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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 11th Mar 2022

Isolation Tips
Hong Kong leader plans to reopen city only after controlling latest COVID outbreak
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Thursday it was not the time to lift a ban on flights from nine countries including the United States and Britain, with plans to reopen the city only after the government controls a deepening coronavirus outbreak. The global financial hub has some of the most draconian restrictions in place to combat a surge in coronavirus cases that has seen the city suffer the most deaths globally per million people in the week to March 7, according to the Our World in Data publication. Total infections have surged to about 600,000, including about 3,000 deaths - most in the past two weeks.
Shanghai residents bristle as authorities turn COVID screws
An uncompromising response to a spike in local COVID-19 cases in the Chinese financial hub of Shanghai is testing the resolve of residents, with a wave of school closures and other draconian measures causing disruptions throughout the city. China's health authority said another 76 asymptomatic local infections were found in Shanghai on Wednesday, and authorities have been sealing off schools, residential compounds and office blocks as part of a "dynamic clearance" approach aimed at shutting down each new transmission route as soon as it arises. China has insisted its "zero-COVID" strategy is cost-effective and saves lives, even as other countries seek to coexist with a virus that has killed 6 million people worldwide.
In ‘zero COVID’ Hong Kong, deaths smash global records
The Hong Kong nursing home where Amy’s 78-year-old mother lives battened down the hatches when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Elderly residents were confined within the walls of their rooms. Families were not allowed to visit. As the Chinese territory battled its biggest outbreak of coronavirus cases, staff at the private facility camped out in the office for weeks to avoid bringing the virus with them from outside. Even so, the inevitable happened. In February, Amy’s mother was among the residents sent to a public hospital’s emergency ward after developing a fever. “This elderly home has some of the strictest standards in the industry,” Amy, who asked to only be referred to by her first name, told Al Jazeera. “If 80 percent of its residents can be infected, then no other nursing home in Hong Kong can remain unscathed.”
Hygiene Helpers
Masking In K-12 Schools Significantly Reduces Covid-19 Among Staff And Students
The US is breathing a collective sigh of relief as the Covid-19 Omicron wave has largely subsided. The latest CDC data show most of the country to be experiencing either “low” (green) or “medium” (yellow) levels of transmission — levels at which CDC’s new recommendations don’t require most people to wear face masks most of the time. Even though I am hopeful that we are witnessing Covid-19’s final denouement, it is important to remain vigilant about the possibility of future waves of transmission. If another high transmission variant does appear, we should remember that the protective benefits of wearing face masks are now well documented. A new study from Arkansas adds to this evidence. The new data enabled epidemiologists to measure the effectiveness of mask requirements in K-12 schools during the Delta wave of Covid-19 from August to October, 2021.
U.S. to extend airplane, transit mask mandate through April 18
President Joe Biden's administration will extend requirements for travelers to wear masks on airplanes, trains and in transit hubs through April 18 as public health authorities review when mask requirements should be dropped, the White House confirmed. The move extends the current requirements that were set to expire March 18 by a month.
98% of U.S. population can ditch masks as COVID eases -CDC
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late on Thursday said some 98% of the U.S. population live in locations where COVID-19 levels are low enough that people do not need to wear masks indoors. The CDC on Feb. 25 dramatically eased its COVID-19 guidelines for when Americans should wear masks indoors, saying they could drop them in counties experiencing what it described as low or medium COVID-19 levels. Last month, the CDC initially said 70% of counties covering 72% of Americans could drop masks. The latest update says 98% of Americans who live in 94% of U.S. counties can ditch masks.
Community Activities
Covid Study Finds 18 Million Deaths, Three Times Official Tally
The pandemic’s death toll may be three times higher than official Covid-19 records suggest, according to a study that found stark differences across countries and regions. As many as 18.2 million people probably died from Covid in the first two years of the pandemic, researchers found in the first peer-reviewed global estimate of excess deaths. They pointed to a lack of testing and unreliable mortality data to explain the discrepancy with official estimates of roughly 5.9 million deaths. “At the global level, this is quite the biggest mortality shock since the Spanish flu,” said Christopher J.L. Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, where the study was conducted.
Seniors, freed from COVID isolation, sashay in New York dance class
Seniors sway hips and stomp feet as they salsa, cha-cha, merengue and bachata in a New York dance class to get moving again after two years of COVID-19 pandemic isolation. Despite stiff joints - or even the loss of a limb - the students stick it out in the free class taught by Walter Perez at the YM & YWHA of Washington Heights and Inwood in upper Manhattan.
'Lost generation' feared as COVID school closures fuel inequality
Around 1.6 billion children globally - more than 90% of all school students - have been affected by pandemic school closures, which threaten to widen wealth inequalities both within and between countries. "We're running the risk of a lost generation," U.N. education expert Robert Jenkins told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. "It's a now-or-never moment to turn things around." Without urgent action, many countries could end up without the skilled workers they need for their future development, said Jenkins, head of education at UNICEF.
Novavax, eyeing the COVID 'vaccine hesitant' and kids, unveils new education campaigns as Nuvaxovid nears US finish line
Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson were quickest off the mark in getting COVID vaccines into American arms, but Novavax is hoping to add another pandemic vaccine to the U.S. mix soon—and it's pushing new campaigns to get the word out. The biopharma, which has approvals and authorizations in Europe and around the world, is now on the cusp of a potential green light in the U.S. And with a market comes the need for marketing. But because it still has no U.S. approval—and it cannot under law advertise to consumers in Europe—Novavax is launching two new global, unbranded vaccine education programs: "We Do Vaccines" and "Know Our Vax." They're designed to offer up vaccine information and "explain Novavax’ commitment to vaccine development and innovation,” the company told Fierce Pharma Marketing.
Working Remotely
Why Americans are choosing remote work over going into the office
The workweek in the US has fundamentally changed — only 1 in 15 remote workers expects to be back in an office for five days a week. In a recent survey of 2,000 fully remote or hybrid-remote employees, more than a third (35%) of respondents said they wouldn’t consider a new job unless it includes the option to work remotely. More than three-quarters (76%) said they’d even apply to a role outside of their current industry if it were completely remote. That may be because 77% have found simple pleasures in working from the comfort of their home. However, the remote environment has made it more challenging for people to communicate with their co-workers and manager (48%), have their work recognized (44%) and maintain a work-life balance (44%).
Could the post-pandemic, hybrid workplace boost gender equality?
As the world enters its third year of dealing with COVID-19, the landscape for office-based employees is almost unrecognizable. And as flexible work plans become the new normal, for many workers daily commutes, chats in the office kitchen, and loud colleagues are a thing of the past. Even as the world celebrates International Women's Day today, however, some things haven’t changed when it comes to the workplace experiences faced by women working in the tech industry. While flexible work and the emerging hybrid office have ushered in a new perspective on both where and how people work, initial research indicates women now face bigger barriers than ever before.
Virtual Classrooms
Why video creation encourages classroom innovation
Some of the best educational content develops with creative thinking and a willingness to try new things–and if teachers and students have the right tools, they’re on the right path. Learn more during this eSchool News webinar featuring educators and edtech experts who can speak to how video lets teachers gauge student understanding, enables students to access content at their own pace, and more.
Taking best of innovations, lessons of pandemic education
The Future of Teaching and Learning Task Force convened in the spring of 2021, and the group has now released its report. The initiative brought together faculty and staff from across Harvard’s Schools and units to explore the innovations and lessons that emerged from pandemic-era teaching and imagine how the University might create more engaging and equitable learning opportunities in the future.
Public Policies
Changes to South African Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Planned
Just under a third of South Africa's remaining Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer are set to expire by July 2022. After that, any unused doses will have to be destroyed. Until then the health department is trying to increase uptake of the doses and donate spare shots. South Africa has received all the 30 million Pfizer Covid jabs it has procured from the drug manufacturer and the last batch that was delivered - a consignment of 4,831,560 shots that arrived between October and December 2021 - expires at the end of July, health department data shows. After that date, Pfizer jabs not used or redistributed to other countries will have to be destroyed and more doses are unlikely to be procured directly from the company.
J&J inks vaccine licensing deal with Aspen, paving the way for Africa's first local COVID-19 shot
South Africa’s Aspen has clinched its COVID-19 vaccine licensing deal with Johnson & Johnson in a move the company last year said could be a “game-changer” on the path to Africa’s vaccine sovereignty. Under the deal, Aspen will be able to manufacture and distribute J&J’s COVID shot in Africa, with the goal to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates across the continent, J&J said in a release. Specifically, the South African manufacturer will receive drug substances from J&J, which it will use to produce finished, Aspen-branded vaccines for the African public sector. Aspen will make the shots available to all 55 African Union member states, plus multilateral organizations supporting Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts, such as the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust and the COVAX Facility.
Coronavirus: Hungary to Donate 523,000 Doses of Vaccine to Cambodia
Hungary is sending 523,000 doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to Cambodia in an effort to further aid the worldwide fight against the pandemic, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Thursday. Although the war in Ukraine overshadows it, the fight against the pandemic is not over, and many countries lack the vaccines to ease their struggle, Szijjártó said.
Canada's Ontario to drop COVID curbs, including mask mandate
Ontario, Canada's most populous province, said on Wednesday it would end masking requirements for most indoor spaces later this month, and scrap virtually all COVID-19-related public health measures by end-April, citing the reduced threat of the pandemic. The province also said it would end strict inoculation rules on hospitals, colleges and universities next week. The broad mask mandate ends on March 21, though masks will still be required in healthcare settings and on public transit until April 27.
Africa CDC has MOU with Pfizer for supplies of COVID-19 pill
Africa's top public health agency has agreed a memorandum of understanding with Pfizer to bring supplies of the pharmaceutical firm's Paxlovid antiviral COVID-19 pills to the continent, its director said on Thursday. Data from a mid-to-late stage study in November showed Paxlovid was nearly 90% effective in preventing hospitalisations and deaths compared to placebo, in adults at high risk of severe illness. John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also said it was still talking to Merck about obtaining supplies of its molnupiravir COVID pill and a call was scheduled for this week about that.
Britain outlines terms of COVID-19 inquiry
Britain on Thursday outlined the terms of reference of its planned inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic, looking into the preparedness of the country as well as the public health and economic response to the coronavirus. Britain has recorded 19.3 million COVID-19 infections and 162,000 deaths - the seventh highest fatality total globally - and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been criticised for mishandling England's three national lockdowns.
Maintaining Services
Australia leaders to meet amid Omicron sub-variant concerns, flood damage
Australia's national cabinet will meet on Friday against a backdrop of concerns about the spread of the new sub-variant of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus, while eastern states battle to clear tonnes of debris after devastating floods.
UK Covid cases rising among those aged 55 and over
Covid cases appear to be rising in older people as increased socialising, waning immunity and a more transmissible version of the Omicron variant threaten to fuel a resurgence of the virus. Tests on nearly 100,000 swabs from homes across England reveal that, while infections have fallen overall since the January peak, one in 35 people tested positive between 8 February and 1 March, with cases either level or rising in those aged 55 and over. Scientists on Imperial College’s React-1 study said the R value – the average number of people an infected person passes the virus to – remained below 1 for those aged 54 and under, meaning cases were in decline. But for those aged 55 and over, R stood at 1.04. The suspected uptick has raised concerns as older people are more prone to severe Covid and have had more time for their immunity to wane, as many had their booster vaccines several months ago.
People Are Getting COVID Shots Despite Hesitation
It is easy to assume that most people who get the COVID-19 vaccine do so without a shred of trepidation, while those who are hesitant about it choose never to get vaccinated. But a recent set of findings blows up this binary and provides insights that could make vaccination campaigns more successful.The studies cut through toxic public discourse about the vaccine and focus on a significant group that is often overlooked by researchers, policy makers and the media: so-called hesitant adopters. Such people get vaccinated and report afterward that they felt some degree of hesitation about doing so. To look into this group, scientists at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Northwest (UAMS Northwest) and their colleagues surveyed 1,475 adults at more than 30 COVID-19 vaccination sites in the state as they sat out their 15-minute wait time after receiving the shot.
Health Workers Plan for Years of Covid-19 Vaccine Outreach to Black People
Community health workers are redoubling their efforts to sustain Covid-19 vaccine coverage among Black people, saying that gaps remain between willingness to get the shots and the ability of some people to find them conveniently. Early in the U.S. vaccination drive, some Black people said they doubted the safety of the shots or couldn’t get to inoculation sites easily, and their coverage rate lagged that of the general population. Outreach and public-information campaigns helped close the gap by September, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found in a survey of 1,519 adults that month that the share of Black adults who said they had gotten an initial vaccination matched the rate for white adults.
United Airlines to let unvaccinated workers return - WSJ
United Airlines will allow workers who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 for religious or medical reasons to return at the end of this month, the Wall Street Journal reported. The move permits staffers with exemptions from the carrier's vaccination requirement for its U.S. employees to return from unpaid leave or from the non-customer-facing roles they were allowed to apply for as an alternative to their regular jobs, the report said.
Ukraine Covid Pill Development Project Disrupted by Russian Invasion
The night before Russia invaded Ukraine, chemist Tetiana Matviyuk worked late into the night at her Kyiv office. By 10:30 p.m., she had wrapped up after a Zoom meeting with a global team of scientists working on a new, experimental Covid-19 treatment. The day before, she had shipped crucial compounds to colleagues in the U.K. Her team was closing in on the project’s finish line and their moment of Champagne celebration. But instead of euphoria, Matviyuk was filled with dread. She called her husband on her drive home. “I said, ‘I’m feeling that something bad can happen,’” says Matviyuk, 35, principal scientist in medicinal chemistry and computer drug design at contract research group Enamine Ltd. “He was just laughing at me, that I’m crazy and too nervous, and keep calm, everything will be fine.”
Healthcare Innovations
Mental decline seen in older COVID patients 1 year later
Cognitive impairment was more common among COVID-19 patients 60 years and older—particularly those with severe illness—released from hospitals in Wuhan, China, than among their uninfected peers, according to a 1-year follow-up study yesterday in JAMA Neurology. A team led by researchers at Daping Hospital in Chongqing, China, followed 1,438 COVID-19 survivors aged 60 and older released from one of three dedicated COVID-19 hospitals in Wuhan from Feb 10 to Apr 10, 2020, and compared them with 438 of their uninfected spouses. Because pre-COVID cognitive status wasn't available, family members provided their perceptions of cognitive changes using the Chinese version of the short form of the Informant Questionnaire on Cognitive Decline in the Elderly (IQCODE).
COH04S1 COVID-19 vaccine shown to produce robust antibodies and T cells against SARS-CoV-2
A COVID-19 investigational vaccine, developed by City of Hope scientists and now licensed to GeoVax Labs Inc produced a robust neutralizing antibody and T cell (an immune cell) response against SARS-CoV-2 with no significant side effects in a Phase 1 clinical trial led by John Zaia, M.D., Aaron D. Miller and Edith Miller Chair for Gene Therapy, according to a study published today in The Lancet Microbe. COH04S1 is uniquely different than the many vaccines that have been developed because it targets both the spike and nucleocapsid proteins, in contrast to the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved COVID-19 vaccines, which only target the spike protein.
Incidence of myocarditis and pericarditis following COVID-19 vaccination
Several vaccine candidates have been developed following the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Most countries throughout the world have rolled out extensive vaccination programs to vaccinate and protect individuals from severe infections and deaths associated with COVID-19. However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported mild to moderate myocarditis/pericarditis cases post the second dose of mRNA vaccination on 17th May 2021. Most of the patients who were found less than 50 years of age were reported to be presented with chest pain, fever, raised cardiac-specific troponin many days after vaccination followed by full recovery.
Pfizer launches clinical trial testing its COVID-19 pill in children aged 6 and older
Pfizer announced Wednesday it is launching a clinical trial to study the effectiveness of its COVID-19 antiviral pill in young children. The treatment, Paxlovid, was authorized in December 2020 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use in patients aged 12 and older who have mild-to-moderate symptoms and are at increased risk of severe illness.
Covid treatment sotrovimab can cause drug-resistant mutation, study finds
Australian virologists have uncovered a drug-resistant mutation in the Covid-19 virus associated with the drug sotrovimab and say without the monitoring of patients given the treatment the mutated virus could spread in the community. The world-first findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, are the result of an analysis of the first 100 patients in western Sydney during the Delta outbreak in 2021 to be given sotrovimab. Sotrovimab is a monoclonal antibody that is available in many countries to treat vulnerable patients who are at risk of severe disease and death due to Covid-19 infection. Sotrovimab must be administered via infusion within the first five days of Covid-19 infection, and prevents Covid-19 symptoms from becoming severe. It is one of the few human-engineered monoclonal antibodies that can target Omicron.
How will COVID end? Experts look to past epidemics for clues
Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the world has seen a dramatic improvement in infections, hospitalizations and death rates in recent weeks, signaling the crisis appears to be winding down. But how will it end? Past epidemics may provide clues. The ends of epidemics are not as thoroughly researched as their beginnings. But there are recurring themes that could offer lessons for the months ahead, said Erica Charters of the University of Oxford, who studies the issue. “One thing we have learned is it’s a long, drawn-out process” that includes different types of endings that may not all occur at the same time, she said. That includes a “medical end,” when disease recedes, the “political end,” when government prevention measures cease, and the “social end,” when people move on.