"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 10th Sep 2021

Isolation Tips
How to help a remote coworker through a tough time
Because life is full of bumps in the road, often employees must navigate personal challenges and work. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, divorce, caregiving demands, or illness, when someone in your office is facing tough times, the signs are typically visible. And coworkers may rally around the individual with comforting words, gestures of kindness, and other means of help. But in remote and hybrid worlds, the signs can be harder to spot and the support harder to give. With so many employees onboarded remotely over the past year and a half, you may not feel as if you know your colleagues well enough to offer a personal word of support or other gesture. But there are still ways you can tune in to your coworkers’ needs and help them when they’re going through tough times.
Hygiene Helpers
Biden to Require All Federal Workers, Government Contractors Be Vaccinated Against Covid-19
All employers with 100 or more employees would have to require their workers to be vaccinated or undergo at least weekly Covid-19 testing under a new plan by President Biden to curb the spread of the pandemic, senior administration officials said. The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the coming weeks plans to issue an emergency temporary standard implementing the new requirement, which will cover 80 million private-sector workers, officials said. Businesses that don’t comply can face fines of up to $14,000 per violation, they said. The employers will also have to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated or to recover from any side effects of getting vaccinated.
Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate Guide: Which US Employers Are Requiring Inoculation
To mandate, or not to mandate? That is the question facing corporations right now as they weigh the pros and cons of requiring a Covid-19 vaccine for employees. The answers, so far, are all over the place. A Bloomberg compilation of policies of more than 100 big companies found that about half have implemented a vaccine mandate for at least some of their U.S. staff, but the requirements vary widely. For many, the measure applies to anyone entering a U.S. office—but that can leave wide swaths of the workforce unaffected. Walmart Inc., for instance, hasn’t required its more than 1 million store and warehouse workers to get jabbed. For roughnecks on oil rigs, it might depend where they’re drilling.
Massive numbers of new COVID–19 infections, not vaccines, are the main driver of new coronavirus variants
It’s natural to wonder if highly effective COVID-19 vaccines are leading to the emergence of variants that evade the vaccine – like dark peppered moths evaded birds that hunted them. But with just under 40% of people in the world having received a dose of a vaccine – only 2% in low-income countries – and nearly a million new infections occurring globally every day, the emergence of new, more contagious variants, like delta, is being driven by uncontrolled transmission, not vaccines.
Vaccine passports planned to be used for some events in Scotland from October 1
The new SNP-Green government clinched its first major parliamentary victory when a controversial scheme to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and large scale events was passed by its coalition majority.
Covid-19 vaccines in South Africa: Free football tickets for fans with jabs
South African football fans who are vaccinated can get free entry to watch the national team play Ethiopia in a World Cup qualifier next month, the country's football association says. Its head Danny Jordaan said the deal would apply to half the tickets. It is subject to an agreement with the government and depends on how many fans show up, according to the News24 site. The government is concerned about growing anti-vaccine sentiment in the country. Only 10 million people have been inoculated against Covid-19, and the government says this needs to reach 40 million for population immunity.
Amazon.com to cut cost of COVID-19 PCR test kits
Amazon.com said it will cut the cost of its direct-to-consumer COVID-19 PCR Test Collection kit to $36.99, a $3 price reduction. The U.S. retailer said the price cut reflects its costs for selling the FDA-approved kit and is the result of a public-private partnership with the Biden administration. The White House said Thursday that Amazon, Walmart , and Kroger will sell at home rapid COVID-19 tests at-cost for the next three months.
Community Activities
The Pandemic Has Set Back the Fight Against H.I.V., TB and Malaria
The Covid-19 pandemic has severely set back the fight against other global scourges like H.I.V., tuberculosis and malaria, according to a sobering new report released on Tuesday. Before the pandemic, the world had been making strides against these illnesses. Overall, deaths from those diseases have dropped by about half since 2004. “The advent of a fourth pandemic, in Covid, puts these hard-fought gains in great jeopardy,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC, a nonprofit organization promoting H.I.V. treatment worldwide.
COVID-19: Anti-vaccine posters found with razor blades attached to back of them to cut people as they are taken down, union says
Transport for London (TFL) workers have been warned about taking down unofficial COVID posters, after a union confirmed anti-vax signs have been found with razor blades attached to the back of them. The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said the posters had been put up on rail and tube stations in London. The union has called for action to be taken against those responsible for the posters, which bear the message "Masks Don't Work" and have a razor blade attached on the rear - potentially injuring anyone who tries to take it down.
COVID-19 is rising again in the U.K., but many shrug it off
A spike in new COVID-19 infections is sweeping Britain, but from packed trains on London's subway to full audiences at West End musicals, the prevailing attitude may be shifting to "We can live with it." "It's done. COVID is over, for sure," Hannah Worrel, 34, said as she joined a crowded throng of after-work partiers on Soho's famed Old Compton Street. England lifted mask mandates — except in some places such as the London subway — and occupancy restrictions for indoor gatherings over the summer. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have kept them in place for now.
Working Remotely
Remote work curbs communication, collaboration, study finds
When employees work remotely, lines of communication between colleagues, teams and departments get severed, according to new research. The study of 61,000 Microsoft employees -- published in the journal Nature Human Behavior -- found remote work led to more siloed lines of communication and fewer real-time conversations. While working remotely full-time, employees were also less likely to spend time in meetings, limiting the opportunity for collaboration and information-sharing.
Virtual Classrooms
How a community of practice can foster virtual collaboration
Globalisation and technological developments are changing the private and working lives of students and educators. It is now essential to be able to use technology to collaborate in culturally diverse international teams. Collaborative designs such as online co-teaching or peer learning can support this development. But how can we foster virtual collaboration within and across higher education institutions? To answer this question the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) developed the International Virtual Academic Collaboration (IVAC) programme. IVAC gives instructors at German institutions the opportunity to develop virtual exchange courses in cooperation with international partners.
Remote learning setting back millions of S Asian children: UNICEF
Hundreds of millions of children in South Asia are suffering because their schools have been closed due to coronavirus but they lack online devices and connections for remote learning, UNICEF says. Authorities should prioritise the safe reopening of schools because, even before the pandemic, nearly 60 percent of children in the densely populated region were unable to read and understand a simple text by the age of 10, the UN children’s agency said. “School closures in South Asia have forced hundreds of millions of children and their teachers to transition to remote learning in a region with low connectivity and device affordability,” said George Laryea-Adjei, UNICEF’s regional director for South Asia.
Public Policies
Covax, a global program to distribute Covid vaccines, cuts its 2021 forecast for available doses by a quarter.
The United Nations-backed program to vaccinate the world against the coronavirus slashed its forecast for doses available in 2021 by roughly a quarter on Wednesday, another setback for an effort that has been hampered by production problems, export bans and vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations. Shortly after the forecast was released, the World Health Organization asked wealthy countries to hold off on administering booster shots for healthy patients until at least the end of the year as a way of enabling every country to vaccinate at least 40 percent of their populations. The organization had previously called for a booster shot moratorium until the end of September.
China announces £22m emergency aid to Afghanistan, including 3 million Covid-19 vaccine doses
China has pledged emergency aid worth 200 million yuan (£22m) to Afghanistan, including three million doses of Covid-19 vaccines and food supplies. This was the first official aid announced for Afghanistan by China’s foreign minister Wang Yi at a meeting on Wednesday with his counterparts from Afghanistan’s neighbours,
U.S. FDA declines emergency use approval for Humanigen's COVID-19 drug
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration declined Humanigen Inc's request for emergency use authorization (EUA) of its lenzilumab drug to treat newly hospitalized COVID-19 patients, the company said on Thursday. "In its letter, FDA stated that it was unable to conclude that the known and potential benefits of lenzilumab outweigh the known and potential risks of its use as a treatment for COVID-19," the company said in a statement.
New Zealand buys Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines from Spain
Around a quarter of a million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine bought from Spain will arrive in New Zealand this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday, boosting the country's inoculation programme. The doses will arrive in Auckland on Friday, Ardern said, adding to some 1.8 million doses being delivered directly from Pfizer throughout September.
Maintaining Services
Least Vaccinated States Lead Spike in Children’s Cases, Leaving Some Hospitals Stretched
Just as millions of families around the United States navigate sending their children back to school at an uncertain moment in the pandemic, the number of children admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 has risen to the highest levels reported to date. Nearly 30,000 of them entered hospitals in August. Pediatric hospitalizations, driven by a record rise in coronavirus infections among children, have swelled across the country, overwhelming children’s hospitals and intensive care units in states like Louisiana and Texas.
Covid-19 vaccine: Unvaccinated NHS workers could be barred from treating patients as jabs to be compulsory
Frontline NHS staff could be barred from treating patients and possibly lose their jobs if they refuse to have the Covid-19 vaccine. The government has launched a six-week consultation into proposals to make Covid jabs mandatory for all frontline NHS workers. On a visit to Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, Health Secretary Sajid Javid refused to rule out staff losing their jobs if they refuse the vaccine.
Trial of Covid-19 vaccine and flu jab combined to begin in Australia on 640 healthy residents
Vaccine developer Novavax will trial a combined flu and Covid-19 vaccination. The tests in Australia will include 640 healthy adults aged between 50-70. Who have previously been infected or received a Covid jab at least 8 weeks prior. Novavax said that flu and Covid combination vaccines will combat new variants
Healthcare Innovations
Novavax developing joint COVID/flu vaccine
Vaccine manufacturer Novavax has announced it is developing a joint COVID-19/flu shot that is currently in the trial stage. Novavax already manufactures flu shots and a COVID-19 vaccine, which has not yet been approved for public use in Australia. However, the government has placed an order for 51 million doses.
Co-inventor of mRNA shots sets sights on pan-coronavirus vaccine
Drew Weissman's decades of research helped pave the way for mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, but the scientist isn't resting on his laurels. The University of Pennsylvania immunologist, who on Thursday shared the $3 million 2022 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences with his longtime collaborator Katalin Kariko, is now spearheading efforts to design a new vaccine against all coronaviruses. The Silicon Valley-backed award honors major discoveries with the highest cash amounts in science.
Moderna developing single-dose booster shot for COVID-19 and flu
Moderna Inc said on Thursday it is developing a single vaccine that combines a booster dose against COVID-19 with its experimental flu shot. The company hopes to eventually add vaccines it is working on for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and other respiratory diseases as an annual shot. "We believe this is a very large opportunity that is ahead of us, if we could bring to market a high efficacy pan-respiratory annual booster," Moderna Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel said during a presentation to update investors on its drugs in development.
Can kids get ‘long COVID’ after coronavirus infections?
Can kids get “long COVID” after coronavirus infections? Yes, but studies indicate they’re less likely than adults to be affected by symptoms that persist, recur or begin a month or more after infection. Estimates vary on how often the symptoms known as long COVID-19 occur in kids. A recently published U.K. study found about 4% of young children and teens had symptoms more than a month after getting infected. Fatigue, headaches and loss of smell were among the most common complaints and most were gone by two months. Coughing, chest pain and brain fog are among other long-term symptoms sometimes found in kids, and can occur even after mild infections or no initial symptoms.
AstraZeneca's COVID-19 shot joins the list of vaccines flagged for rare Guillain-Barre syndrome
Two months after the FDA flagged Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for the rare nerve disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) Europe’s drug regulator has done the same for AstraZeneca’s COVID shot. The European Medicines Agency will now list GBS as a possible and “very rare” side effect of Vaxzevria, which is administered as a two-dose regimen. Of the 592 million doses of the vaccine administered worldwide through the end of July, 833 cases of the nerve-damaging condition were reported. Both are adenovirus-based vaccines, as opposed to the mRNA shots offered by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech. The J&J and AZ vaccines also have been linked to very rare cases of blood clots that occur alongside bleeding.
Study says Alpha variant doubled COVID cases in Israeli kids
The SARS-CoV-2 Alpha (B117) variant spread faster and more efficiently than previous strains among children 9 years and younger in Israel in late 2020 and early 2021, even amid the concurrent immunization of adults against COVID-19, according to an observational study yesterday in JAMA Network Open. A team led by a researcher at Schneider Children's Medical Center of Israel in Petah Tikva compared the publicly available daily data of 21,615 children who tested positive for COVID-19 from Aug 1 to Oct 2, 2020, with those of 50,811 children who tested positive from Dec 3, 2020, to Feb 3, 2021. The researchers adjusted weekly incidence rates according to the number of COVID-19 tests performed.