Tuesday CoronaBuzz, April 19, 2022: 49 pointers to updates, health information, research news, and more.


NPR: Two new omicron variants are spreading in N.Y. and elsewhere. Here’s what we know. “Known as BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, the variants are closely related to the BA.2 variant – a version of omicron that has caused surges across Europe and is now dominant across the U.S. Together the two new variants now comprise 90% of cases in central New York.”


Associated Press: Arkansas jail, doc: Ivermectin lawsuit should be dismissed. “Attorneys for an Arkansas jail and doctor being sued by inmates who say they were unknowingly given ivermectin to treat their COVID-19 say the lawsuit should be dismissed because the men are no longer being held in the county facility.”


Jalopnik: Pandemic Road Rage Is Experiencing An ‘Explosion’. “For all the money we, as a nation, spend on policing, you might think we’d have things like ‘databases on violent and deadly crime,’ but you’d be wrong! The American police apparatus thrives on funding without accountability, and that seems to be holding true for road rage, as the New York Times details.”


CNN: With fewer cases and less demand, many Covid-19 testing sites are shutting down. “As Covid-19 numbers reach pandemic lows across the United States, many Covid-19 testing sites have begun closing their doors. Some testing sites have been open for almost two years, many seeing hundreds or even thousands of people a day. Now, home tests are more readily available, and demand for testing sites is falling.”

NBC News: Hundreds are still dying from Covid every day. Why is Paxlovid sitting on shelves?. “More than 500 people are still dying of Covid-19 every day in the U.S., but an ample supply of a highly effectively antiviral drug is sitting on shelves, unused. The drug, Pfizer’s antiviral pill Paxlovid, was authorized for emergency use for high-risk people in December. Clinical trials found that a five-day course cut a patient’s risk of hospitalization and death by 89 percent.”

CIDRAP: Study details COVID’s toll on essential workers, health workers. “Of all essential workers in Sweden in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare professionals and immigrants were at highest risk for infection, hospitalization, and admission to an intensive care unit (ICU), according to a study late last week in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.”


Deadline: Broadway’s Covid-Hit ‘Paradise Square’, ‘Macbeth’, ‘A Strange Loop’ Cancel Additional Performances. “Also today, the Broadway productions of Macbeth, starring Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga, and the Pulitzer-winning A Strange Loop canceled tonight’s performances as both shows recover from recent Covid cases. The two productions are expected to resume performances on Tuesday, April 12. Both shows had previously canceled last week’s performances due to Covid cases within their casts and companies, and had expected to return today.”


CBC: The pandemic showed us that we still need libraries, even with Google. “As an academic librarian and a life-long library card holder, I paid little heed to those who predicted library buildings would close and everything would go online. ‘It won’t happen,’ I said, never imagining that a global pandemic would close library buildings for months on end. For the first time ever, I saw glimpses of what a world without libraries might be like.”


New York Times: Supply Chain Hurdles Will Outlast Pandemic, White House Says. “The coronavirus pandemic and its ripple effects have snarled supply chains around the world, contributing to shipping backlogs, product shortages and the fastest inflation in decades. But in a report released Thursday, White House economists argue that while the pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in the supply chain, it didn’t create them — and they warned that the problems won’t go away when the pandemic ends.”

NBC News: Pfizer says booster in children 5-11 raises antibodies against omicron. “A booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine raised antibody levels in children ages 5 to 11, the company said Thursday. The additional shot, given six months after the two-dose primary series, led to a sixfold increase in antibodies against the original strain of the coronavirus.”

CNET: Etsy Sellers Protest Fees Hike After Platform’s Pandemic Revenue Soars. “Thousands of Etsy sellers are criticizing the company for increasing fees that they must pay with each sale. The increase from 5% to 6.5% of sales started Monday, which prompted Etsy seller Kristi Cassidy to call for sellers to close their online stores and customers to stop buying on the platform for one week. More than 15,000 people have signed the petition. It’s not clear how many sellers have also closed down their online stores. Etsy grew its revenue significantly during the pandemic and acquired the Brazilian e-commerce platform Elo7.”

Houston Chronicle: Texas mother sues Wells Fargo, area hospital over son’s death from COVID-19. “Robert ‘BB’ Wagstaff was a course shy of completing his bachelor’s degree in accounting when he died of COVID-19 on April 10, 2020. Wagstaff, 30, became one of the first San Antonio residents to succumb to the virus. On Monday, a day after the second anniversary of his death, his mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against his former employer and the hospital where he died.”

CNN: China’s COVID Lockdowns Could Mean Millions of Fewer iPhones, Per Analyst. “In response to a new COVID-19 wave in China, the country’s authorities have locked down affected areas like Shanghai and Kunshan. These areas include parts suppliers that could lead to a big shortfall of millions of iPhones, according to a new Reuters report.”


New York Times: Welcome Back to the Office. Isn’t This Fun?. “R.T.O., for return to office, is an abbreviation born of the pandemic. It is a recognition of how Covid-19 forced many companies to abandon office buildings and empty cubicles. The pandemic proved that being in the office does not necessarily equal greater productivity, and some firms continued to thrive without meeting in person. Now, after two years of video meetings and Slack chats, many companies are eager to get employees back to their desks. The employees, however, may be not be so eager for a return to morning commutes, communal bathrooms and daytime outfits that are not athletic wear.”


Reuters: Worldwide COVID cases surpass 500 mln as Omicron variant BA.2 surges. “Global COVID-19 cases surpassed 500 million on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, as the highly contagious BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron surges in many countries in Europe and Asia.”

The Guardian: ‘People feel abandoned’: as masks come off, thousands of Australians feel scared to go out. “…more than an estimated 700,000 Australians are, at any given time, considered immunocompromised – through genetic causes, as organ recipients, undergoing treatments for cancer and some infections and simply age. Many in these groups are choosing to remain in self-imposed lockdown as Covid-19 precautions in public settings ease.”

BBC: Partygate: Met Police issue 30 more Downing Street lockdown fines. “Police have issued at least 30 more fines for breaches of lockdown regulations at gatherings in Whitehall and Downing Street. This comes on top of the 20 fines sent out last month. The Met Police are not providing details of who will be sent a fine or about the events they relate to.”

Daily Beast: Anti-Vax Crew Had Plot to Spark Civil War Over COVID Restrictions, Prosecutors Say. “Police are searching for a fifth suspect after four people were arrested for what’s described as an elaborate plot to cripple Germany and spark a civil war over COVID restrictions. The alleged scheme is said to have included a plan to kidnap Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and sabotage utility facilities to cause a nationwide power outage.”

The Guardian: Covid cases down but too soon to tell if UK has passed peak, say experts. “Coronavirus infections have fallen slightly in most of the UK, figures from the Office for National Statistics show, although experts analysing the data say it is too soon to say whether infections have passed their peak. The ONS data, which is based on swabs collected from randomly selected households, shows that in the week ending 9 April about 4.42 million people in the UK had Covid, about one in 15 people, down from one in 13 the week before.”

Dominican Today: Country enters the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. “The Dominican Republic is going through the fourth wave of the Covid-19 virus, the health authorities acknowledged yesterday but pointed out that with aggressiveness in the behavior of the indicators much lower than the other three previous ones, the result of the management that the country has given to the pandemic, vaccination, surveillance and treatments that are applied.”

NewsWise: Brazilian study finds COVID-19 cases and deaths higher in areas with electoral support for President Bolsonaro. “In a study to be presented at this year’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Lisbon, Portugal (23-26 April), researchers from Sociedade Mineira de Infectologia and Associação Mineira de Epidemiologia e Controle de Infecções show a correlation between the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s denialist attitude to COVID-19 and higher COVID-19 incidence and mortality.”

The Guardian: As New Zealand emerges from pandemic isolation, citizens queue up to leave. “New Zealand has been an enviable haven through the heights of the coronavirus pandemic. Tens of thousands of residents flocked home in the first year of the outbreak – and many more wished to, but were locked out by tough border restrictions. In 2020, the country reported its largest net gain of citizens since the 1970s. Now, those fortunes are changing, with tens of thousands poised to leave.”

Kazinform: Over 73,000 people died in Slovakia last year, highest figure since 1919. “Over 73,000 people died in Slovakia last year, which is the highest absolute figure to be reported since 1919, the Statistics Office reported on Thursday, TASR reports. Excess mortality, i.e. the number of extra deaths when compared to the five-year average before the pandemic, amounted to 37 percent last year. The highest number of people died in January 2021.”


New York Times: Shanghai’s food crisis prompts residents in Beijing to stockpile supplies.. “Some Beijing residents have started stockpiling food in their homes in case the city imposes a lockdown, after seeing reports of food shortages and even street fights over food during a lockdown in Shanghai. Liu Chang, a 29-year-old Beijing resident who lives with his girlfriend, has stocked enough food to last three months. He is worried about possible shortages as well as price gouging in the coming months.”

BBC: China Covid: Clashes in Shanghai over lockdown evictions. “Millions are confined to their homes as Shanghai battles a fresh outbreak of the virus. Anyone who tests positive is placed in quarantine. But with more than 20,000 new cases a day, authorities are struggling to find enough space.”


Associated Press: CDC extends travel mask requirement to May 3 as COVID rises. “The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is extending the nationwide mask requirement for public transit for 15 days as it monitors an uptick in COVID-19 cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was extending the order, which was set to expire on April 18, until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant that is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S.”

NBC News: Incomplete data likely masks a rise in U.S. Covid cases as focus on infection counts fades. “[Zeke] Emanuel and other experts cite a lack of testing as the primary reason cases go underreported. At the height of the omicron wave in January, the U.S. was administering more than 2 million tests per day. That had dropped to an average of about 530,000 as of Monday, the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

CNN: FDA authorizes first Covid-19 breath test. “The US Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization to the first Covid-19 test that spots chemical compounds associated with the coronavirus in breath, the agency said Thursday.”

Route Fifty: ‘There’s a Large Amount of Fraud Out There,’ Says Special IG for Pandemic Recovery. “After battles over his office’s jurisdiction and staffing and funding challenges, the special inspector general for pandemic recovery is hitting his stride. ‘I think we’re doing great things. I think we’re doing things that other law enforcement agencies aren’t doing,’ said Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery Brian Miller. ‘We have built-up the expertise in these programs to the point where we can advise federal prosecutors.'”

Route Fifty: Wastewater Testing Programs Need Better Coordination, Data Standards. “Wastewater surveillance systems are helping communities predict Covid-19 outbreaks, but lack of national coordination and standardized pose challenges to wider adoption, according to the Government Accountability Office.”


NBC Philadelphia: BREAKING: Philly Reinstates Indoor Mask Mandate. “With COVID-19 cases slowly rising, Philadelphia is bringing back its indoor mask mandate for public places, schools and day cares. Philadelphia announced Monday that, on April 18, masks must be worn again indoors.”

Deadline: 3 Times More Los Angeles Residents Infected With Covid Than Previously Reported, Says Study. “A new state study suggests the number of people in Los Angeles County who have been infected with Covid-19 during the pandemic is far greater than the number confirmed through standard testing. That’s due largely to the number of people who never developed symptoms and so never got tested, or who couldn’t access tests, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said today.”

Dallas Morning News: DART extends mask mandate until May 3 for all buses, trains. “Dallas County had recorded 479,597 confirmed coronavirus cases during the pandemic as of Wednesday. The county’s risk level has been at yellow since mid-March. Noncompliance with the mask requirement, unless exempted, is a violation of federal law and could result in the denial of boarding or removal. Fines could be issued between $500 and $3,000 for repeated offenders. [Dallas Area Rapid Transit] has face masks and hand sanitizers on its vehicles for passengers.”

The Mainichi: Japanese town mistakenly pays $366K in COVID subsidies to single household. “The municipal government arranged at a bank on April 3 to transfer 100,000 yen each to the accounts of 463 households that had applied for the subsidy by the end of March. A town employee later submitted a written request to the bank to transfer the 46.3 million yen. However, they mistakenly made the top name on the recipient list the representative of the entire group, causing the massive overpayment to that person.”


We Are Iowa: Warren County man heads home after 7-month battle with COVID-19. “Brian Van Gundy is back at home celebrating a major victory in his long and difficult battle with COVID-19. His daughter Alyvia Van Gundy recalling the seven-month-long journey.”

Seattle Times: Arts groups got creative about fundraising during COVID, and here’s why that’s likely to stay. “Stuck behind closed doors for much of the last two years, arts organizations used to drawing viewers into their galleries and auditoriums have been tasked with instead bringing their art to viewers, all while reminding viewers their craft is worth financially supporting. To remain afloat, Seattle organizations held virtual fundraisers, asked audiences to be sponsors or members and launched streaming platforms. Seattle’s creators had to get creative; now, many organizations say their innovative funding models are here to stay.”


WRAL: Over a dozen COVID cases linked to Carrboro High School prom. “Carrboro High School will require masks until at least April 22 following 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases being connected to the school. Nearly half of those cases are likely linked to the high school’s prom last weekend.”

Miami Herald: At least 50 California eighth-graders positive for COVID after spring field trip to DC. “An annual spring break field trip was restarted after a two-year pause during the pandemic — and dozens of California eighth-graders came home with COVID-19, health officials told news outlets. More than 50 students from two Marin County schools tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a trip to Washington, D.C., the Marin Independent Journal reported.”

ABC News: California to delay COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students. “California will not require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for at least another school year, health officials announced Thursday. The earliest the requirement would go into effect is now July 1, 2023, pending full approval by the Food and Drug Administration of a COVID-19 vaccine for children under 16 years old.”


ABC 7: Howard University to go virtual April 14-22 due to rising COVID positivity rate. “Administrators at Howard University sent an email to students Wednesday to notify them that the school will toggle to virtual learning from April 14-22 due to rising COVID positivity rate. The letter states that HU’s positivity rate has more than doubled in the past week, from 2 to 5 percent. Administrators cite the BA.2 variant as the reason for the rise.”

Drexel News: COVID Cases Increasing, Indoor Masking Returns Starting April 18. “Starting this Monday, April 18, the University will once again require mask-wearing in all indoor shared spaces, with a few exceptions.All community members must wear a mask, even if you are fully vaccinated and boosted. Masks will remain optional at the Recreation Center as well as in Drexel Housing; however, we encourage you to mask up in these spaces as well, based on your personal and group assessment of risk.”


The Guardian: US sexually transmitted infections surged to record high in 2020. “After briefly dropping in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) then resurged beyond 2019 levels to finish the year at a record high, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

Associated Press: COVID, overdoses lead to highest death total ever in U.S.. “2021 was the deadliest year in U.S. history, and new data and research are offering more insights into how it got that bad. The main reason for the increase in deaths? COVID-19, said Robert Anderson, who oversees the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s work on death statistics.”

UCLA: Drug overdose deaths among adolescents rose exponentially during COVID pandemic. “The rate of overdose deaths among U.S. teenagers nearly doubled in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and rose another 20% in the first half of 2021 compared with the 10 years before the pandemic, according to new UCLA research. The trend occurred even as overall drug use remained generally stable.”


Washington Post: The next leap in coronavirus vaccine development could be a nasal spray. “The original coronavirus shots proved remarkably versatile, protecting people from the worst outcomes of covid-19. But as experts debate when, whether and who should receive additional boosters, a growing number of scientists are beginning to think additional shots could have marginal benefits for most healthy people. A switch in the vaccine delivery route from a shot to a sniff could muster a wall of immunity right where viruses find their foothold and block the spread of the virus, preventing even mild infections.”

Stanford Medicine: Feces of people with mild COVID can harbor viral genetic material months after infection. “People with mild to moderate COVID-19 can shed viral RNA in their feces months after initial infection, Stanford researchers find. Those who do often have nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.”

Ars Technica: Autopsies suggest COVID’s smell loss is caused by inflammation, not virus. “Although the loss of smell and taste became apparent symptoms of COVID-19 early in the pandemic, researchers are still working out why that happens—is the virus directly infecting and destroying the cells responsible for these critical senses, or is it collateral damage from our immune systems fighting off the invading foe? According to a postmortem study out this week in JAMA Neurology, it’s the latter.”

The GW Hatchet: Aspirin COVID-19 treatment reduces mortality among patients, SMHS study shows. “School of Medicine and Health Sciences researchers found that aspirin can limit the mortality rate of patients with moderate COVID-19, according to a study published late last month. The study found that patients with moderate COVID-19 – which involves symptoms like fever and coughing combined with shortness of breath, sometimes requiring hospitalization – had a 1.6 percent lower mortality rate if they received aspirin during their first day of treatment.”


Washington Post: Federal judge voids mask mandate for airplanes, in other transportation settings. “A federal judge in Florida on Monday voided a national mask mandate for airplanes and in other transportation settings. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of the Middle District of Florida said the mandate exceeds the statutory authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal officials last week had extended the mask mandate for commercial flights and in other transportation settings, including on buses, ferries and subways, until at least May 3.”

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