Thursday CoronaBuzz, April 1, 2021: 31 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.


Miami Herald: People with intellectual disabilities can get COVID vaccination help from new website. “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) — such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism — have faced significant hurdles during the pandemic involving education, employment and mental and physical health…. To combat what experts deem a public health concern, the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities launched a website on Wednesday to help guide people with IDD to trusted resources on COVID-19 vaccines, particularly where to find one in their area.”


WOBM: NJ launches new COVID vaccine finder tool for online appointments. “The state has launched a new web tool to better connect those eligible for COVID-19 vaccines with available appointments. A search page has been launched in ‘beta’ form, which means essentially it still is under construction, Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Wednesday at the state pandemic response briefing.”


WRAL: COVID-19 was third leading cause of death last year, CDC confirms in early data. “Covid-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States last year, after heart disease and cancer, according to provisional data released on Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death rate from 2019 to 2020 increased by 15.9%, going up from 715.2 to 828.7 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the report.”

Lapham’s Quarterly: Revisiting the Dead. “Earlier in the year, I heard a news report that mentioned there were few, if any, memorials to those who died in the influenza pandemic of 1918. It just wasn’t the sort of mass death that lent itself easily to memorialization. I wondered if or how we would memorialize our own pandemic. Soon thereafter, I stumbled across a blog post about the burial grounds—and memorials—dedicated to those who died in nineteenth-century pandemics on Staten Island. I wanted to go see all three sites—the one in St. George, one up the road from there, and one farther south along the coast called Seguine Point—thinking maybe I would glimpse into our future.”


FactCheck: Viral Posts Misuse VAERS Data to Make False Claims About COVID-19 Vaccines. “Social media posts repeatedly misuse unverified data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System to falsely claim that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous, and even lethal. But the government database is not designed to determine if vaccines cause health problems.”


BBC: Belgium police break up fake festival started as April Fools’ joke. “Police in Belgium have used tear gas and water cannon to break up a crowd of people who had gathered for a fake concert that was announced on social media as an April Fools’ Day joke. About 2,000 people attended the event in Brussels’ Bois de la Cambre park, in defiance of the country’s Covid-19 measures.”


BBC: Google rejigs remote working as it reopens offices. “Google is changing its work-from-home policy as it looks to get more people back into its US offices. The tech firm will only allow employees to work from home for more than 14 days a year if they apply for it. Google will continue its current work-from-home arrangements until 1 September but will allow people to return voluntarily from next month.”

MarketWatch: Pfizer working on freeze-dried version of COVID-19 vaccine that doesn’t need ultracold storage. “In April, Pfizer is set to start a clinical trial evaluating a so-called lyophilized formulation in adults 18 to 55 years old in the U.S., according to a government database,, and confirmed by the company.”

CNN: Silicon Valley is starting to bring workers back to the office. “After years of building huge modern offices and a work culture that many industries have emulated, Silicon Valley was among the first to shutter those offices and go fully remote when the coronavirus pandemic began. Now, many of the tech industry’s biggest companies are slowly making plans to bring workers back, offering a potential road map in the process for what office work looks like in year two of the pandemic.”

HuffPost: Congress Bailed Out Uber’s Workers. Now What?. “With the coronavirus pandemic bearing down on the United States and Congress negotiating with the Donald Trump administration over a giant relief bill, Uber begged Trump not to leave out its drivers, who would normally not be eligible for unemployment benefits because they’re not regular employees. Congress soon created a whole new unemployment system that covered gig workers as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in March 2020.”


BBC: Covid: Australia falls 85% short of vaccine delivery goal. “Australia has fallen 3.4 million doses short of its target of delivering four million Covid vaccinations by 31 March, prompting criticism of the government. The 85% shortfall comes two days after Brisbane entered another snap lockdown to combat a small outbreak.”

Deutsche Welle: Germany restricts use of AstraZeneca vaccine to over 60s in most cases. “German Health Minister Jens Spahn and the 16 state health ministers on Tuesday decided to suspend the routine use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under age 60 at an emergency meeting. Authorities in the cities of Berlin and Munich had earlier decided to limit the use of the vaccine.”

New York Times: Biden Administration Announces Ad Campaign to Combat Vaccine Hesitancy. “The Biden administration on Thursday morning announced an ambitious advertising campaign intended to encourage as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The campaign, with ads in English and Spanish that will air
throughout April on network TV and cable channels nationwide, as well as online, comes as the administration is rapidly expanding access to coronavirus vaccines.”

BBC: Dutch government to let 3,500 fans watch Eurovision Song Contest. “The annual musical extravaganza will be staged at Rotterdam’s Ahoy Arena in May, after being cancelled last year. Under the plan, the venue would be half full and fans would need a negative Covid test before being allowed in.”

Politico: Federal watchdog calls for centralized Covid-19 data website. “Federal health agencies need to be more transparent about critical Covid-19 data, particularly on race and ethnicity and infections at nursing homes, the Government Accountability Office said Wednesday. The watchdog recommended those steps as part of its call for a sweeping overhaul of federal data on Covid-19, based on its probe of efforts to collect and analyze pandemic statistics across agencies.”

ProPublica: Documents Show Trump Officials Skirted Rules to Reward Politically Connected and Untested Firms With Huge Pandemic Contracts. “Peter Navarro, who served as Trump’s deputy assistant and trade adviser, essentially verbally awarded a $96 million deal for respirators to a company with White House connections. Later, officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency were pressured to sign the contract after the fact, according to correspondence obtained by congressional investigators. Documents obtained by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis after a year of resistance from the Trump administration offer new details about Navarro’s role in a largely secretive buying spree of personal protective equipment and medical supplies.”


State of Washington: Inslee announces vaccine eligibility expansion to all adults April 15. “Gov. Jay Inslee today announced that effective April 15, all Washingtonians age 16 and up will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. Over the past four months since Washington began administering doses of the vaccination, the state has followed a tiered eligibility system, beginning with those most at risk of hospitalization and death.”

State of Connecticut: Governor Lamont Announces Connecticut Remains on Track To Expand COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility To All Adults on Thursday, April 1. “Governor Ned Lamont today announced that the State of Connecticut is on track to expand its COVID-19 vaccination program to the final group of adults, including all individuals between the ages of 16 and 44, on Thursday, April 1, 2021. Individuals in this age group will have access to schedule appointments beginning Thursday morning.”


The Hill: Sarah Palin encourages mask wearing after revealing COVID-19 diagnosis. “Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) says that she previously tested positive for coronavirus and is encouraging Americans to mask up in order to slow its spread. Palin, 57, confirmed her COVID-19 diagnosis in an interview with People magazine published Wednesday, stating that she and some of her family members, including her son and daughter, tested positive.”

Politico: Interior Department chief of staff being removed from post after indoor party fiasco. “The White House is removing the Interior Department’s chief of staff, Jennifer Van der Heide, who recently planned a 50-person indoor party at the agency that the White House ordered canceled, and is moving her to a senior counselor job at the agency, according to two Biden administration officials.”


Washington Post: A mental health crisis was unraveling on college campuses. The pandemic has made it worse.. “Across the country, some school leaders and experts say the pandemic has brought new urgency to a mental health crisis that had been unraveling on college campuses for years. From social isolation to heightened feelings of inadequacy, students say it has made it harder to concentrate on school and put a strain on families and friendships.”


New York Times: More pregnant women died and stillbirths increased steeply during the pandemic, studies show.. “Reviewing data on more than six million pregnancies, the investigators found evidence that disruptions to health care systems and patients’ fear of becoming infected at clinics may have led to avoidable deaths of mothers and babies, especially in low- and middle-income countries.”


CNN: Robots are joining the fight against coronavirus in India. “In India, the country with the world’s second-highest number of Covid-19 cases, a handful of hospitals has started to use robots to connect patients with their loved ones, and assist healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.”

Infosecurity Magazine: #WorldBackupDay: Pandemic Has Emphasized the Need for Backups. “It is fair to say this year’s World Backup Day, held on March 31, takes on extra significance. This is not just because it is the 10th anniversary of this global campaign to educate people on the importance of backing up their digital documents as reliance on technology grows. It also comes around a year since countries throughout the world were plunged into lockdown restrictions in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19, leading to a shift to home working and a much greater reliance on the internet for everyday services.”

CNN: Drones could help fight coronavirus by air-dropping medical supplies. “These are dangerous times for people with chronic health conditions. They often need to visit hospitals for treatment or to collect medication, but during the pandemic that means increased risk of exposure to coronavirus. In Africa, a US startup says it is reducing that risk by using drones to deliver medical supplies to local clinics, and freeing up hospital beds in the process.”


CNET: Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in younger teens. “Pfizer’s vaccine against COVID-19 shows 100% efficacy and “robust antibody responses” in younger teens, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. In a Phase 3 trial with 2,260 teenagers ages 12-15, the company found the vaccine’s efficacy was higher than for people ages 16-25.”

BBC: Covid: Will your pet need a coronavirus vaccine?. “…while scientists say there is currently no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the disease to people, infections have been confirmed in various species worldwide. These include dogs, cats, apes and even mink. To address these infections, scientists are developing Covid-19 vaccines that are specially designed for animals.”

University of Texas at Austin: Undetected Coronavirus Variant Was in at Least 15 Countries Before its Discovery. “A highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 variant was unknowingly spreading for months in the United States by October 2020, according to a new study from researchers with The University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. Scientists first discovered it in early December in the United Kingdom, where the highly contagious and more lethal variant is thought to have originated.”


Reuters: Internet’s ‘Hide the Pain Harold’ accidentally used by Swedish COVID-19 vaccine website. “A health authority in Sweden unwittingly used ‘Hide the Pain Harold’ – one of the internet’s most-recognised figures – as the face of its COVID-19 vaccination booking website, officials said on Tuesday evening, adding the image had now been removed. Harold is actually Hungarian man Andras Arato, who in 2008 and 2009 posed as a model for stock photographs.”


Department of Justice: Justice Department Warns About Fake Post-Vaccine Survey Scams. “Consumers receive the surveys via email and text message, and are told that, as a gift for filling out the survey, they can choose from various free prizes, such as an iPad Pro. The messages claim that the consumers need only pay shipping and handling fees to receive their prize. Victims provide their credit card information and are charged for shipping and handling fees, but never receive the promised prize. Victims also are exposing their personally identifiable information (PII) to scammers, thereby increasing the probability of identity theft.”


CNET: Life during COVID has me wondering about the future of my fractured country. “In the UK, COVID-19 arrived in an already momentous post-Brexit landscape. The pandemic was a late, unwelcome guest to a party that had already dissolved into chaos and fighting. People and businesses alike are trying to find their feet in a new world outside of Europe (the UK officially left the EU on Dec. 31), but the country’s national identity has been in flux since the 2016 Brexit referendum. COVID has hardly served to unite us in the face of this uncertain future.”

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