|

"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 27th Jul 2021

Isolation Tips
Virtual contact worse than no contact for over-60s in lockdown, says study
Virtual contact during the pandemic made many over-60s feel lonelier and more depressed than no contact at all, new research has found. Many older people stayed in touch with family and friends during lockdown using the phone, video calls, and other forms of virtual contact. Zoom choirs, online book clubs and virtual bedtime stories with grandchildren helped many stave off isolation. But the study, among the first to comparatively assess social interactions across households and mental wellbeing during the pandemic, found many older people experienced a greater increase in loneliness and long-term mental health disorders as a result of the switch to online socialising than those who spent the pandemic on their own.
Covid quarantine to be dropped for some Britons vaccinated abroad
Some Britons who have been double-vaccinated abroad will soon be able to travel to the UK more easily as the government prepares to recognise jabs administered overseas. Current restrictions mean only those who have been fully inoculated by the NHS are able to take advantage of avoiding quarantine if coming from countries graded amber under the traffic light system.
Hygiene Helpers
Germans divided over restrictions for the unvaccinated
German politicians were deeply divided Sunday over a warning by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff that restrictions for unvaccinated people may be necessary if COVID-19 infection numbers reach new heights in the coming months. Chief of staff Helge Braun told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that he doesn’t expect another coronavirus-related lockdown in Germany. But Braun said that unvaccinated people may be barred from entering venues like restaurants, movie theaters or sports stadiums “because the residual risk is too high.”
NYC Imposes Covid-19 Vaccine—Or Weekly Test—Mandate For 340,000 City Workers
New York City will require all of its municipal workers—including firefighters, police officers and teachers—to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or test weekly for the virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday,
'Freshers' jabs' for students as universities pressed to help boost take-up of Covid-19 vaccine
The Government is planning a “freshers’ jab” campaign this autumn as part of efforts to increase Covid-19 vaccine uptake among the youngest groups in time for the winter when NHS pressure will increase. Ministers are keen to target around 2.5 million under-30s who say they are willing to get vaccinated but have not yet got round to signing up for their first dose. They have launched social media advertising campaigns, including a recent video by England manager Gareth Southgate, and encouraging the use of “vaccine passports” to reopen high-risk events. The Government has also worked with dating apps and social media companies to get the message out.
Major medical groups call for employers to mandate Covid-19 vaccines for health care workers
As the number of Covid-19 cases surges in the United States, more than 50 health and medical groups -- including the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Public Health Association -- issued a joint statement calling for all health care and long-term care employers to mandate employees be vaccinated against Covid-19. "Our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being," they wrote in the joint statement issued Monday.
California, NYC to require employees to get COVID-19 vaccine
California and New York City announced Monday that they would require all government employees to get the coronavirus vaccine or face weekly COVID-19 testing, and the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first major federal agency to require health care workers to receive the shot. Meanwhile, in a possible sign that increasingly dire health warnings are getting through to more Americans, vaccination rates began to creep up again, offering hope that the nation could yet break free of the coronavirus if people who have been reluctant to receive the shot are finally inoculated.
Community Activities
Opinion | 'Medical freedom' anti-vaccine bills like New Hampshire's endanger public health
Sununu and other Republicans are engaged in performative libertarianism. But even the most strident forms of that creed come with a qualification. It is John Stuart Mill who is most closely associated with the “harm principle” — that humans should be free to act, unless their actions bring harm to others. I think this is impoverished as a moral theory. But it accurately describes the mission of public health.
‘There’s a disconnect’: After a rapid rollout why has US vaccine effort stalled?
Bonnet, who is Black, described her resistance as a mix of hope the pandemic would fade, and skepticism born from the American medical establishment’s history of racism. Bonnet’s story is just one example of how people in a vast, heterogeneous country are reckoning with the re-emergence of the pandemic with the more contagious Delta strain predominantly causing new cases and their own willingness to prevent it using the most powerful tool at humanity’s disposal – the vaccine.
Heathrow urges UK to open up to vaccinated travellers after losses hit £2.9bn
Heathrow has urged the government to open the UK up to vaccinated international passengers after it announced its cumulative losses from the pandemic had reached £2.9 billion. Fewer than four million passengers travelled through the UK’s largest airport in the first half of the year amid the third lockdown. The same total was reached in just 18 days in 2019.
A conservative radio host was skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines. Now that he's hospitalized with the virus, his family is urging others to get the shot
The family of conservative radio host Phil Valentine – who has been a COVID-19 vaccine skeptic – is urging others to get the vaccine after Valentine was hospitalized with the virus. Valentine, who hosts a show on WWTN-FM in Nashville,
Schools closing ‘could be behind drop in Covid-19 cases across UK’ as experts welcome latest figures
Schools closing for the summer break is likely to be one of the reasons why coronavirus cases are falling across the UK, a leading expert has said. Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M) advising ministers, said he is “cautiously optimistic” about dropping cases but only time will tell if the third Covid wave is “turning round”. The expert in infectious diseases, from the University of Warwick, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “any situation where cases are falling clearly is good news”.
Covid-19: Public artwork dedicated to pandemic NHS staff
A public art installation dedicated to the NHS and the efforts of its staff during the pandemic is to go on tour around the UK. Entitled Gratitude, the 51 sculptures have been created by a number of artists and are accompanied by real-life audio stories, recorded by famous voices, about key workers. The free exhibition opens in Birmingham next month. It is then due to move on to Manchester, Edinburgh and London. The sculptures will be auctioned off at a later date, with "substantial proceeds" going to NHS Charities Together.
Sydney police fine hundreds of anti-lockdown protesters for ‘filthy, risky behaviour’
Prime minister denounces ‘selfish’ protesters who marched against coronavirus measures as police taskforce traces everyone who broke rules
Thai volunteers aid COVID patients in need of care, testing
As Thailand‘s medical system struggles beneath a surge of coronavirus cases, ordinary people are helping to plug the gaps, risking their own health to bring care and supplies to often terrified, exhausted patients who’ve fallen through the cracks. In the Samai area of Bangkok, Ekapob Laungprasert’s team heads out for another weekend on the front lines of a crisis. His volunteer group, Samai Will Survive, has been working around the clock, responding to about a hundred SOS calls daily from desperate COVID-19 patients unable to get the help they need.
Working Remotely
One in three companies report an increase in productivity due to remote working
A new survey of Irish businesses has found that just over a quarter reported a decline in productivity due to widespread working from home arrangements over the past year. Following 16 months of remote working, 38% of businesses reported seeing no change in productivity, 36% seeing an increase and 26% seeing a decrease. In light of the continuing demand for flexible working arrangements post-Covid, almost three-quarters of respondents agreed that accelerating the move to a smarter office, which enables employees to work from home or in-person, will be crucial to their organisation’s future success
Hybrid Return-to-Office Plans: Infinite Possibilities—and Problems—for Employers
There are an infinite number of approaches employers can take to hybrid work arrangements, says Mintz employment law attorney David Barmak. But they also give rise to an innumerable set of legal and HR issues, many that lack clear answers, he says, including taxes, performance management, and workplace safety
Covid remote work relaxed fashion and grooming, but not bias based on looks
It was reasonable to hope that focus on, and consideration of, physical appearances might have waned over the long course of the Covid crisis and its work-from-home side effect. Despite many months of remote office interactions, a widespread loosening of fashion conventions and virtual meetings distorted by electronic screens, lookism — discrimination based on a lack of perceived attractiveness — seems to be a hardy animal. Based on a sample of 2,000 office-based staff working remotely, U.K. law firm Slater and Gordon found last summer that, contrary to expectations, bias based on physical appearance seems to have weathered the pandemic unscathed. In fact, it may have even mutated. A third of both men and women respondents said that, because of the pandemic’s depressive effect on the job market, they had “put up with” comments about the way they look during video calls that they would not have tolerated in person. More than a quarter of women reported being asked to dress more provocatively for online meetings, while a third said they were told to use more makeup or fix up their hair.
Managers view remote workers as 'more easily replaceable' than in-person employees
The ability to work from home may be the mother of all perks for some workers, but others worry it could stand in the way of advancing their careers — and managers seem to share their doubts. Nearly six in 10 workers said that permanently working from home would diminish networking opportunities, according to a report published by the Society for Human Resource Management. Some 55% said that working from home also causes work relationships to suffer. Among supervisors of remote employees, more than two-thirds agree — 67% admitted that they view remote workers as “more easily replaceable” than employees who work in person. Similarly, some 42% of supervisors said they “sometimes forget about remote workers when assigning tasks,” according to the SHRM report
Virtual Classrooms
These Virtual Learning Pranks Showcase Students’ Tech Skills
The switch to online learning was a difficult transition for many students and educators. In the past year, however, many have gotten more comfortable with using Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other videoconferencing platforms as their classroom. Some students have gotten so proficient in the applications that they’ve begun to experiment with little tricks and funny alterations, playing “pranks” on their classmates and teachers. “Humor is a tool that can be used to help kids learn how to cope in extreme circumstances,” says Elizabeth Englander, a child psychology expert and founder of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center. “It can help them learn how to cope with their own feelings.” Creating these humorous moments for their classroom can be a way for students to exercise social-emotional learning skills and cope with the difficulties of the pandemic, Englander explains.
These N.J. parents are pushing for virtual learning in September
Parents who want to make virtual learning a permanent reality in New Jersey schools are seeking support this weekend at a popular balloon festival. Their group, New Jersey Parents for Personal Choice, is asking Gov. Phil Murphy to reverse course and allow virtual learning, which was in place starting in March 2020 and throughout the 2020-21 school year due to the coronavirus pandemic, to resume when classes return in September. Karen Strauss, a co-founder, said that while the pandemic was the impetus for virtual learning in New Jersey, some parents found that it worked better for their children and would prefer having that option even if COVID-19 was no longer a concern.
Public Policies
Europe tried to boost Covid-19 vaccine takeup with carrots. Now some leaders are breaking out the sticks
As the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations in Europe shows signs of a slowdown, leaders are racing to find answers to a key dilemma of the rollout's next phase: how to convince reluctant citizens to roll up their sleeves. From cash payments to phone data, free football stadium tours to free grilled meat, officials have offered up a range of carrots to entice people to get shots.
French parliament approves COVID passes despite protests
New legislation extends the use of health certificates in daily life, introduces mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers.
U.S. will not lift travel restrictions, citing Delta variant -official
The United States will not lift any existing travel restrictions "at this point" due to concerns over the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant and the rising number of U.S. coronavirus cases, the White House confirmed on Monday. The decision, which was first reported by Reuters, comes after a senior level White House meeting late on Friday. It means that the long-running travel restrictions that have barred much of the world's population from the United States since 2020 will not be lifted in the short term.
Maintaining Services
More COVID-19 cases who are vaccinated may not need to be hospitalised as Singapore adjusts healthcare protocols
As COVID-19 becomes endemic, Singapore must shift its healthcare protocols to treat the disease closer to how it approaches influenza, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday (Jul 26). This includes allowing more COVID-19 cases who are vaccinated and who show mild or no symptoms to be directly admitted to community care facilities instead of going first to hospitals. Delivering a ministerial statement in Parliament, Mr Ong said: "As we learn to live with COVID-19, our healthcare protocols must be remodelled. If COVID-19 is indeed endemic, having 200 or more cases a day may not be unusual at all.
AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in some NSW pharmacies from today
Pharmacists can administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over the age of 40 in New South Wales from today. Dozens of chemists across NSW are part of the pilot program to assist GPs and purpose-built vaccination hubs administer the shots. They are located across Sydney, plus in regional towns, including Gulgong, Narromine, Walcha, Dungog, Dunedoo and Merriwa.
Teenagers can book second coronavirus vaccine two weeks earlier
Teenagers who are due to receive their second Covid-19 vaccination dose in the second half of August can have the shot two weeks earlier, the health ministry has decided. Anyone aged 12 to 17 with a second jab scheduled for August 16 or later can call the national vaccine line 0800 7070 to book a new appointment. The ministry is also sending SMS messages advising them of the policy change.
COVID-19 sufferers in Indonesian capital rent oxygen cylinders
Muhammad Ihsan gratefully lugs an oxygen cylinder into a small office in Jakarta's outskirts, lining the breathing equipment up with scores of others against a wall. Ihsan has taken advantage of a new rental service, established by volunteers in response to the coronavirus outbreak ravaging the Indonesian capital, borrowing the cylinder to give his infected mother some much-needed oxygen. "Thank God, this really helped my mother," Ihsan said, adding that her COVID-19 diagnosis was complicated by pre-existing asthma.
Doctors warn over increasing number of young people with Covid in ICU
Increasing numbers of young people with coronavirus are being admitted to hospital – including to intensive care wards – doctors have said, begging them not to “suffer unnecessarily” and to get the vaccine. During the first weekend after the majority of Covid restrictions were lifted in England there were pictures of crowded nightclubs, filled with revellers not wearing masks or social distancing. Medics raised the alarm that unvaccinated young people urgently needed to protect themselves against infection to avoid serious illness.
Healthcare Innovations
A new way to visualize the surge in Covid-19 cases in the US
The month of July has seen Covid-19 cases in the United States increase at the fastest pace since last winter, marking the start of the latest wave of infections to afflict the nation. A new STAT analysis of Covid-19 case data reveals this new wave is already outpacing the spring and summer waves of 2020. There are many metrics that governments, scientists, and media outlets have used to try and reckon with the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the most popular ways of visualizing Covid data has been to track the weekly average of new cases.