"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 27th Sep 2021

Isolation Tips
Birds Flocked to Pandemic-Silenced Cities
As Covid-19 spread through the United States in the spring of 2020, previously bustling cities fell silent. A new study shows that the dip in noise in the early months of the pandemic led to an increased abundance of birds, like hummingbirds, warblers and raptors, in cities. The study published today in Science Advances is the latest to suggest that even a moderate drop in noise pollution could allow some animals to better thrive in urban areas. The flock to cities included "everything from birds like hawks and eagles all the way down to small songbirds and even hummingbirds," says Michael Schrimpf, study co-author and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Manitoba's Natural Resources Institute, to NPR’s Scott Neuman. "The actual physical environment didn't change," Schrimpf says. "What did change was the activity of people in those spaces."
Hygiene Helpers
NYC Temporarily Blocked From Imposing School Vaccine Mandate
New York City’s school system, the largest in the U.S., has been temporarily blocked from imposing a mandate forcing teachers and other staff from getting vaccinated against Covid-19, according to a ruling from a federal judge. That mandate is scheduled to go into effect on Monday at midnight. Late Friday, a judge from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit referred the case to a three-judge panel “on an expedited basis.” The hearing will take place on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
El Salvador to begin giving third dose of COVID-19 vaccine
El Salvador will begin administering a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to various groups including the elderly, healthworkers and people with underlying health conditions, President Nayib Bukele said on Friday. The Central American nation of roughly 6.4 million people has obtained some 12 million vaccines since February. Third shots would be given to people including those aged over 60, frontline health staff, teachers, the armed forces, police and firefighters, as well as Salvadorans with pre-existing health problems, Bukele said on Twitter.
Brazil approves COVID-19 booster shots for healthcare workers
Brazil has approved booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines for "health professionals," with preference given to the Pfizer shot, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said on Friday. The boosters will only be given to people six months after they complete initial round of COVID-19 vaccination, Queiroga said in a Twitter post.
White House says millions of government contractors must be vaccinated by Dec. 8
The White House said on Friday that millions of federal contractors must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 and that the administration will add clauses to future government contracts mandating inoculations. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Sept. 9 requiring federal contractors to mandate vaccinations, but many U.S. companies with federal contracts have awaited formal guidance from the White House before moving forward.
Community Activities
Rowdy celebrations erupt in Norway as COVID restrictions end
Police in Norway have reported dozens of disturbances and violent clashes including mass brawls in the Nordic country’s big cities after streets, bars, restaurants and nightclubs were filled with people celebrating the end of COVID-19 restrictions
A Canadian COVID-19 study that turned out to be wrong has spread like wildfire among anti-vaxxers
An inaccurate Canadian study suggesting an extremely high rate of heart inflammation after COVID-19 vaccines has been retracted due to a major mathematical error — but not before it spread like wildfire on anti-vaccination websites and social media. The preprint study, which was released by researchers at the Ottawa Heart Institute last week but has not been peer-reviewed, looked at the rate of myocarditis and pericarditis cases after Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations in Ottawa from June 1 to July 31. The study identified 32 patients with the rare side effects out of a total of 32,379 doses of mRNA vaccines given in Ottawa in the two-month period, finding an inordinately high rate of close to 1 in 1,000 — significantly higher than other international data has shown. But the researchers made a critical error that experts say caused the study to be "weaponized" by the anti-vaccination movement at a time when concern over COVID-19 vaccine side effects are top of mind for parents whose kids may soon get the shot.
Doctors scale rockslides, invoke gods to vaccinate Himalayan villages
To visit the Indian village of Malana deep in the Himalayas, a COVID-19 vaccination team scrambled over a landslide that blocked the road the day before, scaled a retaining wall and then began a three-hour trek down and up a river valley. Despite the hostile terrain, the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, where Malana is located, earlier this month became the first in India to administer at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose in all its adults. The steep topography was one challenge overcome by health workers walking for hours or days to reach remote villages and another was religious beliefs, as the tourism-dependent state immunised its roughly 5 million adults.
Dutch protest against COVID-19 vaccine pass to enter bars, restaurants
Hundreds of protesters marched against the introduction of a "corona pass" in the Netherlands on Saturday, as proof of COVID-19 vaccination became compulsory to get into bars, restaurants, theatres and other venues. Hours after the requirement to show the pass or a recent negative coronavirus test took effect, the government of caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte sacked a cabinet minister who had publicly questioned the measure.
Working Remotely
Starting a new job is hard enough. Here's how to do it when you're remote
Starting a new job is nerve-wracking: You're trying to remember everyone's names and roles, and learn the culture, all the while trying to put your best foot forward. And for new hires who are joining a company remotely during the pandemic, the onboarding process can be even more difficult. This article explains how to make a great first impression
Worker surveillance rises as more companies offer remote work options
The spread of the delta variant has kept many of America’s office employees working from home and fueled a rise in surveillance technologies by employers — in finance, law, technology and other industries — eager to keep tabs on their remote workforce. Facial recognition monitoring offers one of the stranger examples of America’s massive work-from-home experiment, because it relies on a glitchy and, to some, quite creepy camera system built to ensure workers don’t lose focus or break the rules. Workers have little power to control how and when they’re being monitored, especially if they are using work-issued devices. Experts advise workers to assume they are being monitored if they’re in the office or using company equipment, and recommend they read the fine print when in comes to employee contracts.
Covid and remote work changed the workplace. Now let's change the work week — to 4 days.
Matthew Gallagher, founder and CEO of Watch Gang, writes: "There is an inconvenient truth about modern employment: Many people hate their jobs. Even before the pandemic, a global Gallup poll found that approximately 85 percent of people were not engaged at work.Two-thirds of Americans reported feeling negatively about their work, while 25 percent of British sick days can be traced back to stress generated in the workplace". "To boost employee satisfaction and increase productivity, to make my business better and my customers happier, I’m going to pilot a four-day work week starting in the new year. For 32 hours of work, my employees will receive the same pay and benefits they have been getting for 40. Once implemented, we will track a number of metrics, such as employee and customer satisfaction and overall work completed."
Virtual Classrooms
Baltimore City Public Schools Has A Plan To Help Students Who Struggle With Online Learning
It’s been one of the biggest impacts of the pandemic, students struggling in school because of online learning. In Baltimore City, public school leaders have a plan to help those students who have fallen behind get back on track. Baltimore City Public Schools said its plan to help students includes personalized learning plans which look at the academic performance for each of their 77,800 students. The district said the extensive plan also seeks to gather details from students and their family about students’ personal needs. School officials also said there will also be more tutoring options and every school will now have a tutoring partner.
Public Policies
Cuba kicks off COVID-19 vaccine exports with shipment to Vietnam
Cuba said on Saturday it had exported its three-shot Abdala coronavirus vaccine for the first time, sending an initial shipment to Vietnam as part of a contract to supply five million doses to the Southeast Asian country. Scientists in the Communist-run island have developed three home-grown vaccines against COVID-19, all of which are waiting to receive official recognition from the World Health Organization.
This country claims it hasn't had a single Covid-19 case. Activists say that's a lie
Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic home to nearly 6 million people, is one of at least five countries that have not reported any coronavirus cases, according to a review of data collected by Johns Hopkins University and the World Health Organization. Three of those are isolated islands in the Pacific and the fourth is North Korea, a tightly-controlled hermit state. Turkmenistan's repressive President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who has ruled since 2006, has dismissed reports of Covid-19 in the country as "fake" and told the United Nations in an address Tuesday that the response to the pandemic shouldn't be "politicized." But independent organizations and journalists and activists outside Turkmenistan say there's evidence the country is battling a third wave which is overwhelming hospitals and killing dozens of people -- and warn the President is playing down the threat of the deadly virus in a bid to maintain his public image.
India tells Quad will allow export of 8 mln Indo-Pacific vaccine doses
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told fellow leaders of the Quad partnership on Friday India will allow the export of 8 million COVID-19 vaccines by end of October in line with a deal reached by the grouping of Australia, India, Japan and the United States in March, India's foreign secretary said on Friday.
C.D.C. Chief Overrules Agency Panel and Endorses Pfizer Boosters for Frontline Workers
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday overruled a recommendation by an agency advisory panel that had refused to endorse booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine for frontline workers. It was a highly unusual move for the director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, but aligned C.D.C. policy with the Food and Drug Administration’s endorsements over her own agency’s advisers. The C.D.C.’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Thursday recommended the boosters for a wide range of Americans, including tens of millions of older adults and younger people at high risk for the disease. But they excluded health care workers, teachers and others whose jobs put them at risk. That put their recommendations at odds with the F.D.A.’s authorization of booster shots for all adults with a high occupational risk.
Maintaining Services
To Reach Vaccine Holdouts, Scientists Take a Page From Digital Marketing
Public-health researchers seeking new ways to persuade vaccine holdouts to take coronavirus shots are turning to the strategies of the digital marketing industry to figure out how to win over the reluctant. Companies that use online ads to sell products try out various colors, phrases, typefaces and a whole host of other variables to determine what resonates with consumers. So why not, the thinking goes, apply the same sort of A/B testing to figure out how best to promote vaccines?
Logistics, Staff Shortage Hurt Indonesia's Vaccination Progress
A shortage of healthcare workers and logistical flaws are hampering Indonesia’s efforts to inoculate its people against Covid-19, leaving the world’s largest archipelago trailing its neighbors despite being among the first in Southeast Asia to start the program. Only 17.9% of Indonesia’s 270 million people are fully vaccinated, behind almost every major economy in the region, according to Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. About 32% have received their first dose, placing the nation among the bottom four on the list.
Healthcare Innovations
Schools without mask mandate 3.5 times more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks: CDC study
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that schools in two Arizona counties that didn’t require universal masking were 3.5 times more likely to endure COVID-19 outbreaks than schools with mask mandates. Out of the 191 schools in Maricopa and Pima counties that experienced outbreaks by the end of August, 59.2 percent did not have a mask requirement, compared to 8.4 percent that required masks from the start of the school year. Almost a third of outbreaks occurred in schools that implemented mask mandates after the school year began.
Even Mild Cases of COVID May Leave a Mark on the Brain
With more than 18 months of the pandemic in the rearview mirror, researchers have been steadily gathering new and important insights into the effects of COVID-19 on the body and brain. These findings are raising concerns about the long-term impacts that the coronavirus might have on biological processes such as aging. As a cognitive neuroscientist, my past research has focused on understanding how normal brain changes related to aging affect people’s ability to think and move – particularly in middle age and beyond. But as more evidence came in showing that COVID-19 could affect the body and brain for months or longer following infection, my research team became interested in exploring how it might also impact the natural process of aging.
2021 Lasker Awards Honor Work in mRNA Vaccines, Neuroscience and More
Katalin Kariko, a senior vice president at BioNTech, and Dr. Drew Weissman, a professor in vaccine research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, shared this year’s Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. In retrospect, their 2005 breakthrough was apparent when Dr. Kariko and Dr. Weissman proudly published a surprising finding they had made about messenger RNA, also known as mRNA, which provides instructions to cells to make proteins. The scientists noticed that when they added mRNA to cells, the cells instantly destroyed it. But they could prevent that destruction by slightly modifying the mRNA. When they added the altered mRNA to cells, it could briefly prompt cells to make any protein they chose.
70% vaccinated prisoners got COVID, 93% of unvaccinated: Texas study
About 70% of fully vaccinated people in a Texas prison caught COVID-19 in an outbreak, the CDC said. The data suggests that while Delta can spread among vaccinated people, vaccines protect against severe COVID-19. Of the unvaccinated prisoners, 93% caught COVID-19, and one died, the CDC said.