Wednesday CoronaBuzz, April 27, 2022: 45 pointers to updates, health information, research news, and more.


National Library of Medicine: NLM Introduces New Tool in Support of Ongoing Pandemic Response. “The National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) launched this week the SARS-CoV-2 Variants Overview interactive web resource to support the identification of emerging variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This free, open access tool provides the public health community with valuable information needed to guide COVID-19 pandemic research and response efforts.


California Department of Public Health: California Becomes First State to Launch Chatbot to Combat COVID-19 Misinformation, Especially Focused on the Spanish-Speaking Community. “The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today unveiled new Spanish- and English-language WhatsApp chatbot tools to offer reliable information about COVID-19 to Californians, especially those in the Latino community.”

Washington Post: A fight over a vaccine column could kill one of the oldest alt-weeklies . “The owner of the Chicago Reader objected when the staff raised concerns about the claims in his column. Now the paper faces financial ruin.”

NPR: Their mom died of COVID. They say conspiracy theories are what really killed her. “As America approaches a million deaths from COVID-19, many thousands of families have been left wondering whether available treatments and vaccines could have saved their loved ones. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 230,000 deaths could have been avoided if individuals had gotten vaccinated. Not everyone who refuses a vaccine believes in elaborate conspiracy theories, but many likely do. Anti-vaccine advocates have leveraged the pandemic to sow mistrust and fear about the vaccines. Local papers across the country are dotted with stories of those who refused vaccination, only to find themselves fighting for their very lives against the disease.”


Washington Post: As Pandemic Aid Ends, Struggling Families Face a Housing Nightmare. “Covid relief kept Holly Williams and her sons out of a shelter. Now that it’s gone, will they be able to keep their home?”


ProPublica: Vaccine Medical Exemptions Are Rare. Thousands of Nursing Home Workers Have Them.. “Although few reasons exist for claiming a medical exemption, nearly 20,000 nursing home workers nationwide, or about 1 in 100, have obtained them, according to a ProPublica analysis of federal data. That rate is three times that of nursing home residents, a notably vulnerable group, who didn’t get the vaccine for medical reasons.”


Ars Technica: Fauci confirms parents’ nightmare: FDA may delay COVID vaccines for kids under 5. “The Food and Drug Administration is considering holding off on reviewing Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for children under age 5 until it has data from Pfizer and BioNTech on their vaccine for young children. The plan would push back the earliest possible authorization for a vaccine in the age group from May to June—yet another blow to parents who are anxious to protect their young children as the rest of the country ditches pandemic precautions, despite recent upticks in cases.”


ABC News: Rio’s dazzling Carnival parade resumes after pandemic hiatus. ” Rio de Janeiro’s top samba schools began putting on their delayed Carnival parades late Friday, the first after a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19-pandemic. The schools colorful floats and flamboyant dancers began entering the Sambadrome grounds to parade before tens of thousands of fans on the first evening of the two-night spectacle.”


Dutch News: Sex workers left struggling financially after coronavirus closures. “The coronavirus measures left many sex workers with financial problems, while others continued to work illegally despite the risks that entails, according to a new report by researchers at the Erasmus University medical centre and Soa Aids Nederland. In total 300 sex workers took part in the survey during the two years of the pandemic.”

Coconuts Manila: Tater Tragedy: McDonald’s Philippines halts sales of large fries due to potato shortage. “If you’ve recently left a McDonald’s counter frustrated and clueless as to why they’re out of larger french fry sizes, then the fast food chain has some answers: McDonald’s Philippines has announced that the global shipping crisis has caused a shortage of their beloved french fries.”

ABC News: Automakers take a new approach to selling cars: gourmet restaurants, track drives. “Auto shows were once a marquee event for automakers — a way to let interested buyers see, sit in, touch and get acquainted with the latest models. With many companies pulling out of shows over exorbitant fees and the COVID pandemic canceling shows all over the world, automakers are taking a new approach to win over customers: Haute cuisine and experience centers.”


Denver Post: The Great Resignation bought more attention to the gender gap. Business leaders are finding ways to welcome women back to the workplace.. “The Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce and TARRA, a Denver-based flexible office and membership workspace, teamed up with researchers from Metropolitan State University Denver to explore solutions. The result is the paper ‘The Great Reset: Women in the Workforce 2022.’ The issues the paper explored include: women were 24% more likely to permanently lose their jobs because of the pandemic; women cut their hours or left the workforce at three to four times the rate of men; and full-time working mothers’ median annual earnings are 29% lower than working fathers’ pay.”

University of Cambridge: Remote working is a ‘mixed bag’ for employee wellbeing and productivity, study finds. “Adapting remote and hybrid work policies to employees’ specific work-life situations can result in increased well-being and productivity, but many employees are stuck in an increasing number of low-quality meetings when working remotely, according to a new study.”

New York Times: Should a Morning Staff Meeting Feel Like Homeroom?. “When millions of Americans began working from home two years ago because of the pandemic — one-third of the work force, by May 2020 — they benefited from a new degree of autonomy. Their managers, in many cases, saw that tasks were completed, so the assumption was they were putting in full workdays. Now, as businesses call employees back, pushing office occupancy across the country above 42 percent, they’re deciding whether to let workers maintain those freedoms, or to take measures to ensure that people are reporting to their desks.”


The Guardian: New Covid cases globally down by nearly a quarter last week. “The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the number of reported new Covid-19 cases worldwide decreased by nearly a quarter last week, continuing a decline seen since the end of March. The agency said nearly 5.59m cases were reported between 11 and 17 April, 24% fewer than in the previous week. The number of newly reported deaths dropped 21% to 18,215.”

The City Paper: Colombia to lift indoor face mask mandate within weeks. “After a week in which Colombia registered record lows in per-day infections and deaths from coronavirus, the country’s Minister of Health, Fernando Ruíz confirmed in an interview with El Tiempo that the indoor face mask mandate could be lifted ‘within weeks.’ The declaration comes as Colombia registered one death from COVID-19 on Wednesday, and has averaged below 10 during the last fortnight.”

New York Times: The Drive to Vaccinate the World Against Covid Is Losing Steam. “In the middle of last year, the World Health Organization began promoting an ambitious goal, one it said was essential for ending the pandemic: fully vaccinate 70 percent of the population in every country against Covid-19 by June 2022. Now, it is clear that the world will fall far short of that target by the deadline. And there is a growing sense of resignation among public health experts that high Covid vaccination coverage may never be achieved in most lower-income countries, as badly needed funding from the United States dries up and both governments and donors turn to other priorities.”

Haaretz: Israel Officially Ends Indoor Mask Mandate Amid COVID Decline. “Israel’s cancellation of the indoor mask mandate came into effect on Saturday evening, as coronavirus continues to wane in the country. The decision will not apply in high-risk places, such as hospitals, flights, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, while people on their way to quarantine will also be obliged to wear a mask.”


New York Times: Shanghai’s Low Covid Death Toll Revives Questions About China’s Numbers. “By the numbers, Shanghai has been an exemplar of how to save lives during a pandemic. Despite the city’s more than 400,000 Covid-19 infections, just 17 people have died, according to officials, statistics they have touted as proof that their strategy of strict lockdowns and mass quarantines works. But those numbers may not give a complete picture of the outbreak’s toll.”

Ars Technica: Shanghai’s plan to reboot the supply chain will hit workers the hardest. “…the central government in Beijing has made it a priority to restart Shanghai’s industrial sector. Liu He, the Chinese vice premier, announced this week that the government would aim to stabilize the country’s supply chain by helping 666 companies in COVID-ravaged Shanghai reboot their operations. Doing that while the city continues to battle China’s worst COVID outbreak since the pandemic began may prove an enormous challenge—and may not succeed in curbing the disruption that the global supply chain could feel for weeks or months to come.”

Zee News: Fourth wave scare: Shanghai now using metal barriers to block off streets to control Covid-19 spread. “Shanghai’s new tool in its fight against Covid-19 that induced some rigorous pandemic measures as part of China’s zero Covid policy is metal barriers. Volunteers and low-level government workers are using metal and steel barriers to block off small streets and entrances to apartment complexes, PTI reported.”


Oakland Press: Michigan sees 108% increase in daily rate of new COVID-19 cases. “Over the past week, Michigan has averaged 1,246 new confirmed COVID-19 cases per day, an increase from 950 confirmed cases per day the previous week. Michigan public health officials reported Wednesday 8,723 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 68 additional confirmed virus deaths over the past seven days.”

Department of Homeland Security: DHS Extends COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements for Non-U.S. Travelers Entering the United States via Land Ports of Entry and Ferry Terminals. ” Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it will extend temporary Title 19 requirements and continue to require non-U.S. travelers entering the United States via land ports of entry and ferry terminals at the U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Canada borders to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination upon request.”

CDC: COVID-19 Was Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.. “Two reports released in today’s MMWR use CDC’s National Vital Statistics System to look at death rates in the United States and find that differences in death rates still remain between certain racial and ethnic minority groups. The first report provides an overview of provisional U.S. mortality data for 2021, including a comparison of death rates for all causes of death and for deaths involving COVID-19. The study found that the overall age-adjusted death rate increased by almost 1% in 2021 from 2020. Overall death rates were highest among non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Native and non-Hispanic Black or African American people. For the second year, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.”

ABC News: Americans who haven’t had COVID are now in the minority following omicron surge. “A new CDC analysis estimates that at least three out of every five Americans have antibodies that indicate a prior COVID-19 infection. Prior to the omicron-fueled surge in cases from December 2021 to February 2022, only an estimated one-third of people in the U.S. were estimated to have a prior infection.”


WBOY: West Virginia is back up to 500 active COVID cases. “The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported 174 new COVID cases and 15 additional deaths on April 21. On Wednesday, 157 new COVID-19 cases and 3 additional deaths were confirmed.”


New York Times: What an Unvaccinated Sergeant Who Nearly Died of Covid Wants You to Know. “No one thought Frank Talarico Jr. was going to live. Not his doctors, his nurses or his wife, a physician assistant who works part time at the Camden, N.J., hospital where he spent 49 days fighting to survive Covid-19. A 47-year-old police sergeant, he was not vaccinated against the coronavirus. Unconvinced of the vaccine’s merits, he figured he was young and fit enough to handle whatever illness the virus might cause. He was wrong.”


Bloomberg Quint: Social-Media Scandal Costs Top Chinese Scientist $2 Billion. ” Wu Yiling is one of China’s highest ranked scientists. With a fortune that neared $6 billion, he was also part of the world’s 500 richest people. That was until last week, when the son of another Chinese billionaire sparked debate online with a post doubting the efficacy of Wu’s drug used to treat Covid-19. The herbal remedy, Lianhua Qingwen, is one of three traditional treatments the central government has recommended and was sent to households in Shanghai and Hong Kong during the latest omicron wave.”


Politico: The Chippendales are stripping down and lobbying up. “The strippers themselves are in need of some stimulus. Chippendales, the famed male dancer troupe, has turned to K Street to help it tap into a potential new round of federal pandemic aid. The iconic franchise, known for commanding the attention of bachelorette parties lined across the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, retained the services of white-shoe law and lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig to lobby on a pandemic-era program designed to help concert halls, movie theaters and others in the live events industry, according to a disclosure filed this week.”


Al Jazeera: How we remember them: A garden of memories in Mumbai . “For years, Dr Prabha Kangle had the same morning routine. After breakfast, she would fill a small vessel with water and slowly cross the length and breadth of her apartment in central Mumbai, making her way from one balcony to the other, watering plants in the two gardens she had lovingly cultivated. She went back and forth several times, refilling the vessel. Any help offered by family members was firmly rejected. The activity also doubled as a morning walk for the 92-year-old. Since she died a year ago, her niece Vaibhavi Bhagwat has taken over the responsibility of caring for her gardens.”


Associated Press: Homeschooling surge continues despite schools reopening. “The coronavirus pandemic ushered in what may be the most rapid rise in homeschooling the U.S. has ever seen. Two years later, even after schools reopened and vaccines became widely available, many parents have chosen to continue directing their children’s educations themselves. Homeschooling numbers this year dipped from last year’s all-time high, but are still significantly above pre-pandemic levels, according to data obtained and analyzed by The Associated Press.”

New York Daily News: NYC schools facing unprecedented levels of chronic absenteeism. “Before the pandemic, the percentage of city students marked ‘chronically absent’ — those who miss 10% or more of school days — hovered around 25%, and was generally on the decline. That progress stopped in March 2020 when COVID-19 shuttered school buildings and 35% of kids were marked chronically absent during virtual classes. The following fall, when families chose between part-time in-person and fully remote classes and COVID-19 disruptions were frequent, 30% of kids ended the year marked chronically absent.”

KTVU: San Mateo High School prom sparks COVID outbreak. “San Mateo High School students danced, ate and gave each other corsages at their prom this month at the Asian Art Museum. And then, at least 90 of them also got COVID as of Thursday, according to the district’s superintendent. Masks were strongly recommended at the April 9 prom, according to Supt. Kevin Skelly, but many students did not wear them.”


Associated Press: U.S. colleges reinstate mask mandates and other measures as COVID cases rise. “The final weeks of the college school year have been disrupted yet again by COVID-19 as universities bring back mask mandates, switch to online classes and scale back large gatherings in response to upticks in coronavirus infections.”


BBC: Longest Covid infection lasted more than 16 months, tests show. “UK doctors believe they have documented the longest Covid infection on record – a patient they treated who had detectable levels of the virus for more than 16 months, or 505 days, in total. The unnamed individual had other underlying medical conditions and died in hospital in 2021.”

Newswise: Six in ten people with COVID-19 still have a least one symptom a year later, long Covid study reveals. “Six in ten people with COVID-19 still have at least one symptom a year later, a new study being presented at this year’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Lisbon, Portugal (23-26 April) has found. The researchers in Luxembourg also found that COVID-19 symptoms that don’t clear up after 15 weeks are likely to last at least a year.”


UMass Chan Medical School: New research shows value of at-home antigen tests in slowing spread of COVID-19. “Two recent studies supported by the National Institutes of Health Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Tech program demonstrate how widespread distribution of COVID-19 at-home antigen tests can be used as an effective public health strategy to reduce the spread of the disease.”

Northeastern University: The Official Count Of Covid-19 Shots In Older Adults Is Distorted. What’s Going On?. “Analysis by researchers at Northeastern and partner institutions indicates that the CDC counts, when compared with census data, show that 117% of older adults in Massachusetts, and 140% of older adults in New Hampshire, have gotten a shot. Indeed, data for 26 states, including all of New England, would indicate that more than 100% of people above age 65 have gotten at least one shot. How is that possible? The short answer is, it’s not.”

Focus Taiwan: Traditional herbal formula lauded as effective treatment for COVID-19. “Taipei, April 22 (CNA) A traditional herbal formula developed in Taiwan, known as Taiwan Chingguan Yihau (NRICM101), can be considered to be an effective treatment for COVID-19 patients, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) doctors said Friday. Huang Yi-chia (黃怡嘉), a TCM doctor from Tri-Service General Hospital, said her hospital has prescribed NRICM101 to more than 200 COVID-19 patients since it obtained emergency use authorization in Taiwan in May 2020.”

University of Liverpool: Report suggests the emergence of the alpha variant did not lead to more severe disease in children admitted to hospital. “A new study, published in the journal Paediatric Research, provides evidence that the number of school-age children admitted to hospital with coronavirus did not rise significantly in the second wave of the disease when compared with the first wave in the UK as previously thought, despite changes in variant, relaxation of shielding and return to face-to-face schooling.”

University of Warwick: Reducing patients’ breathing efforts could be key to success of non-invasive respiratory support in COVID-19 patients. “Working with an international team of leading intensive care clinicians, engineering researchers at the University of Warwick have used computational modelling to show that non-invasive respiratory support is more likely to be successful if it allows significant reductions in patients’ breathing efforts.”

WION: Japan’s antivirus pill shows ‘rapid clearance’ of COVID-19. “According to reports, an antiviral pill produced by a Japanese company showed ‘rapid clearance of the infectious COVID-19 virus’. The pharmaceutical company named Shionogi & Co Ltd said phase two results showed improvement in respiratory and feverish symptoms with the phase-3 trial set for worldwide testing with US government support.”

University of Minnesota: CIDRAP awarded $1 million in grants to create a Coronavirus Vaccines R&D Roadmap. “The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota announced today that it has received grants from The Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a Coronavirus Vaccines Research and Development (R&D) Roadmap aimed at developing broadly protective vaccines against betacoronaviruses, which predominantly circulate in bats and rodents and can ‘spill over’ to human populations. ”


Associated Press: Majority of Americans want masks for travelers: AP-NORC poll. “A majority of Americans continue to support a mask requirement for people traveling on airplanes and other shared transportation, a new poll finds. A ruling by a federal judge has put the government’s transportation mask mandate on hold.”


BuzzFeed News: Snake Oil Medicine And Fake Vax Cards Are Among $149 Million In Alleged COVID Fraud. “Forging vaccine cards, passing off fake medicine as the Moderna vaccine, and billing hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent tests are among the criminal activity alleged by the Department of Justice Wednesday as it unveiled a slew of COVID-related fraud charges. The government is charging 21 people across the country in cases totaling $149 million in alleged COVID fraud. Charges include taking kickbacks, exploiting the Telehealth system, and misusing aid from the CARES Act.”

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