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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 8th Dec 2020

Isolation Tips
Every week coronavirus lockdowns drag on increases odds Americans will binge drink by nearly 20%
Researchers surveyed nearly 2,000 US adults between mid-March and mid-April They found that 34% of participants reported binge drinking during coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. About 60% of binge drinkers increased their alcohol consumption during the pandemic compared to non-binge drinkers. The odds of heavy alcohol consumption among binge drinkers increased 19% for every week of lockdown. Binge drinkers were more likely to have their job status 'negatively impacted,' to be essential workers or to have a history of depression
‘It’s a silent epidemic’: Mental health in newsrooms needs more attention
Heightened anxiety, feelings of isolation and depression, these are just a few of the knock-on effects felt by many as a direct result of the enforced workplace changes introduced to cope with the coronavirus. For journalists reporting on the crisis, or producing editorial products from their sofas, kitchens, and bedrooms, the last nine months have been an unrelenting slog. But the toll taken on the mental health of editorial staff isn’t front and center enough, according to media experts and seasoned journalists spoken to for this article.
Hygiene Helpers
WHO hails COVID vaccine progress, urges nations to double down on mitigation
At a media briefing today, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said decisions by country leaders in the coming days will set the course for the virus in the short term and influence when the pandemic will eventually end. He said though vaccine progress brings hope, the WHO is worried about a growing perception that the pandemic is over. "The truth is that at present, many places are witnessing very high transmission of the virus, which is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive care units and health workers," he said.
Well and Lloyds follow Boots in launching private COVID-19 swab tests
Well and Lloyds pharmacy have followed in the footsteps of Boots and launched private COVID-19 swab test services, the multiples have confirmed. Well announced last week (December 2) that it was introducing a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in-pharmacy test priced at £120 – also the price of the Boots in-branch COVID-19 swab test that launched in October. Lloydspharmacy also offers an at-home COVID-19 PCR swab test kit.
US schools go back and forth on in-person learning
New York reopened classrooms to many of its youngest students Monday in what has become a frustrating, stop-and-start process in many school systems around the U.S. because of the alarming surge in the coronavirus. The nation's largest school district, with 1 million students, had shut down in-person learning just two weeks ago but decided to bring back preschoolers and elementary school children after parents pushed for it and the mayor concluded it was safe to do so with beefed-up testing. In contrast, school systems in Detroit, Boston, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and suburban Minneapolis in recent weeks abandoned in-person classes or dropped plans to bring students back because of soaring infections. The retreat in some places and the push forward in others are happening as the virus comes back with a vengeance across much of the U.S., with deaths per day averaging over 2,200 — about the same level seen during the very deadliest stretch of the outbreak, last spring in the New York City area.
UK could suffer a 'severe' third wave of Covid in January if we 'take our foot off the pedal', SAGE scientist warns
Professor Andrew Hayward warned that the pandemic is still not over today He said it would be 'sad' for cases to surge following the Christmas period Covid-19 vaccine is a ray of hope for ending pandemic in the next few months
Community Activities
UK shops reopen after lockdown - but footfall still down 30% on 2019
Britons flocked to the High Street after for the first weekend following the lifting of the nationwide lockdown - but footfall remained lower than pre-pandemic levels. The number of shoppers out this weekend was down 30% on the same period in 2019. Crowds keen for a Christmas bargain flocked to shopping areas across the UK on Saturday with large numbers of shoppers photographed on London's Regent Street and in Manchester. Diane Wehrle, marketing director for Springboard who produced the figures, said the boost was partly down to people desperate to leave their homes after lockdown
Working Remotely
More provincial staff to work from home during 2-week circuit breaker
The P.E.I. government has asked all provincial employees who can to work from home the next two weeks during a "circuit-breaker" phase of the Island's COVID-19 pandemic response. The circuit breaker, introduced Sunday, is a short, sharp response to an increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases on P.E.I. in the last few days. The hope is that keeping more people at home will stop the spread of coronavirus, just as a circuit breaker is designed to stop the flow of electricity. "As a result of the new public health measures announced, the Public Service Commission, in partnership with the government operations committee, asked all employees who can and are approved to work from home to begin to do so immediately," a provincial government spokesperson said Monday in an email to CBC News.
Nine Expert Predictions On Remote Work’s Impact On Businesses’ Bottom Lines
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, social distancing guidelines and lockdowns forced many businesses to quickly adapt to at least partial remote work arrangements. Once the initial obstacles were overcome, many workers embraced the flexibility of remote work, and leaders discovered bottom-line benefits such as reduced overhead costs, broader applicant pools and higher employee satisfaction. Now, many businesses have expressed the intention to continue offering their staff members the option to work from home at least some of the time even once the pandemic has passed.
Hawaii offers free round-trip tickets to out-of-state remote workers who want to move there for at least a month
The 'Movers and Shakas' program is looking for 50 people to move to Hawaii for at least a month in the next few weeks. These people will be remote workers who can stimulate the economy and provide their knowledge and expertise to local non-profits. Discounted hotel stays and co-working spaces are also being offered The Hawaiian economy has suffered due to the lack of tourism caused by the coronavirus pandemic, once reaching over 20 percent unemployment
Virtual Classrooms
The Challenges Black America Face With Distant And Virtual Learning During COVID-19
Students, teachers, parents, and administrators face ever-rising challenges as the coronavirus pandemic continues to force changes in how young people receive their education. The challenges are particularly pronounced in the African American community, where access to the internet, working parents, and a haphazard learning model have undermined pre-pandemic gains. Education experts have agreed that when students of color in underserved schools must go to blended or fully remote learning models, the digital divide gets broader, more profoundly affecting them.
Champlain College professor creates online virtual platform
Some educators are making bigger online virtual platforms work, others are creating their own. InSpace was the idea of a data science professor at Champlain College after some other online platforms weren’t cutting it. So far it is being used at 52 colleges with more on board for a trial. “It’s so much more engaging than typical video conferencing platforms,” said Kylie King, a professor of businesses and entrepreneurship at Champlain College. King says battling low student engagement in the virtual classroom was a challenge, until one of her colleagues right here in Burlington, presented a solution.
Virtual Classroom Series: Milwaukee Teacher Works To Keep Students Engaged
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many teachers and students out of their classrooms, and onto their computers. But K-12 education wasn’t built to be virtual. So how have teachers adapted their in-person instruction for the computer screen? WUWM's Emily Files visited virtual classrooms to find out, and will tell those stories this month. In this first installment, we learn how a Milwaukee fourth grade English teacher breaks up a 90-minute class to keep kids engaged. It’s 9 a.m. the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. TinaMarie Tate, who teaches at Stellar Elementary, greets about 25 students as they pop up in her Zoom online classroom.
Is the pandemic our chance to reimagine education for students with disabilities?
Special education was imperfect before the coronavirus crisis. As districts contend with the fallout from slapdash online classes for kids with disabilities, will the pandemic prompt a reckoning?
Educators finding creative ways to help students interact in virtual classrooms
As virtual learning continues across the Commonwealth, families and educators are worried about the lack of social interaction that comes with virtual learning, and finding ways to keep young people engaged and connected. “You’re in contact with the teacher, but it’s really hard to get the kids to connect with each other in a virtual environment - how do you get them to socialize in that virtual space? They need that as much as the pedagogy, the learning,” said Anne Marie, a Richmond resident.
Public Policies
Lawmakers say COVID-19 relief bill won't offer $1200 checks
With time running out, lawmakers on Sunday closed in on a proposed COVID-19 relief bill that would provide roughly $300 in extra federal weekly unemployment benefits but not another round of $1,200 in direct payments to most Americans, leaving that issue for President-elect Joe Biden to wrestle over with a new Congress next year. The $908 billion aid package to be released Monday would be attached to a larger year-end spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown this coming weekend.
Wales considers new Covid lockdown amid rapid rise in infections
Another lockdown may be needed in Wales to stop the NHS being overwhelmed as the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital soared to a record high. There are now more than 1,800 people in Welsh hospitals with confirmed or suspected coronavirus – the highest number recorded and 400 more than the previous peak in April. Describing the situation as “incredibly serious”, the Welsh health minister, Vaughan Gething, accepted more restrictions might be needed, possibly even before Christmas. The figures come just a month after the end of a 17-day “firebreak” lockdown, which was believed at the time to have been successful and was expected to give the country a clear run up to the new year. But the Welsh government has since conceded that it might have been better to bring in other curbs when the firebreak was lifted.
Greece extends key lockdown measures over Christmas holidays
Greece’s government said Monday it will maintain core lockdown measures through the Christmas holidays, acknowledging that monthlong restrictions have not reduced COVID-19 cases to the extent it had hoped for. Schools courts, and restaurants will remain closed through Jan. 7, government spokesman Stelios Petsas announced, while non-essential travel between Greece’s administrative regions will also be banned.
France Set to Miss Goal for Lifting Lockdown as Progress Stalls
France is poised to miss a coronavirus goal set by President Emmanuel Macron as a condition for lifting the country’s lockdown next week, with daily new Covid-19 cases holding at more than twice the targeted level. The government is worried about the pandemic indicators, and is mulling alternatives to a planned end of stay-at-home measures on Dec. 15, Liberation reported on Monday, citing unidentified advisers in the Health Ministry. That could go as far as delaying the end of the lockdown should cases spike, according to the newspaper.
COVID-19 clusters break out in Japan's coldest city as winter closes in
The emergence of Japan’s coldest city as a COVID-19 hotspot has raised fears among health experts that it could be a sign of what the rest of the nation may face as winter sets in and more people stay indoors, raising airborne transmission risks. The city of Asahikawa, about 140 km (87 miles) north of Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido, is reeling from infection clusters at two hospitals and a care home. By Sunday, the number of cases recorded on the island was more than 10,000, and Asahikawa had accounted for 16% of the 256 deaths. It prompted the government to announce a plan on Monday to send nurses from Self Defense Forces to the region and western metropolis of Osaka to help fight the outbreak.
Denmark tightens lockdown to curb COVID-19 spike
Denmark will implement further lockdown measures in parts of the country to curb a spike in coronavirus infections, the government announced on Monday. Restaurants, museums, cinemas and other cultural institutions will have to close on Dec. 9 in 38 of 98 municipalities, including Copenhagen, and students in upper primary school, high schools and universities will be sent home.
Maintaining Services
COVID-19: V-Day is a 'key moment in our fight back against this terrible disease'
People in the UK will start being vaccinated today against COVID-19, on what's being dubbed V-Day. Fifty hospitals will administer the jab from early this morning. The vaccine, developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, has been distributed across the whole of the UK.
Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Faces Public Concerns Over Safety
Governments are accelerating toward approving the first vaccines to contain Covid-19, but public anxiety over the safety of the doses is threatening to undermine those efforts. A survey from the University of Hamburg showed the percentage of people hesitant or unwilling to get a Covid-19 vaccine ticking up in November to around 40% of respondents across seven European countries. An October poll by market researcher Ipsos found that nearly a third of Japanese and almost half of French respondents said they wouldn’t get inoculated for the coronavirus. One of the biggest factors behind the hesitancy is the very speed at which things have been moving.
South Korea, Japan to deploy military to combat COVID-19
South Korea and Japan are deploying their militaries to assist healthcare workers in combatting COVID-19, with South Korean soldiers called in to expand coronavirus testing and tracing and Japanese military nurses tapped to fill a shortage of staff at hospitals in the hard-hit regions of Hokkaido and Osaka. Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, on Monday ordered the government to mobilise “every available” resource to track infections and to expand testing by deploying the military and more people from the public service, presidential Blue House spokesman Chung Man-ho told a briefing.
Austrian shops open after 3 weeks as lockdown loosened
Austrians lined up to enter stores on Monday as the country relaxed its coronavirus lockdown, allowing nonessential shops to reopen after three weeks. But many restrictions remain in place, and the country’s leader advised people against all rushing to the shops at once. Tough lockdown measures took effect Nov. 17. The government decided last week that enough progress had been made in cutting coronavirus infections to relax some restrictions. Schools were reopened, except for older students, as were museums, libraries and some other businesses such as hairdressers. But restaurants remain closed for all but takeout and deliveries, as do bars, and hotels are only open to business travelers
Christmas market closed as shopping crowds spark concern in Nottingham and London
Christmas shoppers hit the high streets in droves on the first weekend since lockdown was lifted in England, sparking concerns over social distancing. Queues formed in London’s West End as crowds flooded Oxford Street and Regent Street on Saturday to make the most of non-essential shops reopening under the new tiered system. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was out in the West End on Saturday as a show of support for retailers, but he warned people to continue following coronavirus rules, with the majority of England under tier 2 or tier 3 restrictions, which limit social contact between households.
As UK prepares to roll out COVID-19 vaccines, scepticism remains
A sizeable minority of people believe conspiracy theories about the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines, some experts have warned, just as countries prepare to launch mass inoculations to get the pandemic under control. Britain begins its vaccine programme this week and others are likely to follow soon, so governments are seeking to reassure people of vaccines’ safety and efficacy in order to get a critical mass to take them. In the United States, President-elect Joe Biden said he would have a coronavirus vaccine publicly to demonstrate its safety, and referred to people losing faith in the vaccine’s ability to work. “What we’re finding is, in the wake of the pandemic, that conspiracy beliefs may have gone mainstream, that they’re no longer confined to the fringes,” Daniel Freeman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Oxford University, told Reuters.
Greece to keep schools, restaurants shut until after Christmas
Greece said on Monday that it will not re-open schools, restaurants and courts until Jan. 7, effectively extending most of the restrictions the country imposed last month to contain the spread of coronavirus. Greece had to enforce a nationwide lockdown in November, its second this year, after an aggressive surge in COVID-19 cases. It has extended it twice since then, most recently until Dec. 14. In a televised briefing, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said the health system was still under enormous pressure and some restrictions should not be lifted until next month, including a night curfew and movement between regions.
England's malls attract Christmas shoppers after lockdown ends
Footfall across all retail destinations in England rose by 81% compared to the previous week after a second lockdown ended on Wednesday, allowing non-essential shops to begin trading again, Springboard said on Monday. Shopping centres saw the biggest boost, with a 121.3% rise from Wednesday, while high streets saw a 79.8% rise and numbers in retail parks were up 40.7%, Springboard said.
Navajo Nation implements another three-week lockdown as ICUs reach capacity amid coronavirus surge
The Navajo Nation has extended its lockdown for three more weeks to try to slow the growth of Covid-19 cases in the community that has already filled nearly all of their ICUs to capacity. "We are near a point where our health care providers are going to have to make very difficult decisions in terms of providing medical treatment to COVID-19 patients with very limited resources such as hospital beds, oxygen resources, medical personnel, and little to no options to transport patients to other regional hospitals because they are also near full capacity," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez warned in a statement issued Sunday. A public health order issued by the Nation said it is "experiencing an alarming rise in positive COVID-19 cases and uncontrolled spread in 75 communities across the Navajo Nation."
Healthcare Innovations
COVID-19: Scientific breakthrough in monitoring infections through wastewater
Scientists have achieved a breakthrough in sampling wastewater to detect changes in COVID-19 infections within large communities. The new method is capable of identifying the coronavirus within wastewater samples and tracking whether infection rates are growing or shrinking. Wastewater is a "robust source" of COVID-19, according to researchers, because infected people shed the virus in their stool, meaning large amounts of virus particles are flushed down the toilet.
Years of research laid groundwork for speedy COVID-19 shots
How could scientists race out COVID-19 vaccines so fast without cutting corners? A head start helped -- over a decade of behind-the-scenes research that had new vaccine technology poised for a challenge just as the coronavirus erupted. “The speed is a reflection of years of work that went before,” Dr. Anthony Fauci the top U.S. infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press. “That’s what the public has to understand.” Creating vaccines and having results from rigorous studies less than a year after the world discovered a never-before-seen disease is incredible, cutting years off normal development. But the two U.S. frontrunners are made in a way that promises speedier development may become the norm -- especially if they prove to work long-term as well as early testing suggests.
Prototype blood test detects people who will develop severe Covid-19
Test detects whether our immune systems are gearing up to fight SARS-CoV-2 It assesses levels of two molecules in the blood linked with our immune response People with low levels of these molecules could be at risk of more severe Covid Scientists say the test could be important during the wait for vaccines to roll out
We still need Covid-19 treatments as well as vaccines
It’s a Friday morning in October and Charlotte Summers has been up since the crack of dawn. As a leading expert in respiratory and intensive care medicines, she is one of the clinical researchers responsible for advising on the UK’s national treatment guidelines for Covid-19. But overnight, results of a trial by the World Health Organisation have been published concluding that remdesivir – an antiviral drug global leaders once pinned high hopes on – has “little or no effect” on patient survival.
WHO looks at giving Covid-19 to healthy people to speed up vaccine trials
The World Health Organization is holding discussions on Monday about the feasibility of trials in which healthy young volunteers are deliberately infected with coronavirus to hasten vaccine development – amid questions over whether they should go ahead given the promising data from the frontrunner vaccine candidates. Some scientists have reservations about exposing volunteers to a virus for which there is no cure, although there are treatments that can help patients. However, proponents argue that the risks of Covid-19 to the young and healthy are minimal, and the benefits to society are high.
1.2M doses of China-made COVID vaccine arrive in Indonesia
Indonesia’s government said 1.2 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by China-based biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech arrived in the country late Sunday. President Joko Widodo said in a televised address that another 1.8 million doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in early January. “We are very grateful, thank God, the vaccine is now available so that we can immediately curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease,” Widodo said. The government is still waiting for millions of other doses of the Sinovac vaccine to arrive in the form of raw materials that will be further processed by state-owned pharmaceutical holding company PT Bio Farma.
Diabetes drug linked to lower COVID-19 death rate in women
A Lancet Healthy Longevity study yesterday found that metformin—a common, generic type 2 diabetes medication used to manage blood sugar levels—is associated with significantly lower COVID-19 death risk in women, but not in men. Severe COVID-19 outcomes for people with diabetes have been widely observed, including greater risk of intensive care unit admission, intubation for mechanical ventilation, and death, possibly related to less effective glycemic, or blood sugar, control in these patients. This retrospective cohort study of 6,256 people with type 2 diabetes or obesity hospitalized for COVID-19 from Jan 1 to Jun 7 was a collaboration between the University of Minnesota Medical School and UnitedHealth Group (UHG)—a for-profit managed healthcare company based in Minnesota.