COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Global Covid-19 vaccine confidence is rising, survey shows
Confidence in Covid-19 vaccines is rising, according to a new survey that shows 54% of respondents across 15 countries would get a Covid-19 shot if one was offered to them.

The survey, done by the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College in London, showed that willingness to get vaccinated has increased in 11 of the 15 countries since November, when 41% of respondents said they would get vaccinated.

"It is very encouraging to see that, as a number of safe and effective coronavirus vaccines are being rolled out across the world, there has been an apparent positive shift in people's perceptions of these products," said Dr. David Nabarro, co-director of the institute.
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Covid destroyed lives spent together. Now those left behind must say farewell by Zoom
Trish Skinner and her husband sit on a couch, flip open their iPad cover, and open Zoom. Skinner is attending her father's funeral 100 miles away in southern England. Dozens of relatives will join her on this call.

The Zoom call is as much closure as Skinner, 72, will get for the death of her father, Herbert John Tate, who lived to 103. "It's not how it's supposed to be," she says. "There's no interaction, physically. And that's the biggest thing that's missing during this terrible time."

As well as taking the lives of loved ones, Covid-19 has robbed millions more of the chance to properly grieve, with funerals banned or limited to small numbers of socially distanced mourners to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.
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The Hidden Epidemic on Travel’s Front Line
More than 6,000 employees of the Transportation Security Administration have contracted the coronavirus. Workers say lax safety measures have contributed to the spread.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 6,000 employees of the T.S.A. have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 14 of them have died, according to data recorded by the federal agency. Frontline agents describe the situation as a hidden epidemic fueled by lax safety measures on the part of the T.S.A.

At a time when Americans are being urged to limit their contact with others and maintain at least six feet of distance from people they do encounter, T.S.A. agents must screen hundreds, if not thousands of people a day, often in close proximity to travelers and their colleagues, and they are required to clean terminal surfaces regularly between shifts.

Agents are required to wear masks, gloves and face shields, but until this month, when the Biden administration mandated that travelers wear masks at airports, on planes and on all federal property, masks had not been mandatory for all air travelers in the United States. Instead, local airport authorities set their own rules, which varied widely.

In the early days of the pandemic, many screening agents said they were not provided with personal protective equipment, or P.P.E., including masks and face shields, and were required to work in overcrowded check points where it was not possible to practice social distancing measures. Even when P.P.E. became available, agents did not have to wear the equipment if their airport did not require it.

... Not surprisingly, the nation’s busiest airports, with their millions of travelers, have seen the most cases: 423 at Los Angeles International; 213 at Dallas-Fort Worth; 239 at Chicago O’Hare. But few airports have been spared entirely. The Nome, Alaska, airport, which services only about 65,000 travelers annually had a T.S.A. employee fall ill. Muskegon County Airport, in Michigan, had two.

The T.S.A. leadership says it has taken “extraordinary measures” to enhance the health and safety of its work force and passengers, including a requirement for agents to wear gloves, masks and eye protection if they are not behind an acrylic barrier. Unlike airline employees, T.S.A. agents are not tested regularly for the virus.

The agency says it conducts contact tracing for infected employees and ensures identification of others who may have been exposed and need to quarantine. The T.S.A. also says that employees are getting infected outside of work, not at the airports. “Based on the narrative inputs from infected employees, a clear majority of T.S.A. officers who have contracted the virus were exposed outside of work,” Carter Langston, a spokesman for the agency, said in an email.

... One of the biggest issues, agents say, was the lack of a universal requirement that passengers wear masks. Individual airports were allowed to make their own rules, with some operating for months without a mask requirement.

... T.S.A. leadership says it has been following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and access to testing is available to all employees through their medical providers if they have been exposed to the virus or show symptoms. The agency also said that employees are eligible for early access to the coronavirus vaccine and that management has recently reminded employees of its “liberal leave categories” available to those who are infected or feeling ill.

Some agents say they have struggled to navigate the leave policies because decisions are made at the discretion of their supervisor, and if an agent shows symptoms but then tests negative for the virus, their leave period is docked and in some cases, their attendance is reviewed.
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Iowa’s House speaker said he can’t make lawmakers wear masks — but he did enforce a ban on jeans
Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley (R) has repeatedly pushed back against imposing a mask mandate inside the legislature, saying that he cannot force lawmakers to cover their faces — just as he cannot stop someone from voting on the House floor in their bathing suit.

But when one Democratic lawmaker attempted to speak during a floor debate on Tuesday — not in a bikini or one-piece but in jeans — Grassley called her out for violating the chamber’s dress code.

“You will not be recognized to speak for debate,” he told state Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell (D), according to the Des Moines Register. “You can continue to vote from the floor.”

That was, perhaps, exactly as she had planned it. As the Register first reported this week, Wessel-Kroeschell told members of her party that she wanted to challenge Grassley’s remarks by sporting jeans inside the statehouse, defying an established rule on formal attire.

“Not wearing a mask can kill people,” Wessel-Kroeschell told the newspaper. “So if they can enforce a denim dress code, they can also enforce a mask mandate.”

... Wessel-Kroeschell, who has served in the statehouse since 2005, began her challenge to the speaker by looking inside her closet for the perfect pair of denim.

“They’re brand new, they’re clean, they don’t have any holes in them. They’re not hurting anybody,” she told the Register.
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How is Alaska leading the nation in vaccinating residents? With boats, ferries, planes and snowmobiles.
Alaska, the state with the largest land mass in the nation, is leading the country in a critical coronavirus measure: per capita vaccinations.

About 13 percent of the people who live in Alaska have already gotten a shot. That’s higher than states such as West Virginia, which has received a lot of attention for a successful vaccine rollout and has inoculated 11 percent of its people.

But the challenge for Alaska has been how to get vaccines to people across difficult, frigid terrain — often in remote slivers of the state?

“Boats, ferries, planes, snowmobiles — Alaskans will find a way to get it there,” said the state’s chief medical officer, Anne Zink, 43.

Alaskans are being vaccinated on fishing boats, inside 10-seater planes and on frozen landing strips. Doctors and nurses are taking white-knuckle trips to towns and villages across the state to ensure residents are protected from the coronavirus.

Contributing to Alaska’s quick speed in getting the vaccine to its residents is a federal partnership that allows the state, which has more than 200 indigenous tribes, to receive additional vaccines to distribute through the Indian Health Service.

Other reasons include the state’s small population of 732,000, as well as a high number of veterans, Zink said. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure that high-risk veterans receive priority for the vaccine.

But one big reason is the state is practiced in delivering precious cargo by transport not often used in the Lower 48. Sometimes that even means adventures by sled.
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Crossing State Lines for a Covid Vaccine
With overwhelming demand in the early months of the vaccine rollout, thousands of Americans are crossing state lines on quests for doses. The scramble to get inoculated has turned attention to the patchwork of vaccination rules devised by states, given a lack of national, standardized protocols.

With states varying widely in prioritizing who can get shots, “vaccine hunter” groups, which scour the country for places where people qualify for the vaccine, have sprung into action on social media. That has public health officials grappling with how to handle pandemic travelers: Should strict rules be followed, turning away all outsiders, or should as many shots be administered as possible, even if some may go to people from other places?

... Not everyone views the quandary the same way, revealing ethical fault lines at a time of limited vaccine supplies and thousands of daily deaths from Covid-19. Given the pressing need to vaccinate Americans as efficiently as possible, medical ethicists say it is fine to take a vaccine out of priority order if offered one; some hospitals with adequate doses have offered shots to all employees to avoid wasting supplies, and cases have emerged of extra shots being offered to passers-by rather than letting them expire.

... More than 27 million people in the United States have received at least one dose of a vaccine, but it is not known nationally how many people have left their state to get a shot. Some states, however, are tracking the issue. In Ohio, at least 21,501 shots went to residents from elsewhere, according to the state’s vaccine dashboard. The Florida Department of Health has reported that more than 57,000 people who live in another state have gotten shots.

Some states have begun cracking down. Kentucky updated its vaccine eligibility requirements this week so that only residents or individuals providing health care services directly to patients in Kentucky would be able to get the shot. The Washington State Department of Health said last week that people receiving a Covid-19 vaccine at one of the state’s four mass vaccination sites must either work or live in the state.

But elsewhere, people are finding ways to travel for shots.

... The varying vaccine approaches in every state have created a puzzling maze of rules that may be exacerbating the temptation to seek shots away from home.
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Johnson & Johnson Applies For Emergency Use Authorization for Anti-COVID-19 Vaccine
A third coronavirus vaccine candidate has requested emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Johnson & Johnson submitted its application Thursday for the company's single-dose inoculation.

In a statement released Thursday, the company said if emergency use is granted, it aims to supply 100 million doses in the first half of 2021. Unlike Pfizer and Moderna, Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine can be stored for at least three months at 36-46 degrees Fahrenheit, compatible with standard vaccine distribution channels, the company said.

It has shown to be 66% effective overall in preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 four weeks after the shot is administered. Johnson & Johnson said the vaccine was 72% effective in the United States, compared to 66% in Latin America and 57% in South Africa.

However, the vaccine is 85% effective in preventing severe forms of COVID-19. And the efficacy of the treatment increased over time, the company said, with no cases in vaccinated participants after 49 days.
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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