Friday CoronaBuzz, December 3, 2021: 53 pointers to updates, health information, research news, and more.

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


The Hoya: Students Publish Final Semester Updates to an Online Database Highlighting Impact of COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Students from the Georgetown University Medical Center’s Center for Global Health Science and Security and the School of Foreign Service’s Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) will publish their final update to an interactive map detailing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean on Dec. 6. ”


Mashable: Omicron messing with your mental health? Don’t let the anxiety get to you.. “You’ve been here before. The flurry of headlines declare a ‘variant of concern.’ The talking heads urge you not to panic as chyrons below them repeat the words mutation and breakthrough. And, no, you shouldn’t emotionally unravel because this isn’t a repeat of March 2020 when there were no effective vaccines and little understanding of how COVID-19 spread. The fear of the unknown, however, still has the power to knock you down.”


The Guardian: Omicron variant found around world as more nations tighten travel rules. “The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been identified in new countries around the globe, including the US, west Africa, the Gulf and Asia, as American authorities indicated they would further tighten border controls over concerns that the new strain may be more transmissible.”


Poynter: The omicron variant’s name comes from the Greek alphabet and is not evidence of a COVID-19 hoax. “On Nov. 26, the World Health Organization classified a new coronavirus variant as a variant of concern. It’s called omicron, following a decision that the WHO announced in May to assign letters of the Greek alphabet to key variants. But some social media users are suggesting it’s all a big joke because “omicron” is an anagram of ‘moronic.'”


Washington Post: At Miami’s Art Basel, a canvas of global inequality in the pandemic age. “In the United States, the net wealth of the top 1 percent richest households rose by nearly 35 percentage points during the pandemic, compared with a far more modest 5-percentage-point gain for households in the bottom 50 percent, according to a World Economic Forum analysis published this month. Globally, poverty rates have climbed, especially among younger, lower-skilled and female workers, while the more moneyed have enjoyed roaring stock markets and surging property values.”

PsyPost: An increased awareness of death during the COVID-19 pandemic may have spurred a surge in creativity in the workplace. “Pondering about death amid the COVID-19 crisis may have helped employees come up with creative responses to the pandemic, according to findings published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. U.S. employees who reported increased reflection about death and the meaning of life during the pandemic also reported subsequent increases in creativity at work.”


New York Times: Covid Treatments Are Coming. “A new generation of Covid-19 treatments will soon be available, and they matter more than many people realize. They have the potential to substantially reduce hospitalization and death. And they are likely to be effective against the Omicron variant, many scientists believe, even if Omicron makes the Covid vaccines weaker at preventing infections.”

Yale News: YNHH hospitalized COVID-19 patients double, 90 percent unvaccinated. “Around 90 percent of patients who were treated at Yale New Haven Hospital for COVID-19 over the past few months were unvaccinated. This statistic was announced at a recent briefing which addressed the pandemic’s impact on the community and at YNHH. Since the start of the academic year, the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to YNHH has remained roughly the same, although case numbers have more than doubled in recent weeks.”


Boston Globe: ‘We ran out of ICU beds today’: Hospitals stagger under strain as COVID-19 cases reach highest level since winter. “Hospitals were already struggling to handle an unprecedented crush of patients with other conditions, including those who delayed care after the pandemic hit. But some doctors said the new wave of COVID patients tended to have milder symptoms than in previous surges, likely because of high vaccination rates and improved treatments.”


CNBC: Google workers in U.S. won’t return to office as expected on Jan. 10. “Google will not be requiring its employees to return to offices on Jan. 10 as expected after all, according to an email sent to employees Thursday and seen by CNBC. The company’s security VP, Chris Rackow, wrote in the email to full-time employees that it will wait until the new year to assess when U.S. offices can safely return to a ‘stable, long-term working environment.'”

BBC: Pfizer boss: Annual Covid jabs for years to come. “People will be likely to need to have annual Covid vaccinations for many years to come, the head of Pfizer has told the BBC. Dr Albert Bourla said he thought this would be needed to maintain a ‘very high level of protection’.”

Route Fifty: Quitting Your Job or Thinking About Joining the ‘Great Resignation’? Here’s What an Employment Lawyer Advises. “Record numbers of Americans have quit their jobs in recent months, with more than 4.4 million submitting their resignation in September alone. Millions more may be preparing to follow them to the exits – one survey found that around a third of workers wanted to make a career change. But one of the things I learned over the years as a lawyer and later as a professor specializing in employment law is that timing and preparation matter when it comes to quitting a job.”


Associated Press: Pentagon chief says Guard who refuse vaccine cannot train. “Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has decided that National Guard members who refuse COVID-19 vaccination will be barred from federally funded drills and training required to maintain their Guard status.”

Public Integrity: HUD Got $9 Billion To Combat Covid-19 Impacts. Only A Quarter Has Been Spent.. “Tucked in the massive pandemic relief act in March 2020 was about $9 billion for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to divvy up between cities and states for housing-related coronavirus fallout. The funds could be used on rental assistance for tenants struggling to pay their landlords, housing homeless people in safe, sanitary rooms rather than in crowded shelters and the creation of pop-up COVID-19 testing sites and hospital overflow facilities, among many other uses. Twenty months later, states and cities have spent only about a quarter of that money.”

Washington Post: FTC demands information from top companies, such as Amazon and Walmart, in sweeping supply chain probe. “The Federal Trade Commission on Monday ordered nine large U.S. companies, including Walmart, Amazon and Procter & Gamble, to provide detailed information about their operations, in a bid to unravel the causes of the supply chain disruptions that are clouding the economic recovery. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)”

NBC News: Biden administration sending 9 million Covid vaccine doses to Africa. “The Biden administration announced Friday that it is sending 9 million Covid vaccine doses to Africa amid growing concerns about the omicron variant. The new shipment brings the total U.S. donations to Africa to 100 million vaccines, the White House said. An additional two million vaccines will be sent elsewhere in the world.”


BBC: Omicron: WHO warns of ‘high infection risk’ around globe . “The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the Omicron coronavirus variant poses a high risk of infection surges around the globe. The variant could lead to severe consequences in some regions, the WHO said on Monday. The head of the organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, renewed a call for a global push to get vaccines to poorer nations.”

Politico Europe: ‘Worse than the worst-case scenario’: Belgium tightens coronavirus rules. “New testing centers will be opened and from December 2, a new website will serve as a substitute for the overwhelmed contact-and-tracing service. Working from home will be compulsory four days a week until December 19 — as opposed to December 12. From December 20, teleworking will be compulsory three days a week.”

France24: WHO warns world creating ‘toxic’ recipe for new variants. “The WHO warned Wednesday that the world was creating toxic conditions for new Covid-19 variants like Omicron to emerge and then spread around the globe. The World Health Organization said the combination of low vaccination coverage across the planet, mixed with very low testing to track the virus, was a fertile breeding ground.”


CNN: Florida’s DeSantis wants to hand out taxpayer dollars to businesses that defy vaccine mandates. “As Florida Republicans, led by Gov. Ron DeSantis, escalate their fight against President Joe Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, they are testing a new method to support resisters: giving taxpayer money to the unvaccinated.”

State of Massachusetts: AG Healey Sues Distributor for Falsely Marketing and Selling Fake Hand Sanitizer to Local Schools. “Attorney General Maura Healey has sued an Illinois-based company for falsely marketing and selling a fake hand sanitizer product to school districts across the state, claiming it could kill the COVID-19 virus and provide a multi-hour barrier against the virus without the need for reapplication.”

Honolulu Civil Beat: Hawaii Vaccination Rate Falls As State Corrects Data. “Hawaii corrected its Covid-19 vaccination figures on Monday after completing a long-awaited update to its immunization registry that lowered the percentage of the population that has received at least one dose to 77%. But health officials raised the number of people who had received third doses or booster shots. Overall, the percent of Hawaii residents who are fully vaccinated fell from 72.5% to 71.1%.”

CNN: Justice Breyer rejects request to block Massachusetts hospital’s vaccine mandate. “Justice Stephen Breyer rejected a request on Monday that the Supreme Court block the vaccine mandate being implemented by the large Massachusetts hospital system, Mass General Brigham.”

Portsmouth Herald: ‘A valuable tool’: NH residents can get rapid COVID test kits free at home, Sununu says. ” New Hampshire residents can order free, rapid COVID-19 test kits that can be self-administered at home through a new program launched by the NH Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).”

Oregon Office of Economic Analysis: Pandemic Poverty and Progress. “This morning the Census Bureau released ‘experimental’ estimates for the 2020 American Community Survey. It’s a rather limited number of published tables available at the state level. It’s better than nothing, but this is what we get since all of us did such a terrible job filling out our surveys last year. The hope is the underlying microdata will allow our office to dig a bit deeper into the numbers which aren’t currently published, in particular this includes breakdowns by geography and race and ethnicity. All that said, let’s go over the headline numbers which are broadly in line with expectations and are continued good news.”

Route Fifty: State Lawmakers’ Anti-Vaccine Efforts May Prove Mostly Symbolic. “Many of the new anti-vaccine mandate laws are either symbolic or vulnerable to federal preemption, or in some cases both. Some have provisions that align with federal regulations, such as sections that say people can reject vaccinations for religious reasons. ‘It’s important to recognize that some of it is performative,’ Wendy Parmet, director of the Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University’s law school, said of state anti-mandate laws. ‘A lot of it is performative.'”

Missouri Independent: Missouri health department found mask mandates work, but didn’t make findings public. “Mask mandates saved lives and prevented COVID-19 infections in Missouri’s biggest cities during the worst part of the delta variant wave, an analysis by the state Department of Health and Senior Services shows. But the analysis, conducted at the request of Gov. Mike Parson’s office in early November, was never made public and was only obtained by The Missouri Independent and the Documenting COVID-19 project after a Sunshine Law request to the department.”


BBC: Italian man tries to dodge Covid jab using fake arm. “An Italian man who wanted a Covid vaccination certificate without getting the jab turned up for his vaccine with a fake arm, officials say. The man, in his 50s, arrived for his shot with a silicone mould covering his real arm, hoping it would go unnoticed. But a nurse was not fooled and the man has now been reported to the police.”

Army Times: WWII vet who survived COVID-19 honored on 105th birthday. “Major Wooten, who repaired bomb-damaged trains in France as an Army private, will receive France’s highest decoration during a combination medal ceremony and birthday party in Huntsville, according to a statement by the French consulate in Atlanta and his granddaughter, Holly McDonald.”

ESPN: Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown suspended 3 games for COVID-19 violation. “Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been suspended three games for violating the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols, the league announced Thursday. The league and players’ union found that Brown was among three players who misrepresented their vaccination statuses. A former personal chef of Brown’s said earlier this month that the wide receiver had obtained a fake COVID-19 vaccination card over the summer.”

Washington Post: Nathan’s legacy: He got new lungs after covid. Now comes the hard part.. “Nathan Foote was motionless on the operating table, already under anesthesia, his chest cut open in a clamshell incision. His lungs were so scarred from covid-19 that doctors back home in Sioux Falls, S.D., told him he was going to die. The amateur rapper had posted a farewell video on his Facebook page, worried that he would die forgotten and alone in his hospital room. His wife brought their children to say their goodbyes. That was December. But Foote, then 42, got lucky.”

The Ohio State University: He put off the COVID-19 vaccine. It cost him his lungs.. “Kodie Edler, 28, is a symbol of survival now, but he’s also a cautionary tale. He wants to tell the world: Don’t be like me.”


Stuff NZ: Popular journalist and staunch anti-vaxxer dies of Covid-19. “A well-known Pukekohe newspaper editor who steadfastly refused to get vaccinated has died of Covid-19. Rex Warwood, 80, succumbed to the virus in Auckland’s North Shore Hospital on Saturday.”

Detroit Free Press: Wayne County GOP canvasser William Hartmann dies following battle with COVID-19. “William Hartmann, the Republican member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers who made national headlines for initially refusing to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election, died Tuesday following a battle with COVID-19. Douglas Reimel, Hartmann’s friend, shared the news on Facebook, and others who knew Hartmann offered their condolences online. Hartmann was 63.”

Religion News Service: Marcus Lamb, anti-COVID vaccine Christian broadcaster, dies at 64. “Marcus Lamb, a prominent Christian broadcaster known for his outspoken opposition to COVID-19 vaccines, has died after contracting the virus. He was 64.”

The Guardian: The life and tragic death of John Eyers – a fitness fanatic who refused the vaccine. “He did triathlons, bodybuilding and mountain climbing and became sceptical of the Covid jab. Then, at 42, he contracted the virus.”


India Today: Covid impact: NCRB data shows over 29% jump in suicides by businesspersons. “The Covid-19 pandemic caused serious economic strain and the distress faced by business was greater than that faced by the farm sector in 2020, government data showed. The Centre on Tuesday informed Parliament that a total of 11,716 businesspersons died by suicide in 2020. This amounts to a jump of over 29% of the figure reported for the section in 2019 or the pre-Covid times.”

STAT News: A reason for optimism on Omicron: Our immune systems are not blank slates. “The emergence of a new Covid-19 variant with a startlingly large constellation of mutations has countries around the world sounding alarms. While the concerns are understandable, experts in immunology say people need to remember a critical fact: Two years and 8 billion vaccine doses into the pandemic, many immune systems are no longer blank slates when it comes to SARS-CoV-2.”

NPR: For patients with long COVID, chronic fatigue syndrome may offer a guiding star. “Before she became sick with a coronavirus infection in January, Semhar Fisseha was a healthy, active 39-year-old. She took walks every day and planned summer vacations with her nine-year-old daughter. Now, even activities that many people take for granted can come at a big cost.”

Washington Post: Victory over pandemic may look like victory in War on Terror: Vague. “President Biden’s definition of victory over the pandemic used to be fairly simple: Smother the virus, revive the economy, get things back to normal, or at least something approximating what we used to think of as normal. But the rise of the delta variant and its omicron successor have thwarted Biden and raised anew the question of just what counts as defeating the coronavirus. The answer carries sweeping ramifications, not least for Democratic prospects of rescuing their wafer-thin majorities in Congress in the 2022 midterm elections, which would be defined by voter frustration that the president has fallen short on both fronts if they were held today.”

BBC: Covid risk remains higher for some ethnic groups. “The risk of catching and becoming very sick from Covid remains higher for people belonging to certain ethnic groups, a major review has found. The Covid-disparities report, commissioned by the government, considers each pandemic wave. Black and South Asian people are among those hit hardest, along with people in cities with high levels of deprivation.”

Mashable: In viral TikTok, a young woman tells the story of a foul-smelling post-COVID reality. “Natalia Cano can’t eat her favorite foods anymore — not hamburgers, french fries, or California rolls. She doesn’t enjoy most beverages, except Dr. Pepper, and even water is difficult to swallow. It’s not a new diet or temporary illness, but instead a debilitating reality that began after she got COVID-19 earlier this year. The twenty-year-old film student has an increasingly common post-COVID symptom that distorts her sense of smell so that most foods smell and taste like sewage, rotting garbage, or a scent that’s so unnatural she still can’t describe it after months of dealing with the condition.”

New York Times: Why Didn’t the U.S. Detect Omicron Cases Sooner?. “Last Friday, just a day after South African scientists first announced the discovery of the Omicron variant, Europe reported its first case: The new coronavirus variant was in Belgium. Before the weekend was out, Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Italy and other countries had all found cases. But in the United States, scientists kept searching.”

The Atlantic: Omicron’s Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios. “At this point, living with the coronavirus for years to come is all but inevitable. In many countries that have had vaccines in hand for the better part of a year, inoculation rates still aren’t close to 100 percent. Even if every human on Earth gained a degree of immunity from vaccination or infection, the virus could retreat into its many animal hosts, only to reenter the human population in a slightly different form.”

Washington Post: Omicron coronavirus variant three times more likely to cause reinfection than delta, S. Africa study says. “Scientists in South Africa say omicron is at least three times more likely to cause reinfection than previous coronavirus variants such as beta and delta, according to a preliminary study published Thursday. Statistical analysis of some 2.8 million positive coronavirus samples in South Africa, 35,670 of which were suspected to be reinfections, led researchers to conclude that the omicron mutation has a ‘substantial ability to evade immunity from prior infection.'”


PR Newswire: Online shopping scams flourish on social media during pandemic, according to BBB study (PRESS RELEASE). ” A shift toward online shopping during COVID-19, a global supply chain crisis, and a resurging economy have all created a recipe for a breakneck holiday shopping season – one where online shopping fraud poses a tremendous risk to consumers. Online purchase scams have skyrocketed during the pandemic, and social media ads play a key role in the mushrooming problem, a new Better Business Bureau® (BBB®) study finds.”


Reuters: UK study finds mRNA COVID-19 vaccines provide biggest booster impact. “COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna that use mRNA technology provide the biggest boost to antibody levels when given 10-12 weeks after the second dose, a British study published on Thursday has found.”

CIDRAP: Weak immune systems tied to more COVID-19 breakthrough infections. “While COVID-19 breakthrough infections—cases after vaccination—are rare, fully vaccinated people with compromised immune systems have them three times more often than those with strong immune systems and have more severe illnesses, according to a real-world US study involving nearly 1.3 million people.”

Arizona State University: Scientists examine rare blood clots linked to adenovirus COVID-19 vaccines. “Scientists led by a team from Arizona State University, Cardiff University and others worked with AstraZeneca to investigate vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), also known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), a life-threatening condition seen in a very small number of people after receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.”


Poynter: If you want employees to stay, tell them you are thankful for their work. “The pandemic showed us new ways to work and reorganized our priorities. A recent Gallup analysis showed that nearly half of U.S. workers (48%) are actively job searching or watching for opportunities. Employers have been crying about how many people are leaving their jobs. News executives tell me high turnover is their No. 1 worry right now. Here is my first advice: Tell the people that you want to stick around that you want them to stick around.”


Department of Justice: Texas Man Sentenced to More Than Nine Years in COVID-19 Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme. “A Texas man was sentenced today to 110 months in prison for his scheme to fraudulently obtain and launder proceeds from more than $1.6 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”

Department of Justice: Florida Woman Convicted of COVID-19 Relief Fraud. “A federal jury convicted a Florida woman on Nov. 24 for fraudulently obtaining a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Keyaira Bostic, 32, of Pembroke Pines, obtained a PPP loan of $84,515 for her company, I Am Liquid Inc., based on false information about the company’s number of employees and average payroll, and based on false supporting tax and bank documents.”

Pew: How Courts Embraced Technology, Met the Pandemic Challenge, and Revolutionized Their Operations. “The outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 forced public services to shift to online operations in a matter of weeks. For the nation’s courts, that meant reimagining how to administer justice. Media coverage has focused mainly on the effects of the digital transformation in criminal courts, but a rapid deployment of new technology also took place in the civil legal system.”

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