Saturday CoronaBuzz, March 20, 2021: 28 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.


Global News: Ontario reports more than 1,800 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths. “Ontario is reporting 1,829 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, the largest single-day increase since early February, bringing the provincial total to 327,083. Saturday’s case count is higher than Friday’s which saw 1,745 new infections. On Thursday, 1,553 cases were recorded and 1,508 on Wednesday. It is also the highest daily increase in cases since Feb. 1 when 1,969 new cases were reported.”


CNET: Fear and COVID in hotel quarantine: What it’s like flying overseas right now. “No one wants to travel internationally right now, especially to Australia, which has one of the toughest quarantines in the world. Yet in late December, just as the disease was peaking worldwide, I traveled to the country of my birth from New York. With a kid in tow, a trip halfway across the world would be a challenge in the best of times, but in a pandemic the hurdles were that much higher. I never envisioned spending New Year’s Eve sounding party whistles within earshot of a government guard, but that’s only one of the side effects of flying at the height of a global lockdown.”


The Manila Times: Tackling misinformation in closed social media spaces. “Big social media companies are starting to take action to curb falsehoods and conspiracy theories in public spaces. But most of the harmful misleading narratives about Covid-19 vaccinations are being shared in messaging platforms, groups or closed spaces. No wonder a December 2020 survey conducted by OCTA Research found that only 25 percent of Metro Manila respondents were willing to get an anti-Covid vaccination. Another survey conducted by Pulse Asia between November and December 2020 showed that only 32 percent of Filipinos wanted to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, and 47 percent did not want to get vaccinated at all because of safety concerns.”


BBC: Covid: Anti-lockdown protests as MPs call for law change. “Thousands are attending anti-lockdown demonstrations in central London, as MPs urge the government to change the law to allow peaceful protest. Crowds marched from Hyde Park to Westminster, with at least 13 arrests by police, mostly for Covid breaches.”


BBC: Covid: Rich states ‘block’ vaccine plans for developing nations. “Wealthy countries – including the UK – are blocking proposals to help developing nations increase their vaccine manufacturing capabilities, documents leaked to BBC Newsnight show. Several poorer countries have asked the World Health Organization to help them. But richer nations are pushing back on provisions in international law that would enable them to achieve this.”


New York Times: Why Child Care Staff Had to Show Up While Teachers Worked Remotely. “Over the last year, some educators, school officials and teachers’ union leaders in New York and across the country have declared that teachers are not babysitters, and that schools are not child care centers. The sentiment has been meant to convince the public that teachers should not be responsible for supervising children just so that parents can return to work. But while some educators have been able to work from home for much, if not all, of the pandemic, child care centers have emerged as substitute schools for many thousands of American children for whom online learning is not an option.”


FEMA: COVID-19 Funeral Assistance. “Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, FEMA will provide financial assistance for COVID-19-related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020. We are working with stakeholder groups to get their input on ways we can best provide this assistance, and to enlist their help with outreach to families and communities. FEMA will begin to implement COVID-19 funeral assistance in April.”

CNN: White House shifts ad campaign strategy to reflect growing concern over conservatives’ vaccination reluctance. “Reluctance among conservatives to get vaccinated against Covid-19 has caused growing concern inside the White House, according to people familiar with the matter, even as President Joe Biden’s administration rapidly scales up nationwide efforts to administer shots. The topic has been the subject of several high-level conversations between administration advisers and health experts, including at the presidential level, the officials said.”

AP: Now vaccinated, justices gather privately at Supreme Court. “The Supreme Court is returning to a little bit of normal following a year disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the justices met in person Friday for a regularly scheduled private conference, court spokesperson Kathy Arberg said. The justices have been holding conferences by phone since the court closed to the public in March of last year. Before Friday, the justices last met in person for a private conference on March 6, 2020.”

BBC: Covid: France and Poland increase lockdown measures as infections surge. “France and Poland have reintroduced partial lockdowns as both countries battle a sharp rise in Covid infections in recent weeks. Some 21 million people in 16 areas of France, including the capital Paris, are affected as the country fears a third wave. In Poland, non-essential shops, hotels, cultural and sporting facilities are closed for three weeks.”

The Tribune: Census Goes Online For The First Time In History. “The Department of Statistics will be conducting an exercise from April to July to establish a listing database that will allow for the digital and online census taking. #During the listing exercise, all buildings and dwellings in New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands will be listed by enumeration district. The listing will be compiled to create a comprehensive national register of households, which will be utilised during the official census exercise.”

Reuters: Greece to hand out self-testing kits as COVID-19 cases stay high. “Greece will start distributing free do-it-yourself COVID-19 tests next month, the government said on Saturday, as it seeks to alleviate pressure on a healthcare system facing a stubbornly high level of new infections. Everyone with a social security number will be entitled to four of the test kits per month, and they will be distributed at pharmacies.”


New York Times: U.S. Rushes to Expand Covid Vaccine Eligibility in a ‘Race Against Time’. “Officials in at least 20 states have committed in recent days to opening coronavirus vaccine appointments to all adults in March or April, part of a fast-moving expansion as states race to meet President Biden’s goal of universal eligibility by May 1.”

BBC: Covid-19: Mumbai to roll out compulsory testing in crowded places. “The Indian city of Mumbai is to roll out mandatory coronavirus tests in crowded places as the country grapples with a rise in infections. The local government said rapid tests would be done randomly in areas such as shopping centres and train stations. A refusal to be tested will ‘amount to an offence’, it said.”

The Mercury News: Exclusive: Slack messages between Bay Area health officers show early COVID chaos, confusion. “Just over one year ago, as the coronavirus pandemic surged through California, Bay Area health officers debated what would become one of the earliest in a series of unprecedented decisions to shut down public life for the nearly 8.5 million people in the region: Whether — and to what extent — they should shut down mass gatherings.”

Coeur D’Alene Press: COVID-19 shuts down Idaho Legislature. “The business of the state came to an abrupt halt Friday, as the Idaho Legislature recessed for at least two weeks in response to several lawmakers testing positive for COVID-19. Most committee meetings were quickly canceled. Two committees — House Education and Senate State Affairs — met briefly but quickly adjourned.”

WSVN: Miami Beach to enforce 8 p.m. curfew, block most eastbound traffic on causeways due to spring break crowds. “The City of Miami Beach will enforce an 8 p.m. curfew in South Beach’s entertainment district and block most eastbound traffic to the city starting at 10 p.m., officials said. Interim City Manager Raul Aguila, who announced the emergency measures alongside Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber at a press conference, Saturday afternoon, said they will go into effect Saturday night due to overwhelming spring break crowds.”

New York Times: Mixed Virus Data Has Some Experts Questioning Pace of N.Y.C. Reopening. “Daily coronavirus cases reported in the city and state appear to have reached a plateau after a post-holiday spike, death rates and hospitalization rates related to the virus are on the decline, and more people are receiving the vaccine. But not everyone agrees that reopening is safe, partly because the presence of variants that are more contagious, and possibly deadlier, complicate the short-term outlook.”


BBC: Covid-19: Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan tests positive. “The 68-year-old is ‘self-isolating at home’, the minister, Faisal Sultan, tweeted. Mr Khan, a former captain of the national cricket team who became prime minister in August 2018, received a vaccination two days ago.”


CNN: International spectators will be refused entry into Japan for Tokyo 2020. “International spectators will be refused entry into Japan for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee said in a statement on Saturday. Any tickets bought by overseas residents for the postponed Games, scheduled to begin on July 23, will be refunded.”


New York Times: Children in elementary schools don’t need to be kept six feet apart, the C.D.C. said.. “The three-foot rule also now applies to students in middle schools and high schools, as long as community transmission is not high, officials said. When transmission is high, however, these students must be at least six feet apart, unless they are taught in cohorts, or small groups that are kept separate from others, and the cohorts are kept six feet apart.”

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis: COVID-19 transmission rare in schools with masking, distancing, contact tracing. “In-school COVID-19 transmission is rare – even among close school contacts of those who test positive for the virus – when schools heed public health precautions such as mandatory masking, social distancing and frequent hand-washing, according to results of a pilot study in Missouri aimed at identifying ways to keep elementary and secondary schools open and safe during the pandemic. A close contact is anyone who has been within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period with someone infected with COVID-19.”


New York Times: Your Pandemic Tech Habits. “I wrote last week about our pandemic-altered year of technology, and I asked On Tech readers to tell us what you loved or loathed about a more virtual life…. Here is a taste of readers’ views on technology that has helped them cope. The responses have been lightly edited.”

Nintendo Wire: No Man Is an Island: How Animal Crossing: New Horizons brought us together over the last year. “Early 2020 ended up having more in store than just Animal Crossing: New Horizons, however, and by March the COVID-19 pandemic had made its way to nearly every country on earth, prompting stay-at-home orders and quarantines across large parts of the globe in hopes of keeping as many people as possible healthy and alive. As timing would have it, while the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to hunker down in their homes, Tom Nook was inviting players to get away from the turmoil with his Deserted Island Getaway package.”


Medical XPress: Children with adrenal insufficiency are 10 times more likely to die from COVID-19. “Children with adrenal insufficiency—a condition in which the adrenal gland does not function properly—are at more than 10 times higher risk for COVID-19 complications and death compared with children with normal adrenal glands, according to a study presented virtually at ENDO 2021, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.”


CNN: Inside why all lawmakers still aren’t vaccinated after months of access to shots on the Hill. “As the political fight over vaccinations continues around the country, CNN has learned that several members of Congress still have not been vaccinated despite having had access to the vaccine on Capitol Hill since December. Through a House-wide survey and interviews, CNN has contacted offices on Capitol Hill to try to get a clearer picture about where gaps in vaccinations still exist.”

Axios: WashPost journalists writing scoopy book on Trump’s COVID-19 response. “Washington Post journalists Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta will be out June 29 with ‘Nightmare Scenario,’ a scoopy narrative of President Trump’s chaotic response to the pandemic.”

Yahoo News: Poll: 50% of unvaccinated Trump voters say they will ‘never’ get inoculated for COVID. How Biden hopes to change their minds.. “Last week, all the living former U.S. presidents, Democratic and Republican, joined together for an ad campaign touting the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines — except Donald Trump. At the same time, a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that a full 50 percent of unvaccinated 2020 Trump voters now say they will ‘never’ get vaccinated for COVID-19, up 6 percent from last month.”

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