Monday CoronaBuzz, November 23, 2020: 40 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.


Country-specific in this case. Scotland Daily Record: Citizens Advice Scotland launches online ‘Money Map’ to help people access immediate support. “The unique tool… brings together all the options on how people can improve their incomes and cut their living costs through issues such as housing, benefits and energy bills and directs them to online sites where they can access these options.”

WHNT: Alabama’s contact tracing app expands capabilities, still very few have downloaded it. “If you leave Alabama for the holidays and you are one of the few with the free Guidesafe app, you could be notified of a COVID-19 exposure via a collective database that links other contact tracing apps together. Some states have apps like Guidesafe and some do not. Medical professionals say the expanded capabilities of Guidesafe could be a game changer. However, just under 150,000 people have the app compared to more than 5 million people that call Alabama home.”


PR Newswire: Open-Source enVerid COVID-19 Energy Estimator Available for Building Engineers (PRESS RELEASE). “enVerid Systems, a leading provider of indoor air quality solutions, today shared a new tool to calculate energy, costs and carbon impact of various HVAC strategies for mitigating airborne transmission of COVID-19. The free, open-source enVerid COVID-19 Energy Estimator allows building owners, mechanical engineers, and facility managers to quickly gain a more complete picture of the risk, costs, and carbon impacts of different ventilation and filtration approaches.”


Daily Beast: Delusional COVID Truthers Try to Invade Hospital Where This Mom Died Too Soon. “A big red heart fashioned with five dozen Post-its was in one of the windows of the intensive care unit at Utah Valley Hospital when the conspiracy theorists pulled into a parking lot that they found to be suspiciously empty. The heart was placed there by nurses to mark the room where one of their own died on Oct. 30. Neonatal intensive care nurse Patrice Grossman, who was born at the same hospital where she worked, had predicted when COVID-19 first arrived in America that she would be among the fatalities. She and seven other family members, beginning with her baby grandson, contracted it at home from out-of-state house guests who believed the virus is no big deal.”


Washington Post: America’s 250,000 covid deaths: People die, but little changes. “From the start of the pandemic, public health officials and many political leaders hoped that covid’s frightening lethality — the death toll will hit 250,000 this week — might unite the country in common cause against the virus’s spread. But the nation’s deep divisions — political and cultural — as well as the virus’s concentrated impact on crowded urban areas in the early months, set the country on a different path.”

BBC: Climate change: Covid pandemic has little impact on rise in CO2. “The global response to the Covid-19 crisis has had little impact on the continued rise in atmospheric concentrations of CO2, says the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Carbon emissions fell dramatically in 2020 due to lockdowns that saw transport and industry grind to a halt. But this has only marginally slowed down the overall rise in concentrations, the scientists say.”

Washington Post: Hand sanitizer is the perfect 2020 gift (no, really). Here are 5 great options.. “Hand sanitizer is poised to be the hot Christmas stocking stuffer this year. Sanitizer bottles are becoming staples in entrance foyers, desks and cars, and medical experts even suggest plunking them down on your Thanksgiving table. In these uncertain times, the gift of wellness is both thoughtful and caring.”


WTOP: Kennedy Center cancels all performances through April 2021. “The Kennedy Center announced Wednesday that it is canceling all performances through at least April 25, 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The performing arts center, home to the Washington National Opera, the National Symphony Orchestra, one-off music performances and national touring shows such as ‘Hamilton’ (scheduled at one point for the summer of 2020), has been mostly closed since March.”

BBC: Shanghai airport Covid scare sparks ‘chaotic’ mass testing. “A string of positive Covid tests at Shanghai’s Pudong airport has sparked mass testing of thousands of people amid reportedly chaotic scenes. Authorities requested all cargo staff come for testing on Sunday. Official pictures released of the testing appear to show an orderly, calm process. However, other videos believed to be of the mass testing show officials in hazmat suits corralling large, yelling crowds into a restricted space.”


Eater DC: Crowdfunding Donations Pour In to Save a Halal Grill in D.C. Famous for Feeding Homeless People. “Sakina Halal Grill owner Kazi Mannan has a lot to be thankful for as Thanksgiving approaches this year. Just last week, the South Asian restaurant in downtown D.C. was on the ropes, and Mannan was prepared to lock up for good. In a last ditch effort, Mannan launched a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe on Thursday, November 12. Over its first six days, the fund raised more than $237,000 toward a $250,000 goal.”

The Guardian: Food couriers denied toilet access at UK’s top chains during lockdown. “Some of the UK’s biggest restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, KFC, Nando’s, Subway and Wagamama, have been illegally denying toilet access to the couriers that have helped keep them in business during the lockdown. Couriers claim government laws stipulating that people making deliveries should continue to have access to loos during the pandemic are being widely flouted at food outlets currently restricted to takeaways only.”

ABC News: Pandemic has taken a bite out of seafood trade, consumption. “The coronavirus pandemic has hurt the U.S. seafood industry due to a precipitous fall in imports and exports and a drop in catch of some species. Those are the findings of a group of scientists who sought to quantify the damage of the pandemic on America’s seafood business, which has also suffered in part because of its reliance on restaurant sales. Consumer demand for seafood at restaurants dropped by more than 70% during the early months of the pandemic, according to the scientists, who published their findings recently in the scientific journal Fish and Fisheries.”

BBC: Covid: Vaccination will be required to fly, says Qantas chief. “International air travellers will in future need to prove they have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to board Qantas flights, the airline says. The Australian flag carrier’s boss, Alan Joyce, said the move would be ‘a necessity’ when vaccines are available.”


Spectrum Local News: Cuomo: Sheriffs Should Enforce 10-Person Limit on Gatherings. “County sheriffs should enforce the 10-person limit on gatherings in home as set by New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. Upstate county sheriffs in recent days have signaled they would not enforce the limit, which is also advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a way of limiting the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Texas Tribune: Coronavirus cases in Texas are soaring again. But this time Gov. Greg Abbott says no lockdown is coming.. “This week, more than 7,400 Texans are hospitalized for COVID-19, and the positivity rate has exceeded 10% for over three weeks. But the governor’s strategy as the state heads into the holidays is to stay the course, relying on a 2-month-old blueprint to claw back reopenings regionally based on hospitalizations. The mask order remains in place, but last week he ruled out ‘any more lockdowns,’ and tensions are again rising with local officials who want more authority to impose safety restrictions.”

WRAL: Gov. Cooper COVID-19 update coming as NC records highest case numbers yet. “North Carolina reported its highest number of new coronavirus cases — 4,514 — on Sunday as more people get tested before Thanksgiving. Gov. Roy Cooper will hold a press conference Monday afternoon. After limiting indoor gatherings from 25 to 10 people, the governor said last week that, if numbers don’t improve, some new restrictions might need to be enacted.”

Miami Herald: Facing COVID surge, Florida mayors ask DeSantis for mask mandate, more local control. “As the holidays approach — and threaten to worsen a nationwide coronavirus surge — the mayors of five Florida cities and municipalities met Wednesday to request that Gov. Ron DeSantis impose a statewide mask mandate, ramp up the state’s testing effort and reinstate the authority of local governments to impose coronavirus restrictions as needed.”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Gov. Tony Evers says he will extend mask mandate into 2021. “Gov. Tony Evers said Wednesday he will issue a new public health emergency on the coronavirus pandemic and will extend the state’s indoor mask mandate into 2021. Evers also called on Republican lawmakers and conservatives to stop pushing a lawsuit aimed at blocking the mandate, which is the only statewide government intervention currently in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, which is raging in Wisconsin.”


BBC: Covid-19: China pushes for QR code based global travel system. “Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a “global mechanism” that would use QR codes to open up international travel. ‘We need to further harmonise policies and standards and establish ‘fast tracks’ to facilitate the orderly flow of people,’ he said. The codes will be used to help establish a traveller’s health status. But Human Rights advocates warn that the codes could be used for “broader political monitoring and exclusion”.


Today: ‘This is just the beginning’: ER doc, 28, sick with COVID-19 pleads with public. “Nearly two weeks ago, Dr. Dave Burkard woke with fatigue, a cough and shortness of breath. The 28-year-old emergency medicine resident knew exactly what it was: COVID-19. After months of living and working through the pandemic, he had somehow caught it. Yet, he was surprised by how sick he became even though he was healthy and active.”

Politico: ‘It’s complicated’: Biden team weighs whether to retain Deborah Birx. “President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team is weighing whether to give Trump administration coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx a role in its Covid-19 response, even as it prepares a broader purge of officials closely tied to the president’s handling of the pandemic.”


Valley News Live: North Dakota to roll out free rapid testing for K-12 school staff in pilot project to slow COVID-19 spread. “The North Dakota Department of Health, with support from local public health and the North Dakota National Guard, will roll out free rapid testing for K-12 teachers, staff, and administrators this week as part of a pilot project to identify asymptomatic COVID-19 cases so they can quickly isolate and prevent further spread of the virus.”


Washington Post: For months, he helped his son keep suicidal thoughts at bay. Then came the pandemic.. “Since the coronavirus arrived, depression and anxiety in America have become rampant. Federal surveys show 40 percent of Americans are now grappling with at least one mental health or drug-related problem. But young adults have been hit harder than any other age group, with 75 percent struggling. Even more alarming, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently asked young adults if they had thought about killing themselves in the past 30 days, 1 of 4 said they had.”

New York Times: The Coronavirus Is Airborne Indoors. Why Are We Still Scrubbing Surfaces?. “Scientists who initially warned about contaminated surfaces now say that the virus spreads primarily through inhaled droplets, and that there is little to no evidence that deep cleaning mitigates the threat indoors.”

MedPage Today: Here’s Why COVID-19 Mortality Has Dropped. “Healthcare workers are now seeing unprecedented increases in COVID-19 diagnoses and hospitalizations — but there hasn’t been a congruent rise in mortality rates even as case counts set records. In fact, the COVID-19 mortality rate in the U.S. has fallen since the start of the pandemic. That decline has no single, clear explanation, but experts have pointed to a host of contributing factors, including a higher proportion of cases among the young, increased knowledge of how to treat COVID patients, better therapies, and less overcrowding in hospitals.”

Phys .org: Covid and pollution: intimately linked, compound threat. “Lockdowns may have temporarily cleared up the skies above big cities this year but experts warn that air pollution remains a Covid-19 threat multiplier, as well a health hazard that will far outlast the pandemic. As governments ordered temporary confinement measures to battle multiple virus waves, several studies have charted a marked increase in air quality in the US, China, and Europe.”

Washington Post: A vial, a vaccine and hopes for slowing a pandemic — how a shot comes to be. “The country appears to be on track to have two remarkably effective coronavirus vaccines available before year’s end — the one from Kalamazoo, made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, and another from biotech company Moderna. Both are proving to be more than 90 percent effective in clinical trials so far. But the next phase of this race will depend on the herculean task of producing these tiny vials of vaccine at a vast scale nearly overnight and distributing millions of doses without wasting any. Getting a vaccine into people’s arms is a meticulously choreographed high-wire act that must not falter at any juncture, and distribution looms as among the most daunting challenges. Basic questions remain to be resolved: Which hospitals or pharmacies will receive, store and administer the doses? Who will get first crack at receiving them?”


ABC News: Wedding with over 300 guests in Washington state linked to COVID-19 outbreak. “A wedding in Washington state attended by over 300 people has been linked to nearly 40 COVID-19 cases so far, health officials said. The massive party was held near Ritzville, in rural Adams County, on Nov. 7, officials said.”

KTSM: El Paso now has more active COVID-19 cases than entire Republic of Mexico. “The coronavirus continues to pound El Paso hard, with the City-County Health Department reporting 13 deaths and 994 new infections on Tuesday. Add to that late tests results from the Texas Department of Health and the county has now recorded 76,075 cases and 782 fatalities since the pandemic began. Local hospitals on Tuesday were treating 1,120 COVID-19 patients, with 313 in intensive care and 202 on ventilators. A total of 10 mobile morgues were supposed to be in operation by midweek to shore up cadaver storage facilities that have been overwhelmed.”


CNN: Everyone you know uses Zoom. That wasn’t the plan. “The tweet was when Eric Yuan knew something had to change. Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, shared a photo from his first ever virtual cabinet meeting. The cybersecurity red flags jumped out immediately. Some cabinet secretaries’ Zoom screen names were visible, you could see which platform the cabinet was running its computers on, and most glaringly, the meeting ID was visible for all to see. The significance of the moment was not lost on the team at Zoom.”


New York Times: Immunity to the Coronavirus May Last Years, New Data Hint. “How long might immunity to the coronavirus last? Years, maybe even decades, according to a new study — the most hopeful answer yet to a question that has shadowed plans for widespread vaccination. Eight months after infection, most people who have recovered still have enough immune cells to fend off the virus and prevent illness, the new data show. A slow rate of decline in the short term suggests, happily, that these cells may persist in the body for a very, very long time to come.”

BBC: Covid-19: Oxford University vaccine shows 70% protection. “The coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford stops 70% of people developing Covid symptoms, a large-scale trial shows. It will be seen as a triumph, but also comes off the back of Pfizer and Moderna showing 95% protection. However, the Oxford jab is far cheaper, and is easier to store and get to every corner of the world than the other two.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: New study shows mask mandates in St. Louis, St. Louis County drastically reduced virus spread. “Mask mandates in St. Louis and St. Louis County quickly and drastically slowed coronavirus infection rates this summer compared with outlying counties, according to a new study from St. Louis University. But effects of the mask orders were also durable, the study says: After 12 weeks, the average daily growth rate of coronavirus cases in the two urban counties was still 40% lower than in counties without the policy. Moreover, the mandates reduced ‘the unequal burden’ on higher-risk groups, decreasing transmission rates in more densely populated areas and on racial minorities, who have been disproportionately infected, the research says.”

The Conversation: What fabric should you make your face mask from?. “You have probably become used to wearing a face mask in public. And you probably wear a fabric one, as we’ve been urged to save N95, FFP3 and other ‘clinical grade’ masks for healthcare workers. This is despite science not knowing how well fabric masks work. To overcome this, a team that I am part of at the University of Cambridge decided to test various fabrics to see how well they would protect the wearer and the public when used in face masks. One element of fabric mask efficacy can be discovered by looking at how well various materials block virus-sized particles (from 0.2 to 1.0 micrometres).”

The Institute of Museum and Library Services: Brass, Marble, Glass, Laminate, and Steel: Results from Tests of Coronavirus on Five Common Museum and Library Building Materials. “The REALM project has released results from the sixth round of tests conducted in a Battelle laboratory that determined how long SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can remain active on five materials commonly used in furnishings, exhibits, and equipment found in museums, libraries, and archives. The tests examined architectural glass, marble, countertop laminate, brass, and powder-coated steel. Samples of each material were inoculated with active virus, allowed to dry, and then placed in an environmentally controlled chamber with no outside light or air.”

University of Exeter: COVID-19 is just one factor impacting wellbeing of employees working from home, study finds. “A new study on work-life balance has found that the COVID-19 crisis is a crucial factor – but not the only one – behind low levels of wellbeing among employees working from home. A research team including Professor Ilke Inceoglu, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and HR Management at the University of Exeter Business School, analysed data from 835 university employees, who completed a baseline questionnaire on wellbeing and took a weekly survey.”

News-Medical .net: Compounds in traditional Chinese medicine herbs may inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection. “Using computational methods, a team of researchers identified three compounds in traditional Chinese medicine that could be used against SARS-CoV-2: quercetin, puerarin and kaempferol​. Of the three compounds, quercetin showed the highest binding affinity to both the ACE2 receptor and the receptor-binding domain of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, and could thus provide a dual synergistic effect.”


BuzzFeed News: People Are Making Vaccine Memes About Moderna And Pfizer. “With an end to the pandemic perhaps in sight, people gathered to celebrate the only way we really can in 2020: with an outpouring of memes about the rivalry between two big pharmaceutical companies.”


Washington Post: We still haven’t decided what it means to ‘beat’ the pandemic. “Nine months into the pandemic, debates around control still focus mostly on specific policies: Are mask mandates good or bad? Are ‘lockdowns’ worth the cost? Would home testing be effective in containing spread? What is less often discussed is what we are actually trying to accomplish with these policies. In other words, what does success look like? Is it a complete elimination of transmission of the virus? Or is it simply keeping death and hospitalization rates low enough that our health systems can continue functioning normally? Does the definition of success change when a vaccine arrives?”

Washington Post: Power Up: This was my experience with the novel coronavirus. “I’m a healthy 31-year-old former college athlete with no preexisting conditions and like many other people, I was still knocked out by a moderate case of covid-19. My recovery did not require hospitalization, and while I’m still fatigued and have a lingering cough, I’m lucky to have avoided the worst-case scenario and have a boss who insisted that I take time off to recover. While I was unsettled by how much I slept during my bout with the virus, there was nothing unusual about my case and my symptoms more or less aligned with those listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

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