COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Job guarantees and free money: 'Utopian' ideas tested in Europe as the pandemic gives governments a new role
... As the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus drags on, support in Europe is growing for progressive policies once seen as pipe dreams of the political left.

... Universal basic income, in its purest form, means giving money to everyone, regardless of how much they earn, so they can have greater freedom to move between jobs, train for new positions, provide care or engage in creative pursuits. Interest in the concept has risen in recent years, driven by concerns that automation and the climate crisis would lead to a mass displacement of workers.

Job insecurity caused by the pandemic appears to have generated new levels of support for the policy. One study conducted by Oxford University in March found that 71% of Europeans now favor the introduction of a universal basic income.

"For an idea that has often been dismissed as wildly unrealistic and utopian, this is a remarkable figure," researchers Timothy Garton Ash and Antonia Zimmermann wrote in their report.

Toronto, Canada's largest city, put into lockdown as infections soar
The lockdown will begin on Monday in the city and in Peel, a part of the Greater Toronto to the west of the city center.

Indoor social gatherings or events that include members of different households will be banned, and outdoor gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 people, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced.

... Under the lockdown, retail stores will be open for curbside pickup only, and restaurants and bars will be solely able to provide takeaway. Certain businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies will be allowed to open at 50% capacity.

Wedding services, funerals, and religious ceremonies where physical distancing can be maintained indoors or outdoors will be limited to no more than 10 people, but schools will stay open.

Trudeau warned so-called Canadian "snowbirds," many of whom travel to the US and Mexico during Canadian winters, that they should stay home this year. He pointed out that hospital capacity, especially in the southern US, was stretched and that it was not a good idea for Canadians to travel.

"People are safest when they stay home in Canada," he said.

Bill Gates confident almost all Covid-19 vaccines will work well
Already, vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have shown to be effective in early company data, and Gates said he expects vaccines from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax to have similar success soon.

"I'm optimistic that by February, it's very likely they'll all prove very efficacious and safe," he said.

... He recommended that Americans wear masks and be smart about public health practices.

Columbia University bans 70 students for Covid-19 travel violations
The MBA students traveled to Turks and Caicos, according to Columbia University spokesman Christopher Cashman.

That violated the school's Covid-19 health compact, a protocol which restricts any official or organized group travel until further notice, Cashman said.

"The Turks & Caicos trip was a group event that violated this policy and thus was met with disciplinary action," Cashman said.

... Cashman said the students can't enter campus until December 1. They must complete their academic obligations by attending class virtually.

If the students violate the policy again, they are subject to harsher discipline, Cashman said.

Ad Council’s Challenge: Persuade Skeptics to Believe in Covid Vaccines
The nonprofit marketing group led a polio vaccine campaign in the 1950s. Now it is working on a $50 million ad blitz to counter concerns about coming treatments.

With coronavirus cases on the rise and communities returning to lockdown across the country, a marketing push is underway to persuade skeptical Americans to immunize themselves once vaccines are ready.

The federal government, which has sent mixed messages about a pandemic that has caused more than 250,000 deaths nationwide, is not leading the charge. Instead, the private sector is backing a planned $50 million campaign to persuade people to protect themselves at a time when polls have suggested that more than 40 percent of adult Americans are not confident in a potential vaccine.

The Ad Council, a nonprofit advertising group, led a similar effort in the 1950s, when it urged Americans to get vaccinated against polio. Its Covid-19 vaccination push will be one of the largest public education crusades in history, the group said. On Monday, the Ad Council will announce the new campaign and start testing messaging. It will start rolling out public service announcements across airwaves, publications and social media next year, when vaccines are expected to be approved and made available to the public.

The White House has collaborated with the Ad Council on previous public health efforts, but it is not currently involved in this one.

“Frankly, this is the biggest public health crisis we’ve ever faced, and we don’t have time to waste,” said Lisa Sherman, the group’s chief executive. “We’re working in advance, so that once those vaccines are proven to be safe and approved by all the right people, we’re ready to go.”

Rural Areas Send Their Sickest Patients To The Cities, Straining Hospital Capacity
... Many rural communities across the U.S. have resisted masks and calls for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, but now rural counties are experiencing record-high infection and death rates.

Critically ill rural patients are often sent to city hospitals for high-level treatment, and as their numbers grow, some urban hospitals are buckling under the added strain.

... The reasons for the rural COVID-19 crisis involve far more than the refusal to mandate or wear masks, according to health care experts.

Both Kansas and Missouri have seen rural hospitals close for year after year, and public health spending in both states, as in many largely rural states, is far below national averages.

Rural populations also tend to be older and to suffer from higher rates of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Those conditions can make them more susceptible to severe illness when they contract COVID-19.

Rural areas have been grappling with health problems for a long time, but the coronavirus has been a sort of tipping point, and those rural health issues are now spilling over into cities, explains Shannon Monnat, a rural health researcher at Syracuse University.

"It's not just the rural health care infrastructure that becomes overwhelmed when there aren't enough hospital beds, it's also the surrounding neighborhoods, the suburbs, the urban hospital infrastructure starts to become overwhelmed as well," Monnat says.

Hong Kong seeks to encourage testing with cash payments.
Hong Kong’s government said on Sunday that it would give cash payments of about $650 to residents who tested positive for the coronavirus, a policy designed to encourage people to get tested.

Sophia Chan, Hong Kong’s health secretary, said the policy was aimed at people who had avoided getting tested because they were afraid of the financial consequences of being forced to stay home from work if they tested positive.

“We hope they don’t avoid it for income reasons, for fear of halting work and losing income,” she told reporters on Sunday.

Critics said the policy would give people an incentive to intentionally infect themselves, and that the payment of 5,000 Hong Kong dollars was not enough to make up for wages lost by people who tested positive and could not go to work.

COVID-19 and Cruise Ship Travel
At this time, CDC still recommends avoiding any travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high. It is especially important that people with an increased risk of severe illness avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises.

Cruise passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships.