Monday CoronaBuzz, December 13, 2021: 46 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.


NBC News: Another grim Covid-19 milestone: At least 800,000 Americans have died. “The United States passed another grim Covid-19 milestone Monday, as more than 800,000 Americans have now died from the virus that’s plagued the country for nearly two years. There have been at least 800,156 confirmed deaths traced to the coronavirus, according to a rolling tally by NBC News.”

New Yorker: In New Mexico, the Pandemic Rages On. “Outside, in the hall, I checked our status board. A ten-year-old had been checked in with worsening COVID symptoms. Fifteen more patients were waiting to get tested. In New Mexico, it doesn’t feel like we’re experiencing a new ‘wave’ of the pandemic—it’s more like we’re in the middle of an endless voyage, in twenty-foot seas, miles from land.”


Washington Post: This Amazon program has funneled thousands to anti-vax activists during the pandemic. “Groups trying to discourage Americans from getting the coronavirus vaccine have raised tens of thousands of dollars for the efforts from Amazon. AmazonSmile, a charitable-giving arm that donates a half percent of every purchase from its online store to the nonprofit of a shopper’s choice, gave more than $42,000 to a dozen anti-vaccine nonprofits last year, according a Washington Post analysis of its tax returns.”

Listerine: Listerine Usage Guidelines And COVID-19. “LISTERINE® Antiseptic is an antimicrobial mouthwash that is clinically proven to kill germs that cause plaque, bad breath and the early gum disease, gingivitis. LISTERINE® Antiseptic is not intended to prevent or treat COVID-19 and should be used only as directed on the product label.”

CBC: ‘Extremely suspicious’ vaccine website prompts multiple warnings to N.B. residents. “A new website that claims to track adverse COVID-19 vaccine reactions is raising concerns and prompting strong warnings about its legitimacy. The website, NB Adverse Event Reporting System, asks visitors to submit information about medically or personally documented adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations for review by a team of physicians and registered nurses.”

Politico: No, the COVID-19 vaccine is not the deadliest vaccine ever made. “COVID-19 ushered in the biggest vaccination campaign in history. And a relentless disinformation campaign about vaccines quickly followed. One of the latest controversial statements about the vaccines came from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a nephew of former President John F. Kennedy, and one of the biggest sources of anti-vaccine rhetoric today, as he spoke to Louisiana lawmakers. ”

CNN: Trump-appointed judges question role of vaccines in fight against Covid as they block mandates. “In his order blocking the Biden administration’s health care worker vaccine mandate, US District Judge Terry Doughty spent several sentences laying out — without criticism — the claims of a doctor who falsely said that the Covid-19 vaccine was not effective in preventing transmission of the disease.”

Associated Press: Anti-vaccine group targets California’s medical director. “The president of California’s medical board, which issues medical licenses and disciplines doctors, says a group of anti-vaccine activists stalked her at home and followed her to her office — where four men confronted her in a dark parking garage in what she described as a terrifying experience. Kristina Lawson, a former mayor of Walnut Creek who was appointed to the board by former Gov. Jerry Brown, said in social media on Wednesday she grew concerned Monday after she noticed the people in a white SUV parked near her home and saw someone flying a drone over her house.”


Poynter: Why traffic and overdose deaths are setting records. “Theories are just that. They are often wrong. The theory that the pandemic rise in traffic deaths was mostly due to people driving faster on lightly traveled roads led us to believe that once people started driving again, the fatalities would drop. They didn’t.”


BBC: Covid in Austria: Mass protest in Vienna against measures. “Police say about 44,000 people rallied in the capital, Vienna, the fourth straight weekend of demonstrations. Last month Austria became the first western European country to reimpose a lockdown for those who are vaccinated, which ends on Sunday. But restrictions will continue for unvaccinated people.”


BBC: Covid: First people in UK hospitals with Omicron variant. “The first people in the UK have been hospitalised with Omicron infections, Nadhim Zahawi has said. The new variant of coronavirus now accounts for a third of cases in London, the education secretary said.”

Washington Post: Covax promised 2 billion vaccine doses to help the world’s neediest in 2021. It won’t even deliver even half that.. “Covax, an expansive vaccine-sharing initiative to get coronavirus vaccine doses to low- and middle-income nations, once pledged to deliver more than 2 billion shots worldwide by the end of the year. But as the days tick down, it is scrambling to deliver well under half that figure.”


Route Fifty: With Too Few Nurses, It Won’t Take Much to Overwhelm Hospitals This Winter. “Even as a new COVID-19 variant starts to spread in the United States, staff shortages have made it impossible for many hospitals to operate at full capacity. That means they’re less prepared to manage an influx of patients this winter, whether those patients have complications from COVID-19 or other significant health problems.”

StarTribune: Unvaccinated patients are filling Minnesota’s intensive care units. “North [North Memorial Health Hospital] opened the doors Wednesday to South Seven to show how the unvaccinated are suffering the worst cases and contributing to a historic level of pressure on hospitals. Minnesota reported a 2021 record of 1,678 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Thursday, and that COVID and non-COVID patients combined to leave only 18 of 1,012 staffed adult ICU beds open.”

Associated Press: ‘We are full’: COVID-19 surge stretching Wisconsin hospitals to the limit. “According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association COVID-19 dashboard, there were 1,630 people in the state hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Tuesday afternoon. That’s an increase of 212 over the past week. More than 400 of those patients are in intensive care units, which are in short supply, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.”


Washington Post: The worker revolt comes to a Dollar General in Connecticut. “The afternoon shift workers at Dollar General No. 18060 had listened with growing panic as an executive accused their store manager of stealing. They could hear the yelling and threats in the back office, a scene that had shaken all of them — especially Shellie Parsons. In a life marked by poverty, addiction and physical abuse, Parsons, 37, had come to see her store — a beige prefabricated building on the outskirts of town — as her haven, a $15.75-an-hour pathway to a better life. She was desperately afraid of losing it.”


Business Insider: As the pandemic raged, at least 75 lawmakers bought and sold stock in companies that make COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and tests. “Dozens of Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill have invested in companies that have a direct stake in the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an Insider analysis of federal financial records.”

BuzzFeed News: The Trump Administration Violated Federal Law By Silencing Staffers During The COVID-19 Outbreak. “The Department of Health and Human Services broke the law last year when it told staff members not to speak with the media during the coronavirus pandemic, a federal watchdog found. In February, BuzzFeed News published internal agency emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showing that Michael Caputo, who had been tapped by President Donald Trump to control messaging around the pandemic, had harshly criticized a CDC spokesperson for speaking to CNN about COVID-19 response plans.”

Route Fifty: Amid Omicron Uncertainty, States Resist New Mandates. “…there is little appetite in either red or blue states for reimposing lockdowns or mask mandates. That reluctance reflects a recognition of the public’s exhaustion after 21 months, the wide availability of vaccines and an aversion to deepening the ferocious polarization that has been the hallmark of the public health emergency.”


Bloomberg: U.K. Omicron Spread May Be Faster Than in South Africa. “While a World Health Organization expert panel said it needs more data to give any recommendations regarding the omicron variant, the U.K.’s Health Security Agency has said it expects at least half of all Covid-19 cases to be caused by omicron in the next two to four weeks if the growth rate and doubling time of cases observed in the last two weeks are maintained. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tightened measures, including working from home and an expanded mask and Covid pass use.”

BBC: Covid: Brazil to demand proof of vaccination from foreign visitors. “A Supreme Court judge in Brazil has ruled that foreign visitors will need to provide a Covid-19 vaccination certificate to enter the country. The ruling invalidates regulations issued previously by the national health agency demanding only a negative PCR test for foreign arrivals.”

CBC: Vaccinated Ontario couple say they fought ‘stupid with stupid’ to get out of border quarantine order. “What began for Eric and Kerri Langer as a quick trip to check on their New York property turned into a week-long struggle to reverse an unexpected quarantine order, all because their ArriveCAN app didn’t load when they tried to cross the border on their return home.”

BBC: Covid: Omicron study suggests major wave in January. “The UK is facing a substantial wave of Omicron infections in January without further restrictions, scientists say. The number of deaths from the variant by the end of April could range from 25,000 to 75,000 depending on how well vaccines perform, they said. But the experts behind the study said there was still uncertainty around the modelling.”

Reuters: Norway to tighten restrictions as Omicron ‘changes the rules’, PM says. “Norway will further tighten restrictions in a bid to limit an expected surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told news agency NTB on Monday.”

New York Times: Vaccine Mandates Rekindle Fierce Debate Over Civil Liberties. “Tougher requirements in some European nations have inspired pushback from angry citizens as leaders grapple with how far to go in the name of public health.”


Kansas City Star: This health department stops ‘all COVID-19 related work’ after Missouri AG threat. “The local health department of a rural southern Missouri county is halting its COVID-19 response efforts after Attorney General Eric Schmitt wrote agencies this week demanding they drop mitigation measures…. It will no longer investigate COVID cases, contact-trace, issue directives for exposed residents to quarantine themselves or make public announcements of case numbers and deaths.”

CPR News: Interview: Gov. Polis leaves mask mandates to local officials, says the state shouldn’t ‘tell people what to wear’. “‘The emergency is over,’ according to Governor Jared Polis, who explained on Colorado Matters on Friday that vaccines have changed the COVID-19 landscape, rendering masks useful but not required in the state’s fight against the pandemic. Meanwhile, Colorado continues to see a rise in hospitalizations and deaths among unvaccinated patients. With the state’s healthcare system overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients and staffing shortages, public health officials are worried another surge of infections may overwhelm already overworked hospitals and medical staff. And the emergence of the omicron variant in the state has introduced more uncertainty into the fight against the pandemic.”


The City NYC: ‘Vax Daddy’ Gives Politics a Shot: Pandemic Hero Runs for Queens State Assembly Seat. “Huge Ma, the coder behind COVID vaccine appointment-finding website TurboVax, is taking his brand of civic tech activism to the campaign trail. But will his virtual folk hero status help the political novice oust a longtime incumbent?”

Daily Beast: The COVID Doc Saving Lives—in the E.R. and on Twitter. “After challenging shifts in a packed Colorado emergency room, Dr. Will McNitt goes on Twitter to combat the misinformation that is perpetuating a pandemic in which lies translate into deaths. Tweet by tweet, McNitt counters untruths with scientific fact, often adding links to peer-reviewed research papers.”


BBC: Cyril Ramaphosa: South Africa president being treated for Covid. “South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa is receiving treatment after testing positive for Covid-19, his office says. In a statement, it says the 69-year-old has mild symptoms and is isolating in Cape Town.”


Eurosport: World Cup Ski Jumping Events In Japan Cancelled Over Rising Omicron Coronavirus Cases In The Country. “There will be no World Cup Ski Jumping events in Japan this season, it has been confirmed. Rising omicron numbers in Japan – which has found cases in visitors from overseas – has prompted the country to reimpose a ban on foreign visitors. As such, the International Ski Federation confirmed three ski jumping events would not take place.”


WRAL: Holly Springs charter school goes online for the rest of the year after increase in coronavirus cases. Calendar year, not school year. “A charter school in Wake County announced Friday night it would be holding online classes for the rest of the year due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. All after school activities at Southern Wake Academy would also be postponed until January 2022.”

Washington Post: Georgetown Prep, elite private school, returns entirely to virtual teaching amid coronavirus outbreak. “The outbreak was the first of the academic year, according to school officials, who attributed the cases to a post-Thanksgiving surge combined with off-campus social events last weekend, as winter nears and students are spending more time indoors. No teachers tested positive, and almost half of the students infected with the virus are part of the school’s 120-student residential program, said Georgetown Prep spokeswoman Connie Shaffer Mitchell. There have been no signs of classroom spread, she said.”

Mississippi Today: There’s an exodus of Mississippi school leaders. Is the pandemic to blame?. “Superintendents, the chief administrative leaders of Mississippi’s 138 traditional public school districts, have in recent months been left to drive bus routes, serve food in school cafeterias, teach classes in place of teachers and substitutes, and conduct contact tracing missions to identify children who’ve been exposed to COVID-19. And in what have undoubtedly been their worst moments, they’ve lost school staff and students to the virus. Those in the education business say more superintendents are leaving before their contracts are up or are retiring early.”


The Middlebury Campus: BREAKING: College reports another 36 cases, moving to remote instruction for remainder of semester. “The college is moving classes online and transitioning to grab-and-go meals after 34 new cases were reported on campus, bringing the total number of active cases to 50, administrators said in an email to students this evening. Athletic competitions and other in-person events are canceled or postponed, administrators wrote. Informal indoor gatherings are restricted to six people. These new restrictions begin Friday at 5 a.m. and will remain in effect for the remainder of the semester.”

Kingston Whig Standard: Queen’s University to discontinue in-person exams amid COVID-19 outbreak. “Queen’s University has announced that in-person exams have been discontinued due to concerns of rising COVID-19 case numbers within the student community. In a news release issued Sunday night, the university announced that ‘all remaining in-person exams scheduled for the remainder of the examination period to Dec. 22 will be changed to an alternative delivery format wherever possible.'”


UMass Med News: Rapid tests play a crucial role in curbing COVID-19 infections – especially as people gather for the holidays. “Even though COVID-19 testing has become part of most people’s everyday conversation, many people still have questions about the difference between antigen and PCR tests, including when and how to use them. I’m a molecular biologist based at UMass Chan Medical School. Since April 2020, I’ve been part of a team working on a National Institutes of Health-funded program called RADx Tech to help companies develop rapid tests to detect when a person is infected with COVID-19.”

New York Times: Across the World, Covid Anxiety and Depression Take Hold. “Uncertainty bedevils plans. Panic spreads in an instant even if, as with the Omicron variant, the extent of the threat is not yet known. Vaccines look like deliverance until they seem a little less than that. National responses diverge with no discernible logic. Anxiety and depression spread. So do loneliness and screen fatigue. The feeling grows that the Covid era will go on for years, like plagues of old.”

HuffPost: The Most Common Mild COVID Symptoms Experts Are Seeing Right Now. “Mild cases have existed since the outset, and they’re definitely around now ― especially thanks to vaccines and boosters that help prevent severe illness. The unvaccinated are nine times more likely than the fully vaccinated to be hospitalized with severe COVID, according to current estimates. What does a mild infection look like now compared to earlier versions of the virus? Wondering what symptoms you should be on the lookout for, even if you’re fully vaccinated? Here’s what you need to know now.”


Route Fifty: Got Zoom Fatigue? Out-of-Sync Brainwaves Could Be A Reason Videoconferencing Is Such a Drag. “Our experiments demonstrated that the natural rhythm of turn transitions between speakers is disrupted by Zoom. This disruption is consistent with what would happen if the neural ensemble that researchers believe normally synchronizes with speech fell out of sync due to electronic transmission delays.”

CNET: COVID-19 pushed a lot of entertainers to VR. Now VR events are infiltrating the real world. “COVID-19 continues to disrupt the entertainment industry, forcing local performers to find alternatives to their standard venues. While many flocked to Zoom, others found VR apps offered a better way to engage with a live audience. And with many cities across the US supporting a return to live events, performers are looking for ways to incorporate these virtual audiences into the real world performances.”

BBC: How hologram tech may soon replace video calls. “Mr Grainger-Herr, the chief executive of luxury brand IWC, had been due to travel to the Watches and Wonders event in Shanghai back in April. When that became impossible, instead, he decided to joined the show as a life-size, 3D hologram. Appearing in 4K resolution, he was able to talk to, and see and hear the people who were physically attending the event.”


PsyPost: Gratitude and kindness interventions might help to increase positive emotions during the pandemic. “According to the positive activity model of happiness, expressing gratitude or practicing kindness promotes well-being because it helps to satisfy basic psychological needs such as autonomy, connectedness, and competence. Researchers were interested in whether this model could be used in a 3-week online intervention to increase well-being in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.”

PsyPost: Face masks impair people’s ability to accurately classify emotional expressions. “The researchers also found evidence that masks buffered the negative effects of expressing negative emotions. Negative emotional expressions such as anger were associated with lower ratings of trustworthiness, likability, and closeness. But masks weakened the effect of negative emotional expressions on these social judgments. In other words, angry masked faces tended to be rated as more trustworthy, likable, and close compared to unmasked angry faces.”


Poynter: Americans say too many people are claiming religious conflicts with vaccines. “59% of respondents said too many people are claiming religious exemptions from vaccine mandates and 45% said nobody should be able to make such a claim. But the survey says the majority of Americans do see a place for people who are serious about claiming a religious conflict with immunizations, especially if they have a track record for making such claims about other vaccinations.”


New York Times: I Got Caught in a Pandemic Panic 2 Years Into Covid. It Felt Like Day 1.. “My firsthand journey through Covid response measures has shown me that, two years into this, we have yet to learn how to anticipate how both viruses and people will behave, or how to plan accordingly. We are going to need to get much better at both if we are to get through the next pandemic with less loss of life, and less suffering.”

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