COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Biden to announce billions in aid for global vaccine effort at G7
The announcement, which Biden will announce on a call with G7 leaders, will provide a boon to Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, or COVAX, which is led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, along with the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

It is the first US contribution to the scheme, which was snubbed by President Donald Trump. Biden will also pledge an additional $2 billion in funding contingent on contributions from other nations and dose delivery targets being met. The money has already been appropriated by Congress.

Administration officials characterized the decision as one meant to prevent further spread and mutation of the virus, which disregards borders and the relative income levels of different countries.

Yet they said no decision had been made on directly donating surplus vaccine doses already purchased by the United States to other countries, which could speed efforts to get the world's population vaccinated.

Food and food packaging highly unlikely to spread Covid-19, experts say
"Consumers should be reassured that we continue to believe, based on our understanding of currently available reliable scientific information, and supported by overwhelming international scientific consensus, that the foods they eat and food packaging they touch are highly unlikely to spread SARS-CoV-2," the FDA wrote in a statement.

The three agencies said they wanted to stress the lack of credible evidence to suggest that food or its packaging are associated with transmission of the virus.

Covid-19 is a respiratory illness spread from person to person, unlike foodborne viruses that can make people sick through contaminated food, the FDA said.

"Given that the number of virus particles that could be theoretically picked up by touching a surface would be very small and the amount needed for infection via oral inhalation would be very high, the chances of infection by touching the surface of food packaging or eating food is considered to be extremely low," it added.

"Considering the more than 100 million cases of COVID-19, we have not seen epidemiological evidence of food or food packaging as the source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission to humans."

Chinese officials have repeatedly raised the possibility the virus is spread by packaged frozen foods, but the CDC and World Health Organization have both said this is highly unlikely.

Short of Vaccine, States Find Hidden Stashes in Their Own Backyards
Millions of doses of coronavirus vaccine are still sitting in freezers, allocated in excess to nursing homes or stockpiled for later use. Now states are claiming them.

When tiny glass vials of coronavirus vaccine began rolling off production lines late last year, federal health officials set aside a big stash for nursing homes being ravaged by the virus. Health providers around the country figured as well that it was prudent to squirrel away vials to ensure that everyone who got a first dose of vaccine got a second one.

Two months later, it is clear both strategies went overboard.

Millions of doses wound up trapped in logistical limbo, either set aside for nursing homes that did not need them or stockpiled while Americans clamored in vain for their first doses. Now a national effort is underway to pry those doses loose — and, with luck, give a significant boost to the national vaccination ramp-up.

... Federal officials estimate that as many as six million vaccine doses are still being unnecessarily stowed away. Freeing them up could increase the number of doses used by more than 10 percent — significantly stepping up the pace of the nation’s inoculation program at a time when speed is of the essence to save lives, curb disease and head off more contagious variants of the virus. So far, 56 million shots have been administered, and only 12 percent of Americans have received one or more doses.

The idea that doses are sitting in cold storage while millions of people languish on waiting lists has deeply frustrated government officials. The roots of the problem are twofold.

First, when the federal vaccination program for long-term-care facilities began late last year, the C.D.C. based allotments on the number of beds, even though occupancy rates are the lowest in years. According to the American Health Care Association, a trade group, only 68 percent of nursing home beds and 78 percent of assisted living beds are now filled.

Then the C.D.C. doubled that allotment to cover staff. But while four-fifths of long-term-care residents agreed to be vaccinated in the first month of the program, 63 percent of staff members were not given shots, the agency reported. Some of them have since been vaccinated, although it is not clear exactly how many more.

... Even more vaccine has been hoarded as second doses, federal and state officials say. Both authorized vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech require two doses, spaced three to four weeks apart.

The White House has been urging states not to squirrel away second doses ahead of time, and is providing three-week projections of supply as reassurance that they will not come up short.

Six million vaccine doses were delayed by bad weather, the White House said.

The White House on Friday said that six million doses of coronavirus vaccines had been held up because of snowstorms across the country, creating a backlog affecting every state and throwing off the pace of vaccination appointments over the next week.

Video shows deputies confronting young women who dressed as ‘grannies’ for coronavirus vaccines

The coronavirus vaccine is so coveted that two women in Central Florida went to extremes Wednesday to get inoculated: They dressed as if they were elderly, health officials said.

The geriatric guise, which was captured on video, is the latest instance of people trying to cut the line to get vaccinated from the deadly virus. It isn’t even the first time in this part of the state.

“This is the hottest commodity that is out there right now, so we have to be very careful,” Raul Pino, the director of the health department in Orange County, said at a news briefing Thursday.

The women, both younger than 45, “dressed up as grannies,” wearing bonnets, gloves and glasses to disguise themselves as older than 65, the age cutoff to be prioritized to get the coronavirus vaccine in Florida, said Pino, whose county includes Orlando.

Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies at the site scolded the women for acting older, saying their ruse was “selfish,” and they should wait their turn, according to body camera footage provided by the sheriff’s office Friday.

“You’ve stolen a vaccine from someone that needs it more than you,” one deputy said to the women. “And now you’re not going to get your second one. So that’s a whole waste of time we just wasted on this.”

When deputies warned the women that they would be arrested if they returned and said they were lucky to be allowed to leave, the women responded that they understood and apologized.

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg on the Cruz saga: Check the international travel covid guidelines
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg weighed in on Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) trip to Cancun, Mexico, saying it was a good time to remind Americans that there are still restrictions in place for international travel because of the coronavirus.

“Look at the guidelines, including the requirements for international travel for a test before you come back to the U.S. and a quarantine once you arrive back on American soil,” Buttigieg said during an appearance on CNN’s “New Day.”

School board members bash pandemic-weary parents as potheads who ‘want their babysitters back’

Thinking they were in a private forum where they could safely vent, a group of San Francisco Bay area school board members unleashed months of pent-up frustration with parents, dismissing them as marijuana users desperate for free babysitting almost a year into the pandemic.

“Are we alone?” one member of the Oakley Union Elementary School District Board of Trustees asked this week before describing her attitude toward critics: “B----, if you’re going to call me out, I’m going to f--- you up.”

Unbeknown to the group, the virtual meeting where they were letting loose was being broadcast live to an audience that included the very parents they were disparaging — and at least one was recording.

“Uh oh,” one school trustee said, after appearing to receive a frantic message from someone who had just noticed the error. “We have the meeting open to the public right now.”

... The accidental “hot mic” moment on Wednesday night laid bare the heightened tensions between elected officials who are under growing pressure to reopen schools and parents who have now spent nearly a year juggling work and child care. California is one of the last states in the country where most students have not set foot in a classroom since March, according to Politico, and disputes between politicians, teachers’ unions and parents have grown increasingly rancorous.

... In the recording, board members can be heard lamenting the fact that they’ve faced criticism on social media from fed-up parents desperate for a break from virtual school.

“It’s really unfortunate that they want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back,” Oakley Union Elementary School Board President Lisa Brizendine said to a chorus of affirmation from other trustees.

“I totally hear that, because my brother had a delivery service for medical marijuana, and the clientele were parents with their kids in school,” school board member Richie Masadas responded, prompting delighted laughter from the group.

“When you got your kids at home,” he added, “no more smoking out.”

... The fallout from the leaked video was swift. According to KTVU, parents protested with a “Zoom out” and kept their children out of remote classes on Thursday. Later that day, Brizendine resigned. An online petition calling for the other board members to follow suit or be recalled had received more than 4,200 signatures by early Friday.

Canada fines two air passengers for false COVID-19 tests
anada has fined two passengers for presenting a false or misleading COVID-19 test before boarding a flight to the country, the first time travelers have been hit since the introduction in January of mandatory pre-departure negative tests, the Canadian transport regulator said on Thursday.

One of the passengers was fined C$10,000 ($7,871) while the other was fined C$7,000 for falsifying the COVID-19 test when they traveled from Mexico on January 23, Transport Canada said in a statement.

The travelers also made a false declaration about their health status before boarding a flight to Canada, after having tested positive for novel coronavirus a few days before the flight, the regulator said.

More countries, like Canada, are introducing mandatory COVID-19 test requirements for travelers. Canada already has some of the toughest travel rules in the world aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, including a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

New Data Demonstrates Safety of Vaccines, C.D.C. Director Says

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the C.D.C., said data from a study of Covid-19 vaccinations in the U.S. shows the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are safe and serious side effects are rare.

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