Thursday CoronaBuzz, December 23, 2021: 41 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.


CNET: Google now gives free COVID test and vaccine details at a glance. Here’s what to do. “Google added new COVID-19 features to its search tool on Wednesday for mobile users. The features can help you quickly find free testing locations and places to get vaccines for kids (and adults). You can also select specific vaccine brands: Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.”

Inside Medicine: Breaking News: 62 US counties likely at or over 100% hospital capacity. “Circuit breakers” may be needed in those areas.. “The result is a county-level and state-level map that indicates exactly which areas have already exceeded hospital capacity, and identifies ones that are poised overflow if they remain above the thresholds that we calculate for the next 5-10 days. In other words, for every county and state, we can tell officials how many new coronavirus cases can be ‘tolerated’ without being at high risk of hospitals overflowing 1-10 days later.”


Associated Press: To grandmother’s house or no? Omicron disrupts holiday plans. “For the second year in a row, the ever-morphing virus presents would-be revelers with a difficult choice: cancel holiday gatherings and trips or figure out ways to forge ahead as safely as possible. Many health experts are begging people not to let down their guard.”


Vice: People Got Sick at a Conspiracy Conference. They’re Sure It’s Anthrax.. “A group of unvaccinated people who attended a huge conspiracy conference in Dallas earlier this month all became sick in the days after the event with symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, and fever. Instead of blaming the global COVID pandemic, however, the conspiracy theorists think they were attacked with anthrax.”

Valley News: Valley Regional Hospital targeted over man’s COVID treatment. “Valley Regional Hospital this week boosted security after it received threatening telephone calls regarding a patient under its care, the Claremont hospital said in a news release Thursday. The announcement came after Valley Regional became the target of a social media campaign when the family of a patient being treated there for COVID-19 called upon the hospital to respond to their demands for alternative treatment.”


The Mainichi: Friction between humans, crows declines amid pandemic in Japan. “The relationship between crows and humans in Japan’s cities has long been a contentious one. For one, it is not uncommon to see the contents of garbage bags strewn across sidewalks on pickup days after the big black birds have had at them, looking for food. But crow-human friction has decreased during the coronavirus pandemic, possibly because people are paying less attention to the birds, one expert says.”


Washington Post: In highly vaccinated New England, hospitals are under unprecedented strain as coronavirus surges. “Interviews with 10 hospital leaders across the region revealed a grave picture. Executives at smaller and midsized hospitals said that it has become exceedingly difficult to secure care at higher-level facilities in the region and they worry that delays in transferring patients could have life-threatening consequences. Several said they were discussing whether they might need to implement standards for rationing care.”


Anglican Ink: Covid concerns prompt National Cathedral to cancel Christmas Day services — Christmas Eve services unchanged. “Like you, we are watching the spread of COVID-19 and the omicron variant with equal measures of fatigue and wariness. I imagine that you, too, are asking what this variant means for upcoming Christmas gatherings and what steps each of us can take to protect our friends and families. The health and safety of our extended Cathedral community is our highest priority. In these anxious times, nothing else is more important. However, nearly two years into this pandemic, we have the tools, practices and valuable experience that allow us to gather safely and responsibly.”

The Street: Cancel(ing) Culture Is Back as Covid Omicron Surges. “Despite the Covid vaccines, everything from in-person classes for students to Broadway musicals to sporting events to New Year’s Eve celebrations and global conferences are being scaled back or canceled this holiday season.”


Business Insider: An Amazon worker says the company has shortened employee breaks because the pandemic is ‘supposedly’ over even though new cases continue to pop up. “Amazon warehouse employees at two facilities in the Chicago area have walked off their jobs just days ahead of last-minute Christmas deliveries. The workers were demanding higher wages and longer break times, according to a video from Amazonians United Chicagoland — a group representing local Amazon workers — posted to Facebook.”

Reuters: Employer must face worker’s lawsuit over husband’s Covid death — California court. “A California candymaker must face a lawsuit by an employee who says she caught Covid-19 at work and gave it to her husband, resulting in his death, a state appeals court held on Tuesday, upholding what appeared to be the first ruling allowing a worker’s lawsuit against an employer over a family member’s Covid death.”


Air Force Magazine: As Uniform Shortage Looms, Some BMT Grads Go With Fewer Service Dress Items. “Supply chain shortages are affecting availability of the Air Force’s service dress uniforms, leading the department to announce Dec. 21 that it has started temporarily issuing fewer uniform items to certain graduates of basic military training.”

Washington Post: Supreme Court sets special hearing for Biden’s vaccine rules for health-care workers, private businesses. “The Supreme Court on Wednesday night announced it will hold a special hearing next month to consider challenges to the Biden administration’s pandemic efforts affecting millions of workers, a nationwide vaccine-or-testing requirement for large employers and a separate coronavirus vaccine mandate for health-care workers.”

Reuters: Large holiday gatherings in U.S. not safe even if boosted, Fauci says. “Americans vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 can be with family over the holidays but attending large gatherings is not safe, even for those who received a booster dose, top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday. ”

New York Times: Biden Promised 500 Million Tests, but Americans Will Have to Wait. “President Biden promised Americans he is making 500 million coronavirus tests available free of charge, but help is at least weeks away — if not longer — for anxious Americans facing a surge of new virus cases.”

New York Times: Beneath a Covid Vaccine Debacle, 30 Years of Government Culpability. “Washington has rejected plans to revamp vaccine preparedness for decades and repeatedly paid a price. The Biden administration is at a similar crossroads.”

ABC News: Private jet firms are soaring in popularity after big COVID-19 bailouts. Were they a ‘handout to the wealthy’?. “Lingering health concerns about commercial air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic have fueled a boom in private jet travel, a trend that has led to fresh scrutiny of the industry’s taxpayer bailout — which some critics are calling a ‘handout to the wealthy.'”

Politico: Biden Justice Department reverses on returning federal convicts on home detention to prison. “Under intense pressure from criminal justice reform advocates, the Justice Department has reversed a Trump-era legal opinion that could have required several thousand federal convicts to return to prison from home confinement if the Biden administration declares an end to the pandemic-related national emergency.”

CNN: Outgoing NIH director says Trump and other Republicans pressured him to endorse unproven Covid-19 remedies and to fire Fauci. “Dr. Francis Collins, whose last day as NIH director is Sunday, told CBS News that he got a ‘talking to’ by Trump, but that he held his ground and would have resigned if Trump made him endorse remedies for Covid-19 that were not based in science.”

Washington Post: FDA authorizes Merck’s anti-coronavirus pill, a second treatment option. “Federal regulators authorized a second pill to treat covid-19 Thursday, adding another at-home treatment option to help keep high-risk people out of the hospital. Doctors have clamored for easy-to-use medications throughout the pandemic, but the new drug, molnupiravir, has had an uneasy reception because of its modest efficacy and potential safety risks. Some experts say another tool will be helpful as the omicron variant, which is resistant to other key treatments, surges. But others say they would be hesitant to use the drug.”


Reuters: France reports near-record 84,272 new coronavirus cases. “France on Wednesday reported 84,272 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, coming close to its all-time high of almost 87,000 cases in November 2020.”

The Guardian: Covid self-isolation cut to seven days with negative test in England. “From Wednesday, new guidance will enable the 10-day self-isolation period for vaccinated and unvaccinated people in England who have tested positive for coronavirus to be reduced by three days if they get the all-clear from lateral flow tests.”

Reuters: China’s Xian Locks Down Its 13 Million Residents as COVID-19 Cases Rise. ” Rising COVID-19 infections in China’s city of Xian have spurred a lockdown of its 13 million residents, with stretches of highway eerily bare on Thursday, as many people queued in the cold to get their noses swabbed at testing sites.”


State of New York: Governor Hochul Signs Legislation to Improve State Response to COVID-19 Pandemic. “Governor Kathy Hochul today signed a package of legislation that will improve New York’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This legislative package will take a major step forward in the State’s efforts to increase vaccination rates and study the effects this pandemic has had on our economy and health care system.”

Local 10: Florida pulls pro-vaccination television ads, replacing with spots that don’t mention vaccines. “State sponsored commercials promoting COVID-19 vaccinations have been pulled from Florida’s airwaves. The new ads that replaced them make no mention of the vaccine. Spots are produced by the Florida Department of Health, which then disseminates them to stations around the state. Direction for the new ads come straight from the top, Governor Ron DeSantis, and the change has been noticeable.”


CNBC: An ER doctor wants to use ‘circuit breakers’ to slow the spread of Covid. Here’s how that would work. “Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, told Jim Cramer on “Mad Money” that local governments should use real-time data to identify ‘circuit breakers’ that trigger targeted restrictions and keep hospitals from being overrun.”

CNN: North Carolina police chief placed on unpaid leave for telling officers about ‘clinic’ to obtain Covid-19 vaccination cards without getting the shots. “A North Carolina police chief has been placed on unpaid leave and probation for telling officers about a ‘clinic’ that would issue them a Covid-19 vaccination card without actually receiving the shot, local officials said.”


Washington Post: How one health reporter cut through the noise on omicron. “I talked this week with [Dan] Diamond, who joined The Washington Post early this year from Politico, about his experience covering covid from the very beginning. I was intrigued after reading a Facebook post of his that went viral, a simple yet fact-packed message summarizing the knowledge and perspective that he’s been sharing with friends and family. (It has since been turned into a story that The Post published online Tuesday.) He wrote it partly to counter some misperceptions he kept seeing repeated on social media.” (The post from Dan Diamond is here: . It’s non-paywalled.)


Mediaite: Trump Pushes Back on Candace Owens Undermining Vaccine: ‘People Aren’t Dying When They Take the Vaccine’. “[Donald] Trump joined the Daily Wire host for a wide-ranging interview, which was released on Wednesday, in which the two pushed various conspiracy theories surrounding the riot in the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. But the issue of vaccines came up and the former president continued to tout the efficacy of the vaccines in a manner that will likely encourage some of the vaccine-hesitant and eventually save lives.”


CBS Philly: Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni Tests Positive For COVID-19. “Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has entered COVID-19 protocols after testing positive for the virus Wednesday, the team said. Sirianni, who was feeling symptomatic, will continue to conduct his responsibilities remotely and remains hopeful to return by Sunday when the Eagles play the New York Giants.”


USA Today: Uncounted: Inaccurate death certificates across the country hide the true toll of COVID-19. “Nationwide, nearly 1 million more Americans have died in 2020 and 2021 than in normal, pre-pandemic years, but about 800,000 deaths have been officially attributed to COVID-19, according to the CDC data. A majority of those additional 195,000 deaths are unidentified COVID-19 cases, public health experts have long suggested, pointing to the unusual increase in deaths from natural causes. An investigation by Documenting COVID-19, the USA TODAY Network and experts reveals why so many deaths have gone uncounted: After overwhelming the nation’s health care system, the coronavirus evaded its antiquated, decentralized system of investigating and recording deaths.”


Recode: Omicron is outpacing delta on social media, too. “People talked about omicron six times as much as delta on major social media platforms in the weeks after each of the strains emerged.”


Oxford Mail: University of Oxford blueprint for millions of vaccine doses. “UNIVERSITY of Oxford researchers have published a blueprint for making millions of doses of a new vaccine within 100 days. The university’s vaccine manufacturing research team says the new methods could enable clinical trials within 60 days of identification of a new virus.”

New York Times: Omicron Infections Seem to Be Milder, Three Research Teams Report. “While the new research is heartening, experts warn that the surge coming to many countries still may flood hospitals with Omicron cases, simply because the variant spreads so much more easily than previous versions of the coronavirus.”

Washington Post: Remdesivir can help keep unvaccinated, high-risk people with covid-19 out of hospitals, study finds. “The antiviral drug remdesivir can help keep unvaccinated people at risk of severe covid-19 out of hospitals, according to a study that found the treatment reduced hospitalization and death by 87 percent when given soon after diagnosis.”

The Scotsman: Study has revealed why children are more protected from severe Covid than adults. “The innate immune response of children is better at fighting coronavirus, which might help explain why they are less likely than adults to become seriously ill from the disease, new research suggests.”


Miami Herald: Second Royal Caribbean ship has COVID-19 outbreak and is denied entry to Curacao and Aruba. “In a second coronavirus outbreak in less than a week, 55 fully vaccinated crew members and passengers on Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas ship that set sail Saturday from Fort Lauderdale have contracted the pandemic disease, the cruise line confirmed late Wednesday.”

BuzzFeed News: Several People Who Attended A Midterm Strategy Event For Democrats In South Carolina Tested Positive For COVID. “Multiple people who attended midterm strategy meetings in South Carolina hosted by a subgroup of the Democratic National Committee have tested positive for COVID-19. Between 5% and 10% of the nearly 300 attendees were infected, BuzzFeed News has learned from two people briefed on the matter.”

Al Dia Music: COVID-19 infections confirmed at Bad Bunny concerts. “Last weekend, Bad Bunny performed live for the first time since beginning of the pandemic in Puerto Rico. At least 80,000 people attended at the Hiram Bithorn stadium, and at least 176 of them have now tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Puerto Rico Department of Health.”


WBHM: Prison visits are back in the Gulf States. Many have not seen loved ones for nearly 2 years. “For over a year, more than 70,000 people incarcerated in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi were not able to visit with their loved ones, impacting both the prisoners and their family members. The Alabama Department of Corrections was one of the last states in the country to reinstate in-person visitation for family and loved ones, holding off until Dec. 4. Louisiana and Mississippi began allowing family visits in October and November.”

New York Times: Virus cases spike in New York City jails, where less than half of detainees are vaccinated.. “According to a letter sent by the outgoing Correction Department commissioner, Vincent Schiraldi, the coronavirus positivity rate has jumped drastically in the last several days among incarcerated people, only 38 percent of whom are fully vaccinated. Among city residents, 71 percent are fully vaccinated.”

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