Wednesday CoronaBuzz, December 23, 2020: 27 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.


University of Minnesota: New online tool shows how small group gatherings can increase COVID-19 infections in MN. “When it comes to COVID-19, it can be difficult to see how small group gatherings can lead to an increase of cases across the state. Most people aren’t educated in infectious disease dynamics and hardly anyone alive has lived through a pandemic. To make the concept easier to understand, Associate Professor Eva Enns created an online tool to demonstrate how individual social gatherings can accumulate to significantly raise the number of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations occurring state-wide.” It looks like it could work for anywhere; there are two Minnesota-specific data points but you can change them on the “Model Inputs” tab of the tool.


Oil City News: UW: Covid Situation ‘improved’ Across Much Of Wyoming, Including Natrona. “The University of Wyoming are offering a new interactive COVID-19 dashboard that aims to give the public a new tool for monitoring data surrounding the pandemic in a way that is ‘tailored for rural areas.'”

Deadline: L.A. County Coronavirus Update: Mayor Eric Garcetti Announces New Interactive Covid Map, Responds To Congress’ New Stimulus Check. “On Monday Garcetti unveiled a new interactive map of Los Angeles that would provide Angelenos will real time information about infection rates and deaths in varying neighborhoods. In addition to visualizing real-time information about the coronavirus ins Los Angeles, the new map also features quick access to Covid-19 test registration.”


Mental Floss: Doctor’s 60-Second Trick Makes Any Face Mask Fit Better. “As face masks have become part of daily life, people have come up with innovative ways to make them more comfortable and effective. There are tricks for masking up without hurting your ears, fogging up your glasses, or breaking out. This new tip from Olivia Cuid, M.D. could be the key to making large masks fit better around your face.”


VentureBeat: Studies reveal verified social media users are fueling COVID-19 fake news. “In their survey, between January 1 and October 31, the IU and Politecnico researchers canvassed over 53 million tweets and more than 37 million Facebook posts across 140,000 pages and groups. They identified close to a million low-credibility links that were shared on both Facebook and Twitter, but bots alone weren’t responsible for the spread of misinformation. Rather, aside from the first few months of the pandemic, the primary sources of low-credibility information tended to be high-profile, official, and verified accounts, according to the coauthors. Verified accounts made up almost 40% of the number of retweets on Twitter and almost 70% of reshares on Facebook.”

WRAL: Fact check: Social media mixes up COVID relief, omnibus bills. “On Dec. 21, lawmakers in both chambers of Congress passed a $2.3 trillion spending package: a roughly $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill — consisting of 12 different bills to fund the government during fiscal year 2021 — and a separate, approximately $900 billion bill specifically for COVID-19 relief. Lawmakers also passed several other smaller bills. It’s the $1.4 trillion part of the package that included funding for U.S. policies and priorities within the country and abroad. The Facebook post conflates provisions of the COVID-19 relief bill with provisions in the omnibus spending bill.”


American Independent: The pandemic has been great for the super-rich. “The 651 billionaires in the United States have seen their collective wealth grow by $1 trillion since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, according to a new study…That’s enough money to be able to send a $3,000 stimulus check to every single person in the country.”

Washington Post: A rural S.D. community ignored the virus for months. Then people started dying.. “In a state where the Republican governor, Kristi L. Noem, has defied calls for a statewide mask mandate even as cases hit record levels, many in this rural community an hour west of Sioux Falls ignored the virus for months, not bothering with masks or social distancing. Restaurants were packed. Big weddings and funerals went on as planned. Then people started dying.”


AL .com: UAB asks retired nurses to help fight pandemic as staffing levels wane. “[University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital] is calling on retired nurses and nursing students to join its pandemic efforts as the hospital faces staffing shortages and COVID-19 hospitalizations rise.”


New York Times: Will Art Lovers Open Their Wallets for Online Tours?. “Since the National Gallery’s blockbuster ‘Artemisia’ exhibition opened in October, art lovers have had to jump through hoops to see it. Travel restrictions have kept international visitors away, the fear of catching the coronavirus hangs over the city’s public transportation system, and rolling lockdowns — or the threat of them — have made life in England uncertain. The latest national shutdown closed the museum entirely from Nov. 5 to Dec. 2. If those circumstances make a visit to London sound unappealing, there is an alternative: a ‘virtual tour’ of the show on the museum’s website.”


Los Angeles Times: Shaken studios. Empty theaters. What Hollywood lost during the pandemic. “The Spanish flu of 1918 helped spur the creation of the Hollywood studio system under moguls such as Paramount Pictures co-founder Adolph Zukor, who took the opportunity to buy up failing theaters. Hollywood is experiencing another massive disruption today as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Titans of the entertainment and media business posted huge losses, with more pain to come. Industry-rattling trends that were expected to play out over multiple years — including the shift of movies from theaters to streaming services — have instead happened over the course of a few months.”

Chattanooga Times Free Press: Coronavirus takes toll on Black, Latino child care providers. “Policy experts say the U.S. spends a small fraction of federal funds on child care compared to other industrialized nations, an underfunding exacerbated by COVID-19. Soon nearly half of the child care centers in the U.S. may be lost, according to the Center for American Progress.”


Washington Post: Maryland jurisdictions announce tougher coronavirus restrictions as region’s caseloads surge. “Leaders of Maryland’s most populous jurisdictions pushed for unified shutdowns Wednesday to curb the surging coronavirus as some reimposed the toughest restrictions since the spring. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) proposed banning all indoor dining, hours after Baltimore City forbade any dining at restaurants, indoors or outdoors. The city’s new protocols are the strictest in Maryland since shutdowns during the first wave of infections.”

KDKA: Pa. Dept. Of Health Launches New Digital Tool To Help Contact Tracers. “The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced new technology designed to help slow the spread of coronavirus across the Commonwealth. The Connect and Protect form is a type of digital case investigation designed to make the contact tracing process much faster.”


BBC: Covid: France rewards frontline immigrant workers with citizenship. “Hundreds of immigrants in France working on the coronavirus frontline have had their service to the country recognised with fast-track citizenship. The interior ministry invited residents helping with efforts against Covid-19 to apply for accelerated naturalisation. More than 700 have already been granted citizenship or are in the final stages of receiving it.”


New York Times: 18 Days After Giving Birth, Woman Dies From Covid-19. “Erika Becerra was eight months pregnant when she learned she had tested positive for the coronavirus. Almost immediately after she got the result, her body began aching, she developed a fever and she felt tightness in her chest. When she began having trouble breathing, her husband called for an ambulance. Three days later, on Nov. 15, she gave birth in a Detroit hospital to a healthy boy, Diego. She never got to hold him, her brother told KCBS-TV in Los Angeles.”


ProPublica: The Pandemic Hasn’t Stopped This School District From Suing Parents Over Unpaid Textbook Fees. “When the pandemic started, several school districts in Indiana halted a long-standing practice: suing families for unpaid textbook fees. But one school district has filed nearly 300 lawsuits against parents, and others also have returned to court.”


BBC: UK has two cases of variant linked to South Africa. “The UK has detected two cases of another new variant of coronavirus, the health secretary Matt Hancock says. The cases in London and north west England are contacts of people who travelled to South Africa, where the variant was discovered. Travel restrictions with South Africa have been imposed.”

Los Angeles Times: COVID-19 hit Latinos hard. Now officials must build trust around vaccine in the community. “Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, has warned that the pandemic will continue to disrupt lives unless the ‘overwhelming majority’ of Americans get vaccinated. While the process of creating vaccines has happened with extraordinary speed, he said, it has not been ‘at the expense of safety and scientific integrity.’ But as states plan for vaccine distribution, an all-too-important question has arisen: How many people will take it? That question might prove especially pivotal for groups that have seen the highest casualty rates from COVID-19.”

New York Times: Their Teeth Fell Out. Was It Another Covid-19 Consequence?. “Earlier this month, Farah Khemili popped a wintergreen breath mint in her mouth and noticed a strange sensation: a bottom tooth wiggling against her tongue. Ms. Khemili, 43, of Voorheesville, N.Y., had never lost an adult tooth. She touched the tooth to confirm it was loose, initially thinking the problem might be the mint. The next day, the tooth flew out of her mouth and into her hand. There was neither blood nor pain.”


Google Blog: How you’ll find accurate and timely information on COVID-19 vaccines. “As the world turns its focus to the deployment of vaccines, the type of information people need will evolve. Communities will be vaccinated at an unprecedented pace and scale. This will require sharing information to educate the public, including addressing vaccine misperceptions and hesitance, and helping to surface official guidance to people on when, where and how to get vaccinated. Today, we’re sharing about how we’re working to meet these needs—through our products and partnering with health authorities—while keeping harmful misinformation off our platforms.”

University of Missouri: Mizzou Engineers Using Twitter to Track COVID-19. “Mizzou Engineers are taking to Twitter to track COVID-19 and analyze the virus’s impact on individual health. Yijie Ren, Jiacheng Xie and Lei Jiang are using Twitter’s built-in programming interface to search tweets for key phrases such as “I tested positive.” From there, they’re delving deeper into the Twitter user’s account to log symptoms and recovery experiences.”


Arizona State University: ASU student team’s fog-free mask design wins $1 million international competition. “A student team from Arizona State University has won the million-dollar XPRIZE Next-Gen Mask Challenge to redesign the face masks used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by making them more comfortable, functional and affordable. The contest drew nearly 1,000 entries from young innovators in more than 70 countries around the world. The ASU team made the top five in early December; the grand prize was announced Tuesday.”

University of Florida: Smell tests evaluated as potential tool to identify COVID-19. “A team of University of Florida neuroscientists will analyze two different smell tests under a new National Institutes of Health grant aimed at developing inexpensive, at-home tests to help identify new cases of COVID-19 and provide a warning sign of a community outbreak in time to thwart it.”


FBI: Federal Agencies Warn of Emerging Fraud Schemes Related to COVID-19 Vaccines. “The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG), and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are warning the public about several emerging fraud schemes related to COVID-19 vaccines. The FBI, HHS-OIG, and CMS have received complaints of scammers using the public’s interest in COVID-19 vaccines to obtain personally identifiable information (PII) and money through various schemes.”


Mashable: How cosmetic glitter improved my self-confidence on Zoom calls. “I’ll be honest: It’s 2020 and I feel like shit. My clothes are tight. I never feel clean. The family couch and I have developed an identical, yet unidentifiable smell. Things are dire for me and my self-esteem right now — and unless those vaccines start moving a whole lot faster, things are going to stay dire for a while. So thank god for those iridescent discs I sometimes glue to my face, the tiny scraps of plastic that have been keeping me together in these difficult, socially distant times.”


NPR: Mask Up! How Public Health Messages Collide With Facebook’s Political Ads Ban. “Facebook halted political advertising after polls closed on Election Day. With votes being counted, President Donald Trump and his supporters spread false claims and conspiracy theories about the results. But nearly two months later, the Electoral College has affirmed Joe Biden’s victory and yet Facebook’s temporary pause is still in place. The ad ban illustrates the difficult tradeoffs Facebook is making, with every decision carrying ramifications for billions of users.”

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