Friday CoronaBuzz, December 11, 2020: 35 pointers to updates, useful stuff, research news, and more.

Nine month anniversary of doing this and my hair looks sillier every day. Please wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay at home if you can. Please be careful. I love you.


Imperial College London: COVID-19 in Austria mapped: New tool projects trajectory of virus in Austria. “A new COVID-19 analysis tool that estimates which districts in Austria could become coronavirus hotspots has been launched by Imperial. The website tool, uses reported cases and deaths to estimate the probability any of the 94 political districts of Austria will become COVID-19 ‘hotspots’ in the next three weeks.”


Vox EU: Trade policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence from a new dataset. “One of the instruments many governments resorted to in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic was trade policy. This column introduces a new high frequency dataset on trade policy changes targeting medical and food products since the beginning of the pandemic, documenting how countries used such instruments on a week-by-week basis. While there was a burst in trade policy activism in February and March 2020 in tandem with the rise in COVID-19 cases, there was significant variation across governments in their resort to trade policy, the types of measures used, and the duration of interventions.”


Mother Jones: Indian Country Has Entered a Devastating New Phase of the Pandemic. “The Mississippi Choctaw, the Navajo and other southwestern tribes struggled early on, but most of rural Indian Country was largely unscathed until the pandemic’s most recent surge. Now, cases have spiked for the Blackfeet and Crow tribes in Montana, where overworked tribal hospital employees are tending to relatives and neighbors. In Wisconsin, cases among Native Americans have risen nearly sevenfold in three months, while Lakota tribes’ efforts to protect their reservations in North and South Dakota finally crumbled in the face of state leaders’ inaction. The virus is even raging through remote Alaska Native villages with little to no health infrastructure.”


Gizmodo: Google Adds Knowledge Panels in Search Results for Covid-19 Vaccines to Counter Misinformation. “Google plans to counter vaccine conspiracy theories and misinformation by tacking on new knowledge panels to search results when people look up information about covid-19 vaccines.”


New York Times: The Jazz Standard Is Silenced by the Pandemic. More Clubs May Follow.. “The pandemic has been brutal for music venues around the country. With few exceptions, they have been unable to put on shows and, unlike restaurants and bars, have received little consideration in the reopening plans of most state governments. A federal bill, the Heroes Act, had earmarked $10 billion in relief for music venues and other live-music businesses, but the bill stalled in Congress this fall as larger talks over government relief broke down.”

Gotham Gazette: How New York City’s Public Libraries Adapted to COVID-19. “Last month, the New York City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs and Libraries held an oversight hearing on the city’s public libraries and COVID-19. The committee, chaired by Queens Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, heard testimony from Anthony Marx, the President, and CEO of New York Public Library, which is the system for Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island; President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library Linda Johnson; and President and CEO of Queens Public Library Dennis Walcott. The discussion touched on library funding and finances, and how libraries have adjusted during the pandemic, which shut their buildings down for months earlier this year and continues to significantly impact their operations.”


CNET: Apple employees may not return to offices before June 2021. “Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees on Thursday that most teams won’t return to offices before June 2021, Bloomberg reported, as the world waits for coronavirus vaccines to become widely available.”

KCAL: Business Owner Says Restaurants Are Being Unfairly Targeted By Coronavirus Restrictions. ” A restaurant owner who was forced to shut down because of coronavirus restrictions is frustrated after a film crew was able to set up outdoor dining for its workers right across from her restaurant. Angela Marsden, who owns Pineapple Hill Saloon and Grill, said her anger isn’t toward the movie industry, but because she believes restaurants are being unfairly targeted by Los Angeles County health orders.”

BBC: How New Zealand’s film industry boomed during the pandemic. “It might be found at the bottom of the globe, but New Zealand has been at the top of the movie industry in 2020. Thanks to its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country is enjoying an unprecedented boom in film production, with directors seeking safe conditions, and that most elusive thing this year – a normal life.”

CNET: Facebook employees won’t be required to get COVID-19 vaccine to return to office. “Facebook said Thursday that CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees he doesn’t think it will be necessary to require workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine before they return to the office. Zuckerberg also expressed confidence in the vaccine, saying he looks forward to getting one himself.”

Washington Post: As China nears a coronavirus vaccine, bribery cloud hangs over drugmaker Sinovac. “Chinese coronavirus-vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech is good at getting its products to market. It was first to begin clinical trials of a SARS vaccine in 2003 and first to bring a swine flu vaccine to consumers in 2009. Its CEO was also bribing China’s drug regulator for vaccine approvals during that time, court records show.”


South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Secrecy and spin: How Florida’s governor misled the public on the COVID-19 pandemic. “Throughout the COVID-19 crisis in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration engaged in a pattern of spin and concealment that misled the public on the gravest health threat the state has ever faced, a South Florida Sun Sentinel investigation has found.”

Vox: How Melbourne eradicated Covid-19. “In July and August, the Australian state of Victoria was going through a second Covid-19 wave. Local leaders set an improbable goal in the face of that challenge. They didn’t want to just get their Covid-19 numbers down. They wanted to eliminate the virus entirely. By the end of November, they’d done it.”

Los Angeles Times: L.A. looking at layoffs for as many as 1,900 workers, including 951 police officers. “City Administrative Officer Rich Llewellyn advised Mayor Eric Garcetti and members of the City Council to lay plans for deep reductions at the LAPD, cutting the number of rank-and-file officers by roughly 10% while also eliminating 728 civilian jobs within the department.”


Washington Post: DeVos extends moratorium on federal student loan payments through end of January. “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday extended the suspension of federal student loan payments through the end of January, giving Congress and the incoming Biden administration time to put in place a longer moratorium.”

NBC News: After first round of vaccine distributions, bulk of planning remains unfinished. “A panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week announced its guidelines for the first phase of the most ambitious national vaccination campaign in modern history. Yet beyond the guidelines advising states about how to deploy their vaccines — and a large Defense Department operation to deliver them — the Trump administration hasn’t prepared for a major federal role, a lack of planning that is causing significant anxiety among state and local health officials.”

Washington Post: CDC recommends people wear masks indoors when not at home. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging ‘universal mask use’ indoors for the first time as the country shatters records for coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths ahead of the holiday season. The CDC has for months encouraged mask-wearing in public spaces with people outside the household. The new guidance, published [December 4], asks people to put on masks anywhere outside their homes.”


WSB-TV: Metro Atlanta couple married 50 years dies of COVID-19 just hours apart. “A school nurse and her husband of 50 years died just hours apart of COVID-19 on Thanksgiving day. Nurses and doctors set Willard and Wilma Gail Bowen up side-by-side in the ICU in their final moments.”

The Atlantic: When a News Anchor Does the Government’s Job. “The news team found 71-year-old Gabor Radnai wandering around their parking lot, crying and clutching a pile of paperwork. ‘Why did you drive your papers here?’ Anne McCloy, an anchor at CBS-6 Albany, asked Radnai. ‘They can’t help me,’ he said. ‘Maybe you can.'”

Los Angeles Times: World War II vet beats COVID-19 in time to turn 104. “An Alabama man who spent World War II repairing bomb-damaged trains in France recovered from a fight with COVID-19 in time to mark his 104th birthday Thursday. Major Wooten was physically drained and a little fuzzy mentally after battling the coronavirus but appears to be on the mend, granddaughter Holley Wooten McDonald said.”


Washington Post: When will children get a coronavirus vaccine? Not in time for the new school year, experts fear.. “As the United States eagerly awaits the availability of a safe, effective vaccine for the coronavirus that has plagued the nation for months, a significant group, making up more than one-fifth of the population, will need to wait longer than many others for immunization: children.”


Arizona State University: Research examines how students react to moral messages about COVID-19. “According to data collected by a team of Arizona State University researchers, students struggle to balance the safety of vulnerable family members with the need for peer connection. Led by Professor Vince Waldron of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, the team interviewed on- and off-campus university students as they began the fall 2020 semester to discern what moral messages informed their decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic.”


National Geographic: Exclusive: Kids catch and spread coronavirus half as much as adults, Iceland study confirms. “National Geographic was given exclusive access to the results from an Icelandic study that provides definitive evidence of how much children contribute to coronavirus spread. Researchers with the nation’s Directorate of Health and deCODE genetics, a human-genomic company in Reykjavik, monitored every adult and child in the country who was quarantined after potentially being exposed this spring, using contact tracing and genetic sequencing to trace links between various outbreak clusters. This 40,000-person study found that children under 15 were about half as likely as adults to be infected, and only half as likely as adults to transmit the virus to others. Almost all the coronavirus transmissions to children came from adults.”

New York Times: How 700 Epidemiologists Are Living Now, and What They Think Is Next. “Even with coronavirus vaccines on the way, many epidemiologists do not expect their lives to return to pre-pandemic normal until most Americans are vaccinated. In the meantime, most have eased up on some precautions — now going to the grocery store or seeing friends outdoors, for example — but are as cautious as ever about many activities of daily life.”

Mother Jones: COVID-19 Is Now America’s Leading Cause of Death. “COVID-19 surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States this week, according to a report released [December 4] by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. An average of 1,660 people died of COVID in the US each day in the past week, according to IHME. As Dr. Sanjay Gupta explained on CNN, this exceeded the average number of Americans (10,000 to 11,000) who die each week of cardiac issues. In all, more than 11,600 died from COVID in the past seven days.”

Boston Globe: Coronavirus traces found in Mass. wastewater reach highest levels yet of the fall surge. “In a troubling sign, the amount of coronavirus found in wastewater at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s Deer Island treatment plant has reached the highest level yet of the fall surge. New recent highs in COVID-19 RNA copies per milliliter of wastewater were reached for the southern section and the northern section, which includes Boston, according to the latest tests, which were conducted up until Tuesday.”


STAT News: How key decisions slowed FDA’s review of a Covid-19 vaccine — but also gave it important data. “In September, as Pfizer and partner BioNTech were quickly advancing a study of their Covid-19 vaccine, dozens of well-known academics sent an open letter to Pfizer’s CEO with a simple plea: Please slow down and collect more data. It was not until Nov. 20 that the data were submitted to the Food and Drug Administration.”

BBC: Covid: Trials to test combination of Oxford and Sputnik vaccines. “UK and Russian scientists are teaming up to trial a combination of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines to see if protection against Covid-19 can be improved. Mixing two similar vaccines could lead to a better immune response in people. The trials, to be held in Russia, will involve over-18s, although it’s not clear how many people will be involved.”

National Geographic: Poll shows 61 percent of Americans likely to take COVID-19 vaccine. “Former U.S. presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton say they will take an FDA-approved coronavirus vaccine as soon as it is available. Will you? A National Geographic and Morning Consult poll finds 61 percent of Americans surveyed are likely to do so as well.”


Washington Post: Nursing home staffers attended a 300-person superspreader wedding. Now six residents have died.. “Last month, more than 300 people packed into a wedding near rural Ritzville, Wash., defying state restrictions. Authorities later traced more than a dozen coronavirus cases and two outbreaks to the ceremony — and warned the fallout would probably get worse. Now, health officials say the wedding also included some guests whose job is caring for among the most vulnerable to coronavirus: nursing-home residents. At least six residents have now died of covid-19 at two nursing homes where staffers tested positive for the virus after attending the wedding, the local department announced in a Thursday news release.”


CNBC: Privacy concerns a challenge for Trump administration’s effort to track Covid vaccinations. “The Trump administration’s plan to coordinate existing vaccine registries into a national database for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout is raising privacy concerns among some immunization officials who say the data should remain only with states.”

Washington City Paper: The Unusual Case of the Five Cookies and $1,000 Fine at Dirty Goose. “Dirty Goose had five cookies on its menu last week, but the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration investigator who visited the establishment didn’t have a sweet tooth. Following a Nov. 27 inspection, ABRA fined the gay bar on U Street NW $1,000 for violating one of the city’s most peculiar policies. Businesses holding alcohol licenses must ‘offer a food menu at all times containing at least three prepared food items’ in order to seat customers during the phased reopening process in D.C.”


New York Times: The Winter Mitch McConnell Created. “The problems a basic relief measure would address couldn’t be more obvious. Under current law, up to 12 million Americans could lose their jobless benefits by year’s end — a wretched Christmastime for millions of families, which could spawn a wave of depression, morbidity, family breakdown and suicide. Millions of people could be evicted from their homes. Thousands more businesses may close during the long winter months before a vaccine is widely available. These are not failing, unproductive businesses. These are good, strong businesses that would have provided jobs and opportunity for millions of Americans for decades if they hadn’t been hit by the pandemic.”


Business Insider: 13 prominent Democrats stand accused of hypocrisy for ignoring COVID-19 restrictions they’re urging their constituents to obey. “Few Democratic politicians have attended anything comparable to the now-infamous late September nomination ceremony for Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the White House that became a coronavirus superspreader. But many have contradicted their own guidance or even official rules they issued aimed at preventing the transmission of COVID-19.”

NBC 4 New York: NJ Gov. Murphy Rips Congressman ‘Matt Putz,’ Says ‘I Don’t Ever Want You Back in This State’. “Phil Murphy, New Jersey’s ordinarily mild-mannered governor, had strong words [December 4] for Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and a group of New York City Young Republicans who held a gala event in Jersey City in violation of social distancing rules.”

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