Thursday CoronaBuzz, January 28, 2021: 36 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 University: NYU Professor Creates COVID-19 Dashboard to Compare Country and State Data. “A new online dashboard, created by NYU Professor Alexej Jerschow, brings together COVID-19 data from U.S. states and countries around the world to compare cases, deaths, vaccines, and testing in a visual, user-friendly format. The tool also integrates a range of policies governments have implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19—including school closings, stay-at-home orders, and mask mandates—in an effort to compare policy responses with COVID-19 outcomes.”

Illinois News Bureau: Online smell, taste challenge offered as early detection tool for COVID-19. “A brief smell and taste challenge, developed by the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research, is a web-based tool people can use to easily monitor changes in these senses using their favorite morning beverage.”


CBS13: California Launches “My Turn” Website To Check Eligibility For Coronavirus Vaccine. “California introduced a new website Monday that will let you know when you’re eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The new ‘My Turn’ website tells Californians if they qualify to get the COVID vaccine and schedule appointments.”

KKTV: Colorado State Health Department launches new COVID-19 vaccine hotline. “The Colorado State Health Department is launching a new tool to help get more people vaccinated for COVID-19 in the state. They launched a new call center for the public to ask questions specifically about the COVID-19 vaccine. Scott Bookman, the COVID-19 incident commander for CDPHE, says this hotline will help people sign up to get vaccinated or schedule an appointment.”

Metropolis Planet: New website will provide one-stop access to COVID vaccine information. “[The site] will provide eligible residents with nearby vaccination sites, information on how to make an appointment to receive the vaccine, updates on the state’s plan and eligibility, and answers to frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.”


BBC: Covid: UK virus deaths top 100,000 since pandemic began. “The data from the UK’s national statisticians show there have been nearly 104,000 deaths since the pandemic began. The figures, which go up to 15 January, are based on death certificates. The government’s daily figures rely on positive tests and are slightly lower.”

Sky News: COVID-19: Brazil crisis like ‘medieval plague’ as patients suffocate without oxygen. “With a population of over 211 million people, a resurgent COVID-19 outbreak, a president still in denial about its danger, dwindling supplies of oxygen and a new variant of its very own, it is hardly surprising there was some relief in Brazil that the country’s vaccination programme was, at last, being rolled out. The relief probably didn’t last very long when it was revealed the nation had just six million doses available and not much more on the way.”


DW: AstraZeneca: German reports on low efficacy on over-65s ‘completely incorrect’. “The firm’s response followed reports in Handelsblatt and Bild, two German daily newspapers. Both cited unnamed members of Germany’s government as saying that the vaccine had a poor efficacy rate among people above 65. Bild put the figure at ‘less than 10%,’ Handelsblatt at 8%. The newspapers further reported that German government officials didn’t expect the vaccine to be approved for use on over-65s by the European Medicines Agency regulator as a result. The German Health Ministry also contradicted the claim, suggesting that the source for the 8% figure must have mixed up their numbers.”

Toronto Star: ‘#ScienceUpFirst:’ Social media campaign targets COVID-19 misinformation with science. “Microsoft founder Bill Gates did not create the virus that causes COVID-19 and he is not forcing microchips into your body through vaccinations. Those pieces of misinformation are examples of what a group of Canadian scientists and health professionals is trying to discredit through a new campaign tackling inaccurate theories about the pandemic.”

Poynter: 10,300 documented falsehoods in 12 months: the CoronaVirusFacts Alliance enters its second year. “The alliance is the largest fact-checking collaboration in history, and its database currently holds more than 10,300 fact-checks about the pandemic. In 12 months, 260,000 unique visitors viewed the Alliance’s landing page on the Poynter Institute website a total of 345,000 times. That’s nearly 1,000 pageviews a day.”

Route Fifty: Anti-Vaccine Activists Peddle Theories That Covid Shots Are Deadly, Undermining Vaccination. “Anti-vaccine groups are exploiting the suffering and death of people who happen to fall ill after receiving a covid shot, threatening to undermine the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. In some cases, anti-vaccine activists are fabricating stories of deaths that never occurred.”


The Conversation: Why COVID-19 won’t kill cities. “Restaurants, small businesses and even big brand-name retail chains are closing in record numbers. Mass transit systems, like New York City’s, are warning of severe cuts in service if they don’t get aid soon as state and local tax revenue plunges. Many have fled to rural or suburban areas. And the situation appears likely to only worsen as America endures a ‘dark winter’ with no guarantee of more aid from Congress. Despite these challenges, two scholars who study cities explain why they think urban areas will endure – even if they don’t get the aid from Congress that now seems more likely.”

Marketplace: Pandemic could cause twice as much homelessness as the Great Recession. “A new report from the nonprofit Economic Roundtable projects that without significant government intervention, the pandemic will cause twice as much homelessness as the Great Recession. If nothing changes, about 600,000 people could end up in shelters, on the streets or crashing with family or friends over the next three years.”

SupChina: Under lockdown, people in Jilin fear dying of hunger before coronavirus. “It’s almost been a week since Tonghua, a small city in China’s northeastern Jilin Province, went into lockdown to fight an ongoing resurgence of new COVID-19 cases in China. But instead of the deadly virus, the city’s 300,000 have been struggling to keep hunger at bay after being sealed inside their homes.”


BBC: Covid: Dutch curfew riots rage for third night. “More than 180 people were arrested in 10 Dutch cities as protesters defying a curfew clashed with riot police for a third night running. Shops in Rotterdam were looted and police used water cannon, as rioters resisted latest Covid restrictions.”


Seattle Times: Special access to COVID-19 vaccine for Overlake Medical Center donors draws Inslee rebuke. “Last Friday, Molly Stearns, chief development officer at Overlake Medical Center & Clinics, emailed about 110 donors who gave more than $10,000 to the Eastside hospital system, informing them that highly coveted vaccine slots were available. ‘Dear Overlake major donors…’ the email read. ‘We’re pleased to share that we have 500 new open appointments in the Overlake COVID-19 vaccine clinic, beginning this afternoon and tomorrow (Saturday, Jan. 23) and next week.'”


BBC: Coronavirus: Seafarers stuck at sea ‘a humanitarian crisis’. “More than 90% of global trade – from household goods to medical supplies – is moved by sea. But governments have banned crew from coming ashore amid Covid-19 fears. Large firms including shipping titan AP Moller-Maersk, oil firms BP and Shell, consumer giant Unilever and mining groups Rio Tinto and Vale, as well as maritime transporters, unions, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and other supply chain partners have signed the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change.”

CNET: Disneyland ends annual passholder program as resort becomes vaccine site. “Instead of a theme park, Disneyland Resort has now become a mass coronavirus vaccine site. The Toy Story parking lot began serving up coronavirus vaccinations on Jan. 14 after Orange County announced its first point-of-dispensing supersite (or ‘Super POD’) on Jan. 11.”

BBC: Xbox sales boom as virus maintains grip on economy. “Microsoft has reported booming demand for its Xbox gaming consoles as the pandemic continues to lift the fortunes of the American tech giant. Its Azure cloud computing services also got a boost due to a surge in working and learning from home. The gains helped push the firm’s overall revenue up 17% to a record $43.1bn (£31.4bn).”


FDA: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Takes Action to Place All Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers from Mexico on Import Alert to Help Prevent Entry of Violative and Potentially Dangerous Products into U.S., Protect U.S. Consumers. “Over the course of the ongoing pandemic, the agency has seen a sharp increase in hand sanitizer products from Mexico that were labeled to contain ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol) but tested positive for methanol contamination. Methanol, or wood alcohol, is a substance that can be toxic when absorbed through the skin and life-threatening when ingested. Methanol is not an acceptable ingredient in hand sanitizer or other drugs.”

BBC: Biden raises vaccination goal to 1.5m a day after criticism. “After criticism that his original goal was not bold enough, US President Joe Biden has said he expects the US will soon be able to vaccinate 1.5 million people a day. He had announced last week that 1m vaccines would be administered daily in the first 100 days of his presidency.”

Ars Technica: “I can’t tell you how much vaccine we have,” new CDC head says. “With the country’s vaccine rollout in utter disorder, health officials in the Biden administration are cautiously trying to both manage expectations and express optimism. In a series of interviews over the weekend, officials warned that states could face vaccine shortages in the short term, with some states’ supplies already running low—or completely running out.”


WPTV: Florida has only used ‘about 50%’ of COVID-19 vaccine supply, White House Press Secretary claims. “A White House official said Florida has only used about half of the COVID-19 vaccine supply it’s received from the federal government, despite repeated calls from Gov. Ron DeSantis for President Joe Biden’s administration to immediately send more doses to the state.”

The Frontier: Oklahoma trying to return its $2m stockpile of hydroxychloroquine. “In April, Gov. Kevin Stitt, who ordered the hydroxychloroquine purchase, defended it by saying that while it may not be a useful treatment for the coronavirus, the drug had multiple other uses and ‘that money will not have gone to waste in any respect.’ But nearly a year later the state is trying to offload the drug back to its original supplier, California-based FFF Enterprises, Inc, a private pharmaceutical wholesaler.”

SupChina: Beijing gives in to pressure from public to set up special quarantine site for pet owners. “Last week, all 1.6 million residents of Daxing were banned from leaving the city, while people living in five Daxing neighborhoods where the cases were detected were ordered to remain indoors. Over the weekend, as new infections continued to soar, Daxing’s Tiangongyuan neighborhood ordered residents to move to centralized quarantine venues. Complaints quickly emerged on social media from people who had been told to leave their pets unattended at home.”


The Guardian: Canadian mogul fined after getting Covid vaccine meant for Indigenous residents. “The former head of a Canadian casino company and his actor wife have been fined after chartering a private plane to a remote community near the Alaska border and receiving coronavirus vaccines meant for vulnerable Indigenous residents. According to officials, Rodney and Ekaterina Baker travelled by chartered plane to Beaver Creek, a community of 100 in Canada’s Yukon territory, where a mobile team was administering the Moderna vaccine to residents. Among those slated for the vaccine were elderly members of the White River First Nation.”


CBS17: Could nasal sprays be tool in COVID-19 infection protection?. “Sanitizers can be used to disinfect hands after potential contact with COVID-19. Now, some doctors are touting a new tool to disinfect the nose after potential contact with the virus.”


CNN: Google Maps will soon display Covid-19 vaccination sites. “Google Maps will soon display locations that offer Covid-19 vaccinations, further bolstering awareness of the virus — and how to avoid it. The feature is rolling out in the coming weeks, beginning in four states: Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.”

Phys .org: Spike in use of online communication apps could be driven by isolation during COVID-19. “The use of online messaging and social media apps among Singapore residents has spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, a Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) study has found. Three in four respondents (75%) said that their use of WhatsApp during the pandemic increased. This was followed by Telegram (60.3%), Facebook (60.2%) and Instagram (59.7%).”

Purdue University: Turn off that camera during virtual meetings, environmental study says. “Just one hour of videoconferencing or streaming, for example, emits 150-1,000 grams of carbon dioxide (a gallon of gasoline burned from a car emits about 8,887 grams), requires 2-12 liters of water and demands a land area adding up to about the size of an iPad Mini. But leaving your camera off during a web call can reduce these footprints by 96%. Streaming content in standard definition rather than in high definition while using apps such as Netflix or Hulu also could bring an 86% reduction, the researchers estimated.”


San Francisco Chronicle: ‘New weapon’ to kill COVID? UCSF-led team finds drug that could be far more effective than remdesivir. “After a yearlong search for existing drugs that might help COVID-19 patients and point to a cure, a UCSF-led science team has identified what they say is an especially promising candidate: an anti-cancer drug that kills the coronavirus in lab studies and is almost 30 times more potent than remdesivir, one of the few antiviral drugs available to treat the disease.”

News Medical: NIH launches database to collect information about COVID-19-related neurological problems. “The COVID-19 Neuro Databank/Biobank (NeuroCOVID), which was created and will be maintained by NYU Langone Health, New York City, will be a resource of clinical information as well as biospecimens from people of all ages who have experienced neurological problems associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

EurekAlert: COVID-19 warnings were on Twitter well before the outbreak of the pandemic. “Even before public announcements of the first cases of COVID-19 in Europe were made, at the end of January 2020, signals that something strange was happening were already circulating on social media. A new study of researchers at IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, published in Scientific Reports, has identified tracks of increasing concern about pneumonia cases on posts published on Twitter in seven countries, between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.”


BBC: Covid-19: Five days that shaped the outbreak. “A year ago, the Chinese government locked down the city of Wuhan. For weeks beforehand officials had maintained that the outbreak was under control – just a few dozen cases linked to a live animal market. But in fact the virus had been spreading throughout the city and around China. This is the story of five critical days early in the outbreak.”


Department of Justice: Hospital Pharmacist to Plead Guilty to Attempting to Spoil Hundreds of COVID Vaccine Doses. “As detailed in the court documents, while working as a hospital pharmacist in Grafton, Wisconsin, on two successive overnight shifts in late December, [Steven] Brandenburg purposefully removed a box of COVID-19 vaccine vials manufactured by Moderna—which must be stored at specific cold temperatures to remain viable—from the hospital’s refrigeration unit intending to render the vaccines inert and no longer effective. According to the plea agreement, Brandenburg stated that he was skeptical of vaccines in general and the Moderna vaccine specifically. Brandenburg had communicated his beliefs about vaccines to his co-workers for at least the past two years.”


NBC News: Georgia state lawmaker removed from House chamber after refusing Covid test. “A Georgia state lawmaker said his refusal to take a Covid-19 test got him kicked out of the House chambers on Tuesday. But Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said the lawmaker, Rep. David Clark, has repeatedly refused to follow House policy which states that all members and staff be tested for the coronavirus twice a week.”

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