Friday CoronaBuzz, March 4, 2022: 38 pointers to updates, health information, research news, and more.

Please get a booster shot. Please wear a mask if you’re in a red zone. Much love.


The Hill: Surgeon general demands data on COVID-19 misinformation from major tech firms. “U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has reportedly asked Big Tech companies to hand over data regarding COVID-19 misinformation, The New York Times reported on Thursday. In a formal notice, Murthy requested major tech platforms submit information about the prevalence and scale of COVID-19 misinformation on their sites, from social networks, search engines, crowdsourced platforms, e-commerce platforms and instant messaging systems.”

The Guardian: ‘Bot holiday’: Covid disinformation down as social media pivot to Ukraine. “Russia’s information war with western nations seems to be pivoting to new fronts, from vaccines to geopolitics. And while social media has proven a powerful tool for Ukraine – with images of Zelenskiy striding through the streets of Kyiv and tractors pulling abandoned Russian tanks – growing campaigns of misinformation around the world could change the conflict’s narrative, and the ways the world reacts.”

FTC: Cure COVID with an herbal beverage? A falsi-tea, says the FTC. “Two years into the pandemic and you thought you’d seen it all? How about an herbal tea that claims to cure COVID in 24-48 hours? It’s a representation the FTC says is steeped in deception. So we’ve joined forces with the FDA and the Department of Justice to file suit in federal court to challenge – among other things – allegedly false and deceptive claims that Earth Tea cures COVID-19 and that the defendants have clinical proof to back up their promises.”


ABC News: Over 5 million children around the world lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19. “Approximately 5.2 million children have lost a parent or caregiver during the pandemic, according to a new study published in The Lancet medical journal Thursday. An analysis by the same team of researchers in July 2021 had estimated 1.5 million children were orphaned during the first 14-months of the pandemic, meaning they lost at least one parent. But with new variants and a rising death count, the researchers said they felt compelled to re-evaluate the analysis.”

WGN: Pandemic causes dip in birth rate, mental health crisis among pregnant, post-partum women. “COVID-19 has had an impact on pregnant and postpartum women during the pandemic. The Illinois Department of Public Health has been tracking the number of women testing positive for COVID-19 at delivery. The latest data shows from March 2020 to March 2021, there were nearly 1,500 positive cases.”


The Guardian: Fires and clashes break out at New Zealand parliament as police move in to clear protest. “Fires burned across parliament grounds, and violent clashes broke out between protesters and police at an anti-vaccine mandate demonstration on New Zealand’s parliament grounds, in extraordinary and chaotic scenes rarely seen in the country.”


CNN: Demand for Covid-19 testing is falling, but experts caution it’s as important as ever. “As the United States emerges from the Omicron wave, Covid-19 testing has slowed to a fraction of what it was at the beginning of the year. In mid-January, as daily case counts reached their peak, about 2.5 million tests were processed each day in the United States. Now, there are about 670,000 tests coming through each day, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.”

Tampa Bay Times: Florida health equity experts reflect on progress, setbacks two years into COVID. “The pandemic forced widespread acknowledgement of systemic racism in health care. Now, the people working to address health disparities fight to keep momentum as the pandemic fades.”


WIRED: How to Move Your Shop or Business Online. “Below are a few stories of businesses that took the pandemic by the horns and created change overnight. One business previously had refused for years to offer online services. Today, that same business generates 20 percent of its revenue from virtual services. Never say never.”

Bloomberg: Google Tells Employees to Return to Offices Starting in April. “Alphabet Inc.’s Google is asking employees in the San Francisco Bay Area to work in their offices three days a week starting in April, marking its first return to campuses since the pandemic began.”

The Verge: Twitter’s CEO says employees can return to the office starting March 15th. “Twitter will be fully re-opening its offices and bringing back business travel starting on March 15th, according to a post written by CEO Parag Agrawal. In his note (see the full text below), Agrawal reiterates the policy put into place by former Twitter lead Jack Dorsey, saying that employees will be allowed to work remotely full-time if that’s what they’re comfortable with.”


BBC: How Taiwan used simple tech to help contain Covid-19. “G0v, pronounced ‘gov zero’: a largely anonymous collective of tech workers – designers, programmers, activists – has been key in originating ideas. The collective is best known for bi-monthly hackathons and ‘forking’ – a concept taken from programing, where existing open source software is redesigned into a new product.”

The Mainichi: Over 70% of homeless people in Tokyo unvaccinated for COVID: survey. “More than 70% of homeless people in Japan’s capital who responded to a survey had not been vaccinated for COVID-19, a support group revealed on Feb. 24. The group, informally called Nojiren, works for needy people primarily in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.”

New York Times: Queen Elizabeth Resumes Work 9 Days After Positive Coronavirus Test. “Queen Elizabeth II is returning to work after a Covid scare, Buckingham Palace said on Tuesday, ending more than a week of heightened concern about the health of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch after it was announced that she had tested positive for the coronavirus.”

The Guardian: Mandatory Covid jabs dropped for NHS staff in England from mid-March. “Mandatory Covid-19 jabs for health and social care workers in England will be scrapped on 15 March, Sajid Javid has said, as he confirmed staff will no longer be required by law to get vaccinated. The rules came into force for care home staff in November, and had been due to be introduced for frontline NHS and wider social care staff in regulated settings from 1 April.”

New York Times: ‘I Don’t Dare Get the Shot’: Virus Ravages Unvaccinated Older Hong Kongers. ” For two years, Hong Kong had largely avoided a major coronavirus outbreak with tight border controls and strict social distancing measures. Then Omicron triggered an explosion of infections, exposing the city’s failure to prepare its older — and most at risk — residents for the worst. In a matter of weeks, the outbreak quickly overwhelmed Hong Kong’s world-class medical system.”


New York Times: Covid, inflation and a loss of aid crimped American incomes in January.. “January was also the first month since mid-2021 in which parents did not receive payments under the expanded child tax credit, which expired at the end of last year. Income from government programs fell 1.3 percent last month. Yet despite the crimp in incomes, Americans continued to spend. Consumer spending rose 2.1 percent in January. Even after adjusting for inflation, spending was up 1.5 percent.”

CNN: White House unveils plan to move America to a new stage of the Covid pandemic. “The National Covid-19 Preparedness Plan, which will require additional funding from Congress, is focused on spending on treatments for Covid-19, preparing for new variants, keeping schools and businesses open and continuing the effort to vaccinate the nation and the world.

Washington Post: Kaine introduces bill to research and combat long covid. “Sen. Tim Kaine got covid-19 in the spring of 2020, and nearly two years later he still has mild symptoms. ‘I tell people it feels like all my nerves have had like five cups of coffee,’ Kaine said Wednesday of his ’24/7′ tingling sensation, just after introducing legislation intended to expand understanding of long covid.”


New York Times: New York State ends its mask mandate for schools.. “New York will no longer require students and educators to wear masks in schools starting Wednesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Sunday, a milestone in the state’s two-year struggle against the coronavirus pandemic and a mostly welcome sign of the virus’s retreat.”

USA Today: Hawaii is ditching strict entry requirements: No more COVID tests, vaccine proof or quarantine. “Hawaii is lifting its strict COVID-19 entry requirements on March 26, Gov. David Ige announced Tuesday. Travelers will no longer need to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine or a negative COVID-19 test to bypass a mandatory quarantine. The five-day quarantine, which has applied to those who don’t show vaccine proof or a negative test, is going away, too. The state is keeping its indoor mask mandate, however.”

NJ: N.J.’s COVID public health emergency to end Monday, Murphy says. “Gov. Phil Murphy will lift the latest COVID-19 public health emergency on Monday after two years of New Jerseyans being under emergency orders from the pandemic that swept the world.”


Associated Press: New York City mayor plans to lift indoor vaccine mandate. “New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced Sunday that a dramatic drop in coronavirus infections could lead to the lifting of vaccine mandates on restaurants, bars and theaters as soon as March 7.”

San Francisco Chronicle: Mayor Breed wants office workers to return to S.F., but not everyone is on board. “Despite indoor mask rules being lifted this month, office workers are not rushing back to their high rises downtown, and that has huge implications for businesses small and large. It’s also a big concern for the city’s long term tax revenue, some of which has been offset by remote workers no longer commuting into the city.”

Washington Post: Cities are ditching vaccine mandates to dine out and watch shows. Did they work?. “Public health officials say these rules delivered on the promise of creating safer environments and nudging at least some people to get vaccinated. Some cities, including Chicago and Philadelphia, say they are prepared to bring back vaccine mandates to combat surges. But they are wary of locking thousands out of public life in perpetuity.”


The Guardian: ‘I last went to school in December’: a headteacher’s battle with long Covid. “As the headteacher of a primary school in a small town in Lincolnshire, [Steve] Bladon, 46, knows as much as anyone about living with the virus. He has led his team and school community tirelessly through the pandemic, delivering remote education and food parcels, reassuring anxious parents and keeping colleagues calm. It’s been exhausting but rewarding, and he’s proud of what his school has achieved. Now, however, he’s one of as many as 1.3 million people in the UK learning to live with long Covid – that’s an altogether different challenge.”


Chalkbeat New York: 52% of NYC public school students are fully vaccinated. Check your school’s rate here.. “In total, 59% of the city’s public school students have received at least one vaccine dose and nearly 52% are considered fully vaccinated. The information is required under City Council law, and includes a breakdown of school-level vaccination rates and the number of students who have consented to in-school COVID testing. Updates will be shared every two weeks. The figures don’t include charter schools.”


TNR: UC eliminating all masking restrictions beginning March 12. “Last week, the University of Cincinnati (UC) announced that it would immediately cease mandatory weekly testing for unvaccinated students, faculty and staff. Now, UC has announced it is changing its masking policies to align with recommendations made by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”


BBC: Vaccines: What we know about long-term safety now. “This week marks the anniversary of the first delivery of Covid-19 vaccines under the Covax scheme – as well as being more than 14 months since the first dose was given. And scientists explain that’s enough time for all but the rarest side effects to have emerged.”

The Atlantic: Now Is as Good a Time as There’ll Ever Be to Leave Your Pandemic Bubble. “People who are older or immunocompromised have had to be more cautious than others throughout the pandemic. Now is no exception, but still, experts think that, depending on people’s personal circumstances and comfort levels, many in these groups could sometimes go out (if they wear a good mask) and socialize (if others get tested). They also think that families with kids who aren’t old enough to be vaccinated can do some fun things too.”


Nature: Wuhan market was epicentre of pandemic’s start, studies suggest. “Scientists have released three studies that reveal intriguing new clues about how the COVID-19 pandemic started. Two of the reports trace the outbreak back to a massive market that sold live animals, among other goods, in Wuhan, China1,2, and a third suggests that the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 spilled over from animals — possibly those sold at the market — into humans at least twice in November or December 20193. All three are preprints, and so have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.”

PsyPost: New research shows masks make it more difficult to read emotions from faces. “Masks impair the recognition of six basic facial expressions, according to new research published in the journal Social Psychology. The findings suggests that visual information from lower portions of the face play an important role in understanding facial expressions.”

CBC: Canadian researchers discover 1st possible case of deer spreading COVID-19 virus to a human. “In a world first, preliminary research suggests deer may be able to transmit the COVID-19 virus to humans, following analysis by a team of Canadian scientists monitoring the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in animals. Up until now, researchers have only found evidence of humans spreading the virus to deer, and deer spreading it to other deer.”

Washington Post: 140 million Americans have had coronavirus, according to blood tests analyzed by CDC. “More than 140 million Americans have had the coronavirus, according to estimates from blood tests that reveal antibodies from infection — about double the rate regularly cited by national case counts. The estimates, compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that about 43 percent of the country has been infected by the virus. The study shows that the majority of children have also been infected.”

UMass Chan Medical School: At-home COVID-19 antigen tests detect omicron and delta variants similarly, study finds. “At-home antigen tests performed similarly in detecting omicron and delta SARS-CoV-2 variants in comparison to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and remain valuable tools to inform people of their infection status quickly, according to a study authored by UMass Chan Medical School and associated researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative. The research appeared in medRxiv, a preprint online platform, and has not yet been peer reviewed.”

ProPublica: What’s Holding Up the COVID Vaccines for Children Under 5?. “For months, parents have been told COVID vaccines for their little ones are coming. But opaque communication from the FDA, shifting timelines, delays and misinformation have left parents frustrated and confused. Here’s everything we know at the moment.”


Associated Press; Pandemic fears are fading along with omicron: AP-NORC poll. “Just 24% say they are ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ worried about themselves or a family member contracting COVID-19, down from 36% in both December and January, when omicron caused a massive spike in infections and taxed public health systems. Another 34% say they are somewhat worried. More than 140,000 deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to COVID-19 since omicron became the dominant strain of the coronavirus in mid-December.”

Reuters: Most EU women blame COVID pandemic for spike in gender violence -poll. ” Nearly three out of four European Union women think the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred an increase in physical and psychological violence against them, according to a Eurobarometer poll published on Friday. The poll, commissioned by the European Parliament ahead of Women’s Day on March 8, shows 77% of women in the EU think the pandemic caused a rise in gender violence in their countries, with nine in 10 respondents in Greece and Portugal saying so.”

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