"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 17th Sep 2021

Isolation Tips
The government’s winter Covid plan can prevent another UK lockdown – if we all work together
Prof Devi Sridhar is chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. He writes: 'To avoid a lockdown, we need the various components of the system – vaccination, behavioural changes and widespread testing – to work together. Covid-19 is still here, and we are still in the midst of a pandemic. Let us hope this autumn brings a move away from a divided society arguing over how serious Covid-19 is, to one where we collectively work towards managing this problem, slowing the spread of the disease, and saving lives and livelihoods.'
Covid-19 Australia: Queensland health to send text messages to track people in home quarantine
Australians in home quarantine will soon receive timed text messages to ensure they are isolating or face a visit from the cops as part of a compliance crackdown in Queensland. The texts are part of the state's new Covid-19 laws - which come into effect immediately - that give people in home quarantine a ten minute window to respond as part of a real-time check in system. Health Minister Yvette D'Ath told parliament on Thursday residents who are isolating at home after returning from to the state will receive daily text messages at random times of the day from Queensland Health.
Hygiene Helpers
Italy Is First EU Country to Require Covid Pass for All Workers
Italy will require all workers to have a valid Covid passport, as the government led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi moves to set the toughest vaccination requirements in Europe. A cabinet meeting Thursday approved the measure, which applies to all public and private-sector workers and will come into force Oct. 15. Workers faces fines of as much as 1,500 euros ($1,763) for noncompliance, while employers who fail to check their workers may have to pay as much as 1,000 euros. The wider use of the passports -- dubbed Green Passes -- had met fierce opposition from right-wing parties including Matteo Salvini’s League, which backs Draghi’s government.
United says about 90% staff vaccinated ahead of company deadline
United Airlines Holding said on Thursday 95% of its management was fully vaccinated and about 90% of all employees had uploaded proof of shots ahead of the company's Sept. 27 deadline for staff vaccination. United has taken a tough stance on employees who decline to get vaccinated and became the first U.S. carrier in early August to announce it would mandate vaccines for employees.
France suspends 3000 health staff as Europe targets vaccine refusal
Hospitals, care homes and health centres have suspended around 3,000 workers across France for failing to comply with mandatory COVID vaccination, the government said on Thursday, as countries around Europe weigh how far to go to combat the pandemic. While Italy is set to announce later on Thursday that proof of vaccination or a negative test will be compulsory for all workers, going further than any other country in the region, the Netherlands plans a similar step - but only to go to bars or clubs.
COVID-19: Vaccine booster programme begins as NHS starts giving third jabs
The NHS has started rolling out COVID-19 booster jabs. Over 50s, people in care homes, frontline health and social care workers and vulnerable people between 16 and 49 are among those who will be offered a third dose. At least six months must have passed since the second jab. Hospital hubs began giving third doses to health and social care workers on Thursday, NHS England said, with other eligible people now being identified.
Spain to give COVID-19 booster dose to nursing home residents
Spain will give a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to nursing home residents, organ transplant recipients and other vulnerable groups, the Health Ministry said on Thursday. Cancer patients undergoing chemo or radiotherapy and people with health conditions that require immunosuppressive treatment would also be eligible for a booster dose, the ministry said.
Virgin Australia to require COVID-19 vaccinations for staff
Virgin Australia said on Thursday it will require all its staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19, in line with domestic rival Qantas Airways and a growing number of airlines in the Asia-Pacific region. Pilots, cabin crew and airport workers will need to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15, while other staff will have until March 31, 2022, Virgin said, aligning its dates with Qantas. "We also remain supportive of any government-led measures to ensure travellers are vaccinated," Virgin Chief Executive Officer Jayne Hrdlicka said.
Majorities in new poll support requiring proof of vaccine to fly, enter arenas
A majority of people in the U.S. support requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to board airplanes or enter indoor arenas, a new Monmouth University poll shows. The poll found 59 percent of Americans said people should need to show proof of vaccination to be able to get on an airplane, while 55 percent say they support the measure for indoor arenas. Forty-six percent of people support requiring proof of vaccination to attend events at outdoor arenas.
Beyond ‘vaccinopia’: Rapid tests should play a larger role in Biden’s Covid-19 plan
America is suffering from a serious case of vaccinopia: an inability to look beyond shots in arms when considering how to manage the pandemic. This was made clear by President Biden’s new Covid-19 plan, which emphasizes vaccine mandates while providing insufficient support for rapid tests, which we believe to be the most promising — and most underused — tool in the armamentarium against the coronavirus. We are strong proponents of the Covid-19 vaccines, which have proven to be impressively effective and safe. In an ideal world, every eligible American would have been vaccinated by now. But we do not live in an ideal world. Covid-19 vaccination has become so politicized that a broad, societal consensus on its merits seems all but impossible. As many as one in five eligible Americans may continue to decline vaccination. Vaccine mandates could change that, but their immediate impact will be blunted by the inevitable legal challenges and the months-long process of delivering millions of vaccinations and waiting for sufficient immunity to develop.
Can kids be harmed wearing masks to protect against COVID?
Can kids be harmed wearing masks to protect against COVID? No, there is no scientific evidence showing masks cause harm to kids’ health despite baseless claims suggesting otherwise. The claims are circulating on social media and elsewhere just as virus outbreaks are hitting many reopened U.S. schools — particularly those without mask mandates. Among the unfounded arguments: Masks can foster germs if they become moist or cause unhealthy levels of carbon dioxide. But experts say washing masks routinely keeps them safe and clean.
Community Activities
Facebook shuts down network linked to German anti-COVID group, launches rules on 'social harms'
Facebook has removed a network of accounts linked to an anti-COVID restrictions movement in Germany as it announced a new crackdown on coordinated campaigns of real users that cause harm on and off its platforms. Reuters exclusively reported on Thursday that Facebook's security teams were expanding the tactics used to take down influence operations using fake accounts to do more wholesale shutdowns of coordinated groups of real-user accounts causing harm, through mass reporting or brigading.
Malaysians enjoy taste of travel after lockdown in tourism restart
The first plane carrying tourists in more than four months touched down on the Malaysian island of Langkawi on Thursday and was greeted by a twin water cannon "salute", in the launch of a programme to revive a travel sector frozen by the pandemic. The first batch of 159 travellers from the capital, Kuala Lumpur, arrived eager for a vacation after a monthslong, nationwide lockdown imposed to address one of Asia's highest per-capital coronavirus infection rates.
As COVID-19 vaccine mandates rise, religious exemptions grow
An estimated 2,600 Los Angeles Police Department employees are citing religious objections to try to get out of the required COVID-19 vaccination. In Washington state, thousands of state workers are seeking similar exemptions. And in Arkansas, a hospital has been swamped with so many such requests from employees that it is apparently calling their bluff. Religious objections, once used sparingly around the country to get exempted from various required vaccines, are becoming a much more widely used loophole against the COVID-19 shot.
Working Remotely
Is remote work ruining creativity?
It’s not hard to be creative while working from home, but creativity is slippery and can be quite fickle. The things that used to inspire you might not be working anymore. For managers hoping to inspire their teams, asking them to “be more creative” or to throw out ideas during your next Zoom call isn’t going to cut it. In fact, it can backfire by making employees feel pressured. With remote work changing where and how many of us work, it’s essential to build habits and strategies that keep the creative sparks flying. This article offers five ways to recharge your creative juices from home and help your team do the same.
From Bend, Oregon to Tampa: How these 10 U.S. cities became remote work hotspots
In the wake of the pandemic, remote work has continued to surge in popularity, new data from LinkedIn reveals. According to the report, 30.2% of all applications to paid U.S. job postings on LinkedIn went to remote work opportunities in August, more than 3x the rate of remote job applications (9.8%) in August 2020, and up nearly 10-fold from January 2020, where remote jobs only made up 2.8% of applications before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the U.S. Certain cities are emerging as remote work hotspots faster than others. Bend, Oregon topped LinkedIn’s list for the small U.S. cities where remote work is the most popular
Most workers do not expect full-time office return, survey says
Most people do not believe workers will return to the office full-time after the coronavirus pandemic, an exclusive survey for the BBC suggests. A total of 70% of 1,684 people polled predicted that workers would "never return to offices at the same rate". The majority of workers said that they would prefer to work from home either full-time or at least some of the time. But managers raised concerns that creativity in the workplace would be affected.
Virtual Classrooms
New data offer sense of how COVID expanded online learning
It won't be clear for a good while whether and how much the last year's grand, unplanned experiment with remote learning has permanently altered the landscape for using technology to deliver college instruction. A first step, though, is getting good data on how patterns shifted during the last year -- and that is beginning to arrive. New data from the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, and additional information from the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), offer an initial picture of how the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped postsecondary enrollments patterns last fall.
Most parents believe kids are falling behind from virtual learning, study shows
This fall many students are back in the classroom for the first time in 18 months. But a new nationwide poll shows many parents are worried about the pandemic’s impact on their child’s education from online learning. “I’m not optimistic about how she’s going to catch up to the level that she needs to be in at this school level, seventh grade honors,” said Cassandra Cottingham, a middle school parent from Michigan. Cottingham said her middle school daughter struggled during online learning and she isn’t the only one. A new USA Today/IPSOS poll shows 55 percent of parents believe online learning caused their child to fall behind. Brown University professor Kenneth Wong said the majority of kids are about four to six months behind.
Public Policies
IMF, World Bank urge more COVID-19 vaccination doses to go to poor countries
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and other multilateral-organization leaders on Thursday urged countries with high COVID-19 vaccination rates to boost efforts to send doses to low- and middle-income countries. Georgieva and the heads of the World Bank Group, World Health Organization and World Trade Organization expressed concern in a joint statement that it would not be possible to vaccinate at least 40% of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 without urgent action.
EU launches health crisis body to prepare for future pandemic
The European Commission launched on Thursday a health crisis body that will coordinate EU spending of almost 30 billion euros ($35.3 billion) to prepare for a future pandemic. The new health emergency preparedness and response authority (HERA) will assess potential health threats, promote research, ensure the availability of critical production and help build stockpiles. If a new health crisis struck, it would activate emergency funding and help coordinate monitoring, procurement and purchase of medical equipment or treatments.
WHO Suspends Sputnik V Approval Process Over Manufacturing Breaches
The World Health Organization (WHO) has suspended its approval process for Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, pending a fresh inspection of at least one Russian factory manufacturing the shot. Speaking at a press briefing of the Pan American Health Organization, a regional branch of the WHO, Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa said Russia’s bid for emergency authorization had been put on hold after a number of manufacturing infringements were uncovered during a WHO inspection in Russia in May.
Indonesia aims to become a global vaccine manufacturing hub
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the country is well placed to join South. Africa in being one of the WHO’s vaccine ‘technology transfer hubs.’ He said Indonesian pharmaceutical companies are also in talks with vaccine manufacturers and developers
US to buy additional doses of Lilly’s Covid-19 antibody therapies
The US Government is to purchase additional doses of Eli Lilly’s neutralising antibody therapies authorised for emergency use to treat Covid-19. As per the deal, Lilly will deliver 388,000 doses of etesevimab to complement doses of bamlanivimab already purchased by the US government.
Asia supercharges vaccination efforts after slow start, U.S. lags
Several Asian nations are quickly ramping up vaccination campaigns from shaky starts to combat growing COVID-19 infections, as supply shipments roll in and people overcome hesitancy in hopes of easing curbs and freeing up travel. Japan and South Korea have passed the United States in terms of those who have received at least one dose and are fast catching up with the second. And Australia, which is targeting high vaccination rates in its drive to escape lockdowns and re-open borders, has given 56% of people at least one shot as infections peak.
Maintaining Services
COVID-19: Army could be called in to help Scottish ambulance service, amid reports man died after a 40-hour wait
The military could be called in to help Scotland's ambulance service which is facing "acute pressure", Nicola Sturgeon has announced. Scotland's first minister apologised "unreservedly" for long waiting times and confirmed that targeted military assistance to help deal with "short-term pressure points" is under consideration. The announcement came as Ms Sturgeon was questioned about the death of Gerald Brown, a 65-year-old from Glasgow, who reportedly died after waiting 40 hours for an ambulance.
Alaska, Idaho using crisis standards of care over COVID-19
Alaska now joins Idaho in establishing crisis standards of care as its largest hospital is now prioritizing treatment to patients most likely to survive COVID-19 infections. "While we are doing our utmost, we are no longer able to provide the standard of care to each and every patient who needs our help," Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, MD, chief of staff at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, wrote in a letter addressed to Alaskans and published yesterday. "We have been forced within our hospital to implement crisis standards of care," Walkinshaw said. "We have been required to develop and enact policies and procedure to ration medical care and treatments, including dialysis and specialized ventilatory support.”
Healthcare Innovations
British study to test mixed COVID-19 vaccine dose schedules in children
A British study will look into the immune responses of children to mixed schedules of different COVID-19 vaccines as officials try to determine the best approach to second doses in adolescents given a small risk of heart inflammation. Children aged 12-15 in Britain will be vaccinated from next week, while those aged 16-17 have been eligible for shots since August.
Pfizer and Moderna say Covid-19 vaccine protection wanes over time
Pfizer and Moderna said protection from their Covid-19 vaccines can wane over time, as the US drug regulator prepares to consider whether to approve a booster programme. Ahead of a crucial meeting of the Food and Drug Administration vaccines advisory committee on Friday to discuss its booster proposal, Pfizer on Wednesday submitted a study by Kaiser Permanente Southern California suggesting that vaccine efficacy wanes over time naturally, “irrespective of variant”, rather than as a consequence of the Delta coronavirus strain evading its jab.
Researchers examine the persistent effects of COVID-19 on vascular function of young adults
In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers have examined the persistent effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on the vascular function of otherwise healthy young adults. The research, published in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, was chosen as an APSselect article for September. “It is intriguing that those with persistent [COVID-19] symptoms exhibited peripheral vascular dysfunction, whereas those who were asymptomatic at the time of testing had similar macrovascular and microvascular vasodilation to controls.”
Menstrual changes after covid-19 vaccination
Common side effects of covid-19 vaccination listed by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) include a sore arm, fever, fatigue, and myalgia. Changes to periods and unexpected vaginal bleeding are not listed, but primary care clinicians and those working in reproductive health are increasingly approached by people who have experienced these events shortly after vaccination. More than 30 000 reports of these events had been made to MHRA’s yellow card surveillance scheme for adverse drug reactions by 2 September 2021, across all covid-19 vaccines currently offered.
Study: Farmworkers at 4 times risk of COVID-19
A study today in JAMA Network Open that found quadruple the risk of COVID-19 in California farmworkers reveals risk factors for current or previous SARS-CoV-2 infection in the group, including outdoor work exposures, crowded living conditions, and high body mass index (BMI). A team led by University of California at Berkeley researchers analyzed the data of 1,107 adult farmworkers undergoing testing for COVID-19 infection and immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies at federally qualified community clinics and community sites in the Salinas Valley from Jul 16 to Nov 30, 2020.
No-fridge coronavirus vaccine looks promising: study
A team based at University of California, San Diego is working on a coronavirus vaccine that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. They grew plant and bacteria viruses and attached a piece of the spike protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In tests with mice, the vaccine led to high levels of neutralizing antibodies.