Friday CoronaBuzz, November 27, 2020: 39 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.


On Cuba News: Cuba reports 48 new cases of COVID-19, 28 of them imported. “At the close of this Saturday there were 378 active cases, and 3,143 patients were hospitalized for epidemiological surveillance, of them 755 suspected of having the disease.”

AP: Russia’s health system under strain as the virus surges back. “Across the country, 81% of hospital beds that have been set aside for coronavirus patients were full as of [November 18th]. Three times last week, the Russian government reported a record number of daily deaths, and the number of daily new infections per 100,000 people has more than doubled since Oct. 1, from 6 to over 15. Overall, Russia has recorded over 2 million cases and over 35,000 deaths, but experts say all numbers worldwide understate the true toll of the pandemic.”

Metro: Bodies of hundreds killed during New York’s Covid surge still in freezer trucks. “The bodies of hundreds of people who died during New York City’s coronavirus surge back in the spring are still being stored in freezer trucks used as temporary morgues. Many of the 650 bodies at the makeshift morgue on the Brooklyn waterfront are of people whose families cannot be located or are unable to afford a proper burial, officials told The Wall Street Journal.”

ABC News Australia: There are no active COVID cases in Victoria, after the last coronavirus patient was released yesterday. “The Department of Health and Human Services says the last time Victoria’s hospitals were free of coronavirus cases was February 21. DHHS says 9,960 test results were received yesterday, up from 7,261 the previous day.”


Insider: Divorce court is normally quiet during the holiday season, but this year it’s booming as the pandemic drives couples apart. “Divorce lawyers are gearing up for their busiest holiday season ever. From the Jewish New Year in September through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and up until the New Year, there’s typically a lull in court filings and hearings, they told Insider. But, they say, heightened stress, anxiety, and bitterness due to the coronavirus pandemic is giving them some work to do.”

New York Times: 1 America, 1 Pandemic, 2 Realities. “The pandemic and the nation’s disjointed response have taken the notion of two Americas to a new extreme. As known coronavirus cases in the United States have surpassed 12 million over the course of the pandemic, the daily routines of millions of Americans are now shaped by their ZIP codes and governors and beliefs about the virus: Do they wear masks? Go to school in person or online? Eat out? Get exposed to the virus?”

Wall Street Journal: Covid Upends a Rural Hospital, Where Staff Know All the Patients. “The Crow reservation, home to about 7,200 people in southern Montana, has been struck by one of the nation’s worst outbreaks in recent weeks. That has created a situation at this 24-bed hospital, operated by the U.S. Indian Health Service, unlike almost any other medical facility in the country: The people helping combat the disease know many of the sick.”

CBS News: 1 in 4 Americans are jobless or earning poverty-level wages, new study finds. “In October, more than 1 in 4 workers were either unemployed or working for poverty-level wages, according to an analysis of government data from the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP). By comparison, the October jobless rate stood at 6.9%, down from 14.7% in April as workers regained jobs or gave up searching for work.”

Providence Journal: One in four Rhode Islanders can’t meet basic food needs, food bank’s annual report says. “The pandemic that has taken almost 1,300 Rhode Island lives has also plunged people into food insecurity at a rate not seen since the Great Depression. In 2019, the number reporting food insecurity was 9.1%. This year, 25% said they were unable to provide enough food for themselves and their families.”


Washington Post: Smallest health providers face biggest problem finding protective gear amid coronavirus surge. “Most U.S. hospitals and health systems have, over the pandemic’s nine months, stitched together systems and improvisations to acquire masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment. Yet many small health-care and social-service settings continue to suffer from shortages they expect to grow worse.”

St. Louis Public Radio: St. Louis Children’s Hospital Is Now Seeing Adult Patients With COVID-19. “St. Louis Children’s Hospital is now treating adult patients with the coronavirus. The hospital began admitting adult patients over a week ago in an attempt to relieve doctors at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, a hospital spokesperson confirmed [November 20]. Intensive care units at Barnes-Jewish and other area hospitals are nearing capacity. Children’s Hospital is treating adults in both its emergency room and ICU.”


CNN: Guitar Center is filing for bankruptcy. “The 61-year-old company — the biggest musical instrument retailer in the United States — had tried to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic by offering virtual music lessons. But Guitar Center was forced to close many of its stores in March during nationwide lockdowns, and it struggled to get customers to buy instruments as the economy headed south.”


Vox: Social distancing is a luxury many can’t afford. Vermont actually did something about it.. “Researchers studying Covid-19 policy say Vermont’s successes are inextricably linked to its approach to helping at-risk groups avoid the virus. ‘Vermont’s prioritization of its vulnerable populations has helped both to protect those [people] from the worst outcomes we’ve seen in other settings but also contributed to the much lower transmission rates in the state,’ said Anne Sosin, the program director of Dartmouth College’s Center for Global Health Equity.”


Politico: CDC urges overwhelmed contact tracers to prioritize efforts as cases soar. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising overwhelmed local health officials to triage their coronavirus contact tracing efforts, writing that the latest infection surge is making it difficult to reach every close contact of Covid-positive patients in time to help contain the disease’s spread.”

Stars and Stripes: Coronavirus cases among VA patients surpass 13,000. “More than 13,300 Department of Veterans Affairs patients are sick with the coronavirus — a number that more than doubled in the past 20 days and represents the most active cases the VA has ever had at one time. Cases have increased 108% since Nov. 2. On that day, VA cases hit an all-time high, surpassing the number of active cases seen during a surge of the virus in July. Every day since Nov. 2, the department has set a new record.”


Wired: Larry Brilliant Says We’ll Beat Covid—After We Go Through Hell. “DICKENSIAN. That’s a term that rolled off epidemiologist Larry Brilliant’s tongue when I spoke to him in one more marathon interview this past weekend. He was not referring to the horrific descriptions of human suffering in the celebrated 19th century novelist’s works—though as we speak, the near-term picture he paints of our pandemic crisis does have images, of bodies stacked in refrigeration vans, that are, well, Dickensian. Instead, he is referencing the opening line of A Tale of Two Cities: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …'”

El Paso Matters: El Paso Mayor Dee Margo says Hispanics have higher COVID-19 hospital rates than “normal Caucasians”. “In a nationally televised interview, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said El Paso is facing a COVID-19 crisis because Hispanics are far more likely to be hospitalized than ‘normal Caucasians.'”

Law & Crime: Ghislaine Maxwell Quarantined After COVID-19 Scare in Her Unit. “Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York reported on Monday that Ghislaine Maxwell is in quarantine after a staffer working in her area of pre-trial lockup contracted the coronavirus. Maxwell herself has tested negative and is not exhibiting symptoms.”

BBC: Italian serenaded by husband outside hospital dies. “The image of 81-year-old Stefano Bozzini playing the accordion from an Italian street below his wife’s hospital window stole hearts around the world. Carla Sacchi was allowed out of the hospital near Piacenza a few days ago but has now died at her home. Although she had not contracted coronavirus, hospital rules meant her husband was unable to visit her.”


Yahoo: As college basketball implodes, the sport needs to pivot to save season — ‘It’s going to be a disaster’. “A bleak spree of breaking news the past 72 hours leaves the sport at a crossroads. College basketball is crumbling in front of us because of greed, competing agendas and a lack of leadership. By foolishly deciding to play non-conference games, the sport is now risking what it really needs in the long term – a way to play conference games and, most importantly, play the NCAA tournament.”


Chalkbeat Tennessee: Tennessee is supposed to track COVID-19 cases in schools, but privacy concerns and limited reporting make that tough. “Tennessee’s online database that is supposed to inform students and parents about the prevalence of COVID-19 cases on school campuses gives an incomplete picture because of privacy concerns and limited reporting by districts. A Chalkbeat analysis of COVID-19 data in the state’s schools dashboard shows between 880 and 3,540 student coronavirus cases weren’t included in the district level totals from Oct. 19 to Nov. 15. Similarly, at least 685 and as many as 2,740 teacher cases also were excluded on the district level.”

New York Times: When Schools Closed, Americans Turned to Their Usual Backup Plan: Mothers. “Today, even though most mothers are employed and fathers have increased the hours they spend on housework and child care, women still spend about an hour more a day on each. Moreover, when unexpected demands pop up — like a child who is home sick or a work meeting that conflicts with child care duties — mothers prioritize the home front, research shows. As a result, men’s careers aren’t slowed by family caregiving needs nearly as much as women’s are.”

CBS News: School districts saw unprecedented drop in enrollment during pandemic. “As school started this fall during the pandemic, some of the largest school districts saw an unprecedented decrease in student enrollment. Sharyn Alfonsi reports on how districts mobilized to get kids in school this fall.”


Washington Post: College students hit the road after an eerie pandemic semester. Will the virus go home with them?. “They have endured the strangest fall term in memory, cooped up in dormitories and apartments, taking classes mostly online, seeing professors in person only occasionally, if at all, hanging out with just a few close friends and imagining how this lakeshore capital in a state swamped by the coronavirus might someday recover its boisterous college vibe when the pandemic subsides. Now thousands of University of Wisconsin students are making getaway plans, part of a mass pre-Thanksgiving exodus from campuses nationwide that could spread the dangerous pathogen in hometowns across the country if students and schools aren’t careful.”


The Atlantic: Don’t Eat Inside a Restaurant. “The unfortunate ubiquity of mucus is why restaurants, it brings me no pleasure to report, are contributing to the spread of the coronavirus. Indoor public places, including restaurants, played a significant role in the spread of COVID-19 this spring, according to scientific analyses of cellphone data. In a September study, people who tested positive for COVID-19 were more than twice as likely as those who tested negative to report eating in a restaurant recently. Talking with someone who has COVID-19 for 30 minutes or longer—about the time between your bloomin’-onion appetizer and molten-chocolate dessert—more than doubles your odds of catching it.”

New York Times: Small Gatherings Spread the Virus, but Are They Causing the Surge?. “Household get-togethers undoubtedly do contribute to community transmission of the virus. Canada’s recent Thanksgiving certainly added to its rising cases; such an increase may happen here, too, as the United States embarks on a holiday season like no other. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday warned so strongly against gathering with others outside the household during Thanksgiving. But are dinners and backyard barbecues really the engine driving the current surge of infections?”


University of Maryland: University of Maryland, Carnegie Mellon, and Facebook Team Up to Forecast Coronavirus Spread. “Social data researchers at the University of Maryland Social Data Science Center (SoDA) and Carnegie Mellon University Delphi Research Group have forged a unique partnership with social media giant Facebook to predict the spread and future hotspots of COVID-19 as well as identify patterns in preventative measures – allowing for earlier detection of outbreaks and helping public authorities to respond to the pandemic.”


BBC: Oxford Covid vaccine: Regulator asked to assess jab. “The government has asked the regulator to assess the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, bringing the UK a step closer to a possible rollout. The referral to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) marked ‘a significant first step’ in getting the vaccine ‘approved for deployment’, the government said.”

BBC: Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine ‘dose error’ explained. “On Thursday, multiple news outlets in the UK and US reported that there were questions over the data. They weren’t about safety, but rather how effective the jab is. The questions centre around efficacy levels. Three were reported from the trial – an overall efficacy of 70%, a lower one of 62% and a high of 90%. That’s because different doses of the vaccine were mistakenly used in the trial.”

ScienceBlog: Narcissists Love Being Pandemic Essential Workers. “In a new study, researchers found that essential workers (including those in restaurants, grocery and retail stores) who scored higher on measures of narcissism shared more than others about their work. And this sharing on social media, in person and elsewhere increased their narcissistic feelings in the moment.” I hope this goes without saying, but let me just emphasize that not all essential workers are narcissists, obviously, and all essential workers are, well, essential, no matter what their narcissism score is, and I thank them!

ScienceBlog: Features That Could Make Someone A Virus Super-Spreader. “Sneezes from people who have congested noses and a full set of teeth travel about 60 percent farther than from people who don’t, according to a new study.”

Caltech: Robotics Engineers Take on COVID-19. “When the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns brought an abrupt halt to their research this spring, robotics engineers at Caltech and the University of Michigan took tools that were originally created to help robots to walk and autonomous cars to drive safely and applied them to the development of an epidemiological methodology that accounts for human interventions (like mask mandates and stay-at-home orders).”


BBC: Kenyans arrested at airport with ‘fake’ Covid certificates. “Officials have arrested 21 people accused of attempting to use fake ‘Covid-free certificates’ to travel from Kenya to the United Arab Emirates. It came after the UAE issued a visa ban on Kenyans, allegedly after visitors were found using forged certificates.”


New York Times: America Is Letting the Coronavirus Rage Through Prisons. “Like the nation overall, U.S. correctional facilities are experiencing record spikes in coronavirus infections this fall. During the week of Nov. 17, there were 13,657 new coronavirus infections reported across the state and federal prison systems, according to the Marshall Project, which has been tracking these numbers since March. The previous week saw 13,676 new cases. These are by far the highest weekly tolls reported since the pandemic began. With winter descending, the situation threatens to grow bleaker still.”

Mashable: It’s time to suck it up and do Zoom happy hours again. “At first, Zoom happy hours were novel. And fun! Next, they were an underwhelming necessity. An ‘it’s better than nothing’ option. Eventually, they became … boring. And a little bit depressing. Most of us just stopped doing them. This also happened to be around the same time we learned masked and socially distanced outdoor get togethers were relatively safe. But now it’s time again, folks. Suck it up and do Zoom happy hours again.”

Crosscut: I lost my mom to COVID-19. Don’t let the holidays steal yours. “I am the youngest of four children, six years after my last sibling, most likely an accident. But even until the last day, she never admitted it. ‘I always wanted four children,’ she told me, tubes coming out of everywhere: the port in her chest, the oxygen in her nose, the IV in her arm. On Sunday, she had gone into the emergency room. By Thursday afternoon, she was dead. ”

San Francisco Chronicle: The third wave is here, but we still need to reopen our schools. “Our children need to be back in school. They are experiencing significant, potentially long-term and unnecessary adverse impacts from state rules that have failed to prioritize schools, further exacerbated by slow-moving county health departments and superintendents that, in turn, failed to display an appropriate sense of urgency in reopening schools when we enjoyed our lowest levels of COVID prevalence in September and October.”


CNBC: Nearly 200 legislators have tested positive for coronavirus nationwide and four have died as GOP flouts rules. “Many Republican lawmakers in states where coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have surged are not only rejecting statewide mask mandates. They’re also resisting rules requiring them in their own capitols.”

HuffPost: Biden Backs Democrats’ Pursuit Of Bigger COVID-19 Relief Deal. “President-elect Joe Biden supports congressional Democrats in holding out for a more comprehensive coronavirus relief package than Republicans have been willing to support, a spokesman for the presidential transition said Monday.”

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