Monday CoronaBuzz, January 3, 2022: 56 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.


New York Times: With Omicron’s Rise, Americans Brace for Returning to School and Work. “In two short weeks, as the year closed out, the Omicron variant drove coronavirus case counts to record levels, upended air travel and left gaping staffing holes at police departments, firehouses and hospitals. And that was at a time many people were off for the holiday season. Now comes Monday, with millions of Americans having traveled back home to start school and work again, and no one is sure of what comes next.”

CNET: Free at-home COVID tests: Where are they?. “We’ll share what we know now, and will continue to update this story as we learn more details, including when the federal reimbursement program starts and exactly how it will work.”


Snopes: Did Betty White Say She Got COVID Booster 3 Days Before She Died?. “When beloved American actor and comedian Betty White died at the age of 99 on Dec. 31, 2021, no specific cause of death was immediately made public, though police said she appeared to have died from natural causes. With the COVID-19 pandemic still a major public health concern, social media rumor-mongers were quick to invent a specific cause of death out of whole cloth: White, they claimed, died just three days after supposedly receiving a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot on Dec. 28.”

Poynter: No, public health officials aren’t passing off the common cold as the omicron variant. “In February 2020, as the earliest COVID-19 cases cropped up in the U.S., the late conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh told his listeners there was no need to worry. ‘The coronavirus is the common cold, folks,’ he said, pushing a false claim that would soon be repeated widely online. Nearly two years later, and after millions of people have died worldwide from the coronavirus and its variants, social media users are still taking up the refrain.”


Washington Post: In coronavirus-hit Mexico, many women are ‘determined to not have babies’. “Everyone knew the pandemic would bring death. Edith García Díaz thought it would also bring birth — lots of birth. As a state health official, she worried the crisis would impede access to contraceptives, leading to a rise in pregnancies…. But as the data trickle in, one state after another has reported the opposite tendency. Births in Mexico dropped 11 percent in the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2020, according to preliminary Health Ministry data.”

Los Angeles Times: Car crash deaths have surged during COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s why. “It was a tally that shocked the experts: 38,680 deaths on U.S. roadways last year, the most since 2007, even though pandemic precautions had dramatically reduced driving…. He was wrong. The latest evidence suggests that after decades of safety gains, the pandemic has made U.S. drivers more reckless — more likely to speed, drink or use drugs and leave their seat belts unbuckled.”

Florida Politics: COVID-19 pandemic is still keeping women in Florida from the workforce. “According to a report from the Hamilton Project, before the pandemic, women were having a historic moment in labor. Between December 2019 and February 2020, there were more women in the workforce than men, and women had overtaken men in the workforce during a period of job growth for the first time.”


The National News: Arrests and clashes as thousands protest against Dutch Covid measures. “Thousands of protesters defied authorities and gathered in the Dutch capital Amsterdam on Sunday to oppose coronavirus restrictions, leading to clashes and arrests. ‘This is Holland! Power to the people!’ chanted one protester. The demonstrators rallied in one of the city’s main squares, despite Dutch authorities banning the protest beforehand.”


ABC 15 Arizona: Embry Health to request help from Governor Doug Ducey amid record-breaking COVID-19 test surge. “Embry Health CEO Raymond Embry said he plans to send a letter to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey requesting that he mobilize the National Guard to help support Embry and other COVID-19 testing companies across Arizona. Embry said his company is seeing a record-breaking surge in testing. He anticipates they will hit 30,000 patients to be tested across the state Monday. Just two weeks ago, Embry Health’s previous testing record was 18,000 patients in one day.”

CBS Philly: COVID-19 Surge Forces Main Line Health To Pause All Elective Surgeries, Procedures For 2 Weeks. “Main Line Health has announced it is pausing all elective surgeries and procedures for the next two weeks. Officials say they made the decision in order to make room for the surge in COVID-19 patients and to make sure there is enough staffing.”

Local 10: Staffing shortage amid COVID surge shuts down labor and delivery unit at Holy Cross Health. “Staffing shortages at a South Florida hospital amid the surge in COVID-19 cases has forced the shutdown of an entire department there. The rise in infections also has local officials opening new testing sites in South Florida.”

NBC New York: NJ COVID Hospitalizations Up Another 10%, Now at May 2020 Levels. “COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Jersey spiked another 10% over the weekend, quickly rising to levels last seen in the first week of May 2020. As of Saturday, 4,715 people were hospitalized in the state with the virus, a net increase of 441 people from the prior day. (Hospital data is a day in arrears on the state’s dashboard, so the Saturday total was posted early Monday morning.)”

WSB Atlanta: Georgia could see 40,000 daily COVID-19 cases in next two weeks, model projects. “More than 3,300 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Georgia hospitals, compared to less than 1,000 at the end of November. More than 1,000 Georgians have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in just the last week.”


Bangor Daily News: More local farmers relying on social media to help survive the pandemic. “Maine farmers aren’t strangers to social media, but the pandemic made the need for a robust and responsive social media presence even clearer for many of them. Farming organizations over the past few years have offered more social media training, and Maine’s farmers have reaped the benefits.”


US Department of Defense: Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on COVID Status. “I tested positive this morning for COVID-19. I requested the test today after exhibiting symptoms while at home on leave. My symptoms are mild, and I am following my physician’s directions. In keeping with those directions, and in accordance with CDC guidelines, I will quarantine myself at home for the next five days. ”

PR Newswire: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Takes Multiple Actions to Expand Use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. “Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to: * Expand the use of a single booster dose to include use in individuals 12 through 15 years of age. * Shorten the time between the completion of primary vaccination of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine and a booster dose to at least five months. * Allow for a third primary series dose for certain immunocompromised children 5 through 11 years of age.”


Reuters: Botswana’s president in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 . ” Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi is in mandatory self- isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 in routine testing, a government spokesperson said on Monday.”

Associated Press: How will pandemic end? Omicron clouds forecasts for endgame . “Pandemics do eventually end, even if omicron is complicating the question of when this one will. But it won’t be like flipping a light switch: The world will have to learn to coexist with a virus that’s not going away. The ultra-contagious omicron mutant is pushing cases to all-time highs and causing chaos as an exhausted world struggles, again, to stem the spread. But this time, we’re not starting from scratch.”

Reuters: UK’s Johnson will ‘continue on same path’ in tackling COVID. “British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the right measures were in place to tackle the surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant given the high levels of vaccination in the country.”

Reuters: “We will not yield,” French lawmaker says after death threats over COVID vaccine pass. “French lawmakers said on Monday they would not be cowed by death threats that dozens of them received over a bill that will require people to show proof of vaccination to go to a restaurant or cinema or take the train. The new law, which would remove the option of showing a negative test result instead of having the jabs, has the backing of most parties and is almost certain to be passed by the lower house in a vote late on Monday or early Tuesday.”

BBC: Covid: Scotland hits record number of new cases. “A further 20,217 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Scotland, the highest daily figure of the pandemic. The Public Health Scotland figures are the first to be published in 2022 – after the last tranche released on 29 December also showed record cases.”


Tap Into Morristown: NJ First Lady Tammy Murphy Tests Positive for COVID. “While Mrs. Murphy is said to be ‘asymptomatic’, the Governor and First Lady tested themselves due to a recent contact with an individual (a non-family member) in their home. Governor Murphy and the rest of the family have tested negative, and they will continue to test regularly in the coming days according to his office.”

Iowa Public Radio: Health officials ask Iowans to report at-home COVID-19 test results to health department. “Public health officials are asking Iowans who test positive for COVID-19 using an at-home rapid test to report the results to their local health department. The demand for at-home testing has increased as the highly transmittable omicron variant drives a spike in new infections. But local health officials say unlike the tests that are run through the State Hygienic Lab or hospitals and clinics, at-home test results aren’t reported to public health officials.”

Salt Lake Tribune: How Spencer Cox navigated the COVID pandemic during his first year as Utah governor. “On the last day of August 2021, 1,677 Utahns tested positive for the coronavirus. Nearly 500 of Utah’s hospital beds were filled with COVID-19 patients, with about 50 new patients hospitalized each day. Lines at test sites were so long that patients were relieving themselves in bushes. Thirteen Utahns had died from the coronavirus one day earlier. That was the day Gov. Spencer J. Cox stopped doing regular public updates focused on the pandemic.”

WVPE: Coronavirus: State reports 12,000+ cases in one day, Holcomb ‘blindsided’ by Rokita comments. “Indiana reports more than 12,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day. State health officials raise the alarm about Indiana’s overwhelmed hospitals. And Gov. Eric Holcomb said he was ‘stunned’ by Attorney General Todd Rokita’s comments saying he ‘doesn’t believe any numbers any more.’ ”

9 News NBC: 18th Judicial District suspends jury trials due to COVID. “The 18th Judicial District in Colorado is suspending jury trials and moving to remote operations due to high COVID-19 case counts. On Dec. 30, Chief Judge Michelle Amico issued the order that is effective from Jan. 3 through Jan. 28.”

WDTV: WVa officials warn of message scam over COVID vaccine status. “West Virginia health officials are warning residents to ignore spam text messages concerning their COVID-19 vaccine status. The Department of Health and Human Resources said it has received reports of people receiving messages asking them to validate their driver’s license through the Division of Motor Vehicles in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”


Hays Post: Kansas City Mayor and family test positive for COVID. “Mayor Quinton Lucas reported on New Year’s Eve he had tested positive for the virus despite being vaccinated and receiving a booster dose.”

The Morning Call: LANTA cancels bus routes Monday due to COVID absences; Allentown School District also facing transportation woes. “LANTA is canceling some bus trips Monday because many drivers are out sick with COVID-19, the transportation agency said…. The cancellations are only for Monday, the authority said, though further decisions are made on a day-to-day basis.” LANTA is the bus service for Allentown, Pennsylvania.

KFOR: COVID-19 closes food pantry in Norman. “Residents who are in need in Norman may go without help after an outbreak of COVID-19 at a local food pantry. On Dec. 31, Food and Shelter announced that its main pantry staff and volunteers had all been infected with COVID-19.”


San Antonio Express-News: ‘The odds were not in his favor’: San Antonio man survives COVID-19 but pays a price. “Albert Bañuelos could sense the darkness. In his delirium, he saw things he doesn’t like to talk about. He doesn’t want to remember. ‘I had to get out of there,’ said Bañuelos, 43. ‘Your brain is on, but it’s playing a trick on you.’ He contracted the delta variant of the coronavirus in early September and was admitted to Methodist Hospital Northeast in Live Oak. As he struggled to breathe, doctors placed him in a medically induced coma. Machines pumped medicine into his body. For 4½ days, Bañuelos breathed through a tube inserted into his trachea and attached to a mechanical ventilator.”


MetalSucks: David Lee Roth Cancels Two Farewell Shows Due to Covid-19 Case in His Band. “David Lee Roth canceled the first two shows of his planned Las Vegas ‘farewell’ residency due to a case of Covid-19 in an unnamed member of his backing band.”


SwimSwam: Research Shows No Covid-19 Spread Between Tokyo Athletes, Local Residents. “The Japanese Government released a study that confirmed there was no spread of COVID-19 between Tokyo athletes and the local population. Genomic sequencing research confirms that positive cases among athletes and Japanese residents were unrelated. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) cited this data to highlight the success of the coronavirus countermeasures that were implemented.”


News 12 New Jersey: Some school districts switch to remote learning due to COVID-19. “Schools across the Hudson Valley are returning to classes today but students in certain districts will be doing so via remote learning. Yonkers Public Schools, New Rochelle schools and the Ossining Union Free school district are going virtual for its return from the holiday break.”

WFSB: Handful of CT schools closures, delays due to COVID, staffing shortages. “Several school districts announced closures or delays for Jan. 3 because of COVID-related staffing issues or transportation problems. Region 14, Enfield, Stratford, and Stonington public schools were closed on Monday. Other districts, such as Bethany, Danbury, New Fairfield, and Shelton posted two hour delays.”

WCVB: 155 Boston public school teachers, staffers test positive for COVID-19 in last 2 days, Supt. Dr. Brenda Cassellius says. “More than 150 Boston Public Schools teachers, staffers and administrators have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two days and the district and city are making plans to keep classes in session. As of Monday morning, Boston Superintendent Dr. Brenda Cassellius said 155 teachers and school staffers have reported positive COVID-19 tests — a number that is expected to rise.”

San Diego Union-Tribune: How school counselors are helping children cope during COVID. “Many students returned to school campuses full time this year with trauma in tow. Many had struggled with distance learning, suffered through mental health issues and endured social isolation and challenges at home due to the pandemic. The job of helping students recover fell largely to school counselors, a chronically understaffed profession tasked with tending to students’ social, mental and academic needs.”

Associated Press: Milwaukee schools going virtual due to staff COVID-19 cases. “Wisconsin’s largest school district, Milwaukee Public Schools, will transition to virtual instruction beginning Tuesday because of an increase in staff testing positive for COVID-19.”

NBC Chicago: Thousands of COVID Tests ‘Invalid’ as CPS Prepares to Return From Winter Break. “Thousands of COVID tests for Chicago Public Schools students and staff members have been deemed ‘invalid’ as the district prepares for a return to classrooms following the winter break. With cases across the state and within the district surging, CPS reported 35,590 tests were completed between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, but 24,843 were ruled ‘invalid,’ according to data posted on the district’s website.”

Patch Detroit: Detroit Schools Pause Return, Announce COVID-19 Testing Changes. ” Detroit Public Schools canceled all classes Monday through Wednesday due to COVID-19 concerns, and said it will update information for Thursday and Friday on Wednesday, superintendent Nikolai Vitti said in a statement.”

WTTW: CTU Members to Consider Walk Out This Week as COVID-19 Cases Spike. “As Chicago Public Schools students and staff returned Monday from winter break amid an ongoing spike in COVID-19 cases, members of the Chicago Teachers Union are planning a vote that could lead to an unauthorized walkout later this week. The CTU’s membership and House of Delegates will vote this week to decide whether to continue working in-person or to begin working remotely as of Wednesday as concerns about student and teacher safety grow.”

The Journal (Ireland): ‘Sinister’: Anti-lockdown groups sharing database of school principals’ contact details. “ANTI-LOCKDOWN GROUPS are sharing a large database containing information on the principals of nearly every primary school in the country, urging people to contact them to probe their views on vaccinations and mask wearing.”


WCHS: Marshall to require COVID testing, mask wearing for all students. “Marshall University officials said the school will test all on-campus students at the start of the semester for COVID-19 – regardless of vaccination status – and masks will be required in all university buildings. The school said in a news release Friday that the student testing policy is being implemented due to increased community spread of COVID-19.”


WVIR: UVA Health doctors encourage upgrading your masks with omicron. ” As the omicron variant continues to spread, many experts are advising you to upgrade your mask. More drug stores around Charlottesville are selling them, which is why doctors are encouraging you to get your hands on one. ‘The big thing is they’re more widely available now,’ Dr. Bill Petri with UVA Health said. ‘Early on, N95 or KN95 masks were being reserved for health care professionals.’ Petri says now, since they are accessible, they’re being recommended and encouraged for everyone.”

Mother Jones: Desperate Patients Are Shelling Out Thousands for a Long Covid Cure. Is It for Real?. “When Owen came down with Covid-19 in April 2021, he felt lucky to get away with a mild case. After a few days of a runny nose, he returned to his regular routine, including long sessions at the gym. But three weeks later, Owen, who was 25 at the time and working as an art director in Manhattan, began to have trouble breathing. It got so bad one day that he collapsed in his kitchen. Later, at the emergency room, doctors searched for a cause but could find none, so they sent him home. That was only the beginning of Owen’s ordeal.”

Montana Public Radio: COVID-19 was the leading killer of Native Americans in Montana last year. “According to a review of death certificates by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, deaths among American-Indian and Alaska Natives spiked 36 percent in 2020 compared to the previous five years, largely due to COVID-19. The analysis shows the rate of COVID deaths among American Indian and Alaska Native people in Montana was also over double that of Indigenous people across the entire country.”


Laboratory Equipment: Study: Metabolic Conditions Increase Ventilation Risk by 45% in COVID-19 Patients. “Patients hospitalized with COVID-19 who had a combination of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, or other conditions associated with metabolic syndrome were at much higher risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and death, according to an international study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open.”

The Malaysian Reserve: Sinovac booster effective for Sinovac primary recipients. “PRELIMINARY results from an ongoing study have shown that Sinovac vaccine booster can activate cellular immunity against Omicron variant, in subjects who previously received two doses of the vaccine as primary series. The study is being carried out by the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (UC) and led by Professor Dr Alexis M Kalergis, director of Immunology and Immunotherapy Millennium Institute.”

NewsWise: A potential at-home COVID-19 test is just as good as laboratory PCR tests, according to preclinical data. “Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago have designed a high-quality assay that can be used in at-home tests for rapid COVID-19 screening. Results from an early preclinical study suggest that tests with the new assay may be just as reliable as the laboratory-based molecular tests — called PCR tests — used by hospitals for clinical diagnostics.”


New Zealand Herald: Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Six cases linked to Auckland’s Pelican Club. “Six people linked to an adult entertainment club in Auckland have tested positive for Covid-19. Health officials have revealed multiple exposure events at Pelican Club on Auckland’s Eden Terrace across several different dates.”

Gaston Gazette: Gaston County’s COVID cases up 163.8%; North Carolina cases surge 332.7%. “New coronavirus cases leaped in North Carolina in the week ending Sunday, rising 332.7% as 79,289 cases were reported. The previous week had 18,324 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.”

ABC 7: LA County reports nearly 45,000 new COVID cases over weekend. “Los Angeles County reported nearly 45,000 new cases of COVID-19 this weekend, an alarmingly high number in light of the typical delays in weekend reporting. Officials reported 23,553 new cases for Saturday and another 21,200 positive tests for Sunday after a one-day record of 27,091 new infections were reported Friday.”

BBC: Covid-19: At least 120 outbreaks in care homes in Northern Ireland. “At least 120 care homes in Northern Ireland were dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks over the weekend, NI’s Public Health Agency (PHA) has said. As Omicron cases rise, the Western Trust has suspended visits to its care homes and hospitals. Independent care homes provide their own guidance.”


WSAW: Family courts navigate COVID-19 vaccine disagreements. ” Courts are having to mediate new disputes between divorced parents as the COVID-19 vaccines are approved for younger populations. They are seeing disagreements between the parents on whether shared children should get the shot. In the case of separation or divorce, parents have to come to a custody agreement as to whether one parent gets sole custody making decisions for the children or if it is shared. This can impact issues such as non-emergency medical treatments, what school the child goes to and religion.”

Spanish News Today: Seventy Americans busted at New Years Eve orgy in Barcelona. “People across Spain naturally choose to ring in the New Year in a variety of ways, but a large group of US citizens raised eyebrows when they were discovered partaking in an orgy in the Barcelona town of Lliçà d’Amunt. The sex party, involving around 70 guests, was uncovered when two participants got lost and tried to enter another nearby property.”


Nature: Two years of COVID-19 in Africa: lessons for the world. “Since the 1960s, when many African countries gained independence, the continent has largely depended on the outside world for its health-security commodities: diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, as well as personal protective equipment and other medical supplies. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how easily international cooperation and multilateral agreements can dissolve, especially in the face of a global crisis — and just how vulnerable this dependence leaves Africa.”

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  1. Oof! I know you are a wizard at automating your searches, and I know how hard you work to boil it all down to a manageable selection of the day’s news… All of which makes me worry even more about you than I normally do, because — certainly in the case of CoronaBuzz — there’s little to no “good news” in the haystack which you must nevertheless pore through in order to select what to publish for us to see.

    CB (and of course RB) are such wonderful resources for us out here. But I hope you in there have figured out ways to inoculate yourself against despair. (But how many “Hollywood Squares” marathons can one person do before even that gets old? 😉)

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