COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
How Florida is failing its most vulnerable seniors with Covid vaccine rollout
As doses of vaccines flowed into Florida by the tens of thousands, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order on distribution. Instead of following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prioritize essential workers and those over 75, he offered the vaccine to all the state's 4.5 million seniors 65 and older.

That sparked overwhelming demand. Thousands of seniors across the state waited in lines, some slept overnight in their cars or on lawn chairs to get inoculated at vaccination centers. Others maneuvered through jammed phone lines and crashed websites to get appointments. And some would just show up, hoping to get lucky and get a shot. But tens of thousands of others -- perhaps less healthy, perhaps with fewer resources -- were left out.

Florida's problems began when the state failed to work with individual counties to reach eligible groups in a uniform manner, says Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious diseases specialist at Florida International University.

"The state gave doses to specific hospitals which themselves produced distribution plans. That was not an efficient or effective way to do the distribution," she said in an email.

She said the state needed to be involved so the size of the population of targeted and at-risk people in each county would be known, facilitating the delivery of vaccines there. DeSantis continues to say the state should be hands-off.

Hospitals thought they'd see Covid-19 vaccine shortages. Sometimes, they have to throw away doses
The supply and demand don't always line up. Some in the highest priority groups -- health care workers and and long-term care facility residents -- don't want the vaccine, or at least, not yet. At the same time, the American Medical Association on Friday said it was "concerned" that some health care workers not employed by hospitals or health care systems face difficulties accessing the vaccine.

To speed up the process, the federal government is urging states to offer the vaccine to people who are older or in higher-risk groups, but some areas are still focusing on the earliest priority groups -- even if that means doses brought out of cold storage go unused.

"We all thought that the real problem was going to be a shortage -- we would be having lines out the door -- and what we're finding is that, from what we hear nationally right now, there's still a lot of vaccine," Dr. Neil Calman, president and CEO of the Institute for Family Health, a nonprofit health organization that includes the Family Health Center of Harlem, told CNN on Friday.

"Every dose that's in somebody's arm is somebody that's not going to get sick with Covid," he said. "It's not doing any good trying to ration it out like this, week by week, because any dose that's sitting in a refrigerator is a life that's not being potentially saved."

Pope's personal doctor dies from Covid-19 complications
Pope Francis' personal doctor, Fabrizio Soccorsi, has died as a result of “complications due to Covid,” the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano announced on Saturday.

Pope Francis chose Soccorsi as a personal doctor in 2015, the news outlet said. He was 78 years old when he died.

Soccorsi was hospitalized in Rome on December 26 for a previous oncological disease, according to the Italian Bishop’s Conference newspaper Avvenire. It’s unclear exactly when he was last in direct contact with Pope Francis.

In an interview with Italy's Canale 5 channel set to air on Sunday night, Pope Francis said the Vatican will begin Covid-19 vaccinations next week and he is in line to take it.

Pope Francis plans to get coronavirus vaccine, calling it ethical obligation
“I believe that ethically everyone needs to receive the vaccine,” Francis said in an interview with Italy’s TG5 that will air Sunday.

... Francis’s plan sends a significant pro-vaccine signal to the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics. But it also marks a crucial step in safeguarding an 84-year-old who is missing part of a lung, doesn’t like to wear a mask and relishes face-to-face interaction.

Vatican watchers had widely expected that Francis would be administered the jab, and he has spoken favorably for months about the international vaccine effort, calling it a light of hope “in this time of darkness.” Until now, though, the Vatican had remained vague on its vaccine plans for the pope. The Holy See said only that its campaign would first target the elderly, medical personnel and those most in contact with the public.

... In the upcoming interview, Francis suggested his own perspective on vaccines had been shaped by childhood memories of polio, when “so many kids ended up paralyzed because of this and there was a desperation to receive the vaccine.”

“I don’t know why some will say, ‘No, the vaccine is dangerous.’ ” Francis said. “But if doctors offer it to you as something that can work, that poses no special risk, why not take it? There is a suicidal denialism that I wouldn’t know how to explain, but today you need to take the vaccine.”

... “From the ethical point of view,” the Vatican said, “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good.”

Two lawmakers test positive after being in lockdown in Capitol.
Two Democratic lawmakers have tested positive for the coronavirus, saying they believe their infections are linked to the time they spent in a secure location with colleagues who refused to wear masks during Wednesday’s siege of the U.S. Capitol.

Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey announced her positive test result on Monday, followed early Tuesday by Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington.

“It angers me when they refuse to adhere to the directions about keeping their masks on,” Ms. Watson Coleman said in an interview. “It comes off to me as arrogance and defiance. And you can be both, but not at the expense of someone else.”

Ms. Jayapal said on Twitter that she had tested positive “after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one.”

On Sunday, Representative Chuck Fleischmann, Republican of Tennessee, who was also in protective isolation at the Capitol, announced that he had tested positive for the virus after being exposed to his roommate, Gus Bilirakis of Florida, also a Republican.

Mr. Fleischmann told the local news station WRCB that he was notified Wednesday that Mr. Bilirakis had tested positive, but did not receive the notification because he was locked down in a secure location amid the riot. He said he did not know with how many other lawmakers he had come in contact.

Mr. Fleischmann and another Republican lawmaker who tested positive, Representative Jake LaTurner of Kansas, both were at the Capitol on Wednesday to object to the certification of the electoral vote.

It was not immediately clear whether Ms. Watson Coleman and Ms. Jayapal were sequestered with the Republicans who are now known to have been infected.

Ms. Jayapal, who said she had begun quarantining immediately after the siege on the Capitol last week, said she was isolating but would “continue to work to the best of my ability.” She said any member of Congress who refused to wear a mask should be removed from the floor by the sergeant-at-arms and fined.

“This is not a joke,” she said in a statement. “Our lives and our livelihoods are at risk, and anyone who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy.”

... “I want people to know that this is very serious and that our exposure is because of people who don’t care about anybody else and are ignoring science and acting out of an abundance of stupidity,” she said.

Gorilla Troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Test Positive for COVID-19
San Diego Zoo Gorillas
Members of the Gorilla Troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. On Wednesday, January 6, two of the gorillas began coughing. Given current circumstances, San Diego Zoo Global initiated the process of testing fecal samples from the gorillas for SARS-CoV-2 through the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System (CA HFS). On January 8, the preliminary tests detected the presence of the virus in the gorilla troop. The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed the positive results on Monday, January 11.

The test results confirm the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in some of the gorillas and does not definitively rule out the presence of the virus in other members of the troop.

“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” said Lisa Peterson, executive director, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.”

It is suspected the gorillas acquired the infection from an asymptomatic staff member, despite following all recommended precautions including COVID-19 safety protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and San Diego County Public Health as well as wearing PPE when near the gorillas. Research studies have verified that some non-human primates are susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2, but this is the first known instance of natural transmission to great apes and it is unknown if they will have any serious reaction.

“For almost one year our team members have been working tirelessly, with the utmost determination to protect each other and the wildlife in our care from this highly contagious virus,” said Peterson. “The safety of our staff and the wildlife in our care remains our number one priority.”

... The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, like many public facilities, has been closed to the public since December 6. The primate habitat at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park allow the great apes to be a safe distance from all guests at all times and pose no public health risk.