COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
The Washington Post Coronavirus Updates
Infections are trending upward in most states. Cases rose by 4 percent nationwide in the past week as Michigan, Colorado, Connecticut, South Dakota and Hawaii reported increases of more than 30 percent, according to data tracked by The Post. On Wednesday, 32 states had a higher seven-day average number of cases than a week earlier. The rest of the world is seeing a similar rise in infections that experts say is caused by the spread of new variants.
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Coronavirus infects the mouth and may spread in saliva, study finds
Researchers say they have found evidence that coronavirus infects the mouth, including inside the cheeks, in the gums and in salivary glands. When people swallow infected saliva, they could be spreading the virus to other parts of their bodies.

The study, detailed in the journal Nature Medicine on Thursday, may explain why so many people infected lose their sense of taste, and suggests the mouth is an important source of the spread of Covid-19. It was previously known that saliva testing was a good way to detect infection, but researchers hadn’t looked to see why.

“When infected saliva is swallowed or tiny particles of it are inhaled, we think it can potentially transmit SARS-CoV-2 further into our throats, our lungs, or even our guts,” said Dr. Kevin Byrd of the American Dental Association Science and Research Institute, who worked on the study.

The mouth, nose, sinuses, throat and lungs are connected, and the virus can spread across all those regions in mucus that drains or is coughed up. They checked samples of oral tissue from people who died of Covid-19 and found the virus in about half of the salivary glands they tested.

The study also found evidence that people who test negative after a nasal swab sometimes continue to test positive on a saliva test, highlighting that even if the virus is cleared from the nasopharynx -- the upper part of the throat behind the nose -- it could persist in saliva.
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Dangerous Covid-19 variants could mean all bets are off on the road to normalcy, expert warns
As US states relax restrictions and Americans start traveling again, medical experts are warning that the pandemic is far from over and that new variants threaten to derail progress in the country.

A rise in infection numbers in several states “tells us when we have a more contagious variant that all bets are off because it means that the activities that we thought were pretty low risk are now going to be higher risk," CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also warned on NBC's “Today” show that the US is "still seeing about 1,000 deaths a day," which is “way too many.”
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Rutgers to require Covid-19 vaccine for students this fall
It is among the first US universities to make such a mandate as schools begin preparing for a return to campus life after a year of remote or hybrid learning due to the pandemic.

"In support of Rutgers' commitment to health and safety for all members of its community, the University will be updating its Immunization Requirements for Students to include the COVID-19 vaccine," Rutgers' leadership wrote in a message to the university community on Thursday.

"This health policy update means that, with limited exceptions, all students planning to attend in the Fall 2021 semester must be fully vaccinated."

Students may request an exemption for medical or religious reasons, the university said. Otherwise, proof of vaccination will be required for all students attending in-person classes.
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Fake CPA hit with criminal charges for Covid-19 loan fraud
James Polzin, 47, is accused of filing fraudulent applications for government loans by claiming "nonexistent employees and revenues for businesses he supposedly owned and operated."

CNN revealed earlier this month that Polzin obtained at least six loans worth roughly $1.2 million from the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was intended to help companies pay workers during the pandemic.

Polzin applied for the loans under similar or identical business names and was approved for the money last year despite a string of disgruntled clients and a court injunction barring him from illegally masquerading as a CPA.

The criminal charges stemmed from three additional loans adding up to around $450,000 granted under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, another SBA initiative intended specifically for businesses that lost revenue due to Covid-19. The same businesses that obtained these loans also received PPP loans, and the government cited CNN's reporting in its complaint, but Polzin has not been specifically charged with PPP loan fraud.

The government alleges that Polzin purchased an Arizona house in June with nearly $400,000 in cash, at least partially funded by proceeds from both EIDL and PPP loans, according to the government. Polzin bought a Porsche the same month, according to government filings, which did not specify whether Covid-19 relief funds were used for this purchase.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation unit are investigating Polzin, who is now in federal custody, according to a press release.
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Far-Right Extremists Move From ‘Stop the Steal’ to Stop the Vaccine
Extremist organizations are now bashing the safety and efficacy of coronavirus vaccines in an effort to try to undermine the government.

Adherents of far-right groups who cluster online have turned repeatedly to one particular website in recent weeks — the federal database showing deaths and adverse reactions nationwide among people who have received Covid-19 vaccinations.

Although negative reactions have been relatively rare, the numbers are used by many extremist groups to try to bolster a rash of false and alarmist disinformation in articles and videos with titles like “Covid-19 Vaccines Are Weapons of Mass Destruction — and Could Wipe out the Human Race” or “Doctors and Nurses Giving the Covid-19 Vaccine Will be Tried as War Criminals.”

If the so-called Stop the Steal movement appeared to be chasing a lost cause once President Biden was inaugurated, its supporters among extremist organizations are now adopting a new agenda from the anti-vaccination campaign to try to undermine the government.

Bashing of the safety and efficacy of vaccines is occurring in chatrooms frequented by all manner of right-wing groups including the Proud Boys; the Boogaloo movement, a loose affiliation known for wanting to spark a second Civil War; and various paramilitary organizations.

These groups tend to portray vaccines as a symbol of excessive government control. “If less people get vaccinated then the system will have to use more aggressive force on the rest of us to make us get the shot,” read a recent post on the Telegram social media platform, in a channel linked to members of the Proud Boys charged in storming the Capitol.

The marked focus on vaccines is particularly striking on discussion channels populated by followers of QAnon, who had falsely prophesied that Donald J. Trump would continue as president while his political opponents were marched off to jail.

“They rode the shift in the national conversation away from Trump to what was happening with the massive ramp up in vaccines,” said Devin Burghart, the head of the Seattle-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which monitors far-right movements, referring to followers of QAnon. “It allowed them to pivot away from the failure of their previous prophecy to focus on something else.”
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DOJ Has Charged Nearly 500 With COVID-Related Fraud In The Past Year
A year after the first major coronavirus relief package passed, the Justice Department has charged defendants over exploiting loan and unemployment programs as well as frauds targeting consumers.

Call it a nasty side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic — the flare-up in fraud, scams and hoaxes as some people have tried to use the crisis to line their pockets illegally.

Early on in the pandemic, the Justice Department made fighting such crimes a priority. There was added urgency after Congress passed the massive CARES Act a year ago Friday, which provided a lifeline of cash to help support the country's economy.

Now, on the anniversary of the CARES Act, the Justice Department says that over the past year it has charged 474 defendants with fraud or other criminal schemes tied to the pandemic. The grand total that fraudsters tried to scam from the government and the public in those cases is more than $569 million.

"The impact of the department's work to date sends a clear and unmistakable message to those who would exploit a national emergency to steal taxpayer-funded resources from vulnerable individuals and small businesses," Attorney General Merrick Garland said. "We are committed to protecting the American people and the integrity of the critical lifelines provided for them by Congress, and we will continue to respond to this challenge."
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Kenya Places Stringent Restrictions on Nairobi and Surrounding Areas

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya said on Friday that travel in and out of Nairobi and four surrounding counties would be prohibited as part of new measures to combat a third wave of Covid-19. There shall be a cessation of all movement by road, rail or air into and out of the disease-infected area as one zoned, area comprising of the counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru. Effective midnight tonight, therefore, meaning effective Saturday, the 27th of March, 2021. The third wave of Covid-19 is at hand in Kenya. The positivity rate is the highest since the pandemic hit us last year. The death rate is devastating by all measures. And the stress that the pandemic is placing on our health system is unparalleled. Whereas the foregoing measures will indeed have some adverse effects on our economy and constrain our usual way of life, the measures are temporary and necessary to contain the spread of the disease and therefore, to stop further loss of life. I am personally convinced that the cost of not acting now would be far much greater.
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New Jersey gym celebrated by Fox News is offering free memberships to people who refuse to take a COVID-19 vaccine
  • A New Jersey gym is offering free memberships to people who refuse to take a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The gym's owners received positive coverage on Fox News last year before and after they were arrested for violating the state's shutdown order.
  • One of the gym's owners spread a conspiracy theory on Fox in August and was not challenged or corrected by the show host.
The owners of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr were arrested and fined last summer after keeping their indoor gym open for months in violation of the governor's shutdown order. They have appeared on Fox almost 20 times since the pandemic began, liberal watchdog group Media Matters reported.

Atilis co-owner Ian Smith announced earlier this week that his gym would incentivize people to reject the vaccines after the donut chain Krispy Kreme announced it's offering free donuts to customers who receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

"In light of @krispykreme giving free donuts for receiving the CVD shot, here at @TheAtilisGym we are giving out free memberships to all who don't get vaccinated," Smith tweeted on Tuesday.

Fox News closely covered the gym's efforts to defy state laws and several of the network's hosts heaped praise on Smith and co-owner, Frank Trumbetti. When Smith called New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy a "tyrant" who "run[s] off of fear," Fox host Tucker Carlson called it "the most moving thing I have heard in a long time" and called Smith "a brave man."

During an August interview on "Fox & Friends," Trumbetti promoted a baseless conspiracy theory that government officials wanted to shut down gyms and health clubs so that Americans would become less healthy and be more vulnerable to the virus.
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Silicon Valley heavyweights like Eric Schmidt, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Reid Hoffman show support for California Gov. Newsom as he faces a 'politically motivated' recall election
  • Dozens of tech leaders signed a letter opposing a Republican-led effort to recall California's governor.
  • Signees include Laurene Powell, angel investor Ron Conway, and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.
  • The recall supporters want Newsom out over his pandemic-driven business closures and lockdowns.
Signees of the letter include Laurene Powell Jobs — founder of Emerson Collective and the widow of Apple visionary Steve Jobs — ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, ex-Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Zynga founder Mark Pincus, and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. Angel investor Ron Conway led the effort to enlist the signed support of leaders in the tech sphere, per Politico.

Conway told Politico that the recall effort is "the last thing our state needs right now."

"The vast majority of people in the tech community agree: replacing Governor Newsom with a Trump Republican, which is what this recall effort is really all about, would reverse our progress against COVID and would be bad for California," Conway told Politico.

The letter, which was posted to Twitter by journalist Teddy Schleifer, addresses California residents and notes that the state has made strides in combatting the spread of COVID-19 as well as in distributing vaccines. The letter also asks residents to publicly oppose the "well-funded, politically motivated recall effort against Governor Gavin Newsom" that threatens to impede upon that success.
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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