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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 19th Aug 2021

Isolation Tips
Covid-19 news: New Zealand begins nationwide lockdown
New Zealand has begun a nationwide lockdown in a bid to contain the delta variant of the coronavirus. So far 10 cases have been confirmed in the outbreak, but modelling suggests the numbers could rise to between 50 and 100. “From the experience of what we’ve seen overseas, we are absolutely anticipating more cases,” prime minister Jacinda Ardern said. The level 4 alert, the highest level, means people other than essential workers can only leave home for groceries, healthcare, covid-19 tests and exercise. The lockdown will cover the entire country for at least three days, and remain in place in Auckland for a week. New Zealand had been free of local covid-19 infections since February, and only 21 per cent of the total population has been fully vaccinated.
'Covid made things worse for me': Older people felt lonely and neglected during pandemic
Hope and optimism are returning for older people but a new report also shows the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic led to loneliness and a feeling they were being neglected. The report, published by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda), uses the experiences of 4,000 older people involved in the project to outline just how the pandemic has affected them since March 2020. According to the report, entitled In Their Own Words: The Voices of Older Irish People in the Covid-19 Pandemic, a fifth of respondents said they felt they had the capacity to cope or demonstrated resilience to the challenges of the public health emergency, while a similar percentage of people referred to increased feelings of social isolation or loneliness. Many said their greatest challenge was coping with the loneliness brought on by the pandemic, while others voiced their frustration at feeling neglected and disregarded by the media or public health commentators
Brain fog: how trauma, uncertainty and isolation have affected our minds and memory
Before the pandemic, psychoanalyst Josh Cohen’s patients might come into his consulting room, lie down on the couch and talk about the traffic or the weather, or the rude person on the tube. Now they appear on his computer screen and tell him about brain fog. They talk with urgency of feeling unable to concentrate in meetings, to read, to follow intricately plotted television programmes. “There’s this sense of debilitation, of losing ordinary facility with everyday life; a forgetfulness and a kind of deskilling,” says Cohen, author of the self-help book How to Live. What to Do. Although restrictions are now easing across the UK, with greater freedom to circulate and socialise, he says lockdown for many of us has been “a contraction of life, and an almost parallel contraction of mental capacity”.
Hygiene Helpers
Delta surging in areas of low COVID-19 vaccine coverage - WHO
Circulation of the Delta variant in areas of low vaccination is driving transmission of COVID-19 around the world, World Health Organization officials said on Wednesday. "Many of the places around the world where Delta is surging -- even in countries that at a national level have high levels of vaccination coverage -- the virus, the Delta variant itself, is really circulating in areas of low level of vaccine coverage and in the context of very limited and inconsistent use of public health and social measures," WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove told an online news briefing.
U.S. will extend COVID-19 transport mask mandate through Jan. 18
President Joe Biden's administration confirmed late on Tuesday it plans to extend requirements for travelers to wear masks on airplanes, trains and buses and at airports and train stations through Jan. 18 to address ongoing COVID-19 risks. A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokesperson confirmed the extension, first reported by Reuters. "The purpose of TSA’s mask directive is to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation," the spokesperson said
Australia’s Qantas tells employees: no jabs, no jobs
Qantas Airways Ltd says it will require all its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of its broader commitment to safety, in line with other airlines globally. Pilots, cabin crew and airport workers will need to be fully vaccinated by November 15, while other staff will have until March 31, 2022, the airline said on Wednesday.
In Florida, Some Vaccine Skeptics Are Changing Their Minds
In a rural stretch of northeastern Florida where barely half the people have gotten a coronavirus shot, Roger West had no problem telling others he was "adamantly anti-vaccination." The co-owner of the Westside Journal weekly newspaper used his voice as a columnist to widely share his doubts about the vaccine and his mistrust of the health experts in the U.S. who have been urging everyone to get it. "I do not trust the Federal Government," West wrote recently. "I do not trust Dr. Fauci, I do not trust the medical profession, nor the pharmaceutical giants."
Community Activities
Pope Francis says getting coronavirus vaccine is ‘act of love’
Pope Francis is adding his voice to a campaign to overcome vaccine scepticism, issuing a public service announcement insisting that vaccines are safe, effective and an “act of love”. The video message released on Wednesday is aimed at a global audience but directed particularly at the Americas.
Cardinal in serious condition after contracting COVID-19
A high-ranking Catholic cardinal who has COVID-19 is alive but in serious condition and has been sedated, according to officials at a Wisconsin shrine that he founded. Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of Pope Francis loudest critics and a vaccine skeptic, tweeted Aug. 10 that he had caught the coronavirus. His staff tweeted Saturday that he was hospitalized and on a ventilator. His condition and whereabouts since then have been unclear. His staff has provided no official updates. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops referred questions to officials at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which Burke founded in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Many Bible Belt preachers silent on shots as COVID-19 surges
Dr. Danny Avula, the head of Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination effort, suspected he might have a problem getting pastors to publicly advocate for the shots when some members of his own church referred to them as “the mark of the beast,” a biblical reference to allegiance to the devil, and the minister wasn't sure how to respond. “A lot of pastors, based on where their congregations are at, are pretty hesitant to do so because this is so charged, and it immediately invites criticism and furor by the segment of your community that’s not on board with that," Avula said.
Pharmacist arrested for allegedly selling Covid-19 vaccination cards on eBay
A licensed pharmacist was arrested in Chicago on Tuesday for allegedly selling dozens of authentic Covid-19 vaccination cards on eBay, the Justice Department said in a news release. Tangtang Zhao, 34, allegedly sold 125 Covid-19 vaccination cards from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to 11 different buyers for about $10 a card in March and April, the department said. Zhao, who worked as a pharmacist during that time, was indicted on 12 counts of theft of government property, the release added.
A radical plan to treat Covid’s mental health fallout
Though the idea of social prescribing has existed in the UK for a couple of decades, the cascading health consequences of a year in isolation has energised interest in the practice. And, as Covid-19 rapidly burns both ends of the healthcare candle – more patients in need of care, and a health service stretched to capacity – more health workers, policymakers and patients see social prescribing as part of the answer.
Working Remotely
How to ask your boss for a hybrid-working set-up
Millions of people have found advantages to home working, swapping the stresses of commuting and office politics for increased productivity and a better work-life balance. But as pandemic restrictions ease, some companies are putting pressure on staff to get back to their desks, rather than automatically embracing the remote or hybrid-working future. Of course, each company’s needs will differ, but experts say that if you want some form of home working, there’s never been a better time to mount a case. The trick, says Sarah Cook, author of Making a Success of Managing and Working Remotely, is to “be clear about how to benefit the business, not just you”. Presenting a well-crafted argument will involve anticipating any concerns your boss may have.
Virtual Classrooms
Virtual learning numbers vary across province as boards prepare for back-to-school
Ontario's largest school board says 14 per cent of its students have opted to learn remotely come September, as the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold. The Toronto District School Board's numbers are roughly in line with its neighbour to the west, the Peel District School Board, where about 18 per cent of elementary students and 20 per cent of high schoolers have opted for virtual learning. But some other boards are reporting vastly different numbers.
Public Policies
Israel reportedly set to offer COVID boosters to all starting next month
Israel will reportedly expand its COVID vaccine booster program to all Israelis 12 years and older starting next month, significantly expanding a program that has already seen over 1 million people over the age of 50 or immunocompromised receive a third dose of the shot. Early data from the booster shot campaign has reportedly shown promising results, with some health officials predicting that re-upping the vaccine across the population will tamp down on a major surge in infections wracking the country.
Biden to require vaccines for nursing home staff
The Biden administration will require that nursing home staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition for those facilities to continue receiving federal Medicare and Medicaid funding. Biden will announce the move Wednesday afternoon in a White House address as the administration continues to look for ways to use mandates to encourage vaccine holdouts to get shots. A senior administration official confirmed the announcement on condition of anonymity to preview the news before Biden’s remarks. The new mandate, in the form of a forthcoming regulation to be issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, could take effect as soon as next month.
US health officials call for booster shots against COVID-19
U.S. health officials Wednesday announced plans to offer COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant and signs that the vaccines’ effectiveness is falling. The plan, as outlined by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other top authorities, calls for an extra dose eight months after people get their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The doses could begin the week of Sept. 20. “Our plan is to protect the American people, to stay ahead of this virus,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said as the agency cited a raft of studies suggesting that the vaccines are losing ground while the highly contagious variant of the coronavirus spreads. People who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also probably need extra shots, health officials said. But they said they are waiting for more data.
Norway to offer 16- and 17-year-olds COVID-19 vaccine, government says
Norway will offer all 16- and 17-year-olds their first COVID-19 vaccine dose after those over 18 are fully vaccinated, the government said on Wednesday.
Belgium to give booster coronavirus vaccines for immunocompromised
Belgium will give third shots to people with a reduced immunity against the coronavirus, the government announced. The decision will allow between 300,000 and 400,000 people to get a third shot of an mRNA vaccine, either BioNTech/Pfizer or Moderna, this fall. Belgium is the latest country to move forward with third shots. Israel first began giving boosters this summer, while Hungary gave third shots to anyone who wants one in August. The U.S. is expected to soon follow suit.
WHO warns of increasing disease including Covid in Afghanistan
The World Health Organisation has warned of an “immediate need” to ensure health services across Afghanistan are maintained as it warned of increasing cases of Covid-19 symptoms and other health problems across the country. In the chaos of the fall of Kabul on Sunday the WHO said many Afghans had fled to the city in the days running up to the Taliban’s takeover, with health officials now reporting an increase in disease and a risk of outbreaks that could affect vulnerable people.
WHO continues call for solidarity around COVID-19
At a press conference today, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, reiterated the agency's moratorium on COVID-19 boosters. Ten countries have administered 75% of all COVID-19 vaccines, while low-income countries have vaccinated little more than 2% of their populations, he said, which was why he was "stunned" when news broke this week about Johnson & Johnson vaccines being exported from South Africa to Europe. According to the New York Times, Johnson & Johnson has shipped 32 million doses from Africa in recent months. And while the African Union's deliveries have arrived on schedule, at the end of June, South Africa had received only about 1.5 million doses of its contract target of 2.8 million.
Maintaining Services
Covid hospital patient numbers hit five-month high in England
More coronavirus patients are currently in hospital in England than at any other time in the last five months, NHS data shows. On Wednesday, more than 5,500 people with Covid-19 were in hospital – a jump of 9 per cent from last week, according to PA news agency, and the highest level since mid-March. But although hospitalisations have begun to climb in recent days, numbers remain low compared to the peaks of the UK’s first and second waves, when fewer people were fully vaccinated.
French patients in ICUs for COVID-19 above 2000 for first time since June 14
French health authorities reported on Wednesday that the number of patients being treated in intensive care units (ICUs) for COVID-19 has risen above 2,000 for the first time since June 14. That figure has more than doubled in less than a month as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is putting a renewed strain on the French hospital system
Healthcare Innovations
Now, an Indian covid-19 vaccine made from plants?
Scientists in India plan to shortly begin clinical trials of a plant-based vaccine against covid-19, which could become one of the world’s first such vaccines against the deadly disease. A senior official at India’s plant genome research body said scientists are studying the plant Nicotiana benthamiana, a relative of tobacco, to develop a platform to make covid-related antigens to trigger immune response against the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes covid-19. Three research groups at the National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), New Delhi, under the department of biotechnology, ministry of science and technology, in association with the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi, are working on the project.
Pfizer COVID vaccine 86% effective after third shot - Maccabi
The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine has been shown to be 86% effective in preventing infection among those ages 60 and older after a third dose, according to initial results published Wednesday by Maccabi Health Services. “The vaccine has again proved its effectiveness,” said Dr. Anat Ekka Zohar, who led the study. “It has also demonstrated protection against the Delta variant. The triple dose is the solution to curbing the current outbreak.”
COVID-19 risks in young adult males may be under-recognized -study
The prospect of a next-generation COVID-19 vaccine that could offer protection against future virus variants took a step closer to reality this week. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has agreed to provide $20.6 million in funding to a six-year-old biotechnology company called Gritstone, based in Emeryville, Calif., to help it test a “universal” COVID-19 vaccine. CEPI is a global partnership of governments and nongovernmental organizations dedicated to creating mechanisms for quickly combating pandemics. COVID-19 has been the first real test for the organization, which was established in 2016.
Studies: COVID vaccine protection waning against infection but not hospitalization
A trio of new real-world US studies examine the ongoing effectiveness of two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines against COVID-19, one finding significantly ebbing efficacy against infection in nursing home residents and two showing sustained protection against coronavirus-related hospitalizations but declining coverage against new adult cases. The studies were cited today as White House officials announced plans to offer booster doses of the vaccines beginning next month (see related CIDRAP News story). They were published today in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).