COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Even with hope on the horizon in this pandemic, what's the point of ever leaving home again?
A year ago, Americans had just wrapped their last normal weekend and they didn’t know it yet. Now, the US is deep into a pandemic with a new strain of the coronavirus on the loose. But there are glimmers of hope.

As more people get vaccinated, it finally seems like a return to the Before Times is in sight. Still, staying home for months on end has raised questions about the way we live and socialize. Are bars simply overpriced drinks? Concerts a sea of sweaty armpits? Gyms just a house party for germs?

Why bother? What's the point of ever leaving home again?

Getting dinner, grabbing drinks, working out, seeing a movie. All these comforts of middle class existence in the Before Times are gone, and it could be another year until it's completely safe to return.

But still, maybe introverts were right all along: Why go out when you can stay in?
  • Movie theater or movie living room?
  • With in-home work outs, no one can judge you
  • Never again, business casual
  • Curbside pick up: humanity's greatest invention
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Do we really need pants? And other lessons from a pandemic year
Americans are one year into this new, strange pandemic life. It's been a harrowing and heartbreaking transition for many.

We've missed loved ones and weddings and funerals, dance recitals and baseball playoffs, more "firsts" and simple pleasures than we can even count at this point.

We've learned how to laugh with our eyes, through masks, from 6 feet away.

We've learned how to work and sleep and play and exercise and relax -- all in the same room. We've learned to value human worth by the size of their toilet paper stockpile.

  • There are very few instances in life in which pants are required.
  • Whoever can open produce bags in under 30 seconds without licking a finger deserves an Olympic medal
  • Touch is not overrated. Unless it's from your spouse
  • You can't really predict anything, ever
  • We're all hypochondriacs
"There's almost been an equal split down the middle of Covid-19 era beauty/fashion from minimalist and bare-faced to anything goes to full-out glam," said Rachel Weingarten, a pop culture and trends expert and former celebrity makeup artist.

"On the one hand, you have those who believe bras and pants have become irrelevant and don't see the purpose of even putting on a pair of shoes anymore," Weingarten said. "The opposing view often includes those who have a lot of Zooming going on and feel either the pressure or relief of an opportunity to dress up -- at least from the waist up -- and spend time on their makeup and hair."

Given the uncertainty and worry and lack of concern about pants, where do we go from here? If we've learned anything worth remembering, it's that there is so much we don't know. The future is uncertain. We miss people, but also, we're sick of people. We like elastic-waist pants, and tweezing is an existential drag and maybe not necessary.

We've also learned that we are resilient. We can live through a real-life horror movie and still find moments of joy and compassion. A recent Pew study showed the majority of Americans believe the pandemic provides lessons for humanity.

What truly matters has come into greater focus. We love more authentically. And, if all else fails, there is always ice cream.
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Vaccinated Americans may gather indoors in small groups but should still wear masks in public, the C.D.C. said.
The agency on Monday issued long-awaited advice to Americans fully vaccinated against Covid-19, freeing them to take some liberties that the unvaccinated should not.

Fully vaccinated Americans may gather indoors in small groups without masks, the C.D.C. said.

In its latest guidance, the Centers for Disease Control also said vaccinated people may visit indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household so long as no one among the unvaccinated is at risk for severe disease if infected with the coronavirus.

It’s good news for grandparents who have refrained from seeing their children and grandchildren during the past year. But even the fully vaccinated should still adhere to wearing masks and social distancing in public spaces, the agency advised.
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Meet the GOP voters who could decide whether the U.S. reaches herd immunity
Almost one-third of Republicans tell pollsters they ‘definitely won’t’ get vaccinated.

U.S. case counts continue to decline, though not as speedily as in early February. Vaccination rates are rising. Whether the U.S. finally reaches herd immunity, though, could be in the hands of a fraction of the population. Namely: Republican voters, many of whom remain committed to supporting Trump, who refuse to get a vaccine.

... Some of that hesitancy is embodied by Trump himself, who spent years raising questions about vaccine safety, dismissed the value of flu shots while president, and opted not to publicly disclose or televise that he was vaccinated against the coronavirus in January, shortly before leaving the White House.

But Republican resistance could become more apparent when vaccines become more available this spring. “The thing that’s most concerning to me right now is that share of ‘definitely not’ is not budging among the public overall, including Republicans,” said Hamel, the KFF polling expert.
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A Mexican restaurant in Texas kept its mask rule. People threatened to call ICE on the staff.
This week, after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Tuesday that he would rescind the statewide mask mandate while the vast majority of residents remain unvaccinated, the tough choice to enforce public health guidance fell to business owners, and Picos announced it would continue requiring masks. But, after such a challenging year, the reaction to their decision was disheartening, co-owner Monica Richards said: Several people sent hateful messages through social media and called the restaurant, threatening to report staffers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“It was just horrific,” Richards said. “People don’t understand unless you’re in our business what it felt like, how hard it was to go through everything we went through during covid. For people to be negative toward us for trying to remain safe, so that this doesn’t continue to happen, just makes zero sense to us.”

Abbott’s decision to lift the mandate will make Texas the largest state to not require masks, which has not come easily for many businesses that are navigating enforcement mask rules to protect employees and customers while facing backlash. Masks, which health experts say are among the most effective ways to curb the spread of the coronavirus, have become a partisan symbol, with one conservative group planning a mask burning party for March 10, the day the order is lifted.

When the mandate is rescinded, the majority of Texas restaurant owners say they will continue requiring staff to wear masks, but they are split on making the same demands of customers,
according to the Texas Restaurant Association, which informally surveyed its members this week. The association’s updated guidance recommends restaurants mandate employees wear masks and encourages guests to do the same, spokeswoman Anna Tauzin said.

... Reacting to the potential violence that could ensue from confusion or disagreements over mask rules, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo reminded residents this week that businesses have the right to implement their own mandates. Acevedo also encouraged “common decency,” saying in a video that wearing a mask can save lives.

“Forget what the governor says, forget what the law says. What does our own humanity call upon us to do?” he said on MSNBC. “That’s to be cognizant that this is one of the best things we can do, is wear a mask, to keep each other safe.”
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Anti-maskers encouraged kids to burn their face coverings on the Capitol steps in Idaho
Cheering parents watched as children tossed surgical masks into a fire outside the Idaho Capitol in Boise on Saturday as more than 100 people gathered to protest mask mandates as an affront to their civil liberties.

The rally was one of several held statewide in opposition to the coronavirus-related requirements, which health experts have said remain crucial even as vaccines are distributed and the number of new reported cases has dropped.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) has never implemented a statewide mask requirement, though nearly a dozen areas of the state have local restrictions, including Boise. For months, Little has been at odds with Lt. Gov Janice McGeachin (R) over pandemic restrictions (in Idaho, the governor and lieutenant governor run on separate tickets); the state’s current guidelines “strongly” recommend face coverings but require them only in long-term care facilities. McGeachin vehemently opposes any mask mandates.

McGeachin, who appeared in a video last fall that suggested the pandemic “may or may not be occurring,” was photographed speaking at the Boise protest Saturday.

Republican state Reps. Dorothy Moon and Heather Scott appeared in a video on Friday giving their support to the “Burn the Mask” rallies.

... Organizers for Boise rally had a permit, but it is being investigated after the fire was set in a barrel, the Idaho State Police said in a statement.

“Those involved with the event were informed both before and during the event that open flames are not allowed on State Capitol grounds,” according to the State Police.

Saturday’s anti-mask rallies in Idaho encapsulate the polarized response to the pandemic across the United States, with some conservatives viewing business restrictions and mask mandates not as public health guidance but a form of government overreach.

... Idaho has tallied more than 173,000 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic and at least 1,800 deaths.
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Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, and his wife have tested positive for the virus.
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his wife, Asma, have tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing mild symptoms, Mr. al-Assad’s office said on Monday. The pair are in good health and will continue work while quarantining at home for at least two weeks, his office added.

Their isolation period comes ahead of the 10-year anniversary of Syria’s civil war, as Mr. al-Assad faces an economy that is worse than at any time since the fighting began in 2011. Syrians were already living in ravaged cities with an ill-equipped health care system. As of Monday, the country of about 17 million has officially reported 15,981 infections and 1,063 deaths, according to a New York Times database. But cases are likely to be undercounted, experts have said, given that government data tends to hide the country’s struggles.

The fallout from the conflict, along with sweeping Western sanctions and lockdowns, has also left Syrians struggling to feed themselves. Food prices more than doubled in the last year and the World Food Program warned last month that more than 60 percent of the population, or about 12.4 million people, were at risk of going hungry. Many Syrians have resorted to desperate measures to find fuel and sustenance for themselves and their families.
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C.D.C. Outlines Covid-19 Advice for Vaccinated Americans

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Monday that people who have been fully vaccinated can hold small gatherings indoors without masks or social distancing.

We’ve been through a lot this past year, and with more and more people getting vaccinated each day, we are starting to turn a corner. And as more Americans are vaccinated, a growing body of evidence now tells us that there are some activities that fully vaccinated people can resume at low risk to themselves. This is why today, C.D.C. is releasing its initial guidance for the public that for the first time lays out some of the activities considered safe for those who are fully vaccinated. When I say fully vaccinated, I mean people who are two weeks after their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It’s important to note that we are focusing on activities of fully vaccinated people can resume in private settings, such as their homes, under two scenarios. The first scenario is fully vaccinated people visiting with other fully vaccinated people. C.D.C. recommends that fully vaccinated people can visit with other fully vaccinated people in small gatherings indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing. Fully vaccinated people can visit with unvaccinated people from one other household, indoors, without wearing masks or physical distancing, as long as the unvaccinated people and any unvaccinated members of their household are not at high risk for severe Covid-19 disease.
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'War Doesn't Even Compare': A Year In The Life Of A Traveling Nurse
One year ago, Grover Nicodemus Street treated his first case of coronavirus.

Since then, the traveling nurse — a military veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan — estimates that he's seen 3,000 people die as a result of the disease.

"What I have seen throughout the year, I would rather die, any other way of dying, than dying with coronavirus. It's a sad way to go," Street says in an interview with All Things Considered. "Your family is not there to hold your hand. The last person that a patient would see is my ugly mug.

"War doesn't even compare to this."

Street is one of the tens of thousands of traveling nurses chasing the country's coronavirus hot spots — from New Jersey to New York to Florida to California — deployed in the battle against a pandemic that has claimed more than half a million lives in the United States in the past year alone.

... The demand for nurses and other medical staff remains high around the country.

The American Association of Colleges of Nurses says that several factors are contributing to the shortage in nurses, including insufficient enrollment and faculty at nursing schools to meet the demand, a significant number of nurses reaching retirement age, and high stress levels that are driving nurses to leave the profession.

And on top of that, health care workers are also falling ill and dying from the virus.

... "I've seen lots of nurses and health care workers quit because they can't handle it," Street says. "If people quit, who's going to take care of all the sick people that come into the hospital?"
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Many ‘Long Covid’ Patients Had No Symptoms From Their Initial Infection
Many people who experience long-term symptoms from the coronavirus did not feel sick at all when they were initially infected, according to a new study that adds compelling information to the increasingly important issue of the lasting health impact of Covid-19.

The study, one of the first to focus exclusively on people who never needed to be hospitalized when they were infected, analyzed electronic medical records of 1,407 people in California who tested positive for the coronavirus. More than 60 days after their infection, 27 percent, or 382 people, were struggling with post-Covid symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, cough or abdominal pain.

Nearly a third of the patients with such long-term problems had not had any symptoms from their initial coronavirus infection through the 10 days after they tested positive, the researchers found.

Understanding long-term Covid symptoms is an increasingly pressing priority for doctors and researchers as more and more people report debilitating or painful aftereffects that hamper their ability to work or function the way they did before. Last month, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis S. Collins, announced a major initiative “to identify the causes and ultimately the means of prevention and treatment of individuals who have been sickened by Covid-19, but don’t recover fully over a period of a few weeks.”
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Israel Begins Vaccinations for Palestinian Workers

Hundreds of Palestinians with permits to work in Israel lined up for coronavirus vaccinations at checkpoints along the border with the West Bank on Monday.

These are people who are working in Israel, and so we want to vaccinate them in order they won’t transfer disease and the mobility of corona from there to the places they work. But further cooperation is a question of the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli leaders. And they speak to each other, and I hope that we can help them out. And we know that it’s very dangerous for them and for us. So we try to make some moves in order to separate, in order to monitor the rate of mobility, of corona mobility there. And I think that we are going maybe to cooperate more in order to overcome this disease.
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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