Covid-19 🦠 Newsbites
The secretive group at the center of America's largest vaccine trials
It's known as the DSMB: Data and Safety Monitoring Board. It’s members are the only ones who get to look under the hood while a clinical trial is ongoing. They know who has been given a Covid-19 vaccine, and who has gotten a placebo. The very doctors running the trials, the pharmaceutical companies that developed the vaccines, and even the US Food and Drug Administration don't know.

Armed with that secret, only the DSMB can monitor how safe and effective a vaccine is shaping up to be. One word from the DSMB, and a trial can be stopped.

Europe’s second wave is in full swing
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is self-isolating after coming into contact with a person who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19. Her announcement today comes amid rising cases and new restrictions across Europe.

In the Czech Republic, a state of emergency has been introduced for 30 days to help to curb the accelerating epidemic. In France, the Greater Paris area will be classified as a "maximum alert" zone, with new restrictions in effect from Tuesday. Meanwhile, the number of reported infections in the United Kingdom jumped on Sunday as it emerged that thousands of cases were not included in previously published daily figures, according to Public Health England.

Nigerian scientists develop cheaper and faster Covid-19 test kits
Scientists in Nigeria have developed a Covid-19 test kit that costs less than $25 and is faster than most other PCR tests. It can give results in less than 40 minutes, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) said. Samples can be analyzed using a mobile machine that can be operated by low-skilled personnel with minimal training. Babatunde Salako, the director of NIMR, told CNN the detection rate of the NIMR test kit is "a bit lower than the PCR, but for the point of care, we believe it is good enough for now."

James Bond's 'No Time To Die' has been delayed until 2021 in fresh blow to Hollywood
The pandemic is no time for James Bond. The latest 007 movie “No Time To Die” has been delayed again and will now be released in April 2021, almost a year after originally planned.

Pope Francis says capitalism has failed in the pandemic
Pope Francis disparaged so-called trickle-down economic theory, saying the pandemic has shown that free-market policies cannot solve all of humanity's most dire needs.

In a 70-page encyclical, the highest form of papal teaching, Pope Francis outlined his vision for a post-pandemic world.

"The marketplace by itself cannot resolve every problem, however much we are asked to believe this dogma of neoliberal faith," the pope wrote.

He added that free-market capitalism "reproduces itself" by resorting to the magic theories of "spillover" or "trickle" as the only solution to societal problems.

The pope said this "spillover" does not "resolve the inequality that gives rise to new forms of violence threatening the fabric of society."

The encyclical, called "Fratelli Tutti," or "Brothers All," reiterated the pope's vision for a more communal society, which extends to the use of private property.

"The Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property," the pope wrote.

The encyclical covers a wide range of social topics including immigration, the death penalty, populism and economic injustice.

He also touched on racism, calling it a "virus that quickly mutates and instead of disappearing goes into hiding and lurks in waiting."

The pope also questioned why it took so long for the Catholic Church to unequivocally condemn slavery.

"Fratelli Tutti" is Pope Francis' third encyclical, and he signed it at the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi.

Cam Newton, New England Patriots quarterback, tests positive for Covid-19

Trump is taking dexamethasone for his Covid-19. That could be serious, doctors say
It's an indication that Trump's condition is worrying, as the drug should not be given to anyone who is not ill enough to justify the downsides of taking steroids -- including that it suppresses the immune system.

Trump's physicians said they decided to give him dexamethasone after his oxygen levels dropped twice.

... "It's unclear to me why they would have given him that if he did not require supplemental oxygen."

Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease specialist at Emory School of Medicine, said dexamethasone should only be given to seriously ill patients. But based on what the President's doctors said, Trump could be seriously ill.

"He went on to develop oxygen saturation below 94%," del Rio noted.

N.Y.C. Closes Some Schools … Again
Mayor Bill de Blasio dialed back New York City’s school reopening this weekend, announcing a plan to close public and private schools in nine Brooklyn and Queens ZIP codes where coronavirus cases are surging.

The outbreaks already threaten the fragile reopening of the New York City public school system. They may also send shock waves nationwide, for officials in other large metropolitan areas who are tracking the city’s progress.

The nine restricted areas, home to about half a million people, all have large populations of Orthodox Jews, who have been reluctant to adhere to guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing. The virus devastated some communities in the spring and summer, leading some people to believe — incorrectly, experts say — that they had developed herd immunity.

‘I Had Lost All Hope’: Clorox Wipes Are Still the Hard-to-Find Pandemic Item
First it was toilet paper, paper towels, pasta and beans. Months later, Clorox wipes remain the hard-to-find pandemic item and one of a handful of brands approved by regulators to kill the coronavirus.

Shoppers show up to stores early when deliveries are made and clear out shipments in a matter of minutes. “We know our products are not everywhere everyone wants them to be,” Andy Mowery, Clorox’s chief supply officer, said.

Like trophies, two canisters of Clorox wipes are displayed on the kitchen counter at the home of May Vanegas in San Antonio. Before finding them in a Target store after a six-month search, she said, “I had lost all hope.”

The C.D.C. cites new evidence that the virus can spread beyond six feet indoors.
Two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed online guidance about airborne transmission of the coronavirus, the agency has replaced it with language citing new evidence that the virus can spread beyond six feet indoors, adrift in the air.

“These transmissions occurred within enclosed spaces that had inadequate ventilation,” the new guidance said. “Sometimes the infected person was breathing heavily, for example while singing or exercising.”

Notably, the C.D.C.’s new guidance softens a previous statement referring to the coronavirus as “an airborne virus,” a term that may have required hospitals to treat infected patients in specialized rooms and health care workers to wear N95 masks anywhere in a hospital.

The new version says the virus can be spread by both larger droplets and smaller aerosols released when people “cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe.” But while the virus can be airborne under some circumstances, this is not the primary way the virus spreads.