Monday CoronaBuzz, March 22, 2021: 46 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.


PTI: Over 40k coronavirus cases recorded in India, highest in 111 days. “India saw 40,953 new coronavirus infections being reported in a day, the highest single-day rise recorded in 111 days, taking the nationwide COVID-19 tally to 1,15,55,284, according to Union Health Ministry data updated on Saturday.” India uses commas differently from the US when writing out numerals.


The Guardian: Mind the gaps: will we go back to public transport after Covid?. “When lockdown emptied the UK’s trains and buses, their operators’ revenues collapsed. Now home working and cycling could become a permanent threat to their finances.”

BBC: Covid: Masks and social distancing ‘could last years’. “People may need to wear face coverings and socially distance for several years until we return to normality, a leading epidemiologist has predicted. Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisation at Public Health England, said basic measures could be in place until other countries successfully roll out jabs. She also said a return of big spectator events required careful monitoring and clear instructions about staying safe.”

CNET: Gen Z is getting screwed by remote work, Microsoft survey finds. “A new study from Microsoft, released Monday, found that among the more than 31,000 workers it surveyed, 73% hoped remote work options would continue when the pandemic ends. Even Gen Z applicants were slightly more likely to apply for a job with remote options than for one strictly in an office. But those workers are also facing particular drawbacks.”

Mashable: The pandemic offered a unique chance for many people to come out as queer. “In solitude, we don’t see anyone — and no one sees us, either. We’re forced to confront who we are when we’re alone and thus who we are in public. Are we performing? Who are we performing for? An anonymous woman in Los Angeles told me she’s begun questioning her gender and sexuality after spending a ton of time alone for the first time. Prior to the pandemic, she had an active social life and was out almost every night. She also thought she was a heterosexual cis woman before the pandemic, but the time away from others had led her to wonder.”

Daily Beast: Sex Parties Are Back. Vaccines Are Optional. “Welcome aboard the Cancun Boobs Cruise, an adults-only party where nudity is encouraged and topless women dance to club remixes. It’s not a sex party exactly, though some swingers do attend to meet like-minded couples. As the catamaran cuts through the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, people are ready to forget about the pandemic for a few hours. Guests aren’t required to wear masks (but staff do), which makes it easy to relax and unwind. But then, one moment brings everyone back to reality: the daily clap for essential workers who are vacationing on board. Consider it the X-rated version of New York City’s famous 7 p.m. applause.”

New York Times: Here’s How Bored Rich People Are Spending Their Extra Cash. “Rather than elbowing past each other for reservations at the latest restaurants from Marcus Samuelsson and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, or getting into bidding wars for apartments at 740 Park Avenue, they are one-upping each other in online auctions for jewelry, watches, furniture, sports cards, vintage cars, limited-edition Nikes and crypto art. Bread lines grew longer, Birkin bags got hotter. A number of retailers were reticent to speak about the trend, stating that they did not wish to be on the record talking about nearly sold out $90,000 earrings during a time of growing wealth inequality.”


Reuters: Scuffles and arrests as anti-lockdown protesters march through London. “Scuffles broke out as anti-lockdown protesters marched through central London on Saturday, defying police warnings for them to stay away due to coronavirus restrictions.”


Blavity: There’s Been A Surge In Black Medical School Applicants Amid COVID’s Devastation On BIPOC Communities. “While there are only 5 percent of doctors reported to be Black, per NBC News, medical schools have been taking notice of the up to 43 percent increase in Black applicants since the beginning of the pandemic. Howard University’s College of Medicine reported a 28 percent increase in Black applicants, while Morehouse School of Medicine reported 26 percent and Texas Tech University Health Science Center School of Medicine with 43 percent.”


NPR: Some Museums Have Found A New Audience Online. “One surprise from the pandemic: some small museums have found new audiences online for their programs. Christy Coleman, executive director of the Jamestown-Yorktown Federation, talks about it.” Three minutes of audio with transcript.


NBC Washington: Sweet Motivation: Krispy Kreme Offering Free Doughnuts for the COVID Vaccinated. “Starting March 22, customers who have received at least one of the two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot, are eligible for a free doughnut at stores nationwide. All you need to do is show a valid COVID vaccination card. Even sweeter? It’s not a one-time offer. The deal lasts through the remainder of 2021. So yes, you can get a free doughnut every day for the rest of the year.”

AP: L.L. Bean sees sales boom amid pandemic’s push to the outdoors. “With Americans hunkering down and hankering to get outdoors during the pandemic, L.L. Bean recorded its best annual sales growth in nearly a decade, the company said Friday. The Freeport-based retailer started its fiscal year with store closings and worries about survival, but the company weathered the turbulent times with revenue growth of 5 percent, the best showing since 2011.”

BBC: Qantas boss: Governments ‘to insist’ on vaccines for flying. “The boss of Australian airline Qantas has told the BBC that ‘governments are going to insist’ on vaccines for international travellers. Coronavirus vaccines are seen as crucial to reviving an industry that saw worldwide passenger numbers fall 75.6% last year.”

Variety: Inside COVID-Safe Movie Theaters: Sanitization Foggers, Plexiglass and New Popcorn Rules. “Imagine a magical weapon straight out of science fiction: a machine of gratifying, cartoonish proportions that unleashes a magic potion eradicating the scourge of the past and bringing families safely together. Except it’s not a Marvel prop, it’s an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer — a goofy but crucial piece of protective equipment that will become a staple for moviegoers in a post-pandemic world.”

Mashable: DoorDash can now deliver COVID-19 test kits to your house. “The DoorDash app is no longer just for ordering pizza or late-night snacks — it’ll now help you check if you have the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, without leaving your house. The food delivery app teamed up with two home testing kit companies to offer the self-administered tests on-demand. Both test kits should arrive the day you order them through DoorDash’s DashMart, its digital convenience store that carries products from places like Walgreens, 7-Eleven, and CVS, and can be ordered whether or not you’re showing symptoms.”

The Register: Microsoft sets the date for the Great Return to the Redmond offices (kind of). “Microsoft has firmed up plans to reopen its facilities and set 29 March as the date when employees might once again set foot in its Redmond-based HQ.”


BBC: Coronavirus: Third wave will ‘wash up on our shores’, warns Johnson. “Boris Johnson has warned the effects of a third wave of coronavirus will ‘wash up on our shores’ from Europe. The PM said the UK should be ‘under no illusion’ we will ‘feel effects’ of growing cases on the continent. His comments come amid a row over Covid vaccine supplies, after the president of the European Commission warning the EU could ‘forbid’ doses made in the bloc from being exported to the UK.”

CBS News: Countries around the world have some unusual rules to combat coronavirus. “As COVID-19 vaccination efforts pick up speed, many states across the U.S. are easing or dropping restrictions. But that’s not the case in many other countries around the world. In fact, some have rules that are far more stringent than anything ever imposed in the U.S. From 6 p.m. curfews, to ‘no talking’ rules, to men and women being allowed outside only on alternating days, coronavirus restrictions around the world are constantly evolving — some in unusual ways.”

New York Times: Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Challenge: End the Coronavirus Crisis Faster. “The Biden administration, with hundreds of billions of dollars to spend to end the Covid crisis, has set a series of aggressive benchmarks to determine whether the economy has fully recovered, including returning to historically low unemployment and helping more than one million Black and Hispanic women return to work within a year. But restoring economic activity, which was central to President Biden’s pitch for his $1.9 trillion stimulus package, faces logistical and epidemiological challenges unlike any previous recovery.”

The Verge: Welcome to the age of vaccine diplomacy. “Millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines currently sitting in United States warehouses are now destined for vaccination sites in Mexico and Canada, according to the White House. The donation marks one of the US’ first steps into the dawning — and deeply contentious — world of late-stage pandemic vaccine diplomacy.”

BBC: Census 2021 to provide snapshot of life during pandemic. “A snapshot of life in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is to be captured later when millions of people take part in the once-a-decade census. People are being asked to complete an online questionnaire about every person living at their property. For the first time it also includes voluntary questions in England and Wales for over-16s on gender identity and sexual orientation.”


AP: A rapid COVID-19 vaccine rollout backfired in some US states. “A surprising new analysis found that states such as South Carolina and Florida that raced ahead of others to offer the vaccine to ever-larger groups of people have vaccinated smaller shares of their population than those that moved more slowly and methodically, such as Hawaii and Connecticut.”

Route Fifty: When State and Local Governments Can Expect to Receive Stimulus Funds. “It could be weeks before state and local jurisdictions begin receiving payments from the federal government as part of a $350 billion direct aid program included in the massive coronavirus relief bill passed this month. Local governments are likely to begin receiving money before states, due to stipulations in the American Rescue Plan Act. The Treasury Department has 60 days from the law’s enactment to release the first tranche of funding to cities and counties—in this case a mid-May deadline.”

AZFamily: COVID-19 vaccines available to anyone 16 and older in Arizona starting Wednesday. “Governor Doug Ducey announced Monday that COVID-19 vaccines will be available to Arizonans 16 and older starting Wednesday, March 24. Ducey made the announcement on Twitter, saying vaccines for those 16 and older will be distributed for Arizona’s state-operated sites in Maricopa, Pima, and Yuma counties.”

Route Fifty: In America, Covid Vaccine Eligibility Is a ‘Crazy Quilt’ of State Rules. “Across the country, a mishmash of rules to qualify for a precious covid shot is creating nightmares for consumers. Criteria including age, occupation and medical conditions vary dramatically.”


Lexington Herald-Leader: Texas Roadhouse CEO died by suicide amid ‘unbearable’ post-COVID symptoms, family says. “Texas Roadhouse announced the death of [Kent] Taylor, who founded the Kentucky-based restaurant chain in 1993, on Thursday. In a joint statement provided to McClatchy News, Texas Roadhouse and Taylor’s family said he killed himself after experiencing ongoing symptoms, including ‘severe tinnitus,’ after he was infected with COVID-19.”

AP: Married 66 years, husband, wife die minutes apart of virus. “Bill and Esther Ilnisky spent nearly seven decades together as Christian ministers and missionaries, including stints in the Caribbean and Middle East before preaching for 40 years in Florida. They complemented each other — he the bookworm, she outgoing and charismatic. One without the other seemed unthinkable. So when they died minutes apart of COVID-19 this month at a Palm Beach County hospice, it may have been a hidden blessing, their only child, Sarah Milewski, said — even if it was a devastating double loss for her.”

The Guardian: Specialist Covid infection control scientist faces threat of deportation from UK. “An infection control specialist who has been offered a job as a senior NHS biomedical scientist to help tackle the pandemic is facing deportation by the Home Office, prompting fresh calls for a more ‘humane’ approach to skilled migrants. The government has refused Charles Oti, 46, from Nigeria the right to remain in the UK even though the job he was offered is among the government’s most sought-after skilled positions.”

BBC: Congo-Brazzaville presidential candidate in hospital with Covid-19. “The leading opposition presidential candidate in Congo-Brazzaville has spent election day in hospital after becoming seriously ill with Covid-19. In a video circulating on social media, 61-year-old Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas is seen briefly removing an oxygen mask to tell his supporters that he is ‘fighting death’.”

CNN: Children’s book on Dr. Anthony Fauci set for June. “Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has served under seven US presidents and has guided the national response to Covid-19, will soon be immortalized in a children’s book. Simon & Schuster is putting the finishing touches on ‘Dr. Fauci: How a Boy from Brooklyn Became America’s Doctor,’ a book written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Alexandra Bye.”


ESPN: Oregon-VCU declared no-contest after Rams have multiple positive COVID-19 tests; Ducks advance. “Saturday’s first-round NCAA men’s basketball tournament game between No. 7 seed Oregon and No. 10 seed VCU in Indianapolis was declared a no-contest due to what the Rams said were multiple positive COVID-19 tests within their program.”


Washington Post: The missing students of the pandemic. “Rich Pimentel had already tried searching in a trailer park and a migrant camp when he started driving toward the third and final address listed in the student’s school file. He followed his GPS to a neighborhood on the edge of the desert, an oasis of palm trees and swimming pools protected by a steel gate. “Wow,” Pimentel said, as he rolled down his window and pulled up to a call box. ‘Finally a happy ending. Maybe this kid’s actually okay.’ He punched in an access code, but the gate wouldn’t open. He pressed a call button to ask for help, but nobody answered. He waited for another minute, parked his truck, and started to climb the fence.”


Daily Collegian: How Penn State University Press tackled the coronavirus pandemic through comics. “With the term ‘comics,’ one might think of superheroes saving the day or the Sunday strips in the local newspaper. But Penn State University Press has ventured into deeper comic territories with its ‘Graphic Medicine’ series, which covers an array of health topics depicted in comic book form — from what it’s like to suffer from Parkinson’s disease to what being on life support is like. After seeing success with ‘Graphic Medicine,’ the Penn State University Press announced the creation of ‘Graphic Mundi,’ a new imprint that would encompass ‘Graphic Medicine’ along with other heavy subjects, according to a Penn State news release. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, the debut of ‘Graphic Mundi’ was pushed back. This hindrance would end up being the inspiration for the imprint’s debut release, ‘COVID Chronicles.'”


NBC News: ‘Chaotic situation’: Puerto Ricans indignant at tourists breaking Covid mandates. “Puerto Ricans in the U.S. territory have avoided overwhelming their already fragile health care system during the pandemic so far, mainly because of extraordinary measures the local government put in place early on — and people’s willingness to comply with them. Puerto Rico was one of the first U.S. jurisdictions to issue a mask mandate and currently has the longest pandemic-related curfew compared to any state. A series of viral videos have shown tourists violating the island’s midnight curfew, mask mandate and physical distancing guidelines, among other restrictions.”

Medical XPress: In Brazil, COVID increasingly hitting the young. “Leading the morning medical meeting at an intensive care unit in Sao Paulo, Jaques Sztajnbok reviews his COVID-19 patients. Two, aged 56 and 53, are on ventilators. A third is breathing on his own, but writhing in agony. He is 26 years old. There are fewer wrinkles and less gray hair among patients in Brazil’s intensive care units as the country reels from a surge in COVID-19 that is increasingly hitting people under 60.”

Yahoo News: Why Europe’s AstraZeneca vaccine fumble could be bad news for the U.S.. “The confusing episode over AstraZeneca inoculations may have a ripple effect, clouding the vaccination issue not just for EU citizens but for at least some Americans. Still awaiting FDA approval, the AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t yet being used in the U.S., although the Trump administration ordered 300 million doses, millions of which have been stockpiled.”


Pew Stateline: For States’ COVID Contact Tracing Apps, Privacy Tops Utility. “More than 28 million people in the United States have downloaded the mobile apps or activated exposure notifications on their smartphones. The systems use Bluetooth technology and are both voluntary and anonymous. Critics say the technology has overemphasized privacy at the cost of usefulness.”

EurekAlert: Human fondness, faith in machines grows during pandemic. “People are not very nice to machines. The disdain goes beyond the slot machine that emptied your wallet, a dispenser that failed to deliver a Coke or a navigation system that took you on an unwanted detour. Yet USC researchers report that people affected by COVID-19 are showing more goodwill — to humans and to human-like autonomous machines.”


New York Times: AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 Vaccine Is Found to Be 79% Effective in U.S. Study. “The trial, involving more than 32,000 participants, was the largest test of its kind for the shot. The vaccine was 79 percent effective overall in preventing symptomatic infections, higher than observed in previous clinical trials, the company announced in a news release. The trial also showed that the vaccine offered strong protection for older people, who had not been as well represented in earlier studies.”

Jerusalem Post: COVID-19 deadlier, more severe than influenza – study. “The study compared 1,052 patients with influenza and 582 patients with COVID-19 and found more people on average needed hospital care if infected with the novel coronavirus (582) when compared to those suffering from influenza (210). Roughly 30% among those suffering from COVID-19 needed mechanical ventilation whereas only 8% among those with influenza needed such treatment.”


The Verge: I love the earnest Google reviews of vaccination sites. “Normally, I’m appropriately skeptical when reading any online reviews since they’re highly subjective and usually only by people whose experiences were extremely good or extremely bad. But I threw that out the window scrolling through the latest reviews of the Javits Center in New York City, which I now fully believe is a happy place for people with vaccine appointments. It’s ‘so impressive,’ one now-immunized person wrote. Someone who took their mom to an appointment wrote that ‘the service we received was beautiful.'”

New York Times: Fully Vaccinated and Time to Party: If You Are 70. “Older people, who represent the vast majority of Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, are emerging this spring with the daffodils, tilting their faces to the sunlight outdoors. They are filling restaurants, hugging grandchildren and booking flights.”


EurekAlert: COVID-19 related cyber-attacks leveraged government announcements. “There has been a remarkable surge in cyber-security crime experienced during the global COVID-19 pandemic, with a particular significance between governmental policy announcements and cyber-crime campaigns. A consortium of researchers, including WMG, University of Warwick report that some days as many as 3 to 4 new cyber-attacks were being reported.”

Poynter: Hate crimes against Asian Americans: What the numbers show, and don’t. “The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University released findings in early March that showed hate crimes against Asian Americans spiked 149% between 2019 and 2020, even though hate crimes overall declined. A separate group, Stop AAPI Hate, cataloged nearly 3,800 hateful incidents — which is not limited to crimes — during the first year of the pandemic. (AAPI stands for Asian American and Pacific Islander.) Most of those hateful incidents targeted women. These numbers are the best available data as of now to show the trend of an increase in anti-Asian hate during the pandemic. But even these numbers are likely a small fraction of actual incidents, including crimes.”


New York Post: How I survived a year in a weird and empty Manhattan. “When did I realize this time was different? There is empty, and there is empty. I’ve had the run of a near-empty Midtown before, when a snowstorm, for example, kept people from commuting. But even then, global tourists walking around Times Square have been company. By the second week of last March, empty was different. Our newspaper vendor, an always-in-a-good-mood older man reliably out selling his wares by the subway, was gone. Rain, shine, heat wave, snow, he had never missed a weekday — and he hasn’t returned for a year now. Empty meant the scammy ‘charity’ solicitors with their cardboard boxes for ‘donations’ were gone.”


Washington Post: In this part of rural Trump country, covid vaccine is an easy sell — for now. “Cindy Stidham is a nurse with faith in most vaccines — but as scientists raced to produce one to counter the coronavirus, she figured she’d hang back. ‘I’ll be the last in line to get it,’ Stidham, a political conservative from the reddest corner of Virginia, told herself as the first two vaccines, developed with uncommon speed, won FDA approval late last year. Yet there she was last week at a clinic at Mountain Empire Community College, in an Appalachian county where President Donald Trump won 80 percent of the vote in November, sweeping her long hair off to one side so her arm could get jabbed.”

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