|

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 7th Jul 2022

Isolation Tips
China Covid News: Shanghai Cases Rise, Fueling Lockdown Fears
Shanghai reported the most virus infections since late May, fueling concerns China’s financial hub may look to ramp up restrictions to curb transmission. The city announced 54 local Covid infections for Wednesday, including two that were found outside of quarantine, with the latter raising concerns that the virus could be quietly spreading through communities. Shanghai has already increased its mass testing, with with 10 districts and parts of two others -- out of the financial hub’s total of 16 -- conducting two PCR tests over a three-day period. Elsewhere, Beijing announced four cases. Authorities said Wednesday that they had detected the highly infectious BA.5.2 subvariant in the capital.
Hygiene Helpers
Study: COVID would have killed 58% more Americans without vaccines
A new study estimates that COVID-19 vaccinations averted 58% of U.S. deaths that could have occurred in a hypothetical scenario in which no inoculations existed. Published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open, the modeling study concludes that COVID-19 vaccinations prevented 27 million infections, 1.6 million hospitalizations and 235,000 deaths among U.S. adults from December 2020 to September 2021. However, the study cautions that it relied on “incomplete national data” from multiple health records due to the lack of a national database and the “limitations of current methods” for measuring vaccine effectiveness.
How to book covid booster vaccine as Scotland records highest infection rate
Scotland is experiencing a high rate of Covid-19 infections as experts warn we are seeing the highest amount since April. On top of this, summer brings with it holidays, social events and mass events, all of which is opportunity for the new sub-variants of Omicron, B.A.4 and B.A.5 to spread. Scotland reported that one in 18 people had the virus last week with 288,200 people infected. Some European countries such as Spain are also preparing for a spike in cases and it haven't relaxed all covid restrictions yet. To be considered fully vaccinated if travelling from the UK to Spain, you must have a booster vaccine if it's been over 270 days since your second dose.
Shanghai, Beijing order new round of mass COVID-19 testing
Residents of parts of Shanghai and Beijing have been ordered to undergo further rounds of COVID-19 testing following the discovery of new cases in the two cities, while tight restrictions remain in place in Hong Kong, Macao and other Chinese cities. Shanghai has only just emerged from a strict lockdown that confined most of its 24 million residents to their homes for weeks and the new requirements have stirred concerns of a return of such harsh measures. The latest outbreak in China's largest city, a key international business center, has been linked to a karaoke parlor that failed to enforce prevention measures among employees and customers, including the tracing of others they came into contact with, according to the city health commission. All such outlets have been ordered to temporarily suspend business, the city's department of culture and tourism said.
Cyprus brings back face masks a month after scrapping them
Cyprus ordered the reintroduction of face masks to combat COVID-19 on Wednesday, just over a month after scrapping the requirement, as infections spiked again. The requirement to wear a face mask in indoor areas comes into effect on Friday, Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantela said. Health experts recommended the step after a spate of infections from people who were not taking the proper precautions, the Cypriot official said after a cabinet meeting.
Beijing city mandates COVID vaccinations, relaxes curbs on domestic travellers
China's capital on Wednesday mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for most people to enter crowded venues such as libraries, cinemas and gyms, the first such move by Beijing which it coupled with a slight easing of domestic travel curbs. From July 11, people wanting to enter certain public would need to be vaccinated unless they have issues that render them unsuitable for shots, a city official told a news briefing. Restaurants and public transportation are exempt from the rule.
CDC: Mask-wearing recommended in growing number of counties
People in 24 Oregon counties — including the county around Portland — and 15 counties in Washington state should resume mask-wearing indoors in public and on public transportation, according to recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data from the CDC shows the counties are considered high risk for COVID-19 infection, KPTV reported. The Oregon counties include: Clatsop, Tillamook, Lincoln, Lane, Douglas, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, Lake, Deschutes, Crook, Jefferson, Wasco, Sherman, Hood River, Clackamas, Washington, Multnomah, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, Baker, and Malheur counties. In Washington, the counties at high risk include: Clallam, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Lewis, Thurston, Pierce, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Walla Walla, Columbia, Asotin, Lincoln, Ferry and Spokane. That’s an increase from six Washington counties at high risk as of June 23.
Community Activities
Australia removes final Covid-19 travel restrictions
Two years, three months and 25 days since the World Health Organisation first declared Covid-19 a global pandemic, Australia is removing its final coronavirus-related travel restrictions. From Wednesday, visitors no longer need to show proof of vaccination when flying Down Under. The last of the Covid-19 restrictions for inbound visitors have been dropped following Australia's removal of other rules put in place during the pandemic, including PCR tests for holidaymakers and mandatory quarantine periods. “As more and more of us travel internationally and we get more confident in managing our risk of Covid, our airports are getting busier,” Clare O’Neil, Minister for Home Affairs, said.
US Pandemic Checks Had No Lasting Impact on Poor, Study Shows
“These results suggest that the cash allowed participants to spend more money, improving objective financial outcomes for the few weeks immediately following the transfer and then dissipating thereafter,” wrote the researchers, led by Ania Jaroszewicz at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences. The survey covered three groups: the first received a one-time payment of $500, the second got $2,000 and the third nothing.
Working Remotely
Remote Working May End As Organisations Switch To Hybrid Mode Post Covid-19 Pandemic
Remote working may soon be over in India as organisations are switching over to hybrid model, a survey by real estate firm CBRE South Asia Pvt. Ltd has said. According to the survey 73 per cent of office space occupiers in the country are evaluating hybrid working arrangements going forward instead of granting work from home to its employees. This survey has said will be taking place as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are slowly reeling back.
Marginalized Employees Say Remote Work is More Equitable, but at the Cost of Hiding Their Authentic Selves
As HR departments work to make their organizations more equitable and inclusive, new research from Software Advice suggests that remote work may at first seem like the best format for reducing workplace bias and discrimination, but survey data reveals it often means employees are sacrificing their true identity at work.
Virtual Classrooms
Education tech companies bring virtual teaching to the table as solution to teacher shortage
The way kids learn is changing, and the tools used to teach them are changing, too, due in part to the pandemic. “This online learning is a way that not only meets students where they’re at and where they are interested but also the way that we all learn,” Jeanette Simenson, a remote teacher with Elevate K-12 and an educational consultant, said. Education technology companies like Elevate K-12, which is a live streaming instruction platform, are growing. Especially in areas where hiring a teacher can be tough.
Schools given free online maths tuition for Covid catch-up
All government schools will have access to free online maths tutoring for two years to help pupils affected by the Covid pandemic. The Government of Jersey has partnered with company Complete Mathematics to help students whose learning was "negatively affected" by the pandemic. The programme has been funded by the Covid Recovery Catch-up Fund.
What have we learned about online learning?
The COVID-19 pandemic forced colleges, professors and students to engage with digital forms of education in ways many of them never had. Did the experience of teaching and learning remotely make them more open to online education and to using technology in the physical classroom? Did professors get more comfortable with teaching with technology? Did it change student expectations about when and how they learn? A series of recent episodes of Inside Higher Ed’s Key podcast explored those and other questions.
Public Policies
EC approves Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine CMA expansion for adolescents
The European Commission (EC) has granted approval for the expanded conditional marketing authorization (CMA) of Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine, Nuvaxovid (NVX-CoV2373), in the European Union (EU) for adolescents of the age 12 to 17 years. A protein-based vaccine, NVX-CoV2373 is made from the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ first strain. The latest development comes after the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use of the European Medicines Agency granted a positive recommendation in June this year.
Covid-19: Gap between second shot of vaccine and precautionary dose reduced to six months
The Union health ministry on Wednesday reduced the mandatory gap between the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and the precautionary shot to six months from the earlier interval of nine months, ANI reported. Since April 10, all adults in India have been allowed to take the precautionary shot – a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine. In a letter to all states and Union Territories, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Wednesday wrote that the decision to reduce the gap between the two doses was taken by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
China allows AstraZeneca's COVID preventive drug in southern city
AstraZeneca Plc's antibody cocktail for COVID-19 prevention has been cleared for use in a medical tourism zone in China's southern province of Hainan ahead of national approval, local media said on Tuesday. China allows early use of new medical products in the special zone in Qionghai city as a part of several preferential policies granted to the area to promote medical services to visitors from both home and abroad.
Maintaining Services
Covid-19 Vaccine Doses, Once in High Demand, Now Thrown Away
Governments, drugmakers and vaccination sites are discarding tens of millions of unused Covid-19 vaccine doses amid sagging demand, a sharp reversal from the early days of the mass-vaccination campaign, when doses were scarce. Vaccine manufacturer Moderna Inc. recently discarded about 30 million doses of its Covid-19 shot after failing to find takers, while pharmacies and clinics have had to throw out unused doses from multi-dose vials from Moderna and from Pfizer Inc. and its partner BioNTech SE that have a short shelf life once they are opened.
After the long wait, US parents seeking under-5s’ vaccine face yet more hurdles
Ashley Comegys, a parent of two young children in Florida, was ecstatic when the Covid vaccines were authorized for children above the age of six months in the US. “We’ve been waiting for this for so long,” she said. “We can finally start to spread our wings again.” But then she learned that Florida had missed two deadlines to preorder vaccines and would not make them available through state and local health departments, delaying the rollout by several weeks and significantly limiting access. “Rage does not adequately describe how I felt that they were basically inhibiting me from being able to make a choice to protect my children,” Comegys said.
Canada Plans To Throw Out 13.6 Million Doses Of Coronavirus Vaccine
Canada is going to throw out about 13.6 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine because it couldn’t find any takers for it either at home or abroad. Canada signed a contract with AstraZeneca in 2020 to get 20 million doses of its vaccine, and 2.3 million Canadians received at least one dose of it, mostly between March and June 2021.
U.S. FDA allows pharmacists to prescribe Pfizer's COVID-19 pill
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday it had authorized state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 pill to eligible patients to help improve access to the treatment. The antiviral drug, Paxlovid, has been cleared for use and available for free in the United States since December, but fewer than half of the nearly 4 million courses distributed to pharmacies by the government so far have been administered.
Healthcare Innovations
COVID in California: Reinfection heightens risk of other health problems, study finds
A new type of vaccine protects against a variety of betacoronaviruses including the one that caused the COVID-19 pandemic and COVID’s variants, in mice and monkeys, a Caltech study found. Betacoronaviruses are a subset of coronaviruses that infect humans and animals. The study, published in the journal Science on Tuesday, from researchers in the laboratory of Caltech’s Pamela Bjorkman, professor of biology and bioengineering, found that the new vaccine is broadly protective. It works by presenting the immune system with spike protein pieces from SARS-CoV-2 and seven other SARS-like betacoronaviruses, attached to a protein nanoparticle structure, to induce production of cross-reactive antibodies, Caltech said.
COVID-19 vaccination activates antibodies targeting parts of virus spike protein shared between coronaviruses
"Our theory is that there is actually memory from previous common cold coronavirus encounters, and when you get the vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, the vaccine reawakens some of those memories. Then you see this early response which is basically just a rapid memory response to what you've already seen," Altin said. "With time, the immune system can reshape those responses more in the direction of the pandemic virus."
Research highlights importance of designing effective COVID vaccine allocation strategies
In a recent study posted to the medRxiv* pre-print server, researchers at the University of Melbourne used a modified Susceptible, Exposed, Infectious, and Recovered (SEIR) mathematical model to examine the impact of different vaccine mechanisms and disease characteristics on a population comprised of individuals at high and low risk of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. The study highlighted the significance of devising effective coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine allocation strategies before the onset of the pandemic or the beginning of viral transmission at the community level.
Two or 3 vaccine doses may cut risk of long COVID
An observational study of Italian healthcare workers infected with SARS-CoV-2 who didn't require hospitalization suggests a link between two or three doses of vaccine and a lower prevalence of long COVID. In the modeling study, published late last week in JAMA, researchers in Milan studied 2,560 workers at nine healthcare facilities from March 2020 to April 2022. All healthcare workers were mandated to receive three doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in 2021. And all were screened for COVID-19 once a week or every 2 weeks and when they developed symptoms or were exposed to the virus.
BA.4/5 COVID-19 variants now dominant in all US regions
Combined, the two subvariants make up more than 70% of recently sequenced samples, up sharply from 52.3% the previous week. Of the variants CDC is tracking, BA.5 now makes up 53.6%, and BA.4 makes up 16.5%. The proportion of BA.2.12.1—first detected in New York—continues to decline. South-central states were the first to see BA.4 and BA.5 become dominant. The two subvariants are more transmissible and have mutations linked to immune escape.