"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 12th Sep 2022

Dear Colleagues and friends,


After 623 newsletters and 30,000 articles shared over the last 30 months, Connecting Communities for COVID19 will shift to a once-a-week newsletter delivered to your mailbox on Monday mornings.  

We invite you to send comments on your experience with this newsletter over these last years and for information on using our database of COVID-19 coverage for research purposes please contact us at franklin@cccovid19.org.

Pass this on to your friends, families and networks. Send us stories in any of the eight areas listed below.

Stay safe, healthy and kind.

Franklin and Sabrina for Connecting Communities team

Our website: ccovid19.org

Isolation Tips
On COVID alert, more Chinese cities advise residents to stay put for holiday
More Chinese cities advised residents on Wednesday to avoid unnecessary trips for the upcoming holiday long weekend, adding to COVID policies that are keeping tens of millions of people under lockdown and exacting a growing economic toll. Nanjing and Wuxi, major cities in eastern China's Jiangsu province, recommended residents not leave town during the Saturday-Monday mid-autumn festival, echoing similar advisories made by other cities this month.
Hong Kong Targets Removal of Hotel Quarantine Requirement
Hong Kong is targeting November to end hotel quarantine for visitors to the city, Bloomberg reports. Hong Kong has already reduced the hotel quarantine requirement from 21 days to 7 days to 3 days, although a further 4 days of “health monitoring” is still required during which people can leave their homes but may not enter high-risk premises like restaurants and bars. The end of hotel quarantine altogether is planned to occur ahead of a summit of global bankers and a popular international rugby competition later this year.
Taiwan Covid Travel Restrictions: Visa-Free Entry Resumed With 3-Day Quarantine
Taiwan will resume visa-free entry for travelers from countries it currently shares diplomatic ties with but will maintain a three-day quarantine requirement as the island takes halting steps toward easing its Covid-restrictions. Arrivals from more than 60 countries -- including the US, UK and Australia -- are eligible for visa-free entry starting Sept. 12, though the duration of their permitted stay varies, Taiwan’s Bureau of Consular Affairs said in a statement on its website Monday.
Hygiene Helpers
New York Governor Lifts Mask Mandate for NYC Subways
New York Governor Kathy Hochul lifted the state’s mask requirement for public transit, removing one of the last remaining government mandates of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hochul announced the decision on Wednesday after months of confusion among commuters befuddled by varying national, state and local rules on where face coverings are required. Covid numbers are stable, putting the state “in a good place now,” she said. “We haven’t seen any spikes, and also people are getting back to work, back to school,” Hochul said during a press conference at a health center in New York City, shortly before receiving her omicron-targeted booster that’s being made available this week. “We have to restore some normalcy to our lives.”
Pharmacists warn they do not have sufficient Covid boosters for autumn rollout
Pharmacies in England warned they have insufficient Covid jabs for the autumn booster campaign. Around 1.6 million care home residents, staff and housebound people will start to be given jabs to protect them ahead of winter. An additional four million people including the over-75s will be able to book a fourth jab. But Leyla Hannbeck, of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said some members had receiving just a third of their orders. ‘We’ve known for months that there’s going to be a vaccination process from autumn onwards,’ she told the Sunday Telegraph.
Community Activities
Long Covid Costs Australia Economy $3.6 Billion a Year: Report
Long Covid is costing the Australian economy the equivalent of $3.6 billion a year in lost output, the Australian Financial Review reported, citing an exclusive data analysis. Based on data from the country’s Treasury estimating some 31,000 workers called in sick because of the condition in June, the analysis by think tank Impact Economics and Policy found the economic cost came in at A$100 million ($68 million) a week, according to the AFR. That amounts to some A$5.2 billion on an annual basis.
Bank of America Child-Care Spending Nears Pre-Covid Level as Parents Get Back to Work
The number of Bank of America Corp. customers making child-care payments neared pre-pandemic levels last month, an encouraging sign for the labor market as parents get back to work. Those making such payments now total about 94% of the level seen in January 2020, a noticeable jump from the prior month, the Bank of America Institute said in a report Friday. The dollar value of child-care spending per customer was up about 7% from a year ago when adjusting for inflation.
State and Local Jobs May Take Until 2026 to Recoup Pandemic Losses
The sluggish recovery in US state and city employment has left payrolls hundreds of thousands of positions below pre-pandemic levels, a deficit that may take years to plug as the private sector lures away workers. State and local payrolls rose to about 19.4 million last month, the highest since March 2020, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday. However, that’s still roughly 650,000 less than the peak from right before Covid-19 struck, even after states and municipalities received hundreds of billions of dollars in federal stimulus to ease the pandemic’s blow.
Working Remotely
Work From Home Is Loved Worldwide, Even If Wall Street Hates It
As Wall Street firms order employees back to the office, the option of working from home remains more popular than ever all over the world, according to a new study. More than two years into the pandemic, many companies have eased vaccination, testing and mask rules and reopened their offices full-time. Goldman Sachs Group and Jefferies Financial Group are among US financial giants leading an aggressive push back to in-person work in recent weeks.
Bank of America will release more guidance on work from home in coming weeks -CEO
Bank of America will outline flexible working standards over the next six to eight weeks that will adapt to changing conditions, Chief Executive Brian Moynihan said during a New York industry conference. His comments come as financial companies globally are offering more incentives, including free meals, as they battle to get staff back to the office, Reuters reported last week.
Virtual Classrooms
Q&A: How a Year of Remote Learning Affected Kids’ Development
In her new book “The Stolen Year,” Author Anya Kamenetz examines how remote learning during the pandemic worsened the growing mental health crisis among children and adolescents. She also examines how it exacerbated existing educational inequities and was detrimental to educational attainment for children and adolescents.
Remote learning revolution makes universities a target for cybercrime
Universities are already an attractive prospect for attackers looking to extort them for millions, steal sensitive student data or exfiltrate valuable research. Remote learning made them even more of a target. Since COVID-19, ransomware attacks on universities have spiked, and even now, two years on from the jump to hybrid working and learning, universities are ill-prepared. A recent report found that 97% of top 10 universities in the US, the UK and Australia are still leaving staff and students vulnerable because their systems lack basic security.
Remote learning might have helped protect teenagers’ sense of community during COVID-19 school closures
New research published in Behavioral Sciences provides evidence that information and communications technologies helped to protect students’ sense of community amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In the new study, 917 Italian high school students (with an average age of 16.38) completed an online questionnaire that assessed their perceived sense of loneliness and perceived sense of community before and after the outbreak of COVID-19.
Public Policies
Anger at plans to roll back Covid vaccines to under-11s in England
The decision to reduce the number of children who are offered Covid jabs has prompted outcry from parent groups and academics. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said children who had not turned five by the end of last month would not be offered a vaccination, in line with advice published by the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in February 2022. UKHSA said the offer of Covid jabs to healthy five to 11-year-olds was always meant to be temporary. UKHSA’s Green Book, which provides information on the vaccine rollout for public health professionals, states: “This one-off programme applies to those aged 5 to 11 years, including those who turn five years of age before the end of August 2022.
Kim Jong Un suggests N.Korea may begin COVID vaccinations
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has suggested that the isolated country could begin COVID-19 vaccinations in November, state media reported on Friday. In a speech on Thursday to the North Korean national assembly, Kim cited World Health Organization warnings that the winter could see a resurgence in coronavirus infections. “Therefore, along with responsible vaccination, we should recommend that all residents wear masks to protect their health from November," he said, without elaborating.
US Orders 100 Million COVID Tests, White House Says More Needed
The United States will boost its stockpile of at-home COVID-19 tests, ordering more than 100 million tests from domestic manufacturers, the White House said on Thursday, but warned it was a short-term solution. President Joe Biden's administration has repeatedly and unsuccessfully asked Congress for more pandemic money. It said last week it would request $22.4 billion in emergency funding for COVID-19 relief ahead of a potential case surge in autumn. "The administration is acting, within its limited funding, to increase the supply of at-home COVID-19 tests in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) by purchasing over 100 million additional at-home, rapid tests from domestic manufacturers," the White House said in a statement.
U.S. Plans Shift to Annual Covid Shots as New Boosters Roll Out
U.S. health authorities plan to recommend that people get Covid-19 boosters once a year, starting with the new shots now rolling out, a shift from their current practice of issuing new advice every several months. The annual cadence would be similar to that of flu shots, White House officials said, though elderly people and those with weakened immune systems may need more frequent inoculations. A shift to annual Covid-19 boosters would be a departure from current practice and comes after many people in the U.S. have ignored calls to get a first or second booster, partly due to fatigue with repeat inoculations.
Pfizer/Biontech Covid-19 Booster Approved by UK Medicines Regulator
An updated Covid-19 booster vaccine has been approved for use in the UK. The second "bivalent" vaccine, made by Pfizer/BioNTech, targets two coronavirus variants and has been approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in those aged 12 and above. The regulator confirmed on Saturday that the vaccine had met its standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. The vaccine targets both the original strain of coronavirus and the Omicron variant that emerged at the end of 2021, and follows a similar booster from Moderna which was approved in August.
World's First Covid Vaccine You Inhale Is Approved in China
China became the first country to approve a needle-free, inhaled version of a Covid-19 vaccine made by Tianjin-based CanSino Biologics Inc., pushing the company’s shares up as much as 14.5% Monday morning in Hong Kong. China’s National Medical Products Administration approved CanSino’s Ad5-nCoV for emergency use as a booster vaccine, the company said in a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Sunday. The vaccine is a new version of CanSino’s one-shot Covid drug, the first in the world to undergo human testing in March 2020 and which has been used in China, Mexico, Pakistan, Malaysia and Hungary after being rolled out in February 2021.
Maintaining Services
COVID rules cast clouds over Hong Kong schools
In Hong Kong, stringent COVID-19 curbs have long made life for school students extremely hard. Now, a new rule requiring higher vaccination levels could upend what progress has been made towards resuming full-day in-person classes. Further delays to normal school life are likely to exacerbate youth mental health problems as well as give more people reason to leave the city, further undermining its status as an Asian financial hub, educators and business leaders warn.
China Restricts Domestic Travel as Covid Outbreaks Grow
Article reports that China is stepping up its Covid defenses as a key Communist Party meeting looms, restricting internal travel further as swathes of the country remain under tight lockdowns. The National Health Commission on Thursday announced a raft of measures that will be in place until the end of next month to fight a virus that shows little sign of slowing. Authorities told citizens to minimize travel during the mid-Autumn festival next week and National Day holidays in October, ordinarily key periods for domestic tourism, and asked local governments to test all residents regularly for Covid regardless of infection levels.
Healthcare Innovations
Scientists Found a New Antibody That Neutralizes All COVID Variants
COVID-19 vaccines have been effective at keeping people from getting severely ill and dying from the virus, but they’ve required different boosters to try to keep on top of all of the coronavirus variants that have popped up. Now, researchers have discovered an antibody that neutralizes all known COVID-19 variants. The antibody, called SP1-77, is the result of a collaborative effort from researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Duke University. Results from mouse studies they’ve conducted were recently published in the journal Science Immunology, and they look promising.
Top scientists join forces to study leading theory behind long COVID
Top scientists from leading academic centers are banding together to answer a key question about the root cause of long COVID - whether fragments of the coronavirus persist in the tissues of some individuals. The effort, known as the Long Covid Research Initiative, aims to streamline research and quickly pivot to clinical trials of potential treatments. By sharing diverse skill sets and resources, the group hopes to uncover the scientific underpinnings of the disease and use that to design evidence-based trials.
Long COVID's link to suicide: scientists warn of hidden crisis
The 56-year-old, who caught the disease in spring 2020, still had not recovered about 18 months later when he killed himself at his home near Dallas, having lost his health, memory and money. "No one cares. No one wants to take the time to listen," Taylor wrote in a final text to a friend, speaking of the plight of millions of sufferers of long COVID, a disabling condition that can last for months and years after the initial infection.
What scientists have learnt from COVID lockdowns
Most scientists agree that lockdowns did curb COVID-19 deaths and that governments had little option but to restrict people’s social contacts in early 2020, to stem SARS-CoV-2’s spread and avert the collapse of health-care systems. “We needed to buy ourselves some time,” says Lauren Meyers, a biological data scientist at the University of Texas at Austin. The pandemic’s true health cost: how much of our lives has COVID stolen? At the same time, it’s clear that lockdowns had huge costs, and there is debate about the utility of any subsequent lockdown measures. School and university closures disrupted education. Closing businesses contributed to financial and social hardship, mental ill health and economic downturns. “There’s costs and benefits,” says Samir Bhatt, a public-health statistician at Imperial College London and the University of Copenhagen. Scientists have been studying the effects of lockdowns during the pandemic in the hope that their findings could inform the response to future crises. They have reached some conclusions: countries that acted quickly to bring in stringent measures did best at preserving both lives and their economies, for instance. But researchers have also encountered difficulties. Analysing competing harms and benefits often comes down not to scientific calculations, but to value judgements, such as how to weigh costs that fall on some sections of society more than others.
COVID app that detects virus in your voice 'more accurate than lateral flow tests'
Users will be required to give information about their medical history, smoking status and demographics and record some respiratory sounds, such as coughing and reading a short sentence.