Wednesday CoronaBuzz, March 10, 2021: 30 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.


News Center Maine: Maine DHHS now offering free transportation to Mainers who need rides to COVID-19 vaccine clinics. “Maine DHHS is partnering with ModivCare, one of the organizations that coordinates rides for MaineCare members, to provide rides for any Maine resident who is unable to drive, lacks reliable transportation or is otherwise unable to travel to their appointment.”


Poynter: Newsrooms in Philly help people say goodbye to those lost to the coronavirus. “On Wednesday, Resolve Philly and 20 partner newsrooms launched a site meant to give people something the coronavirus pandemic took from a lot of us — the chance to say goodbye. With love: Messages to those lost to COVID is ‘not an obituary, it’s not a summary of a person’s life, it’s what I would say to you if I had the chance to say goodbye,’ said Resolve Philly senior collaborations editor Eugene Sonn.”


BBC: Supermarkets warn pet boom causing food pouch shortages. “UK supermarkets have warned of a shortage of some dog and cat food products following an ‘unprecedented’ rise in pet ownership during lockdown. Sainsbury’s has apologised after running out of dog and cat food pouches due to a ‘national shortage’, although tinned and dry food are unaffected.”

Ars Technica: Traffic congestion dropped by 73 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic. “In 2020, the average US driver spent 26 hours stuck in traffic. While that’s still more than a day, it’s a steep decline from pre-pandemic times; in 2019 the average American sacrificed 99 hours to traffic jams. Around the world, it’s a similar story. German drivers averaged an identical 26 hours of traffic in 2020, down from 46 the year before. In the UK, 2019 sounded positively awful, with 115 hours in traffic jams. At least one thing improved for that island nation in 2020: its drivers only spent 37 hours stationary in their cars.”


UPI: Report: Instagram’s algorithm pushes certain users to COVID-19 misinformation. “Instagram’s algorithm recommended new users following COVID-19 misinformation to more of the same amid the pandemic, a report said Tuesday. The Center For Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit company with offices in Britain and Washington, D.C., founded in 2018 by Imran Ahmed, published the report, on Tuesday, titled ‘Malgorithm.'”

NBC News: Latino churches push Covid vaccine enrollment, but some spread misinformation. “As the president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, with a database of over 6,000 pastors, Gabriel Salguero was getting messages from pastors and parishioners commenting about posts they had seen on social media about the Covid-19 vaccine. The information included false claims that the vaccines would alter people’s DNA, that microchips would be inserted and used to track people and that tissue from fetuses that had been aborted was used to develop the vaccines. That’s when Salguero decided to step up and create ways to educate members about the vaccines and help with vaccination efforts.”

New York Times: Black and Hispanic Communities Grapple With Vaccine Misinformation. “The false information arrives on social media and fringe news sites, influencing people already facing other hurdles to getting vaccinated. Some activists are going door to door to counter it.”

Poynter: Facebook has an apparent double standard over COVID-19 misinformation in Brazil, researchers say. “Researchers want Facebook’s Oversight Board to evaluate the platform’s exemption of politicians from fact-checking after new research from Brazillian fact-checking organization Agência Lupa pointed to 29 examples of President Jair Bolsonaro spreading COVID-19 misinformation.”

Idaho Statesman: Idaho man thought ‘the virus would disappear the day after the election.’ He was wrong. “[Paul] Russell once thought the coronavirus wasn’t a real threat. He didn’t believe in masks. All that has changed. ‘Before I came down with the virus, I was one of those jackasses who thought the virus would disappear the day after the election. I was one of those conspiracy theorists,’ he said. Instead, he was in the hospital with COVID-19 a week after the election.”


Route Fifty: In Alabama, South Carolina and Louisiana, CVS Vaccine Appointments Go Unfilled. “In many counties across the three states — particularly in rural areas — retailers and outpatient clinics are among the few places offering covid-19 shots. CVS and other large pharmacies, including Walgreens and Walmart, are among the biggest providers of the vaccinations. South Carolina health officials said they noticed demand was waning at some vaccine sites — and, as a result, lowered the age eligibility for the shots from 65 to 55 starting Monday.”

BBC: Covid: Brazil experts issue warning as hospitals ‘close to collapse’. “Health systems in most of Brazil’s largest cities are close to collapse because of Covid-19 cases, its leading health institute warns. More than 80% of intensive care unit beds are occupied in the capitals of 25 of Brazil’s 27 states, Fiocruz said. Experts warn that the highly contagious variant in Brazil may have knock-on effects in the region and beyond.”


Business Insider: A mask-less Trader Joe’s customer in Texas had a meltdown after being denied entry – and it reveals how states’ new rules endanger workers. “A Trader Joe’s customer accused the grocer of violating Texas state law, after employees denied the man entry without a mask. The situation highlights how the state’s new rules have put many frontline workers in a vulnerable position, as they are forced to impose corporate rules without the support of the government.”

Axios: The long road to putting America back to work. “One year into the pandemic, more than 10 million Americans are still out of work — and many of the jobs they lost won’t even exist when this is over. The big picture: Putting the country back to work will require vast amounts of retraining and career shifting, as former bartenders learn to code and former cruise ship workers look for jobs at data centers. The U.S. is still unprepared to take that on at scale.”


CNET: Biden to mark anniversary of COVID-19 shutdown on Thursday. How to watch. “President Joe Biden on Thursday will deliver his first prime-time address, marking one year since shutdowns and other restrictions were put in place across the US in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The president will discuss sacrifices many Americans have made over the last year and ‘the grave loss communities and families across the country have suffered,’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.”

BBC: France coronavirus: Paris cuts non-Covid treatment amid intensive care surge. “Hospitals in and around Paris have been told to reduce non-Covid treatments by 40%, as demand for intensive care beds (ICU) neared saturation point. On Monday take up of ICU beds for Covid patients was just 83 short of the 1,050 capacity set aside for the region.”

Accounting Today: Momentum builds for delaying tax deadline. “House Ways and Means Committee chairman Richard E. Neal, D-Massachusetts, and Oversight Subcommittee chairman Bill Pascrell, Jr., D-New Jersey, on Monday urged the IRS to extend the 2021 tax filing season until July 15, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to impose a ‘titanic strain’ on the agency as well as taxpayers. They pointed out that as of the end of February, the number of tax returns filed had declined nearly 25 percent compared to the same time last year, and the number of returns processed by the IRS was down 31 percent.”


Alaska Public Media: With many Alaska vaccine appointments unfilled, officials want you to know: You could be ‘essential’. “A 21-year-old with an asthma inhaler, a 30-year-old oil roughneck and a 56-year-old freelance graphic designer walk into a brew pub in Alaska. What do they have in common? No, this isn’t a joke: All of them are newly eligible to be vaccinated — plus the bartender, too. After months of tight vaccine supply, the state of Alaska last week made a massive expansion of the groups eligible for shots. But it’s not clear the expanded criteria are fully registering with Alaskans yet, public health officials said at a briefing for reporters Monday.”

CBS Baltimore: Maryland Lifts COVID Capacity Limits On Restaurant Dining, Retail And Other Businesses, Masks Still Required. “Maryland will lift capacity limits for outdoor and indoor dining, as well as other establishments starting March 12 at 5 p.m. For dining, only seated and distanced service will be allowed. Crowding in bars will not be permitted, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday. Capacity limits for retail, religious facilities, fitness centers, casinos, personal services, indoor recreational establishments will also lift Friday.”

My San Antonio: Texas AG is threatening to sue Austin heath officials for enforcing face masks. “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is threatening to sue Austin health officials for its face mask order. On Tuesday, Austin and Travis County public health leaders announced they will continue requiring residents wear masks in public. The order operates as a public health mandate under the recommendations of Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott.”


BBC: John Magufuli: Questions raised over missing Tanzania leader. “Questions have been raised over the health of Tanzanian President John Magufuli who has not been seen in public for 11 days. Opposition leader Tundu Lissu has told the BBC that according to his sources the president is being treated in hospital for coronavirus in Kenya. The BBC has not been able to verify this report independently.”


BBC: Tokyo 2020: ‘Safe and secure’ Olympics will take place – IOC president Thomas Bach. “A ‘safe and secure’ Tokyo Olympics will happen this year, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach says. The German said it was no longer a question of whether the Games would take place this summer but how they would be held.”


WDBJ: USDA extends free meals for kids through summer. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday it would extend several waivers that allow all children throughout the country to continue to receive meals while school is out during the summer. The waivers were previously extended through June 30, 2021, but will now be available until September 30, to make sure children who depend on school meals throughout the academic year have the same access to those meals in the summer months.”


CNBC: Brain fog, fatigue and chronic stress — 53% of U.S. women are burned out. Here’s how to cope. “Victoria Fricke had her first panic attack shortly after the coronavirus pandemic hit. The 34-year-old mother of two is a travel agent with her own business. The cancellations piled in as her children’s school and daycare shut down. One year later, Fricke is still struggling, often feeling burned out.”

NBC News: The vaccines are working. That’s why we shouldn’t panic about variants.. “Several new coronavirus variants have been identified in the United States in recent weeks, and scientists are grappling with whether these strains threaten the country — and, if so, how. One thing experts agree on, though, is that the available vaccines have outperformed expectations — even when it comes to what are known as the ‘variants of concern.'”


The Verge: Self-flying drones are helping speed deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines in Ghana. “The threat of COVID-19 has prompted many countries to draft new and emerging technologies to fight the pandemic, with the latest example taking flight in Ghana. This month, COVID-19 vaccines were delivered by drone for the first time in the West African nation, allowing the medicine to reach remote areas underserved by traditional logistics.”


California State University Northridge: CSUN Professor Studies How Screen Time Affects Child Development During Social Distancing. “Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many day-to-day interactions — such as learning, interacting with co-workers and socializing with friends and family — now take place through computer and phone screens. For parents of toddlers and young children, this has raised concerns about how this increase in screen time might affect their children’s development. While it may take some time before the effects of this increased screen interaction are known, California State University, Northridge child and adolescent development professor Emily Russell asserts that this isn’t necessarily all bad.”

News@Northeastern: These Researchers Are Predicting Covid-19 Trends Weeks Before Standard Surveillance. “Imagine trying to avoid a car crash. Every split second you spend deliberating what to do, you waste precious time needed to alter your course. Any delay between your brain’s perception of danger and your foot’s contact with the brake could mean the difference between life or death. Members of Northeastern’s Laboratory for the Modeling of Biological and Socio-technical Systems (MOBS) apply the same metaphor to COVID-19 response policies in their new paper, which outlines an early warning system that can predict coronavirus trends weeks in advance of standard surveillance techniques.”


CBS News: 700 volunteers in California are escorting Asian American seniors to protect them against assaults. “The troubling wave of violence against Asian Americans across the country has prompted hundreds of volunteers to protect the elderly by escorting them through neighborhoods in Northern California. More than 3,000 hate incidents directed at Asian Americans nationwide have been recorded since the pandemic began, with many aimed at the elderly. In New York City, police data reportedly showed these violent attacks have increased by 1,900% over the course of the pandemic.”

New York Times: ‘My Turn to Get Robbed’: Delivery Workers Are Targets in the Pandemic. “Manuel Perez-Saucedo was making his last food delivery of the day in Brooklyn one evening last fall when two men on a motorcycle trailed him for several blocks and then passed him. But when he stopped his electric bicycle outside his destination on a dark street minutes later, the men emerged from the shadows. One had a pistol.”


CNET: I got my first COVID-19 shot, and felt crushed by vaccine guilt. “On March 5, 2021, I got my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Behind me in line inside The Pit, a basketball arena in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was a 91-year-old man I overheard telling a volunteer about how happy he was to be there. I was happy, too, but a heaviness tempered my elation. Why now? Why me and not others, more deserving? Vaccine guilt is real.” Personally I’m thrilled whenever anybody gets a shot. All right humans.

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