Thursday CoronaBuzz, December 30, 2021: 45 pointers to updates, health information, research news, and more.

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


The Guardian: Anti-vaxxers storm Covid testing centre during ‘freedom’ rally in Milton Keynes. “Confused anti-vaccine protesters entered a test-and-trace centre in Milton Keynes on Wednesday, appearing to believe it was a coronavirus vaccine centre, where they were filmed shouting abuse at staff and appearing to steal equipment. Video shared on social media showed the group of several dozen activists, led by former Ukip candidate Jeff Wyatt, walking through the facility holding signs encouraging people not to get vaccinated and criticising the BBC.”


BBC: The drama of Peru’s Covid orphans. “Peru has been battered by Covid-19, with more than 202,500 deaths in a population of under 33 million. One of the most tragic effects of the pandemic here is the number of children who have been left without a mother, father, or some other caregiver. There are at least 93,000 of them, according to the medical journal The Lancet. And even though one of their parents might still be alive, they are referred to as ‘Covid orphans’.”


KUT: Medical labs face understaffing and burnout as demand for COVID tests skyrockets in Texas. “Medical lab workers in Texas are dealing with a surge in COVID-19 tests as cases skyrocket nationwide. COVID testing conducted in a lab, which include PCR tests, is an essential public health tool for slowing the spread of the virus. But experts say this recent onslaught of work for people who run the tests is coming on the heels of years of understaffing and burnout in the profession.”

Associated Press: Feds press nursing home COVID boosters as staff cases spike. “Federal health officials on Thursday pressed nursing home workers to get their booster shots amid a spike in COVID-19 cases among staffers and a concerning lag in booster vaccination for residents and staff.”


WTSP: More kids in the hospital with COVID-19 amid omicron surge. ” More children are ending up in the hospital with COVID-19 within the last week. It comes as the U.S. deals with more cases of COVID-19 from the highly contagious omicron variant, along with flu season. The U.S. is averaging 260 pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations a day, which is up nearly 30% from last week using data compiled from the CDC, according to CBS News.”

Associated Press: US children hospitalized with COVID in near-record numbers. “During the week of Dec. 21-27, an average of 334 children 17 and under were admitted per day to hospitals with the coronavirus, a 58% increase from the week before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The previous peak over the course of the pandemic was in early September, when child hospitalizations averaged 342 per day, the CDC said.”


Dallas Morning News: ‘We are full’: Parkland’s ER sees record number of patients as omicron cases continue to soar. “Parkland Memorial Hospital’s emergency room saw 997 patients on Tuesday, a one-day record for the hospital as the highly contagious omicron variant continues to send coronavirus cases soaring in North Texas and across the nation. ‘We are full,’ Dr. Joseph Chang, Parkland Health and Hospital System’s chief medical director, said in a prepared statement. ‘But we never turn people away.'”

CNN: Omicron surge is ‘unlike anything we’ve ever seen,’ expert says. “An unprecedented spike in Covid-19 cases fueled by the fast-moving Omicron variant is crushing hospitals across the United States, with doctors describing packed emergency rooms as health experts implore New Year’s Eve revelers to keep parties small and outdoors to help avert an even worse surge.”

Washington Post: First they ran short of PPE, then ventilators. Now, the shortage is hospital staff.. “Doctors at this elite institution are confronting the same challenges as their colleagues everywhere: exhaustion, burnout and exasperation at patients who still refuse to mask up and get vaccinated. And that was before the arrival of omicron, the most transmissible variant yet, which is sickening staffers as well as patients and fueling workforce shortages. As a result, health-care systems nationwide are canceling elective procedures, turning away requests to take emergency medical services patients and grappling with workers calling in sick. Multiple states have deployed the National Guard to help support stressed hospitals, often by simply managing administrative tasks such as helping deliver food or cleaning dirty rooms.”


CBS News: Many U.S. New Year’s Eve celebrations called off amid COVID surge . “In the last week, hospitalizations increased 14%, with a seven-day average of 9,000 per day. Some of the most significant involve pediatric cases. Those hospitalizations are up nearly 50% in several states. The surge in coronavirus cases, fueled by the Omicron variant, has pushed city leaders nationwide to significantly scale back or cancel New Year’s Eve plans.”

Fox 61: Westminster Kennel Club’s annual dog show postponed due to COVID. “The Westminster Kennel Club’s annual dog show has become the latest event to be postponed or canceled in New York as the number of coronavirus cases surges. The club’s board of governors announced Wednesday it was postponing its 2022 event, scheduled for late January, to later in the year. A new date wasn’t given.”


NBC DFW: Multiple North Texas Restaurants Closing Temporarily Over COVID-19 Cases. “On the verge of a new year, some restaurants in North Texas have announced temporary closures due to the rise of COVID-19 cases and the impact on staff. Jon Bonnell, the owner of Bonnell’s Restaurant Group, announced on Facebook Tuesday one of his restaurants will be closed for the remainder of the week. Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine will continue to offer curbside orders, according to Bonnell.”

TheStreet: Omicron Variant, Covid Cancels 1,280 Jetblue Flights. “JetBlue Airways… said late Wednesday that it will cancel about 1,280 flights through Jan. 13, as the omicron Covid strain forces its workers to stay at home.”

The Guardian: Southern cancels London Victoria trains for two weeks over Covid. “Southern has cancelled trains to and from London Victoria for two weeks as a result of pandemic-related staff shortages. Disruption to rail services has been worsening over the Christmas period while industrial action continues. Southern has now announced that none of its trains will run to or from London Victoria until 10 January owing to ‘coronavirus isolation and sickness’.”

NPR: The omicron surge is making it hard to staff stores and restaurants. Some are closing. “If you’ve been out shopping or dining this holiday week, you may have noticed fewer workers at some businesses. The omicron surge is making it harder to staff stores and restaurants. And as NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang reports, some businesses have had to make the hard choice to close their doors.”


Green Bay Press Gazette: A 23-person team of Navy medical personnel is coming to Bellin Hospital Friday to help in the fight against COVID-19. “A 23-person team of military medical personnel will start work Friday at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay. The announcement was made in a White House press briefing teleconference Wednesday morning. The team — which includes U.S. Navy doctors, respiratory therapists and nurses — comes as a result of requests to the federal government through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. ”

Politico: Marines kick out 206 troops for refusing Covid-19 vaccine. “The Marine Corps announced Thursday that it has kicked out more troops for refusing the Covid-19 vaccine. The total number of discharges has risen to 206, up from 169 last week. The fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law Monday, dictates that the military services cannot dishonorably discharge members for vaccine refusal. The discharges must be either honorable or general under honorable conditions.”

New York Times: F.D.A. Plans to Allow 12- to 15-Year-Olds to Receive Pfizer Boosters. “The Food and Drug Administration is planning to broaden eligibility for coronavirus vaccine booster doses on Monday, allowing 12- to 15-year-olds to receive third doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, according to people familiar with the agency’s deliberations.”


El Pais: For the first time, Spain registers more than 100,000 new coronavirus infections in a day. “The sixth wave of the coronavirus pandemic continues to see exponential growth in Spain in terms of daily infections. In the latest report from the central Health Ministry, which was released on Wednesday evening, more than 100,000 daily infections were registered for the first time since the health crisis began. Specifically, there were 100,760 infections added to the total, as well as 78 Covid-related deaths.”

Reuters: Cuba to fast-track boosters as Omicron looms. “Cuba will give booster shots to its entire population in January, according to a report in state-run media, in a bid to keep the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus at bay. Health authorities in the island, heavily dependent on tourism, last week reported a 35% week-on-week jump in coronavirus cases.”

Jurist: Germany legislature will enact law to protect COVID-19 patients with disabilities. “German Justice Minister Marco Buschmann announced Tuesday that the German legislature must take action to protect disabled patients and patients with pre-existing conditions in the event of triage caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Buschmann’s proclamation comes after an identical ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court.”

Reuters: Portugal cuts COVID-19 isolation from 10 days to seven. “Portugal on Thursday cut the mandatory isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19 but are asymptomatic from 10 days to seven, even as new infections hit record highs. The move, which also applies to high-risk contacts, came after health experts urged the government to rethink its policy amid concerns that the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant and lengthy quarantines could paralyse the country.”

Reuters: Greece reports new daily record of COVID-19 cases as Omicron dominates. “Greece reported a single-day record high of 35,580 COVID-19 infections on Thursday as the highly contagious Omicron becomes the dominant variant in the country. It was the third successive daily record of cases, with infections more than tripling since the beginning of the week.”


State of Vermont: Free Rapid Test Kits Available For Vermont Students In Grades K-12. “Governor Phil Scott today announced that parents and caregivers of Vermont’s K-12 children will be able to pick up one free rapid antigen test kit per student this week at sites around Vermont. The state is encouraging parents to use these kits to test kids before they return to school next week, but a test is not a requirement for returning to school.”

Detroit Free Press: Michigan says it won’t follow CDC’s more relaxed COVID-19 quarantine recommendations. “The Michigan Department of Health & Human Services said it won’t adopt new, shorter federal COVID-19 isolation/quarantine guidelines until it reviews ‘the supporting evidence … while awaiting additional information, … specifically for special populations and in high-risk settings.’ Rather, Michigan health leaders say they will continue to recommend previous, longer quarantine and isolation guidelines, including those for K-12 schools and congregate care settings.”

Washington Post: Md. Gov. Larry Hogan’s messages to state employees self-destruct in 24 hours. “The app the governor and his staffers have been using, called Wickr, markets itself to government agencies and others seeking security from foreign and domestic cyberthreats. The platform in practice has provided Hogan — a moderate Republican with national ambitions — a forum to complain about media reports, direct pandemic response and coordinate with top staffers. Many states, including Maryland, have yet to reckon with technology that transparency advocates say allows officials to violate at least the spirit of open-records laws. That’s in part because of the difficulty of proving that officials are using the apps and the greater difficulty of seeing what’s being communicated.”

Associated Press: Gov. Holcomb COVID update: Indiana governor pushes back on state AG’s skepticism as cases surge. “Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has condemned recent comments made by the state’s attorney general, who alleged that Indiana’s COVID-19 data is inflated and ‘inaccurate.’ The Republican governor said Wednesday he was ‘stunned and somewhat blindsided’ by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s claims that non-COVID illnesses or deaths in the state have been ‘inappropriately categorized as COVID.'”


Clarksville Now: Animal Control shelter in Montgomery County closes over COVID outbreak. ” The animal shelter in Montgomery County has closed over an outbreak of COVID-19 among employees. Animal Care and Control (MCACC) will be closed Wednesday, Dec. 29, through Saturday, Jan. 1, according to a news release from county spokeswoman Michelle Newell.”

NBC Bay Area: COVID-19 Outbreak Hits SF Fire Department, With 60 December Cases: Report. “A COVID-19 outbreak has hit the San Francisco Fire Department, with up to 60 cases this month, including 40 active cases, according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle, citing department officials. The spike is impacting staffing, but for now, it’s not impacting operations, a department spokesman told the newspaper.”

Associated Press: NYC mayor: Times Square show will go on despite COVID surge. “New York City will ring in 2022 in Times Square as planned despite record numbers of COVID-19 infections in the city and around the nation, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.”

Gothamist: NYC EMS Faces Record Staffing Shortage As 911 Calls For COVID-Like Symptoms Surge. “The number of daily emergencies had been on the rise since late November, when fewer than 400 calls were coming a day for fever and cough symptoms. On Sunday, the most recent data available, the FDNY received 767 calls for fevers and coughs. That number surpassed last winter’s peak and was halfway to the levels recorded in early April 2020, the height of New York City’s first wave.”


KATC: Group gets word out about COVID best practices in Latino community through cartoons, illustrations. “A group is hoping cartoons and illustrations can help spread factual information about COVID-19. Covid Latino teamed up with artists and cartoonists to highlight the importance of getting vaccinated. The group was launched in the spring of 2020 to reach immigrant farming communities. They try to craft information in a way that’s easy to understand and culturally relevant.”

USA Today: A teacher tested positive for COVID mid-flight. She stayed in the bathroom for 5 hours.. “A Michigan school teacher traveling over the holidays voluntarily isolated in an airplane’s tiny bathroom for five hours after testing positive for COVID-19 mid-flight. Marisa Fotieo was on a flight to Reykjavik, Iceland from Chicago on Dec. 20 when her throat began to hurt, TODAY reported. With rapid test kits handy, Fotieo decided to take one ‘and within what felt like two seconds’ discovered she was positive for the virus.”


Deadline: LL Cool J Tests Positive For Covid, Cancels Performance On ‘Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest’. “LL Cool J, a scheduled headliner for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest, has canceled his appearance on ABC’s holiday staple because he has tested positive for Covid. ABC and producers also announced that R&B singer Chlöe wont be performing on the special as scheduled.”


WTXL: Doctors warn about false negatives when taking at-home COVID-19 tests. “At-home COVID-19 testing kits have been hard to find. But even for those who can find them, the FDA says they may not always be able to detect the omicron variant. That opens the door for false negatives. So, as Americans get ready to celebrate New Year’s, doctors are urging people not to immediately assume they’re in the clear after a negative at-home COVID-19 test.”

KENS: Yes, a person can still transmit COVID-19 more than five days after their first positive COVID-19 test. “Yes, a person can still be contagious more than five days after their first positive COVID-19 test. While studies suggest people are most contagious shortly before and shortly after symptoms first begin, studies have consistently found a person can be contagious for up to 10 days after their first positive test.”


CNN: Studies indicate J&J Covid-19 vaccine booster protects people against severe illness from Omicron variant. “Two reports released Thursday show that people who get booster doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine are well protected against severe disease and hospitalization from the Omicron variant of coronavirus, the company said. Researchers said the findings indicate that most of the Covid-19 vaccines will protect people against the worst outcomes from infection — and show some of the emphasis on how the various vaccines affect immune system components called antibodies may be misleading.”

PsyPost: Dog owners report fewer depression symptoms and a greater sense of social support during the pandemic. “Pet dogs may be helping people cope during the COVID-19 crisis, according to findings from a study published in the journal PLOS One. When surveyed during the pandemic, dog owners reported fewer depression symptoms and a stronger sense of social support compared to people without dogs.”

Nexstar Medical Wire: Patients who underwent weight-loss surgeries at lower risk of severe COVID complications, study shows. “On Wednesday, the Cleveland Clinic published a study that found those who lost weight through bariatric — or weight-loss surgeries — had a 60% lower risk of developing severe complications from COVID.”

Interesting Engineering: Japan Is Working on a COVID-19 Vaccine That Offers Lifelong Immunity. “Researchers at the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science are working on a COVID-19 vaccine that not only delivers lifelong immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus but could also be transported at room temperature to far-off corners of the world, The Japan Times reported.”

Science: A cheap steroid is the first drug shown to reduce death in COVID-19 patients. “After months of dire news about the spread of the novel coronavirus and a mounting global death toll, a glimmer of hope arrived today: Researchers announced that dexamethasone, a cheap, widely available corticosteroid, significantly reduced deaths of severely sick COVID-19 patients in a major clinical trial. Although full trial data have not yet been released, several outside commentators hailed the result as a ‘breakthrough.'”


CNET: Daily US COVID cases hit record high, as omicron, delta present ‘twin threats’. “The number of daily coronavirus cases in the US hit a record high Tuesday, with a 7-day moving average from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing more than 277,000 infections. The previous peak came nearly a year ago, in January. The current surge represents a 60% increase from the week prior, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing Wednesday. But despite that jump, hospitalizations rose only 14%, to about 9,000 per day, and deaths actually dipped about 7%, to 1,100 per day, Walensky said.”

AP: Low-vaccinated Eastern Europe braces for omicron surge. “As the fast-spreading coronavirus variant omicron rages through Western Europe, officials and experts in low-vaccinated Eastern Europe anticipate a post-holiday explosion of COVID-19 cases in much of the region. Many countries in Eastern Europe only recently emerged from infection waves that put a catastrophic strain on health care systems, and at times have tallied some of the highest pandemic death rates globally.”

WUKY: Kentucky reports record COVID-19 positivity rate. “Kentucky has reported a record COVID-19 test positivity rate of 14.46%. Gov. Andy Beshear says its clear that the state is now in a surge from Omicron and urged people to get vaccinated.”


The Guardian: Two years into the pandemic, I’ve learned how to make a virtue of uncertainty. “There’s nothing wrong with planning. There is something harmful with believing that because you have planned something then it must be so. That is a prerogative that was formerly only attributed to the divine but is now the hubris of the western world. Those in Washington, London and Paris see western dominance, economic growth and excessive consumption stretching into the future for ever. I look at my discarded plans from 2020, and I approach the future with more humility and flexibility.”

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