Wednesday CoronaBuzz, March 3, 2021: 25 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.


Route Fifty: Four Causes of ‘Zoom Fatigue’ and What You Can Do About It. “In the first peer-reviewed article that systematically deconstructs Zoom fatigue from a psychological perspective, Jeremy Bailenson, communications professor and founding director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) at Stanford University, took the medium apart and assessed Zoom on its individual technical aspects. The paper appears in Technology, Mind and Behavior.”

Advocate: How to Travel and Instagram During a Pandemic. “As the gay men who flew to Puerto Vallarta for the White Party learned during the holidays, there can be a severe backlash — deservedly so — to flaunting vacations involving a large group gathering. Posting about trips like this, especially by influencers, can be seen at best as tone-deaf and at worst as promoting dangerous behavior as death tolls mount, particularly in regions that may lack medical resources. However, it seemed there could be a middle ground where an adventure could be shared publicly on Instagram and Facebook — with certain caveats. After all, even those of us without large followings are microinfluencers, meaning that the actions we take can encourage our networks to do the same. Thus, modeling responsible behavior is essential when sharing of images or videos on social media.”


CBS Pittsburgh: Birdwatching Surges In Popularity During COVID-19 Pandemic. “Birdwatching has surged in popularity over the last year, from simple window feeders to outdoor excursions. The online database eBird reports a 37% increase in users documenting their sightings, and more than 2 million people used the Merlin Bird ID app in 2020.”

Washington Post: Ashes in the mail: Dealing with the loss of a loved one has changed in the covid era. “The pandemic that has changed the rhythms and rituals of life is doing that in death, too. Eulogies are delivered over Zoom. Memorial services are often held months late, if at all. More people are opting for cremation, accelerating the shift from burying bodies. And, with out-of-state relatives unable to travel to pick up the cremated remains because of health risks, the U.S. Postal Service is increasingly delivering ashes to doorsteps.”


Mainer: Anti-Maskers Waging “Spiritual War” Statewide. “A network of far-right activists organized on social media, including anti-maskers and anti-vaxx conspiracists, has been raising hell in communities all over Maine, staging armed protests and becoming increasingly aggressive on the streets. Convinced that public health measures intended to slow the spread of COVID-19 are part of a vast, yet vague plot involving Marxists, fascists, corporations and Satan, group members have discussed disrupting a new vaccination site at a racetrack in Scarborough.”


BBC: Covid: Qantas launches ‘mystery flights’ to boost tourism. “The day-trips, where passengers don’t know the destination when boarding, were popular in the 1990s. Airlines across the region are coming up with different strategies to tackle the pandemic-induced travel slump, with Thai Airways announcing this week it will slash its workforce by 50%.”

Harvard Business School Working Knowledge: COVID-19 Shines New Light on Working Conditions in Supply Chains. “Tightly packed workers and other weak protections allowed COVID-19 to sweep through American slaughterhouses during the past year, infecting at least 45,000 employees and killing an estimated 240 people. To Harvard Business School Professor Michael Toffel, who has studied working conditions for more than 20 years, the devastation in meatpacking is just one example of how lax regulation can make a grave situation deadly.”

Buffalo Business First: ‘Good intentions’ leave Buffalo manufacturers, suppliers struggling to sell PPE stockpiles. “Founded in 1985 to supply gloves and masks to the medical industry during the height of the HIV epidemic, MDS evolved over the years to supplying equipment to the industrial and construction industries. By early 2020, just 10% of business was coming from medical customers – a figure that skyrocketed to 90% almost overnight during the pandemic. Existing relationships with suppliers from around the world gave the company a secure and reliable supply of products. Yet now the company is sitting on a stockpile of N95s, isolation gowns and gloves. Google has restricted online advertising for PPE in a bid to stop counterfeiters and preserve supply for the health care industry.”


STAT News: The Trump administration quietly spent billions in hospital funds on Operation Warp Speed. “The Trump administration quietly took around $10 billion from a fund meant to help hospitals and health care providers affected by Covid-19 and used the money to bankroll Operation Warp Speed contracts, four former Trump administration officials told STAT. The Department of Health and Human Services appears to have used a financial maneuver that allowed officials to spend the money without telling Congress, and the agency got permission from its top lawyer to do so. Now, the Biden administration is refusing to say whether the outlay means there will be less money available for hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, and other providers.”

CNN: Biden now says US will have enough vaccine for every adult by the end of May. “President Joe Biden said Tuesday the United States would have enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for every adult American by the end of May, dramatically accelerating his timeline but acknowledging the country must still be vigilant against the virus.”


Miami Herald: Publix makes its own vaccine distribution plan. Officials don’t know where shots will go. “The grocery chain — a major financial supporter of Gov. Ron DeSantis — is the state’s single-largest vaccine supplier and receives nearly a quarter of the state’s available doses without providing state officials a store-specific distribution plan ahead of time, according to Jared Moskowitz, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the agency leading the vaccination campaign.”

KSAT: ‘It is now time to open Texas 100%:’ Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reverses statewide pandemic orders. “Exactly eight months after issuing a mask mandate in most Texas counties, Gov. Greg Abbott reversed that order on Tuesday, along with most other statewide COVID-19 orders he signed last year. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made the statewide announcement Tuesday while speaking to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce.”

Local 24: Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves lifts mask mandate for all counties. “Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced Tuesday that the state is lifting mask mandates for all counties, starting Wednesday. Instead of mandates, Reeves said there are still ‘recommendations’ for all to continue to follow guidance.”


BBC: Covid-19: Dolly Parton marks vaccination with Jolene rewrite. “Country star Dolly Parton has been given a Covid-19 vaccine dose, after urging others to follow her example by reimagining one of her hit songs. Parton, 75, sang an adapted version of Jolene before receiving the shot at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday.”


New York Times: In Their Own Words: Why Health Experts Say Elementary Schools Should Open. “Scientists and doctors who study infectious disease in children largely agreed, in a recent New York Times survey about school openings, that elementary school students should be able to attend in-person school now. With safety measures like masking and opening windows, the benefits outweigh the risks, the majority of the 175 respondents said.”


Poynter: Remote teaching has meant lots more improvising — even for improv professors. “Whether through formal training or simply a dawning awareness, many instructors say they are thinking more deeply about learning and student centeredness. As students increasingly express concerns about their own mental and emotional health during 2020’s pandemic, economic downturn and racial reckoning, instructors are finding new ways to be flexible. They are grappling with how to balance their expanded role — teacher, mentor, friend — with conveying content, and where to draw the lines among these roles.”


EurekAlert: Forecast: the impacts of vaccines and variants on the U.S. COVID trajectory. “In a report summary released today Thomas McAndrew, a computational scientist and assistant professor at Lehigh University’s College of Health includes probabilistic forecasts of the impact of vaccines and variants on the U.S. COVID trajectory over the next few weeks.”

Washington Post: New standards for everyday masks will help people pick covid-19 face coverings. “While surgical masks, N95 masks and other medical-grade personal protective equipment have long had established standards in place, this new standard for everyday masks is a first, and is meant to provide a benchmark for both manufacturers and the general public. Manufacturers will be encouraged to comply with the standard, and consumers will be able to have confidence in compliant products, knowing that they are certified.”

Poynter: How does COVID-19’s toll compare with heart disease, cancer and other causes of death?. “Now that the coronavirus has been in the United States for roughly a year, new numbers are revealing the scale of COVID-19’s impact on American health: COVID-19 has become the country’s third leading cause of death, and could be on its way to outpacing cancer.”


EurekAlert: Nanoparticle-delivered COVID-19 vaccine candidate shows promise in preclinical studies. “Researchers from Cleveland Clinic’s Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health have developed a promising new COVID-19 vaccine candidate that utilizes nanotechnology and has shown strong efficacy in preclinical disease models.”

PsyPost: People who believe COVID-19 conspiracy theories tend to struggle with scientific reasoning, study finds. “Individuals with a better grasp of scientific reasoning are less likely to fall prey to false conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research published in the Journal of Health Psychology.”


New York Times: Brazil’s Covid Crisis Is a Warning to the Whole World, Scientists Say. “No other nation that experienced such a major outbreak is still grappling with record-setting death tolls and a health care system on the brink of collapse. Many other hard-hit nations are, instead, taking tentative steps toward a semblance of normalcy. But Brazil is battling a more contagious variant that has trampled one major city and is spreading to others, even as Brazilians toss away precautionary measures that could keep them safe.”


San Francisco Chronicle: Congress is investigating One Medical over its vaccine distribution in San Francisco and other cities. “Congress has launched an investigation into San Francisco-based health care provider One Medical following reports that it disregarded vaccine eligibility requirements in multiple cities, including at least three Bay Area counties. The investigation follows reports by NPR and Forbes that One Medical vaccinated ineligible people, including friends and family members of the company’s executives.”

HuffPost: Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Rose 150% In Major U.S. Cities, Study Finds. “Hate crimes targeting Asian Americans rose 150% in America’s largest cities last year, even as overall hate crimes decreased, according to alarming new data released Tuesday. There were 122 hate crimes targeting Asian Americans in 16 of the country’s most populous cities in 2020, according to a study of police records by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, compared to 49 such crimes in those cities in 2019.”

Sky News: COVID-19: Explosion at coronavirus testing centre near Amsterdam appears intentional, police say. “An explosion outside a coronavirus testing centre close to the Dutch capital of Amsterdam appears to have been intentional, police have said. The blast in the town of Bovenkarspel, north of the capital, happened at 6.55am before the centre opened and caused no injuries.”

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