Wednesday CoronaBuzz, November 18, 2020: 32 pointers to updates, 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.


From Sitejabber: Coronavirus Consumer Resource Center. “This time of uncertainty and alarm has brought out both the best and worst in businesses. While some aim to help with donations and discounts, others offer false information and scams to make more money. As a leading platform of authentic consumer resources, we are providing this consumer-centric guide with businesses for users to turn to for medical information, protective gear, stay-at-home alternatives, and more.”


CNN: For Thanksgiving Day, Zoom will lift its 40-minute time limit for free meetings. “Zoom announced it will lift its timed meeting limit on Thanksgiving so ‘your family gatherings don’t get cut short.’ The video communications company announced in a tweet that the 40-minute time limit it usually has on its free meetings will be lifted globally on November 26 (Thanksgiving Day).”


Military Times: VA’s active coronavirus cases jump to more than 10,000. “Active coronavirus cases among Department of Veterans Affairs patients reached their 14th consecutive day of record-high levels over the weekend, surpassing 10,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Before November, the total active cases spread across the department’s medical centers had not gone above 6,400 at any point since the first coronavirus cases in America were identified in early March.”


BBC: Covid-19: Stop anti-vaccination fake news online with new law says Labour. “Emergency laws to “stamp out dangerous” anti-vaccine content online should be introduced, Labour has said. The party is calling for financial and criminal penalties for social media firms that do not remove false scare stories about vaccines. It follows news of progress on the first effective coronavirus vaccine.”


Route Fifty: The Lopsided Telework Revolution. “The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated a transition to telework, protecting the jobs and the health of those whose work can be performed remotely. Creative policies in a post-pandemic world are needed to help more broadly distribute the benefits of increased remote work.”

WCVB: Long lines snake through parking lots at free COVID-19 testing facilities. “Long lines developed Monday outside at least two of Massachusetts’ free COVID-19 testing sites, causing one to close the queue to newcomers and another to ask people to wait in a separate parking lot. In Framingham, city officials said the line for testing outside the TJX headquarters was so long that it had to be split into two parking lots to avoid clogging the main street.”

New York Times: With 11 Million Cases in the U.S., the Coronavirus Has Gotten Personal for Most People. “As Covid-19 cases surge in almost every part of the country, researchers say the United States is fast approaching what could be a significant tipping point — a pandemic so widespread that every American knows someone who has been infected. But, as reflected in the polarized response to the virus, the public remains deeply divided about how and whether to fight it, and it is unclear whether seeing friends and relatives sick or dead will change that.”


Straits Times: SIA applies self-disinfecting coating in planes as it prepares to carry more passengers. “Self-disinfecting coatings have been applied in the toilets as well as on the handles of overhead storage compartments on Singapore Airlines (SIA) planes as the carrier prepares to welcome more passengers on board. The airline is also working with the authorities on Covid-19 testing protocols, with more details to be announced at a later date.”

CNET: Universal blockbuster movies will stay longer in theaters than smaller flicks before renting online. “Universal’s new deal with a theater chain — Cinemark, this time — will let the film studio rent its new movies online dramatically sooner than ever before, but the latest agreement has a twist: If a Universal movie scores $50 million or more at the box office in its opening weekend (which gigantic franchises like Fast & Furious and Jurassic World uniformly do), that flick gets to stay in theaters exclusively for 31 days, or five weekends. If the movie doesn’t hit the $50 million mark, it can be released to rent online just 17 days after its big-screen premiere, or three weekends.”

WJLA: ‘I can’t feed myself’: DC restaurant famous for feeding the homeless daily now struggling. “A Washington, D.C. restaurant that went viral for its efforts to feed the poor and homeless is now asking the public for help. When ABC7 did a story on Sakina Halal Grill in February 2019 – the owner, Kazi Mannan, said it changed his life.”


Washington Post: Worsening coronavirus crisis pushes leaders to take new measures. “A dark reality is sinking in for officials across the country, with [North Dakota governor Doug] Burgum just the latest leader to announce new restrictions in the face of surging cases and hospitalizations that health experts have been warning about for months. But doctors and health officials worry that the urgency of the escalating crisis has not gotten through to a public weary of pandemic shutdowns. And the push for stronger measures has triggered backlash and legal fights.”

San Francisco Chronicle: California pulls ‘emergency brake’ on pandemic reopenings — much of Bay Area moved to purple tier. “California is ‘pulling an emergency brake’ on its strategy to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing many counties to retreat to the most restrictive tier on the state’s scale for reopening their economies.”

City of Philadelphia: Philadelphia announces new “Safer at Home” restrictions to fight rising COVID-19 cases. “In response to rising COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia, the City and Department of Public Health have announced changes to restrictions on businesses, events and gatherings, and other activities to help flatten the epidemic curve, prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, and reduce the number of COVID-19 deaths. The new ‘Safer at Home’ restrictions are effective November 20, 2020 through January 1, 2021. An extension of these restrictions and/or the implementation of additional restrictions is possible depending on trends in the spread of coronavirus in the city.”

Chicago Sun-Times: Lightfoot cancels 350 layoffs tied to her ‘pandemic’ budget. “Buoyed by higher than expected marijuana revenues, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Saturday canceled plans to lay off 350 city employees to help secure the 26 City Council votes she needs to pass her ‘pandemic budget.’ Revenues generated by the sale of recreational and medical marijuana have ‘gone through the roof’— topping $100 million statewide for the first time in October and $800 million in the first 10 months.”


Haaretz: Netanyahu Celebrates Deal, but Pfizer ‘Keeps Right to Do Anything It Wants’ With COVID Vaccine. “Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO and chairman, was quoted as saying that his company had reached an agreement with Israel which will allow its citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as the vaccine is approved by regulatory agencies. However, reality is more complicated. The company holds immense power vis-à-vis countries wishing to purchase its vaccine. The deal with Israel states dates and quantities, but includes no sanctions in case Pfizer does not deliver the goods.”

BBC: Covid-19: South Australia to enter ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown. “The state of South Australia will enter an immediate six-day lockdown to curb the spread of a coronavirus outbreak discovered days ago. The state has detected 36 cases since infections were found in Adelaide on Sunday, the first community cases detected in six months.”


Politico: Rep. Cheri Bustos tests positive for Covid-19. “Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said on Monday she had tested positive for Covid-19. Bustos, via Twitter, said she was experiencing mild symptoms, self-isolating in Illinois and planning to work from home until cleared by her physician. She did not say how she might have become infected, but added that she had contacted all the people she’s interacted with.”

Today: Boy, 4, loses both parents to COVID-19. “Raiden Gonzalez will turn 5 years old this month. But his parents won’t be there to celebrate with him. The 4-year-old’s mother died in October of Covid-19, a few months after the disease also killed his father.”


New York Times: How Will Biden Approach School Reopenings?. “Several months into the 2020-2021 school year, things are bad and getting worse. Most American children are not in classrooms, with many suffering ill effects. The country seems doomed to face increasing coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. There seems to be little chance of improved conditions for the rest of the year. So what will President-elect Joe Biden do about it when he takes office on Jan. 20?”


The Conversation: Why for-profit college enrollment has increased during COVID-19. “When COVID-19 hit the U.S., many experts warned that America’s colleges and universities could be devastated. Some of them predicted enrollment declines of up to 20%. So far, those initial forecasts were worse than what has actually taken place. One month into the fall semester of the 2020-2021 academic year, overall enrollment was only 3% lower than at the same time a year earlier. One kind of school, however, is faring better: for-profit colleges. Their average enrollment is up by 3%.”

Voice of America: New International Student Enrollment Falls 43% in the US. “COVID-19 has drastically cut international student participation in U.S. colleges and universities, punctuating three years of declining enrollment tied to costs, immigration barriers and perceived chaos in American society.”

Texas Monthly: Rice University’s Secret for Containing the Coronavirus: A Student-Run Court That Prosecutes Rule Breakers. “At a time when schools around the country have struggled to enforce on-campus restrictions, Rice decided its best bet for remaining open during the pandemic was to rely on those with the most to lose: the students. The CCC has overseen dozens of cases in recent months, the vast majority, including that of the socializing scofflaws, set in motion by fellow classmates who have been encouraged by the university to report coronavirus-related misconduct that makes them feel unsafe.”


UPI: 40% in U.S. planning large gatherings for holidays despite COVID-19 warnings. “Nearly 40% of U.S. residents plan to participate in gatherings of 10 or more people this holiday season despite concerns over the spread of COVID-19, according to the findings of a survey released Thursday by Ohio State University. In addition, one-third of respondents said they wouldn’t ask attendees at holiday parties with family or friends to wear masks, and just over 25% indicated that they wouldn’t practice social distancing, the data showed.”

Associated Press: Surging virus cases get a shrug in many Midwestern towns. “It’s not that people in Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa and elsewhere don’t realize their states are leading the nation in new cases per capita. It’s that many of them aren’t especially concerned. Wayne County, home to 6,400 people in southern Iowa, has the state’s second-highest case rate, yet its public health administrator, Shelley Bickel, says mask-wearing is rare. She finds it particularly appalling when she sees older people, who are at high risk, shopping at a grocery store without one.”


BetaNews: Pandemic leads to increased focus on e-waste. “The shift in working patterns prompted by COVID-19 has caused unnecessary short-term investment in technology, which will leave companies at risk with data being stored on a wide range of devices. This is according to 78 percent of respondents to a new survey from data erasure specialist Blancco Technology Group, which also reveals 47 percent of large global enterprises have created roles responsible for implementing and ensuring compliance with e-waste policies specifically to deal with issues generated from the pandemic.”


Göttingen University: COVID-19 highlights risks of wildlife trade. “Many diseases, such as COVID-19, have made the jump from animals to people with serious consequences for the human host. An international research team, including researchers from the University of Göttingen, says that more epidemics resulting from animal hosts are inevitable unless urgent action is taken. In order to protect against future pandemics which might be even more serious, they call for governments to establish effective legislation addressing wildlife trade, protection of habitats and reduction of interaction between people, wildlife and livestock. Their review was published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution.”

BBC: Covid-19: Chinese vaccine ‘successful in mid-stage trials’. “A Covid-19 vaccine developed in China has shown success in mid-stage trials, researchers say. There are several vaccines being developed in China, some of which are already being administered. According to the researchers, the Sinovac Biotech vaccine led to a quick immune response during trials with around 700 people.”


Texas Tribune: Incarcerated Texans enlisted to work in county morgue as COVID-19 deaths overwhelm El Paso. “The morgue in El Paso is so overwhelmed by the number of people dying from COVID-19 that inmates from the county’s detention facility are being brought in to assist with the overflow of bodies awaiting autopsy. While the work these inmates do in the community typically goes unpaid, Chris Acosta, a spokesperson for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, said ‘trustees refused to work unless they were compensated.’ They’re making $2 per hour.”


Brookings: A missing ingredient in COVID oversight: Equity. “The health and economic crises – and in some cases, the government response to them – have not only been felt more acutely in particular businesses and industries. They have also disproportionately hurt black- and minority-owned businesses and the communities they serve. As experts at watchdog organizations as well as our own respective organizations have pointed out, transparency and oversight are essential to ensuring a fair recovery that meets the needs of those who are struggling the most.”


Politico: Fauci warns that White House transition delays could slow vaccine rollout. “Anthony Fauci suggested Monday that the Trump administration’s refusal to begin a transition of presidential power could not only harm the federal coronavirus response at the pandemic’s most dire moment, but might also stall the rollout of potential vaccines amid positive medical developments.”

Washington Post: Trump tunes out pandemic surge as he focuses on denying election loss. “Since Election Day and for weeks prior, Trump has all but ceased to actively manage the deadly pandemic, which so far has killed at least 244,000 Americans, infected at least 10.9 million and choked the country’s economy. The president has not attended a coronavirus task force meeting in ‘at least five months,’ said one senior administration official with knowledge of the meetings who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details.”

NBC News: As Covid cases soar, GOP state lawmakers keep fighting to limit governors’ power to respond. “Coronavirus cases have surged to their highest levels yet, but conservative state legislators across the U.S. are fighting to limit governors’ ability to impose public health restrictions — and have succeeded in two states with rising caseloads in the heaviest hit region of the country.”

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