COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Biden pushes governors to reinstate mask mandates, as the C.D.C. director warns of ‘impending doom.’

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, delivered an impassioned plea on Monday for Americans to recommit to following coronavirus guidelines as infections increase across the country. President Biden, facing a rise in coronavirus cases around the country, called on Monday for governors and mayors to reinstate mask mandates as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of “impending doom” from a potential fourth surge of the pandemic.

The president’s comments came only hours after the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, appeared to fight back tears as she pleaded with Americans to “hold on a little while longer” and continue following public health advice, like wearing masks and social distancing, to curb the virus’ spread. The nation has “so much reason for hope,” she added.

“But right now,” she said, “I’m scared.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/03/29/world/covid-vaccine-coronavirus-cases#covid-cases-vaccines-eligible

This country only has about 500 doctors for 9 million people. Now it's dealing with a Covid outbreak
"This is very frightening, to know that you don't have any medical facilities open, or very limited, and you cannot easily access them because of the restriction," says Reva, 48, PNG assistant country director of program support for humanitarian non-profit CARE International. "I'm breathless, I can't explain how difficult it is."

Until recently, PNG had largely managed to stave off a major coronavirus outbreak. At the end of February, the country had only reported 1,275 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But over the past month, cases have more than tripled. PNG has now reported at least 4,660 Covid-19 cases and 39 related deaths, including that of MP Richard Mendani, who died age 53 earlier this month, according to a Radio New Zealand report. On Friday, the country reported 560 new infections -- its highest for a single day -- with Prime Minister James Marape admitting there is "rampant community transmission."

While those figures might not seem high compared to other countries, they pose a major issue in PNG, where the government says there are only about 500 doctors for an estimated population of 9 million people. At the best of times, the country's health system is fragile -- now NGOs are warning it could be on the "verge of collapse."

Low testing rates also mean PNG's case load is likely much higher -- something authorities acknowledge. Meanwhile, rampant misinformation in the country means some people are still not taking the threat seriously.
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/27/asia/papua-new-guinea-covid-outbreak-intl-hnk-dst/index.html

Philippines orders more than 25 million people into lockdown over Easter as Covid-19 cases soar
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced the lockdown Saturday after the country reported 9,838 new Covid-19 cases -- the country's highest single day increase, according to official state media Philippines News Agency. Philippines has reported more than 720,000 coronavirus cases, including 13,170 deaths, making it one of the worst affected countries in Asia.

The country has seen a steep rise in daily reported cases since February, and the country is now reporting more than 9,000 new cases a day. There are more than 105,000 active cases, according to the Philippines' Department of Health.

More than 25 million people across Metro Manila and nearby provinces Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal will be affected by the lockdown.
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/28/asia/philippines-covid-lockdown-intl-hnk/index.html

Pfizer, Moderna vaccines are 90% effective after two doses in study of real-life conditions, CDC confirms
Here's more evidence to support getting vaccinated: Coronavirus vaccines work in real-life conditions. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which involved 4,000 essential workers, found that protection reached 90 percent after a second shot of a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.

Many earlier vaccine trials monitored participants for symptomatic cases. This study was among the first to measure vaccine effectiveness against any infection — including asymptomatic cases. Of 2,479 fully vaccinated people, three were infected.


The CDC report is significant, experts said, because it analyzed how well the vaccines worked among a diverse group of front-line working-age adults whose jobs make them more likely to be exposed to the virus and to spread it.
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/03/29/vaccine-effective-essential-workers-study/

A Collapse Foretold: How Brazil’s Covid-19 Outbreak Overwhelmed Hospitals
Deaths in Brazil are at their peak and the country is reporting more new cases and deaths per day than any other country, enabled by political dysfunction, widespread complacency and conspiracy theories. On Wednesday, the country surpassed 300,000 Covid-19 deaths, with roughly 125 Brazilians succumbing every hour.

Intensive care units face dire shortages and essential medicines are only available at an exponential markup. “We have never seen a failure of the health system of this magnitude,” said Ana de Lemos, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders in Brazil.


President Jair Bolsonaro has promoted ineffective drugs, played down the threat of the virus and fueled fears about vaccines. Many of his hard-core supporters believe his instincts are sound. “There was one solution: to listen to the president,” said Geraldo Testa Monteiro, who lives in Porto Alegre.

Mr. Bolsonaro and other politicians have also resisted lockdowns, which epidemiologists say could have been avoided if the government had promoted masks and social distancing, and more aggressively pursued vaccines.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/27/world/americas/virus-brazil-bolsonaro.html

‘Fight This to the Finish’: Biden Urges Use of Masks

President Biden called on state and local governments to reinstate mask orders amid a spike in coronavirus cases in parts of the nation, with only weeks to go until all adults are eligible for a vaccine.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/video/us/politics/100000007680965/biden-vaccines-mask-mandates.html

Fauci says that Trump's call to 'liberate' Virginia and Michigan during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic was 'like a punch to the chest'
  • Fauci said he was taken aback by Trump's calls to reopen states in the early days of the pandemic.
  • "It shocked me because it was such a jolt to what we were trying to do," he said of Trump's efforts.
  • By mid-spring, Trump expressed that the economic health of the US depended on state reopenings.
In a new CNN special report, Fauci said he was taken aback by Trump calling for states to reopen their governments beginning in mid-April last year, especially in the face of thousands of new COVID-19 infections and an alarming death rate.

Trump lacked the ability to lift the health restrictions that individual states put into place, so he sought to influence the debate and direct anti-lockdown sentiments mostly toward Democratic governors like Ralph Northam of Virginia and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.
Read the full article: https://www.businessinsider.com/fauci-trump-coronavirus-pandemic-liberate-states-health-regulations-2021-3

Former Trump health officials say they clashed with Alex Azar over COVID-19 testing and pressure to alter the CDC's weekly reports
  • Former Trump health officials recall clashing with Alex Azar over COVID-19 testing and CDC data.
  • The former CDC director told CNN that Azar pressured him to alter a key CDC mortality dataset.
  • Ex-officials have coordinated to present a united front against Azar, Politico reported.
Health officials who worked on the COVID-19 response under former President Donald Trump clashed with Alex Azar, then-secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, on everything from COVID-19 testing to modifications of key CDC data.

... Redfield, for his part, told Gupta that the major conflicts he had were not with the White House, but with Azar and HHS. He even claimed that Azar pressed him to change the data in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, one of the agency's most important datasets.

"I didn't have really very difficult challenges with the White House. The challenges I had were with the office of the Secretary," Redfield told Gupta. "I think some of the ones that were the most notable, that I was the most offended by, was the calls that wanted me to pressure and change the MMWR."

The CDC says that the MMWR "is the agency's primary vehicle for scientific publication of timely, reliable, authoritative, accurate, objective, and useful public health information and recommendations."

... While Azar was initially put in charge of the administration's COVID-19 response, Trump sidelined him in favor of former Vice President Mike Pence after a top CDC official raised alarms in February 2020 that the coronavirus would inevitably become a pandemic, the Wall Street Journal reported in April 2020.
Read the full article: https://www.businessinsider.com/former-trump-officials-clashed-alex-azar-covid-tests-cdc-stats-2021-3

Amazon is still supporting — and collecting commissions from — Alex Jones' storefront, even after Facebook, YouTube, and Spotify banned far-right radio host (AMZN)
  • Amazon has continued to sell products from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, NPR reported.
  • The e-commerce giant receives 15% of all sales of Jones' dietary supplements that exceed $10.
  • Facebook, Apple, and YouTube have banned Jones for spreading false theories and hate speech.
Amazon is selling dietary supplements from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has been banned from Facebook and Apple.

Amazon supports Jones' storefront, which sells supplements that purport to help with sleep, help digestion, and "create superior male vitality in men," NPR reported. From third-party stores like Jones', the e-commerce giant receives a 15% "referral fee" on items priced $10 or more, and 8% on items priced lower than $10.

... In March 2020, the New York Attorney General ordered Jones to immediately stop selling dietary supplements he claimed to "cure the coronavirus." There is no cure for COVID-19, just vaccines that can slow the spread of the disease and some drugs to help treat it.

Researchers told BuzzFeed News that Jones' supplements are largely overpriced and "ineffective" vitamins, but are not falsely advertised or dangerous. The Food and Drug Administration regulates dietary supplements less strictly than over the counter or prescription medications. As a result, experts told Insider sellers for supplements like vitamin gummies and melatonin pills can get away with false advertising on the product's effectiveness.
Read the full article: https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-still-selling-alex-jones-dietary-supplements-2021-3

Fraudsters are laundering millions in Covid relief funds through online investment platforms
  • Fraudsters are using online investment platforms like Robinhood, TD Ameritrade, E-Trade and Fidelity to launder stolen Covid relief funds intended for small businesses.
  • More than $100 million in stolen funds have gone through the four platforms, according to a government estimate.
  • Numerous investigations into money laundering through these platforms are underway, according to the Secret Service.
The government quickly rolled out the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or EIDL, program last year to help small businesses. Both programs have been plagued with problems. An inspector general’s report issued last October blamed inadequate controls for billions of dollars in potential fraud.

“The thieves are loving this stuff. This has been the financial crime bonanza act of 2021,” said Charles Intriago, a money laundering expert and former federal prosecutor.

Due to the size of the potential fraud, he said, law enforcement is facing “a behemoth situation where the money is so massive, and the criminals are looking at it as a great opportunity. They’re salivating at the chance to rip it off.”


... The fraud typically works like this: The criminal steals a business owner’s identity and applies for a loan. Once they get the funds, the money needs to be deposited somewhere that makes it arduous for investigators to trace. So, fraudsters routinely use the stolen identity, which typically is someone’s date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information, to open an investment account such as at Robinhood.

In other cases, law enforcement officials said, the criminals use what’s called a “synthetic identity,” which is a fictitious Social Security number tied to a real person, or “mules” who are in on the scheme.

... The Small Business Administration, which oversees the loan programs, told CNBC that “new, enhanced measures” to detect fraud have been put in place since the first round of loans were rolled out last year.
Read the full article: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/29/fraudsters-launder-millions-through-online-investment-platforms-like-robinhood.html

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