly 80% of fatalities in deadly August COVID surge among unvaccinated, partially vaccinated Oregonians
Nearly four in five coronavirus deaths in Oregon during the first four weeks of August were among unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals, according to new data released by the Oregon Health Authority. And roughly five in six of the 51,391 known COVID-19 infections during the same period were among people who were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, according to a state report. The share of so-called breakthrough cases and deaths among fully vaccinated Oregonians remains tiny compared to the 2.4 million Oregonians who were fully vaccinated as of Aug.28, demonstrating the effectiveness of vaccines at preventing severe COVID-19.
Hospitalizations for Children Sharply Increase as Delta Surges
Pediatric hospitalizations for Covid-19 have soared over the summer as the highly contagious Delta variant spread across the country, according to two new studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From late June to mid-August, hospitalization rates in the United States for children and teenagers increased nearly fivefold, although they remain slightly below January’s peak, one new study found.
GP surgeries in England cancel flu jabs amid vaccine shortage
GP surgeries are being forced to cancel appointments for the winter flu jab after the NHS’s biggest provider warned that it could not deliver supplies for up to two weeks due to “unforeseen road freight challenges”. Practices in England have begun contacting patients to postpone their immunisation without being able to rebook them at a later date. The problem emerged on Friday when vaccine maker Seqirus wrote to surgeries alerting them to the possibility of having to rearrange booked appointments. “We would like to inform you that due to unforeseen road freight challenges, there will be a delay to your scheduled delivery by one to two weeks,” the firm said.
Lilly's COVID-19 antibody combo cleared for nationwide use as feds say it can tackle the dominant delta variant
That didn't take long. Only a few days after Eli Lilly's COVID-19 antibody combo of bamlanivimab and etesevimab made its return to more than 20 states, federal officials are resuming distribution nationwide. In a Thursday alert, officials said Lilly's drug "can be used in all U.S. states, territories, and jurisdictions" based on data about variants circulating nationwide. Since Eli Lilly's combo is expected to be effective against the delta variant—and because that variant is now dominant in the United States—officials are ready to again endorse the drugs.
Doctor says ERs overwhelmed with people overdosing on livestock drug ivermectin to treat COVID-19
Physician Jason McElyea told KFOR patients who took doses of ivermectin meant for a horse are filling up hospitals in eastern and southeastern Oklahoma. “The ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated,” McElyea said. Ivermectin has gained popularity as a COVID-19 treatment despite unproven anti-viral benefits
15 million Covid vaccine doses thrown away in the U.S. since March, new data shows
Pharmacies and state governments in the United States have thrown away at least 15.1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines since March 1, according to government data obtained by NBC News — a far larger number than previously known and still probably an undercount. Four national pharmacy chains reported more than 1 million wasted doses each, according to data released by the CDC. Walgreens reported the most waste of any pharmacy, state or other vaccine provider, with nearly 2.6 million wasted doses. CVS reported 2.3 million wasted doses, while Walmart reported 1.6 million and Rite Aid reported 1.1 million.
Healthcare Innovations
Everything we know about the mu variant, the latest coronavirus mutation
On Monday the World Health Organization (WHO) officially labeled the mu variant as a "variant of interest," a designation that indicates a need for further study about possible dangers while falling short of the more serious classification, "variant of concern." Variants of concern are regarded as a top priority because they are more immunity-resistant, contagious or deadly than other strains. Currently the WHO considers four strains to meet those criteria: alpha, beta, gamma and delta (the variant most prevalent in the United States).
A generation of young people is at risk from the UK’s latest Covid experiment
The country is an international outlier in restoring in-person learning without mitigations or vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds. Neurologists warned that Covid-19 could fuel a pandemic of dementia, because of long-term brain damage wrought in some patients. Second, a paper in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology noted that “long Covid” sufferers are at increased risk of kidney damage. Millions may need dialysis for years to come, a costly tragedy for patients and creaking healthcare systems.
One Vaccine Makes More Antibodies Than Another. Does it Matter?
Ten months ago, the results of large clinical trials appeared almost too good to be true: Two messenger RNA vaccines reduced symptomatic Covid-19 cases by more than 90% in almost every group that got them. Now, subtle differences between the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc. vaccines are emerging across patient groups over time. One small U.S. study found waning levels of antibodies with Pfizer’s vaccine, particularly in an older group of people. And a larger study from Belgium found that Moderna’s shot may generate more antibodies than Pfizer’s.
mRNA COVID vaccines not tied to serious side effects
Ten months ago, the results of large clinical trials appeared almost too good to be true: Two messenger RNA vaccines reduced symptomatic Covid-19 cases by more than 90% in almost every group that got them. Now, subtle differences between the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc. vaccines are emerging across patient groups over time. One small U.S. study found waning levels of antibodies with Pfizer’s vaccine, particularly in an older group of people. And a larger study from Belgium found that Moderna’s shot may generate more antibodies than Pfizer’s.
Covid Survivors More Likely to Have Kidney Problems, Study Finds
Since the beginning of the pandemic, doctors have found that people who become very ill with Covid-19 often experience kidney problems, not just the lung impairments that are the hallmark of the illness. Now, a large study suggests that kidney issues can last for months after patients recover from the initial infection, and may lead to a serious lifelong reduction of kidney function in some patients.
Covid-19: Children born during the pandemic score lower on cognitive tests, study finds
Children born during the pandemic score markedly lower on standard measures of verbal, motor, and overall cognitive ability, US researchers have found. In a longitudinal study of 672 children from Rhode Island that has run since 2011, those born after the pandemic began showed results on the Mullen scales of early learning that corresponded to an average IQ score of 78, a drop of 22 points from the average of previous cohorts. The researchers have largely ruled out a direct effect of the virus, as mothers or children with a history of testing positive for covid-19 were excluded from the analysis. Instead, the authors say, reduced interaction with parents and less outdoor exercise are likely culprits, along with effects that occurred during pregnancy.