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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 10th Jun 2021

Isolation Tips
Opinion: Isolating during the covid-19 pandemic warped our brains. It’s time to confront that.
Need advice, after a year in isolation, on how to make small talk, how to get dressed after a year in soft pants or how to turn down invitations? Advice writers at major publications, including this one, have you covered. But for many the trickier challenge will be figuring out how the time they spent alone has distorted their views of the world. A new movie and comedy special may be helpful starting points for that process of self-examination. Netflix’s thriller “The Woman in the Window” had the good fortune to be delayed from 2019 to this May, which made it timely, if not very good. A lot of the potential audience has spent a year locked away like the film’s agoraphobic protagonist, troubled psychologist Anna Fox (Amy Adams), trying to draw conclusions based on limited firsthand knowledge of the world outside. If “The Woman in the Window” is about the way physical isolation cuts off firsthand experience, Bo Burnham’s Netflix comedy special, “Bo Burnham: Inside,” is about how much the Internet falls short as an alternative for real-world interaction.
Hygiene Helpers
Covid: Greater Manchester and Lancashire in testing and vaccine push
Coronavirus vaccines and tests are being stepped up in areas of north-west England to try to deal with the rise in cases of the Delta variant. Similar tactics to those successfully used in Bolton will be implemented across the whole of Greater Manchester and Lancashire. But local leaders have asked for extra jabs to vaccinate everyone even faster. It comes as debate continues about whether England's next lockdown easing will go ahead as planned on 21 June.
Elementary students wearing face masks seen in trial face-to-face learning activity amid COVID-19 outbreak
Elementary students wearing face masks are seen in a classroom during a trial face-to-face learning activity amid the COVID-19 outbreak at a school in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 9, 2021
Michigan bet big on mass vaccine events for COVID-19. It didn’t work out as hoped.
Michigan and Minnesota both had ample opportunities to push out vaccines through professional health care settings and into the arms of patients. They have essentially the same numbers of hospitals, rural clinics and doctors per capita. But in the race to put shots in arms, Michigan lost. Its vaccination rate lagged Minnesota’s, exacerbating a late-pandemic spike in cases that killed 2,500 people. The vaccination gap between Minnesota and Michigan was particularly high for older people. An analysis of data from both states – the only two to provide detailed and comparable vaccine records in response to records requests from USA TODAY – reveals key reasons Minnesota moved faster.
Just over 50% of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. But pace needs to pick up before a dangerous variant can take hold, Fauci says
The US is making significant strides in curbing the coronavirus pandemic just in time for the summer, with average daily cases near a 14-month low and just over half of eligible Americans having been fully vaccinated. About 50.1% of people ages 12 and older in the US -- the cohort eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine in the country -- were fully vaccinated as of early Tuesday, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. But experts have warned that a Covid-19 variant first identified in India and now rising to prominence in the United Kingdom -- the Delta variant, or B.1.617.2 -- could pose considerable danger to those who are unvaccinated, including those who were previously infected by older strains.
EU lawmakers OK virus pass, boosting summer travel hopes
European Union lawmakers on Wednesday endorsed a new travel certificate that will allow people to move between European countries without having to quarantine or undergo extra coronavirus tests, paving the way for the pass to start in time for summer. The widely awaited certificate is aimed at saving Europe’s travel industry and prime tourist sites from another disastrous vacation season. Key travel destinations like Greece have led the drive to have the certificate, which will have both paper and digital forms, rapidly introduced. Several EU countries have already begun using the system, including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Poland.
S.Korea considers vaccinating workers at major companies
South Korea is considering plans to vaccinate workers at key businesses including chip and electronics firms to prevent disruptions to production, an official at the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. The labour ministry has sent letters to companies including Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, SK Hynix Inc and LG Electronics Inc seeking information on their COVID-19 vaccination needs, the Maeil Business Newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing government and industry sources.
Community Activities
Foundation to spend $1.3B to vaccinate Africans for COVID
One of the world’s largest foundations will spend $1.3 billion over the next three years to acquire and deliver COVID-19 vaccines for more than 50 million people in Africa. It’s a first-of-its-kind effort for a Western nonprofit to bolster Africa’s lagging vaccination campaign amid widespread fears of a third wave of infections on the continent. The Tuesday announcement from the Toronto-based Mastercard Foundation, which has more than $39 billion in assets, comes days after the World Health Organization said Africa was encountering an alarming mix of a spike in virus cases and “a near halt” of vaccine shipments. The delays have been tied to India’s halt on vaccine exports, among other things. The foundation will purchase single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines at the discounted rate negotiated by the African Union during its 220 million dose deal with the vaccine manufacturer. Those vaccines will begin to be delivered to the AU’s 55 member states from July to September, with an option to purchase an additional 180 million doses through next year.
Hospices Extending Community Partnerships Developed During COVID
The coronavirus pandemic took a heavy toll on communities across the country as many fell ill and lost loved ones to the deadly disease. Hospices reached deeper into their communities with collaborations to procure and provide resources amid heavy COVID-19 headwinds. The pandemic’s persistence remains at the forefront of many hospice providers’ minds, with COVID-19 continuing to pummel their operations and finances. Some built up partnerships with various local personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers or became avenues of community support themselves during the public health emergency. These community collaborations represent an opportunity for hospices to develop valuable relationships that can extend beyond the pandemic.
Global COVID-19 patterns reflect dual-world track
In its weekly snapshot of the pandemic yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said overall cases declined 15% last week, led mainly by steep drops in its Europe region and Southeast Asia region, which includes India. Deaths dropped by 8%. The five highest-burden countries are India, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and the United States. Some of the countries reporting the steepest rises over the past week include Zambia (191%), Uganda (137%), South Africa (22%), the Philippines (19%), and Colombia (17%). More than 80 countries have now reported the more transmissible Delta (B1617.2) variant,
Covid-19: Four small words make a difference in the pandemic
During the pandemic, four small words have been making a difference for some people. "How are you feeling?" is the question community pharmacists have been posing to their customers, regular and new, in a bid to create conversation around mental health. For people in Belcoo, in County Fermanagh at the edge of Northern Ireland, a trip to the doctor involves a 16-mile round trip, because there's no local surgery. That means community pharmacist Joe McAleer has found himself on the frontline. "We see the patients on a daily or weekly basis, and we know that just that simple question - how are you feeling? - opens the door to a lot of answers," he said.
Working Remotely
Facebook Lets More Employees Choose Full-Time Remote Work or Return to the Office
Facebook is giving most of its employees a choice: Seek permission to keep working at home or go to the office at least half the time. The social-media giant told its roughly 60,000 employees Wednesday that it will expand remote-work eligibility to all levels of the company, including early-career employees and entry-level engineers. The company said it would likely open most of its U.S. offices at half capacity in September, and then fully in October. Once that occurs, employees who haven’t received approval to stay remote will be expected to come into the office, at minimum, 50% of the time, according to an internal announcement. In a separate memo to employees, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said he personally planned to spend as much as half of the next year working remotely.
Covid: Managers need to adapt for home working, boss says
Managers need to adapt if staff continue to work from home, a Welsh businesswoman says. Joanna Swash said the days were gone when workers had to leave their private lives at the office door, and employers had to admit they had bad days too. Office of National Statistics figures show a third of staff worked from home in 2020, up by four times compared with before the pandemic. But an academic warned it can leave some "stuck in a toxic environment". The Centre for Cities think tank does not think the changes will become permanent and it has argued that within two years it will become normal again to work five days in the office. However, the Welsh government has said working from home is a long-term ambition.
Have you gone hybrid yet? It’s the new 9-5...
For everyone who has enjoyed the flexibility that working from home brings, there are those who have missed the office. At first it seemed that most people were itching to get back to their desk — at the end of April, nearly 66 per cent of respondents to a poll said they wanted to return to the office as soon as possible. And yet in the same poll, 84 per cent said they enjoyed remote work and found it more productive. Into these contradictions steps hybrid working. Whether we’re a home-worker at heart or a die-hard desk jockey, one thing we all want is the power to choose. A recent study from Microsoft found that 70 per cent of people want a more flexible way of working in the future and that 88 per cent of leaders are convinced that hybrid working is here to stay.
Help! How Do I Make Friends When My Coworkers Are Behind a Screen?
You might think that the hardest part of starting a job—or even holding on to a job—while working remotely during a global pandemic is figuring out how to collaborate productively with your colleagues away from meeting rooms and drive-by brainstorming sessions that, let’s admit, no one really really likes. But what I miss the most is the unofficial communication: the smiles and gripes of my officemates; the people who pass by my desk to say "hi"; and that sense of camaraderie that makes the commute at least partially worthwhile. As long as we're working remotely behind screens, it will be tough for any of us to feel truly connected to each other. That’s true whether you started a job while everyone’s remote and haven’t had a chance to meet anyone in person, or you’ve been there for ages and your current work friends have left for new gigs. The only real solution is to do the thing everyone hates: put yourself out there and talk to people.
Virtual Classrooms
Thousands of WRDSB students register for virtual summer school
In Canada, the end of the school year is just a few weeks away, but the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) will welcome thousands of students back again in July for summer school programs. This is will be the second year in a row that the WRDSB will offer summer school virtually, using both asynchronous and synchronous learning platforms. There are more than 2,500 secondary students registered, and just over 1,000 students registered for transition support programs in Grades 6, 7, 8
More students than ever will attend summer school this year. That might not be enough to close the COVID-19 achievement gap.
After a school year punctuated by coronavirus quarantines, Zoom lessons and days away from her friends, Caia Rivera, 7, will be spending at least part of her Florida summer back in the classroom. Her classes and other enrichment activities at her Miami-area elementary school come courtesy of her mother's desire to keep her mind sharp – and more than $1 billion in federal funding to dramatically expand summer learning for millions of kids. Millions of children this summer will participate in what's expected to be the largest summer-school program in history, powered by more than $1.2 billion in targeted federal post-pandemic assistance from the American Rescue Plan. But experts warn these much-needed summer enrichment programs aren't a panacea – and worry the students most in need of extra tutoring won't get it.
Public Policies
Biden administration to buy 500 million Pfizer coronavirus vaccine doses to donate to the world
The Biden administration is buying 500 million doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to donate to the world, as the United States dramatically increases its efforts to help vaccinate the global population, according to three people familiar with the plans. The first 200 million doses will be distributed this year, with the subsequent 300 million shared in the first half of next year. The doses will be distributed by Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to share doses around the globe, and they will be targeted at low- and middle-income countries. Pfizer is selling the doses to the U.S. at a “not-for-profit” price, according to the people familiar with the deal.
EU, U.S. to agree reduction of vaccine export barriers, summit draft says
The European Union and the United States are set to agree at a summit on Tuesday to reduce export restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines and drugs, a draft joint text says, arguing that voluntary sharing of technology is the key to boosting output. The document, seen by Reuters and still subject to changes, makes no mention of mandatory waivers on vaccine patents, which U.S. President Joe Biden has endorsed as a temporary solution to the global shortage of COVID-19 shots. The EU has repeatedly opposed the idea, which is backed by dozens of poorer nations.
U.S. signs $1.2 bln deal for 1.7 mln courses of Merck's experimental COVID-19 drug
Merck & Co Inc said on Wednesday the U.S. government has agreed to pay about $1.2 billion for 1.7 million courses of its experimental COVID-19 treatment, if it is proven to work in an ongoing large trial and authorized by U.S. regulators. The oral antiviral treatment, molnupiravir, aims to stop COVID-19 from progressing and can be given early in the course of the disease, similar to Tamiflu to treat influenza. The treatment course being tested in the trial is an oral dose given every 12 hours for five days.
Melbourne to exit lockdown with COVID cases controlled
Authorities in Melbourne will relax a COVID-19 lockdown as planned on Thursday night, saying people’s adherence to the strict rules had “changed the course” of a coronavirus outbreak in Australia’s second-largest city. Melbourne’s five million residents have had to remain at home for all but the most essential reasons over the past two weeks after a cluster of cases emerged that were linked to the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which is thought to be more transmissible. The relaxation will take effect from 11.59pm local time (13:59 GMT) on Thursday, although some restrictions on travel and gatherings will remain in place for a further week.
High Court finds UK gov’t acted unlawfully over COVID contract
The United Kingdom’s High Court has ruled that the government acted unlawfully when it handed a contract to a company run by associates of Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s former aide. The court said on Wednesday the government had shown “apparent bias” in awarding more than 560,000 pounds ($794,000) to Public First to test public opinion on the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The public relations company, which undertook research for the government on its public health messaging around the coronavirus pandemic, is headed by James Frayne and his wife Rachel Wolf. The pair previously worked with Cummings and the Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove. The Good Law Project (GLP), a campaign group, had brought a judicial review against the government, saying the contract was awarded without any competitive tenders in the early stages of the pandemic.
Brazil OK's clinical tests for homegrown COVID vaccine Butanvac
Brazil's health regulator Anvisa on Wednesday authorized Phase 1 and 2 clinical tests to be carried out on volunteers for the Butanvac vaccine developed by Sao Paulo's Butantan Institute biomedical center. The tests for the two-shot vaccine were initially authorized for 400 volunteers, but will later involve an expected total of 6,000 volunteers aged 18 and over, Anvisa said. The vaccine developed by Butantan, one of Brazil's two top biomedical research centers, will not need imported active ingredients like the main vaccines produced in Brazil, the AstraZeneca shot and Sinovac Biotech CoronaVac.
Maintaining Services
Hospital suspends 178 health care workers for failing to get COVID vaccine
As of Tuesday, 178 health care workers employed by a Houston-based hospital system are on a two-week unpaid suspension after failing to meet the hospital system’s mandate to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday, June 7. Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom announced the mandate in April, telling hospital staffers that if they failed to get vaccinated, they would be fired. The 178 suspended employees now have the two unpaid weeks to become fully vaccinated before termination. They can do so by getting the one-shot COVID-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson or a second dose of either of the two mRNA vaccines. Boom noted in a letter to employees sent Tuesday that 27 of the 178 suspended employees have received one dose of vaccine.
Teenagers in vulnerable health will get coronavirus vaccine, minister says
In the Netherlands, teenagers who fall into medical at-risk groups because they have heart problems or are obese for example, will be invited to get vaccinated against coronavirus, health minister Hugo de Jonge said on Wednesday. The national health council Gezondheidsraad has recommended that children with vulnerable health conditions should be given the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine which has been cleared for use among the under-18s. ‘Vaccinating these children will deliver both direct and indirect health benefits,’ the health council said. Family doctors will also be able to use their discretion to decide if other children should also be vaccinated
China builds new plant for IMBCAMS COVID-19 vaccine -state media
China is building a new COVID-19 vaccine factory that is capable of boosting annual production of a shot developed by a medical research institute to between 500 million and 1 billion doses, state-backed media said on Wednesday. The vaccine, developed by the Institute of Medical Biology of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (IMBCAMS), is one of seven shots approved for use in China. It was not immediately clear how many doses of the vaccine are currently produced and supplied for China's inoculation campaign.
Dozens of hospitals hit 'dangerous' bed occupancy levels as NHS bosses warn any spike in Covid patients could scupper efforts to tackle record waiting list of 4.9million
Dozens of hospitals in England hit dangerous bed occupancy levels at the end of May even though Covid had fizzled out, official figures show. MailOnline's analysis of the latest NHS data showed 21 trusts had more than 95 per cent of beds filled in the final week of May. One board in London — North Middlesex University Hospital NHS Trust — had almost every single bed occupied for the whole week. More than a third — 50 out of 130 trusts in England — had over 92 per cent of beds occupied by patients, a level which NHS chiefs say should not be exceeded because it can make hospitals unsafe. Experts fear the rapid spread of the Indian variant will start to ramp up pressure across the NHS in the coming weeks, despite the massive vaccine roll-out which has got first doses to more than three in four adults.
Healthcare Innovations
Sinovac, Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccines prove highly effective in Uruguay -government
Uruguay on Tuesday released real-world data on the impact of Sinovac Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine among its population that showed it was over 90% effective in preventing intensive care admissions and deaths. The shot reduced deaths by 95% and intensive care admissions by 92%, and also showed 61% efficacy in cutting coronavirus infections, the government said. A total of 795,684 people - health workers and members of the general population between the ages of 18 and 69 - at least 14 days after receiving their second dose of Sinovac's CoronaVac were compared to unvaccinated people to determine the real-world vaccine effectiveness, the government said in a report
Research now backs routinely offering pregnant women the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine
New Zealand and Australia will now routinely offer the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to women at any stage of pregnancy, following an update of vaccination advice. This comes as research suggests the risk of severe outcomes from infection is significantly higher for pregnant women compared to the general population. At the same time, data from pregnant women who have already been vaccinated around the world have shown no safety concerns associated with COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccination during pregnancy may also protect the baby. Research has identified antibodies in cord blood and breast milk, suggesting temporary protection (passive immunity) for babies before and after birth.
A third dose of coronavirus vaccine could be beneficial for some
Giving a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine to residents and staff of residential care centres would be beneficial, Belgium’s Public Health Institute Sciensano said Wednesday, basing their conclusion on the PICOV-VAC study conducted in January in two care centres in the country. While all participants, young and old, made antibodies against the coronavirus after receiving two doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, the study found that the number of antibodies made after receiving the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine was much higher in people who had been infected with Covid-19 before vaccination.
Charity pledges £500,000 for research into COVID-19 and heart conditions
National charity Heart Research UK has pledged over £500,000 to support the research, as part of a new grant scheme to examine the links between COVID-19 and cardiovascular conditions. The charity hopes this research will improve outcomes for patients suffering from COVID-19 who may have underlying cardiovascular problems. The grants have been awarded to Newcastle University, the University of Dundee, and the University of Glasgow.
What's Happening With Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 Vaccine?
J&J is making some progress with its international rollout. The single-dose vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the U.K. regulator in late May and the U.K has ordered 20 million doses of the shot that is likely to be available later this year. J&J also filed for regulatory approval of the vaccine in Japan, noting that it could begin supplying doses to the country by 2022. Japan has made little progress with its vaccination drive so far, with less than 4% of its population fully vaccinated. The company is also looking to expand the vaccine's availability to India, working with manufacturer Biological E. to produce its shot locally. Overall, we still think the J&J shot has room for growth globally, as it could do much of the heavy lifting in getting the global population inoculated against Covid-19, considering its single-dose requirement and relatively easy storage.
Delta coronavirus variant believed to have 60% transmission advantage - UK epidemiologist
The Delta coronavirus variant of concern, first identified in India, is believed to be 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant which was previously dominant in Britain, a prominent UK epidemiologist said on Wednesday. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that England's full reopening from COVID-19 lockdown, pencilled in for June 21, could be pushed back due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant.
Small risk of bleeding disorder after AstraZeneca COVID vaccine
A study of 5.4 million Scottish adults has revealed a small increased risk of an autoimmune bleeding disorder after the first dose of the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, although a causal link hasn't been established. The study, led by University of Edinburgh researchers and published today in Nature Medicine, assessed the risk of bleeding-related events among 2.53 million people (57.5% of the population of Scotland 18 and older) up to 27 days after the first dose of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from December 2020 to April 2021. Of the 2.53 million, more than 1.7 million received the AstraZeneca vaccine, while about 800,000 received the Pfizer version.
Delta variant accounts for 6 percent of new U.S. coronavirus infections
A highly transmissible coronavirus variant first identified in India accounts for 6 percent of new infections in the United States, the Biden administration said Tuesday. Yet vaccines appear to be highly effective against this version of the virus that has quickly spread into Great Britain and elsewhere. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, revealed the extent of the variant’s push into the United States, but said it appears to be slowed by vaccines. “It’s essentially taking over” in the United Kingdom, Fauci said at a briefing for reporters. “We cannot let that happen in the United States, which is such a powerful argument” for vaccination, he said.