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"Connecting Communities for COVID19 News" 31st Oct 2022

Isolation Tips
China locks down part of Wuhan, nearly three years after first Covid case emerged
Chinese cities from Wuhan in central China to Xining in the north-west are doubling down on Covid-19 curbs, sealing up buildings, locking down districts and throwing millions into distress in a scramble to halt widening outbreaks. China on Thursday reported a third straight day of more than 1,000 new Covid cases nationwide, a modest tally compared with the tens of thousands a day that sent Shanghai into a full-blown lockdown earlier this year but enough to trigger more curbs and restrictions across the country. Wuhan, site of the world’s first Covid-19 outbreak in late 2019, reported about 20 to 25 new infections a day this week. The city has registered 240 cases over the past 14 days. Local authorities ordered more than 800,000 people in one district to stay at home until 30 October.
Hygiene Helpers
Shanghai orders mass testing in downtown Yangpu even as China's citizens hope for relaxed COVID-19 protocols
The lockdown is an echo of previous measures which led to a two-month lockdown of the entire city of 25 million.
COVID-19: New report predicts how many daily cases there will be by February
Global coronavirus cases are projected to rise slowly in the coming months to about 18.7 million per day by February. The current daily average is around 16.7 million, according to the University of Washington report. It is far fewer than last winter when the Omicron variant pushed the estimated peak daily average to about 80 million - and the increase is also not expected to cause a big increase in deaths. The university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecasts average deaths will rise from about 1,660 now to 2,748 on 1 February.
Biden gets latest COVID vaccine, urges Americans to do same
U.S. President Joe Biden rolled up his sleeve and received an updated COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, using the occasion to urge more Americans to get the booster before the upcoming holiday season, especially seniors. "I'm calling on all Americans to get their shot just as soon as they can," Biden said shortly before a doctor gave him the new shot. With some Americans resistant to the vaccines, Biden urged them to put partisan politics aside, noting that more than 1 million people in the United States have died from COVID-19.
Community Activities
Pfizer's (PFE) Paxlovid Given Less Often to Black, Hispanic People
Pfizer Inc.’s Paxlovid antiviral was prescribed to Black and Hispanic Covid-19 patients at much lower rates than those who were White, according to a study that calls into question efforts to bolster access to drugs that fight the coronavirus. From April to July, as Paxlovid’s use peaked, Black US patients received it about a third less often than White patients, according to the report published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stark disparities were also seen among Hispanic patients, who were nearly 30% less likely to get Paxlovid than White patients. Asian people were prescribed the drug about 19% less frequently than White counterparts.
China's Shanghai Migrant Worker Villages Blamed for Covid Face Demolition
Tens of thousands of migrant workers in Shanghai, who have long been living on the margins in one of China’s wealthiest cities, are facing renewed threats of eviction after their ramshackle villages were blamed for causing the Covid-19 outbreak that led to a monthslong lockdown. Like many other major Chinese cities, Shanghai has for years been razing and redeveloping the densely populated neighborhoods — known as “cheng zhong cun” or “villages within a city” — to make room for new residential and commercial complexes to drive growth in the world’s second-largest economy. This year, the demolition in Shanghai is gathering pace.
Possible RSV, Covid-19 and Flu Collision Has Doctors Worried. What to Know.
A possible convergence of flu, RSV and Covid-19 has doctors worried. Flu cases are rising earlier than usual, and pediatric hospitals are seeing surges of respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV. There are also signs that Covid-19 cases are increasing in parts of the country as Americans head into the cooler months. Covid-19 precautions earlier in the pandemic—and their near-disappearance lately—are a big part of the reason flu and RSV are staging a comeback, doctors say. Measures such as masking and social distancing suppressed rates of other viruses, too, leaving those of us who haven’t had a recent infection with lower levels of protection now. “It’s very clear that because people are relaxing Covid precautions that it’s very likely we will also see an increase in influenza at the same time,” says Jay Varma, director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response in New York City and a physician and epidemiologist at Weill Cornell Medicine. All three viruses share similar symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, runny nose and fever, making it hard to tell what you have without a test. You can test for Covid-19 at home, and most health professionals can test for flu and RSV.
U.S. business sentiment in China hits record low as zero-COVID persists, survey shows
Optimism among U.S. businesses in China has hit record low levels, an annual survey showed on Friday, as competitive, economic, and regulatory challenges compound the stresses already imposed by Beijing's ongoing zero-COVID policies. Just 55% of 307 companies surveyed by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and consultancy PwC China described themselves as optimistic about the five-year business outlook. The reading is the lowest in the survey's 23-year history and worse than in 2020, when COVID-19 first surfaced, and during the trade standoff between Beijing and Washington in 2019.
Math Scores Dropped in Every State During Pandemic, Report Card Shows
The nation’s schools recorded the largest drop in math scores ever this year, with fourth- and eighth-grade students in nearly every state showing significant declines, according to Education Department data released Monday. In the most sweeping analysis of test scores since the start of the pandemic, the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the Nation’s Report Card, also revealed a nationwide plunge in reading that wiped out three decades of gains. Prepandemic declines in academic achievement intensified nationwide, and many longstanding gaps in student achievement grew.
Fear of Catching Covid Has Cost US Economy $250 Billion This Year
Persistent worries about catching Covid kept about 3 million Americans out of the workforce, reducing the nation’s economic output by $250 billion in the first half of 2022, according to new research on a phenomenon dubbed “Long Social Distancing.” Close to 60% of respondents to a monthly survey of tens of thousands of adults said they wouldn’t completely return to pre-Covid activities like riding crowded subways and elevators, and were staying out of the labor force as a result. Those not working or looking for a job in part due to infection fears totaled about 2% of the labor force, which translated to the 3 million figure, the researchers found.
Working Remotely
What commuters get up to when they no longer commute
What are hybrid workers doing with the time not spent travelling to work, estimated at 60mn hours per day in the US alone? More sleep, for one thing. US workers are sleeping more, according to an analysis on the New York Federal Reserve’s Liberty Street Economics blog. Youngsters in particular are also reallocating commuting time to social events, exercise and eating out, while older age groups devote more time to childcare, DIY and cooking. Yes, they are also spending some of their saved time working. But “the decrease in hours worked away from home is only partially offset by an increase in working at home”, the researchers write. There is ammunition here both for those who advocate bringing more people back to half-empty offices and for the champions of more remote work.
The Isolation of Remote Work Puts Young Employees Most At Risk. Here's What We Can Do About It.
As leaders reimagine the new definition of a return to the office, we must take our employees' mental health into account, addressing the role an in-office environment plays for each category of worker, especially younger workers. To attain desirable positions, many of today's younger workers are required to move away from their respective universities, relocate far from their families and friends and work long hours to learn and grow in their respective trades. Many of them are now even more isolated due to their remote work environments. In assessing the new return-to-office environment, today's companies must consider factors beyond profit and productivity. We, as company leaders, have a responsibility to consider the mental health of those who join our ranks. And we must be more comprehensive in our approach to doing so.
More People Want to Work From Home But Remote Job Postings Are Declining
The appeal of work-from-home is on the rise even as postings for remote jobs are on the decline, according to new LinkedIn data. In February 2022, a record one in five jobs advertised on the site in the US offered remote work. By September, this figure had fallen to just 14%. Meanwhile, the allure of these opportunities has only grown: Remote job listings attract 52% of applications, up from 50% in February.
Virtual Classrooms
Remote learning not ‘primary’ driver of academic losses, new analysis suggests
Exactly how much did remote learning contribute to students’ academic losses during the pandemic? A new analysis released Friday inches us closer to a complicated answer. Using the latest national and state test score data, a team of researchers found that districts that stayed remote during the 2020-21 school year did see bigger declines in elementary and middle school math, and to some degree in reading, than other districts in their state. But the losses varied widely — and many districts that went back in person had bigger losses than districts that stayed remote. The pattern is inconsistent enough that school closures, it seems, were not the primary driver of those drops in achievement.
COVID-19 pandemic massively set back learning, especially for high-poverty areas
The COVID-19 pandemic devastated poor children’s well-being, not just by closing their schools, but also by taking away their parents’ jobs, sickening their families and teachers, and adding chaos and fear to their daily lives. The scale of the disruption to American kids’ education is evident in a district-by-district analysis of test scores shared exclusively with The Associated Press. The data provide the most comprehensive look yet at how much schoolchildren have fallen behind academically. The analysis found the average student lost more than half a school year of learning in math and nearly a quarter of a school year in reading – with some district averages slipping by more than double those amounts, or worse.
Public Policies
China's 'Zero-COVID' Policy: An Economic Nightmare for Thailand
What will make or break the Thai economy, however, is the speed and extent of China’s economic reopening. Thailand is, after all, heavily reliant on China in all dimensions: exports and imports, tourism, and investment. Needless to say, Thailand is extremely vulnerable to the CCP’s sudden lockdown orders. Shanghai, for instance, accounts for 27 percent of Chinese exports to Thailand, and when the city was undergoing a strict two-month lockdown earlier this year, many Thai companies pretty much ran out of the materials necessary for the production of electric appliances such as air conditioners and cables. Similarly, the export of Thai durians – now one of Thailand’s top exported products – to China was temporarily stopped back in April after the Chinese border inspectors detected traces of COVID-19.
EU regulator recommends adding heavy periods to side effects of mRNA COVID shots
A European Medicines Agency (EMA) committee on Friday recommended adding heavy menstrual bleeding to the list of side effect of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna (MRNA.O), as well as Pfizer and its partner BioNTech. Reports of heavy periods - bleeding characterised by increased volume and/or duration that interferes with the quality of life - have been observed during clinical trials, from cases in the real world and in medical literature, the EMA said.
U.S. government to test Pfizer's Paxlovid for long COVID
The U.S. National Institutes of Health's $1 billion RECOVER Initiative has picked Pfizer Inc's antiviral drug Paxlovid as the first treatment it will study in patients with long COVID, organizers of the study said on Thursday. The complex medical condition involves more than 200 symptoms ranging from exhaustion and cognitive impairment to pain, fever and heart palpitations that can last for months and even years following a COVID-19 infection.
Two new Covid strains designated by UK health agency
Two new strains of Covid have been designated, the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) has said. The strains, labelled BQ.1 and XBB, are Omicron variants, have not been designated as variants of concern, meaning they are not thought to be at particular risk of accelerating the spread of the illness. However, studies being conducted at the University of Oxford on behalf of the UKHSA showed "significant reductions" in "neutralisation against several of the newly emergent variants". This could lead to waning immunity among the population, which could in turn "fuel future waves of SARS-CoV-2 infection," the agency said in a statement to ITV News,
Pfizer COVID vaccine price hike to boost revenue for years, rivals may follow
Pfizer's plan to as much as quadruple U.S. prices for its COVID-19 vaccine next year is beyond Wall Street's expectations and will spur its revenue for years despite weaker than anticipated demand for the new booster shot so far, analysts said. The drugmaker, which developed and sells the vaccine with Germany's BioNTech, said on Thursday evening that it is targeting a range of $110 to $130 a dose for the vaccine once the United States moves to a commercial market next year.
Maintaining Services
Italy to end ban on health workers not vaccinated against Covid
Italian doctors and nurses suspended from work because they are not vaccinated against Covid-19 will soon be reinstated, new Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said on Friday. The move is motivated by a worrying shortage of medical personnel together with declining cases of Covid-19. The new government will also cancel fines imposed on all people aged over 50 who had not got vaccinated, he added. "A measure is being finalised that will allow the reintegration into service of health staff subject to suspension proceedings for non-compliance with compulsory vaccination before the expiry date of the suspension," he said in a statement posted on the ministry's website.
Experts Pessimistic on China Exiting Covid Zero Any Time Soon
Three years into the pandemic, China is sticking to its Covid Zero policy despite heavy economic costs, growing unrest and isolation from the rest of the world. Many expected President Xi Jinping to signal a pivot away from what has become a signature policy when he took the podium at the Communist Party’s congress this month. Instead, he defended the zero-tolerance strategy as one that saves lives, but offered no steer on when it’s likely to end. Xi’s absolute control over the party leadership and China has left experts debating what that means for the future of an approach that’s brought misery to millions. The brutal Shanghai lockdown earlier this year, overseen by Li Qiang — a Xi loyalist and China’s likely premier from 2023 — saw businesses upended and the city’s 25 million residents struggle to get even basic necessities.
COVID disrupted measles vaccinations in Africa and now cases are surging
Fall waited with dozens of mothers and babies in the flooded courtyard of Bundung Hospital. Then a doctor emerged with bad news. The hospital had run out of measles vaccines, and it wasn't clear when they would receive more. After what health experts call the biggest backslide in a generation, 26 large or disruptive measles outbreaks have sprung up worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. A devastating outbreak in Zimbabwe has killed more than 700 children this year, chiefly among religious sects that do not believe in vaccinations. Now African health systems remain especially vulnerable due to a lack of funds and manpower, particularly in countries where conflict and malnutrition make children more vulnerable to deadly infection, according to Reuters interviews with more than a dozen disease experts, doctors and global health officials.
Healthcare Innovations
Scientists identify in humans neutralising antibody to Omicron variants
Researchers have identified in humans a pan-variant neutralising antibody, named S2X324, whose neutralizing potency was largely unaffected by any of the Omicron strains of the coronavirus, according to a study. The scientists show that this monoclonal antibody prevents binding to the receptor on host cells that the pandemic coronavirus usually commandeers. They also suggested that combining this antibody with others in a cocktail might reduce the chances of the virus becoming antibody treatment resistant. The international team from University of Washington and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Humabs BioMed SA of Vir Biotechnology in Switzerland looked at several aspects of the effects of exposure to earlier forms of the SARS-CoV-2 spike antigen or immune-provoking protein -- on the immune system's reaction to the Omicron variants.
Covid’s Heart Effects: Infections Raise Clotting, Death Risks in Large Study
Covid-19 at any level of severity is linked to an increased risk of dangerous blood clots that start in patients’ veins and travel to the heart, lungs and other parts of the body, according to a UK study that highlights the pandemic’s role in driving up rates of cardiovascular disease. Non-hospitalized Covid patients were 2.7 times more likely to develop dangerous clots called venous thromboembolisms and were more than 10 times more likely to die than individuals who avoided the disease, scientists at Queen Mary University of London found in a study of almost 54,000 people followed for an average of about 4 1/2 months. The increase in risk was highest in the first 30 days after the disease began, but could remain elevated even longer, the researchers said.
New Covid Boosters Aren't Better Than Old Ones, Study Finds
Bivalent booster shots from Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. failed to raise levels of protective proteins called neutralizing antibodies against the dominant omicron strains any more than four doses of the original Covid vaccine, according to an early independent study on a small group of people. Researchers at Columbia University and the University of Michigan compared levels of neutralizing antibodies in blood samples from 21 people who got a fourth shot of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech SE bivalent boosters against antibody levels in 19 people who got four shots of the original vaccines. Three to five weeks after a fourth shot, those people who received the new boosters aimed at BA.4 and BA.5 variants “had similar neutralizing antibody titers as those receiving a fourth monovalent mRNA vaccine,” the authors conclude in a manuscript posted on the preprint server bioRxiv.org.