Saturday CoronaBuzz, January 22, 2022: 36 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.


KPTV: Washington launches statewide site for at-home COVID tests. “The Washington State Department of Health is trying to increase the accessibility of at-home COVID tests with the launch of a new website. The site that went live Friday is designed for residents to order and receive at-home tests through the mail.”

University of Alaska, Anchorage: UAA rolls out exposure notifications, a COVID tracking tool for all Alaskans. “The University of Alaska Anchorage helped usher a tool into Alaska this month that aids in the fight against COVID-19. Alaska COVID Exposure Notification Express, or ENX, is a free, anonymous service you can use on your smartphone.”


Washington Post: DeSantis suggests vaccines hurt fertility. A study indicates otherwise — but says catching coronavirus might.. “… there is no evidence that getting vaccinated against the coronavirus makes it harder to conceive, according to a study released Thursday of heterosexual couples trying for pregnancy. DeSantis could not be immediately reached for a comment on his remarks. By contrast, men infected with the coronavirus showed signs of a short-term decline in fertility, according to the research, which was led by an epidemiologist at Boston University and published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Epidemiology. It was funded by the National Institutes of Health.”

Reuters: Fact Check-The Metropolitan Police has not opened a criminal investigation into Britain’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. “The Metropolitan Police has not launched a criminal investigation into Britain’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, nor are officers shutting down vaccination centres as a result. Claims about such police activity have spread rapidly online and appear to be based on a branch in west London issuing a crime reference number (CRN) after a report was submitted of an alleged vaccine-related crime.”

FTC: Cease and Desist Demands show the role social media platforms play in the spread of dubious COVID claims. “The Omicron variant has consumers saying ‘Omigosh,’ but even before the current surge, advertisers have been using questionable COVID-related claims to promote their products. FTC staff sent 25 more Cease and Desist Demands to businesses, most of whom have made unsubstantiated prevention or treatment representations for tinctures, teas, and sundry services. But there’s a key point that differentiates these Demands from the more than 400 letters that preceded them. Copies of the Cease and Desist Demands were sent to the social media platforms the advertisers used to convey their claims. For a numerical breakdown of those platforms, read on.”


New York Times: Detainees Sue Arkansas Jail That Gave Them Ivermectin to Treat Covid. “Detainees at an Arkansas jail who had Covid-19 were unknowingly treated by the detention center’s doctor with ivermectin, a drug that health officials have continually said is dangerous and should not be used to treat or prevent a coronavirus infection, according to a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of four detainees.”


BBC: Anti-vax protests: ‘Sovereign citizens’ fight UK Covid vaccine rollout. “Opposition to Covid vaccinations has come in many forms, but none stranger than the ‘sovereign citizen’ defence. It uses defunct ancient English law to try to challenge regulations. Some anti-vaccination protesters outside schools and hospitals have used this to hand out fake legal documents to teachers, parents and health workers.”


Mississippi Public Broadcasting: Pediatric coronavirus cases continue to rise in Mississippi. “Experts say kids are at risk for several severe symptoms of the highly transmissible omicron coronavirus variant, and only 6% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 in Mississippi are fully vaccinated. In the state’s only children’s hospital, nearly all coronavirus patients are unvaccinated, or are to young to be vaccinated at this time. Dr. Anita Henderson is President of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She says some parents are hesitant to get their children vaccinated because they may have had the coronavirus during the delta surge.”


Bloomberg: Covid-19 infected lions prompt variant warning in South Africa. “Lions and pumas at a zoo in the South African capital of Pretoria got severe Covid-19 from asymptomatic zoo handlers, raising concerns that new variants could emerge from animal reservoirs of the disease, studies carried out by a local university showed.”


New York Times: Supply Chain Woes Could Worsen as China Imposes New COVID Lockdowns. “Companies are bracing for another round of potentially debilitating supply chain disruptions as China, home to about one-third of global manufacturing, imposes sweeping lockdowns in an attempt to keep the omicron variant at bay.”

Dawn: How women-led small businesses braved a strange new Covid-struck world. “I discovered the joys of shopping for handmade products online after Covid-19 hit, when most of my purchases happened through direct messages (or DMs) on Facebook and Instagram. Many of the businesses I bought from were run by women selling products handmade by either themselves or rural artisans. A surprising number of these women started their gig months after the Covid-19 pandemic began, opening shop at a time when bigger businesses were closing down one after the other. I wondered why these women began their businesses at such an apocalyptic time. Was it easy to sell products in the midst of so much panic and uncertainty? Did they have a chance to flourish like they could have before the pandemic began?”


MedicalNewsToday: WHO strongly recommends arthritis drug for severe COVID-19. “The WHO has strongly recommended that doctors use an arthritis drug called baricitinib to treat people with severe or critical COVID-19. The drug belongs to a class of medications known as Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, which block the activity of immune signaling molecules called cytokines.”

Reuters: Hong Kong to cull hamsters after COVID-19 found in pet shop. “Hong Kong ordered a cull of 2,000 hamsters on Tuesday and warned pet owners not to kiss animals after a cluster of COVID-19 cases was traced to a pet shop. The outbreak of Delta variant cases in humans linked to the shop worker prompted tests on hundreds of animals in the Chinese-ruled territory, with 11 hamsters showing up positive.”

BBC: Nobody warned me drinks event was against rules – Boris Johnson. “Boris Johnson has “categorically” denied he was warned a drinks party in the No 10 garden risked breaking lockdown rules. ‘Nobody warned me that it was against the rules,’ the prime minister said, adding: ‘I would have remembered that.’ Former aide Dominic Cummings says he warned Mr Johnson at the time, and has accused him of misleading MPs about it.”

Associated Press: US military team to assist Navajo Nation hospital in New Mexico. “More than 200 U.S. military medical personnel are being deployed to eight states and the Navajo Nation to support civilian health care workers treating COVID-19 patients.”


Axios: Great Resignation boosts White House’s tech talent hunt. “The administration wants to remake how government websites deliver services and improve the nation’s cybersecurity, but it will need skilled workers to make it happen. What’s happening: Senior officials are streamlining the hiring process for tech jobs and hoping to tempt technical workers with the lure of making a difference in people’s lives through government work.”

FTC: With Omicron Variant on the Rise, FTC Orders More Marketers to Stop Falsely Claiming Their Products Can Effectively Prevent or Treat COVID-19. “The Federal Trade Commission ordered more than 20 marketers nationwide to immediately stop making baseless claims that their products and supposed therapies can treat or prevent COVID-19. In cease-and-desist demands sent to these marketers, the agency noted that violators could be hit with monetary penalties under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act passed by Congress last year.”

CNET: Judge blocks COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers. “A federal judge in Texas has blocked US President Joe Biden’s mandate requiring federal workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The Friday decision is the latest blow to the Biden administration’s efforts to boost vaccination rates. The decision comes after the US Supreme Court last week blocked the administration’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with 100 or more workers, which confined the mandate only to federal workers.”


NBC Boston: Baker, Education Officials Announce Weekly At-Home Tests for Students and Staff. “Massachusetts education officials on Tuesday announced updated school COVID-19 testing options, including providing participating students and staff with at-home rapid tests weekly to enhance chances for in-person learning.”

Fox 4: KDHE discontinues COVID-19 contact tracing operations. “The Kansas Department of Health will no longer conduct contact outreach and monitoring starting in February 1, 2022…. KDHE said that contract tracing staff will be reassigned to contact investigations.”

KATU: Over 1,200 National Guard members to assist Oregon hospitals as state sees COVID surge. “More than 1,200 Oregon National Guard members will be deployed to hospitals across the state by Tuesday as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge. Of those members, 500 were deployed last week to help hospitals care for patients. Gov. Kate Brown recently announced that she would deploy an additional 700 national guard members.”

St. Louis Public Radio: Missouri AG Schmitt files anti-mask lawsuits against school districts. “The suits allege that school districts do not have the authority to impose public health orders for children. Several parents within the districts are named as plaintiffs in the suits that were filed in the counties where the school districts are located. The lawsuits are part of Schmitt’s ongoing effort to force Missouri schools to drop mask mandates and other COVID-19 mitigation policies. Schmitt is a Republican running for U.S. Senate.”

State of Missouri: Federal Medical Team Headed To St. Louis To Assist Hospital Staff Following State Request. “Today, Governor Mike Parson announced a specialized medical team of U.S. military personnel, which includes doctors and nurses, is being deployed to the St. Louis region to support hospital staff strained by COVID-19. The team is expected to be in place at BJC Christian Hospital next week.”


Reuters: Two close aides of Pope Francis test positive for COVID-19, Vatican says. “The second and third ranking Vatican officials under Pope Francis have tested positive for COVID-19, the Vatican said on Tuesday. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is secretary of state, had slight symptoms, and the deputy secretary of state, Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, had no symptoms, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.”


WHNT: Funeral planned Tuesday for Madison County Sheriff’s investigator who died from COVID-19 complications. “A long-time member of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office will be laid to rest Tuesday. Investigator Steve Finley died Friday from COVID-19 complications. The 30-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office joined the force in 1993 as a corrections officer, later moving to the patrol division, then worked as an investigator for the last 21 years.”


BBC: My2022: Beijing Olympics app vulnerable to data breaches, analysts warn. “The Beijing Winter Olympics app that all Games attendees must use contains security weaknesses that leave users exposed to data breaches, analysts warn. The My2022 app will be used by athletes, audience members and media for daily Covid monitoring. The app will also offer voice chats, file transfers and Olympic news.”

NBC 4: Team USA Olympians doing all they can to avoid COVID before leaving. “After four years of hard work and dedication to land a spot on the Olympic team, Team USA athletes don’t find themselves celebrating much these days. Instead, they are isolating.”


Vox: Am I asymptomatic, or do I just really not want to have Covid-19? A guide.. “In December 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its recommendations for isolation after a positive test, with the number of days someone must isolate being largely dependent on the presence of symptoms. Now, people who test positive but do not develop symptoms must isolate for just five days; if they remain asymptomatic, they can end isolation after five days (but continue to wear a mask around others at home and in public for another five days). To help you better understand what ‘counts’ as a symptom, Vox spoke to three experts.”


Ubergizmo: The FaceBit Is An N95 Mask With Some Hi-Tech Wizardry. “In its current form, the FaceBit is an N95 mask retrofitted with a sensor. This sensor can actually help to detect whether or not the mask is worn properly by letting users know if there might be any leaks. In addition to detecting leaks, the sensors can also be used as a health gauge, where it can measure things like your heart rate using subtle head movements from blood pumping.”


Daily Beast: Cannabis CBD Might Be Highly Effective at Preventing COVID. “New, peer-reviewed research published Thursday in Science Advances suggests the popular non-psychoactive compound in cannabis known as cannabidiol, or CBD, can help prevent the novel coronavirus from replicating in human cells, reducing the chances of a full-blown infection. Another arm of the study also found that real-world patients who were prescribed CBD experienced lower rates of COVID-19.”

UPI: Patients with brain fog after COVID-19 have abnormalities in cerebrospinal fluid. “Brain fog. It has become an inexplicable side effect of COVID-19 infection, but researchers now report they have discovered a possible reason why it happens. In a small study, investigators found abnormalities in the cerebrospinal fluid of some COVID-19 patients who developed thinking problems.”

UCLA: Breastfeeding mothers don’t pass COVID to infants, study suggests. “In the largest study to date on COVID-19 and breast milk, a UCLA-led research team found no evidence that the virus is transmitted from mothers to children through breastfeeding.”

New York Times: Booster shots are instrumental in protecting against Omicron, new C.D.C. data suggest.. “Booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines aren’t just preventing infections with the highly contagious Omicron variant — they’re also keeping infected Americans from ending up in the hospital, according to data published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Daily Beast: This New Tool Predicts COVID Survival From a Blood Sample. “As the Omicron variant rages across the U.S. and the rest of the globe, we’re seeing hospitals everywhere maxing out their capacity to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients—not all of whom have an obvious risk factor. In the ICU, it’s often difficult to determine who might survive and beat the infection, and who might end up succumbing to the disease. That could change very soon thanks to a new AI tool that can predict the survival outcome of severe cases of COVID weeks in advance—all from a single blood sample.”


BBC: Hong Kong police charge two former aircrew over Covid rules. “Hong Kong police say two former flight attendants have been arrested and charged for allegedly breaking the city’s coronavirus restrictions. Police said the two had ‘conducted unnecessary activities’ when they should have been in home isolation. They both later tested positive for the fast-spreading Omicron variant.”

New York Times: Scammers see an opportunity in the demand for coronavirus testing in the U.S., officials say.. “Federal and state officials warned this week of coronavirus testing scams that have taken advantage of the United States’ strained testing infrastructure and have left Americans with invalid test results, wrongful medical bills and overpriced at-home tests.”

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