Friday CoronaBuzz, October 1, 2021: 40 pointers to updates, health information, research news, and more.

Please get vaccinated. Please wear a mask when you’re inside with a bunch of people. Much love.


WLKY: Monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19: This site shows where to find it in Kentucky. “A COVID-19 treatment touted as being effective in preventing hospitalizations will be easier to find in Kentucky with the help of a new website. Kentucky’s governor said that a website launching Thursday shows the places in the Commonwealth that have monoclonal antibody treatment available.”


BBC: Covid-19 vaccinations: More than 50 nations have missed a target set by the WHO. “More than 50 countries have missed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target for 10% of their populations to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of September. Most are in Africa, where the WHO’s overall figure for those fully vaccinated is currently 4.4%. In the UK, nearly 66% of the whole population has been fully vaccinated, in the EU about 62% and in the US it’s 55%.”

Savannah Morning News: Port Wentworth police have 96% vaccination rate as COVID deaths, incentives push others in Chatham. “Chatham County’s COVID-19 cases are trending downwards, including the area’s public safety departments, but that doesn’t mean the community should relax on COVID-19 precautions, first-responder agency officials say. After an August and September surge in infections largely attributed to the delta variant, most local police departments are now seeing minimal cases just as some are ramping up vaccine incentives for their employees.”


Poynter: No, the White House didn’t create a fake set just for Joe Biden’s booster shot. “The wall-and-column set wasn’t built specifically for the booster shot event. It was a holdover from an event five days earlier, when Biden addressed a virtual summit of world leaders to address the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s a photograph of Biden at that Aug. 22 summit.”

Washington Post: Anchorage mayor defended anti-maskers wearing yellow Stars of David, claiming it’s ‘actually a credit to’ Jews. “As residents filed into the Anchorage Assembly meeting to debate a mask mandate on Wednesday night, a community member stood by the entrance and handed out yellow Stars of David adorned with the phrase ‘Do not comply.’ The stars — references to those imposed on Jews by the Nazis — symbolized the consequences of forcing people to wear masks, she said.”


Vox: Why people who don’t trust vaccines are embracing unproven drugs. “Of course, not all Americans who are reluctant to get vaccinated have embraced supposed miracle cures: The reasons that people give for not getting a Covid-19 vaccine are varied and complex. But over the past year, among some refusers, a community of intense vaccine denialism has developed and created a sort of psychological scaffolding to support their views. As a group, the most fervent vaccine deniers construct and perpetuate an alternative narrative of the pandemic. And when inconvenient facts — from a news report to a friend’s or relative’s decision to get vaccinated — challenge that narrative, they give them a place to take refuge.”

Poynter: Can a COVID patient force a hospital to administer ivermectin? Lawsuits in nine states offer different results.. “In Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, California, Delaware, Louisiana, New York and Texas, patients and their families have sued hospitals to force them to administer ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug, to COVID-19 patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization say the drug should not be used to treat COVID-19. Still, some people have turned to veterinary-strength doses with disastrous results. Courts have ruled both for and against the plaintiffs in these cases.”


Motherboard: The Economy Is Back. Welcome to the Casino. “From financial fads like SPACs—shell companies that take companies public through reverse mergers—to cryptocurrencies, online casinos streamed by megastars on Twitch, the housing market, and more, it appears as though gambling is expanding into nearly every nook and cranny of society. All of this activity has had real, and very often negative, effects on people who get caught up.”

NBC News: Covid is killing rural Americans at twice the rate of people in urban areas. “Rural Americans are dying of Covid at more than twice the rate of their urban counterparts — a divide that health experts say is likely to widen as access to medical care shrinks for a population that tends to be older, sicker, heavier, poorer and less vaccinated.”


Washington Post: N.C. hospital system fires about 175 workers in one of the largest-ever mass terminations due to a vaccine mandate. “A North Carolina-based hospital system announced Monday that roughly 175 unvaccinated employees were fired for failing to comply with the organization’s mandatory coronavirus vaccination policy, the latest in a series of health-care dismissals over coronavirus immunization. Novant Health said last week that 375 unvaccinated workers — across 15 hospitals and 800 clinics — had been suspended for not getting immunized. Unvaccinated employees were given five days to comply.”


Wall Street Journal: In Well-Vaccinated Maine, Covid-19 Still Fills Hospitals With the Unvaccinated. “The Delta variant is finding clusters of unvaccinated people even in some of the best-vaccinated parts of the country, such as Maine. A Covid-19 surge in the New England state has filled hospitals and put dozens of mostly unvaccinated people on ventilators, setting records for the state. The problem, public-health experts say, is the variant’s high transmissibility combined with the relaxation of precautions such as wearing masks. Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations have also flared among mostly unvaccinated people in Vermont and western Massachusetts, highlighting the risk Delta poses even in states with the best track records for getting shots in arms.”

NBC News: Delta variant surge pushes Alaska’s sparse health care infrastructure to the brink. “Seven days a week, Stephannie Christian puts on a gown, gloves, an N95 mask and a face shield to travel across rural Alaska, bringing oxygen tanks to the homes of patients with severe Covid-19 cases. Christian, 41, is a physician assistant for Tanana Chiefs Conference, a tribal consortium that works to meet the health needs of 42 Native Alaskan villages in interior Alaska. Since the delta variant became the prominent strain in the state, Christian has been working at a breakneck pace, always on call.”


New York Times: Positive Coronavirus Cases Halt ‘Aladdin’ a Day After It Reopened. “On Tuesday, ‘Aladdin’ held its first performance since Broadway closed for the pandemic. On Wednesday, the show was canceled because of several positive coronavirus tests.”


New York Times: ‘Everything Going the Wrong Way’: Dollar Stores Hit a Pandemic Downturn. “Dollar stores, which pay among the lowest wages in the retail industry and often operate in areas where there is little competition, are stumbling in the later stages of the pandemic. Sales are slowing and some measures of profit are shrinking as the industry struggles with a confluence of challenges. They include burned-out workers, pressure to increase wages, supply chain problems and a growing number of cities and towns that are rejecting new dollar stores because, they say, the business model harms their communities.”

Washington Post: Merck’s experimental pill to treat covid-19 cuts risk of hospitalization and death in half, the pharmaceutical company reports. “Merck announced Friday that an experimental pill it developed to treat covid-19 reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by nearly half in a clinical trial. An independent board of experts monitoring the trial recommended the study be stopped early because of the positive results, a significant and telling step in a pharmaceutical study. Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said in a news release they would apply for emergency use authorization for the drug, molnupiravir, in the United States as soon as possible. It would be the first antiviral pill for covid-19.”

Associated Press: Employer vaccine mandates convert some workers, but not all. “Even before President Joe Biden’s Sept. 9 announcement that companies with more than 100 workers would have to require vaccinations, dozens of companies, including Amtrak, Microsoft, United Airlines and Disney issued ultimatums to most workers. And smaller companies in New York, San Francisco and New Orleans have been required to implement mandates for customers and workers. Some mandates seem to have converted hesitant workers, but employers are still dealing with holdouts.”

New York Times: After Mandate, 91% of Tyson Workers Are Vaccinated. “When Tyson announced on Aug. 3 that it would require coronavirus vaccines for all 120,000 of its U.S. employees, the move was notable because it included frontline workers when mandates applied primarily to office workers. At the time, less than half its work force was inoculated. Nearly two months later, about 109,000 employees are vaccinated, said Dr. Claudia Coplein, Tyson’s chief medical officer.”


Washington Post: Messy, incomplete U.S. data hobbles pandemic response. “The contentious and confusing debate in recent weeks over coronavirus booster shots has exposed a fundamental weakness in the United States’ ability to respond to a public health crisis: The data is a mess. How many people have been infected at this point? No one knows for sure, in part because of insufficient testing and incomplete reporting. How many fully vaccinated people have had breakthrough infections? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided to track only a fraction of them. When do inoculated people need booster shots? American officials trying to answer that have had to rely heavily on data from abroad.”

Dianne Feinstein: Feinstein Introduces Bill Requiring COVID-19 Vaccine, Negative Test or Recovery Documentation for Domestic Air Travel. “Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act, a bill that would require all passengers on domestic airline flights to either be fully vaccinated, have recently tested negative for COVID-19 or have fully recovered from COVID-19. The bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Federal Aviation Administration, to develop national vaccination standards and procedures related to COVID-19 and domestic air travel in order to prevent future outbreaks of the disease.”


Reuters: Get a friend vaccinated and eat out on us, Swiss govt tells citizens. “Swiss citizens who persuade their friends to get COVID-19 shots can look forward to a free restaurant meal or cinema outing courtesy of the state, under a scheme aimed at boosting the country’s low vaccination rate. Switzerland has witnessed numerous anti-vaxxer protests and 42% of its 8.7 million population are not yet fully vaccinated, relatively high by European standards.”


7 News Florida: Department of Education awards BCPS grant for more than $420K after funds were cut by state. “Broward County Public Schools is getting a bailout by the federal government after the state withheld funds due to the district’s mask mandate. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently cut funding to the BCPS Board when they decided to make masks mandatory in schools. The United States Department of Education is now giving it back in the form of a grant.”

Washington Post: West Virginia’s governor wants residents to get vaccinated for his dog. But not enough are getting the shot.. “Before she gathered her staff for a Zoom meeting two weeks ago, Laura L. Jones wrestled over how to tell them that everyone must receive a coronavirus vaccination by Oct. 1. ‘I avoided calling it a mandate; I said it was a requirement,’ said Jones, executive director of Milan Puskar Health Right, a free clinic in Morgantown, W.Va., whose board of directors made the call. Right after Jones’s announcement, two out of a handful of holdouts got their shots — a couple more small victories in West Virginia’s uphill battle against the rampaging virus.

WRAL: Some US governors say Covid hospitalizations are going down but warn of what could come next if more people don’t get vaccinated. “Across the US, the rate of new Covid-19 deaths is expected to decrease over the next four weeks, according to an ensemble forecast from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And for the third week in a row, Wednesday’s CDC forecast predicted hospitalizations will decrease as well — a bit of hope as the more transmissible Delta variant continues to spread. But currently, an average of nearly 2,000 people die and about 114,000 people are infected with Covid-19 every day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.”

Washington Post: Mississippi aid program gave little help to renters, but millions to a top law firm. “This June, when Tebrica Young stumbled on a new Mississippi aid program for people struggling to pay rent during the pandemic, she thought she had found a lifeline. Her husband was furloughed in March, and the couple was expecting a second child. They had fallen behind on payments for their two-bedroom apartment in Batesville, a small town an hour south of Memphis. So Young applied to the Rental Assistance for Mississippians Program, or RAMP, which is supposed to disburse federal funds to state residents in need. But though she and her husband submitted reams of documents and made multiple calls to the RAMP hotline, Young said, the money never arrived.”

Crain’s Detroit Business: Health agencies rescind COVID mask orders over fears of funding cuts. ” Two more local health departments in Michigan rescinded their school masking requirement Thursday despite Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer saying she would not enforce Republican-written budget provisions that threaten funding for counties with COVID-19 pandemic orders.”


Washington Post: Retired doctor’s license suspended after state found she mailed fake vaccine exemption forms: ‘Let freedom ring!’. “Over the summer, an anonymous tipster reached out to the Connecticut Department of Public Health with an alarming complaint. Sue McIntosh, a retired physician, was mailing fake coronavirus vaccine and mask exemption forms to those who reached out and followed her instructions, the person reported. All a requester had to do, the tipster wrote, was send McIntosh a stamped and self-addressed manila envelope ‘for every person you would like an exemption for.'”


CNN: Justice Brett Kavanaugh tests positive for Covid-19. “Justice Brett Kavanaugh has tested positive for Covid-19, the Supreme Court said Friday, the first publicly known case of coronavirus among the high court’s justices. Kavanaugh, who is fully vaccinated, tested positive on Thursday night, the court said in a statement. The justice’s immediate family tested negative and he has no symptoms.”


Chattanooga Times Free Press: North Georgia teacher dies of COVID one month after losing her husband to the virus. “North Georgia elementary school teacher Heidi Hammond has died of COVID-19 less than one month after her husband, a middle school football coach in Dalton, Georgia, died of the virus. Hammond, 44, died Friday at AdventHealth Gordon, where she had been hospitalized for more than a month. Prior to her death, Hammond taught first grade at Chatsworth Elementary School in Murray County, Georgia. She had worked in the Murray County School system for more than 20 years.”

WRAL: Woman who survived 1918 flu, world war succumbs to COVID. “She lived a life of adventure that spanned two continents. She fell in love with a World War II fighter pilot, barely escaped Europe ahead of Benito Mussolini’s fascists, ground steel for the U.S. war effort and advocated for her disabled daughter in a far less enlightened time. She was, her daughter said, someone who didn’t make a habit of giving up. And then this month, at age 105, Primetta Giacopini’s life ended the way it began — in a pandemic.”

WAVY: ‘She had a heart for everybody’: Suffolk fifth grader dies from COVID-19 days after initial headache. “A Suffolk elementary school student died from COVID-19 this week, the child’s family says. Teresa Sperry was a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Hillpoint Elementary, her mother Nicole confirmed to WAVY’s Andy Fox.”


Axios: First look: Thousands of school board members urge Biden to protect them. “A group whose members include 90,000 elected school board officials around the U.S. is asking President Biden, the FBI and the Secret Service to intervene to protect members who are facing unprecedented threats in the politically charged climate surrounding debates over COVID-19 and systemic racism.”


Michigan Daily: “I feel like I am almost a burden”: Student parents face hardships with in-person, virtual pandemic accommodations. “The Michigan Daily spoke to student parents regarding their experience after the first month of in-person classes. Each student said they had to weigh many factors — like the age and number of their children and their access to family support — when deciding how to proceed this fall.”


New York Times: A study finds no signs of trouble in getting flu and Covid shots at the same time.. “A British clinical trial found no sign of danger in getting a flu shot and a second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at the same time, results that support the advice of U.S. health authorities and are welcome news for strained health care workers as flu season hits.”

Nebraska Medicine: COVID-19 natural immunity versus vaccination. “If you’ve had COVID-19 before, does your natural immunity work better than a vaccine? The data is clear: Natural immunity is not better. The COVID-19 vaccines create more effective and longer-lasting immunity than natural immunity from infection.”


Washington Post: The evidence is building: Vaccine mandates work — and well. “Many of these mandates were announced this summer and are reaching deadlines, meaning they provide a good barometer for how effective the mandates are. United Airlines was one of the first big companies to adopt a mandate, and it announced this week that 98.5 percent of employees have been vaccinated. Just 593 out of 67,000 employees face being fired for refusing the vaccine. The success of the mandate approach is even more evident when you compare it with another big carrier, Delta Air Lines.”

Penn State: New tool predicts changes that may make COVID variants more infectious. “As SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve, new variants are expected to arise that may have an increased ability to infect their hosts and evade the hosts’ immune systems. The first key step in infection is when the virus’ spike protein binds to the ACE2 receptor on human cells. Researchers at Penn State have created a novel framework that can predict with reasonable accuracy the amino-acid changes in the virus’ spike protein that may improve its binding to human cells and confer increased infectivity to the virus.”

WMAZ: Mercer University professor helps create COVID-19 early detection device. “A Mercer University professor is working to develop a new tool in the fight against COVID-19. Dr. Sahar Hasim partnered with a research team last year to develop a test that detects COVID-19 in the early stages and provides instant results. Hasim described how the electronic device will improve the time-consuming system that’s in place right now.”

WTVY: UF researchers develop a new method to freeze lung tissue to study COVID-19. “A team of UF researchers has developed a new method to preserve lung tissue at extremely cold temperatures. They say this gives them a new tool to study how COVID-19 affects the lungs.”


Poynter: What made the newly vaccinated change their minds?. “The Kaiser Family Foundation asked recently vaccinated Americans why they finally took the vaccine. None of the top four reasons involve a mandate. Instead, they point to the continued reporting that journalists are doing about the virus’ spread. The No. 1 motivator is that someone close to the person who had been waiting got seriously ill or died from the virus.”


Associated Press: Scammers got nearly 30% of Arizona virus unemployment pay. “Scammers were able to pocket nearly 30% of the $16 billion in unemployment insurance payments sent out by Arizona since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the director of the state agency overseeing the program said Thursday.”

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