Saturday CoronaBuzz, March 27, 2021: 32 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.


CBS Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Launches New Tool To Track COVID Pandemic’s Impact On Education. “The Global Education Recovery Tracker — which was a collaborative effort between the Baltimore-based university, The World Banka and UNICEF — will help assist countries’ decisions on their reopening and recovery efforts. The tool captures information on the status of schooling, modalities of learning, availability of remedial education support and status of vaccines for teachers.”


UNESCO: UNESCO & Columbia University collaborate on case law on freedom of expression in the context of COVID-19. “In partnership with UNESCO, Columbia University’s Global Freedom of Expression initiative published an online collection of case law related to COVID-19 from across the world, in English, French and Spanish. These decisions highlight the essential role of judicial actors in upholding the rule of law and human rights, especially in exceptional states of emergency.”


Columbus Dispatch: Columbus group creates website to help Ohioans find COVID vaccine appointment. “Users can find places offering the shots by entering their ZIP codes, which brings up a map with providers nearby. The website then provides an address, phone number and link to a scheduling website for each vaccine provider.”


Lifehacker: How to Recognize Scam Sites That ‘Help’ You Schedule Your Vaccine. “As vaccine supply struggles to meet demand, grassroots social media groups known as ‘vaccine hunters’ have sprung up all over the country, helping people find and book appointments. As helpful as these groups can be, they’ve also become the new favorite target for scammers. Here’s how you can protect yourself.”


AP: Michigan sees virus surge, but tighter restrictions unlikely. “Michigan, which not long ago had one of the country’s lowest COVID-19 infection rates, is confronting an alarming spike that some experts worry could be a harbinger nationally. In what public health authorities across the U.S. have been warning for months might happen around the country, the resurgence is being fueled by loosened restrictions, a more infectious variant and pandemic fatigue.”


The Guardian: ‘A new obsession’: the people who learned to play instruments during lockdown. “Many people dream of playing the piano or learning the guitar, but what about the Celtic harp? Or the dulcimer? Perhaps the kalimba is more your style. The Guardian has spoken to dozens of people who have used their time in lockdown to fulfil an ambition to make music, with a diverse array of musical instruments being reported.”

Route Fifty: COVID-21: A Primer. “The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic may drag on for years, but the nightmare of last year—of an entirely new viral illness, emerging in a specific sociopolitical context—is behind us. Instead we’re facing a new set of challenges, and they are not easily comparable to what has come before. It’s worth considering a new way of thinking about the period of the pandemic now ahead of us—one that leads us neither to complacency nor to paralyzing despair. In many ways COVID-19 is already over. What lies ahead is COVID-21.”

Stateline: In Some States, Unemployment Stays Stubbornly High. “At the height of the jobless crisis in April, 78% of the then 23 million unemployed Americans were temporarily laid off and only 9% were in the permanent loss category. As of last month, more than a third of the remaining 10 million unemployed were in the permanent loss category.”

Reuters: France’s lockdown vice? Cheese. “The amount of cheese purchased by French shoppers for at-home consumption increased by more than 8% in 2020, compared with just 2% the previous year, according to figures from farming agency FranceAgriMer and market data firm Kantar. That was part of a shift in food consumption in many countries last year as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, with households initially bulk buying staples like pasta and flour, and later settling into home-eating habits with extra purchases of products like butter.”


BBC: The vaccine misinformation battle raging in France. “France is one of the most vaccine-sceptical countries in the world – fertile ground for hard-line anti-vaccine activists spreading online misinformation, writes the BBC’s specialist disinformation reporter Marianna Spring.”

BBC: Facebook freezes Maduro’s page over Covid claim. “Facebook has frozen Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s page after he claimed without evidence that a herbal remedy could cure Covid-19. He claimed in January that a thyme herb solution could cure the disease. He will be unable to post for 30 days. The company said the leader had repeatedly violated its policies on coronavirus disinformation.”


BBC: Ivermectin: South African medics using unproven worm drug to treat Covid-19. “The drug Ivermectin, which has been touted by some as an effective coronavirus treatment even though it is clinically unproven, is at the centre of a legal battle in South Africa as some medics want it licensed for human use, as Pumza Fihlani reports.”


Evening Standard: Crufts cancelled for first time in more than 60 years amid coronavirus pandemic. “The Crufts 2021 dog show has been cancelled for the first time in more than 60 years due to ‘ongoing uncertainty’ from the coronavirus pandemic. The Kennel Club said that the global event due to take place from July 18 to 15 this year, has been postponed until 2022.”

BBC: Lockdown hair given to South Shields Covid-19 archive. “Two men and two women have donated the hair they grew during the roughly 21 weeks of the first lockdown. Adam Bell, assistant keeper of history at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery, said it was ‘unusual, quirky and dare I say a little bit weird’ to collect hair, but the stories behind them should resonate with a lot of people.” You’d need a wheelbarrow for mine.


CNBC: Free Krispy Kreme doughnuts, popcorn and even marijuana — businesses pile on more perks for getting vaccinated. “Getting America vaccinated will go a long way toward helping the country return to some sort of normal. Now some businesses are doing their part to sweeten the pot.”

NBC News: Johnson & Johnson to deliver 11 million vaccine doses next week, Biden administration says. “Johnson & Johnson is set to deliver 11 million doses of its single-shot Covid-19 vaccine to the U.S. next week, the White House announced, after concerns the company could fall short of its production goal of 20 million doses by the end of the month. The U.S. received 4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine shortly after it was cleared for use at the end of February. But since then there has been a lag in production as the manufacturer scaled up operations.”

CNET: Facebook plans to start reopening offices on May 10. “Facebook on Friday confirmed plans to open its Menlo Park, California, headquarters at 10% capacity on May 10 if coronavirus case numbers continue to fall, as previously reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. The social network’s Fremont, California, offices will follow on May 17, its Sunnyvale, California, location on May 24 and its downtown San Francisco towers on June 7.”


CNBC: Covid masks and hand sanitizer can get you a tax break, IRS says. “Americans can get a tax break this filing season for masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and other personal protective equipment to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the IRS announced Friday. The tax code lets taxpayers deduct medical costs that exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income each year. The IRS is counting costs incurred for PPE as a medical expense that qualifies for the tax break.”

Voice of America: European Medicines Agency Reviewing Russian Vaccine Sputnik. “The executive director of Europe’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, (EMA) said Tuesday it is evaluating Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for possible authorization of use in the European Union. In comments to European Parliament lawmakers, EMA Executive Director Emer Cooke said the agency is also planning inspections of the manufacturing and clinical sites in Russia to make sure production for the vaccine is adequate.”


Mississippi Today: Gov. Tate Reeves disputes state’s COVID-19 vaccine data. “Gov. Tate Reeves, on national television on Friday, was confronted with two troubling statistics: Mississippi has fully vaccinated just 14% of the state’s residents and ranks 47th in the nation in administering the COVID-19 vaccines that the state has received. That data — widely reported by Mississippi Today and other state and national outlets — comes from the Mississippi State Department of Health, which Reeves has heavily relied on the past year, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

NPR: New York Launches First COVID-19 Vaccination, Test Result App For Event Attendance. “New Yorkers will become the first Americans to try out a new digital pass that shows their vaccination status and COVID-19 test results. It’s an effort to help venues open up to larger groups, says New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.”

NBC News: Covid-19 cases are rising. States are opening up anyway.. “After several weeks at a plateau, Covid-19 cases in the United States are rising again, the clearest warning sign yet that the country could face another “avoidable” surge, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. The uptick comes at a critical time, when Americans are exhausted and desperate for a return to normalcy, but also perhaps better equipped than at any other point in the pandemic to turn the tide, thanks to increased vaccine supply.”


Harvard Gazette: The main public health tool during 1918 pandemic? Social distancing. “Analyses of 1918 public health responses found that interventions in U.S. cities helped reduce influenza transmission and lower mortality rates when they were implemented early in the pandemic. In a 2007 article, researchers examined data from 17 U.S. cities and included a graph that compared the mortality rates of Philadelphia and St. Louis, based on the timing of social-distancing measures. Philadelphia, which waited more than two weeks after the first cases were reported — even allowing a city-wide parade — reported 748 deaths per 100,000. St. Louis, which rushed to ban public gatherings two days after the first cases were detected, ended up with 358 deaths per 100,000.”

Voice of America: Global TB Fight Set Back 12 Years by COVID Pandemic, Doctors Warn. “In nine countries with a high prevalence of TB — including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Tajikistan and Ukraine — diagnosis and treatment fell by an average of 23%, according to analysis by the Stop TB Partnership, a non-profit hosted by the United Nations in Geneva.”


Israel 21c: 30-second baggage disinfection coming to airports. “It takes less than 30 seconds for AirFort’s proprietary 3D array of ultraviolet lights to disinfect surface contamination from carry-on and checked bags, personal items and oversized bags and parcels before they enter an airport concourse or the plane’s cargo hold.”

Search Engine Journal: 4 COVID-19 Search Trends & How They Impact SEO. “One unexpected offshoot of COVID-19 has been that more businesses have realized the benefits SEO can provide. Google Search interest in SEO spiked at the onset of the pandemic to its highest level ever and has remained strong as companies try to stay relevant, visible, and viable. Here’s a look at 4 other ways SEO has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.”


Israel 21c: SonoMask for Covid also kills acne-causing bacteria. “Clearer skin may be an unexpected bonus of wearing a Sonovia facemask to protect against Covid-19. It turns out that in addition to actively eliminating 99.9% of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles that encounter the Israeli-made zinc oxide-embedded fabric SonoMasks, over 99% of acne-causing bacteria also is eliminated.”


USA Today: Exclusive: 43% of Americans say a specific organization or people to blame for COVID-19. “One in 4 Americans, including nearly half of Asian Americans, in recent weeks have seen someone blame Asian people for the coronavirus epidemic, a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds. The nationwide survey was taken Thursday and Friday in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Georgia that killed eight people, six of them women of Asian descent. Reports across the country of physical assaults and verbal abuse against Asian Americans have jumped during the yearlong pandemic.”

ABC News: Indiana nurse allegedly removed COVID-19 patient’s oxygen. “A southern Indiana nurse has been charged with practicing medicine without a license for allegedly removing a nursing home resident’s oxygen mask hours before he died from COVID-19 last year. Connie Sneed, 52, was charged Thursday with the felony, which in Indiana carries a potential penalty of one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.”

NPR: DOJ Has Charged Nearly 500 With COVID-Related Fraud In The Past Year. “Early on in the pandemic, the Justice Department made fighting such crimes a priority. There was added urgency after Congress passed the massive CARES Act a year ago Friday, which provided a lifeline of cash to help support the country’s economy. Now, on the anniversary of the CARES Act, the Justice Department says that over the past year it has charged 474 defendants with fraud or other criminal schemes tied to the pandemic. The grand total that fraudsters tried to scam from the government and the public in those cases is more than $569 million.”


Washington Post: In show of bipartisan solidarity, 26 governors and more than 60 former officials condemn anti-Asian attacks. “In a show of bipartisan solidarity, 26 governors and dozens of Asian Americans who have served in top roles across six presidential administrations on Friday issued a pair of statements forcefully condemned the spike in anti-Asian harassment over the past year. Among the governors to speak out were two Republicans, Larry Hogan (Md.) and Charlie Baker (Mass.), who signed on with all 23 of their Democratic counterparts, as well as the governor of Guam, to a letter that cited a recent university study that found an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans in 2020, despite such crimes dropping overall.”

Washington Post: Not a single reporter at Biden’s first presidential news conference asked about the pandemic. “President Biden began his first White House news conference by practically inviting reporters to ask him about the major story of the past year. He talked about his administration’s efforts to reopen schools closed during the pandemic, celebrated a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package and announced a new goal to administer 200 million doses of coronavirus vaccines by his 100th day in office. But the president’s introductory remarks were the last time the pandemic was mentioned during Thursday’s Q&A. Over the next hour, not a single one of the masked and socially distanced journalists assembled in the East Room asked about it.”

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