COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Larry Kudlow said 'bulls---' repeatedly in a Fox News hot mic incident after criticism from VP Harris of the Trump vaccine rollout
  • Larry Kudlow reacted angrily to criticism of Trump's vaccine plan on Fox News Tuesday.
  • Kudlow said "bulls---" several times in a hot mic moment after hearing a clip of Kamala Harris.
  • Harris claimed that the Biden administration had to start "from scratch" with its vaccine plan.
Former Trump administration economic advisor Larry Kudlow swore on live TV in a hot mic incident at his first day working for Fox.

Kudlow repeatedly said "bulls---" in response to claim by Vice President Kamala Harris that the Biden administration was "starting from scratch" in its vaccine distribution strategy.


Kudlow was appearing on "America Reports" Tuesday afternoon to tout his new Fox Business show which debuted that evening.

During the show a clip was played of an interview in which Harris criticised the lack of vaccine rollout plans from Kudlow's colleagues in the Trump administration.

"We were leaving it to the states or local leaders to try and figure it out, and so in many ways we're starting from scratch on something that's been raging for almost an entire year," Harris said in the interview with Axios.

While the clip played, Kudlow, who was not longer on screen but whose mic had not been switched off, could be heard repeating "bulls---! bulls---! bulls---!"

As producers moved to cut off Kudlow's audio-feed, the hosts apologized, with host Sandra Smith remarking: "That is Larry Kudlow weighing in… Wow."

In his first Fox Business show later Kudlow apologised for swearing, but doubled down on his rejection of Harris' criticism.

"I'm not usually a guy who swears but what the Vice President said burned me up and it's simply not true, okay? It is somewhere between cognitive dissonance and an outright falsehood lie," he said.

Kudlow was a member of the Trump administration's coronavirus task force, and repeatedly downplayed the importance of the pandemic during his time in office.

Early last year he falsely claimed the virus had been "contained" before it went on to ravage the US throughout 2020. He was also a part of the administration's Operation Warp Speed vaccine rollout plan.

The plan achieved its objective of helping develop COVID-19 vaccines, but by the time Biden took office in January its distribution strategy had become mired in chaos.
Read the full article: https://www.businessinsider.com/kudlow-swear-fox-hot-mic-over-harris-criticism-2021-2

Revelers attempt rooftop escape after illegal nightclub is shut down
The venue in Birmingham, England, boasted a VIP area, dance room and a DJ -- who could now face a £10,000 ($13,880) fine for breaching the country's coronavirus lockdown rules, West Midlands Police said.

Dramatic footage released Monday shows officers shouting "police" before forcing their way into the illegal rave, located near the city's Jewelery Quarter, in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The commotion is audible from a crowd as they become aware that their party has been ended rather abruptly. Police were pelted with bottles and one officer suffered a minor injury, according to police.

Thermal imaging from a police drone showed revelers trying to escape the venue from the rooftop.

England is in its third national lockdown, with people instructed to stay home and mixing between households banned.

The illegal party had a bar, neon signs and a dance room, and officers even came across a recording studio and gym in the building, police said.

Around 70 people were issued with £200 ($278) fines, according to West Midlands Police.


Assistant Chief Constable Chris Todd called the attacks on officers "unacceptable" and praised the crack down.

"Our officers continue to work long and hard to protect the public and reduce the spread of this deadly virus by breaking up these gatherings, often in really difficult circumstances," he said.

"While there's much to be hopeful of in terms of the roll out of coronavirus vaccines, people must remember that we are still in lockdown and the virus is still a real threat to communities across the West Midlands."

In a separate incident on Saturday night, police also discovered a garage workshop in Dudley Port had been converted into a bar -- called "The Covid Arms."
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/16/uk/illegal-nightclub-crack-down-scli-intl-gbr/index.html

Selfie-taking tourists could be spreading Covid-19 to gorillas
Mountain Gorilla
Scientists from Oxford Brookes University, England, looked at hundreds of Instagram posts from people visiting the animals in East Africa and found most tourists were close enough to gorillas to spread viruses and diseases, according to a press release from the university on Tuesday.

"The risk of disease transmission between visitors and gorillas is very concerning," said study lead author Gaspard Van Hamme, an Oxford Brookes University alumnus who started work on the study during his masters program.

"It is vital that we strengthen and enforce tour regulations to ensure gorilla trekking practices do not further threaten these already imperiled great apes."

Mountain gorillas are listed as endangered, with an estimated 1,063 of them left in the wild, according to the release.

They live in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Virunga National Park), Uganda (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park), and Rwanda (Volcanoes National Park).

... "We found that face masks were rarely worn by tourists visiting gorillas and that brings potential for disease transmission between people and the gorillas they visit," said Magdalena Svensson, lecturer in biological anthropology at Oxford Brookes University, in a statement.
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/16/africa/gorilla-covid-selfie-safety-scli-intl-scn/index.html

How to Buy a Real N95 Mask Online
Fakes and little-known brands still abound, even as health officials have advised us to up our mask game. Here’s what to do.

A year into the coronavirus pandemic, buying a heavy-duty medical mask online remains downright maddening.

The most coveted mask to keep safe against Covid-19 has been the N95, the gold standard for pandemic protection because of its tight fit and 95 percent efficiency in filtering airborne particles. Then there’s the KN95 from China, a mask for medical workers, which also offers high filtration and is somewhat looser fitting.

But these masks have been far from easy to buy on the internet. When the pandemic hit last year, they immediately became scarce as health care workers and governments rushed to obtain them. The demand was so intense that a gray market sprang up for them.

Yet even after supplies have improved, it is often not easy to find authentic N95s and KN95s online. That’s because there are few brand-name makers, so it can be hard to know which of the dozens of manufacturers are reliable. And counterfeiters continue to flood the market, even on trusted sites like Amazon.

The result is frequently frustration, when wearing a heavy-duty mask is more important than ever. Last week, federal health officials emphasized the need for all of us to have tightfitting masks because of new fast-spreading coronavirus variants.

“People don’t know what’s legit, and they don’t know which suppliers are legit,” said Anne Miller, an executive director of Project N95, a nonprofit that helps people buy protective coronavirus equipment. “We’ve had that issue since the very beginning of the pandemic.”

... The N95s typically have bands that strap over the back of your head, which is what makes them snug. They can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods.

The KN95s, which the Food and Drug Administration has approved for emergency use by health care workers, have ear loops for a tight fit that is slightly more comfortable than an N95. The downside is that the KN95 leaks a bit more air than an N95.

If you are often in high-risk areas like hospitals, N95s may be more suitable. But if you just need a protective mask for more casual use, like the occasional trip to the grocery store, KN95s are probably sufficient.

Ms. Miller’s nonprofit Project N95 buys bulk orders of masks and breaks them up so people can buy smaller batches.
“It’s a very painstaking process to go through,” she said.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/17/technology/personaltech/buy-real-n95-mask.html

Did you survive Covid? Maybe you can thank your Neanderthal ancestors
Researchers found a genetic mutation that reduces the risk of severe Covid-19 infection by about 22%. It was found in all the samples they took of Neanderthal DNA, and in about 30% of samples from people of European and Asian origin.

The genetic region involved affects the body's immune response to RNA viruses such as the coronavirus, as well as West Nile virus and hepatitis C virus, the researchers reported Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The finding could help explain why Black patients are so much more likely to suffer severe coronavirus disease. Neanderthals, who went extinct about 40,000 years ago, lived alongside and sometimes interbred with modern humans in Europe and Asia but not in Africa, and people of purely African descent do not carry Neanderthal DNA. Studies estimate that about 2% of DNA in people of European and Asian descent can be traced back to Neanderthals.

Last year, Paabo and Zeberg identified a genetic mutation inherited from Neanderthals that raised the risk of serious disease. As with most traits, susceptibility to disease and to serious outcomes is affected by a variety of genetic differences.
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/16/health/neanderthal-gene-coronavirus-scn-wellness/index.html

Millions of jobs probably aren’t coming back, even after the pandemic ends
The United States needs to invest more in retraining workers, economists warn

Millions of jobs that have been shortchanged or wiped out entirely by the coronavirus pandemic are unlikely to come back, economists warn, setting up a massive need for career changes and retraining in the United States.

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered permanent shifts in how and where people work. Businesses are planning for a future where more people are working from home, traveling less for business, or replacing workers with robots. All of these modifications mean many workers will not be able to do the same job they did before the pandemic, even after much of the U.S. population gets vaccinated against the deadly virus.


... The nation’s unemployed are starting to react to these big shifts. Two-thirds of the jobless say they have seriously considered changing their occupation or field of work, according to the Pew Research Center. That is a significant increase from the Great Recession era, when 52 percent said they were considering such a change.

“We think that there is a very real scenario in which a lot of the large employment, low-wage jobs in retail and in food service just go away in the coming years,” said Susan Lund, head of the McKinsey Global Institute. “It means that we’re going to need a lot more short-term training and credentialing programs.”

One problem for many unemployed people is they lack the money to retrain. This crisis has put many out of work for nearly a year, and the financial support from unemployment and food stamps is often not sufficient to pay their bills. The stimulus legislation being debated in Congress does not include any money for retraining.

... “Once robots are in place, we won’t go back. Once you’ve made that type of capital investment, you don’t tend to go backward,” Autor said. In the report he wrote, “These developments were sure to happen over the longer run. But the crisis has pulled them forward in time.”

Automation of jobs often speeds up during recessions, as companies look to cut costs and use periods of layoffs to experiment with new technologies. Some economists predict that there could be more automation now, because the pandemic forced companies to look for ways to minimize the number of employees in a workspace and the vast scale of the layoffs in the economy gives executives a unique opportunity to bring in robots.

... Hershbein, the economist who studies retraining programs, said there has been a massive shift from just trying to help people write résumés and look at job listings to setting up partnerships with local businesses, offering career coaching about growing industries in the region, and helping job seekers arrange transportation and child care. The more holistic approach pays off, but it is often more costly and time-intensive.

... Economists say that over time, the United States probably will employ the same overall number of people that the nation had pre-pandemic, but the specific jobs people do are likely to change. For the people who need to shift careers, it is a major life change.
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/road-to-recovery/2021/02/17/unemployed-workers-retraining/

Kroger to close more stores instead of giving workers hazard pay
Grocery giant Kroger plans to close two stores in Seattle after the city passed a $4-an-hour hazard pay mandate for grocery workers, drawing sharp rebukes from local officials and worker advocates who point to the company’s booming sales as the pandemic continues to claim more than 2,000 lives a day.

Kroger, which recorded one of its more profitable years due to strong demand during the pandemic, blamed the closures on the city’s new mandate, saying it would raise costs at the two Quality Food Centers (QFC), which were already underperforming.


“Unfortunately, Seattle City Council didn’t consider that grocery stores — even in a pandemic — operate on razor-thin profit margins in a very competitive landscape,” the company said in a statement. “When you factor in the increased costs of operating during covid-19, coupled with consistent financial losses at these two locations, and this new extra pay mandate, it becomes impossible to operate a financially sustainable business.”

... Kroger’s decision in Seattle was denounced by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents workers at many Kroger stores, including those at the locations that will close.

“Kroger has literally made billions in pandemic profits off the sacrifices of grocery workers in Seattle and across the country,” said the union’s president, Marc Perrone. “Kroger’s action today not only threatens these workers, but it also threatens the local food supply. Instead of doing what is right, protecting the community and providing the hazard pay for these essential grocery workers, Kroger is once again trying to intimidate local and national elected leaders.”

Seattle officials were also sharply critical of the company, denouncing the closures as an attempt to “bully” the city’s elected leaders.

“Kroger has posted record earnings during this pandemic,” Council President M. Lorena González said in a statement. “The city’s front line grocery workers, meanwhile, are exposed to covid-19 every day and many are still living paycheck to paycheck.”

... The company has touted surging profits for investors as sales boomed in 2020. m In its most recent financial release, the company reported an operating profit of $792 million for the third quarter, up threefold from the same quarter a year prior.
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/02/17/kroger-qfc-closing-hazard-pay/

A third of U.S. troops are declining to be vaccinated, the Pentagon says.
Roughly a third of America’s military personnel are declining to receive coronavirus vaccines when they are offered, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

The refusal rate is slightly above that of the civilian population, and is the same for active-duty troops and for those in the National Guard, who have been helping state governments administer coronavirus tests and vaccines.

About 960,000 members of the military and its contractors have been vaccinated, Robert G. Salesses, the acting assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security, told members of the House Armed Services Committee at a hearing on Wednesday. As in the civilian world, the priority for administering vaccinations has been people working in heath care and those over 65.

The Pentagon can require troops to receive standard immunizations, but it cannot make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory, at least for now. That is because the vaccines have been released through federal emergency use authorizations, rather than through the normal, much lengthier approval process. So all the military can do is urge troops to get the shots, not order them to.

... Defense officials said they were studying the demographics of those in uniform who decline the vaccines, and had reached no conclusions yet.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/02/17/world/covid-19-coronavirus#a-third-of-us-troops-are-declining-to-be-vaccinated-the-pentagon-saysRL

Florida Governor Accused Of 'Playing Politics' With COVID-19 Vaccine
In Florida, Democrats are criticizing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who they claim is allowing politics to play a role in COVID-19 vaccine distribution. DeSantis became testy when questioned by reporters at a vaccination event near Lakewood Ranch, an upscale community on Florida's Gulf Coast.

... At a news conference, reporters peppered DeSantis with questions about the perception that he was favoring one community over another in a county where vaccinations have lagged behind the rest of the state. DeSantis responded by threatening to take the state's vaccination distribution effort elsewhere. "If Manatee County doesn't like us doing this," DeSantis said, "then we are totally fine putting this in counties that want it. We're totally happy to do that."

DeSantis said the 3,000 shots being made available for residents of Lakewood Ranch and nearby communities were in addition to the county's regular vaccine allotment. Commissioners in Manatee County expressed concern that the event favored wealthy neighborhoods over underserved communities. Democrats immediately sent out news releases criticizing DeSantis for injecting politics into vaccine distribution. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who has suggested she may challenge DeSantis when he's up for reelection next year, said, "There is no reason that Governor DeSantis should be rationing vaccines based on political influence. This is troubling and potentially illegal." State Sen. Annette Taddeo said the governor owes residents of Manatee County an apology. She said, "Veiled threats should not and cannot be tolerated by any public official." Manny Diaz, the new head of Florida's Democratic Party, said DeSantis must stop "playing politics" with vaccine distribution. Diaz said, "Threatening retribution and less vaccine access for communities that criticize the vaccine rollout for its problems is shameful and inhumane."
Read the full article: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/02/17/968714946/florida-governor-accused-of-playing-politics-with-covid-vaccine

U.S. Seizes One Million More Counterfeit N95 Masks
One million counterfeit N95 masks were seized by federal agents on Wednesday as part of a sweeping fraud investigation stemming from the global coronavirus pandemic, the head of the Department of Homeland Security announced.

The seizure brought the total number of knockoff masks that have been confiscated in recent weeks to more than 11 million, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said during a news conference.

Mr. Mayorkas appeared next to several boxes of masks that had been seized and were stamped with the name 3M, the largest remaining American producer of N95s.

Officials said that the company had been working with investigators to identify sources of counterfeit masks, which originated in China, and that the department expected to make arrests.

Officials declined to provide further details about the seizures, citing the continuing investigation. They said federal agents had executed search warrants in five states in the past two weeks but would not identify which ones.

The snug-fitting N95 masks, which provide 95 percent efficiency in filtering airborne particles, have become the gold standard for frontline workers in the pandemic. But the intense demand for the masks, which are considered superior to the ubiquitous pleated ones, has given rise to the production of counterfeit N95 masks.

... “They’re extremely dangerous,” Mr. Francis said. “They’re providing a false sense of security to our first line responders, to American consumers. I can’t stress how important it is to ensure that we have the legitimate 3M N95 masks that are being deployed to our first responders.”

He said that buying directly from 3M and the company’s authorized suppliers was secure but that consumers who went through outside channels might be exposed to fraud.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/17/us/counterfeit-n95-masks-seized.html

Covid Causes Sharp Drop in U.S. Life Expectancy
Life expectancy in the United States fell by a full year in the first six months of 2020, the federal government reported on Thursday, the largest drop since World War II and a grim measure of the deadly consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

Life expectancy is the most basic measure of the health of a population, and the stark decline over such a short period is highly unusual and a signal of deep distress. The drop comes after a troubling series of smaller declines driven largely by a surge in drug overdose deaths. A fragile recovery over the past two years has now been wiped out.

Thursday’s data gives the first full picture of the pandemic’s effect on American life spans, which dropped to 77.8 years from 78.8 years in 2019. It also showed a deepening of racial and ethnic disparities: Life expectancy of the Black population declined by 2.7 years in the first half of 2020, slicing away 20 years of gains. The life expectancy gap between Black and white Americans, which had been narrowing, is now at six years, the widest it has been since 1998.


... Still, unlike the drop in life expectancy caused by the long-running, complex problem of drug overdoses, this one, driven largely by Covid-19, is not likely to last as long because deaths from the virus are easing and the population is slowly getting vaccinated. The last time a pandemic caused a major decline in life expectancy was 1918, when hundreds of thousands of Americans died from the flu pandemic. Life expectancy declined by a whopping 11.8 years from 1917 to 1918, Dr. Arias said, bringing average life spans down to 39 years. But it fully rebounded the following year as deaths eased.

Even if such a rebound occurs this time, the social and economic effects of Covid-19 will linger, researchers noted, as will the disproportionate effects on communities of color. This is all happening against a backdrop of declining life expectancy that had only briefly recovered from the drug epidemic; some researchers said that drug deaths, which began surging again in 2019 and 2020, may continue to tug life expectancy rates downward.

... Life expectancy represents the average number of years that a newborn is expected to live if current death rates do not change. Declines tend to signal grave societal problems, like the sharp drop in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Declines in developed countries are rare, but the United States experienced them from 2014 to 2017 as the opioid epidemic took its toll. Before that, demographers had not seen an outright decline since 1993, during the AIDS epidemic.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/18/us/covid-life-expectancy.html

Woman, 90, Walked Six Miles in the Snow for a Vaccine
To get her coronavirus vaccination last weekend, Frances H. Goldman, 90, went to an extraordinary length: six miles. On foot.

It was too snowy to drive at 8 a.m. on Sunday when Ms. Goldman took out her hiking poles, dusted off her snow boots and started out from her home in the Seattle neighborhood of View Ridge. She made her way to the Burke-Gilman Trail on the edge of the city, where she wended her way alongside a set of old railroad tracks, heading south. Then she traversed the residential streets of Laurelhurst to reach the Seattle Children’s Hospital.

It was a quiet walk, Ms. Goldman said. People were scarce. She caught glimpses of Lake Washington through falling snow. It would have been more difficult, she said, had she not gotten a bad hip replaced last year.

At the hospital, about three miles and an hour from home, she got the jab. Then she bundled up again and walked back the way she had come.

It was an extraordinary effort — but that was not the extent of it. Ms. Goldman, who became eligible for a vaccine last month, had already tried everything she could think of to secure an appointment. She had made repeated phone calls and fruitless visits to the websites of local pharmacies, hospitals and government health departments. She enlisted a daughter in New York and a friend in Arizona to help her find an appointment.

... Ms. Goldman is scheduled to receive her second dose of the vaccine next month. She plans to drive.

... “I hope that it will inspire people to get their shots,” she said. “I think it’s important for the whole country.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/18/us/fran-goldman-covid-vaccine-seattle.html

Gwyneth Paltrow reveals she had Covid-19 and is suffering from 'brain fog'
On her Goop website, Paltrow wrote that she "had COVID-19 early on, and it left me with some long-tail fatigue and brain fog."

"In January, I had some tests done that showed really high levels of inflammation in my body," she wrote. "So I turned to one of the smartest experts I know in this space, the functional medicine practitioner Dr. Will Cole. After he saw all my labs, he explained that this was a case where the road to healing was going to be longer than usual."
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/17/entertainment/gwyneth-paltrow-covid-19-coronavirus/index.html

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. Symptoms begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). At least a third of the people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop noticeable symptoms at any point in time, but can spread the disease. Some patients continue to experience a range of effects—known as long COVID—for months after recovery and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long term effects of the disease.

Source: Coronavirus disease 2019 - Wikipedia