"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 1st Oct 2021

Isolation Tips
Melbourne cases hit record despite two months of lockdown
Melbourne's COVID-19 cases surged to record levels on Thursday with officials blaming illegal home gatherings to watch a key sporting event for the spike as a hard lockdown to combat the spread of the Delta variant neared two months. Authorities in Victoria, home to Melbourne, estimated nearly a third of Thursday's 1,438 new infections could be traced back to home parties last weekend to watch the Australian Rules Football Grand Final on television.
Hygiene Helpers
What Science Knows Now About the Risk of Covid-19 Transmission on Planes
Fliers have yearned for reliable data on the risks of air travel since the pandemic began. Recent research on Covid-19 transmission on flights suggests that airlines could adopt new policies to better protect their passengers. Scientists have found a sharp increase in possible spread during in-flight meal service when everyone has masks off. They’ve also learned more about the importance of precautions during boarding and deplaning. The chances of viral spread aboard planes remain very low. But papers published in medical journals suggest they may not be as low as suggested earlier in the pandemic. “It’s still, at this point, safe to travel if you take proper precautions,” says Mark Gendreau, chief medical officer at Beverly Hospital near Boston and an expert in aviation medicine. “I do think it could be safer.”
California Mandates Boost Vaccination Rates Among Health Care Workers
California’s requirement for all health care workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, which took effect Thursday, appears to have compelled tens of thousands of unvaccinated employees to get shots in recent weeks, bolstering the case for employer mandates. In a survey of more than a dozen of the state’s major hospital systems, most health care employers reported vaccination rates this week of 90 percent or higher, with hundreds — and in some cases, thousands — more workers in some systems opting to be vaccinated, rather than to apply for limited medical or religious exemptions, since Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration issued the health order Aug. 5.
France orders anyone aged 12 and older to show Covid 'health pass' to enter public sites in bid to stave off winter coronavirus flare-up
Policy is an extension of 'health pass' already in place for adults for two months The pass proves vaccination, a recent negative test or a recovery from the virus French President Macron introduced the pass for adults in July, sparking rallies But it also triggered millions of people to get the jab after holding out for months
Malaysia makes COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for government employees
Malaysia said on Thursday it would now be mandatory for all federal government employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, with exceptions only to be allowed on health grounds. The announcement comes as the country looks to boost vaccination rates with the aim of inoculating 80% of the population by the end of the year. Malaysia has one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in Southeast Asia, with 61% of its 32 million population already fully vaccinated. In a statement, the Public Service Department said vaccinations would be made compulsory for federal staff in order to boost public confidence and ensure government services can be delivered smoothly.
How Denmark beat Covid and lifted all restrictions, and the lessons the UK can learn
Denmark appears to have defeated Covid-19, with low infection rates, 75 per cent of the population fully vaccinated and normality returning after all restrictions were lifted this month. The country is recording 367 new infections on average each day compared with 34,241 in the UK. Crucially, the Danes had the “highest level of optimism” and “lowest levels of concern” of eight countries including the UK surveyed in the Hope Project, a global initiative led by Danish universities.
Community Activities
AP-NORC poll: Virus fears linger for vaccinated older adults
Bronwyn Russell wears a mask anytime she leaves her Illinois home, though she wouldn’t dream of going out to eat or to hear a band play, much less setting foot on a plane. In Virginia, Oliver Midgette rarely dons a mask, never lets COVID-19 rouse any worry and happily finds himself in restaurants and among crowds. She is vaccinated. He is not. In a sign of the starkly different way Americans view the coronavirus pandemic, vaccinated older adults are far more worried about the virus than the unvaccinated and far likelier to take precautions despite the protection afforded by their shots, according to a new poll out Wednesday from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Health workers once saluted as heroes now get threats
More than a year after U.S. health care workers on the front lines against COVID-19 were saluted as heroes with nightly clapping from windows and balconies, some are being issued panic buttons in case of assault and ditching their scrubs before going out in public for fear of harassment. Across the country, doctors and nurses are dealing with hostility, threats and violence from patients angry over safety rules designed to keep the scourge from spreading. “A year ago, we’re health care heroes and everybody’s clapping for us,” said Dr. Stu Coffman, a Dallas-based emergency room physician. “And now we’re being in some areas harassed and disbelieved and ridiculed for what we’re trying to do, which is just depressing and frustrating.”
Working Remotely
Why millions of Americans are quitting their jobs in the Great Resignation
Since 2020, in addition to massive unemployment from pandemic-induced business shutdowns, the United States has seen a surge of voluntary job departures. In a recent Washington Post Live webcast, Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University credited with coining the term the “Great Resignation,” attributed the departures to four main causes: a backlog of workers who wanted to resign before the pandemic but held on a bit longer; burnout, particularly among frontline workers in health care, food service and retail; “pandemic epiphanies” in which people experienced major shifts in identity and purpose that led them to pursue new careers and start their own businesses; and an aversion to returning to offices after a year or more of working remotely.
From the Caribbean to coffee shops, alternatives to the city centre office are on the rise
2020 will forever be known as the year shifted our workplace solar system. The office’s gravitational pull is the weakest it has ever been, and the past 18 months has proven that most workers truly can work from anywhere. And with many of us enjoying the flexibility that affords, it’s no surprise that the majority (86 per cent) of employees want to continue working remotely at least once a week. As we move towards a more hybrid approach to the workplace, every organisation, team and individual will have to map out what hybrid working actually means for them: where should you work and how often?
Virtual Classrooms
This Is What It's Like Being a Teacher with MS During the Pandemic
Erin Vore is a high school English teacher who lives with MS. She talks about her experience of working remotely as a teacher: "Only a few of us worked remotely, and while I know many people found teaching over Zoom to be tedious, isolating, and full of challenges both big and small, I had a wholly positive experience. I am not camera-shy, I keep things lively, and on the whole, my students responded to that. The peace of mind from getting to teach from home isn’t lost on me."
Zoom edtech chief: Universities face digital disruption investment
The “Zoom Boom” of the last 18 months has seen more of us work and play in video calls, leading to a much-discussed sea change in employment and entertainment. But the impact of virtual conferencing on the future of education will be just as great as on the future of work, and there’s growing investment in edtech as a result. Former head of public sector for Zoom in UK and Ireland Jane Ross believes technology that is introduced into classrooms will need to add to the learning experience and be simple to use so that teachers can focus on teaching. She also believes Zoom’s edtech presence goes beyond children and lockdown-afflicted schools.
Public Policies
Vaccine apartheid: The Global South fights back
Could the rich world’s obscene selfishness on vaccine equality ultimately help bring about a fairer economy? If we fight for it. When diplomats start speaking like campaigners, you know geopolitics is starting to shift. This week United Nations chief Antonio Guterres lectured world leaders on the disgraceful state of vaccine inequality, calling it “a moral indictment of the state of our world. It is an obscenity.” A fortnight earlier, World Health Organization head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the press: “I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.”
Western Coronavirus Vaccines May Be Coming to Russia
Russian residents may soon be able to receive vaccines not recognized by the government, the Kommersant business daily reported, citing a Health Ministry proposal put up for public discussion. The move to relax import rules could potentially allow Russians to have Western coronavirus jabs like Pfizer and Moderna, as well as Chinese vaccines like Sinopharm and Sinovac. The Health Ministry proposed Tuesday to grant the Moscow International Medical Cluster (MIMC) project the right to import vaccines and drugs not registered in Russia. MIMC operates in Moscow City Hall’s Skolkovo Innovation Center, which works under a special legal regime that gives it preferential access to drugs registered in OECD member-states, even if they are not registered in Russia.
Beijing 2022 presents COVID-19 protocol to IOC
International spectators will be barred from the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics, while all the Games' participants are encouraged to be fully vaccinated, according to Beijing 2022's COVID-19-prevention policies. The Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee on Wednesday presented its key COVID-19 countermeasures for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during an IOC executive board meeting chaired by President Thomas Bach, in the presence of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons, outlining its principles regarding key policies, including vaccination, Games-time closed-loop management, spectators and ticketing. All athletes and Games participants who are fully vaccinated will enter the closed-loop management system, or known as "bio-secure bubbles", upon arrival, according to a press release from Beijing 2022. Games participants who are not fully vaccinated will have to enter a 21-day quarantine upon arrival in Beijing.
EU wants to extend looser state aid rules for virus-hit companies to mid-2022
The European Commission on Thursday proposed extending looser state aid rules for virus-hit companies for six months to June 2022 in a bid to slowly wean them off the billions of euros provided by governments across the European Union. The EU executive, tasked with ensuring a level playing field in the 27-country bloc, also proposed two new measures to encourage investment support and solvency support for a limited time to help Europe rebound from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The so-called Temporary Framework, adopted in March last year and due to expire at the end of this year, has allowed EU countries to pump in more than 3 trillion euros to thousands of companies across the bloc.
PAHO says it is buying more COVID vaccines for Americas
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has said it is pushing to secure additional COVID-19 vaccines for residents of the Americas amid huge discrepancies in vaccination rates between countries in the region. PAHO, the Americas branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), announced on Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac to buy 8.5 million vaccine doses for 2021 and another 80 million doses next year.
Maintaining Services
U.S. Frackers Fear Vaccine Mandate Will Worsen Worker Crunch
American frackers, already struggling to hire enough workers, are concerned that the coming U.S. vaccine mandate will worsen the situation at a time of rising oil and gas prices. Many of the truckers, rig hands and roustabouts who used to work in Texas and other oil patch regions found other jobs after crude prices crashed last year during the onset of the pandemic. Oil-field service companies, which employ most of the ground-level workers who drill and finish wells, say many remaining employees are skeptical about Covid-19 vaccination, and some have warned they would quit before getting shots. The proposed mandate doesn’t require companies to terminate employees who don’t comply, but those workers would be subject to frequent testing. Some companies are concerned that such testing would frustrate unvaccinated employees and motivate them to leave their jobs.
In Well-Vaccinated Maine, Covid-19 Still Fills Hospitals With the Unvaccinated
The Delta variant is finding clusters of unvaccinated people even in some of the best-vaccinated parts of the country, such as Maine. A Covid-19 surge in the New England state has filled hospitals and put dozens of mostly unvaccinated people on ventilators, setting records for the state. The problem, public-health experts say, is the variant’s high transmissibility combined with the relaxation of precautions such as wearing masks. Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations have also flared among mostly unvaccinated people in Vermont and western Massachusetts, highlighting the risk Delta poses even in states with the best track records for getting shots in arms. “The Delta variant is so much more contagious that it doesn’t need much kindling to continue to burn,” said Dora Anne Mills, chief health improvement officer at nonprofit health system MaineHealth.
End of Covid-19 Jobs Program to Test U.K. Recovery
European capitals spent big on wage subsidies to prevent job losses at the start of the pandemic. A U.K. experiment in preventing mass layoffs is coming to an end, in a test of how quickly economies can reabsorb workers idled by the pandemic and wean companies off government support. The closure Thursday of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme marks the first big move by a European government to step back from the emergency economic policies in place since the virus swept the continent last year.
CDC urges COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an official health advisory, encouraging COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant and lactating Americans, as well as those considering pregnancy. According to CDC data, only 3% of pregnant women have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and vaccination rates vary markedly by race and ethnicity. Pregnant Asian Americans have the highest coverage (45.7%), while only 15.6% of Black pregnant women are vaccinated. "Pregnancy can be both a special time and also a stressful time—and pregnancy during a pandemic is an added concern for families," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH. "I strongly encourage those who are pregnant or considering pregnancy to talk with their healthcare provider about the protective benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine to keep their babies and themselves safe."
Healthcare Innovations
Coronavirus: Giving children two vaccine doses could prevent thousands of long COVID cases, study suggests
Thousands of long COVID cases in children could be prevented if they are given two vaccine doses, a study suggests. Children between 12 and 15 in the UK are now being offered a single dose of the Pfizer jab to cut their chance of catching the disease and passing it on. But a new study looked at 12-17-year-olds getting both shots and concluded the benefits outweighed the risks "unless case rates are sustainably low". The research, in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, examined rates of hospital admissions, intensive care support, and death among children in England with the virus.
NRx reports positive safety data of Zyesami from Phase III Covid-19 trial
NRx Pharmaceuticals has reported the latest positive safety data from the Phase III ACTIV-3b Critical Care trial of its experimental product, Zyesami (aviptadil) for Covid-19. Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the randomised, placebo-controlled ACTIV-3b trial is analysing Zyesami and remdesivir (Veklury) as monotherapy and in combination in hospitalised Covid-19 patients with acute respiratory failure. It enrolled subjects who need high-flow supplemental oxygen delivered by nasal cannula, mechanical ventilation or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.
AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine shows 74% efficacy in large U.S. trial
AstraZeneca Plc's COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated 74% efficacy at preventing symptomatic disease, a figure that increased to 83.5% in people aged 65 and older, according to long-awaited results of the company's U.S. clinical trial published on Wednesday. Overall efficacy of 74% was lower than the interim 79% figure reported by the British drugmaker in March, a result AstraZeneca revised days later to 76% after a rare public rebuke from health officials that the figure was based on "outdated information.
New Study Finds More Than A Third Of COVID-19 Patients Have Symptoms Months Later
Symptoms of COVID-19 persist or recur months after diagnosis for more than a third of all people who get the illness, a new study finds, potentially pushing the number of so-called long COVID cases higher than previously thought. In the study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, researchers found that about 36% of those studied still reported COVID-like symptoms three and six months after diagnosis. Most previous studies have estimated lingering post-COVID symptoms in 10% to 30% of patients. The study, led by University of Oxford scientists in the United Kingdom, searched anonymized data from millions of electronic health records, primarily in the United States, to identify a study group of 273,618 patients with COVID-19 and 114,449 patients with influenza as a control.
Two studies tie long COVID-19 to severe initial illness
Today, in JAMA Network Open, Chinese researchers describe "long COVID" symptoms of fatigue, sweating, chest tightness, anxiety, and muscle pain among 2,433 COVID-19 survivors released from one of two hospitals in Wuhan, China, from Feb 12 to Apr 10, 2020. The team conducted phone interviews and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) assessment tests (CATs) with the patients from Mar 1 to Mar 20, 2021. Among 2,433 patients, median age was 60 years, 49.5% were men, 27.9% had survived severe COVID-19, 29.3% had high blood pressure, 45.0% reported having at least one persistent symptom, and 15.8% reported at least three symptoms. The most common symptoms were fatigue (27.7%), sweating (16.9%), chest tightness (13.0%), anxiety (10.4%), and muscle pain (7.9%). While cough, anorexia, and shortness of breath decreased over the year since hospital release, several new symptoms appeared, including heart palpitations (4.2%), swelling of the lower limbs (1.4%), and changes in taste (1.4%) and smell (1.3%).