Thursday CoronaBuzz, February 4, 2021: 32 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.


Birmingham Business Journal: UAB researchers build database for Covid therapy discovery. “UAB’s new database, PAGER-CoV, has nearly 12,000 pieces of genetic information on the SARS-CoV02 virus. This is information that researchers and physicians can use to craft individualized treatments against the disease. PAGER-CoV is an extension of PAGER, a database of gene sets created by Jake Chen, a professor in the Department of Genetics at UAB and associate director of the Informatics Institute in the UAB School of Medicine.”

23andMe Blog: 23andMe’s New COVID-19 Severity Calculator. “The COVID-19 Severity Calculator* allows people to see how certain non-genetic factors may impact the risk for hospitalization due to the virus. Using only data from 23andMe customers who consented to participate in our COVID-19 Research Study — and no data from outside sources — the tool looks at such things as age, exercise frequency, and health history, which may contribute to the likelihood of hospitalization from contracting the virus.”


Idaho Office of the Governor: New online tool helps Idahoans learn when, where to receive COVID-19 vaccine. “Governor Brad Little announced today the State of Idaho launched a new COVID-19 vaccination information web page to help Idahoans more easily find information on when and where to get vaccinated and what to expect when they get to their appointment.”

ABC 33: Alabama launches new website to make vaccine appointments. “The Alabama Department of Public Health on Monday announced a new website that allows people to check their eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccination and make appointments for vaccinations at their local county health departments.”

Kansas Office of the Governor: Governor Laura Kelly Announces Kansas Find My Vaccine Tool. “Governor Laura Kelly today announced the launch of the ‘Find My Vaccine’ mapping tool, designed to help Kansans locate sites that are administering vaccines in their communities. The tool is available now on, Kansas’s COVID-19 vaccine website. Kansans in vaccine phase 1 and 2 are recommended to use this tool as a resource for finding providers who are or will be offering the vaccine.”


Sitejabber: Coronavirus Test Kits: Compare Price, Type, and More. “How much is a COVID-19 test? Depending on the COVID-19 test kit, there is a wide range in price from $30 to $180. Use our table below to compare prices of each. Also, before ordering your kit, check payment options. Typically, testing companies accept HSA and FSA payments. Companies can also provide you with an itemized bill that you may be able to submit for reimbursement to your health insurance plan.”

Good Housekeeping: 7 Virtual Mardi Gras Events That’ll Bring the Party to Your House. “Back in November, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell confirmed that Mardi Gras 2021 is ‘not canceled, just different.’ In fact, she clarified that Mardi Gras is ‘a religious holiday and in no way will it be canceled in our city.’ She’s right: While many of the public events that draw massive crowds have been called off due to health and safety concerns, there are so many virtual Mardi Gras events taking place, so those who celebrate can enjoy the holiday festivities while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Take a look at these virtual events, all of which are taking place in the first two weeks of February, to find fun ways to bring the party and incredible spirit of New Orleans to your home.”


Mother Jones: Online Nurses’ Groups Are Rife With Vaccine Disinformation. “In a December survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 29 percent of health care workers expressed doubt about the COVID-19 vaccines. In some hospital systems, the number is much higher. The LA Times reported that half of health care workers in California’s Riverside County refused the vaccine. Some reasons for their hesitance are understandable: Many worry that the vaccine was hastily developed; others resent overbearing hospital administrators forcing them to get a shot on top of increasingly impossible pandemic workloads. For some health care workers of color, wariness is rooted in their history of trauma at the hands of the medical establishment. Thus far, there’s been no unified effort on the part of the government to address these valid concerns.”


Boing Boing: Mardi Gras spirit perseveres with “Yardi Gras” house floats. “Although COVID-19 has grounded the traditional Mardi Gras parades and celebrations this year, New Orleans will always find a way to party (albeit with less titties and barfing in the streets). Artists are transforming houses across the city into ‘stationary floats’. The idea started as a joke on social media and has grown into a citywide phenomenon. Participating neighbors plan to play music and/or throw beads to passers-by from their front porches or yards, all while safely social distancing.”


Wired: The art and science of boarding an airplane in a pandemic. “Delta, which previously boarded passengers according to ticket classes and mileage club memberships, is loading the airplane back to front, so that flyers don’t pass by others as they make their way to their seats. After preboarding families and passengers that need extra time, United is going back-to-front too. Even Southwest, famous for letting passengers choose their seats, is only letting 10 passengers on at a time, instead of the usual 30. The process is certainly slower, but Southwest, and other airlines, have far fewer passengers these days.”


STAT News: Trump officials actively lobbied to deny states money for vaccine rollout last fall. “WASHINGTON — Top Trump officials actively lobbied Congress to deny state governments any extra funding for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout last fall — despite frantic warnings from state officials that they didn’t have the money they needed to ramp up a massive vaccination operation.”

BuzzFeed News: Records Pried Loose By BuzzFeed News Have Prompted A Demand For The Investigation Of Former Trump Health Officials. “Citing documents obtained by BuzzFeed News, two independent government watchdog groups are calling for an investigation into whether a top health official in the Trump administration violated federal anti-gag laws in trying to silence members of the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services. BuzzFeed News has reported that Michael Caputo, a controversial Republican operative handpicked last year by then-president Donald Trump to control messaging around the coronavirus pandemic, lambasted CDC and HHS personnel for discussing COVID-19 response plans with reporters and demanded to know how an interview conducted with an HHS official was approved.”

CNN: Masks now required at US national parks. “Face masks are now required in US national parks when visitors can’t maintain physical distance and in all National Park Service buildings to help protect against the spread of coronavirus. The National Park Service mask requirement for all employees and visitors was announced by the Department of Interior in a news release Tuesday afternoon.”

The Century Foundation: Delay in Extending Unemployment Aid Has Shortchanged Workers $17 Billion in January. “The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 enhanced unemployment benefits for 18.6 million Americans relying on jobless pay during the pandemic. The act extended FPUC (a $300-per-claimant additional benefit to all recipients), PEUC (extended benefits for the long-term unemployed), and PUA (benefits for low-wage and self-employed workers not eligible for regular unemployment) through March 2020. Unfortunately, payment of these benefits rolled out slowly in January 2021 as the late enactment of the legislation complicated state implementation.”

BBC: Covax: Canada defends taking vaccines from sharing scheme. “Canada has defended its decision to draw on a supply of coronavirus vaccines from a global inoculation-sharing initiative known as Covax. Covax pools funds from wealthier countries to help buy vaccines for themselves and low-income nations.”


CNN: Andrew Yang tests positive for Covid-19. “Andrew Yang, the former Democratic candidate for president who is currently running for mayor of New York City, tested positive for Covid-19 Tuesday, according to a statement from the Yang for NY Campaign team. Yang said in the statement that he is experiencing mild symptoms and will continue to attend virtual events.”

BBC: Obituary: Captain Sir Tom Moore, a hero who gave a nation hope. “At times of crisis, a nation needs hope and heroes. Sometimes, they’re found in unlikely places – and when Britain first locked down against the coronavirus pandemic, it discovered Captain Sir Tom Moore. In April 2020 the then 99-year-old war veteran accepted a little family challenge: to raise £1,000 for health service charities by walking 100 lengths of his garden before his 100th birthday at the end of that month.”


AP: Pressure builds on schools to reopen during pandemic. “Pressure is building on school systems around the U.S. to reopen classrooms to students who have been learning online for nearly a year, pitting politicians against teachers who have yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”

USA Today: A year into the pandemic, thousands of students still can’t get reliable WiFi for school. The digital divide remains worse than ever.. “In Los Angeles, special education teacher Jaime Lozano strives to keep the attention of his elementary students during online classes. But no matter the charisma he brings to the screen, it’s no match for glitchy internet connections. Every day, about a third of his students experience an outage that cuts into their learning time, Lozano said. Nearly all of his students are from low-income families, and many can’t afford wired, broadband service.”


New York Times: A California University Tries to Shield an Entire City From Coronavirus. “All last fall, universities across the country were accused of enabling the pandemic’s spread by bringing back students who then endangered local residents, mingling with them in bars, stores and apartments. So U.C. Davis is trying something different. Rather than turning the campus into a protective bubble for students and staff, as some schools have attempted, it has quietly spent the past six months making its campus bubble bigger — big enough, in fact, to encompass the entire city.”


The Atlantic: The Brazil Variant Is Exposing the World’s Vulnerability. “Even in a year of horrendous suffering, what is unfolding in Brazil stands out. In the rainforest city of Manaus, home to 2 million people, bodies are reportedly being dropped into mass graves as quickly as they can be dug. Hospitals have run out of oxygen, and people with potentially treatable cases of COVID-19 are dying of asphyxia. This nature and scale of mortality have not been seen since the first months of the pandemic. This is happening in a very unlikely place. Manaus saw a devastating outbreak last April that similarly overwhelmed systems, infecting the majority of the city. Because the morbidity was so ubiquitous, many scientists believed the population had since developed a high level of immunity that would preclude another devastating wave of infection.”

USA Today: ‘COVID arm’ rash seen after Moderna vaccine annoying but harmless, doctors say. “An angry red rash being called ‘COVID arm’ is a harmless but annoying response in some people who get the Moderna vaccine. Aside from sometimes being itchy, it doesn’t appear to be dangerous, and people who get it should not hesitate to get their second dose of the vaccine, doctors say.” My mother was in the hospital for 10 days because of Covid, and six of that was in the ICU. I will take “COVID arm” over that any day of the week.


Bloomberg: Tech Glitches, Swamped Websites Impede U.S. Vaccine Rollout. “Across the U.S., a vaccination campaign that was meant to reverse the tide of the pandemic and spur the nation’s economic recovery is getting bogged down by technical glitches and software woes. Cash-strapped public health departments are trying to keep their websites from crashing while booking millions of appointments, tracking unpredictable inventory, and logging how many shots they give. The situation unfolding across the U.S., home to technology giants, is frustrating a public eager for the inoculations. Further, gaps in the data could be distorting the national picture of how efficiently vaccines are being used, if some number of doses that are administered don’t get counted.”

MIT Technology Review: What went wrong with America’s $44 million vaccine data system?. “The first time Mary Ann Price logged into her employer’s system to schedule a vaccine, she found an appointment three days later at a nearby Walgreens pharmacy. She woke up the next day to an email saying it had been canceled. So she logged in again and found an opening that afternoon at the local surgical hospital. ‘When I showed up, they said they wouldn’t honor it—they were only doing their own staff,’ Price says. But when she tried a third time to make an appointment, she was blocked from doing so: according to the system, she was already in the middle of getting a vaccine.”

The Guardian: What a great shot! Vaccination selfies become the latest social media hit. “The latest social media trend involves no ice buckets, no filters and certainly no sea shanties. Now celebrities and politicians around the world are vying to post the best ‘vaxxies’ – selfies of the moment they receive their Covid-19 vaccination.”

CNN: When tech support is life or death: Family and strangers mobilize to get seniors vaccinated. “Stefanie Thompson tried for three weeks to help her parents and stepmother, each of whom have preexisting medical conditions, register for appointments to get a Covid-19 vaccine. She called reservation hotlines and woke up early to attempt signing them up on pharmacy and hospital websites. No luck. Then one night while scrolling Facebook (FB), she happened upon a group called ‘South Florida COVID-19 Vaccination Info,’ which had a post promising to help secure a spot for a vaccine for the first 10 people to respond.”

Johns Hopkins: Machine Learning Tool Gives Early Warning Of Cardiac Issues For Patients With Covid-19. “The COVID-HEART predictor can forecast cardiac arrest for patients who have COVID-19 with a median early warning time of 18 hours, and it can predict blood clots three days in advance. It was developed with data from 2,178 patients treated at the five hospitals in the Johns Hopkins Health System between March 1 and Sept. 27, 2020.”


Boing Boing: Covid deniers unswayed by shocking pictures of coronavirus consequences. “People who think Covid-19 is a hoax or ‘no worse than the flu’ are unlikely to change their mind when shown ‘shocking photos’ of the pandemic, says Nathan Ballantyne an associate professor of philosophy at Fordham University. He wrote about his study in Scientific American.”

BBC: Oxford vaccine could substantially cut spread. “The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine could lead to a ‘substantial’ fall in the spread of the virus, say scientists. The impact of Covid vaccines on transmission has been a crucial unknown that will dramatically shape the future of the pandemic. The study, which has not been formally published, also showed the vaccine remained effective while people waited for a second dose.”


Boing Boing: Play “Coronasweeper”, a Minesweeper clone for the age of COVID-19. “Software developer Sofia Levin created “Coronasweeper”, a clone of Minesweeper with a theme suited to our grim pandemic: When you narrow down the location of an outbreak, you set a “shelter in place order”.”


TMZ: Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles Maskless Customer Returns With Gun … ‘Put The Chicken In The Bag!!!’. “We’re told he’d initially walked in without a mask, and got into an argument with staff when they asked him to put on one. Cops say he refused, and did leave when the staff asked him to do so. But, when he returned armed … he walked through the back kitchen and demanded the cook put the food in a bag. And, get this … on his way out the door, the suspect allegedly grabbed extra syrup for his meal.”


The Advocate: More than 200 gather indoors for GOP meeting as party chair Louis Gurvich wins re-election. “Party leadership didn’t enforce what they called a mask requirement, and the vast majority of people attending the meeting at Parkview Baptist Church in south Baton Rouge were not wearing masks for most of the roughly five-hour gathering…. The meeting came less than a week after former state Rep. Steve Carter, a well-known Baton Rouge Republican, died battling COVID-19, and a month after Republican Luke Letlow died of COVID-19 complications just before taking office as congressman for Louisiana’s 5th District.”

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