Thursday CoronaBuzz, December 17, 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.


ProPublica: A Guide to Navigating the Texas Unemployment System During the Coronavirus Pandemic. “People across the Lone Star State are struggling to navigate a maze-like system to get the benefits they are entitled to. Here are the answers to the most common questions about getting benefits from the Texas Workforce Commission.”


The Atlantic: The Month the Pandemic Started to End. “On one side, the picture is bleak: Every 30 seconds, another American dies of COVID-19. The number of people infected or killed in the United States keeps outstripping the common analogies we use—a hurricane, a daily 9/11 attack, a tsunami—to express the magnitude of our national catastrophes. On Wednesday, CDC Director Robert Redfield said that the death count could reach nearly 450,000 Americans by February. On the other side of the screen, though, the news is startling: The pandemic is beginning to end.”


NPR: Tipped Service Workers Are More Vulnerable Amid Pandemic Harassment Spike: Study. “In the best of times, service industry workers are typically paid below the minimum wage and rely on tips to make up the difference. Now, those still working in an industry battered by the coronavirus pandemic are on the front lines, enforcing COVID-19 safety measures at the expense of both tip earnings and avoiding harassment. A new report from One Fair Wage finds that more than 80% of workers are seeing a decline in tips and over 40% say they’re facing an increase in sexual harassment from customers.”

CNBC: The CDC banned evictions. Tens of thousands have still occurred. “For close to a decade, the Honeycutts lived in the brick house with white shudders on Patterson Street in China Grove, North Carolina. Vicki Honeycutt and her husband, James, a disabled Gulf War veteran, loved to sit out on the front porch, drinking Pepsis or sweet tea. Vicki’s favorite space in the three-bedroom house was the living room, where she usually hosted Christmas. Last year, her son, Matt, proposed to his girlfriend, Ragan, in front of their glistening tree. This year, when the holidays roll around, the Honeycutts won’t be there.”


Argus Leader: Some COVID-19 patients flown out of state as S.D. hospital ICU capacity dwindles. “South Dakota’s largest hospitals are at or above their capacity to care for critically ill COVID-19 patients, forcing some of the sickest patients to be flown out of state to receive care. The strain of a months-long surge in coronavirus cases has reduced hospital capacity to care for those with severe symptoms, making it increasingly uncertain whether the sickest South Dakotans will be able to get treatment in the state, health providers say.”


Asahi Shimbun: Screens showing CO2 level set up at venues to lessen virus risk. “At a recent live pop concert in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, the large screen set up at the edge of the stage didn’t give the audience a close-up view of the idol or any other eye-catching visual. Instead, it changed colors to show the carbon dioxide (CO2) level in the air, in an unconventional effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.”


Des Moines Register: Kick the can: Iowa’s bottle bill was falling apart — and then the pandemic made things worse. “When the Fareway supermarket chain decided in July not to resume taking empty beverage containers for redemption after a four-month coronavirus moratorium, its stores across the Des Moines metro posted signs telling customers where they could go to redeem their 5-cent deposits. Each sign included a list of three or four can and bottle redemption centers within an hour’s drive. At the top of each was K&B Redemption Center on the far northeast side of Des Moines, the only stand-alone redemption center still operating in Iowa’s most populous county, Polk.”

New York Times: In Blue States and Red, Pandemic Upends Public Services and Jobs. “The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted an economic battering on state and local governments, shrinking tax receipts by hundreds of billions of dollars. Now devastating budget cuts loom, threatening to cripple public services and pare work forces far beyond the 1.3 million jobs lost in eight months.”

Newsweek: 55 Percent of NYC Firefighters Say They Won’t Take COVID Vaccine, as City Continues to See Case Surge. “The survey was conducted by the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA), a union representing 8,200 active firefighters in New York City. UFA President Andy Ansbro said the survey accounted for 25 percent of their active members, according to the New York Post.”

CNN: A high school in Texas opened a grocery store for struggling families where good deeds are accepted as payment. “A school in a small town in Texas has ignited hope across the community by opening a student-led grocery store to support families in need. Linda Tutt High School in Sanger launched the grocery store in November so students could purchase necessities including toilet paper, meat and basic food items. They pay for their purchases by earning points from good deeds.”


BBC: Covid-19: Europeans urged to wear masks for family Christmas. “The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged Europeans to wear masks during family gatherings at Christmas. It said Europe was at ‘high risk’ of a new wave of coronavirus infections in the early part of 2021, as transmission of the virus remained high.”

Washington Post: The difference in how the pandemic has affected the U.S. and South Korea remains staggering. “The last time the population-adjusted rate of new cases in the United States was less than twice that of South Korea was March 18. The last time we were seeing less than 10 times as many new cases as a function of population was March 23. Over the past month, we’ve averaged 100 times as many new cases per resident each day, even as South Korea has seen an increase in its daily case totals.”

BBC: Coronavirus: Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf says coronavirus approach ‘has failed’. “Sweden has been criticised for its unorthodox approach to handling the pandemic, relying more on guidelines and never imposing a full lockdown. The country has seen nearly 350,000 cases and more than 7,800 deaths.”


Fort Worth Star-Telegram: 35-year-old Iraq War vet, father of 5, dies of COVID in Texas. ‘Can happen to anybody’. “Four weeks after developing COVID-19 symptoms he initially thought were flu-related, a 35-year-old Texas father died. Matthew Law, a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Iraq War, did not have any underlying health conditions before contracting the coronavirus, his Midlothian widow said. He died Nov. 28.”

The New Yorker: Atul Gawande on Coronavirus Vaccines and Prospects for Ending the Pandemic. “Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Gawande has been sharp in his criticism of the Trump Administration and, like Anthony Fauci and other prominent figures in public health, insistent on clear, basic measures to reduce levels of disease. After the election in November, President-elect Biden formed a COVID-19 advisory board and included Gawande among its members. Earlier this week, I spoke with Gawande for The New Yorker Radio Hour.”

CBS News: Gottlieb says U.S. could near 4,000 deaths a day as virus surges. “With infections and deaths from the coronavirus surging nationwide, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), warned [December 6] it’s likely the pandemic will continue to worsen in the coming weeks and predicted the U.S. could reach nearly 4,000 deaths per day in January.”

Washington Post: CIA psychological profiler who labeled Trump ‘dangerous’ dies of covid-19 at 86. “As a pioneering psychological profiler for the Central Intelligence Agency and later as a consultant, Jerrold M. Post plumbed the lives, leadership styles and, at times, the mental illness of foreign heads around the globe. Over decades, his expertise and instincts were greatly in demand, especially at the White House.”

CNN: White House vaccine chief praises Biden’s plan to ask Americans to wear masks for first 100 days. “Moncef Slaoui, the head of the US government’s effort to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, on Sunday praised President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to ask all Americans to wear masks to curb the spread of the coronavirus, saying the practice is key as the country awaits widespread distribution of the vaccine.”

BBC: Emmanuel Macron: French president tests positive for Covid. “France’s Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for Covid-19, forcing several European leaders to self-isolate after coming into contact with him. The 42-year-old president was tested after developing symptoms and will now self-isolate for seven days, the Elysée Palace said in a statement.”

NBC News: Oregon doctor’s license revoked over refusal to wear mask during pandemic. “The medical license of an Oregon doctor who refused to wear a face mask despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been revoked weeks after a video surfaced of him dismissing Covid-19 as a ‘common cold.'”

The Scotsman: Insight: Why disabled artists can’t go back to normal. “For [Ever] Dundas and other disabled artists the restrictions caused by the pandemic have been a double-edged sword. Many with underlying conditions were forced to shield, but it has also created new ways of working. With live public gatherings impossible, theatre productions and literary events have moved online, allowing those with disabilities to access them for the first time.”


Washington Post: Failing grades double and triple — some rising sixfold — amid pandemic learning. “Failure rates in math and English jumped as much as sixfold for some of the most vulnerable students in Maryland’s largest school system, according to data released as the pandemic’s toll becomes increasingly visible in schools across the country. In but one stark example, more than 36 percent of ninth-graders from low-income families failed the first marking period in English. That compares with fewer than 6 percent last year, when the same students took English in eighth grade.”


Reuters: U.S. House Democrats adopt mobile internet voting for leadership contests. “U.S. lawmakers used a mobile phone app over the last two weeks to remotely cast votes for the first time, according to technologists and some involved in the process, embracing technology to facilitate an internal party leadership contest.”

CNN: Spotify got a big boost this year from an unexpected audience. “One of the undisputed winners of 2020’s work-from-home transition has been Spotify, and it’s not just because of all the new Taylor Swift albums and addictive true-crime podcasts. As the streaming platform looks back on the biggest trends of 2020, one thing is certain: people are playing lots and lots of video games. People streamed music from their gaming consoles 55% more this year compared to last year, Spotify told CNN Business.”

EurekAlert: Public cameras provide valuable insights on pandemic, consumers. “Technology similar to massive search engines used to scour the web may soon be used to provide new insights into consumer behavior and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on economies across the world. The technology also may be a useful tool for reducing misinformation in news media.”


BBC: Covid: WHO to investigate virus origins in China’s Wuhan. “A team of 10 international scientists will travel to the Chinese city of Wuhan next month to investigate the origins of Covid-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. Beijing has been reluctant to agree to an independent inquiry and it has taken many months of negotiations for the WHO to be allowed access to the city.”

Horizon: Q&A: How Covid-19 hijacks human cells. “The virus that causes Covid-19 hijacks human cells by exploiting a ‘doorway’ that is potentially also used by other deadly viruses such as HIV, dengue and Ebola, according to recent research that may help to explain why the coronavirus is so highly infectious to a wide range of organs in the body. Dr Yohei Yamauchi, a viral cell biologist at the University of Bristol, UK, who led the research, believes that the finding could not only lead to new drugs against Covid-19, but other anti-viral treatments that could be used to save patients’ lives in future pandemics.”

Washington Post: A gamble pays off in ‘spectacular success’: How the leading coronavirus vaccines made it to the finish line. “The world’s hopes have weighed heavily on the quest to develop coronavirus vaccines, with an especially intense focus on two front-runners: one from Moderna, the other from Pfizer and BioNTech. Both were a speedy but risky — even controversial — bet, based on a promising but still-experimental medical technology. Why, some scientists debated in the spring and summer, would the United States gamble on a type of vaccine that had never been deployed beyond clinical trials when the stakes were so high? If, as expected in the next few weeks, regulators give those vaccines the green light, the technology and the precision approach to vaccine design could turn out to be the pandemic’s silver linings: scientific breakthroughs that could begin to change the trajectory of the virus this winter and also pave the way for highly effective vaccines and treatments for other diseases.”

EurekAlert: Coronavirus spread during dental procedures could be reduced with slower drill rotation. “Dental practices, which are now back in operation, have had to introduce new room decontamination processes and personal protective equipment measures which have dramatically reduced the number of patients that can be treated in a single day. In particular, dentists need to leave long intervals between treatments, leaving rooms unoccupied to allow aerosols to dissipate. This is limiting patient access and challenging financial feasibility for many dental practices worldwide. Now, researchers at Imperial College London and King’s College London have measured and analysed aerosol generation during dental procedures and suggested changes to prevent contamination in the first place to improve safety for both patients and the dental practice workforce.”


BetaNews: Software industry turns to crowdsourced security during the pandemic. “Among the many things that have changed in 2020 it’s proved to be a record year for crowdsourced cybersecurity adoption, according to Bugcrowd. Enterprises across all industries have been implementing crowdsourced cybersecurity programs to keep up with the evolving threat landscape. Bugcrowd has seen a 50 percent increase in submissions on its platform in the last 12 months, including a 65 percent increase in Priority One (P1) submissions, which refer to the most critical security vulnerabilities.”

AP: Sheriff: Defiant NYC bar owner struck deputy with his car. “The co-owner of a New York City bar that authorities said has been defying coronavirus restrictions was taken into custody early Sunday after running over a deputy with a car, authorities said. Danny Presti tried to drive away from his bar, Mac’s Public House, as deputies were arresting him for serving patrons in violation of city and state closure orders, Sheriff Joseph Fucito said.”

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