Monday CoronaBuzz, February 7, 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.


BBC: India Arie and Graham Nash pull music from Spotify in Joe Rogan row. “Soul musician India Arie and British singer-songwriter Graham Nash have become the latest artists to ask Spotify to remove their music. They follow Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, who are boycotting the streaming service over Covid misinformation discussed by podcast host Joe Rogan.”

Daily Beast: Inside the Truly Warped World of Texas Lt. Gov’s Radio Station. “On Jan. 21, around 6:30 p.m. central time, Houston radio host Frank Spagnoletti made a stunning claim to the listeners of KSEV 700 AM—stunning even for this fevered era of paranoia and mass disinformation. ‘They’re already among us, cyborgs,’ declared Spagnoletti. He returned to the theme repeatedly in his hour-long program. ‘Cyborg supersoldiers—we see them around, we’ve seen some of them.'”

Daily Beast: Anti-Vax Priest Who Claimed Vaccines Contain ‘Aborted Embryos’ Dies of COVID. “An Italian priest who shunned COVID-19 vaccines over the false belief that they contain ‘aborted embryos’ has died at the age of 51 after battling coronavirus for several weeks. Don Paolo Romeo had resisted pleas to get vaccinated from friends and colleagues who tried to talk sense into him, according to the L’Unione Sarda newspaper.”

Washington Post: I’m disgusted by Joe Rogan’s weak apology. My former colleague’s death at 47 makes it worse.. “To my ears, Rogan sounded glib, narcissistic and clueless. And Spotify — the platform that enables him by insisting it would be wrong to restrain what he does on his podcast — is even worse. Its failure to take any meaningful responsibility, other than adding a few disclaimers, is all too reminiscent of the way Facebook, for years, has dodged accountability for spreading so many harmful lies. Rogan’s non-apology made me furious. Probably because I’ve been spending a lot of time this week thinking about Miguel Rodriguez, a former colleague of mine, who died of covid last week.”


Boston University: How Much Did US Insurers Waste on Ivermectin for COVID?. “Rena Conti, a Questrom School of Business associate professor of markets, public policy, and law, studied insurance claims and reimbursements data and found payments towards ivermectin for COVID-19, plugged by right-wing media despite its unproven efficacy, may have topped $130 million last year.”


Deadline: Covid Was The Leading Cause Of Death In Los Angeles Over The Past Two Years, Data Show. “According to L.A. officials, Covid has been the leading cause of death in L.A. county over roughly the past two years. Offering data from March 2020 through December 2021, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said 24,947 lives lost to Covid. Second on the list is coronary heart disease, which was responsible for 21,513 deaths. For comparison — since it is often made — the flu took 3,422 lives in Los Angeles over the same period.”


BBC: Freedom Convoy: No plans to call in military to move truckers, says Trudeau. “Canada’s prime minister has said sending in troops to clear protestors from the nation’s capital is ‘not in the cards right now’. The city’s police chief had earlier refused to rule out military intervention to remove demonstrators. Thousands arrived in the city last weekend to protest vaccine mandates, gridlocking downtown Ottawa.”

Global News: Ottawa declares state of emergency amid trucker convoy protest. “The City of Ottawa declared a state of emergency on Sunday after over a week of trucker convoy demonstrations in the nation’s capital against COVID-19 restrictions. Mayor Jim Watson made the announcement in a press release issued late Sunday afternoon.”


University of Texas at Austin: COVID Forecasting Method Using Hospital and Cellphone Data Proves It Can Reliably Guide US Cities Through Pandemic Threats. ” Using cellphone mobility data and COVID-19 hospital admissions data, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have reliably forecast regional hospital demands for almost two years, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The forecasting system, which municipal authorities credit with helping Austin maintain the lowest COVID-19 death rate among all large Texas cities, has been built out for use by 22 municipal areas in Texas and can be used by any city to guide COVID-19 responses as the virus continues to spread.”

MedicalXpress: Social media anaylsis reveals health system stress. “Analysis of social media posts in January 2022 has revealed new insights into stresses on the health system and health workers, the need for fairness and clarity around rules and regulations, and the impact of uncertainty around the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.”

Tomahawk Leader: Aspirus: Post-acute care needs ‘significantly rising’ during COVID-19 pandemic. “The Aspirus Home Medical Equipment (AHME) team has seen a ‘steep increase’ in patients requiring home oxygen therapy, according to the release. Aspirus said AHME averaged about 20 new oxygen patients per month before the COVID-19 pandemic. That number rose to around 40 new oxygen patients per month early in the pandemic and spiked to 172 new oxygen patients in Jan. 2022.”

New York Times: How New York City’s Hospitals Withstood the Omicron Surge. “More than 60,000 New York City residents tested positive for the coronavirus in a single day. Testing lines stretched for hours, and a quarantine hotel program doubled in size. Packed emergency rooms had too few nurses. Hospital morgues became so full that about 200 bodies had to be relocated by the city. Like a tsunami, the Omicron variant of the virus swept through New York City from December to January, swamping defenses that had been built over the past two years.”


Salt Lake Tribune: Utah reports about 3,500 new COVID-19 cases as hospitalizations rise . “There were 196 COVID patients in intensive care units statewide as of Thursday, an increase from Wednesday. ICUs in the state’s larger “referral” hospitals were at 96.1 % capacity, up sharply from Wednesday and again exceeding the 85% threshold that hospital administrators have said is necessary to leave room for unpredictable staffing levels, new patients and availability of specialized equipment and personnel.”


AFP: Ford curbs N.American production as chip shortage hits: media. “Major automaker Ford will cut its North American vehicle production next week due to a semiconductor shortage, US media reported Saturday. Ford plans to suspend production of vehicles including the Ford Bronco, the popular F-150 pickup and the new Mustang Mach-E electric vehicle at its plants in Michigan, Illinois and Mexico, according to outlets including CNBC.”

Washington Post: England’s oldest pub, possibly 1,229 years old, shuts doors due to coronavirus hardships. “The Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub in St. Albans, England, has seen it all: Since its first brick was laid, possibly as early as 793, near the ruins of an ancient Roman city well before the United Kingdom was formed, the drinking house has survived civil and world wars, famine and the spread of the bubonic plague. But hardships brought on by the coronavirus pandemic mean the pub — which Guinness World Records has reportedly called England’s oldest, though others contest that title — is shutting its doors.”


BBC: Covid: New Zealand unveils phased border reopening plan. “New Zealand has announced a phased reopening of its borders, as the country starts to ease some of the world’s toughest Covid restrictions. Vaccinated citizens in Australia can go home from 27 February without needing to undergo state mandatory hotel quarantine. Jabbed citizens elsewhere will be allowed in from 13 March, said PM Jacinda Ardern.”

South China Morning Post: Can China’s home-grown mRNA Covid-19 vaccine pass its final tests?. “China has moved a step closer to developing a home-grown mRNA vaccine against Covid-19, with the publication of early trial results for its prime candidate ARCoV. No serious adverse events were recorded in the phase 1 clinical trial data, published last week by The Lancet Microbe, but scientists said it was too early to judge its success.”

BBC: Europe entering Covid pandemic ‘ceasefire’, says WHO. “The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Europe director says the continent could soon enter a ‘long period of tranquillity’ in the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr Hans Kluge cited high vaccination rates, the end of winter and the less severe nature of the Omicron variant.”

Nature: South African scientists copy Moderna’s COVID vaccine. “The company, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, in Cape Town, has made only microlitres of the vaccine, based on data that Moderna used to make its shot. But the achievement is a milestone for a major initiative launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) — a technology transfer hub meant to build capacity for vaccine manufacturing in low- and middle-income countries.”

Neos Kosmos: Greece drops negative COVID-19 test demand for vaccinated travellers. “As of today, Greece will allow tourists with a European vaccination certificate to enter the country without having to provide a negative test. A valid digital European Union vaccination certificate will suffice, Reuters reported.”


CNN: US Army to begin discharging soldiers who refuse Covid-19 vaccination. “The US Army will begin discharging soldiers who refuse to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, unless the service member has an approved exemption or pending request.”

BuzzFeed News: COVID Scams Are Surging, But Congress Isn’t Giving The Government Power To Repay Victims. “All across the country, a parallel pandemic of fraud has risen with COVID and the ensuing shortages of tests and personal protective equipment. At the same time, the Federal Trade Commission has lost its most powerful tool to crack down on scammers and force them to return money to victims. The FTC is pleading with Congress to restore this tool. So far, Congress has barely noticed.”

US Department of Health and Human Services: HHS Issues New Guidance for Health Care Providers on Civil Rights Protections for People with Disabilities. “Today, the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) issued guidance to health care providers on civil rights protections for people with disabilities. The guidance, issued by HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, makes clear that in light of the continuing public health emergency, when resources can be scarce, it is vital that individuals with disabilities are not prevented from receiving needed health care benefits and services as this violates federal civil rights laws.”


San Francisco Chronicle: Expanded COVID sick leave in California could take effect next week. “Many California workers are one step closer to regaining access to expanded COVID-19 supplementary sick pay after a bill published Wednesday outlined who would be eligible and the limits on how much businesses would have to pay.”


Route Fifty: Why Turning Motels Into Housing Could Outlast the Pandemic. “States and localities looked to motels and hotels early in the Covid-era to house the homeless and people needing to quarantine. Now some of the programs show signs of becoming more permanent.”


CultureMap Houston: 2 Houston doctors nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for low-cost COVID vaccine. “He’s gained national and global acclaim for his battle against COVID-19 and for his efforts, Houston’s Dr. Peter Hotez has been nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize. Hotez, and his fellow dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, were nominated for the iconic award by Houston Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher (Texas-07).”

NBC News: New twist in Covid relief fraud case: Third fraudster is on the run. “A third member of a California fraud ring accused of stealing more than $18 million in Covid-19 relief loans has gone on the run, the FBI said Thursday. Tamara Dadyan, 42, was supposed to report to prison Jan. 28 to start serving a 10-year sentence, but she never showed up, and her whereabouts are unknown.”


BBC: Djokovic Covid tests were valid, Serbian officials say. “Prosecutors in Serbia say there is no evidence to suggest that Novak Djokovic submitted falsified Covid test certificates to Australian authorities. A BBC report last week cast doubt over the tests, suggesting the serial numbers were out of sequence with others from a similar time. The tests were provided to exempt him from rules barring unvaccinated people.”


BBC: School reopening: The Indian children who have never seen a classroom. “The impact has been particularly hard on millions of children who didn’t have access to laptops and uninterrupted internet. A study conducted by economists in August last year said the prolonged closure of schools in India had led to ‘catastrophic consequences’ for poor children. The survey found that nearly half of the 1,400 children sampled were unable to read more than a few words.”


Penn State: College students’ sense of belonging related to mental health during pandemic. “Among the many challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented to the higher education community, one of the most serious is arguably the toll on college students’ mental health. Penn State researchers have found that students’ sense of belongingness in a higher education institution not only has an impact on their academic performance but might also buffer them against anxiety and depression amid the global pandemic and a renewed racial awareness in the country.”


News Medical: New tool could help detect geographical hotspots for mental health problems caused by COVID. “A new proof of concept tool that allows the tracking and location of people’s emotions and stresses on social media in real-time has been proposed. The tool incorporates bot detection and community-level geospatial analysis, in order to filter out artificial content, while detecting stress hotspots over time.”


MIT Technology Review: What researchers learned from deliberately giving people covid. “The 36 volunteers, all aged 18 to 30, were exposed to a low dose of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus in the nose, the equivalent of the amount found in just a single drop of nasal fluid. Half the participants developed covid symptoms; they became infectious within just two days, with levels of infectious virus peaking at five days. It has previously been estimated that the time from exposure to first symptoms was about five days. Participants in the study remained infectious for an average of nine days and still had detectable levels of virus in their nose 12 days after initial exposure.”

PsyPost: One in 5 patients exhibit cognitive impairment several months after COVID-19 diagnosis. “Many long-haul COVID-19 patients suffer fatigue and cognitive impairments months after their initial COVID-19 diagnosis, according to new research published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. The study, which analyzed data from tens of thousands of patients, also found that COVID-19 was associated with persistent inflammation.”

University of California, Riverside: Using physics to explain the transmission effects of different SARS-CoV-2 mutations. “During the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, multiple new and more transmissible variants of the virus have emerged. Understanding how specific mutations affect SARS-CoV-2 transmission could help us to better understand the biology of the virus and to control outbreaks. This, however, is a challenging task, said John Barton, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Riverside, who is presenting results from his research titled ‘Inferring the Effects of Mutations on SARS-CoV-2 Transmission From Genomic Surveillance Data’ at the American Physical Society’s March Meeting.”

Augusta University: Small group of genetic variants found in extremely ill patients with COVID may help explain big differences in how sick people get. “The search to better understand the tremendous range of responses to infection with the COVID-19 virus — from symptom free to critically ill — has uncovered in some of the sickest patients a handful of rare structural gene variants involved in body processes, like inflammation, which the virus needs to be successful.”


University of Southern Mississippi: Study Shows How African American Pastors in Mississippi Led Their Congregations Toward Public Health Safety during COVID Pandemic. “A research team at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), led by assistant professor of public health, Dr. Tanya Funchess, has recently completed a phenomenological qualitative study designed to address how African American pastors in Mississippi handled the COVID-19 pandemic with their congregations.”

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