Wednesday CoronaBuzz, January 5, 2022: 61 pointers to updates, health information, research news, and more.

Please get a booster shot. Please wear a mask when you’re inside away from home. Much love.


New York Times: A variant found in France is not a concern, the W.H.O. says.. “The B.1.640.2 variant was first identified in October and uploaded to Gisaid, a database for disease variants, on Nov. 4. Only about 20 samples have been sequenced so far, experts said this week, and only one since early December.

BRPROUD: BBB: Look out for COVID-19 test scams. “The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning people about COVID-19 test scams. BBB officials say these scams can steal your personal information or provide inaccurate test results.”

CBS News: Social media users rack up views by wasting COVID-19 tests. “Some Americans seem determined to throw cold water on the merits of COVID-19 testing — literally. In the latest sign of ongoing public resistance to what is by now conventional medical wisdom about how to detect the disease, social media users are deliberately misusing scarce at-home COVID-19 tests to produce false positive results by running the devices under tap water. Some individuals are falsely suggesting to their followers that the faulty results indicate their tap water contains the virus.”

Mashable: No, 5G is not causing vaccinated people to explode. “Conspiracy theorists are once again setting their sights on one of their favorite targets: 5G. The claims surrounding this particular conspiracy are especially over the top, yet it’s spreading like wildfire on all corners of the web. What’s the latest 5G conspiracy theory? It’s that 5G is causing people to ‘spontaneously combust’ in different countries as the mobile network gets ‘turned up’ or ‘launches’ in that part of the world.


Limping Chicken: Clear masks reportedly approved for use in UK-wide health settings. “Two brands of clear, transparent face coverings have been approved by the UK Government to be trialled in health settings this year – according to the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS). The charity reports that Contechs’ transparent surgical face mask and Alpha Solway’s MX C mask have been given the all clear by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), in what NDCS described as an ‘exciting and long-awaited update’.”

CBS News: Mayo Clinic fires 700 unvaccinated employees. “Mayo Clinic fired 700 employees Tuesday who didn’t comply with its policy to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday, CBS Minnesota reports. The dismissed employees make up about 1% of Mayo’s 73,000 workforce.”


NBC News: Children are hospitalized with Covid at record numbers. “According to an NBC News analysis, at least nine states have reported record numbers of Covid-related pediatric hospitalizations: Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania, as well as Washington, D.C.”

WCPO: Local pediatricians overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients. “Anderson Hills Pediatrics operates offices in Anderson and Amelia. Both offices said they’re filling their daily appointments by 9 a.m. Dr. Kathleen Driscoll said the office has seen children with coughs, colds, flu, strep and COVID-19…. The office is trying to streamline by offering COVID-19 testing from the car. Dr. Driscoll said they are testing about 65 kids each day, a number she described as ‘insane.'”

KSNT: CDC cites obesity as culprit for hospitalizing children with COVID-19. “Childhood obesity in America was already putting children at risk for poor health, now it’s hospitalizing children and adolescents who have contracted coronavirus. In a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found approximately two-thirds of COVID-19 patients aged 12-17 were obese, and the length of stay in the hospital was twice that of non-obese adolescents.”


WGBH: ‘No ICU beds left’: Massachusetts hospitals are maxed out as COVID continues to surge. “The state reported more than 31,000 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, which includes tests taken over the long holiday weekend. On Tuesday, the state added nearly 17,000 more confirmed cases to that tally. Last winter, the seven-day average of new confirmed cases peaked at about 6,000. Experts say although the now-dominant omicron variant appears to result in less severe illness than earlier variants, the sheer number of new cases is overwhelming the capacity of the state’s hospitals.”

CNN: More military medical personnel are assisting hospitals with Covid-19 treatment as staff shortages mount. “The greater transmissibility of the Omicron variant — which in just one month has led to millions of new cases — has left frontline workers at a higher risk of exposure, needing to quarantine and recover after positive tests. And health officials are working to plug any gaps in coverage. In the last week, states such as Ohio, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia have mobilized National Guard members to assist hospitals with patient care.”

New York Times: In Omicron Hot Spots, Hospitals Fill Up, but I.C.U.s May Not . “Once again, as they face the highly contagious Omicron variant, medical personnel are exhausted and are contracting the virus themselves. And the numbers of patients entering hospitals with the variant are surging to staggering levels, filling up badly needed beds, delaying nonemergency procedures and increasing the risk that vulnerable uninfected patients will catch the virus. But in Omicron hot spots from New York to Florida to Texas, a smaller proportion of those patients are landing in intensive care units or requiring mechanical ventilation, doctors said. And many — roughly 50 to 65 percent of admissions in some New York hospitals — show up at the hospital for other ailments and then test positive for the virus.”

Kansas News Service: Doctors plead for COVID precautions to alleviate hospital crisis. “Health care officials across Kansas and Missouri issued a dire warning Wednesday that COVID-19 has reached new and alarming crisis levels throughout the region. Hospitals struggling to care for sick coronavirus patients — the vast majority of them unvaccinated — find themselves short on staff after record numbers of health care workers are testing positive for the virus.”


CNN: Carnival parades canceled in Rio de Janeiro amid Covid surge. “Rio de Janeiro has canceled its world-famous Carnival street parades due to a surge in Covid-19 cases, the city’s mayor Eduardo Paes announced Tuesday during a YouTube live stream.”


NBC News: Walmart, Kroger raise at-home COVID test prices after White House agreement expires. ” Walmart and Kroger raised the price of Abbott’s at-home Covid-19 test kit after an agreement with the White House to sell the tests at a reduced price expired, the companies said Tuesday. The BinaxNOW kit, one of the first at-home tests to be authorized by the federal government, was listed on Walmart’s website Tuesday for $19.88, up from $14 last month. Kroger listed the tests for $23.99.”

CNBC: Macy’s Cuts Store Hours at All of Its Stores as Covid Cases Spike and Retailers Face New Staffing Challenges. “Macy’s is shortening store hours for the rest of the month as coronavirus cases spike in the United States and retailers grapple with staffing shortages.”

BBC: Covid: Travel firms call for removal of testing rules. “Ministers are finalising changes to the travel Covid testing requirements after industry groups called for remaining restrictions and tests to be removed. The BBC understands the government could scrap the need for people to test two days before arriving in the UK.”

NY Magazine: The Dark Side of COVID Testing. “Getting surprise medical bills is one of the many grim realities of the U.S. health-care system and one that was legal until recently. Three former CareCube employees say, however, that the company crossed the line by purposely lying to insurers and customers like [Rachel] Ramirez in order to charge them unnecessary payments.”

New York Times: Office Attire That Makes a Statement: ‘OK, Let’s Hug’. “Crisis breeds innovation, and the difficulties of conducting in-person business during the pandemic have exposed office workers to a tactic once reserved mostly for camp counselors, or bosses with capture the flag captain energy: color coding. Employers who want workers to come back to their desks are trying to accommodate different degrees of Covid risk tolerance. One approach they’ve landed on is offering people accessories — wristbands or pins — that signal their preferences for social distancing, masking and shaking hands.”


WRBL: At home tests could be skewing our COVID-19 case reporting by 10 fold said local health official. “The U.S. hit a grime milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research and data collected by John Hopkins University, over 1 million new cases were identified on Monday Jan. 3 making it the highest amount of new cases in a single the US has seen.”


BBC: Covid: President Macron warns he will ‘hassle’ France’s unvaccinated. “French President Emmanuel Macron has warned he intends to make life difficult for people in France who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19. ‘I really want to hassle them, and we will continue to do this – to the end,’ he told France’s Le Parisien newspaper.”

Reuters: Poland’s president tests positive for COVID-19, top aide says. “Polish President Andrzej Duda has tested positive for coronavirus, a top aide tweeted on Wednesday, after several people around him were infected. ‘The President feels good, is not seriously ill and is under constant medical supervision,’ top aide Pawel Szrot said in a tweet.”

CBS News: China locks down entire cities over tiny COVID outbreaks to prevent spread ahead of Beijing Olympics. “The city of Zhengzhou ordered its nearly 13 million residents to take COVID-19 tests Wednesday after a handful of cases were detected, as China fights to stamp out virus clusters ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics. Everyone in Zhengzhou, which has been placed under a partial lockdown, must be tested to ‘thoroughly uncover infections hidden among the public,’ the city’s government said in a statement Wednesday. The city has detected 11 cases in recent days.”

Reuters: Thailand fears “tens of thousands” of new COVID-19 cases, weighs curbs. ” Thailand is considering measures such as limiting large gatherings and banning alcohol sales in restaurants to discourage customers to avert a wave of coronavirus infections, a health official said on Wednesday. The country reported 3,899 cases on Wednesday, up from an average of 2,600 daily cases towards the end of last year, and the Omicron variant itself has tripled from last month’s holiday period, government data showed.”

Reuters: India health official says Merck COVID pill has ‘major safety concerns’. “India has not added Merck’s COVID-19 pill in its national treatment protocol for the disease due to some ‘major safety concerns’, a senior health official told a media briefing on Wednesday.”

Reuters: South Korea agrees to buy additional Pfizer COVID-19 pills . “South Korea signed an agreement to buy additional courses of Pfizer Inc’s antiviral COVID-19 pill Paxlovid to cover 400,000 people, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Wednesday.”

Associated Press: Hong Kong bans flights, imposes other COVID-19 restrictions. “Hong Kong authorities announced a two-week ban on flights from the United States and seven other countries and held 2,500 passengers on a cruise ship for coronavirus testing Wednesday as the city attempted to stem an emerging omicron outbreak. The two-week ban on passenger flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Britain and the United States will take effect Sunday and continue until Jan. 21.”

Reuters: “Supersonic” rise in French COVID-19 cases in coming days, government says. “A ‘supersonic’ rise in French COVID-19 cases is set to continue in the coming days and there are no signs of the trend reversing, French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday. He also said that infections were reaching ‘stratospheric levels’ in the Ile-de-France region around Paris and some other parts of France and said that the situation in hospitals could worsen in coming weeks.”

Reuters: Croatia reports record 8,587 new COVID-19 cases in sharp daily rise. “Croatia reported 8,587 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, a 47% rise from the 5,845 recorded a day earlier, with 32 reported deaths amid the spread of the Omicron variant.”

Associated Press: First case of the omicron variant is detected on Navajo Nation. “The Navajo Nation reported 10 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and no deaths Monday, but tribal health officials say the first case of the omicron variant has been detected on the vast reservation. Based on cases from Dec. 17-30, the Navajo Department of Health has issued an advisory for 42 communities due to uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus.”

Daily Beast: Outrage as Israel’s Political Elite Test Positive for COVID After Lavish New Year’s Eve Rave. “Israelis badly needed to let off some steam, and New Year’s Eve, last Friday, provided an outlet, even if that meant that some of the nation’s top officials ignored regulations in place aimed at tamping COVID-19 infections. The most visible official whose flouting of the rules was disclosed by Instagram—in this case the account of his own husband, pop star Harel Skaat—is Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll.”


Palm Beach Post: DeSantis reappearance at press conference does little to allay Floridians’ COVID concerns. “On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis began the New Year with a bang; re-appearing in public in, what else, but a politically charged press conference. The purpose: If anyone doubted he had a strategy to deal with the pandemic, they’d better think again. Whether it will work, however, remains to be seen.”

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Arkansas sets record of 6,562 new covid cases Tuesday; governor calls in National Guard to assist with testing. “Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that he had authorized more than 60 members of the Arkansas National Guard to help speed up coronavirus testing as the state’s count of cases rose by more than 6,500, blowing past the record set less than a week earlier for the most new cases in a single day.”

Fox 28 Savannah: Georgia National Guard is being deployed for COVID assistance, Southwest Georgia included. “A total of 198 soldiers are being sent to different testing sites, warehouses and hospitals across the state – including Atrium Health Navicent, Phoebe Putney Albany and Houston Medical Center.”

Associated Press: Thousands in Texas Guard unvaccinated against COVID-19 as mandate challenged. “Texas officials indicated Tuesday that thousands of National Guard members are refusing COVID-19 vaccines in the latest challenge against a Biden administration order that requires all members of the military to get one.”

WTHR: State health commissioner tests positive for COVID-19. “State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Indiana Department of Health. IDH said Box tested positive through a rapid test Tuesday morning after becoming symptomatic Monday night. Her symptoms included muscle aches, chills, coughing and a sore throat.” This is Dr. Box’ second infection.

Orlando Sentinel: Florida Surgeon General proposes children skip COVID tests. “As omicron’s spread outpaces an overwhelming demand for COVID-19 tests, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo has a solution that contradicts advice from myriad public health experts: test fewer people. In a Monday news briefing, the surgeon general took aim at mass testing and said the Florida Department of Health will soon recommend people forgo testing unless it will be what he labels ‘high-value.'”

THE CITY: Hochul Signals Aim to Let Eviction Moratorium Expire, Albany Sources Say. “Gov. Kathy Hochul is considering letting a pandemic-spurred hold on evictions lapse after it expires on Jan. 15, sources in the state legislature told THE CITY. A pause on evictions has been in place by executive order since the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, then becoming law in June 2020. Hochul extended the stay on evictions during her first days as governor in early September.”

Detroit Free Press: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer isolating after her husband tests positive for COVID-19. “Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is isolating after her husband, Marc Mallory, tested positive for coronavirus, a spokesman said Tuesday.”

Indy Star: ‘Vaccine status discrimination’ would be banned under proposed Indiana bill. “Senate Bill 114 would prohibit businesses from requiring vaccines for any employees or customers. Businesses also could no longer require those who are unvaccinated to get tested, wear a mask or social distance, in situations when those who are vaccinated aren’t required to.”


NBC DFW: COVID-19 Surge Delays Trash Pickup in Some Cities. “The surge in COVID-19 cases is now delaying trash pickup in some North Texas cities. Community Waste Disposal announced it is experiencing staffing issues related to the pandemic.”

Gothamist: “We Cannot Feed Into The Hysteria”: Adams Doubles Down On Keeping Schools Open Amid Omicron. “One day after New York City public schools reopened with widespread absences, Mayor Eric Adams lashed out at criticism of his decision to keep kids in classrooms despite an alarming surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. He also argued that the city’s Black and brown students could not afford the ‘luxury’ of learning remotely — but a Gothamist analysis suggests those students are staying home in greater numbers than their white counterparts.”

NBC Los Angeles: Response Times Could Be Jeopardized by Fire and Police COVID Spike. “More than 400 LAPD officers and 200 LA City firefighters called-in sick this week and reported they had tested positive for COVID-19 amid a nationwide spike in the number of new cases likely spurred by the quickly-spreading Omicron variant.”

KSRO: Sonoma County Inmates On Lockdown Due To Covid. “Nearly 200 inmates at the Sonoma County jail are on lockdown. The inmates were placed on lockdown because of a coronavirus outbreak among staff and inmates according to officials yesterday. ”

dcist: Metro Reduces Bus Service, Strengthens Vaccine Requirement Amid Omicron Surge. “Due to rising COVID-19 infections and exposure in its workforce, Metro has reduced bus service and instituted several new health and safety measures. Unvaccinated employees who fail to comply with the weekly testing requirement will face unpaid suspension beginning Jan. 16, Metro announced on Tuesday. Then, employees will have 30 days to get vaccinated or tested, or else they will be subject to termination.”


BBC: US science teacher arrested for vaccinating 17-year-old student. “A New York school teacher with no formal medical qualification has been arrested for allegedly giving a Covid vaccine to a student, say officials. Police say Laura Russo administered the dose at her home despite having no legal authorisation to give jabs, or consent from the boy’s parents.”

Daily Beast: ‘Vaccine Police’ Leader Traveling Country With Flamethrower Jailed for Trespassing. “An anti-vaccine organization leader, who recently set out on a cross-country road trip with the end goal of conducting citizen arrests of Democratic governors, has found himself behind bars. On Tuesday afternoon, anti-vax ‘Vaccine Police’ leader Christopher Paul Key was arrested and booked into Jefferson County Jail in Birmingham, Alabama, stemming from a criminal trespassing in the third degree charge.”


BBC: Gal Gadot says Imagine video was in poor taste. “Actress Gal Gadot has said a viral video she and some fellow Hollywood stars made at the beginning of the pandemic was ‘in poor taste’. The video saw the 36-year-old partner with fellow actors who each sung a line from John Lennon’s 1971 single Imagine.”


CBN News: Beloved Pastor Ray Bentley of Maranatha Chapel Passes Away From COVID Complications. “Pastor Ray Bentley, founding and senior pastor of Maranatha Chapel in San Diego, CA passed away on January 4th.”


BBC: Novak Djokovic: Australia entry delayed over visa row. “World number one tennis player Novak Djokovic’s entry to Australia has been delayed over an issue with his visa. The player arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday, where authorities noticed that his team had made a mistake on his application. Djokovic is due to play in the Australian Open, after being exempted from vaccination rules.”


Associated Press: Chicago cancels classes after union backs remote learning. “Leaders of Chicago Public Schools canceled classes Wednesday after the teachers union voted to switch to remote learning due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, the latest development in an escalating battle over pandemic safety protocols in the nation’s third-largest school district.”

WBZ: Boston Superintendent Brenda Cassellius Fills In As Fourth Grade Teacher Amid Staffing Shortage. “Superintendent Dr. Brenda Cassellius took on a different role Wednesday in the middle of a staffing shortage in Boston schools – classroom teacher. Cassellius and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu have described the return from winter break as an ‘all hands on deck’ situation with COVID-related absences continuing to grow among school staff.”

BBC: Covid: Exams need to be Covid-safe and fair, union says. “Exams being sat next week or during the summer need to be fair to pupils and Covid-safe, a teaching union has said. The Association of School and College Leaders Cymru (ASCL) said changes to exams must not be made at the ‘last minute’ amid ongoing disruption due to Covid.”


Cincinnati Enquirer: UC goes to online learning for first two weeks of spring semester, officials say. “The University of Cincinnati is transitioning to online classes for the beginning of the spring semester, officials said in an email to the campus community Tuesday. The shift to online classes will not affect UC’s athletic teams or their events, however. Officials said the university will move operations online starting Wednesday and revert back to full in-person classes on Jan. 24. Spring semester classes start Monday.”

Press-Telegram: Three CSU schools to begin semester online amid winter coronavirus surge. “Three California State University campuses have announced they will start the semester online because of this winter’s omicron-fueled COVID-19 surge. Cal State Los Angeles, Sacramento State and CSU Channel Islands will all pivot to virtual to begin the spring semester, CSU spokeswoman Toni Molle said in an email Wednesday morning.”


HealthDay News: Why It’s a Bad Idea to Try to Get COVID. “COVID-19 infection isn’t a game, and you shouldn’t try to get it on purpose — not even the supposedly ‘mild’ Omicron variant of the virus. It’s a high-risk strategy for yourself, for public health and the economy, medical experts agreed.”

KDKA: Hospitals Seeing Uptick In ‘Flurona’ Cases, A Double Infection Of COVID And The Flu. “According to the World Health Organization, symptoms include cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, and fatigue. Israel confirmed its first case of the so-called ‘Flurona’ last Thursday. It was identified in an unvaccinated pregnant woman. She was later released and is now in good condition.”

Associated Press: COVID case counts may be losing importance amid omicron. “The explosive increase in U.S. coronavirus case counts is raising alarm, but some experts believe the focus should instead be on COVID-19 hospital admissions. And those aren’t climbing as fast.”

Lexington Herald-Leader: Hardly any kids exercised during pandemic — that’s bad for mental health, study finds. “In the U.S., only 8.9% of children ages 10-14 met Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans during the pandemic in May 2020, the time of early pandemic lockdowns and the most restrictions, researchers found. This is slightly over a 7% drop compared to those exercising before COVID-19 when 16.1% of children met the guidelines between 2016 and 2018.”


Stat News: Study raises doubts about rapid Covid tests’ reliability in early days after infection. “The study looks at 30 people from settings including Broadway theaters and offices in New York and San Francisco where some workers were not only being tested daily but were, because of rules at their workplaces, receiving both the antigen tests and a daily test that used the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, which is believed to be more reliable. On days 0 and 1 following a positive PCR test, all of the antigen tests used produced false-negative results, even though in 28 of the 30 cases, levels of virus detected by the PCR test were high enough to infect other people.”


Los Angeles Times: Man attacks workers at Orange County COVID-19 vaccine clinic, calling them ‘murderers’. “One of Parsia Jahanbani’s biggest fears was realized when a man calling healthcare workers ‘murderers’ attacked him and other staff members outside a mobile vaccine clinic in Tustin last week, he said.”

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