Friday CoronaBuzz, December 10, 2021: 59 pointers to updates, health information, research news, and more.

Please get a booster shot. I got mine about three weeks ago, but if I hadn’t I’d be hauling my tail to make an appointment after indexing these articles for the last couple of days. Please wear a mask when you’re inside with a bunch of people. Much love.


MI Newswire: MDHHS releases COVID-19 wastewater monitoring dashboard. “The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has released a new data dashboard on the MDHHS COVID-19 Wastewater website to display COVID-19 wastewater monitoring data from the Sentinel Wastewater Epidemiology Evaluation Project (SWEEP). SWEEP provides a detailed, weekly analysis and interpretation of wastewater data from a subset of existing COVID-19 wastewater monitoring sites in Michigan.”

CBC: Twitter account hopes to be like Vaccine Hunters — but for COVID-19 rapid testing. “A Kitchener, Ont., doctor is behind a new Twitter account that hopes to be the next Vaccine Hunters — but instead of helping people find COVID-19 vaccines, it’ll help them find rapid tests to detect the virus. Dr. Dalia Hasan started the COVID Test Finders account about three months ago. She has since recruited about 25 volunteers to tweet out information about testing and where to find rapid tests.”


New York Times: Coronavirus Cases Are Rising Among Children in South African Hospitals. “The children had gone to the hospital for various reasons: One had jaundice, another malaria. A third had a broken bone. But once they were admitted, they all tested positive for the coronavirus, a worrying trend in South African hospitals that hints at how transmissible the new variant, Omicron, may be.”

NBC Boston: COVID Level in Boston Area’s Wastewater Returns to Historic High. “As hospital beds in Massachusetts fill up, experts are trying to predict how bad the winter surge could be, and the state’s wastewater could hold the key. The Boston-area wastewater tracker is showing the highest level of the virus that has been seen so far this year, about as high as last winter’s spike reached.”

ABC 7: LA County moves back into ‘high transmission’ category as COVID cases increase, health officials say. “Exactly two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday and its associated gatherings of family and friends, Los Angeles County is seeing a resulting increase in COVID-19 cases, the public health director said today, calling the trend a possible start of yet another winter surge of infections.”

Spanish News Today: Covid incidence in children doubles in two weeks in Spain. “The figures speak for themselves: at the end of October the cumulative incidence rate among under 12s, while still the highest in the country, was steadily declining along with all other groups, to a point where it reached just 54 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on October 18. Now, a month and a half later, this number has skyrocketed and sits close to 500 cases.”

Washington Post: Prices climbed 6.8% in November compared with last year, largest rise in nearly four decades, as inflation spreads through economy. “Prices rose 6.8 percent in November to a nearly 40-year high, compared with a year ago, as inflation continues to squeeze households and businesses nationwide and complicates the political environment for Congress and the White House. Consumer price index data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that prices rose 0.8 percent in November compared with October, with inflation spreading further throughout the economy, including to areas that had not been as affected by the coronavirus pandemic.”


Washington Post: A GOP senator suggested gargling mouthwash to kill the coronavirus. Doctors and Listerine are skeptical.. “Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) recommended mouthwash as a treatment for the coronavirus during a town hall meeting Wednesday, immediately drawing criticism for suggesting gargling would offer protection. The senator has been criticized for spreading conspiracy theories about the coronavirus and has promoted the use of drugs that have shown little to no evidence that they are effective in treating covid-19. YouTube this year suspended his account for violating the company’s medical misinformation policies. He has also expressed skepticism about the efficacy of coronavirus vaccine mandates and doses, which have undergone vigorous health testing.”

Tennesseean: COVID-19: Medical board deletes anti-misinformation policy amid GOP pressure. “Tennessee’s medical licensing board voted Tuesday to delete a policy opposing coronavirus misinformation from its website due to fears a powerful conservative lawmaker would otherwise dissolve the board and replace its members.”

Washington Post: As scientists race to understand the omicron variant, misinformation has already sprinted ahead. “The new strains of misinformation are the latest wrinkle in what has been a years-long battle between social media companies and those taking advantage of a global thirst for knowledge and facts in the face of a void of information. While platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have banned coronavirus and vaccine misinformation, instead attempting to promote authoritative information from the government, it continues to spread.”


New York Times: Children, Coping With Loss, Are Pandemic’s ‘Forgotten Grievers’. “Although Congress has allocated trillions of dollars to combat the pandemic, including more than $100 million for existing children’s mental health programs and $122 billion for schools, the Biden administration and lawmakers have not yet created initiatives specifically for the tens of thousands of children who have lost parents and primary caregivers to Covid-19.”

Comstock’s Magazine: Making the Most of the Pandemic Pantry. “When the initial shock of the coronavirus faded last spring, people were stuck at home and left without social outlets, some with more spare time than ever. Those with the luxury of extra hours were encouraged to develop new skills in that unscripted space, and with nearly every restaurant in the region closed for dine-in service, many people turned to online cooking courses.”

Washington Post: Long covid is destroying careers, leaving economic distress in its wake. “Across America, many of the nearly 50 million people infected with the coronavirus continue to suffer from some persistent symptoms, with a smaller subset experiencing such unbearable fatigue and other maladies that they can’t work, forcing them to drop out of the workforce, abandon careers and rack up huge debts. Hard data is not available and estimates vary widely, but based on published studies and their own experience treating patients, several medical specialists said 750,000 to 1.3 million patients likely remain so sick for extended periods that they can’t return to the workforce full time.”


BBC: Covid vaccines: Why is Nigeria unable to use its supply?. “Only about 3% of Nigeria’s population has received a full course of vaccines against Covid – a low rate even compared with other countries in Africa. For South Africa, the figure is 24%. However, it’s emerged that Nigeria has a large stockpile of out-of-date vaccines which has gone unused.”

New York Times: New Covid Pills Offer Hope as Omicron Looms. “As the world worries that the Omicron coronavirus variant may cause a surge of cases and weaken vaccines, drug developers have some encouraging news: Two new Covid-19 pills are coming soon, and are expected to work against all versions of the virus.”

ABC 7: You can get the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. Don’t delay, doctors say. “Doctors say they’re seeing more people getting sick with the flu, and with another variant gaining ground, experts say there’s no better time to get both your flu shot and your booster.”


ABC News: State seeing ‘extremely concerning’ spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations. “Connecticut has seen an ‘extremely concerning’ rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations in recent weeks, health officials said, as the number of cases also continues to trend up. The state health department reported at least 500 hospitalizations on both Monday and Tuesday, marking a roughly 80% increase in the past two weeks — and the highest numbers since April.”

WLUC: ICU beds full as COVID-19 patients await transfer to UPHS – Marquette. “Upper Michigan’s largest intensive care unit remains full as Michigan’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have reached a new high. The latest state health department data shows 79 adults are in U.P. hospitals right now with COVID-19. Twenty-two of them are in intensive care, and eight are on a ventilator.”

WXIX: Ohio seeing ‘huge surge’ in COVID-19 hospitalizations, department of health says. “Ohio is seeing the highest COVID-related hospitalizations since January, according to Ohio Department of Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff. As of Wednesday, 4,297 patients in Ohio hospitals are battling COVID-19.”

Bloomberg: COVID crisis threatens holiday season as hospitals overflow. “The U.S. is sailing toward a holiday crisis. Illinois, for one, had 3,178 COVID hospitalizations as of Wednesday, the highest since January. Six of the state’s 11 regions had 20 or fewer intensive-care beds available.”

WPVI: COVID hospitalizations: Pa. healthcare system at ‘brink of collapse,’ doctor says. “There is an alarming uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations. As of Thursday, there are 65,000 patients receiving care across the nation. That’s up by 20,000 compared to a month ago. And thousands of those patients are in the tri-state area. Many hospitals in Pennsylvania are inching closer to crisis mode as they fill up once again with COVID patients.”


CBC: Sisters say mother’s death could have been avoided if church had taken COVID-19 seriously. “Pearl Lane was full of life: she still baked regularly, made trips with her daughters and loved her grandchildren with all her heart. A dedicated Christian, the eighty-three-year-old woman never missed a church service. She spoke in the women’s meetings and sang in the church choir. And by all accounts, her devotion to her husband and her children was even greater.”


Route Fifty: Three Myths of the Great Resignation. “Let’s start with what’s true. More Americans left their job in April this year than in any other month on record, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ analysis of what it calls ‘quits.’ Even more people quit in July, setting a new record. We broke that new record again in August. And then again in September. This is what people refer to as the ‘Great Resignation,’ and it is, as I’ve written, getting greater by the month.”

BBC: Covishield: India vaccine maker halves production. “The world’s largest vaccine maker will halve the production of its Covid-19 vaccine because it has no fresh orders, its top-ranking executive has said. India’s Serum Institute is sitting on a stockpile of half a billion doses of Covishield, the local version of AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria jab, the firm’s CEO Adar Poonawalla told CNBC-TV18.”


Air Force Times: How the Air Force will handle Oklahoma Guardsmen who refuse COVID-19 vaccinations. “The Air Force will, in essence, remove National Guardsmen who decline a COVID-19 vaccination from federal service, according to a policy published Wednesday. The National Guard, spurred by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s announcement that he would not enforce the Defense Department’s vaccine mandate, has been at the center of questions over how DoD can carry out its mandate for state-controlled troops, and whether other governors might push out similar guidance in defiance of the federal government. So far, no other states have joined in.”

BuzzFeed News: Secret Investigation Documents Reveal How The CDC’s First COVID Test Failed In The Pandemic’s Early Days. “Federal investigation records obtained by BuzzFeed News show how one of the most pivotal mistakes of the pandemic fell on an overburdened CDC lab with only three full-time employees.”

Los Angeles Times: Surgeon General advisory: Youth mental health crisis looms . “Symptoms of depression and anxiety have doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youth experiencing depressive symptoms and 20% experiencing anxiety symptoms, according to [U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H] Murthy’s 53-page advisory. There also appear to be increases in negative emotions or behaviors such as impulsivity and irritability — associated with conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.”

Bloomberg Government: Amtrak to Cut 2022 Service as Workforce Shrinks on Shot Refusals. “Amtrak expects it won’t have enough employees to operate all its trains next month when it plans to enforce Covid-19 vaccine requirements. As Amtrak prepares to comply with the federal vaccine mandate, it will likely need to temporarily reduce frequency, particularly on its long-distance services, Stephen Gardner, president of Amtrak, said in written testimony for a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hearing. About 94% of the rail company’s workers have been fully vaccinated as of this week.”

CNET: FDA authorizes AstraZeneca COVID prevention drug for immunocompromised people. “On Wednesday, the US Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization to a monoclonal antibody drug made by AstraZeneca that helps prevent COVID-19 in people who have compromised immune systems or those who have a history of a severe allergic reaction to the coronavirus vaccines.”

CNET: FDA authorizes Pfizer boosters for 16- and 17-year-olds. “The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday authorized boosters of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for teens ages 16 and 17 at least six months after their second dose of Pfizer.”

Politico: Biden health team ruled out free Covid tests for all over cost, logistics. “The Biden administration opted for a controversial plan to pay for at-home Covid-19 testing through private insurance after officials concluded it would be too costly and inefficient to simply send the tests to all Americans for free, three administration officials told POLITICO. The decision to forgo a European-style approach to testing — which hinges on the government buying and widely distributing rapid tests — has sparked days of backlash, putting the White House on the defensive over its newest plan for containing the virus.”

New York Times: Covid Malaise. “In recent weeks, economists and pundits have been asking why Americans feel grouchy about the economy when many indicators — like G.D.P. growth, stock prices and the unemployment rate — look strong. But I think the answer to this supposed paradox is that it’s not really a paradox: Americans think the economy is in rough shape because the economy is in rough shape.”


BBC: Covid: New Plan B rules on working from home and masks announced for England. “People in England are being asked to work from home again if possible and face masks will be compulsory in most public places, as part of new rules to limit the spread of Omicron. Covid passes will also be needed to get into nightclubs and large venues from next week.”

Bloomberg: Denmark’s Leader to Testify in Mink Cull Probe as Crisis Looms. “Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen faces one of her biggest tests yet as she is due to testify about last year’s mass culling of the farmed mink in an inquiry that has eroded the public’s trust. Frederiksen, 44, will take the witness stand on Thursday in the parliamentary probe into her controversial decision to cull 17 million mink over Covid-19 mutation concerns.”

BBC: Omicron: WHO concerned rich countries could hoard vaccines. “The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed concern that wealthy countries will start to hoard Covid vaccines in response to the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant. It said this could threaten supplies to nations where most people are still unvaccinated.”

BBC: Sanna Marin: Finland’s PM sorry for clubbing after Covid contact. “Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin has apologised for going clubbing after coming into close contact with a Covid-19 case. Sanna Marin went on a night out in Helsinki on Saturday, hours after her foreign minister had tested positive. She was initially told she did not need to isolate because she had been fully vaccinated, but later missed a text that advised her to do so.”

The Guardian: ‘Absolute disgust’: readers react to footage of No 10 aides laughing about lockdown rules. “The government is facing a furious backlash after a video emerged showing senior No 10 aides joking about lockdown rules and a Christmas party held at Downing Street. After Boris Johnson and various aides repeatedly denied that a party took place at all and that Covid rules were broken, Johnson said on Wednesday that he ‘apologises unreservedly for the offence that [the video] has caused’ as well as ‘for the impression that it gives’, while still insisting that, as far as he was aware, no party took place. He said there would be investigation into the matter by the cabinet secretary.”

Reuters: World Bank says its funding helped deliver 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses . “The World Bank on Monday said its funding had helped deliver 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines around the world and it would reach the 150-million mark by the end of the month, if doses arrive as expected.”

Politico: Foreign governments desperate for Covid vaccines turn to K Street for help. “In Kenya, one of Africa’s most populous and economically-developed countries, less than 2 percent of the population had received even a first shot by mid-May. So around the time that the White House announced on May 17 that it planned to donate 80 million U.S. vaccine doses to the rest of the world, and promised to continue to distribute ‘excess supply’ of the vaccine to other countries as it became available, Kenya’s leaders mobilized.”

Global News: Millions of unused rapid COVID-19 tests prompt calls for greater access to free swabs across Canada. “Health Canada data shows the federal government has sent nearly 80-million rapid antigen tests to the provinces and territories, but just over 14.7 million were used as of Nov. 26. Medical experts across the country have been calling on health officials to make the tests more accessible by making them free of charge, and more easily found at places like grocery checkouts — even gas stations.”

BBC: Ghana’s Covid restrictions: Unvaccinated must get jabs on arrival. “Ghana is introducing some of the world’s strictest Covid travel rules, by banning any adult who has not been vaccinated from flying in with effect from Monday. There is no option to self-isolate.”


Capital Current: ‘A living thing’: The capital’s museums and galleries kept their fires burning during the pandemic lockdown. “When Canada’s capital was in lockdown, the doors to the city’s national and local galleries and museums were closed, but much was still happening inside. Capital Current’s Preslea Normand interviewed numerous officials from some of Ottawa-Gatineau’s leading cultural institutions about how they faced pandemic challenges and adapted their curatorial work and public outreach to life in COVID times.”

The Advocate: Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to add COVID-19 vaccine to Louisiana’s required school shots list. “Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ plan to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the required immunization schedule for students at K-12 schools has energized a wave of opposition from mostly Republican state lawmakers, who are gathering in Baton Rouge Monday for an oversight hearing where they’ll attempt to thwart the proposal.”

Tampa Bay Times: UF researchers felt pressure to destroy data on COVID-19. “Fear of upsetting state officials is pervasive among faculty at the University of Florida, to the point that race-related references have been edited out of course materials and researchers felt pressure to destroy COVID-19 data, according to a report released Monday by a Faculty Senate committee.”

Associated Press: New York’s COVID surge is back — and so is its mask mandate. “Facing a winter surge in COVID-19 infections, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Friday that masks will be required in all indoor public places unless the businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. Hochul said the decision to impose a mask mandate was based on state’s weekly seven-day case rate, as well as increasing hospitalizations.”


New York Times: Bosses and Workers Face N.Y.C.’s New Reality: Get Vaccinated or Else. “The day after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a vaccine mandate for on-site employees at all private businesses — the most far-reaching local measure in the country — workers across the city were figuring out what it would mean for them. Some business leaders raised concerns about the difficulty of enforcing the measure, whether the city had the power to enact the mandate and whether it could lead to worker shortages.”

The City NYC: City Hall Withheld COVID Neighborhood Death Data During NYC’s 2020 Pandemic Peak, Emails Show. “The city Department of Health prepared a map breaking down COVID fatalities by ZIP code in early April 2020, just as New York was about to hit the height of deaths, THE CITY has learned. But the de Blasio administration delayed the information’s release for weeks. ”


CNN: How wearable tech helped elite athletes through the pandemic. “The sports analytics industry could be worth $4.6 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research, with the technology starting to filter down to the amateur level. Companies such as Australia’s Catapult — which also works with EPL teams — and STATSports have developed systems targeted at the amateur market, letting users compare their performance to their peers and to professionals.”


Washington Post: Parents wondered whether learning remotely could work as well as being in a classroom. New global data suggests the answer is no.. “Of all the pandemic edicts — the mask requirements, the vaccination mandates — few were more contentious than the decision to shutter schools. At the peak of closures last year, 1.6 billion students in 188 countries were locked out. Across the globe, 700 million of them reside in partially or fully closed school districts. To learn, the pandemic generation turned to laptops, cellphones, televisions and radios, leaving parents asking a nagging question: Could learning remotely work as well as being in a classroom? For the most part, new data suggests, the answer is no.”

New York Times: Schools Are Closing Classrooms on Fridays. Parents Are Furious.. “School districts cited various reasons for the temporary closings, from a rise in Covid-19 cases to a need to thoroughly sanitize classrooms. But for many schools, the remote learning days — an option that did not exist before the pandemic — are a last-ditch effort to keep teachers from resigning. They are burned out, educators said, after a year of trying to help students through learning loss, and working overtime to make up for labor shortages.”


UIC Today: Early, mid-career women experienced higher stress than other academics during pandemic. “The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women who are early and mid-career academic faculty members, according to a recent study by University of Illinois Chicago researchers.”


San Francisco Chronicle: Just a cold’? During COVID, how to know if it’s OK to go to holiday gatherings when you have the sniffles. “Experts say that especially with the arrival of the omicron variant and its many unknowns, the pandemic places far more responsibility on a guest who has symptoms that could be consistent with COVID-19. Testing, observing health protocols and ensuring clear communication are key to keeping everyone as safe as possible, they say, especially guests who may be more vulnerable.”

BBC: Two vaccine doses don’t stop you catching Omicron. “Two doses of a Covid vaccine are not enough to stop you catching the Omicron variant, UK scientists have warned. Early analysis of UK Omicron and Delta cases showed the vaccines were less effective at stopping the new variant. However, a third booster prevents around 75% of people getting any Covid symptom.”


PsyPost: Having your camera on during virtual meetings promotes “Zoom fatigue” — especially among women and newer employees. “Experimental findings published in the Journal of Applied Psychology revealed that employees who had their cameras on during virtual meetings experienced greater fatigue and, in turn, reduced performance during meetings. This was especially true for women and newer employees, suggesting that a heightened need for self-presentation may be the cause of this fatigue.”


ABC Columbia: Study: Experts say Omicron variant appears more transmissible, but less severe. “The Omicron variant has now been detected in 21 states in the United States. While doctors say the newest variant appears to be more transmissible, but preliminary studies show that it may also be less severe. The CDC is recommending that anyone who has not received their booster get one before holiday gatherings to help offset the variants impact.”

New York Times: The Coronavirus Attacks Fat Tissue, Scientists Find. “From the start of the pandemic, the coronavirus seemed to target people carrying extra pounds. Patients who were overweight or obese were more likely to develop severe Covid-19 and more likely to die. Though these patients often have health conditions like diabetes that compound their risk, scientists have become increasingly convinced that their vulnerability has something to do with obesity itself.”

New York Times: Pfizer’s vaccine provides some protection against Omicron, a lab study suggests.. “A report out of South Africa offered a first glimpse at how vaccinated people might fare against the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Laboratory experiments found that Omicron seems to dull the power of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but also hinted that people who have received a booster shot might be better protected.”


San Francisco Chronicle: Omicron in Oakland: How a Wisconsin wedding with ‘super responsible’ vaccinated people led to outbreak. “Most if not all of the guests wore masks when the Nov. 27 wedding ceremony started at a Wisconsin celebration that is now the suspected origin of an outbreak of COVID-19 and the omicron variant among Kaiser Permanente’s Oakland Medical Center staff, according to an attendee. But as the celebration wore on, the cocktails came out and people took to the dance floor, many leaving their masks behind, said Debra Furr-Holden, an epidemiologist and associate dean of public health at Michigan State University, who was in attendance and believes she contracted the coronavirus there.”


New York Times: Will Covid Evolve to Be Milder?. “As someone who studies viruses, I often hear the phrase, ‘A dead host is not a good host,’ or some version of that. This is probably true for most viruses, and certainly if a virus killed every person it infected it would eventually run out of hosts, which is not a good thing for the virus. But what is really important is how efficiently the virus spreads. Does making a person very ill provide the virus with some advantage that makes transmission more effective? If the answer to that question is yes, then the virus may continue to make people severely ill because that strategy works.”

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