Thursday CoronaBuzz, September 3, 2020: 32 pointers to new resources, useful stuff, research news, and more.

Please wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay at home if you can. Please be careful. I love you.


Imperial College London: COVID-19 hotspots projected with new website. “A new website uses reported cases and deaths to estimate the probability regions in England and Wales will become COVID-19 ‘hotspots’. The team behind the website, from Imperial College London, define a hotspot as a local authority where there are more than 50 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 of the population per week.”


Snopes: Oleandrin Is a Deadly Plant Poison, Not a COVID-19 Cure. “As a medical ethnobotanist, I study the traditional uses of medicinal plants to discover promising leads for new drugs to fight infectious diseases. It’s vital to consider both the potential benefits and risks of plant extracts in such research. I am concerned by recent reports that a chemical found in the oleander plant is being touted as a potential treatment for COVID-19.”


Texas Tribune: A South Texas chaplain prayed with his hospice patients. Then the coronavirus came for him.. “The hospital where he had previously ministered to terminally ill patients was full when Adolfo Alvarado Jr. neared death in his Mission home. He was finally admitted, and his daughter watched on her laptop as he died.”

Washington Post: A daughter’s choice: Her mom didn’t have covid-19. But isolation seemed to be killing her.. “There have been more than 70,000 deaths in long-term care facilities since March due to covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus — 41 percent of all virus-related deaths reported nationwide. But experts say the true toll of the deadly pandemic on the elderly is much higher. Geriatrician Michael Wasserman said cases of neglect and other issues have gone unnoticed because when visitors were barred, residents lost their most important watchdogs: families and the local ombudsmen, who are supposed to regularly visit long-term care facilities and investigate complaints.”


BBC: Germany coronavirus: ‘Anti-corona’ protests in Berlin draws thousands. “Some 38,000 people took part in a march that split into two main groups. Police ordered one group near the Unter den Linden to disperse for flouting safety rules, then arrested 200 after rocks and bottles were thrown. A second group of about 30,000 met peacefully west of the Brandenburg gate to hear speeches from, among others, the nephew of President John F Kennedy.”


Washington Post: Trump administration bars FDA from regulating some laboratory tests, including for coronavirus. “The new policy stunned many health experts and laboratories because of its timing, several months into a pandemic. Some public health experts warned the shift could result in unreliable coronavirus tests on the market, potentially worsening the testing crisis that has dogged the United States if more people get erroneous results. They argued the change is unlikely to solve current testing problems, which at this point are largely due to shortages of supplies such as swabs and chemical reagents.”

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Kemp’s latest order allows local mask mandates for the first time. “After months of opposing local mask mandates, Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order on [August 14] that empowers many Georgia cities and counties to impose face covering requirements to combat the coronavirus. More than a dozen governments have already adopted those requirements over Kemp’s objections, and the governor had gone to court to block them.”

AP: Politics slows flow of US virus funds to local public health. “Since the pandemic began, Congress has set aside trillions of dollars to ease the crisis. A joint Kaiser Health News and Associated Press investigation finds that many communities with big outbreaks have spent little of that federal money on local public health departments for work such as testing and contact tracing. Others, like in Minnesota, were slow to do so.”

Stars and Stripes: Marines in quarantine on Okinawa served moldy sandwiches and other ‘unacceptable’ fare. “Marines take their chow seriously, particularly while dining in quarantine when the menu may be the highlight of the day. So, higher-ups acted quickly Monday when Marines of 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, at Camp Schwab, Okinawa, mistakenly received moldy sandwiches and prepackaged meals slated for disposal, according to a spokesman for Marine Corps Installations Pacific.”

Daily Beast: The Government’s Workplace Safety Agency Cut Its Staff. Then COVID Hit And The Complaints Poured In.. “As the coronavirus pandemic hit, workers around the country flooded the office of a federal watchdog with reports that they’d been punished for speaking out about unsafe workplace conditions. But that office had just slashed its staff and has been unable to handle the huge influx of complaints. That was the key finding of a report released on [August 18] by the inspector general for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency tasked with protecting and promoting workplace safety. The IG’s office found a massive spike in whistleblower complaints submitted to the agency since the coronavirus outbreak began, many alleging employer retaliation against workers who reported unsafe working conditions.”


New York Times: Meet the Philosopher Who Is Trying to Explain the Pandemic. “In a society that respects science, expertise confers power. That has good results, but it brings a terrible problem: Illegitimate political power can be disguised as expertise. This was a favorite idea of the French philosopher Michel Foucault, who used it to explain how experts had expanded definitions of criminality and sexual deviancy. One of Italy’s most celebrated thinkers, Giorgio Agamben, has recently applied similar insights to the coronavirus, at the risk of turning himself into a national pariah.”

BBC: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson: Actor and family had Covid-19. “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson says he and his family had all contracted Covid-19. The former wrestler, who is now the world’s highest-paid actor, said he, his wife and two daughters caught the virus despite being ‘disciplined’ about health protection. He said the positive tests were ‘a kick in the gut’.”

Los Angeles Times: The surprising story of the salesman who became L.A.’s first known COVID-19 patient. “The family arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on the way home from a Mexican vacation that had been short-lived and unpleasant. They had been exhausted, the father was battling a nasty stomach bug, and even before they settled into their Cancun hotel, they got word of the sudden death of the wife’s mother in their hometown: Wuhan, China. The couple and their toddler son wanted to get back for the funeral and planned to be at LAX just long enough to switch planes. But as they passed through Tom Bradley International Terminal on Jan. 22, the father was overcome with a fever and body aches and approached a customs officer for help.”


Washington Post: Iowa cuts four sports, becoming the first Big Ten school to ax programs during the pandemic. “Four sports that had spanned a combined 328 years at the University of Iowa suffered discontinuation [August 21], trimmed from another athletics budget ailing from the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic. In an open letter, the university president and the athletic director of a program in an especially stormy year announced the end of the men’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming and men’s tennis programs at the end of the 2020-21 academic year. It signaled the end of programs that had begun, respectively, in 1922, 1917, 1974 and 1939, according to Iowa media guides.”

The Athletic: MLB TV ratings increase over last season, led by women and youth. “That Major League Baseball TV ratings are up in the first month of the abbreviated 2020 season is somewhat of a modest surprise, given the sport is competing with NBA and NHL playoffs and a crush of political and pandemic news — not to mention the longstanding narrative of a graying sport in decline. But what is even more notable is the demographics fueling the rise: women and younger people, two groups that did not exactly flock to baseball in recent years (if not decades). The increases are seen in both national ratings, such as ESPN’s, and across the regional sports channels that air the bulk of MLB games.”


Mother Jones: Jared Kushner’s Rationale for Sending His Kids Back to School Is, At Best, Misleading. “As former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who later joined Face the Nation on Sunday, pointed out, it’s still unknown how many children have actually been infected with the coronavirus. And as I reported last month, it’s incredibly difficult to know much of anything definitively about kids and COVID-19. One reason for this ambiguity may be because many children don’t show symptoms.”


Politico: Masks, surgical gowns, testing supplies on FDA shortage list. “Surgical gowns, gloves, masks, certain ventilators and various testing supplies needed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic are on the FDA’s first-ever list of medical devices in shortage. The agency is not disclosing who makes any of the devices on the list, which it released [August 14], because that ‘will adversely affect the public health by increasing the potential for hoarding or other disruptions.’ Instead, the agency has released the product codes of devices in shortage.”

ProPublica: Cellphone Data Shows How Las Vegas Is “Gambling With Lives” Across the Country. “Las Vegas casinos reopened June 4, and they have become a likely hotbed for the spread of the novel coronavirus, public health experts said. But if tourists return home and then test positive for COVID-19, the limitations of contact tracing in the midst of a pandemic make it unlikely such an outbreak would be identified.”

Washington Post: Residential segregation plays a role in coronavirus disparities, study finds. “Counties with the highest percentage of White residents have had the lowest rates of coronavirus infections, even as infections have increased with the reopening of some states’ economies, an indication that residential segregation is a significant factor in the pandemic’s spread, a study has concluded.”

New York Times: Why Pooled Testing for the Coronavirus Isn’t Working in America. “The decades-old approach combines samples from multiple people to save time and precious testing supplies. Federal health officials like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Adm. Brett Giroir said pooling would allow for constant surveillance of large sectors of the community, and said they hoped it would be up and running nationwide by the time students returned to school. But now, when the nation desperately needs more coronavirus tests to get a handle on the virus’s spread, this efficient approach has become worthless in many places, in part because there are simply too many cases to catch.”


KCUR: Top Hospital Doctors Warn Kansas City Is On The Verge Of Uncontrolled Coronavirus Spread. “An average of 90 people are currently being hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Kansas City area each day. The Kansas City area is poised to become the next major U.S. hotspot for COVID-19, risking a dangerous and previously unseen stage of the virus for the region.”


CNN: Software company Okta will let most of its 2,600 employees work remotely permanently. “Workplace software company Okta said Thursday it plans to let most of its employees work remotely on a permanent basis, becoming the latest Silicon Valley company to adopt sweeping office policy changes amid the pandemic — and in the face of shifting US immigration policy.”

Phys .org: The music app that helps school children play in socially distanced orchestras. “A team of musicians, composers, technologists and performers at the University of Sussex have developed an app called Syncphonia, which helps students to play music in socially distanced ensembles. Pupils can follow scores on iPads, meaning that they never need to lose their place—something which can be a source of frustration and loss of confidence for children learning to play music.”


Phys .org: Productivity could be improved by a permanent shift towards remote working, research shows. “Nine out of ten employees who have worked at home during lockdown would like to continue doing so in some capacity, research suggests. The report, by academics at Cardiff University and the University of Southampton, presents the first analysis of employee survey data focusing on homeworking, which was gathered for the Understanding Society COVID-19 Study.”

Washington Post: What the coronavirus can teach us about fighting climate change. “The cartoon flashed across Katharine Hayhoe’s social media timeline in mid-July: Two doctors in lab coats scrutinize a box labeled “covid-19 science” while one says to the other, ‘As long as we just provide the FACTS to the American people.’ Next to them, a pair of climate scientists are clutching their stomachs and laughing themselves to tears. Hayhoe, a climate researcher at Texas Tech University, had to laugh, too. She is all too familiar with the limits of facts when people don’t want to face them.”

NBC News: Poll: Less than half of Americans say they’ll get a coronavirus vaccine. “Less than half of American adults say they would get a government-approved coronavirus vaccine if one becomes widely available, new data from the NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll show, with the majority unsure about getting the vaccine or saying they’re ruling it out entirely.”

ScienceBlog: COVID-19 Is Evaporating Casual Connections And Why That’s Bad. “It’s the conversations with a local barista, a bus driver, a casual work acquaintance, or a person in line at the store that make up what the experts call ‘weak ties’: individuals we don’t know well, if at all, but who nevertheless contribute to our happiness and sense of belonging. These encounters have largely gone missing with the advent of stay-at-home orders and lockdowns issued in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, and that loss could be taking a significant toll on our emotional health and professional productivity.”


DCist: People Are Rarely Cited For Large Social Gatherings In The D.C. Area. “D.C., Maryland and Virginia all have ordinances in place that limit large gatherings and require people to wear masks during COVID-19. But according to health departments and police, enforcement of those gatherings has not been particularly punitive, with few area residents receiving fines or citations in connection with mass gatherings.”


New York Times: Kristin Urquiza, Whose Father Died of Covid, Denounces Trump at D.N.C.. “Ms. Urquiza, whose impassioned obituary drew national attention, said her father’s ‘only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump — and for that he paid with his life.'”

Talking Points Memo: Is Your State Ready For The Pandemic Election? A Look At GA, MI, PA, TX, and WI. “While some states have made great strides in adapting their election infrastructure for the COVID-19 outbreak, trouble spots remain. Further complicating the picture is a President eager to trumpet false claims about voter fraud, while his campaign finds other ways to gum up the works. To help you prepare for things getting messier come November, we’re taking a state-by-state look at the places that appear most ready for what the pandemic could bring, and where things are most likely to be knocked off kilter due to coronavirus.”

BBC: Jamaica election: Voters go to polls amid surge in Covid-19 cases. “Jamaicans are voting to elect a new parliament as the country grapples with a surge in coronavirus infections. Prime Minister Andrew Holness called for the early vote last month in what analysts saw as a bid to capitalise on people’s satisfaction with his economic agenda and early response to the virus. But he has faced criticism amid a rise in cases as restrictions are lifted.”

NOLA .com: The Balcony has held big wedding receptions amid coronavirus. This politician asked the state to let them continue.. “A Metairie wedding venue owned by the family of Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Jennifer Van Vrancken has continued hosting large receptions over the past several months, some of which allegedly had over 200 guests, despite state restrictions on gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

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