COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
WHO's new naming system for coronavirus variants uses Greek alphabet
Coronavirus variants will now be referred to by letters of the Greek alphabet instead of where they were first discovered, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday, in a bid to prevent the stigmatization of entire communities.

For example, instead of the "UK variant" (B.1.1.7), the WHO will now say "Alpha;” the "South African variant" (B.1.351) is now "Beta;" and the P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil, has been labeled "Gamma".
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Yes, we long have referred to disease outbreaks by geographic places. Here's why we shouldn't anymore
Throughout history, infectious diseases have been named after geographic locations where they were thought to have originated: West Nile virus, Zika and Ebola, to mention a few. But those associations can be damaging for those places, its people and, in some cases, be inaccurate. There is no universal consensus on where Spanish flu began, for example.

  • It can be inaccurate or misleading
  • It can stigmatize or harm people
  • It goes against guidance from health experts
Last March, then-President Donald Trump referred to Covid-19 as "the Chinese virus." Many Asian Americans subsequently said they were blamed for bringing the coronavirus to the United States. In May, India’s government expressed displeasure with media outlets using the term “Indian variant,” for the B.1.617.2 Covid-19 strain first identified in the country (or “Delta,” as it will be called under the new system).

The WHO says the Greek alphabet letters "will be easier and more practical to [be] discussed by non-scientific audiences." But there are some concerns that the system has arrived too late. The new names could make describing the variants even more complicated as there will now be three potential names: a scientific name, references based on where a strain was first identified and WHO's Greek alphabet labeling.

"There's definitely issues with stigmatization where the variants are being described and then labeling them based on that country. We know that there's already backlash in India, regarding the Indian variant and people mentioning it that way," Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told CNN. "So, I understand why it's happening. I think it's just a lot for people to think about this far down the line."
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Seven European countries begin issuing a digital Covid certificate for travel.
A digital Covid certificate system intended to ease travel within the European Union became operational in seven countries on Tuesday — ahead of schedule — offering a preview of what could become a standard for post-pandemic global mobility.

The document, known as a digital green certificate, records whether people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, recovered from the virus or tested negative within 72 hours. Travelers can move freely if at least one of those three criteria is met.

Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland made the certificates available to their citizens as of Tuesday and are accepting them for visitors. The European Commission, the bloc’s administrative branch, said the system would be in use for all 27 E.U. countries as of July 1.

The digital green certificate was launched after two months of preparation, a relatively fast turnaround considering that it required coordination among the 27 countries and contains security features to verify the data’s authenticity. Because of concerns about privacy, the system’s data is not retained anywhere, the commission said.

The long-term goal is for all people within the European Union to have the certificates and for visitors from outside the bloc to be able to receive one upon arrival. Providing them to outsiders could be tricky, however, considering that not all countries have been giving people secure vaccination documents.

The European Commission is in talks with the United States about how to verify the vaccination status of American visitors. It has also asked E.U. countries to start waiving testing and quarantine demands for people who are vaccinated or have recently recovered from the coronavirus, and to stop requiring quarantines for people with a negative virus test.
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Will the Excelsior Pass, New York’s Vaccine Passport, Catch On?
More than one million Excelsior passes have been downloaded since they were introduced, but officials are hoping they will be adopted more widely.

Officials are hoping that it can help New Yorkers feel confident about the safety of businesses and jump-start a statewide economy that is still reeling from losses experienced during the pandemic. But in order for that to happen, they will need more people and businesses to start using it and vaccine passports to become more universally accepted.

Though it is basically just a QR code on your phone that indicates your vaccine status, the pass, and vaccine passports more generally, have become a political flash point among conservatives and others who say the passports violate privacy concerns.

About 1.1 million Excelsior Passes had been downloaded onto phones and computers as of last week, according to the state. But so far, 9.1 million New Yorkers have been fully vaccinated.

Officials are hopeful that the pass will catch on more widely.
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A new national model? Barbershop offer coronavirus shots in addition to cuts and shaves.
'Why not go where people already have trust?’ Black community leaders, the University of Maryland and Biden White House seek to deliver accurate health information, as well as vaccines, through black-owned barbershops and salons.

“Why not go where people already have trust — the barbershop and the salon?” said Stephen B. Thomas, a health policy professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in College Park, who founded the barbershop initiative known as HAIR (Health Advocates In-Reach and Research) more than a decade ago. “These are the people who have street credibility and can educate folks enough so that they want the vaccine.”

As the United States enters what is likely to be the toughest stretch of its ambitious immunization effort, health officials are moving away from mass vaccination sites and focusing instead on small clinics like The Shop Spa that rely on word-of-mouth and use trusted, often nontraditional messengers. With a month left to achieve President Biden’s goal of 70 percent of adults getting at least one coronavirus vaccine dose by July 4, experts say this critical next leg will depend increasingly on targeting those in the “movable middle,” who might still be persuaded on vaccination.

Alston’s friend, Randolph, 52, who sports an edgy, honey-blonde pixie cut, is part of the cadre of barbers and stylists trained as health educators through the University of Maryland program. The initial focus was colon cancer, diabetes and other diseases that disproportionately affect Blacks. But with vaccination levels lagging in Black and Brown communities, the program seemed a natural to persuade those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic but are often reluctant to get shots.

White House officials praise the initiative as an innovative way to reach underserved people, especially in the Black community, given barbershops’ history as a trusted messenger dating to pre-Civil War times, when they doubled as sites on the Underground Railroad.

“It’s important at this critical juncture to make sure we are using a full-court press to get good information to every community,” said Cameron Webb, a senior health equity adviser on the administration’s covid-19 response team, who is also an internist at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine.
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World Health Organization Authorizes Sinovac Vaccine

The World Health Organization announced Tuesday it had authorized the coronavirus vaccine made by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac for emergency use.

And today, I’m happy to announce that the Sinovac CoronaVac vaccine has been given W.H.O. emergency-use listing after being found to be safe, effective and quality-assured following two doses of the inactivated vaccine. Furthermore, the easy storage requirements of CoronaVac make it very suitable for low-resource settings. It’s now the eighth vaccine to receive EUL by W.H.O. Overnight, I joined leaders from the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank Group in publishing an op-ed in many newspapers around the world that calls for a new commitment with a $50 billion U.S. dollars rapid investment to fund the equitable distribution of vaccines and other crucial health tools.
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Want to Win $5 Million? Get Vaccinated, New Mexico Says.
When the book is written about how states across the country tried to persuade people to get coronavirus vaccines, it will not accuse New Mexico of being subtle.

On Tuesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a lottery program through which the state will award cash prizes totaling $10 million, including a $5 million grand prize — among the largest single cash awards being offered by any state with a similar program.

New Mexico’s program is called Vax to the Max. And its website does not downplay the program’s key enticement: “Get Vaccinated for Your Chance to Win the Grand Prize of $5,000,000!!!” a headline blares. Further down on the website is a large pile of $100 bills.

As Governor Grisham wrote on Twitter: “Register to win! And let’s keep N.M. safe and healthy!”

For five weeks, starting in mid-June, the program will award $250,000 to winners in each of the state’s four health regions through a lottery. Then, in early August, the state will award a grand prize of $5 million to a single winner. The program is being paid for with federal pandemic relief money, The Associated Press reported.

To be eligible for New Mexico’s cash awards, contestants must be residents of the state, register for the drawing, be at least 18, not be incarcerated, and have received at least one vaccine dose in the state. To win the grand prize, contestants must be fully vaccinated, according to the program’s website.

New Mexico officials are hoping cash rewards will increase vaccination rates in the state. Nearly 56 percent of New Mexico’s 1,680,605 residents age 16 and older who are eligible are fully vaccinated, according to the New Mexico Department of Health website.
Telephone and email messages left at Governor Grisham’s office and the New Mexico Department of Health on Tuesday were not immediately returned.
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A health official suggested to Fauci that frontline workers could use 'doggie cones' instead of PPE, emails show
  • The Washington Post obtained Dr. Anthony Fauci's emails from March and April 2020.
  • In one, a US health official told him that "doggie cones" could be used as PPE.
  • At the time the US was scrambling to source enough PPE for frontline medical workers.
In response to the suggestion from the Department of Health and Human Services official that dog cones — used to stop dogs from scratching dressings or wounds — could be used as PPE, Fauci replied with a polite thank you, The Post said.

Even one year into to the pandemic, supplies of PPE still appeared to be inconsistent.

A survey conducted by National Nurses United in February 2021 found that 81% of nurses said they had reused single-use PPE.
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I.L.O. Says Pandemic's Jobs Toll Will Take Years
The pandemic wiped out around 144 million jobs last year, including a projected 30 million new jobs that would have been created, the International Labor Organization said in its assessment of employment and social trends.

“The hit on labor markets in terms of jobs, and in terms of the effect on people’s incomes, has been four times greater than the financial crisis,” Guy Ryder, the organization’s director general, said in an interview.

... Rich countries, with access to vaccines and the financial resources to support wage-support plans, will recover faster. The United States is likely to face unemployment of around 5.1 percent this year, the report said, dropping to around 3.9 percent in 2022, a level marginally lower than at the start of the pandemic.

But around the world, some 205 million people will still be unemployed in 2022, up from 187 million before the pandemic started, the organization said, most of them in lower income and poor countries. “This unequal recovery risks accentuating still further inequalities in the world of work between countries and within countries,” Mr. Ryder said. The pandemic has had a “dramatic” social impact, disproportionately hitting employment of women and youth; reversing progress in reducing forced and child labor, and sharply driving up the number of working people still trapped in poverty, Mr. Ryder said.

“It’s very difficult to make comparisons with the 1930s, but we’re in that sort of territory,” he said, referring to the Great Depression. “Unless we take care of what’s happening in the world of work and labor markets, there are some very unpleasant things that can happen in the world.”
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Anheuser-Busch to give away free alcohol if US hits Biden's goal of 70% of adults with at least one Covid vaccine shot by July 4
The company said in a news release that if the US reaches that goal, "Anheuser-Busch will buy America's next round of beer, seltzer, non-alcoholic beverage or other A-B product." It instructs those 21 and up to upload a picture of themselves at their favorite bar or restaurant and enter to win.

"At Anheuser-Busch, we are committed to supporting the safe and strong recovery of our nation and being able to be together again at the places and with the people we have missed so much. This commitment includes encouraging Americans to get vaccinated, and we are excited to buy Americans 21+ a round of beer when we reach the White House goal," said Michel Doukeris, CEO of Anheuser-Busch.

Doukeris said in the statement: "We pride ourselves on stepping up both in times of need and in times of great celebration, and the past year has been no different. As we look ahead to brighter days with renewed optimism, we are proud to work alongside the White House to make a meaningful impact for our country, our communities and our consumers."

The announcement comes ahead of a speech from the White House on Wednesday in which Biden will issue a rallying cry to get people vaccinated ahead of his July 4 deadline, according to a White House official, declaring June a "national month of action" in a speech from the White House.
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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