Monday CoronaBuzz, February 15, 2021: 38 pointers to updates, useful stuff, research news, and more.

Please wear a mask (or even two). Wash your hands. Stay at home if you can. Please be careful. I love you.


E! Online: NBC’s Plan Your Vaccine Program Is Making It Easy to Fight COVID-19. “On Thursday, Feb. 11, Comcast NBCUniversal announced the new Plan Your Vaccine campaign, a company-wide initiative to help raise awareness and educate people on how and where they can get the COVID-19 vaccine amid the ongoing national roll-out to fight the coronavirus pandemic.”

NBC Boston: New Service Sends Text Alerts For Leftover COVID Vaccines Nearby. “A new website, called ‘Vaccination Standby,’ was launched to prevent wasting as many doses of the coronavirus vaccine as possible. Registered providers sometimes end up with a surplus when people miss appointments or when vails come with extra doses, according to the VaxStandby website, which must used within six hours lest they be thrown away.”


Penn State: New online course engages middle, high-school students in ‘The Science of COVID-19’. “The course, called ‘The Science of COVID-19,’ includes modules on virology, epidemiology and public health preparedness. Through short content lectures and interaction with embedded online tools, students and other users can develop a better understanding of how pandemics are studied, modeled, prepared for and mitigated.” The course is free.


WVVA: Virus cases decline, West Virginia debuts vaccine portal. “Coronavirus cases and deaths in West Virginia trended downward last week as vaccinations continue apace…. West Virginia is debuting an online portal for residents to register for coronavirus vaccine appointments.”

CBS Boston: Massachusetts Creates Vaxfinder, A New Website To Help People Book COVID Vaccine Appointments. “There’s still the state’s main website to land a COVID vaccine appointment. But now, a new tool called Vaxfinder has been added. The state is hoping Vaxfinder does simplify the process by showing appointments and availability in one location.”

KGET: Track reopenings: Interactive map of California school statuses. “The state on Friday launched an interactive map showing the current reopening status of all California schools. The map, which is continuously updated, shows all elementary, middle, and high schools in the state and their current statuses – in-person hybrid, distance learning only, or no status available.”

Bradford Era: State launches ‘Your Turn’ vaccine tool. “The Pennsylvania Department of Health has launched a new tool called Your Turn to help Pennsylvanians understand where they fall in the vaccine prioritization effort and to be alerted when it is their turn to schedule an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine.”


AFP Factcheck: Facebook users in South Korea share misleading advice outlining ‘how to refuse’ Covid-19 vaccinations. “As South Korean lawmakers debate new legislation that would stipulate how Covid-19 vaccines should be administered in the country, some South Korean social media users shared posts which claimed citizens can refuse to be vaccinated based on two medical ethic codes. The claim, however, lacks important context: the two ethics codes — the Oath of Hippocrates and the Declaration of Geneva — do not relate to a patient’s rights and are not legally binding.”

The Conversation: COVID-19 misinformation on Chinese social media – lessons for countering conspiracy theories. “As researchers who study online media and public discourse, my colleagues and I examined conspiracy theories about the origins of COVID-19 and narratives that debunk them on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter and one of the major Chinese social media platforms. We found that popular conspiracies on Weibo about the origins of COVID-19 differ substantially from those in the U.S., with many claiming that a national government deliberately constructed the coronavirus. Conspiracy posts and posts attributing responsibility to the U.S. surged during Sino-U.S. confrontations.”

AP: The superspreaders behind top COVID-19 conspiracy theories. “College professors with no evidence or training in virology were touted as experts. Anonymous social media users posed as high-level intelligence officials. And from China to Iran to Russia to the United States, governments amplified claims for their own motives. The Associated Press collaborated with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab on a nine-month investigation to identify the people and organizations behind some of the most viral misinformation about the origins of the coronavirus.”

Politico: Social media hasn’t stopped anti-vaxxers. Now docs are fighting back.. “Doctors and nurses trying to build confidence in Covid-19 vaccines on social media are mounting coordinated campaigns to combat anti-vaccination forces prevalent on those platforms. At the same time, public health groups are mobilizing a global network of vaccine advocates to come to their aid when they are attacked online by activists, who closely monitor certain hashtags and keywords. The groups use monitoring software to swiftly identify online attacks, then tap their networks to flood social media posts with supportive messages countering vaccine opponents.”


BBC: Covid-19: Celebrating Valentine’s Day during a pandemic. “Following nearly a year of social distancing, lockdowns and limited opportunities to socialise in person, some couples are thinking about how to make the day special even though they are apart. Others will be trying to find some time for romance while cooped up at home with young children.”

BBC: Japan’s economy shrinks 4.8% in 2020 due to Covid. “The economy beat expectations to grow by 3% between October and December compared to the same period in 2019. But growth was considerably slower than in the previous quarter, when the economy expanded 5.3%. Japan’s economy shrank 4.8% over the full year, its first contraction since 2009.”


AP: Brazil Carnival goes online with street parties banned. “Brazil is still recording an average of more than 1,000 deaths a day from the pandemic and as in many countries, immunization campaigns have been lagging. The Sambadromes of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo that normally throb with partying this time of year after being used as vaccination stations.”


Hollywood Reporter: Studios Hold Out Hope for Theaters’ Return to Normalcy. “In delaying tentpoles, rather than sending major titles to streaming platforms, much of Hollywood is betting that audiences will be comfortable going back to cinemas after the vaccine rolls out.”

The Register: Amazon sues NY Attorney General in preemptive strike: Web giant faces claim it did not fully protect workers in COVID-19 pandemic. “Amazon on Friday sued New York Attorney General Letitia James to prevent her office from bringing legal action that would punish the behemoth computing biz for alleged worker health and safety violations. The lawsuit follows from a year of rancorous disputes with Amazon warehouse workers who claim the company hasn’t done enough to ensure their well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Washington Post: Moderna agreed to ‘equitable access’ for its coronavirus vaccine, but most of its doses are going to wealthy countries. “Moderna ‘seems to have refused to allocate or sell any of their supply beyond the wealthiest countries, the most profitable markets,” said Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Center at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.”


BBC: Covid: Vaccine given to 15 million in UK as PM hails ‘extraordinary feat’. “More than 15 million people in the UK have now had their first coronavirus vaccine, in what Boris Johnson described as a ‘significant milestone’. The PM hailed the ‘extraordinary feat’, reached just over two months after the first jab was given on 8 December.”

City Monitor: A US-wide eviction ban could have prevented thousands of Covid deaths. “About 1.2 million infections and 164,000 deaths could have been averted in 2020 if the federal government had stopped evictions and utility shut-offs, according to Duke University estimates.”


Washington Post: Philadelphia let ‘college kids’ distribute vaccines. The result was a ‘disaster,’ volunteers say.. “Seniors were left in tears after finding that appointments they’d made through a bungled sign-up form wouldn’t be honored. The group switched to a for-profit model without publicizing the change and added a privacy policy that would allow it to sell users’ personal data. One volunteer alleged that the 22-year-old CEO had pocketed vaccine doses. Another described a ‘free-for-all’ where unsupervised 18- and 19-year-olds vaccinated one another and posed for photos. Now, the city has cut ties with Philly Fighting COVID, and prosecutors are looking into the ‘concerning’ allegations.”

New York Times: N.Y. Severely Undercounted Virus Deaths in Nursing Homes, Report Says. “For most of the past year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has tried to brush away a persistent criticism that undermined his national image as the man who led New York through the pandemic: that his policies had allowed thousands of nursing home residents to die of the virus. But Mr. Cuomo was dealt a blow when the New York State attorney general, Letitia James, reported on [January 28] that Mr. Cuomo’s administration had undercounted coronavirus-related deaths of state nursing home residents by the thousands.”


BBC: Cristiano Ronaldo investigated for Covid-19 ‘birthday trip’. “Juventus footballer Cristiano Ronaldo is being investigated by Italian police over a trip he allegedly took to celebrate his girlfriend’s birthday. He is accused of breaking Covid-19 rules by travelling between the regions of Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta. Now-deleted footage posted on social media showed the couple on a snowmobile in a mountain resort, the same day Georgina Rodriguez turned 27.”


PaNOW: ‘You can’t Google how to handle a pandemic’: NHL teams adapting as protocols change. “The NHL began its 56-game season last month with 213 pages of protocols aimed at trying to keep COVID-19 out of locker rooms with masks, daily tests and a grocery list of rules. There was, however, little doubt positive cases would arise.”


EurekAlert: Proper fit of face masks is more important than material, study suggests. “The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, carried out a series of different fit tests, and found that when a high-performance mask – such as an N95, KN95 or FFP2 mask – is not properly fitted, it performs no better than a cloth mask. Minor differences in facial features, such as the amount of fat under the skin, make significant differences in how well a mask fits.”

News-Medical: Huge gaps in vaccine data make it next to impossible to know who got the shots. “As they rush to vaccinate millions of Americans, health officials are struggling to collect critically important information — such as race, ethnicity and occupation — of every person they jab. The data being collected is so scattered that there’s little insight into which health care workers, or first responders, have been among the people getting the initial vaccines, as intended — or how many doses instead have gone to people who should be much further down the list.”

The Guardian: Fury at ‘do not resuscitate’ notices given to Covid patients with learning disabilities. “People with learning disabilities have been given do not resuscitate orders during the second wave of the pandemic, in spite of widespread condemnation of the practice last year and an urgent investigation by the care watchdog. Mencap said it had received reports in January from people with learning disabilities that they had been told they would not be resuscitated if they were taken ill with Covid-19.”


IDG Insider Pro: How IT is playing a major role in Covid-19 vaccine efforts. “People all over the world are hoping that the multiple vaccines becoming available from pharmaceuticals suppliers will help bring an end the Covid-19 pandemic that has wreaked havoc in so many ways. A key to the success of these vaccines is how effectively they are maintained, distributed, and administered globally. It’s an enormous task, with much riding on its success. Technology is playing a big part in efforts to get vaccine doses to as many people as quickly and as safely as possible. Here are some of the ways IT is coming into play.”

New York Times: Reddit Is America’s Unofficial Unemployment Hotline. “As unemployment claims shot up early in the pandemic, so did posts on r/Unemployment, one of the many topic-based forums on the site known as subreddits. The subreddit once typically had fewer than 10 posts a day, but it quickly ballooned to nearly 1,000 posts a day in April and May. As the crisis wore on, posts and comments spiked in the weeks following changes to benefit programs. In January, nearly 10 months after the first lockdowns, the forum had one of its busiest weeks ever, driven by delays in payments and uncertainty around legislation signed late last year.”


Brief19: New Data Gives Insight On How Long Patients Can Spread Coronavirus. “Precisely how long patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 are contagious has been the focus of intense debate and scrutiny, with implications on how long isolation periods should last. One problem has been that people who contract the virus may generate positive tests via PCR nasal swab for weeks on end. At some points, patients test positive via PCR, but are no longer contagious.”

USA Today: Luck, foresight and science: How an unheralded team developed a COVID-19 vaccine in record time. “Credit for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine belongs in part to discoveries dating back 15 years. The team behind it was inspired by two infant deaths.”

CBS Boston: Study Finds Vitamin C, Zinc Don’t Help Fight COVID. “Despite the popular use of vitamin C and zinc to fight off or lessen the severity of viral colds and flu, the new study, published Friday in JAMA Network Open, found the two supplements were of no benefit to people isolating at home with Covid-19. In fact, the findings were so unimpressive that the study was stopped early.”

Phys .org: Young people more worried about Brexit than COVID-19. “Two fifths (42%) of adults aged 18-29 report being stressed about Brexit, more than the proportion who are worried about catching COVID-19 (32%) or becoming seriously ill from the disease (22%), find UCL researchers as part of the COVID-19 Social Study.”

Reuters: Israeli study finds 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 cases with Pfizer vaccine. “Israel’s largest healthcare provider on Sunday reported a 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections among 600,000 people who received two doses of the Pfizer’s vaccine in the country’s biggest study to date. Health maintenance organization (HMO) Clalit, which covers more than half of all Israelis, said the same group was also 92% less likely to develop severe illness from the virus.”

PsyPost: Slow government response to COVID-19 linked to higher burnout and lower wellbeing in frontline workers. “A new study from researchers from the University of Gloucestershire’s HERA Lab and the University of Limerick’s RISE Lab has found that the resilience, burnout, and wellbeing levels of frontline keyworkers in the UK and Ireland are being affected by different factors. It has been widely reported that the UK’s relatively slow response into initiating lockdown measures has had an impact on morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, and there is now evidence to suggest that this slower response has also had a negative impact on frontline workers’ resilience, burnout, and wellbeing.”


Associated Press: Feds withheld info on virus cases following execution. “At least two journalists tested positive for coronavirus after witnessing the Trump administration’s final three federal executions, but the Bureau of Prisons knowingly withheld the diagnoses from other media witnesses and did not perform any contact tracing, The Associated Press has learned.”

NBC News: How billions in pandemic aid was swindled by con artists and crime syndicates. “When investigators raided a strip mall store in Garden Grove, California, in December, they found a line of customers snaking around the parking lot and huge stacks of cash inside the store. Orange County prosecutors say Nguyen Social Services was charging up to $700 a pop to file false unemployment claims for people who did not qualify to receive Covid-19 relief money. The brazen fraud was part of an overall scheme that cost taxpayers an estimated $11 million, prosecutors say.”

BBC: Singapore Covid: Briton admits breaking quarantine to visit partner. “A Briton has pleaded guilty to breaking Singapore’s quarantine rules by leaving his hotel room to visit his fiancée. Nigel Skea, 52, walked up an emergency staircase to spend the night with Agatha Maghesh Eyamalai, 39, in September. The couple are now married.”


BuzzFeed News: They Had Six COVID Vaccines Left And Were Stuck In The Snow — So They Started Knocking On Car Windows. “Some lucky Americans have been gifted with a surprise coronavirus vaccine while shopping at a supermarket. Others have followed social media rumors to score a dose. But six people in Oregon on Tuesday managed to secure their shot because they happened to be stuck on a snowy highway at the right place at the right time.”

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