"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 22nd Jul 2022

Isolation Tips
China's top Covid official denies authorities are easing controls
Some moves by Beijing in recent weeks - including shorter quarantine requirements for inbound travellers and allowing more international flights - have raised hopes that the country will move away from its zero-Covid approach. But Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan said: "The latest Covid-19 control playbook is not about relaxing rules, but about precision, which requires greater efforts to grasp prevention and close loopholes." Speaking on a visit to Hebei province earlier this week, she warned officials they need to act swiftly to stop outbreaks spreading in the run up to the Communist Party congress, the country's main political event of the year.
Hygiene Helpers
Ontario to open pediatric COVID-19 vaccine bookings starting July 28
Ontario parents will be able to book COVID-19 vaccinations for infants and preschoolers starting next Thursday. Health Minister Sylvia Jones said the lower-dose Moderna shot for children aged six months to under five will give young family members protection against COVID-19. “Getting vaccinated remains the best defence against COVID-19,” she said in a written statement. “I encourage parents with questions to reach out to their health care provider, the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre or the SickKids COVID-19 Vaccine Consult Service to make an informed choice for their family.”
Mask and sanitiser plea as Covid-19 cases rise in Walsall
People living in Walsall in the West Midlands are being urged to to wear masks and use sanitiser due to a rise Covid cases. Latest figures show there were 608 positive cases recorded in the seven days up to 10 July, a 4.6 per cent increase on the previous week. The current rate in the town is 221 per 100,000 population, lower than the national rate of 309.4. People must do all they can to protect themselves, public health bosses said. The total number of cases in the town is 96,296. Nearly 3.5 million people, or one in 18, has the virus - up from 2.7m, or one in 25, the week before. "We continue to see a weekly increase in the number of positive cases in Walsall," Stephen Gunther, Walsall's Director of Public Health said.
Oregon urges return to mask wearing as hospitals feel strain
Oregon health officials are urging people in 21 counties with high COVID-19 cases — including the three Portland-area counties — to return to mask wearing because the hospital system is again under extreme strain. While COVID-19 hospitalizations are lower than past surges, staff shortages, patients who delayed care and elevated COVID-19 infections have substantially reduced hospital systems’ capacity to care for patients, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Community Activities
Chinese tennis events for 2022 called off because of Covid-19 restrictions
The Shanghai Masters is one of four 2022 men's tennis tournaments cancelled in China as the country continues its strict Covid-19 restrictions. China hosted the Winter Olympics in February but most other international sporting events in the country have been cancelled or postponed in 2022. The women's tennis tour has no events scheduled in China this year as it seeks a resolution over Peng Shuai. Chinese authorities remain committed to a zero-Covid policy. As a result, men's tennis' governing body the ATP said events in China, typically held in September and October, would be cancelled for a third year. As well as the Shanghai Masters, the Chengdu Open, Zhuhai Championships and China Open will not take place, with six ATP 250 tournaments elsewhere filling the gap in the 2022 calendar.
Californian sentenced for $27M phony COVID aid attempt
A Southern California man who tried to obtain $27 million in unemployment benefits by falsely claiming his business was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic was sentenced Tuesday to more than 11 years in federal prison. Robert Benlevi, 53, of the Encino area of Los Angeles received a 135-month sentence following his March conviction for bank fraud, money laundering and making false statements to a financial institution, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. In 2020, Benlevi submitted 27 applications for forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, prosecutors said.
Working Remotely
Working from home: major Australian employers respond to latest Covid health advice
Telstra and Westpac have advised staff to work from home if they can following national health advice recommending that employers make changes to limit the spread of Covid during the winter wave of infections. On Tuesday, the chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly, said the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) – comprised of all state and territory chief health officers – had reiterated its advice which “called on employers to allow work from home if feasible”. But after the advice from the commonwealth’s top medical adviser a number of government departments have not yet shifted their work settings, and the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, stopped short of asking bosses to let more staff work from home instead of the office.
Virtual Classrooms
Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Medical Education: A Cross-Sectional Study in the Western Region of Saudi Arabia
Results: Out of 3700 questionnaires, 922 completed the questionnaires from 11 different medical schools. Umm AL-Qura University had the highest response rate with 232 responses (25.2%), followed by King Abdulaziz University with 186 responses (20.2%). The majority of institutions preferred Blackboard and Zoom as platforms for e-learning. A total of 355 (38.5%) believed that it resulted in higher academic achievement, whereas 555 (60.2%) of students believed the limitation of clinical access was one of the biggest disadvantages of e-learning. Overall, 518 (56.2%) of students did not want to continue using e-learning on its own in the future. Whereas 668 (72.5%) wished to keep using e-learning in combination with traditional learning. Conclusion: According to our findings, advantages of e-learning vary among students. Most of the students thought e-learning to be an interactive system that provides a learning opportunity. In contrast, many of the students believed that there were many disadvantages regarding online teaching methods.
Public Policies
Independent review planned for New York's COVID-19 response
A third-party auditor will review the New York state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including efforts by the administration of the previous governor to downplay the number of deaths of nursing home residents. The state plans to select an auditor, who would have until late 2023 to deliver a final report, under a timeline released Tuesday by the office of current Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat. Initial findings are expected in May. The report will include a planning guide for future emergencies and will explore issues from the transfer of nursing home patients to the reopening of schools and businesses to efforts to purchase needed medical supplies.
Public inquiry into UK Covid-19 response opens
Ministers will have a year to prepare before cross-examination at the UK’s Covid-19 public inquiry, its chair, Heather Hallett, announced, as she opened what is likely be one of the broadest statutory investigations in the country’s history. The first cross-examinations of the government response to the pandemic, including decisions on lockdowns, maintaining public confidence and handling of scientific advice, will begin in summer 2023, three and a half years after the arrival of coronavirus, which has claimed more than 200,000 lives in the UK. Hearings on the UK’s preparedness will start in late spring 2023, as Lady Hallett said she wanted to move as “speedily as possible so lessons are learned before another pandemic strikes”. Boris Johnson had been repeatedly criticised by campaigners for the bereaved and Labour for delaying the launch of the inquiry. Hallett said it would scrutinise the “performance and effectiveness” of central government decision-making and its messaging – topics likely to expose current and former ministers.
CDC endorses more traditional Novavax COVID shot for adults
U.S. adults who haven’t gotten any COVID-19 shots yet should consider a new option from Novavax -- a more traditional kind of vaccine, health officials said Tuesday. Regulators authorized the nation’s first so-called protein vaccine against COVID-19 last week, but the final hurdle was a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “If you have been waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine built on a different technology than those previously available, now is the time to join the millions of Americans who have been vaccinated,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC’s director, said in a statement, endorsing an earlier decision from an influential advisory panel.
Maintaining Services
Active COVID-19 cases hit 5-month high in West Virginia
Active cases of COVID-19 hit their highest levels in West Virginia in five months Thursday. There were at least 3,221 ongoing cases in the state, the highest since 3,339 on Feb. 24, according to the Department of Health and Human Resources’ COVID-19 dashboard. Active cases statewide had plunged to 263 on April 4 after surpassing 21,000 in January. Confirmed daily cases in West Virginia surpassed 480 on Tuesday and Wednesday after falling below 400 on each of the previous four days.
Rise in Covid-19 hospital patients in England levels off
The latest rise in the number of hospital patients in England testing positive for Covid-19 looks to have come to a halt, with figures levelling off slightly below the previous peak. A total of 13,375 people with coronavirus were in hospital as of 8am on July 21, down 3% on the previous week. It is the second day in a row the total has shown a week-on-week fall. The rate of increase has been slowing steadily since the start of July, after rising as high as 39%. The figures suggest the impact of the current wave of Covid-19 may be starting to ease – and that patient levels will not reach the sort of levels seen during the surge in infections earlier this year.
Australia battles fresh Omicron outbreak as COVID deaths rise
Australia reported one of its highest daily death tolls from the novel coronavirus on Thursday while hospital admissions hovered near record levels, as authorities struggle to get ahead of highly contagious Omicron variants. The BA.4/5 variants are good at evading immune protection from vaccination or prior infection and have been driving a surge of new infections globally. Australia is reporting the highest daily numbers since the first Omicron wave earlier this year, with 89 deaths from the coronavirus on Thursday and 90 on Wednesday. Just over 55,600 new cases were recorded on Thursday, the highest since May 18. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said state leaders and federal health officials have not recommended making masks mandatory in indoor venues, despite calls by some doctors to do so.
Tokyo hits pandemic record on rise of new Covid-19 subvariants
The numbers show a resurgence has taken hold in the Japanese capital ahead of the summer holidays, when travel and activity levels typically soar. Rising cases are forcing leaders to reconsider what steps might be needed to contain the outbreak – may add pressure to slow the pace of reopening to tourists
Micronesia last of bigger nations to have COVID-19 outbreak
Micronesia has likely become the final nation in the world with a population of more than 100,000 to experience an outbreak of COVID-19. For more than two-and-a-half years, the Pacific archipelago managed to avoid any outbreaks thanks to its geographic isolation and border controls. Those people who flew into the country with the disease didn’t spread it because all new arrivals were required to quarantine. But as has been the case in several other Pacific nations this year, those defenses couldn’t keep out the more transmissible omicron variant forever.
Healthcare Innovations
COVID-19 Vaccine Linked to Short-Term Changes in Menstrual Cycle Length, Study Suggests
A new study shows that women may experience short-term changes in their menstrual cycles after COVID-19 vaccination. The researchers found that these changes were associated with all COVID-19 vaccine types.
COVID-19 tied to new-onset, short-term heart disease, diabetes
COVID-19 patients are six times more likely than uninfected people to develop cardiovascular disease (CVD) and nearly twice as likely to receive a new diabetes diagnosis, but the risk begins to recede at 5 weeks and 12 weeks, respectively, concludes a UK study published yesterday in PLOS Medicine.