"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 13th Aug 2021

Isolation Tips
Covid-19 Australia: Canberra to go into a seven day lockdown after confirmed Covid case in the ACT
Canberra will go into a snap seven day lockdown after a confirmed case of COVID-19 emerged in the ACT. The territory has confirmed its first case of Covid-19 in over a year as ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced a strict seven day lockdown during a media conference on Thursday. Minister Barr said the seven day lockdown will begin from 5pm on Thursday as shoppers fled to supermarkets eager to stock up on supplies ahead of the deadline
France to strengthen COVID-19 lockdown in Guadeloupe island
France will strengthen lockdown rules in the overseas territory of Guadeloupe to rein in the spread of COVID-19, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday, as spikes in infections in its Caribbean islands overwhelm hospitals. The French overseas territory of Martinique on Tuesday entered a tougher lockdown for three weeks to tackle the pandemic with the closure of beaches and shops selling non-essential items and restrictions on people's movements. Authorities in Martinique have also advised tourists to leave the island.
Hygiene Helpers
LA joins NY in requiring vaccine passports for customers
The LA City Council directed its city attorney on Wednesday to draft legislation requiring customers show proof of at least one vaccine dose to enter. The legislation also includes retail establishments, making it more restrictive than one announced in New York City last week. It is not yet clear how places such as grocery stores will be affected. It comes as average of 3,422 new cases were recorded in LA over the past week, a 10.9 percent increase over the previous week Reaction was mixed, with some calling the measure overreaching, while business leaders asked for more enforcement details. It came a day after California announced it was mandating teachers get vaccinated or submit to covid-19 tests
Covid-19: Vaccine portal for 12 to 15-year-olds in Ireland opens
More than 50,000 children in the Republic of Ireland aged between 12 and 15 have signed up to get a Covid-19 vaccine. Registrations opened for the age group on Thursday. The Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) said more than 42,000 children had been signed up by mid-morning, Irish broadcaster RTÉ reported. Around 280,000 children will be eligible for immunisation with a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Children need consent from a parent or guardian, either when registering online, or at the vaccination centre.
COVID-19: Calls for more employers to give staff paid time off so they can have their coronavirus vaccine
There are calls for more employers to allow staff paid time off to get their COVID-19 vaccinations. Research by conciliation service Acas found that one in four companies is not giving staff paid time off to get their jabs - and nor do they have any plans to allow this. Susan Clews, Acas chief executive, said: "The vaccine rollout programme has gone well and our survey reveals that most employers have allowed staff paid time off to get the jab, but a quarter have not.
NHS Covid-19 app engineer talks updates, the 'pingdemic' and data
The NHS Covid-19 app will be updated next week to allow people to add their vaccination status to skip isolation. The update, which will come into effect on Monday (August 16), will mean those who are double jabbed won’t have to isolate if they are ‘pinged’ by the app. App users will instead by able to include their vaccination status on the app and will be advised to order a PCR test if they’ve come into contact with someone who has tested positive. The Department of Health and Social Care confirmed this week that from August 16, people who are double jabbed or aged under 18 will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive case of Covid-19.
Community Activities
Coronavirus digest: New Zealand plans phased reopening of borders from 2022
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday that strict border controls would remain in place this year, adding, however, that a phased reopening of international travel would be possible in 2022. New Zealand closed its borders to everyone except permanent residents and citizens at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. It now plans to allow quarantine-free entry to vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries starting early 2022. "We're simply not in a position to fully reopen just yet," Ardern said in a speech at the 'Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World' forum in Wellington.
Covid-19: £22k car offered to care staff as jab incentive
A care group has offered staff the chance to win a £22,000 car if they have taken both doses of a Covid jab. PJ Care, in Peterborough and Milton Keynes, says the incentive to get staff vaccinated is "more cost-effective than recruiting new team members". The government announced that anyone working or volunteering in a care home must be fully vaccinated by 11 November, unless exempt. The company said 85% of its 600 staff had received all their jabs. Neil Russell, chairman, said he hoped by raffling a Renault Clio E-Tech worth £22,000 it would "help to encourage those who are open to changing their minds"
Working Remotely
Google staff could see pay cut if they opt to work from home
Google employees could see their pay cut if they switched to working from home permanently in the wake of the pandemic, according to a company pay calculator seen by Reuters. It is an experiment taking place across Silicon Valley, which often sets trends for other large employers. Facebook and Twitter cut pay for remote employees who moved to less expensive areas. However, Google’s pay calculator tool – which allows staff to see the effects of a move – suggests remote employees, especially long-distance commuters, could experience pay cuts without moving. A Google spokesperson said: “Our compensation packages have always been determined by location, and we always pay at the top of the local market based on where an employee works from,”, adding that pay will differ from city to city and state to state.
Can businesses cut remote workers’ pay?
Employment lawyers have warned against cutting the pay of remote workers as Silicon Valley's Google becomes the latest firm to announce that staff who choose to continue working from home could see their pay packets shrink. While Facebook and Twitter are planning pay cuts for US employees who have moved to less expensive areas, Google is offering a ‘Work Location Tool’ calculator that allows staff to see the effects remote working would have on their wage, Reuters reported. One anonymous source shared that commuting to the Seattle office from a nearby county would likely see their pay cut by about 10 per cent if they worked from home full time.
Virtual Classrooms
Pandemic spurs boom in virtual offerings for US schools
Despite the challenges of distance learning during the pandemic, public school systems across the U.S. are setting up virtual academies in growing numbers to accommodate families who feel remote instruction works best for their children. A majority of the 38 state education departments that responded to an Associated Press survey this summer indicated additional permanent virtual schools and programs will be in place in the coming school year. Parent demand is driven in some measure by concern about the virus, but also a preference for the flexibility and independence that comes with remote instruction. And school districts are eager to maintain enrollment after seeing students leave for virtual charters, home schooling, private schools and other options -- declines that could lead to less funding.
38 States Setting Up Permanent Virtual Schools After Pandemic Sparked Interest
Thirty-eight states have approved permanent virtual learning schools after the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased interest in at-home learning, the Associated Press reported. The AP obtained the data via a poll conducted with state departments of education, though it was unclear how many of the agencies answered the query from the media outlet. "It is the future. Some of these states might be denying it now, but soon they will have to get in line because they will see other states doing it and they will see the advantages of it," said American Association of School Administrators Executive Director Dan Domenech.
Blended learning is so bland − we need to punk things up
Universities have survived more than a year of the pandemic, with its smorgasbord of severe trials: the move online, questions concerning our value proposition and price points, an accelerated imperative to create innovative ways to educate digitally, and pressures to deliver greater efficiency at scale. Blended learning has been presented as a panacea. But there’s a real risk that universities will lose the colour and texture of subject disciplines, compelling USPs and market differentiators in pursuit of a cookie-cutter approach to education that revolves around platforms with off-the-shelf solutions and templates for uploading content. We need to think more seriously about a comprehensive multimedia approach to university education
ASCD Launches New Virtual Learning Community
On June 24, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development announced the launch of a new virtual community. The goal of the ASCD Professional Learning Community is to connect educators from all corners of the country in a “vibrant, collaborative online space for professional growth and exploration,” according to the press release. The platform is designed to make connections among more than 10,000 educators. Aimed at supporting professional development, members will find forums with discussion topics, advice and opportunities to network. ASCD launched the resource during its annual conference this year, an event with more than 4,000 virtual participants. The organization plans to continue adding community groups for educators over the next couple of months.
Public Policies
Cambodia starts vaccine booster drive to shore up COVID-19 defence
Cambodia started offering coronavirus vaccine booster shots on Thursday in a renewed public health drive after managing to inoculate more than half of its population.
F.D.A. to Authorize Third Vaccine Dose for People With Weak Immune Systems
The decision to expand the emergency use of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines is meant to help transplant recipients and others whose immune systems are similarly compromised.
Brazil Senate approves bill that could allow coronavirus vaccine patents to be broken
Brazil's Senate on Wednesday approved a bill authorizing the president to temporarily break patents for vaccines and their ingredients in health or public emergencies, such as the coronavirus pandemic.
HHS will require health care workforce to be vaccinated against Covid-19
Covid-19 vaccinations will be required for the more than 25,000 health care staff and volunteers working at the Department of Health and Human Services, Secretary Xavier Becerra announced Thursday. "Staff at the Indian Health Service (IHS) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) who serve in federally-operated health care and clinical research facilities and interact with, or have the potential to come into contact with, patients will be required to receive the Covid-19 vaccine," Becerra said in a statement.
Jacinda Ardern shuts New Zealand borders till early 2022 to keep Covid-19 out
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced plans to keep the country's borders closed at least till this year's end in a bid to keep the coronavirus outbreak outside its border amid the coronavirus outbreak. The country will allow quarantine-free entry to vaccinated travellers from low-risk Covid-19 hit countries only from early 2022, she said on Thursday. New Zealand will also speed up its vaccination strategy and increase the gap between two doses to ensure the population is at least partially vaccinated, the prime minister said. Ardern, in a speech on plans to open up New Zealand to the rest of the world, underlined that the New Zealand is still not ready to open up entirely and will open up in phases from early next year.
Covid-19: NI ministers agree to relax self-isolation rules
The Stormont Executive has agreed to a number of changes to Covid-19 rules, including the end of close contacts self-isolating if they are fully vaccinated. Other changes have been agreed for schools and the hospitality sector. Class bubbles will no longer be required from the start of term. The rule-of-six - the number of people allowed to sit at tables together in pubs and restaurants - has also been scrapped. However, the executive stopped short of changing rules on social distancing or face coverings.
Philippines approves emergency use of Hayat-Vax vaccines
The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Wednesday it has approved the emergency use of the Hayat-Vax COVID-19 vaccine manufactured in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Hayat-Vax vaccine, donated by the UAE, is identical to the Sinopharm vaccine from China, and will be administered to people aged 18 and above, FDA chief Rolando Enrique Domingo told Reuters.
US government expands COVID-19 vaccine requirements
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expanded its COVID-19 vaccine requirements today, and now employees, volunteers, and contractors have 8 weeks to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs, not just Title 38 employees. "We're now including most [Veterans Health Administration] employees and volunteers and contractors in the vaccine mandate because it remains the best way to keep veterans safe, especially as the Delta (B1617.2) variant spreads across the country," said Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough, according to the Navy Times.
Maintaining Services
Mississippi braces for 'failure' of hospital system due to covid-19 surge and lack of ICU beds
A surge in coronavirus patients and a shortage of health-care workers and intensive care unit beds have pushed Mississippi’s hospital system to the brink of “failure,” state health officials warned Wednesday, saying drastic federal intervention was needed to help the state grapple with the thousands of new daily infections that have overwhelmed doctors and nurses.
More than 50,000 children registered to receive Covid-19 vaccine
More than 50,000 children have been registered to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE). Registration for 12- to 15-year-olds opened overnight and the first vaccinations of this age group are expected to be administered in the coming days.
Kenyan oxygen maker to double production as COVID-19 fuels demand
Kenya’s oxygen production firm Hewatele is doubling production this year to keep up with surging demand from hospitals that are treating critically ill COVID-19 patients, the company said. Demand for the commodity has more than doubled to 880 tonnes from 410 tonnes before the pandemic, the ministry of health said, causing a steep shortage due to lack of installed capacity. The East African nation is confronting a severe fourth wave of COVID-19 infections that is putting pressure on health facilities. “This country doesn’t have capacity to put 2,000 patients under high flow oxygen at the same time. We need to do something urgently,” said Bernard Olayo, founder of the company.
South Korea turns COVID-19 testing booth contactless
A South Korean hospital has upgraded a COVID-19 testing booth to become a mobile contactless clinic that can test people and enable telemedicine for basic treatment.
Ultraviolet and air purifier trials in schools to combat Covid-19 – report
Schools are taking part in trials which involve having air purifiers and ultraviolet light installed indoors to combat Covid-19, according to reports. The trial aims to assess how air purifiers and ultraviolet light mitigate the transmission of coronavirus and other respiratory diseases in schools, the i newspaper said. It also hopes to evaluate how feasible it is to implement the technologies in primary schools, and is expected to yield its first results by the end of the year, the newspaper reported.
Healthcare Innovations
Pfizer's Covid vaccine may only be 42% effective against the Indian 'Delta' variant, Moderna's 76%
The two most commonly used COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. may not be as effective against the Indian 'Delta' variant, a new study finds. Pfizer's vaccine efficacy dropped to 42% in July, with Moderna's falling down to 76%, when the Delta variant became the dominant strain. Hospitalizations among vaccinated people remained low despite an increase in cases, though with both vaccines more than 75 percent effective against hospitalization. The FDA may soon start allowing Americans to receive vaccine booster shots to shore up protection against virus
Pre-clinical trials show intranasal COVID-19 vaccine reduces infection risk
Scientists from Lancaster University have carried out pre-clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine which can be administered through the nose. The results of the trials showed a reduction in both the impact of COVID-19 itself and transmission of the virus.
Experts look into why fully vaccinated people are still getting coronavirus
COVID-19 cases among those who are fully vaccinated continue to rise as experts look into it. Experts noted a number of reasons why this is happening, including the highly contagious Delta variant. None of the vaccines deployed around the US and Europe is 100% effective at preventing the infection and it remains unclear how long immunity from the coronavirus vaccine lasts. Data out of Israel found that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was only 40.5% effective at preventing symptomatic disease while a different study in England found the vaccine to be 88% effective against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant.
Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine: rare blood clot syndrome has high mortality rate
Although extremely rare, a blood clot syndrome after the first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine carries a high risk of death and can occur in otherwise young and healthy people, UK researchers have found. In those aged under 50, this blood clot syndrome occur in around one in 50,000 people who have received the vaccine, and that number falls to one in 100,000 in the over 50s, data suggests. But the risk of blood clots is much higher with Covid itself — research shows that more than a fifth of hospitalised patients with Covid have evidence of blood clots. Researchers examined the symptoms, signs and outcomes in 220 confirmed and probable cases who presented in UK hospitals between 22 March and 6 June.
Study: Third COVID vaccine ups response in organ recipients
Organ transplant recipients who did not achieve satisfactory immunity from two doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shot appeared to benefit from a third dose, according to a letter published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The University of Health Network researchers enrolled 120 organ transplant patients who had no history of COVID-19 infection, and who had suboptimal results from their two doses of Moderna vaccine. Two months after their second dose, half received another Moderna vaccine, while the remainder received a placebo. The resulting 2-month follow-up showed that patients who received a third dose had a higher likelihood of achieving satisfactory antibody levels against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein as well as higher neutralizing antibody levels. "Although some may infer from these data that solid-organ transplant recipients should routinely receive a third vaccine dose, additional randomized trials will be key to learning how to better care for solid-organ transplant recipients during this pandemic," Winifred W. Williams, MD, and Julie R. Ingelfinger, MD, write in a related commentary.
COVID-19 May Accelerate Alzheimer's and Other Cognitive Issues
Researchers are learning more about how COVID-19 may impact memory. In one study, 1 in 10 patients have been reporting memory problems after mild cases of COVID-19 that did not require hospitalization, even 8 months after disease. People who have recovered from COVID-19 but presented with cognitive decline are more likely to be in poorer physical health and have low O2 saturation in their blood. COVID-19 may heighten the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and COVID-19 can cause an increase in blood-based molecular biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease.