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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 9th Aug 2021

Isolation Tips
Isolation, anxiousness, depression: What it's like becoming a mother during the COVID-19 pandemic
Considering the uncertainty, stress and isolation of the past year, there are lots of reasons to be concerned about the impact that might have had on the mental wellbeing of new mums. Dr Darby Saxbe, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Southern California, researches how becoming a parent affects people. But when COVID-19 hit, Dr Saxbe's regular research stopped and she quickly turned to studying how the pandemic was affecting expectant parents. Her research found that expectant mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic had elevated levels of psychological distress, perceived stress, loneliness, and other behavioural changes.
Hygiene Helpers
These top US chains are reinstating their mask requirements
Top US retail and food chains have updated their mask policies since the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that fully vaccinated people should wear masks indoors in areas with substantial Covid-19 transmission. That designation includes more than two-thirds of US counties. The CDC changed its guidance in response to the rising spread of the new, highly transmissible Delta variant and low vaccination rates in many areas of the country.
COVID-19: Young people told to get jabbed or 'miss out on the good times' as vaccine take up slows
Young people are being told not to "miss out on the good times" by getting both of their COVID-19 jabs in the latest government move to drive up vaccination rates. The major advertising campaign on billboards and social media will focus on the freedoms that vaccinations allow - from nightclubbing to foreign travel. It comes as clubs are set to encourage young people to get a COVID-19 jab, with one being used as a vaccine centre.
Colleges split on tracking coronavirus vaccination as school year nears
The University of Virginia requires its students in Charlottesville to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, and they are complying in overwhelming numbers: More than 90 percent are now inoculated ahead of the fall term. The University of Idaho strongly recommends vaccination, but it is unknown how many students have followed that advice. “We do not track who is vaccinated,” Jodi Walker, U-Idaho’s spokeswoman, wrote in an email.
United Airlines to require US workers be vaccinated against the coronavirus
United Airlines will require employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, the company announced Friday, becoming the first domestic airline to require the vaccine as a condition of employment. The company’s mandate will apply to all 67,000 of its active, U.S.-based employees, the company said.
California to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for health workers
California will require all of its roughly 2.2 million health care workers and long term care workers to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 30 as the nation's most populous state is losing ground in the battle against new infections of a more dangerous coronavirus variant. The order, issued Thursday by the California Department of Public Health, is different than what Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said last month
Covid-19 UK: Number of venue check-ins with the NHS Covid app fell by 65% last week
NHS Covid app alerts fell 43 per cent from 690,129 to 395,971 in a week in the seven days ending July 28. The controversial app's software was updated earlier this week to ensure fewer contacts are pinged. 947,868 people were asked to isolate, with 362,665 reached by call handlers and 189,232 testing positive
How We’ll Know It’s Finally Time to Stop Masking
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently shared a conclusion that shocked epidemiologists: The basic reproductive number for the delta variant is somewhere between 6 and 9. The basic reproductive number R0, pronounced arr-naught, is a number you might have thought about in passing throughout the pandemic, but to review: It represents the average number of people directly infected by a single infectious person if no one in the population is immune to the disease. The R0 value of seasonal influenza varies between 1 and 2, while the R0 for measles lies between 12 and 18. The original nonvariant COVID-19 had an estimated R0 of about 3–larger than the flu, but nowhere near as high as measles. Now, the CDC has stated that the delta variant seems to be closer to measles on the contagion scale. Cue Kate Winslet in Contagion explaining how concerning things are.
Community Activities
Protesters mass in France against Macron's Covid health pass
Almost a quarter of a million people took to the streets across France on Saturday for the biggest protests yet against a coronavirus health pass needed to enter a cafe or travel on an inter-city train, two days before the new rules come into force. Similar but smaller protests were held in Italy. Championed by President Emmanuel Macron, the French regulations make it obligatory to have either a full course of vaccination against Covid-19, a negative test or be recently recovered from the virus to enjoy routine activities.
Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland lands six-figure award to help lonely and isolated
A charity with a strong presence in Lanarkshire has been awarded £100,000 in funding to tackle loneliness and isolation through its Kindness Programme. Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS) has been awarded the six-figure funding as part of the Scottish Government’s £1 million Summer Fund to help those affected in this way as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It will enable the charity reach more people.
CNN fires three who turned up to work unvaccinated against coronavirus
CNN has fired three staff members for working in the office despite being unvaccinated against the coronavirus, in an incident that highlights the potential challenges facing employers who mandate inoculations amid a surge of the highly transmissible delta variant in the United States. Jeff Zucker, the cable network’s president, wrote in a Thursday memo obtained by The Washington Post that CNN was “made aware” in the past week of three employees violating its policy that only fully inoculated people work from its buildings.
They rejected coronavirus shots in vaccine-rich countries. In the hospital, they changed their minds.
The fit and healthy bodybuilder in England. The religious woman from Canada. A conservative talk radio host in Tennessee. All chose not to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, despite living in countries where doses are plentiful. But after contracting the disease and falling severely ill, they have since expressed an overwhelming sense of regret and urged others not to make the same mistakes they did — some just days before they died.
As delta variant surges, trust in the media plummets
We're a long way from 1976 or even 2005, aren't we? Because in 1976, in the post-Watergate era of journalism, trust in the Fourth Estate was 72 percent, according to Gallup. That's right: Nearly three of four Americans trusted that what they read, what they heard, were the facts with no narrative or cause or agenda being advanced. In 2005, 72 percent became 50 percent in terms of trust in the media. A 22-point drop, sure, but a respectable number when compared to just how bad things have become for an institution once revered for icons such as Cronkite, Brinkley, Mudd, Reasoner, Wallace, Jennings, Koppel and Russert.
Working Remotely
Return to Work: Will Delta Variant Spell the End to 5 Days in the Office?
They control how much you make, what you do and even when you need to be on the internet. But if this week proved anything, it’s that America’s largest companies — on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and everywhere in between — are struggling to keep their grip on a previously sacrosanct part of working life: Where you need to be to do your job. Within just the past few days, Amazon.com delayed its office return by four months — corporate staff won’t head back until January. For BlackRock and Wells Fargo & Co., the delay was a month, from September to October. This comes on the heels of recent postponements at Apple and Lyft, Alphabet’s Google and the video-game company Roblox. All were responding to the rapid spread of Covid’s delta variant.
Covid-19 Threatens to Blow Up Law Firms’ Intense Office Culture—for Good
Between 100-hour workweeks and all-nighters at the office, young lawyers climbing the partner track have long been expected to put in copious amounts of face time. But the Covid-19 pandemic is changing that, in ways that may be permanent, many in the industry say. The legal sector has been among the fastest to race back to the office this year. Amid a rise in vaccinations, occupancy rates for law firms are back up to 56%, compared with 34% of sectors nationwide, according to data from Kastle Systems. Yet the industry is facing an unlikely revolt. Many associates have grown accustomed to working from home. They say they’ve been just as productive, if not more so, claimed back time for themselves and their families, and want to choose how they work.
Home working has led to low Covid-related absences – Capita boss
The boss of Capita, one of the UK’s largest employers, has credited its policy of allowing staff to continue to work from home for its low levels of absences because of Covid self-isolation alerts. Jon Lewis, the chief executive of the outsourcing firm, said on Friday that a large number of his staff want to continue working from home, either permanently or part-time, in the future. The vast majority of Capita’s 43,000 UK employees are still working from home, despite the removal of nearly all restrictions on gatherings in England and the dropping of the government’s guidance to work from home where possible.
Top tips: How to stay productive while working from home
With most of us having worked remotely for the past year it can be hard to replicate that office feeling at home. One thing we may struggle with is keeping ourselves motivated and focused throughout the workday with distractions around that you wouldn't have to consider in an office environment. Boost My Business spoke to Productivity Wellness Consultant Moira Dunne from Beproductive.ie about learning to separate our home life from our work and how to stay productive during the day while working remotely, particularly during the summer months when we’d all love to be outside enjoying the sunshine.
Virtual Classrooms
Could video gaming hold the key to better learning?
In 2013, Shawn Young co-founded Classcraft, a technology platform that helps teachers “gamify” their classrooms. Instead of extrinsic motivators that coerce students into positive learning behaviors — for example, grades — Classcraft nurtures intrinsic motivators like those inherent in video games. Now is the perfect time for educators to also master self-determination theory, argues Barry Fishman, a professor of information and education at the University of Michigan, where he has built his own gamified-learning platform, called GradeCraft. The COVID-19 pandemic, he points out, has ushered in a new era of online learning that will likely endure in some fashion for decades to come. But online learning is a “terrible game,” Fishman says. “The reason it’s a terrible game is that it tries to replicate the basic elements of school but fails to recognize the added elements of difficulty,” explains Fishman
Leading UK universities have refused to end online learning when autumn term starts
Prestigious UK universities including the London School of Economics (LSE) will continue with online lectures in the autumn term, sparking a backlash from former government ministers and students who are calling for refunds in £9,250 tuition fees. University College London, Imperial College as well as the University of Cardiff and the University of Leeds have also refused to have face-to-face teaching in lectures despite the government saying they can lift restrictions. The top universities said they will hold many of their seminars and lectures online and some will make mask-wearing mandatory on campus while others are enforcing social distancing rules.
Edinburgh University students 'not guaranteed' face-to-face learning this year
Students at Edinburgh University are unlikely to return to lectures in person full-time at the start of the new academic year, according to a report. The institution is among 20 Russell Group universities named by a Times report as being ‘unable to guarantee’ how much face-to-face teaching time students will receive in the Autumn despite the lifting of almost all coronavirus restrictions from Monday. Instead Edinburgh, along with Warwick, Nottingham, Manchester and Glasgow, will offer “blended learning” - defined as a mixture of in-person teaching and online presentations.
Public Policies
Covid variants could be named after star constellations if Greek alphabet is used up, says WHO epidemiologist
New coronavirus variants could be named after star constellations when the 24 letters in the Greek alphabet are used up, the Covid-19 technical lead for the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. Maria Van Kerkhove revealed the body was considering how the naming rule for mutations of interest and concern should change amid concerns new variants will continue to emerge in the coming months.
AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine rebranding to 'Vaxzevria' ahead of international travel restart
AstraZeneca has become a household name, but its COVID-19 vaccine will soon be rebranded to help smooth the pathway for millions of Australians hoping to travel overseas once the international border reopens. The vaccine was originally called COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca but has now been officially renamed "Vaxzevria" and approved by Europe's drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency.
Novavax seeks COVID-19 vaccine use in India ahead of US
Vaccine maker Novavax announced Thursday it has asked regulators in India Indonesia and the Philippines to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine -- offering its shot to developing countries before vaccine-flush rich ones. U.S.-based Novavax partnered with the Serum Institute of India to apply in the three countries, and plans later this month to also seek the World Health Organization review needed to be part of the COVAX global vaccine program. Novavax CEO Stanley Erck called the submissions an “important step toward access to millions of doses of a safe and effective vaccine for countries with an urgent need to control the pandemic.”
S.Korea extends social distancing curbs to reduce COVID-19 cases
South Korea will extend its social distancing curbs by two weeks as the government contends with outbreaks nationwide and more people fall severely ill, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said on Friday.
Vietnam's capital to extend COVID-19 curbs as new clusters emerge
Vietnam's capital Hanoi will extend coronavirus restrictions until Aug. 22, its health ministry said on Friday, after authorities warned of new clusters of infections detected in the city of more than 8 million people.
Delta spreads in Sydney as Australia widens COVID-19 restrictions
Sydney reports record infections for second day in a row. Victoria enters sixth pandemic lockdown. Queensland optimistic of easing lockdown rules
Why are government experts holding off vaccinating under-16s in the UK?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) announced this week that everyone in the UK aged 16 and 17 should be offered the Covid-19 vaccine. Just two weeks ago, it said the vaccine wouldn’t be offered to non-vulnerable people aged 12-17. The change in position is welcome, but the reasons for the committee’s two-week delay, and its decision to not extend the vaccine to 12- 15-year-olds, are unclear. Unlike the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the committee has offered no quantitative analysis of the risks associated with vaccinating people in this younger age group. Delaying the rollout of the vaccine to adolescents is risky. Recent figures show that 1% of 10-19s were being diagnosed with Covid-19 a week. Waiting for further data on vaccine safety when infections are ripping through younger age groups isn’t cautious, it’s reckless.
Six EU states overtake UK Covid vaccination rates as Britain’s rollout slows
Six EU states have now fully inoculated a larger share of their total populations with a coronavirus vaccine than the UK, after the bloc’s dire initial rollout took off while Britain’s impressive early jab rate has slumped. According to government and health service figures collated by the online science publication Our World In Data, Malta, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and Ireland have all overtaken the UK in terms of the percentages of their populations who are fully vaccinated.
Maintaining Services
Alabama ICU beds almost full as COVID hospitalizations continue rapid rise
Critical care units in Alabama hospitals are nearing capacity due to increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients, but recent deaths from the virus still remain relatively low. State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said Friday that about 93% of Alabama’s ICU beds are occupied as the more transmissible COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread in the state and vaccination rates remain low. As of Saturday there were 1,968 Alabamians hospitalized from COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. A month ago, just 235 people were hospitalized. Most of those patients are unvaccinated, Harris said.
Some in U.S. Getting COVID-19 Boosters Without FDA Approval
When the delta variant started spreading, Gina Welch decided not to take any chances: She got a third, booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by going to a clinic and telling them it was her first shot. The U.S. government has not approved booster shots against the virus, saying it has yet to see evidence they are necessary. But Welch and an untold number of other Americans have managed to get them by taking advantage of the nation’s vaccine surplus and loose tracking of those who have been fully vaccinated.
Covid-19 vaccines now on offer for over 16s in Northern Ireland
The first young people aged 16 and 17 in Northern Ireland have received a vaccination against Covid-19. It is the first part of the UK to give jabs to teenagers in this age group with no underlying health conditions. The move follows a recommendation by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). More than 180 vaccinations were administered to 16 and 17-year-olds at the SSE arena in Belfast on Friday morning.
Mexican factory workers cross Texas border in Covid-19 vaccine outreach effort
Huge outreach effort involving vaccines for Mexicans across the border has seen El Paso become one of America’s most vaccinated cities In a matter of just six minutes, a factory worker from a Mexican border city stepped off a bus in Texas last week, received the Covid-19 vaccine and was heading back home across the international bridge to Mexico. The vaccination took place near El Paso, the west Texas city where the coronavirus was raging so relentlessly nine months ago that jail inmates were being used to load bodies into mobile morgues because funeral homes were overflowing. After a hard pandemic and with concerns over continued infections in Texas and northern Mexico, vaccination efforts are being stepped up. El Paso now has one of the highest vaccination rates among US cities, according to government data – progress which prompted outreach across the border and an international initiative.
Healthcare Innovations
Get Vaccinated Even If You've Gotten COVID-19, Study Suggests
Even those who’ve had COVID-19 should be vaccinated, suggests data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A study in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), shows 2.3 times the number of reinfections with natural immunity compared to breakthrough infections in those who are vaccinated. CDC investigators examined data from Kentucky residents infected with COVID-19 in 2020. They compared the vaccination status of those reinfected in May and June 2021 to residents who had not been reinfected. “May and June were selected because of vaccine supply and eligibility requirement considerations; this period was more likely to reflect resident choice to be vaccinated, rather than eligibility to receive vaccine,” the study states. “Control participants were Kentucky residents with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection in 2020 who were not reinfected through June 30, 2021.”
COVID-19: Delta infections may produce similar virus levels regardless of vaccination status, early analysis suggests
Coronavirus levels in people with the Delta variant may be similar regardless of whether or not they've been vaccinated - and it could have implications for infectiousness, early analysis suggests. Public Health England's (PHE) said initial findings suggested "levels of virus in those who become infected with Delta having already been vaccinated may be similar to levels found in unvaccinated people". "This may have implications for people's infectiousness, whether they have been vaccinated or not," it added.
Covid-19 nasal spray vaccines in development in Thailand
The National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, known as BIOTEC, believes that the solution to Covid-19 vaccination may be right under our noses. Thai virologists at BIOTEC have 2 nasal spray options currently in development for domestic production that may act as a substitute for Covid-19 vaccines in needle form. They believe a nasal spray or inhaler may provide additional benefits as well.
COVID-19: England's R number estimate falls sharply to between 0.8 and 1.1
England's estimated R number has fallen to between 0.8 and 1.1, suggesting the pandemic could be shrinking. Last week, it was between 1.1 and 1.4. An R value - or reproduction number - between 0.8 and 1.1 means on average every 10 people infected with COVID-19 will infect between eight and 11 others. The daily growth rate of infections in England is estimated at between -3% and 1%, according to the figures from the United Kingdom Health Security Agency.
Flu shots may protect against severe COVID-19, study finds
A new study compared medical records for COVID-19 patients who had and hadn't gotten the flu vaccine. Covid patients who got their flu shots were 58% less likely to visit the ER and 40% less likely to develop severe blood clots. More research is needed to determine how flu shots provide Covid protection. Flu vaccination may be a useful Covid mitigation tactic in countries that don't yet have access to Covid vaccines, the researchers say
Fully vaccinated people who get a Covid-19 breakthrough infection can transmit the virus, CDC chief says
Fully vaccinated people who get a Covid-19 breakthrough infection can transmit the virus, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday. "Our vaccines are working exceptionally well," Walensky told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "They continue to work well for Delta, with regard to severe illness and death -- they prevent it. But what they can't do anymore is prevent transmission." That's why the CDC changed its guidance last week and is now recommending even vaccinated people wear masks indoors again, Walensky said.
No link found so far between menstrual disorders and COVID-19 vaccines, EU says
No causal link between COVID-19 vaccines and menstrual disorders has been found so far, Europe's drugs regulator said on Friday, separately recommending that three new conditions be added as possible side-effects of J&J's coronavirus shot.
Study ties COVID vaccines to lower transmission rates
COVID-19 vaccines appear to help prevent transmission between household contacts, with secondary attack rates dropping from 31% to 11% if the index patient was fully vaccinated, according to a Eurosurveillance study yesterday. The population-based data looked at the Netherlands from February to May, when the Alpha variant (B117) was dominant and the available vaccines were by Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca/Oxford, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. "This finding underscores the importance of full vaccination of close contacts of vulnerable persons," the researchers write. "Further research is needed to determine whether the observed differences between the different vaccines are due to the small sample size or have real public health relevance."