"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 3rd Nov 2021

Isolation Tips
China won't give up on its zero-tolerance COVID policy soon - experts
China will not give up on its zero-tolerance policy towards local COVID-19 cases any time soon, some experts said, as the policy has allowed it to quickly quell local outbreaks, while the virus continues to spread outside its borders. To stop local cases from turning into wider outbreaks, China has developed and continually refined its COVID-fighting arsenal -- including mass testing, targeted lockdowns and travel restrictions - even when those anti-COVID measures occasionally disrupted local economies.
Hygiene Helpers
Dutch reintroduce face masks as COVID-19 cases surge
The Dutch government on Tuesday decided to re-impose measures, including the wearing of face masks, aimed at slowing the latest spike in COVID-19 infections, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. The use of a "corona pass", showing proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or recent negative coronavirus test, would be broadened as of Nov. 6 to public places including museums, gyms and outdoor terraces, Rutte said.
NYC puts 9,000 workers on unpaid leave as vaccine mandate kicks in
New York City placed 9,000 city workers on leave without pay Monday as its coronavirus vaccine mandate for the public workforce kicked in. The requirement ordered by Mayor Bill de Blasio — one of the most aggressive in the nation — has pushed the vaccination rate among all city workers to 91 percent. But at least 21,000 city workers covered by the mandate remain unvaccinated: 9,000 who have now been barred from working, and another 12,000 who have applied for religious or medical exemptions. The latter group is being allowed to work until decisions on those exemptions are made in the coming days. The total city workforce is roughly 378,000. “This mandate was the right thing to do,” de Blasio said Monday. “We now see it worked.”
Shift Covid testing from draconian punishment to empowerment
Public health is at its best when it is pragmatic in the face of complex problems fraught with stigma and uncertainty, like moving in the direction of full vaccination in the face of many Americans’ entrenched or even defiant anti-vaccination sentiment. It is neither insightful nor actionable to so singularly promote vaccination to decision makers who must confront the here and now of various attitudes toward it. Viewing Covid-19 testing as a complementary harm-reduction approach can address the well-being of unvaccinated people while slowly building trust and confidence in Covid vaccines. But making that work requires a radical shift in the way testing is perceived. Many Americans view testing as a draconian intrusion to be feared if not outright avoided. The goal for public health should be to make testing look more like contraceptives: cheap, convenient, ubiquitous, and empowering.
Covid-19: MPs told to wear face masks in Commons after ‘major’ Covid outbreak in Parliament
MPs have been ordered to cancel face-to-face meetings and events with visitors and start wearing face masks at all times in the Commons due to a major covid outbreak on parliamentary estate. The new rules will be in place for at least two weeks after advice from the UK Health Security Agency, which has warned of a “greater” risk of transmission in parliament. Tours, banquets and other events with outside visitors will be cancelled, while MPs – who had been exempt from face coverings in the Commons – are now being told to to wear them in line with parliamentary staff, contractors and journalists.
From Boeing to Mercedes, a U.S. worker rebellion swells over vaccine mandates
In Wichita, Kansas, nearly half of the roughly 10,000 employees at aircraft companies Textron Inc (TXT.N) and Spirit AeroSystems (SPR.N) remain unvaccinated against COVID-19, risking their jobs in defiance of a federal mandate, according to a union official. "We're going to lose a lot of employees over this," said Cornell Beard, head of the local Machinists union district. Many workers did not object to the vaccines as such, he said, but were staunchly opposed to what they see as government meddling in personal health decisions.
Austrian army dogs join growing global pack of COVID-sniffers
Austria's army has successfully trained two dogs to sniff out COVID-19, it said on Tuesday, adding to a mass of evidence that dogs can be deployed to identify carriers of the virus. Trials across the world from Thailand to Britain have found dogs can use their powerful sense of smell to detect the coronavirus with a high degree of accuracy, suggesting they could be regularly deployed as an additional line of safety at large events and border entry points. Airports in Finland and Chile began deploying dogs to screen arrivals for COVID-19 last year.
‘There was no plan’: Throwing spaghetti at the wall to overcome Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy
One or two donuts, a car, $1 million, $25, Super Bowl tickets, french fries. There’s a remarkable range of incentives and other methods devised to overcome Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy. While some of these ideas have stuck like spaghetti thrown against a wall, it’s not clear which are most effective. Even when researchers have demonstrated the success of certain strategies, they haven’t been widely adopted. The White House announced Monday that 70% of adults across the country are now fully vaccinated, and 80% have gotten at least one shot. But progress is slow, as daily vaccination rates remain low compared with the peak in April.
U.S. to publish rules on private-sector COVID-19 vaccinations, testing in days
The Biden administration said on Monday that a planned rule requiring private-sector employers with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or regular testing will be published in the coming days. The Labor Department said the White House Office of Management and Budget had completed its regulatory review of the rule known as an emergency temporary standard (ETS). The White House said in September the rule would cover more than 80 million private-sector employees.
Community Activities
RBNZ Says Transition to Living With Covid-19 May Drag on Economy
New Zealand’s transition to living with Covid-19 could lead to changes in consumer behavior that damp economic growth, the central bank said. “Businesses will need to adapt, and some businesses that have stayed afloat to date may not be viable as support schemes wind down,” the Reserve Bank said in its semi-annual Financial Stability Report published Wednesday in Wellington. “These changes could drag on economic activity.” The transition from pandemic to Covid-19 being an endemic disease also creates financial stability risks, “although the magnitude of these is still hard to gauge at this stage,” the RBNZ said.
CDC panel debates: Should all school kids get COVID vaccine?
Should all school-age kids get Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine? That’s the question before an influential government advisory panel Tuesday. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized emergency use of kid-size doses for children ages 5 to 11. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also must sign off before widespread vaccinations begin in that age group. CDC’s advisers are weighing who will get the most benefit as they deliberate whether to recommend the shots for up to 28 million more children, or perhaps only for those most vulnerable to serious illness. Their recommendation goes to the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, for the final say. “Today is a monumental day in the course of this pandemic,” Walensky told the advisory panel Tuesday.
Covid anti-vaxxers are refusing to pay tax bills mistakenly thinking they are immune from prosecution
A number of Covid conspiracists have started abstaining from paying utility bills and their council tax in protest against the “tyranny” they claim to live under in the UK, according to messages posted to Telegram. Groups on the social media platform – where thousands of Covid anti-vaxxers congregate and organise protests – have started branching out from discussing conspiracy theories about coronavirus and the vaccine and have begun justifying the reasons for no longer paying their bills. Many have a misguided belief they will not face prosecution for cancelling their payments, thanks in part to disinformation spread by an influencer on the platform with a significant following who claims stopping the payment of council tax will put pressure on the Government to scrap the Coronavirus Act.
Australians fired for refusing Covid vaccine search social media for ‘welcoming’ employers
Unvaccinated Australians who have lost their jobs for refusing to comply with Covid vaccine mandates are using social media to find and share employment opportunities at workplaces where the new rules are not being enforced. Telegram and Facebook have had an influx of people searching for paid jobs after states and territories implemented mandates covering a range of industries from health and aged care workers, teachers and police to construction and hospitality workers. On some job boards, businesses that are happy to accept unvaccinated people advertise that they are “welcoming of everyone”.
Working Remotely
How remote workers can separate work and home lives
It’s a common question: How do you turn off work when your “office” is just steps from your personal living space? The ping of an incoming work message is crystal clear even when cooking dinner, brushing teeth, or reading bedtime stories. Many people are finding the lines between work and home blurring. And that can be frustrating without the tools to manage it. Experts advise having a conversation with your team or manager about communication norms and expectations as telecommuting continues. Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business who studies remote work, said a good way to approach this would be to set “exclusion hours,” meaning hours in which calls, emails and meetings do not happen. Ideally, this would be set by an employer, but Bloom says employees can also ask for them.
HR experts: Companies requiring in-office work could lose out on 70% of candidates—employees are 'calling the shots'
Throughout the recovering job market of 2021, workers have been driving record quitting rates as they find new jobs with better pay, perks and flexibility, particularly the option to work remotely as it’s become more widespread during the pandemic. Meanwhile, as the labor economy touts nearly 11 million job openings and not enough people to fill them, HR experts say businesses that don’t offer any kind of flexible-work options are losing out on up to 70% of job-seekers.
Virtual Classrooms
In this Washington-area school system, more than 10000 students remain virtual
In the Washington area, most school systems are going full-bore with in-person learning, considering it to be the best way for students to recover from the academic losses and mental health hardships of a nearly 20-month crisis. Across Maryland, about 25,000 students are learning virtually. Of those, more than 34 percent of students are economically disadvantaged, according to state data released this week. Among those enrolled in virtual learning, 50 percent are Black, 20 percent are Hispanic, 14 percent are White and 7 percent are Asian, the data shows. In D.C. public schools, parents fought for a virtual option, but D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and officials in her administration resisted, saying students, particularly low-income students of color, fell behind in virtual learning and it was vital that they return to classrooms.
Screen time for US tweens and teens doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic to nearly eight hours a day, study finds
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, lockdowns and stay-at-home mandates shut down schools. Kids suddenly went from using screens not just for entertainment and socializing but also for online learning. But, additionally, they were able to spend time using screens before and after attending remote lessons. Several studies have found that children and teenagers were getting more screen time, but none using national U.S. data. For the new study, published on Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, the team used data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study.
Public Policies
Greek Covid Restrictions Target Unvaccinated as Daily Cases Hit Record
Greece announced new Covid-19 measures targeting the unvaccinated as daily infections hit their highest level since the pandemic began. From Nov. 6, those who haven’t been jabbed but want to attend their place of work must undergo two rapid tests a week instead of one -- paid for themselves. To enter most stores, banks and restaurants, they’ll need to present a negative rapid or PCR test. Fines for businesses that don’t comply will double, starting at 5,000 euros ($5,791) and a 15-day suspension of operations. Tests won’t be needed for supermarkets and pharmacies. “The restrictions will apply to unvaccinated people because they’re much more at risk than the vaccinated,” Health Minister Athanasios Plevris said Tuesday in a televised statement.
Pfizer Covid Vaccine for Kids Ages 5-11 Gets CDC Advisers' Backing
Younger children across the U.S. are now eligible to receive Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine, after the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention granted the final clearance needed for shots to begin. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky recommended the vaccine for children from 5 to 11 years old. The decision ushers in a new phase in the U.S. pandemic response, widening access to vaccines to some 28 million more people at the same time that Americans who received shots earlier in the pandemic are lining up for booster doses.
Two new COVID-19 vaccines approved by TGA for Australians trying to return
Two more types of COVID-19 vaccines, which are not registered in Australia, will be recognised as valid vaccines for travellers proving their vaccination status to enter the country. Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has today ruled that the Australian Government will recognise Covaxin and BBIBP-CorV vaccines among arrivals to Australia. The recognition will be for travellers aged 12 and over who have been vaccinated with Covaxin and for travellers aged 18 to 60 who have been vaccinated with BBIBP-CorV.
Indonesia is first country to authorize Novavax Covid-19 vaccine
Biotechnology company Novavax said Monday that Indonesia has given the world's first emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine, which uses a different technology than currently used shots. The vaccine doesn't require the extremely cold storage temperatures that some other vaccines need, which could allow it to play an important role in increasing supplies in poorer countries around the world.
Dutch health council recommends COVID-19 booster for age 60+
The Netherlands' Health Council recommended that adults aged 60 and older who have been previously been vaccinated against COVID-19 also receive booster shots. The advice comes amid a major surge in new coronavirus cases in the Netherlands. The council's recommendations are routinely adopted by the government.
Maintaining Services
Colorado at Risk of Running Out of Hospital Beds This Month
Colorado could come close to running out of hospital beds in late November or early December if Covid-19 infections accelerate, officials warned Tuesday. An estimated 1,900 of the state’s roughly 2,000 beds could be occupied under a worst-case scenario, Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, said during an online news briefing. At the current pace, hospitalizations are projected to peak at 1,500, Herlihy said. An estimated 1-in-51 state residents are contagious, Governor Jared Polis said during the briefing, imploring Coloradoans to get vaccinated. Polis said the delta variant is “like a laser-guided missile.”
Prisons are facing staff shortages as correctional officers quit over 'unsafe working conditions,' fear of contracting COVID-19 and vaccine mandates
Prisons across the U.S. are reporting staffing shortages as correctional officers retire and quit in droves. Some, such as Lance Lowry, of Texas, have quit due to the increased risk of COVID-19 for prison employees. Other workers report bad working conditions including 'understaffing, poor pay and poor benefits.' Unions warn that correctional officers will leave over vaccine mandates with just 63% vaccinated or planning to be as of early October. States are trying to offers incentives including hiring bonuses, better pay at critical units and extra time off for staff who refer new hires
COVID-19: Earlier close for test sites in England sparks fears most deprived won't be able to check symptoms
Coronavirus testing centres have reduced their opening hours due to "limited demand" in the evenings, prompting fears the most disadvantaged won't be able to get tests. From 1 November onwards, NHS Test and Trace sites in England are closing two hours earlier - at 6pm instead of 8pm. The government claims "recent analysis has shown there is limited demand for PCR testing between 6pm and 8pm" and the decision "provides the best possible value for taxpayers' money". People "unable to attend PCR test appointments before 6pm" can also get home testing kits delivered, it adds. But Dr Deepti Gurdasani, clinical epidemiologist at Queen Mary University, says it will affect those who are worse off.
Healthcare Innovations
Pfizer/BioNTech booster vaccine reduces COVID-19 hospitalisations
International researchers have identified that the Pfizer/BioNTech booster vaccine is highly effective at reducing COVID-19 hospitalisations. Experts from the Clalit Research Institute and Harvard University have collaborated to investigate the efficacy of the Pfizer/BioNTech BNT162B2 booster vaccine against the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, discovering that it lowers hospitalisations from the disease. The study, based in Israel, utilised one of the world’s largest integrated health record databases, illuminating the effectiveness of a third “booster” dose of the BNT162B2 vaccine in a nationwide mass-vaccination setting. The investigation was partly funded by the recently announced Ivan and Francesca Berkowitz Family Living Laboratory.