"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 27th Jan 2022

Isolation Tips
Denmark to End Covid Curbs as Premier Deems Critical Phase Over
Denmark will end virus restrictions next week and reclassify Covid-19 as a disease that no longer poses a threat to society, even as infections in the Nordic nation are at record high. The Nordic country won’t extend the pandemic measures beyond Jan. 31, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told a news conference, confirming earlier reports by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper and Bloomberg News. Denmark’s hospitalizations are declining, indicating that omicron is less dangerous than earlier variants of the virus despite a million Danes infected in the last two months.
Austria ends lockdown on unvaccinated as pressure on hospitals eases
Austria's lockdown for people not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus will end on Monday because the pressure on hospitals has eased, the government said. New daily coronavirus infections are rising, driven by the extremely contagious Omicron variant. They hit a new record above 30,000 on Wednesday, Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein told a news conference, adding that they would peak in the next two weeks at around 35,000 to 40,000.
China’s Olympics COVID measures test residents’ patience
Repeated COVID-19 testing of millions of Beijing residents is starting to test the patience of some as the city clamps down on the virus ahead of the coming Winter Olympics. A third round of mass testing that started Wednesday for the the 2 million residents of Fengtai district drew complaints online and from residents bundled up against the wind to wait in line outdoors. The skies were sunny, but the daytime high hovered around the freezing point. “I think it is too frequent,” said a woman who only gave her surname, Ma. “I just did it yesterday and was asked to do it again today. I asked the question to the staff and they said, ‘Under the principle of testing everyone who should be tested, just do it since you are here.’”
Hygiene Helpers
Where Is the Operation Warp Speed for Covid Testing?
The U.S. is awash in vaccine doses, but the availability of tests has been a problem throughout the most intense surges of the Covid-19 crisis. That’s because while there was an Operation Warp Speed to create vaccines, there hasn’t been a comparable initiative for tests. In response to the omicron wave, the administration of President Joe Biden has stepped up its investments in testing.
Covid-19: Vaccine passports scrapped as coronavirus rules ease
Proof of Covid-19 status to enter bars, restaurants and cinemas has been scrapped in Northern Ireland. The change took effect at 12:00 GMT following a decision by Stormont ministers last week. Nightclubs - which were forced to close on 26 December - can now also reopen, along with the return of indoor standing events. Vaccine passports will still be required to access nightclubs and large events.
China to mass test millions for Covid ahead of 2022 Winter Olympics
China is trying to squash any coronavirus outbreaks by repeatedly mass testing citizens before fans start arriving for the Winter Olympics next month. Beijing’s Fengtai district announced it would start testing its two million people on Tuesday, making it the third time the capital’s residents are getting tested since last weekend. The spectacle is set to start in just nine days – on February 4 – and officials are taking extremely careful measures to make sure Covid does not ruin any plans. Anyone in China who buys headache, fever or other cold medicine will be forced to get tested within 72 hours of doing so.
Community Activities
Paid Leave Is Falling Apart Just as Omicron Keeps Sick Americans From Working
The latest Covid surge highlighted with renewed urgency that when Americans get sick, most don't get paid time off from work. At the start of this month, 8.8 million people reported that they weren’t working because they had Covid or were caring for someone who did, according to the Household Pulse Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau — nearly triple the figure from early December. For many, particularly low-wage hourly earners, that could mean forgoing a paycheck or going into work while still recovering or contagious. The U.S., unlike most other high-income countries, guarantees workers nothing in the event of sickness or new parenthood, costing Americans an estimated $22.5 billion annually in wages, according to think tank Center for American Progress.
Hong Kong risks exodus over extended COVID isolation, Euro chamber says
HK reopening seen delayed until China rolls out mRNA vaccine. High costs include exodus of international residents. Appeal as global business hub seen fading Firms may shift to mainland, Singapore or Seoul
In Germany, activists rise up to counter vaccine skeptics
Stefanie Hoener was at home one night in Berlin when she heard police sirens wailing through her Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood and anti-vaccine protesters shouting angry slurs as they marched down to the Gethsemane Church — a symbol of the peaceful 1989 revolution in East Germany that ended the communist dictatorship. “That night these people really crossed a line,” Hoener said Monday as she stood with 200 others— many of them neighbors — in front of the red brick church to protect it from anti-vaccine protesters glaring from the other side of the street.
Working Remotely
The small cities and towns booming from remote work
With the pandemic decoupling work and place, it’s now possible to live in areas that haven’t historically offered jobs for certain professionals. For some secondary cities and smaller towns, this presents an opportunity to reverse brain drain, counter aging populations and inject money into city coffers. But for others, this new trend has distorted housing markets, priced-out working-class residents and brought big city problems to small cities that were wholly unprepared for them.
Hybrid work: How the 'Zoom ceiling' hurts remote workers
When given the choice, the majority of workers would prefer to work remotely. And flexibility is one of the most important benefits when candidates consider a new job. But working from home can have a hidden downside, says Elora Voyles, industrial organizational psychologist and people scientist at TINYpulse. “Remote workers aren’t getting the same amount of recognition for the work that they are doing,” she says. “In particular, there’s research that remote workers are working longer hours, actually performing better, but 50% less likely to get promoted.” This is a case of out of sight, out of mind.
Virtual Classrooms
Six Ways to Build Instructional Immediacy During Online Learning
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way college students and instructors relate. Thanks in large part to how instructional technicians have elevated their support in the growing online environment, online and hybrid instruction are now a permanent part of higher education. This means that teaching styles must change accordingly. In the traditional classroom, educators know immediacy is crucial for engaged learning. The author details six ways to build instructional immediacy
Using action learning to improve interdisciplinary online teaching
Online technology makes it easier for instructors from different disciplines to jointly teach students. This enables students to investigate complex issues from multiple perspectives. However, when teachers of various fields come together, they face a new challenge: how can they collaborate effectively to teach an interdisciplinary course? Despite ample helpful resources of best practice for delivering online teaching, there isn’t one golden rule to fit all. Action learning (AL) – a practical and flexible problem-solving method – deploys the art of asking questions to locate core matters in an authentic and contextual issue before offering a solution.
Public Policies
U.S. Labor Dept withdrawing COVID vaccine rule for large employers
The Department of Labor said on Tuesday it will withdraw its COVID-19 vaccine-and-testing requirement for large U.S. employers after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the rule, ending a controversial bid to increase vaccination rates. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said in the federal register that while it was withdrawing the emergency temporary standard, the rule would remain as a proposal for a permanent requirement. "OSHA continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace," the notice said.
Maintaining Services
Lufthansa Bans Freight From Transiting Frankfurt Due to Omicron
Deutsche Lufthansa banned cargo from moving through its Frankfurt hub due to surging Covid-19 infections and related staff shortages in the German city. The move will impact goods arriving from other parts of Germany, the rest of Europe and North America. Direct deliveries to Frankfurt -- a major transport hub for coronavirus vaccines -- are still possible, Lufthansa said.
COVID-19 booster drive is faltering in the US
The COVID-19 booster drive in the U.S. is losing steam, worrying health experts who have pleaded with Americans to get an extra shot to shore up their protection against the highly contagious omicron variant. Just 40% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention And the average number of booster shots dispensed per day in the U.S. has plummeted from a peak of 1 million in early December to about 490,000 as of last week. Also, a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that Americans are more likely to see the initial vaccinations — rather than a booster — as essential.
Schools Struggle With Omicron-Fueled Teacher Shortages
A wave of Covid-19-related school staffing issues has led some states to take drastic steps to keep schools open, including enlisting state employees, retirees and National Guard members to fill in as substitute teachers.
Healthcare Innovations
Wanted: Volunteers to catch COVID in the name of science
The world's first medical trial authorised to deliberately expose participants to the coronavirus is seeking more volunteers as it steps up efforts to help develop better vaccines. The Oxford University trial was launched last April, three months after Britain became the first country to approve what are known as challenge trials for humans involving COVID-19. Its first phase, still ongoing, has focused on finding out how much of the virus is needed to trigger an infection while the second will aim to determine the immune response needed to ward one off, the university said in a statement on Tuesday.
Coronavirus vaccines may reduce risk of long Covid, ONS study finds
The study, of more than 6,000 adults, found those who were double-vaccinated had a 41% lower likelihood of self-reporting Covid symptoms 12 weeks after first testing positive. Overall, 9.5% of the double-vaccinated group reported experiencing long Covid, defined as symptoms lasting more than four weeks, compared with 14.6% of a socio-demographically matched group who were unvaccinated. Dr David Strain, a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school and the British Medical Association’s lead on long Covid, said the ONS findings fitted with research published this week that showed low levels of certain antibodies were more common in those who developed long Covid than in patients who swiftly recovered.
COVID-19: Bangladeshi communities and Pakistani men most at risk of dying from coronavirus during third wave
Bangladeshi people and Pakistani men living in the UK were most at risk of dying during the third wave of COVID, despite the efforts of the vaccination programme, new research suggests. Data released by the Office for National Statics found people from these two groups remained at higher risk of death from COVID-19 during the third wave - even after adjusting for vaccination status. From 13 June 2021 onwards, the risk for Bangladeshi communities from the virus was 4.4 and 5.2 times greater than white British men and women.
Two thirds of Omicron cases previously had Covid-19, study finds
Around two thirds of people who have been infected with the Omicron variant had already had Covid-19. New data underlines the ability of the now-dominant strain to evade the immune response generated by prior infection. The study also estimates that an unprecedented one in 23 people were infected with the coronavirus in January. A huge surge of infections, which saw the daily count hit a new record of more than 200,000, meant the prevalence in the general population between January 5 and 20 (4.41%) was higher than at any point since March 2020.
COVID is less severe with Omicron than Delta, U.S. study suggests
The Omicron variant appears to result in less severe COVID-19 than seen during previous periods of high coronavirus transmission including the Delta wave, with shorter hospital stays, less need for intensive care and fewer deaths, according to a new U.S. study. However, the fast-spreading Omicron variant has led to record numbers of infections and hospitalizations, straining the U.S. healthcare system.
English COVID study finds record prevalence in January
An English COVID-19 study reported record prevalence in January after an Omicron-fuelled spike in infections, Imperial College London said on Wednesday, adding that infections had dropped back from their peak but were now plateauing. England will on Thursday ditch mask mandates and COVID-19 vaccine passes introduced to slow the spread of Omicron. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has credited the success of Britain's booster rollout and the lower severity of the variant as he aims to live with COVID-19. Britain has so far recorded more than 150,000 deaths from COVID-19, and daily infections peaked during the Omicron wave.
75% of COVID ICU survivors have physical symptoms 1 year on
One year after 246 COVID-19 survivors were treated in 1 of 11 intensive care units (ICUs) in the Netherlands, nearly 75% reported lingering physical symptoms, more than 26% said they had mental symptoms, and upwards of 16% still had cognitive symptoms, according to a study yesterday in JAMA. The prospective study was conducted among 246 patients 16 years and older admitted to an ICU from Mar 1 to Jul 1, 2020, and followed up to Jun 16, 2021. Average participant age was 61.2 years, 71.5% were men, average body mass index was 28.0 kg/m2 (overweight), and average ICU stay was 18.5 days. The research team surveyed participants about physical symptoms using the Clinical Frailty Scale, fatigue using the Checklist Individual Strength, mental symptoms using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) using the Impact of Event Scale, and cognitive symptoms using the Cognitive Failures Questionnaire-14 (score of 43 and up indicating cognitive symptoms).
'Nocebo' effect may account for 76% of COVID-19 vaccine side effects
When placebos elicit adverse events, these are often called nocebo responses. A study finds that a third of people who received placebos during COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials reported unpleasant systemic side effects such as headache and fatigue. The authors of the study find that 76% of side effects reported by actual vaccine recipients are likely the same effects and attributable to nocebo responses.
Heterologous vaccine schedule provides extraordinary response to third dose of coronavirus vaccines
A third, booster dose of either the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (Oxford-AstraZeneca), BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech), AD26.COV2-S (Janssen) or CoronaVac (SinoVac) coronavirus vaccine induce a significant increase in antibody levels in those who have previously received two doses of CoronaVac. The strongest responses were seen with mixed schedules, including against the Delta and Omicron variants of concern. The results from a study funded by the Ministry of Health, Brazil, and conducted by researchers from Brazil and the University of Oxford have today been published as a peer-reviewed paper in the Lancet.