"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 19th May 2022

Isolation Tips
'Huge' pressure for Shanghai to stay COVID-free as lockdown end nears
Shanghai health authorities warn of risks of COVID rebound. Some migrant workers looking to leave Shanghai. Goldman cuts China GDP forecast, warns of further slip E-commerce giant JD.com says consumers losing
Shanghai residents leverage Excel skills, management savvy to navigate lockdown
Li Di, a senior executive with a global bank, knew he had to help when he was admitted to the Nanhui quarantine site in April, after testing positive for COVID, and was confronted by chaos. "There were only 120 to 150 staff to take care of 10,000 patients. The staff literally had their hands full," said Li. Li set up a team of more than a dozen volunteers to arrange meals, distribute various supplies and help elderly patients who were struggling with various quarantine centre requirements.
Hygiene Helpers
A third of US should be considering masks, officials say
COVID-19 cases are increasing in the United States — and could get even worse over the coming months, federal health officials warned Wednesday in urging areas hardest hit to consider reissuing calls for indoor masking. Increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are putting more of the country under guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that call for masking and other infection precautions. Right now, about a third of the U.S. population lives in areas that are considered at higher risk — mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. Those are areas where people should already be considering wearing masks indoors — but Americans elsewhere should also take notice, officials said.
China is going big on Covid testing, so why not include vaccination too?
In the past two weeks, nucleic acid test booths have sprung up in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, part of China’s plan to make tests routine and require residents to show negative Covid-19 test results when they go to work, school or use public transport. It involves enormous resources. These test booths are open long hours and there are many because the authorities want to ensure every citizen has access within a 15-minute walk. Ma Xiaowei, head of National Health Commission (NHC), wrote in Qiushi journal this week the government planned to set up separate teams to do nucleic acid tests so healthcare workers would not be called on to do the task, but it would take time to form the teams.
From storage to transport, hurdles to getting COVID vaccine to North Koreans
As North Korea battles its first known COVID outbreak, a lack of storage, chronic power shortages and inadequately trained medical staff pose acute challenges to inoculating its 25 million people - even with outside help, analysts said. North Korea has not responded to offers of aid from South Korea and international vaccine-sharing programmes, but prefers U.S.-made Moderna and Pfizer over China's Sinovac or British-Swedish Astrazeneca shots, according to South Korean officials.
What to do if you test positive for Covid-19 now
Covid-19 infections are on the rise, with most US states reporting an increase in cases. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highly contagious BA.2.1.21 subvariant of Omicron is now the dominant strain of coronavirus nationwide. Two years into the pandemic, many aren't sure what to do after testing positive for Covid-19. Should they isolate, and if so, for how long? How important is it to see a doctor? What therapies are available, and who is eligible? To help answer these and other questions, I spoke with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is also author of "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health" and the mother of two young children.
Community Activities
Inside the US communities where many are still unvaccinated
Holmes County in northeastern Ohio is a typical Midwestern community in the United States. Large red barns dot the rolling landscape. Trucks carrying freshly cut lumber boom through village streets. Woods and lakes dominate the landscape between villages named Berlin, Strasburg and Dresden. But in many ways, this is a place far from typical: At a time when approximately 77 percent of the wider United States population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, only about 19 percent of Holmes County residents have – one of the lowest county-level rates in the country. Approximately half of Holmes County’s 50,000 residents are members of the Amish community, a traditional Christian group that largely eschews modern technology and farms land in rural areas mainly in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
Other People Are Working Through Covid. Do You Have To?
As the disease and corporate sick policies evolve, a number of factors have made it less clear-cut when workers can, or should, take a break to recover. Employers such as Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. have recently cut back the expanded sick leaves they introduced in the early days of the pandemic. The Omicron variant’s often milder symptoms are also prompting many employees with remote-work options to simply power through their illness from home. As cases rise in places with high vaccination rates, many say they feel the same pressure to minimize sick days as they did in prepandemic times. A survey of 3,600 hourly workers by The Shift Project at Harvard University’s Kennedy School this spring found that two-thirds of those who reported getting sick with Covid-19 or otherwise worked through their illness. People cited financial responsibilities as the top reason, followed by being afraid they would get in trouble for calling in sick and not being able to get their shifts covered.
Shanghai lets financial firms resume work as COVID curb ease - sources
Shanghai authorities have granted approval to 864 of the city's financial institutions to resume work, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday, as it gradually eases a city-wide lockdown that began seven weeks ago. The move is part of the financial hub's plan to reopen broadly and allow normal life to resume after the lockdown was enacted to curb China's worst outbreak since the coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan in late 2019 halted most economic activity.
Working Remotely
How to realise the potential of a hybrid work model
The pandemic has irrevocably changed office culture, rapidly evolving a trend for remote working into a core part of the mainstream employee experience. While remote working is here to stay, the consensus from employees themselves is that a return to some regular office-based interaction is important. In fact, Barco hybrid meeting research shows that eight out of ten office workers are in favour of a hybrid work model, with most, on average, willing to work from home just one and a half days per week. Understanding this, most businesses have already started to implement various kinds of long-term hybrid systems, which can offer a mix of office-based and remote working.
Apple lets employees work remotely as Covid-19 again surges in US
Apple has once again delayed its full return-to-office policy while maintaining two days a week at the workplace for the time being amid the fresh surge in Covid infections in the US. According to The Verge, the tech giant has told workers in an internal memo that "we are extending the phase-in period of the pilot and maintaining two days a week in the office for the time being". Those who are in the current two-day-per-week pilot will have the option to once again work remotely if they feel uncomfortable coming to work. Apple has also asked its employees to wear masks at work.
Success of pandemic remote working should count if staff wish to operate from home, TD says
Successful periods of working from homes by employees during the pandemic should be taken into account when staff request the right to operate remotely in future, an Oireachtas committee has heard. Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly said it “makes a bit of a mockery of two years of successful working from home” if people cannot rely on the fact when they seek to continue to do so or to move to a hybrid working arrangement. Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadkar published a draft version of the Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2022 in January.
How to take ownership of your professional development working remotely
Remote working can mean less face time with your colleagues, so it’s important to be proactive about your own professional goals. Torunn Dahl, head of talent, learning and inclusion at Deloitte, said that there is “a stronger onus on the individual to prioritise time for developmental conversations” in the world of remote work. “These are less likely to happen across the desk or walking between meetings, so they have to be scheduled and time needs to be dedicated to it.” Dahl added that while being remote “doesn’t necessarily change the approach to development”, it will still require “a blend of formal learning programmes, feedback from leaders and clients and learning on the job”.
Virtual Classrooms
Realizing the vision: Education technology paving the way to interactive learning
EdTech platforms have redefined education by making learning more student-centric and engaging. With the introduction of learning applications, video lessons, virtual labs, and peer-to-peer discussion portals, students can not just take ownership of their learning but also build on their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. This contributes to a boost in their academic performance and their overall development through the inculcation of lifelong skills.
Remote teaching during the pandemic disadvantages students in New Jersey's lower-income school districts
The rollout of remote teaching in New Jersey during the COVID-19 pandemic was haphazard, under-resourced, inequitably delivered, contributed to student and teacher stress and may exacerbate digital and social inequality, according to a Rutgers study. By analyzing responses from structured interviews with a sample of 21 K-12 public school teachers, the researchers found students in lower-income school districts experienced inequities in online teaching and learning opportunities, compared with students in middle-income and wealthier districts.
Law students report online learning gains, but in-person still wins out
A new survey of law students shows that more of them are coming around to online classes. Students surveyed this spring by AccessLex Institute and Gallup had better things to say about their remote or hybrid classes than they did a year ago, indicating that law schools improved their online offerings during the two-year pandemic. In-person instruction still takes the prize: Among surveyed students who took most or all of their classes remotely this year, 72% rated their program as either good or excellent, compared to 78% of those who took classes in person. But that’s a much smaller gap than in 2021, when 57% of online J.D. students and 76% of in-person students gave their program high marks.
Public Policies
Germany OKs more COVID-19 vaccine spending for this fall
Germany plans to spend another 830 million euros ($872 million) to buy new coronavirus vaccines that will allow the country to deal with a series of possible variants this fall, the health minister said Wednesday. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that the government, via the European Union, already has ordered enough of the existing vaccines and of one that has been developed by Germany’s BioNTech to counter the omicron variant. He said the new funding is earmarked for a vaccine being developed by Moderna to tackle both omicron and other variants. “We are betting on a broad portfolio of vaccines; we must be prepared for all eventualities,” Lauterbach said. “We don't know what variants will confront us in the fall.” “One lesson from the pandemic is that we never again want to have too little vaccine,” he added, alluding to the sluggish start early last year of the EU's and Germany's COVID-19 vaccination campaign. “We want to be able to offer all those who need or want it a fourth shot.”
Maintaining Services
Pandemic science hub will develop drugs for lung infections such as Covid-19
A new pandemic science hub is being created to develop treatments for lung infections such as Covid-19. The hub at the University of Edinburgh will use translational genomics – following clues from the human genome to identify and rapidly test new treatments – along with experimental medicine methods to quickly evaluate and develop drugs for lung inflammation and injury caused by infection. Independent investment partnership Baillie Gifford is supporting the launch with a philanthropic gift of £14.7 million and the university aims to secure £100 million worth of investment in total. As well as accelerating discoveries of treatments for Covid-19 and other human lung diseases, the Baillie Gifford Pandemic Science Hub aims to help prepare for future pandemics.
Where to Find Paxlovid Once You've Tested Positive for Covid
As Covid-19 again surges across the US, many people are going without time-sensitive therapeutics like Paxlovid because doctors worried about shortages are reluctant to prescribe the drugs. But the situation has changed and supplies are now abundant. Paxlovid, a combination of pills taken for five days, cuts the risk of hospitalization by nearly 90%, according to the manufacturer, Pfizer Inc. But to be effective, it must be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms—which include everything from a scratchy throat, runny nose, cough and chills to fever, body aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing and loss of taste or smell. The Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency-use authorizations for the drug to treat mild to moderate Covid-19 in people who are at high risk.
From storage to transport, hurdles to getting COVID vaccine to North Koreans
As North Korea battles its first known COVID outbreak, a lack of storage, chronic power shortages and inadequately trained medical staff pose acute challenges to inoculating its 25 million people - even with outside help, analysts said. North Korea has not responded to offers of aid from South Korea and international vaccine-sharing programmes, but prefers U.S.-made Moderna and Pfizer over China's Sinovac or British-Swedish Astrazeneca shots, according to South Korean officials.
Covid-19 wastewater surveillance is promising tool, but critical challenges remain
Covid-19 surveillance is at a crossroads in the United States. With at-home tests now outnumbering those done in laboratories, official case counts are more incomplete than ever as the nation -- and world -- faces down increasingly transmissible coronavirus variants. Wastewater surveillance is poised to fill in the gaps and help avoid the threats that an invisible wave of the virus could bring. This surveillance can help identify trends in transmission a week or two earlier than clinical testing, giving public health leaders the chance to focus messaging and resources. It can be used as a tool to sequence the virus and find new variants sooner, too. But eagerness to use this tool is stifled by uncertainty about exactly how to do so, along with a lack of resources and support to learn. Testing sewage for virus particles can provide early warning signs of increased transmission in a community, capturing even those who have asymptomatic infections or aren't being tested.
Healthcare Innovations
How can Covid-19 affect the human brain?
A study from Oxford university researchers published in March found tissue damage and shrinkage in parts of the brain related to smell in people. These effects could be associated with a pre-existing increased brain vulnerability to the deleterious effects of COVID-19.
Doctors let down by Government during Covid-19 pandemic, says BMA
The Government “failed in its duty of care” to doctors during the coronavirus crisis, a union has said. The British Medical Association (BMA) launched a scathing attack on the ministerial response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The union, which has conducted its own review of the Government’s handling of the crisis, highlighted the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early stages of the pandemic. It also pointed to the mental and physical exhaustion felt by most doctors as they cared for hundreds of thousands of patients with Covid – all while working in a “dystopian reality”, the union said.
Estrogen treatment linked to reduced COVID-19 mortality
Women who received prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogen within 6 months of a COVID-19 diagnosis had reduced mortality, according to a new study in Family Practice. The findings, coupled with data on sex differences between male and female COVID-19 severity, suggest estrogen may have a protective role against the virus. The study was based on medical records gathered from the Oxford-Royal College of General Practitioners Research and Surveillance Centre primary care database. Researchers looked at women ages 18 and older who received prescriptions for HRT or combined oral contraceptive pill, which contains estrogen. A total of 1,863,478 women from 465 general practices in England were included in the study. The main outcome was mortality among those with confirmed COVID-19 during the first 6 months of the pandemic in 2020.