Thursday CoronaBuzz, March 25, 2021: 38 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.


Canada NewsWire: New Interactive Tool Helps Users Better Understand Impacts of COVID-19 School Closures on Young Canadians (PRESS RELEASE). “The School Closures and COVID-19: Interactive tool brings together existing information about children and youth who were already known to be vulnerable before the pandemic, as well as available data on the impacts of temporary school closures on young Canadians. The tool, which includes interactive maps that identify the location of vulnerable communities, provides policy makers, industry leaders, teachers and parents with a single point of access to Statistics Canada data about this topic.”


Argus Leader (South Dakota): Wondering when your next court hearing is? State releases user-friendly tool to find court dates. “A portal on the Unified Judicial System’s website homepage allows users to search for an upcoming court date by their case number or name and birth date. Judicial leaders are hoping it’s another way for those working through cases to know their next hearing and show up for court. The new tool was one of the numerous ‘natural consequences’ of the courts adjusting to COVID-19 pandemic, said Robin Houwman, the presiding judge for the Second Circuit Court, which includes Minnehaha and Lincoln counties.”


Lifehacker: Take This Free 10-Day Mental Health Course on Coping With the Pandemic. “Before we go any further, two things to note. First is that this or any online course is no substitute for working one-on-one with a mental health professional and should not be used in place of seeking help if you need it. Second is that therapy isn’t affordable and accessible for everyone, so tools like these are able to provide at least some form of information and guidance. This particular course was created by accredited, licensed clinicians, and includes daily lessons, guided experiences, and other tools to help people manage their feelings and prioritize their mental health.”


Reuters: India detects novel coronavirus variant. “India’s health ministry said on Wednesday that a novel variant of the coronavirus had been detected in the country in addition to many other variants of concern (VOCs) also found abroad.”


Vox EU: Working from home in developing countries. “The ability to work from home, which has proved crucial to the resilience of labour markets during the Covid-19 pandemic, may have shifted employment patterns permanently. Data on this shift have thus far come largely from advanced economies. This column proposes a measure of the ability to work from home in low- and middle-income countries.”


CBS News: 12 state AGs push Facebook and Twitter to crack down on COVID-19 vaccine disinformation. “In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, the attorneys general pressed the social media giants to fully ‘identify and enforce’ the companies’ terms of service to combat against vaccine disinformation and misinformation.”

Solomon Times: Social Media “Bullshit” Threatens Control of COVID-19 Outbreak in PNG. “Misinformation and lack of trust in authority is so widespread in [Papua New Guinea] that social media questions and vilifies the country’s most experienced doctors and scientists. Even the PNG National Pandemic Controller, David Manning, was accused of peddling a hoax when he confirmed the MP for Open Kerema, 53-year old Richard Mendani, had died from COVID-19 at the weekend.”


University of Alabama at Birmingham: Emergency department staff have high COVID-19 vaccination rates. “An overwhelming majority of health care personnel in hospital emergency departments have received a vaccine against COVID-19, according to findings published in Academic Emergency Medicine, the official journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine. The study showed that 95 percent of health care personnel were offered vaccination against COVID-19 within the first month of prioritized distribution to this high-risk group and 86 percent accepted vaccination.”


The Irish News: Music composed and recorded during lockdown to be preserved by British Library. “People who composed and recorded music during lockdown are being given the opportunity to have their songs preserved in the British Library. BBC Radio 5 Live said it has been inundated with tracks from musicians ‘of all standards’ from across the UK. The station is giving listeners the chance to have the music they created behind closed doors to be stored forever in the Sound Archive of the library.”


BBC: Citigroup launches Zoom-free Fridays to ease pandemic ‘fatigue’. “American investment bank Citigroup has urged its staff to limit video calls on Fridays in an effort to promote a better work-life balance. Chief executive Jane Fraser told staff to observe ‘Zoom-free Fridays’, in a memo on Monday.”

CNET: Over 80% of workers don’t want to go back to the office full time, survey finds. “A survey by Harvard Business School has found 81% of people who have been working from home through the COVID-19 pandemic either don’t want to go back or prefer a hybrid schedule. Of the 1,500 remote workers surveyed for the study, 27% hope to continue working remotely full time indefinitely, while 61% would prefer to mix working from home with going into the office two or three days a week.”

BBC: Covid vaccine: AstraZeneca amends US vaccine efficacy results. “AstraZeneca has downgraded the efficacy result of its coronavirus vaccine trial in the US after health officials questioned the results. The Anglo-Swedish firm adjusted the efficacy rate of its vaccine against Covid-19 symptoms from 79% to 76%, but said the trial results confirm it ‘is highly effective in adults’.”


BBC: India: Delhi orders Covid tests at airports as cases surge. “India’s capital, Delhi, will begin randomised Covid tests at airports, bus stops and train stations amid what some experts say is a second wave. Mumbai, a financial hub and virus hotspot, ordered mandatory testing in busy areas earlier this week. Cases have surged in recent weeks – on Wednesday, India reported more than 47,000 new cases and 275 deaths, it’s highest this year.”

CNBC: Navajo Nation reports no new daily Covid cases, deaths for the first time in six months. “The Navajo Nation, which inhabits the largest area of land retained by an indigenous tribe in the United States, reported Monday that it had zero new coronavirus cases and deaths in the previous 24 hours after rolling out an aggressive vaccination campaign. The tribe, whose land stretches across Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, had the highest per capita infection rate in the U.S. at the height of the pandemic.”

Reuters: U.S. COVID response could have avoided hundreds of thousand of deaths – research. “The United States squandered both money and lives in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, and it could have avoided nearly 400,000 deaths with a more effective health strategy and trimmed federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars while still supporting those who needed it.”

AP: Germany funds vaccine assistance for Holocaust survivors. ” Germany has committed millions of dollars in extra funding to help ensure all Holocaust survivors are able to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, an organization that handles claims on behalf of Jewish victims said Wednesday. By virtue of their ages alone, survivors of the Holocaust are at higher risk of dying of COVID-19. Many suffer serious medical issues related to early childhood malnutrition and mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.”

Reuters: Exclusive: India delays big exports of AstraZeneca shot as infections surge, sources say. “India has put a temporary hold on all major exports of the AstraZeneca coronavirus shot made by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s biggest vaccine-maker, to meet domestic demand as infections rise, two sources told Reuters.”

BBC: Coronavirus: Germany’s Merkel reverses plans for Easter lockdown. “German Chancellor Angela Merkel has cancelled plans for a strict lockdown over Easter, just a day after the measures were announced. Mrs Merkel said the plan was a ‘mistake’, adding that she took responsibility for the U-turn. The proposed lockdown was agreed with regional leaders on Monday, with restrictions set to be tightened between 1-5 April.”

Axios: Scoop: Hundreds of migrant kids with positive COVID-19 tests held in shelters. “Nearly 2,900 unaccompanied minors tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival at U.S. government shelters over the past year — including around 300 currently in the system — a Department of Health and Human Services official tells Axios. The big picture: The numbers highlight the staggering challenges in trying to manage a child migration crisis during a pandemic, while weighing human rights and child welfare concerns against immigration laws.”


Times-Union: Top health officials told to prioritize COVID testing for Cuomo’s relatives. “High-level members of the state Department of Health were directed last year by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to conduct prioritized coronavirus testing on the governor’s relatives as well as influential people with ties to the administration, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter.”

Mississippi Free Press: MSDH Axes ‘Misleading, Outdated’ Vaccine Phone Script After Viral Thread. “Misleading information about the safety and efficacy of the Moderna vaccine has led the Mississippi State Department of Health to issue an update to their vaccine hotline script this evening, after a viral Twitter thread raised serious questions about the appointment scheduling process. The conversation in question happened Monday morning, after Bobby Wayne, a Coahoma resident, called the MSDH hotline to request the nearest appointment for his first shot of COVID-19 vaccine.”

KOMO: New sense of urgency as more in Washington set to become eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. “The state intends to comply with a directive from the Biden Administration to open up eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to all Washingtonians over the age of 16 by May 1, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office confirmed Wednesday.”


UPI: NASCAR to use COVID-detecting dogs at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “The procedure will be deployed on a trial basis as a potential first line of at-track defense designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. NASCAR said teams were notified of the plan Tuesday.”

BBC: Covid: The clarinettist who took on Lebanon’s vaccine scandal. “Eighty-year-old Joseph al-Hajj loves nothing more than playing his clarinet….For the past few months, Joseph has been tucked away in his mountain village of Mtein – a 45-minute drive from the capital, Beirut – shielding himself from the coronavirus pandemic. But when Joseph heard that more than a dozen of Lebanon’s politicians had got the vaccination inside the country’s parliament last month, he was furious.”

Man of Many: Banksy’s ‘Game Changer’ Pandemic Painting Sells for Record $30 Million. “A painting from prominent street artist Banksy that depicts a nurse as a superhero in the eyes of a young boy has sold for more than AUD$30 million. ‘Game Changer’, a painting created as an ode to the hard work of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) now holds the world auction record for Banksy.”


ESPN: Miami Heat to open vaccinated-only sections for fans on April 1. “The Heat announced plans Tuesday to open two sections in their lower bowl only for fully vaccinated fans starting with an April 1 game against the Golden State Warriors. The Heat are the first NBA team to reveal such a plan, though other clubs are believed to be working on similar measures.”


Indiana University: Self-compassion can alleviate feelings of loneliness due to remote work, IUPUI study finds. “When people feel lonely, the study found, they experience more depressive symptoms, and they are less likely to go above and beyond in their jobs, such as helping a co-worker — something many organizations may have hoped their employees would do during the pandemic. But there is hope — in the form of self-compassion.”


FDA: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes First Machine Learning-Based Screening Device to Identify Certain Biomarkers That May Indicate COVID-19 Infection. “Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first machine learning-based Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) non-diagnostic screening device that identifies certain biomarkers that are indicative of some types of conditions, such as hypercoagulation (a condition causing blood to clot more easily than normal).”

The Next Web: Digital vaccine passports could deny people services due to algorithmic decisions, experts warn. “China, Israel, and Bahrain have already begun rolling out digital vaccine certificates. On Wednesday, the EU announced its plan to join them. In theory, the passes can provide evidence that someone is safe to travel, return to the office, or enter leisure venues. But critics fear they will exacerbate inequalities and compromise data privacy.”


New York Times: The Next Trick: Pulling Coronavirus Out of Thin Air. “The [Thermo Fisher Scientific’s AerosolSense Sampler], the company says, can be used to detect a variety of airborne pathogens, including the coronavirus. It could be deployed in hospitals, offices, schools and other buildings to monitor for signs of the virus as society begins to reopen. The AerosolSense, which will sell for $4,995, is not the first air sampler capable of capturing the coronavirus; scientists have used several other models to study the pathogen over the past year. But the new device appears to be simpler and more accessible, experts said.

EurekAlert: Poor diabetes control in children tied to high risk for COVID-19 complications, death. “Children with poorly controlled type 1 diabetes have a 10 times higher risk of COVID-19-related complications and death compared to those with well-controlled diabetes, according to a study presented virtually at ENDO 2021, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.”

Endocrine Society: Hospitalized COVID patients with obesity are significantly more likely to need ICU care. “People with obesity who are hospitalized with COVID-19 have a significantly higher rate of ICU admissions and longer duration of ICU stay compared to people with a normal body mass index (BMI), according to a study presented virtually at ENDO 2021, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.”

UC San Diego Health: Novel Coronavirus Circulated Undetected Months before First COVID-19 Cases in Wuhan, China. “Using molecular dating tools and epidemiological simulations, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues at the University of Arizona and Illumina, Inc., estimate that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was likely circulating undetected for at most two months before the first human cases of COVID-19 were described in Wuhan, China in late-December 2019.”


The Register: Scammers tried slurping folks’ login details through 70,000 coronavirus-themed phishing URLs during 2020. “In a post published today, Palo Alto’s Unit 42 threat intel division said COVID-themed phishing lure URLs ‘largely centered around Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and testing kits in March 2020, government stimulus programs from April through the summer 2020 (including a fake US Trading Commission website that posed as the US Federal Trade Commission in order to steal user credentials) and vaccines from late fall 2020 onward.’ It added that it had seen 69,950 phishing URLs between January 2020 and January 2021 which focused on ‘COVID-related topics’.”

Washington Post: Shootings never stopped during the pandemic: 2020 was the deadliest gun violence year in decades. “Until two lethal rampages this month, mass shootings had largely been absent from headlines during the coronavirus pandemic. But people were still dying — at a record rate. In 2020, gun violence killed nearly 20,000 Americans, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, more than any other year in at least two decades. An additional 24,000 people died by suicide with a gun.”

Newswise: The Claim That U.S. Has Seen a Surge in Hate Crimes Against Asian People During the COVID-19 Pandemic Is True. “On March 16, 2021, eight people were killed in shootings at massage parlors in the Atlanta area — most of the victims were women of Asian heritage. The attack put a spotlight on a surge in hate crimes against Asian people in the U.S. since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Caims by major media outlets, like this one from NPR, say that attacks on Asian Americans have risen since the start of the pandemic. These claims are true. A study published in March 2021 by California State University, San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that hate crimes reported to police departments in the 16 largest U.S. cities in 2020 increased by 149%.”


Epicenter NYC: What we learned registering thousands of our neighbors for vaccines. “As of this writing, we have booked more than 2,600 appointments. More than 5,000 people have turned to us for help. Of those, about 1,000 were ineligible, about 1,000 folks found a vaccine via other means, and roughly 400 are being worked on. They just keep coming. In a recent discussion with Harlem Gunness, the director of St. John’s University’s public health program, we compared notes. Gunness just completed a study of conditions in Jackson Heights, Corona and Elmhurst during the pandemic. After hearing about Epicenter’s efforts, he encouraged us to summarize our findings for broader dissemination.”

Vox EU: Economic preparation for the next pandemic. “The COVID-19 pandemic is the first time in history that closing entire economies has been used as a medical tool, simultaneously and worldwide. This column argues that such ‘pandonomics’ cannot be repeated during future pandemics that are sure to come – the costs are too heavy. Since lockdowns are very costly, future economic non-pharmaceutical interventions need to be designed more intelligently, helping the economy to restructure and support the transition from a basically ignorant and domestically oriented society into a pandemic-aware one.”

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