Saturday CoronaBuzz, March 6, 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.


CNN: Are you eligible for the FCC’s emergency internet discount program? Here’s how to find out. “The program will provide discounts of up to $50 a month, or $75 on Tribal lands, for broadband service for low-income households. It also includes a one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, desktop computer or tablet purchased from certain providers, which are yet to be named but are likely to include major wireless network operators, among others.”

Lifehacker: 11 Things to Stream If the Pandemic Stole Your European Vacation. “Whether you were planning to go to grad school in the UK or were finally going to take that long-planned trip to Greece, it’s likely the pandemic changed everything. Well, we’ve spent the last year living through our screens, so why stop now? While you can’t physically take that life-affirming trip, here are 11 transporting recent movies and TV series that will take the trip for you, giving you an approximation of that European vacation experience.”


NPR: A Sign Of Hope After ‘Winter Hibernation’: Employers Add 379,000 Jobs. “Hiring picked up steam in February as a winter wave of coronavirus infections eased and consumers spent more freely. U.S. employers added 379,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate dipped to 6.2%.”

CNET:Biden marks 50 million COVID-19 vaccinations across the US. “The numbers reflect those living in the US who have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine; according to data from Johns Hopkins University, about half this number, or 25 million Americans, have been fully vaccinated since the beginning of the vaccine rollout in December 2020.”


Associated Press: Tensions over vaccine equity pit rural against urban America. “The U.S. vaccine campaign has heightened tensions between rural and urban America, where from Oregon to Tennessee to upstate New York complaints are surfacing of a real — or perceived — inequity in vaccine allocation.”


USA Today: The number of hospitals reporting full ICUs has fallen by nearly 50% since early January. “From Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, Washington, to Sibley Memorial Center in Washington, D.C., USA TODAY found 175 hospitals reporting full intensive care units as of Feb. 25. A total of 302 hospitals reported more COVID-19 patients in the ICU compared with the previous week, and 493 had more COVID-19 patients overall. Though still dire, these numbers have fallen drastically since the beginning of the year.”


Washington Post: A Trader Joe’s employee called for stronger coronavirus measures. The company fired him.. “In a letter citing a medical journal and experts who study respiratory transmission of the coronavirus, Ben Bonnema called on the grocery chain’s head, Dan Bane, to adopt more stringent safety protocols. Among his requests: improving filtration, requiring masks without exception and adopting a ‘three-strikes’ policy for removing uncooperative customers from stores. ‘We put our lives on the line everyday by showing up to work,’ wrote Bonnema, who was a crew member at a New York location. ‘Please, show up for us by adopting these policies.’ The company responded soon after, he says. It fired him.”

CNET: Apple reopens all stores in US for first time since pandemic began. “All of Apple’s 270 retail stores in the US were open for business Monday, the company confirmed to CNET, nearly a year after the company first started closing its stores to deal with the spread of COVID-19.”

Houston Chronicle: ‘It was horrific’: Houston restaurants brace for threats after sticking with masks. “The past three days have been difficult for Monica Richards, a co-owner of Picos restaurant in Upper Kirby. After Gov. Greg Abbott announced he is reopening Texas on March 10, the restaurant told its customers its own COVID-19 restrictions will stay the same. Picos received many messages of support, but then it got ugly.”


Washington Post: ‘It just sucks’: America’s jobless owe thousands of dollars in taxes on their unemployment. “For tax purposes, weekly unemployment payments count as income just like wages from a job. But few people realize the money they get from the government is actually taxable. Fewer than 40 percent of the 40 million unemployed workers in 2020 had taxes withheld from their payments, according to the Century Foundation, a left-leaning think tank.”

BBC: Covid: Japan asks China to stop anal tests on its citizens. “Japan has asked China to stop taking anal swab tests for Covid-19 on its citizens when they enter the country. Some have complained that the procedure caused them ‘psychological distress’, officials say. China, which has largely brought the virus under control, started carrying out anal swabs in January.”


BBC: Covid: California to open outdoor attractions in April. “Disneyland and other theme parks and stadiums in the US state of California can accept visitors next month under plans to relax some Covid restrictions. Outdoor sports and entertainment facilities will be permitted to reopen with limited attendance from 1 April, health officials said on Friday.”

CNN: Texas Gov. Abbott stalled federal offer to test migrants then blamed them for spreading Covid. “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is stalling efforts by the Biden administration to provide federal funds for Covid-19 tests for migrants released from custody, a senior Homeland Security official tells CNN. After relaxing state Covid restrictions this week, Abbott alleged, without evidence, that migrants coming into Texas are exposing the state’s residents to the coronavirus.”

IndyStar: Teachers in Indiana of any age can be vaccinated through federal pharmacy program. “Gov. Eric Holcomb said Hoosier teachers of all ages will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Even though the state eligibility has only opened to residents age 50 and older, all teachers can make appointments and get vaccinated through those pharmacies participating in the federal program. Holcomb said the White House will provide additional doses to those pharmacies for the prioritization of teachers.”

Miami Herald: As governor cherry-picked data, the pandemic took a toll on Florida Sunshine laws. “For months, Thomas Hladish, a research scientist at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, asked the Florida Department of Health to let him use information from thousands of contact tracers the state had hired to interview Floridians who tested positive for COVID-19…. But Hladish, who was on FDOH’s payroll for part of last year building statistical forecasting models about the disease, was stonewalled. He was then told not to even acknowledge the state had a set of data that showed when and where people tested negative for COVID-19 in Florida.”


KHN: Black Churches Fill a Unique Role in Combating Vaccine Fears. “In the hospital with covid-19 in December, Lavina Wafer tired of the tubes in her nose and wondered impatiently why she couldn’t be discharged. A phone call with her pastor helped her understand that the tube was piping in lifesaving oxygen, which had to be slowly tapered to protect her. Now that Wafer, 70, is well and back home in Richmond, California, she’s looking to her pastor for advice about the covid vaccines. Though she doubts they’re as wonderful as the government claims, she plans to get vaccinated anyway — because of his example.”


Larry Ferlazzo: The Best Face Masks For Teachers In The Classroom (Or, At Least, The Most Comfortable Ones). “As regular readers know, our district, like many urban districts around the United States, will be returning to our physical classrooms soon. One of my concerns has been finding a face mask that will be comfortable to wear for hours at a time. So, I sent out this tweet today asking for advice.”


CNET: Coronavirus herd immunity: What it means and when will we have it. “Let’s explore what herd immunity looks like, what it means for COVID-19, and how the world can get there, explained by Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons; Dr. Joseph Vinetz, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist; and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

New York Times: The C.D.C. links restaurant dining and a lack of mask mandates to the virus’s spread in the U.S.. “As officials in Texas and Mississippi lifted statewide mask mandates, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered fresh evidence of the importance of mask use in a new study on Friday. Wearing masks, the study reported, was linked to fewer infections with the coronavirus and Covid-19 deaths in counties across the United States.”

BBC: Covid vaccines cut risk of serious illness by 80% in over-80s. “A single shot of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid jab reduces the chance of needing hospital treatment by more than 80%, an analysis in England shows. The Public Health England data showed the effect kicked in three to four weeks after vaccination.”

Duke Today: One Year In: Optimism, Advice For Dealing With Stress And Anxiety From The Pandemic. “The mental health challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have overwhelmed many Americans. The stress and anxiety from sickness, lost employment and a pivot for children and parents to isolated, virtual schooling has had a devastating cumulative effect. As the first anniversary of the pandemic approaches, three Duke experts reflected Wednesday on the impact it has had on various aspects of mental health during University Communications’ 50th virtual briefing for journalists since last March.” Video with an extensive article, but no transcript. Video itself is captioned.


Knowledge@Wharton: How Artificial Intelligence Can Slow the Spread of COVID-19. “A new machine learning approach to COVID-19 testing has produced encouraging results in Greece. The technology, named Eva, dynamically used recent testing results collected at the Greek border to detect and limit the importation of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases among arriving international passengers between August and November 2020, which helped contain the number of cases and deaths in the country.”


MIT News: When more Covid-19 data doesn’t equal more understanding. “Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, charts and graphs have helped communicate information about infection rates, deaths, and vaccinations. In some cases, such visualizations can encourage behaviors that reduce virus transmission, like wearing a mask. Indeed, the pandemic has been hailed as the breakthrough moment for data visualization. But new findings suggest a more complex picture. A study from MIT shows how coronavirus skeptics have marshalled data visualizations online to argue against public health orthodoxy about the benefits of mask mandates.”


AP: Speedy variants power virus surge sweeping Europe. “The virus swept through a nursery school and an adjacent elementary school in the Milan suburb of Bollate with amazing speed. In a matter of just days, 45 children and 14 staff members had tested positive. Genetic analysis confirmed what officials already suspected: The highly contagious coronavirus variant first identified in England was racing through the community, a densely packed city of nearly 40,000 with a chemical plant and Pirelli bicycle tire factory a 15-minute drive from the heart of Milan.”


Washington Post: Fake coronavirus vaccine seizures in several countries are ‘tip of the iceberg,’ Interpol warns. “First came the fake medical-grade masks and coronavirus tests. Now, a new threat has emerged, global police organization Interpol warns: fake doses of the coronavirus vaccine. Interpol said Wednesday that police in China and South Africa have seized thousands of doses of fake vaccines — a cache it said was just the ‘tip of the iceberg.'”

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