Wednesday CoronaBuzz, December 15, 2021: 64 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.


BusinessWire: New Website to Provide Vaccine Information in Spanish for Hispanic/Latinx (PRESS RELEASE). “Today, the California Chronic Care Coalition (CCCC), the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC), Looms4lupus and other partner organizations launched in Spanish. The site provides important and easy-to-understand information about vaccines against COVID-19, which is not always readily available for Spanish-speaking communities. ”


Politico: Covid’s deadly trade-offs, by the numbers: How each state has fared in the pandemic. “POLITICO’s State Pandemic Scorecard pulls together what we know so far about how states fared during the pandemic, and how the choices each made impacted its residents, businesses and schools. The scorecard groups available data for policy outcomes into four categories — health, economy, social well-being and education — and generates scores in each area between zero and 100.”


WJHL: Breakthrough COVID cases a rising percent of TN total – health officials say death numbers among vaccinated still very low. “A new data tool on the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) website reveals vaccinated people account for almost one in four new COVID cases statewide since Nov. 1. Another TDH report shows that figure was about one in six for a period from May through September, when vaccine effectiveness had had less time to wane.”


CBS News: Nearly 800,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. An estimated 163,000 could have been saved by vaccines.. “As the U.S. marks one year since the first shots of COVID-19 vaccine were rolled out last December, some 28% of adults still remain unvaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, as the country is nearing 800,000 confirmed deaths from the disease, an analysis by the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates 163,000 deaths could have been prevented by vaccination since vaccines became widely available in June.”

Ars Technica: Omicron is rising rapidly in the US—3% of cases nationally, 13% in NY and NJ. “Only two weeks have passed since health officials detected the first omicron case in the US, and the variant is already accounting for 3 percent of cases overall in the country—which is still swept up in a powerful wave of the delta variant. In New York and New Jersey, omicron accounts for 13 percent of cases, according to Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”


Poynter: Fact-checking Glenn Beck’s claim that the US government ‘co-owns’ the COVID-19 vaccine. “Is it true that the government ‘owns the vaccine,’ as Beck said? In short, no. But, as The New York Times reported Nov. 9, there is a long-brewing disagreement between Moderna and the National Institutes of Health over who developed a crucial part of the COVID-19 vaccine known as the mRNA sequence — and that could have implications for ownership of important patents related to the vaccine.”

Poynter: Fauci did not say he wants Americans to get 4 COVID-19 vaccine doses each year. “Amid conversations and speculation about how many COVID-19 vaccine shots may ultimately be necessary to ward off the virus and its variants, some people are sharing a headline about Dr. Anthony Fauci that originated on a website that posts misinformation.”

Associated Press: How a Kennedy built an anti-vaccine juggernaut amid COVID-19. “While many nonprofits and businesses have struggled during the pandemic, [Robert F. Kennedy Jr]’s anti-vaccine group has thrived. An investigation by The Associated Press finds that Children’s Health Defense has raked in funding and followers as Kennedy used his star power as a member of one of America’s most famous families to open doors, raise money and lend his group credibility. Filings with charity regulators show revenue more than doubled in 2020, to $6.8 million.”


USA Today: Man whose wife won a lawsuit to treat his COVID-19 with ivermectin has died. “Keith Smith, whose wife had gone to court to have his COVID-19 infection treated with ivermectin, died Sunday evening, a week after he received his first dose of the controversial drug. He was 52. Smith was in a hospital in Pennsylvania for nearly three weeks and had been in the hospital’s intensive care unit in a medically induced coma on a ventilator since Nov. 21. He had been diagnosed with the virus on Nov. 10. ”


Washington Post: 15 sobering stats that tell the tale of the coronavirus in the U.S.. “The United States has hit another ugly milestone in the fight against the coronavirus, with 1 in 100 people ages 65 years or older having died of it, the New York Times reports. It’s merely the latest in a string of data points that put the toll of the pandemic in stark relief — even as much of the political debate over the virus seems to be moving past it, despite a steady toll of more than 1,000 deaths per day.”

Los Angeles Times: Young Latinos are dying of COVID at an alarming rate — the effects could be felt for generations. “In California, younger Latinos are dying of COVID-19 at much higher rates than their white and Asian counterparts. Younger Black people also are dying at high rates, but the disparity is starkest for Latinos. As more people get vaccinated, pandemic restrictions lift and the economy rebounds, the families of the young Latinos who died will feel the loss for decades to come — not just the grief but the long-term financial hardships.”


Boston Globe: Rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Mass. is driven by those who are unvaccinated, Baker says. “COVID-19 hospitalizations have been rising in Massachusetts since about mid-November. State data show that from September until mid-November, the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital hovered around the 500 to 600 range. That number has been steadily rising since about Nov. 12, when the number of COVID-19 patients in Massachusetts hospitals stood at 539. According to data released Friday, 1,238 people were in Massachusetts hospitals for COVID-19.”

New York Daily News: COVID hospitalizations in NY up 70% since Thanksgiving, Hochul says. “The count of COVID hospitalizations in New York has climbed by 70% since Thanksgiving, Gov. Hochul said Tuesday, as a cold-weather virus wave crushes the western and northern reaches of the state.”

Miami Herald: Miami Herald wins two Suncoast Emmy Awards for ‘Inside the COVID Unit’. “The Miami Herald and McClatchy, its parent company, won two Suncoast Regional Emmy Awards over the weekend for ‘Inside the COVID Unit’ — a five-part documentary series that tells the stories of front-line workers, their patients and their families inside one small community hospital in Miami-Dade County as they battled COVID-19 last year.”


NBC News: Health care workers in Minnesota are ‘overwhelmed,’ ‘heartbroken,’ executives say. “Health care executives in Minnesota pleaded with unvaccinated people Sunday to stop the spread of Covid-19, saying that nearly two years into the pandemic, doctors, nurses and others across the state are ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘heartbroken.’ In an open letter published in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and the Pioneer Press of St. Paul, the executives of nine large health care providers said their emergency rooms are over capacity and their hospital beds are filled.”

Axios: Biden official warns: COVID explosion imminent. “The Delta variant is already driving yet another surge of cases and hospitalizations in the U.S. Omicron seems poised to make this significantly worse, given its high transmissibility and its ability to evade immune protection.”

WMAR: ‘Our hospitals are filling up’: Maryland sees surge in hospitalizations due to COVID-19. “Maryland is seeing a surge in hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and it’s concerning health officials across the state. The number of people in Maryland hospitals has increased for three weeks straight with the state reporting nearly 1,200 as of Tuesday.”

News 5 Cleveland: Cleveland Clinic nearing capacity due to surge of unvaccinated patients. “The Cleveland Clinic announced Tuesday that it is nearing hospital bed capacity due to the sheer number of unvaccinated individuals contracting COVID-19. There are 786 COVID-positive Cleveland Clinic patients who have been hospitalized and 218 patients with COVID in the ICU, the hospital said. It’s the highest number of patients hospitalized since the start of the pandemic.”

New Hampshire Bulletin: Inside ICUs and ERs of flooded hospitals, an endless loop of preventable tragedies . “A young, unvaccinated mom of three was more fortunate than some after being admitted to Catholic Medical Center’s intensive care unit recently. Before she died, she had time to call home and request that her children be vaccinated. An unvaccinated male patient in his early 50s didn’t have that option.”


University of Washington: Nonprofits show resilience and initiative during second year of pandemic. “More than a year into the pandemic, Washington nonprofits have shown resiliency in serving their communities and staying afloat, a study from the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Washington shows. The new study explores not only how the pandemic economy impacted donations to, and the operations of, charitable organizations, but also how nonprofits responded to the simultaneous call for racial justice.”

Human Rights Watch: Experts Identify 100 Plus Firms to Make Covid-19 mRNA Vaccines. ” The new Covid-19 variant underscores the dangers of severely unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines and the concentration of production in the US and Europe, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch and other groups wrote to the US and German governments urging them to act on a new list published today by experts identifying more than 100 companies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America with the potential to produce mRNA vaccines.”


New York Times: The ‘Double Whammy’ That Is Slowing New York City’s Job Growth. “The city has regained fewer than 6 of every 10 jobs it lost since the pandemic began, while the nation as a whole has regained more than 90 percent of lost jobs.”

CNBC: Kroger to take away paid Covid benefits, add insurance surcharges for unvaccinated employees. “Kroger said Tuesday that it will take away paid leave for unvaccinated employees who get Covid-19 and require some of them to pay a monthly health insurance surcharge starting next year.”

Bloomberg: Will the Stars Ever Make Money in This Town Again?. “Over nearly two years, as Covid-19 has kept people away from movie theaters and in front of their TVs, the economics of Hollywood have been transformed. Digital streaming apps have displaced the box office, and that in turn is changing how everyone in the business gets paid — even stars in the wealthiest reaches of show business.”

Bloomberg: Google Will Dock Pay, Fire Staff Who Balk at Vaccines, CNBC Says. “Google has threatened to reduce pay or even fire staff who fail to comply with internal policies on Covid 19 vaccinations, CNBC reported, citing internal documents. The Alphabet Inc. unit warned employees they had till Dec. 3 to declare and prove their vaccination status, or apply for exemptions.”

CNN: Apple reinstates mask mandate at all its US stores over concerns about rising Covid-19 cases. “Apple will once again require anyone inside its US retail stores to wear a mask as concerns mount over rising Covid-19 cases and the spread of the Omicron variant.”


Washington Post: Omicron spreading rapidly in U.S., could bring punishing wave as soon as January, CDC warns. “Top federal health officials warned in a briefing Tuesday morning that the omicron variant is rapidly spreading in the United States and could peak in a massive wave of infections as soon as January, according to new modeling from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The prevalence of omicron jumped sevenfold in a single week, CDC modeling shows, and at such a pace, the highly mutated variant of the coronavirus could ratchet up pressure on a health system already strained in many places as the delta variant continues its own late-autumn surge.”

CNN: Italy and 2 other nations now at ‘very high’ travel risk for Covid-19, CDC warns. ” The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added three nations to its highest-risk category for travel on Monday, including tourist favorite Italy. In its weekly update of Covid-19 travel advisories, the CDC also added giant, frigid Greenland and the tiny, tropical East African island nation of Mauritius to its ‘Level 4: Covid-19 Very High’ category.”

Associated Press: Air Force discharges 27 for refusal to get COVID vaccine. “The Air Force has discharged 27 people for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making them what officials believe are the first service members to be removed for disobeying the mandate to get the shots.”

Roll Call: Senate allows small public tours to resume in the Capitol. “The Senate sergeant-at-arms has relaxed its pandemic policy on public tours in the Capitol, saying some guests can once again visit the building. The new guidance allows small staff-led tours in a limited area on the Senate side. Two tours of up to six guests each will be open to visitors every half-hour between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to a memo circulated to Senate offices and obtained by CQ Roll Call.”

Reuters: Biden: U.S. has ordered enough Pfizer anti-viral pills to treat 10 million Americans. “U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he is encouraged by data released by Pfizer Inc on its COVID-19 anti-viral medicine and his administration has ordered enough of the pills to treat 10 million Americans.”

CNN: Blinken cuts overseas trip short due to reporter testing positive for Covid-19. “Secretary of State Antony Blinken is cutting his overseas trip to Southeast Asia short after a member of the press traveling with the top US diplomat tested positive for Covid-19 Wednesday, according to the US State Department. Blinken will no longer have scheduled meetings and events in Thailand, which were supposed to begin on Thursday morning, and instead will make his way back to the United States.”

NBC News: Current Covid boosters are enough to fight the omicron variant, Fauci says. “Booster shots of the Covid-19 vaccines already in use are enough to combat the fast-spreading omicron variant, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said Wednesday during a media briefing. That is, it is unlikely the shots will need to be reformulated to target omicron specifically.”


Spanish News Today: Spain will not impose restrictions before the New Year. “In just two weeks, the number of coronavirus cases has increased by 70%, with regions such as the Basque Country, Navarra and Aragon now in a critical situation. Nevertheless, the health experts believe that the closure of schools for the Christmas holidays and the start of the vaccination campaign for children aged between 5 and 11 should limit the circulation of the virus in the coming weeks.”

BBC: Covid: PM faces big rebellion as MPs vote on new restrictions. “Boris Johnson is facing his biggest backbench rebellion since the 2019 general election when MPs vote on new Covid rules for England later. Around 70 Conservatives are expected to vote against plans to introduce mandatory Covid passes to enter large venues such as nightclubs. The PM calls them a sensible response to rising Omicron cases – but the plan has sparked civil liberties concerns.”

The Guardian: Denmark and Norway rush in stricter Covid measures as cases soar. “Denmark and Norway have announced stricter Covid measures to battle soaring infection numbers, as authorities said the new Omicron variant was spreading fast and would probably become dominant in several EU countries within weeks or even days.”

BBC: Covid pass starts in England despite biggest rebellion of Johnson era. “Adults in England must now show a Covid pass to enter nightclubs, big sports matches and other large events – despite nearly 100 Conservative MPs voting against the government’s plans. The new rules – which kick in today – require proof of double-vaccination, or a recent negative test, to enter certain venues.”

The Guardian: Do Covid vaccine mandates work?. “In Australia, where employment-related mandates on the coronavirus vaccine were introduced months ago, the stories of two women demonstrate how such measures can work – and how they can backfire. Nicola Davis reports on the considerations governments must make when introducing vaccine mandates.” This is a podcast. There’s a summary but I don’t see any links to a transcript.

Punch Nigeria: COVID-19 guidelines: Lagos govt begins prosecution of defaulters. “The Lagos State government has commenced prosecution of inbound international passengers who fail to submit themselves for Day Two and Day Seven PCR tests as mandated by the Federal COVID-19 protocols and guidelines. This is as the state government expressed concern over the dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases seen in the evolving fourth wave.”

BBC: Covid: UK reports highest daily cases since the pandemic began. “The UK has reported the record number of daily Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with 78,610 new cases on Wednesday. The previous highest number of daily cases recorded was 68,053 on 8 January.”


My NBC5: Vt. Dept. of Health urges people to upload at-home COVID-19 test results to database. “The Dept. of Health said uploading results alows it to connect people who may test positive for COVID-19 with the resources they may need and answer questions they may have. It also helps the health dept. have a more accurate representation of active COVID-19 cases in the community. So far, Vermont’s health commissioner, Dr. Mark Levine, said a couple hundred people have used the features.”

San Francisco Chronicle: California to reimpose statewide indoor mask mandate as omicron arrives. “California will reimpose indoor mask mandates in public settings for all residents, regardless of vaccination status, starting Wednesday through Jan. 15, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Monday. The news comes shortly after the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus arrived in the state, with 24 cases reported statewide as of Monday.”

CNBC: Supreme Court rejects bid to block Covid vaccine mandate for NY health workers. “The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied an emergency bid to block enforcement of New York’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers. The legal challenge was filed by a group of 20 doctors and nurses who argued that the state’s vaccine mandate violates the First Amendment to the Constitution because it fails to include a religious exemption.”

WUFT: UF trustee chairman was back-channel to DeSantis office over pandemic decision. “The chairman of the University of Florida board of trustees served as a liaison with the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis when administrators were considering temporarily moving some college classes online due to the pandemic, according to text messages.”


Colorado Sun: Weld County’s health department is no longer allowed to post about COVID on social media. “Weld County’s commissioners will no longer publish information about COVID-19 on social media following pushback on posts made to encourage residents to get vaccinated against the disease. Three members of the public approached the board on Nov. 24, reprimanding the commissioners for posts on the Weld County Government Facebook page – a page also used by the Weld County health department – regarding vaccines.”

Route Fifty: A Pandemic Silver Lining: Public Meetings Have Become More Public. “Covid-19 forced governments to have all virtual gatherings. There are disadvantages, government leaders say, but a hybrid meeting model may be here to stay.”


BBC: Premier League reports 42 positive Covid-19 results in past week. “Forty-two Premier League players and staff tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week – the most recorded in the league over a seven-day period. It is the highest number since 40 cases were reported in January.”

BBC: Chicago Bulls: Covid-19 outbreak sees NBA postpone games while NHL also affected. “Two Chicago Bulls fixtures have been postponed over a Covid-19 outbreak, the first games called off in the NBA because of the virus this season. Games against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday and the Toronto Raptors on Thursday are off, the NBA said. The NBA postponed 31 games because of Covid-19 last season.”


Fresno State News: Music Educators Use Innovative Techniques During The Pandemic. “When the pandemic hit and schools and universities across the country switched to online learning, music educators scrambled to find new and alternative ways to teach their students. No longer able to gather in a room to collaborate, music educators needed to find innovative ways to teach their students.”


CNN: Cornell University shuts down Ithaca campus after surge of nearly 500 Covid-19 cases detected. “Cornell University is shutting down its Ithaca, New York, campus and moving to ‘alert level red’ after what the school described as a “rapid spread” of Covid-19 among students. There were 469 active student cases as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Cornell’s online Covid dashboard, and an overall positivity rate of 3.01% for the week of December 6, among the students tested.”

WTOP: Georgetown U. makes COVID-19 booster shots mandatory. “Georgetown University announced Tuesday that COVID-19 booster shots will be mandatory for all of its students, faculty, visitors and staff (including those who telework) effective Jan. 21. The announcement a day after the school confirmed that one of D.C.’s recently reported cases of the omicron variant is a member of the campus community.”


HuffPost: This Is Your Body On Pandemic ‘Whiplash’. “The relief that came with the rollout of vaccines was followed by news of a more transmissible variant — delta — gaining steam around the world. And just as the delta surge started to settle, scientists identified a new strain called omicron, raising anxiety again. All that back-and-forth has taken a toll on our physical and mental health. Some people have begun to feel numb to the highs and lows, while others have become hypervigilant to every new revelation. Here’s how this kind of whiplash affects our health, and how to cope with it.”

Washington Post: With nearly 800,000 U.S. covid deaths, what’s keeping people from getting vaccinated? Their own social circles.. “Existing research describes how people make health decisions and discuss political issues among their closest associates. Our research looked specifically at covid-19 vaccinations: Do the vaccination status and attitudes in an individual’s core social network — the group of friends, family and associates with whom they frequently have discussions — inhibit or motivate vaccination? Here’s what we discovered: Yes, individuals tend to operate within networks that are polarized by vaccination status.”

University of Michigan: As a season of joy arrives, pandemic stress weighs heaviest on least-healthy older adults. “As major holidays and the promise of a new year approach, a new poll of people over 50 shows that most of them are finding joy and staying resilient amid the pandemic. But a sizable minority are feeling a lot of stress—including about their risk of getting COVID-19. Women and those in their 50s and early 60s were more likely to report feeling a lot of stress. Those stress levels were highest—and joy levels lowest—among those who said their overall physical or mental health is fair or poor and those with the lowest incomes.”

USA Today: Omicron is spreading ‘every place at once,’ experts say. What it could mean for holiday plans.. “The omicron variant of COVID-19 is moving faster than surveillance systems can track it and has so unnerved some medical experts they’re starting to put the brakes on preparations for their holiday gatherings.”


New York Times: A South Korean city will test facial recognition as a way to track the virus.. “Officials hope the system can help reveal the movements of people who test positive and their interactions with others, making contact tracing easier.”

The Register: Will I inhale coronavirus at this restaurant? There’s an app for that. “The Ventilation View app relies on the presence of a CO2 sensor that Chiyoda Ward is giving away to businesses. Once that sensor is installed, and transmitting data, the venue – be it a restaurant and or some other place – will appear on a map, complete with an air quality rating. A rating of 1,000 parts per million or lower of carbon dioxide indicates there’s adequate ventilation to avoid coming down with coronavirus.”


KGO: New COVID-19 nasal spray therapy aims to ‘reduce viral load in the lungs by 100-fold’. “A new type of COVID-19 therapy is showing promise as a new tool to hijack the virus and slow down variants. It’s a new weapon that could be added to the arsenal against COVID-19. Unlike many others, this therapy is proving its efficacy with one dose.”

Washington Post: Omicron variant more resistant to vaccine but causes less severe covid, major South African study concludes. “Omicron appears to cause less severe illness than earlier variants of the coronavirus but is more resistant to the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine widely used in South Africa, according to the first major private study since omicron was first detected last month. The study by Discovery Health, South Africa’s largest health insurer, of 211,000 positive coronavirus cases, of which 78,000 were attributed to omicron, showed that risk of hospital admissions among adults who contracted covid-19 was 29 percent lower than in the initial pandemic wave that emerged in March 2020.”

New York Times: Pfizer says its Covid pill will protect against severe disease, even from Omicron.. “A highly anticipated study of Pfizer’s Covid pill confirmed that it helps stave off severe disease, the company announced on Tuesday. Pfizer also said its antiviral pill worked in laboratory studies against the Omicron variant, which is surging in South Africa and Europe and is expected to dominate U.S. cases in the weeks ahead.”

Reuters: Higher risk of heart complications from COVID-19 than vaccines – study. “COVID-19 infections are more likely to trigger rare cardiovascular complications such as heart inflammation and irregular heartbeat than vaccines, a British study showed on Tuesday, after scientists parsed data of about 38 million vaccinated people.”

University of Arkansas: New Book Explores How Pandemic May Stoke Online Engagement, Connection. “In Competence, Presence, Trust, and Hyperpersonal-ness, recently published by Lexington Books, journalism assistant professor Brandon Bouchillon reminds readers that U.S. citizens began withdrawing from one another decades before COVID-19. This was a result of increasing racial and ethnic diversity, along with a diminished understanding of how to interact. However, Bouchillon explains the pandemic might also be connecting people, by forcing them to rely on technology more heavily and allowing them to become socially proficient in ways that transcend digital and physical environments.”

Bloomberg: Sinovac provides inadequate shield against Omicron in Hong Kong study. “The vaccine made by Sinovac Biotech Ltd., one of the most widely used in the world, doesn’t provide sufficient antibodies in two doses to neutralise the omicron variant and boosters will likely be needed to improve protection, initial lab findings showed.”


BBC: German raids on Covid extremists over Saxony leader death plot. “Police in Germany’s eastern state of Saxony have launched a series of raids after death threats were made against Premier Michael Kretschmer for backing coronavirus measures. Far-right anti-vaccination activists are suspected of plotting violence with crossbows or other ‘piercing weapons’.”

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