"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 8th Apr 2022

Isolation Tips
Shanghai, in Lockdown, Struggles to Feed Itself
A citywide Covid-19 lockdown in China’s financial capital of Shanghai has badly disrupted food supplies, causing a wave of anxiety as residents ration dwindling stores of vegetables and staples. Covid-test requirements for truckers entering Shanghai have caused delays in the delivery of foods and other commodities. Within the city, many food delivery workers have been confined to their homes or choose not to work for fear of catching the virus, leaving fewer people to distribute food once it makes it into the city. Dai Yuanyuan, a 33-year-old Shanghai resident who has been locked down in her apartment for more than three weeks, said she was running low on groceries from two government-organized deliveries. She has cut her egg consumption down from a few a day to just one. “I’m not sure if I can last for longer than five more days,” Ms. Dai said. Local authorities have banned private deliveries because they fear infected drivers might spread the virus in her residential compound, she said.
Hygiene Helpers
How many Americans are actually vaccinated against covid-19?
Millions of Americans are now eligible for a second covid-19 booster shot. By all accounts, efforts to vaccinate older people in many states have gone well — unbelievably well, in fact. According to official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) counts of vaccinations among those above age 65 as compared with census data, 117 percent of those in that demographic in Massachusetts have had at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine. New Hampshire would show that no less than 140 percent of that group are vaccinated. Buried deeper in the CDC website is an explanation of why the figures are so weird: Sometimes the data that the CDC has access to fail to link individuals to doses. This means that first doses are overestimated, because second and third doses are attributed as being a first dose for someone else. These reporting challenges will only get worse as people line up for a second booster shot. Very likely, the CDC’s underlying figures will soon show that more than 100 percent of those above age 65 across every U.S. state have had at least one shot. The bigger issue here is that all the data we have on U.S. vaccinations are subject to these distortions.
German parliament rejects mandatory coronavirus vaccination
The German parliament on Thursday rejected a draft bill that would have made coronavirus vaccination compulsory from the age of 60 in a defeat for Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his attempt to build a cross-party consensus on the issue. Of the 683 who voted on the bill, 378 rejected it and only 296 supported it, among them Scholz and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who looked visibly disappointed when the result was announced in the plenary.
Airlines cancel hundreds of flights due to COVID-19 after dropping mask rules
Overseas airlines are having to cancel hundreds of flights as they grapple with coronavirus-related staffing shortages weeks after they ditched rules requiring passengers and staff to mask up in the air. The disruptions also come as the CEOs of leading U.S. airlines urge the Biden administration to roll back a federal rule requiring that masks be worn in the sky.
Taiwan aims for zero serious COVID cases as infections edge up
Taiwan is aiming for zero serious COVID-19 infections and an "effective" control of the virus, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday, responding to a gradual increase in the number of domestic cases as it pledges to keep its reopening on track. Unlike large parts of the rest of the world, Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control with strict and early control measures, including an efficient contact tracing system and largely closing its borders. Since the beginning of this year, Taiwan has reported 2,061 domestic cases, with only five people classified as being seriously ill and just one death.
Community Activities
Japan arrests four of 'QAnon'-style group for Covid-19 vaccine protest: Media
Four members of a group said to be a Japanese version of QAnon, which has frequently protested against Covid-19 vaccinations, were arrested on Thursday (April 7) for intruding on a clinic where vaccinations were taking place, media reports said. Japan is conducting booster shots against the virus that causes Covid-19, with about 44 per cent of the population having received a third dose. About 80 per cent of the general public have had the first two shots. Four members of "YamatoQ," a version of the US QAnon group, were arrested on charges they intruded into a Tokyo clinic, police were quoted by media as saying. The group's website says vaccines are untested and "a number" of people have died after receiving them. It also lists anti-vaccine protests around Japan.
As Queensland's COVID-19 vaccine mandates ease in social settings, they still apply to many workers
In Queensland, changes from 14 April will allow unvaccinated people to go to restaurants, clubs, museums, and stadiums. Vaccine mandates will remain for the health sector, prisons, schools and childcare centres. According to Acting Premier Cameron Dick there is not going to be any move made to get rid of vaccine mandates entirely at this stage. "We will take the advice of the Chief Health Officer and of course that's also the agreed position I understand it nationally," he said. Infectious diseases physician Dr Paul Griffin said easing the mandates in certain settings makes sense.
Trump's endorsement of Covid-19 vaccines increased uptake in counties with low vaccination rates
Watching an ad in which former President Donald Trump promoted Covid-19 vaccines was linked to increased vaccinations in US counties with low immunization rates, according to a new study. The study was released Monday as a working paper in the National Bureau of Economic Research that has not yet been peer-reviewed. Researchers created a 27-second ad designed to serve as a public service announcement from Trump encouraging people to get vaccinated. Through a randomized control trial, the ad was featured on different YouTube channels across more than 1,000 counties with populations of less than 1 million and in which more than half of the population was still unvaccinated. When compared to counties that did not receive the ads, those that did receive the ads had more than 100 additional vaccinations on average. In total, treatment counties received an estimated 104,036 more vaccines than control counties. The analysis also found that for every 1,000 more ads presented, there were nearly nine additional vaccinations, on average, per county.
They got illicit Covid-19 vaccine doses -- and say they'd do it again in a heartbeat
Last July, Andrea Ogg stood outside a pharmacy in Castle Rock, Colorado, fully prepared to lie to get herself a Covid-19 vaccine. Her stomach knotted in anxiety, Ogg was ready to say she was getting her first shot when actually she was getting her third. At the time, government rules didn't allow for third shots, even for immune-compromised people like her who failed to develop antibodies after two doses. "I was very nervous, because I am typically an honest person, but I wasn't going to tell them the truth if they asked me. There was just no way," said Ogg, 55, who was born with a cardiac defect and takes medicine to suppress her immune system so she won't reject the heart transplant she received four years ago.
Shanghai Calls on China Communist Party Members to Fight Covid
China’s Communist Party issued a rare call imploring rank-and-file members to help contain the coronavirus in Shanghai, showing the strain the locked-down financial hub is under as its worst outbreak to date spreads. “We must dare to draw our swords and fight against all kinds of behaviors that interfere with and undermine the overall situation of the fight against the epidemic,” the top party branch in Shanghai wrote to members late Wednesday, the same day the number of new cases in the city rose to more than 19,900. “Wherever there is a need, there must be a Communist Party member,” it added in the open letter posted on an official government social media account.
Naturopathic doctor admits selling fake COVID vaccine cards
A naturopathic doctor in Northern California on Wednesday pleaded guilty to selling fake COVID-19 immunization treatments and hundreds of fraudulent vaccination cards that made it seem like customers received Moderna vaccines, federal prosecutors said. Juli A. Mazi, 41, of Napa, plead guilty in federal court in San Francisco to one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. The case was the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to fraudulent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards for COVID-19, the department said. Mazi provided fake CDC vaccination cards for COVID-19 to at least 200 people with instructions on how to complete the cards to make them look like they had received a Moderna vaccine, federal prosecutors said.
Working Remotely
Employers still reluctant to formalize hybrid and remote work language in offer letters
For most white-collar employers, the typical company policy around working from home over the past two years has always been subject to change, depending on the severity of COVID-19 infections in a particular jurisdiction. Some companies, largely American banks such as JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, have publicly asked their employees to return to the office, with few exceptions. But there is a growing body of evidence that most workers have gotten used to doing their jobs from the comfort of their own homes, and aren’t prepared to give that up.
Return to Office: 1/3 of San Franciscans Expect Permanent Remote Work
About a third of San Francisco area voters in a poll by the Bay Area Council said they expect to do their jobs from home permanently, a shift that could subdue the level of growth of the tech hub hit hard by the rise of remote work. In the poll, 29% of respondents working remotely for at least part of their time said they were also going to a workplace, and 23% said they expect to do so within six months.
How to get the most out of remote work
Being able to work from home has many advantages, but there are also big challenges to staying productive. The key to being able to take advantage of remote work is to come up with a clear plan to overcome challenging situations such as distraction, procrastination, and lack of productivity. Here are some tips for working from home effectively.
Virtual Classrooms
How Can Immersive Learning Be Used in Hybrid Classrooms?
As the pandemic affected higher education and forced universities to think creatively about keeping students engaged from afar, immersive learning continued to gain traction as a virtual tool to bring previously inaccessible concepts, locations and objects directly to students using technology. An EDUCAUSE QuickPoll conducted in November 2021 indicated that while many respondents were either not currently adopting extended reality technologies (34 percent), were in early stages of adoption (16 percent) or had adopted for a few specific projects (39 percent), 90 percent believed that extended reality adoption will increase over the next five years
How COVID-19 Affected the Mental Health of Teens
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is shedding new light on how difficult the COVID-19 pandemic has been on high school students. The agency has released its first nationally representative survey of teens’ mental state during the COVID-19 outbreak. “With disruptions in normal routines and moving to virtual learning, students faced isolation, loneliness, and loss of structure in their day,” Dr Asha Patton-Smith said. “Many teens lost important connections forged in the school environment, both with peers and with school staff, which caused many students to lose their support systems"
Reforming learning disorder diagnosis following COVID-19 educational disruption
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, millions of children across the globe have experienced the partial or full closure of schools and/or prolonged reliance on virtual learning. The effects of this ongoing educational disruption are still unfolding. Early studies from the COVID-19 era have associated educational disruption with increased mental health concerns (including depression and anxiety) and diminished learning gains (especially in maths and reading) in young people. Those affected by racial and economic disadvantages have been more likely to experience longer periods of educational disruption
Public Policies
Japan to lift COVID entry ban for 106 countries including U.S.
Japan plans to ease COVID 19-related border restrictions by lifting its entry ban for foreignnationals from 106 countries including the United States, Britain and France on Friday, the government said. Tokyo has been gradually relaxing pandemic-induced curbs but the loosened border regime does not mean a full reopening to tourists. The foreign ministry said in an update on Wednesday that foreigners from the 106 countries would not be subject to denial of permission to enter Japan from Friday, but foreigners with tourist purposes were still not allowed into the country.
U.S. House passes $55 billion in COVID aid for restaurants, other hard-hit firms
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a $55 billion COVID-19 aid bill aimed at helping restaurants, bars and other businesses that are still struggling through the pandemic. By a vote of 223-203, the House approved the measure earmarking $42 billion for restaurants that have applied for aid but not received it because a $28.6 billion fund is depleted. The measure, which has not yet been considered by the Senate, was moving through the House as Congress was about to embark on a nearly three-week spring recess. The legislation was supported by only a handful of Republicans.
Long Covid numbers rise to 1.7m in UK as MPs warn of economic impact
More than three-quarters of a million people in the UK have had long Covid for at least a year, figures show. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates 1.7 million people were likely to be experiencing symptoms of long Covid in the four weeks to March 5, the equivalent of 2.7 per cent of the population. This is up by 13 per cent from 1.5 million people a month earlier, and includes 784,000 people who first had Covid-19, or suspected they had the virus, at least one year ago – the highest number so far.
No evidence to support widespread use of fourth COVID shot - EU agencies
EU health agencies said on Wednesday there was no evidence to support the use of a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer (PFE.N) and Moderna (MRNA.O) in the general population, but they recommend a second booster for people aged 80 and above. There is no clear evidence in the European Union that vaccine protection against severe disease is waning substantially in adults with normal immune systems aged 60-79, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a joint statement.
Maintaining Services
COVID-19 health workers suffer combat-type moral trauma
A Duke University study shows that, amid COVID-19, US healthcare workers (HCWs) had similar rates of potential moral injury (PMI)—a type of trauma-induced wound to the psyche—as military combat veterans. The study, published yesterday in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, surveyed 2,099 HCWs in 2020 and 2021 and 618 military veterans deployed to a combat zone after the Sep 11, 2001, US terrorist attacks about PMIs they may have experienced. PMI is a distressing reaction to exposure to traumatic events that may have psychological, behavioral, social, and spiritual effects.
Shanghai Racing to Build Hundreds of Thousands of Isolation Beds
Shanghai is transforming conference centers and conscripting neighboring provinces to create isolation facilities for hundreds of thousands of people, a sign of its commitment to a zero tolerance approach to Covid-19 amid China’s worst outbreak to date. The Chinese financial hub is adding tens of thousands of beds to what are already some of the world’s biggest isolation sites as it sticks to a policy of quarantining all those positive for the virus, regardless of severity, plus everyone they interacted with while infected. Nearly 150,000 people have been identified as close contacts and put into isolation. More than 100,000 others are considered secondary contacts and are being monitored, according to the government. It’s a strategy that grew out of the original outbreak in Wuhan, which China successfully quelled, but is proving more challenging to maintain in the face of ongoing outbreaks and more transmissible variants.
French hospital system not in danger as current COVID-19 wave reached peak - Veran
The current COVID-19 wave hitting France has now reached its peak, which means the country's hospital system is not in danger, Health Minister Olivier Veran said in an interview with RTL radio on Thursday. "We are still at a high level, with 150,000 new cases per day, but the trend is going down since five days," Veran said.
Cyprus to lift COVID-19 travel conditions from April 18
Cyprus will lift COVID-19 conditions for travel to the island from April 18, authorities said on Thursday, ending two years of rules imposed by the pandemic. The island said it was scrapping a colour-coded assessment of other countries based on epidemiological risk, an inbound flight permission to travel and PCR or rapid lateral flow tests for those who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. People who have not been vaccinated, or not completed their booster shots would still need a PCR test or a lateral flow test, the transport ministry said
NHS under huge strain as A&Es turn away ambulances
Hospitals are under "enormous strain", with growing numbers so busy they are having to divert ambulances to other sites because they are unable to cope. Over the past week, 20 NHS Accident and Emergency departments in England issued diverts, with patients taken elsewhere. Those A&E departments still taking new patients have seen long delays, with more than 25% of ambulances waiting at least 30 minutes to handover patients. Hospital bosses said they were "very concerned" about the situation. All areas of the country are facing huge pressures, but NHS bosses in West Yorkshire and the south central area of England - covering Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire and Berkshire - have reported particularly severe strain.
Healthcare Innovations
EMA and ECDC publish advice on fourth doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines
The European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) COVID-19 task force (ETF) has decided not to recommend a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose for the general population of the EU at this time. This decision was made in conjunction with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The fourth doses that were being considered are Pfizer’s Comirnaty and Moderna’s Spikevax – both mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. However, both agencies agreed that adults aged 80 years and above can be given a fourth dose – or second booster – following data reviews. These reviews would evaluate the higher risk of severe COVID-19 in this particular age group and the protection benefits offered from a fourth dose
Study finds vaccines effectively reduce deaths from COVID-19 but not the prevalence of infections
Researchers in Australia have investigated coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine effectiveness on the prevalence and mortality of the Delta variant. They found that countries with more vaccine coverage suffer from less mortality. However, the case numbers remain high, eventually leading to outbreaks. The team attributes the scenario to the fact that the countries with more vaccine coverage are at the same time the most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.
An assessment of COVID-19 vaccine safety during pregnancy
In a recent study posted to the Preprints with The Lancet* SSRN preprint server, researchers evaluated the safety of currently administered coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines in child-bearing women. The distinct physiological changes in the cardiopulmonary and immune systems occurring in pregnancy increase the susceptibility of pregnant women to severe outcomes [intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and ventilation requirements) following severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections. However, the safety data of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines during pregnancy is lacking and needs to be further evaluated to guide advisory and public committees and aid in developing health policies.
COVID vaccine plus infection can lead to months of immunity
Even people who have had COVID-19 receive long-lasting benefits from a full course of vaccination, according to three recent studies1–3. What's more, one of the studies3 found that the ‘hybrid’ immunity caused by vaccination and infection is long-lasting, conferring highly effective protection against symptomatic disease for at least six to eight months after vaccination. The data were collected before the Omicron variant emerged, casting some doubt on the studies’ relevance today. But if the findings hold up, they could inform vaccination schemes and vaccine passports, which some countries require for entry to places such as restaurants. The work also counters high-profile claims that people who have had COVID-19 don’t benefit from vaccination.
U.K. Covid Cases at Highest Level as Immunity Wanes, Study Finds
Covid-19 infections in England reached their highest level in March since the pandemic began, driven by the omicron subvariant BA.2 and waning immunity among older adults, according to a new study. The overall Covid prevalence rate more than doubled last month from February when infection rates were falling from the omicron-led January peak, the React-1 study led by Imperial College London found. Since then the emergence of BA.2 -- a more-transmissible version of omicron- has accelerated new infections and become the dominant strain in England, accounting for about 90% of the samples that tested positive. The higher infection rates may result in an increase in hospitalizations despite the higher levels of vaccination among the population, said Paul Elliott, director of the React program, and chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine, Imperial College London.