COVID19 ๐Ÿฆ  Newsbites
Taiwan is struggling with an unprecedented COVID-19 surge — and has only vaccinated 1% of its population — but it's still refusing to order Chinese vaccines
  • COVID-19 cases are rising sharply in Taiwan, which managed to keep the virus at bay for 18 months.
  • The self-governing island has a longstanding policy not to import Chinese-made vaccines.
  • But it's now facing pressure to bolster vaccine supply, having only vaccinated 1% of its population.
Taiwan is under increasing pressure to order vaccines from China as it faces a surge in COVID-19 cases and has vaccinated just 1% of the population.

It is currently facing an unprecedented rise in domestic COVID-19 cases, after nearly 18 months of keeping the pandemic at bay.

... Vaccine supplies are running low: Taiwan has only received about 700,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine out of the 20 million it ordered from several manufacturers, including Moderna, CNN reported.

Taiwan has turned to the US to bolster its vaccine supply, Bloomberg reported over the weekend.

But lawmakers in the country are now calling on Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to accept Chinese vaccines as soon as possible.

"At this moment, lives are at stake, and we respectfully tell the Tsai government: the real enemy is the virus, not the mainland," said Hung Hsiu-chu, head of Taiwan's opposing Kuomintang party, Reuters reported.

The country has a longstanding policy against importing China-made vaccines. China previously called this a politically motivated decision.

Political tensions between China and Taiwan have been at a high under Tsai's administration. China considers the self-ruled island to be part of its territory, and Tsai has frequently criticized China.

On Wednesday, Taiwan accused the Chinese government of slowing down its access to other vaccines, with Taiwanese presidential spokesperson Kolas Yotaka accusing Beijing of "interference."

The island has previously accused China of leveraging its homegrown vaccines to gain political favor with Paraguay, one of the 15 remaining countries that recognizes Taiwan as an independent state.

China uses two vaccines for the bulk of its export and domestic vaccination, Sinopharm and Sinovac.

Sinopharm, which received emergency-use listing from the World Health Organization on May 7, has been found to have a 79% efficacy at preventing COVID-19.

Sinovac was found to be 98% effective at preventing death from COVID-19, and 96% effective at preventing hospitalizations, according to an Indonesian study of 128,000 health workers.

On Monday, Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu also blamed China for the island's continued exclusion from the WHO's annual assembly, which is taking place this week.
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Explaining HIPAA: No, it doesn’t ban questions about your vaccination status
Some Americans are claiming the HIPAA federal privacy law protects them from having to answer questions about their vaccination status. That’s a common misconception and “simply untrue,” experts say.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to relax safety measures for people who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and the country begins to reopen, many employers, businesses, families and friend groups are finding themselves in the at-times uncomfortable position of having to ask about others’ vaccination statuses.

Some Americans, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), are balking at such questions and are claiming that asking about or requiring proof of vaccination is a violation of the HIPAA federal privacy law.

“Vax records, along with ALL medical records are private due to HIPPA rights,” Greene recently tweeted, misspelling the law’s acronym.

In the caption of an Instagram post that was flagged for containing false information, another person wrote, “If anyone asks for your vax status, tell them they have no right to know.”

That’s a common misconception but is “simply untrue,” said Robert Gatter, a professor with the Center for Health Law Studies at St. Louis University School of Law. Citing HIPAA as a reason to not disclose vaccination status is often a “knee-jerk reaction” that “quickly gets turned into a statement that sounds like law,” Gatter said. People sometimes say, “‘But I have a right not to be asked that question,’” he continued, “and it’s just not the case.”

... HIPAA, also known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, and its subsequently added Privacy Rule include provisions to protect a person’s identifying health information from being shared without their knowledge or consent. The law, though, only applies to specific health-related entities, such as insurance providers, health-care clearinghouses, health-care providers and their business associates.

That means that even if your friend, favorite restaurant or grocery store were to publicly share private details about your health, they would not be in violation of HIPAA because they aren’t one of the “covered entities,” Gatter said. There are other federal and state confidentiality laws that may require employers and schools to protect your privacy. And, experts emphasized, there is nothing in HIPAA that bars asking people about their health — including vaccination status — or requiring proof that the information is accurate.

“It’s not really a prohibition on asking, it’s a prohibition against sharing,” said Kayte Spector-Bagdady, an associate director at the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan. The law, she added, “doesn’t mean you never have to tell anyone about your health information.”
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US citizens warned not to travel to Japan as Tokyo Olympics near
The US State Department on Monday urged citizens to avoid all travel to Japan, but officials insist it will not complicate preparations for the Tokyo Olympics, now just weeks away.

It's the latest hurdle in a string of setbacks for the summer Games, which were postponed in 2020 during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Olympics, which are currently scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8, are looking increasingly untenable as Japan grapples with a new outbreak of the virus that is beginning to overwhelm hospitals. While cases surge, the country's vaccine rollout is moving forward at a glacial pace due to a shortage of medical professionals and a lack of syringes -- only about 2% of Japanese citizens have gotten at least one shot of a vaccine.

One Japanese athlete, 73-year-old table tennis Paralympic legend Kimie Bessho, known as "The Butterfly Lady" for her signature hair clips, says she's been unable to get vaccinated and is risking her life to compete. "I don't want to die of Covid. If I die, I want to die in a competition after a winning smash," Bessho told CNN. "I won't die a boring death, but I will make a big smash. My friends say they'll decorate my coffin with many ping pong balls."

There's been mounting pressure to postpone the Games to save lives, with two major doctors' associations warning that Japan's healthcare system would not be able to cope with the medical needs of thousands of athletes, coaches and press on top of the existing surge in Covid-19 cases.

But Olympic officials still maintain the Games can be held safely and securely. "We feel confident that the current mitigation practices in place for athletes and staff … coupled with the testing before travel, on arrival in Japan, and during Games time, will allow for safe participation of Team USA athletes this summer," the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee, which oversees Team USA, said in a statement hours after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discouraged even fully-vaccinated Americans from visiting Japan.
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Young Americans are lagging behind with Covid-19 vaccines. And these threats have experts pushing for their vaccination
Vaccination badges for dating app users, free Uber rides to get a shot and now a Q&A with YouTube stars are among the latest strategies being deployed by the Biden administration to encourage younger adults to get vaccinated. On Monday, President Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci fielded questions on everything from vaccination passports to advice for those who are fearful of getting a shot. The YouTube creators, a mix of beauty influencers and nature buffs whose combined following tops 27 million, were selected by the White House in a push to reach people in their late teens and early 20s -- a demographic that is critical to Biden's aim of vaccinating at least 70% of adults before July 4.

So far, more than 61% of US adults have gotten at least one Covid-19 shot, but the demand for vaccinations is down by nearly 50% and members of Generation Z are less likely to get vaccinated. Experts worry the slowing vaccinations across the United States may mean some communities don't reach the widespread protection levels that officials hope for and continue to face outbreaks.

But even with the slowdown, hopes are high for a return to normal life in the not-so-distant future. Theme parks are reopening. Rush-hour gridlock has returned. The office beckons for those who are ready. Generation Zoom may actually return to the classroom come September. And on Broadway, the show will soon go on. Finally, it’s possible to believe Fauci's assurances in the dark days of winter that pandemics do end.
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Covid made the Philippines' hunger crisis worse. So why does hardly anyone want a vaccine?
The Philippines was one of Asia's poorest countries even before the pandemic. Toward the end of 2020, nearly a quarter of Filipinos were living in poverty, surviving on about $3 a day.

More than 3 million children in the Philippines have stunted growth, and 618,000 children are classed as "wasted" -- defined by the WHO as low weight for height, which usually occurs due to lack of adequate food or prolonged illnesses. That's among the highest rates in the world -- and the figures were recorded before the most recent lockdown that started in March.

Desperate to avoid more lockdowns and kickstart the faltering economy, the government is now pinning its hopes on vaccines. But while health experts say vaccination is a crucial tool in bringing an end to the pandemic, many Filipinos are skeptical, and vaccination take-up remains dangerously low.
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W.H.O. Highlights Vaccine Inequity at International Conference

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, warned of vaccine nationalism and inequity in an address to international leaders on Monday.

The ongoing vaccine crisis is a scandalous inequity that is perpetuating the pandemic. More than 75 percent of all vaccines have been administered in just 10 countries. There is no diplomatic way to say it. A small group of countries that make and buy the majority of the world’s vaccines control the fate of the rest of the world. The number of those administered globally so far would have been enough to cover all health workers and older people if they had been distributed equitably. We could have been in a much better situation. I understand that every government has a duty to protect its own people. I understand that every government wants to vaccinate its entire population. That’s what we want. And in time, there will be enough supply for everyone, including those at lower risk. But right now, there is not enough supply. Countries that vaccinate children and other low-risk groups now do so at the expense of health workers and high-risk groups in other countries. That’s the reality now.
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New Jersey Lifts Indoor Mask Rules for Vaccinated Residents

Gov. Philip D. Murphy said the state would no longer require residents who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to wear masks in most indoor businesses starting Friday.

Today, I’m signing an executive order that will lift the statewide indoor mask mandate this Friday, May 28. However, even with this action, individual businesses and other entities which oversee indoor spaces may continue to require that their employees and customers or guests wear face masks. As recommended by the C.D.C., there are spaces where masking will continue to be required, including health care settings and long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, to name a few. And you must remain masked while you’re on an airplane, a bus or train or other forms of public transportation, and while in a transportation hub, such as an airport or a train station. These requirements, by the way, will be strictly enforced. We also will be requiring that face masks continue to be worn indoors in public-facing state offices. This change will not extend to child care centers and facilities, youth summer camps, public, private or parochial preschool premises, and elementary and secondary schools, including both charter and Renaissance schools. In each of these cases, existing requirements for masking will be maintained. If you are not vaccinated, we encourage you in the strongest possible terms to either follow the — first of all, get vaccinated, but if not, or until — follow the C.D.C. guidance to wear a face mask when you’re in any indoor public setting, as I mentioned, or preferably, immediately go out and get vaccinated. We won’t have law enforcement checking people’s vaccination status, but we are asking people to be responsible and to do the right thing, for your own safety and the safety of your community.
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5 world leaders who made deadly mistakes in handling COVID-19
  • COVID-19 is hard to control, and political leaders are only part of the process to manage the pandemic.
  • But some current and former world leaders have made little effort to combat outbreaks in their countries.
COVID-19 is notoriously hard to control, and political leaders are only part of the calculus when it comes to pandemic management.

But some current and former world leaders have made little effort to combat outbreaks in their country, whether by downplaying the pandemic's severity, disregarding science or ignoring critical health interventions like social distancing and masks.

All of the men on this list committed at least one of those mistakes, and some committed all of them — with deadly consequences.
  • Narendra Modi of India
  • Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil
  • Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus
  • Donald Trump of the United States
  • Andrรฉs Manuel Lรณpez Obrador of Mexico
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Alabama governor signs bill banning Covid-19 vaccine passports
Alabama is just the latest state to put restrictions on requiring proof that a person has been immunized against Covid-19.

Some health experts argue that such proof of vaccination can be the ticket back to normalcy, saying it could reward people for getting vaccinated by allowing them into a crowded concert or ballgame, as well as offer the vaccinated peace of mind that the person next to them has been immunized, too.

But critics have stressed privacy concerns and characterized vaccine passports as an overreach by authorities.
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US Navy introduces incentives for sailors to get vaccinated
The updated guidance, issued Monday afternoon, stresses the safety of the vaccines and their impact on Navy operations.

"The science is pretty clear, vaccinations are key to best protecting our Sailors. The more Sailors that are vaccinated, the better for them, their families, the Navy, and the Nation," said Vice Admiral Phil Sawyer, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Operations, Plans and Strategy, as part of the updated guidance.

According to the latest measures, sailors who are fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine before a deployment, while those who are not vaccinated must sequester for 14 days. In addition, Naval commands may allow increased freedom of movement on ships, based on the size of the unit and its vaccination rate "in order to train and operate in a more realistic and unimpeded shipboard setting."

Like other services, the Navy framed vaccination as an issue of military readiness, saying that immunized sailors allow the Navy to increase "mission assurance while remaining equipped to deploy forward and win every day in competition, conflict and crisis."
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'Deely Nuts,' 'Beefy King,' and other fake businesses reportedly got $7 million in COVID-19 PPP loans through one lender
  • Fake firms collected $7 million in COVID-19 small business relief through online lender Kabbage, ProPublica found.
  • Most fake businesses were registered as farms, with names including "Deely Nuts" and "Beefy King."
  • Kabbage processed 378 loans to fraudulent companies via the Paycheck Protection Program, ProPublica reported.
Kabbage processed 378 loans to bogus businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in the scheme's first round of funding from March to August last year, the investigation found. Non-existent farms claiming to be based in New Jersey, such as "Ritter Wheat Club" and "Deely Nuts," each received $20,833, the maximum loan available to sole proprietorships, ProPublica reported.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), passed in March 2020, funded the PPP scheme, and was intended to to help struggling businesses keep employees on their payroll and stay afloat during the pandemic.

The investigation also found that "Beefy King," a fake cattle ranch registered in New Jersey, filed for a $20,567 loan. The money was registered to the address of Joe Mancini, mayor of Long Beach Township, who denied any knowledge of the application.

"There's no farming here: We're a sandbar, for Christ's sake," Mancini told ProPublica on the phone.

ProPublica checked New Jersey business records for the farms and found that none of them existed. Hundreds of PPP applicants across 28 states didn't show up in state registration records, and other lenders had nonexistent businesses on their books too, not just Kabbage, ProPublica reported.

The story is part of a wider problem: The Small Business Administration, which connects business owners to lenders, estimated in January that it approved loans for 55,000 potentially ineligible businesses, and that 43,000 received more money than needed for their payrolls.
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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