Sunday CoronaBuzz, November 22, 2020: 31 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.


Deadline: Festival goes online to celebrate research in Europe. “EXPLORATHON FESTIVAL is this year going online to connect the public with university research in 300 cities across Europe. The festival will be virtual with Zoom workshops, Twitter-takeovers, Facebook Live events and more and will run from the 23rd to the 29th of November. Explorathon will feature events led by universities across Scotland in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife, Tayside and Shetland.”

Spin Southwest: Ireland’s Biggest Book Festival For Young Adults Goes Digital. “Ireland’s biggest & most exhilarating arts festival for Young Adults, in association with Listowel Writers Week, is set to go on line – 24th, 25th & 26th November. Festival organiser Helen Lane spoke to Louise on Spin Now this morning. Ireland’s young adults are in for a treat – an exciting festival line-up of poets, motivational speakers, fiction writers, singers, film-makers and journalists sharing the best of literature across secondary schools nationwide.” The festival is free.


NBC New York: NYC Unveils Digital Tool to Help New Yorkers Verify Authenticity of Contact Tracers. “Contract tracers are trying to reach more people than ever amid the latest U.S. surge. But how can you tell if the person who calls you is legitimate? New York City now has an answer to that all-important question. New Yorkers contacted by the city’s Test & Trace Corps to track possible COVID-19 exposure can now verify the authenticity of the contact tracer through a brand new digital function of the program, officials announced Friday.”

WTOP: Maryland releases new flu surveillance data dashboard. “A new tool released by the Maryland Department of Health tracks flu vaccination rates by area, gender and race and offers more detail with year-over-year comparisons. The dashboard offers enhanced data visuals, year-over-year comparisons and flu vaccination rates by jurisdiction. The previous dashboard only included standard weekly flu surveillance reporting.”


BBC: Covid: Gaza health system ‘days from being overwhelmed’. “Rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the Gaza Strip threaten to overwhelm the Palestinian territory’s healthcare system within days, experts warn. Of Gaza’s 100 ventilators, 79 are already taken up by Covid-19 patients, said Abdelraouf Elmanama, of the enclave’s pandemic task force. Densely populated Gaza, with two million residents and high levels of poverty, is vulnerable to contagion.”

Chapelboro: 5,000 North Carolinians Now Dead from COVID-19. “The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported Saturday nine new deaths of state residents from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total number of casualties to 5,005. North Carolina’s cumulative total of positive cases now stands at 332,261 residents. It took the state less than two months to add another 1,000 deaths to its count, having passed the 4,000-death mark in mid-October.”


BBC: YouTube, Facebook and Twitter align to fight Covid vaccine conspiracies. “Three of the largest social networks have said they will join forces with fact-checkers, governments and researchers to try to come up with a new way of tackling misinformation. Vaccine misinformation has been rife on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, with many questioning their efficacy.”


WRAL: NC town mourning COVID-19 death of local Santa Claus. “The City of Lincolnton is busy preparing downtown for Christmas, but one special community tradition won’t be back this year. James Helms, downtown Lincolnton’s beloved Santa Claus, recently died after battling COVID-19.”

New York Times: Recession With a Difference: Women Face Special Burden. “For millions of working women, the coronavirus pandemic has delivered a rare and ruinous one-two-three punch. First, the parts of the economy that were smacked hardest and earliest by job losses were ones where women dominate — restaurants, retail businesses and health care. Then a second wave began taking out local and state government jobs, another area where women outnumber men. The third blow has, for many, been the knockout: the closing of child care centers and the shift to remote schooling.”

CNN: Walmart reports shortages of toilet paper and cleaning supplies at some stores. “Officials at Walmart (WMT), the largest retailer in the country, said Tuesday that supply chains have not kept up with rising demand, and these goods have been harder to stock consistently in locations with sharp spikes in new virus cases. The United States has recorded more than 100,000 daily infections for two weeks straight, and on Monday reported more than 166,000 new cases.”

WBBM: Food insecurity spikes for holiday amid COVID-19 surge. “Alongside the current surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, food banks are reporting spikes in need heading into the holiday, presenting an increasingly dire situation for many American families.”


The Atlantic: Hospitals Can’t Go On Like This. “At The Atlantic’s request, HHS provided data on the number of hospitals experiencing staffing shortages. From November 4 to November 11, 958 hospitals—19 percent of American hospitals—faced a staffing shortage. This week, 1,109 hospitals reported that they expect to face a staffing shortage. That’s 22 percent of all American hospitals. In eight states, the situation is even more dire.”


BBC: ‘Thanksgiving To Go’: Americans splash out on takeaways. “As officials warn against travel and in some places bar gatherings of more than 10 people due to the pandemic, the limits have raised questions about the impact on Thanksgiving, normally one of the biggest holidays in the US and a generator of billions of dollars in travel and food sales. Among poultry producers, the likelihood that smaller gatherings this year could loosen loyalty to the traditional turkey dinner has raised fears of a surplus of the fowl, especially of larger birds.”


Washington Post: D.C. launches $100 million grant program for hard-hit businesses. “The D.C. government has launched a new program that will allocate $100 million in grant funding to local businesses, a fresh injection of cash officials hope will help carry the city’s hardest-hit industries through the coronavirus pandemic.”

Eater LA: LA County Reduces Outdoor Dining Capacity to 50 Percent and Institutes 10 p.m. Curfew. “Supervisor Sheila Kuehl announced today that LA County will have new rules in place to stem the most recent surge of COVID-19 cases from the past few weeks, including 50 percent reduced capacity for outdoor dining rooms, a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew for restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries, and non-essential retail businesses, and 25 percent capacity for indoor retail.”


Global News: Canada-U.S. border closure to extend into December as coronavirus cases rise: source. “The Canada-U. S. border is set to remain closed well into December. A federal source speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly confirmed the 30-day rollover of the closure that was set to expire on Friday.”


Los Angeles Times: Harvey Weinstein doesn’t have COVID-19, but his health is still declining in prison. “Harvey Weinstein isn’t battling COVID-19, but he is struggling with a number of health issues in prison — one of which was a 101-degree fever this week, his representatives said Thursday.”

NPR: Ben Carson Says He Was ‘Desperately Ill’ With The Coronavirus. “Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, took to Facebook on Friday to report he has been ‘extremely sick’ with the coronavirus. But Carson, one of several individuals in the Trump administration who recently contracted the virus, said the worst is behind him.”

New York Times: An Unlikely Thanksgiving Tradition Carries On. “This year’s holiday will be different for Thanksgiving Grandma, as it will for millions of other people. Ms. [Wanda] Dench and Mr. [Jamal] Hinton weighed the risks of holding a Thanksgiving celebration during the pandemic. They wondered if they could find a way to celebrate together early in the day, before splitting off to see their respective families, but decided the risk of spread was too great.” Ms. Dench’s husband died of Covid-19 this past spring.


MassLive: CDC director Robert Redfield said they do not recommend closing schools days after reports of CDC removing guidance pushing for reopenings. “After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed guidelines from its website that promoted in-person learning for schools, CDC Director Robert Redfield said they do not recommend closing schools during the COVID pandemic. Redfield’s announcement on Thursday said that schools can operate with ‘face to face learning’ and can do it ‘safely and they can do it responsibly.'”

New York Times: New York City to Close Public Schools Again as Virus Cases Rise. “The shutdown was prompted by the city’s reaching a 3 percent test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average, the most conservative threshold of any big school district in the country. Schools in the nation’s largest system, with 1.1 million students and 1,800 schools, have been open for in-person instruction for just under eight weeks.”

Vox: Why restaurants are open and schools are closed. “While there remains some debate, schools don’t appear to be major sources of viral spread in this pandemic. Restaurants, bars, and gyms, however — places where adults congregate, often in close quarters and often without masks — do seem to contribute to outbreaks. Indeed, many European countries that have locked down to mitigate their second waves have allowed schools to remain open while such businesses close. ‘It seems very clear to me that schools ought to be our priority,’ Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a research organization at the University of Washington, told Vox. So why aren’t more places in the US closing the bars and keeping the schools open?”


New York Times: As Occupancy Dwindles, College Dorms Go Beyond Students. “Thirty percent of American universities, both public and private, are running deficits, according to Moody’s Investors Service, and the pandemic has only added to financial pressures — virtual learning has put campuses into deep freeze, with online classes slashing the population of students who would have otherwise patronized campus bookstores, coffee shops and sporting events.”

Los Angeles Times: Duke University schools the country on how to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Duke University is sometimes referred to as a pretty good knock-off of fancier schools farther north. But while those ivy-clad universities with smart students, prestigious medical schools and big endowments stayed closed this fall, Duke invited its freshmen, sophomores, some upperclassmen and all of its graduate students to its Durham, N.C., campus for largely in-person classes. Now, it’s schooling those sniffier schools on how to reopen safely.”


New York Times: The Vaccines Will Probably Work. Making Them Fast Will Be the Hard Part.. “The promising news that not just one but two coronavirus vaccines were more than 90 percent effective in early results has buoyed hopes that an end to the pandemic is in sight. But even if the vaccines are authorized soon by federal regulators — the companies developing them have said they expect to apply soon — only a sliver of the American public will be able to get one by the end of the year.”

ABC News: Labs brace for impact of infection, COVID-19 testing surge as Thanksgiving looms. “As COVID-19 cases have continued to surge across the U.S., so has the demand for testing. Diagnostics experts are now closely monitoring several concerning and converging vectors and what could be a perfect storm of infection this holiday season. Labs and clinics administering COVID-19 tests warn that the need for testing may outstrip capacity.”


CBS News: Judge rules border agents can’t use COVID-19 order to expel migrant children. “A federal judge on Wednesday ordered border authorities to stop expelling migrant children without letting them seek humanitarian refuge, dealing a blow to a pandemic-era policy the Trump administration has used to curtail legal protections for minors in U.S. immigration custody.”

Chicago Sun-Times: Threats to feds lead to more than 4 years in prison for man convicted in first pandemic jury trial. “A jury convicted 40-year-old Robert Haas in August. His trial became a test run of sorts for new COVID-19 safety protocols at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. Jurors were spread out beyond the traditional jury box, taking breaks and deliberating in a separate courtroom. Public seating was limited, and witnesses were asked to wipe down the witness stand after their testimony.”


Washington Post: I’m a contact tracer in North Dakota. The virus is so rampant that we gave up.. “In recent weeks, North Dakota has had the most new cases per capita in the country. Our hospitalizations have doubled since last month. We have the world’s highest death rate from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Things got so bad, so fast, that we’ve surrendered one of our key weapons against the pandemic: Test and trace went by the wayside. Even if we had enough staff to call up everyone’s workplace and contacts, there are so many new infections that it wouldn’t be very effective. At this point, the government has given up on following the virus’s path through the state. All we can do is notify people, as quickly as we can, that they are infected.”


New York Times: For California Governor the Coronavirus Message Is Do as I Say, Not as I Dine. “Photos that surfaced this week of a dinner at the French Laundry, a temple of haute cuisine in Napa Valley where some prix fixe meals go for $450 per person, have sparked outrage in a state where Democratic leaders have repeatedly admonished residents to be extra vigilant amid the biggest spike in infections since the pandemic began.”

Politico: California doctors’ top brass attended French Laundry dinner with Newsom. “California Medical Association officials were among the guests seated next to Gov. Gavin Newsom at a top California political operative’s opulent birthday dinner at the French Laundry restaurant this month. CEO Dustin Corcoran and top CMA lobbyist Janus Norman both joined the dinner at the French Laundry, an elite Napa fine dining restaurant, to celebrate the 50th birthday of lobbyist and longtime Newsom adviser Jason Kinney, a representative of the powerful interest group confirmed Wednesday morning.”

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