COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
People previously infected with Covid-19 may only need one vaccine dose, study suggests
After getting just one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, people who were previously infected showed antibody levels equal to or above those of people who had gotten both doses but never been infected, according to a study published Monday.

Those with previous infections also appeared to have more generalized side effects after the first dose, such as fatigue, fever and muscle pain -- similar to what other participants might be expected to have after a second dose of an mRNA vaccine, the researchers wrote.

... The study did not demonstrate whether that resulted in a greater level of protection from getting infected, and follow-up studies are ongoing.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that people should get vaccinated even if they had Covid-19, since it’s yet unclear how long antibody protection lasts.
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Biden administration says it will not conduct immigration enforcement near Covid-19 vaccine sites
The Biden administration is encouraging all individuals, regardless of immigration status, to get the Covid-19 vaccine, saying that federal immigration agencies will not conduct enforcement operations “at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics,” according to a Homeland Security statement.

The statement is a significant departure from the department’s tone under the Trump administration, which sought to clamp down on illegal immigration.

... US Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement – two immigration enforcement agencies under DHS – usually refrain from enforcement actions when faced with extraordinary circumstances, like a hurricane, and at sensitive locations, like hospitals.

On Monday, the department said CBP and ICE will also not conduct enforcement operations “at or near vaccine distribution sites or clinics.”
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Animals unlikely to spread Covid-19 to humans, but precautions can help keep people and their pets safe, says CDC
Companion animals, especially cats and dogs, are the leading group of animal species impacted by coronavirus.

While animal-to-human transmission risk is low, people can spread coronavirus to pets.

The CDC recommends people treat pets the same way they would human family members to protect them from Covid-19, by limiting contact with those outside the household. The agency advises keeping cats inside and preventing other pets from roaming freely. Masks should not be put on pets, as they could cause harm.

Infected people should avoid contact with pets, meaning no kissing, snuggling or sleeping in the same bed, the CDC says. In fact, people who have coronavirus should try to arrange for another household member to take care of pets. If that's not possible, the CDC says people should wear masks when interacting with their pets.

People who suspect their pets may have coronavirus should consult with a veterinarian. Behravesh noted that among 93 cases of Covid-19 in cats and dogs in the US, 53% showed no symptoms. The most common symptoms reported in animals have been respiratory signs, like coughing or sneezing. Other symptoms reported include fever, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea.

Pets who have tested positive for coronavirus should be isolated away from humans and other animals,.

There's no evidence that pets are carrying or spreading coronavirus on their skin or hair, and it's important not to wipe or bathe pets with chemical disinfectants.

"Pet poison controls have actually had an increase in calls due to these types of exposures among pets.
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Taiwan authorities revoke quarantine fine for man after discovering he was kidnapped
Taiwanese authorities said they will no longer fine a man for breaking quarantine because investigators discovered he was kidnapped in an unfortunate case of mistaken identity.

... Local public health authorities initially fined Chen $3,500 for violating the quarantine order, but the case was handed over to the Ministry of Justice to investigate the claims of forced detention. Police verified Chen's claim and the kidnappers are now under investigation, authorities said.

While the case is unusual, the hefty fine is not. Taiwan has levied a series of large fines on people violating quarantine as part of its world-class response to the pandemic.

... Experts say that Taiwan response to the pandemic has been one of the most successful thanks to its early, decisive action -- an important lesson the island took away from the deadly SARS outbreak.
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Anti-vaccine protest at Dodger Stadium was organized on Facebook, including promotion of banned ‘Plandemic’ video
The activity shows how the social media site remains a critical organizing tool of the anti-vaccine movement

The anti-vaccine protest that temporarily cut off access to a mass vaccination site at Dodger Stadium was organized on Facebook through a page that promotes debunked claims about the coronavirus pandemic, masks and immunization.

The Facebook page, “Shop Mask Free Los Angeles,” issued a call last week to gather Saturday at the baseball park. Health authorities have been administering shots to as many as 8,000 people a day at the site, one of the largest vaccination centers in the country. Such venues form a critical component of the effort to corral the pandemic, which has lashed Los Angeles County so brutally in recent weeks that oxygen for patients has been in short supply.

The online activity illustrates the extent to which Facebook remains a critical organizing tool of the anti-vaccine movement, despite the company’s repeated vows to curb coronavirus misinformation and its assurance that it has removed more than 12 million pieces of such content. It also shows how social networking services could foster more confrontational tactics by those committed to false ideas about the dangers of immunization as the mass vaccination effort ramps up.

“I’m concerned this is the next phase of their anti-vaccine activism, going to places where the vaccine is being distributed and being disruptive there,” said Tara C. Smith, an epidemiologist at Kent State University and an authority on vaccine resistance.

Such activity, she said, could come to resemble protests at abortion clinics or demonstrations against stay-at-home orders at state capitols, a prospect that worries public health officials as they aim to speed vaccinations in a race against more-transmissible and possibly more-lethal variants now confirmed in this country.

Facebook spokeswoman Dani Lever said the company was reviewing the page and would “take action against any content that violates our policies.”

“Shop Mask Free Los Angeles” publicizes opportunities for “maskless shopping,” in violation of state and local rules requiring face coverings outside the home. It posts videos of confrontations inside businesses in Southern California, where anti-mask extremists film themselves going toe-to-toe with other customers and law enforcement. In the videos, the individuals behind the smartphones rail against what they see as “discrimination” and “medical tyranny.” A message sent to the page went unanswered.

The page itself has only about 3,000 followers, but the notice about what it termed a “PROTEST/MARCH” at the mass vaccination site was shared extensively in Facebook groups and on pages fixated on false ideas about masks, such as that they restrict breathing and that the Constitution forbids mandating their use. Names of the online forums include “Anti-Mask REVOLUTION!” and “Unmask California.”
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Capt. Tom Moore dies after covid diagnosis. The 100-year-old raised millions for Britain’s NHS.
Capt. Sir Tom Moore, the centenarian who raised $45 million for Britain's National Health Service by shuffling laps across his garden with the aid of a walker during the nationwide coronavirus lockdown last year, has died at the age of 100, his family announced Tuesday.

The medal-bedecked veteran, who was knighted last year by Queen Elizabeth II for his jaw-dropping charitable campaign, had spent the past few weeks being treated for pneumonia and tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

“Captain Tom,” as he was known to all, stole the hearts of the British, who saw in him a can-do, big-hearted living link to yesteryear, the embodiment of the “keep calm and carry on” spirit that got the country through the Blitz in the early days of World War II.

During his slow-motion fundraising marathon, often outfitted in a blue blazer and regimental tie, he would urge his patrons to always remember, “Tomorrow will be a good day.”

Moore was also a willing performer and a great quote for the newspapers and TV cameras.

“One small soul like me won’t make much difference,” he said in his first television interview. But he did.
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A fast, at-home coronavirus test will be available to Americans this year
The White House is buying 8.5 million rapid at-home coronavirus tests, but supply will be limited until later this year

The White House announced Monday it is buying 8.5 million rapid coronavirus tests that can be taken at home without a prescription and that yield immediate results.

The $231.8 million contract will allow the Australian company Ellume, which manufacturers the tests, to quickly scale up its production and create a manufacturing facility in the United States. Once running, that factory will be able to produce 19 million tests per month.

Ellume’s home coronavirus test was the first over-the-counter, rapid coronavirus home test to be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. It was approved Dec. 15. But the test was expected to be available only in limited quantities.

“The purpose of today’s announcement is to move to mass production and scale,” said Andy Slavitt, President Biden’s senior adviser for covid-19 response, at a Monday news briefing.

Slavitt acknowledged that the $30 price per Ellume test — while cheaper than many of the $100-$200 tests that need to be processed by a lab — is still too high for it to be used ubiquitously by many people.

“The cost will come down only if we get to that mass production and scale,” Slavitt said, calling the new contract an initial step to solve that problem. “We know there are efforts to create even lower cost and more innovative approaches and we welcome those.”

In an interview with The Post, Ellume founder and CEO Sean Parsons said he believes scaling up production will allow Ellume to reduce the test’s price. By building a manufacturing plant in the U.S., for instance, the company will no longer have to ship tests from Australia.

The tests could be vital tools in the country’s fight against the virus — especially in the months before most Americans are vaccinated. Unlike previous home tests, the Ellume test does not require samples to be sent to a lab and can be taken without doctor’s orders by anyone older than 2. Two other home tests approved by the FDA — Lucira Health’s “All-In-One” test kit and Abbott’s BinaxNOW test — require a doctor’s prescription, making them unhelpful for stopping asymptomatic transmission.

... The test uses a nasal swab to collect a sample and produces results within minutes using a plastic device similar to a home pregnancy test.

One critical feature of the new home tests: the ability to capture and report test results.
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As teachers struggle for vaccines, a celebrity SoulCycle instructor hopped the line by calling herself an ‘educator’
After driving an hour to a Staten Island coronavirus vaccination site on Friday, SoulCycle celebrity instructor Stacey Griffith made her case to officials as to why she should receive a first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

What qualified Griffith, a spin instructor with a cult following among New York’s wealthy gym-goers, for the hard-to-come-by vaccine? The 52-year-old was an “educator,” she told the Daily Beast this weekend.

“In my profession of health and wellness as a teacher, it’s my priority daily to keep my community and their respiratory systems operating at full capacity so they can beat this virus if they are infected by it,” she told the publication. “I can only teach to them if I am healthy myself.”

But after boasting on Instagram that she had received “step one of the Moderna magic,” the fitness coach faced an outpouring of criticism from her own fans and even New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D). On Monday, Griffith apologized for a “terrible error in judgment.”

Many balked at the news that a seemingly young and fit spin instructor who reportedly earns a minimum of $800 per class could cut the vaccination line, ahead of many essential workers and vulnerable New Yorkers who may have to wait months. Critics vented frustration on Griffith’s post and shared stories of high-risk family members who cannot yet be vaccinated, including a woman who said her wife is sick with cancer and will not be able to get the vaccine for months.
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Andrew Yang Says He Has Tested Positive for the Coronavirus
Mr. Yang, a New York mayoral candidate who had suspended in-person events after a campaign staff member had tested positive, said he was experiencing mild symptoms.

Andrew Yang, a leading New York mayoral candidate who has pursued extensive in-person campaigning amid the pandemic, announced on Tuesday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“After testing negative as recently as this weekend, today I took a Covid rapid test and received a positive result,” Mr. Yang said in a statement. “I am experiencing mild symptoms, but am otherwise feeling well and in good spirits. I will quarantine in accordance with public health guidelines and follow the advice of my doctor.”

Perhaps more than any other candidate in this year’s race, Mr. Yang has sought to forge an in-person campaign trail, holding multiple events outdoors since declaring his candidacy last month.

His approach has generated enthusiasm on the ground and attention in the news media, but even before Mr. Yang tested positive, the risks were clear: A staff member tested positive less than a week after he announced for mayor, forcing the candidate to quarantine.

But Mr. Yang had since returned to a robust in-person schedule. He said his campaign had begun the contact-tracing process.

“During this time, I will continue to attend as many virtual events as possible, in addition to working with our incredible campaign team to continue our mission of getting New York City back on its feet,” Mr. Yang, 46, said in the statement. “When the time is right, I look forward to once again hitting the campaign trail and advancing a positive vision for our city’s future.”
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Meatpacking Companies, OSHA Face Investigation Over Coronavirus In Plants
A U.S. House subcommittee is investigating coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants, citing the deaths of more than 250 employees nationwide and accusing the Trump administration of failing to enforce worker safety laws.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, announced the probe in a press release on Monday. He said he sent letters requesting documents from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, part of the Department of Labor, as well as three of the country's largest meatpacking companies: Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods and JBS USA.

"Public reports indicate that under the Trump Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) failed to adequately carry out its responsibility for enforcing worker safety laws at meatpacking plants across the country, resulting in preventable infections and deaths," Chairman Clyburn wrote to the agency. "It is imperative that the previous Administration's shortcomings are swiftly identified and rectified to save lives in the months before coronavirus vaccinations are available for all Americans."

Clyburn said that despite thousands of confirmed infections at meatpacking plants across the country, OSHA under the Trump administration issued only eight citations and less than $80,000 in penalties for coronavirus-related violations.

Nearly 54,000 workers at 569 plants have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 270 have died, according to the Food and Environment Reporting Network. Many meatpacking employees are Black, Hispanic and/or from low-income households, the release notes, meaning they come from vulnerable communities that have been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic.

"Public reports indicate that meatpacking companies ... have refused to take basic precautions to protect their workers, many of whom earn extremely low wages and lack adequate paid leave, and have shown a callous disregard for workers' health," Clyburn wrote, adding that outbreaks at meatpacking plants also take a toll on the surrounding community.
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Struggling With Third Wave Of Infections, Japan Extends State Of Emergency
Unable to tame a third wave of coronavirus infections after a month-long state of emergency, Japan announced Tuesday it is extending the emergency for another month. The move comes despite a mounting toll on the economy and the threat of bumping up against the country's Summer Olympics preparations.

... The state of emergency requests residents to cut unnecessary outings and businesses to shorten hours. There are currently no penalties, but the government is going to legislate fines for violators.

While new case numbers have come down in recent days, many hospitals remain overwhelmed.

... Then there's Japan's leadership, which, earlier in the winter, continued to promote and subsidize domestic tourism, even as cases spiked. Politicians including the prime minister attended dinner parties while admonishing ordinary citizens to exercise restraint and avoid large gatherings.

The extended state of emergency is due to end just 18 days before the Olympic Torch Relay begins next month. Despite mounting pessimism that the games can be held amid the pandemic, Tokyo games organizing chief Yoshiro Mori defiantly predicted: "We will hold the Olympics, regardless of how the coronavirus [situation] looks."
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Biden Administration Will Ship COVID-19 Vaccines Directly To Pharmacies
The Biden administration has announced that it will begin shipping about 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses a week directly to thousands of pharmacies in an attempt to address equity concerns and speed up the country's crucial inoculation effort.

The vaccines sent to pharmacies will be in addition to the millions of doses sent weekly to states, territories and tribes and that are sometimes administered at local pharmacies.

The program will begin on Feb. 11 on a limited basis, with vaccines sent to about 6,500 stores nationwide, Jeff Zients, the White House's COVID-19 response coordinator, told reporters on Tuesday. He said that the effort would then scale up and that eventually up to 40,000 retail pharmacies, including Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid locations, would receive doses directly from the federal government.

Once the program starts, Zients said, those wishing to get vaccinated should follow their state's current eligibility requirements and, if eligible, then check with their local pharmacy to see if there is vaccine availability.
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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