Tuesday CoronaBuzz, December 29, 2020: 56 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.


New York Times: How Full Are Hospital I.C.U.s Near You?. “Almost one-fifth of U.S. hospitals with intensive care units reported that at least 95 percent of their I.C.U. beds were full in the week ending Dec. 24. Nationwide, 78 percent of intensive care hospital beds were occupied. See how the pandemic has affected recent hospital capacity in the map below, which shows data reported by individual hospitals. Health officials said that the data should not discourage sick people from seeking care.”

Johns Hopkins: Online Covid-19 Mortality Risk Calculator Could Help Determine Who Should Get Vaccines First. “Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have developed a new online calculator for estimating individual and community-level risk of dying from COVID-19. The web tool calculates the mortality risk in currently uninfected individuals based on a set of risk factors and community-level pandemic dynamics in the state of residence. It is available online for public health officials and interested individuals alike.”


Texas State Library and Archives Commission: E-Read Texas launches site for children. “The site is geofenced so that any user located in Texas can access it, with no login nor password required. There’s no need to ‘check-out’ the books—just click and access. And there are no simultaneous user restrictions, so that means there are no holds and no waitlists. E-Read Texas for Kids includes a collection of more than 600 titles from Teacher Created Materials, including the TIME for Kids series. The majority of the titles comprise juvenile nonfiction, including science, mathematics, sports, history, and art, in both English and Spanish.”


Mashable: How to calculate your stimulus check amount before the IRS relaunches its website. “How do you know if you qualify? In April, the IRS launched a surprisingly simple and useful website called the “Get My Payment” portal that let you find out the status of your check or deposit. However, that portal is ‘temporarily offline,’ according to the IRS website….In the meantime, several non-government tools have popped up to help people decipher whether they can expect a check in the future, and for how much.”


Reuters: ‘We need help,’ says Stockholm healthcare chief as COVID fills intensive care wards. “Sweden, which has not opted for the kind of lockdown adopted by many other European nations, has suffered many times more COVID-19 deaths per capita than its Nordic neighbours… Stockholm and the surrounding region are among the areas hardest hit with 2,836 deaths. Infection rates are picking up again after a lull in the summer and autumn, and intensive care wards are now full.”


Poynter: More than 500 journalists and media workers have died from COVID-19. “Press Emblem Campaign, a press freedom nonprofit, has gathered news of their deaths and been a key source in Poynter’s collection of coronavirus obituaries. It reports more than 500 journalists have died of the coronavirus in more than 57 countries. That number might seem small compared to the death total in the U.S. alone, which is now more than 300,000. But compare it to the number of journalists killed worldwide while doing their work or in retribution for that work. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports 30 journalists were killed in 2020.”

Pew Social Trends: How the Coronavirus Outbreak Has – and Hasn’t – Changed the Way Americans Work. “While not seamless, the transition to telework has been relatively easy for many employed adults. Among those who are currently working from home all or most of the time, about three-quarters or more say it has been easy to have the technology and equipment they need to do their job and to have an adequate workspace. Most also say it’s been easy for them to meet deadlines and complete projects on time, get their work done without interruptions, and feel motivated to do their work.”

Washington Post: Nearly 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since the summer. “The U.S. poverty rate has surged over the past five months, with 7.8 million Americans falling into poverty, the latest indication of how deeply many are struggling after government aid dwindled. The poverty rate jumped to 11.7 percent in November, up 2.4 percentage points since June, according to new data released [December 16] by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame.”

New York Times: Pandemic Leaves More Military Families Seeking Food Assistance. “Fort Bragg, the largest military base in the United States, has all the trappings of a small American city: shopping centers, a barber shop and social clubs. In a sign of the times, it also has a food bank. This spring, the Y.M.C.A. on base — which started a food pantry last year to respond to the growing food insecurity among military families — saw a 40 percent increase in requests for groceries. During the same period, grocery requests to AmericaServes, a network that helps military families, jumped to the biggest service request in the organization’s history.”


Los Angeles Times: From healthcare worker to patient: Death in Room 311. “Case No. 09567 died alone in an overheated hotel room in West Covina. She was a surgical tech at Emanate Health Queen of the Valley Hospital. She had tested positive for the coronavirus and was in isolation at the Days Inn by Wyndham on busy East Garvey Avenue South. She was scheduled to check out Oct. 13, but she never made it down to the lobby. She did not answer her phone or respond to repeated knocking on her door. When the manager let herself into Room 311, she found the 58-year-old lying on the bed. A pillow covered her legs. Her right hand rested on her abdomen. MSNBC played on the television set.”


ABC 7 News: San Jose’s Tech Interactive creates new ways to spread mission during COVID-19 pandemic. “We are highlighting museums across the Bay Area this week, businesses that have been mostly closed the entirety of the coronavirus pandemic. However, while guests haven’t returned to the Tech Interactive in San Jose, the innovation never stops.”

Pittsburgh Business Times: Plight Of The Museums. “Like all other tourism and entertainment attractions, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the nation’s museums. Many have shuttered or drastically cut back on programs and exhibits to offset declines in visitor traffic. Others, like the National Museum of African American Music, have stalled openings and renovations until they can rebalance financially. In many cases, that will be long after any Covid-19 related restrictions are lifted. What’s clear is the pandemic has eviscerated traditional revenue streams — ticket sales, membership dues and funding for education programs — linked to the day-to-day operations of most museums.”

The Art Newspaper: Gabrielie Finaldi: ‘What is the National Gallery if you can’t visit and you can’t see the pictures?’. “I pondered the question, what is the National Gallery if you can’t visit and you can’t see the pictures? Even during the Second World War, when the paintings were hidden for safekeeping in the bowels of the earth in Wales, the doors opened for weekday lunchtime concerts organised by the pianist Myra Hess at the behest of the director, Kenneth Clark, and not a day was missed. The gallery was perceived as a beacon for the common cultural values of society, and Clark recalled of the first concert that as the first notes of Beethoven’s Appassionata struck up: ‘It was an assurance that all our sufferings were not in vain.'”


CNET: The coronavirus pandemic slashed new car sales by 15%, forecast says. “In the US, when adjusted for selling days, retail new-vehicle deliveries in December are expected to grow compared to the same month in 2019, topping 1.4 million units, a year-over-year increase of 1%. While hardly gangbusters, this is certainly good news given the current situation, however, when non-retail deliveries are factored in, sales are expected to post a year-over-year decline of around 5.1%, clocking in at around 1.6 million vehicles.”

AutoWeek: Covid Creates Car Collector Chaos as Scottsdale Auctions Loom. “Like the swallows returning to Capistrano or the fish flies returning to Grosse Pointe, the world’s collector car crowd goes to Scottsdale every January to seek out – and outbid – for their favorite classic car. Or they used to, until this whole Covid thing came along. Now the first event of the new year, one that could potentially have been ‘normal’ – looks like it’ll be upended, just like everything else in the now-soon-to-be old year.”

News AU: Outrageous food waste in Sydney hotel quarantine revealed. “Australia’s $10 billion food waste shame extends to Sydney’s hotel quarantine system, with thousands of kilos of food being sent straight to landfill after perfectly healthy travellers check out. From bottles of water, to packets of noodles, breakfast cereals and fruit, you only need to take one glimpse at Northern Beaches mother Sarah Morris’s garage to get a grasp of the true crisis.”

The Guardian: ‘It’s been a rollercoaster’: how indie publishers survived – and thrived – in 2020. “Six months ago, independent publishers Jacaranda and Knights Of were warning publicly that their income had fallen to almost zero. They weren’t the only small publishers struggling. With bookshops and distributors closing, a survey from the Bookseller at the time found that almost 60% of small publishers feared closure by the autumn. No bookshops meant no knowledgeable, passionate booksellers pressing new books they loved on to customers; no events and no travel meant that crucial avenues for introducing new writers had disappeared.”


Stateline: Some States Train Jobless for Post-Pandemic Workforce. “Leaders in at least nine states, including Rhode Island, are expanding grants for weeks- and months-long training in fields such as health care and information technology; paying employers to provide on-the-job training; and in some cases, paying for trainees’ textbooks and transportation.”

Tampa Bay Times: DeSantis refused to disclose White House coronavirus report that contradicts him. “The Dec. 6 report, which was obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, is one in a series of weekly reports which the governor’s office has refused to regularly provide news organizations. The Tampa Bay Times began last month to request the reports dating back to Nov. 15. It has not received any reports from the governor’s office. Earlier this week, the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun Sentinel sued the governor’s office to release the reports. The governor’s office had not released any of the weekly reports issued during the month of November, the suit alleged.”

Route Fifty: As Coronavirus Continues, State Lawmakers Debate How to Meet Safely. “Some state legislative bodies have convened outside, while others anticipate hybrid sessions of in-person and virtual hearings and votes. And at least some states will only be holding typical sessions, with adjustments.”

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: A mysterious gap in COVID-19 deaths appeared in Florida before the presidential election. “An astonishing pattern has emerged in Florida’s COVID death tally — one that suggests the state manipulated a backlog of unrecorded fatalities, presenting more favorable death counts in the days leading up to the 2020 presidential election. At issue is the state’s handling of the lag between the date someone dies and the date Florida reports that death in its public count. With minor exceptions, Florida stopped including long-backlogged deaths in its daily counts on Oct. 24, 10 days before the Nov. 3 election, and resumed consistently including them on Nov. 17, two weeks after the election.”

NBC News: ‘I do not feel safe’: Kansas GOP mayor resigns after threats over backing mask mandate. “A Republican mayor in western Kansas announced in a letter to city officials and on social media Tuesday that she is resigning, effective immediately, because of threats she has received after she publicly supported a mask mandate. Mayor Joyce Warshaw of Dodge City said she was concerned about her safety after being met with aggression, including threats via phone and email, after she was quoted in a USA Today article on Friday supporting the mandate, The Dodge City Globe reported.”

Axios: California orders 5,000 body bags amid “most intense” coronavirus surge. “With daily COVID deaths four times higher than they were just a month ago, the state has placed 60 53-foot refrigerated storage units on standby and activated its coroner mutual aid and mass fatality program.”

Associated Press: Pandemic backlash jeopardizes public health powers, leaders. “Across the United States, state and local public health officials such as [Tisha] Coleman have found themselves at the center of a political storm as they combat the worst pandemic in a century. With the federal response fractured, the usually invisible army of workers charged with preventing the spread of infectious diseases has become a public punching bag. Their expertise on how to fight the coronavirus is often disregarded.”


ProPublica: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Chance for Liberian Immigrants Has Been “Hamstrung” by COVID — and Trump’s Dysfunctional Immigration Bureaucracy. “When the Liberian legalization program was enacted, it was an unexpected success for immigrants under the Trump administration. It was the first legalization bill to pass Congress since 2000, and was signed into law by a president famously hawkish on immigrants in general and African immigrants in particular. It was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for as many as 10,000 Liberian immigrants, many of whom have been in the U.S. for decades. But it’s become a victim of two colliding trends: the COVID-19 pandemic (and the economic crisis it engendered), and severely degraded functioning at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for legal immigration.”

BBC: Coronavirus: Spain to keep register of those who refuse Covid vaccine. “Spain is to set up a register of people who refuse to be vaccinated against coronavirus and share it with other European Union nations, the health minister has said. Salvador Illa said the list would not be made accessible to the public or to employers.”

New York Times: New At-Home Covid Test Gets Green Light From F.D.A.. “People as young as 2 years old are cleared to use the test, which takes just 15 to 20 minutes to deliver a result. Unlike many similar products, which are only supposed to be used by people with symptoms of Covid-19, this test is authorized for people with or without symptoms.”


Reuters: ‘The country needs me:’ cleaner in Chicago’s COVID wards proud to fight pandemic. “Throughout the northern hemisphere spring, as the coronavirus ravaged through international cities, residents of Rome, Madrid, New York City and beyond took to their balconies to applaud frontline medical workers who, often overlooked in non-pandemic years, had become symbols of sacrifice in terrifying times. Ten months and over a million and a half global deaths later, nurses and doctors continue to risk their lives every day as they report to the hospitals. Yet, their ability to work has relied on a less visible category of frontline staff: cleaners and janitors like[Evelia] De La Cruz.”

CNN: Actress Carol Sutton dies of Covid-19 complications. “Actress Carol Sutton died [December 11] at age 76 of Covid-19 complications, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said. The New Orleans native built an extensive list of credits, including ‘Steel Magnolias,’ ‘Queen Sugar,’ and ‘Lovecraft Country,’ according to her IMDb page.”

Associated Press: Charley Pride, a country music Black superstar, dies at 86. “Charley Pride, one of country music’s first Black superstar whose rich baritone on such hits as ‘Kiss an Angel Good Morning’ helped sell millions of records and made him the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, has died. He was 86.” And he died of complications from coronavirus.

KGW8: ‘My mom was my best friend’: COVID-19 claims Milwaukie mother of four. “‘I’m heartbroken,’ said [Carola] Montero’s daughter, Catalina Castillo, 21. ‘I would honestly say my mom was my best friend and I miss her every day.’ Carola leaves behind a husband in addition to her four kids who range in age from 11 to 23-years-old.” This is Milwaukie OREGON, if you were getting ready to rag everybody for the weird spelling.

HuffPost: Personal Finance Guru Dave Ramsey Just Threw A Huge Indoor Christmas Party. “Across different floors of one building, guests drank and line-danced together, gorged on barbecue, gambled in a fake casino and partied in a “silent disco,” according to a map meant to help revelers navigate the bash. Outside there were igloos, dessert food trucks and carriage rides to be had. Several open bars were scattered throughout the building. One worker estimated there were at least 1,000 guests in the building — the vast majority of them without masks — as well as several dozen people like himself working the event.”

CNBC: Nobel laureate says if we fail children in the pandemic recovery, we fail them forever. “Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi said there needs to be a ‘sense of urgency’ in working toward the end of child labor globally, speaking on a panel for the OECD’s 60th anniversary. Speaking on a panel on Tuesday to mark the OECD’s 60th anniversary, Satyarthi said that while now was the time to bail out economies, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, it was also the time to ‘bail out childhood (and) freedom.'”

Houston Chronicle: Ann Criswell, Houston Chronicle food editor for three decades, dies at 87. “Ann Criswell, who shaped the Houston Chronicle’s food and home cooking coverage for more than three decades and championed Houston’s dining scene as it grew to prominence, died Dec. 15. She was 87. Criswell died of complications from COVID-19, which she contracted while a resident of an assisted living home in College Station.”

ABC News: Kizzmekia Corbett, an African American woman, is praised as key scientist behind COVID-19 vaccine. “Corbett is an expert on the front lines of the global race for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, and someone who will go down in history as one of the key players in developing the science that could end the pandemic. She is one of the National Institutes of Health’s leading scientists behind the government’s search for a vaccine. Corbett is part of a team at NIH that worked with Moderna, the pharmaceutical company that developed one of the two mRNA vaccines that has shown to be more than 90% effective.”

BBC: Renowned Chinese pianist Fou Ts’ong dies of Covid-19. “Fou Ts’ong, the first Chinese pianist to win global acclaim and success, has died aged 86 after contracting Covid-19. Fou died on Monday in London, where he had been living since the 1950s.”


San Francisco Chronicle: The risk of getting coronavirus at Bay Area schools is low. So why is fear of returning still so high?. “Teacher Liz Duffield was terrified to return to her classroom in September, scared she could spread COVID-19 to her students or get it from them. Three months later, the Novato teacher is still afraid of the virus, but not inside her classroom. It feels safer there than in the community, she said, maybe safer than in her own home.”

New York Times: Children Love Snow Days. The Pandemic May End Them Forever.. “‘Snow day.’ These two words have charmed New York children for generations, conjuring thoughts of sledding down Central Park’s Pilgrim Hill or building snowmen at Forest Park in Queens; of strapping on ice skates and heating up hot chocolate. But as school districts adapt to the pandemic by moving classes online, the ability to teach and learn remotely could make the beloved snow day a thing of the past.”


New York Times: Young People Have Less Covid-19 Risk, but in College Towns, Deaths Rose Fast. “As coronavirus deaths soar across the country, deaths in communities that are home to colleges have risen faster than the rest of the nation, a New York Times analysis of 203 counties where students compose at least 10 percent of the population has found.”


New York Times: Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women May Opt to Receive the Vaccine. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet endorsed the vaccine for pregnant women, but an advisory committee to the agency is expected to meet this weekend to make further recommendations. Some experts said the virus itself poses greater risks to pregnant women than the new vaccine, and noted that vaccines have been given to pregnant women for decades and have been overwhelmingly safe.”

News 18: Covid Traveling: Mask to Sanitiser, How to Commute Safely with Co-passengers during Pandemic. “Commuting is crawling its way back to normalcy after the intensive lockdown in India. Vehicles have started to ply as workplaces, market areas, shopping complexes and cinemas have begun opening. Many office-goers have to share cabs with people outside their families. Naturally, there is a fear of catching infections because of the tight space inside a car. However, there are still ways in which the riders can ensure safety for themselves.”

USA Today: Still traveling despite the CDC warning? Here’s how to pick a safe vacation destination. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned against travel during the holiday season. And in a perfect world, people would stay home as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its most dangerous phase yet. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Picking a safe destination means first eliminating the most dangerous places – the ones with high COVID-19 infection rates. Then find the destinations where you’re least likely to sick. And then ask yourself: Can I afford to travel there?”

CNN: Over 1.6 million US children have had coronavirus infections since the pandemic began, pediatricians say. “Nearly 180,000 children in the United States were diagnosed with coronavirus infections from November 26 to December 10, bringing the cumulative total to over 1.6 million US cases since the pandemic began, the American Academy of Pediatrics said Tuesday. Children account for a little more than 12% of all Covid-19 cases in the states that report cases by age.”


Fast Company: NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny plunges into the darkest recesses of the internet. “The pandemic has made everything crazy in terms of disinformation and conspiracy theories, so what was an all-encompassing beat has now become somehow worse. Everybody’s lost their minds. There’s always something that is desperately in need of someone to shine a light on. So it’s been good in that way, because my work is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I feel fulfilled. But, the stakes are so high.”

New York Times: Critical to Vaccines, Cold Storage Is Wall Street’s Shiny New Thing. “As countries prepare to distribute hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccines — some of which require storage as cold as the South Pole in winter and meticulous handling — the highly specialized operations of companies like PCI Pharma are in heavy demand. And Wall Street, which likes nothing better than a hot trade with the potential for big profits, is rushing to grab a piece of the action.”


NHK World Japan: Japanese scale measures stress of COVID-19 workers. “A group of researchers in Japan has developed a tool to detect mental distress in medical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical workers are said to be at high risk of developing mental health problems due to fears of coronavirus infection and social stigma.”

Japan Times: Japan weighs infectious disease database for vaccine development. “The government is considering setting up an integrated database to facilitate the prompt treatment of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, sources said Saturday. If implemented, the database will also assist researchers in the development of vaccines.”

Tel Aviv University: LED lights found to kill coronavirus: Global first in fight against COVID-19. “Researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) have proven that the coronavirus can be killed efficiently, quickly, and cheaply using ultraviolet (UV) light-emitting diodes (UV-LEDs). They believe that the UV-LED technology will soon be available for private and commercial use.”


BuzzFeed News: 50 Children Took Pictures With A Santa And Mrs. Claus Who Then Tested Positive For COVID. “Long County, which has a population of about 20,000 people, had a positivity rate of 11% between Nov. 26 and Dec. 9… according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Though children are less likely to become severely ill from COVID-19, they are not immune from the virus and can still spread it to others. It was not immediately clear whether the Clauses or the children were wearing masks for the pictures or if anyone else may have been exposed.”


Washington Post: Enjoy these tales of awkwardness and mortification from Zoom holiday office party season. “It’s not as if Lizzie had high expectations for her office Christmas party. Like everything else, it had been moved to Zoom. Like everything else, it promised to be a slightly weird, slightly awkward approximation of normal life. But the 27-year-old social worker wasn’t prepared for how weird and awkward. First warning sign: the food.” This is “Funny” as in “You’re laughing while you cringe so hard your body is a circle.”

CNET: SimpliSafe social distancing sweater sounds siren when others get too close. “Unprecedented times call for unprecedented sweaters. Enter the SimpliSafe Social Distancing Sweater, which sounds an alarm when other people get within 6 feet. The sweater for the COVID-19 era is a bit of creative PR for SimpliSafe, a purveyor of home security systems. The company did produce a working prototype of the pullover, however.”


NBC Washington: Local Organization Helps Feed DC Families, Students During Pandemic. “What started out as a few lunches in backpacks has now fed thousands of local families during the COVID-19 crisis. Every other week, lines of people turn out, trucks show up with supplies and volunteers sort and distribute the food as part of the DC Food Project.”


Raw Story: A neuroscientist explains how to vaccinate against the long-term psychological effects of COVID-19. “Unlike posttraumatic stress disorder which is commonly linked to one or more distinct, episodic traumatic events, COVID represents a continuous, ongoing stressor that includes at least three principal elements: (1) fear of current and/or future viral infection, (2) long-lasting adverse economic impacts, and (3) disturbed daily routines and prolonged isolation. To borrow a term from the epidemiologists working on this pandemic crisis, we are likely to see a psychological ‘long COVID’ that will affect this generation and those to come as a kind of transgenerational trauma.”

Route Fifty: My Emergency Room Is Full of Patients No Vaccine Can Help. “After 10 months of witnessing the coronavirus’s destructive capacity, on December 16 I joined thousands of health-care workers across the country and received my initial dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. I felt hope for the first time since March, when Covid-19 patients started streaming into my emergency room. My colleagues and I would now have one more layer of protection in our fight against the virus. My relief was short-lived. Walking back into the emergency room, I once again felt the despair brought on by the pandemic; the vaccines won’t help any of the Covid-19 patients I am currently treating, or those who will come in during my next shift.”

Commonwealth Magazine: Pandemic will leave PTSD in its wake. I should know.. “It won’t touch everyone, or even most people. But for those who do go through it, military veterans have been where you’re about to go. I was treated for PTSD and so were a lot of the other veterans you know, even if they’ve never talked about it. For many, it will appear as fear. It will appear as panic. It will make you want to hide or isolate yourself. You’ll wonder why, since there’s nothing to be afraid of anymore. You’ve already hidden away for a year, masked up, avoided gatherings, and stayed home more than you ever thought you could. Why can’t your mind recognize safety anymore?”


Politico: Biden starts countering Trump’s messaging on vaccine. “President-elect Joe Biden’s team is feverishly working to get a messaging plan in place to sell a skeptical public on the first FDA-backed coronavirus vaccine, believing the Trump administration has set the effort back significantly.”

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