"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 28th Feb 2022

Isolation Tips
UAE drops face masks outdoors, quarantine for COVID contact cases
The United Arab Emirates, the Middle East tourism and commercial hub, over the weekend ended a requirement to wear face masks outdoors and obligatory quarantine for COVID-19 contact cases. Fully-vaccinated passengers arriving in the country will no longer require PCR tests, said the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority in updated guidance that went into effect on Saturday.
Hygiene Helpers
Wastewater data shows early signs of 'resurgence' of COVID-19 viral load in Ontario, expert says
Wastewater surveillance data suggests that there are "early signs of a resurgence" of COVID-19 viral load across Ontario, says a member of the province's COVID-19 science advisory table. Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the science advisory table, says that means it's vital for residents to get third doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Juni is also a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Toronto. He said wastewater analysis shows that Ontario has reached the bottom of the trough, or valley, in terms of COVID-19 infections but there is a slight upward trend in the concentration of viral prevalence in wastewater across the province. "What we are seeing basically is the early signs of a resurgence," Juni told CBC Toronto on Saturday.
CDC Eases Mask Guidelines, Reflecting Covid-19’s Retreat
Federal officials eased their guidelines on Covid-19 masking, including at schools, in a shift that reflects decreased risks from the Omicron variant, a steep drop in cases and mitigation efforts nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday changed the metrics it uses to assess Covid-19 risk by county across the U.S. Risk will now be assessed based on three factors, the CDC said: new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days; new Covid-19-related hospital admissions; and the percentage of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients. Before Friday, the CDC sorted counties into one of four risk categories based on Covid-19 case numbers and test positivity rates. Now, the agency is breaking counties down into three different groups: high, medium or low local Covid-19 risk. The CDC’s assessment of Covid-19 levels by county will be available on the agency’s website.
Community Activities
Community Workers Push to Get Covid-19 Tests to the Vulnerable
As the Biden administration distributes hundreds of millions of Covid-19 tests, some public-health workers are moving to deliver the kits a final mile to some of the people most vulnerable to the virus. In some places, including low-income areas, rural parts of the country and some communities of color, a more local effort from health providers and community organizations is needed to get tests into people’s hands, officials and providers said. That work echoes efforts to bring Covid-19 vaccines to people who struggled to reach vaccination sites or were hesitant to get a shot.
Working Remotely
How flexible back-to-work plans could tap the talents of workers facing employment barriers
During the pandemic, many companies had to adjust to operating without having employees in the office. Forty per cent of the labour force is working from home, according to a January report from Statistics Canada. As pandemic restrictions are loosened or lifted, many companies are now considering what their workplace will look like in the future and how much time employees will be needed in the office. A new report from Deloitte Canada looks at the policy implications of hybrid models and how they will create and sustain economic growth that inclusive of more Canadians.
Three Hybrid Working Misconceptions, Busted
Hybrid working is here to stay. Countless studies show that workers relish their newfound work-life balance, not to mention the time and money they save by not commuting to the office every day. And if their flexible working options don’t pass muster, they won’t stick around, with 72% of workers saying they are likely to look for a new job. Employers who are serious about holding on to top talent will need to be prepared to meet this demand, as many already do. However, several recent studies suggest that hybrid working, when different people are in the office at different times, might not be all it’s cracked up to be. It could create workplace divisions, they say, stall career development and be detrimental to employee health and mental wellbeing.
Virtual Classrooms
How the metaverse is transforming the edtech market
The metaverse has grabbed the attention of top industrial honchos, as learning through the metaverse provides a gamified learning experience and constant access to study material for students. The edtech market is one of the fastest growing of its kind. According to Future Market Insights’ recent study, revenues of the edtech market are expected to surpass $288.4Bn by the end of 2031 at a staggering 14.5% CAGR (compound annual growth rate). Top tech companies are investing in the edtech market to gain early mover advantage and promote learning through the metaverse.
The invisible children: how online learning failed special needs students
Too often, educators say, the debate on remote learning has ignored how the switch has hit hardest those children who were already struggling and whose needs make learning online particularly challenging. It is common, they point out, for any child to struggle to focus while learning from home; but for a child with ADHD (Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder) it can be near impossible; it is common for people working from home to complain about distractions, but for children with hearing impairments even modest background noise can entirely drown out what is being said on-screen. The danger, educators warn, is not only that special needs pupils are falling further behind their peers, but that many are regressing and losing hard-earned behavioural gains. As they do so, frustration mounts for both parent and child. Meltdowns become more common and isolation takes its toll, making learning even harder
Public Policies
EMA advisory panel backs 3 month interval for Moderna booster
The advisory committee to the European Union's drug regulator on Friday said it has recommended reducing the interval between the second dose and booster dose of Moderna Inc's (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccine from six months to three months. Several countries including Greece and France have previously shortened the interval between the first two doses and the booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines, in the face of rising cases due to the Omicron variant. Some also authorised a fourth shot for the vulnerable
Names of firms given huge Covid loans will be secret
The names of thousands of companies which benefited from billions of pounds of Covid-19 loans schemes are to be kept confidential under new government rules to only publish state subsidies of £500,000 or more. The higher threshold has been brought in after Brexit despite warnings that it may hamper the fight against fraudsters believed to have plundered billions from the schemes. The loan schemes have been called a “bonanza for fraudsters”. Under the EU rules in force until the end of 2020, all pandemic business loans above €100,000 were required to be publicly disclosed with details of the recipients.
Hong Kong Delays First Retail Green Bond Launch Due to Covid-19
Hong Kong’s government is delaying the launch of its inaugural retail green bond due to the spread of coronavirus cases in the city. The government postponed the subscription period and issuance of the bond in order to “avoid the social contact arising from the application process and reduce the risk of the spread of the disease,” according to a statement posted on Hong Kong’s government website on Saturday. The subscription period was originally scheduled for March 1 to 11. The government plans to sell up to HK$6 billion ($768 million) in green debt directly to investors for the first time, with proceeds used to back nine types of sustainable projects run by the city, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month.
Maintaining Services
Arizona health agency reduces frequency of pandemic updates
Arizona’s public health agency on Saturday provided its last planned daily update of the state’s coronavirus dashboard of pandemic data such as additional COVID-19 cases, new deaths and hospitalization levels. The state Department of Health Services announced Feb. 18 that it would switch to weekly dashboard updates starting next Wednesday because the outbreak is slowing and to be consistent with other infectious disease that are reported. “It also will provide a clearer view of COVID-19 trends by smoothing the variability in daily reporting by labs and other sources,” the department’s announcement said.
How covid-19 has exposed the weaknesses in rural healthcare
Rural regions made vulnerable by limited healthcare infrastructure, lower rates of vaccination, and opposition to government policies are the new frontlines in the pandemic. Yet support systems have not adjusted to the growing rural needs for health education, testing, vaccination, and treatment. Michael Forster Rothbart, Kata Karáth, and Lungelo Ndhlovu report from the US, Ecuador, and Zimbabwe
Healthcare Innovations
COVID-related diabetes may be temporary; racial disparities widen with Omicron infections
Patients with severe COVID-19 who develop diabetes while hospitalized may have only a temporary form of the disease and their blood sugar levels may return to normal afterward, according to new findings. Researchers studied 594 patients who showed signs of diabetes while hospitalized for COVID-19, including 78 with no previous diagnosis of diabetes. Compared to patients with pre-existing diabetes, many of the newly diagnosed patients had less severe blood sugar issues but more serious COVID-19. Roughly a year after leaving the hospital, 40% of the newly diagnosed patients had gone back to blood sugar levels below the cutoff for diabetes
The social patterning of Covid-19 vaccine uptake in older adults: A register-based cross-sectional study in Sweden
A broad vaccination coverage is crucial for preventing the spread of Covid-19 and reduce serious illness or death. The aim of this study was to examine social inequalities in Covid-19 vaccination uptake as of 17th May 2021 among Swedish adults aged 60 years and over.
Coronavirus came from Wuhan market and not Chinese lab, twin studies say
International scientists on Saturday released two major studies which one participant said made it “extraordinarily clear” a market in Wuhan, China was the source of the coronavirus which fueled the Covid-19 pandemic – and not a Chinese government laboratory, a theory championed in the US by rightwing campaigners, columnists and politicians. The question of where Covid-19 came from and how it spread has proved divisive. According to Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, after two years the global death toll stands at more than 5.9m, the caseload at 433.7m.