"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 10th Jan 2022
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Germany tightens dining rules due to Omicron, loosens quarantine
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and regional leaders tightened the rules for restaurant and bar visits but shortened COVID-19 quarantine periods on Friday in response to the Omicron variant. Scholz added that all 16 state leaders supported the implementation of a general vaccination mandate and that the Bundestag lower house of parliament would discuss drafts of it soon. Under new measures decided on Friday, people in Germany who have received a booster shot will not have to isolate after being in contact with someone who was infected with the coronavirus.
Government ‘failing’ on classroom ventilation as thousands will not get air purifiers
The government's plan to provide 7,000 air purifiers to schools falls thousands short of what is needed to ensure adequate ventilation in every classroom, according to a survey of teachers. The Department for Education said ventilation in classrooms was key to reducing the spread of Covid-19 among schoolchildren but many teachers report that they have been left unable to even monitor the quality of their air. Labour said the government was providing “just a fraction” of the ventilation support that schools need. A survey of nearly 2,000 teachers by Nasuwt, the teachers' union, found that more than half (56 per cent) did not have access to a CO2 monitor despite a commitment by ministers to provide all schools and colleges with them at the start of the school year.
Moderna CEO expects a second COVID booster will be needed later this year
Moderna Inc.’s CEO expects fully vaccinated people to need an additional COVID-19 booster shot later this year, as the efficacy of the first booster wanes over time. Speaking Thursday at a virtual conference of health-care CEOs held by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Moderna MRNA, Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said the current booster should be enough to protect people through the winter omicron surge. However, “I will be surprised when we get that data in the coming weeks that it’s holding nicely over time — I would expect that it’s not gonna hold great,” Bancel said in reference to the booster’s strength. “I still believe we’re going to need boosters in the fall of ’22 and forward.” “We have been saying that we believe first this virus is not going away,” Bancel said. “We’re going to have to live with it.” Bancel said the United Kingdom and South Korea have already submitted orders for a second round of boosters.
Some Families Shell Out for Covid-19 Tests as Officials Race to Offer More
Some families say they are spending hundreds of dollars on Covid-19 testing during the surge in cases across the country, as efforts by the Biden administration and local officials to distribute free tests lag behind the Omicron variant’s rapid spread. Facing hourslong lines at free testing sites, some people have turned to companies that sell more-convenient laboratory testing options, in some cases at prices of more than $200. And until the Biden administration begins making free Covid-19 testing more widely available, some people say they will continue to pay $20 or more for over-the-counter, at-home tests. The tab for using over-the-counter rapid tests effectively, with tests over many days, can stretch past $100, creating a disincentive for people to test, public-health and policy experts say.
Citigroup to enforce 'no-jab, no-job' policy starting Jan. 14 - source
Citigroup Inc staff in the United States who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 14 will be placed on unpaid leave and fired at the end of the month unless they are granted an exemption, according to a company memo seen by Reuters on Friday. The U.S. bank announced its plan to impose new vaccination rules in October and now becomes the first major Wall Street institution to follow through with a strict vaccine mandate.
Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass
French authorities say more than 105,000 people have taken part in protests across the country against the introduction of a new coronavirus pass. A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life. Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like "no to vaccine passes". Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places. The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France's parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.
Smash and shout: Dutch find new ways to vent COVID-19 frustrations
One swinging a sledgehammer and the other a crowbar, twin brothers Steven and Brian Krijger grin as they take turns pulverising a Peugeot 106 spray-painted with the words "F*** COVID". They are participants in "CarSmash", a Dutch project aimed at providing locked-down locals with ways of releasing anger and frustration built up during a pandemic now entering its third year. Dutch bars, restaurants and most stores have been closed since mid-December, when curbs took effect that the government - battling to contain record numbers of coronavirus cases - is not due to review until Jan. 14.
Boris Johnson Calls Out U.K. Anti-Vaxxers 'Spouting Nonsense' Online
Boris Johnson slammed anti-vaxxers spreading “nonsense” about Covid-19 on the internet, a change in tone he said was driven by the “tragedy” that so many people admitted to U.K. hospitals are not vaccinated. “I want to say to the anti-vax campaigners, who are putting this mumbo jumbo on social media, they are completely wrong,” Johnson told reporters at a vaccination center in the East Midlands on Thursday. “And you haven’t heard me say that before, because I want a voluntary approach.” While the U.K. has one of the highest levels of vaccinations in Europe -- 60% have had a third booster dose -- a small and vocal minority has consistently campaigned against vaccination. Johnson said 30-40% of patients coming into hospital with Covid-19 haven’t had any vaccine doses.
Remote work is protecting employees from toxic workplaces. Now, employers must do better, says expert
For many racialized or marginalized employees, the option to work from home has given them a sense of relief. Earlier this week, the Ontario government released a directive for employees to work remotely unless their job requires them to be on site as part of provincial restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise due to the Omicron variant. Colleen James is founder and principal consultant at Divonify, an equity and inclusion consulting firm. She says employers should go the extra mile and allow long-term options for remote work while addressing systemic racism and challenges to tackle microaggressions in the workplace.
Building a remote work culture in the digital-first economy
Despite the fact that digital workplaces are the future, many are still trying to find the right balance between human and tech centered culture that will foster productivity and innovation. In the new workplace model, employees are able to work from anywhere and stay connected with their teams and employers, but at the same time, it poses many challenges, such as constantly being online, managing work-life balance, and developing social skills and peer learning in the workplace.
Work-From-Home Access Is Skewed Across U.S. Race, Education Gap
Remote work is here to stay and newly released U.S. government data show how much it could exacerbate inequalities. The ability to telework differed sharply by race and by level of education in a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of workers in their late 30s and early 40s. Almost half of White respondents worked from home at least part-time during the February 2021 through May 2021 survey period, compared with 38% of Black workers.
As omicron continues to surge, families despair over return to remote learning
The vast majority of U.S. districts appear to be returning to in-person learning, but other large school systems including those in Newark, New Jersey, Milwaukee and Cleveland have gone back to remote learning as infections soar and sideline staff members. Dozens of smaller districts have followed, including many around Detroit, Chicago and Washington. The disruptions also raise alarms about risks to students. Long stretches of remote learning over the last two years have taken a toll, leaving many kids with academic and mental health setbacks that experts are still trying to understand.
No need for a fourth Covid jab yet, say UK advisers
A fourth Covid jab is not yet needed, say UK experts, because booster doses continue to provide high protection against severe disease from the Omicron variant among older adults. UK Health Security Agency data shows three months after boosting, protection against hospitalisation remains at about 90% for people aged 65 and over. Protection against mild symptomatic infection is more short-lived. That drops to about 30% by about three months. Figures also show why it is important to get a booster dose if you have only had two doses so far.
Supreme Court Justices Cast Doubt on Biden Workplace Vaccine Rule
The U.S. Supreme Court cast doubt on the linchpin of President Joe Biden’s push to get more people vaccinated amid a Covid-19 surge, questioning whether the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had authority to require that 80 million workers get shots or regular tests. In a special argument session Friday, the court’s conservative justices voiced skepticism about the rule, which business groups and Republican-led states say exceeds the workplace-safety agency’s authority. The pandemic “sounds like the sort of thing that states will be responding to or should be, and that Congress should be responding to or should be, rather than agency by agency the federal government and the executive branch acting alone,” Chief Justice John Roberts said.
Macron Doubles Down on Plan to ‘Piss Off’ the Unvaccinated
President Emmanuel Macron on Friday stood by the uncompromising stance and combative language he directed earlier this week at France’s unvaccinated citizens amid record numbers of new Covid-19 cases. Macron in a Tuesday interview with Le Parisien used salty language -- saying he wants to “p--- off” people refusing inoculation -- to express zero-tolerance for failing to get fully vaccinated. The government, he said, will keep up the pressure on the holdouts as a way to contain skyrocketing case counts. “You can get upset about ways of talking which may sound colloquial, for which I take full responsibility. But what upsets me is the situation in which we are in,” Macron said at a Friday news conference in Paris. “It was my responsibility to ring the alarm. That’s what I did this week so that things will move faster.”
Chile to become first country in Latin America to offer fourth COVID shot
Chile will begin offering a fourth shot of the coronavirus vaccine next week to immunocompromised citizens, the government said on Thursday, the first country in Latin America and one of the first in the world to offer the extra dose. "Starting next Monday, January 10, we are going to start a new mass vaccination process with a fourth dose or a second booster dose," said Pinera in a press conference. Chile has one of the world's highest vaccination rates and has been hailed as a model for its response to the pandemic, having administered two doses to over 85% of the population. About 57% have received a third booster shot, according to Our World in Data.
HUNDREDS of cars wait for up to three hours for covid tests in Arizona
Arizona citizens are waiting in three or more hour lines for COVID-19 testing. Nearly three in 10 tests are coming back positive statewide this wide, a pandemic high. Before, it has never reached over 20 per cent . Lines are so long that some citizens cannot access their neighborhoods and are being told to find other testing sites
COVID: Record number of children admitted to hospital in a single day
A record number of children in England were admitted to hospital with COVID on 3 January, according to government data. Some 157 children were admitted on the Bank Holiday Monday, 110 of whom were aged 5 or younger. The figure surpasses the previous record on 145 admissions on 28 December. In the last seven days, a total of 567 children have been admitted to hospital with COVID.
CDC reports record number of child COVID-19 hospitalizations
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky reported Friday that there have been a record number of pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and announced new isolation guidelines for students, staff and teachers to preserve in-person learning in schools. During a media briefing, Walensky cautioned that pediatric hospitalizations are at the highest point they have ever been during the pandemic, even though they are much lower when compared to adults. She said it’s still not clear if the increase is due to a greater burden of disease in children's communities or their lower rates of vaccination. The increase was seen most in children younger than 4, who are ineligible for vaccination, and the data include those admitted to hospitals for reasons other than COVID-19 who then tested positive.
Omicron pushes U.S. COVID hospitalizations toward record high
COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States are poised to hit a new high as early as Friday, according to a Reuters tally, surpassing the record set in January of last year as the highly contagious Omicron variant fuels a surge in the number of cases. Hospitalizations have increased steadily since late December as Omicron quickly overtook Delta as the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States, although experts say Omicron will likely prove less deadly than prior variants.
Sweden COVID cases hit new record, pile pressure on healthcare
Sweden set a new daily record for COVID-19 cases for the third time this week, registering 23,877 cases on Jan. 5, health agency data showed on Friday, as a fourth wave swept the country and piled pressure on its healthcare system. The mounting wave of COVID-19 cases is increasingly driven by the more contagious Omicron variant and has seen hospitalisations rise rapidly in many parts of the country, although deaths have remained relatively stable so far.
Covid absences put pressure on England's hospitals
Covid-related staff absences at hospitals in England have risen sharply since Omicron took hold last month, latest figures show. The number of workers off sick for Covid reasons trebled from the beginning of December. The Royal College of Nursing said growing absences meant the situation was "simply not safe." NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said staff were under pressure but were "stepping up". Downing Street said Boris Johnson saw no need for further restrictions despite the staff absences, as England's current measures were "balanced and proportionate". Earlier this week, the prime minister said he hoped England could "ride out" the Omicron wave without more restrictions.
COVID-19: Military medics drafted into London hospitals as NHS grapples with staff shortages
The Royal College of Nursing says the deployment means the government can no longer deny there is a "staffing crisis" within the NHS. Two major incidents have been declared in England because of pressures caused by the spread of COVID-19 - after the Ministry of Defence said Armed Forces personnel would be deployed in London to help in hospitals. Some 200 Armed Forces personnel are being sent to support the NHS in London as hospitals grapple with staff shortages. Military medics will assist NHS doctors and nurses with patient care, while general duty personnel will help fill gaps caused by other absences. And now two major incidents have been declared in England with emergency services saying there is a civil emergency in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
Record numbers of NHS staff quit as frontline medics battle Covid pandemic trauma
More than 27,000 people voluntarily resigned from the NHS from July to September last year, the highest number on record. NHS medics have been quitting in record numbers as staff warned of burnout among an overwhelmed workforce. One worker revealed he battled PTSD and had to quit as an intensive care nurse last year after the trauma of working on Covid wards, with others left in tears due to the strains of the job. Meanwhile, NHS Million, a campaigning website that supports NHS staff said it is receiving a “constant flood” of “disturbing” messages from workers who have spent almost two years working during the pandemic.
Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine protects children against rare COVID-19 complication - CDC
Two doses of the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are highly protective against a rare but often serious condition in children that causes organ inflammation weeks after COVID-19 infections, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said on Friday. The vaccine was estimated to be 91% effective in preventing Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) in 12- to 18-year-olds, the study said. MIS-C causes inflammation in children in organs including the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain two to six weeks after a mild or asymptomatic infection. The estimate is based on the assessment of 283 hospitalized patients aged 12–18 years at 24 children's hospitals in 20 states between July and early December, when the prevalence of the Delta coronavirus variant was high.
COVID-19 infections in children may increase their risk of diabetes: CDC
Children who have had COVID-19 seem to be at increased risk of developing Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Friday. Past studies show increased risk in developing diabetes as an adult after recovering from COVID-19. Research in Europe also found a higher rate of diabetes diagnoses among children since the beginning of the pandemic. The study examined two large insurance claim databases across the United States to document the number of diabetes diagnoses among children under 18 who had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19. These children were compared with those who had never been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Study: COVID-19 vaccination may cause temporary, slight change to menstrual cycle
COVID-19 vaccination may cause a temporary change to a person's menstrual cycle, but it appears to be a “small change,” according to a study published on Thursday. The study, published in the Obstetrics and Gynecology journal, examined close to 4,000 people — vaccinated and unvaccinated — and examined menstruation data that individuals entered through an app called Natural Cycles. Researchers then examined the difference between menstruation data before and after individuals received their vaccine doses. For individuals who did not receive the vaccine, researchers looked at six consecutive menstruation cycles. The researchers found that in vaccinated individuals, bleeding was prolonged by a time that amounted to less than one day. However, they concluded that this slight change, while statistically significant, was not clinically significant.
Omicron Study in South Africa Points to End of Acute Pandemic Phase
A South African study from the epicenter of the world’s omicron surge offers a tantalizing hint that the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic may be ending. The infection wave moved with “unprecedented speed” and caused much milder illness than earlier strains, a study of patients infected with Covid-19 at a large hospital in the South African city where the first outbreak of the omicron variant was recorded showed. “If this pattern continues and is repeated globally, we are likely to see a complete decoupling of case and death rates,” the researchers said. That suggests “omicron may be a harbinger of the end of the epidemic phase of the Covid pandemic, ushering in its endemic phase.”