COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Here's how much vaccines are selling for on the illegal market
Security researchers at cybersecurity firm Check Point Software said they've discovered listings for Covid-19 vaccines from various brands, such as AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, for up to $1,000 a dose, as well as at least 20 vaccine certificates for $200 each.

The dark web is a part of the internet not detected by search engines where cybercriminals often sell and buy illicit materials, from credit card numbers and drugs to cyberweapons and now, apparently, coronavirus-related products.

A Check Point spokesperson told CNN Business it's uncertain if the vaccines are real, but said "they appear to be legitimate" from pictures of packaging and medical certificates.Advertisements for vaccines on the dark web are up 300% in the past three months, according to the report. Meanwhile, vaccine certificates — or proof of vaccination cards — are created and printed to order; the buyer provides the name and dates they want on the certificate and the vendor replies with what Check Point said resembles an authentic card.

The counterfeit products are being marketed to people who need to board planes, cross borders, start a new job or other activities that may require someone to give proof of vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) logo, including a picture of an eagle, is featured on the top right corner of the fake vaccine cards, just like on the real ones. The Check Point spokesperson said the company estimates "vendors are capable of pumping out fake vaccination cards by the thousands, if not tens of thousands, based on requests."

Also for sale: negative Covid-19 test results for $25 (or "buy 2, get the third for free").
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/23/tech/covid-vaccines-dark-web/index.html

Boulder Shooting: Grocery Workers Dealt With ‘Worst of the Worst’
The shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., that left 10 people dead came after a year in which the pandemic made supermarkets a dangerous place for employees, who risked falling ill with the coronavirus and often had to confront combative customers who refused to wear masks.

“They’ve experienced the worst of the worst,” said Kim Cordova, who represents more than 25,000 grocery and other workers in Colorado and Wyoming — including those at the King Sooper store that was attacked — as the president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.

... “They’ve seen horrible behavior by customers — spitting on them, slapping them, refusing to wear masks — but they were the first to be heroes,” Ms. Cordova said.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/23/us/grocery-store-workers-boulder.html

Vaccinated People Can Get Covid, but It’s Most Likely Very Rare
More than two months after he was fully vaccinated against Covid, a doctor in New York woke up with a headache and a dull, heavy feeling of fatigue. A fever and chills soon followed, and his senses of taste and smell began to fade.

This, he thought, could not be happening. But it was: He tested positive for the coronavirus.

“It was a huge shock,” he said. He knew that no vaccine was perfect and that the Pfizer-BioNTech shots he received had been found 95 percent effective in a large clinical trial. “But somehow in my mind, it was 100 percent,” he said.

The doctor, who requested anonymity to protect his privacy, is among the few reported cases of people who have been infected after being partly or even fully vaccinated. Nearly 83 million Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, and it’s unclear just how many of them will have a “breakthrough” infection, though two new reports suggest the number is very small.


... In the next few months, Pfizer and Moderna are expected to release data that should indicate how often vaccinated people become infected by the virus, even if they have no symptoms. The companies have been testing participants in their vaccine trials for antibodies to a protein called N that is part of the coronavirus but not part of the vaccine. Finding those antibodies means that a vaccinated person has been infected by the virus. Some volunteers from the studies are also having their noses swabbed regularly to test for an active viral infection.

Another question is how effective the vaccines are in people whose immune systems have been weakened by illness or medications, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University. Breakthrough cases might occur in those people because their bodies cannot produce a robust reaction to a vaccine.

“And it is amazing how pervasive immunocompromise is,” Dr. Schaffner said. He called the condition “a testament to modern medicine,” because many patients with it are being treated successfully for conditions that not so long ago would have killed them.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/23/health/covid-cases-vaccinated-people.html

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is reportedly ending remote work for 80,000 municipal employees starting in May
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling New York City employees back to the office.
  • The majority of city operations have been conducted remotely due to the pandemic.
  • Municipal office employees will be asked to return beginning May 3.
City employees will be called back to their offices beginning the first week of May. The return will be staggered over the course of several weeks, according to internal documents described in the report.

The number is a fraction of the 300,000 workers employed by the city in total. Many employees, like sanitation workers and firefighters, have been unable to work from home during the pandemic. The workers called back include caseworkers, computer specialists, and clerical associates, according to the report.

... The Times reported that vaccinations will not be required for employees returning to the office due to legal concerns. Face masks will not be required but strongly encouraged to be worn at all times, according to the report. One employee familiar with the rules told the Times employees could remove their facial coverings if they were more than six feet from another person.

The plan, as reported by the outlet, suggests growing confidence that new daily diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in New York City will continue to decline as more New Yorkers are immunized for the disease but also comes while the city has one of the highest rates of the disease across the US.
Read the full article: https://www.businessinsider.com/new-york-city-remote-work-ending-employees-de-blasio-2021-3

Powell and Yellen Testify on Economic Recovery

The Federal Reserve chair and Treasury secretary testified before the House Financial Services Committee Tuesday on the economic recovery and the impact of Covid-19 on the economy.

“There are 22 million people who say they don’t have enough food to eat, one in 10 adults are hungry in America. I looked at data like these, and I worried that the Covid economy was going to keep hurting millions of people now, and haunt them long after the health emergency was over. We know that when the foundations of someone’s life fall apart, when they lose the roof over their head with the ability to eat dinner every night, the pain can weigh on them for years. Their earnings potential is permanently lowered, and I worried about this happening on a mass scale. That’s why I advocated very hard for the American Rescue Plan, and why it’s my first and my most enthusiastic message today.” “Today, the situation is much improved. While the economic fallout has been real and widespread, the worst was avoided by swift and vigorous action from Congress and the Federal Reserve, from across government and cities and towns, and from individual communities in the private sector. Indicators of economic activity and employment have turned up recently. Household spending on goods has risen notably so far this year, although spending on services remains low, especially in sectors that typically require in-person gatherings. The housing sector has more than fully recovered from the downturn, while business investment in manufacturing production have also picked up.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000007670513/powell-yellen-recovery.html

To shave or not to shave? How beards may affect Covid-19 risk
An important part of wearing face masks to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus is that the mask fits snugly. Depending on a beard's length and thickness, experts have said it may reduce the effectiveness of mask-wearing by creating more space between your face and the mask.

Any opening "increases the chance that there is a virus that will get to the orifices, which can then obviously give you the disease," said Dr. Mona Gohara, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine.

Mask-wearing doesn't totally prevent infection, but it can help limit the spread of potentially virus-laden respiratory droplets among people. Mask use can reduce the number of new coronavirus infections by nearly 50%, according to a December 2020 study.

Is now the time to give up beards, then? The answer isn't simple. Shaving may be a blow to your self-expression, self-esteem, religious or cultural beliefs, or any skin conditions that are helped by letting your facial hair grow.

... Health care workers often wear masks, and they have known that facial hair is an impediment to proper mask-wearing since long before the pandemic. What commonly reveals the problem is when medical professionals' fittings for N95 masks are unsuccessful because of facial hair. Some facial hair styles aren't recommended, because they likely interfere with a respirator's seal (which presses to the face), or because the hair might interfere with the exhalation valve (which makes breathing easier), according to a 2017 infographic by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Facial Hairstyles and Filtering Facepiece Respirators
"For a mask to have any chance of fitting properly, it needs to be mask to skin, not mask to hair," Gohara said.

"If a mask can completely cover a beard, there (shouldn't) be any problem. If not, a beard is very likely to create a small gap between facial skin and mask unless one fastens the mask tightly," said Qingyan Chen, a professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University in Indiana, via email. "The small gap would create a leakage for air to enter (the) nose when inhaling and for air with virus to go to the surroundings when one exhales."
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/23/health/beards-affect-mask-fit-covid-19-wellness/index.html

All the Covid-19 vaccines prevent death and severe disease, and that's what matters, experts say
Drug giant AstraZeneca said Monday its vaccine, developed with Britain's Oxford University, showed about 79% efficacy in preventing symptomatic disease. No one who got the vaccine ended up in the hospital with a coronavirus infection.

That's what you want to see with any vaccine -- and all of the coronavirus vaccines in use in the US or being considered for use in the US do that, noted Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

"The whole reason that we even embarked on a vaccination program for Covid-19 was that Covid-19 could cause serious disease, hospitalization and death," Adalja told CNN.

"All of the vaccines that we have seen tested do that extremely well -- much better than any of us expected. The whole reason you want to be vaccinated is so you don't get serious illness from Covid-19," Adalja added.

"That's whole reason Covid-19 is even on anyone's radar. We don't care about any of the other four coronaviruses that cause 25% of our common colds, because they don't kill at the rate that Covid-19 did."

Dr. Paul Offit of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who helps review vaccine safety and efficacy as an outside adviser to the FDA, is more blunt. "The goal is to keep people out of the hospital, the ICU and the morgue," he told CNN.


"Bottom line, the vaccines work in the real world. Not only are they efficacious, but they are effective," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a White House coronavirus briefing earlier this month.
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/22/health/covid-vaccines-prevent-death/index.html

Facebook and Twitter must do more to fight anti-vaccine misinformation, a dozen state attorneys general demand
The attorneys general sent a letter asking the companies to take stronger measures to ensure falsehoods on social media don’t hamper efforts to distribute the vaccine

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) and 11 other Democratic state attorneys general called on Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to “take immediate steps” to fully enforce their policies against vaccine misinformation.

The attorneys general say the companies have not cracked down hard enough on prominent anti-vaccine accounts that repeatedly violate the companies’ terms of service. They also say that falsehoods about the safety of coronavirus vaccines from a small pool of individuals has reached over 59 million followers on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, citing data from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which studies online misinformation and disinformation.


They sent the letter the day before Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are expected to testify in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The hearing is broadly focused on disinformation, and lawmakers and their staff have been in communication with leaders of Anti-Vax Watch, a collection of people and organizations concerned about vaccine disinformation.

... Tong argues that lives depend on the companies’ ability to properly enforce their rules. He said online falsehoods are undermining public confidence in vaccinations, and he raised concerns about those against vaccines targeting Black Americans and other minority communities. “Coronavirus vaccines only work if people actually get them. Pseudoscience coronavirus conspiracy theories peddled by a small number of uninformed anti-vaxxers have reached tens of millions of social media followers,” Tong said in a statement. “These posts are in flagrant violation of Facebook and Twitter policies. Facebook and Twitter must fully and immediately enforce their own policies, or risk prolonging this pandemic.”

The attorneys general of Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia also signed the letter.
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/03/24/facebook-twitter-attorney-generals/

Moncef Slaoui, the former head of Operation Warp Speed, was fired from a biotech company after sexual misconduct allegations.
GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company, said on Wednesday that it had fired Moncef Slaoui, the former head of Operation Warp Speed, from his position as chairman of Galvani Bioelectronics because of allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.

The company cited allegations made by a female employee regarding incidents that occurred at GSK several years ago. The decision to terminate Dr. Slaoui is effective immediately, GSK said in a statement. GSK is the majority shareholder in Galvani Bioelectronics, a medical research company that is a joint venture with Verily Life Sciences.

In statement issued late Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Slaoui apologized “unreservedly to the employee concerned,” and to his wife and family “for the pain this is causing.”

... Dr. Slaoui came to Operation Warp Speed from GSK, where he was in charge of developing vaccines. He headed the Trump administration’s vaccine acceleration efforts from May until January.

He drew criticism for owning stock in Moderna, maker of a coronavirus vaccine, and in GSK, which was pursuing a vaccine with Sanofi. The federal government invested $2.1 billion in the latter effort.

Dr. Slaoui eventually agreed to give up his stock in Moderna but not in GSK. To sidestep ethics regulations that would have prohibited him from owning that stock, the Trump administration designated him as a contractor.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/03/24/world/covid-vaccine-coronavirus-cases#moncef-slaoui-allegations

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