"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 19th Aug 2022

Isolation Tips
Quarantine hotel rush: Hong Kong arrivals hit a high of more than 7,400, but tens of thousands of non-local students set to miss start of school year
Sunday’s figure of 7,428 airport arrivals was a new high in recent months under city’s eased ‘3+4’ travel rule, but this means competition is fierce for quarantine hotels. City records 5,162 new infections on Tuesday, including 272 imported cases and 11 related deaths
Hygiene Helpers
Covid-19 booster vaccine now available to those aged 55 and over
Appointments are now open for people aged 55 and over to book their next Covid-19 booster vaccine through the HSE or their own GP. This second booster vaccine will be available to those who have already received their initial vaccine course and one booster dose. According to the HSE, boosters protect against serious illness and increase Covid immunity. Those aged 55 and over can now make an appointment to receive their next dose. People can book an appointment online for a HSE vaccination clinic or check with participating GPs and pharmacies to receive their dose. People who are more than 16 weeks pregnant are also now invited to book their second booster dose at either a HSE vaccination centre or a GP/pharmacy.
Omicron Covid booster vaccine will be rolled out from 5 September and finish by December
More than 25 million people will get a dose of the new Covid-19 vaccine tailored against the Omicron variant by the start of December under plans announced by the NHS on Thursday. NHS England said the autumn boosters rollout would start from 5 September with care home residents the first group to be offered a jab by vaccinators who will visit their homes. From 12 September, anyone aged 75 or over, as well as health and care workers, can book in for a booster, with other age groups getting their vaccine in the coming weeks.
GPs call for 'urgent review' of autumn Covid booster campaign as funding cut back
GPs have called on NHS England and the Government to “urgently review” plans for the autumn Covid booster campaign amid fears they will be left paying for the programme out of their own pockets. The UK Health Security Agency announced it will offer a new Omicron-specific jab, by Moderna, to the over-50s, as part of its latest vaccination programme due to start in September. NHS England had been expected to announce details of the programme on Wednesday but it is believed to have been delayed because of a row between GPs and the Government over how it will be managed. The default contract for delivering vaccines this autumn has been cut from £12.58 per dose to £10.06, while a £10 supplement for them to give jabs in care homes and to other vulnerable groups has also been cut, the British Medical Association has said. Rising staffing and energy costs have also led to surgeries’ operating costs increasing significantly, leaving many wanting to opt-out of delivering more Covid jabs.
AU, others woo youths to boost COVID-19 vaccination by 70% in Africa
African Union (AU) has collaborated with Trace TV to engage the creative community in pushing its Bingwa Initiative geared at increasing COVID-19 vaccination across Africa by 70 per cent in 2023. The programme, which is also in partnership with the African Centre for Disease Control (CDC), GIZ and MasterCard, has public figures and social media influencers like The Pamilerin, Jenni Frank, Nigerian singer, Chike and comedian, Pencil, among others engaged to promote COVID-19 vaccination championed by African youths.
Viewpoint: We Cannot Afford to Surrender to COVID-19 Now
Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed recommendations which I feel neither control or prevent a rapidly evolving and disabling disease, COVID-19. Many of the relaxations appeared to be timed with the opening of schools, ignoring the high rate of COVID-19 related hospitalizations, national deaths hovering just under 500 per day, and the urgent need for a reformulated vaccine, whose delivery is expected in the fall of this year. The relaxed guidelines no longer recommend those individuals exposed to COVID-19 participate in test-to-stay programs in schools. They no longer restrict the mixing of children in different classrooms, and they eliminated social distancing recommendations. In addition, there is no need to quarantine after exposure to the virus, and there are no longer recommendations for routine screening of individuals without symptoms.
Community Activities
French fire service official tells of death threats over Covid vaccine stance
A French fire service official says he has received death threats and been harassed after calling for firefighters who have refused the Covid vaccine to remain suspended. France’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, condemned the alleged social media threats against Eric Brocardi, who has reported them to police. Cmdr Brocardi, who is spokesperson for France’s national federation of firefighters (FNSPF), came under attack after saying that in his view, full-time and voluntary firefighters suspended for refusing the vaccine should not be allowed to return to the service.
Attitudes toward mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in Germany
It has become obvious that sufficiently high immunity to COVID-19 cannot be achieved in Germany through voluntary vaccination alone. On this background, Thomas Rieger and Carsten Schröder from the German Institute for Economic Research, Berlin, together with Christoph Schmidt-Petri from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, investigated the acceptance of a policy of general mandatory vaccination against COVID-19. The scientists also investigated the questions of which population groups are supportive of such a measure, which ones are opposed, and what their reasons are, respectively.
Covid-19: The government's gaslighting has left vulnerable patients feeling forgotten
McLellan and Abbasi say that we must “face the fact that the nation’s attempt to ‘live with covid’ is the straw that is breaking the NHS’s back.”1 The government’s unwillingness to confront the current reality of covid is also directly impacting some of the most vulnerable patients.
Working Remotely
As businesses embrace fully-remote work, does company culture suffer?
A growing number of companies have instituted policies allowing any employee to work fully remote, including Twitter, Meta (Facebook), Airbnb, 3M, Atlassian, Lyft, SAP, Slack, Spotify, and VMware. Many are taking a cue from employees who want to work in a fully virtual world, choosing to shutter offices and manage remotely; other organizations have permanently closed offices that were only used infrequently by a small number of employees. It's not just large firms; smaller companies are getting on the remote-only train, too. Online job consultancy Remote.co has created a list of 25 small companies that are fully virtual for job-seekers.
How To Build And Sustain A Remote Work Culture With Engaged Employees
The pandemic showed many companies that their employees could flourish in a fully or partially remote work environment. Assess your company’s goals and capabilities. Talk to your teams about how they feel they work best and what can help them achieve their desired goals while keeping work processes running smoothly. As with any team of high performers, leaders may need to be the guardians of their team’s personal time occasionally. For example, remind team members not to send emails or check work messaging apps outside of working hours. People need to disconnect.
Virtual Classrooms
Five key takeaways from this year's A-level results
This was no ordinary year of A-levels - both in terms of exams and results. The students receiving their grades on Thursday experienced three years of disrupted learning because of the pandemic. And the story wasn't the same for everyone: the impact of school closures varied depending on things like how badly communities were hit by Covid, and how prepared schools were to handle the transition to remote learning.
How Community Colleges Are Setting Best Practices for Hybrid Learning in Higher Ed
With nearly 1.4 million fewer students enrolled in undergraduate programs than before the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities looking for ways to boost registration may want to consider offering more hybrid courses, a structure nearly half of students (49 percent) say they prefer. According to an EdTech Twitter poll, 64 percent of respondents are catering to this preference by offering at least some hybrid offerings this academic year.
Public Policies
HHS says it plans to extend Covid-19 public health emergency
State and local public health officials — having not heard differently this week — are expecting the Biden administration to extend the Covid-19 public health emergency for another 90 days in mid-October. An extension would ensure expanded Medicaid coverage, telehealth services, boosted payments to hospitals and other pandemic measures remain in place beyond the midterm elections even as public health experts and lawmakers debate the merits of a PHE that was first declared in January 2020. “The COVID-19 Public Health Emergency remains in effect and as HHS committed to earlier, we will provide a 60-day notice to states before any possible termination or expiration," an HHS spokesperson told POLITICO. The administration has not notified groups, including the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Federation of American Hospitals and the American Public Health Association, that the PHE would end, a courtesy HHS has said it would issue 60 days before the Covid-19 declaration is terminated
Israeli, Australian public health leaders to exchange COVID-19 knowledge
A group of 15 leading Australian public health experts and clinicians will visit Israel in September for a high-level exchange of lessons about the management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Israel and Australia had impressive achievements during the COVID-19 pandemic – Israel was a model for rapid distribution and injection of vaccines into the whole population and Australia was the first country outside of China to isolate the virus and had one of the world’s lowest death rates from it.
Nuvaxovid gets expanded provisional approval in NZ as COVID-19 booster for adults
US-based Novavax has announced that New Zealand (NZ)'s Medsafe has granted expanded provisional approval for Nuvaxovid (NVX-CoV2373) COVID-19 vaccine for active immunization to prevent COVID-19 as a heterologous and homologous booster dose in adults aged 18 and older. Following the expanded provisional approval decision by Medsafe, New Zealand, people may now choose Nuvaxovid as their first and/or second COVID-19 booster dose(s) after completion of their primary series using any of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines. The request for expanded provisional approval for the booster dose is supported by data from Novavax' Phase 2 trial conducted in Australia, from a separate Phase 2 trial conducted in South Africa, and from the UK-sponsored COV-BOOST trial. As a booster for adults, Nuvaxovid is also provisionally registered in Australia and approved in Japan, and is actively under review in other markets. New Zealand previously granted provisional approval for Nuvaxovid in adults aged 18 and older in February 2022. Novavax' sponsor in Australia and New Zealand is Biocelect Pty. Ltd.
CDC Director Outlines Restructuring Plans After Agency’s Covid-19 Response Fell Short
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be restructured to strengthen its response to public-health threats, the agency’s director said, acknowledging shortcomings in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that she intended to improve the agency’s communication, timeliness and accountability. The CDC has at times amended its guidance on masking, isolation and other mitigation efforts in ways that spurred confusion or lagged behind the trajectory of the pandemic. The agency has faced new criticism recently for its response to the monkeypox outbreak. “In our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” Dr. Walensky said. “I want us all to do better, and it starts with CDC leading the way.”
Planning for COVID-19 vaccine rollout left too late, Commonwealth failed to adequately engage states, damning review finds
A review by the Auditor-General found the Coalition left planning for Australia's COVID vaccine rollout too late. It also found the former Morrison government failed to adequately engage with the states and territories before the rollout began The Department of Health has agreed to the recommendations.
Maintaining Services
Quebec COVID-19 booster rates stay low as province launches new vaccination campaign
As Quebec prepares to launch a provincewide COVID-19 vaccination campaign ahead of a potential new fall wave, it's unclear whether it will be enough to prompt a pandemic-weary public to roll up their sleeves for another booster. As of Wednesday, only 56 per cent of Quebecers aged five and older had received a third vaccine dose -- a number that has hardly budged in months. Government officials have said that the low booster uptake is due to the fact that more than a million Quebecers have caught the novel coronavirus and consider themselves adequately protected. Health experts, meanwhile, say pandemic fatigue and government communication have also played a role.
Time to Stop Using Ineffective Covid-19 Drugs
In this issue of the Journal, Bramante et al.6 report the results of the COVID-OUT randomized, controlled trial of oral metformin, ivermectin, and fluvoxamine for the early treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection in 1323 outpatients. The investigators found no reductions in hypoxemia, emergency department visits, hospitalization, or death associated with any of the three drugs. A strength of the trial is the selection of adults between the ages of 30 and 85 years who were at high risk for severe Covid-19 because of overweight or obesity. However, as a result, the trial may not be readily generalizable to patients at lower risk for severe disease. One secondary analysis, which should be interpreted with caution, suggested that metformin may reduce a composite of emergency department visit, hospitalization, or death in this population with overweight or obesity, a finding that indicates no more than the need for further investigation at this time.
Healthcare Innovations
Covid's Harmful Effects on the Brain Reverberate Years Later
Covid-19 survivors remain at higher risk of psychotic disorders, dementia and similar conditions for at least two years, according to a large study that highlights the mounting burden of chronic illness left in the pandemic’s wake. While anxiety and depression occur more frequently after Covid than other respiratory infections, the risk typically subsides within two months, researchers at the University of Oxford found. In contrast, cognitive deficits known colloquially as “brain fog,” epilepsy, seizures and other longer-term mental and brain health disorders remained elevated 24 months later, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.
Study links reduced myocardial blood flow and COVID-19
Patients with prior COVID may be twice as likely to have unhealthy endothelial cells that line the inside of the heart and blood vessels, according to newly published research from Houston Methodist. This finding offers a new clue in understanding covid-19's impact on cardiovascular health. In a new study published today in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, Houston Methodist researchers examined the coronary microvasculature health of 393 patients with prior covid-19 infection who had lingering symptoms. This is the first published study linking reduced blood flow in the body and COVID-19. Using a widely available imaging tool, called positron emission tomography (PET), researchers found a 20% decrease in the ability of coronary arteries to dilate, a condition known as microvascular dysfunction.