"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 5th Nov 2021

Isolation Tips
COVID-hit China keeps vigil at borders, restricts local tourism
China is on high alert at its international ports of entry to reduce the risk of COVID-19 cases entering from abroad, and it has stepped up restrictions within the country amid a growing outbreak less than 100 days before the Beijing Winter Olympics. The National Immigration Administration (NIA) said on Thursday it would continue to guide citizens not to go abroad for non-urgent and non-essential reasons. The dramatic drop in Chinese travellers since early last year has left a $255 billion annual spending hole in the global tourism market
Philippines Eases Virus Restrictions in Manila Capital Region
The Philippines will ease coronavirus restrictions in the Manila capital region from Friday until Nov. 21 as infections eased. The Southeast Asian nation’s virus task force decided to place the capital -- which accounts for a third of economic output -- under Alert Level 2 where businesses can operate at higher capacities, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement late Thursday.
Hygiene Helpers
White House Sets Jan. 4 Shots-or-Tests Deadline for Workers
OSHA has issued a federal rule mandating Covid-19 vaccinations or at least weekly testing for workers at U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. The OSHA rules are a key pillar of President Joe Biden’s push to use employer mandates to drive up vaccination totals nationally. Biden already has expanded the rules for federal workers and contractors, which will take effect over the next five weeks, requiring vaccination and offering no alternative for regular testing. The OSHA rules, while less strenuous, essentially extend that push widely into the private sector. Biden—elected in part on a pledge to quell the pandemic—views vaccination as the fastest path to reopening society and the economy, including employer mandates, booster shots and vaccines for kids aged 5 to 11 that began this week. About 80% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose.
New York City, union reach agreement on vaccine mandate
New York City's public-sector employee union District Council 37 and the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday reached an agreement on a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for over 55,000 city workers. District Council 37 members who have not provided proof of at least one dose of the vaccine will have the option to resign or take a leave of absence and in both cases, employees will maintain their health benefits, the union said in a statement. Employees without proof of vaccination who have either not submitted an application for an exemption or who have been denied an exemption may be placed on unpaid leave beginning Nov. 1 through Nov. 30, the union said.
How Tyson Foods Got 60,500 Workers to Get the Coronavirus Vaccine Quickly
When Tyson, one of the world’s largest meatpacking companies, announced in early August that all of its 120,000 workers would need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or lose their jobs, Diana Eike was angry. Ms. Eike, an administrative coordinator at the company, had resisted the vaccine, and not for religious or political reasons like many others here in her home state. “It was just something personal,” she said. Now, Ms. Eike is fully vaccinated, and she is relieved that Tyson made the decision for her. The company, she said, “took the burden off of me making the choice.”
New U.S. COVID testing/vaccine rule excludes outdoor workers
A new U.S. workplace rule that requires tens of millions of Americans to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing will exclude employees who work exclusively outdoors, according to regulatory filing by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An estimated 2.4 million healthcare workers will need to be vaccinated or replaced under a related rule issued by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Community Activities
‘He was adamant he didn’t want it’: the pro-vax parents with vaccine-hesitant kids
Even if children have avoided anti-vaccine misinformation on social media, they may have come across it at the school gate. There have been demonstrations outside schools across the UK; some protesters have loudhailers, and give alarming leaflets to children, or point them in the direction of websites with misinformation. At least one school was targeted by protesters showing images of what appeared to be dead children, falsely claiming they had been killed by the vaccine, which unsurprisingly distressed children. The Association of School and College Leaders union found nearly 80% of British schools had been targeted in some way – mainly emails threatening legal action – and 13% had reported seeing anti-vax demonstrators directly outside the school gates; 18 schools said protesters had actually got inside.
Vaccine certificates-for-sale scam undermines Lesotho’s Covid effort
The Lesotho government’s plans to implement a Covid passport system this week are being undermined by widespread fraud involving certificates being sold to unvaccinated people. Covid-19 vaccination certificates are being sold for less than £20 by unscrupulous health workers to the largely vaccine-averse population in Lesotho, where there has been little positive campaigning around the jabs. The prime minister, Moeketsi Majoro, announced in October that from this week, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms and sporting facilities would only admit people who had a Covid-19 vaccination certificate.
Australian customer service workers subjected to violence and abuse for Covid-19 compliance checks
Customer Service staff face increase of abuse amid Covid compliance checks National Retail Association (NRA) received 89k reports of abuse in last 6 months Aggressive & violent behaviour mainly occurred where Covid rules are in place NRA says shoppers need to remember staff are not responsible for Covid laws
Working Remotely
The Winners and Losers of Remote Work
The switch to remote work was actually quite a boon for those earning big salaries who formerly had long commutes. In addition to saving the time and money they used to spend going back and forth at work, these newly remote workers were able to stay in comfortable, familiar surroundings while earning the same or even more pay. For many of these types of workers, this combination of factors translated to a somewhat significant pay raise, in addition to a better working environment and more free time. Sadly, it's often the case that lower-paid workers suffer the most in times of dislocation, and the stay-at-home orders brought by the pandemic were no different.
‘As we move forward, pay will be more transparent’: How hybrid work could improve pay equity nationwide, according to HR experts
As organizations across the U.S. figure out how to pay a new class of remote and hybrid workers, it could have a positive impact on issues of salary transparency and pay equity, say Jason Walker and Rey Ramirez, cofounders of Thrive HR Consulting, who advise companies about how to set up and manage hybrid teams. Walker believes proposed pay cuts for workers who relocate and work remotely are “an empty threat” from companies, especially during today’s hiring crunch. Businesses that do so run the risk of hurting employee engagement, and if workers quit, it could cost the business a lot more to replace them than to just continue paying them at the same rate.
Virtual Classrooms
The pandemic deepened inequities for Bay Area students. How can schools respond?
According to educators and youth advocates, the traumas of last year have carried over into a delta-hobbled fall semester and could manifest for years to come, particularly for female, LGBTQ and nonbinary students, as well as all students of color. In August, the alliance and YouthTruth, a national nonprofit headquartered in San Francisco, released separate studies built on the perspectives of youth and delivering sobering prognoses: Students felt overwhelmed and under-supported during remote learning, and the pandemic metastasized existing inequities for young learners.
Homeschooling boomed in the pandemic—and many parents aren't sending their kids back to class
School enrollment in Kansas has dropped by over fifteen thousand students since 2019 as virtual and homeschool enrollment has increased. Nationwide, enrollment in public schools has dropped by more than 1.5 million students during the pandemic, according to the U.S. Department of Education. As some students stay out of public school, they’ve turned to pandemic pods, traditional homeschooling and virtual learning, Before the pandemic, Kansas City Public Schools, which serves much of Kansas City, Missouri, would see between fifty and a hundred students enrolled in its Virtual Academy. During the pandemic, that number skyrocketed—last school year, they started with three thousand students in the program.
Leveraging Technology to Scale Education
In recent decades, we have seen the power of technology not only change the way we live, work, and interact with each other, but also make it possible for the transformation of traditional classroom-based learning. EdTech is on a solid growth trajectory thanks to the combination of high-speed internet connections, robust digital platforms, compelling digital content, plummeting costs of data and devices and the emergence of adaptive learning. All of this innovation and change has fundamentally transformed traditional classroom-based learning. EdTech makes highly flexible and scalable online learning possible.
Public Policies
Inside the World’s Most Blatant Covid-19 Coverup: Secret Burials, a Dead President
Last year, President John Magufuli declared the virus a “satanic myth” propagated by imperialist powers. While his neighbors sealed borders and locked down, his country of 58 million stayed open. His government barred doctors from registering coronavirus as the cause of death and labeled those who wore masks unpatriotic. Seeking to keep the economy open and rally nationalist sentiment ahead of elections, he blocked foreign journalists from entering the country, rejected vaccines and refused to provide data to the World Health Organization. News organizations reporting on Covid-19 were shut down for “scaremongering,” and reporters threatened with jail. By this spring, the president was dead, along with six other senior politicians and several of the country’s generals. The official cause of Mr. Magufuli’s death was heart failure. The details remain secret. Diplomats, analysts and opposition leaders say he had Covid-19.
UK Approves Merck Covid Drug Molnupiravir to Fill In Where Vaccines Can't
The U.K. was the first country to approve a Covid-19 vaccine; it has now become the first to approve an at-home treatment for Covid. On Thursday, the medicines regulator, MHRA, green-lit the antiviral drug molnupiravir, produced by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck & Co. and shown in trials to halve the risk of hospitalization or death in those with mild to moderate disease. Health Secretary Sajid Javid called it a “historic day for our country.” For once that might not be an overstatement. Beyond Britain, the new drug should be a reminder of the importance of antivirals in the fight against this and future pandemics. The molnupiravir approval couldn’t be timelier. Britain has had a stubbornly high Covid infection rate. Although the most recent wave has not led to a marked increase in deaths from the virus, hospitals face a gargantuan backlog of delayed procedures, Covid wards are fuller than is comfortable and there are worries that a bad flu season could tip an overstretched health service into deeper crisis.
Indian home-grown Covid-19 shot wins WHO emergency use approval
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that it has granted approval for Indian drugmaker Bharat Biotech's home-grown Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use listing, paving the way for it to be accepted as a valid vaccine in many poor countries. The WHO tweeted that its technical advisory group had ruled that benefits of the shot, known as Covaxin, significantly outweighed the risks and that it met WHO standards for protection against Covid-19. The decision had been delayed as the advisory group sought additional clarifications from Bharat Biotech before conducting a final risk-benefit assessment for the vaccine's global use. WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization also recommended Covaxin's use in two doses, with an interval of four weeks, in age groups 18 and above. These recommendations are in line with the company's guidance.
EU regulator reviewing data on AstraZeneca COVID-19 booster shots
The European Union's drug regulator said on Thursday it was in discussions with AstraZeneca (AZN.L) over possible authorisation of booster doses of the drugmaker's COVID-19 vaccine, after it already gave the green light to mRNA booster shots. "AstraZeneca is submitting data to us. Actually today they submitted a new package of data that could support an extension to use the booster," the European Medicines Agency's head of vaccines strategy, Marco Cavaleri, said at a briefing. "We will be discussing with them whether this data could be sufficient for (authorisation) or whether we need more evidence," Cavaleri added.
Maintaining Services
Europe Is Covid Epicenter Once Again As Cases Surge, WHO Says
The World Health Organization warned that a surge of coronavirus cases in Europe and Central Asia has pushed the region back as the epicenter of the pandemic. There are now 78 million cases in the European region, which is more than infections reported in Southeast Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Western Pacific and Africa combined, according to the WHO. Last week, Europe and Central Asia accounted for almost half of the world’s reported deaths from Covid-19. The outbreak has accelerating in Europe over the last four weeks as colder temperatures lead to more socializing indoors, while many countries have eased restrictions. The WHO has repeatedly said that the pandemic is not yet over, and that governments should keep public-health measures such as mask-wearing along with vaccinations.
First elementary school-age kids receive coronavirus vaccine
Hugs with friends. Birthday parties indoors. Pillow fights. Kids who got their first coronavirus shots Wednesday said these are the pleasures they look forward to as the United States enters a major new phase in fighting the pandemic. Health officials hailed shots for kids ages 5 to 11 as a major breakthrough after more than 18 months of illness, hospitalizations, deaths and disrupted education. Kid-size doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine cleared two final hurdles Tuesday — a recommendation from CDC advisers, followed by a green light from Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Turkey to start booster shots for Pfizer COVID vaccine recipients -minister
Turkey will begin administering boosters to people who have received two shots of the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday. Turkey has already administered a third dose to more than 11.2 million people who received two doses of the vaccine developed by China's Sinovac, whose efficacy rate officials believe falls faster. In a statement after meeting with his science council, Koca said the booster shots for Pfizer/BioNTech recipients would begin on Thursday with the elderly, those with chronic illnesses, health workers and those in other high-risk jobs.
Factbox: Countries rush to buy Merck's experimental COVID-19 pill
While the drug's approval in the United States is still pending, Britain on Thursday became the first country in the world to approve the pill. Last week the company reached a deal with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool that will allow more companies to manufacture generic versions of the pill with a royalty-free licence applying to 105 low- and middle-income countries. So far Merck has agreed to license the drug to several India-based generic drugmakers.
Vienna bans the unvaccinated from restaurants as national cases surge
The City of Vienna said on Thursday it is banning people not vaccinated against COVID-19 from cafes, restaurants and events with more than 25 people, pre-empting measures that are likely to be introduced across Austria soon as infections are surging. Roughly 64% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. That matches the European Union average but is also among the lowest rates in western Europe. Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third biggest in parliament.
Healthcare Innovations
Oxford Scientists Find Gene That Doubles Risk of Dying From Covid-19
Scientists identified a specific gene that doubles the risk of respiratory failure from Covid-19 and may go some way to explaining why some ethnic groups are more susceptible to severe disease than others. Researchers from the University of Oxford found that a higher-risk version of the gene most likely prevents the cells lining airways and the lungs from responding to the virus properly. About 60% of people with South Asian ancestry carry this version of the gene, compared with 15% of people with European heritage, according to the study published Thursday. The findings help explain why higher rates of hospitalization and death may have been seen in certain communities and on the Indian subcontinent. The authors cautioned that the gene cannot be used as a sole explanation as many other factors, such as socioeconomic conditions, play a role. Despite a significant impact from the virus to people with Afro-Caribbean ancestry, only 2% carry the higher-risk genotype. People with the gene, known as LZTFL1, would particularly benefit from vaccination, which remains the best method of protection, the authors said. The findings raise the possibility of research into treatments specific to patients with this gene, though no tailored drugs are currently available.
No decrease in effectiveness if COVID-19 jab and flu vaccine is taken together - WHO
People can get inoculated against COVID-19 and the seasonal influenza at the same time without compromising the vaccines' effectiveness, a World Health Organization official said on Thursday. "Anybody can get both the vaccines together - there is no decrease in effectiveness of either of the vaccines when given together at one point of time," Siddhartha Datta, the WHO Europe's regional adviser for vaccines, told a news briefing.
England sees record COVID prevalence in October -Imperial study
COVID-19 prevalence in England rose to its highest level on record in October, Imperial College London said on Thursday, led by a high numbers of cases in children and a surge in the south-west of the country. Nearly 6% of school-aged children had COVID-19, the researchers found, although there was a drop in prevalence towards the end of the study's period coinciding with the closure of schools for half-term holiday. Despite that dip, researchers said rates had doubled in older groups compared to September, a concerning sign as the government races to give booster shots to the most vulnerable.
Feds tout COVID-19 pediatric vaccines as way back to normal
Today during a White House press briefing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, said now that she has authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, American schoolchildren have the chance to experience school "as we once one knew it, and as it should be." Walensky and Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, both called today a monumental day in the nation's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and assured American parents that the use of vaccines in kids ages 5 to 11 would be safe, free, and convenient. "We have been planning for this, and we are fully prepared," said Zients, who said the pediatric campaign will begin officially on Nov 8, but said some clinics and pharmacies have already begun to offer inoculations to kids. "I want to speak directly to parents," Walensky said. "Please know we have conducted a thorough review of the safety data before recommending this vaccine for your child."
Real-world study shows J&J COVID-19 vaccine 74% effective
The Johnson & Johnson (J&J) adenovirus-based COVID-19 vaccine is 74% effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection even amid phases of high Alpha (B117) and Delta (B1617.2) variant circulation, according to the preliminary findings of a real-world US study yesterday in JAMA Network Open. The comparative-effectiveness study, led by researchers from nference, a Massachusetts software company affiliated with Janssen, maker of the J&J vaccine, involved mining the Mayo Clinic electronic health records (EHRs) of 8,889 vaccinated and 88,898 matched unvaccinated adults living in 1 of 15 states from Feb 27 to Jul 22, 2021. The EHRs were from the multistate Mayo Clinic Health System. Men made up roughly half of both groups of patients, with a mean age of 52.4 years in the vaccinated group and 51.7 in the unvaccinated group.