Thursday CoronaBuzz, May 5, 2022: 38 pointers to updates, health information, research news, and more.


Ars Technica: Musk has “huge responsibility” to fight health misinfo on Twitter, WHO says. “Elon Musk has a ‘huge responsibility’ to combat dangerous, potentially life-threatening health misinformation on Twitter, the World Health Organization said Tuesday. The United Nations’ health agency commented on Monday’s news that the tech billionaire has struck a deal to purchase Twitter for $44 billion. WHO officials stressed how damaging misinformation and disinformation could be when it’s widely spread in digital spaces like Twitter.”


ABC News: Life expectancy in Chicago declined during 1st year of COVID pandemic, especially for people of color. “Life expectancy in Chicago fell by nearly two years during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, in line with national trends, a new report finds. The data, released Monday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the city’s Department of Public Health, showed Chicagoans had a life expectancy of 75.4 years in 2020, down from 77.3 years in 2019.”


STAT News: How Paxlovid came to be: From the germ of an idea to a vital tool against Covid. “Charlotte Allerton, Pfizer’s head of medicine design, was making dinner — omelets — with her teenage children when she got a call from the one of company’s top development officers. He was calling with interim results from the study of an experimental antiviral for Covid-19. She pushed the food to one side and went upstairs. ‘It’s like any piece of news that you’re expecting,’ she said. ‘You can kind of tell just from the way the person speaks.’ She went directly to work. The drug in question would become Paxlovid, a medication that might finally get the pandemic under control — if only we can get it to patients.”

11 Alive: FDA posts new expiration dates for some at-home COVID tests. “If you’re planning on using an at-home COVID test, one thing to always consider is the expiration dates. Experts warn that tests used after the expiration date may not provide you with accurate results. But how exactly can you find the expiration dates for FDA-approved at-home testing kits? And is the shelf life the same for different brands of tests?”

The Olive Press: Madrid hospital worker masterminded database fraud to register ‘anti-vaxxers’ in Spain for Covid-19 certificates. “The Prensa Iberica newspaper group has discovered that the man worked as a nursing assistant at the La Paz General Hospital in Madrid. He’s accused of making over €200,000 for accessing the National Vaccination database to get hundreds of people registered for receiving Covid-19 vaccines despite not getting them because of their ‘anti-vax’ stance.”

Washington Post: Another rare virus puzzle: They got sick, got treated, got covid again. “Infectious-disease experts agree that this phenomenon of the virus rebounding after some patients take the drug appears to be real but rare. Exactly how often it occurs, why it happens and what — if anything — to do about it remain matters of debate. What’s clear is that patients should be warned it is possible so they don’t panic — and so that they know to test again if they start feeling ill. More data is needed to understand what is going on. Paxlovid, made by the drug giant Pfizer, remains a useful drug, even though it has sparked a new mystery.”

Anglia Ruskin University: Covid Hastens Demise Of Combined Contraceptive Pill. “GPs in England dramatically decreased their prescriptions of the combined contraceptive pill during the first Covid-19 lockdown and these rates have not recovered since, according to new research published in The European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care. The study, carried out by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), analysed NHS prescribing data from general practices, because around 80% of women in the UK access the contraceptive pill through their GP.”


Washington Post: A fight over covid safety at journalists’ gala event. “Behind the scenes, one prominent covid expert is scrapping with organizers hesitant to install devices that disinfect the air using ultraviolet light, with party planners worried the devices would interfere with the program. Don Milton, a University of Maryland environmental scientist who has advised the White House and others on airborne transmission, said his offer to have a company install the devices at no charge was rebuffed by both the correspondents association and the Washington Hilton, which is hosting the event.”


CNN: Moderna seeks emergency use authorization for Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months through 5 years. “Moderna is seeking emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration for its Covid-19 vaccine for children 6 months through 5 years of age, the company said Thursday.”

KOMO News: Ruby Princess cruise ship under investigation after multiple large COVID-19 outbreaks. “The ship, the Ruby Princess, reported 37 cases for an April 23 trip. San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) officials say ships leaving the city must have a vaccine rate of 95 percent for crews and passengers to disembark. This trip had a 100 percent vaccine rate for the crew, passengers were at 99 percent, according to SFDPH. However, cases are still popping up. The 37 cases counted for the recent trip was more than tripled just 12 days before.”

Engadget: Amazon’s pandemic boom is over. “What a difference a year can make. Roughly one year after pandemic-fueled buying spree pushed Amazon profits to new highs, the retail giant’s growth has now stalled to its slowest rate in more than two decades.”

The Next Web: Airbnb joins Twitter, Reddit, Dropbox; finally admits remote work wins. “Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky on Thursday announced the company’s 5-point plan to enable employees to live and work anywhere, all the time.”

REITI: Did COVID-19 create more zombie firms in Japan?. “With low levels of firm exits, it appears that Japanese firms have weathered the pandemic. However, aggregate firm exit rates mask developing corporate vulnerabilities due to: (i) weaker cleansing mechanism with the decline in the exit of unhealthy firms; and (ii) increased borrowing, especially in long-term debt. The pockets of vulnerabilities are concentrated in sectors most affected by the pandemic, with a sharp increase in the number of firms with solvency issues (‘zombie firms’), which would have otherwise been healthy firms without the pandemic.”


Associated Press: Ideas on mute? Study: Remote meetings dampen brainstorming. “Researchers watched 745 pairs of engineers in five different countries try to come up with creative ideas for using a Frisbee or bubble wrap. Those in the same room generated on average one more idea, which is about 17% more than those in remote meetings. And those in-person ideas were judged by outside experts to be more creative, the study found.”

Quartz: Searches for “burnout” are at an all-time high. “According to Google Trends, which since 2004 has collected data on what the world is searching for, queries for ‘burnout’—from work, life, and school—are at an all-time high in the US. The pandemic has exacerbated a trend that was already in evidence: Searches for ‘burnout from life’ began to rise around 2017, but in 2020 they skyrocketed. Burnout from work and school—whether that’s homeschooling kids or attending school oneself—also saw big increases.”

University of Exeter: Pandemic left hospitality workers more vulnerable to conflict from customers and less able to challenge managers over safety due to financial insecurity, study shows. “Hospitality workers felt less able to challenge and negotiate bad practice or unsafe working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, a new study shows. Workers feeling less financially secure, particularly those on zero-hour contracts, said they couldn’t raise concerns about health and safety with their bosses.”

New York Times: The Office Beckons. Time for Your Sharpest ‘Power Casual.’. “How people dress for work can be a reflection of the labor market. Economic downturns, like the collapse of the dot-com boom or the 2008 financial crisis, have often prompted returns to dressier clothing as a form of risk aversion — people want to show the boss they’re making an effort. In the current climate, when the unemployment rate has fallen to the lowest level since the pandemic took hold, employees might think: My employer is lucky to have me, so why should I wear pants that zip?”

NBC News: Study finds ‘burnout epidemic’ for working women two years into pandemic. “Now, the latest survey of 5,000 women in 10 countries by Deloitte, first reported Tuesday by NBC News, finds a troubling evolution for working women in a ‘burnout epidemic.’ Fifty-three percent of women reported stress levels higher than they were a year ago, with mental health lagging and work-life balance nearly nonexistent. And whereas women were considering leaving their employers last year, the top-cited driver to leave now is burnout.”


Politico: UK government failed to protect care home residents from COVID, High Court rules. “The U.K. government broke the law by failing to protect care home residents from COVID during the pandemic, the High Court ruled Wednesday. In March and April 2020, an unknown number of elderly patients in England were discharged from hospital into care homes, having contracted COVID and either died or passed the virus on to others. Judges concluded this was unlawful because it failed to take into account the risk to vulnerable residents from non-symptomatic transmission of the coronavirus.”

New York Times: South Africa’s latest surge is a possible preview of the pandemic’s next chapter. . “South Africa experienced a decline in cases after hitting an Omicron-fueled, pandemic peak in December. But in the past week, cases have tripled, positivity rates are up and hospitalizations have also increased, health officials said. The surge has the country facing a possible fifth wave. The spike is linked to BA.4 And BA.5, two subvariants that are part of the Omicron family.”


New York Times: China’s Covid Lockdown Outrage Tests Limits of Triumphant Propaganda. “Anger and anxiety over the Shanghai lockdown, now in its fourth week, has posed a rare challenge for China’s powerful propaganda apparatus, which is central to the Communist Party’s ability to stifle dissent. As the Omicron variant continues to spread across the country, officials have defended their use of widespread, heavy-handed lockdowns. They have pushed a triumphalist narrative of their Covid response, which says that only the Chinese government had the will to confront, and hold back, the virus. But among a populace with growing evidence of the costs of that approach, an alternate story — of rage, frustration and despair — is finding an audience.”


Washington Post: United States is ‘out of the pandemic phase,’ Fauci says. “While infections are still spreading — with an average of over 50,000 new cases per day as of Tuesday — the country is far from the peaks of the pandemic, when daily counts surpassed 1 million. Restrictions, too, are easing as many Americans appear to be putting the pandemic behind them. Masking requirements have been lifted across most of the country, and officials stopped enforcing a federal mask mandate in transportation settings after a judge struck down the requirement.”

New York Times: Trump Officials Awarded $700 Million Pandemic Loan Despite Objections. “The report, released by the Democratic staff of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, describes the role of corporate lobbyists during the early months of the pandemic in helping to secure government funds as trillions of dollars of relief money were being pumped into the economy. It also suggests that senior officials such as Steven Mnuchin, the former Treasury secretary, and Mark T. Esper, the former defense secretary, intervened to ensure that the trucking company, Yellow Corporation, received special treatment despite concerns about its eligibility to receive relief funds.”

New York Times: Before Washington’s ‘Nerd Prom,’ Lots of Risk-Benefit Calculation. “Vice President Kamala Harris’s coronavirus infection is raising questions that some in the nation’s capital wish would remain unspoken: Is it safe for President Biden to attend the so-called nerd prom, otherwise known as the White House Correspondents’ Dinner? Should the dinner even be held? The flashy event, at which journalists, politicians and policy wonks mingle with celebrities, is returning in person this Saturday after a two-year absence because of the pandemic. It will be the first time a president has attended since 2016. Expected attendance: 2,600.”

CNN: America will recover all jobs lost during Covid by this summer, Fitch says. “The United States is rapidly approaching a major jobs milestone that highlights the historically strong economic recovery from Covid-19. By the end of August, the labor market will have fully recaptured all jobs lost during the pandemic, Fitch Ratings projects in a new report shared first with CNN.”


New York Times: Masks Are Still Required for N.Y.C. Public Transit, Taxis and Ride Shares. “The Metropolitan Transportation Authority doubled down on its mask mandate for subways, buses and commuter rail, as airlines lifted their requirements.”

Minnesota StarTribune: Minneapolis recommends masks; two Minnesota counties in high COVID range. “The seven-day rate of new COVID cases more than tripled since mid-March to 227 infections per 100,000 people in Minneapolis, and its rate of new COVID-19 hospitalizations more than doubled to 4.8 per 100,000, the city stated in a news release. The hospitalization rate is above Minnesota’s COVID-19 caution threshold.”

Chicago Tribune: Large portion of suburban Chicago is back to ‘medium’ COVID-19 risk; city expected to follow. “The risk of contracting COVID-19 in suburban Cook County and other parts of the Chicago area has jumped to the “medium” level under the latest national guidelines, officials announced Friday. As of Thursday, suburban Cook County recorded more than 200 positive cases per 100,000 residents, tipping that region into the next level of coronavirus transmission under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest metrics. Lake and DuPage counties have also newly returned to medium risk. The statewide case rate was 193 per 100,000 residents as of Friday.”

New York Times: New York City Enters Higher Coronavirus Risk Level as Case Numbers Rise. “As coronavirus cases continue to rise in New York City, the city entered a higher risk level for the virus on Monday, a troubling reminder that the pandemic is not over and that the virus still has the power to harm New Yorkers. The city moved into the medium, or yellow, risk category for virus transmission, a development that could trigger the return of public health restrictions, although they are not required.”

San Francisco Chronicle: The next COVID surge may hit San Francisco’s wealthy neighborhoods the hardest. Here’s why. “As COVID-19 case rates once more begin to climb in San Francisco, wealthy neighborhoods are seeing higher case rates than less-wealthy ones — a rare occurrence in a pandemic that has most deeply impacted lower-income people of color. But unlike the omicron wave last December, which started in wealthy neighborhoods and then quickly migrated to lower-income ones, public health experts say there’s a chance this latest wave could be the first to hit wealthy people harder — thanks both to pandemic fatigue within the demographic, and its relatively lower rates of natural immunity from prior infections.”


News 18: Hybrid Learning in Schools Can Significantly Reduce Covid-19 Spread: Study. “Hybrid learning utilising alternating school days for children offers a significant reduction in community spread of COVID-19, according to a study conducted in the US. The research, published in the journal BMC Public Health, shows that total closure in favour of remote learning, however, offers little additional advantage over the hybrid option.”

Michigan Advance: State reports 35 new COVID-19 outbreaks in schools in the last week. “The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reports that 79 pre-kindergarten-12 schools are reporting new or ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks as of Monday. Of those, 35 K-12 schools in 14 counties are experiencing new outbreaks or clusters that total 229 COVID-19 cases.”


Johns Hopkins University: Study Finds Similar Risks For Omicron, Delta Hospital Patients. “The study found that patients with the omicron variant of COVID-19 were less likely to be hospitalized, but those who were admitted had care requirements similar to patients with the delta variant.”

University of Bath: New modelling shows ‘shielding’ instead of lockdowns would have led to tens of thousands more deaths . “Shielding strategies or ‘focused protection’, as advocated for in the Great Barrington Declaration, would have been impossible to implement in practice and would have likely led to far worse outcomes. Even if implemented perfectly, the modelling reveals that allowing the infection to spread through less vulnerable groups prior to vaccination would have overwhelmed health care capacity in the UK and led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. In reality, practical considerations would have meant that large numbers of vulnerable people who were supposed to be protected would also have died.”

Washington State University: Disposable masks could be used to make more durable concrete. “With the pervasive single-use masks during the pandemic now presenting an environmental problem, researchers have demonstrated the idea of incorporating old masks into a cement mixture to create stronger, more durable concrete. In a paper published in the journal, Materials Letters, a Washington State University research team showed that the mixture using mask materials was 47% stronger than commonly used cement after a month of curing.”

Utrecht University: Microscopic tug of war with corona. “A team of biophysicists found that SARS-CoV-2 can withstand large physical forces, and this might be one of the reasons for its success. In the scientific journal PNAS, the researchers, led by prof. Jan Lipfert, who recently joined Utrecht University, presented their method. It also allows the investigation of drugs designed to prevent the coronavirus from binding.”

Newswise: Inflammation, Rather Than Virus Provoking It, May Be Key to COVID-19 Loss of Smell. “While the devastating impacts of COVID-mediated anosmia are well known, the biological mechanisms underlying the condition remain somewhat of a mystery. In a study published today in the JAMA Neurology, a Johns Hopkins Medicine-led team shows that loss of smell is most likely a secondary consequence of inflammation occurring when the body’s immune system responds to SARS-CoV-2 infection rather than a direct action of the virus.”

Cornell Chronicle: Dog coronavirus jumps to humans, with a protein shift. “Cornell researchers have identified a shift that occurs in canine coronavirus that points to a possible pattern of change found in other coronaviruses and which may provide clues to how they transmit to humans from animals.”

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