"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 25th May 2022

Isolation Tips
U.S. CDC recommends re-isolation if COVID recurs after taking Pfizer's pill
Patients who experience recurrence of COVID-19 symptoms after completing treatment with Pfizer's drug Paxlovid should isolate again for five days, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an advisory issued on Tuesday. Dozens of individuals have reported rebounding COVID symptoms on social media or to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after taking Paxlovid, but Pfizer suggests the experience is rare. A recent rise in COVID cases has driven up use of therapeutics in the country
Beijing ramps up COVID quarantines, Shanghai residents decry uneven rules
Beijing stepped up quarantine efforts to end its month-old COVID outbreak as fresh signs of frustration emerged in Shanghai, where some bemoaned unfair curbs with the city of 25 million preparing to lift a prolonged lockdown in just over a week. Even as China's drastic attempts to eradicate COVID entirely - its "zero-COVID" approach - bite into prospects for the world's second-biggest economy, new reported infection numbers remain well below levels seen in many Western cities. The capital reported 48 new cases for Monday among its population of 22 million, with Shanghai reporting fewer than 500.
Hygiene Helpers
Why the Gym is Risky for COVID-19, and Tips for Keeping Safe
Now a new experiment has given us a more exact sense of just how many aerosols a single person can spew during an intense workout—and the results aren’t pretty. According to research by scientists in Germany published in PNAS on May 23, people emit about 132 times as many aerosols per minute during high intensity exercise than when they’re at rest, which the researchers warn raises the risk of a person infected with COVID-19 setting off a superspreader event. At rest, people emitted an average of 580 particles each minute, but during maximal exercise—in which researchers gradually increased intensity until the subjects were exhausted—people emitted an average of 76,200 particles a minute.
Sweden: 5th COVID-19 shot to people over 65, pregnant women
Sweden is recommending a fifth COVID-19 vaccine dose for people with an increased risk of becoming seriously ill, including pregnant women and anyone aged 65 and over, authorities said Tuesday, adding that the country must "be prepared for an increased spread during the upcoming autumn and winter season.” “The vaccine is our strongest tool for preventing serious illness and death,” Swedish Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren said, adding the pandemic is not over. As of Sept. 1, Sweden recommends that another booster shot is given to people aged 65 and older and people over 18 in the risk groups.
Community Activities
Are UK coronavirus cases actually going down or are they just harder to count?
For almost two years we’ve been glued to a set of numbers: the grim trio of cases, hospitalisations and deaths that defined coronavirus in the UK. The daily figures led news reports for more than a year: people watched in horror as the height of the Omicron wave brought the highest ever daily caseload on Tuesday 4 January 2022 when 275,618 people tested positive. And they saw how many people died: a number that peaked on Tuesday 19 January 2021, when 1,366 people died, making it the the worst day of the pandemic*. Since March 2022 case numbers from the daily government dashboard have tumbled. A fall that has coincided with the government’s Living with Covid plan: as restrictions fell away in England, so did cases. The government ended restrictions including the legal requirement to self-isolate on 24 February and cut the provision of free tests on 1 April.
Manhattan return-to-office plans face persistent headwinds over COVID, safety
Efforts by financial firms and others to bring workers back to Manhattan offices more than two years after the start of the coronavirus pandemic face persistent headwinds, consultants said, with commuters still worrying about COVID-19 as well as safety. New York has lagged others major markets in the percentage of employees regularly working in the office, in part because of high usage rates of public transportation and COVID concerns, said David Lewis, chief executive of HR consultant firm OperationsInc, which works with several firms in the financial sector.
Working Remotely
Remote working brings record number of women into labour force
The number of women participating in the labour force in Ireland has reached a record high due to a shift to remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the European Commission. The female participation rate jumped over the course of the pandemic to reach 72 per cent, according to Eurostat data, a sharp increase from the pre-pandemic level of about 67 per cent to bring Ireland well above the European Union average.
Virtual Classrooms
The online learning phenomenon impacts higher education; 17.3M students enrolled in 2021
During the pandemic, 98% of universities in the U.S. switched to remote learning. Since then, more students are continuing with online study, with 17.3 million students in the U.S. studying online in 2021 – either full-time or partially.
Tech Tip: Choosing digital tools for a virtual classroom
Technology is responsible for some amazing advances in education. However, most of us in the classroom want to be great teachers, not IT experts. I’m a former math teacher now dedicated to developing and innovating virtual curricula for hundreds of virtual teachers across a variety of subjects. So the question I most often get from teachers is: What digital tools should I be using in my classroom?
Public Policies
WHO says monkeypox containable, convening research meeting to support member states
The outbreak of monkeypox cases outside of Africa can be contained, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, as more governments said they would launch limited vaccinations to combat rising infections of the virus. The moves came as authorities investigated 237 suspected and confirmed cases of the virus in 19 countries since early May. That number is expected to increase, WHO officials have said, but most of the infections so far have not been severe.
Vaxzevria Gains Approval in EU as a Third Dose COVID-19 Booster in Adults
AstraZeneca's recombinant COVID-19 vaccine, originally invented by the University of Oxford, has been approved as a third dose booster vaccine in the EU. AstraZeneca has revealed in a May 23, 2022 press release, that its recombinant COVID-19 vaccine originally invented by the University of Oxford, Vaxzevria (ChAdOx1-S), has been given the nod by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as a third dose booster vaccine for use in the European Union (EU). Through this latest market authorization, healthcare professionals will be able to use the vaccine as a third dose booster in patients who have already been administered a primary vaccine schedule of either Vaxzevria or other EU-approved messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccines. The authorization has been based on EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommendation, for which there was a review of data demonstrating an increased immune response with a third dose booster Vaxzevria jab.
Maintaining Services
Covid-19 Vaccine and Drug Sales, Once Booming, Plateau
The gold rush for drugmakers making Covid-19 vaccines and treatments might be over, as demand plateaus, supplies turn ample and the pandemic evolves. Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson are among the companies cutting sales expectations for pandemic products this year as they assess the outlook. Analysts, meantime, are lowering sales estimates for Covid-19 drugs such as Pfizer Inc.’s antiviral Paxlovid, citing softening demand and few new supply deals. The situation marks a new phase in the pandemic, according to analysts, one without the record sales that certain companies such as Pfizer and Moderna Inc. notched just a few months ago.
Retailer Selloff Leaves Covid Slump in the Dust as Rout Widens
The darkest days of the pandemic might be long gone, but for chain stores and other merchants, it’s March 2020 all over again. And it’s getting worse. A selloff in Target Corp. and Walmart Inc. shares has pushed the SPDR S&P Retail exchange-traded fund (ticker XRT) down 44% from its November record high, outpacing the fund’s 41% rout during the pandemic. The $484 million ETF’s 16% slump in May would be the second-worst month since 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Rising costs on everything from transportation to labor are eating into the profit margins of some of America’s best known retailers, stoking concerns over whether companies will be able to pass on the increased expenses to consumers.
New York School Vaccine Mandate Survives as Supreme Court Rejects Appeal
The US Supreme Court turned away a challenge to New York’s requirement that schoolchildren be vaccinated against serious diseases, refusing to question the state’s 2019 repeal of its longstanding exemption for families with religious objections. The justices without comment left in place a state court ruling that said New York wasn’t targeting religion when it eliminated the exemption after the worst measles outbreak in a quarter century. The vaccine requirement applies to children under 18 in both public and private schools.
Healthcare Innovations
Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine produces strong immune response in children
Pfizer and BioNTech have announced recent data from a top-line safety, immunogenicity and vaccine efficacy phase 2/3 trial assessing a third 3µg dose – one-tenth of the adult dosage – of their COVID-19 vaccine for children aged from six months to under five years old. The vaccine resulted in a strong immune response following the third dose in this particular age group, and showed a positive safety profile similar to placebo. One of the second endpoints in the trial was vaccine efficacy, which was 80.3% in children aged six months to under five years. This analysis was taken during a period when the Omicron strain was the predominant variant, and was based on ten symptomatic COVID-19 cases identified seven days after the third dose and accrued as of 29 April 2022.
Higher air pollution linked to more severe cases of COVID-19, study suggests
People living in areas with higher levels of air pollution are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 illness that leads to hospitalization and even death, a new study suggests. The research, published Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), found an elevated likelihood of hospitalization, admission to an intensive care unit and death among COVID-19 cases who were chronically exposed to fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone. “These results suggest that chronic exposure to air pollution before SARS-CoV-2 infection may contribute to COVID-19 severity, particularly chronic exposure to (ozone),” the researchers write.
Covid-19 linked to impaired heart function, research finds
Covid-19 is associated with impaired function of the right side of the heart, a new study of intensive care patients has found. The research, led by experts from NHS Golden Jubilee, aimed to help improve future care and outcomes for those most at risk from Covid-19, by gaining a better understanding of the impact the virus has on the sickest patients who require invasive ventilation. The Covid-RV study was carried out in 10 intensive care units across Scotland and examined 121 critically ill patients who were receiving treatment on ventilators due to the impact of coronavirus on their system. Researchers found that about one in three of the patients in the study showed evidence of abnormalities in the right side of the heart – the area that pumps blood to the lungs.
Covid-19: Vaccine effectiveness wanes more rapidly for cancer patients, study finds
Covid-19 vaccination is effective for cancer patients but protection wanes much more rapidly than in the general population, a large study has found. Vaccine effectiveness is much lower in people with leukaemia or lymphoma, those with a recent cancer diagnosis, and those who have had radiotherapy or systemic anti-cancer treatments within the past year, according to the research published in Lancet Oncology. The authors of the world’s largest real world health system evaluation of covid-19 in cancer patients highlighted the importance of booster programmes, non-pharmacological strategies, and access to antiviral treatment programmes in order to reduce the risk that covid-19 poses to cancer patients. The study, jointly led by the universities of Birmingham, Oxford, and Southampton and the UK Health Security Agency, included 377 194 people with active or recent cancer who had received two doses of a covid-19 vaccine, of whom 43 882 had breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infections. The control population consisted of 28 010 955 people of whom 5 748 708 had a breakthrough infection.
Kids' COVID syndrome—MIS-C—less severe in Omicron
COVID-19–related multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) was milder amid the Omicron variant surge than during the Alpha and Delta waves in Israel, concludes a research letter published late last week in JAMA. Researchers from Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa conducted prospectively studied all pediatric MIS-C patients at 12 Israeli hospitals during the same 16-week period in the Alpha (Dec 20, 2020, to Apr 10, 2021), Delta (Jul 18 to Nov 13, 2021), and Omicron (Nov 21, 2021, to Mar 12, 2022) pandemic waves. Participating hospitals account for roughly 70% of pediatric intensive care unit (ICU) admissions in Israel.